Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Let Justice Rain Down

December 15, 2010
Wednesday of the Third Week of Advent

By Colleen O’Sullivan

I am the Lord, there is no other; I form the light, and create the darkness, I make well-being and create woe; I, the Lord, do all these things. Let justice descend, O heavens, like dew from above, like gentle rain let the skies drop it down. Let the earth open and salvation bud forth; let justice also spring up! I, the Lord, have created this. (Isaiah 45: 6c-8)

At that time, John summoned two of his disciples and sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” When the men came to the Lord, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?’” At that time Jesus cured many of their diseases, sufferings, and evil spirits; he also granted sight to many who were blind. And Jesus said to them in reply, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.” (Luke 7:18b-23)

Let the clouds rain down the Just One, and the earth bring forth a Savior. (Isaiah 45:8)

What beautiful imagery we have in our reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah! “Justice descending like dew from above,” coming down upon us like gentle rain, coupled with the earth opening and salvation budding forth. These words come to us from the section in Isaiah known as the Book of Consolation (Is. 40-55). The Israelites have been in captivity in Babylon for many years. Now, at last, freedom is at hand. Their exile is coming to an end. King Cyrus of Persia has conquered Babylon and, through him, the Israelites will be liberated. Justice will prevail. They will be allowed to return home.

God addresses these words to King Cyrus himself, who is the only non-Israelite king in Scripture to be referred to as “anointed one of God.” God wants to remind the Persian king (and all of us as well) that ultimately everything comes from God, that even Cyrus himself is merely acting as God’s instrument in bringing salvation and justice to the Israelites.

Salvation and justice – always inextricably intertwined in Scripture. We witness that in our reading from Luke’s Gospel as well. John the Baptist, imprisoned by Herod, sends two of his disciples to see if Jesus is “the one who is to come” or if they should be expecting someone else. Jesus tells them to go back to John and report what they have witnessed. He knows that John will recognize in him the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecy from Isaiah 61 as soon he hears what his disciples have witnessed: the blind have sight, the lame can walk, lepers are healed, and the deaf can hear. Good news is preached to the poor. Even the dead are raised.

Jesus comes to offer all of us salvation, but justice is also always a part of what he offers. Our Lord is always reaching out to the poorest, most vulnerable, most despised among us, because often there is no one else to care about them. That has huge implications for our actions as disciples. It isn’t enough to preach or teach the Word or pray for others. If we truly believe the Church is the Body of Christ in the world today, then we are called to move beyond words to action, to literally reach out and touch the lives of our brothers and sisters who otherwise would be forgotten and left to fend for themselves as best they can on the fringes of our society.

It is the busiest time of year, this run-up to our secular celebration of Christmas. Cards to write, cookies to bake, trees to decorate, gifts to buy, parties to attend! But make some quiet time today to reflect on the needs of those among our brothers and sisters in Christ who will receive no cards, who are worried about daily sustenance more than glittering cookies, who have nowhere to call home, let alone a space to decorate. Even among our friends with sufficient financial means, there are those who are impoverished in other ways – lonely elderly folks in nursing homes or confined to their own homes, the sick, the grieving.

Make a commitment to be the means by which God’s salvation and justice rain down on some particular individual or group today. The possibilities are endless. You could visit a nursing home or an elderly person in your neighborhood, sign up to serve Christmas dinner to the hungry or homeless at an organization like SOME, volunteer to help if your parish is hosting a week of hypothermia shelter this winter. Write a letter to your local representative advocating more funding for affordable housing. Lobby your U.S. representative or U.S. Senator to enact legislation to pave a realistic and fair way for illegal immigrants to become legal. You choose, but be the hands and feet of Christ to someone in some way today.