Tuesday of the First Week


Is 11:1-10
Ps 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17
Lk 10:21-24


What can a child, or one who is childlike, teach us about justice?

Most of what I know about being a Christian - and therefore fully human - I’ve learned from the experience of being a parent.  For example, while I have long understood the concept that it is in giving that we receive, I didn’t really know the truth expressed in that statement until I became a father.

In the English language, we have just one word for the important concept of “knowing.”  I much prefer the way Spanish offers two options; “saber” for knowing objective facts or how to do something with “conocer” for knowing something, or someone, personally, intimately.  Only after my daughter Ella was born have I started to know in this personal and intimate way what it is that Jesus is speaking about in today’s Gospel, that which is revealed to “the childlike.”

Like many children, Ella regularly complains that things “aren’t fair.”  If ice cream is not provided for dessert, she is apt to say, “That’s not fair!”  When informed that it is time for bed, she will often respond, “Not fair!’  In such moments, she’s expressing, I believe, her displeasure in the strongest language to which she has access.  I suspect, though, that it is not just children who confuse fairness with personal displeasure, resorting to an under-informed concept of fairness in order to voice frustration.

Of course, today’s first reading isn’t about fairness - it’s about justice, especially seeing “the poor with justice.”  Like other biblical prophets, Isaiah’s understanding of justice is different from the way the term is usually employed in our context.  Rather than procedural fairness, in the prophetic tradition justice is rendering each person her or his due; in other words, treating people in ways that reflect their inherent human dignity.

Here, I think my daughter is - not always, but often - on to the central point that Isaiah and Jesus are trying to make.  Like many children, my daughter is profoundly attuned to, and tremendously troubled by, circumstances that are not just, moments when people and their dignity are not respected.  She remains, for example, extremely concerned about the people impacted by the hurricanes in Houston, Florida and Puerto Rico earlier this fall.  While many of us have returned to our normal routines, she seems able, in the best, childlike way, to imagine what it would be like to lose home and security - and it bothers her deeply.

This Advent, I pray for the eyes to see and the ears to hear what Ella can see and hear, for the child-like ability to feel with those impacted by hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires or violence.  More importantly, I pray that light will shine in the darkness of those who have suffered recent tragedies, and that I may play a part in bringing that light to our troubled world.

Michael Lovette-Colyer, PhD, ‘13
Assistant Vice President
University Ministry