Friday of the second week of Advent
The effect of righteousness will be peace,
and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust for ever.
‘Righteousness’ and ‘peace’ are deeply significant words in the Hebrew Bible. ‘Righteousness’ refers to the fulfillment of our social obligations to God and to one another. Among those obligations are things like protecting the weak and vulnerable, providing for those in need, caring for the sick. And it means fulfilling your obligations to God (which are bound up with the care of the neighbor): keeping Sabbath (so that your workers and animals also rest), paying your tithe (which supports not only the priesthood but the poor), keeping your vows, observing the festivals, observing the commandments. Fidelity and allegiance to God and to one another. Such ‘righteousness’ results in peace. And this word ‘peace’, of course, is ‘shalom’ – the sense of well being when we are not only safe from external threats, but there is food for all and reconciliation with all.
The fruit of faithfulness is shalom, perfect peace, the peace that passes understanding. Our time would talk about centeredness, but it is so much more. It is about our true and best self. It is about a world brought to its truest and best self: a world infused with the Spirit of God, a world carried from the realm of death into the realm of life.
We have mocked and defiled such righteousness. I am sure that the current era has some more biting satire than the accusation of being a “goody two-shoes” from my childhood (whatever that meant) or a “teacher’s pet”. Kids in my parish in Detroit who sought to do well in school were accused of “acting white”. We are cynical in our age, looking for the hidden motive in goodness. And, yes, there has been some. Too much. Too much hypocrisy. Too much self-righteousness. But the summons to true righteousness abides. We could use some faithfulness. And we would profit from its fruit.
Eternal God, Breath of Life,
Font of Hope, and our Eternal Joy;
Open the doors of our hearts, and the gates of your mercy
to come into our world and our lives,
and grant us the peace of your kingdom.
— The prayer for Week 2: A doorway to peace