Rejoice, for the Lord is near
In lighting our Advent candles, we have taken stock of the darkness and persistent violence in our world. We have contemplated our own participation in that violence, and repented. Now, in this Gaudete Sunday, we light a pink candle, and rejoice, for the incarnation is near.
When the imprisoned John the Baptist sends followers to inquire whether Jesus is “the one who is to come,” Jesus replies by pointing to the signs he has performed. “Go and tell John what you hear and see.” The blind see, the lame walk, good news is proclaimed to the poor. As we reflect this Advent on gospel nonviolence, what are the signs of the nonviolent Jesus at work in the world today?
We do well to look first to the examples of women. Years before the events of today’s reading, Mary, pregnant with Jesus, meets Elizabeth, pregnant with John, and expresses in the Magnificat the significance of the incarnation for bringing about just peace: by becoming her humble child, God “has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.”
Today as well, women often model nonviolence as the path to just peace. Pax Christi International’s Catholic Nonviolence Initiative has documented striking examples of effective, active nonviolence by women leaders:
In the Philippines, peace activist Myla Leguro developed a method of dialogue to prepare individuals and communities for negotiations to settle land disputes. Her process builds skills, trust, and agreements that serve as a basis for addressing wider conflicts. It has been adopted in conflict zones around the world, including central Africa, where other leaders have further developed her model.
In northern Kenya, Pax Christi peacebuilder Elizabeth Kanini Kimau facilitated dialogue between warring pastoralist communities. Understanding the respect afforded elders, she invited elders from all sides to dialogue in a safe, neutral location. The elders recruited warriors to follow suit, who in turn invited youth. The elders have since established ongoing dialogue to resolve conflicts before they erupt into violence.
In Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon, Operazione Colomba’s Sara Ionovitz opened spaces for dialogue from the grassroots to top-level state actors through “popular democratic diplomacy,” allowing refugees to contribute plans for peace to negotiations for the first time. The presence of her team also built bridges of dialogue between Syrians and the Lebanese host population.
Let us pause this week to notice the prophets of nonviolence in our world, to recognize the leadership of women, and see the signs of God with us, where nonviolence has led to peace with justice.
Questions for reflections
What gives you joy during this Advent Season?
What peacebuilding trait do you see in a women leader you can name?
Prayer to the Creator
Lord, Father of our human family,
you created all human beings equal in dignity:
pour forth into our hearts a fraternal spirit
and inspire in us a dream of renewed encounter,
dialogue, justice and peace.
Move us to create healthier societies
and a more dignified world,
a world without hunger, poverty, violence and war.
May our hearts be open
to all the peoples and nations of the earth.
May we recognize the goodness and beauty
that you have sown in each of us,
and thus forge bonds of unity, common projects,
and shared dreams.
- Prayer by Pope Francis
Friendships fall apart. We can no longer speak honestly with a relative or trusted colleague. We are hurt and we hurt others. Do we recognize our wounds, admit our feelings of bitterness, some new, some years old? Do we need to hold on? Hidden wounds do not heal. Can we offer these to God, allow ourselves to be touched, to experience mercy, to offer mercy? The apostles unlocked the doors and walked boldly into the streets, to heal the sick and restore relationships in the community. When we can say we are sorry a load is lifted. Our hearts are opened, and we are free. God is merciful, full of mercy, for all, for ALL!
- Sister Connie Krautkremer