Monday, December 19, 2011

Turn to the Lord

December 19, 2011

Monday of the Fourth Week of Advent

The woman bore a son and named him Samson. The boy grew up and the LORD blessed him; the Spirit of the LORD stirred him. Judges 13:24-25a

Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He will drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother's womb, and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. Luke 1:13a-16


Father, send your Holy Spirit to stir us this week. Keep us from getting caught up in the economic focus of our culture and help us to focus on the spiritual and the personal dimensions of this special season so we can be prepared to turn to your Son when He comes to live with us. Amen.


Are we any more ready after four weeks of waiting than was Zechariah prepared to hear the message of God? In fact, Zechariah got his prayers answered. He wanted a son and was blessed with that gift after years of waiting. However, in his personal doubts that the Lord would hear and grant his prayer, Zechariah had to pay a penance in being mute during his wife's pregnancy.

We are worried about the next deadline at work. We are worried about finishing the Christmas shopping. We are making grocery lists and guest lists and recipe lists and Christmas card address lists. How can it be that four weeks of Advent are passing us and calling us to be in the presence of the Lord in less than one week?

Zechariah's affliction was temporary. He bore his short-term disability as a punishment from a loving God who knew he could rely upon his servant to help underline the meaning of the boy named John who had a singular evangelical mission in the world. Evangelical also is an interesting word for our consideration this week.

In its broadest sense, evangelical comes to us from the Greek words for Gospel/Good News (eu for Good and angelion for message). Quite simply it means to be a believer in the Gospels. It took a little physical persuasion on the Lord's part to make an evangelist out of Zechariah. Yet how many Catholics today would consider themselves evangelists?

In our culture, the term has been more closely tied to certain Protestant denominations that usually feature concepts like being born again, making the Bible the authority in your life and sharing that message and experience. Isn't that what happened to Zechariah? Isn't that what happened to Mary? Isn't that what should happen to all of us?


Are we prepared to be evangelists in the spirit of Gabrielle and John? What are we called to announce? To whom are we called to speak?

As we wind up the calendar year, we are more concerned with numbers than we are with the Word. How much higher is the money spent on shopping this year? How many days are left to shop? How much will we save in the after Christmas sales? And then there are those numbers that are with us all the time: What is the value of the stock market for the year? What is the interest rate?

The USCCB has addresses economic questions in some major actions recently and very few people have probably paid much attention. As you consider the words of the Canticle of Mary this week, consider how the bishops have been concerned about the lowly.

Aware of the pervasive economic pain of many people, the USCCB leaders urged Congress to pass the payroll tax cut and extend unemployment insurance. They recognized that for millions of American workers and their families, economic hardship continues and grows. The US Catholic bishops have long advocated that the most effective way to build a just economy is the availability of decent work at decent wages. They told Congress that "When the economy fails to generate sufficient jobs, there is a moral obligation to help protect the life and dignity of unemployed workers and their families."

Speaking out on such economic issues is not a new phenomenon. In fact, 25 years ago, the USCCB issued its landmark pastoral letter "Economic Justice for All." The bishops did not take on any one economic platform or lay out a blueprint for the economy. instead, they laid out core teachings from Biblical authority that should mark our economic activity. And then they wrote and taught about those topics.

You can review or read anew that landmark pastoral letter at this link on the internet. ( Consider how you can adjust your personal economic decisions in light of these teachings as we conclude Advent and get ready to enter a new calendar year.