December 4, 2016 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause
December 4, 2016
Isaiah 11: 1-10
Fr. George Smiga
In today’s first reading Isaiah presents his grand vision of the Kingdom of God. In this peaceable kingdom the poor will be judged with justice and violence will end. Wild animals will coexist peacefully with domestic animals. The lion will lay down with the lamb. Woody Allen has commented on this passage. What he says is this: “When the lion lays down with the lamb, the lamb doesn’t get much sleep.” This is Allen’s way of stating what is already obvious to us. Isaiah’s peaceful kingdom is very different from the world in which we live. In our world the poor are often judged unjustly and violence erupts in the wars of many nations, in our streets, and sometimes in our homes. The difference between Isaiah’s words and our experience can lead us to dismiss Isaiah’s vision as pious dreaming. But that would be to misunderstand its purpose. Isaiah describes a perfect world in order to reveal what God intends. Isaiah wants us to remember that our God is a God who is eternally opposed to all that is unjust, violent or evil. Our God wants to change things, and God calls us to participate in the elimination of evil from our world.
But how can we do this? How is it possible to eliminate evil in a world that contains so much that is wrong? Perhaps the example of the white helmets of Syria can help us. Syria is a country that has been at war for six years. Its infrastructure has been destroyed. Only a few hospitals exist, and an organized security force is non-existent. Into this vacuum a number of ordinary citizens have decided to act. They are named after the white helmets they wear. They are tailors, teachers, builders, and doctors. They make it their job to sift through the bombed rubble of their cities looking for survivors. They care for the wounded, reunite families, and bury the dead. There are at present about 3,000 white helmets in Syria. So far they have saved over 60,000 of their fellow citizens. In circumstances much more violent and evil than anything we experience, these ordinary people have decided to do the little that is possible for them to do. Their moto is one line from the Quran. It reads: “Whoever saves one human life, saves humanity.”
If we are going to build the Kingdom of God in a world that is so characterized by evil, we must believe that even our small actions of goodness have enormous value. We must act trusting that saving one life is saving humanity. To some it might seem insignificant to sit with a friend for hours as she grieves the death of her spouse, to visit a single person in prison, to support an addict on the road to recovery, or to find one man or woman a job. But these small actions of goodness mark us as disciples of Jesus and move our world on step closer to God’s Kingdom.
If the beautiful vision of Isiah is to be fulfilled, we cannot be discouraged by the smallness of our actions or the limits of our success. We must find the courage to face off against the evil around us in battles that are small enough to win. We know that our world is not Isiah’s peaceable kingdom, but we believe that our God intends to make it so. We trust that our God uses our actions of goodness, however small, to achieve God’s purposes. It is not yet time for the lion to lay down with the lamb. But it is time for us, as disciples of Jesus, to act.