Lectionary Reflections: Second Sunday in Advent [b]. December 7, 2014

Engaging Faith | Mon, Dec 1, 2014

By John Bucki, SJ
Source: Center of Concern

Lectionary Reflections: Second Sunday in Advent [b]. December 7, 2014

Copyright @ 2014, Center of Concern

Second Sunday in Advent [b]
December 7, 2014
Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11
2 Peter 3:8-14
Mark 1:1-8
December 6: Feast of Saint Nicholas
December 8: Feast of the Immaculate Conception
December 12:  Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Life is like a voyage on the sea of history, often dark and stormy, a voyage in which we watch for the stars that indicate the route. The true stars of our life are the people who have lived good lives. They are lights of hope. Certainly, Jesus Christ is the true light, the sun that has risen above all the shadows of history. But to reach him we also need lights close by—people who shine with his light and so guide us along our way.   
-Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi, 49
Our social doctrine is an integral part of our faith; we need to pass it on clearly, creatively, and consistently. It is a remarkable spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral resource that has been too little known or appreciated even in our own community.
-US Bishops, Sharing Catholic Social Teaching
Salvation comes to us through all women and men who love truth more than lies, who are more eager to give than to receive, and whose love is that supreme love that gives life rather than keeping it for oneself.
-Jon Sobrino, Spirituality of Liberation
Catholic teaching offers consistent moral principles to assess issues, political platforms, and campaigns for their impact on human life and dignity. As Catholics, we are not free to abandon unborn children because they are seen as unwanted or inconvenient; to turn our backs on immigrants because they lack the proper documents; to create and then destroy human lives in a quest for medical advances or profit; to turn away from poor women and children because they lack economic or political power; or to ignore sick people because they have no insurance. Nor can we neglect international responsibilities in the aftermath of war because resources are scarce. Catholic teaching requires us to speak up for the voiceless and to act in accord with universal moral values. 
-US Bishops, Sharing Catholic Social Teaching
The Gospel is not merely a communication of things that can be known—it is one that makes things happen and is life-changing.  
-Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi, 2
Thoughts for your consideration
Racial tensions continue in our country as made more apparent by the events in Ferguson.
The welcoming of immigrants to our country continues to be debated.
So many people seem to be excluded.
The financial system seems to be a mess.  
Income and asset inequality is very high in the US and around the world.
Those who are poor seem to be forgotten.  
Some try to live on a meager “minimum wage.”
Fighting continues in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and so many other places.
Hugh amounts of money are spent in the US and elsewhere on “defense.”
The behavior of the developed world continues to change the climate.
Species are going extinct.  Glaciers are melting.
The economic system seems to support fossil fuels rather than renewal energy.
Billions continue to try to live on less than two dollars a day.
Our political system seems to be ineffective and polarized.
The scriptures remind us to speak up and to proclaim the message of God.  
There is a “voice crying in the desert.”  
“Speak tenderly.”  “Comfort my people.” “A voice cries out.”  
Work for justice.  Share the vision of God.
We are called to speak up and add our Catholic Social Teaching to the conversation.
We are called to get into action for justice and peace,
With Isaiah, John the Baptist and Jesus we are invited to proclaim a message of hope to our world, especially to those who are in need.  In a world of war and terrorism, of poverty and injustice, of dishonesty and manipulation of the truth, and of political expediency, we are invited to practice our faith in the spirit of the great prophets and address issues of justice, peace, and genuine human development for all God’s people.  
The images of the scriptures are images of hope and possibility. The rough way can be made straight.  God will come with power.  We can expect a new heaven and new earth “where righteous dwells.”  Baptism, repentance and all kinds of renewal are possible.  Justice can replace injustice; solidarity can replace isolation; nonviolence can replace violence; compassion can replace selfishness. We are invited to believe that the rich vision of Catholic Social Teaching can be made real in our world. 
Questions for Reflection in your Faith Sharing Group
When have you personally encountered a person who spoke prophetically in the spirit of Isaiah or John the Baptist?  When have you tried to speak up in such a way?
Where do you see signs of hope in the midst of the injustice in the world?
Where are the rough ways being leveled out?
What do the scriptures say to you about racial issues in the United States?  
Do they have anything to say about the situation in Ferguson, Missouri?
A story about the “common good” from Anthony DeMello’s The Prayer of the Frog, Volume 2:
A farmer, whose corn always took the first prize at the State Fair, had the habit of sharing his best corn seed with all the farmers in the neighborhood.  When asked why, he said, “It is really a matter of self-interest. The wind picks up the pollen and carries it from field to field. So if my neighbors grow inferior corn the cross-pollination brings down the quality of my own corn. That is why I am concerned that they plant only the very best.”
Actions - Links
December 10 is International Human Rights Day
On December 10, 1948, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). “It is the foundation of international human rights law, the first universal statement on the basic principles of inalienable human rights, and a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.”   
The promotion of human rights remains the most effective strategy for eliminating inequalities between countries and social groups, and for increasing security. Indeed, the victims of hardship and despair, whose human dignity is violated with impunity, become easy prey to the call to violence, and they can then become violators of peace. The common good that human rights help to accomplish cannot, however, be attained merely by applying correct procedures, nor even less by achieving a balance between competing rights. The merit of the Universal Declaration is that it has enabled different cultures, juridical expressions and institutional models to converge around a fundamental nucleus of values, and hence of rights.
-Benedict XVI, at the United Nations, April, 2008
2015 Hunger Report
“The 2015 Hunger Report, When Women Flourish…We Can End Hunger, released today by Bread for the World Institute, identifies the empowerment of women and girls as essential in ending hunger, extreme poverty, and malnutrition around the world and in the United States.”
Read the report at
“Crazy Facts”
From 2015 Hunger by the Numbers found at 
Progress against poverty 
Goal 1 of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) calls for cutting extreme poverty in half between 1990 and 2015. In 1990, almost half of the population in developing regions lived in extreme poverty (less than $1.25 a day). This rate dropped to 22 percent by 2010, achieving the MDG target five years ahead of schedule. 
The absolute number of people living in extreme poverty fell from 1.9 billion in 1990 to 1.2 billion in 2010.  Poverty rates are falling in every developing region.  Currently, the overwhelming majority of people living on less than $1.25 a day reside in two regions: South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. 
Hunger declining around the world
Currently, 13.5 percent of the population in developing countries is undernourished (hungry). In 1990-1992, 23.4 percent of the population was hungry.  If the current trend continues through 2015, hunger in developing regions will fall to 12.8 percent in 2015—1.1 percentage points above the MDG target of 11.7 percent.  
About 805 million people are estimated to be chronically hungry in 2012–2014, down more than 100 million during the last decade and down 209 million from 1990–1992.
From 2007 to 2011, an estimated annual average of 259,700 nonfatal violent and property hate crime victimizations occurred against persons age 12 or older residing in U.S. households.
Prayers of Intercession
Response: Prepare the way of the Lord.

For a world that offers hope and justice to all people, we pray….
That all people may enjoy basic human rights, we pray….
That all people will enjoy food security and decent housing, we pray….
That all people enjoy political freedom and safety, we pray….
That all people will be free from racism, sexism, and all forms of discrimination, we pray….
That we bring an end to war, terrorism, and all forms of violence, we pray….
That we embrace the path of nonviolence and mutual understanding, we pray….
That we simply learn to listen to each other and learn from each other, we pray….
For a world that offers hope and justice to all people, we pray….
For a rabbi’s prayer for human rights go to: 
For many prayers for human rights go to: 
A Prayer from Pope John Paul II
Immaculate Heart of Mary, help us to conquer the menace of evil, 
       which so easily takes root in the hearts of the people of today, 
and whose immeasurable effects already weigh down upon our modern world and seem to block the paths toward the future. 
From famine and war, deliver us. 
From nuclear war, from incalculable self-destruction, from every kind of war, deliver us. 
From sins against human life from its very beginning, deliver us. 
From hatred and from the demeaning of the dignity of the children of God, deliver us. 
From every kind of injustice in the life of society, both national and international, deliver us. 
From readiness to trample on the commandments of God, deliver us. 
From attempts to stifle in human hearts the very truth of God, deliver us. 
From the loss of awareness of good and evil, deliver us. 
From sins against the Holy Spirit, deliver us. 
Accept, O Mother of Christ, this cry laden with the sufferings of all individual human beings, 
       laden with the sufferings of whole societies. 
Help us with the power of the Holy Spirit conquer all sin: individual sin and the “sin of the world,” 
sin in all its manifestations. 
Let there be revealed once more in the history of the world 
       the infinite saving power of the redemption: the power of merciful love. 
May it put a stop to evil. 
May it transform consciences. 
May your Immaculate Heart reveal for all the light of hope.