Pastoral Message – December 4, 2022
Last Tuesday morning, like lots of Tuesday mornings during the school year, the youngest pupils at our school came to Mass. I like saying Mass for these young ‘uns. They’re squirmy, and fidgety, and picking various body parts, but they are like little human sponges. They hear things, picking up new knowledge even if you don’t think they’re paying attention. But every time I start my homily, they are paying attention!
The first reading last Tuesday is the same reading we hear today – taken from Isaiah 11. It’s a reading I always think of as “the peaceable Kingdom”. I think of it this way because of a painting I vividly remember seeing when I was in kindergarten. A painting titled – The Peaceable Kingdom.
As a little kid I sort of loved this picture. I really wanted to be there in it. I didn’t understand the intent of early American artist Edward Hicks. But now I get it. He was using paint to reflect his image of Isaiah 11. It must have been a self-defining Scripture passage for Mr. Hicks because he painted a type of peaceable kingdom more than 60 times. While the painting is primitive, it is also alluring because it’s so contrary to nature as we know it. As I pointed out to the students at Mass, lions should be attacking the fearful cattle. The wolf should be gnawing on the freshly-killed lamb. The cobra and adder should be coiling to strike out at the innocent child. We’ve all seen those nature shows on TV. Nature is not governed by peace, but rather by an attitude that is dog eat dog, and survival of the fittest, or survival at the expense of others. Conflict, war, confusion, ignorance, fear and inhumane violence are only reluctantly restrained by social norms and laws. A peaceable Kingdom is counter-cultural and other worldly. So how is a peaceable kingdom even possible?
Well, I pointed out to the school kids that before we get to the peaceable Kingdom, Isaiah 11 foretells of a Messiah – a Savior who is full of the Lord’s own Spirit. He will come and establish a new order, a new Kingdom, a new way of being. He is, after all, the Prince of Peace. Jesus Christ is the one who fulfills Isaiah 11. And he does set up a new way of being by his example and teaching. He does open up our hearts, minds and imagination to a new peaceable Kingdom. We who follow Jesus are then naturally counter-cultural and living now for an other world.
So as we prepare our hearts and minds to celebrate Christmas, and as we yearn for Jesus to come in fullness, let’s be ever more innocent like young children. Let’s learn from Jesus, absorbing His wisdom like human sponges. Let’s make the hope found in Isaiah 11 a self-defining Scripture passage for us. And let’s continue to welcome into our hearts and minds, Jesus Christ, our Prince of Peace.