This is part two of our four part Advent series, reflecting on peace and justice from our perspective working with local peacemakers in Colombia. Each piece reflects on the following Sunday’s Gospel reading. Please read and share with your family, friends, co-workers, and faith community.
The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” –Mk. 1:1-8 NRSV
The Holy Margins – by Julie Myers
Mark wastes no time in telling his readers that God’s work is not happening in the city centers or places of power. It is happening in the “wilderness,” far from the sophisticated temples or important decision makers. And the people knew it then – they were coming from “the whole Judean countryside” and “all the people of Jerusalem” were there. Imagine what the elite thought about their temples emptied because a man dressed in camel’s hair and eating locusts was baptizing their followers.
And the people know it now. Here in Colombia, too, the people are gathering – not in places of power but in the campo, or countryside. CPT recently accompanied local partner, ASORVIMM, a victim’s rights organization based in Barrancabermeja, on a trip to facilitate workshops on communal land titling. They called out to students, campesinos, indigenous folks, victims of displacement, young, old, women, men, and children, and we gathered in San Lorenzo, a small village overlooking a beautiful lake. Some people traveled two days to get there. It was anything but the “center” in the eyes of society.
For three days, we discussed, collaborated, laughed, ate, and shared ideas. There was energy and excitement, hope that together we could make real the idea of communal land titles. Then, for an hour one afternoon, we watched six or seven military helicopters circling a nearby mountain. It was a bitter reminder of why we were gathering. The reality is that Colombia is a country at war against its own people. And we need to go back to those places of power and speak truth and demand justice. But that is only possible after the renewal we receive in the wilderness.
But we must not forget that the elites, the city, the places of power killed John the Baptist and later, Jesus. They don’t like when people become skeptical of their systems and power. They don’t like to be questioned, especially by a people gathered at the margins. And the risk is very real in Colombia as well. The elites, an estimated 0.4% of the population, own 62% of the country’s best land. Gatherings about communal land titling threaten their place in the “center” of society. They strike back, often violently.
An indigenous leader was beheaded in Antioquia two weeks ago, bringing the total of indigenous leaders killed this year in that department alone to 19. Despite being hailed as a supporter of victims’ rights, twenty land rights defenders have been assassinated under the Santos’ administration. Recently, unknown people have been following and taking pictures of leaders of ASODESAMUBA, another victim’s rights organization here in the city. These are consequences that human rights defenders in Colombia face when they cry out for justice for the poor and landless.
Despite facing immense violence and risk, the people on the margins continue to be the voice crying out in the wilderness. In the campo, they proclaim the one who is to come, knowing that they may not see the day of liberation, but recognizing their responsibility to work for a peaceful future for the next generation. Advent is the time of hope, not wishes. Christians truly believe that Jesus is working through our work to bring about liberation and allow us to live in dignity and peace. And we do not wait idly, we wait expectantly, and we continue the struggle in the meantime.
Let Us Pray
Spirit of God, You are Love
teach me the art of loving my sisters and my brothers,
to listen to their needs and take care of them,
to be just and merciful every day of my life
while waiting for the glorious coming of the Lord Jesus.
Spirit of God, You are Lord and Giver of Life
Deliver me from sin and despair, of half-heartedness
and anything else that prevents me from living fully
as a true child of God,
while waiting for the glorious coming of the Lord Jesus.
Spirit of God, You are the Teacher Within
Remember the words of the Carpenter of Nazareth
and teach me his ways to live according to his will,
while waiting for his glorious coming at the end of time.
Spirit of God, You who reveals the Truth
deliver me from all obscurity and error
and help me understand the Good News of Hope
while I await the glorious return of Jesus Christ.
Spirit of God, You who prays in us
with sighs unimaginable,
Put a cry on our lips: “Come, Lord Jesus!”
Put a hope in our hearts: “The Lord will come.”
May the Lord come to us, today and forever.
We await his coming in glory.
We await your salvation and everlasting life you promise us. Amen.