“Turn your swords into plowshares”

1st Sunday of Advent (A); November 27, 2016

Is 2:1-5; Ps 122:1-9; Rom 13:11-14; Mt 24:37-44

Deacon Jim McFadden; (New) Folsom Prison & SJB C.C.


            The First Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of our preparation for the celebration of Christmas. Today’s readings offer us a vision, which suggest that Advent is a time of hope and challenges. This vision is one of lasting peace among nations which comes about if we reorient our lives as we await the fullness of God’s Kingdom. If we accept the vision, then our hearts will be prepared for the birth of Christ.

Isaiah, looking to the future, offers the hope that “The mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established at the highest mountain and raised above the hills. All nations shall stream toward” (v. 2). A way of understanding the Church is “the Lord’s house,” in which she will be the primary means of bringing about the Kingdom of God. Since her mandate, given by the Risen Christ, is to “…make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit” (v. Mt 28:19), the Church is by nature universal. We are, indeed, brothers and sisters to everyone; no one is excluded. As brethren to each other, we are obliged, if we are going to be faithful to our baptismal promises, to serve each other and be instruments of justice, which is the only enduring way to bring about peace. Justice and peace are essential marks of the Kingdom of God.

Isaiah asserts that the Kingdom is coming right here and now provided that “They beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.” This very famous passage confronted the Israelites when it was uttered in the 8th century b.c., and it has profound implications for us if we embrace its vision. Isaiah made this proclamation in the shadow of impending military defeat from the Assyrian armies that had already overrun the northern kingdom of Israel and now had their sights on Judah to the South. The prophet’s hope was that all nations might come to know the God of Israel through acts of justice, which would bring peace to the world. God would not be known through institutionalized violence.   That was the challenge to our Jewish brethren 2,800 years ago and it is our challenge as well.

Isaiah is calling for a conversion from the preparation and practice of war to non-violence. He is calling us as well to change our hearts. He wants us to see as he does: that God is stronger than hate, violence, and oppression, that peace is stronger than war, and that God is stronger than death.

Brothers and sisters, no more war! That’s our starting point: until we commit our lives to make sure that it comes true no matter where we live, we won’t be able to hear the rest of the Advent visions. If we can’t imagine a world without war and violence, then we probably can’t imagine a child who is God, who becomes vulnerable and so at risk, who will live and die with us and for us.

That’s the vision that God is offering us. The question is: do we want it? If so, it’s going to take hard work among this faith community at SJB to bring it about. If we’re going to change our own heart, we also have to change the way we move about in our communities in the same way we disarm your heart.

Isaiah’s vision deems to be saying that if we have no desire to be a peacemaker, we’ll never see God because the Christ Child is the Child of Peace! If we can’t get in touch with that, how will we ever be able to see him in a vision or anywhere in our experience?

People of God, through the Incarnation and Resurrection of Christ, God has done everything he can to make Isaiah’s vision a reality. The Resurrection of Christ is the reality that assures us that Peace is not only possible but is part of the very fabric of Trinitarian love. Christ has already paid the price for peace. Now as the People of God we must actuate Isaiah’s vision by working toward peace on the personal, national, and international levels

So, we are challenged to embody in our lives in this time in this place what it means to believe in the Vision of Isaiah. To do that we must turn our lives more consciously and directly to God and God’s Kingdom. This is the starting point; it’s the preparation for Christmas. Advent becomes the time to pray, to examine, to clear away what keeps us from being peacemakers. It means we begin to live out of a Christ-mysticism, whereby we can say with Paul, “I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). With Jesus, the Prince of Peace, we can find concrete ways to be the peacemakers that Isaiah envisioned. May your Advent show you specific ways to create peace within your own heart and within St. John the Baptist C.C. Amen.