THE LORD PROCLAIMS PEACE TO HIS PEOPLE!
Catholic Homily/Sunday Gospel Reflection
2nd Sunday of Advent (B)
December 7, 2008
There is comfort in the words of Isaiah the prophet today. “Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God.” Isaiah, as we know, was writing to a people – God’s people – who have lost everything they valued more than anything else, everything that would give meaning to the appellation “people of God” … no temple, no land, no permanent abode they could call their own. Isaiah, speaking in God’s name, was giving comfort to a people who were far from comfortable and at ease in a land that was not theirs, sans place of worship, sans country, sans political power…sans everything. He spoke to a people whose suffering was … nonpareil … if you will … sans rival!
Isaiah prophesied to a people who could hardly be said to be at peace. What type of peace is there for one who has been violently uprooted from one’s homeland? What sort of peace does one enjoy, far from the typical scenes of one’s birthplace, away from familiar smells and sounds, distant from one’s family and community rituals and practices that are associated with personal and communal identity and security? What peace is there to speak of for one whose family members are scattered all over against one’s choice and expressed will?
And yet, today, Isaiah, Peter, John the Baptist, the Lord Jesus Christ… they all speak words of comfort, solace and promise. They all point to realities beyond anyone’s dreams. Isaiah speaks of every valley going to be filled in, rugged land being made plain, every mountain and hill being made low. The psalmist, for his part, confidently pursues and requests the kindness and salvation from the Lord, as confidently as he declares “kindness and truth shall meet; justice and peace shall kiss.” Peter points to the much awaited “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” And the third reading, speaks with an air of definitiveness about “the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
Are these not part, too, of what we, as Filipinos, also long for, here and now? Isn’t this comfort – and the patent lack of it, for a great many of our people, what we so need to hear and appropriate in our own lives? Isn’t the gift of peace, a fruit of justice, something we all long for, pine for, and even fight for? Don’t we, at some time or other, dream of a better country, a more prosperous nation, a more united people, better leadership? Have we not prayed to be spared from all the “ruggedness” of the “valleys, mountains and hills” that seem to characterize the trajectory of our common history as a people?
Our response to today’s promise could not have been better phrased: “Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation!”
Let us see your kindness, Lord! What type of peace is there for us when we are consistently in the top 15 list of most corrupt countries? What type of a new earth can we hope for when Manila is right now considered the pollution capital of the world, with pollution levels judged to be five times more than acceptable international standards? What “gospel” – good news is there to look forward to when all we hear are reports of scams and scandals and intrigues of every sort, coming from the highest offices of the land, not excluding our very own Church pastors and leaders?
Grant us your salvation, Lord. Yes, … grant us salvation, but not the type that comes like magic from the heavens. Grant us salvation, Lord – the type of salvation that is a fruit of your work – and ours… a salvation that should move us to strive to match a “new earth” with your promised “new heavens.” Grant us salvation, Lord…make of us “persons that [we] ought to be, conducting [ourselves] in holiness and devotion, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God…. eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace.”
Do grant us peace, O Lord… the peace that is a fruit of justice, … justice that we do, not only talk about. Do grant us peace, O Lord…a peace that comes from knowing we have done our part to “prepare the way of the Lord” and “to make straight his paths” – in obedience to the “gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
The Lord does proclaim peace… but it is up to us to do peace and cultivate peace. The Lord brings “good news” but it is up to us to live it. The Lord gives us all it takes to make a “new earth” out of this messy world of corruption and sin, and selfishness and sordid gain. The Lord has given us, and still gives us, like today, his message and gift of peace and salvation, but there is work for us to do. We cannot simply “sit and wait.” We need to wait in active hope. We need to do our share. We need to wait, but as Peter says, we need to “hasten” at the same time, the “coming of the day of God.”
There surely is something that awaits our first move in our lives: at home, in our families, in our communities, at work, in relation to others. Someone has to make the first move of reconciliation. Someone has to budge a finger to solve the trash problem everywhere. Somebody has to begin giving in in a traffic snarl. It only takes a little humility. We cannot all be stonewalling all the time. Someone has to start giving others little, seemingly insignificant acts of courtesy. All it takes is for one to start acting civilly, instead of always wanting to pull a fast one over others. Sometimes, all we need is to start treating others nicely and politely, and everything turns out smoothly.
Salvation is as much God’s work, as ours! Grace, which comes from God, is never wanting. What is lacking more often than not, is our contribution, our response, our cooperation. We need to be the ones to do the filling in, the leveling, the smoothening out of the basically man-made creases and inequalities in our lives and in the world. I would like to share with you, at this point, a beautiful image of God, the Holy Spirit, working ever so gently and unobtrusively, so that peace becomes a reality in the world, despite our protestations and complaints, despite our initial disappointments…
When will you ever, Peace, wild wooddove, shy wings shut,
Your round me roaming end, and under be my boughs?
When, when, Peace, will you, Peace? I’ll not play hypocrite
To own my heart: I yield you do come sometimes; but
That piecemeal peace is poor peace. What pure peace allows
Alarms of war, the daunting wars, the death of it?
O surely, reaving Peace, my Lord should leave in lieu
Some good! And so he does leave Patience exquisite,
That plumes to Peace thereafter. And when Peace here does
He comes with work to do, he does not come to coo,
He comes to brood and sit.
There are some things here that we ought to learn. The poem captures our disappointment: when will peace finally prevail in the world? We do not want piecemeal peace; we do not want peace that still allows the possibility of conflict. But when the Lord does take away peace, He must leave something good in its stead. HE LEAVES PATIENCE! He leaves hope and active waiting – the same HOPE that we keep alive in Advent! This patience, when nurtured is what engenders peace later. And this is the clincher. When peace does come, like a mother dove, peace has work to do, he does not just come to coo, “he comes to brood and sit.” When a mother dove broods and sits over her nest, new life comes about; new little doves arise! New life, new hope is created. Patience! Patient waiting in hope… this is what advent waiting is all about. Peace will come, sooner or later. For the Lord has already proclaimed it. We claim it now as our own. How? By working for it, in our own little way…It will come. It does come… today, tomorrow, sooner or later… in God’s own good time!