Friday, October 24, 2014

United Nations Day, 24 October 2014

 St. John’s Convent, October 24, 2014

My heart was heavy when I read the passage from Micah in preparation for this homily. I wait – we all wait – with poignant longing for the peace of God that has been promised for so long. The end of the reading especially struck me this time: “they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid.”

We are sitting here under the equivalent of our vines and fig trees – with the stunning beauty of autumn reflected in our trees and gardens – and yet I feel afraid – afraid for the world we live in, and guilty that we live in a place of relative peace. Both my fear and my guilt are heightened by the events of this past week, with the killing of Warrant Office Patrice Vincent in Quebec, and Corporal Nathan Cirillo at the National War Memorial in Ottawa yesterday – bringing the terrors of our world much closer to home.

But the readings today speak of neither fear nor guilt – both of these emotions are really useless, and the fear-mongering of some of the media just renders us more helpless. Fear and guilt make us blind to the purposes of God. They make it difficult to hear what God is really saying to us, as individuals and as a nation. And they play into the hands of terrorists whose strongest weapon is fear.

The readings today speak of very different feelings – feelings of hope, of obedience to the Word of God, and of trust in the purposes of God. They speak of good news, not bad news.

The last words of the reading from Micah remind us that the prophet is not just mouthing his own wishful thinking – he speaks the Word of God: “they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.” The mouth of the Lord – the Word of the Lord – instructs and teaches, judges and arbitrates. The prophet himself is speaking the Word. And the people are asked to do two things:

First, we are asked to “go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” We may not be able to change the thinking of those who believe that violence is the way of God. And we may have ineffective weapons against the insidious pull on young people through the internet and social media to a life of violence. We know that terrorism in the modern world is harder to confront than traditional war because it knows no national boundaries and can spread its darkness through the ether. But we have been promised that the light of Christ will never be overcome by the darkness. And we can allow our prayer to reach out to the darkest corners of the world with the love of God. People may not be streaming into the Lord’s house in our time in our society. But we are called to go anyway, to be faithful and obedient to the call of prayer.

And second, we are asked to listen to the Word, to allow ourselves to be instructed by God – “for out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” What is it that each of us is called to do in order to spread peace on the earth and to cooperate with the purposes of God? God’s word may speak to each of us in the privacy of our hearts, calling us to reconciliation with those closest to us with whom we may be in conflict. And God’s word may speak to us as communities of Christians as well, to hear what we may do to promote healing and reconciliation around us locally. If we listen, we shall surely hear, and we shall be instructed.

And then the gospel reading today gives us our third mandate: After we have prayed and been instructed, we are to say the words that are left out of the appointed reading: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord: let it me with me according to your Word.”

The angel promises the same thing that the prophet Micah promises – both of them are prophets who speak the Word of God, and the words spoken to Mary are similar in many ways to those from Micah: “Do not be afraid”; “you will conceive and bear a son . . . God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David . . . and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Mary would have had no clue what this might mean in concrete terms. She could not have imagined the suffering that would precede the resurrection. But she said “Yes” to the instruction of God.

May God give us the grace to go up to the House of God, to pray for the United Nations and all organizations and efforts that make for peace, to release our fear and guilt, and to live instead in hope and with obedience to the instruction of God.

- Sr. Constance Joanna SSJD