THEME: ULTIMATE ANSWERS.
BY: Fr Andrew Ekpenyong.
1. Blowin’ in the Wind. When the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to the American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”, some people thought this was strange. But considering the important questions of meaning of human existence, the so-called ultimate questions, which Bob Dylan put into popular songs, it is hard not to see him as a voice of reason within the entertainment industry. Dylan’s “Blowing in the Wind” comes to mind, in view of today’s Scripture readings. Catholics and other Christians adopted the song with slight adaptations. At the 23rd World Eucharistic Congress in Bologna, Italy, on Sept. 27, 1997, Bob Dylan performed three other songs: “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”, his anti-war classic “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” and “Forever Young”. Pope St John Paull II, who was present, made an emotive speech to a rousing reception following the performance, captivating the 300,000 young Christians in attendance. The Pope’s remarks were drawn from the lines of “Blowin’ in the Wind” which I now briefly sing so you may see connections with today’s Scripture readings. “How many roads must a man walk down; Before you call him a man? And how many years can some people exist: Before they’re allowed to be free? Yes, and how many times can a man turn his head; And pretend that he just doesn’t see? And how many ears must one man have; Before he can hear people cry? Yes, and how many deaths will it take ’til he knows; That too many people have died? The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind. The answer is blowin’ in the wind.”
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2. The Spirit of the Lord. Pope St John Paul II, facing Dylan and the huge crowd said: “You say the answer is blowing in the wind. It is true! But not in the wind which blows everything away in empty whirls, but the wind which is the breath and voice of the Spirit, a voice that calls and says: ‘come!’ You asked me: How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man? I answer you: one! There is only one road for man and it is Christ, who said: “I am the way” (Jn 14:6). He is the road of truth, the way of life.”
Sisters and brothers, today’s Scripture readings provide answers to ultimate questions, not verbal answers, but God’s solution in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is the wind of the Spirit that not only led Christ to us, but also leads us to Christ. In the 1st reading (Is 11:1-10), the promise is made that the Spirit will rest upon the Messiah, along with His gifts of wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge and the fear of God. The responsorial Psalm (Ps 72:) echoes the fruits of redemption by the Messiah: “Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace forever”. The 2nd reading (Rom 15:4-9) reminds us that the Messiah Israel awaited is the Savior of the world: of Jews and Gentiles alike. But God’s ultimate answer, God’s solution, is not forced on anyone. The Gospel reading (Mt 3:1-12) is an appeal to us to respond by repentance.
3. Repentance. Yes, John the Baptist proclaimed in the desert of Judea and the voice of God in our consciences, the Holy Spirit, continues to proclaim in the desert of our hearts: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” “Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance”. Fortunately, brothers and sisters, there is evidence of your repentance, your presence at this Mass. The Spirit is already at work in you, bringing you to worship God. So how can good people such as yourself, repent? Well, here is an excellent example for you and me. Job was a righteous man (Job 1:1,8, 2:3). Scripture describes him: “In the land of Uz there was a blameless and upright man named Job, who feared God and avoided evil.” Wow. Even during his suffering he did not “sin” but wanted to know why he was suffering unjustly (Job 10). Job sought to confront God to defend his own righteousness (Job 13:3, 23:3-4). God rather confronted Job. Job then acknowledged he had wrong ideas and spoke rashly. Job changed his mind saying: “…therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:6. When good people repent, they cease to defend themselves against God. They abandon personal convictions and expectations that are in opposition to God’s will. Good people who repent become aware of the limits of human laws and leave final judgement to God. Good people who repent stop turning their heads away from the miseries of others. Good people who repent have clearer vision, better hearing: they see injustice and hear the cries of others more than ever, and therefore produce more fruits of repentance through greater charity, through sacrificial love of God and neighbor. The day all good people fully repent is the day justice and peace will flourish forever.
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