The following reflection is from the Advent Reflection Guide 2020: Building a Culture of Peace.
“...[We] are the clay and you the potter: we are all the work of your hands.”
- Isaiah 64: 7
“Be watchful! Be alert!” The words of Jesus in the Gospel for this first week of Advent are jarring, particularly so in this time when we are already on constant alert for the impacts of an unseen virus. How can we understand these words of Jesus in this Season of Advent in 2020, when the whole world seems to be on edge, when we are surrounded by so much uncertainty?
We need to be reminded that the call of Jesus for the Season of Advent is not a call to anxiety and fear, but to attentiveness, peace, and faith in the nearness of God and God’s action in the world.
The first reading today hints at what living that call would look like: “Would that you might meet us doing right, that we were mindful of you in our ways!” With God’s help, we are invited to take careful, mindful steps to sow the seeds of the Kingdom of God in our lives and world. How are we taking steps to prepare for God’s Kingdom in our individual lives, and how do we do this as a society?
The COVID-19 crisis revealed that our world and our country were woefully unprepared to handle a global pandemic, despite all the investment in global “security” built through military power and cooperation. The crisis has revealed all the weaknesses of our economic and social systems, asking us to re-imagine what it means to be secure and prepared.
In the United States, we prepare for war and for military defense far more than we do for peace. Our budget for diplomacy and peacebuilding is a miniscule fraction of our defense budget, which is estimated to be about 1 trillion dollars annually. Likewise, we invest in prisons and police forces far more than in quality education and social services for at-risk communities. How can we shift our focus to preventing violence around the world and preparing for peace, rather than merely reacting to violence?
Pope Francis has called the world to pursue “integral disarmament” to prepare for peace, a disarmament that means the laying down of weapons but also the disarmament of our hearts, of the grip of fear in our lives and our enmity with one another.
In 1963, in Pacem in Terris, Pope John XIII wrote, “Unless this process of disarmament be thoroughgoing and complete, and reach [our] very souls, it is impossible to stop the arms race, or to reduce armaments, or – and this is the main thing – ultimately to abolish them entirely” (Pacem in Terris, 11 April 1963).”
Similarly, Sr. Jean Fallon, MM, reflects, “Here we are today in this violent, destructive age of endless wars against nations and peoples! Jesus as the Chosen One is teaching us today that power is not to be used just because we have it! We are to use our power as Jesus was called to, to free others nonviolently and to heal them.”
Questions for Reflection:
This Advent, how can you prepare for God by disarming your own heart? Despite the hardship of these times, where is the gentle voice of God calling you to sow the seeds of God’s reign of peace?
Lord God of peace, hear our prayer!
We have tried so many times and over so many years to resolve our conflicts by our own powers and by the force of our arms. How many moments of hostility and darkness have we experienced; how much blood has been shed; how many lives have been shattered; how many hopes have been buried… But our efforts have been in vain.
Now, Lord, come to our aid! Grant us peace, teach us peace; guide our steps in the way of peace. Open our eyes and our hearts, and give us the courage to say: “Never again war!”; “With war everything is lost”. Instill in our hearts the courage to take concrete steps to achieve peace.
Lord, God of Abraham, God of the Prophets, God of Love, you created us and you call us to live as brothers and sisters. Give us the strength daily to be instruments of peace; enable us to see everyone who crosses our path as our brother or sister. Make us sensitive to the plea of our citizens who entreat us to turn our weapons of war into implements of peace, our trepidation into confident trust, and our quarreling into forgiveness.
Keep alive within us the flame of hope, so that with patience and perseverance we may opt for dialogue and reconciliation. In this way may peace triumph at last, and may the words “division, “hatred” and “war” be banished from the heart of every man and woman. Lord, defuse the violence of our tongues and our hands. Renew our hearts and minds, so that the word which always brings us together will be “brother”, and our way of life will always be that of: Shalom, Peace, Salaam!
– Pope Francis, Prayer for Peace, 2014
Faith in Action:
- Read our two-page brief on rethinking global security.
- Learn about the Global Fragility Act, an effort to shift towards preventing violence in fragile nations.
This reflection is from the Advent Reflection Guide 2020: Building a Culture of Peace.