Dear Clergy of Houma-Thibodaux
Greetings in Christ,
Reflections and thoughts for your consideration based on the social teachings of the church for Second Sunday of Advent – Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord.
Second Sunday of Advent December 4, 2016
Catholic Social Teaching: Global Solidarity
We are one human family whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. Our love for all our sisters and brothers demands that we promote peace in a world surrounded by violence and conflict.
Advent is a season to open our eyes and see, to notice those who struggle or suffer, to see the injustice around us, to be more aware of the challenges in our world.
In today’s advent scriptures, we hear messages of both hope and challenge. John the Baptist talks of a repentance that will produce fruit that will burn up the chaff and result in something new and life giving. Isaiah talks of a new spirit that will bring wisdom, understanding, and justice. He talks of a healing of relationships between people and nations. Paul talks of harmony and an inclusive community.
Our Christian hope is not a “superficial” hope. It doesn’t say “don’t worry, all will be well.” Our hope is not only about individual feelings, about our personal problems coming to an end. Rather, our hope involves a radical transformation of the whole community and the way we live with each other. Our hope is based in an invitation from God to enter into a new life and not be stuck in what fails to give life.
Pope Francis, in his exhortation,
, speaks of a joy that spreads as we share the fruit
of Jesus Christ. He reminds us that “Each individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society.”
The hope that we have involves responding to the challenges and working for a new world of justice and peace. In our response, we will be changed as a community of men and women. It may not always be easy, but it is wonderful and it is good news.
Third Sunday of Advent December 11, 2016
Catholic Social Teaching: Life and Dignity of the Human Person
Every human being is created in the image of God and redeemed by Jesus Christ, and therefore is invaluable and worthy of respect as a member of the human family.
When John the Baptist sent his disciples to Jesus, they may have been experiencing some discouragement since John is in jail. They may have been wondering: Is there any hope? Are God’s promises really to be fulfilled? Can we expect something new?
Believers in all times and places can be challenged by discouragement. We, too, can be tempted to lose hope. Maybe we are thinking of the persistence of poverty and injustice around our world. Maybe we are thinking of the various people who are denied basic human rights. The transformation and peace that we long for still seem to be missing.
However, Isaiah reminds us that it is precisely the desert that will rejoice and bloom. “Be strong, fear not!” James calls the community to “patience.” Don’t give up the vision! Jesus reminds the disciples of John not to miss the signs of God’s spirit. Signs of power and the outward trappings of success are not what they should look for. They are called to see that “the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.” We, too, are called to look for a transformation of values and life. We are called to enter into a new way of looking at things. Our faith calls us into action filled with hope.
Fourth Sunday of Advent December 18, 2016
Catholic Social Teaching: Rights and Responsibilities
As human beings, we have a right to live and grow in peace. Because we have that right, we have the responsibility to make sure others enjoy the same opportunity too.
Ahaz seems to be fearful of asking God for a sign. Ahaz seems to be fearful of expecting something great from God. Is this somehow analogous to the fear that some people have about speaking up for justice and peace? Is this analogous to the fear that some of us have that nothing can change? In the case of Ahaz, God is weary of this fear. God is willing to make a great and extraordinary promise. We are called to make the assumption that great things can happen with God’s inspiration. Today we are willing to believe that social change is possible? Are we willing to believe that we can put Catholic Social Teaching into practice? Are we willing to make a stand for justice? Are we willing to speak up for the poor?
Paul reminds us that we are called to “belong to Jesus Christ,” that we are called to be holy. We called to expect something great – to be something great. We can be holy! We can even have that type of holiness that is more than a conventional piety or superficial holiness. We can be people who put the faith into practice. Do you believe that we can be a community of faith that works courageously for justice and peace?
In the gospel, Joseph is a righteous man. He seeks to do what is right. Then, Joseph discovers that what is right is not what he and the tradition had called for. God asks him for something unconventional. “Take Mary as your wife.” Believe that all this is happening by “the power of the Holy
Spirit.” Joseph is invited to think outside the box. Are you too invited to think outside of the box of our culture and the conventional value system of our country? We too, are called to be faithful to the vision of God and work for a new era of peace and justice for all.
Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord Christmas December 24-25, 2016
Catholic Social Teaching: Call to Family, Community, and Participation
The person is not only sacred but also social. We believe people have a right and a duty to participate in society, seeking together the common good and well-being of all, especially the poor and vulnerable.
It is good to be alive. It is good to be human. It is good to be engaged in life.
The celebration of the Incarnation at Christmas is God’s affirmation of the goodness of life, especially human life. It is a celebration of God’s engagement in life here on earth and even in the struggles, questions, poverty and injustices of life. The readings from the four Christmas masses share this wonderful message to all people and especially the poor.
At the Vigil Mass, Isaiah tells us that “the Lord delights in you…so shall your God rejoice in you.” In Acts, we are told that Israel, despite all her sins, has a savior. In Matthew’s gospel, we listen to the long genealogy, which includes saints and sinners but at the same time leads to the birth of the child who will affirm the mercy of God and who will be called “Emmanuel,” which means “god is with us.” With the revelation of Jesus, the Christ, it is good to be alive. It is good to be human. It is good to be engaged in life.
At the Mass in the Night, Isaiah tells us that all the symbols of oppression (the yoke, the pole, the rod) will be smashed. A Prince of Peace will “confirm and sustain by judgment and justice.” In the letter to Titus, we hope for “the appearance of the glory of our great God.” In Luke’s story of the birth, hope is revealed in the birth of a homeless child born in a place for animals. A liberating God is with us in our sinful world and so it is good. It is good to be human. It is good to be engaged in life.
At the Mass at Dawn, Isaiah announces “Your savior comes!” Therefore, we “shall be called the holy people.” In the letter to Titus we are reminded that it is “because of his mercy” that we “become heirs in hope of eternal life.” The shepherds travel to the child and experience the presence and fulfillment of the promise. God comes to us in a spirit of mercy, and so it is good to be alive. It is good to be human. It is good to be engaged in life.
At the Mass during the Day: Isaiah proclaims one who comes with joy and comfort. The letter to the Hebrews reminds us that this message is coming directly from the Son of God. “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory. “No matter how bad things are, it is good to be alive. It is good to be human. It is good to engaged in life.
God invites us to share this message to all who are in need, to all who experience poverty, and to all who are oppressed by injustice. With Jesus Christ it is good to be alive.
---Education for Justice Lectionary Reflections By: Fr. John Bucki, S.J.