For Advent, I Wish You Peace!
It’s Advent, that time of the year when we are invited by the Church to slow down and ponder the great mystery of God’s presence in our midst. But let’s face it. This time of year most of us are not slowing down. We’re speeding up! We are not pondering. We’re calculating— calculating how in the world we’re going to get everything done before Christmas—and how we’re going to pay for it!
Yet, here I am today wishing you peace during this Advent season. I do so because peace is one of the main themes of Advent. Sunday’s first reading is that beautiful description of peace from the prophet Isaiah (Is. 2:1-5), “they shall beat their swords into plowshares.” And that little baby boy lying in the manger is called the Prince of Peace. And “Peace on earth” is what the angels sang to those shepherds that holy night (Lk. 2:4).
But what kind of peace am I wishing for you? First of all, I am wishing you personal, inner peace. This peace is not the same as absolute calm. Perhaps an image will help here. In the world of sailing, absolute calm is death. If there’s no wind, there’s no movement. Limp sails mean no forward progress. It is the same in the spiritual life. If there is no tension, there will be no movement. No challenges mean no forward progress. So a certain amount of tension and disturbance in our personal lives is not only normal, it is downright healthy.
I am not wishing you the kind of peace that comes from absolute certitude or complete closure either. We can be uncertain about some things, we can have doubts and questions, we can be living with several lose ends, and yet we can still have a peaceful heart. That’s because our peace is not dependent upon having life all figured out. No, our peace is dependent upon one thing only:Who God is.
And who is God? God is our loving Father, our tender Mother. Our essential identity lies in this fact: we are a child of God. The immensely consoling readings of Advent reiterate this incredible truth of God’s love for us. When we are experiencing tension this Advent, maybe we can keep repeating under our breath, “I am a child of God…I am a child of God.”
Another mantra I find helpful in calming myself amid hecticness or confusion is this: “God is here…God is in this person (or these people)…God is in me…God is in the details of this specific challenge, difficulty, pain, or mess!”
But I wish you more than personal inner peace. I wish you “social peace” as well, that is, the peace that comes from living in right relationship with others—our loved ones and family, yes; but also our colleagues at work, our parish, our local community, our state, our nation, the rest of the world. Pope Paul VI said many years ago, “If you want peace, work for justice.” What specific work can I do this Advent to foster peace through justice? Perhaps I can make a donation to Catholic Relief Services (CRF) for the people of the Philippines, volunteer at a Christmas party for needy children, donate food to a local food pantry, get more involved in my parish, write or call my congressional representative on a social need close to my heart, or educate myself on a specific justice issue.
The Hebrew word for peace is shalom. It means wholeness or completeness. In his book, Seeds of Peace, William Shannon writes that people “are at peace when they become who they really are and who God intended them to be.” We facilitate peace when we cultivate a healthy balance in our life—a balance between being alone and being with others, giving and receiving, talking and listening, working and relaxing, and self-care and selfless concern for others in need.
This Advent, my prayer for you is this: May you hear God saying these words to you:
My Beloved One…I love you…You are very special to me…There’s no one quite like you…Please remember, I am with you every moment of your day and night…Remember too that beneath the evil and messiness of life, my Grace is at work…My Reign of Peace is already present, in the here and now—even though the evidence for this might be slight or even hidden…Trust me on this…Trust me….Be at peace, my Beloved…Be at peace…
Have a blessed Advent!
What does peace mean to you?
How do you nourish peace during this busy time of the year?
Thank you Sister Melannie for the words that stitch-up our broken hearts, broken but still beating, from battle scars and injuries acquired daily in the storm-tossed fields of life. These words are soothing balm to little everyday anxieties and also life- saving balm to the anguish of tornado-like tragedies that ruthlessly pummel and threaten to shatter our lives. Could you please pray for my dear friend Rose’s fourteen year old daughter Ruby who is in Albany Med Center PICU after a terrible car accident a few days ago that seriously injured her spinal cord. Tragically, Ruby lost her five year old sister, sweet Naomi, in the accident. I am trying, praying, but my mind gets easily distracted by the onslaught of grief for my beloved friends, so I ask you, a wise woman, to pray for Ruby and her family, that somehow they feel God’s presence in this absolute mess. May God be with us all and may we all hear the Words proclaiming God’s love for us especially in the midst of our messy, sometimes unbearably painful lives.
Dear Roseanne, I’m so sorry to hear about that terrible accident. My heart goes out to Ruby. Yes, I will pray for Ruby and her family. I’m sure my readers will do so too…Sr. Melannie
Thank you for your prayers Sr. Melannie ! Also, when I first posted, I ordered your book, “With the Dawn Rejoicing: Christian Perspectives on Pain and Suffering” and I await its arrival with anticipation. I am coinfident that your written words will help and provide clarity and consolation.Thank you for the works you do each day to increase our awareness of God in the midst of our lives.
Thanks Mel for this meaningful reflection on God’s peace……and peace to you too!!….love Marilyn, S.N.D.
Thank you. Wow what a great way to begin ADVENT.
Very powerful! Keep up the good work.
And thank you, Sister Kristel, for responding! Sr. Melannie
And thank you, my dear friend, Marilyn! Love, Melannie
What a beautiful reflection on so many aspects of peace!! Thanks and have a blessed Advent!
And you have a blessed Advent too, Mary Beth! Melannie
Thank you for your wishes for peace for all of us. Each year I understand and cling to that peace that can come only from our heavenly Father. Peace to you today and always.
Light a candle today and remember that God is as near to us as the flame, and he wishes to burn brightly in our hearts this Advent season.
Breathe in God’s love, breathe out anxiety. I am with you always.
Dear Roz, Thank you for sharing this simple and wise ritual with us! Sr. Melannie
Thank you, Mary!
Sr. Melannie, I love the PEACE picture with the purple background! When I need some peace I take a minute to recall the verse from Psalm 46…Be still and know that I am God. A Franciscan once shared at an evening of reflection to pray this verse meditatively: Be still and know that I am God….Be still and know that I am………Be still and know……Be still…….
blessed Advent to you and your readers! Cathy
This is beautiful, Cathy! I’m sure my readers will appreciate your words! I know I do! Sr. Melannie
Peace to me is knowing that God has everything under control and I just need to let Him. Though some might refer to this as surrender, I can’t think of anyone whom I would rather give myself to completely.
Surrender is a beautiful Paschal Mystery word, Larry! I know it has a “bad press” and is sometimes equated with weakness. But you’re using the word in its best sense: giving ourselves over to God. Thanks for writing! Melannie
Great advice, especially the words “if you want peace, work for justice”
You are so correct that we should slow down, not be in a frenzy – the pagan world has it all wrong in over commercializing Christmas, thanks for your article and the great advice about peace!
You’re welcome! And it was good hearing from you! Sr. Melannie
Thanks for the comforting words of peace Sr. Melannie. I had a quiet start to Advent today. Whenever I am feeling rushed some deep breathing and a cup of tea seems to slow me down.
Yes, Kathleen, deep breaths always help me too! Thanks again for writing! Sr. Melannie
Thank you for this message. I was filled with uncertainty and I usually am in the mornings but reading you calmed me and I could feel it spreading through my body. I’ll print it and read it mornings. Thank you for all you do to help make us better Christians.
And thank you, Barbara, for reading my blog and responding so positively! Sr. Melannie
For me to experience peace, I must quiet my mind and body for a few minutes each day. In the hurry of Christmas preparations, we sometimes miss the gift of waiting that happens in Advent. Often a candle or a fire in the fireplace or soft music help me to tune out noise and “tune in” to the quiet where peace begins.
Dear Barb, I liked your phrase “the gift of waiting that happens in Advent.” And I know a candle and soft music sometimes lead me into prayer too…Thank you! Melannie