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.
Rejoice, for the Lord is near
In lighting our Advent candles, we have taken stock of the darkness and persistent violence in our world. We have contemplated our own participation in that violence, and repented. Now, in this Gaudete Sunday, we light a pink candle, and rejoice, for the incarnation is near.
When the imprisoned John the Baptist sends followers to inquire whether Jesus is “the one who is to come,” Jesus replies by pointing to the signs he has performed. “Go and tell John what you hear and see.” The blind see, the lame walk, good news is proclaimed to the poor. As we reflect this Advent on gospel nonviolence, what are the signs of the nonviolent Jesus at work in the world today?
We do well to look first to the examples of women. Years before the events of today’s reading, Mary, pregnant with Jesus, meets Elizabeth, pregnant with John, and expresses in the Magnificat the significance of the incarnation for bringing about just peace: by becoming her humble child, God “has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.”
Today as well, women often model nonviolence as the path to just peace. Pax Christi International’s Catholic Nonviolence Initiative has documented striking examples of effective, active nonviolence by women leaders:
In the Philippines, peace activist Myla Leguro developed a method of dialogue to prepare individuals and communities for negotiations to settle land disputes. Her process builds skills, trust, and agreements that serve as a basis for addressing wider conflicts. It has been adopted in conflict zones around the world, including central Africa, where other leaders have further developed her model.
In northern Kenya, Pax Christi peacebuilder Elizabeth Kanini Kimau facilitated dialogue between warring pastoralist communities. Understanding the respect afforded elders, she invited elders from all sides to dialogue in a safe, neutral location. The elders recruited warriors to follow suit, who in turn invited youth. The elders have since established ongoing dialogue to resolve conflicts before they erupt into violence.
In Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon, Operazione Colomba’s Sara Ionovitz opened spaces for dialogue from the grassroots to top-level state actors through “popular democratic diplomacy,” allowing refugees to contribute plans for peace to negotiations for the first time. The presence of her team also built bridges of dialogue between Syrians and the Lebanese host population.
Let us pause this week to notice the prophets of nonviolence in our world, to recognize the leadership of women, and see the signs of God with us, where nonviolence has led to peace with justice.
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 girl is pictured carrying a younger child on her back against a backdrop of poverty. During Advent, Christians prepare to receive the Christ Child, who was also born in poverty, in their hearts. (Bill Wegener/Unsplash)