December 3, 2017: The First Sunday Of Advent
Isaiah 64: 1 - 9a/Psalm 80: 1 – 7/1 Cor. 1: 1 – 9/Mark 13: 33 - 37
Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos
Happy New Year! The first Sunday of Advent is the beginning of the Liturgical Year, and it is a great year and great future ahead of us because God is good all the time. Toward the end of the Liturgical Year, the Sunday readings have been about preparation, and in the beginning of the year, it is also about preparation. We don’t stop preparing. We are always in readiness until Christ comes again. Live your life as if Jesus is coming today – always in readiness. There is the constant emphasis on being alert, being ready, being busy, and being diligent.
Our theme is about diligence, and I looked up the word diligence, and it means a careful and persistent (nonstop) work or effort. It is constant and steadfast. Blessed is the servant whom his Master finds busy and doing what He instructed him to do. The Parable of the Talents a couple of Sundays ago was about preparation. Those who were busy when the master came back found joy in his coming back; but to him who was not doing anything, the coming of his master was dreadful. We need to be ready!
In Acts 1, right after Jesus’ ascension, the disciples were left mouths gaping looking at the sky, wondering where Jesus went and what will happen to them. Then, an angel appeared to them and asked them, “Why are you staring up at an empty sky? There is work to do.” Jesus said, “You shall be My witnesses not just in Jerusalem, but in all Judea, Samaria and all the parts of the world. What you need to do is to get up to the heights and sing and proclaim to a desolate people.” They are to proclaim to a desolate people, those without God. They need to proclaim the coming of the Lord until He comes again so that they would know God and their crooked ways will be straight and the arrogant lofty hills may be lowered, and those who are humbled, the valleys, can be exalted and encouraged.
We need to see the mission field as a desolate people because they need God. We have God in us, and we need to proclaim Him to them. Who are the proclaimers? Proclaimers are not just those who read portions of Scriptures during the liturgy. They proclaim the Word, but all the ministers like the dancers and the ushers who welcome you are proclaimers. When the counselors give you comfort, advice and listen to you, they are being God to you for they are proclaiming God’s heart to you. All of us are proclaimers! It is full time and non-stop! To preach means to proclaim. A preacher is not just a person with the ability to stand in front of people and preach inside the Church. A preacher is seen in the office, at home, in school, at work, in the market place. The preacher is seen everywhere proclaiming the Word to a desolate people.
We are supposed to be the voice in the wilderness promising them a well of water springing for them. Prepare the way of the Lord because His way will be prepared by what is right and good. Jesus will be held in the heavens until the restoration of all things. This is what we participate in, and we need to make God known to a desolate people. The second coming of Jesus is supposed to be good news. God is good all the time and He doesn’t change. His first coming was good, and the angels said to the shepherds, “I bring you good news of great joy.” His second coming is also good news to those who are prepared.
The source, when it comes from God, is always good. It is the reception that makes it seem not good. St. Peter says that we are looking for and hastening the day of the Lord. If we are, we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Lord Jesus, so we ought to be holy in conduct and godliness. We are to be found diligent, spotless and blameless.
We have neglected the Sacrament of Confession, and this is what I want to restore. Not just in Advent or in Lent, but make it a habit to confess. To confess to one another, to a friend is fine, but go to formal Sacrament of Confession. It is not because we need or we get the forgiveness of God, but the forgiveness of God is not apology-prompted. The forgiveness of God was given two thousand years ago. He doesn’t forgive us when we confess or when we apologize, but it is based on His goodness. Confession is for our conscience and for our readiness. Scriptures says to be on your guard and don’t fall from your diligence. St. Paul says not to lag down behind on diligence. Always be ready.
I used to teach Math, and I make my own exams. My policy was that my students can use “kodigos” or short references of important items, and they can open their books. If my students are not ready for the exams, the “kodigos” or the books cannot help them. They need to learn the whole time, and when the students do so, they don’t need to memorize formulas. Understanding the lessons will help them get through the exams and the exams will be good news, not bad news. They need to learn during the term for them to be able to answer the exams. They need to be ready the whole time.
When I was in my elementary days, it was to my liking that I would compute mentally. In Grade Four, I went to class in my regular uniform and my teacher asked me why I wasn’t in my gala uniform. I did not know that I was a contestant in the Math Contest, but I still participated in the contest and I got the silver medal. The questions that were asked me where the questions that had been running in my mind for the whole time. Preparation is not one day before a contest or a week before an exam, but the whole time.
In college, I was late for thirty minutes in my Algebra Class. When I entered the classroom, it was quiet and everyone was engrossed with their papers, and my teacher mockingly followed me with a sharp look from the door to my seat as if to say, “Are you serious with your studies?” As I got to my seat, I asked my seatmate, who was a scholar, what was going on. He told me that it was midterms and warned me that I may not pass it. I got a piece of paper, and started answering the questions. Fifteen minutes later, I submitted my paper while the others were still busy answering. My teacher was surprised and I went back to my seat. He called me and asked me to explain how I was able to get the answers to the questions. Again, what I am trying to do is to get a point across- readiness.
We need to be diligent, to be constant, and to be ready. Non-stop the whole time until Christ comes again. We proclaim His death until He comes so that we await eagerly, not in fear, the return of God. If we learn in school, exams will not be dreadful to us, but exciting. It is an opportunity to prove that we indeed learn.
God is good all the time. The first and second coming are all good news. In the first coming, the angels sang “Hallelujah.” In the second coming, if we are already ready, we should also sing “hallelujah.” It is our perspective, our attitude, our reception, that determines Jesus’ coming back is good or not. God is the Source of all good things, but why do people sometimes not avail of this or would avail, but they don’t avail of them as something good? St. Paul said in 1Corinthians, “The table of the Lord is given for the life of the world, but some of you receive it in an unworthy manner.” What was given for the life of the world becomes a source of sickness and death, even in the case of some. What is intended for life becomes sickness or death to some. The problem is the reception or the lack of it, and we blame God. God is good all the time. He is the Source of all things. Nothing evil comes from God. If He gives us something, and we receive it wrong, then it becomes bad to us. The problem is not the Source, but the reception.
Our perspective, our attitude, our reception, and our lack of readiness makes that which is good harmful. A prayer says, “Enkindle in us the fire of your love.” Sometimes, we blame others, and we even blame the blameless God for something we receiving wrongly, but was intended to be given to us for our good. Sometimes, we don’t even avail of it. The problem is how we receive it or the lack of it.
St. Paul said, “All food is clean and sanctified if received with thanksgiving.” All things are sanctified if received with thanks. He added, “Godliness is great gain if accompanied by contentment.” St. Paul also said, “He freely and richly supplies us all good things to enjoy.” It is abundant and good and the intention is for us to enjoy them. This is for the life of the world. Don’t receive it in unworthy manner so that it becomes to us a source of sickness or death. God intends everything for us to be life, not just for us, but for the life of the world.
Some other sources like our brother or sister or our friend or enemy give us bad things intentionally or unintentionally, but real godlikeness or godliness is receiving evil and turning it to good. God causes all things to work together for good. If it is God, He is the Source of all good things and His heart is to richly supply us these good things for us to enjoy.
Aren’t you glad that this is our God? Aren’t you glad that this is the way in the kingdom of our God?