Being Worthy of His Coming

As I was seeking inspiration to write this reflection, the rookie draft of the PBA is on the TV screen. You can see the anxieties not only of the applicants but also among their parents, friends and supporters. For those who were drafted in the top of the order, the anxieties will remain as these rookies will be monitored if they meet the expectations of their respective team and followers.

The people in today’s Gospel are filled with expectations. They kept on asking the question: “What then should we do?” If we look back, we remember that in the first Sunday of Advent, we were told of how the “end of days” would be like, then on the second Sunday, the Gospel exhorted us to “prepare the way of the Lord”. The third Sunday of Advent is also called Gaudete (“Rejoice!”) Sunday, which provides a break midway through this season which is otherwise of a somber nature, and signifies the nearness of the Lord’s coming. While the liturgy all throughout Advent is one of intense expectation and preparation, we take a break to remind us that this season is one of joyful anticipation of the Second Coming of Christ.

True, we are all facing different challenges and concerns in our day-to-day living but the Lord reminds us to rejoice:

Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged! The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; He will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in His love, He will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals.” (Zep 3:14-18a)

Realizing fully this promise is made by God, we ask just like what the people of St. John the Baptist’s time asked, “What then should we do?” We should examine how we are in our earthly pilgrimage; we take moments to reflect deep into our hearts. We know that this is relevant because the promise isn’t made by an ordinary mortal like us but by the Supreme God Himself. For sure, without our cooperation in this plan of salvation, we won’t be able to claim His promise.

St. John the Baptist’s call to repentance didn’t talk about religion, nor about fulfilling certain rituals. What he was preaching was practical and clear: we are asked to share, not to exploit others, and not to mistreat others and “be content with your pay.” Thus, we are reminded that rejoicing doesn’t mean being greedy and excessive, not to steal from others, and not to be abusive with others. Oftentimes we see people being ecstatic and jubilant when they worship but when their faith is tested, they often give way to indifference and apathy. They think that their faith is enough without allowing themselves to be used as instruments of God’s goodness and compassion. They aren’t willing to undergo pain and suffering even for those they love. And yet God asks us to go beyond those we know and the familiar!

Reflect today then on what you should do to be worthy of the Messiah’s promises. While it’s true nobody can ever claim to be worthy of such, this attitude of humility will make you embrace the faith that only through God’s grace can you be allowed into His presence at the end of time. We have to act on our faith and show others how much God loves them. Let us be mindful of those who are in need this Christmas. For now, let us cherish the idea that His redemption is near, it is time to rejoice and not fear.

Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.’ (Is. 12: 6)

Prepare the Way of the Lord!

Despite the color and glitter of the season there are many who haven’t yet feel the vibrant spirit of Christmas — yes, many are facing varying challenges in these times. I know because I have friends who share these anxieties. There are also some of them who don’t feel alright whether in their work, in their businesses, and in their relationships. For most of them, something is missing, something just doesn’t feel good.

This is true even around the places we go through every day. If we have that sensitive ability to detect and communicate with others, we’ll be able to know the worries and anxieties affecting people mostly. The world isn’t always what it looks like. Deep down inside, people are sad and lonely. Yet when you go outside your home, you can feel that people are all getting occupied seeing them line up the malls and shopping centers. Hotels and resorts are getting booked for the traditional Christmas dinners and parties. Everyone is hurrying up to buy gifts for their loved ones and friends. This busyness is also a tempting time to miss the real reason for the event, which is the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The purpose of Advent is most importantly to prepare our own spiritual growth thus in a way preparing our hearts and souls to welcome the Savior not only in each Christmas, but also at any time when His Kingdom is fully revealed.

The readings in today’s Gospel remind us to hope, to appreciate the God who loves us through and through, and to prepare the way for His coming birth. In the First Reading (Bar. 5: 1-9) the Prophet Baruch tells us that God will save His people and splendor will be restored in His city Jerusalem. His people who have been dispersed abroad will return triumphant and with great rejoicing. This is a promise of hope for those who live in fear and misery. God assures that He will remember everyone who trust and are faithful to Him.

In the Second Reading (Phil. 1: 4-6, 8-11) St. Paul tells his gratitude to the Philippians for all that they have done in helping him to spread the Word of God. Just like them, he prays that God will bless those who remain faithful and that your love for each other and for God will be blessed “more and more”. This love for God helps us to develop that discernment to know what is essential and of value to the Lord as we prepare for the day of His coming.

In the Psalms (Ps. 126: 1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6) today we proclaim: “The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy!” However, it isn’t easy to experience joy when you are facing challenges and difficulties. It takes faith that the Lord has done great things for us, that we experience joy, not that we deserve it, but because of God’s loving mercy and compassion. We can’t appreciate and be aware of these unless we repent from our sins. This season, take the time to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation to restore the lines broken by our indifference and arrogance.

Thus in our Gospel (Lk. 3: 1-6) St. John the Baptist proclaims for us to “Prepare the way” for Jesus Christ. The prophecy of Isaiah who said that there would be a forerunner to the Messiah is fulfilled as St. John preached baptism for the forgiveness of sins. This is a reminder to us that now is the time to make our preparations for the Lord’s coming, now is the time to make a straight and open path into our hearts for the Savior who will come to us this Christmas.

You are to straighten up your broken ways and get back to the straight path. You are asked to bring down your pride and ego, as these blur you from recognizing the Savior in the manger.

As we go on this Advent journey, let us ask ourselves what crooked ways do we need to straighten and what mountains do we need to level down in anticipation of the Lord’s coming?

The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.’ (Ps. 126: 3)

The Strength to Endure

Back when we were still in school whenever this season comes, my parents would prepare everything at home for their children coming back for the break. They would prepare our rooms, clear the home to give way for Christmas decorations and those thoughts would give us the joy in anticipation of the celebration. Those were one of the best memories of family that we love to recall. Today, we like to replicate those moments with our own respective families, ensuring tradition is passed on to the next generation. This is indeed one of the most wonderful times of the year.

Today, the sights and sounds of Christmas are getting brighter and louder. It’s the second day of December and also the start of the Church’s Liturgical Year. During these Sundays of Advent, we are invited to meditate on the mysteries of waiting in joyful and hopeful anticipation. It is a time of preparation for the coming of the Lord.

In our waiting for the Second Coming of Christ, the Gospel tells us (Lk. 21: 25-28, 34-36) that there will be chaos, death and fear. The Son of Man will come with power and great glory. Yet the Lord also gave us hope and encouragement so that “when these things happen, we stand erect and raise our heads because redemption is at hand”.

We are cautioned about becoming drowsy from excessive drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, lest that day may catch us by surprise. That day will affect everyone who lives, thus the need to be vigilant at all times. The Lord encourages us to pray that we have the “strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and the courage to stand before the Son of Man.”

This is what makes Advent so special. Jesus love makes Him come to us. Thus, preparing ourselves is something we have to do this season. Let us take the opportunity to create a new beginning, a new chapter in our life journey. Let us tear down those walls of indifference and begin to reach out to family members, neighbors and others who in one way or the other have drifted away from us. If we haven’t done yet, let us bring ourselves back closer to Jesus by going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation to bring our hearts worthy of becoming His home again. In doing so, we renew our relationship with God so that we experience the depth of His love where we’ll be touched, healed and transformed.

When we open our hearts to allow His grace to do these to us, we allow Him to bring His love into the world.

Let us pray that we find strength and consolation in Christ’s words and in His redeeming presence with us to endure all our trials and to witness His love to the world.

Show us, Lord, your love; and grant us your salvation.’ (Ps. 85: 8)