Friday, December 16, 2016

Save the Children

O God, give your judgment to the king; your justice to the king’s son; That he may govern your people with justice, your oppressed with right judgment, That the mountains may yield their bounty for the people, and the hills great abundance, That he may defend the oppressed among the people, save the children of the poor and crush the oppressor. Psalm 72:2-4

Eleazar became the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ. Matthew 1:15-16

Father, help us to become part of an Advent Conspiracy -- a people marked by a commitment to spend less, give more and worship fully especially for the next seven days as we await the real presence of God in the world. With this preparation, we can be better prepared to kneel before Jesus the God-child who comes into the world. Holy Spirit, provide us the gifts to assure we can make this season the easiest time to worship freed from the web of consumption and busy-ness so we can embark on our journey into the silent night to welcome Jesus into our midst. Amen.

Apostolic succession. The mantle of the original twelve disciples has been literally handed down from one generation to the next. What started with Jesus was passed on to the twelve and the witness of those twelve have been passed down through 2,016 years of salvation and human history. Pope Francis – who celebrates his 80th birthday today, is the latest entry in that line. And so are you, daughters and sons of Fairfax, Staten Island, Houston, New Orleans and Missoula.

Today's Good News gives us a further glimpse backward into the ancestry of Jesus that became the root of this forward payment. While in a purely technical sense, apostolic succession refers to the line of church authority that rests with the bishops, we in the laity also have a role in carrying out the work that was entrusted to the disciples. Don't let the lack of a miter and crosier in your closet fool you into thinking you are here only to enjoy Capitol One Bowl week or the coming of the Spring Training for Major League Baseball.

The giving and helping work we do this season, this year and into the future is a responsibility handed down to us from this line of witnesses and all those who have come before us -- grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, sisters, brothers.

Earlier this week, I reflected on the work being done by the Houston Catholic Worker in light of the recent passing of one of its co-founders Mark Zwick to the cloud of witnesses.  The spirit of the Lord and Dorothy Day also are at work on the streets of Washington, DC.  The Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House in Washington, DC was founded about 35 years ago (1981) by the late Jesuit Fr. Richard McSorley and a small band of Catholic lay workers.  Today, the occupants of the house continue to be a modern witness to Christ's message of love above all else and a model of humility and service to the people of the city. The hands of the workers at Dorothy Day House provide food, housing, clothing, and respite to those without in the spirit of Christ's mission in Nazareth that we heard in the Gospel for the third Sunday of Advent in Isaiah 61:1-3

In addition, the many people who live there now and who have lived there in the past have witnessed the Good News of love in the midst of the power and money that define the battles of Washington and society today.

The coming presence of Jesus will teach us how to live working every day to heal and build the Kingdom of the Father even if it means getting our modern day Pharisees a little upset. Not only that, Jesus will teach us how to die -- not how to kill. With no place to rest his head when he lived on earth, Jesus rested his head on the cross and forgave the members of his church and his society who condemned and tortured him to death. He taught us to die with love and not to kill with weapons.

All around us is the evidence that this society has taken on its mission to serve God and love each other just like the Catholic Workers. We can become even more a society of go-givers this season and always -- not just a society of go-getters.

For all you do this year and always, thank you for responding to the biblical call "To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8).

As the Advent Conspiracy asks us, “Can Christmas still change the world?”    The Christmas story that begins to unfold in the lineage and family tree recited today is a story of love, hope, redemption, and relationship. So, what happened? How did it turn into stuff, stress and debt? Somehow, we’ve traded the best story in the world for the story of what’s on sale.

Let’s be sure to return to the service roots of the season. Whom can you thank this season for their humble service?  Who do you know who is saving the children from Allepo to Allentown? 

Let's conspire to change the way we celebrate Christmas.

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