By Marilyn Dunphy, MHSH
The readings for this first Sunday in Advent present us with a number of contrasts. In the first reading, Isaiah offers the nation of Judah, facing threats from within and without, a vision of unity, peace and justice. What might it have been like for those beleaguered people to hear the words: “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. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk In the light of the Lord?”
Paul presents the contrasts of darkness and light, wakefulness and sleep, destructive behavior versus putting on Christ. His urging of preparation and watchfulness echo the Gospel’s message of vigilance and preparation for the coming of the Son of Man, “at an hour you do not expect.” The message seems to have an ominous tone, but could it have been a message of hope for Matthew’s listeners, and can it offer hope for us?
To enter into Advent is not to deny the darkness, divisions and threats that face us, but to embrace the opportunities to trust in God’s promises and to be bearers of God’s love, light, peace and justice in our world.
In his poem, Advent, the late Daniel Berrigan, SJ, offers us these words of hope and challenge:
It is not true that creation and the human family are doomed to destruction and loss – This is true: For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life.
It is not true that we must accept inhumanity and discrimination, hunger and poverty, death and destruction – This is true: I have come that they may have life, and that abundantly.
It is not true that violence and hatred should have the last word, and that war and destruction rule forever – This is true: For unto us a child is born, and unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, And his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, the Everlasting, the Prince of Peace.
It is not true that we are simply victims of the powers of evil who seek to rule the world – This is true: To me is given authority in heaven and on earth, and lo, I am with you, even unto the end of the world.
It is not true that we have to wait for those who are specially gifted, who are the prophets of the Church, before we can be peacemakers – This is true: I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your young shall see visions, and your old shall have dreams.
It is not true that our hopes for the liberation of humanity, for justice, human dignity, and peace are not meant for this earth and for this history – This is true: The hour comes, and it is now, that true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth.
So let us enter Advent in hope, even hope against hope. Let us see visions of love and peace and justice.
Let us affirm with humility, with joy, with faith, with courage: Jesus Christ — the Life of the world.
(Source: Testimony: The Word Made Fresh, by Daniel Berrigan. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2004).
How do you find yourself at the beginning of this Advent season?
What graces will you pray for during this season: trust in God, maintaining hope in the face of challenges, compassion for suffering people, other things?
How will you be a bearer of God’s love, light, peace and justice?