This second week of Advent is often set aside to reflect on peace. Reflection is a starting place; it does not take much reflection time to recognize that peace is very distant, and even seems impossible at times, in the current state of the world. We not only reflect on peace, but proclaim peace as a possibility, and work to usher it in.
Through the work of Partners in Health and Wholeness, we are passionate about helping people steward their bodies as a part of God’s creation, tapping into the abundant life Jesus talks about. This may look like helping people gain access to healthy food — like fresh fruit and vegetables — and make these healthy options a part of community and family life. We know the importance of physical activity and preventing tobacco use for a healthy lifestyle. But what does this have to do with current events, like the violence in Israel or Ferguson, Missouri? Well, health is not just about our physical bodies. True health — wholeness, is not evidenced by the absence of sickness, but by the presence of something more powerful. And when it comes down to it, truthfully, it is hard to have a healthy body if your mind is ravaged by sickness or your neighborhood by war or your family by worry or violence.
Peace is one of those words, like health, that we almost exclusively define by what it is not, rather than what it is. Does peace just mean we are not at war, health just the absence of disease? The Hebrew word Shalom captures what we mean when we use the word “wholeness.” It is a completeness, wellness, flourishing even, of mind, body, and spirit. Shalom is about all the facets of a person — relationships — with God, self, creation and others. It is mental, physical, emotional and spiritual well-being, it is financial stability, it is safety and security. When I look around at the world and my own life, I long for this Shalom — for everyone. In our fast-paced, broken society, I yearn for this kind of peace. Let us yearn, proclaim, and work for this Shalom this Advent and beyond.