Sunday, November 28, 2010

Shalom, Peace: An Advent Reflection

   We begin advent today, a season of hope, a season not only to prepare for Christmas, but to look ahead and prepare for the next coming of Christ, and to ask ourselves how we're doing now in helping the reign of God to come about in our everyday lives.  That task involves many things, but I was struck by a verse from today's first reading from Isaiah, specifically Is. 2,4, "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."

   It's obvious that we are far from realizing this prophecy which appears on many of our Christmas cards.  We are still making weapons and training for war.  As a Christian and especially as a Franciscan I feel a call to work for peace. I have no naive delusions  that make me think that the world will disarm in the near future.  But shouldn't we be striving for that.  As nations train for war can we train for peace?

    But how do we do this?  I have been called unpatriotic for raising questions about some of our nations military involvements.  I'm sorry, but as much as I love our nation my faith comes first. Can't you oppose a war because you love this country? Doesn't patriotism call us to strive to live out our deepest ideals and challenge our leaders when they do not.  When I wrote about dialoguing with Muslims a while back I got responses suggesting that when they open to us we can open to them.  That's an understandable knee jerk reaction but doesn't our faith call us to rise above that.  At the same time many Christian opponents of war end up siding with political groups that do dislike our country and that have views that are hardly compatible with the Gospel. I learned this as a seminarian when I marched in an anti-Vietnam war protest in Boston, but walked away from it because the speakers were lashing out in foul-mouthed hate filled venom. I still think that war was wrong but that wasn't my way of expressing it.

   So what do we do?  I think that instead of engaging in angry street protests we should look to take positive steps to bring people together, people from different countries, different religions, different political views and start training for peace, not to try and convince anyone to see things our way but to show that in spite of our differences we can live in peace and that we can develop models of conflict resolution that don't involve violence.  There are groups that do this and I believe we need more. Pax Christi comes to mind as one of those groups.  No, we're not going to end war tomorrow, but let's at least start training for peace, one step at a time.


  1. An interesting idea: If we can train for war, why can't we also train for peace? The United States use to be called "the melting pot." What an ideal image of how we can see one another as brother and sister in this age of globalization.

  2. Well said, John. We tell ourselves "Peace on Earth" while we spend more on defense spending than the next 16 countries _combined_ (see I posted a short video on my bog ( about why we should refrain from being too cheerful this holiday season. We have much to do before the reign of God is full present among us. Peace.