3rd Sunday of Advent (B)
December 11, 2011
Whistleblowers, in our time, are a dime a dozen. They have sort of become a fad, a trend. They blow the whistle on anything imaginable – from huge corporations guilty of not just penny pinching at the expense of their workers, but evading big social responsibilities, to presidents, prime ministers, and other political bigwigs caught with their proverbial sticky fingers in the cookie jar of massive corruption and all …
Hordes of people adore them. Many idolize them and put them atop pedestals of semi heroism. They become instant celebrities and guests of endless talk shows and their faces hog the TV screens on a daily basis.
We just love people who spill the beans and squeal about the shenanigans of people in power. Whilst not all of those who claim to be whistleblowers actually tell the truth, we give them credit for at least being avowedly, and supposedly, at the service of liberating truth.
But there is a world of a difference between those who merely squeal and rat on others, and those who sincerely stand for liberating truth. There is a big difference between one who suddenly experiences a “change of heart” because he had been given a raw deal, and left out in the cold, holding an empty bag, double-crossed by the bigger personalities who divide the booty amongst themselves, and one who speaks the truth even if he has nothing to gain by it.
The first is simply nothing more than a squealer. The latter is a witness in the full sense of the word. The former “outs” others. The latter goes out on a limb to speak the truth, nothing but the truth, and nothing but the whole truth, cost what might, many times, not excluding “outing” himself in the process, and sticking his own neck out.
The former has to do with bad news. They tend to rock the boat and stun audiences. They make a mess of the situation. They expose scandals that leave everybody as losers, not necessarily winners.
The latter has to do with good news, bitter truth, but liberating bitter truth, nonetheless.
I would like to think that John the Baptist is one of the latter … “a man sent from God.” He came, not of his own bidding, but of God’s bidding. Squealers may come from other politicians’ bidding, but John “came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.”
We are in a big mess in many places all over the world. Squealers abound. People who rat on others are legion. Governments are ruined in many countries, and potentates fall from high places on account of what they report. Emerging presidential candidates fall from grace as fast as they rise to prominence after “victims” come to the fore and “tell all” to the powerful media networks, thus putting victimizers on sensational trial by publicity. Careers are ruined, and reputations are besmirched irreversibly. Whilst I don’t deny many of what they say, the end results are not a pleasant prospect. Justice is ostensibly served, many times, through acts of injustice. Someone’s wall is built, at the cost of someone else’s fence being destroyed beyond repair.
We need a whiff of fresh air. We need a breath of good news. We need to get right back to the groove of what “truth-telling” is for – to liberate, to educate, to bring us all to the “light” – not to destroy, not to harm others, and push anyone to the gutters of shame and ignominy.
The Italian language makes a distinction between “veracita” and “veridicita.” The former has to do with “telling the truth” understood as objective truth. The latter has to do with the process of “truth-telling.” The former is cold and factual and is focused on the fact; the latter focuses on the person telling the truth, a person who does not simply dole out facts, but tells the truth in charity, with a noble purpose in mind. Squealers may tell the cold truth, but they may tell it with some other motive. But witnesses are those who tell the truth in love, and they do so because they want to be at the service, not only of objective truth, but more so of Him, who claimed to be “the way, the truth, and the life.”
Whistleblowers may be many people’s heroes nowadays. I admire them. I salute them. I support them, especially, when it comes to serving the common good and ridding our country of massive corruption that goes unabated, despite so many attempts.
But my hero is not anyone of them. My genuine hero is, and remains to be, John the Baptist. For what reasons, you might ask?
The top in my list of reasons is obvious from the gospel passage … he had no ulterior motives. He did not dole out his “truth” to gain anything for himself. A good name? He was quick to state, “I am not the Christ.” “I am not Elijah.” “I am not the prophet.” How’s that, for a starter? The plain truth … no frills … no claims to fame and glory …
“I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord.”
The desert is by no means gone in our lives. We continue to grovel in a desert-like world of sin, selfishness, and greed. Corruption still mars our societies despite so many whistleblowers. Selfishness continues to characterize the business world, and sin continues to grip even the Church, known as a community of saints and sinners.
But John the Baptist’s examples convict us. His words criticize us. His same words energize us to faith, that in turn, rouses us to prayer and action. In the spirit of liberating truth that we ought to hear again and again, in the midst of a world so divided between opposing claims to each one’s brand of truth, we are led to pray thus:
Be my rock in a world built on sand;
Be my oasis of grace and peace in a world of tension and turmoil;
Help me to carry my cross gracefully, as you did in your Passion;
Help me to follow your beam of light in the midst of this darkness;
Help me to see you in all things
And show others Your comfort and strength.
Keep me calm when tempers flare up;
Keep me sane in a crazy world;
Keep me focused on the houses in Heaven
Rather than the houses of cards collapsing around me;
Keep my eyes focused on the prize of Heaven
And not lose hope in You in this world or in the world to come;
Make me compassionate in dealing with others;
Let me see my travails as carrying my cross and sharing in your passion, for the love of you and for the salvation of souls, including mine.
And yes … make me a servant of the truth, like John the Baptist, and help me always speak the truth in love. Amen.