“How many things have we become used to in the course of the years, of the weeks and months, so that we stand unshocked, unstirred, inwardly unmoved.” This sentiment was expressed by Father Alfred Delp, a Jesuit priest, condemned as a traitor for this opposition to Hitler. He wrote this shortly before he was hanged in 1945. [In Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas, Plough Publishing House, 2001]
This observation rings so true today. Oh, another school shooting. Oh, more children kidnapped. Oh, another roadside bomb. Oh, another black teenager shot by the police. Oh, another person dies of exposure on a cold winter night. Oh, more of the polar ice cap melted. Oh, another woman beaten by her husband. Oh, another rape on campus. Oh, another company with a billionaire CEO goes defunct robbing the employees of their pensions. Oh, troops sent to another locale. We take this all in like it was a weather report. Oh, rain today. Ok. “How many things have we become used to. . . “
It was similar in Jesus’ day. The people had simply become used to things as they were, right or wrong. They were used to religion that was preferential and condemning. They were used to living under the occupation of Rome. They were used to poverty. They were used to corruption. They were used to ethnic rivalry and hatred. They were used to greed and graft. “How many things we have become used to. . .”
The stories of Jesus show us how he sees the conditions, the circumstances, the ____ of his day. He sees. He sees the injustice. The loneliness. The poverty. The sickness of body and soul. The oppression. The way religion has become twisted. The condemnation and judgmentalism. The lying. The pursuit of that which does not satisfy. The false security of material wealth. He sees the problems. Clearly. With open eyes. And with heart. With compassion. With grief. With honesty.
The stories of Jesus also show us that Jesus sees all the good in the world. And he rejoices in that good, where ever he sees it: In creation, in community, in companions, in those condemned by society. Stories tell us of Jesus seeing the good in Zacchaeus, in a Samaritan woman with 5 husbands, in a woman caught in adultery, in someone who is possessed by demons, in a thief from the cross. Jesus sees all the spectacular, shining splendor of the living of our days. And he is not afraid.
In our holiday celebrations, lights twinkle, decorations delight, gifts elicit gratitude and we enjoy family, friends, and food. We seem to see things anew with awe and wonder. This season many we be stunned one again by the glory and the grief of life. May we be awed by the horror of which humanity is capable. May we vividly feel the raw reality of the world around us. And may the wonder bring us out of the tomb of complacency and apathy to new life.
For reflection: When can you remember feeling shocked? When have you lost sleep over a horrible event that has taken place in the world? What have you gotten used to?
Prayer: In these Advent days, may we awaken to the new life that Jesus brings to us. May we join him in authentic, compassionate living. May we accompany him in self-giving service. May we not be afraid to feel the pain and the goodness within us and around us. Amen.