A time for the axe

It is hard to imagine a candidate in the upcoming German election campaigning on the slogan, “Let’s make Germany great again!” But, in a year that has seen votes in the UK and the US seemingly triggered by isolationist emotions, the decision of the German Chancellor half way through the year to welcome a large number of hard-pressed migrants was generous and great. At a time that sees the noble calling of politics often become increasingly squalid, her example shines like a rare beacon.

holy-bibleThere is a numbing predictability about politics, such that one almost always knows how leaders will react to a crisis: more security, more controls, more screening, more walls. It is rare that someone will stand back and say, “Why are we doing all this?” “What is the reason why people are posing these threats to ‘our way of life’?” “What can we do to respond to the pain behind all this violence?”

I was shocked during the week to read an article by Jesuit William Johnston who sat down to discuss 9/11 with his Japanese friends in 2001. They told him the innocent looking plane coming out of the skies and heading for the Twin Towers reminded them of the innocent looking plane that shone in the morning sky before dropping an atom bomb on Hiroshima. The thinking that led people to order both destructive acts was predictable; “They’re wrong. We’re right.”

It is depressing that we live in an age where so few can rise to an imaginative response to crisis which, though maybe painful for a while, will ultimately bring benefits to all concerned. It calls for a change in the way we think. There is an old old word for it: conversion. In the Church’s year Advent is the time when our lens focuses on conversion.

Matthew tells us John the Baptist, “appeared in the wilderness of Judea and his message was, ‘Be converted! For the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.” He announced to the people there was to be a great shift for the better in human history and they should be part of it. To emphasize his point he turned on the Pharisees and Sadducees as a “brood of vipers” because they were intent on preserving a system which served their own interests but made no change to the lives of ordinary people.

“The axe is laid to the tree,” said John. It is a time of decision. We can make decisions that really change the lives of people or we can strengthen the walls that divide us. So much of what we see today seems to be divisive. I hope I am wrong! I hope the silver lining of the clouds that gather shines forth to negate our worst fears.

4 December 2016        Advent 2 A

Isaiah 11:1-10             Romans 15:4-9            Matthew 3:1-12

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Post published in: Faith