Peace and conflict in Advent

The Advent and Christmas seasons often bring to mind peaceful scenes, such as that which the prophet Isaiah brought to our minds this past Tuesday: “Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid” (Is 11:6). A number of articles in this edition of The Anchor remind us that we need to seek out this peace in our souls — Linda Rodrigues’ piece on pages one and 18 compiling advice from religious leaders as to how we can make room for it in the “stable” of our hearts; Renee Bernier’s discussion of working to find connections with people very different from us (see page nine); the article about composer John Michael Talbot on page 15 where he speaks about how our encounter with Christ in the Eucharist revives our souls; and on page 17, Father Frederici gives us helpful hints as to how we can make our reception of the Eucharist more fruitful Spiritually.

Dave Jolivet’s column (on page 14) reminds us that Christ’s peace is often forgotten, even in the midst of supposed observances of His birth. Several articles speak about division — the conflict over the situation in Ferguson, Mo., and the nature of race relations in the United States (see pages five and 20); the political disputes in this country and in Europe regarding immigration and the internal strife in neighboring countries which is causing this movement of people (see pages three and four); and the wars which are killing so many people in Africa, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East.

On the plane ride home to Rome from Istanbul, the Holy Father wanted to discuss relations with Eastern Orthodox Christians and with Moslems. Of course, the American journalists on board wanted to talk about issues of sexuality, since that is all the left and right think about in this country (sometimes they will even push or not push on issues with no connection to sexual morality, such as the Middle Eastern wars or immigration, concerned not really with those issues but with the advantage of the political party which favors their point of view. The Boston Globe, under one of its previous owners, even supported political candidates who opposed the other liberal policies of the paper, as long as they championed legalized abortion. Some Christian conservatives have said the converse of that, saying that we should oppose anything that might help undocumented immigrants, since their becoming citizens would lead to a tactical advantage for the Democratic Party and, thus [so the argument goes] we would have legal abortion forever).

The Associated Press reporter on the plane asked the Holy Father about the language used in various documents in the recent synod regarding homosexuality and asked if he was in favor of the “positive” language used in a working document during the meeting (you can read more on this on page two). The pope responded, “First I will say something: I would like it that the principal theme of your news stories be this trip. But I will respond, I will respond. Calm down. But maybe [the trip] is not the most ‘showy’ [thing to speak about, but] people need to be informed about the trip.”

The pope’s trip reminded us of the need to be in solidarity with our fellow Christians, no matter what their denomination. Pope Francis spoke repeatedly about how we come to unity not through theological conversations, but through praying together, working together, witnessing together (even to the point of martyrdom together). On the plane the Holy Father said, “What are we waiting for? That theologians come to an agreement? That day will never come, I assure you, I am skeptical. They work well, theologians, but I remember what they say, that [Patriarch] Athenagoras said to [Blessed] Paul VI: ‘Let’s go along alone and put all the theologians on an island, what do you think?’ I thought that this didn’t really happen, but Bartholomew told me, ‘It’s true, he said it like that.’ We can’t wait: unity is a way, a way which one must take, which must be taken together.”

Tuesday morning, back at the Vatican, Pope Francis also made reference to theologians (see story below): “So many can learn science, even theology, [However] if they don’t do this theology on their knees, humbly, that is, like babes, they can’t understand a word.” He reminds us that we need to be poor in Spirit, not arrogant, if we are to come to know the Father, come to know His peace, through Christ. “Only this poverty is capable of receiving the revelation that the Father gives through Jesus. He is a shoot, He is humble, He is meek, and He has come for the humble, for the meek, to bring Salvation to the sick, to the poor, to the oppressed, for the marginalized: He marginalized Himself. He humbled Himself, He debased Himself,  became an outcast, [in order to] “give us the mystery of the Father and His own.” 

While in Turkey, the pope said to a Moslem leader that is it not enough to praise and glorify God, we need to “adore Him.” On our knees, literally and figuratively, we ask God to help us to adore Him; to help us accept the peace that only He can give; to help us grow in patience (instead of continuing to grow impatient) with our fellow Catholics, Christians, and non-Christians; to help us be humble, recognizing our dependence upon God and our equality with all other humans, fellow sinners, our brothers and sisters. This adoration and patience does not mean that we will never have disagreements — since Jesus came to testify to the truth, we need to do so, too. We ask Him to help us to do so in a way which might better touch the hearts of our neighbors. 

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