Typhoon Yoland was a monster storm. The promise of “zero casualty” is an irony in many areas especially in Tacloban where thousands have died and many still missing.
But in a small island in Camotes known as “Tulang Diyot Island” all residents survived even if about 500 houses were destroyed by powerful winds and big waves. The absence of casualties was attributed to the evacuation of around 1,000 people from the island under San Francisco Town Mayor Alfredo Arquillano. His commanding voice challenged and compelled all the residents to move out.
Everybody heeded and it saved everyone’s life. The residents soon found out after the storm that not one house was left standing on the island; everything was wiped out!
This mayor, who won a UN Disaster Risk Reduction Award in 2011, did not allow his constituents to be complacent. He pushed them to be prepared. From this experience he would conclude that “preparedness pays.” It led to “zero casualty.”
As we enter the 2nd Sunday of Advent, we are invited to be prepared, to be ready. A commanding voice challenges us: “Prepare the Way of the Lord” (Mt 3:3). John appears as a prophet with a message. His passion purpose was to awaken in people’s heart a great desire for God – for the Messiah. His whole life was a message. He saw himself as God’s messenger. He wanted people to discover that the biggest thing in their life was Jesus.
When Pope Francis passed through Rio de Janiero during the World Youth Day (on July 26), a nine year old boy wearing a Brazilian National Football Team Jersey ran up to him eluding security. Even the Pope was surprised by the enthusiasm of this lad. He broke past barriers just to tell him he wanted to be a priest! He was so excited to offer his life for Jesus.
John the Baptist, by his message and presence, made people excited and enthusiastic to welcome Jesus in their lives. Today, he continues to be a voice that reminds us of 3 things:
1. We need to Accept God’s Kingdom
When Jesus starts his public ministry, he will be using this same theme. He will proclaim “The Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news” (Mk 1:15). For John and for Jesus “the Kingdom of God” is not a thing; not a geographical place. It is a person – it is Jesus himself! Accepting the kingdom is accepting Jesus. It is believing in Jesus; surrendering to Him. John wants us to realize that with Jesus, God himself is present among us. Since He is God’s presence we accept Him with faith.
2. We need to Bear Fruit
Accepting Jesus means we need to be productive. One of the fascinating saint I have read is St. Martin de Porres. His dad was a Spanish nobleman while his mom was a black African from Panama. His father left them when he was a child; her mother work as a laundry woman to support herself. Martin wanted to become a priest but because he was an illegitimate and colored, he was not allowed. He was accepted only as a lay brother.
But he lived such a prayerful and humble life that God granted many miracles and healing through him. Humility is an amazing virtue. For the humble: “God is everything. I am nothing!” Thus God simply loves the humble and gives His graces to them – like Mary. She is so special to God because she is so humble. Her humility makes her bear so much fruit.
3. We need to Change
Last Thursday (December 5), Nelson Mandela died. All his life he was a controversial figure. He was accused as a communist in his young years. All he wanted to do was to change a divided South Africa. He lived during the days of the apartheid – division between the blacks and white. His whole life was a struggle to bring harmony and unity to his country even to the point of being imprisoned.
What I learned from this man is his capacity to change. He changed from a militant freedom fighter, to a prisoner, president, moral compass, to an elder selfless statesman. His life can teach us that we can always change. And changing ourselves, we can change others.
John the Baptism guides us to accept God’s kingdom, to bear fruit and be committed to change ourselves. To do this we need to be convinced that Jesus is the biggest thing in our life.