“How do we welcome Jesus in this season of Joy when there is so much affliction around?”
The Second Sunday of Advent will be on December 5, Sunday. After a tumultuous year, the Gospel reading for this day teaches us how to prepare ourselves to welcome the coming of Jesus.
In the Gospel reading for this Sunday, we again meet John the Baptist preaching repentance and forgiveness of sins. John comes before the Lord to prepare the way for the Messiah, just as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah: Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Indeed, the message of John the Baptist to prepare the path for the coming of the Lord resonates and rings loudly in these times we find ourselves in.
As I have said, this is a chaotic year in more ways than one, mostly because of COVID-19 pandemic. We have seen many afflicted with all sorts of sicknesses – physical, mental, emotional and economic. Many must be wondering, how do we welcome Jesus in this season of Joy when there is so much affliction around? Few among us may realize it, but the circumstances of this Advent season put us in a most unique way to welcome Jesus and an opportune time to savor the promise of salvation.
The present times evoke an image of an army desperate to fend off its enemies from all sides. In the darkest hours. when everything seems to be lost, a messenger comes from nowhere bearing most welcome tidings. And that good news is that a great king with his legions is on the way to relieve the besieged fort. There is a promise of victory over the enemies. The coming of Jesus this season is that promise of salvation to us who are the besieged. With the forthcoming salvation, it is but fitting for the defenders to prepare a kingly welcome to the one who gives hope and salvation.
or all the tribulations we encountered in the past and we encounter in the present, we pause and ponder the abundance of the good things that God has bestowed upon and has done for us. When times were more “normal,” we only had time to focus on our to-do lists, and to devote our time and efforts to ourselves, without regard for others, much less to acknowledge the abiding presence of God in our lives.
But now that things are what they are, we are forced by necessity to pause and reexamine God’s presence in our lives. We ponder how fragile and precarious life is and that everything around us is vanity. This realization is such an invaluable present from God and a great opportunity to cultivate a better relationship with Him and our neighbors.
What is, then, the best way to prepare ourselves for the coming of the Lord? Christ consistently calls on each and every one to radiate love and charity, and this consists of giving ourselves more to others, whether by means of words or in deed, in whatever situation or form. Whether driving on the road, in the workplace or even when we get to meet people who contradict us, or are disrespectful or disagree with us, in the political arena or otherwise. In situations like these, Christ teaches us to respond, not with hatred and anger, but with respect, charity, and love.
Taking sides is an unsettling trend in our country nowadays, especially during this election season. Our political affiliations and a myriad of other social issues have never been so divisive. We are often confused about which side to take. But if we take the side of Christ, we will never go astray. For Christ consistently teaches us to be on the side of love and charity especially to the poor and the downtrodden.
Talking about the poor, nothing is more compelling than Christ’s exhortation in Matthew 22 – We are to “love God and love our neighbor as ourselves.” Or the biblical passage wherein he describes the actions of those who are welcome in the kingdom of the Father – “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I needed clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you looked after me. I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
In his message for the 5th World Day of the Poor, Pope Francis said that the face of God revealed by Jesus is that of the Father concerned for and close to the poor. In everything, Jesus teaches us that poverty is not the result of fate, but a concrete sign pointing to his presence among us. We do not find him when and where we want, but see him in the lives of the poor.
Jesus tells us that in order to prepare for his coming we must love and practice charity, mostly to the needy among us. Being poor need not only be expressed in terms of material want. The poor are also the lonely, sick, abandoned, neglected, and persecuted. Only by giving ourselves more to them can we truly say that we are one with Jesus and are prepared to welcome him this Advent season.
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