Here in Edmonton the big news from the weekend is the firing of the coach of the Oilers hockey team. This is obviously a key role for any sport franchise. Players follow the lead given by the coach, because they know instinctively that team cohesion depends upon a common commitment to listen to him and do what he says. Therefore, when the team does not perform well it reflects negatively on the leadership they have been following.
Society, it seems to me, is suffering from the opposite problem. We have been given a coach – a great one! – yet our choice is often to ignore his instructions. Societal breakdown is the consequence. That coach, of course, is our Lord Jesus Christ.
In the Gospel of yesterday we heard the narrative of Jesus restoring a dead man to life. People responded with acclamations that a great prophet had appeared on earth. Well, yes, but Jesus is more. What he did for that man was an anticipatory sign of the even greater miracle he would accomplish for all humanity by his resurrection from the dead: the transformation of death into eternal life. He is far more than a prophet; he is the eternal Son of God sent from the Father as the Truth that guides our earthly steps and the Way that leads to eternal life. That’s quite the coach. A common commitment to adhere to the Word of God, given fully in Christ, would have as the obvious result a deep social cohesion that no purely human reasoning could ever hope to achieve or even imagine.
Yet that commitment is clearly lacking. For evidence we need only consider the breakdown in families here at home or the implosion of entire populations abroad, such as in the tragic case of Syria. We are witnessing not cohesion but division. By ignoring God’s Word we are acting as if we had fired our coach in order to rely instead upon our own “wisdom”. Rather than disregard the teachings of Jesus, we need to listen closely and carefully, and commit once again to follow what he says. The need is urgent.