WHAT THE EARTH KNOWS SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT Isaiah 11:1-10
“There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD.”
Isaiah reminds me a song from my childhood. The Cold War anthem, Last night I had the strangest dream, was written in 1950 by folk singer Ed McCurdy; I learned it from Simon and Garfunkel. As a child I sang this with fervor, as if, by putting heart and soul into the lyrics, I could bring the meaning of the lyrics to life in our world. The song tells of a peace treaty signed in “a mighty room” full of men (yes, men). This verse was my favorite:
And when the papers all were signed And a million copies made They all joined hands and bowed their heads And grateful prayers were prayed And the people in the streets below Were dancing round and round And guns and swords and uniforms Were scattered on the ground.
That part about the guns and swords especially! With eyes closed and arms outstretched I’d spin in a circle and imagine the scene: New York City, full of dancing people, broken weapons of war scattered on the street like confetti, a joyful ticker-tape disarmament!
Isaiah’s barely perceptible green shoot sprouting from Jesse’s stump resonates with me as deeply now. This is what Earth knows: life can flow from death, order from judgement, and peace from chaos.
But life will not spring forth from death wrought by a perpetual cycle of sacrificial violence. Neither will a just order sprout from cynical judgement imposed by “self-referential” leaders. Nor is a peace nurtured by humiliation/annihilation any kind of peace at all.
The life, order, and peace we desire—heralded in this passage from Isaiah—is a dream come true when we live in imitation of the Word made Flesh, through whom all things were made and in whom all creation holds together: Jesus, born of Mary of Nazareth.
To experience true life, just order, and authentic peace, we must be “filled with knowledge of the Lord”—just as Isaiah tells us Earth is. Life flows not from the sacrifice of others but from the self-emptying modeled for us in the Incarnation.
Just order is best sought in relationships, without which the “enforcers” do irreparable harm to their own humanity, and blind themselves to the dignity of those they oppress and to the suffering of Earth.
True peace on Earth? We see it in Isaiah being discerned in the creative thriving of healthy ecosystems, and communities of people in collaboration with the Spirit for the common good.
Whether it is Isaiah in today’s liturgy or an old folk song in the heart of a child, we see evidence of what Earth knows all around us! Watch for it yourself today. As God tells the people of Israel after their wandering in the desert, the law of love is not remote from us, far out in the heavens or across the sea, “No, it is something very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart.” We have only to carry it out.
When are you most likely to tap into your deepest longing for peace?
When did you last recognize the green shoot of hope, even if it was barely perceptible?
May God’s name be blessed forever; As long as the sun God’s name shall remain. In God shall all the tribes of Earth be blessed; All the nations shall proclaim God’s happiness. (Psalm 72)
Kindle The Fire : Advent Preaching By Dominican Women Afire