Reflection for the 2nd Sunday of Advent (Cycle A)
In today’s readings for the sacred Advent season, we are presented with the eternal message from the omniscient divine as it came through the prophets of human history, a message which both warned and yet brought hope.
They pronounced the same timeless message which is just as relevant to us today, as it was back then in the time of the Christ, for how can we honestly say that our world is now better than ever before?
This message is clear and unambiguous: As long as one continues to strike another in violence, the prophets will continue to admonish us to “Change our ways. … Let it be seen that we are serious in our conversion,” lest we “burn in inextinguishable fire.” For the Christ, upon whom “the spirit of the Lord has rested,” has already in his time and space, ushered in the kingdom of justice and peace. It is a kingdom in which this same Spirit will bring for those called to serve it, “wisdom and understanding … counsel and power … knowledge and fear of God”.
It is a kingdom of justice, a reign of God, under which its servants like the Christ will struggle for the upliftment of the oppressed, and for the renewal of their oppressors, through an interiority discernment process that is fair yet penetrating: “Not by appearances will he judge, nor by what is said must he decide, but with justice he will judge the poor and with righteousness decide for the meek. Like a rod, his word will strike the oppressor, and the breath of his lips slay the wicked. Justice will be the girdle of his waist, truth the girdle of his loins.”
It is a kingdom of peace, a sustained harmony under God, transcending geopolitical borders and ethnicities, multinational economies and communities, diverse religions and cultures. It is a harmony founded on dialogue and fueled by collaboration; impelled by charity and responsibility for those who have been left behind; strengthened by courageous acts of sharing and vigilant social action, though tempered by a conscience seeking neither injury nor revenge: “The wolf will dwell with the lamb, the leopard will rest beside the kid, the calf and the lion cub will feed together and a little child will lead them. Befriending each other, the cow and the bear will see their young ones lie down together. Like cattle, the lion will eat hay. By the cobra’s den the infant will play. The child will put his hand into the viper’s lair. No one will harm or destroy over my holy mountain.”
See however, is this kingdom now accomplished among us? We are at the brink of a collapse carelessly brought about by our unbridled selfishness and oppression, our numbing indifference and irresponsibility; we seem to be leaving God with no choice: “The ax is already laid to the roots of the trees; any tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown in the fire.”
Yet, faithful and patient as he is, we still have hope. All it takes is a “change of heart”. The prophets then – as the pastors of our Church are telling us now – that the crisis of our times, of systemic silence and violence, of sinful omission and commission, is not much in immediate need of a ‘change of structure’ as it is in immediate need of a “change of heart.” For the changes in social structures, though necessary, cannot be sustained, if we all cannot change the way we think about and act upon our responsibility for the other.
May the Lord who calls us to serve in the kingdom “with the Holy Spirit and fire,” continue to strengthen us to “produce good fruit” until the end. May the prayer of the Apostle remain with us for that glorious end: “May God, the source of all perseverance and comfort, give to all of you, to live in peace in Christ Jesus, that you may be able to praise, in one voice God, Father of Christ Jesus, our Lord. Welcome, then, one another, as Christ welcomed you for the glory of God.”
Brother Jess Matias is a professed brother of the Secular Franciscan Order. He serves as minister of the St. Pio of Pietrelcina Fraternity at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Mandaluyong City, coordinator of the Padre Pio Prayer Groups of the Capuchins in the Philippines and prison counselor and catechist for the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.
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