A Reflection on the 2nd Sunday of Advent
Here is a reflection from Jon Cornwall on the 2nd Sunday of Advent - Peace.
On the first Sunday of Advent, we reflected on the purpose of hope as a response to challenging situations with positivity, kindness and purpose. Hopefulness does not only draw one away from despair, but often changes the meaning of the entire situation.
Today, we are asked to devote ourselves to peace and isn't the world screaming for it?
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus uses a pattern of speech which may be worth us considering in a little more detail. For each of the examples Jesus takes a well-established biblical standard and develops and extends it. Crucially, he will also live it.
You have heard it said "You shall not murder" but I'm saying that you should not even allow yourself to feel anger.
This is a fantastic challenge for the disciple of the day as much as it is today. Jesus will extend teaching on making oaths, adultery and divorce for the sake of convenience.
One important enhancement comes alongside another well-known expression...
You have heard it said, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. but I say to you do not seek vengeance at all.
Where had we heard it said though? Back in Exodus 21:23-27 it is delivered as a commandment and is expressly for the purpose of reciprocal justice. Before that point, retribution could be met out by the victim sevenfold or tenfold. 'If you steal my sheep I'll kill your family' is overly extreme but it will almost certainly keep your next flock safe.
"An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" means exact retaliation. Jesus though urges us to resist retribution.
As inhabitants of a fallen world, there will be injustice, exploitation and crime. Naturally, victims of tragedy will feel a range of emotions helplessness, rage, and a desire for revenge.
Where God in the Old Testament established that retribution could be equal and no more God in the New Testament tells us to avoid it entirely.
This is not simple, it feels alien to our human nature but what it also does is it preserves our innocence, it quickens our healing and it keeps us from losing who we are.
The story of Jimmy Mizen
In 2008 you may remember hearing of the terrible killing of Jimmy Mizen, a 16 year old Catholic Schoolboy in South East London. I couldn't imagine being in the shoes of his parents upon discovering what had happened. Despite unimaginable pain, they were comforted by friends, family and a faith which couldn't have made much sense at the time.
The following day was a Sunday and they rallied to go to church with the parents the remaining children and a grandchild.
As they left the church a member of the press asked Margaret Jimmy's mother how she felt. I expect that was a desperate moment, almost impossible to respond to. She said the following,
"I hope the parents of Jimmy’s killer would be left alone as it wasn’t their fault. I don’t feel anger because anger breeds anger, and that is what killed our son and could destroy our family too."
This was not an instant remedy, the agony was still present of course but the family stayed together and would go on to start a charitable foundation.
Just as hope is a response to desperation peace is a holy response to tragedy.
I need not name each of the situations in the world which are so in need of this kind of response.
May we the Vincentian Family be peacemakers, compassionate, forgiving and hopeful. That does not mean soft, may we be courageous in defending the innocent, advocating for peace and justice, and loving in how we respond to the victim and the culprit.
You have heard it said "an eye for an eye" You may also have heard it said that this leaves everyone blind.