A reflection for the first week of Advent by fr. Emmanuel Mulu, OP, Promoter for Justice and Peace for Dominicans in Africa, Vatican Representative to the United Nations in Kenya, and member of the Vicariate of Eastern Africa.
The four weeks of Advent constitute a season of expectant waiting and preparation for the nativity of Christ and His return at Parousia. Waiting is a sign of hope. Hope for healing to a broken world that needs fixing. The world is broken because it abhors waiting, preferring quick-fix solutions to issues that bedevil it. These quick-fix solutions eventually fail, hurting the world even more.
The expected Messiah gives hope because he is the only one who is able to fix our broken world. He is able to mend and repair it.
The Prince of Peace
The first reading from Isaiah draws our attention to a peaceful coexistence. “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.” Peace therefore can neither be achieved through wars nor by building walls. It is a gift from God as we find in John 14:27 New Catholic Bible (NCB). However, humanity is at liberty to elect either to embrace this gift or not to. More often than not, peace is not chosen yet the fruits of not embracing this invaluable gift of peace are conflicts, violence, wars, discrimination and their attendant outcomes. Myanmar suffers due to failure to choose peace. Some leaders in this beautiful country refused to embrace peace. They have refused to allow coexistence resulting to untold suffering. Displacement of masses, homelessness, maiming, emotional disturbance and death are the results of this war in Myanmar.
Prophet Isaiah speaks to this situation. He tells nations and governments including Myanmar to turn their swords into plowshares, their spears into pruning hooks, their military budgets into development budgets and hatred into love. Although it may sound difficult, this transformation is possible through the grace of the Messiah, the Prince of peace. Christ is the Prince of Peace in contradistinction to many world leaders who inflict suffering on those they lead due to selfish motives.
Keep watch as you wait
Matthew in the Gospel directs our thoughts towards ‘keeping watch’ as we approach Parousia because the Lord will come at a time we do not expect. We therefore have to keep watch and prepare. This can seem to be a long wait tempting humanity to deviate, a dangerous path to take; a path that many nations have taken. A path that Myanmar has taken. A way of conflict. A way that seems right in the sight of its leaders “There is a way which seems right unto a man; But the end thereof are the ways of death.” Proverbs 14:12.
A ready and expectant spirit inspires careful observation of the times. Preparedness and watchfulness is accomplished through prayer. Those who are not watching are not praying, and those who are not praying are not watching. Prayer is dialogue with God. Constant communication with God keeps a person hopeful while at the same time maintaining a relationship with Him. If the world faithfully keeps watch through prayer, hope will replace despair and fear. Through prayer, tolerance, cohesion and coexistence can abound. This is possible in Myanmar. This is possible in the world and in all nations that are rocked by violent conflicts and wars.
The wars we witness in the world are reminiscent of a desperate world; a world that lacks the preparedness for the Savior, a world full of fear, a world devoid of patience and tolerance, a world that courts an attitude of self-sufficiency and locks the Messiah out of its matrix. This attitude tries to nip hope in the bud casting humanity to the mercy of fear and despair.
The time of Advent is therefore a time to stop war, discrimination and conflicts so that is can embrace the all-encompassing Christ. We are all called to wait for Christ who heals our broken world because waiting is not a waste of time but the price we pay for our healing (John 5:3-New Catholic Bible).
We are hopeful as we wait to celebrate the birth of the Messiah that Myanmar and other parts of the world that witness wars will welcome the Prince of Peace and that they will know peace.
Have an expectant waiting for the Messiah during this Advent Season, won’t you!