Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat;
The calf and the young lion shall browse together,
with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
together their young shall lie down;
the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
The baby shall play by the viper's den,
and the child lay his hand on the adder's lair.
They shall not harm or destroy on all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD,
as water covers the sea.
- Isaiah 11:6-9
This idyllic scene from the readings for today is not just the wishful musings of the prophet Isaiah, but a vision for each of us to strive to bring to reality, now. This sublime setting of predators and prey coexisting and cooperating must have been as startling for Isaiah's audience, as it is for us to imagine. Animals and people are just not this way. People and people are just not this way. Is this an impossible dream from very long ago, like Republicans and Democrats collaborating on the brink of the "fiscal cliff"?
As we move into the first week of Advent, we are challenged to contemplate the impossible ... to contemplate mystery. St. Ignatius Loyola, in his Spiritual Exercises, asks all of us to begin to think and see reality in ways different from our ordinary times, our daily lives, they ways we're used to seeing them. He asks each of us to pray and practice seeing life — not the way we normally see it, but to see it as God does. Ignatius invites us to use our imaginations, to go beyond our human limitations, and to examine the mystery of the great love and concern God has for each of us.
Through his own experience of finding God and God's will in his own life, St. Ignatius found that all of us must go beyond the way the world teaches us to see things, how we expect to see the world, and more, to see the world, and each other, in new ways. He tells us we are taught by our cultures to see others as competitors, to hoard our "treasures," to protect ourselves from the actions of others, and to be "mature" in the ways of the world. He also shows us, though, that most of these ways of seeing the world and others comes from fear; fear that if we do not prove we are better than another, we will lose who we are. Fear that if we give, we will not receive, and we will certainly not have what we have given away. Fear that if we allow others to have control, we will not have any control at all. Fear that if we do not act wisely, we will be considered a fool. So we compete with others, on the field ... in the classroom, at work, at home, in life.
So we protect the things in our lives as if they are really who we are. We strive to have control of things and people, even though we have no real power over these. And if we are honest with ourselves, no matter how much we have learned, all our understanding is very limited, and the more we seem to know, the more we need to learn.
In this season of examining the biggest mystery of God loving us so much He became one of us, what would seem impossible becomes completely possible. In this season, we will hear stories of animals and people acting without their fears, and doing the impossible, showing us how life — how we —can be. In this season, Isaiah and St. Ignatius ask us to get beyond our own fears, to imagine more and better, and to care about others. We are asked to go beyond our differences to find ways to help bring "Peace to all of good will."
Maybe we all, in our own ways in Advent, can begin to bring to reality a world closer to the ideal we all share, an ideal we can all pray for, the ideal we all need ... maybe.
HAVE A BLESSED ADVENT.
D. Highberger, S.J.
P. Stark, S.J.