Advent, Peace Spirituality, Women and Peacemaking

ADVENT 2017: A reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, 24 December

by Rev. Paul Lansu
Senior Policy Advisor, Pax Christi International

2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8a-12, 14a, 16 | Psalm 89:2-5, 27, 29 | Romans 16:25-27 | Luke 1:26-38

Today’s gospel reminds us that it was a woman who was centre stage at the first Christmas. It was a woman who brought Christmas to the world. It is still true that so often it is women who continue to bring Christ to men and men to Christ. Today is an opportunity to say thanks to the women who have sown the seeds of faith in our hearts, who nurtured God’s love within us, who through their tenderness and love have brought many to know the mercy of God. Women do not need liberation. Instead, they are entitled to our appreciation and our recognition of the glory of God’s call to them. Without Mary’s response to God, there would not have been a first Christmas. Let today be women’s day in the run-up to Christmas.

In many cases, women and mothers have to take care of almost everything in daily life — not in the least in poor countries and societies. They take care of at least four things: (1) education of the kids; (2) earning a living; (3) cooking food in the kitchen; and (4) participate in the life of the Christian church community. They bear a great responsibility. They are indeed the mothers of life! The mother is the symbol of life.

That is why Pope Francis earlier in April this year reacted against the naming of the U.S. military’s largest non-nuclear explosive ever used to weaken the position of the Islamic State militants in Afghanistan. The USA called the bomb, “Mother of all Bombs”. Such a device cannot be called a mother. A mother gives life and a bomb gives death!

What was the military meaning of throwing this “bomb of all bombs”? Military speaking, hardly any difference. No difference at all especially in the political sphere. Where was the logic of this? Megatonnage is the message it seems. Mass communication by bombs! The cost of this single bomb was about 15 million Euro.

Ask the people active working in peacebuilding and development aid, ask the people active involved in daily healthcare what they can do with such a sum? Money makes a difference. Disarmament for development. “Development is the new name for peace,” Pope Paul VI said in his encyclical Populorum Progressio in 1967.

Shortly after this bomb dropping in Afghanistan, the Russian Federation came out with the “Father of all Bombs” – the nickname for a thermobaric air bomb. Both mothers and fathers are standing for life and creativity, not for death. Cold War, at least in rhetoric, is still alive! A mother and father gives life and not death.

We can think today of those who mother against the odds in our world. In places where there is no food, no clean water, the threat of disease, of torture; those who watch their children suffer from addiction or violence. Mothers are always there to protect their kids even in inhuman circumstances.

And we remember those who are the angel Gabriels of the world, bringing good news and hope that ‘nothing is impossible’. This Gospel reading is one big call to all believers to keep dreaming of a better and more human world. A human being cannot live without dreams, good dreams.

Mary, woman of Nazareth, home maker, cleaner, preparer of food, fetcher of water, God is with you in your everyday excursions in this ordinary town. Blessed are you among women and blessed indeed are women in their everyday lives, in the confines of family life, in the ambivalence of decision making. God bless all women and sanctify all those human beings taking care of life in all its dimensions. Because God is love and life!

Merry Christmas to all.

Advent

ADVENT 2016: A reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 18

by Catherine Heinhold
returned Maryknoll lay missioner

Isaiah 7:10-14 | Romans 1:1-7 | Matthew 1:18-24

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Advent is a season of waiting – waiting for God’s promises to be fulfilled. As people of faith, we believe that God will be faithful. We know from experience, however, that this does not mean we will not encounter difficulty, defeat, and suffering. So what does God’s faithfulness actually mean?

The people in today’s readings find themselves in difficult situations. Ahaz, the king of Judah, under pressure of attack from would-be allies, found himself tempted to rely on an earthly power (Assyria). Isaiah relays the word of the Lord, that Ahaz should trust in God’s faithfulness, and that he may even ask for a sign from the Lord. Ahaz does not want a sign, but God, through Isaiah, gives him one anyway – that a young woman would conceive, bear a son, and name him Emmanuel. Today’s reading ends here, but the story continues: Ahaz refuses to trust in the Lord and instead trusts in Assyria, placing his kingdom under subjugation. So then what happened to God’s promise of faithfulness?

In today’s Gospel reading, Joseph also finds himself in a sticky situation. When Mary’s pregnancy is discovered, he believes that the right thing to do under Mosaic law is to divorce her. He wants to do the right thing, but he does not want Mary to suffer. We can imagine his anguish at the situation. Like Ahaz, Joseph receives a message from God, this time from an angel in a dream who explains the situation and promises that the child to be born will save the people from their sins. Matthew connects this message to the message Isaiah gave to Ahaz – a promise given that in fact has not been broken (despite Ahaz’s lack of faith), and is about to be fulfilled in a new and more complete way. And the promise is this: God with us. Emmanuel. Not God-who-will-fix-every-difficulty-and-prevent-all-suffering-right-now. God who will be with us, who will live with us, who will rejoice with us, who will suffer and die with us. This is God’s solidarity with God’s people…

Click here to read the rest of this reflection on the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns website.

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This reflections was prepared by Catherine Heinhold, a returned Maryknoll Lay Missioner, for the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns Advent reflections series.