Advent for Filipinos

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(Fifteen years ago as I started to write this weekly column on BusinessMirror upon the urging of my kababayan Sen. Blas Ople, I decided early on to focus on the Word of God as proclaimed in the Sunday liturgy of the Church in the belief that we as a people would do very well to be shaped by the two-edge sword of God’s Word. For 14 years we have systematically gone over every Old Testament reading, Psalm, Epistle text, and Gospel pericope used in worship, and we have reflected on them for spiritual nourishment. Now I intend to take a more freewheeling approach to contemporary issues and relevant matters but still as guided by the Word of God and the tradition of our Christian faith.)

WE are again in the season of Advent. Our attention is directed on what is to come. It is a season of faith, as we look forward to what is not yet there but what we, deep in our hearts, hope and long for. Advent is about a birthing to come, and this time around for us Filipinos Advent launches us in the last year of our preparation for the Fifth Centennial of the Christianization of the Philippines. This Advent should at the very least focus our energy on what we have to do, as we wait actively, for the big celebration of the 500th anniversary of the coming of Christianity to our country. But even more profoundly, this Advent must awaken us to the real import of our Christianization that only started 500 years ago.

Time of fulfillment

Advent points our attention to the coming of Jesus Christ, the beginning of the time of fulfillment. His coming for our salvation is the fulfillment of God’s long-standing promise to send His Chosen One to lead humankind to the right path of reconciliation with Him. His birth, which we celebrate the whole Christmas season, is a joyous remembrance precisely of that advent of the time of fulfillment the first time around. Jesus appeared on the scene and in due time proclaimed, “This is the time of fulfillment,” meaning “The reign of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15). Man’s fulfillment cannot be against or apart from the reign of God; man’s fulfillment is the completion of what the Creator has destined for humankind.

The people then knew only too well that things were far from being good; there were always so much rottenness around, so much violence and oppression, so much ignorance and suffering. That things would be better, that was the expectation of all. Filipinos have been at times faulted for being too optimistic, unrealistically optimistic, amid so much dross and inanities in our society. It is as if we are too blind to see the real score, or so much taken up with whistling in the dark we are actually refusing to see the truth. We have seen the bottom of the barrel, we claim, and we convince ourselves that it cannot get any worse than this. Well, things definitely have to improve. It is not God’s plan that we suffer unjustly and self-destruct. We Filipinos are not a God-forsaken people, nobody is.

The imperative of transformation

Jesus called on His listeners to change their ways, to be converted (Mark 1:15). This metanoiahe was demanding means both a turning back to God and a turning away from old sinful ways. This turning around implies living up to God’s commandments, God’s reign among us, therefore, according to the Gospel of Jesus, a life of faith guided by the teachings of Jesus. This is the conversion which is the heart of the Christianization of any people; this must be the measure of the evangelization of our people these 500 years.

In the “lights and shadows” of the Christianization of the Philippines, we must avoid being too defensive, as we traditionally are, trying always to cushion the blows of the real and the true. The majority of our people are up to now “nominal Christians,” not yet living according to Gospel values. What have we really and effectively done about it? What are we all honestly and in concert doing about this? What are we not yet doing that needs to be undertaken in true evangelization? Surely, the coming Fifth Centennial of our Christianization is not a celebration of a Filipino success, but more of a fresh call to conversion to Christ.

Alálaong bagá, we Filipino Christians need to focus on the message of Advent. Yes, there is something we can still look forward to: Someone is coming by the power of God. Jesus is up to the end of time “a-coming,” also to us Filipinos, for whom the grace of Christianization and conversion is not done in nor limited by 500 years of history. Our transformation according to the Gospel of Christ is ongoing and lifelong.

Join me in meditating on the Word of God every Sunday, from 5 to 6 a.m. on DWIZ 882, or by audio streaming on www.dwiz882.com.

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