Dec. 12 | Maria Teresa Gaston | Today's Readings

"The Lord has removed judgement against you, has turned away your enemies." (Zephaniah 4:15)

During the worst of the pandemic lockdown, while also carrying fresh grief after having lost a beloved sister to cancer, I found respite on occasional Saturdays helping a skilled farmer at a nearby ecovillage. 

One workday, I helped Doug and an intern, Lara, to winnow the chaff from sesame plants that had been drying in the barn loft. 

We gently cracked the brittle pods and shook the three-foot dry stalks over the worn tarp, allowing the release of the seeds. We lifted the stalks and together blew the chaff off the edge of the loft. Then we tilted the tarp carefully to pour the mound of precious seeds into a tub for safekeeping and later enjoyment. 

After this experience, I am struck by the image of Jesus as a thresher in our Gospel today. 

John the Baptist describes Jesus with a winnowing fan to gather safely the wheat kernels and to blow off the chaff to be eliminated in the fire. 

It is quite a judgment image for this third Sunday of Advent. 

It is also an invitation for contemplation and discernment in my life: What is nourishing? What needs to be blown away? 

This Redeemer-Savior-Liberator who baptizes us with the Holy Spirit and fire, purifies, nourishes, and strengthens us for the long-haul work of justice and joy for all the oppressed. 

Today we also celebrate a feast that helps us taste that joy, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. 

In my urban North Carolina parish filled with persons who have immigrated from Mexico and other countries, her day is a celebration of the dignity of the vanquished. 

With our celebration, we recall Our Lady’s persistent commission to Nahua-native Juan Diego, reverencing him as her beloved child and entrusting him to deliver a new word with power and authority and with her image revealing a new day and new hope at a time of great suffering and cultural destruction after the Spanish conquest of Mexico. 

Her presence and prophecy ring out the kind of joy Paul encourages in his letter to the Philippians today. 

Like the prophet Zephaniah, Our Lady assured the Nahua people the great God of all has not abandoned them. Instead, “The Lord has removed judgement against you, has turned away your enemies.” You will survive and you will become our teachers. 

Today in Mexico (and other parts of Latin America), Christian communities connected by a network called Red Comparte are delivering a message of hope for us at a time of great uncertainty and anxiety for the economy and the earth. 

They are passing on Indigenous ancestral values and spiritual cultural practices while also developing alternative viable economic enterprises. They are teaching us through lives of solidarity, equity, and stability, mashing up human-centered business skills with collective decision-making and fierce care for the earth. Cooperatives like Capeltic in Chiapas, Mexico are seeds of a new economy and a new world that is possible. 

Thresher-Jesus and Mother Guadalupe, strengthen and renew us this day. Bless all who bring us hope. Purify our intentions and sustain us with joy for our work of advocacy and lives of solidarity. 



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