Hope for peace in all things
We are waiting, constantly waiting. Waiting for the birth of Christ. Waiting for the Messiah to return. Often, and particularly during this Advent season, we light a candle to mark our waiting. A light in the darkness is a symbol of hope. Indeed, in Spanish, waiting and hoping are the same word.
Hope implies something unrealized – a “not yet.” The candle is a light in the darkness, yet the darkness remains. Candlelight does not banish all darkness. Christ will, eventually. But as we wait, winter envelops us, the days grow shorter, nights longer. The candlelight offers only a glimpse of what is to come – a beacon in the persistent dark.
Darkness and violence often threaten to overcome our world. War, climate disaster, staggering food insecurity, all leading to unprecedented numbers of people on the move. Lies and division make solutions elusive. Nonviolence is the light that shines in the darkness.
In the corners of the world where we light the flame of nonviolence, it proves surprisingly capable of driving out darkness. Studies show strategic, active nonviolence to be strikingly effective at preventing, transforming, and healing from violence. And yet so many in the world pursue more violence, even as a purported means to achieve peace. The violence of weapons. Violence against our common home. The violence of exclusion, discrimination, and indifference.
Only Christ will ever completely overcome violence in the world. But, like the candles in the Advent wreath, we are called to be signs of Christ’s gospel nonviolence on Earth. We are called to keep the flame alight no matter how much darkness surrounds us.
Nonviolence is a spirituality, a way of life, and an ethical framework to guide our actions. It is, as Pope Francis called it, “a style of politics for peace.” It involves integral disarmament: disarming ourselves, internally and spiritually, letting go of the violence in our hearts in order to then disarm the world. We must build the conditions for peace. We must confront and resist violence with agape love. We must be always open to dialogue, even with our enemies. We must refuse revenge, and instead seek healing and reconciliation.
By fostering this spirit of nonviolence, studying and practicing nonviolence in all its facets, we keep our flame lit, and remain vigilant against the darkness. Today’s gospel calls us to stay awake as we await the coming of the Messiah. We invite you to tend the flame of nonviolence in your heart and in the world throughout this Advent season. We begin with a prayer, that we might begin to disarm our hearts, kindling the spirit of nonviolence, becoming an ever-brighter light in the darkness.
And soon, another candle will be lit. And then another, and another, until Emmanuel, God among us, is born.
Disarm me, God
Come, put away the sword I still carry somewhere in my heart. Take away the violence that lingers in my soul. Make me an instrument of Your peace. You have a plan for me: fulfill it! In this world of armaments, disarm me and I shall be able to disarm others.
Come, God. There is still a trace of war and madness in my veins. Purify me, O God, and I shall let loose disarmament in the world that will cause people to praise you freely. Purify me of all violence and I shall stand before the powers and principalities without fear and free of those trapped in the structures of fear and violence.
Come, God. Disarm me without my knowing it, and then, show me that you are the Disarming One, nonviolent from the beginning of time until the end of time. Disarming Presence, Unconditional Love, Great Reconciler, Suffering Servant, Patience Personified, Peaceful Mother, come, bearing peace.
Come, God. Disarm this restless heart which wanders off into apathy and selfishness, but which longs to rest in You. Lead this heart into the fire of your Love, where it can be consumed by the Flame of Nonviolence, setting fire to other hearts nearby. Let your unilateral disarmament engage me, win me over, force the scales to fall from my eyes and the weapons to be released from my hands. Push me into the violent hearts of others that I may take on their anger and release them from the chains of hatred and the bonds of violence.
Disarm me, God, and I shall disarm others. Disarm me, God, that I may be one with all humanity, all your sons and daughters. Disarm me, God, and bring me into Your reign, to live forever in peace and love.
- Prayers of Protest, by John Dear, S.J.
“Our faith and prayer need to become the springboard for us to grow in intimacy with God and sensitivity towards others, especially the poor and those in need. Praying should help us to become better human beings seeking what is just and good in our daily life. Our faith, our way of praying and our spiritual life need to become the spiritual wheelhouse from which we draw the motivation for our efforts to make a better world, to care for the environment, to help people in need, the sick, the lonely and to build a Christian community centered around Christ and based on peace, justice and love.”
– Father Roberto Rodriguez
Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers