The divine drama continues to unfold in Isaiah (41:13-20). God is not pleased with Israel. In God’s divine pathos, Israel is called a worm and a maggot—not very godlike speech; however, it expresses the pain God feels when Israel chooses death instead of divine life. God quickly asserts that God will help Israel in spite of its transgressions.
Transformation will take place. Israel will become a threshing sledge which separates the cereals from the straw, the wheat from the chaff. Israel will be delivered from her enemies. Israel will once again rejoice in God.
God will care for the afflicted and needy. He will quench the physical and spiritual thirst of the people. We thirst for God like a deer thirsts for the flowing stream.
Read aloud and listen to the poetry of transformation. Rivers will burst forth on barren heights. Fountains will spring up in broad valleys. The desert will become marshland. Springs of water will flood the dry ground. All kinds of trees will flourish in the desert. Other trees will prosper in the wasteland. God is saying once again, “Fear not. Take heart. I am making all things new. You know that this is My work.”
Yes, our God is gracious and slow to anger. Our God is loving mercy and compassion. Our God is with us. God reigns among us. Like the rivers in the desert we burst forth into praise and gratitude, “Praise God. Thanks be to God.”
In the Gospel (Mt 11:11-15), Jesus is telling the crowd about his friend and precursor, John the Baptizer. John had a great influence on Jesus. When empire struck back and Herod beheaded John, Jesus knew that the handwriting was on the wall—challenge empire and you will pay the price.
Jesus laments the fact that, since the days of John, the violent have been taking the Kin-dom by force. In Matthew, the reluctance to speak the word G_d leads to the saying “Kingdom of heaven.” Jesus is here proclaiming Kin-dom. The violent will not take his kin-dom by force. Jesus is nonviolent and there is no place for violence in the Kin-dom.
While the kin-dom is in the process of becoming, while the desert is being transformed into marshland, the violent are still taking the kin-dom by force. Violence rules.
Militarized force has become our ordinary and common response to solving differences. Obama a war president, who just authorized a surge in Afghanistan, today received the Nobel Peace Prize. Justifying his position on America’s current wars in his acceptance speech, Obama’s underlying belief is that war is inevitable. The violent are taking the kin-dom by force. The Israeli Supreme Court has ruled that student, Bertlanty Azzam, a 4th year student at Bethlehem University, cannot return to the university to complete the studies she has begun. Bertlanty was taken blindfolded and handcuffed on 28 October 2009 from Bethlehem to Gaza. The violent are taking the kin-dom by force. A British national who is legally in this country is arrested by Homeland Security and detained for a misdemeanor that occurred years ago. ICE is following it s usual practice of moving the immigrant detainee from detention center to detention center to make it difficult to give him legal counsel. His “hearing” is scheduled for February. The violent are taking the kin-dom by force. Thirty thousand more American troops are being sent to Afghanistan. The violent are literally taking that kingdom by force. Roberto Martínez Medína, an undocumented immigrant detainee at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia complained for days of not feeling well before he died last March of a treatable heart infection. The violent are taking the kin-dom by force. America has spent over one trillion dollars on the immoral wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and yet Congress has quibbled for months over spending 800 billion over 8 years to provide health care for our citizens. The violent are taking the kin-dom by force.
Sometimes overwhelmed by the violence that is overtaking the kin-dom, we cannot allow ourselves the luxury of despair. Advent is the season of hope. We must believe that nonviolence will prevail in the end. We, the nonviolent disciples of the Man from Galilee, must take back the kin-dom by nonviolent resistance to the injustice we experience all around us. Our threshing sledge is nonviolence.
Nonviolent resistance to injustice will separate the cereal from the straw. Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. have shown us that nonviolence is first of all a way of life and not just a strategy. They have also shown that nonviolence can overcome violence. We cannot let ourselves believe that war is inevitable. Jesus promises deliverance from violence. King believed that the universe bends toward justice. The Kin-dom is coming. “Come, O come, Emmanuel. Be God with us. Make your presence in the world real.”