Time to Commit
Advent begins this year with the prophesy from Isaiah about the Mountain of the Lord’s House. Now I know a little something about mountains, having hiked up several and fallen down one (long story about a stupid priest who took a solo hike). If a mountain is very popular, like Mt. Quandary, a fourteen thousand foot mountain in Colorado, the hiking trail will appear to be more of a highway than a trail. What you have to do is get onto the trail no later than 7 in the morning so you can reach the summit about 12 to 1. Then you have to get out of the tundra before the afternoon lightning storms blow in. The trouble is that Mt. Quandary is the easiest of the Fourteeners to climb, and hikers staying near Breckenridge, Vail or Aspen have to give it a go. So the trail is actually crowded.
That is how Isaiah pictured the Mountain of the Lord’s House. It is crowded with people from every nation. Their goal, is not the view, or to say they conquered a fourteener. Their goal is to learn the way of the Lord from the summit of the mountain. The prophecy goes on to say the Word of the Lord will flow from God’s Mountain. He will judge between all nations with such fairness that there would no longer be a need for war. People would beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. There would be no need of armed forces. People would not even train for war again.
That ideal is so meaningful for us when we consider our loved ones who are stationed in harms way in Iraq and Afghanistan and throughout the world. "Some day, we tell ourselves, some day there will be no wars." The ideal of Isaiah is meaningful when we consider the nations whose citizens are starving and who use money meant for aid to build up their own armed forces. As we see pictures of starving children in
Somalia, Rwanda, and the Sudan, we say, "Some day, some day there will be no more wars. Some day the materials used for war will be transformed into materials used to provide food for the poor. Some day swords will be beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks."
Advent begins by reassuring us that the Day of the Lord is upon us. The transformation of the world has begun in Jesus Christ. St. Paul, in the second reading from the Letter to the Romans, says that the day is closer than when we first entered the faith. The Second Letter of Peter says that to the Lord a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day. "Wake from sleep," St. Paul says. It’s now time to get moving, to get to work.
And what is it that we are to do to fulfill our part in the transformation of the world? We are to put on the Lord Jesus Christ. World War I was called the war to end all wars. Well, that didn’t work. World War II was called the war to make the world safe for democracy. That resulted in half the world being gobbled up in communism. The so-called war on terror, is described as the battle against all who are so evil that they kidnap and kill innocent aid workers, that they destroy children in their schools, that they fly planes into buildings. Perhaps a third world war between Christians and Islamic fundamentalists has begun. Like the other two world wars, nations are forced to defend their people and young men and women are sent out to die for their country, but like the other two world wars, this is not a war that will end all wars.
The only way that the world will be saved from war is through the Power of Jesus Christ. And the only way that the Power of Jesus Christ will take hold on the world is if we, His followers commit ourselves to Him.
Allow me to be mystical here. Every act of kindness and love, every sacrifice of self for another, is a small step in the transformation of the world into the Kingdom of God. Conversely, every act of hatred, every act of selfishness, strengthens the power of evil that is destroying our world. The battle for the Lord is not something that will take place many years from now. It is a battle that we are engaged in right now and right here. We need to be part of this. We need to commit.
We are not Christians because we say we are Christians. We are not Christians because we have been baptized and receive the sacraments. We are Christians because we have put on Jesus Christ and really work hard to make His ways our ways. We are Christians because we are open to the transformation the Lord wishes to make in our lives. We are Christians because we are determined to be the reflection of God’s love that he created us to be.
We need to commit. Consider Christmas. Is Christmas a time to sacrifice our humanity to alcohol, drugs, sex and stuff? If so, then Christmas is really just a winter holiday of debauchery. If so, then we are enrolling in the army of the Evil One and fighting against the Lord. But if we are committed to Christianity, then Christmas will be a reflection of the Lord’s presence in our lives. If we use the Christmas holidays as an opportunity to bury the hatchet and reconcile with those who have hurt us, if we use Christmas as an opportunity to share our time and treasure with the less fortunate, if we look for ways to be more loving to others, especially those within our homes, then we will be engaged in the Lord’s battle against evil.
We need to commit.
There are times that preachers call people to the altar to commit their lives to the Lord and establish a personal relationship with Him. This is a good thing. But the commitment to the Lord has deeper implications than that which is personal. The commitment to the Lord has a mystical element of being part of the transformation of the world Jesus initiated at His birth.
Christianity is not just a faith. It is a lifestyle of transformation. We have been called to take our part in the transformation of the world from the terrors that exist right now to that ideal of Isaiah’s prophecy: the mountain of the Lord, the time of peace.
The military cannot be and will never be the solution to the woes of the world. Only Jesus Christ is the solution. He is the Prince of Peace. And His time is now.
"So," we are told, "Stay awake, be prepared," for the Son of Man is coming.
And we are participants in His ultimate Victory.
May we have the courage to be Christian.
Happy Advent, Happy Season of Hope.