Addiction - God’s Word Today by Fr Jose Ramon T Villarin SJ
December 03, 2016
What might God be telling us these days?
Perhaps he is saying something to us through the populism that we see on the rise, the popular disenchantment with the established order, and the growing disconnection between the powerless and those who have been known to wield economic and political power.
Perhaps he is saying something about us through the addictions we’ve brought upon ourselves. Last Wednesday at the EDSA rally, together with the chancellors of UP Diliman and De La Salle Philippines, I cautioned the crowd about a drug that is more addictive than cocaine. And that drug is power. When you fall under its spell, you grow numb. When you are high on this drug, your vision blurs, and you can no longer tell the difference between what is true and false, between what is right and wrong.
We do not need God to tell us that we are in the wilderness these days. The crossed signals we keep getting are enough evidence. If there is a sense of relief and security, there is also fear and confusion and doubt all over. There is pain and anger over wounds being reopened. No one seems to know the real score on the political issues of the day. Will we ever get to the truth of de Lima or Espinosa or Sebastian? Our leaders have been quite adept in dividing us, in readily foisting the blame on anyone and everyone but themselves.
Social media is populated with hacks who are paid to distort the truth. These trolls are emboldened to prostitute the truth because they are anonymous. They can deface people only because they themselves are faceless and nameless. Can you ever trust the word of someone who remains faceless and nameless?
Trolls rely on post-truth, on our penchant to see only what we want to see, to hear only what we want to hear, never mind the truth. When one of these trolls was interviewed by a business daily, he said, we are many. I couldn’t help sensing something diabolical in his words. We are legion. The power and self-inflation evoked from that assertion can be addictive and alarming. Social media has managed to multiply the deception.
Yes, we are in the wilderness, but the Lord seems to be telling us the wilderness is not empty. There is a voice, a powerful voice, “a voice of one crying out in the desert”. It is the voice of John, the voice of truth coming from the peripheries, from the outskirts of power. It is the voice of the prophet that disturbs and awakens us, a voice that resonates within us, particularly among our youth today. From the desert, it calls out to us, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”
We are told to prepare the way of the Lord. We are to do this not by plying our deluded routes to what we think will save us, not by claiming our connections and inheritance, not by presuming to say, “We have Abraham as our father” or that we belong to the one, holy, and catholic church. As John proclaims, even God can make children of Abraham (and catholics too) out of stones.
To prepare God’s way in the world, we are told quite simply to repent, which is to admit our sinfulness and turn away from our hurtful addictions. To repent is to rise from stoned inaction and return to who we are again in the eyes of God. To make straight his paths is to “produce good fruit as evidence of [our] repentance.”
Bearing good fruit as a sign of repentance can mean many things. From Isaiah the prophet, and from the pattern set by Jesus Christ of the root of Jesse, we are asked not to judge by appearances, nor decide by hearsay. We are to refrain from acting that way despite what we see being judged and decided these days. We are to “judge the poor with justice, decide aright for the land’s afflicted.” We are to slay evil and strike the ruthless not with the violence of our arms but with the power of God’s word, the “rod” of his mouth, with the breath of his lips. We are to trust in that power and in that inspiration while wearing his justice as a band around our waist, and his faithfulness as a belt on our hips.
Advent is the season we relive our anticipation of the Lord’s coming. It is the time we draw close to the light even as we confront the darkness growing by our side.
What might God be telling us these days?
Perhaps he seeks to speak to us about the addictions of our time, the wilderness of drugs, post-truth, and our lust for wealth and power. Perhaps he is reminding us again of our real names and faces, telling us to listen for that holy and hopeful voice that resonates with our longing in the desert: prepare the way of the Lord, repent, make straight the paths on which he desires to walk with his beloved.