SOUL FOOD for Hungry Adult Communities: Dec.8th 2013, 2nd Sunday of Advent. Click here for the Mass Readings for this Sunday. Isaiah 11:1-10, Psalm 71, Romans 15:4-9, Matthew 3:1-12.
CONSCIENCE MONEY, and FIRE IN THE BELLY:
A Question: By any chance, do some of our societies have people whose behaviours are actually robbing fellow-citizens? Do we have people who gladly walk all over other people, and over the public, to get ahead at all costs? By any chance, do we have people who, by their demands, put their hands in the public purse and help themselves to gross salaries?
I think every society has its quota of such behaviours. We’re no different. We cannot point the finger.
Maybe today, at this time of new beginnings, and with the Gospel that is put before us, we could recall a very useful phrase which seems to have dropped out of use,- ‘Conscience Money’. It used to refer to money that a person paid back, probably anonymously, because of tax or other obligation avoided, and it was done to ‘relieve’ one’s conscience. There’s an acute awareness of a past or present behaviour that is morally wrong, an ignoring of the common good of all, and then, following that awakening of awareness or conscience, the consequent decision to put matters to right until the conscience is now at peace. Of course, this decision can be avoided, and the acute awareness is allowed to fade. It will not go away, of course.
Some definitions from various dictionaries: Conscience Money…
- ‘is money paid usually anonymously to relieve the conscience by restoring what has been wrongfully acquired.
- money paid because of feelings of guilt, especially about a payment that one has evaded: (an example of such usage: ‘the country regards aid as conscience money from the West’)
-payment made voluntarily to reduce guilt over dishonest dealings
-money paid, often anonymously, to relieve one’s conscience, as for an obligation previously evaded. [1840–50]
-Money paid in compensation or atonement, as for a dishonest or morally objectionable act.
It has to do with coming to our senses, and giving proof of our repentance.
Pope Francis in our time (in his recent Apostolic Exhortation ‘Evangelii Gaudium’ or ‘The Joy of the Gospel’) , and John the Baptizer in his time (heard in today’s Gospel to us), are voices in the wilderness, speaking to those who are willing to hear, calling for repentance from immoral or humanly wrong behaviours, from grasping money, from oppressing the poor by the structures that we accept, the practices we condone in society and as societies. We are all complicit in much that is morally wrong in society, by our silence or our fears, or our own comfort. ‘The hole is not in our end of the boat, so why worry?’
Now, change ‘Pharisees and Sadducees’ to our own names and societies and the structures of commerce, banking, politics, church,- and we then listen to these words to our own selves: ‘Brood of vipers, who warned you to fly from the retribution that is to come? But if you are repentant, produce the appropriate fruit!’ ‘Even now the axe is laid to the trees, so that any tree that fails to produce good fruit will be cut down…’ Societies that do not care for all their members, for the common good, for the little ones, the vulnerable, the weak, the elderly sick, the poor,- such societies, not matter how great or seemingly powerful, will fall by their own corruption and injustice. Justice means right relationships. If these right relationships are corrupted, the society will eventually crumble and fall. And that goes for the church as well,- there is always the constant need to look and see and repent and change, – change hearts and change structures. Christ founded a church, a community of sinners, and that is ‘as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.’ We are a pilgrim people, holy in our deepest humanity, and yet broken in so many ways and relationships.
And as we continue to repent and show proof of repentance by our actions, Jesus (‘the one who comes after me’ said John) will baptise us with, and steep us in, the Holy Spirit and fire,- the fire of longing for justice, for peace, for reconciliation, for right relationships, – that was in his own heart. That is the work of the Spirit, that is the ‘fire’ that is put into our bellies for the sake of our suffering and injured sisters and brothers, near and far.
Prayer: Holy Spirit, help us to hear the call to repent, to change our hearts, attitudes and structures, to be filled with your Spirit and the fire to be passionate about human beings, whoever and wherever they are. Teach us to listen prayerfully at this time of the approach of Christ, to your voice in our hearts, to our consciences calling to us now, as we look out at our world today.
And the new time, what will it look like? This is what is promised! This will happen! We believe the promises made to us by the Lord!
The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon our communities:
a spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
a spirit of counsel and of strength,
a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,
and (our) delight shall be the fear of the LORD. (See Isaiah 11:1-10)
It will be like this, when we have repented and been washed clean and filled with the Spirit and the ‘fire’ of Jesus Christ: (and this passage is not about Animal Welfare, but about human communities and societies! it’s the dream for us, or what ‘the kingdom of God’, God’s kind of society, will be like! )
“Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
the calf and the young lion shall browse together,
with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbours,
together their young shall rest;
the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
The baby shall play by the cobra’s den,
and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.
There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD,
as water covers the sea.”
‘Give us once again all the miracles and gifts of Pentecost!- the prayer of John 23rd when he called the Council all those years ago.
‘Give us once again all the miracles and gifts of Pentecost!’ is our prayer today.
Fr. Seamus Devitt C.Ss.R.
P.S. RED LETTER DAY! Find ‘Esker Redemptorists’ now on Facebook! A new day dawns!
P.S. 2: Click here for ‘Soul Food for Young Adult Communities’, for this 2nd Sunday of Advent 2013