Tag Archives: Christmas

Advent 2023, Week One Be Vigilant

This Advent Calls for Vigilance 

NETWORK Lobby offers Advent reflections

This Advent Calls for Vigilance

Sr. Eilis McCulloh, HM
December 1, 2023

Advent 2023, Week One Reflection: A Call for Vigilance

Readings for the First Sunday of Advent, December 3

Is 63: 16B-17, 19B; 64:2-7
Ps 80: 2-3, 15-16, 18-19
1 Cor 1: 3-9
Mk 13:33-37

The readings on the First Sunday of Advent call for vigilance. In the Gospel, Jesus instructs his disciples to be alert and watchful, careful not to be found sleeping when the time is nigh.  

This year, the NETWORK community has had countless opportunities to stay awake and to practice the virtue of vigilance. At a moment’s notice, we have called on faith-filled justice-seekers to protect the rights of asylum seekers in the United States. From the racist and problematic U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s CBP1 App, to the threat to cut funding to programs that serve asylum seekers, some Members of Congress continually proposed drastic changes to the asylum process. And how did you respond? Nearly 10,000 of you signed on to our letter calling on Congress to invest in welcoming communities. You have also called your Members of Congress and visited them. 

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We cannot grow complacent; we must stay awake and vigilant. Just this week, some Members of Congress are trying to decimate the asylum system in order to pass a funding bill. We cannot ignore their attempt to re-institute an asylum ban.  

In this Sunday’s first reading, Isaiah tells us the story of the people who longed for God to come down from on high with a force that would shake the mountains, but, instead, we are reminded that “we are the clay and you are the potter: we are all the work of your hands.” To participate in the building up of Welcoming Communities, we, too, seek to do the work of God. With the Psalmist, we turn our face to God, eager to have God show us the way to the building up of the Kin-dom here on Earth.  

To do this, we must all participate in the work to bring more abundant life to all of God’s people, because the hope for abundant life does not end at our borders. It does not stop to decide if someone has the proper documents. Abundant life is God’s hope for all of us—and we will continue to be vigilant and respond to any threat to take away someone’s chance at abundant life. 

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Fortunately, we are not alone in this work. Fortunately, the NETWORK community lives out this mission together. Our Spirit-filled community of justice-seekers has significantly influenced elected officials this year to ensure the federal government makes room for the people most in need in our communities.   

We draw strength and encouragement from living this shared mission together, and we draw our hope from the God who, according to St. Paul, remains faithful and will keep us firm to the end. 

Advent 2023, Week One Be Vigilant

Call to Action:

Congress is now back in session, and their first order of business is passing a package to meet the President’s supplemental funding request for aid for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan. Unfortunately, some Members of Congress are pushing to decimate asylum in the U.S. as a condition of this deal.

Tell your Senators to protect asylum in the United States and not give into demands to change asylum law in order to get a funding deal passed. 

To receive all of NETWORK’s Advent 2023 reflections in your email inbox, sign up here!

The legislative priorities not passed before the end of the 117th Congress will continue to be priorities of NETWORK in 2024 and beyond!

Advent 2022: Better Neighbors Care for New Moms

NETWORK Lobby offers Advent reflections

Advent 2022: Better Neighbors Care for New Moms

Laura Peralta-Schulte
December 19, 2022

Reflection:

When we reflect on the coming of Jesus at Christmas, one detail is very striking as a person who have given birth: God decided to incorporate the birthing of a healthy baby – under far from ideal circumstances – into the salvation plan of the world.

Everything touched by God is forever transformed. And with Christmas now so near – the birth of Jesus so imminent – we should remember that welcoming Jesus into the world means supporting something sacred: maternal health.

The U.S. faces a devastating maternal health crisis. Over 800 women died due to pregnancy or childbirth in 2020, a record high. There are two concrete ways that justice-seekers can confront this crisis right now.

Call to Action:

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would guarantee pregnant workers a right to reasonable, medically-necessary accommodations, closing gaps in current law that have left too many pregnant workers unprotected for too long. Pregnant workers are routinely denied basic, temporary accommodations to ensure a healthy pregnancy. These are often as simple as a stool to sit on, a break from lifting heavy boxes, schedule changes, and protection from dangerous conditions. Many pregnant workers face undue pressures to take an often-unpaid leave of absence, which leads them to poverty. Despite current protections included in the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (the last time we passed any sort of legislation to protect pregnant workers), over 37,000 pregnancy discrimination charges have been filed between 2010 and 2020 with the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The establishment of nationwide 12-month postpartum Medicaid coverage would reduce disparities in coverage across states, eliminate racial inequities in maternal health outcomes, and end preventable maternal deaths. Extending Medicaid coverage from the current requirement of 60-days postpartum to 12-months nationwide is critical to lowering the nation’s maternal mortality rate. Medicaid covers at least 40 percent of all births in the U.S., a disproportionate number of which are to Black, Latinx, and Native American people.

Read more about NETWORK’s support for the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.

The legislative priorities not passed before the end of the 117th Congress will continue to be priorities of NETWORK in 2023 and beyond!

Advent 2022: Better Neighbors Welcome Their Neighbor

NETWORK Lobby offers Advent reflections

Advent 2022: Better Neighbors Welcome Their Neighbor

Sr. Eilis McCulloh, HM
December 12, 2022

Reflection:

The story is familiar. Mary and Joseph. No room at the inn. Giving birth in a barn. As Christians, spend this season commemorating their flight to Egypt where Mary gives birth to the Messiah.

Today, a “flight into the desert” evokes something different. We see and hear about families who must make the decision to leave everything they have and know in order to escape violence, crushing poverty, and other threats to their very existence. They courageously decide to make the perilous journey north. Their journey takes them north to the United States Southern Border where, instead of being welcomed with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, they are questioned by border police, detained in freezing detention centers, and bussed (against their will) to northern cities as punishment.

But, aren’t migrants today’s version of the Holy Family? Both flee with the hope of safety and an opportunity for their children to flourish. Instead, the United States, the richest country in their world, punishes migrants at every turn by invoking punitive immigrantion polices and refusing to act on legislation that could transform the lives of our immigrant neighbors living in the United States.

Yes, Advent is a time of waiting, but it is also a time of welcoming and a time of change. In 2013, Pope Francis said, “Migrants and refugees are. Or pawns on the chessboard of humanity.” Our immigrant neighbors have waited far too long and have been used as scapegoats in political play. Now is the time to create a pathway to citizenship to the more than 689,000 individuals who have DACA.

¡Que Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe!
Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, ruega por nosotros.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas, pray for us.

Call to Action:

It is beyond time for just and humane immigration reform that creates a path to citizenship through federal legislation. Join NETWORK Lobby in calling for Congress to act NOW!

Denying undocumented communities a pathway to citizenship holds us back from having a thriving society where everyone is valued. There is no doubt the contributions of immigrant youth, farmworkers, DACA and TPS holders are essential for our communities and our country.

Tell Congress to act now to pass a pathway to citizenship!

Advent 2022: Better Neighbors Set the Oppressed Free

NETWORK Lobby offers Advent reflections

Advent 2022: Better Neighbors Set The Oppressed Free

Min. Christian Watkins
December 5, 2022

Reflection:

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus proclaims the words of the prophet Isaiah and in doing so, makes very clear why he’s been sent among us:

“…to proclaim liberty to captives and to set the oppressed free…”

During Advent, as we prepare to welcome him with the observance of Christmas, these words should challenge us still. If Jesus is sent to proclaim liberty to people in captivity and freedom for those oppressed, how can we claim that he is with us in the U.S. today?

In a culture that seeks to denigrate and ignore entire groups of people, including the elderly and the sick, the U.S. holds some especially dubious distinctions when it comes to incarcerated people. With over 2 million of our people in prisons, the U.S. is the most incarcerated country in the world – not only in raw numbers of people behind bars but also our incarceration rate (639 per 100,000 people, according to the World Prison Brief).

Is this really the land of the free?

It’s even worse when race is taken into account. Despite being only 12 percent of the adult population, Black people account for over a third of those incarcerated in the U.S. That number climbs to over half when Black and Latinx people are counted together. The horrible combination of overly punitive drug policy, excessive sentencing, and the use of for-profit prisons makes for, in many ways, a form of legal slavery. It’s so bad that reform of the U.S. criminal legal system actually enjoys some bipartisan support.

Emmanuel means “God with us,” so for us to gather near to Jesus this Christmas season, we should remember the “with us” that Jesus himself said he came to proclaim his Good News to. Jesus is our melaninated Savior from the southern part of Jerusalem who was unjustly imprisoned shortly before having his life snuffed out in a shameful, public, state-sponsored execution. However, as his followers comprise the Body of Christ still in the world today, we can cooperate in his saving work by helping bring “liberty to captives and freedom from oppression.

Call to Action:

The EQUAL Act is bipartisan legislation that seeks to eliminate the disparity in sentencing for cocaine offenses, a major contributor to mass incarceration. It would apply retroactively to those already convicted or sentenced. As people of faith, we cannot continue to tolerate racial profiling, brutality and hyper-militarization in policing, the loss of future generations to mass incarceration, or the perpetuation of poverty. We affirm the truth that every person is entitled to dignity and equitable justice under law.

Help us ensure that the EQUAL Act is included in the Senate’s must-pass legislation by the end of this year.

Advent 2022: Better Neighbors Show Mercy to Families

NETWORK Lobby offers Advent reflections

Advent 2022: Better Neighbors Show Mercy to Families

Colin Martinez Longmore
November 28, 2022

Reflection:

The iconic image that so many people associate with Advent is the Holy Family – the baby Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, usually huddled in a stable and surrounded by livestock.

It’s not an auspicious start for the Son of the living God. A family that has no place to stay and barely any resources to get by is something we still associate with the margins of society. It’s clear that God wants to associate with humility and poverty.

But what happens next matters. In the Gospel infancy narratives – and our Christmas holiday traditions – we see people respond to this vulnerable family with effusive displays of mercy. The shepherds come to praise him. The magi arrive with their gifts. This is how they respond to a child born into poverty.

The Corporal Works of Mercy, understood by Catholics, are: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, shelter the homeless, visit the sick and imprisoned, give alms to the poor, and bury the dead. The visit of the magi brought with it not only material assistance (gold), but resources used in the care of the sick (frankincense) and the dead (myrrh). The mercy of strangers helped the Holy Family to survive on their perilous journey during the infancy of Jesus.

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus invokes a similar set of criteria for those who will join him in paradise. “For you saw me hungry and you fed me.” “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” It is by participation in these concrete acts of mercy that we believe we too shall be shown mercy. And as Jesus points out, it in doing these acts of mercy that we directly encounter and come to know him, our Savior.

As Christians gather around manger displays in anticipation of another Christmas, it’s still good to reflect on how struggling families are getting by today. As with the Holy Family, it may still require the extraordinary intervention of personal strangers. Except instead of songs of praise and expensive gifts, we can offer acts of mercy through political action.

The Child Tax Credit, which was expanded in both size and scope for only one year as part of the American Rescue Plan, lifted 2.1 million children out of poverty in 2021. It stabilized the finances of more than 36 million families, including 62 million children, and resulted in 716,000 fewer Black children and 1.2 million fewer Latino children in poverty. Now NETWORK is pushing to get the Child Tax Credit once again included in the end-of-year tax package, but we need your help.

Call to Action:

You can take action to help support the Child Tax Credit by calling your Senators. Tell them that Congress has an incredible chance to drastically reduce child poverty by ensuring the Child Tax Credit makes it into the end-of-year tax package, and you expect them to act on behalf of the children in your state.