Advent Hour – December 17, 2016
Fr. Roberto M. Jorvina
We come to a greater intensity of our preparation. This is what Advent is supposed to be filled with – a sense of preparation; a sense that something is going to happen. We live today in a world where we get so caught up with its concerns. As office workers, as businessmen, our concern right now is the things that are happening in the office – the 13th month pay; the presentation for the Christmas party in the office. For the housewives, the concern is what will be prepared for Christmas dinner; where to spend Christmas with the family; the family reunion. For students who are on vacation, they are caught up with planning activities with their friends. The list is endless.
The question we must confront ourselves with is: where is God in all of these plans? Do we even consider what God has to say in the plans that we are making? The tendency is to be indifferent to the presence of God. We put on a religious mode whenever we come to Church. Ministry practices just become rote and automatic. The Church becomes a necessary nuisance to our schedule. We come and degenerate into not having a meaning for the things that we do. We don’t know the value of going to Mass. It is all external – we stand; we sit; we praise; we raise our hands and we sing songs.
Where is God in all of these? Did not God intend worship to be a celebration of the heart and not just the body? Did God not intend worship to be the fullness of joy in His presence and not as a sad nuisance and disturbance to our schedules? Did not God intend Christian life to be filled with excitement? Yet, seemingly, we would withdraw from this excitement. It is more fun in the malls today. There are 700,000 people in the malls every Sunday. What Church has that many people in one particular day?
The problem even goes farther. When we come to this point, we become so cold and callous and indifferent to the world around us. The other day, I rode the MRT and a young couple with small children came in. Four burly young men were sitting and they were caught up with their cellphones. Not one of them stood to give way to the young mother with her child and to the father who was carrying his young child. I then ask, “Wala bang magpapaupo dito sa may anak?” One of them, perhaps, out of self-defense said to this effect, “Bakit ninyo ba pinakakailaman ang kailangang gawin? Napapagod po ako. Kadu-duty ko lang sa call center.” I responded, “Sorry, ha. Hindi ko alam na ganyan na pala ngayon.” Then, I kept quiet. This is callousness; insensitivity. We only think of ourselves, and our society degenerates into this.
Advent comes and Advent is a rebirth of hope. It is a rebirth of desire because hope is really a longing, an expectancy, a desire that stems not just from our actions, but from the heart. It is not empty rituals and meaningless actions. We need Advent when we so unconsciously separate our lives and detach ourselves from the true meaning of what God intended our lives to be.
Advent is a wake-up call. It is a signal for us to say to us that God wants us to be roused from our sleep. This is why one of the songs of Advent is, “Awake, awake, O Zion. Shake off the dust and fix your eyes on Jesus.” Jesus is really what we want for. It makes us come to our knees and turn to realize that Christ is present with us. It makes us cry out, “Oh God, turn me away from my cold and indifferent feeling heart.” Create a heart of repentance.
We have become so busy that even at home, we become passive. Home chores become something that is so oppressive, even to a point of contention as to who will do it because of personal reasons. It should be a time of joy and excitement. Work at home is a time to make parents feel nice and pleasant. Advent is saying to us, “Christ is with us.” He is the very Source of joy; the fountain of our exciting life.
Advent shows three aspects of Christ’s coming. It wakes us up to the first coming of Christ where Israel was supposed to be longing for the Messiah to come. For many centuries, Isaiah wrote about it. Israel has become so calloused that God said to the prophet, “Ask from Me a sign,” but Ahaz said, “I do not know what to ask,” because he has come to a point that he doesn’t know. Do we know what we want in our lives? Is it short-term like a cellphone or to pass in the exams? What we want in our lives should have an everlasting effect to us and to the people around us.
The second aspect of Advent is that it opens us up to Christ’ second coming where God comes in triumph on His coming for the judgment. The third is that it opens us to the daily, every day coming of Christ. God is our refuge and our strength. He is our very present help. It is not something that happened or that will take place, but He is present today.
These three aspects stir up our lives to transform us within so that we will come to our senses like the prodigal son and realize that we have a great and loving Father; and yet, we are wallowing with the pigs and the world. Are we contended with the shallowness of what we want in our lives? Are we contended with the Noche Buena, with the gifts or with the family reunion that after January 1, we feel down because we are back to our respective work places? We just came from a joyous celebration, but we can’t sustain it because we are focused on the celebration of material things, not the spiritual.
Advent is saying, “Wake up, Church! God has a greater gift – much greater than what we will receive in our material things today.” More than the shining lights, the gifts, the malls, and the food is the great gift that many times we miss because we get so caught up with the world that is alluring and so inviting.
Church, let us have a new hope today. Let us have a goal. Come to the Lord today and let the Spirit of God show you. Level up in our spirituality. Level up in our commitment to God. Let His mighty Spirit penetrate into our deepest recesses of our being. Let us wake up from our slumber.
The song says, “O come, O come, Emmanuel.” May this be a cry that is not just a song that we sing, but a life and a desire we live because this is what Advent is all about.