Greetings, SBT Readers!
This last week has seen more divisions over race, the right to bear arms and vigilantism. Both the Kyle Rittenhouse case and the Ahmaud Arbery case reveal much about justice in America. For half the nation, Kyle Rittenhouse is a hero who stepped in with his assault weapon, uninvited, supposedly to help maintain order in Kenosha during protests against police brutality; for others, his acquittal represents yet another case of white privilege. As for the trio who murdered Ahmaud Arbery, their crimes highlight the dangers of being black in an America
where even going for a jog can result in the equivalent of a lynching. The case also points out how white-on-black crime often has no consequences -- even District Attorney George Barnhill tried to protect the McMichaels! "We do not see grounds for an arrest of any of the three parties," he wrote to the Glynn County Police Department.
Advent is a time for "waking up" to the world in which we live -- its inequities, its inhumanity, its lack of compassion. It is a time for self-reflection and for examining the ways that we participate in injustice, whether consciously or unconsciously. Above all else, it is a time for aligning ourselves with God's Justice so that all --especially the most vulnerable in our midst--will be safe and all will "dwell secure."
A Blessed Advent!
The days are coming, says the LORD,
when I will fulfill the promise
I made to the house of Israel and Judah.
In those days, in that time,
I will raise up for David a just shoot ;
he shall do what is right and just in the land.
In those days Judah shall be safe
and Jerusalem shall dwell secure;
this is what they shall call her:
“The LORD our justice.”
The days are coming... The words strike fear in us, especially given all that has changed across the world and in our own personal worlds on account of the pandemic and climate change. Life as we knew it has surely changed, bringing reduced socialization, restrictions in terms of activities and travel, economic uncertainty, an increase in crime, destructive weather patterns, an inability to plan.... Nothing is certain any more-- Christmas gatherings? Holiday travel? Traditional weddings? Seasonal sports? Property values? Employment security? Investments? All we know is that we don't know; we can hope but can neither promise nor predict. There is no escaping the fact that we are NOT in control of anything. Of course, we never really were but for those of us accustomed to setting goals and making plans, it is a shock to suddenly realize that "tomorrow" has a mind of its own while "today" refuses to bend to our will.
The days are coming... Jesus' apocalyptic imagery certainly sums up all we are going through at the present time. We don't have to be astrophysicists or geologists to read the signs that the Earth is heading towards catastrophe. Nations are in chaos, while floods and fires, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, increased temperatures and drought are present tense realities.
"People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world," said Jesus (Lk 21:25-26). True, fright can bring on fatal heart attacks, but what we are seeing today is an epidemic of suicides, especially among the young, and a pandemic of hopelessness. Depression, mental illness, sociopathic behaviors, social unrest, and criminal activity seem to be on the rise as people -- young and old-- grapple with a future that seems to hold little promise. Moreover, there are fewer means of escape (vacations, connecting with friends, etc.), more sources of provocation (rules, policies, etc.) and less guidance from our religious institutions. We grieve for a world that has already passed away, knowing that even when COVID-19 is but a bad memory, life will never again be the same.
The days are coming... But while the message of Advent is to wake up and be vigilant so we are not caught by surprise by the End Days, it is also a message of hope. The paradox is that Jesus is not only going to return, but that he never left for the Incarnation did not end with his crucifixion; rather, the Resurrection means that Jesus' Presence is no longer bound by the limitations of Time and Space. He is not "over and above" but immersed in our lives and in the fabric of our world. He is already here but do we see him and hear him? Do we invite him into the sanctuary of our hearts? Can we let go of our willfulness -- of the desire to control-- and submit to the Lord of the Universe? If we turn to Christ in this dark season, we will neither have to live in fear nor die of fright; instead, we can "abound in love," confident in his great compassion and mercy.