Reflection for Tuesday, December 16, 2008: 3rd week in Advent.

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Kokensparger, Brian
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It is probably no surprise to anyone in the world that, here in the U.S., we are suffering from difficult economic times. Foreclosures are happening all around us, employers are laying off employees and closing down shop. Food costs continue to rise, and many families do not know where their next meal is coming from. It is not easy to be cheerful during these times -- indeed, it almost seems inappropriate to be cheerful, because that person you meet with a smile may have just encountered some insurmountable hardship. A smile could be misinterpreted as a smirk. Hope could be misconstrued as naivete or denial. It is nothing short of chaos. Such is the mystery of Advent, where we wait in darkness for the coming of the Light, preparing to welcome a powerful Savior swaddled as a baby, journeying with kings and other wise people to pay homage to an infant, and watching with shepherds for this world's most prized citizen yet to come. Advent, too, commemorates a chaotic time in our Christian heritage.|Do you see the similarity? Both mark a time of uncertainty. Both require us to redefine ourselves as Christians and as human beings. So today's readings ask us what kind of people we will redefine ourselves to be.|In the first reading, Zephaniah prophesies that the Lord will "change and purify the lips of the peoples," removing from our midst "the proud braggarts," and leaving "a people humble and lowly." This reading is laced with "change talk;" Zephaniah's words tell us that things are going to change drastically, and we will be forced to change with them.| Beyond the Advent message, this reading also asks us how we will redefine ourselves through these difficult economic times and beyond. Though economists may have their own prescriptions, what can we determine to be the Christian ones? What is the Christian way of dealing with these times?|Here are some suggestions that occur to me from today's first reading:". . . take refuge in the name of the Lord . . ." Where has our attention been focused? In our possessions? Such are fleeting, as we are witnessing each day. No one can repossess our relationship with Jesus.|". . . do no wrong and speak no lies . . . " Have we been misbehaving towards our neighbors? Have we been greedy and selfish? Instead of becoming more so, perhaps this is the time for us to share what we do have with others, to get through this together. ". . . have no deceitful tongue . . ." What have we done in the name of business and commerce? Are we used to "taking a little off of the top" in our business dealings with others? Do we try to push off "lemons" on others? During these times, more than any others, what seems like "just business" may be "just enough" to push someone else over the edge.| ". . . pasture and couch your flocks . . ." Have we been ignoring our families? Maybe now is the time to pull in a bit and find some quality time for the family. True quality time -- conversations, walks in the park, board games -- is inexpensive and more than just a pastime. And don't forget that we can define "family" in any number of ways. We have extended families, and even people in the community that can benefit from some "couching." |I pray that each of us, as we go about redefining ourselves this Advent (and beyond), can become the holy remnant of "a people humble and lowly."
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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