Episode 9: The Advent of Justice for the Poor Among Us

For this Advent season, I am creating a short series of meditative, contemplative exercises for you to do while you listen. It requires, literally, no extra work for you to do (and in fact, you can do this while doing other things, like the dishes), but it allows you to enter into this season in a deeper and more meaningful way.

For more information about Advent and this series, you can listen to the previous two episodes, if you like. Last week we looked at the "Advent of Justice for the Stranger.” This week we are looking at, or facing, the poor among us. There are only three weeks in Advent this year (slightly over) and I’m trying to be both general and specific in these categories that I’m choosing. I’m telling you, it’s hard! But I do want to bring attention to what God brings attention to in the scriptures. There is some overlap, but I am intentionally ordering them this way so that we are moving from the outside inward.

Last week, in facing the injustice done to the stranger, we exercised our ability to recognize people who are very different than us as people created in the image of God. We were reminded that we are more alike than we are different. We might have identified with the way the woman was protecting her children and attempting to give them a better and safer life, despite all the obstacles. We might have even seen Christ in and amongst them.

This week we turn more inward. As we look at the plight of the poor among us, let’s turn the tables on ourselves, and ask how those without many possessions might be more rich than us. Let’s also ask ourselves how we are being called to help, especially in this season.

I’m going to be honest and tell you that I’ve really struggled with writing this episode. I thought that I was going to pick another image to meditate on, like we did last week, but I couldn’t make it work. The idea of picking an image to meditate on made me feel icky. I didn’t want to objectify people who were already so often dehumanized as it was. Last week, using the image that I did, I felt that I was humanizing the people in the photograph because they were already being objectified by the media and by the general population. That image came to me, and was the seed for this whole series, so there wasn’t a question in my mind about using it, but for this week I couldn’t pick a poster child for the poor.

Instead, we’re going to do something a little different. I’m going to read you the words of Jesus—words I’m sure you’ve heard before. I’m going to read them twice. And then I’ll pray, using other people’s words, asking for God to intervene and bring justice, all the while acknowledging my own hand in the injustice.

I’m not preaching to you. If you feel convicted, then would be the Holy Spirit! I am guilty and not worthy to teach you this lesson. I have friends who are experts in this, and live according to the gospel in regards to the poor. But I am still learning. I have a lot of trouble being generous. So, trust me when I tell you that this is for me too.

I have two goals with this series: 1)That it would be a bright spot that lights up the distance between us and our neighbor, and helps us to remember that we are all made in the image of God and we should treat each other accordingly. And, 2) that it would remind us that complete Justice comes when Jesus comes and that is what we are waiting for this Advent season. So it’s about waiting for him to make it all ok, while we, in the meantime, do what we can to make it better.

Ok, let’s get into this. I’m reading from Luke 12:13:34. Jesus is speaking to a crowd and someone asks him a question about an inheritance. Jesus takes the opportunity to not give him an answer (surprise, surprise!) but to lay out a foundation for how we should think about money in general. It’s not a passage specifically about the poor, but it does reorient us, I think. It helps provide that space that allows us to think more rightly.

The first time I read this, Just listen to the words. Begin to imagine the crowd and the setting and listen to what Jesus is telling you.

Listen

Luke 12: 13-34

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Pray

Saint Oscar Romero:

December 3, 1978

Advent should admonish us to discover

in each brother or sister that we greet,

in each friend whose hand we shake,

in each beggar who asks for bread,

in each worker who wants to use the right to join a union,

in each peasant who looks for work in the coffee groves,

the face of Christ.

Then it would not be possible to rob them,

to cheat them,

to deny them their rights.

They are Christ,

and whatever is done to them

Christ will take as done to himself.

This is what Advent is:

Christ living among us.

Canticle of Mary (Magnificat) Luke 1: 46-55

Intercessions from the Magnificat Journal (December 12)

Mary’s evening song of praise reminds us that God’s priorities are not those of the world around us. Let us pray for the coming of his kingdom:

Response: Hear the cry of the poor!

For those whose arrogance blinds them to their need for salvation:

Response: Hear the cry of the poor!

For those whose satiety deafens them to the hungers of their spirit:

Response: Hear the cry of the poor!

For those whose pursuit of this world’s goods hides from them the treasures to be laid up in heaven:

Response: Hear the cry of the poor!

For those whose flight from death through pleasure, work, and possessions keeps them from the joy of placing all their hope in Christ, our life:

Response: Hear the cry of the poor!


Our Father…

And…

Sign up for the newsletter.

And, as always, our beautiful music is by Asher Graieg-Morrison.