The theme of the second week of Advent is peace. Peace seems to be something a lot of people talk about but not do, especially lately. And the news and people involved in these events advocate peaceful protesting, but on the other side of the fence, there are always rumors that even the peaceful protesters are being targeted. Why is it that, for all the talk about following Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy, the idea of non-violence seems to be swept aside in favor of getting “justice”?
According to Fr. Robert Barron in Catholicism, non-violence isn’t passively stepping aside and letting an evil get its way. But it’s not aggressively fighting back, either. Two examples he gave were of Mother Teresa and Desmond Tutu, who both used humor and a witty line in the face of people being rude to them. These are small examples, of course, but they stood up to their aggressors without laying a finger on them. “Turning the other cheek” doesn’t mean to just sweep things under the rug, but to “signal to the aggressor that you refuse to accept the set of assumptions that have made his aggression possible.” It’s neither fight, nor flight, but standing one’s ground and declaring yourself an equal and not an inferior. The expression of “turning the other cheek” comes from the fact that when people hit each other, they would hit someone they considered an inferior with the back of the hand. Turning the other cheek forces the aggressor to hit the person as an equal, with the front of his hand. Peace can come from prayer and giving mercy to those who don’t deserve it.
After all, if Advent is the time of preparation, practicing peace should be part of that preparation. A familiar refrain sung in many churches during this time is an echo of John the Baptist: “Prepare ye the way of the Lord.”
Many students at this point are either preparing for finals or preparing to go home for the holidays. Others decorate their homes and go shopping for presents in preparation for having company over. Anticipation seems to be something forgotten in this world of “I need it and I need it now!” but Advent reminds people of the difference between needs and wants. Preparing for Christmas gets us hyped up so that by the time Christmas does come around, we find ourselves in a peaceful state of mind, celebrating the holiday for the joy that it brings.
Speaking of the difference between needs and wants, this week’s readings made me think of God’s providence. It seems as though people believe in two different extremes: either they feel like they have to earn everything on their own or they feel entitled to everything and demand the best of everything like a spoiled brat. This particular mindset is applied to God as well. They either see him as someone who’s distant and uncaring or as some kind of warm-fuzzy wish-granting genie.
As with everything, there is a happy medium. God provides everyone with what they need, not necessarily what they want. But what people say they “need” might just be a want in disguise, as pointed out in this video. Not to throw shade on a certain prosperity gospel preacher, but I highly doubt that people really need to have the best house, the best car, the best job, etc. Instead, “need” would be more appropriately used in the following statement: “I am a student with a mountain of student loans in need of a job so that I can pay them off and move out of my parents’ house.” So the next time God doesn’t answer your prayers relating to, say, getting the latest smartphone or some other electronic device, just remember that classic Rolling Stones song “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” Because if you try sometimes, you’ll find that you get what you need.