“They shall beat their swords into ploughs.”
Isaiah 2: 4
I have been blessed not to see much violence – despite living for a short time in El Salvador during the civil war, despite spending two weeks in Northern Ireland in the time of the troubles, despite making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and visiting in both Palestine and Israel, despite living in the country that has the highest murder rate in the world.
A few months ago I saw one side of the violence here when I transported a woman who had been attacked by her husband with a machete. About two weeks ago, a person I know was shot at.
And so the promise of Isaiah touches me deeply. It seems so outrageous, so utopian – both beautiful and so out of place. But I hope.
It is the hope of so many people here in Honduras – not just the end of violence but the chance to grow food on one’s own land.
But the candidate who, according to the electoral tribunal got the most votes, had promised, in the face of violence: “I will do whatever has to be done.”
But St. Paul (Roman 13:13) warns us to put aside the works of darkness, which include “strife and jealousy” – or, as another translation puts it, “quarreling and jealousy.”
What does this entail?
I think we can learn a lot from Dorothy Day, who wrote this in an editorial in the September 1938 Catholic Worker:
“Today the whole world is in the midst of a revolution. We are living through it now – all of us. History will record this time as a time of world revolution. And frankly, we are calling for Saints…. We must prepare now for martyrdom — otherwise we will not be ready. Who of us if … attacked now would not react quickly and humanly against such attack? Would we love our brother [or sister] who strikes us? Of all at The Catholic Worker how many would not instinctively defend [themselves] with any forceful means in [their] power? We must prepare. We must prepare now. There must be a disarmament of the heart.”
If we want peace, we need that disarmament of the heart – not only in others and in political leaders, but first of all in ourselves.
And so, this Advent will be for me a war to disarm my heart, to open myself to love for all, to putting aside all that keeps me from loving God and my poorest brothers and sisters.
Lord, disarm my heart.
The photo is a wall near the United Nations in New York City with the text of Isaiah 2.