Social Justice: Right relationships in Advent, into the New Year

By Barbara Budde
Columnist

Another term for social justice is right relationships and throughout the season of Advent the Scriptures call us to conversion and to right relationships. Here are some practical suggestions we can use during Advent and perhaps continue to practice into the New Year.

Week One: Fair Trade Shopping 
It is extremely difficult to completely escape the consumerism of our society, especially in this season that demands shopping and gift giving. One thing we can do is practice mindful shopping by seeking out fair trade gifts and products. Fair trade items are those that ensure that the producer and maker of the product as well as the retailer are compensated with a fair price. Too often profits flow to the top of the chain and those closest to the products are left impoverished. By buying fair trade products, we can use our dollars in ways that ensure farmers and artisans are paid fairly. This helps bring dignity and self-sufficiency to communities. For cooking, look for fair trade chocolate, cocoa, sugar, coffee and even bananas. Fair trade gifts may be purchased from markets that might be held at parishes or through the Catholic Relief Services Work of Human Hands project. Visit www.crsfairtrade.org for more information and visit www.serrv.org/crs_handcraft?c=crs to order gifts.

Week Two: Justice and Peace
The refrain for the Psalm at Mass on the Second Sunday of Advent is “Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace forever.” While violence exists because sin exists, God’s desire is that we live in peace with one another. Practice being a peacemaker by affirming others and avoiding any language that demeans or belittles others. Celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation and rejoice in the mercy and peace that God showers upon us. 
We are called to forgive those who offend us, so we must find ways to reconcile past hurts with our family and friends. Pray for peace in our world and especially in the land of Christ’s birth. Read and study Pope Francis’ message for the World Day of Peace (Jan. 1), which is usually released during the second week of Advent. Read and study past statements looking for one new practice of peace to implement.

Week Three: Migration
According to the Gospel of Luke, Mary and Joseph travelled from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census demanded by Cesar Augustus. The Roman Empire forced them to become migrants and according to Matthew’s Gospel that migration included a sojourn in Egypt. During this week, pray for migrants and refugees. Pray for those fleeing from violence or oppression. Pray for the pregnant women, who, like Mary, harbor great concern for their children. The world day for Migrants and Refugees is held in the beginning of January. 2014 will be the 100th year that our popes have spoken about migrants and refugees. As our country debates immigration reform, read the statement from Pope Francis and his predecessors, as well as Bishop Vásquez’ interview on Page 15. Meditate on Jesus, Mary and Joseph who were forced by the threat of violence to migrate to Egypt and the many coming to our country who are also fleeing violence. 

Week Four: Poverty
As Advent concludes and we celebrate the great feast of the Incarnation of our Savior, the Gospel reminds us of the poverty that surrounded the birth of Jesus. It was not his fault and it was not the fault of Mary or Joseph. Many today are born into poverty through no fault of their own and remain trapped in poverty in spite of their hard work. January is Poverty Awareness month. Learn more about poverty in the U.S. at www.povertyusa.org and do something to help a neighbor or loved one in need.
The Year of Faith is complete, but that does not mean we stop growing in our faith. Throughout the New Year we can continue to grow in our faith as we practice right relationships and live by the teachings of the church. Happy Advent, blessed Christmas and happy New Year!

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