By Sister Julia Upton

Couched between the two references to the Root of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1 and 10) is the heart-stopping description of what will be. “Will be? When, Lord?” 

Praying with Isaiah 11:1-10 this Advent, when destruction, deforestation and degradation seem to threaten our world as never before, I find myself caught in wonder and awe. Stopped in my tracks, my hands are raised in orans posture, surrendering myself to the Mystery.  

They will not hurt or destroy 
    on all my holy mountain; 
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord 
    as the waters cover the sea. 

“What else would you have me do, Lord?” 

The Isaiah text kindles my imagination—a much-needed antidote to the evening news hour. How I long for the kin-dom of peace and harmony this prophecy has been painting since 700 years before the birth of Jesus. Among the first of the “baby boomers,” longed-for peace has remained elusive. Fifty years ago, I stitched a large crewel portrait of the traditional cluster of often-predatory animals, “Peaceable Kingdom,” over several months while waiting for my own peaceable kingdom to take shape. The image was designed by Erica Wilson (1928-2011), and combined many different and intricate stitches. Working on it and living with it afterwards calmed me. It reminded me of the possible, not thinking of the impossible which too often haunted my days.  

Since the October 7, 2023 surprise attack on Israel by Hamas, and Israel’s relentless bombardment of Gaza in an attempt to completely destroy Hamas, several hope-filled images of a new peaceable kingdom are being posted on Facebook and Instagram. Super-imposed on a damaged city wall, one shows two children one Palestinian, the other Israeli, sitting together in the rubble watering a small tree together. Together!  

“Hope” by Sliman (Suleiman) Mansour

While those who post on social media often neglect to include the artist’s name, this powerful image, “Hope,” introduced me to Sliman (Suleiman) Mansour, a Palestinian Christian artist, born in Ramallah, who has lived in both Bethlehem and Jerusalem. He continues to live and work in occupied territory. Since 1970, Mansour has translated his experiences of isolation, displacement, community, and rootedness using vivid imagery, religious symbols and natural materials. “You must honor these people,” he said in a recent interview. “You must find justice pulling at hour heart, you must work for peace.” Together we must work for peace. 

“Art gives a home to the homeless,” Mansour said. “When you don’t have a homeland, and when people deny your existence, art is a form of saying we are here.” 

“What more would you have us do, Lord?” 

Each time I ask that question, the answer is the same, “Whatever you can!”  

Catherine McAuley reportedly said, “You can never say, ‘It is enough.’” 

Come, save us, and do not delay! In the meantime, we will do small things with great love, as Mother Teresa advised.