Turning on the news these days can easily be overwhelming, given the amount of suffering in the world. It seems that there is always a new tragedy and a new fear about what might happen next: a mass shooting here, a natural disaster there, and a moment of violent conflict just around the corner. If we are not careful, we can develop compassion fatigue: “an indifference to charitable appeals on behalf of those who are suffering, experienced as a result of the frequency or number of such appeals.” In other words, being asked to care about every horrifying event can lead to emotional and physical exhaustion and a diminished ability to empathize with others.
So what are we as Christians, who are called to seek justice for the marginalized, to do? It helps to take a long view of time. As Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw says in A Prayer of Oscar Romero, “We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.”*
One of the beautiful things about being a Christian is that we are constantly reminded that it is not up to us alone to solve the great challenges of our time. During the time Moses was leading the Israelites to the Promised Land, he complained to Jethro about having to settle all disputes and answer all the people’s questions about God’s will for them. Jethro told him, “You can’t do this alone. . . . Let me tell you how to do this so that God will be in this with you” (Exod. 18:18, The Message).
Where do you go when your cup is empty? What are the practices that sustain you?
The prophet Isaiah brings a harsh message to the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Although they are performing sacrifices and observing feasts, they have lost their heart for God. God wants no more meaningless sacrifices but instead wants the people to repent. The psalmist proclaims a similar message from God. The people’s sacrifices have become pointless because the people have forgotten God. The primary offerings that God desires are thanksgiving and ethical living. The author of Hebrews sounds a note of harmony, emphasizing that Abraham’s faith in action—not his performance of religious duties—brings him favor with God. Jesus teaches that we cannot rest on our laurels of simply “having faith.” Instead we should remain vigilant and continue to perform acts of charity, including caring for the poor, as a response to our faith.
Read Isaiah 1:1, 10-20. Consider the author’s difficult questions: Is there blood on your hands? Does your worship lead you to acts of mercy and justice?
Read Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23. How do you “bring Thanksgiving as [your] sacrifice” and “go the right way”?
Read Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16. How do you demonstrate faith as a verb, not just a noun?
Read Luke 12:32-40. God promises us a bountiful kingdom, but we cannot take our worldly possessions there. How do you work toward living as if you are already in God’s bountiful kingdom? How do you help to create it?
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This season, Whitney R. Simpson has given us the gift we must open: a clear, accessible invitation to connect with the divine spark that is within us. This is the best present: being present for Jesus’ birth, God made human.”
Learn more about our newest Advent resource, Fully Human, Fully Divine here.