Hope and Preparation
Happy New Year!
Welcome to the New Liturgical Year of the Church. It’s a new beginning; a new start. Last night, before our Salesian Community prayed the vespers, we did a traditional opening by having the rite of blessing of the advent wreath. We inaugurated a new season for the Church. The rite ended with the lighting of the 1st Candle of the Advent Wreath.
It’s a symbol of hope – in the midst of darkness and evil; in the midst of heartbreaking human experiences of tragedy and loss, God is there. God continues to shine!
We just concluded the Year of Faith. But for us in the Philippines, we continue the challenges of the New Evangelization. We continue to deepen and strengthen our faith. The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) directs us to have a bigger and wider perspective – we are to set our eyes towards our 500 years of Christianity in 2021.
The Era of New Evangelization that the CBCP wants us to prepare gives us the theme for 2014 as “The Year of the Laity.” The Lay Faithful are encourage to have a greater appreciation of their baptism being sons and daughters of God. It exhorts them to a greater realization that they are co-responsible agents of evangelization.
The Advent Season does not only indicate a new start. It is also an invitation for a renewed commitment in the faith. It is a call to an awakening of a new Christian spirit. We should not hide our Catholic identity but come out as witnesses of faith.
Our Gospel (Mt. 24: 37-44) challenges us to have a more “vigilant disposition.” It commands us to “stay awake!” There are two reasons for such a demand:
One: Life is short. Time is temporary. “For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.” On this thought, two experiences this week struck me: One, the brother of my former student – Bimbo Caparas died in a very sudden manner. Basketball has always been part of Bimbo’s life. He has both the build and the stature (he stands 6’2). However, three Sundays ago while preparing for a game, he did not know it would be his last. As he was tying his shoelace, he suddenly fell unconscious on the ground. His friends brought him to the nearest hospital. But they were so shock when the doctor pronounced him “dead on arrival.”
The other experience is about the cousin of our Salesian Cooperator who was shot dead. I celebrated a funeral mass for Renante Bacus, a businessman who owns a hardware store in Naga. The other Tuesday, an unidentified man just went inside his hardware at past 8 AM then shot him at the face. He died on the spot with three bullets in his head. His death was so shocking for his wife and family members who looked up to him as a model “kuya.” Neighbors describe him as “daling maduolan, hilumon ug smiling” (approachable, silent and smiling).
Two: Our life demands that we make a contribution to society. We feel we want to leave a legacy for the future. This impels us to be vigilant and awake so as to share our contribution making this world a better place.
Advent is a time of preparation. The spirit of this season is summarized in the prayer “Maranatha” – Come, Lord Jesus!” Our spiritual preparation can be made practical in two ways:
St. Paul’s exhortation strikes at the core (Rom 13:11-14): “It is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and lust, not in rivalry and jealousy.
During the Recollection of the 4th Year High School students of Lawaan National High School, I sat for confession. Most of the students lined up. As I was listening to them, I felt their sincerity and their desire to turn back from their sinful ways and return to God. I see it as a sign of hope.
This season invites us to spend time with God. It’s a beautiful opportunity to focus on reviewing our relationship with Jesus by being committed in this 4 weeks of Advent preparation. Few days from now, we shall start the 9-day novena-prayers through the Misa de Gallo. Our interior preparation makes the memory of Christ’s birth more meaningful.Disclaimer: This section of the website is a personal creative writing of the author and does not necessarily reflect the official views, opinion, or policies of the Salesians of Don Bosco – Philippines South Province. For concerns on the content, style, and grammar of this piece, please contact us.