“Peace be within you!” reads Sunday’s psalm.
I’ll be honest. As I was reading this, I may have let out a small, cynical laugh. I had just spent the morning convincing a very noncooperative 5-year-old that she should get on the bus to school after a week-long Thanksgiving break, while navigating work schedules with my husband to accommodate our 10-year-old, who was home with a fever. All of this was paired with a water leak in our basement and boxes of half-unpacked Christmas decor scattered around the house. The peace within me is being impeded by my ears ringing from the mayhem of that morning.
And broader—that “peace be within you!” runs head-on with the reality of the fall…the personal, the professional, the broader human reality. This season began with surgery for my daughter and has continued with what feels like a real-life whack-a-mole of challenges and hurdles for her and her three siblings. Autumn in the ISN office is a sprint of preparation for the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice—this year with an almost-doubled staff and lots of new dynamics from within and without, both the joyful and the trying. And the ever-present non-peace of our political and justice landscape which affects real lives in heartrending ways every day—the DACA Supreme Court hearings, the impeachment hearings, the swirling rhetoric and reality of climate change and action, border walls and immigration realities, the death penalty, racial injustice in our institutions and communities, and crises in our Church, including my home diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, where years of pain are being made public on a seemingly daily basis.
So as Advent begins, I, as many of you, am not approaching this season of waiting with an inner peace—many of us are arriving in this space with quite the opposite.
“They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks,” Isaiah in the first reading. That feels more appropriate.
The arduous transformation of something violent, sorrowful, and life-taking into something peace-filled and life-giving feels more like the hard work of clinging to that peace within us—even when our ears are ringing and our hearts are breaking. It feels, indeed, like the long anticipation of Advent.
Kelly Swan has worked for the Ignatian Solidarity Network since 2016, first as communications director, and now as director of advancement. She grew up in West Virginia and is a graduate of Wheeling Jesuit University. Kelly has worked in parish social ministry, child and family advocacy, community education and organizing, and publishing. She lives in the Cleveland, Ohio area with her children.