Summary: Perhaps what we need to pray for and accept is the spirit of St. Francis. That way we can say “Lord, Lord” and do the will of the Father.

Thursday of First Week in Advent 2016

Joy of the Gospel

We are at the beginning of a new year of grace, and we are hit in the face with some pretty strong Gospel language, even in the first reading. “Open the gates, that the righteous nation which keeps faith may enter in.” Righteous nations do God’s will, especially when it relates to treatment of three classes of people: widows, orphans and aliens. Jesus says substantially the same thing at the end of the Sermon on the Mount: “Not every one who says to me, `Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” It is our responsibility as human beings, and even more so as disciples of Jesus, to know what God’s will is and to do those thing He requires and avoid those things he proscribes. That is the firm foundation of a life well lived, one that ends with us in the embrace of the Father. Anything less and the storm will sweep us away.

The Holy Father has identified two issues that a true attention to our Gospel joy will cause us to reflect and act upon: the inclusion of the poor in society and peace in social dialogue. He asks us to consider the meaning of the word “solidarity”:

‘Solidarity is a spontaneous reaction by those who recognize that the social function of property and the universal destination of goods are realities which come before private property. The private ownership of goods is justified by the need to protect and increase them, so that they can better serve the common good; for this reason, solidarity must be lived as the decision to restore to the poor what belongs to them. These convictions and habits of solidarity, when they are put into practice, open the way to other structural transformations and make them possible. Changing structures without generating new convictions and attitudes will only ensure that those same structures will become, sooner or later, corrupt, oppressive and ineffectual.

‘Sometimes it is a matter of hearing the cry of entire peoples, the poorest peoples of the earth, since “peace is founded not only on respect for human rights, but also on respect for the rights of peoples”. Sadly, even human rights can be used as a justification for an inordinate defense of individual rights or the rights of the richer peoples. With due respect for the autonomy and culture of every nation, we must never forget that the planet belongs to all mankind and is meant for all mankind; the mere fact that some people are born in places with fewer resources or less development does not justify the fact that they are living with less dignity. It must be reiterated that “the more fortunate should renounce some of their rights so as to place their goods more generously at the service of others”. To speak properly of our own rights, we need to broaden our perspective and to hear the plea of other peoples and other regions than those of our own country. We need to grow in a solidarity which “would allow all peoples to become the artisans of their destiny”, since “every person is called to self-fulfilment”.’

Here at the beginning of the Christmas shopping season we are challenged by these words. We have been blessed to be living in one of the richest nations on earth. Even our dollar, for good or ill, is the reserve currency of the world. People who come here from third-world countries go into a Walmart or Lowe’s and are shocked by the sheer volume of consumer goods available for purchase. Less visible is the plethora of goods available on the Internet, because you have to click on the right link to see them. What the visitor and citizen see is the natural result of a consumerist philosophy fueled by borrowing–either by individuals or the federal government. We as a nation sustain that imbalance between the haves and have-nots by what has been called economic imperialism. For instance, USAID works to keep African populations low by sending contraceptives instead of malaria medicine.

We must pray, of course, to steer our political leaders into the right path, the path of righteousness. But there are things we can do right now in our families. There are three generations in our family; we have agreed on reasonable limits for Christmas expenditures. There will be more money available than we need for that. Instead of creating an avalanche of consumer products to dump on the grandchildren, we are identifying worthy charities, especially those who educate and protect the poor, and giving donations. It is clear that the problems of our society are often caused by a materialist and consumerist mindset. Perhaps what we need to pray for and accept is the spirit of St. Francis. That way we can say “Lord, Lord” and do the will of the Father.