There is something about advent that quiets us down in our spirits and helps us to reflect on the essential meanings of the coming of Christ. Florida is known for its long and bright days even in winter. But still the darkness comes earlier and evening is longer than we like. Activities stop earlier and there is time to think and reflect on the beautiful prophetic readings about the long awaited messiah, Deliverance, Emanuel,God With Us. The reading from Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11 is particularly moving to me. The early verses in this Scripture herald John the Baptist who is the voice, the thundering voice, in the wilderness making straight the way of our God. The Gospel,Mark 1:1-8 has John thundering his message to the people. Turn yourselves around, turn back from your way to God’s way, to loving God with all your being and your neighbor as yourself, turn back to a life of justice and peace. Turn back to Love. The last time I preached on this text I dropped a huge book on the floor with a great clamor. Speak up, speak up with God’s message! This is not a time to mumble! The best news is coming, announce it. God’s love and justice has been born among us and we will learn to live love and justice as we follow the way of Christ.
Isaiah 40:11 speaks to our congregation growing from the bottom up, full of children, mothers, youth and new Christians. On Sunday we had 21 children with us, including six that have been coming for just a few times. “Like a shepherd you feed your flock,gathering the lambs and holding them close,and leading mother ewes with gentleness.” The same strong and gentle God who holds the little lambs close, the God with Mother/Father arms to embrace,protect and comfort, sends his own Beloved child as a helpless baby to be cared for and loved. With this same God love and faithfulness will meet and justice and peace kiss each other and embrace(Psalm 85:10). And God will help us when we just cannot get this right. I think of the mothers in my flock who carry the heavy load alone, sometimes near breaking. I think of those who have been beaten,used and exploited in the name of “love”. I think of the children who do not have what they need to grow materially, physically,intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. I think of the children being raised by other relatives and foster parents who have lost both parents to drugs, alcohol, violence death and illness. I think of those living with those types of caregivers here and now in our midst. Then I think of the one parent who faithfully rounds up all of the children in her neighborhood to bring them to church. We will hold them close and treat the ewes with tenderness. But it will take more than us to turn this around. I am sickened by the violence all around them. Our little nine year old who lost his five year old cousin to a drive by shooting a few weeks ago now has a husky eleven year old telling him “watch your back, I’m going to get you”. And that happened right after church so I could intervene. But it will take God to keep him safe and to bring justice and peace to his world.
And so my heart resounds with Rev. Chava’s reflection on her little flock. She is so right that the number in the flock is immaterial, God is there for each one, carrying each in God’s ample arms. And sometimes God’s arms are our own tired limbs. Sometimes they help someone change out of soiled clothes, and sometimes they help people step out of soiled lives and take on new life. Rev. Chava’s love holds them close and her passion for justice never tires, although I know she does. I sometimes join her in wondering “shall we continue?” “Are we doing enough”? And even CAN we continue? This shepherding is hard work! And justice is so far off. I rejoiced with Rev. Chava as her young man from Mexico was granted his wish of a Voluntary Departure in a speedy way as someone spoke for him-and was heard, miracle of miracles. Someone representing justice. I was glad in an immigration system where there is little justice that some little justice did happen. I was glad last week when President Obama made some definite beginning steps in repairing that broken system and can only pray that partisanship can finally be put aside to serve the needs of all concerned for we need the labor as much as the workers need the work and the recognition of their families. Perhaps that is a “Hail Mary” but we can pray for it.
As we face the coming of the Christ-child, let us hold all children close and work and pray for justice.
Rev. Judy Lee,Co-Pastor The Good Shepherd Community
And here is Rev. Chava;s lovely reflection:
Oscar Romero Inclusive Catholic Church Bulletin for Sunday, November 30, 2014 First Sunday of Advent
Happy Advent! May the peace and stillness of this waiting time fill your soul, and balance the sometimes frantic energy of the weeks that lead up to Christmas.
We had a lovely Advent Mass at St Romero’s this morning, with a surprise visit from Ann and Nancy who visit about once a year from Penn Yan. Bob McBride is almost always present these days. He’s the member of the St Joe’s community with responsibility for our overnight shelter. Another woman came in as well. It’s usually like that – Bob, and one or two people who come once or twice. Last week there was a man who is part of the Sanctuary Village under the bridge, and Carol who is one of our regulars.
Every now and then I ask God if it’s time to stop the Sunday Mass. In the past, any time I asked that question a dozen or so people would show up for Mass. For us, that’s a crowd! Lately the answer to that question has not been numbers, but a deepened appreciation for what we offer in this simple Mass. There are some people who come back over and over, for whom I think our Mass is a place where they are known and loved, no matter how long they have been away. There are others who come once and are never seen again, but the moment when they were here was a blessing. I’m thinking of a time when it was just one man from the street, and me. His faith was so deep! After communion he asked if he could sing something, and made up a song on the spot about what a blessing it was to be worshipping together.
We have tossed around the idea of looking for another place for Mass on Sunday mornings. Some folks who live at St Joe’s have said they would come if it didn’t feel so much like work – and that’s a reasonable thing for them to say, because in fact Sunday mornings can turn into a sort of extra hospitality time. We try not to do that but sometimes there’s an emergency, like the Sunday a woman came in who had soiled her trousers and needed sanitary supplies. Most of the Mass time was devoted to taking care of her, and I was awfully glad we were there to do it. Then she and I had a lovely Mass together.
I don’t think numbers are important to God. God loves us one person at a time, and I think it’s enough when we do the same.
In the migrant ministry it was an interesting week, as I accompanied one young man to court. Ironically, he wants to go back to Mexico – he has been here ten years and misses his family. A year ago he wanted to go back, but his court date got postponed for a year. So he found a job in a dairy farm and has been working. Finally his court date came around. He quit his job and moved in with his aunt, making plans to go to Mexico a few days after his court appearance. He was hoping for Voluntary Departure, in which one pays one’s own way out of the country, and has no deportation history to prevent coming back at some later time. Either way, he knew he was going back, and he’s ready!
So we went to court. His lawyer, Richard Link, told the judge he wanted Voluntary Departure. The judge checked with the government attorney, who said there was no obvious bar to his being granted that. “Okay,” the judge said. “We’ll schedule him for a hearing. Next available date is in April 2016.”
My heart sank! Richard said, “Ah, your honor? He was hoping to go back to Mexico this weekend!” And to the judge’s credit, he found a way to schedule the hearing that very afternoon. Richard and I made phone calls and rearranged our days, and the three of us went to lunch and then returned for the hearing. Our young friend was put in the witness box. “Have you ever been arrested?” the judge asked him. “No.” “Have you ever done anything for which you could have been arrested?” again, no. Actually, this young man is the sort of person we ought to be begging to stay! But he was granted Voluntary Departure, and should be able to get his bond money back, as well.
I tried to explain the meaning of the word “irony” but couldn’t do it. The next day, he and his aunt and uncle came over to my house for Thanksgiving dinner, and we said goodbye. If all goes well, he will be back with his family by Christmas. Please pray for him as he journeys home.
Much peace to you this Advent. You are always welcome at Sunday morning Mass!
Love to all Chava
Oscar Romero Church An Inclusive Community of Liberation, Justice and Joy Worshiping in the Catholic Tradition Mass: Sundays, 11 am St Joseph’s House of Hospitality, 402 South Ave, Rochester NY 14620 A member community of the Federation of Christian Ministries
A Blessed Second Week and Second Sunday of Advent!