2nd Sunday of Advent Year A
December 8, 2013
FLOWERING REPENTANCE; FLOURISHING JUSTICE
We have heard it once too often … “It’s not me; it’s my genes!” … “I didn’t know anything about it; my signature was faked!” “I am not a thief!” “Ooops! Sorry; I am just having a bad day!” “Is it a sin to love? What’s wrong about loving someone totally, physically, completely?”
Yesterday, I really had a bad day … no, a bad dream … a nightmare, in fact. Something really, really bad happened to somebody good. I know her and her family very well, from years back. Exactly like what happened to a young, promising lady who had a “bright future ahead of her” … that is, until a group of unrepentant young men killed her in cold blood and, when caught, had this line to tell the world: “We really did not mean her any harm!” No remorse … no guilt … nothing … It just so happened she had the unfortunate lot of crossing their paths one early dawn, while they were cruising around town for the next victim.
Some really bad things happen to a country and people that are supposed to be the poster nation for the end of the Year of Faith that closed last November 24, 2013. These are bad things wrought by people in high places and people in low places. Legislators not admitting to any shenanigans … “My signature was faked” kind of alibi … Executives not willing to show what happened to the discretionary funds called by all sort of fancy names that change faster than a chameleon can change colors … DAP, PDAF, CDF … Individuals, like my friend who, left alone in the house while everyone she loved worked, was mercilessly killed for a few thousand pesos in cash …
In our times, no one is guilty anymore. “It’s the system!” everybody says. “Charge it to my unhappy childhood!” others say. “I am victim here!” “I was given a raw deal by society.” Everybody is blameworthy, but nobody is guilty … Nobody is responsible …
All this doesn’t sound like good news to anyone, right? These are things that ought not be uttered in Church, mentioned in a homily like this, for people say “we expect to hear good things only from the priest, not bad news.”
Ok … so Isaiah carries a whole lot of good news … shoots sprouting from stumps; visions of wolves cavorting with lambs; calves and young lions browsing side by side; babies crawling about where cobras slither; justice flourishing and peace flowering in His time!
The bad news I said first thing above makes me cry. But so does the good news and the apocalyptic vision of Isaiah. Accepting the former does not mean denying the latter. Being in touch with the reality of evil does not mean tolerating the very same evil.
But this is precisely what makes this good news. Even the bad things that happen to good people can become good news, depending on what we are willing to do about it. The bad news of not hearing anything from his loved ones days after the deadly supertyphoon exactly a month ago became performative hope for someone I met after the tragedy that still makes millions suffer up till now. He came to me, bringing a mountain of relief goods, far more than a single individual would ordinarily give. He was face to face with uncertainty, with the looming possibility that relatives close to him had perished. But the reality of pain led him to the flowering of acceptance and the flourishing of hope.
His coming face to face with the inevitable … his acceptance even of the unacceptable and his recognition that, indeed, bad things can happen to good people, made him become the good news that we all are longing to see.
Acceptance … recognition … repentance … These are stuff out of which individuals of character and grit are made. Excuses … alibis … lies … are what separate the corrupt from the incorruptible; the men and women of integrity from the hollow men and women of shallow show business culture of deceit and self-serving dynastic types of “public service.”
I have got more bad news for ourselves … John the Baptist sure had the right words for such. And here is where we all could be if we also did not recognize and repent … “you brood of vipers!”
No … he did not come out with exonerating sentences because “poor thing, he is just having a bad day!” … or excuses like, “We ought to give it to him. He grew up in miserable conditions in the slums.” “He means well. All he wants is to help people. What’s a few hundred millions from the public funds for as long as they are used for their constituents?”
Let us go a bit closer to home base … “I go to Church every Sunday.” “I give a lot to charity.” “I am basically a good person, but nice guys don’t make it to the top fo the heap and good girls finish last.” “I just can’t help it. What’s so wrong about loving someone other than my lifetime marital partner?” “Everybody does it any way, so why should I be a hero?”
Justice shall flourish in His times, yes! I believe in this. But the flourishing cannot happen unless it is preceded by the flowering of virtues like endurance in working to show “God’s truthfulness.” “All flesh shall see the salvation of God,” yes! … But prior to that, there is something we all need to do: “Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight his paths.” “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.”