Posted by: Titus Presler | December 13, 2011

Good News for the Poor: Meditation for Advent III Tuesday

Valeska Daley’s rounds included boarding a rickety cable car and cranking herself over a river fifty feet below her in Honduras.  “It’s pretty scary,” she laughed, “but it’s the only way to get where I need to go.”

Where she needed to go was yet another village where people were poor – poor in money, poor in farm equipment, poor in education, poor in prospects for flourishing.  Valeska, a Young Adult Service Corps missionary from the Diocese of Massachusetts in the Episcopal Church, didn’t go with food or money.  Instead, vision and skills were what she shared.  Vision for the difference people can make by working together.  Skills in micro-enterprise development, community organizing, and project management that she learned through her study and experience in business. 

When Valeska left Honduras she left behind a network of cooperatives that continues to flourish as women gather to craft goods and market them for income that has transformed their lives and families.  They have moved from limit to possibility, from helplessness to daring, from despair to hope.  What Valeska came home with was a treasure of friendships and an assurance of the Holy Spirit’s moving in the prayers, songs and industry of the women with whom she ministered.

Poverty deforms human life.  Poverty stunts growth and lets disease run rampant.  Poverty ensures emptiness rather than fulfillment.  Today the gaps between the rich and the poor and even between the middle class and the poor are wider than they have ever been in recent history, both at home and abroad.

Yesterday in a coffee shop someone I fell into conversation with was wondering aloud about the Occupy Movement: “They’re trying to close ports, which works against the workers they claim to defend and against the unions that already represent the dock workers very well, so does that make sense?  Are the Occupiers against all corporations?  But lots of corporations are simply people banding together to get a good piece of work done!  The Occupiers are against so many things, but what are they for?”

“Those are valid criticisms,” I said, “but in the inequalities of today I’m just grateful to the Occupiers for putting into visible form the outrage we should all be feeling about injustice, for raising voices of opposition on behalf of so many others, for interrupting the routines of life long enough to get us to look at the issues.  In fact, were it not for the Occupiers you and I would not be having this conversation right now!”

“The Lord has filled the hungry with good things,” sang Mary in the Magnificat, “and the rich he has sent empty away” (Luke 1:53).  The church has sought to fulfill Mary’s vision in a wide variety of ways over two millennia.  Today it is systems both local and global that keep the poor in poverty, and it is only new and different systems that can fulfill Mary’s vision.  Like other missionaries in other places, Valeska was challenging a system and energizing a new one.  The Millennium Development Goals offer a similar vision.

If we’re not challenging an oppressive system, we’re probably colluding with it.  Advent calls us to discernment about our lifestyle.  In what ways are we intensifying the poverty of others?  In what ways are we fulfilling Jesus’ exultant cry, “And the poor have good news brought to them!”?

The poor need a sign.  Are we making such a sign?

This meditation is adapted from Titus Presler’s “Alert for Signs: Seeing and Praying through Advent” (Forward Movement Publications). 

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  1. […] Good News for the Poor: Meditation for Advent III Tuesday (titusonmission.wordpress.com) […]


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