On this Second Sunday of Advent we hear about a new world order. It certainly doesn’t sound like the world we live in today. The world feels more chaotic, like we should be listening to the voice of the prophet John the Baptist, calling us all to reform and repent. Yet, Isaiah tells us of a world that will be filled with justice, harmony, animals that usually attack each other lying down peacefully together, and the ultimate prize, peace for ever.
While we prepare for the coming of Jesus at Christmas and again, at the end of time, we seek that peace in our hearts and in our families. Our daily prayers help us to vision the world that Isaiah foretells. They help us to slow down, to listen, to be still in the midst of our holiday shopping, baking and preparations. To see the world differently, to be a bit kinder.
But in the scripture readings for the Second Sunday of Advent, I was most struck by St Paul’s letter to the Romans. St. Paul tells us that the God of endurance and encouragement will help us to think in harmony with one another and that with one voice we will glorify God. He asks us to welcome one another as Christ has welcomed us. Harmony? One voice? This can seem like a remote fantasy too.
If you have ever visited a Benedictine Monastery, you have experienced that kind of being welcomed that St. Paul speaks of. The community makes sure that your needs are taken care of and that you have someone to guide you to chapel, that you feel included and part of communal prayer. In The Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 53, The Reception of Guests, Benedict writes that “all guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ.”
Can you imagine if we spent our days trying to see Christ in others? The person that races up behind you in the car or cuts you off? The grouchy clerk that tosses your items down to the end of the checkout counter like a frisbee? The colleague that says they are listening but is distracted the entire time? The politicians we don’t agree with? The governments around the world abusing our natural resources? I am sure we can all come up with a list of people we are challenged to see as the body of Christ standing before us.
One of the daily prayer guides I use for reflection and daily Mass is Give Us This Day. I read editor, Mary Stommes’ reflection for the Second Sunday of Advent on Welcome. She talks about Advent as a time that exists right now but also not yet. She says “The thing is, the more clearly we see Christ, the more Advent will cut to our core. The more we will realize that hope and hurt are close companions. The more we will recognize our own sinfulness, the ‘harm and ruin’ we inflict within and without.” (December issue, Second Sunday of Advent Reflection.).
I am challenged to look at how I encounter others when I am distracted or in a bad mood. Do I set aside my own concerns and look for the face of Christ in the person standing right in front of me? Can I say a silent prayer for the person that I see as treating me unfairly? Where am I inflicting “harm and ruin” by being angry at or judging others? Are you willing to join me on this challenge this week?
My prayer is that we find opportunities to be kinder, more welcoming and hospitable to those we encounter each day this week. If we can, then I think we close the gap a bit between the way the world is today and the way we long for it to be. We help prepare the way and help make straight the path. We help water the roots so a bud of peace will blossom.
Peace be with you, Deena
Note: I highly recommend subscribing to Give Us This Day if you don’t already.
Image by Laura Nyhuis on Unsplash