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THIRD TUESDAY OF ADVENT
SCRIPTURE: JEREMIAH 23:5-8
Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD,
when I will raise up a righteous shoot to David;
As king he shall reign and govern wisely,
he shall do what is just and right in the land.
In his days Judah shall be saved,
Israel shall dwell in security.
This is the name they give him:
“The LORD our justice.”
Therefore, the days will come, says the LORD,
when they shall no longer say, “As the LORD lives,
who brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt”;
but rather, "As the LORD lives,
who brought the descendants of the house of Israel
up from the land of the north”–
and from all the lands to which I banished them;
they shall again live on their own land.
Hear, O (whoever is reading this), the revelation of God as it came to the prophet Isaiah, from which today’s First Reading comes. And focus in particular on the deep desire of the chosen people for a stable home and reliable, conscientious, faith-centered leadership. And know how rare it was (and indeed is) in the much-conquered Holy Land.
And mark these things: that Moses was an unaccompanied minor. That in his youth Jesus of Nazareth was a refugee. And that Judea-Palestine, as it was known at the time of the Incarnation, was occupied territory. And when he became man and entered into God’s plan of salvation, as Simeon foretold (“Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted” [Lk 2: 34]), Jesus’ execution happened as it did because of his “status.” What he experienced at the hands of the state would not have happened had he been a Roman citizen. These are not original insights, rather, they have been brought to the forefront of my consciousness through the words and wisdom of my brothers and sisters who are living out our common call to welcome and to care for the strangers among us. But first, a word from the home office:
I was introduced to this message at the Justice for Immigrants conference sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which took place in Washington DC on December 5-7, 2018. The content arises from the work of the Vatican office on Migrants and Refugees (https://migrants-refugees.va/). And the work of that office was foundational in the creation of the United Nations Global Compact on Migration ( https://news.un.org/en/story/2018/07/1014632) – to which the United States is not a signatory. The unprecedented scale of the global refugee crisis (https://www.npr.org/2018/06/19/621283130/a-record-number-of-people-were-displaced-in-2017-for-fifth-year-in-a-row) and the images and reality of vulnerable youth suffering on the US southern border merges, in my prayers and Advent reflections, with the ever-challenging story of Jesus’ fragile entrance into this world, which we remember this time every year.
Ever ancient, ever new. My faith, as I understand it, is not to be driven by polls. I don’t seek them out, I don’t avoid them, and I understand their role in policy-making. That said, recall that when the current administration instituted its short-lived zero-tolerance and child separation policy for people arriving at the US southern border, it did not “poll well” (https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/politics/ct-trump-border-family-separation-20180619-story.html). And it was altered, though government agencies are still struggling to deal with the surge of families arriving from Central America, even as our brothers and especially our sisters are committing whatever resources they can to respond (https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/migration/despite-migrants-plight-outreach-them-gives-nun-hope-humanity-55664). Still - why bring this up? Why talk about such a controversial issue?
Well, as the kids say – yeah, no. It’s not controversial. I beg you, dear reader, re-watch the video. Is there anything controversial in it? Does Pope Francis say anything contrary to the Gospel or to the example of Jesus, who he has called “the face of God’s mercy”? Where is the controversy? Where is the scandal? I was taught in moral theology that the Church’s definition of scandal is “to do or say anything that might cause another person to doubt their faith.” Not reaching out to help vulnerable people, not seeking out people who are suffering and offering them refuge, not responding to people who have lost their homes and safe havens – there we will find controversy to last all our days. Si flagitium requiris, circumspice.
Who do you consider a stranger? How do you welcome them?
How willing are you to welcome, protect, promote and integrate the refgee or simply those who are different than you into your life? (from video)
What is your response to difficult teachings- to dismiss them or to allow them to transform you?
How are you being transformed this advent?
Fr. Robert Wotypka, OFMCap. is a Pastoral Minister for the Capuchin Community Services.