Monday, December 11, 2006

A Time of Hope

Bishop Gabino Zavala, Bishop President of Pax Christi USA, delivered a homily entitled Advent Season: A Time of Hope in the Midst of a World at War for the first Sunday of Advent. The homily was given in the Caldwell Hall Chapel on the campus of the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. at a Mass commemorating the martyrdom of the four US churchwomen in El Salvador, December 2, 1980.
The Advent season awakens our deepest longings and stirs our most fervent hopes for peace. Tonight is also a time to remember four modern-day martyrs, Sisters Ita Ford, Maura Clarke, Dorothy Kazel and laywoman Jean Donovan, killed in El Salvador 26 years ago tonight—this is a lesson of what solidarity with the poor and oppressed is about.

On this first Sunday of Advent, in this beautiful chapel at Catholic University, in the heart of our nation’s capitol, let us call to mind tonight a people who live in darkness, the darkest of darknesses, which is the darkness of war. Let us imagine ourselves among their families, wondering what will happen tonight to their loved ones, and whether they will ever hear the joyful news of the dawning of peace, that news that the prophet Jeremiah announced so many years ago:

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”

These are the prophetic words of Jeremiah, a Jewish prophet, speaking of the promised Messiah whom Christians will acclaim as Jesus Christ, and promising justice and righteousness to all who live in the land – a land now populated by Muslims, as well as Christians and Jews.

There is a beautiful expression that binds all of our peoples together – we are “Abrahamic peoples,” who share a common root and a common dream of Peace, Salaam, Shalom.

That is the message we yearn to hear this first night of Advent, in a world so torn by war. I speak to you tonight, not only as a Catholic bishop, but also as the bishop president of Pax Christi USA, with a special mission to proclaim in word and deed the peace of Christ. It is a mission, really, that binds all of us, Christian, Muslim and Jew alike.

I also come to you as a Mexican migrant, who came to this land in search of peace and promise with my mother, brother and sisters 50 years ago. Tonight, on this first night of Advent, let us be mindful, as well, of all those who are crossing borders, crossing mountains and deserts, many fleeing from the ravages of war, many in search of bread and work to feed their families. May we receive them into our hearts and into our nation as Christ would receive them, the stranger in our midst, for they, too, are Christ.

You can read the rest of the homily here.