The New World Order
I was thinking about how we would respond if Jonah came to Floresville. How would we react if we heard this message; that Floresville or San Antonio will be destroyed in 40 days?
Probably some people would ask him for proof.
Probably he would get arrested for public disturbance of the peace. Maybe he would get sued for being politically incorrect.
But I think the vast majority of people wouldn’t care.
I think the response would be indifference; another crazy man talking about a crazy message.
There are many dangers in how secular society views God and religion in our times.
Religion as hobby
First: Religion is a private matter, so private that it should only be practiced in the confines of a church, synagogue, or mosque. Your beliefs should be lived out and preached about only in a church. This view is a view of religion, of our faith, as a hobby.
Some people practice golf.
Some people play poker.
Some people believe that God became man 2000 years ago.
It is a hobby, among many others, that is to be tolerated and accepted. It is one truth among many others.
This goes directly against the Christian message, doesn’t it? Christianity makes some bold claims:
It’s not another truth, among many.
What Christianity preaches is the existence of one Truth.
Perhaps many perceptions of the one Truth, many opinions of the one Truth, many experiences of the one Truth, but one Truth.
Religion as fluff
Second: Another danger in our society is that we have, in a way, domesticated God. We have formed an image of God that’s not quite Biblical. It’s this fluffy love of a God, who accepts all things, who tolerates all things, who approves of all things I do and say, even those harmful ones I say that hurt myself and others. God forgives me; He loves me. And that fluffy teddy bear of a God – I don’t know where that came from – but it’s certainly not Biblical.
Yes, God loves us.
Yes, God forgives those who ask for forgiveness.
But He is also a pretty demanding God who provokes and wants conversion of heart. God is something much greater than the image we have formed in our minds in today’s society.
Time is running out!
Perhaps you have already noticed the themes of today’s readings.
A common theme is “repentance.”
Another thread is “time.”
Another one, subtler, is “urgency.”
Jonah walks in the middle of this big city and says, “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed” (Jonah 3:4). If you were told, convincingly and with proof, that the world will end in 40 days, your life would change. You would assimilate that urgency, and it would transform everything. There is this urgency also in the Gospel and the second reading. Paul says,
“I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out.
From now on, let those having wives act as not having them [don’t take this literally!],
those weeping as not weeping,
those rejoicing as not rejoicing,
those buying as not owning,
those using the world as not using it fully.
For the world in its present form is passing away” (Corinthians 7:29-31).
Paul was a cultured man of his time: he knew Greek, he knew all the ideologies, he knew the law, and for him to say this world, all this stuff, is passing by, is BOLD. We feel this urgency.
The world presents to us an agenda. The world says that if you follow this agenda, you will die a happy person:
You’ll be born…
have a baby shower…
go to football games…
get your first job…
find a nice nursing home…
Isn’t that the message of the world? If you want to be happy, you must be successful in these areas.
You must find the best job you can, and if you’re not happy, or if your job isn’t prestigious enough, find another one!
If you feel like your spouse is an obstacle and you’re not happy, find another one!
Build up all the money you can and amass it so that you can find a nice nursing home.
That is the story of the world.
The kids say YOLO – You Only Live Once – meaning we have to squeeze everything this life has to offer into these years. You have to do something significant with this life, something that changes society: form a big company, experience as many things as you can, travel, know people, be popular, then you’ll be accomplished. That’s the culture of the celebrity of our time. Who are the accomplished people? Hollywood. People who have beautiful bodies; those are happy people. That is what the world tells us.
This is where the urgency of the message comes in, the urgency of Paul, the urgency of Jonah, the urgency of Christ Jesus.
The things that are so obsessively important to me right now,
may actually not be that important.
I cannot live as though they alone give meaning and purpose to my life. This is where Paul’s urgency comes from.
Whenever a President takes office or any public person for that matter, his first speech carries a lot of weight because it will dictate the tone of everything he does. We pay special attention.
What are his priorities?
Will he talk about jobs?
Will he talk about immigration?
The first speech carries this weight. What was Jesus’s first speech? What was His breaking into the public-office statement?
I invite you to open your Bibles to the Gospel of Mark. Mark is the oldest and shortest of the Gospels. The Gospels of Luke and Matthew even drew from the Gospel of Mark. Turn to the first chapter of Mark and scroll down to verse 14, from today’s Gospel:
“After John had been arrested…
“This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15).
Note the urgency. Other translations say, “the kingdom of God is already here,” or “the Kingdom of God is among you.” Another way of saying that the kingdom of God is staring at you in the face right now!
Note the first two verbs Jesus uses: repent and believe.
Again, this urgency; Repent (metanoeite in Greek) means a lot more than just “I am sorry,” words we use too casually nowadays. Metanoia is rather a changing of mind, the way you see life, the way you see everything, and it stems from this:
If the kingdom of God is already here, you must approach it with a new mind. Many things have been written about what Jesus meant by the kingdom of God: is it a new rule, a temporary rule, or is it an eternal rule? What we can say is this:
It is something new,
Something that wasn’t here before Jesus,
It is here now,
It is from God.
Something new and from God.
This new world, this new order is here.
The message of Christ is revolutionary. If our life was to end in death, then we should use up these years that we have because they will eventually end. But if our life doesn’t end in death, then what we do in this life sets the pace of a fuller life in God.
It is truly about a Christ-ification of our being, not the accomplishments of our plans, but of becoming Christ, to think as Christ thinks, to speak as Christ speaks, with the same boldness, and also the same compassion.
To have our social relationships,
Many people die without finding the novelty of this message and die trying to squeeze life for the years it has and not for the kingdom of God that is already here. The kingdom is hiding in plain sight – right in front of you and in front of me – and it’s there for the taking, it’s there for the living.
So instead of living according to this world, instead of working like you and I are going to die, how are we experiencing the living word of Christ in our lives – His holy Word in written form and spoken form? How do we become the living kingdom of God?
Believe – and show it!
The second word, believe – not just repent – but believe. The early Christians understood this radical passage very well. Many of them would go to distant countries, to different villages to preach, to proclaim this new message, this novelty, this urgency. Many of them, possibly most of them, would get killed for it. They also believed, in the words of our Savior, that no one has greater love than he who gives his life for his friends. They would be honored, privileged, to shed their blood for the sake of the kingdom of God.
You and I begin to experience this new metanoia, this new way of seeing life, of seeing pain and suffering and death.
According to the ways of this world,
Anyone who dies young is a tragedy,
Anyone who doesn’t accomplish his or her life plans is a failure,
Anyone who works a small job that’s not valued by the society doesn’t have anything to look forward to.
Society tells us that pain can only be bad and nothing can come from it, but if we believe in the message of the kingdom of Christ, pain does not have the last word. Death does not have the last word. It’s really a matter of how we let Christ govern our lives, how we Christ-ify our being by the work of grace. That is the novelty of the message of Christ: this life is not as good as it gets! It’s about making the Living Word present among us.
There’s a phrase from one of the early Church Fathers, St. Irenaeus:
Gloria Dei est vivens homo.
The glory of God is man alive!
We could even say, the glory of God is man FULLY alive! The word of God blossoming in every dimension of yourbeing; your holiness, your sanctification, the kingdom of God in you, without fear of death, of suffering, of retaliation, of humiliation. The kingdom of God is already here.
May Mary show us how to respond to this urgent message, the urgent message that the kingdom of God is already here, that we respond to it by repentance and belief.
This post is also available in: Spanish