5 December 2010 2nd Week of Advent
Isaiah 11: 1-10; Psalm 72; Romans 15: 4-9; Matthew 3: 1-12
If we strip the Liturgical Seasons of its lofty image, each season corresponds to very physical and practical experiences. Advent is like the expectation of a baby; Christmas is a celebration of birth. Lent is about the pains and sacrifices we bear; Easter is about the successes resulting from them. Ordinary Time is about the daily aspects of our lives. The Seasons are about our life as a whole.
Jesus shares totally our humanity. And this is affirmed in the Liturgical Seasons that celebrate every single aspect of both His humanity and His divinity. When we celebrate the whole liturgical season, we likewise share in the divinity of Jesus. We therefore hope that our life will be patterned according to the life of Jesus. Simply, that Jesus’ life will also be ours.
Advent is a very practical season. It teaches us the importance of waiting for our deepest desires to come to fulfillment. It instructs us, as the second reading states, so that “by endurance and encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope.”
Advent is a season of desire. It is a time to identify and label what we want. We cannot achieve something or go somewhere unless we name our aspirations. In the story of creation, the Lord named what He desired before it came to fulfillment: “Let there be light. And there was light.”
The Gospels tell us that even if the desire is obvious, Jesus still asks, “What do you want?” He asks that from the blind who wanted to see; He asks the mother of James and John. St. Ignatius of Loyola called it the “id quod vollo” (that which you desire). So Ignatius gives instructions to the one making a retreat: you ask this grace … before you contemplate. Even if it is obvious or the Lord already knows what we need, we have to state to the Lord what we want from Him.
Identification is not for God, but for us. Naming our desires trains our hearts and our heads, not just clarity of goals but the discovery of the Lord who articulates His desires for us in our hearts. Tradition has it that God placed a piece of His heart in each one of us that we might know His heart. And we will not be at rest unless our hearts rest in God’s (St. Augustine).
Advent articulates humanity’s deepest desires in the vision of Isaiah (11:1-10). It is what we hope for.
1. To Israel exiled in Babylon, they aspired for a leader who would lead them justly.
To the Filipinos and many other countries in the world: In an era of political and economic unrest, we aspire for the same qualities of a leader Israel longed for.
2. Both Israel and the whole world hope for world peace. “When the wolf shall be the guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the lion will browse together, … the baby shall play by the cobra’s den. There shall be no harm or ruin on all of my holy mountain.”
Advent therefore affirms our humanity. To be human is to desire. Every single human being has a dream; collectively, the whole human race dreams of harmony.
If we are to desire peace and harmony that permeates our individual, local and global lives, the Second Sunday of Advent gives the conditions for it.
The first reading tells us that the earth should be “filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as water covers the sea.” People who are agents of destruction, discord and division are those who do not know the Lord. Those who truly love the Lord will work to gather people. Those who contemplate the life of the Lord will soon realize that any form of violence, including violence as an activity of initiation in a fraternity, is never in accord with God’s will. And those who live out what we pray about, will come to see how important it is to be under the grace of the Lord.
Finally, in the voice of John the Baptist, the precursor of Jesus lies the second condition to achieve peace. It is the ability to forgive and amend our ways. Forgiveness heals the wounds of our past. Often, we cannot move to speedily fulfill our dreams because we are stuck in the past. Our pains, hurts, and regrets still determine our choices and clouds our visions.
If unaware of our pains, they control even our relationships. Sometimes, we have to look at the things we are afraid of, such as our fears of rejection and failure. They keep us from forgiving others and ourselves. They pose as obstacles to our return to the God who waits. And so the Lord tells us to straighten our paths by the route of forgiveness.
We pray that we find the Season of Advent meaningful and practical in our lives. It teaches us to desire and it gives us tips to fulfill them. More importantly, it assures us that just as Jesus fulfilled the desires of the people in the Old Testament; He too fulfills our desires for a Savior.