Daily Reflection: December 17, 2011

Saturday of the third week of Advent

Gn 49:2, 8-10

Ps 72:1-2, 3-4ab, 7-8, 17

Mt 1:1-17

The readings for the day can be found here.

 

As we wait and watch in anticipation for the Lord this Advent, what might we do to help fulfill God’s reign of peace and justice in our world?

In Genesis 49, we are told that Judah will receive the birthright privilege of leading the family of his father, Jacob,and that Judah is to lead the tribe from which the Messiah is to come.

“Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; thy father’s children shall bow down before thee…The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.”

Judah, in other words, came into a mighty lot of power. My training as an economist leads me to fear power. Power, according to economic theory, is harmful in two distinct ways. First, the exploitation of power transfers benefits from the powerless to the powerful. The powerless are thus harmed. Second, the benefits lost by the powerless exceed the benefits gained by the powerful. Society as whole is thus harmed. I fear, that in my hands, power might be exploited and others might be harmed.

Now, unlike Judah, I rule no mighty tribe. That makes it tempting for me to claim that I wield no power and need not concern myself with abusing it. But such a claim is probably false. We all have power to wield.

What might we do to avoid using power in a way that is harmful to others? The Responsorial Psalm for the day suggests an answer. In Psalm 72, King David prays for his son Solomon, newly seated to the throne.

“…He shall govern your people with justice and your afflicted ones with judgment…He shall defend the afflicted among the people, save the children of the poor…Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.”

Perhaps if we hold for ourselves the same hopes that David had for his kingdom under Solomon, we will use our power well. As we wait and watch in anticipation for the Lord this Advent, I pray that we all might use our power to govern with justice, to defend the afflicted, and to save the children of the poor. In so doing, may we help fulfill God’s reign of peace and justice in our world.

As the new church year begins with the season of Advent, what resolution might we embrace to help fulfill God’s reign of peace and justice in our world?

In the Gospel lesson for the day, we find the genealogy of Jesus Christ. What a list of characters it is – populated in no small part by a bunch of sinners and skunks. This genealogy makes me think of my own family tree. (Not because of the sinners and skunks, surely.) Thinking about one’s roots is somehow comforting. Sinners and skunks aside, we often seem to take pride in our roots. We seem to like having a sense of where we came from. And we tend to find it easy to love our family – even the less noble folks on the list.

Why do we find it so natural to love our family, but so often have difficulty loving others? In seeming contrast to our nature, the underlying ethic of the discipline of economics is that everyone matters and everyone matters equally. No one counts more than anyone else, and no one gets discounted. As I consider the genealogy of Christ and my own family tree, I pray that this Advent season I might resolve to remember that the entire diversity of humanity is my family, to remember that as the genealogy of Christ suggests, God loves us all. To love God is therefore to love all others equally.

As the new church year begins with the season of Advent, I pray that we all might resolve to embrace the connectedness of the human family through God, and to love one another equally. In so doing, may we help fulfill God’s reign of peace and justice in our world.

 

Bonnie Wilson is Associate Professor of Economics in the John Cook School of Business.

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