Homily: First Sunday of Advent, Cycle B
Advent means “coming.” Jesus had come 2000 years ago. He came to each one of us at our baptism to make us adopted sons/daughters of our heavenly Father. He comes to each one of us now when we receive him worthily in Holy Communion. He will come for each one of us at the hour of death as judge/savior. In the Liturgy, we celebrate as the people of God the history of our salvation and we begin with the waiting for the historical coming of the Lord in the past, and his coming in glory in the future.
Let us begin by contemplating the situation of the world before the first coming of the Lord. After the sin in Paradise, sin worsened in the murder of Abel, and sin prevailed in the world to such a point that God had to cleanse it through the Flood. Even after the Flood, there was no end to sin, rather sin spread out as mankind was scattered to all parts of the world. God then started a contingency plan by calling Abraham to knowledge of God and his ways. But even among the Israelites there was not complete fidelity to the Lord and his covenant. Only a remnant remained faithful.
Sin reigned up to the time of Jesus was born and even beyond. We know of Bacchanalian orgies in Greece and in parts of the Roman Empire. Worship of idols and gods became occasions for such orgies, gluttony as excessive eating and drinking was common ending up in lust and sexual excesses. We know of how the Roman Empire was riddled with lust, cheating, betrayals and murder within the imperial families. Stealing and banditry existed in the countryside, and abuse of women treating them as chattel, and the stealing of children to be sold into slavery. Marauders would invade peaceful villages to steal their hard earned harvest. In speech, slander and calumny was prevalent, so was betrayal of trust and secrets. False accusation was used to oust another from rank and position. Perjury was done for convenience. Outright blasphemy against God was common, so was cursing of fellowmen. Recall the movies “Alexander the Great”, “The Gladiator” and “Helen of Troy” just to mention the recent movies portraying pagan life; there was no knowledge of the God who gave the Ten Commandments to guide human conduct.
There were human efforts to present good human conduct especially in form of Greek philosophies. The early Greeks taught that a good life was governed by four basic virtues: prudence, or right thinking on moral problems; temperance, or moderation of sensual desires; fortitude, or firmness in facing dangers; and justice, or rightness in giving every person his due. The Stoics taught that the good man lives in accord with nature, tries to be reasonable in all things, and rigorously controls his feelings. The Epicureans also accepted reason and nature as guides for human conduct but emphasized intellectual satisfaction and pleasure as the purpose of a happy life. And yet these philosophies did not become culture to influence popular behavior. Sinful practices and degrading human behavior governed the people. There was need for REDEMPTION. There was need for a SAVIOR.
WHAT OF OUR WORLD TODAY?
Money is the god of our time. Stealing is blatant in every corruption and government cover-up takes deceit and perjury as normal behavior. Blackmail and even murder is resorted to just to save face. (Take the Chong rape and murder case; Hultman murder; Vizconde massacre.) Government officials sell the country to foreign investors to accumulate riches for themselves. It is a shame that government officials steal hundreds of millions by corruption and immediately bring that out of the country to spend for personal enjoyment, while OFWs, the working class, send in the money to improve the lives of Filipinos. Lies in court and deceit in the media are common place. When money in excess is possessed, gluttony in exquisite dining and drinking follow and, like the Bacchanalians, these end up in lust and sexual indulgence. Human trafficking of young women and even boys is practiced to satisfy the lustful. This in turn leads to violence and rape and even to murder. Premarital sex as well as extramarital relations are now considered normal behavior even among so called Catholics. This is so because of the influence of Hollywood movies and our own telenovelas; scriptwriters have changed our views on love, marriage and family life. Unconsciously, the advertisements and commercials influence our taste and choices. In the field of anger, hatred and unforgiveness, there is great abundance. I was greatly shocked when leadership of a prayer community was broken up because of calumny. In another case the unforgiveness by one leader resulted in the division of the community into factions and finally the breaking up of the whole community. Yes, we also need REDEMPTION. We also need the SAVIOR.
The world has its own way of preparing for the coming of the Lord at Christmas every year and we all follow the trend it sets. We put up decorations at home, in the streets, in the stores and malls. In former years, decorations in factories, business buildings and malls portrayed the Nativity scene or “Belen;” but in the recent past, the scene portrayed characters from Hollywood movies including monsters. Christmas movies had centered on Santa Claus and the elves, not on Christ; for example, “The Polar Express” was most entertaining even for adults, but completely void of Christ. The Christmas Carols started as a way of expressing the Christmas story in song; such were the old classic traditional carols. Today the Christmas carols have become love songs and winter songs. They no longer refer to Jesus, Mary or Joseph, angels, magi and shepherds. The world wants to remove Christ from his own birthday, and we simply absorb this mindset. We put up Christmas trees and decorations and pile up gifts in our home without the “Belen.” Shall we follow the world or shall we give our YES to the SAVIOR who calls us this advent season.
The Immaculate Conception is the great feast during Advent; Mary was made sinless by God to be the worthy dwelling place for his Son. Jesus is knocking at the door of our hearts for he wants to come to us as the loving mercy of our heavenly Father. The best way to prepare for Christmas is to be like Mary as much as possible. Repentance and conversion ending in a good confession is the answer. Let this Advent be our cleansing season and with Mama Mary let us journey towards Bethlehem. -0-