I was personally stopped cold by this post in America Magazine: A 12-step Advent examen on what it means ‘to be parish.’ It hit me as expressing something between the cracks of first aid and systemic change.
Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God.(IS 40:1-2)…Notice that these words do not come as a promise. They are delivered as a command,
Allow me to describe the cares and concerns of those sitting near you [in your church.]. Do not waste time much time in trying to tie a name to each description. What is true for us this Second Sunday of Advent in 2017 is true every Sunday, in every parish around the world. So reflect for a moment, and in no particular order, upon 12 types of people. Call it an Advent 12-step examen in preparation for the 12 Days of Christmas.
* Those who are approaching their first Christmas after the death of someone, whom they have dearly loved.
* Those who come to Christmas to celebrate the Word made flesh, knowing that cancer or some other disease has invaded their own flesh.
* Those who are, late in life, once again raising children in their home because unless they do their grandchildren will have no nurturing home.
* Those who, advanced in age, live in fear that this will be their last Christmas in their own home, still able to live life in their own way.
* Those who struggle to make Christmas something their children will always remember but only add to the mounting worry about bills that cannot be paid.
* Those who came to this country, desperate to find a new life, and who now live in fear that everything might be lost.
* Those who want to live in the freedom of Christ but are still held captive by addiction.
* Those who try to spread holiday cheer and comfort, all the while returning to homes where discord and distrust hold reign.
* Those who are growing up different than others, in communities where young people are expected to mature in well-worn ways.
* Those who are alienated from their family and friends, cut off from the faces meant to give them life.
* Those, who think that they are alone in struggling with unbelief and with questions about their faith.
* Those who are not here in the parish most Sundays because it has never been a place of comfort for them.
If a face or two has come before your mind, realize that God has given you a gift. You have seen the suffering of God’s cherished ones. Now it is up to you to decide how to make this command of God into the promise of your parish.
Comfort, give comfort to my people,
says your God.
Here is your God!
Here comes with power
the Lord God,
who rules by his strong arm;
here is his reward with him,
his recompense before him.
Like a shepherd he feeds his flock;
in his arms he gathers the lambs,
carrying them in his bosom,
and leading the ewes with care (Is 40:1, 10-11).
Readings: Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11 2 Peter 3:8-14 Mark 1:1-8