2ND SUNDAY OF ADVENT: TO GUIDE OUR FEET INTO THE WAY OF PEACE

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We live in a world where genuine and lasting peace remains elusive.  In today’s advanced world, conflicts and wars continue to be the headlines of daily news. There are untold suffereing and misery from thousands of people caught in conflicts and wars, losing family members and loved ones, losing their properties, houses and possessions, being looted and having to see their cities, towns and villages destroyed.

Peace remains elusive as the mighty and the powerful continue to prey on the weak, and the rich and influential ones continue to manipulate and exploit the poor.

Not to mention the conflicts within religions, societies, even our churches, parishes and the family. We all suffer and experience pain and sorrow from the breakdown of families, organizations, churches, and societies. We all have a part in the absence of peace; we long for peace within ourselves as we chose to act in ways that seek our own satisfaction and happiness, to fulfil our needs and desires over the suffering of others.

The readings of today’s 2nd Sunday of Advent proclaims the time when we will finally achieve peace through the coming of the Son of God.

In our first reading from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, the prophet Isaiah prophesy about the time of the coming of the Saviour or God’s Messiah which will usher a time of peace so wonderful and great that even ferocious animals would come and sit together with their prey in harmony.

Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
The calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbors, together their young shall rest; the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the Lord, as water covers the sea. (Isa 11:6-7,9)

Indeed, the Saviour’s coming will have radical consequences for the world. His reign, for example, will reorder creation in profound ways: Predators dwell in harmony with their prey, carnivorous instincts are transformed, and the most vulnerable humans in society (children) are free to play with venomous snakes. Interspecies violence effectively comes to an end and harmony ensues.

Is this not the vision we long to realize? We long for that day when all of us will live in harmony and peace and be united as one despite differences in religions, culture, race, blood and politics. We long for the day when there will be no more enmities, war and conflict and we will call no one as enemies. But to enter into the reign of the Son of God we need to radically accept and work together with our fellowmen and women despite that they are different from us, despite that they are our enemies.

This vision of peace by Isaiah is proclaimed in our responsorial psalm today:

Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.

In our second reading today, St. Paul wrote to the Church in Rome and spoke of the peace of Christ and how the coming of the Lord into the world has brought forth the dawn of a new era of peace. St. Paul exhorted the faithful there to welcome one another and to make peace with each other, just as the Lord Jesus has brought the peace of God into the midst of the people.

Welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you,
for the glory of God.
For I say that Christ became a minister of the circumcised
to show God’s truthfulness,
to confirm the promises to the patriarchs,
but so that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.
As it is written:
Therefore, I will praise you among the Gentiles
and sing praises to your name.

In Rome at that time, which was the cosmopolitan and populous capital of the mighty and expansive Roman Empire, there were numerous peoples of different origins and backgrounds, of different cultures and traditions, as besides the Romans who were the lords of the land, there were also Greeks, Syrians, Jewish populations, Gauls, Germans, the peoples of the Northern African regions, Thracians, Dacians, Berbers, Arabs, Persians and even many others, of many different nations and languages.

Many of these people did not exist peacefully with each other, and it did not help that many among the non-Roman populations, especially in the city of Rome, were slaves. And the Romans were the largest landowners and also slave owners. Even among the Romans themselves there were often wide disparity in the wealth and property they owned, and all these divisions and categorisations among the peoples often led to conflict and unhappiness.

The Christian faith significantly managed to bridge these differences even in the earliest days of the Church. St. Paul was in fact exhorting and reminding the faithful to put aside their differences, whatever past animosities and unhappiness they might have had towards each other previously and instead focus themselves on peace, and to live with one another harmoniously, bonded together by a new bond of love born from God. This is how God’s coming into the world has therefore transformed His people, from people divided by many differences and identities, into a united people by faith.

In the Gospel today, John the Baptist appeared in the desert. John the Baptist is a very important character during the time of Advent. What is his role and mission? We can find a clue on the mission of John the Baptist in the Benedictus, the song of thanksgiving uttered by Zechariah on the birth of his son, John the Baptist.

You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High;for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way,to give his people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins.

In the tender compassion of our God
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

John’s mission is to prepare the coming of the messiah, the Son of God who will finally bring genuine and lasting peace for all creation.  But he prepared the way for Jesus without taking any of the glory for himself. … When asked if he was the Messiah, John replied that he was just “a voice” who had come “to prepare the way of the Lord.”

In this conflict, war and division-filled world, we are all called to be John the Baptist. We are called to go beyond our own selfish agenda and prejudices and learn to work with our fellowmen and women for the betterment of the world despite our differences. Jesus, the prince of peace, will ultimately bring peace to the world. Like John the Baptist, we need to prepare for Jesus’ final coming by changing our ways in order to become genuine peace-builders and peace-makers.

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