Sunday, December 08, 2013

From Rowdiness to Paradise


2nd Sunday in Advent

Picture: cc Michael 1952

Sisters and brothers, have you ever seen chaos being transformed into peace? What was it like? Imagine, for example, just for a moment, that you are now entering a rowdy secondary school classroom? Try to picture what it looks and feels like? … Probably the first thing that hits you as you go into the room is the noise. Everyone is talking at the same time. Some even shouting at the top of their voices. You see a group of students chasing one another around the room. Another bunch climbing over the desks and chairs. Throwing things at one another. A few others are sword-fighting. Using rulers and hockey sticks. Whatever they can get their hands on. Some are laughing. One person is crying, because s/he’s been bullied by classmates. But nobody takes any notice. Everyone is busy doing his/her own thing. Everything except the one thing these students are supposed to be doing. Studying.

Not too difficult to imagine the chaos, right? But then, suddenly, everything changes. The noise ceases. The restlessness subsides. The one being bullied is rescued. Order is restored. How does this happen? Typically, the change takes place when a teacher steps into the room. But not just any teacher. Especially not a timid, inexperienced one. No. It has to be someone able to command respect. Maybe the Form Teacher. Or the Discipline Mistress. Someone to whom each of the students is willing to listen. Someone credible. Someone with charisma. It’s only when such a person arrives that order is finally restored. The once rowdy classroom transformed into a peaceful place. The rebellious youngsters converted into obedient lambs. This transformation is possible only when each student is willing to recognise and to accept the teacher’s authority.

A recognition of authority. Leading to a radical transformation. Of chaos into order. Of rowdiness into peace. And it’s not only classrooms that undergo such transformations. Countries do as well. Isn’t this why South Africa is occupying such a prominent place in the news these days? Isn’t this why the whole world is mourning the passing of Nelson Mandela on Thursday night? Mr. Mandela did for South Africa what an effective teacher does for a rowdy classroom. He rescued those being bullied by an oppressive social system. He used his own considerable authority and charisma to help transform his beloved country. From the chaos of racial discrimination and oppression. Towards justice and equality. Towards reconciliation and peace.

And the good news for us, sisters and brothers, is that what is possible for classrooms and countries, can also happen to the whole of creation as well. Isn’t this what we are preparing to celebrate in this Season of Advent? Isn’t this what we find in our Mass readings today? In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah paints for us an incredible picture of a radical change in the whole of creation. An unbelievable transformation, in which natural enemies actually become intimate friends. The wolf lives with the lamb, the panther lies down with the kid, calf and lion feed together… They do no hurt, no harm… for the country is filled with the knowledge of the Lord.

The savage violence of Nature transformed into the blissful harmony of Paradise. How does this happen? In the first reading, this amazing change comes about with the arrival of a great leader. A charismatic king. Born of the royal House of Jesse, the father of King David. Someone upon whom the spirit of the Lord rests. A person who, not unlike Nelson Mandela, will be sought out, not just by his own people, but by the nations of the world as well. Sought out because this person rescues the poor and the oppressed. He cares for those whose eyes are constantly filled with tears, because they are being bullied by unjust social, political and economic systems. Structures that favour the rich and powerful, to the detriment of the poor and the vulnerable. As we heard in the responsorial psalm, he will have pity on the weak and save the lives of the poor. In his days justice shall flourish, and peace till the moon fails.

It is to proclaim the fulfilment of this great promise, made so long ago through the prophet Isaiah, that John appears in the gospel today. By preaching a message of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, the Baptist announces the coming of a charismatic leader. Christ Jesus himself. Who, through his life, death and resurrection, will transform chaos into justice. Rowdiness into peace. I baptise you in water for repentance, says John, but the one who follows me is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to carry his sandals; he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

But in order for people to enjoy the peace that Christ brings, they must first be willing to recognise and to receive him. To obey him. To entrust their lives into his hands. Isn’t this why John has such harsh words for the Pharisees and Sadducees? John tells them that they cannot hope to enjoy the peace of God simply by relying on their own status as descendants of Abraham. Or even just by going through the motions of water baptism. They need to do more. They need to show signs of true repentance. They need to produce the appropriate fruit. But what are these signs? What is this fruit?

We find the answer in the second reading. Here, St. Paul tells the Christian community in Rome that they should not give up. Instead, they should continue placing their hope in God. By continuing to treat one another in the same friendly way as Christ treated them. Be tolerant with each other, Paul writes, following the example of Christ Jesus, so that united in mind and voice you may give glory to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Friendliness and mutual toleration. Unity of mind and heart. Living for the glory of God alone. These are the signs of true repentance. This is the appropriate fruit borne by those who are ready to recognise and to receive Christ. Those who are able to enjoy the peace that Christ brings when he comes.

Sisters and brothers, if this is true for the Pharisees and Sadducees. If this is true for the Israelites and the Romans. Must it not be just as true for us as well? Into the chaos of our world, into the rowdiness of our lives, Christ continues to want to enter. Bringing justice and equality. Reconciliation and peace. Are we not called to continue preparing ourselves to welcome him? By bearing appropriate fruit in our own lives? By treating others in the same way that Christ treats us. With understanding and toleration. With mercy and compassion. Taking care, especially to reach out to those who may be crying, because they are being bullied in some way. To rescue those who are helpless and oppressed. Even to treat the environment with greater respect and care.

Sisters and brothers, in this Season of Advent, we continue to await the arrival of Christ our charismatic Teacher. Who comes to transform the rowdy classroom of our lives into the justice and peace of Paradise. What can we do to better recognise and receive him today?

3 comments:

  1. Only God's love that is poured into our hearts, and slowly nurturing us from deep within, helping us to look at ourself through the reflection of our past events. And through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, that we are able to reconciled with Him. From hurt to healing, from the rowdy classroom of our lives to a peaceful path to truly encounter His Love. If He.. the most High has not given up hope in us, who are we to give up on ourselves then?

    Peace
    Zita

    ReplyDelete
  2. O Lord,

    As YOU come to us this Advent,

    * lead us to grow towards a greater and deeper AWARENESS of our need for You.

    * teach us to make room in our hearts for You to enter, to dwell and to REIGN as Our Lord, Our God and Our King.

    Come Lord Jesus - M-A-R-A-N-A-T-H-A.

    Sih Ying
    8 December 2013

    ReplyDelete
  3. O Lord,

    You are the Only One who can restore ORDER into chaos and You bring PEACE into panic-situations...

    Lord, You have the Power to calm the stormy seas and to turn gray skies into bright blue & sunny skies... .

    O Lord of Heaven and Earth, may I invite You to enter in - to come and dwell within me and within my being, as i grapple with my current loss - a broken dream - where my hopes are crushed and uncertainty prevails....

    Lord, help me to trust in You even in these dark and painful moments - to know that Your Light shines most brightly in the deepest of darkness.

    perhaps these dark and painful moments are doors/windows - to make way for Your Coming at Christmas?

    Teach me, O Lord, to open my heart to welcome you as You come this Christmas ... as You continue to enter into the chaos of my life.

    Come Lord Jesus - M - A - R - A - N - A - T - H - A.

    Amen.

    Seeing Is Believing
    20 December 2013 10.10am..

    ReplyDelete

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