Year A - Advent 3 - Needed Change 3
December 15, 2013
Apparently John the Baptist has difficulty recognizing in Jesus’ ministry of compassion (Matt 8-9) the deliverer and judge he had anticipated. [Common English Bible note]
A ministry of compassion always runs counter to privilege. The less aware we are of our privilege the less compassionate we are able to be. Our blindness supports a status quo—our keeping more than we need and our every attempt to gain more, regardless of its source.
Each of us have some arenas of life in which we question those who challenge us to become aware of those we have consciously or unconsciously taken advantage of to keep us in the style we have attained or are striving for. The extent to which we can’t make the connection between ourselves and compassion is the extent to which we are in one proverbial prison or another.
Whether wearing prophet’s coarse camel hair or a corporation’s silk suit, it is not easy to escape our preconceived notions of how health comes to all. Both can like to tell others how and when to repent. To the extent we can dive into the complications of life is the extent to which we can offer compassion beyond our comfort.
To preach the Good News to the poor does not therefore mean (as it is sometimes understood to mean) to catechize the poor, but to be catechized by them.... Jesus sent his disciples, as poor among the poor, to enable them to discover the presence and the working of God the Father. The concrete life of the rural and the urban poor is the context in which fundamental experiences occur which will renew the world and the spiritual life of all. [New Community Bible note]
Those who have experienced an Urban Immersion, a mission trip, a Catholic Worker house, a homeless shelter, etc. know how much there is to be learned from the poor. They are not a bottomless pit into which we toss pity and charity. The poor can teach the dignity of all under most difficult conditions. If we understand renewal and transformation came to us in the space of a manger, through the experience of being a refugee, and under threat of torture, we can catch a glimpse of how the lives of the poor are likewise a locus of renewal (whether you want to cast that in terms of world or spirit or both or neither or some other framework).
Remember back to the beginning of whatever religious tradition you follow. Wasn’t there a direct connection with the poor, the suffering, those from whom compassion was usually withheld? If you have forgotten this, you are not in the tradition you thought you were in. When this is forgotten, institutionalism sets in and with it actual power and power aspired to that requires whole classes of deaf, dumb, and blind kids with no access to pinballs, much less food.