This reflection was published as part of the Advent Guide 2021: A Time of Hope and Healing.
“In those days Judah shall be safe and Jerusalem shall dwell secure;
this is what they shall call her: “The LORD our justice.”
- Jeremiah 33: 16
In the first reading for this First Sunday in Advent, we are given a vision of a time of fulfillment in which the people of God “shall be safe, and Jerusalem shall dwell secure.” As we begin this Advent in a time of great uncertainty and weariness, this vision of peace and security may resonate with us as deeply hopeful.
What would it feel like to “dwell secure?” How can we maintain faith in God’s promise of his coming reign of peace, and how are we called to help bring it about?
The psalm and second reading provide some guidance. The psalmist begs God to “teach us your paths,” and reminds us that God “guides the humble to justice and teaches the humble his way.” In the second reading, St. Paul prays, “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all…so as to strengthen your hearts…[for] the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones.”
These readings remind us that, in times of great uncertainty, we are to trust in God’s guidance, and remain vigilant. The way we prepare for God’s reign of peace and security is by “increasing and abound[ing] in love for one another and for all,” building up love and solidarity in our community.
Pope Francis builds on a long tradition of Catholic social thought in emphasizing the importance of what he calls “social friendship” and solidarity in his latest encyclical, Fratelli Tutti. He explains that the fabric of society wears down when we fail to recognize each other as “brothers and sisters all,” fundamentally related through being created and loved by God.
We see this breakdown at the heart of our many social challenges today – all of which, Pope Francis reminds us, have spiritual roots. As a society, we seek security through building up nuclear weapons arsenals built to annihilate whole populations. We fail to share life-saving COVID-19 vaccines due to corporate interests and lack of political will or concern for people abroad. We use up vast quantities of natural resources at the expense of those who are poor and live close to the land.
In the midst of these great challenges, through the Gospel today, Jesus calls us to “be vigilant at all times,” not too absorbed in the “anxieties of daily life” to pay attention for the small but powerful signs of God’s coming Kingdom.
Although the problems of our day loom large, we may take meaningful steps to “increase in love for one another and for all” and so challenge the structures of society which deny the equal dignity of each person and the inherent value of creation. Only through building habits and structures of love and solidarity will we “dwell securely.”
Maryknoll Sr. Teruko Ito writes, ´Today we find ourselves at another crossroads politically, culturally, and spiritually, as we face climate change, ecological crisis, racial conflict, and the challenges of a global pandemic. Challenged with many complex issues today, we all struggle to believe in God’s faithfulness through our unknown and unpredictable history.
Today, let us individually and communally review our past, where we came from, and profess who our God is, in and beyond human history…Oh God, you are the wholeness of life!”
Questions for Reflection:
What does it mean to seek false security? What is one step you can take to foster love and solidarity in your community?
Prayer for Disarmament
Breath of All that Is,
Preserve us from our own madness.
Direct us away from dealing destruction to others, A path which leads to the ruin
Of ourselves and our world.
Protect us. Help us to hear You.
Jesus Christ, Beloved,
Show us your precious face in all others,
You in us, and we in each other, from all places.
Teach us how to lower our defenses, Feed us Love which transcends fear. Heal us. Help us to let go of all fear.
Holy Spirit, You
Call us, in our minds, in our world,
And through each other. Speak to us.
Speak through us.
When we worship power, control, money,
When we cannot forgive, or shove pain onto others, Call us.
Light the fire of Love. We will not be afraid. We will not be afraid. Love transcends all fear.
You Are with us always.
-Kim Vanderheiden, Pax Christi Northern California
Faith in Action
Send a message to President Biden urging him to take concrete action for nuclear disarmament.
Read our two-page policy brief on nuclear disarmament.