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Advent messages from a prophet and a baby
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Over 21 years ago, when Catholic News Service offered me the wonderful opportunity to write a biweekly syndicated social justice and peace column, I wondered if there would always be enough to write about. But during my 11 years writing for CNS, and in the last 10 years as a self-syndicated columnist, God has always inspired me on what I need to write about. And this column is no exception.
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash
On the first Sunday of Advent, during Mass, the Holy Spirit, through the prophet Isaiah, spoke these words to me -- and to you, "He shall judge between the nations, and set terms for many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. House of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!"
In the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops footnotes on this reading, biblical scholars explain that "Once the nations acknowledge God as sovereign, they go up to Jerusalem to settle their disputes, rather than having recourse to war."
Ah! Now there's the key! The key to peace!
Nations, and the nations' leaders, must stop following their own prideful egos and the gods of war, and instead seek a conversion, a "metonoia" -- from the Greek New Testament word meaning a complete change of mind and heart -- and acknowledge God as sovereign. Then they will be humble and wise enough to go up to Jerusalem -- an ancient metaphor for where God dwells -- "to settle their disputes, rather than having recourse to war."
As Pope Francis relentlessly attempts to teach us, the way of God is peace, not war. He has boldly declared, "Put down your weapons! God is with the peacemakers, not with those who use violence (see: https://bit.ly/3itXx2R).
But instead of putting down their weapons, many nations continue to spend astronomical sums of money on weapons of war. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, world military spending reached an all-time high of $2.1 trillion in 2021.
On his return flight from his recent pastoral/ecumenical/interfaith visit to Bahrain, Pope Francis lamented: "Please! I've been told ... that if we didn't make weapons for a year, we could end world hunger. The arms industry is terrible" (see: https://bit.ly/3iw56pJ).
Also, during that same first Sunday of Advent Mass, the Holy Spirit very clearly showed me the second theme he wanted me to write on in this column. In a pew near me, I saw a newborn baby being lovingly held by her mother.
I contemplated the beautiful, magnificent complexity of this very new human being, and of all babies -- both born and unborn. And I thought how can it be that millions of already born people, and numerous societies around the world, somehow believe that abortion is good? How can anyone conclude that for any reason, brutally dismembering a wonderfully created new human being is good (see: https://bit.ly/2Rw9Ae1)?
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Then I thought of Jesus' words highlighting that the Almighty "is not God of the dead, but of the living." And this holy experience reinforced for me the Catholic teaching of the sacredness of all life, especially human life -- from conception to natural death.
So, I sadly wonder how so many Catholics can remain rather indifferent to the carnage of war, and the carnage of abortion.
And I have found that in general, those who are not indifferent, are somewhat committed to ending either war or ending abortion. But tragically, relatively few Catholics, other Christians, or people of good will, are committed to ending both war and abortion.
So, this is the challenge God is placing before us: "I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live" (Deut. 30:10).
Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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