November 26, 2021
Dear Companions on the Journey,
So it’s Advent – those four weeks preceding Christmas when we listen to the Jewish prophets speak of a future time when our God will save us. We Christians, believe that that promise was fulfilled in Jesus, but still with final and ultimate ful-fillment in our common future with the Jewish people. So this occurs to me…
Picture a rural, fall day with a hunting dog and its master out for the hunt. The dog is alert, its ears perked, ready to discern a certain sound. The beagle is able to hear certain telltale sounds against the background of other forest noise.
During this Advent season, a Christian is very much like the hunting dog. Against the backdrop of the season – incessant Muzak from retail loudspeakers, professional begging bells, come-ons and put-offs, and the clinking of too many cocktail ices – the Christian discerns through those other sounds to hear the telltale notes of the pre-Christmas, Advent season. And that note, that faint sound, is the Biblical call to justice.
Advent’s Sunday readings – particularly those from the Hebrew Scriptures – are filled with justice language. The Church, through the readings, beckons us to be alert to the language, just as the hunting dog is alert to the special sounds in the field. The Church asks us to hear those words, those callings in a new and profound way, so that our yearning for a society marked by justice might be as deeply felt as the Jewish community’s before the time of Jesus (and indeed by both Jewish and Christian Communities since).
Necessary for a biblical understanding of justice is that it is not the opposite of mercy. Rather justice is mercy’s other name – or, as Cornel West put it, “justice is what love looks like in public.” In our Western culture, justice is often pictured as a blindfolded woman holding a scale in her hand. The weights pull the scale in one direction or the other. So, easily we may conclude that justice is blind: let the chips fall where they may.
Such an impersonal,“objective” sense of justice was far from the imagination of the Middle Eastern Jew. The good judge in Israel would be one who would have a special bias for three representative groups: the widow, the orphan, and the poor. “Letting the chips fall where they may” with regard to any of those groups (or any group that is less powerful) would strike the just Jew as very unfair. As we see in Psalm 103: “The Lord…works justice for all who are oppressed. The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love…He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor requite us according to our iniquities.”
Justice marks the very nature of God. So for the next two Sundays, listen carefully – with your ears alert as the hunting dog’s – for the justice yearned for by the Jews waiting for Messianic times. Perhaps in many senses, this may be the Advent of Justice for us…
What do you think?
Wednesday, December 1st, is World AIDS Day. Join us at St. Anthony’s Shrine, 6pm, on Wednesday for a special mass. Go here for more information and registration.
One of Pope Francis’ most signifcant initiatives and perhaps what may prove to be the greatest change in how the Church operates is “synodality.” Here is a brief description of “synodality.” Go here to sopeak your truth. and here to see about Sunday’s Mass at the Cathedral.
Along with Patty, Chuck, Susan, Norm, Dorothy, Barbara, Rob, Alvaro, and Sal. Please feel free to call upon your Pastoral Ministers if you wish.