Advent is about to begin. This time of the year is my favourite, as we wait in anticipation to celebrate the birth of Jesus over 2000 years ago. For me, it is a time to remember what the incarnation of God means for our world. It is a time to think about the ever-present need for God in the lives of every person. And, it is a time to think about the present reality, both in my own heart and in the world around me. Much needs to change if I am to be ready to receive Jesus as I ought.
I am participating in the “Bible in a Year” podcast from Ascension Press. It has become the most popular podcast in the world!! Over 500,000 people are participating in reading the Bible from cover to cover, with Fr. Mike Schmitz. It has been an eye-opener for me as I am beginning to see the context in which the three Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) developed. I have been surprised to find out that I have never heard the whole story. Oh, I knew the big stories of the heroic figures of the Old Testament, the Prophets and Patriarchs. However, going page by page, I have found that the history of the Jewish people is not a pleasant story.
I once read a warning that said: “If you can’t be a good example, you may just have to be a horrible lesson”. The story of the Israelite people after they entered the Promised Land, and the deaths of Moses and Joshua, ought to be a horrible lesson to us all in 2021. The last verse in the book of Judges says it all: “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). The book of Judges is an account of the awful events that occurred as a result of the evil people did in an age where everything was permissible and nothing was forgivable.
Is our world any different in 2021? I don’t think so. Relativism, the doctrine that knowledge, truth, and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context, has taken hold. There is no longer a morally objective sense of right or wrong. Moral absolutes no longer exist as a cultural value. That means everything is permissible if one believes it to be true, good and right. Actions traditionally seen as evil, such as killing people, can be justified even if the evidence provided to justify the act turns out to be “alternative facts”. People believe what they want to even in the face of evidence that what they believe is false. Evil abounds in such times. We have been there before.
John the Baptist proclaimed the coming of the Messiah by calling for “repentance”, a change of heart and mind. In this season of Advent, let us once again repent of the ways that relativism has entered our hearts, and to change our hearts and minds. I pray we will once again ponder the wisdom of God’s morality so simply stated in the 10 commandments. Jesus, of course, simplified them for us:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. ‘ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12: 30, 31)