Waiting for peace
The Advent season is a reminder that our lives make sense by anticipating, by looking forward. But since things don’t happen simply by our desire, this means that we must learn to wait.
Ultimately, we are shaped by the way we wait — or don’t.
Christmas is beautiful discipline when celebrated the way Christian history has designed it. We raise it up as a goal far ahead of time, the light at the end of a four-week tunnel in which we focus on a great new thing. There it is in hope, but only in hope for a time. We must live with waiting.
That’s not hard to do if we’re used to living easily with others and taking our turn. Waiting is a challenge, though, if we’re Number One in our own minds and used to taking what we want when we want it. If we’re still at the stage of a hungry infant howling to be fed, Advent is an insult.
One of Father Ron Rolheiser’s principles for a healthy human life is relevant here. He points out that we must become able to hold tension within our lives until we can release it as blessing. At Christmas we celebrate the release of Advent tension in the form of gifts.
This is not a season of passive waiting for something good to be delivered. It is the time for activation of that good thing already in anticipation. If we look forward to a party, we prepare for the kind of party expected. If we look forward to a meeting, we prepare for its topic and context. If we look forward to the presence of ultimate love, we shape ourselves in love.
If we look forward to peace, we shape ourselves in peaceful ways. We make ourselves the advent of peace.
With little notice in news media, a meeting last week in Vienna, Austria, revived the world’s attention to nuclear weapons. The Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons did this by reviving the goal of eliminating those weapons.
Most of us have forgotten what it was like 30, 40 and 50 years ago to live under the threat of nuclear war. The Soviet Union dissolved 23 years ago this month and the great Cold War tension seemed to disappear with it. But the weapon stockpiles held by both the Soviets and the United States didn’t disappear. They remain, ready to go off by accident or by the work of fanatical terrorists if not by design of some insane military ruler. Meanwhile, other nations keep trying to make their own weapons.
At one time we thought the basis for peace was what we called mutually assured destruction, MAD for short. If you shoot first, we said, you’re dead because we’ll shoot, too. And we’re all dead.
Pope Francis told the Vienna conference “The youth of today and tomorrow deserve far more…. I am convinced that the desire for peace and fraternity planted deep in the human heart will bear fruit in concrete ways to ensure that nuclear weapons are banned once and for all, to the benefit of our common home.”
Of course. If we look forward to peace, we absorb the tension of our differences and work on them in peaceful ways. We don’t lean on bombs and guns. We make ourselves the advent of peace on earth.
It’s the appropriate way to prepare for the Prince of Peace.
Have a blessed and happy Christmas.