The Gospel last Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent, recounted to us the story about the people from almost all walks of life, asking John the Baptist what must be done. The crowds asked him this question, tax collectors, and even soldiers came to ask him the same question. John answered all their questions by putting emphasis on doing what is right and what is just.
We may also have the same question in our minds, not only during this Advent Season, but this question can even come to us every day, especially when we are about to make life-changing decisions. We want to be sure of the things we want to do and that those deeds must bring us joy and success. However, we all know that life is just like a game of chance. Sometimes we need to have a proper timing, the right people around us, and we must be at the right place when that rare chance takes place. Well, of course, nobody can tell the exact time, the right persons to be with, and the proper place to stay. So, we are left with nothing but to just trust, hope and pray that God will give us what we need in His time.
We just celebrated the Gaudete Sunday. It means we have to be joyful simply because Christ is coming to save us! The theologian, Henri Nouwen, described the difference between joy and happiness. While happiness is dependent on external conditions, joy is “the experience of knowing that you are unconditionally loved and that nothing – sickness, failure, emotional distress, oppression, war, or even death – can take that love away.” Thus, joy can be present even in the midst of sadness.
Our personal relationship with Christ, if we can really develop this great challenge to enter into a personal relationship with Him, will be the only proof that such kind of joy is not just a dream but it can be a reality for anyone who has accepted Christ personally in his life. It can be a reality but we will surely find it so very hard to achieve, especially for the man who is so filled to the brim with himself only and no one and nothing more above him.
Now, looking around us, I mean at the kind of communities that we have right now, I believe that we have lost long ago the very essence of our Christmas celebration. We seemed to have detached the presence of Christ, the presence of God, in our celebrations. Just look at the way we put decorations in our surroundings. The image of the Holy Family is so small as compared to our giant Christmas Tree. Jesus Christ became a mere “supporting actor” for the bigger and more prominent Santa Claus. We replaced the greeting “Merry Christmas” with “Happy Holidays”. Sadder to note is our failure to attend the Holy Eucharist even on Christmas Day because we have placed more importance on our decadent celebrations where eating and drinking is the focus. It is all about pleasure but never joyful. So, when Christ is taken away from Christmas, when God is absent from our gatherings and celebrations, what is there left to rejoice about?
Rejoicing is an attitude of trust in the midst of life’s difficulties and troubles. Worries, fears and anxieties have no place in the life of a Christian. As St. Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, puts it: “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God”
Another thing is that rejoicing should manifest itself in acts of kindness. Again, St. Paul said: “Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near.” St. John the Baptist, therefore, calls us to take an action. When asked by his listeners what they ought to do, John the Baptist mentioned examples of acts of kindness: giving clothes to those who have none, avoiding extortion and cheating and being of better service to others.
Christmas is always the busiest season of the year. While others are stressed and anxious about so many things, we are reminded to focus our attention on Jesus, the center of this joyous season, the cause of our rejoicing.
It is a pity that most of us are so immersed in this contemporary culture, in which what is external has a strong influence in what we feel and think. We tend to put more emphasis on the accidents rather than the reason why we celebrate this joyful season of Christmas. People everywhere around the world are worrying too much about the killer virus. Filipinos are at the crossroads, once again, as to who will be the next leader. Knowing the kind of culture that we have, in terms of our political system, we can only hope that there is still an ember if light that can make our hearts burning with a singular desire to improve our lives and choose the best leader, the one who is God-fearing and the one with the highest respect for the dignity of human life.
On the brighter side, however, this Christmas season is a reminder to us all that God had fulfilled His promise to save us. He gave us his only Son as the greatest gift to humankind. Our situation right now may not be the best that we can hope or dream for, but the reality that Christ is born gives us all the reason to rejoice and be at peace!
There is no room for worries and anxieties. Whatever problems and difficulties we may encounter, we take them all up to the Lord in prayer. We are challenged to turn our worries into prayers and hopeful wishes.
One final note, the liturgical color for the Gaudete Sunday is Pink, a color symbolizing our joy. It is my fervent wish that, the same color will be dominant in the coming days, especially after the election time, when once again, we will choose our leaders. Let us give each and every Filipino a genuinely joyful hearts and a better life. Choosing the best leader to lead our forsaken land is the best Christmas gift that we can give to each one. May Christ fill your hearts this Christmas Season.