The prophet Isaiah wrote at a time when violence and war were the order of the day. The people of Israel had been conquered by the Assyrians and would later be taken into exile. And yet Isaiah could speak of a hope rooted in the Lord’s call for justice and for peace. Our own world seems to be increasingly violent. We might think that Isaiah’s vision is further away than ever before. The Internet brings violence from the far corners of the world into our lives, but we also know that there is violence in our cities, our neighborhoods, and even at times in our own homes. But we also hear of hopeful and heroic actions, often by a few individuals standing in the face of darkness and offering what light they have.
The journey through Advent brings us to the Christmas celebration of God’s intimate presence in human existence. What we discover is that in our waiting for Christmas, God is with us all the way along the journey. In ancient times, people traveled together for safety and support. Often they needed to set aside differences and overcome a fear of unknown traveling companions because the world outside their caravans held too many threats to travel alone. We too find that the more we try to set ourselves apart from others, the more we are threatened by a world “out there.”
Isaiah’s words about swords and plowshares naturally bring to mind war, weapons, and global strife. We might think there’s nothing we can do about such sweeping issues. But think about the ways in which you use words as weapons every day. How might you transform them to words of tolerance, compassion, and love? If we are to be a sign of God to all peoples, how can we behave toward people of other races, religions, or lifestyles in such a way that they will be attracted to the Word of life that motivates us?
—from the book The Joy of Advent: Daily Reflections from Pope Francis
by Diane M. Houdek