Richard S. Vosko

Musings on religion, art and architecture

Homily – 1 December 2013 – Turning Swords into Plows


First Sunday of Advent A – 1 December 2013 – Turning Swords into Plows
Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122:1-9; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:37-44

The prophecy of Isaiah says they shall beat their swords into plows. The historic agreement that says Iran will freeze parts of its nuclear program in exchange for relief on some economic sanctions is a start. One can only hope that Israel and Palestine will soon come to some accord. One can only hope that our country will stop sending drones into Afghanistan and Pakistan. They will beat their spears into pruning hooks.

They shall beat their swords into plows. On this day in 1955 Rosa Parks did not give her seat on a bus to a white man. Her action, her arrest and the successful boycott of buses were pivotal in the civil rights movement

They shall beat their swords into plows. Today is World Aids Day. Started in 1988 it was the first ever global health day. It is also a Day Without Art, a day of action and mourning in response to the AIDs crisis.

Imagine a time without war across the globe; a time without racism in our country; a time without mortal diseases; a time when all bellies are filled at bedtime. If we can imagine the possibilities of these seemingly impossible quests then we are ready for the season of Advent.

Advent has two purposes. Preparing for the commemoration of the incarnation of God marked by the Christmas festival is the easy one. Preparing for the second coming of Christ, a mysterious time, when the fullness of God’s presence is completely realized and apparent to all is much more challenging.

That first reading today, from the prophet Isaiah, was a prayer envisioning a time when all known political disputes would be settled. It imagined all nations united walking in the radiance of God’s light, processing to the symbolic eternal city, Jerusalem. Psalm 122 was sung by the pilgrims as they approached the gates of that heavenly city also known as the house of God. [1]  

Although the prophet Isaiah was focused on war you and I can imagine, with the same hope, the elimination of all nuclear weapons, the end of all injustices and the removal of all defects in our lives so that peace, prosperity and good health are made possible for all human beings.

The second reading (Paul to the Romans) also speaks of a journey from an evil time to a new age when night turns to day. Wherever there are problems we Christians bring rays of hope that things can get better. We call those who are newly baptized the illuminated ones. That responsibility, to be bright lights in the world, which comes with our baptism into the priesthood of Christ, never grows dim. It is not the ordained priesthood but the priesthood we all share that will make a difference.

Our worship is the pathway that brings us deeper into the life of Christ. There we find ways to overcome what Pope Francis calls in his new exhortation “global indifference.” It is the liturgical venue where, together as companions, we engage with Christ in transforming the world we live in. It is not sufficient to be thankful for what Jesus of Nazareth did without finding some way to carry on his mission.

The gospel text attributed to Matthew has an apocalyptic tone. It suggests that things might get worse before they get better. It was written at a time and in a style that serves as a rear view reminder of the catastrophic events that occurred during the Jewish revolt and when the Second Temple was destroyed.

People at the time believed their lives were coming to an end. Although we are not so alarmist we just might think about taking some action now. Preparing the way for that elusive second coming of Christ is something that cannot wait.

This is a year of fiftieth anniversaries. This week our Diocese will commemorate the promulgation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (December 4, 1963). It presents a renewed vision about our liturgical life. The ways we worship are always becoming something new, ever unfolding. If the church is in a state of constant reform then so is our public prayer.

This year also marks the anniversary of the encyclical Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth, April 11, 1963). This document written by Pope John XXIII still stirs our imaginations — that global peace is possible.

Let us take just a few moments, quietly, right now, to ask ourselves these questions. As you and I wait in joyful hope during this Advent season what are our expectations for our personal lives? (Pause) For the lives of others in our families, our neighborhoods, our schools? (Pauses) And, for our faith community, St. Vincent de Paul? What do we expect for us, the way we study, worship, treat one another and reach out to others? (Pauses) What can we do to get better, to turn our hopes for the future into realities?

A parishioner who reads my blog sent me an email about the biblical texts for today. She said there are many groups on the local and international level that are already working hard for peace and justice. She is right. But it is a long difficult journey to bring those dreams into reality. Now, what are our contributions … the little things that we can do to turn swords into plows?


1 Reginald H. Fuller. Preaching the Lectionary: The Word of God for the Church Today. The Liturgical Press. 1984 (Revised Edition), pp. 1-4.


Author: Richard S. Vosko

Richard S. Vosko, Ph.D., Hon. AIA, is an internationally known sacred space planner. He is a presbyter in the Diocese of Albany who enjoys the classroom as much as the pulpit. On Sundays he presides at worship at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Albany, NY. For more information on Vosko’s background, his projects, publications and speaking engagements please go to his website. For his homilies and occasional musings about religion, art and architecture go to his blog. Comments, questions and suggestions are always welcomed there.

2 thoughts on “Homily – 1 December 2013 – Turning Swords into Plows

  1. I am again feeling challenged (within my lot of “plenty”) to be concerned with and to take action for those whose lot is “plenty-less”. With both Popes John & Francis leading renewal on many fronts by thought, word, and deed, I feel a sense of urgency to do my part in helping to renew me. Only then, can I expect to do my part in changing spears and swords into instruments of positive change.


  2. You ask us, “Now, what are our contributions … the little things that we can do to turn swords into plows?” This is a question that I will hold in my heart. And that is the place for it, because a sword so often occupies that space. A sword of petty annoyances, bitterness, anger over insignificant matters. All of this constitutes what separates me from God – and what keeps me from my plowshare.

    May I find the grace to see the transformation from sword to plowshare in myself. As I grow older, I see how without our individual gifts to the whole of the Body, there will be no peace.

    Blessings of Advent to all.


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