"A strong city have we; he sets up walls and ramparts to protect us.
Open up the gates to let in a nation that is just, one that keeps faith.
A nation of firm purpose you keep in peace; in peace, for its trust in you." - Isaiah 26:1b-6
A few years ago I had the opportunity to travel to Rwanda with two survivors of the 1994 genocide. Having lost many friends and family members to the violence that ripped apart the country, and having experienced great vulnerability themselves, they were trying to find healing and understanding in the wake of these events.
During our time there, a good friend and family member of this couple joined us. Although she was with us on most of the trip, she barely said a word. But on the last day of our time together, one member of our group asked her, “What is the message of Rwanda for the world?” She began by describing a litany of traumatic events that she experienced and witnessed during the genocide, one more painful than the next. But as she continued she said something that made a deep impression on our group. She replied that in the genocide Rwanda had descended to the lowest point that humanity could fall; it had sunk into the darkest depths of the human condition.
As she went on she also began to talk about the darkness and agony that she had experienced within. For her it was truly a sense of Christ on the cross. But as she felt her own agony, and gave herself to God in the process, she came to find that from that darkest place, she did not despair but instead found a graced capacity to hope. Through that experience she said, “I realized that my mission was to be a messenger of light and hope, and to put goodness back on its throne.”
With war and violence around the globe, with more than 65 million forcibly displaced migrants and refugees worldwide, with the overwhelming number of natural disasters, and with an America more divided than at any time since the Civil War, as we come to the close of 2017 we see a deeply wounded world. As we reflect on this time of Advent preparation, how might we grow closer to the God who builds bridges instead of walls, who seeks reconciliation in places of division, and who transforms darkness into light?
Let us pray,
Lord God, let us not grow so much in our willfulness to prepare our hearts that we forget to allow you to guide that work. May you be at the heart of all we do and may it be your hand that guides us, not our own. Refresh our souls today and every day so we might be able to do what you desire of us. Amen.
This reflection was written by Colleen Cross
Colleen Cross is a PhD student in Peace Studies and Theology at the University of Notre Dame.