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JusTeach Newsletter

December 2007

social justice education

“What did you go out to the desert to see?” MT 11:7



With Christmas approaching, we enter the Advent season expecting, waiting, and looking for Jesus to be born into our lives anew. Yet even as the Advent readings draw us deeper into a period of waiting, of expectation and preparation, our culture demands we remain on the surface by joining in the consumer-driven frenzy to buy now and pay later. We may find ourselves making lists of our wants at the expense of others’ needs. We suffer disappointment when placing all our hopes for joy in ownership and possession.


Our expectations might involve gifts we will be receiving or giving, enjoying a certain food we only have at Christmastime or being with people we only get to see once a year. The joys of our holiday experiences are often tied up with gifts. The gifts we expect may be the physical gifts stacked under the tree or those occasionally hard to define spiritual gifts which grace our lives and lead us to share the fruits with others


What gifts does the world yearn to receive? Gifts of hope, peace, patience, courage, love and light? In what ways might you be the bearer of those gifts or the one to unwrap one or more for others? We seem to go all out at the holidays to provide food, visits and gifts for people in need. But what about the expectations, the hope of the poor and marginalized? No doubt their expectations and hope would be that they have such things 365 days a year. They hope for social change, for transformation. Who are our prophets and how might they be leading us to look at the bigger picture? How do they challenge us and help us resist the lures calling us away from our true journey? Does our expectation of encountering prophets help open our hearts to their message?


On the third Sunday in Advent, Jesus will ask this question of those who would question John’s identity and his own: “What did you go out to the desert to see?” (Mt 11:7) What are we preparing for this Advent season? Where are the prophets challenging us to “make straight our paths?” Where do we seek our prophets? How much do our expectations of an upcoming event shape who we are and how we act or how we react to others in any particular moment of our lives? Who are the prophets in our midst who are not swayed by the winds of consumerism, individualism, militarism, racism and other pressures of our time? Just as we might shake packages under the tree in order to know what’s inside, how might prophets be shaking up our own lives in an attempt to reveal gifts we can unpack and offer to others?


Prophets offer us imagination, vision, and point out the way the Word of God is moving through our times. They call us to action now. Their deep concern for others and their rootedness in the community defies notions of individualism and points the way to truly becoming the Beloved Community.




Read the readings for the third Sunday in Advent:

Isa 35: 1-6a, 10; Ps 146: 6-10; Mt 11:2-11


Classroom Discussion

What is a prophet?

Who are some of our well known modern prophets?

Who are those prophets or messengers in your own personal lives?

How do prophets use the core values of Catholic social teaching?

Do prophets bear gifts for us in their message, and which ones are you invited to unwrap this year—a call to work for justice, hope, vision, ears of the heart?

Is it sometimes hard to accept the possibilities painted by a prophet’s images? (See the reading from Isaiah for example)

In what ways might our lives be parched this Advent season?
What do we expect to see in the desert?


Activity 1

What do your students expect to see in the desert in terms of looking for prophets in their lives? How might the desert be coming into bloom for them this year? Have them clip words and pictures from newspapers and magazines and create a classroom bulletin board collage of prophets and expectations for the reign of God in our lives. Encourage them to reflect upon the core values of Catholic social teaching as they search for material for the classroom collage. (See Cyberfaith link under “Resources.”)


Activity 2

December 10 is International Human Rights Day marking the 60 th anniversary of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Have students read the overview listed under Resources. Point out to your students that many UN documents have arisen in the decades following the Declaration that cover issues such as the environment and human rights and other issues not specifically mentioned in the 1948 document. Inform them that bishops’ statements and papal writings often reference this document.


-Ask your students what thoughts come to mind when they hear the words “human rights abuses.”

-Ask them what countries come to mind when they hear of human rights abuses.

-When they look at migration issues and the turmoil in the United States over immigration issues do they see any human rights or abuse issues?

-Have students look up documents on trafficking, migration and abortion listed under “Resources” to give them examples of social teachings in these areas of human rights and abuses.

-Using the core values of Catholic social teaching, would you rate the UN document as being a positive or negative force in the world?

-Using the core values of Catholic social teaching to frame their responses, can students give examples of human rights abuses in the world today including those in the United States?


Resources Readings for third Sunday in Advent Sadlier website, scroll down to “Making the Desert Bloom” and “Thanking Your Messengers” activities United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Migration statement on Human Trafficking Document on Abortion as Human Rights Abuse The Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People has a range of documents addressing elements other than those usually seen in our media. overview of UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights


Students looking for examples of modern day prophets might want to “Google” one or more of the following:

Louis Vitale O.F.M. currently serving time for an act of civil disobedience

Roy Bourgeois M.M, founder of the School of the Americas Watch

Kathy Kelly, Voices for Creative Nonviolence




Blessings on you and your students as you begin your Advent journey. May the desert bloom for you and within you as you discover the true joy of the birth of Jesus Christ in each of your lives. Colette Wisnewski


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