What is the world like today? This world that we live in is in such a confused state. It is ruled by extreme ideologists, religious fundamentalists and terrorists!
Indeed, how can there be peace and unity in this world when we are all so divided in everything, from morality to religion and politics. We cannot agree even on the fundamentals of life, such as our sexual identity, marriage and the family. How, then, can we ever come to agreement on other critical moral issues like abortion, euthanasia, cloning? If such basic issues that concern love, life and death are contentious, what can we say about political ideology and religious beliefs. For this reason, we are living in a very tense world. This is the most unsafe world we are in at any time of human history. We fear terrorist attacks, which can come any time at any place. We fear World War III might break out, if not, a nuclear war causing mass destruction of life if relations between nuclear-armed countries are not properly managed. Above all, there is a divide between globalization and protectionism, whether in politics or in economics, not to mention in religions. Because of this too, we are afraid that the economy could be derailed anytime when war breaks out.
So is there hope for tomorrow? This is what the scripture readings seek to address. Advent is a season of hope. It tells us of a new world that is to come. This was what the prophet Isaiah spoke about to his people before the exile. He spoke about a new world and a new creation where there will be justice, peace and harmony. In this kingdom, he envisaged the almost impossible dream where “the wolf lives with the lamb, the panther lies down with the kid, calf and lion cub feed together with a little boy to lead them. The cow and the bear make friends, their young lie down together. The lion eats straw like the ox. The infant plays over the cobra’s hole; into the viper’s lair the young child puts his hand. They do no hurt, nor harm, on all my holy mountain.”
What a beautiful vision of tomorrow! Dare we hope for this world? Do we believe that this world has a future? Or are we like those in the world who have given up hope for happiness in this world, or of building a world of peace and harmony, progress and prosperity? The truth is that both fundamentalists and liberals have given up hope on this world. The fundamentalists think that this world has no more hope because there is so much evil and injustice. Hence, they would do anything, even offer themselves as martyrs through terrorist acts so that they can gain the rewards of the eternal kingdom of joy, love and abundance promised them. The liberals also go the same way. Because they think that there is no hope for tomorrow, they become individualistic and materialistic. They care only for themselves and their comfort now. So it is important that they enjoy all that they can and grab whatever they can from others.
But such attitudes precisely will destroy the peace and progress for the nations! What we need to establish peace in this world is to acquire the spirit of the promised Messiah. This is what the prophet Isaiah said. “A shoot springs form the stock of Jesse, a scion thrusts form his roots: on him the spirit of the Lord rests, a spirit if wisdom and insight, a spirit of counsel and power, a spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. (The fear of the Lord is his breath.) He does not judge by appearances, he gives no verdict on hearsay, but judges the wretched with integrity, and with equity gives a verdict for the poor of the land. His word is a rod that strikes the ruthless, his sentences bring death to the wicked. Integrity is the loincloth round his waist, faithfulness the belt around his hips.”
Truly what the world needs are leaders who possess such qualities in governing the country or in leading and forming the young. We need wisdom to understand what the essentials of lifeare, rather than just pursuing the transient and the passing values of this world. We need understanding of the truth of what we are doing, the policies that we formulate for our organization, Church and the people. We need counsel to discern prudently how we should act. We need fortitude to push through our convictions and to persevere in our goals. We need the spirit of piety and devotion to God and to our fellowmen if we are to offer ourselves as a sacrifice for the greater good of humanity. Finally we need people who have reverence for God and not think too highly of themselves, but that there is a supreme being that is in charge of this world.
When a leader possesses all these qualities, only then can he live a life of integrity. At the end of the day, integrity will determine the fruits that a leader brings. “Integrity is the loincloth round his waist, faithfulness the belt around his hips.” Without integrity, a leader cannot command the trust of his subjects. Without integrity, there can be no justice, impartiality and honesty. That is why, among all the qualities a leader should have is integrity and honesty, transparency and accountability in all that he does before God and the people he leads or governs. This is what the psalmist prays. “O God, give your judgement to the king, to a king’s son your justice, that he may judge your people in justice and your poor in right judgement. In his days justice shall flourish and peace till the moon fails. He shall rule from sea to sea, from the Great River to earth’s bounds. For he shall save the poor when they cry and the needy who are helpless. He will have pity on the weak and save the lives of the poor.”
Is there such a leader in this world? The Good News is that Christ is the promised Messiah who possesses these gifts of the Spirit. Christ is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah. Historically, Isaiah was giving assurance to the Kingdom of Judah, which was under threat from the great empire, Assyria. It would not destroy Judah but like a tree, Assyria would be cut down at the height of its power. (cf isa 10:33f) Judah would be like a tree chopped down to a stump. But from that stump, the Davidic Dynasty would arise anew with the coming of the Messiah. He will be greater than the previous kings. He would bear much fruit and he would rule forever. Of course, Christ the King of Kings will rule the world with justice, righteousness, compassion and wisdom.
This hope of a new world in Christ is confirmed in today’s gospel. We read earlier how the 70 disciples rejoiced upon their return from their mission. They said, “’Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!’ And he said to them, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’” (Lk 10:17-20) And Jesus praised God for using Him to restore the world back to order through the healing miracles and overcoming the work of the Evil One when He remarked, “Happy the eyes that see what you see, for I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see, and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it.” Through His works and words, Jesus revealed to us the love and mercy of His Father for us. He said, “Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
We, too, as His disciples are sent forth to proclaim the rule of God in this world, based on justice, equality, compassion and mercy. We must build a new world that the Lord has come to establish based on righteousness and justice and to give fair treatment to all. Our judgement cannot be based on appearance, hearsay and false evidence. We need to refrain from copying the corrupt practices of Judah that oppressed the poor, the weak.
Instead of lamenting how society and the world is heading, we must not give in and succumb to despair. On our part, we must play an active role in building a vibrant, evangelistic and missionary Church. By virtue of our baptism, we are called to exercise the messianic gifts given to us. All of us in our capacity are called to contribute our resources, money, talents and time for the greater good of our Church and the nation. The only way to save ourselves is to save the world. We cannot isolate ourselves from the rest of the world because we are all living in this world. Let us work for the golden age where there will be peace, love, compassion and a world where poverty no longer exists. Let us realize the dream of God for humanity when all will become a great family of God where there is love and unity.