It was Sunday evening, after most of our supper dishes had been cleared. Our little Advent wreath sat in the centre of our table while the kids debated and negotiated over who would light which candle. It was the third Sunday in Advent, which meant there was finally one for each of them.
We read bits from Isaiah 2, and I asked them what they thought those words meant.
While the three year old became absorbed in playing with the water in his cup, the girls offered their insights into peace, explaining that peace means “sharing” and “helping others”. Then their attention turned again to the candles, and they eagerly asked if it was time to light them yet.
We didn’t stop to expound the definition of peace. If we had, I wouldn’t have thought to have used “sharing” and “helping others” in my explanation. I would have talked about everyone living in right relationships with each other, about wholeness and safety and things being the way they were created to be. I would have talked about how peace isn’t just the absence of violence, but about flourishing.
We didn’t get there. And the more I’ve thought about it, the more I think my kids might be onto something. They chose action words. They picked things that they can do each day in their own little worlds to be peacemakers. They can share and help others, and, in living that way, they will lean into peace because they will start to see more and more the needs and stories of others.
I wonder if we would be closer to peace if we practiced things like sharing and helping others more often.
It’s hard to write about peace these days, when peace feels so foreign, so elusive. To speak of peace feels a bit naïve to anyone who has watched the news in the past week or month or year.
And yet, most of us long for it: we long for a day when swords will be beaten into plowshares, we long for this promise of peace that God’s word proclaims. We pray, with heavy hearts and tears in our eyes, that Christ would come and bring His peace.
And while we wait, we can live as peacemakers, sharing and helping and seeking the wellbeing of others. We can choose to act, in ways small and large, rather than to sit by and wish that things were different.
So today, I pray with St. Francis,
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.