FAITH IN FOCUS: ENDURING PEACE?
Peace is something that everyone is in favour of. And it comes as a comfort to hear that the very first reading of the Church’s cycle of scripture at the start of Advent is the good news that God has promised peace to the world. Isaiah tells us that weapons of war (swords) will be melted down and turned into food producers (ploughshares).
Yet we do not live in cloud cuckoo land. We only have to turn on the TV to see that this Advent is no more peaceful than any other. Far from it. The enduring peace of God’s everlasting justice is being sought with weapons of war and innocent people are dying in Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Peace cannot be imposed on any people or nation. It has to be felt and yearned for. When a nation is defeated and it signs a declaration of end to hostility, the work only just begins. That’s because peace is more than the absence of conflict. Peace is living with justice for all sides. Without tackling root injustice we only create what at best is a temporary truce.
Isaiah speaks of the “mountain of the Lord” being a place where the Law, God’s plan for humanity, is proclaimed and dispensed. Each year Christians recall that Christ came as the embodiment of that promise of peace and justice. But we don’t simply recall it as a past event, something which took place in the past. We recall it to remind ourselves that it is our responsibility and duty to make it a reality in our own day.
As this year unfolds we will gather at worship to ask the Holy Spirit to transform our lives through the action of the liturgy, so that we may become signs and vehicles of that peace which God alone can offer the world. God’s peace is more than tolerance and multiculturalism. It is that deep down sense of wellbeing that comes from knowing that we are held in the palm of God’s hand and we are doing all we can to ensure that others experience his infinite love through the way we treat them.
So Advent is not about remembrance. It’s about active recommitment to making the Son of Man present in our world through the way we live justly.