Justice Reflections From Fr. Claude

First Sunday of Advent

In the reading from Isaiah and response to the Psalm there is communal lament -a prayer of people amid suffering. In the reading from Isaiah they lamented their deep suffering as a people—they are overburdened and oppressed, feeling abandoned by their ancestors and by their God. They even blamed God for their situation. But their prayer shifted from lamentation to belief in God at work in their lives based on the hope that the God who was present in their past would manifest a renewed goodness and mercy in their present suffering.

In a cry from the heart, Isaiah pleaded for an end to God's silence and remoteness when Israel was in ruins and the Temple desolate to ‘rend the heavens and come down.’. Just before today’s gospel reading, Mark suggests upheaval, destruction of the Temple, of war, earthquakes, famine, and family betrayal. Today’s gospel mirrors our global reality as each continent faces hunger, poverty, violence, and strife. While very few people live comfort, the world is becoming uninhabitable for most people as we witness the effects of climate change. We need God to ‘rend the heavens and come down,’ to rend, rip away the indifference and egoism that separates country from country, race from race, male from female, rich from poor, young from old, religion from religion, healthy from sick, etc. Advent really expresses our faith in the possibility of a better world. More importantly, we need to pray that we rend our hearts and be part of the change that we want to see because God is already in the action and embracing us. The gospel invites us to look at the reality of our world and acknowledge our feelings of sadness, anger, despair, and powerlessness as they touch the pain of the world. We are called to engage with the world, not hide from it. We are called to find strength together to face the pain and heartbreak of our world and thus encourage one another to move through it. More and more we are reminded that we are interconnected and that we cannot take refuge in denial and hide from the world.

There are many people calling for a new way of doing things, that something new is possible - a different way of being human. Pope Francis, as did the Covid 19 pandemic, called into question the assumptions of privilege and capitalism. Ingrained habits, and mindless and oppressive ‘business as usual’ is being challenged. The old world of corporate greed is challenged more and more. The new humanity calls for people being prioritised over profit, property, possessions, power, and privilege. The new humanity is exposing an exploitative system that takes from those forced to the underside of society and benefits those for whom the rules are shaped. Jesus envisioned a system where the strong take care of the weak, not a world where the strong prey on the weak.


Jesus is forever coming, always present. It is we who are often not present. In preferring things to be civil, we find that it silences pain, injustice. Feelings of helplessness in the face of injustice can easily lead to the view that this is just the way things are because that is how they have always been. Jesus tells us to be conscious, to be awake, to be alert, to be alive. Our God is always coming towards us, beckoning, bidding us to care about the household. The reign of God’s peace with abiding justice in the world.


Leonard Cohen has a beautiful line when he says, ‘There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in.’ It seems that the best chance of God getting at us is in the gaps, in the brokenness, the messes, the exceptions and surprises. Could not this be the meaning of being alert or awake? We are called to be on the lookout for the Jesus who inhabits our every loss and joy, who is present in each devastation, and gathers us up when our world has shattered, and offers healing now. And that healing comes about by presence and solidarity.


It is necessary to both work and watch. It means to be a servant (‘each with his or her own work’) and a doorkeeper (‘on the watch’). It is to be a doorkeeper for our ‘common home’ which first requires that we listen to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor and then respond. It means listening for the cues of injustice around us. We are being invited or lured into collaborating. Can we live engaged in God’s world and be open to the arrival of the new? We are called to be fully present to the moment, immersed in the present, and looking to the future.  This waiting is not passive. It is an active waiting whilst listening, discerning and doing. Patience and waiting do not change the world. Civility and the status quo do not change the world. It is a call to engagement. Otherwise, those who are poor, lonely, elderly, sick, have to wait even longer. The poor wait for an end to their suffering in a world where medicine is patented. World AIDS Day on December 1 prompts us to remember people who still struggle to obtain even generic and affordable medication for their illness. Indigenous people and gay people still wait for justice, equality and freedom. And when it is achieved, it is given grudgingly and with conditions.


Covid-19 caused many to review their values. Climate change may not wake us up but the consequences of climate change such as bushfires, hurricanes and cyclones can wake us up to how the earth is being defaced and our failure to act harms vulnerable people. People in the Pacific still wait for us to respond to their situation of climate change; people in Syria want their country back from foreign occupation; refugees cry out for us to listen to their pleas for security and freedom as they face setbacks from right wing governments around the world; people living with HIV/AIDS in developing countries still have questions about their future when medicines are unavailable due to the ‘profit motive’; West Papuan still cry for respect, for human rights and autonomy in the face of ongoing repression and violence; Palestinians continue to be held hostage in Gaza and now face ferocious violence amounting to genocide. Is anyone listening or aware? We need to show God’s care by our presence, solidarity, care and compassion. And God’s reign is inbreaking as people choose relationships over materialism; as small communities work for justice and peace; as young people call for climate justice and peace in Gaza; as First Nations people maintain resilience and try to reclaim their language, culture and self-determination, despite setbacks from the majority culture; as LGBTIQA+ people, despite setbacks, still strive for signs of God’s love and affirmation in the churches. If we look hard enough, we can see visible signs of God’s presence


As Advent begins, can we help one another to discover the difference between ‘the life we live and the life we choose’? Advent reminds us to be alert and open to the unmistakable signs of God presence in the people we meet. God’s work began in Jesus’ ministry, and it continues in our midst and with us. We are faithful disciples not when we focus on the future and obsess about the end of the world but when we commit our lives, here and now, to the great work of God, repairing this world, shaping a new creation of beauty, grace, justice, and joy, leaning into the reign of God. Let us also wake up and reconnect to the beauty of life, the mystery of love and wonder of creation. It may enable us to reconnect to the original goodness and beauty that resides in each of us. We need to be reminded and connected to each other in a deeper way. We need to awaken to hope. We need to be alert to the presence of God in unexpected places and surprising ways. We are reminded that simple presence can say more than our word and does more than our actions. May have open eyes. May we ask the God of hope to awaken us to the comings of sacred into our lives and our suffering world. The Indian poet Tagore can focus our Advent prayer and reflection in his poem ‘Silent Steps’: ‘Have you not heard his silent steps? He comes, comes, ever comes. In every moment and every age, every day and every night.’


Silent Steps

Rabindranath Tagore

Have you not heard his silent steps?

He comes, comes, ever comes.


Every moment and every hour,

every day and every night he comes, comes, ever comes.


Many a song have I sung in many a mood of mind,

but all their notes have always proclaimed,

`He comes, comes, ever comes.'


In the fragrant days of sunny April through the forest path he comes,

comes, ever comes.


In the rainy gloom of July nights on the thundering chariot of clouds
he comes, comes, ever comes.


In sorrow after sorrow it is his steps that press upon my heart,

and it is the golden touch of his feet that makes my joy to shine.


An Advent Credo

It is not true that creation and the human family are doomed to destruction and loss

This is true: For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life;

It is not true that we must accept inhumanity and discrimination, hunger and poverty, death and destruction

This is true: I have come that they may have life, and that abundantly.

It is not true that violence and hatred should have the last word, and that war and destruction rule forever

This is true: Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, his name shall be called wonderful councilor, mighty God, the Everlasting, the Prince of peace.

It is not true that we are simply victims of the powers of evil who seek to rule the world.

This is true: To me is given authority in heaven and on earth, and lo I am with you, even until the end of the world.

It is not true that we have to wait for those who are specially gifted, who are the prophets of the Church before we can be peacemakers

This is true: I will pour out my spirit on all flesh and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions and your old men shall have dreams.

It is not true that our hopes for liberation of humankind, of justice, of human dignity of peace are not meant for this earth and for this history -

This is true: The hour comes, and it is now, that the true worshipers shall worship God in spirit and in truth.

Fr Daniel Berrigan, sj, Jesuit, peace activist, poet (1921-2016)

From Testimony: The Word Made Flesh, by Daniel Berrigan, S.J. Orbis Books, 2004.


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