Dec. 14: Second Thursday of Advent
“From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent are taking it by force” (Mt 11:12).
At the close of 2017, our world is riven by violence—wars, terrorism and human trafficking, not to mention acts of individual cruelty and a divisive civic discourse bathed in anger. Jesus’ ancient words in today’s Gospel seem shockingly modern. Indeed, from Coptic Cairo to Charleston, S.C., the kingdom of heaven is suffering violence inflicted by the foes of faith.
What can we do in the face of such attacks on peace? Our human inclination is to retaliate. The crimes seem so evil, so hateful, that revenge seems the only fitting response. But this is not the Christian way. Jesus walked the path of peace throughout his life, teaching love of enemies, turning the other cheek and offering God’s mercy to a broken world. As Pope Francis has observed, Christ “taught that the true battlefield, where violence and peace meet, is the human heart.”
The way to counter violence, then, is for us to be instruments of reconciliation by sowing the seeds of peace in our immediate surroundings, or as the old hymn that my grandfather used to croon has it, “Brighten the corner where you are.” This might mean modeling respect, patience and forgiveness in our family life—not always an easy task!—or striving to get along with a difficult neighbor or working for peace in our polarized communities, reaching beyond provocation to understanding.
As we witness, and experience, the violence that threatens to engulf the world and bear the kingdom of God away, let us beat the swords of cruelty into plowshares of love, the spears of acrimony into the pruning hooks of mercy and forgiveness.
Prayer: God of wisdom and grace, Help me scatter the seeds of peace wherever my path takes me today. Amen.
For today’s readings, click here.
To hear “Brighten the Corner Where You Are,” click here.