Second Sunday of Advent (C)
I like to mention three Filipinos who made a difference in the life of many (though there are many more):
1. Corazon Aquino. She became the President of the Philippines during the country’s dark times in the ‘80’s. She was liked by many not because she excelled in her political career, in fact there were several coup attempts against her government, but because she practiced virtues, especially moral virtues and the love of the Virgin Mary.
2. Efren Penaflorida. He was chosen by Cable News Network (CNN) as hero of the year for his “pushcart classroom.” (In the country a pushcart is a sign of poverty, and a person, who moves around with it may have all that he has to live on in the pushcart, as he goes around the city gathering paper, plastic, cans and other things that he can sell or use, and most of the time just get into the shade of his pushcart when evening falls.) Efren was also given awards by different organizations in the country, including a presidential award. With his small pushcart, Efren goes around his province teaching children basic education, especially moral values and love of God. He also started his mobile canteen and clinic along with it. Efren involves children themselves to help him teach, feed and do first aid on other children. He not only makes a difference with children and their families today, he is also a wakeup call to government officials to do their jobs well, especially in the field of education.
3. A friend. She is not a national figure. She lives in a small village. She is not rich, but has some resources. She goes to Church every day and loves our Mother Mary very dearly; and generous. Once she promised to give a hundred individual plastic chairs for use in a village chapel. Thinking that the chapel was not being used every day, I made a comment that those chairs would walk away one by one. She responded: Father, that’s the last thing that I would think about. I blushed from head to feet.
Today St. Paul is teaching us the following:
1. “The one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil 1:6). In one of his homilies (Nov 29, 2009), the Holy Father declared: “The contemporary world needs above all hope: It is needed by developing peoples, but also by those economically developed…. Above all, seeing so many false securities crumble, we realize that we need a trustworthy hope, and this is found only in Christ, who, as the Letter to the Hebrews says, ‘is the same yesterday, today and always’” (13:8). His good work will have its completion in us only as a society.
2. “…. that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value.” (Phil 1:9-10). Among the more important things in the world are the practice of virtues, faith, love, good health, education, family, service to fellow men, law-abiding citizenry and others. In his encyclical Deus Caritas est, Benedict XVI also wrote: “The mission of the lay faithful is therefore to configure social life correctly, respecting its legitimate autonomy and cooperating with other citizens according to their respective competences and fulfilling their own responsibility…. because in addition to justice man needs, and will always need, love” (#29).
3. “…. that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God” (Phil 1:10-11). The fruits of righteousness or justice always come from the love of God. Without God’s love, man will not learn how to love. He will always be selfish. In the same encyclical Deus Caritas est, Pope Benedict XVI said, “Love—caritas—will always prove necessary, even in the most just society…. Whoever wants to eliminate love is preparing to eliminate man as such. There will always be suffering which cries out for consolation and help. There will always be loneliness. There will always be situations of material need where help in the form of concrete love of neighbor is indispensable” (#28).
Despite the hardships we experience, Scriptures propose a hopeful situation, but only in God. To exiled Israel, Baruch proclaims the fulfillment of a promise of peace. To those who persevere in faith, St. Paul proclaims hope that the Lord Jesus will complete His work until the end. John the Baptist announces that peace will reign through our openness to God, conversion from sinful ways and repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
Let us now ask the Lord Jesus to give us the grace to grow in our love for Him and in our affection towards Mary, and for the grace to develop the virtues of generosity and compassion that do not expect compensation. Let us approach the Eucharist in anticipation of the coming of Jesus now and in the end of time, when we all will eat at the banquet in His Kingdom.