Across the country, candles of hope, joy, and peace burn bright inside homes and churches, reminding us to make space for God in our lives.
During Advent, we wait in darkness, reflecting each week on the ways we can ready ourselves for God. It is this same active waiting we must practice as we build the Kingdom. It’s been a dark year for working people, those struggling through poverty, and communities of color in our country.
This darkness stems from rampant inequality inflicted on our communities: poverty, segregation, poor education, police brutality. Black and brown families, people below the poverty line, and immigrants live with the daily violence brought about by our nation’s systemic oppression, economic injustice, and racism.
Advent is also a call to action. It challenges us to recommit ourselves to God’s vision of a world where all people live in dignity and with respect and to actively participate in the fulfillment of the Christmas promise.
The Catholic faith tradition teaches a vision where every human has access to a good job that provides the means for a strong family life and full participation in society; where families grow in thriving communities; and where streets and neighborhoods are safe from violence that is enacted by those whose job it is to protect us.
Too many hardworking people we encounter daily struggle to survive on poverty wages, while their bosses — corporate executives — earn millions. Workers are confronting this injustice and walking out on strike for fair wages and working conditions.
Workers at Walmart, for instance, are looking for fair pay for their hard work, but the greed and exploitation of the few top executives of the country’s largest private employer are robbing them of a decent living.
Thousands of people visited Walmart stores all across the country on Black Friday, not to catch any doorbuster sales, but to support Walmart workers and call on the retail giant to pay $15 an hour and provide consistent, full-time hours.
Working conditions across low-wage sectors are so appalling that only a few days after Walmart workers went on strike, more workers stood up for fair pay and a voice on the job. Underpaid workers also called on fast food giants like, McDonald’s, to pay $15 an hour and respect their right to organize.
There is much hope in the broad movement to end economic injustice and poverty.
We can build a world aligned with the values Jesus taught throughout his ministry through our repeated call for justice. We do that through the peace, hope, love, and joy of the Advent promise.
“It is Christmas every time you let God love others through you … Yes, it is Christmas every time you smile at your brother and offer him your hand,” Mother Teresa is often quoted as saying.
In this Advent and upcoming Christmas season, I invite you to let God love working people and those survivors of poverty and oppression through you.
You can learn more about supporting justice for ALL God’s people by visiting Interfaith Worker Justice online. You can also check out a special Advent reflection series on worker and economic justice.