Thursday, December 8, 2016

Reflection for Thursday, December 8, 2016

Second Thursday of Advent
GN 3:9-15, 20
PS 98:1, 2-3AB, 3CD-4
EPH 1: 3-6, 11-12
LK 1:26-38

Too often we skim over the story and invest in the interpretation.
And while stories are shared among traditions, our very human interpretations of the stories fuel fear, hatred, and wars.
We have stories today of the Garden of Eden and eating the forbidden fruit. The psalmist calls us to praise our God in song.  A preacher blesses and reassures the early Church. And we observe a conversation between an angel and a virgin to conceive the Son of God by his Holy Spirit.
But these passages, although universal to many faith traditions, have been interpreted in ways that have had unintended consequences. Over the last centuries, these passages have inspired Church leaders to create today’s feast, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, as well as the Solemnity of the Annunciation, doctrines of original sin and predestination, and practices such as the joyful mysteries of the rosary. These observations and practices were intended to promote devotion and holiness. But these interpretations of the original stories have also incited bickering, family division, excommunication, and wars.
I struggle to clarify stories and interpretation—particularly since August 9, 2015, the day Michael Brown died in Ferguson as a result of a police shooting. Through the subsequent protests, rallies, movements, and reforms, I struggle to find my voice as an educator, as a physician, and as a man of faith. I see what I consider crystal clear interpretations of events and societal trends as well as policies and political campaigns that have made me cringe and call into question the decline of our country.
As I struggle, I often return to the mission of our university—the pursuit of truth for the greater glory of God and the service of humanity. We believe that we are called to pursue truth—both in the story and in the interpretation. Not only do we purse truth for a reason, we pursue truth before we act. I would like to think the word order of our mission is intentional!
So let our liturgical stories inspire us to pay attention to our world today. Yes, in our readings, we are called to accountability for our actions. We are called to praise our God and receive blessings. And we are called to have open and willing hearts. All of these things are good. But we are also called to be aware and responsible for where our interpretations lead us. We must develop discerning minds and hearts so that we are not distracted, we are not duped, and we are not participating in practices that dampen human flourishing.
As we wait, let us pursue truth in both our stories and our interpretations.

Fred Rottnek, MD, MAHCM
Director of Community Medicine
Department of Family and Community Medicine 

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