By Mary Jo Iozzio
Justice shall flourish in those days and fullness of peace forever
Zephaniah 3:14-18a | Isaiah 12:1-6 | Philippians 4:4-7 | Luke 3:10-18
“Exhorting them in many other ways, [John] preached good news to the people” (Luke 3:18)
Only last Sunday our readings directed us to the “voice crying out in the desert” (Luke 3:4). Yesterday too we heard Jesus confirming John in the line of the great prophets of Israel. And now we are reminded once more to do justice, to love mightily, to know our place before others and God.
Today the presider wears rose, we light the rose candle of the Advent Wreath, and we break into song: “Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! . . . your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior.” The good news that John, the prophets, and psalmists preach is Emmanuel, God-with-us. Our joy, symbolized with a simple color of rose, anticipates the Incarnation made complete by the Nativity of our Savior and the Epiphany of God for us to all the world.
Uncover the scriptures for more. Zephaniah prophesied in the period between the fall of Samaria (the capital of Israel) and the fall of Jerusalem (the capital of Judah). Under the oppression of Assyria and then Babylonia, the people feared what imperial policies and their enforcement might impose. But Isaiah, whose words form our responsorial psalm and who himself experienced the insecurities of Samaria’s fall and expedient political maneuvers with subsequent occupational forces, reassures them: “With joy you will draw water at the fountain of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3). Fears will be relieved and oppressions lifted.
How are we to understand God’s desire to be near us? For a time we saw only through a glass darkly; now our vision is cleared with the lights of baptism, a rose-colored candle, the ever-present dayspring. Though he existed before the earth and the stars were made, the Word Incarnate did not count equality with God a privilege; rather, Jesus emptied himself of that divine status to be more than near: to be one with us, gather us, renew us in love and life. Good news indeed!
Rejoice, then, for God is with us—not just with the people who do what John and the prophets enjoin; no, God is with those who do and those who fail to do what justice, love, and humility require—with all peoples and with all of creation. God is with us: yesterday, today, and forever. How is it possible to not exult?
Reflection: As the prophets remind us to rejoice in season and out, what word or deed of joyful hope will you bring to those who are weary and in distress? What justice needs to be done for peace in your hometown?
If you are among the privileged (financially secure, well-educated, and unsuspicious), examine how that privilege is unearned and thereby illegitimate. How will you keep the exercise of the power that comes with privilege in check as you manage the remainder of this season?
If you are not among the privileged, if you are among those who people with privilege generically fear, examine how you have internalized that fear and other suspicions that a dominant power has imposed on you. How will you undo your own self-doubt?
This reflection is from Voices of Hope, Women of Wisdom: Reflections for Advent 2012. This booklet is available and can be ordered online here. Mary Jo Iozzio is Professor of Moral Theology at Barry University in Miami and has been a member of the Pax Christi USA Anti-Racism Team since 2004.