We are in the first week of the New Year! We have in a very real way a chance to start again. Given all that is surrounding us, I need the Scriptures to direct my heart, actions and words. Today’s first reading from Isaiah ranks among my favorites: They in their day, and we in our day, are promised the Spirit of the Lord’s gifts of wisdom and understanding, counsel and strength, knowledge and fear of the Lord.
I need these encouragements and direct reminders that the Spirit of the Lord is here among us. As I look at the struggles and injustices that so many of our neighbors experience, the way we interact with and encourage them speaks to who we are and who we are called to be. Like with Rose, who had been to the Department of Social Services three times and still had not received food for her family. But our open door and compassionate presence at Catholic Charities gave her hope and the food she needed. On days like that I ask, “Where is the justice?”
So many of our systems are broken and I am aware of the deep call to work at changing them through relationships with elected officials, thereby doing justice. It’s clear to me that in Albany, NY, we have a lot of “helping” to do, and I am guessing the same is true for your community too. As we engage these challenges, justice will flourish. And when the Roses of our communities enter into “systems” that are designed to help, it will happen.
I have not before thought of this reading as a call to protect and value Earth, and yet it is right there – “there shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain.” So it is about doing what we can locally with an eye to the whole of creation as well. At Thanksgiving dinner my niece was going to use plastic forks for dessert and I told her I would keep my fork. She said, “Do you really think a few plastic forks will make that much difference?” I responded, “We all need to do what we can.”
“Justice will flourish in his time and fullness of peace forever.” May it be so!
Sr. Betsy Van Deusen is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet who serves as the CEO of Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Albany, NY.