Years ago, I made the resolution not to watch the political media stations in TV. So, whenever, I find time in front of the TV, my channel of choice is the National Geographic Channel. There, the big cats—tigers, lions, Chita, leopards are the lords of the wild, and they easily made meal of all other wildlife, big or small. Yet, occasionally, I’ll see a baboon or—the really intriguing one—a coyote or one of the wolves tear a baby tiger to pieces. Life in the wild is never pretty: the reason it’s called wildlife. But one can’t escape noticing that life in modern society has become as bilious as wildlife. The lives of public figures are often grill for the media meal. Insult and calumny fall easily from the pens and lips of many in the media who seek one more ingredient to add to their soup of slander. As worked up as society is presently, our remedy would be the prophetic voice of Isaiah who proclaims peaceful coexistence between the wolf and the lamb, the calf and the lion; and going on, republicans and democrats, the media and the populace, the college professor and the factory worker, etc., etc.
I doubt that we will ever see a world like Isaiah described. Yet, prayers must be offered for the healing of our divisions. I surmise that only Jesus, the Prince of Peace can do this. Unless we run to him, the only peace we’ll experience going on in our society will be that of the cemetery. Clearly, something terrible is happening to our collective psyche: We are no longer able to tell each other the truth; we fear correcting our children and those placed in our charge; we are unable to argue reasonably for any position; any instance of disagreement causes the trauma of macroaggression needing some ‘safe healing spaces’ to shelter from disconcerting moods; we have airbrushed sin away and have turned religion into cherry vanilla ice cream; we have detached from God and turned on each other. I heard recently that a social-media panic ensued in one of our colleges because someone saw a priest in white robe, with a cincture and rosary beads tied to his waist and identified him as someone “in a KKK outfit holding a whip.” Thank God the priest wasn’t lynched; but a pity that the children we send to college cannot identify a priest when they see one. We are gradually being overrun by hysteria, charlatanry and obscurantism.
God sends John the Baptist this Advent to awaken in us the sense of responsibility and the need to seek healing. St. Paul echoing the same message adds that we must think in harmony with one another. To the men and women of our time John might as well be “John the Disturber,” upsetting people’s warped perceptions. However, John’s message of repentance and restoration is the only healing balm for our sin condition. He announces a coming wrath from which we must flee. We must repent from our sins and not think that we only blew our cool. He asks us to produce good fruits as evidence of our repentance. He wants us to be a voice for good, not a whisper; a burning torch, not a dying bulb. John’s austere life carries a message to abandon our pursuit of illusory wealth and pleasure which foster a false sense of security. He invites us to open our lives to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit with His sevenfold gifts that Isaiah prophesied: a spirit of wisdom and understanding, of counsel and strength, of knowledge, purity and the fear of the Lord.
Some would prefer John the Baptist to tell them: “Have a nice day” or “you’re cool.” There are many who will feel happy if that’s the only message they heard in today’s homily. If ever you need such feel good sermon this Advent, I advise that you tune in to the likes of Osteen or pay money to attend their concert. But to bury sin with such socio-economic buzzwords is to leave us as we are and sell Christ out, making a caricature of His incarnation and saving death on the cross. Maranatha, come Lord Jesus!
Fr. Chukwudi Jo Okonkwo