December 15, 2019 – 3rd Sunday of Advent – Gaudete Sunday
Click here for the readings http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/121519.cfm
In the past few months, our brothers and sisters in some parts of Davao del Sur and Cotabato Provinces and Sultan Kudarat were struck with series of destructive earthquakes. According to NDRRMC, the earthquakes affected 29,349 families or 146, 745 people. There are also about 20, 635 persons displaced in 27 evacuation sites and about 6, 850 displaced outside evacuation sites.
This calamity traumatized the people and particularly the children. Many are in sorrow because of the properties they lost and others too are in grief for losing their loved one at the event of the earthquake. Thus, many of them were forced to leave the comforts of their homes and have to wait for the relief operations of the government and non-government organizations.
Moreover, it is a very sad and tragic experience to think as we celebrate this joyful season of advent and the coming season of Christmas. Today is even called Gaudete Sunday which means, Rejoice. I have been reflecting, how can these families celebrate this season now with joy when their hearts are filled with frustration, and grief? Or even to us now present here especially those who are carrying heavy burdens, those of us who are also suffering from grief and sorrow or from anger and hate, are we able to celebrate this season with joy too? It would surely be difficult.
They may ask and all of us too would surely ask, “Is there a reason now to be hopeful and joyful in this season despite the frustrations and grief of losing loved one, properties and homes, despite the painful, disappointing and difficult experiences we have now?”
Such miserable and depressing experiences were also felt by the Hebrew people when they were exiled in Babylon. They were caught in a tension. They were confused and in despair because they were uprooted from their homeland and settled in a land where they were oppressed. They felt insignificant, felt abandoned by Yahweh. They had become hopeless. I am sure, they too have questioned, “Will God come to save us?”
John the Baptist felt the same despair and disappointment while he was in prison. He had been preaching about the coming of the Messiah. He communicated that joyful expectation of the savior who will come to bring justice in the world and uplift the poor and the oppressed. Yet, when he was put into prison, he too had asked the Lord, “Are you really the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”
Again, we too who are in this church would also ask sometimes, “WILL YOU COME TO SAVE ME LORD? ARE YOU REALLY GOD? ARE YOU THERE AT ALL?”
Our first reading from the Prophet Isaiah describes to us a wonderful imagery of the coming of God. As this was addressed to the people exiled in Babylon, the prophet proclaimed, “when God comes, we will all rejoice for God brings justice and salvation.” God heals the sick and we will sing with gladness and joy while sorrow and grief flee away.
Through the prophet, God speaks to his people telling them, “I HAVE NOT FORGOTTEN YOU! AND I WILL NEVER ABANDON YOU!” The words in the first reading is God’s joyful promise to his people. God will come and the people will surely rejoice.
God, indeed, has come, born into human flesh like us. HIS NAME IS JESUS. God fulfills his promise. This is something that we should be joyful about. Jesus responding indirectly to the question of John said, “Look around you, look at what’s happening – blind people seeing, lame people walking, deaf people hearing, lepers being cleansed, dead people are raised to life, poor people for a change, receiving good news.” This is the true Messiah – the one who comes to alleviate suffering, heal broken hearts, and gives hope to the hopeless.
Now, we too who are sometimes unhappy in life and in difficult situations, are being told by Jesus, “Look around you! I am here with you!”
Jesus becomes more present with us also and in our lives when we Christians become more like him. This means that when we ourselves become healers, promoters of reconciliation, generous givers and builders of the kingdom of God in our communities, we become the presence of Jesus in our community.
As Jesus was moved with compassion, he heals the sick and restores life for those who are rejected and abandoned. Each of us and as a community is called to heal the sick, console the afflicted and announce to others that God has come and is our friend! Let us join then in the work of God in building His kingdom now! This is truly a good news! A reason to be joyful! Sana all.
Jom Baring, CSsR