Third Sunday of Advent - 17th December, 2017

Liturgical Reflection

Isaiah 61:1-2; 10-11; Magnificat; I Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28


Be A Dominican Advocate for Peace!

                              Bring good news to the poor,
                              bind up hearts that are broken, proclaim liberty to captives,
                              freedom to those in prison;
                              proclaim a year of favour from the Lord.

This friends, is the story unfolding in Colombia today!   After 53 years of bitter civil war, 220,000 people killed and 8 million rendered homeless, a Peace Accord was signed one year ago on 1 December 2016.   A year of favour from the Lord, indeed!

But to achieve this end, witnesses like John the Baptist had to shine forth to speak for the light.   The President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for speaking a word of truth in a hopeless situation.  The leader of FARC, the dreaded rebel group, led his army out of a wilderness and, miraculously, forged a straight way to peace.   Colombians doubted the process, initially voting down the proposed Peace Accord.  ‘Never try to suppress the Spirit or treat the gift of prophecy with contempt’, says St Paul!

The journey for Colombia has only just begun.  Our Dominican Family, along with many other witnesses of the light, have been working tirelessly to form reconciling, healing communities.   Their courage has been recognised by the Master of the Dominicans, Bruno Cadore. “Following on from the great Year of Jubilee’, he writes, ‘we would like to promote a global Dominican solidarity towards being advocates for peace.’  Fr Bruno & our Justice & Peace Coordinators have shone the torch of truth upon Colombia as our focus for 2017-18.

Sr Etilia Maritze Trigos Torres op, of Columbia

Advocates for peace cry out!   At the Salamanca Human Rights Conference last year, Sister Etilia OP came forward at the Offertory Procession. She placed photo after photo before the altar crying out with each one: “Murdered! Murdered!”   Advocates for peace cry out in any wilderness … city, church or nation!

Advocates for peace give witness, sometimes silent witness.  Ingrid Betancourt, a Colombian Senator held hostage for 6 years during the conflict, says that she learned from one of her young FARC captors.  He was 17 and she was 40.  He had witnessed much that had happened to her in captivity.  Before deployment to another camp, he said to her before leaving, “Remember, when they go low, you stay above.”   Advocates for peace sometimes appear to be “servants of nothingness,” a powerful image in today’s responsorial psalm.

John the Baptist was hardly a compelling advocate!  The priests and Levites asked him out of a sense of frustration: “Well, who are you?  What spin can we take back, about you, to the Jews?”  On his way back to Rome following his visit to Colombia, Pope Francis observed that he was struck by how much ordinary Colombians wanted peace.   “It is a spontaneous desire, and within that is the force of the people.   I have hope in this.  The people want to breathe.  We have to help them.”   It is the recognition of the “One” who is coming before us, with us and in us.  We are simply the hands, the feet, the voice of Jesus to each other.

Tonight, through our lives and by our prayer, we ring the Bell of Peace for Colombia!

Jill Shirvington OP