Written on: December 2, 2013
It seems that doing justice is somewhat like living in a perpetual Advent. Always waiting, always staying alert, always watching and wondering, always hoping. It requires a contemplative way of living and for that reason, the call to do justice is a gift. It has the potential of slowing us down so as to see more clearly and drink more deeply of the reality of the present moment. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. said,
“Seeing. We might say that the whole of life lies in that verb.”
That we see matters. How we see matters even more!
Here are just four of the many possible examples of where the “how” of seeing makes all the difference in whether our justice is legalistic or compassionate.
1. Not everyone sees the need for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as critical. Presently SNAP benefits average less than $1.50 per person per meal, making it difficult for recipients to afford an adequate and nutritious diet. Nevertheless, both the House and Senate are calling for enormous cuts in the program. The House is calling for cuts of almost $20 billion over 10 years and the Senate $4.1 billion over the same time frame. What will happen if benefits are reduced as scheduled is a cut of about $20 to $25 per month for a household of three?
Those who opt to cut funding for SNAP see the program as enabling the poor and working poor not to seek employment or full employment. Those who maintain its need, see it is the cornerstone of the nation’s nutrition safety net, helping to put food on the table for more than 47 million low income participants each month.
2. Fracking? There are those who see it as a way for the U.S. to become energy independent. Others see it as a degradation of our environment, a danger to public health and living totally disconnected from everyone else.
3. Death penalty? Thirty-three states are still debating whether or not to abolish it. Those who condone it see it as justice for the victims. Those who oppose it see all human life as sacred and nothing ever gives anyone the right to take it away.
4. Immigration reform? Some see those waiting to become U.S. citizens as “illegal aliens”, a threat to our economy and national security; others see them as undocumented immigrants seeking what rightfully belongs to every human being – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Perhaps this Advent would be a good time to check our vision! We might consider asking ourselves in prayer “How to I see those receiving food stamps? Where do I stand on the fracking issue? How do I see the prisoner on death row? How do I see the undocumented immigrant? Seeing clearly, deeply and with the eyes of Jesus who saw everyone as sisters and brothers, worthy to live with and among is what we are called to.
This Advent, let our prayer for each other be for enough vision that will disturb any complacency or blindness that may have crept into our minds and hearts this past year and for the courage to receive that gift with great joy and energy!
Sr. Diane Bardol writes a monthly update on current issues related to Social Justice. Check back frequently for updates.