Final Installment for the Advent Season
Note: I would like to share with you four dimensions of Advent. Each dimension will correspond to the four Sundays of the liturgical season. And just as it prepares us for the Christmas season, we too are being led to ally with God’s plan to save humankind. So the Sundays of Advent homilies will have a common thread. It will have four parts. This is the final part. For the second part, check the previous post titled Advent Part III: The Face of Joy.
This week’s readings will introduce to us those who conscripted to be part of God’s salvation. We heard about Manoah and his wife whose son, Samson, was given a mission to save the Israelites from the Philistines. We had Hannah whose son, Samuel, would play an important role in God’s choice of Israel’s kings. Prominent among them is David, on whose line Jesus will trace his roots. We hear about Zechariah and Elizabeth, whose son, John the Baptist, will be missioned to prepare the way for Jesus. And then we have Mary, whose willingness to be the mother of Jesus paved the way for the fulfillment of God’s salvific plan.
Even Jesus subscribed to His Father’s plan. In the beginning of the contemplations in the second week of the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius proposes a meditation prior to the annunciation of the birth of Jesus. He suggests to imagine the Trinity gazing on the world and seeing the reckless lives of many people. They see how terrible people are becoming. And if they will not intervene, the world will head towards its doom. So they decide that it is time to send someone to fulfill their promise of salvation. They know that they have to be one with humanity, thus they have to be incarnated into the world. While they were deliberating, they asked whom to send. And Jesus volunteers.
And then the angel Gabriel was sent to invite Mary to be the mother of Jesus. We already know what happens next. And we also know that this is the deepest meaning of Christmas: God sends His Only Son into the world to save us.
The first point. The Blessed Trinity looks at the world and decided to be actively involve and intervene in human history. Meditating on this scene, we realize that God continually gazes on us. Time and again, He intervenes in our personal lives. He sees the effects of global recession and climate change. He witnesses the death of many victims of violence on men, women, children and now the environment. He perceives the evil in the hearts of those who carried out the Maguindanao massacre. In the midst of the unfortunate events around us, the Lord invites us not to tire in our peace-keeping efforts. While terrible news are broadcasted on television, there are many people who begun serious efforts to ensure that justice is served. It is now our time to be actively part of God’s present plan of salvation. God does not need our ‘offerings’ He needs our will to participate.
Hebrews 10, 5-10 tells us: “Sacrifices and offerings, holocausts and sin offerings, you neither desired nor delighted in.” These are offered according to the law. Then he says, Behold, I come to do your will.” He takes away the first to establish the second. By this “will,” we have been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Second, change cannot happen unless we participate in the work of God. Every commitment is an agreement, a promise to see it through. It may begin in a single act and in a few minutes, but it would often require a lifetime. Signing up for charity will take a few seconds, but it would demand more than a few hours of our time. The marriage rite is around fifteen minutes, but the whole commitment demands all of our lives. Jesus’ agreement during the Incarnation will include his death on the cross at thirty-three. Mary’s yes at the Annunciation is inclusive of the many sorrows she will undergo as Jesus’ mother. We have to be the change we dream of. But we have to be willing to take the bitter pill.
Finally, how are we going to change? The plan of God seems too great and overwhelming. The answer is in the story of Christmas. Mary was not a “somebody.” She was an ordinary woman who did what she could, within her limitations. Manoah and his wife, Hannah, Elizabeth, and Zechariah were not exactly people with superpowers. But they began with a great desire. They are not exactly 100% holy. They doubted as Zechariah and many others. The great missionary, St. Paul, acknowledges his weakness. Sts. Augustine and Ignatius never concealed their recklessness. But they tried to live holy lives.
Someone once said that every virtue will eventually branch out into all other virtues. Thus, we can change by focusing on one virtue we like to attain. Take one such as kindness, especially if you think you’re not. At first, you will feel awkward and self-conscious. Give yourself time. They said it requires around 30 days to develop a habit. Later on, you will find yourself spontaneously charitable to people.
Want to help reverse the effects of global warming? Start by segregating your trash. Little efforts are like viruses. They spread until they take over your system. But this time, it will not make you sick, these good efforts will make you and the world better.
The fourth week of Advent invites us take action. St. Ignatius said that love should be expressed in deeds than in words. To God, He did not just promised in words, but enfleshed His promise. So we too should enflesh what we have, in the first place, vowed ourselves to do in baptism.