By Rev. John Dear, S.J.
“A voice cries out: ‘In the desert, prepare the way for the God of peace!'” ~Isaiah 40:3
Isaiah sums up our advent vocation: “A voice cries out: ‘In the desert, prepare the way for the God of peace. Make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.'” We are to be voices in the desert, prophets of peace and justice, people who announce the new life of nonviolence and God’s good news of disarmament. To prepare the way is to denounce war and injustice, to speed their demise, and to plow a new trail toward social, economic, and political conversion in the spirit of Gospel nonviolence.
“Cry out,” says a voice. We are commanded to speak out publicly for justice. The oracle underscores this task by repetition. “Comfort, give comfort to my people. Speak tenderly. Proclaim to her. Cry out! Go up onto a high mountain and cry out at the top of your voice. Be a herald of good news. Do not be afraid to cry out and to say to all the cities: ‘Hear is your God!'” (Isaiah 40:1-2, 6, 9)
Isaiah, as did Jesus, spoke out publicly, even though his message of peace was widely rejected. We live in a time where such a cry disappears immediately into the winds of war. Our country bombs and kills in Afghanistan, ignores the world’s starving masses, neglects the disenfranchised at home, plots a new breed of nuclear weapons, and flirts with destroying creation. The need for outspoken wisdom, in word and deed, has become ever more urgent. Even if our message of peace is ignored or dismissed or rejected, we are commanded: “Cry out!”
Advent people take the path of boldness and speak publicly for justice, disarmament, and peace. We see this as a responsibility, a demand of discipleship, a duty of Advent. To make our yes’s plain–an undaunted yes to the coming reign of peace. And our no’s equally plain–a categorical no to the culture of war and injustice.
One may object, “I’m nobody’s prophet; I haven’t the sanguine heart.” And that’s fine; people come in all stripes. But together we can be a prophetic people. In our peace groups and parishes we can engage in actions with a prophetic edge. Keep vigil, write letters, talk to the media, give lectures, study and write, lobby politicians, enlighten religious leaders, make pilgrimage to war zones, make connections, publish the good news–take some action for justice and peace, and together as a community, we will become that voice in the desert, announcing the coming of the God of peace and peace on earth.
This reflection is from The Advent of the God of Peace: Reflections for Advent 2007. This year’s booklet, Unshakeable Belief: Advent 2013, is available online here. Rev. John Dear S.J. is a Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace and author.