His Advent, His Coming

For many Catholics, the Advent Wreath is a favorite and rich tradition to celebrate the month of December leading into Christmas Day. While this is popular, many are not yet aware of the richness of meaning and symbolism marked in the tradition.

The Advent candle is marked and lighted with the passing of days leading up to Christmas Eve. Whenever it is lighted, it demonstrates the sharp contrast between light and darkness, between sin and evil. Christ is the “Light of the World”, the hope and Savior of mankind. As more candles are lighted with each passing Sunday, more darkness is diminished telling us that the birth and coming of the Savior is imminent.

The Gospel in this First Sunday of Advent is no different; while it continues to talk about the end times, the theme is still the coming of Jesus:

“There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars; on earth nations in agony, bewildered by the turmoil of the ocean and its waves; men fainting away with terror and fear at what menaces the world, for the powers of heaven will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” (Lk. 21: 25 – 28)

It is a frightening description of what it would be when the time the Eternal King will come again, in power and glory. Yet the Lord exhorts us not to be afraid, because when that time comes, He will get those who belong to Him,

“Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to hold your ground before the Son of Man.” (v. 36)

This reminds us that nothing is permanent in this world, except those that belong to God. This is a strong reminder of His faithfulness, as He assures us the plain and simple truth that we are His own. He reminds us to be aware, to be vigilant, and to be prepared. The reality though is that while God is claiming us to be His own, we also have the power to reject Him. When we commit sin we separate ourselves from God, but in His goodness, God always finds a way to bring us back to Him. He invites us to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and to regularly visit His perpetual and ever-abiding presence in the Holy Eucharist. Despite our sinfulness, Jesus tells us that it is alright to start all over again, “but this time with God”. What great love God has for us!

Aside from responding to His call, being of God means we also allow ourselves to be used by Him. In this season full of hope, as His Advent or “coming” draws nearer, as another candle is lit, the darkness is dispelled a little more.

May we always choose to dissipate the darkness and make the light of Jesus shine more brightly in our lives.

STAY.WAIT.PRAY.

Have you ever experienced grappling with a certain issue for some time, to no avail? Despite all the analysis and calculations, you ended up still confused, not sure which direction to take. Still ill at ease and very tentative, you were actually back to square one. Then one day, out of nowhere, in a moment or a place that has nothing to do with your original concern, an idea, or a direction, or a plain hunch points you to a “solution” to your problem. And deep inside, you know, you must know, the right thing to do. Often, all we need is to waste some time waiting to have our “aha!” moments. A savant advises: “Close your mind, and your heart will provide the answers.”

Success in a complex world

Some equate success to the wealth they have amassed. Others equate it to igniting a spark that would make society become a better world. Still for some, it is the product of hard work, honesty and humility. The right choices always lead to inner peace of the heart and the fruits of this bear witness to its effect in society. It inspires confidence and integrity igniting good works from people you will never expect and may never know.

humility

There was a young man, a fresh graduate from a reputable school who applied for a job. During the interview their conversation went like this:
Owner of the company: “How much do you want for your starting salary”?
Young man replied: “One thousand Sir”.
Owner of the company: “Really”?.
Young man said: “One thousand dollars Sir”.
Owner of the company (surprised): “But that is forty five thousand pesos per month!”
Young man, “negotiable naman po Sir depende sa benefits”.
Owner: “So you will work for five months with medical and dental benefits including your family, on the sixth month you’ll get a car either a Lamborghini or a Porsche”
Young man: Sir nagbibiro naman po ata kayo..”
Owner: “Ikaw ang unang nagbiro e…”

Is your faith real or a big joke? Genuineness does not mean you do a lot of good things. The mark of genuineness is humility, a humble heart.

Not of this World

All throughout history, many people have misunderstood Jesus. To most, his life was an enigma, a mystery, a series of contradictions which make people understand him falsely. This has led into disagreement and disunity that wars have resulted then and even up to now. Some just consider him a prophet, without realizing he is more than a prophet; a messiah but not only a human messiah as he is both human and divine. He is king, but not how the world sees it. That is why Pilate was trying to fathom why Jesus was handed over to him. He seems to be really confused and Pilate’s dialogue with Jesus was respectful so to speak. Even our Lord’s apostles couldn’t quite get the mystery of his being. Some of his followers thought of raising him up as “king” in order to save Israel.

Jesus refers to a kingdom that does not belong to this world. In the earlier chapter of St. John’s Gospel, Jesus prayed for His disciples who are in the world but “do not belong to the world” (Jn. 17:14). Despite that, just like Jesus, they are sent into the world to preach the Good News for the salvation of souls. In the present, we are likewise given the same mission into the world, to be messengers of the Gospel.

There are two main definitions of king: one who is a male monarch or ruler, and one who is preeminent. The “king as ruler” concept when applied to Jesus potentially affects God’s gift of free will, because an element of necessary obedience is introduced into our spirituality. On the other hand, Jesus as “one who is preeminent” in our lives introduces a very radical concept. This preeminence grows when we nurture our relationship with Him.

Our Christian life requires us to know Jesus more and taking part in his redeeming mission. We should know the type of person He was then, that he came from God but is also human. We need to spend time in prayer and nourish our relationship with him into one that is loving and personal. This love allows us to take a peek into the mystery of His divinity. Yes Jesus came into the world, but the world did not know Him. The world prefers darkness and yet despite this, the light will not be defeated. Those who know the light, will know the truth. Those who know the truth will recognize Jesus as king and will discern this insight. While Jesus kingship is known among his followers, this was hidden from those outside of his circle. Only those gifted and chosen, those who have the eyes of faith are able to see this revelation. As his modern day disciples, we sometimes struggle with recognizing Jesus as king. At times we ignore his awesome power and we go on our own ways.

At the end of the liturgical year, today’s Solemnity of His Kingship invites us to see with the eyes of faith that Jesus, through his redeeming crucifixion and death, is truly the King and Savior of all. May this faith allow us to respond to the call to live like Him in service: one of truth, compassion and filled with love.

Stay.Wait.Pray.

No prayer is ever wasted. Every prayer moment leaves an indelible imprint on the human spirit. Way after the candles have been blown to signal the end of prayer, there will always be that little insistent voice that lingers: “When you are in tears, so am I. But I do not waste my tears. I always save my tears for you.”

Images of the Times

When I was still a young boy, I’d always look forward to a dry summer, which always included swimming in the beach, getting fresh rinsing in the cool river, running the wind, and munching fruits grown locally. Guavas, bananas and other native fruits grow in abundance (these were mostly planted by my beloved grandmother) in my father’s garden. There’s also this tree called the sineguelas (Spanish plum) that shreds its leaves before giving its soft, sweet and delicious fruits. It has this unique feature in that after fruiting, the leaves slowly come one after the other until it fills and thickens up its canopy, covering the ground from the hot summer sky. These images are great to recall especially as I reflect back on the journey and the times spent in childhood.

This Sunday Our Lord continue to speak about the end of days,

“…after trials of every sort the sun will be darkened, the moon will not shed its light, stars will fall out of the skies, and the heavenly hosts will be shaken. Then men will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. He will dispatch his angels and assemble his chosen from the four winds, from the farthest bounds of earth and sky. Learn a lesson from the fig tree. Once the sap of its branches runs high and it begins to sprout leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, you will know that he is near, even at the door.” (Mk. 13: 24-29)

Jesus conjures the imagery of the tree a lot; from the mustard seed, the withering vine, and in this Gospel, the fig tree. When asked about the signs of the end times, He didn’t gave a vivid description, He just simply pointed to the changes in how the fig tree looks. Changes in the earth tell about changes in the seasons; similarly, He urges us to see what the future brings by looking at what’s happening around us. Our Lord tells us that when we experience these things happen, know that He is near, even at the door! The message is powerful because in another sense, regardless of the circumstances of our lives, we are comforted that He is present and shares the journey with us.

As the time draws near, what we should make sure is that we belong to Him. We shouldn’t behave and live like those who don’t. We can’t be proud and arrogant, selfish, envious, and lustful of things of this world, lest we be like “stars that fall out of the skies”. We should be able to share what we have with the less fortunate of God’s people.

Yesterday I had the privilege of attending my daughter Alexa and her Ateneo chorale group perform in “Throwback”, the 2015 edition of the Association of Philippine Medical Colleges (APMC) Student Network event. Among the beneficiaries of the shows are the children who belong to the Philippine Organization of Orphan Disorders (POOD). These children are affected with diseases so rare, that even pharmaceutical companies don’t bother to conduct and study their afflictions as the profit potential is so small to generate fair returns. During the show, some of these children performed a dance number, and what touched me more was their vigor and enthusiasm despite the apparent sadness and difficulty of their lives. The children are fighting it out; they are hopeful that the future will be kinder to them. While they may look unfortunate, I’d like to believe that they are much more blessed than the rest of us, because they have already suffered and endured much. We should remember that those who belong to Jesus share His humility and meekness, obedience and total submission to the will of the Father. I see these in the little children that performed in Throwback.

As we approach the end of this Liturgical Year, let us pause to reflect on the path we choose to tread ahead. Let us remember that all roads eventully lead to Jesus, and that all that we can do is act on His will for us and pray that Our Lord stays with us on the journey too.