occasion in our life we’ve asked a similar question as John the Baptist did today. We often wonder and even ask Jesus: “Are you really the one who is supposed to save the world? Then, why are you not stepping up and doing it? See the mess in which the world is; look how truth is perverted; see how bad people progress and the innocent suffer; look how little Emily who has done nothing wrong is suffering from cancer. Whether you’ve been tempted to take the atheistic position that there’s no God or that He doesn’t care, the answer that Jesus offers is that you look at the glass as half-full rather than half-empty. Yes, God is doing His work, bringing the Good News to the poor and deliverance to captives. The quest for personal solitude may blind us from seeing with the eyes of faith. We need to evoke the wisdom of the elder James who calls us today to “take as our models in suffering, hardship, and patience... the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord” (James 5:10).
The year was roughly AD 31. John was ‘languishing’ in a Southern Palestinian jail. He’d been in that dungeon located in the fortress of Machaerus overlooking the Dead Sea for six months. Prior to that, he’d announced to all the imminent arrival of the Messiah who would make all things right. Well, bad for him, he’d stepped on a lot of toes. He called people “brood of vipers,” “enemies of righteousness,” told them they were sinners, should repent or burn. Everyone tolerated John the Disturber until he publicly chastised king Herod about his adultery with Herodias—his brother’s wife. For daring to make such politically incorrect statement, he was thrown in jail.
John the Baptist would not be the last person to suffer for proclaiming the truth. We experience today a vehement resistance to truth. Hardly do people give straight forward answers to questions of right and wrong. Facts are molded to suit the desires of the populace who seek flattery rather than truth. Truth has been declared unattainable and unknowable—so, you’re told not to bother about seeking it. If you fan your errors hard enough, they can become “your truth,” and you can sell it to the morally unfree society. Books, videos and pressure groups that justify every behavior are in abundance. Forget about universal laws; what’s important is how compelling your words are. The 10 Commandments are but 10 suggestions. Several Christian groups have discarded the biblical truth that we will be judged according to our deeds. Judgment turns to the farce that happens in some law courts, where you can sway a jury to your side by just making yourself likeable.
Yet, I know that not everyone has bought into this sting operation against truth. If you’re still attracted to the truth, not minding whether or not it is popular or politically correct, then this Sunday is your day. It is called Gaudete Sunday (Rejoice Sunday), because both the prophet Isaiah, the elder apostle James, John the Baptist, and the Lord Jesus Himself call us to experience true joy. That joy comes your way when you examine your conscience and discover that you need God’s mercy. Also, you may have found that you missed Mass on Sunday and the past one or two Holy Days of Obligation (All Saints and Immaculate Conception), that you have cheated your employer, employee or someone else, that you have told lies against others, that you have not contributed to the Church, that you have received the Eucharist with grave sins in your heart, etc., etc. Someone may say: “I don’t agree that those things are sinful.” You are free to live in your make-belief world. But if you believe that the Church cannot prescribe bad spiritual medicine to you, then examine your conscience, confess your sins, and win God’s pardon this Advent. You will certainly experience the peace and joy that the Savior brings at His birth.
Fr. Chukwudi Jo Okonkwo