By Dan Moriarty
Advent offers us all a special opportunity to grow in our relationship with God and to deepen our commitment to Jesus’ way of life, rooted in nonviolence.
The 2022 Advent Reflection Guide: Living Gospel Nonviolence from the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns contains reflections, questions, prayers, and actions based on each week’s Gospel reading and the experience of Maryknoll missioners who have lived and worked with marginalized communities impacted by injustice and violence conflicts in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
Here, we share the weekly reflections on each Sunday’s Gospel reading.
“Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.”
– Matthew 24:42
We are waiting, constantly waiting. Waiting for the birth of Christ. Waiting for the Messiah to return. Often, and particularly during this Advent season, we light a candle to mark our waiting. A light in the darkness is a symbol of hope. Indeed, in Spanish, waiting and hoping are the same word.
Hope implies something unrealized — a “not yet.” The candle is a light in the darkness, yet the darkness remains. Candlelight does not banish all darkness. Christ will, eventually. But as we wait, winter envelops us, the days grow shorter, nights longer. The candlelight offers only a glimpse of what is to come — a beacon in the persistent dark.
Darkness and violence often threaten to overcome our world. War, climate disaster, staggering food insecurity, all leading to unprecedented numbers of people on the move. Lies and division make solutions elusive. Nonviolence is the light that shines in the darkness.
In the corners of the world where we light the flame of nonviolence, it proves surprisingly capable of driving out darkness. Studies show strategic, active nonviolence to be strikingly effective at preventing, transforming, and healing from violence. And yet so many in the world pursue more violence, even as a purported means to achieve peace. The violence of weapons. Violence against our common home. The violence of exclusion, discrimination, and indifference.
Only Christ will ever completely overcome violence in the world. But, like the candles in the Advent wreath, we are called to be signs of Christ’s gospel nonviolence on Earth. We are called to keep the flame alight no matter how much darkness surrounds us. Nonviolence is a spirituality, a way of life, and an ethical framework to guide our actions. It is, as Pope Francis called it, “a style of politics for peace.” It involves integral disarmament: disarming ourselves, internally and spiritually, letting go of the violence in our hearts in order to then disarm the world. We must build the conditions for peace. We must confront and resist violence with agape love. We must be always open to dialogue, even with our enemies. We must refuse revenge, and instead seek healing and reconciliation.
By fostering this spirit of nonviolence, studying and practicing nonviolence in all its facets, we keep our flame lit, and remain vigilant against the darkness. Today’s gospel calls us to stay awake as we await the coming of the Messiah. We invite you to tend the flame of nonviolence in your heart and in the world throughout this Advent season. May we begin to disarm our hearts, kindling the spirit of nonviolence, becoming an ever-brighter light in the darkness.
And soon, another candle will be lit. And then another, and another, until Emmanuel, God among us, is born.
Dan Moriarty is senior program officer for Sustainable Pathways for Peace at the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns. A lifelong missioner, he served previously with the Maryknoll Lay Missioners in Bolivia, working with Aymara youth and in prison ministry.
Featured image: A scene of light breaking through grey clouds at sunrise symbolizes hope. Waiting in hope is the theme of our first Sunday of Advent reflection, taken from the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns Advent Guide 2022. (Jakob Owens/Unsplash)