Saturday, December 23, 2017

Advent 2: burning excesses and making up for lack of goodness

Jesus, I trust in you!

We know that Christmas is just around the corner when traffic becomes heavier and malls and night markets become busier. People are just so busy “buying special gifts, making time to be friends to one and all.” Everybody is so busy preparing for the most wonderful time of the year.

While nothing is wrong with shopping and with partying, it is only right for us to keep our focus on the real reason for the holidays. If Advent is a time of preparation, what are we preparing for? Many of us will immediately conclude that we are preparing for the feast of the Lord’s birth. All these parties and gift giving celebrate the mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God.

While this may be true, we must not forget that Advent does not only prepare us for Christmas. Advent also prepares us for the coming of the day of the Lord when “the heavens will vanish with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and all its deeds will be made manifest.” (Sa araw na iyon, ang kalangitan ay biglang mapaparam na may nakapangingilabot na ugong, matutupok ang araw, buwan at mga bituin, at ang lahat ng lupa ay malalantad.) We are waiting for that awesome day of judgment when all the earth will make an accounting before Christ.

St. John the Baptist of Qiuapo Church
Thus, St. Paul warns us to be holy in conduct and devotion, to make every effort to be found without stain or defilement, and at peace in the sight of God as we await for the coming of the Day of the Lord. In preparing for the coming of the Lord, St. John the Baptist proclaimed a baptism of repentance which led to the forgiveness of sins. He declares: “Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God! Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low…” Not only did he proclaim repentance. He lived it out by a penitential lifestyle: he wore camel’s hair and fed of locust and wild honey. He fasted, prayed, and proclaimed because the one who is to come after him is more powerful than him. He considered himself unworthy to unstrap the Lord’s sandals. The one who comes after him is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

The Lord shows generous patience in the seeming delay of his coming. He is giving us time to repent and straighten our ways. “He wants no one to perish but all to come to repentance.” This repentance is necessary because on the last day, everything shall be consumed by fire – everything except those which belong to the Lord. When Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God,” he was referring to poverty of the spirit as basic requirement for entrance into the Kingdom of God. This poverty is detachment from everything that is not of God. Fr. Pong said to us during our Advent recollection: Ang hindi magdadala ay langit ay huwag ikasusungit. Oftentimes, we have so much worldly excesses, so many mountains to level. On the other hand, we find ourselves lacking in doing good, so many valleys to fill. That is why we are not prepared for the coming of the Lord’s Day. We have so many excesses to burn and so little good to offer.  We must burn our excesses by penitence and make up for our lack of goodness by acts of charity. And most of all, we must repent now, lest we be caught by the day of the Lord that comes like a thief in the night. Let the Divine thief steal nothing from us by voluntarily giving up the worldly things we are attached to. Let the Divine Judge be pleased with us by our offering of spiritual profits gained by works of charity. Confess your sins, pray, fast, and give. Let us prepare the way of the Lord!

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

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