Finding Jesus, showing Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Second Sunday in Advent, Cycle A, 04 December 2022
Isaiah 11:1-10 ><}}}*> Romans 15:4-9 ><}}}*> Matthew 3:1-12
Photo by Ezra Acayan/Getty Images, 09 February 2020, Baclaran Church.

Many years from now, future generations will surely discuss these years of our COVID-19 pandemic, with everyone talking about the face masks we wore. Imagine your great grandchildren repeatedly asking their parents why we were covering our faces during this time.

But, these face masks were also the signs of blessing during this pandemic, teaching us to look onto the face of one another, to recognize each one as brother and sister in Christ. I believe these face masks are reminders from God of how we have forgotten to look and value each one as persons to be loved and cared for, respected and protected.

What a beautiful sight when people meet, exchanging glances, adjusting their glasses and face masks to recognize each one again!

In the Book of Genesis, we are told how God created us in his image and likeness that remind us of his “face” even if we know God is spirit. Face means more than the physical face of the person. It reveals in the most undeniable manner one’s state or condition, of what is in him/her. When a person is filled with goodness and love, joy and contentment or, bitterness and hate, evil and sin, we say it is “written all over his/her face”.

Remember Mang Dodong of Caloocan City who was detained for almost a month in Navotas for not having proper ID’s during the lockdown of March 2020 after he tried to buy fish in order to sell in their neighborhood? At the same time when it happened, there was the shameless news of police throwing a birthday bash to their chief in total disregard of the protocols? The injustice against the poor prevailing then and now was all written in Mang Dodong’s face in the news.

Mang Dodong of Caloocan City, photo by Mr. Vincent Go, May 2020.

Here lies the challenge of Advent 2022, the first face-to-face Christmas we shall have in two years since the pandemic when we have to cover our faces with face masks: have I shown God with others on my face? Or maybe, the better question should be, do I see the face of God in the people I meet?

This Second Sunday of Advent, the gospel invites us if like John the Baptist, do we see Jesus Christ coming among us? Do we see him in ourselves and in others?

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.

Matthew 3:1-3
“St. John the Baptist Preaching in the Wilderness” by German painter Anton Raphael Mengs (1728-1779) from commons.wikimedia.org.

John is our second guide during Advent next to the Prophet Isaiah. John did not only see the coming of Christ but he also showed the Christ had come.

Why did people come to listen to him and be baptized from all over Israel at that time?

His preaching must be so powerful and convincing because people must have also seen in him Christ’s coming. In fact, people of his time thought he was already the Messiah everyone was awaiting. But John was very clear in his preaching that he was not the One.

Such was the power of John’s preaching. Everyone believed him because he did not merely point to the coming of Christ but showed them too Christ already present in him. No wonder, he would be the first to die for Jesus and like Jesus by standing for what is true and good.

How was John able to do this?

Aside from the power of the Holy Spirit that came upon him while still in his mother’s womb during Mary’s visitation, John went to a sort of quarantine too – an Advent – when he left the comforts of his affluent family to live a simple life in the desert.

John wore clothing made of camel’s hair and had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.

Matthew 3:4

Last Sunday, we have reflected that Advent is a Sabbath when we rest to be breathed on by God, to be filled with God and his Spirit by first emptying ourselves of our sins and pride. Most of all, in coming to the wilderness empty and simple, John showed the importance of prayer, of relying solely to God. It was prayer that sustained John in the desert and it is prayer that would sustain us during this Advent. In fact, we need to handle life with prayer in order to see Christ coming and most of all, to show Christ to others.

In calling for conversion, John challenged the people of his time too to bear fruits in their efforts of seeing the coming Messiah. All these emptying and sacrifices and being breathed on by God must always be evident not only for everyone to see but for each one to truly experience Christ’s coming.

A painting based on Is.11:1-10 called “Peaceable Kingdom” by American Edward Hicks, a Quaker pastor (1780-1849).

In the first reading, Isaiah reminds us that Advent is a time also of healing when we learn to be small again, even to die in our selves to give way for the coming of the Lord.

On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him… Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide, but he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land’s afflicted… Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips. Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf and young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them. The cow and the bear shall be neighbors, together their young shall rest; the lion shall eat hay like ox. The baby shall play by the cobra’s den, and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair. There shall be no harm or ruin on my holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the Lord, as water covers the sea.

Isaiah 11:1-2, 3, 4, 5-9

This for me is one of the loveliest scenes in the Old Testament: aside from the poetry of Isaiah, imagine how God envisions for us a “peaceable kingdom” where humans and animals live together in harmony, when there would be no more harm or ruin on everyone!

So beautiful!

And so possible if we can be like John the Baptist with our eyes seeing more beyond the physical realities of this world by being small again like the shoot, even of dying to one’s self like a stump.

It is only in our littleness, in our barrenness and death can we truly see and find Jesus. But, the moment we see Christ in us, it is no longer difficult to recognize him on others as well as find him in all creation. If we could fine tune our eyes to Jesus and live in one accord with God and everyone as St. Paul calls us in the second reading, then Christ becomes present among us in the world with his peace.

Let us pray on this Second Sunday of Advent that we not only see Jesus coming but also show him present in us and among us so that when we go to our places of work, we do not just “earn a living” but also work on building the kingdom of God here on earth.

Let us pray that beginning this second Sunday of Advent that we not only see Jesus but also show him present in us and among us so that whenever we post on social media, we also build relationships in Christ.

Have a blessed week everyone!

Let us pray on this Second Sunday of Advent that the next time we give donations and help to people in need, it is Jesus whom we find in them so that we go the extra mile in our efforts to uplift them and truly make a “shoot sprout forth from the stump” of this dying earth so that the bud of God’s kingdom may finally blossom in us. Amen.

2 thoughts on “Finding Jesus, showing Jesus

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