Please look at the picture copied here very carefully. It was taken many years ago by a photographer –whose name I cannot recall—but who caught the scene in our yard and then brought me the picture later. I have kept it to remind me of the peace and tranquility promised in Isaiah’s famous chapter 11:6-9 in which various species of animals calm their prey and predator roles to create peace and sharing among themselves as opposed to violence and competitive power.
“The wolf shall be the guest of the lamb;
the leopard shall lie down with the kid.
The calf and the young lion shall browse together,
with a child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbors,
together their young shall rest;
the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
The baby shall play by the cobra’s den
and the child shall lay his hand on the adder’s lair.
There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain
for the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord
as water covers the sea.”
In the picture above, the lowly woodchuck chews on an apple in which the majestic deer seems interested. The photographer told me they split the apple and ate together. Usually the woodchuck runs away with his prize or the deer grunts and paws the ground warning the woodchuck that the apple is mine! Neither reaction occurred. Isaiah might have said, On my holy mountain, the woodchuck and the deer share the apple…
I have heard many people this advent season expressing dismay and anger over the division in both our country and our Church. Some have given up on both, choosing not to participate in voting or praying. I admit I am dismayed and angry at this as well. But, can we create a holy mountain again? A mountain whose light shines on a hill for all to see? A mountain where we can have our differences but argue them with civility?
If we have a mountain like that, people will find their way and be comforted and supported. And, most of all, we as individuals will be changed. We should not give up on the institutions when they fail us; we should rather, work to change them even if in little ways. We make a holy mountain this way. And that is the only thing we are asked to do while on this earth. If we eschew this task in disgust over divisions, we are like those who create the division. We are tolerating the evil of division over the glory of the holy mountain.
Our families, friends, and neighbors deserve to enjoy us as happy reflections of why Jesus came to earth. So, I’m going to avoid looking at the cracks in our relationships, and the canyons for many, of our differences. So what if we have different political opinions and different ways of living our faith? We need each other, so let’s talk civilly and try to see the other point of view while holding our own. No anger, please. Walk away when it starts. Come back when it abates. What matters most is to build the holy mountain with love.
Let’s try to turn our just anger into something positive. Maybe I will volunteer time to a local group providing help to poor families and children. Or, volunteer for political causes that are based in the values Jesus came to raise during his ministry. What matters most is to build the holy mountain with generosity.
Every religion has groups led by qualified theologians that help us understand the faith in the context of issues important today like environmentalism, needed religious reform, global and cultural developments. Check out your diocese or parish or region of faith for these groups. Our Jesuit Retreat Center offers many such programs, and many are interfaith; retreat centers in your cities and locations do the same. Seek out spiritual advisors to help you navigate your call to spiritual wholeness as you face the turbulence of divisions in your precious institutions that have given you life. You will experience a wonderful influx of cerebral comfort simply in gaining knowledge while you share with others. What matters most is to build the holy mountain with knowledge.
Start a book club focused on learning, or gather a group to visit the elderly wherever you can. Volunteer to teach literacy to children and adults. What matters most is to build a holy mountain with sharing.
There is a swell of winter wind surrounding me as I write. I love it. I love all seasons, but winter provides a deep contemplative isolation of a whispering God throughout the rafters of this old house as candles flicker and I am one with God remembering all of you in my prayer hoping you will create a holy mountain this Christmas. A holy mountain of love, generosity, knowledge, and sharing. If we do this, our Christ will surely come to us this Christmas. Be like the deer and the woodchuck and create a holy mountain in your life!
Please reflect on Isaiah’s Chapter 11. I join you in this because it is always my final meditation before the glorious event of Christmas.
I am a Christmas person (born on 12/23), so I always loved this celebration. I hope you reflect on the enormous gift our God has given us this day.
Let me know what you think of your part in building the holy mountain.
I love you all, my readers and Anonymous Angels. Merry Christmas.