Reflection: Second Sunday of Advent
Today’s readings are a beautiful, powerful, appropriate challenge to begin our Advent season. Today we hear promise of a Savior – one who embodies a Spirit of wisdom and justice. We’re challenged to recognize an extraordinary opportunity for making peace – a wolf and a lamb, a cow and a bear can be companions to each other! This is hardly imaginable. We are in God’s territory here: There will be no harm or ruin; only peace. Don’t our hearts long for that kind of peace, especially now in these days of seeming chaos in our own country?
And at the same time, the readings foretell a shake-up right ahead, radical change, a new era: the old ways will be uprooted, there will come a leader who will baptize with the Holy Spirit … and with fire. He will separate the wheat from the chaff, truth from lies and falsity, justice from wrongdoing. Hearing such promises must make us sit up and take notice, open our eyes and ears, pay attention to what’s going on right here in our own country. Even now opposites are face-to-face, de-struction and con-struction tangling with each other; what we thought was solidly rooted seems to be being loosened.
The situation described in the readings may pretty well match what we feel in our situation right now. It’s hard to distinguish truth from lies, they seem to carry equal weight. Instead of healthy cooperation, parties seem poised to destroy each other. A vision for a healthful future of planet Earth is compromised, dismissed. Many, I believe, feel as if we’re standing on shaky, insecure ground.
There are choices to make, paths to choose, difficulties to face. St. Paul’s letter seems addressed to us: He says, “Whatever was written previously was written for our instruction, that by endurance and by the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to think in harmony with one another, in keeping with Christ Jesus.”
Notice the words the Scripture chose here: endurance and encouragement. The word en-dure: notice that dur is the root of that word: during: dur-ing, dur-able, dur-ation, dur-ess, they suggest something that will take time, may be difficult, something heavy or hard, but will keep you at it; something that can’t be taken lightly … endurance. And en-couragement – a word that’s sister to the precious word hope. (French poet C. Peguy thought of hope as a precious child, and the one God always relies on to be there when things are difficult.) Think of it — today’s Scripture reading – this is what Paul is praying for, for his community centuries ago, Paul’s words: endurance and encouragement, or hope.
We know our country is at a very critical point – a point not for politics, but one that calls for soul work. I mean by that that our situation is toying with values close to our country’s moral core: first of all the centrality of TRUTH; but equally, integrity, justice and peace, a concern for the healthy survival of the planet, immigration, racism, nuclear militarism – these are all integral to our collective ethic, the ethic of this community as well.
We can join Paul when he prays with his community, “May the God of endurance and encouragement” grant (to our nation and to us gathered here today): “to think in harmony with one another, in keeping with Christ Jesus.” Endurance – so we may continue to recognize and to DO, each of us, the role that is given to each of us to do: it is our role now to prepare the way of the Lord. May our hearts always find Hope, may our energies be courageous, positive, and loving. THIS is soul work. May it be done.