Sunday, December 13, 2015

Reflection for Sunday, December 13, 2015

Third Sunday of Advent
LK 3:10-18

Advent calls us to embrace the struggle of being a hopeful people while doing good in the present. And the readings today call us to rejoice—for all sorts of reasons.
Many of these reasons for rejoicing are due to absence of things—judgment, fear, and anxiety about our place in the world. But by calling out these absences, we acknowledge that all these reasons not to be happy are very real. These fears, anxieties and understandings of relationships were real to the people of Israel as they are to us today. But, as people of hope, we know that future holds promise for better days.

John the Baptist epitomizes this concept of one-foot-in-the-present and one-foot-in-the future. He points to crowds to Jesus, but he keeps his flock focused on the practicalities of day-to-day living. Hope is not passive, nor is building the kingdom. John was preparing the foundation for the new kingdom by organizing his followers to understand the integrity of doing good while looking to the future.

We also live in turbulent times in the region and in the world. Building the kingdom remains uncomfortable for us, because just as John’s followers were pushed out of their comfort zone by answers to their own questions, we challenge ourselves when we dig deep into today’s issues of social justice and the common good. Hoping for a better future—and fairer structures and just legal systems—is good. But hope isn’t enough. Hope in the future must be complemented by action today.

And that action may be in verbal and physical protest, or in collaborating to write legal briefs, or in initiating difficult conversations with friends and colleagues, or in committing to personal goals to engage most effectively as an aspiring academic or professional. Or, at times, it may be all of the above.

As James will remind us later in his epistle that faith without works is dead, so too John reminds us today that hope without works is empty, untethered and wistful. We are called to be and do better. And that is our challenge today as members of the Saint Louis University Community.

And, on a lighter note, take a look at the video below. It’s from another era, and the songs are from an earlier era still. The video is a classic—and a little goofy and campy through our lens today. But take a look and a listen, and look up the songs (and the singers) if interested. You’ll find this blending of hope and action is an eternal and yet very modern struggle.

Dr. Fred Rottnek is Associate Professor and Director of Community Medicine in the School of Medicine.

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