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1st Sunday of Advent [b]

Engaging Faith | Mon, Nov 21, 2011

By John Bucki, S.J.
Source: Center of Concern

This week's lectionary reflections

First Sunday in Advent [b]
 November 27, 2011

Readings
Isaiah 63:16b-17,19b; 64:2-7
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Mark 13:33-37

Calendar
November 27: First Sunday of Advent
November 27: Implementation of the new translation of the Roman Missal in the English speaking Catholic Church
December 1: World AIDS Day
December 1: Rosa Parks Day
December 2: International Day for the Abolition of Slavery
December 3: International Day for People with a Disability

Quotes
In order to overcome today's widespread individualistic mentality, what is required is a concrete commitment to solidarity and charity.
~ John Paul II, Centesimus Annus

We wish to listen to one other: we believe that this itself is already a sign of peace. In listening to one another there is already a reply to the disturbing questions that worry us. This already serves to scatter the shadows of suspicion and misunderstanding.  The shadows will not be dissipated with weapons; darkness is dispelled by sending out bright beams of light.
John Paul II, Assisi, 24 January 2002
Our nation has been blessed with great freedom, vibrant democratic traditions, unprecedented economic strengths, abundant natural resources, and a generous and religious people. Yet not all is right with our nation. Our prosperity does not reach far enough. Our culture does not lift us up; instead it may bring us down in moral terms. This new world we lead is still too dangerous, giving rise to ethnic cleansing and an inability to confront hunger and genocide. We are still falling short of the American pledge of “liberty and justice for all,” our declaration to defend the inalienable rights of the person--“life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
--U.S. Bishops, Faithful Citizenship: Civic Responsibility for a New Millennium

But it will be necessary above all to abandon a mentality in which the poor — as individuals and as peoples — are considered a burden, as irksome intruders trying to consume what others have produced. The poor ask for the right to share in enjoying material goods and to make good use of their capacity for work, thus creating a world that is more just and prosperous for all. The advancement of the poor constitutes a great opportunity for the moral, cultural and even economic growth of all humanity.
~ John Paul II, Centesimus Annus

A person who is concerned solely or primarily with possessing and enjoying, who is no longer able to control his instincts and passions, or to subordinate them by obedience to the truth, cannot be free.
~ John Paul II, Centesimus Annus
Thoughts for your consideration

The advent message today is very simple. “Be watchful and alert.” 
God and the goodness of God are available.
All we have to do is be alert and watch and not miss it.

Unfortunately, sometimes our world is not watchful or alert and we miss God and the goodness of God.  Sometimes we miss the call of God to get into action. Sometimes we don’t connect with God in the poverty and struggles of the people of the world. As individuals or as a society, we wander away from God and God’s values.  The question is: “why?”

Today might be a good time to reflect on those things in our society and culture that keep us from being alert and alive to God and God’s values. There seem to be so many pressures and values which indoctrinate us and keep us from being what God wants us to be.  So many ways of thinking and seeing are in tension with the values of Catholic Social Teaching. We need to be aware of them so that we can be truly free and alert.

As we look at our culture, we might way to reflect on
·    The individualistic mentality that keeps us from solidarity and the common good
·    The temptation to rely on power and even violence instead of love and active nonviolence
·    The tendency to accumulate wealth instead of sharing material resources
·    The practice of judging things from the limited view of our culture alone
·    The lack of a seamless, all-inclusive respect for life
·    The excessive power of the media which limits our vision
·    The ideological perspectives from left and right which keep us from seeing clearly.
·    The lack of direct contact with those who are in need or different than ourselves.

The list could go on and on.  The challenge is to open our eyes and be alert and aware, so that we can know the biases of our culture, make this list concrete, and begin to see things from a bigger viewpoint.

In the face of all the challenges, we are invited to have hope. The second reading from the first letter to the Corinthians reminds us to rejoice in the spirit of Jesus who will help and set us free.

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Those who are worried about the poor in the midst of our economic recession are hoping for policies that help those who are most in need. As Christians we are always called to be people of hope. This is a good thing. However, as Christians we know that no political system or leadership will be perfect.  We know that we always need as Jesus says today to be “watchful and alert.”  We are called to open our eyes to the needs of all our brothers and sisters.

Questions for Reflection in your Faith Sharing Group

What things in our culture keep you from being watchful or alert? 
What are the things or values that keep you from the spirit of God?

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Advent is a season of hope.  What things give you hope?  How is God’s spirit offering to set us free?  Do you have hope after the recent election or are you discouraged?
Story: From Anthony DeMello SJ:

Imagine that you’re unwell and in a foul mood, and they’re taking you through some lovely countryside. The landscape is beautiful but you’re not in the mood to see anything. A few days later you pass the same place and you say, “Good heavens, where was I that I didn’t notice all of this?” Everything becomes beautiful when you change.

Or you look at the trees and the mountains through windows that are wet with rain from a storm, and everything looks blurred and shapeless. You want to go right out there and change those trees, change those mountains. Wait a minute, let’s examine your window. When the storm ceases and the rain stops, and you look out the window, you say, “Well, how different everything looks.” We see people and things not as they are, but as we are. That is why when two people look at something or someone, you get two different reactions. We see things and people not as they are, but as we are.

Actions - Links

World Aids Day is December 1.
Get some data especially from the international perspective at http://www.worldaidscampaign.org

December 2 is the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery.   The Not For Sale Campaign estimates that 30 million people in the world are enslaved in some way today.  For more information go to: http://www.notforsalecampaign.org/
Not For Sale is a campaign of students, entrepreneurs, artists, people of faith, athletes, law enforcement officers, politicians, social workers, skilled professionals, and all justice seekers, united to fight the global slave trade.

Poverty
David J. O’Brien, Ph.D. is the University Professor of Faith and Culture at the University of Dayton and professor emeritus of history, and formerly the Loyola Professor of Roman Catholic Studies, at the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts.  His recent opinion piece, U.S. bishops should focus on economy, in the Washington Post can be found at:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/guest-voices/post/us-bishops-should-...
And the poor are back. The census bureau reports that the nation’s poverty rate in 2010 was 15.1 percent, up from 14.3 percent in 2009, the third consecutive annual increase. 46.2 million people were in poverty in 2010, the largest number in the 52 years for which poverty estimates have been published. We will blame this on the economic downturn that exploded in 2008, but between 2000 and 2008, while we worried about terrorism and wars, the number of poor Americans grew by more than nine million. People living in extreme poverty, that is, those with incomes below half the poverty line, rose while we were not looking to over 17 million people, the highest level on record since data first became available.

“Crazy Facts”

There are more than 30 million slaves in the world today, more than at any other point in human history. http://www.notforsalecampaign.org/about/slavery

According to UNAIDS estimates, there are now 33.3 million people living with HIV, including 2.5 million children. http://www.avert.org/world-aids-day.htm
Prayers of Intercession
Response: God, help us stay watchful and alert.
For those who have lost jobs or homes in the economic recession and uncertainty that continues to grip our world, we pray….
For all those who are poor, especially the billions of people living on less than two dollars a day, we pray…..
For the rich and powerful, especially those who are addicted to their power and possessions, we pray…..
For all of our children, especially those who are growing up without access to a good education, we pray….
For all those with HIV/AIDS and their families, we pray….
For the thirty million people in our world today who have been enslaved, we pray….
For the media, especially the media controlled by those with power and money, we pray…..
For our churches everywhere, as they hope to become a welcoming, inclusive communities in the spirit of Jesus, we pray…..

Prayer – Meditation

World AIDS Day is December 1.  Various prayers for those suffering from AIDS can be found at: http://www.svdcuria.org/public/jpic/aids2006/aids06en.htm

Hear our prayer, O God of mercy and love, for all who live with HIV or AIDS.
Grant them loving companions who will support them in the midst of fear;
give them hope for each day to come, that every day may be lived with courage and faith.
Bless them with an abundance of your love, that they may live with concern for others.
Pour on them the peace and wholeness, which you alone can give.
Through Jesus Christ, our Savior, who came to give us abundant life.
Amen
Vienna Cobb Anderson (shortened version) in Prayers, Litanies and Liturgies, Diocese of the Highveld, South Africa

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An Advent Prayer

God, Christmas is coming and I thought that I should send you a list of things that I want this year. I’m sending it early, so that you will have enough time to do the shopping. I know that I should not confuse you with Santa Claus; however, I think I might need some of the following:
1.    A place to go to get away from all the ads.
2.    A day of silence to just be with the mystery of incarnation.
3.    A chance to be of service to the poor.
4.    A little more time to be with my family and friends.
5.    Some time to meditate on the fact that Jesus was born poor.
6.    Time to be watchful and alert to the needs of those who are poor today.

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