PEACE WITHOUT JUSTICE IS A SCAM!

                             Reflection for the Second Sunday of Advent (Year A)

Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

I devote some of my recreative moments to watching videos of animals, especially domestic ones like dogs. I once saw a documentary of unlikely animals of diverse dispositions and tempers cohabiting and practically loving themselves.

For instance, I saw a predator jaguar and a dog playing around and a black bear and a tiger rolling upon each other with playful excitement. I even watched the video of a chimp and a puma bonding; incredible!

One common thing all these animal pairs share is that human beings groomed them to share the habitat making them less prone to their wild and brutish tendencies. In other words, their peaceful co-existence resulted from the ambiance of peace created by their human guardians, who provided a just and fair foreground.

The Message of Peace Comes with Justice

The Second Sunday of Advent comes to us with the message of peace. Peace is a necessary divine gift that is often talked about but vaguely understood and less practiced. What most people refer to as peace is compromise or tolerance. Peace is not the absence of quarrels or fighting; it is something more than that.

Peace is the wholeness of the soul that arises from the awareness of God’s presence in one’s life, even at the most difficult moments. The Hebrew word shalom is a perfect interpretation of peace because it communicates complete well-being, harmony, and wholeness.  

Recall that at the arrest of Jesus Christ, the disciples deserted him and fled (Mark 14:50). When the disciples came together again, they were behind a locked door for fear of the Jews.

Coming to them, the resurrected Lord said, “peace be with you.”  (John 20:20-21). Why? Because they lacked peace, not because of the Jews who were not after them at that time. It was because of the absence of the Lord in their lives, orchestrated by their unjust abandonment of their master.

The First Reading (Isaiah 11:1-10) is a prophecy that describes the person and mission of the messiah whose work will be powered by the Holy Spirit. The prophet names two important tasks of the messiah, namely, justice and peace.

 Significantly, the two are bedfellows; justice must be able to produce peace, and real peace without justice is a scam. Justice brings all sides to a perfect alignment, and the atmosphere created by this ideal alignment is what we call peace.

We cannot, therefore, claim that there is peace when a segment of the whole, no matter how small, is marginalized, which is why the prophet says: “he shall judge the poor with justice.”

The Practical Steps to Justice and Peace

It may shock the reader to know that the message of repentance by John the Baptist in the Gospel (Matt. 3:1-12) is a call for justice as a pathway to peace. The core of John’s statement reads: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”

Recall that we tried to describe justice as a way of bringing all sides to a perfect alignment; that is exactly what John was saying. Road construction involves leveling the upland, filling the valley, and smoothing the edges (Isaiah 40:4).

Significantly, the message of John at the time, which troubled the minds of his hearers, including the Pharisees and Sadducees, is still very relevant to us today. It comes with a more direct invitation to us to be just enough to repair our lives to have the capacity to obtain and retain lasting peace on three centers of gravity.

Reconcile with Yourself: Some people live with strong self-hatred and distaste. It could be because of the mess of the past. One thing is very important and noteworthy; you cannot change anything about the past. The past is not the definition of who you are. See it as a teacher; you have learned; forgive yourself and move on with life.

Reconcile differences with others: No matter how you try, you may not be able to change what people say and do to you, but you can change how you allow those to affect your life. There is nothing as powerful and peace-giving as letting go of the hurts of others.

Our Lord Jesus Christ made it even more demanding when he said: “if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First, be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift”. (Matthew 5:23-24). There is no future without forgiveness.

Reconcile with God: Confession of sins is one of the sacraments of the Church that is fast eroding because of our intentional inattention. When God asked the people to come for reconciliation in the prophecy of Isaiah (1:18), He led them to the path of peace. We cannot expect to have the reign of the peace of God in our hearts while remaining in enmity with God.

I wouldn’t know the last time you made an effective reconciliation with God using the facility of the sacrament of reconciliation. However, we have another opportunity this season of preparation for the coming of the savior in our hearts to shame the devil and reconcile with our loving Father. Reconciliation remains a powerful element of justice that would gain peace for us.

As we light the candle of peace, let us be very intentional about our search for peace by responding to the precondition of justice. We start with ourselves, reach out to others, and solidify our base with God.

God bless you.

Fr. Bonnie.

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