Editor’s note: This Advent reflection is also available in Spanish.
By Bishop José García
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” -Luke 2:14.
What an awesome scene. I am sure we have seen more than one picture depicting the angels sharing this message with the shepherds. A message that the prophets foreshadowed about a Prince of Peace whose kingdom would be “upheld with justice and righteousness now and forever.”
No wonder they returned to their flocks glorifying and praising God. I cannot help but to speculate what their conversation was prior to this heavenly experience? Their current world was in turmoil, the nation was under the oppressive “Pax Romana” that governed by intimidation and cruel violence. Perhaps they remembered the prophecies about the coming Messiah, but we can imagine that they might have lost hope in the face of the political and social climate. However, the encounter of the angels with the shepherds would have been a clear affirmation that God’s prophecies, even though they seem to delay, would surely be fulfilled.
The present global situation is very troubling. According to the 2018 Global Peace Index, the world was less peaceful in 2018 than at any other time in the past decade. Violence in all its forms is portrayed through daily images of human suffering. The headlines are mostly about events that shake the personal peace of many, making us feel anxious, uneasy, hopeless because of wars, hunger, displacement of people, natural disasters, wealth disparity, abuse of power, injustice, etc.
But God´s prophetic word assures us that Jesus, the Prince of Peace, will put an end to wars, violence, and injustice. It will bring forth a harmonious living of all creation at the end of times. However, Jesus’ message of peace is not only about a hopeful expectation for the future. We are called to share a gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:15) that advocates for a personal and collective completeness, wholeness, contentment, welfare, health, prosperity, harmony, and fulfillment, in other words, God´s Shalom.
Jesus’ message and living testimony encourages us to be agents of societal transformation ready to spread the Good News that gives a peace that “surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). Therefore, during this Advent season, let us be messengers and advocates for God’s Shalom among those who struggle with hunger, poverty, and injustice. This message of peace compels us to pray like Saint Francis of Assisi:
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; and where there is sadness, joy. 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; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
Bishop José García is senior advisor for prayer and Evangelical engagement at Bread for the World.