As we’re nearing Christmas, let’s be reminded about why we’re celebrating Christmas.
Some years ago when I was assigned to the Divine Word College in Legazpi City, Albay, I visited an elderly SVD confrere who was alone working as director of a high school in Sorsogon.
A social mixer, he would get invited to dine in friends’ houses. He liked it because that saved him from cooking his meals and scrimped on his food budget.
One afternoon, we were invited to a sumptuous lunch. After the perfunctory greeting the host, we went quickly to fill up our plates and moved to a corner silently doing justice to our overflowing plate. Breaking the silence, I leaned over to my senior confrere and whispered: “Father, ano ba itong malaking handaan? (What’s this big celebration?)”
He looked at me, stepped on my foot, and said: “Huwag kang maingay. Hindi ko rin alam. Basta’t kumain ka na lang nang kumain (Keep quiet. I also don’t know. Just keep on eating).”
That amiable confrere had passed away, but that experience evokes how we celebrate our Christmases year in and year out.
For don’t we tend to “eat, drink, and be merry,” throw Christmas parties, go on shopping sprees, and forget WHY in the world we’re doing all this? This time, however, our Christmas festivities are toned down or even prohibited due to the restrictions to subdue the deadly COVID-19 pandemic and depressing economic situation.
According to the gospel of this Third Sunday of Advent, the people asked John the question: “Are you the Messiah?” “No, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Make straight his path” (John 1, 23). The people then kept missing who the Messiah was when in fact he was right in their midst (Jn 1,26).
How about our modern times?
Would John the Baptist address this indictment to us?
Filipinos are generally religious and devotional people. We cling on to our faith in good and bad times. Even when “kababayans” (countrymen) migrate or work abroad, they do not forget their religious practices. For instance, they celebrate “Simbang Gabi” (dawn Mass) even when it’s icy cold in the morning.
Also, we celebrate Masses for various occasions, like a Mass for birthday, anniversaries of the dead, a company thanksgiving, or passing a board exam. Some politicians request for thanksgiving Mass – even if they won the election through “dagdag-bawas” (add-subtract). Others even ask for a Mass for a pet dog.
All of these show the tenacious faith of Filipinos. Some critics, however, remark: “We are strong in faith but weak in morals.”
In today’s gospel, John the Baptist reminds us of the need for conversion or renewal. “Prepare the way of Lord. Make the ground level, “straighten the crooked ways.” The Baptist is not talking about road building and repair – although in many places of the country many roads badly need repair.
John the Baptist was referring to our morally crooked ways, that is, our pride, dishonesty, unforgiveness, bad habits, and vices that must be eradicated. Of course, conversion or renewal cannot be done overnight; hence, the need for a continuing conversion.
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The theme of this Sunday is Gaudete, which means “rejoice,” “be joyful.” It tells us to be “joyful in hope” because Christ already redeemed us.
A priest friend once wrote me with this quip, “Don’t take life too seriously; Jesus Christ already saved you.” Yes, He will help us fight against COVID-19 pandemic and other sicknesses; so with weighty problems like financial.
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However, there’s one thing to remember: Let’s do our part. Let’s have faith in the Lord but also exert effort, for instance, to find a livelihood when you are retrenched or waiting to be re-hired.
As the saying goes: “DO YOUR BEST AND GOD WILL DO THE REST.”
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THE LIGHTER SIDE. In the USA, a book titled “How to Change Your Wife in 30 Days” sold a million copies in one week. But the author discovered that the title had a spelling error!
The correct title should have been: “How to Change Your Life in 30 Days.” After the correction, for a whole month, only three copies were bought.
Lesson: People are more interested in changing their wives rather than their own lives. Also, it shows that changing one’s life or self-conversion is not easy.
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“Misa Aguinaldo” (midnight Mass) will be aired over TV5 by the SVD Mission Communications on Dec. 24 from 11 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. at the Shrine of Jesus the Divine Word at the Christ the King Seminary, E. Rodriguez Ave., Quezon City.
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To realize the project, may we appeal to our generous readers for financial assistance or sponsorship. You may e-mail me at [email protected] or send your love offering through Fr. Isabelo San Luis, BDO Savings Account No. 000-220051623. For further inquiries, call Brian Deguito at CP 0961-8118766.