The Fourth Week of Advent: glimmers of light

Image: Fr. Tomas King offers mass in Pakistan

“Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.” -Psalm 80: 4

Columban Fr. Tomas King accompanies the Parkari Kohil tribal people of Pakistan. He sees firsthand the corrosive effects of poverty, corruption, and violence on his neighbors. In Pakistan, one out of every fourteen children die before the age of one and this wouldn’t be so, Fr. Tomas asserts, if a large fraction of the country’s financial resources weren’t wasted on corruption and unnecessary military spending. During the 2018-2019 fiscal year, the Pakistan government increased its military spending by 20%.

“Despite being surrounded by such dark clouds,” Fr Tomas says, “I have been surprised by glimmers of light in the most unexpected places.”

One such moment for him was at the funeral of a one-week-old baby girl. At the grave of the child, the family, following a cherished tradition, uncovered a white cloth from the girl’s face before closing the grave. This gives the grieving family members and friends one last look at their loved one. To Fr. Tomas’ utter amazement, there in front of him was “the most beautiful smile that I have ever seen on the face of any human being. The scene left me dumbfounded. When the face was covered again, I began to wonder if I had lost my mind by imagining such beauty, yet the image remained printed on my heart.”

How could this be, Fr. Tomas asked himself? It wasn’t the will of God that this girl died. She was the victim of many injustices. But despite the fact that she was a nobody, she smiled, revealing to Fr. Tomas a mysterious joy. Where did this joy come from?

“The only answer I can give is that she had seen something that none of us has yet seen. She had broken through the heartache and the injustice of this world and encountered the Mystery of Love.” It is in the season of Advent that we prepare ourselves and our world to meet that Mystery all over again.

There is another mystery, one of suffering and joy, which Fr. Tomas is keenly aware that Jesus experiences too. In the aftermath of the massacre of the Holy Innocents, Jesus is present yearning for the Kingdom of God.

The baby girl had not been given a name, so to himself Fr. Tomas called her Mussarrat. It is a name frequently given to girls among the Parkari Kohli tribal people. In English it translates as "Joy."

You can read Fr. Tomas’ full story here.

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Learn: Military spending often is a significant percentage of a developed nation’s federal budget. The United States is no exception. Learn more here about how and why the United States spends money on militarism.

Pray: Fr. Tomas King was so moved by his experience with Mussarrat that he wrote a prayer to honor her enduring memory. Pray with Fr. Tomas this week. You can find his prayer in our “Lighting the advent wreath: a prayer companion for 2018.”

Act: Now what? You may have finished this resource and Advent may be ending, but God’s call to make the recurring massacre of the “holy innocents” no more and to build communities of peace instead continues. There are many ways to stay involved in this sacred task. You can join a Pax Christi USA local chapter, or start a new group. You can also consider getting involved with Pax Christi International.

You can connect with many other peace communities too, including Veterans for Peace and any of the organization listed at the end of the Columban “Peace and Demilitarization” statement.

And please stay in touch with CCAO for more resources like this one. You can contact us at ccaoprograms@columban.org for more ideas and opportunities.

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This story was one of four in a series for Advent 2018, "Celebrating Advent with the Holy Innocents."

Links to the other Stories