Advent is being small and simple

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Second Sunday of Advent-C, 05 December 2021
Baruch 5:1-9 ><}}}*> Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11 ><}}}*> Luke 3:1-6
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.

From “beginning with the end” last Sunday at the start of Advent, we now move into its second week when we are reminded by the readings and gospel that “everything begins small and simple” in God and with God’s kingdom.

So often in life, God’s beauty and majesty are revealed in small, little beginnings that are hidden and obscured, things and persons we take for granted without knowing it is in them and through them that God silently continues his works of wonder among us.

Such is the reality of Christ’s coming – then and now and in the end of time – as presented by Luke who began his account this Second Sunday of Advent with the introduction of John the Baptist.

“St. John the Baptist Preaching In the Wilderness” by Anton Raphael Mengs from en.wikipedia.org.

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert.

Luke 3:1-2

Feel the solemnity of Luke’s report, so formal, evoking a sense of power and might, an air of superiority with all the trappings of those in the corridors of power in government and religion.

Then abruptly, he wrote tersely, “the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert”. Boom! So simple yet elegantly emphatic.

Notice Luke’s artistry presenting a list of who’s who living in palaces and Temple with all the comfort and luxury available at that time when in a sudden shift, without losing the building up of the drama that led to the climax that is John “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah: A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths'” (Lk.3:3-4).

In introducing to us the person of John the Baptist which started in the very first chapter of his gospel, Luke is actually telling us how John was already the presence of Christ, that aside from being his precursor, he had Jesus in himself already! For Luke, John foreshadowed Christ’s work of salvation reaching its summit at Easter even while orienting us to Christmas.

The nearness of God

Every year, the second and third Sundays of Advent narrate the preaching and baptism by John the Baptist at Jordan to remind us how Jesus comes to us whenever, wherever the word of God is heard, accepted, and proclaimed that result into repentance and forgiveness of sins.

See how Luke shows us the overlapping of salvation history with our secular history, a clear indication of the presence and nearness of God with us in Christ’s coming. Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate, Herod, Philip, and Lysania with the high priests Caiaphas and Ananias were true persons who have lived in a particular time and specific places when John and Jesus lived too.

Here we find so true that God works silently and subtly in Jesus in our own personal lives and in the whole world for indeed, he is the God of history.

Photo by author, Chapel at the Basic Education Department, Our Lady of Fatima University, Valenzuela City, 28 November 2021.

This Second Sunday of Advent we are assured of God’s nearness with us in Christ, especially when there are those darkness and obscurity, hiddenness and being unknown. These little and simple things in life are occasions where God reveals himself to us! Take them to heart.

Sometimes in life it is good to be down and even unknown, away from the limelight specially in this age of social media where everything even coffee breaks and new purchases or grades and medals of children are made known to everyone with much noise like blaring trumpets.

This boom in social media is so tiring and even disgusting with nothing hidden anymore, nothing is personal, and worst, nothing sacred any more! God and faith and sacraments have become commodities, persons are cheapened and used for personal advantages that even personal messages or PM’s have become “public happenings”. No more respect and dignity to others and most of all, unknown to those so immersed in the social media, they are the ones in the losing end, losing their very selves as they lose touch and grounding with reality.

Contrast it with John the Baptist in the desert with his balanced life between solitude and community and most of all, his rootedness in God and with realities of life that he can speak about the need for repentance to renew one’s self.

The gift of Advent

It can happen that when we are so filled with our selves, when we are so spread out feeling famous, “viral” and “trending” that we are also most empty and nothing like those powerful men mentioned by Luke, from the Roman emperor to the high priests; hence, the need to be hidden and unknown, little and small once in a while to allow enough room for changes and growth, and most especially to have a room within us for Jesus to work in us.

This is the gift of Advent Season: a time for us to be like John, to withdraw from the busy and toxic world so we may be alone and at home again with one’s true self, with loved ones, and with God in Jesus, through Jesus.

In the first reading we heard the end of a poem by Baruch where God consoles his people personified by Jerusalem, giving them hope of redemption someday from their Babylonian conquerors. It was the lowest point in the Jewish history when Jerusalem and their Temple were destroyed with the entire nation exiled to Babylon as slaves. No country, no Temple, so down and so small yet, God tells them:

Photo by author, Advent 2019.

Jerusalem take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on the splendor of glory from God forever: wrapped in the cloak of justice from God, bear on your head the mitre that displays the glory of eternal name. For God will show all the earth your splendor; you will be named by God forever the peace of justice, the glory of God’s worship.

Baruch 5:1-4

See the beautiful image of God taking possession of his people exiled and enslaved, changing their lot into something so wonderful filled with splendor!

The same thing happens with us when we are down and lost for that is when God doubles his efforts in finding us, redeeming us, uplifting us. It had happened before in the coming of his Son Jesus Christ more than 2000 years ago which continues to happen now and would surely happen again in its fullness at his Parousia.

Nothing happens in life and in the world without God knowing even the minutest, single details we do not notice at all. Let us imitate the confidence of Paul this Season of Advent:

I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1:6, 8
Photo by author, Advent 2020.

This Second Sunday of Advent we are told that even if we do not see Jesus like in the gospel of Luke when it is still concerned with the preaching of John the Baptist, he is already with us in those small and little sacrifices we do out of love for him.

Like John, Advent invites us to withdraw to the wilderness, to the desert to be hidden from the limelight to give God a space to come to us, to be present in us.

Like John, Advent invites us to empty ourselves of our pride and sins, to repent and be washed clean by God’s loving mercy and forgiveness to be filled with his humility, justice and love.

Like John, Advent wants us to be the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: to be the voice of reason and faith in this noisy world of lies and superficialities; to make straight the path so bended with many excuses and alibis that have moved the lines of morality and propriety; to fill the valleys with sense and meaning; and, to make low every mountain and hill of human pride and arrogance that have left us more empty and lost than before.

Let us all be a John the Baptist, not only a precursor but also a presence of Jesus.

A blessed second week of Advent to everyone!

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