December 05, 2010
The Worst Calamity
Three drunken men were walking down the road. The first one noticed the wind, and said, “It’s windy, isn’t it?” The second one replied, “No. It’s Thursday.” The third guy said, “Yes, me too. Let’s get some more beer.”
The three men were not able to hear each other properly because they were drunk. Alcohol impairs the senses. When a person is drunk not only with alcohol, but also figuratively drunk with the pleasures and concerns of this world – promiscuity, lust, rivalry, jealousy, ambition – he will surely be deaf to truth and right reason, and definitely, deaf also to God’s voice.
According to recent medical findings, more and more people nowadays, especially the young, have defective hearing faculties. This generation is turning deaf. With cell phones and iPods stuck to their ears all the time, this is expected. With noise and sound at all times, and with defective ears, who will hear the word of God? With all the excitement and attractions all around, who will be interested to listen to teachings about salvation and eternal life?
I remember my childhood years in the province back when portable sound systems were still unknown. We would be excited to hear the clanging of a tin can. That means the town crier is going around to read an announcement from the office of the mayor. We would run to the street corner and listen to the announcement, and rush back home to relay the news to our parents. As expected, the news reaches every nook and cranny of the town. That’s because there was no other competing sound or noisy distraction in the town.
This was similar to the condition during the time of John the Baptist. He was the “voice crying out in the wilderness”. The people flocked to him and listened to his message. This does not happen anymore nowadays. Although the amazing technological inventions have made communications faster and easier, it has also brought in more noise, distractions and confusion among the people. The voice of truth is muffled, and the facts are subjected to manipulations and distortions. Worst of all, the voice of God is drowned and rendered irrelevant and ineffective in the world.
On this second Sunday of Advent, the image of St. John the Baptist is presented to us to remind us of two things. First, we need to heed the call of the Precursor. His call to repentance is serious and urgent, for he knows how infinitely destructive the evil of sin is. Blessed John Henry Newman pointed this out: “The Catholic Church holds it better for the sun and moon to drop from heaven, for the earth to fail, and for all the many millions on it to die of starvation in the extremest agony, as far as temporal affliction goes, than that one soul . . . should commit one single venial sin, should tell one willful untruth, or should steal one poor farthing without excuse.”
In other words, he is saying that the worst calamities may befall upon the world, but that is only in the temporal order. Sin, even only venial sin, is more destructive than any of these calamities because it pertains to the eternal order, affecting the soul for eternity. The worst calamity ever that is happening now in the world is the loss of the sense of sin among many people. They are not anymore afraid of God. They do not mind if they offend Him. They do not see and feel the need to repent. I am sure most of us here know of some Catholics who publicly live in habitual mortal sin and still regularly receive Holy Communion. Many sins, even the most grievous ones, are tolerated and justified. The sacrament of Confession has lost its value and attraction to so many people. Even priests, many of them are not anymore readily available for confessions.
As a result, the world has now come up with a new set of moral standards. Morality depends not anymore on God’s laws and natural laws but on what the majority decides. Look at how many societies have legalized abortion, contraception, death penalty and same sex marriages through a simple majority vote in Congress. This is what Pope Benedict XVI calls the “dictatorship of relativism.” In this sad and precarious situation, John the Baptist’s message is seriously urgent: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
Second, we need to become precursors ourselves. John announced the first coming of Jesus. But He will come again, and this time, no longer as an Infant in a manger, but as the Glorious Judge of both the living and the dead. As Christians, it is our duty to continually remind ourselves and other people about this and to lead them to repentance and conversion – the best ways to prepare for the Lord’s Second Coming. We are called to be the new John the Baptist of our time. We must announce the imminent coming of the Lord and point out to the people: “Look, there is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!”
In a remote parish, an elderly woman went to Sunday Mass. A male usher greeted her at the door and politely asked, “Where would you like to sit?” “The front row please,” the woman answered. “Oh, really?” the usher said. “You would not want to be in that place. I tell you, the priest is really boring.” The woman looked at him and asked, “Do you happen to know who I am?” “No.” he said. “Well, I’m the mother of the priest!” The usher tried to recover from his shock. “By the way, ma’am, do you know who I am?” he asked. “No,” she said. “That’s good,” he answered.
Jesus is asking us: “Do you know who I am?” More and more people do not know that Jesus Christ is the only reason for Christmas. There is no Christmas without Christ. So, the best way to celebrate this season is by having Jesus in our hearts. It is only He who can give us true and lasting peace and joy. At this time we are already contemplating on what gifts to give to our friends and loved ones. Working on a tight budget, this may not be easy. How about giving them the gifts of peace and joy? – Free of charge and infinitely more meaningful and lasting! But this will only happen through reconciliation with God. Hence, bringing a loved one or a friend to Confession during Advent is the best apostolate we can do, so that we all can receive the best gifts for Christmas: peace and joy in the Lord.
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Teresa Church
New York, NY 10002