LITURGY NOTES FOR 2nd SUNDAY OF ADVENT
Claude Mostowik msc
Second Sunday of Advent Year A
December 4th, 2016
Suggested formula for recognition of indigenous people and their land.
We acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of the land on which we stand.
We pay our respects to them and for their care of the land.
May we walk gently on this land.
Hope' is the thing with feathers
that perches in the soul
and sings the tune without the words
and never stop sat all
Emily Dickinson's definition of hope captures what many of us have a hard time defining. Hope is not blind optimism, nor arrogant certainty, nor wishful thinking. Hope is the knowledge that God would not desert us, that we will endure difficult times to see a better day. Hope gives us the strength to seek peace and demand justice, and to envision the world as God intended it to be.
We kill at every step,
not only in wars, riots, and executions.
We kill when we close our eyes
to poverty, suffering, and shame.
In the same way all disrespect for life,
is nothing else than killing.
With just a little witty skepticism
we can kill a good deal of the future in a young person.
Life is waiting everywhere,
the future is flowering everywhere,
but we only see a small part of it
and step on much of it with our feet.
Hermann Hesse, German poet and novelist.
The desiccation of grasslands, restraint of princes,
Piracy on the high seas, physical pain and fiscal grief,
These after all are our familiar tribulations,
And we have been through them all before, many, many times.
. . . .That was why
We were always able to say: “We are children of God,
And our Father has never forsaken His people.
W. H. Auden, Narrator in the Advent section of For The Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio.
Reading I Isaiah 11:1-10
Responsorial Psalm Psalm 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17
Reading II Romans 15:4-9
Gospel Matthew 3:1-12
God of endurance and encouragement
you come into our midst
with your transforming power.
You sent John the Baptist
to announce the coming of Christ
into our world with power
and the fire of your love.
Make us creative and daring enough
to builds paths of justice and peace in our midst.
Prayer over the Gifts
God of endurance and encouragement
you sustain us with your compassion and liberating presence,
through this offering of bread and wine.
May the fire of your Spirit change us
into people who reflect your tenderness and mercy,
your justice and peace.
Deliver Us [after the ‘Our Father’]
Deliver us from every evil
and give us dedicated men and women
to prepare that peace which is the sign
of the presence of your Son on earth.
Turn our hearts to you and free us from sin,
as we wait in joyful hope
for the full coming among us
of Jesus Christ. R/ For the kingdom...
Prayer After Communion
God of endurance and encouragement
in this Eucharist we have celebrated
the coming of Jesus in our midst.
May we be inspired
to surpass our powers so that
we become clear signs
to justice, peace, dignity and joy in our world.
Prayer of the Faithful
Introduction: We pray to the God who calls us to look to the east and the west, the north and the south, where all of God’s people gather. We pray in response: May your justice flourish and your peace come, O God or Be born in us; be born in our world.
Introduction: Let us listen to John’s cry and make ourselves ready to welcome Jesus as he approaches us each day, we pray, May your justice flourish and your peace come, O God or Be born in us; be born in our world.
· May the Spirit of insight guide us to proclaim the Good News of God’s Reign fearlessly, and with great compassion, let us pray: May your justice flourish and your peace come, O God or Be born in us; be born in our world.
· May the Spirit of wisdom inspire the leaders of nations and churches with a vision of peace and justice for their people, let us pray: May your justice flourish and your peace come, O God or Be born in us; be born in our world.
· May the Spirit of counsel animate all lawmakers to enrich their nation with just and fair laws and that the courts apply them with integrity, let us pray: May your justice flourish and your peace come, O God or Be born in us; be born in our world.
· May the Spirit of power may strengthen us to protect all who are weak and vulnerable and give us prophets to be the voice of the poor, let us pray: May your justice flourish and your peace come, O God or Be born in us; be born in our world.
· May the Spirit of knowledge give us a deep insight into our faith and our hearts so that we may learn to see and appreciate what God wants of us to build the Reign of peace and justice, let us pray: May your justice flourish and your peace come, O God or Be born in us; be born in our world.
· May the Spirit of peace bring peace among all people and may they seek to resolve differences through dialogue rather than the show of more force and power, let us pray: May your justice flourish and your peace come, O God or Be born in us; be born in our world.
· May the Spirit of sharing be among us so that every child is provided nourishing food, clean water, adequate health care and a good education, let us pray: May your justice flourish and your peace come, O God or Be born in us; be born in our world.
· May the Spirit of freedom spread itself among us so that those who are imprisoned unjustly be set free and given the opportunity to make a better life, let us pray: May your justice flourish and your peace come, O God or Be born in us; be born in our world.
· May the Spirit of reverence induce us to respect and love one another as God loves and respects us, let us pray: May your justice flourish and your peace come, O God or Be born in us; be born in our world.
Concluding Prayer: God of endurance and encouragement, we pray that we may become more and more partners in the spreading the Good News with mercy and justice our constant companions.
December 10, UN International Human Rights Day – Inauguration of the Universal Charter of Human Rights 1948.
‘All human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent and interrelated.’
[Vienna Declaration 1993]
A possible pledge for this Human Rights Day:
We are the human rights generation.
We will accept nothing less than human rights.
We will know them and claim them,
For all women, men, youth, and children,
From those who speak human rights,
But deny them to their own people.
We will move power to human rights.
Shulamith Koenig, People’s Movement for Human Rights Education
‘The future belongs to those who give the next generation reason for hope.’
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ
December 10 1992 Paul Keating’s Redfern Address:
‘And, as I say, the starting point might be to recognise that the problem starts with us non-Aboriginal Australians.
It begins, I think, with the act of recognition. Recognition that it was we who did the dispossessing. We took the tradition lands and smashed the traditional way of life. We brought the disasters. The alcohol. We committed the murders. We took the children from their mothers. We practised discrimination and exclusion.
It was our ignorance and our prejudice. And our failure to imagine these things being done to us. With some noble exceptions, we failed to make the most basic human response and enter into their hearts and minds. We failed to ask – how would I feel if this were done to me? As a consequence, we failed to see that what we were doing degraded all of us.
This is a fundamental test of our social goals and our national will: our ability to say to ourselves and the rest of the world that Australia is a first rate social democracy, that we are what we should be – truly the land of the fair go and the better chance.’
Paul Keating, Prime Minister of Australia 1991-1996
We must turn towards
encouraging a more human,
loving standard of behaviour
instead of relationships steeped
in aggression, competition, exploitation.
For if every man [and woman] were to regard the persons of others as his own person, who would inflict pain and injury on others? If they regarded the homes of others as their own homes, would rob the homes of others? Thus in that case there would be no brigands and robbers. If the princes regarded other countries as their own, who would wage war on other countries? This in that case there would be no more war.
Hillel, first century A.D. rabbi
Pilgrim, how you journey
on the road you chose
to find out why the winds die
and where the stories go.
All days come from one day
that much you must know,
you cannot change what's over
but only where you go.
One way leads to diamonds,
one way leads to gold,
another leads you only
to everything you're told.
In your heart you wonder
which of these is true;
the road that leads to nowhere,
the road that leads to you.
Will you find the answer
in all you say and do?
Will you find the answer
Each heart is a pilgrim,
each one wants to know
the reason why the winds die
and where the stories go.
Pilgrim, in your journey
you may travel far,
for pilgrim it's a long way
to find out who you are...
Pilgrim, it's a long way
to find out who you are...
Pilgrim, it's a long way
to find out who you are...
Revolution is an intrinsic part that can not be separate from bread, water, working palms, and the beating of the heart.
Ghassan Kanafani, Palestinian writer and revolutionary.
Justice, right reason, and the recognition of man's dignity cry out insistently for a cessation to the arms race. . . . Human beings nowadays are becoming more and more convinced that any disputes which may arise between nations must be resolved by negotiation and agreement, and not by recourse to arms. . . . We are hopeful that, by establishing contact with one another and by a policy of negotiation, nations will come to a better recognition of the natural ties that bind them together as human beings.
John XXIII, Pacem in Terris, 112,126,128
The arms race is a threat to our highest good, which is life; it makes poor peoples and individuals yet more miserable, while making richer those already powerful; it creates a continuous danger of conflagration and in the case of nuclear arms, it threatens to destroy all life from the face of the earth.
Bishops' Synod, Justice in the World, 1971
It is absolutely necessary that international conflicts should not be settled by war, but that other methods better befitting human nature should be found. Let a strategy of non-violence be fostered.
Bishops' Synod, Justice in the World, 1971
Hope in the coming kingdom is already beginning to take root in the hearts of people. The radical transformation of the world in the Paschal Mystery of the Lord gives full meaning to the efforts of people, and in particular of the young, to lessen injustice, violence and hatred and to advance all together in justice, freedom, kinship and love.
Bishops' Synod, Justice in the World, 1971
Salvation comes to us through all women and men who love truth more than lies, who are more eager to give than to receive, and whose love is that supreme love that gives life rather than keeping it for oneself.
Jon Sobrino, Spirituality of Liberation
We stand with all those whose lives are at risk and whose dignity is denied in this dangerous world. Above all, we need to turn to God and to one another in hope. Hope assures us that, with God's grace, we will see our way through what now seems such a daunting challenge.
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, A Pastoral Message: Living With Faith and Hope After September 11, November 14, 2001
Our social doctrine is an integral part of our faith; we need to pass it on clearly, creatively, and consistently. It is a remarkable spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral resource that has been too little known or appreciated even in our own community.
U.S. Catholic Bishops, Sharing Catholic Social Teaching
Rest your heart in God, let yourself float on the safe waters, loving life as it comes, with all the rough weather it may bring. Give, without counting how many years are left, not worried about surviving as long as possible.
Brother Roger, No Greater Love
Very often people object that nonviolence seems to imply passive acceptance of injustice and evil and therefore that it is a kind of cooperation with evil. Not at all. The genuine concept of nonviolence implies not only active and effective resistance to evil but in fact a more effective resistance... But the resistance which is taught in the Gospel is aimed not at the evil-doer but at evil in its source.
Thomas Merton, Passion For Peace
It is a blessed thing to know that no power on earth, no temptation, no human frailty can dissolve what God holds together.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison
We all readily agree that God forgives sin, that Jesus brought salvation from sin, but we have a very hard time seeing ourselves as those who need forgiveness and salvation. We watch the evening news or read the newspaper and decide that we really are not so bad after all; the things we may have done—may have done!—are not anything compared to what other people are doing.... We will never have an accurate picture of ourselves and our fallen human condition until we understand that there is no sin we are incapable of committing.... [But] God has come to bring the people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins. We are forgiven as soon as we grasp the fact that we need forgiveness.
Mary Anna Vidakovich, Sing to the Lord
Unfortunately, though we often talk about forgiveness within the church, very often by the way we deal with things—attempting to suppress conflict, not making judgments, keeping things secret, not enforcing the ethical conditions we talk about, not holding the powerful accountable—we actually create a situation that stops people from being able to forgive.
Peter Horsfield Forgiveness and Reconciliation in Situations of Sexual Assault
We participate in the possibility of becoming faith mentors by opening our lives to God at work in us and nurturing our own spiritual journeys. We live as if we are faith mentors, and we use our skills and faith on behalf of others in the hope that God will work through us for their growth in faith. With humility, we provide guidance and discernment for those who are seeking for meaning in their lives. And we live in the hope that others will experience us as faith mentors, knowing it is not a title we may claim for ourselves.
Sondra Higgins Matthaei Faith Matters
Our compassionate efforts toward justice guarantee a deepened faith and prayer life. They will lead us to disciplines of the spirit and of the heart. By engaging with suffering, we learn true joy. By touching despair, we discover what it means to embrace hope. By coming to know Christ crucified, we participate in his resurrection. By pouring ourselves out, we gain our lives.
Joyce Hollyday Then Shall Your Light Rise
We cannot separate ourselves from the use of power—either as individuals or as a society or as a church. It is a fact of life. Power is the ability to achieve purpose—the capability for action. Power is a gift from God. God does not intend a world where powerful suppress and oppress the powerless. Power is not meant to be the possession of a few while the majority are impoverished. Power, given by God, is meant to be shared by all. All creation is intended to participate and benefit from the use of power that has the best interest of the neighbor as its goal.
Helen Bruch Pearson, Do What You Have the Power To Do
To be with God is really to be involved with some enormous, overwhelming desire, and joy, and power which you cannot control, which controls you. God is a means of liberation and not a means to control others
James Baldwin, Nobody Knows My Name
Living as we do in a world that suffers so much, two opposing possibilities can easily tempt us: either to turn our backs and live oblivious to the pain or to allow the pain to overwhelm us and despair to take up residence in our hearts. The truly faithful option is to face the pain and live joyfully in the midst of it. Those who suffer most remind us of how tragic and arrogant it would be for us to lose hope on behalf of people who have not lost theirs. They are teachers of joy.
Joyce Hollyday, Then Your Light Shall Rise
The objector and the rebel who raises his voice against what he [or she] believes to be the injustice of the present and the wrongs of the past is the one who hunches the world along.
Clarence S. Darrow, (1857-1938), Address to the Court, The Communist Trial, People v. Lloyd, 1920
The right to defy an unconstitutional statute is basic in our scheme. Even when an ordinance requires a permit to make a speech, to deliver a sermon, to picket, to parade, or to assemble, it need not be honored when it's invalid on its face.
Justice Potter Stewart (1915-1985), U. S. Supreme Court Justice Source: Walker v. Birmingham, 1967
The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all. I like a little rebellion now and then.
Thomas Jefferson, (1743-1826), 3rd US President.
To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men [and women].
Abraham Lincoln, (1809-1865) 16th US President
The right to revolt has sources deep in our history.
William O. Douglas, (1898-1980), U. S. Supreme Court Justice
Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as is cooperation with good.
Mahatma Mohandas K. Gandhi, (1869-1948)
… If those professing religion shared the life of the poor and worked to better their lot, and risked their lives as revolutionists do, and trade union organizers have done in the past, then there is a ring of truth about the promises of the glory to come. The cross is followed by the resurrection.
To be alive is to be broken; to be broken is to stand in need of grace.
It's unnatural and unhealthy for a nation to be engaged in global crusades for some principle or idea while neglecting the needs of its own people.
Sen. J. William Fulbright
Every man who says frankly and fully what he thinks is so far doing a public service. We should be grateful to him for attacking most unsparingly our most cherished opinions.
Sir Leslie Stephen (1832-1904), literary essayist, author, from The Suppression of Poisonous Opinions, 1883
‘The United States today is like a cruise ship on the Niagara River upstream of the most spectacular falls in North America,’ Johnson warned. ‘A few people on board have begun to pick up a slight hiss in the background, to observe a faint haze of mist in the air on their glasses, to note that the river current seems to be running slightly faster. But no one yet seems to have realized that it is almost too late to head for shore. Like the Chinese, Ottoman, Hapsburg, imperial German, Nazi, imperial Japanese, British, French, Dutch, Portuguese, and Soviet empires in the last century, we are approaching the edge of a huge waterfall and are about to plunge over it.’
As societies grow decadent, the language grows decadent, too. Words are used to disguise, not to illuminate, action: you liberate a city by destroying it. Words are to confuse, so that at election time people will solemnly vote against their own interests.
Every person born in this world represents something new,
something that never existed before,
something original and unique...
and every man or woman's foremost task is the
actualization of his or her unique, unprecedented and
Martin Buber, Jewish Philosopher
All History is current; all injustice continues on some level, somewhere in the world.
All partisan movements add to the fullness of our understanding of society as a whole. They never detract; or, in any case, one must not allow them to do so. Experience adds to experience.
Any God I ever felt in church I brought in with me.
Deliver me from writers who say the way they live doesn't matter. I'm not sure a bad person can write a good book, If art doesn't make us better, then what on earth is it for.
The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for white, or women created for men.
The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any.
The most important question in the world is, 'Why is the child crying?'
No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow.
Peaceableness toward enemies is an idea that will, of course, continue to be denounced as impractical. It has been too little tried by individuals, much less by nations. It will not readily or easily serve those who are greedy for power. It cannot be effectively used for bad ends. It could not be used as the basis of an empire. It does not afford opportunities for profit. It involves danger to practitioners. It requires sacrifice. And yet it seems to me that it is practical, for it offers the only escape from the logic of retribution. It is the only way by which we can cease to look to war for peace. ... Peaceableness is not passive. It is the ability to act to resolve conflict without violence. If it is not a practical and practicable method, it is nothing. As a practicable method, it reduces helplessness in the face of conflict. In the face of conflict, the peaceable person may find several solutions, the violent person only one.
Wendell Berry, Peaceableness Toward Enemies (Reflections on the first Gulf War), 1991
History leaves no doubt that among of the most regrettable crimes committed by human beings have been committed by those human beings who thought of themselves as civilized. What, we must ask, does our civilization possess that is worth defending? One thing worth defending, I suggest, is the imperative to imagine the lives of beings who are not ourselves and are not like ourselves: animals, plants, gods, spirits, people of other countries, other races, people of the other sex, places and enemies.
Wendell Berry Peaceableness Toward Enemies (Reflections on the first Gulf War), 1991
A community is the mental and spiritual condition of knowing that the place is shared, and that the people who share the place define and limit the possibilities of each other's lives. It is the knowledge that people have of each other, their concern for each other, their trust in each other, the freedom with which they come and go among themselves.’
I dislike the thought that some animal has been made miserable to feed me. If I am going to eat meat, I want it to be from an animal that has lived a pleasant, uncrowded life outdoors, on bountiful pasture, with good water nearby and trees for shade.
And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles, no matter how long, but only by a spiritual journey, a journey of one inch, very arduous and humbling and joyful, by which we arrive at the ground at our own feet, and learn to be at home.
From the union of power and money,
from the union of power and secrecy,
from the union of government and science,
from the union of government and art,
from the union of science and money,
from the union of ambition and ignorance,
from the union of genius and war,
from the union of outer space and inner vacuity,
the Mad Farmer walks quietly away.
We are reluctant to admit that we owe our liberties to men of a type that today we hate and fear -- unruly men [and women], disturbers of the peace, men [and women] who resent and denounce what Whitman called 'the insolence of elected persons' -- in a word, free men [and women].
Gerald W. Johnson, (1890-1980), American Freedom and the Press, 1958
This is, in theory, still a free country, but our politically correct, censorious times are such that many of us tremble to give vent to perfectly acceptable views for fear of condemnation. Freedom of speech is thereby imperiled, big questions go undebated, and great lies become accepted, unequivocally as great truths.
Simon Heffer, Daily Mail, 7 June 2000
An unconditional right to say what one pleases about public affairs is what I consider to be the minimum guarantee of the First Amendment.
Justice Hugo L. Black (1886-1971) US Supreme Court Justice
Holy One, who comes to be with us
in our struggles and our hopes,
guide us, we pray, in living with integrity and joy.
Empower us to resist the urge to create enemies, inside us or around us.
Deepen our hunger and thirst for right relationship
with all peoples, ourselves included, and with the earth itself.
Reflections for the Second Sunday in Advent.
If God’s promises do not touch our lives in Advent or any other time, they are empty and silly gestures. Paul writes of God's truthfulness/reliability. God does what God says: to transform/renew our world which we are invited to be part of that transformation and renewal where community is more important that individualism; where sufficiency, sharing and sustainability trump growth, affluence and greed. This is God’s Reign that we long for and work for that will bring in a world where the weak and vulnerable are cared for, where justice prevails and in which all people live in harmony in spite of (or maybe even because of) their differences. Perhaps the word that best sums this up “shalom” – well-being, peace, harmony, goodness, and justice are all implied in this word. The Psalmist uses ‘shalom’ to describe the peaceful refreshed world for which he prays.
Pope Francis has spoken and written about these with passion, hope, longing for justice and life. John the Baptist, in coming from the margins, seems to see more clearly and disturbs those in power. He awakens us to God's presence in our world which can shatter the silence and invade our comfortable lives. There is criticism of the status quo as an alternative vision of creation is offered: away from domination, of empires to inclusion, peace.
Will we permit John to confront our comfort by examining the role that injustice, inequality, prejudice, ignorance, poverty, hunger, illiteracy, powerlessness, and hopelessness have in our world? Will we say loudly that these should not be ‘normal’? Will we say that misogyny should not be normal? Will we say that vilification of minority groups is not the normal? Will we allow him to confront our indifference by asking what part we play in these so-called dis-eases? We still hear horrific tales of rape, self-mutilation, murder, assaults and suicide on our offshore detention facilities but do we condemn or question the belief that what we have, that our security, is so important, that we can justify subjecting innocent people to such inhumanity. In lighting another Advent candle, we must be mindful that for many people life is darkness. As Jewish people are about to celebrate the Festival of Lights, their Gazan neighbours often have their lights shut out and 1.5 million people live in the world’s biggest prison with power shortages, sewerage in the streets, and daily humiliation at 100’s of checkpoints. The lights associated with Thanksgiving in the USA have not helped many to remember the holocaust perpetrated on the American Indians, later the African slaves and the recent violent response by the US Government to nonviolent people protecting their water and land at Standing Rock. Next month, many will celebrate Australia Day, without remembering or acknowledging the dispossession and losses suffered by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the Pacific Islanders forced to labour of on sugar plantations last century.
As another candle is lit today as part of our Advent celebration, may John’s words shed light on our lives in order to free us from whatever does not foster humanity. When God enters our world something has to give. John’s anger was not directed at the crazies or the ‘sinners’ but at people who obeyed the Law and worshipped in the Temple. We name these Advent weeks as Hope, Joy, Love, Peace, but the scriptures refer to them as Bleak Earth. Unquenchable Fire. Spirit in Darkness. Birth.
Was not John’s condemnation of religion that was content to work with a corrupt system? Has not our public religion been content to remain silent and collaborate with the system? It is more often not than been silent when the ANZAC story is critiqued and war glorified. It is more often than not silent at the continuing condition of Aboriginal and Torres Islander people. It has been silent and lacking in transparency at the systematic ill-treatment of asylum seekers which has led to psychological damage, self-harm and suicide in our detention centres. Dag Hammarskjöld [second UN secretary general] said, ‘In our era, the road to holiness necessarily passes through the world of action’ and ‘To exist for the future of others without being suffocated by their present.’ He could have added ‘not suffocating’ them. The imminent Birth is about commitment to be peacemakers, to be people of justice, to be willing to give our lives for others. It is about us giving birth to another reality: God’s reign; to pursuing and holding out the possibility of life when situations point to death.
Isaiah provides various images of restoration of our world where predators live in harmony with their prey. The advent vision of a peaceable realm is not about just a lion and lamb together, but also about something almost equally unimaginable – human beings living justly and peacefully together. While Isaiah uses images of different animals living in harmony to speak about the idealised hoped for world; human examples better serve to exemplify this type of revolutionary change. We saw it in Nelson Mandela how he did not let his situation in prison deprive him of his humanity. He was able to sincerely forgive the gaolers who allowed him only one visit and one letter ever six months. He bettered the lives of other prisoners teaching them the classics so that they would have greater sensitivity for others; also economics and politics. We see it on in our media as police officers in Los Angeles have said they will hand their badges rather than ‘go after’ so-called ‘undocumented migrants’ if Donald Trump initiates that move. We see it at Standing Rock as nearly 1000 veterans have gone, along with church people and other supporters, to stand in solidarity with the Indians at Standing Rock who face a powerful enemy – the US Government.
The overwhelming conclusion from Isaiah is that it describes a non-predatory world (e.g., Wall Street, stock markets, corporations) where the basic call is against harming, hurting or destroying the other: individuals, peoples, creation. Could we not envision a world where people could maintain their differences without killing, or vilifying, or denigrating each other or poisoning children with the bitter taste of racism or homophobia? What if the reign of God looks like a Pope washing the feet of a female Muslim prisoner, or a gay man and a Muslim heterosexual woman breaking bread together? Not impossible! If a Palestinian would be the guest of the Israeli? Not impossible! If the Muslim and the Christian in Indonesia share food together? Not impossible! We cannot assume that it is impossible to bring about this world. It’s a choice. It does take effort, creativity and imagination. But, it begins here, in our families, jobs, politics, and economics with generosity and truthfulness.
So Isaiah shares a dream of beauty and a hope. His interest is not simply in the way things are or have always been but the way things can be. Isaiah is not talking of 'tolerating' or putting up with 'the other' or an absence of war or conflict, but a harmony based on justice and the mutual recognition that all have the right to life and the good life. Could we not go back to Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato si’ and recall the overall vision expounded there of a ‘just peace’ which comes from an integral ecology where we recognise our interconnectedness with people, God and creation. But, as long as people claim to be 'more equal' than others there can be no justice and no peace.
This new world order means that the marginalising arrangements are over. It will not happen without you and me. It begins with us. The establishment figures in the gospel do not understand that God’s coming in Christ means the end of privilege and priority. This has also been the call of Pope Francis who has, like John, told the leaders that their pedigrees of status, conviction, and influence are of no use. These belong to a dying age.
We might need to ponder and take stock how enmeshed we might be to the old ways where we might benefit from the marginality of the poor, and so do not really want things to change. Many of our daily commitments indicate that we are actually in conflict with the new reign as we try to keep things as they are. Let’s ponder our attitudes to materialism and consumerism: failure to share with our neighbour or as a nation to honour our responsibilities to the developing nations to give a paltry amount of our GNP to foreign aid without strings attached; our attachment to cheap oil and petrol; purchasing large cars or even more than one; the chocolate we eat, the coffee we drink, the clothes we buy – very often at the expense of marginalised people who are not more than slave labour. Because our world is so interconnected what we do – often in relative innocence – affects people everywhere.
So John comes back and calls us to demonstrate a change of heart. Make friends with the one you are at odds with. Don’t have more war games to antagonise one’s enemy even more but talk to the ‘other’, reach out to those on the peripheries of our lives or of society. That is undoubtedly where we will find the face of God. The ‘shalom’ referred to earlier might seem to be a fantasy in a world that Pope Francis refers to as a ‘third world war in instalments’ where so many issues divide us so strongly – “pro-life” or “pro-choice”, “liberal” or “conservative”, “creationist” or “evolutionist”, “capitalist” or “socialist”, “pro-gay” or “anti-gay”, “rich” or “poor”. Though we might like to define things in clear terms, it seems that this only deepens the divisions between us. A just peace cannot be achieved by alienating people and taking sides. While real evils need to be resisted, Paul reminds that that it not people we fight so much as the “principalities and powers”, and as we embrace a shalom way of being – which includes loving even those we consider to be our enemies – we reflect God’s face, compassion and mercy, and we begin to bring God’s shalom into our world as a lived reality.
We cannot be secure whilst we attack our enemies. We cannot find peace by excluding those who challenge us or disagree with us. We cannot find joy and abundance by getting more and stuff. We cannot find love by turning inward and giving a high importance to our personal needs, potential and purpose than relationships or service or others. To know shalom, we need to change how we do things. We need to allow ourselves to carry out the risky acts of listening, dialogue, hospitality, service, justice and compassion. As we give ourselves to create shalom for others, we discover that shalom finds us, and God’s reign is truly within us.
Loving God, may our eyes be opened
as we celebrate this season of Advent
and prepare for the coming of Christ into our lives.
Open our ears that we may hear the cries
of our sisters and brothers
and open our hearts so that
those without protection may receive support.
May Jesus’ message of peace, welcome, hospitality
Overcome our fears so that we defend those who are weak and the poor and the stranger.
Open our eyes so that we see where love and hope and faith are needed and the strength in our legs to bring them to the places they are needed.