A Penitent Blogger

Mindful of my imperfections, seeking to know Truth more deeply and to live Love more fully.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus? Quem patronum rogaturus? Cum vix iustus sit securus?
Recordare, Iesu pie, Quod sum causa tuae viae: Ne me perdas illa die...

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

An end to all conflict

In today’s first reading (Isaiah 11:1-10) we hear one of the most famous and beautiful prophecies ever:

Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
The calf and the young lion shall browse together,
with a little 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 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 knowledge of the LORD,
as water covers the sea.

This prophecy resonates with a fundamental hope of humankind: that there may be an end to all conflict and danger in the world.

In Spe Salvi, the encyclical he issued last week, Pope Benedict reminds us of instances throughout history in which men have tried to establish this kind of peaceful paradise on earth – what people of faith call “the Kingdom of God”.

"There is no doubt... that a 'Kingdom of God' accomplished without God — a kingdom therefore of man alone — inevitably ends up as the 'perverse end' of all things... we have seen it, and we see it over and over again." (Spe Salvi, 23)

The missing element to these plans to rebuild paradise on earth is God: the One who built and maintained paradise and who will restore us to a new and infinitely better paradise in his own time and in his own way.

The total absence of conflict and danger to the extent described in Isaiah’s prophecy is obviously beyond the capabilities of humankind to accomplish: a fact reaffirmed by the failure of so many attempted paradises throughout history (from a so-called “workers’ paradise” of Communism to the isolated enclaves of innumerable cults).

Pope Benedict reminds us that one of the more successful builders of isolated enclaves, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, was quite realistic about man’s building of an earthly paradise:

"In fact Bernard explicitly states that not even the monastery can restore Paradise, but he maintains that, as a place of practical and spiritual 'tilling the soil', it must prepare the new Paradise.

"A wild plot of forest land is rendered fertile—and in the process, the trees of pride are felled, whatever weeds may be growing inside souls are pulled up, and the ground is thereby prepared so that bread for body and soul can flourish.

"Are we not perhaps seeing once again, in the light of current history, that no positive world order can prosper where souls are overgrown?" (
Spe Salvi, 15)

All we can do – and do this we must – is to prepare the way of the Lord and, as much as we can, to make things ready for the action of God, remembering that paradise – the Kingdom of God, free of all conflict and danger – can only be brought about by the action of God (indeed even our work of preparation is itself dependent on God’s grace).

May we never be fooled by godless messianism that puts itself forward through perversions of “science” and “progress”.

May we strive always to be faithful messengers of God’s true Kingdom in our hopes, in our words, and in our deeds.