Behold The Prince Of Peace Comes in Glory and Majesty!
Readings: (1st: Ish 2, 1-5; Ps: 121, 1-2.4-9; 2nd: Rom 13, 11-14; Gos: Mtt 24, 37-44)
This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans), Province of Nigeria South East. He is currently the Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church Woliwo Onitsha, Anambra State, Nigeria. For more details and comments contact him on: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
One of humankind’s natural desires especially at the individual and family levels is to live a peaceful and peaceable life with oneself, with others, and with one’s environment. Unfortunately, rather than achieve peace, wars, fears, anxiety and hatred continue to wield the upper hand. It is this peace that we pray for and expect Jesus to bring to our world this season of Advent! The term Advent comes from two Latin words Ad-ventus, which simply means “to arrive”or Ad-venire, i.e. “to come.” For us Christians and Catholics in particular, it means expecting the Lord’s coming. Advent marks the beginning of the Church’s liturgical calendar. It is a four-week preparation period leading up to Christmas. So John the Baptist’s message: “a voice of one calling in the desert, prepare a way for the Lord …” (Mk 1, 3), echoes loudly to us this season.
A couple of weeks ago, I paid a visit to the child of a family friend in a boarding school during their monthly visiting day. On entering the school, behold there was a mammoth crowd of well dressed and prepared students waiting for their visitors. Each car that pulled into the compound was a source of great joy to a particular student who had waited patiently for that very moment to come. However, I noticed a certain student who told me her name was Ndidiamaka (literally Patience is good). She was looking very sad and forlorn having ran out of patience, and almost given up hope that her parents would not visit her again that day as was the case during the two previous visiting days. I was still encouraging her not to lose hope, when eventually a car pulled in. Before I knew it, she recognized it, jumped up and went into a kind of frenzy shouting: “Here they are! Here they are!! My parents have made it today!!!” She did not even excuse me or mind the crowd, but in a jiffy she dashed to the car beaming with smiles and relieved of all the stress and pains of having to wait too long. I saw peace over taking the chaos and anxiety that enveloped her a while ago. As I watched her rejoice, my own joy knew no bound and immediately, I remembered the scriptural passage which says: “For surely there is an end; and your expectation shall not be cut off.” (Prov 23, 18) This is what Advent is all about, a time of great preparation, waiting, hope and patience which would eventually culminate in the great joy and peace.
On this first Sunday of Advent, the church enjoins us her faithful to rejoice because that night of long pilgrimage to God’s eternal city of peace will soon be over. The reign of peace is dawning. Therefore, we must wake up and stand ready to usher Christ into our lives, families and nations. In the word of Isaiah in the first reading, “we see the mountain of the temple of the Lord,” already etched against the Eastern sky. The prophet lifts up our spirits with his vision of the imminent peace orchestrated by the coming of our Messiah whom we earnestly expect. The Messiah whom we expect this season comes to us with an “over dose of peace” contrary to the war-lord-leaders that frequently besiege our nations. His reign shall be that of peace and love. Even though “he will wield authority,” he will not be a despot, a tyrant, a dictator or a military nonentity who will feed fat on the “flesh” and resources of his people. In light of this, Isaiah gives us a very cogent reason to rejoice as we prepare the way to usher in the reign and kingdom of peace: “He will wield authority over nations…These will hammer their swords into ploughshares, their spares into sickles. Nations will not lift sword against nations. There will be no more training for war.” He envisions that when Christ comes, he shall be fully equipped with peace. His coming promises to transform our culture of war into that of peace, because he is the Prince of Peace. It is quite unfortunate that this same verse (Ish 2, 4) despite adorning the walls of United Nations building in London has not helped to achieve the much desired peace our world needs. The reason is quite simple, “International Morality,” in the words of Bob Nester Marley of the blessed memory, without spirituality is bound to fail. It is only the reign of this much expected Messiah that can bring lasting and soothing peace. This is why we are called upon this wonderful season of Advent to prepare ourselves to encounter the Prince of Peace. We are called to equip and purify ourselves spiritually in other to be worthy to climb the mountain of the temple of the Lord.
This season we must rejoice because we shall definitely have an encounter with peace. About a week ago I was in the company of priests from the Archdiocese where I work who went on pilgrimage to the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace Yamoussoukro, Cote d’Ivoir to mark the end of the year of faith. Seeing the beauty, magnificence and elegance of this basilica one of us joyfully exclaimed in an overwhelming amazement: “Oh my God! This is what the Psalmist actually means when he says, ‘I rejoiced when I heard them say let us go to God’s House!’” He was lost in Joy, because what he saw met his expectation for travelling hundreds of miles to behold this wonderful edifice and house of God. He wished like the members of Jesus’ inner circle on the mount of transfiguration that we remained forever in Yamoussoukro. Brethren, our expectation will bring us joy when we encounter the Prince of Peace.
To usher in this reign of peace successfully, both the second reading and gospel of today are in accord about what we must do. While Paul, echoes loudly to us the closeness of our Saviour the Prince of Peace: “Our salvation is even nearer than He was when we were converted”; the gospel succinctly and imperatively admonishes us to: “Stay awake!” Paul indirectly answers the question, what must we do to be partakers in the peace that Christ brings this season? My dear, we need not obey the adage that says: “If you want peace, prepare for war,” before we can get a feel of this culture and kingdom of peace that Christ brings. No! That will not suffice at all. Instead, Paul reminds us that: “The TIME has come.” The time he means here is not the earthly time (chronos), but God’s time (kairos). It is the appointed time when God chooses to save his own people and to restore peace to all troubled hearts, families, businesses, nations, etcetera. Since it is God’s time, we must heed the call of today’s gospel: “Therefore, you must stand ready because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” This season is no time for singing, “pass me not o gentle savior” with both our physical eyes and the eyes of our minds closed. They must be wide awake and open in preparation to behold the Prince of Peace. Also, we must eschew during this season all that militate against peace and are capable if undermining our encounter with Christ when he comes. Paul advices us thus: “Let us live decently as people do in day time; no orgies, no promiscuity or licentiousness, and no warring or jealousy. Let your amour be the Lord Jesus Christ,” the Prince of Peace!
Finally, it is very important to note that this is a season of great awakening, preparation and waiting which will definitely culminate to an outburst of great JOY and PEACE. It is most importantly, a season of prayer when all Christians must hearken to the prayer – invitation of the Psalmist: “For the peace of Jerusalem (your nation, country, family, business, endeavors in life etcetera) pray! Peace be to your homes! May peace reign in your walls, in your palaces peace!”
Peace be with you all!