SUNDAY HOMILIES FOR YEAR A
By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp
Homily for 2nd Sunday of Advent
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Wolf and Lamb at Peace

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

This is one of Aesop’s best known fables: A Wolf meets a Lamb straying from the flock. The wolf decides not to pounce on the Lamb right away but first to give the Lamb a reason why he, the Wolf, should eat him. So he says to the Lamb: “Hi, it was you who insulted me last year.”
“Actually,” replies the Lamb in a mournful voice, “I was not born then.”
Then says the Wolf, “But you feed in my pasture.”
“No, sir,” replies the Lamb, “I have not yet tasted grass.”
“Besides,” says the Wolf, “You drink at my well.”
“No,” exclaims the Lamb, “I never yet drank water, for as yet my mother's milk is both food and drink to me.” At that the Wolf seized him and ate him, saying, “Well! I won't stay without supper, even if you refute every one of my accusations.”

Aesop is not the only one who sees human relationships in terms of wolves and lambs. The philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, said about the human condition that “man is wolf to man.” An African Igbo proverb says that “A fish grows big by eating other fish.” Observing the human community and human relationships, one gets the impression that there are two kinds of people, the oppressors and the oppressed. The dividing line between the two groups runs through gender, ethnicity and race, social class and religious affiliation. Invariably one group appears to be the wolf and the other the lamb. Isaiah in the 1st reading today is aware of this state of affairs among humans. He speaks of the human community in terms of wolves and lambs, leopards and kids, lions and calves, bears and cows. He sees that the wolf eats the lamb, the leopard the goat kid, the lion eats the calf and the bear the cow. Isaiah’s interest, however, is not simply in the way things are or have always been but in the way things can be. Isaiah is a man of vision. And here he recounts his vision of the day of the Lord, “the days to come” when God will manifest his glory on all humankind.

The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.
(Isaiah 11:6)

“Impossible,” some people will say on reading this. “He is dreaming. The wolf can never live in peace with the lamb because it is in the nature of the wolf to eat the lamb.” But that is exactly the point. Just as it is impossible, naturally speaking, for the wolf to live in peace with the lamb, so it is impossible for us to live the life of harmonious coexistence in the new world order as envisioned by Isaiah and all the prophets. A radical transformation of our human nature is required. We need a completely new heart. This radical transformation of human nature is possible only by God’s grace.

Grace transforms nature. God’s grace transforms human nature so radically that one needs to experience it to believe it. Grace working in nature accomplishes so much more than we could ever imagine. This is what Isaiah goes on to describe:

The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
(11:7)

The flesh-eating lion and bear now eat grass like the cow. They lose their hunger for flesh, their thirst for blood. Transformed by grace, it is only then that the wolf can live in peace with the lamb. Only then can the ferocious animals learn to accept their weaker colleagues as equals who have an equal right to life and well-being. And only then can the weaker animals learn to trust the ferocious ones and forgive and forget all the violence they had been made to suffer in the past.

Note that Isaiah is not talking here of “tolerating” or putting up with” the other. The peace of this new world order is not merely an absence of war or friction. No. It is a peace of harmonious live-and-let-live based on justice and the mutual recognition that everyone has got the right not only to life but also to the good life. It is only when the lion and the wolf give up their “natural privileges” and begin to eat grass like the cow that one can truly say that “all animals are equal.” As long as some animals lay claim to being “more equal” than others there can be no justice and no peace.

In our personal and business life do we consciously or unconsciously operate on the principle that for us to win someone else has to lose? The vision of the new world order to which the prophets invite us today is founded on the principle that we can all be winners. The story of the Wolf and the Lamb as told by Aesop and Hobbes is not the full story. The full story of the Wolf and the Lamb, as Isaiah tells us today, will end with “and the lived happily ever after.” We pray for the coming of this new world order, the kingdom of God.

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