They go out, they go out, full of tears, carrying seed for the sowing; They come back, they come back, full of song, carrying their sheaves. Psalm125: 6
A voice cries in the wilderness: Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley will be filled in, every mountain and hill be laid low, winding ways will be straightened and rough roads made smooth. And all mankind shall see the salvation of God. Luke 3:4-6
A knock-on effect of the current economic downturn has been an alarming rise of in the number of food banks opening up around the country. Young people, unable to find work; families existing as best they can on or below the poverty line; those in low income jobs; elderly people struggling to make ends meet: all age groups are turning to local food banks for survival.
The benefit system, currently under threat for many, fails to keep up with inflation so a small amount of money has to go even further: for some an impossible goal. The most vulnerable in our society are those who must pay the price of government cuts - penalised for being poor.
At Christmas time especially the pressures on the very poorest escalate to an unbearable level. Parents may be forced into the hands of loan sharks in order to buy toys for their children.
Credit Unions play a valuable role, but borrowing is only possible if some cash has already been invested so those who need help most may be excluded - a Catch 22 situation.
By contrast there is also great wealth. Some of the richest people and most profitable companies in the UK use schemes to avoid paying their fair share of taxes: legally permissible but morally reprehensible.
In our commitment to Justice and Peace how can we ensure that everyone, especially the poorest and most vulnerable amongst us, is able to sing a joyful song?
Our goal must be, for every man and woman, a life set free from all oppression. Populorum Progressio no. 47
In a world where great value is put on achievements and possessions it takes great humility and courage to let go of our own personal ambitions and desires and to shift the focus to loving God and our neighbour.
• Am I too self-centred, too set in my ways, too comfortable with my own situation to live the Gospel message?
• Do I push God to one side for fear of being asked to make radical changes to my current lifestyle?
• How can I to respond to the needs of those around me who are less fortunate?
Lord, I see injustice all around yet feel powerless to help: the problems seem too big to overcome and my voice feels too small to make a difference.
For the times I have failed to act to help build a fairer society and thought only of myself, I ask your forgiveness.
For the times that my greed and selfishness may have caused the gap between rich and poor to widen, I ask your forgiveness.
For the times I have mistaken superiority and self-righteousness for loving charity, I ask your forgiveness.
Open my eyes, Lord, to see how my actions may adversely affect those around me.
Open my ears, Lord, to hear the cries of the poor and needy. Open my heart, Lord, to act
in love and solidarity with my brothers and sisters throughout the world.
• Volunteer at a Drop-in Centre for homeless people or help at a Soup Kitchen.
• Help out at a local Food Bank or Credit Union.
• Buy locally produced or fairly traded goods - avoid companies who use off-shore tax-dodging facilities.
• Spend less on presents and make a donation to Housing Justice www.housingjustice.org.uk or to Church Action on Poverty www.church-poverty.org.uk
• Invite someone who is lonely or new to your area to share a meal or help organise a parish Christmas lunch.