For few days now, my thoughts are all for the Philippines as my fellow Filipinos there experienced the strongest typhoon that hit the country for this year. More than 400 people confirmed dead, few hundreds still reported missing and I believed there are still more lives lost that are yet to be accounted for. ‘Pablo’ (i.e. the local name of the international typhoon Bopha) wipes out 3 Davao Oriental (in Mindanao area) towns’ was the headline of the news the other day. According to the governor of the province all the structures (i.e. houses, public buildings, hospitals, churches) in these three towns were wiped out by the 210 kph gust of strong wind brought by the typhoon. What made it more difficult is that there was no easy access to these towns. The trees falling on the roads, the debris everywhere and the destroyed bridges made these towns isolated from the rest of the province. The governor of the province would even note that the need of food was less even of a problem (then) than the accessibility to these towns. For now, the only access was through the sea according to the governor. (Source: ABS-CBN news)
With this, there is a great need of road cleaning and clearing. There is also a need of repairing damaged bridges. Unless these needs are met and resolved, access to the relief services and supply of food would still be limited for both the service crew and for the victims. Unless the roads are cleared and cleaned, and the bridges repaired, the extent of support and assistance from the outside would remain to be limited and still remain to be a great task ahead. Unless a way is paved and prepared, nothing much can be done.
Friends, I’m sharing this news with you not only because I wished we would continue our support to them through prayers and in whatever ways and capacities we can do, but also because ‘preparing a way’ is one of the strong messages for us today as we celebrate this Second Sunday of Advent. Luke in our gospel today spoke of John the Baptist as the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah- as the ‘voice crying out in the wilderness’ calling everyone to prepare a way, and not just for the sake of preparing but because the Lord is coming. In doing this John the Baptist serves as a concrete figure and an example of advent. This time of advent then is an opportune time for us to listen to John’s call again and ask ourselves: “What are we doing to prepare the way for the Lord?” To answer this we need to understand what does it mean to prepare a way of the Lord for us now.
To prepare a way for the Lord means: First, is through conversion of our hearts- This means not only repentance and asking forgiveness for the wrong we have done but more so to make a resolution to go forward for the better and strive to do our best. Everyday God is calling us to walk the way of conversion. And mind you, we are drawn by it though subconsciously at times. We know we walk by the way of conversion if we allow ‘our mountains and hills be laid low’ that is counteracting our pride with humility, our greed with generosity, our ego-centredness with care and concern for others. Second is to be in love and determine to do what is best for everyone as St Paul tells the Christians of Philippi that we heard in our Second Reading today (Phil 1:10). And more. St Paul is urging us to live a kind of love that is patterned after the unconditional and life-giving love of Jesus for everyone. We are called to love in a way that God loves us by not only coming to live with us but also by completely identifying with our human weaknesses and limitations thus transforming us into sharers of his glory. We are called to love- a kind of love that empowers not enforced us to lay down our lives for the person we love. Third, is that we go out to meet Christ on the way of peace, justice and love. This means seeing Christ in the life of the poor, the innocent, the vulnerable. It is a hard call, a difficult task indeed but is not impossible. Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, among others, showed us that this can be done. And in fact, Archbishop Romero would note that if we are serious in our anticipation for Christmas (that means the birth and the second coming of Christ), then we are to look at Christ beyond the crib. He said: “We must not seek the child Jesus in the pretty figures of our Christmas cribs. We must seek him among the undernourished children who have gone to bed at night with nothing to eat, among the poor newsboys who will sleep covered with newspapers in doorways. –December 24, 1979. And to make this happen we have to take on the Spirit of Christmas in our hearts (i.e. turning back to God, giving, forgiving and loving) for “he who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree” says Roy L. Smith.
In this Second Sunday of Advent therefore we are called to prepare the way of the Lord by looking deeper into our hearts and to ask ourselves if our way of loving is really a reflection of God’s love for us. It also calls us to allow Christ to occupy the very centre of our hearts and to make it sure that he is truly alive and living in our lives. It also means seeing Christ through our neighbours.
So as we continue in this journey of Advent (coming) let us remember that this is an opportune time for us to pave the way for Christmas, to clear and clean the paths of God and to make straight our winding roads (sin and indifference to God and our neighbours.) Let this be our prayer and our reflection.