“Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other." (Psalm 85:10)What if there's something deeper amiss than the lack of doctrinal agreement or universal acceptance? What if this future promise simply expresses that, as part of our fallen humanity, we all lack love, faithfulness, righteousness, and peace at times? When I put it that way, the psalmist’s meaning seems obvious. So, why doesn’t Psalm 85 state that plainly? Why the poetic conceit? Well, first because it’s literally a poem, a song that stylistically evokes feeling through image and metaphor. But more importantly, these images of encounter and embrace express something deeper: the longing for these various facets – love and faithfulness, righteousness and peace – to be reconciled within ourselves and within our communities. The longing for encounter and embrace speak to a yearning for integrity, which is really the noun form of the word “integrated.” Integrity means that the various parts of ourselves are integrated with each other, that we are more lucid and intentional about the way our beliefs, motivations, and feelings interact with each other to affect our choices. We are also more aware of the expectations others have on us and the expectations we have on them, and how appropriate and binding these expectations may be depending on our relationship with those who hold them. Integrity makes us more truthful to ourselves and each other; it means we are more self-aware, genuine, accountable to others’ expectations, and above all better able to love our neighbour and ourselves. To take a personal example: maybe you have a close friend who you used to see often, but they’ve lost interest in spending time with you. You’re upset about it – that’s valid, and important for you to acknowledge. Since you’re upset, you might even be tempted to accuse them, overtly or passive-aggressively, of “ghosting” you: intentionally drifting away from you without honestly facing the reasons why. Or you can choose patience, compassion, and curiosity. You take time to think more rationally about the situation: what if they’re dealing with something that has nothing to do with you? Or maybe they’re tired or unwell, and there’s something you can offer them to help. If they’re your friend, and you want to reconnect, then you likely have the place in their life to reach out and ask those curious questions instead of accusatory ones. It’s a faithful, truthful, humbly righteous course of action that can rebuild a bridge.
"Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other."Love and faithfulness; righteousness and peace. Above all, these are characteristics of God, who always has and always will possess them with perfect integrity and wholeness. (Dogmatic theology incoming: bear with me!) They are therefore characteristics of Jesus Christ, the “fullness of the Godhead” (Colossians 2:9) who comes to take on our flesh. As he takes on our humanity, he perfectly embodies the Image of God, becoming the wholly true human being who heals our incompleteness and falsity. As the true human, the true Adam, he possesses God’s perfect integrity in our flesh: he fulfills the promise of Psalm 85:10 for us and with us, insofar as we are with him and in him. “Let us hear what the Lord God will speak,” what Jesus the Word-of-God-Made-Flesh declares in his own incarnate being: “he will speak peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts” (v. 8). The lectionary omits that last point about converting “to him in their hearts,” but keep it in mind as you sing this psalm on the Second Sunday of Advent. The promise is here, the offer is given: even today, we can turn to God in our hearts, by praying this psalm with hope and expectation that God will fulfill it. We can turn to God when we reach out to our neighbours and friends, when we go to confession (a “mini-conversion” each time!) and receive the Holy Eucharist, when we make time for family and for the poor and the sick, or whatever holy feelings, beliefs, and actions stir up in you when you hear the phrase “turn to God.” During Advent, we prepare for the coming of the Word; we open our ears to the Voice of God, who “will speak peace to his people.” We do all these righteous, faithful, loving actions, believing that God will speak peace through our choices, through us, and to us. He will speak peace to the warring factions and motivations within ourselves, as we grow in the habits of holiness. He will speak peace to the great divisions in our communities and societies, as the relationships of communion and mutual participation “radiate” God’s love to the world (Instrumentum Laboris #44, 46). Even now, we can grow in integrity and truthfulness, as we turn to the God who shows us that love is faithful and righteousness builds peace. Advent is about longing, about “groaning in labour,” and about our longing to transcend our limits and divisions. However, it is only about longing because it is mainly about hope: hope in the promise and work of God to “reconcile to himself all things” (Colossians 1:20) in the coming “King and desire of the nations” who “binds in one the hearts of humankind.”