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Lectio Meditatio is the first in what is planned to be an ongoing series reflecting on one of the readings from the weekly Sunday Roman Catholic Lectionary. The lectionary is a 3-year cycle which starts over today with Cycle A, making this a fitting place to start. It is, however, also very special for me because not only is today the first day of Advent, but the first reading includes one of my favorite passages from all of the Bible, and on a more personal note, today that passage will be read during the same Mass in which I will be going through the Rite of Acceptance — the first of several smaller rites leading up to my full conversion to the Catholic faith. Today also marks the 65th anniversary of the abolition of the military in Costa Rica.
The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. Many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!
(Isaiah 2:1-5, NRSV-CE)
This passage from Isaiah has long been one of my favorites. Aside from the obvious vision of a just and peaceful world, it also reminds me of three things in particular. The first of these is the powerful passage from William Lloyd Garrison’s Declaration of Sentiments:
It appears to us a self-evident truth, that, whatever the gospel is designed to destroy at any period of the world, being contrary to it, ought now to be abandoned. If, then, the time is predicted when swords shall be beaten into ploughshares, and spears into pruning-hooks, and men shall not learn the art of war any more, it follows that all who manufacture, sell or wield these deadly weapons, do thus array themselves against the peaceful dominion of the Son of God on earth. (SOURCE)
The passage also brings to my mind the courageous actions carried out by those great witnesses for peace and faith that have worked under the banner of the Plowshares Movement. Actions like the 1980 action when the Plowshares Eight — Fr. Philip Berrigan, Fr. Daniel Berrigan, Sr. Anne Montgomery, Elmer Maas, Molly Rush, Dean Hammer, Fr. Carl Kabat, and John Schuchardt — entered the General Electric Re-entry Division in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania and begin hammering on the nose of Mark 12A warheads, pouring their own blood on military documents to make a statement about war being a bloody affair, and praying for peace. Since then there have been numerous similar actions and people have voluntarily served years in prison to stand up for a better and more peaceful world.
The third thing this passage brings to my mind is the closing paragraph from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1967 sermon called “Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam.” This sermon ends with the words:
Now it isn’t easy to stand up for truth and for justice. Sometimes it means being frustrated. When you tell the truth and take a stand, sometimes it means that you will walk the streets with a burdened heart. Sometimes it means losing a job…means being abused and scorned. It may mean having a seven, eight year old child asking a daddy, “Why do you have to go to jail so much?” And I’ve long since learned that to be a follower to the Jesus Christ means taking up the cross. And my bible tells me that Good Friday comes before Easter. Before the crown we wear, there is the cross that we must bear. Let us bear it–bear it for truth, bear it for justice, and bear it for peace. Let us go out this morning with that determination. And I have not lost faith. I’m not in despair, because I know that there is a moral order. I haven’t lost faith, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. I can still sing “We Shall Overcome” because Carlyle was right: “No lie can live forever.” We shall overcome because William Cullen Bryant was right: “Truth pressed to earth will rise again.” We shall overcome because James Russell Lowell was right: “Truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne.” Yet, that scaffold sways the future. We shall overcome because the bible is right: “You shall reap what you sow.” With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to speed up the day when justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream. With this faith we will be able to speed up the day when the lion and the lamb will lie down together, and every man will sit under his own vine and fig tree, and none shall be afraid because the words of the Lord have spoken it. With this faith we will be able to speed up the day when all over the world we will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we’re free at last!” With this faith, we’ll sing it as we’re getting ready to sing it now. Men will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. And nations will not rise up against nations, neither shall they study war anymore. And I don’t know about you, I ain’t gonna study war no more. (SOURCE)
Like Dr. King, I also ain’t gonna study war no more.