November 29, 2020 – First Sunday of Advent
Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/112920.cfm)
Advent is a season of “Joyful Waiting.” It is a joyful hope that lifts our spirits. With this first Sunday of Advent, we also begin the new year in our Church’s (Liturgical) Calendar. However, I cannot help but recall the past year. As the new year Liturgical year started in December 2019, we already have experienced frightening calamities. Earthquakes terrified particularly the Central and Southern Mindanao. Quakes continued for weeks that left thousands of people traumatized and terrified. Then, Taal erupted and brought great damages in its neighboring provinces. Then, Covid-19 came and brought fear to us until now. And just recently, typhoons hit our country that greatly affected our brothers and sisters in the Northern Philippines.
From all of these, we saw images in the news and in social media sites how millions of people were waiting to be rescued. Until now, all of us are waiting to be rescued. The typhoon Rolly and Ulysses particularly caused people to climb to their roofs because of the floods. Those frightening situations left our brothers and sisters at the mercy of rescuers.
We could just imagine, that if we too are in their situation, it would be very difficult not to give in to despair. There was so much hopelessness that we have experienced. Is there something to wait joyfully then? Is there something to wait joyfully now?
On a personal level, many individuals also struggle to live because of personal and deep-seated issues. Many young people have succumbed to depression that led to suicidal attempts and ultimately led to the end of their lives. Many are desperate because of their addictions, because of broken and abusive relationships where they are trapped. Many felt hopeless because of their guilt and shame, believing that they cannot be forgiven.
In one way or another, we are all waiting to be rescued. What the Psalm has proclaimed today, is echoing into our hearts, “Let us see your face, O Lord, and we shall be saved.” Thus, despite the frightening, terrifying experiences we have, despite our desperation, we long and we cry deep within that God may show His face to us, so that we will be saved from so much despair and suffering. This Psalm really expressed this hope. This was written during the time of destruction and captivity of Israel. People became miserable and desperate because their enemies brought darkness into their lives.
Yet, their hope for salvation was relentless. In the same way, Prophet Isaiah, in our first reading also expressed this persistent hope for salvation in the midst so much misery. In his desperation, he even sounded to blame God saying, “Why do you let us wander, O Lord? Return for the sake of your servants.” With the people, Isaiah conveyed the feeling of being abandoned by the Lord because of the guilt that they were carrying.
Isaiah expressed the shame and guilt of the people’s stubborn heart, rejecting and killing God’s prophets. Their leaders and the participation of the people of a systemic corruption of life, made Isaiah to proclaim, “you have hidden your face from us, O LORD, and have delivered us up to our guilt.” Isaiah knew this very well. It was indeed very easy to fall into hopelessness and in total misery.
However, Isaiah also expressed in behalf of the people, and in behalf of all of us today, he said, “Yet, O Lord, you are our Father.” In the midst of hopelessness, Isaiah recognized God and affirmed his confidence to God, our Father, who will never ever abandon us. This, indeed, is a relentless hope.
In the same way, Paul expressed in his first letter to the Corinthians, his gratitude for the grace of God bestowed on the people, and also reminded them that “God is faithful.” Yes, God is faithful and cannot deny us and will not break the promise to be with us.
This relentless hope keeps us alive and keeps us burning in our desire to be rescued by the Lord in whatever difficult and misery we are experiencing today. Hence, as Jesus told his disciples, Jesus also says to us today, “Be watchful! Be alert!” Jesus wants us to be always watchful, alert and attentive to his constant revelations for us and attentive to his silent revelations in us. To be watchful and alert is not a mere warning of the dangers that may come, it is also an invitation to have a heightened awareness of God’s presence in our life and in the lives of others.
We are a people who long to see the face of God, who long to feel His loving and comforting presence in our life. Yet, let us also realize that though we long for God, God longs for us all the more. Jesus would surely come and rescue us where we are at this very moment.
Thus, on this first day of Advent, we are all invited to relentlessly hope as we remain watchful of God’s presence in our life and through the life of our brothers and sisters. Hinaut pa.