“3rd Sunday of Advent: Rejoice, the God is Near”, by Fr. Baltazar Obico, OFM

Real joy is no longer linked with possession of some object. Rather it is God coming in history that is the reason for rejoicing. Nothing can tarnish this joy; not even suffering and trial.

Introduction

The latest count is around 6 thousand dead, some 1700 missing and 20,000 families still in evacuation centers. The whole nation was numb and in shock, considering Yolanda swept Leyte and Samar shortly after the Bohol earthquake and prior to that the 3- week siege of Zamboanga.

Today the 3rd Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete Sun, Sunday of rejoicing. How could we rejoice? A lot of communities, employees and groups have cancelled their Christmas revelry and forfeited their budget in favour of the victims.

Isaiah tells us that God is coming to save. The desert and parched land will exult. They will bloom with abundant flowers and rejoice with joyful song. James in the 2nd reading says make our hearts firm because the coming of the Lord is at hand. Finally in the Gospel, Jesus commands, “Go and tell John what you see and hear, the blind see, lame walk, lepers cleansed, deaf ear,
dead are raised and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.”

Jesus’ answer was in response to John the Baptist’s inquiry since his expectations of the messianic times is accompanied by force and violence. Christ fail these expectations by revealing his messianic works that are all works of peace, restoration and salvation.

John the Baptist is looking for someone. But what exactly are they looking for? What are the deepest desires of their hearts and our hearts? The fact that they went to the desert and not in palaces or places of power and wealth indicates that something more than material satisfaction will answer their deepest aspiration. Jesus probes their hearts by questioning them on why they are attracted to John the Baptist. The real longing is to get in touch with the originating mystery by connecting with a prophet, a Godgrounded man who speaks the word of God. True joy and rejoicing therefore is to be connected once more with God. We have strayed from these connections and consequently live in exile from our true selves. Hence, we limit the notion of joy to material, bodily enjoyment.

Word

1. Modern man generally seeks joy in evasions, fantasies and pleasures embracing thereby a superficial and meaningless existence. Joy is more than fun, pleasure and happiness. The world speaks of joy in the sense of sensory pleasure, like abundant food, flashy gadgets, branded products. This notion of joy is further reinforced by our consumeristic culture which has reduced our self-worth to having. You are what you have. Others experience some high in sexual pleasure, audio visual experience, fraternal meal, joy of family life, completion of a work done. No doubt joys are felt and experienced, except that they are fleeting and temporary and as one clings to it, it can become a compulsive addiction.

Real joy is no longer linked with possession of some object. Rather it is God coming in history that is the reason for rejoicing. Nothing can tarnish this joy; not even suffering and trial. And so joy can break forth in a depressed economy, in the middle of war, in an ICU, or in the midst of a devastated village. It is a realistic joy rooted in the certitude founded on the victory of Christ over death. Therefore this world is not absurd because God is in love with it and the principle of his victory has been given us once and for all in the Christ-event.

2. This joy is expressed “in the Lord,” because it is the result of his work. Nearness is not considered in the temporal sense (as in today, tomorrow or next month). It is not only the day of the Lord that is near; but the Lord himself is! He is near to all who fear him, who pray and obey. The nearness of the Lord no longer depends on events, more or less distant. It is a constant manner of presence in Christian life. The Christian who experience this
nearness is no longer subject to feverish and vain expectations. He lives calmly in prayer, peace and joy.

3. Today we are deeply touched by the overwhelming support of all people in solidarity with our typhoon victims. From unexpected people and with amazing creativity to express solidarity with us from Justin Bieber to the late Paul Walker; from Paul Gasol to Alaska Aces; from PBA stars to movie celebrities; no one is unmoved, untouched by this tragedy. Practically big business have created programs with Yolanda victims as recipients. Indeed, the Lord is near to all of us as we go out of our way to reach out to the victims.

About Fr. Tasang and his reflections

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