First Week in Advent
“The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus.” With these words, Pope Francis penned his first major teaching “on the proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world.” In this time of Advent, God invites us to share that joy: “Those who enjoy life most are those who leave security on the shore and become excited by the mission of communicating life to others.” [1, 10]
Advent is a time of waiting, but also of hope. It is a time of great expectation, at the coming of the Lord into history, but also a time of great joy at the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
It is a time of great changes, in nature and in history – “the great reversal of all things,” “a new ordering of all things on earth,” a time of shalom when justice, peace, and the integrity of creation shall reign.
The readings from the first Sunday of Advent speak to the joy of this time of new beginnings, a time filled with the joy of salvation, the birth of Jesus Christ, and the coming of God into our history.
The world into which Jesus was born is not too terribly different from our own. Then, as now, the world was torn asunder by violence, deeply divided by injustice, creation itself was rocked by “wars and rumors of wars” and devastating earthquakes and natural disasters.
Today, violence occurs not only between nations, but within nations, often spurred by inter-religious and inter-ethnic conflicts, as in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, the DR Congo, and Colombia, but also in countries where Columbans serve: Pakistan, Burma, Korea, the Philippines, Mexico, Chile and Peru.
In this week’s readings, the prophet Isaiah shares with us his “dream”: In the days to come, the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills. . . .
They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks, one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. [Is 2:1-5]
The readings invite us to “pray for peace!” but such a peace requires that we be vigilant: “You know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep.” Above all, we must renounce the instruments of war and war itself and become instruments of peace and “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.”
As one of the martyrs of our time, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, reminds us: “If we want to be part of these events, Advent and Christmas, we cannot just sit there like a theater audience and enjoy all the lovely pictures. Instead, we ourselves will be caught up in this action, this reversal of all things; we must become actors on this stage.”