Creighton University's Online Ministries

Praying for Peace in Advent
Praying with Elizabeth and Mary

Changing the Way We Pray for Peace

All of us, at one time or another, have felt heart-sick about the war in the Middle East.  Apart from all the politics, we know that war is a failure of peace.  No matter how evil the enemy, or how critically necessary it might be to remove him, war is simply tragic and results in the death of thousands of innocent people, and scars thousands more - if not all of us in some way.

Most of the time, if we turn to God and beg for peace, it is difficult to know how to pray it.  It can seem "futile."  Can God really change the hearts of enough people to give peace a chance?

A Part of our Advent Longing
Part of our Advent longing will be to grow in our desire for peace - a hunger and thirst for it.  For at midnight Liturgy on Christmas eve, we will hear the angels say to the shepherds: 

"Do not be afraid; for behold, 
  I proclaim to you good news of great joy
  that will be for all the people."

Let's let a desire for the Good News of Christmas grow in our hearts each day now.  Let's feel the pain of "hostility" and fear and anxiety of all those who are in the middle of the terror of war - civilians, soldiers, and all of us.  And as we feel this tremendous longing and hope, let's turn to God and ask for peace in our own hearts.  In these precious days of preparation, we can all be peace-makers at home, with our friends and relatives, in our parishes and faith communities and where we work.  As we make our own efforts at peace around us, let's turn to two of the Advent guides that scripture gives us.

Two Women of Faith
Whether we are a man or a woman, a little child, a teen, an adult, or aging, we can look to Elizabeth and Mary in our longing for peace - in our hearts and in the world.

An Afghani MotherThis photo of an Afghani mother can help us bring together our longing for peace and our turning to Elizabeth in our prayer.  Elizabeth suffered doubly.  She was growing old and people judged her.  People would have assumed that her "curse" of being child-less was a punishment from God.  She deserved this suffering, because she was a sinner, they would have thought.  When Elizabeth could not bear a child, she bore her suffering with faith.  She had trust that God loved her and that, if it was God's desire, her marriage with Zachary would be fruitful with a child.  In the meantime, her life and her marriage were fruitful with hope.  Oh, how she must have prayed for her husband's faith and consolation.  She knew his pain.  He would have no son to continue his priestly work.  When God's message came to Zachary, inspiring him to hope that he would have a son, he was unable to speak, to say the child's name, because part of him still could not believe God could be that faithful.  When he saw his child, Zachary's mouth could finally proclaim, what Elizabeth had longed for him to know:  "His name is John."  In Hebrew, "John" means, "God is a gracious giver."  Could they ever imagine the child their trust in God gave birth to?  How could they have dreamed of how John would prepare the way for a peace the world could not give?

What is that place in my life that is like a barren desert?  What seems dry and incapable of growth and life?  Where am I guilty of the critical eye that presumes to judge the soul of another?  Where can I grow in trust of God's desires for me - to place my life, as it is now, in God's hands?  How can my heart and my mouth proclaim that God is faithfully gracious?  How can I place my trust in - dream of - the barely imaginable?

An Iraqi MotherThis photo of an Iraqi mother can help us turn to Mary in our Advent longing for peace.  Mary was innocent in every way.  Yet, her very fidelity to God would cost her the understanding of others.  They could never understand her pregnancy.  How could she tell them that "the holy Spirit of God has overshadowed me"?  But, Joseph knew.  And, together, they formed a community of incredible faith in God's way.  They would be at God's service - suffering, as all servants do.  Mary's trust in God was so deep that she gave birth to the Prince of Peace.  The intimacy between this mother and her child was so profound, that the lance that pierced his heart on the cross, would pass through her heart first  This humble mother trusted that nothing would be impossible with God.  Mary hurried to visit Elizabeth, to help and support her, but also to be strengthened herself with Elizabeth's faith. Oh, how we need each other to be in service of Jesus' mission!

In what places in my life do I ask, "How can this be"? There are impossible barriers to peace.  How do I say that I just can't see how it is possible to believe in the power of God - here in my heart, in my home, among my family and friends, at work, among these peoples?  How am I being invited to respond, "May it be done to me according to your word"?  How can I be faithful to being in God's service - and not be so worried about what people think of me?  And in my growing desire to be more intimate with Jesus in my everyday life, in what concrete ways, with what particular persons, can I let the pattern of his life transform my life?  How can I hurry to support others, while finding the community of faith I need to be faithful servant in Jesus' own mission?

Let there be Peace on Earth!

The angels announce to the shepherds:

"Glory to God in the highest 
  and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests." 
Let us all continue to pray for peace in our world.  Let's pray that hearts might be transformed, to find the path of peace together.  But, as we pray, let's let peace have a chance in our own hearts, in our own world, close at home.  The peace-making begins with God's work in us.  This is truly Advent longing.
Let there be peace on earth,
and let it begin with me!

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