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 during Advent.
Trust in God’s peace
Joseph was distraught at the news that Mary would have a baby. He thought of divorcing her quietly, not accusing her of infidelity, but leaving her and the child. But the angel of God greets him with the words of divine consolation frequently uttered throughout Scripture: “Be not afraid.” The angel advises Joseph to neither accuse Mary nor quietly leave her, but to remain by her side, and receive her child, who is God with us.
We often feel overwhelmed by the circumstances in our lives and in our world. We may be tempted to seek an easy way out, or even to respond in ways that betray our faith in a compassionate God. Throughout the last year, the world has watched in horror as the Russian invasion of Ukraine has led to a brutal and drawn-out war. Like Joseph, we are driven by compassion and concern, but we may despair of finding an appropriate response.
Throughout the war, however, Pope Francis has worked unrelentingly to bring God’s message of peace through nonviolence to the people of Ukraine, Russia, and the world. It is difficult to tell the victims of war, as the bombs drop, “Be not afraid.” But Francis has surely heard the angel’s message, and he has addressed the war almost daily, denouncing the invasion, insisting repeatedly that conflict can never be solved with violence, that war is never just, while remaining sensitive to the excruciating decisions Ukrainians face, and the moral complexities of defending one’s home and community in a world that has failed to invest adequately in developing and employing nonviolent tools for preventing and confronting violence.
We must always be open to dialogue, Francis says, even with the aggressor. “It smells bad, but it has to be done.”
Repeating a message from 2017, he says, “One hundred years ago, Benedict XV… described the war as a ‘useless massacre.’ Disassociating oneself from the so-called ‘reasons for the war’ seemed to many to be almost an affront. But history teaches that war is always and only a useless massacre. Let us help each other… to embark on paths of nonviolence and paths of justice, which favor peace. Because in the face of peace we cannot be indifferent or neutral…That is why we invoke the ius pacis as the right of all to resolve conflicts without violence. That is why we repeat: never again war, never again against others, never again without others!”
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 mother bathes her child in a stream in Vietnam. (Photo credit: Pixabay)