Friday, December 12, 2014

An Affinity the Poor

By Colleen O’Sullivan

Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion!
See, I am coming to dwell among you, says the Lord.  (Zechariah 2:14)

The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary.  And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace!  The Lord is with you.”  But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.  Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  Behold you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”  (Luke 1:26-33)

Jesus, I can see your special love of those who are so often invisible in this world.  You sent your mother to give hope to the poor by appearing to Juan Diego.  Open my heart to fill with compassion for those who are hungry and without dignity.  Grant me the ability to live simply and to see you in the faces of those around me.  (from Creighton University's Online Ministries’ Daily Advent Prayer for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe)

In our Scripture readings for today and in the feast we celebrate, God powerfully demonstrates his affinity for the poor.  In the first reading, God promises through the prophet Zechariah to come and dwell with his people.  By any worldly measure, the people God has chosen to call his own are nobodies.  Israel was no superpower.  In Zechariah’s time, the Israelites were already home from exile, but they were not an autonomous people; they lived under the rule of Darius the Great of Persia.   
When God finally makes good on his promise centuries later, his Son is born into a world where the Jews lived under the heavy thumb of the Romans.  Mary and Joseph were not people of great means.  Jesus was born in a rude shed meant for someone’s livestock.
In the Gospel reading for today, we have the story of the Annunciation.  Of all the women in the world, God selects an unknown peasant girl to be the mother of his Son.  That must have been a lot for a young girl to ponder!  When Mary later sings the Magnificat, she acknowledges that God has come to her in her lowliness.
When our Lady of Guadalupe appeared in 1531 outside Mexico City, she didn’t show up in a great cathedral or basilica.  It wasn’t a bishop or well-known person to whom she came.  She appeared to a poor, young Indian boy.  She even spoke in his native tongue. 
Whether it’s the people God chose to call his own, the family to whom God entrusted his Son or the teenager to whom God sent Our Lady of Guadalupe, God shows a strong affinity for the poor in the world.

As we continue our journey through Advent, may we, too, show compassion for the poor in our midst by including them on our Christmas gift lists.  There are many worthwhile ways to reach out to the needy. 

One of my favorites is through the scholarship fund at Loyola Retreat House, a Jesuit retreat house in Faulkner, MD.   Scholarships enable the homeless, the unemployed, and the ill as well as elderly priests and sisters who can’t afford the cost of a retreat to have a time of peace and prayer with the Lord.  If you would like to donate to this scholarship fund, please send your donation, marked Retreat Angel Society to:  Loyola Retreat House, P.O. Box 9, Faulkner, MD 20632-0009.  

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