Friday, December 3, 2010

Prep Time: Gospel Reflection for the Second Sunday of Advent

First Reading: Is. 11:1-10 
Responsorial Psalm: Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever. Ps. 72: 1-2; 7-8; 12-13; 17
Second Reading: Rom. 15: 4-9 
Gospel Reading: Mt. 3:1-12 

John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea
and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said:
A voice of one crying out in the desert,
Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
John wore clothing made of camel’s hair
and had a leather belt around his waist.
His food was locusts and wild honey.
At that time Jerusalem, all Judea,
and the whole region around the Jordan
were going out to him
and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River
as they acknowledged their sins.
When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees
coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers!
Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?
Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.
And do not presume to say to yourselves,
‘We have Abraham as our father.’
For I tell you,
God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.
Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees.
Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit
will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
I am baptizing you with water, for repentance,
but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I.
I am not worthy to carry his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
His winnowing fan is in his hand.
He will clear his threshing floor
and gather his wheat into his barn,
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Everything that is a one-shot ordeal takes time to perfect; most especially if it's crucial. As we all know, Advent is a time of preparation that every Catholic, and generally every Christian, should take into consideration. No one knows how soon would a situation become a conflict or a disaster; so much more that no creature knows when our Creator would return in glory. For this reflection, we shall stress three points that are both spiritual and practical in approach: 

1. the reason of preparation; 

2. the importance of unity in planning; and 

3. its personal approach in my part. 

Why Prepare? 

In the readings for this week, emphasizing the First and the Second, it was written how the Emmanuel would look like and how His rule would be; just as in the Book of Isaiah: "...the Gentiles shall seek out, for His dwelling shall be glorious." We must remember that Christ did not die for the Jews alone: HE ALSO DIED FOR THE GENTILES; FOR CATHOLICS; FOR OTHER CHRISTIANS; FOR THE HUMAN RACE. Thus, His salvific act is made for ALL. Moreover, metaphors made this reading more hopeful; that in the Kingdom of God, there is no predator and no prey; no oppressors and no slaves. Jesus Christ is this shoot that came from the stump of Jesse, who is the father of David: hence, the title "Son of David" is attributed to Him. On the other hand, St. Paul wrote that man has to struggle not only in order to survive, but also in order to gain and maintain God's grace in us. He makes us endure sticky situations and encourages us to be hopeful because He wants us to trust Him and to love one another, even those who scrutinize our faith. 

So what is the connection between preparation and the basic concepts of equality and hope? Simple.We prepare because we have to realize that at the end of it all, everyone should participate and cooperate. Another thing: we prepare because we anticipate and because there is a possibility that something may happen; and if taken positively, anticipation and possibility are attributions of hope. 

Planning as a Whole and Preparing as an Individual 

For example: you are part of a basketball team. You are in a deadlock with your opponents and you only got 30 seconds in the fourth quarter. Your coach is that of Jaworski--a playing one--and he asked you to pass the ball from him to you, then to your other teammate in order for the latter to take a three-pointer and win the game. Would you do it for your team, or do the outside shot yourself? (Besides, you're not sure if it would hit the basket.) 

Another example: you're in a combat zone and your squad is to accomplish a maneuver to the enemy. Your squad leader told you in the briefing that if he gets injured or killed, you are to take command. What happened is that this squad leader becomes a casualty and needs to get evacuated ASAP. Would you abort the mission or continue it? 

The decisions you make would alter the course of these situations. Of course, you have to assess yourself before you decide: YOU HAVE TO THINK FIRST BEFORE YOU DECIDE. That is why in any profession, planning is the most important part of every routine so that everything would go smoothly. In Filipino, importante ang pagpa-plano para hindi bara-bara ang trabaho. 

Going back to our topic, preparation is not just a communal thing: it is also an individual responsibility. We always look forward to Christmas by buying gifts and food, decorating the house with Christmas lights, playing the songs of the season (which is more likely about love than the usual carols that we sing), thinking about Santa Claus and his reindeers, about new clothes to wear, about our ninongs and ninangs, about having a blue Christmas...the list goes on. But IS IT REALLY PREPARING? In the outside, yes; but this "preparation" is not the same when you prepare yourself within for this wonderful solemnity where God became man in the humblest form. Can you imagine that? How are we going to celebrate Christmas if we ourselves don't know that the reason why we celebrate it is Jesus Christ Himself? Without Him, these "preparations" mean nothing. 

We prepare as a community because we want to prepare ourselves as individuals, and vice versa. Sounds confusing, eh? Personal relationship with God must be backed up with our social relationship with others so that we may strike a balance between our ego and our role as social creatures. As we see in the examples earlier, before an action is to be executed, men should plan together, AND AT THE SAME TIME, ask one's self if he is prepared for the task ahead. We, therefore, should condition ourselves as a complimentary to our brainstorming.  

In a Personal View 

Honestly, as I write this blog post, I seem to feel reluctant and unworthy to continue because I committed the same mistake as everyone else: I HAVE FAILED TO THINK DEEPLY FOR A PLAN. Anyway, I view what I am writing as a reflection for myself. In the Gospel Reading, St. John the Baptist warns the people to turn back to their evil ways and wickedness for, at that time, salvation is near in the person of Christ. But his statement is a twofold message: he warns of the consequences of not repenting; and with it, invites people to prepare for the coming of the Lord. If we could analyze this in a personal perspective, only a good mentor could point out the obvious right and wrong that his apprentice made, and it is up for the latter how to set himself to his master's standard. Now, let's do some syllogisms: 

  • Failing to plan is planning to fail.
  • Preparing is planning. 
  • Therefore, failing to prepare is preparing to fail. 
We always plan for things, yet we fail to prepare ourselves for the task; and I admit I am one of them.(Take note that the word planning is a term used when a group of people is preparing. Nevertheless, they are synonymous with preparing, which is a more personal word.) Maybe, the reason behind this is because we preoccupy ourselves, bypass others, or worse, we have no time to pray. See? The failure one does in preparation affects his relationship with God AND neighbor and backfires to himself. 

We sometimes fail to appreciate our mentors when they scold us; how much more if we fail to put God in our plans? After you read this post, you'll surely close that tab and forget what i wrote here. But before doing so, analyze yourself: If you feel guilty of the things that failed because you are unprepared for it, you are with me at the same boat. But what is good for our faith is that we put it into action (which really speak louder than words), though in the smallest of things. At bilang mga Pilipinong concerned sa iba, sinisikap nating makabawi sa ating kapwa kung may pagkukulang tayo. 

We still have two weeks before we celebrate our Lord's birth. His blood relative reminds us that it's not too late to get out of that PC set and prepare yourself for Christmas. Better yet, simply remember that preparing for the best (and even the worst) takes time to polish; yet every failure is a lesson to make better plans. Therefore, these preparations, no matter how long would it take, will be effective if we concentrate on it, and of course, ask for others' help. There is always a prep time for crucial moments of our lives. We are always challenged to make a plan of action for every single one of them or suffer the consequences.

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