On that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: We have a strong city; he sets up victory like walls and bulwarks. Open the gates, so that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in. Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace— in peace because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for in the Lord God you have an everlasting rock.
For he has brought low the inhabitants of the height; the lofty city he lays low. He lays it low to the ground, casts it to the dust. The foot tramples it, the feet of the poor, the steps of the needy.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
Bulldozers! Dynamite! Global warming! These are the very literal explanations my first graders give for how God tumbles cities to the ground, lifts valleys, and makes low mountains. As adults, we look for meaning in these texts instead of trying to figure out how God might accomplish such wonders. The reading today, however, addresses both the how and the why.
“The foot tramples it, the feet of the poor, the steps of the needy.” Creation is transformed by the poor, for the poor. We should know this. We’ve read the Gospels and listened to Pope Francis. Somehow we still miss it. I live in suburbia, numbed to physical poverty by landscaping and consumerism, but I encounter the spiritually deprived daily. Yet, I shelter my eyes to their need too. My busyness shelters me and oppresses others.
Will I let the Christmas Incarnation bulldoze me? Will you?
—Mark Bartholet is a John Carroll University alumnus who coordinates the Contemplative Leaders in Action program and Catechesis of the Good Shepherd at St. Peter Catholic Church, the Jesuit parish in Charlotte, NC.
Prayer for the Poor
God of Justice,
open our eyes
to see you in the face of the poor.
Open our ears
to hear you in the cries of the exploited.
Open our mouths
to defend you in the public squares
as well as in private deeds.
Remind us that what we do
to the least ones,
we do to you.
—Prayer from Being Neighbor, the Catechism and Social Justice, Catholic Campaign for Human Development, ©1998 United States Conference of Catholic Bishops