December 1, 2013

Advent Reflections

Isaiah 2:4-5

4And He will judge between the nations,

And will render decisions for many peoples;

And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.

Nation will not lift up sword against nation,

And never again will they learn war.

5Come, house of Jacob, and let us walk in the light of the LORD.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples to “stay awake!” and “be prepared” for the coming of the Son of Man. It is a fitting invitation into the season of Advent, a time of hopeful waiting for Jesus, the Prince of Peace. What will characterize this coming? In the first reading, Isaiah foresees a time when God reigns supreme. When the community of nations recognizes the sovereignty of God, Isaiah tells us, the people will go up to the mountain of the Lord, so “that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.” What are God’s ways? Isaiah says the nations will “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.”

Even as we await the arrival of Jesus and the coming of the kingdom during the season of Advent, we also remain mindful that the messiah did come and remains with us today. Jesus has already inaugurated this kingdom; it is already present, but not fully. Many church leaders have cried out, like Isaiah, “War no more! Never again!” This prophetic vision still seems like a distant dream for the human family, but we must remember it and attempt to live it out in whatever way we can. Advent is a perfect time for an examination of conscience and a renewed commitment to peace. The season is also an opportunity remember those members of the Christian community who have taken this call seriously, even at great personal risk and sacrifice. I think especially of members of the Plowshares Movement, who have attempted to “beat swords into plowshares” by hammering on nuclear weapons and calling for a different way of relating to the community of nations. Three such witnesses are featured in “The Prophets of Oak Ridge,” an in-depth article about a Plowshares action, with striking illustrations, published in The Washington Post: May their witness inspire us to action during this season of hopeful anticipation.

Luke Hansen, S.J., Associate Editor