Reclaiming our Dignity

29 November 2005: Tuesday of the 1st Week of Advent
Luke 10, 21-24

The final verses of the Gospel today tell us that Jesus is the peak of all history. In the Gospel, Jesus turns to his disciples and said, “Happy are the eyes which see the things which you are seeing for I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see the things that you are seeing and did not see them, and to hear the things that you are hearing and did not hear them.” Our faith affirms that the ultimate desire of the kings, prophets and those in the Old Testament is to see the fulfillment of the promise of Yahweh. The books of the Old Testament are sprinkled with Yahweh’s promises of salvation, and the deep yearning of the people of Israel for its fulfillment. And God has fulfilled them all in Jesus. And the succeeding generations such as ours always look back at Jesus, finding answers to all our questions about our existence.

To put it in terms of our modern understanding, it is like evolution, the slow ascent of human beings from the level of the lowest forms. Jesus is then the end and climax of the evolutionary process because God and humanity has become one in Jesus. Thus, if we ask what does it mean to be human, we look at Jesus and we find the ultimate answer and meaning to our existence. If we ask about who God is, we look at Jesus and we find God himself. Our faith is the only faith that claims to have seen God and place human beings at a notch higher than any genus or specie: we are not just creatures, but our dignity lies in our status as children of God. It is said that Christianity is a simple religion: we act according to this dignity, to our nature as God’s children.

And thus in the season of Advent, we re-assess ourselves according to this dignity. It is the best time for us to re-evaluate whether we have led lives worthy of who we are as God’s children. One of the images of this re-evaluation is perhaps in a person who is about to visit someone he loves. He looks at himself closely in the mirror, fixing his hair, looking at his over-all appearance. Does he look worthy of the visit? His appearance marks the importance of the event like dressing up appropriately for a wedding. But just like any exciting event like Christmas, we can get caught up by its frenzy: organizing Christmas parties and family gatherings, the frantic shopping spree, the annual cards to relatives and friends. And we forget the essence of all the frenzy; the meaning behind all the harried activities. It is like being stuck to the Old Testament’s waiting and preparing, and Evolution’s slow climb, but never arriving at its peak.

In the end, we find that the Christmas season is over like all other Christmases. And we return to life as usual, year after year. Stagnant. Inert. Torpid. Dormant. We cannot indeed avoid the hustle and bustle of our lives, the conflicts and challenges of daily living, and the rhythm of passing seasons.

But to make our moments meaningful, we can always refocus our hearts to the whys of seasons like Advent and Christmas. These seasons lead us to a return to ourselves, to reclaim our dignity, and to come home to God. We can refocus by asking this question: What will all this mean when I die? You see, death gives us a perspective on life. And as Christians who see death as a time when we finally come home and meet God, the perspective of death can help us evaluate, re-align and pattern our lives according to the life of Christ. Profoundly, if death is the time when we meet Christ, then all our earthly existence is the Season of Advent.

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