THE TRANSFORMING POWER OF HOPE











Sunday Reflection / Catholic Homily

2nd Sunday of Advent Year C

December 6, 2009



The gospel today opens with a listing of some of what could very well be the equivalent of modern-day “underworld” characters: Pontius Pilate, governor of Judea; Herod, his brother Philip, and Lysanias, tetrarchs all, and the scheming duo, Annas and Caiaphas, both High Priests. Add to the mix the very first name mentioned by Luke in today’s passage – Tiberius Caesar, and you have a formidable line-up of bigwigs and the powers that be, in front of whom the lowly and unassuming “John, the son of Zechariah in the desert,” would be absolutely no match … by any stretch of the imagination!


In the unfolding drama that pits power and wealth and untold influence of this “gang of 7” over the simple, proletarian background of that feeble “voice of one crying out in the desert,” the scriptural readings make no secret about the outcome. “Every lofty mountain [will] be made low, and the age-old depths and gorges [will] be filled to level ground, and Israel [will] advance secure in the glory of God.” “Every valley shall be filled and every mountain shall be made low […] and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

We all could use a little bit of a reminder time and again, about who is really in-charge, and about “what dreams may come,” for all of us who believe!


At a time when most people, bowed by the weight of so much worry about the future, about our personal destiny and that of the society we are in, we need a gentle reminder that the little, insignificant David, outmatched by the giant and powerful Goliath who stands for all imaginable types of evil in the world, enjoys the predilection of him about whom John the Baptist speaks and preaches with his whole life.


Yes. We all are in front of our own modern-day version of this “gang of seven.” The recent heinous massacre of 57 all told in Mindanao in the Philippines is one such version of an equally – if not, more – dastardly deed! We are all beset by an enemy, or at least a challenge so big, a problem so hydra-headed, and so all-pervading that we, and our weak faith, appear to be so overwhelmed, if not totally drowned out. In the face of so powerful a Mass Media, for example, the voice of the Church and her teachings, hardly make a dent in the welter of so much manipulation in the guise of information (and entertainment!). Very little formation of the mind and heart that goes beyond materialism, consumerism and rugged individualism takes place. In the context where I am presently, it is obvious that the mainstream media and the press are on the whole, patently anti-catholic, anti-Pope, anti-Church. In the context where I grew up in and come from, government “by the people, of the people and for the people” has become a big standing joke. Politics makes for a big “family industry” in the Philippines – for those few political families in power. Again, the warring feudal lords in southern Philippines are a sore case in point. In a country known as the 11th most corrupt nation all over the world (the third most corrupt in Asia), our being the so-called “only Christian nation in the Far East,” has become almost like an oxymoron. The Church, for so long speaking like a “voice crying out in the desert,” faces on all fronts the pervasive influence and power of the gang of seven: 1) corruption on all levels, 2) political dynasties, 3) a rapidly deteriorating level of education, 4) self-serving politics, 5) rising criminality, 6) a highly politicized and corrupt military establishment, and, 7) an anemic Church, who, sadly, by and large, has been identified, rightly or wrongly, with the rich and the shrinking middle class.


Baruch, it must be remembered, was speaking to a people who could use a little encouragement. The Israelites were languishing in exile in pagan Babylon! They were a people who needed to hear words of comfort, words of promise, and words that had to do with dramatic transformation. “Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on the splendor of glory from God forever.”


But lest we think that all this transformation is going to take place as if by magic, wrought solely by God’s magnanimity and compassion, with hardly no effort on our part, St. Paul reminds us: “This is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.”


Yes, there is work for all of us to do, beyond merely hanging onto the wings of Divine promises! Our hand-wringing and complaining can take us only so far. Our lamentations alone about what goes on in society can not make a dent in the myriad of problems we are facing. Complaining endlessly about the undeniable fact that politics and government are going to the dogs (or to movie actors and actresses – and, take note – convicted criminals!) will not make the world a better place (especially if those who complain belong to the upper crust of society who lift nary a finger to help educate the mal-educated masses who simply do not know any better!).


There is work for us to do. Paul sums up for us what needs to be done. We must learn to discern what is of value. We must know where we stand in the midst of so many conflicting ideologies and value-systems that make for all the humps and bumps in the way of true Christian living. We need to level them, first in our own personal lives, before we even dream of leveling them in others. Culture, including the culture of corruption – part of what the late Holy Father, John Paul II, calls the “culture of death,” is something we all are party to and contributors to. We all need to work on this together.


Since 1979, Pope John Paul II has been speaking about the need for “new evangelization.” Nowhere is this new evangelization most needed as in the arena of culture in general. Politics and the culture it has espoused, count among these “modern-day Areopagus” that needs the enlightenment of Gospel values. This is where “social transformation” is most needed, where our work is most needed.


Last week, the first Sunday of Advent, I spoke about hope as active, and not passive waiting. Today, I would like to remind ourselves of the litmus test of this hope as we await the promise of the Lord. It has to do with a courageous and bold resolve to engage the “gang of seven” as they appear in our lives today. It has to do with living the “fruits of righteousness” that St. Paul speaks about. At Advent, we are reminded to allow these fruits to show that the promise of transformation has become, or is becoming already a reality in our lives. Then and only then, “all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

Comments

Br. Angel Sanchez, SDB said…
A lot of valleys in our society need to be filled. A lot of mountains and hills within and outside us are waiting to be made low. A lot of the winding roads in and out of the Church need to be made straight. Deep within each of us there are rough ways waiting to be made smooth. Your contribution through this highly appreciated blog is among the seemingly "few" but nonetheless convinced and solid voices "crying out in the desert." This humble contribution you are rendering in the name of the Church whom I know you love so dearly and always cared to protect and defend at all cost is already a clear sign of your "courageous and bold resolve to engage the “gang of seven” as they appear in our lives today." We are one with you in this!
thanks angel. there is precious little time for all of us to do what is right. there is no postponing, no hemming and hawing, as the forces of evil are very much engaged, as we all can see. these politicians who ravage the country were mostly products of catholic schools. this is the scandal of the century that nobody wants to face, let alone, admit. but this reality stares us all in the face. well. what do you expect? how many of us religious are really teaching? how many of us really spend as many hours as we spend socializing both really and virtually in teaching and educating? and by this, i mean not just once a week through ill prepared homilies that sound more like entertainment than evangelization? this is something to think about for all of us. thanks for sharing!

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