2nd Sunday Advent A - Homily 3

Homily 3 - 2013

How did you find today’s First Reading from Isaiah?  It strikes a deep chord in me: “The wolf lives with the lamb, the panther lies down with the kid … The infant plays over the cobra’s hole; into the viper’s lair the young child puts its hand … They do no hurt, no harm on all my holy mountain.”  Isaiah wrote that not much under three thousand years ago; and it moves me today.  Perhaps, we all share his yearning for peace – “no hurt, no harm, on all God’s holy mountain…”.  And for Isaiah, it was not just a yearning.  It was a hope, an expectation, even a confident future certainty.

I have been thinking about it during the week, wondering…  Where did it come from? not so much Isaiah’s yearning but the certainty?  I believe it came from his sense of God.  And that had me wondering too.  Where did that come from?  How did he come to see God in that light?  It is alright for me – I have Isaiah to stimulate me.  I have Jesus to assure me.  Isaiah was quite unique – such profound insight, already so early, into the mystery of God: God who wishes peace for his people is a God who loves.

I kept on wondering …  looking more closely at my yearning for peace.  Then it occurred to me: Do I really want peace? Do I really want to live with the wolf in my life? Do I really want to lie down with the panther?  There are people who have hurt me.  There are people I deliberately tune out from, refuse to listen to, certainly never seek really to understand or to get closer to or, possibly, to discover the pain hidden in their cry of anger.  Do I really want peace?  Or is it more victory that I am after?  If they do not change, does the cold war continue on my part?

How does my sense of God speak to this? my sense of Jesus?  When Jesus spoke about the Kingdom of God, he said: “Love your enemies ... Do good to those who hurt you … Pray for those who …  speak evil against you”.  Does that mean I have to compromise my integrity, my human dignity?  Does that mean I have to surrender my integrity?  Sometimes it seems like that.  And it may be why I am frightened of it and why I hold back.  But then I wonder whether my integrity, my true human dignity, are compromised when I do not set out to love the one who hurt me [whatever that might involve and whatever shape it might take].  It can be tricky.  Life-giving forgiveness is a factor of maturity and wholeness.  Co-dependence can look like it, but is quite destructive.

I need to get to know my deeper self better.  Isaiah spoke of the “knowledge of the Lord filling the country as the waters swell the sea.”  I wonder if a condition for that is that firstly I honestly and clearly get to know my self.  Which is first?  Or do they, somehow, grow together?

 “Live with the wolf … Lie down with the panther … Love my enemy …”.  I think that that is what I want; but it is slow coming.  These days, I like to see it not so much as command as invitation – and so as possibility.  And I also believe that I move from possibility to reality, to fait accompli, as I stop trying to succeed by resolution after futile resolution, and choose instead to relax and to allow God to love me as I am.  In that way, I hope that, by taking that love on board, I might slowly find myself becoming more like God, honestly wanting what God wants for me and beginning even to love with God’s love.

I cannot make others change.  They do not need to.  All that is needed for me to know peace is for myself to change.  This Advent, I wait for God to come ever more creatively into my life.