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Monday, December 31, 2012


Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

January 1, 2013

Readings: Nm 6:22-27 / Gal 4:4-7 / Lk 2:16-21

The whole world is awash in blessing today. People bless each other, more than they greet each other a Happy New Year. Countless text messages, facebook private messages and chats, along with innumerable e-messages now clog the information superhighway, more or less filled with the same blessings or at least wishes for more blessings for each other.

This day could not be better chosen to call down God’s blessings on each other, and to be blessings to one another. The liturgy itself, meant primarily to extol the glories of Mary, Mother of God, focuses also on the issue of blessing and being blessed.

The first reading gives the opening salvo. Moses was told to hand on to Aaron the threefold blessing that God’s face might shine on all the Israelites. Our response to the first reading, which is basically a prayer, is more of the same: “May God bless us in His mercy.”

St. Paul, for his part, counts blessings for us. He speaks of the blessing of a gift of God’s Son – “born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law.” That ultimate blessing brings with it a train of other blessings: our adoption as sons in the Son, the gift of the Spirit of the same Son given to us, the gift of freedom in Christ, that makes us capable of calling on God endearingly and familiarly as Abba or Daddy.

In the Gospel passage, Luke counts himself in and extols the channel through which all these blessings took place – Mary the vessel of grace … Mary, the most blessed among all women.

In Mary, what we pray for, what blessing we long for from God, shines out most clearly. In Mary, Mother of God, whose honor and glory the Church acclaims today, who is, in Wordsworth’s words, “our tainted nature’s solitary boast,” we find reason and meaning to our hopes and desires for more blessings for ourselves and others. Mary, full of grace, and vessel of grace, who bore the author of grace in her womb, counts among our blessings for today, and for the rest of our year of grace, 2007.

We need all the blessings we can get in our times and days. Even on new year’s day, fear surrounds us. Uncertainty beclouds our common future. Al Gore’s “inconvenient truth,” no matter the fierce denials of people who are on the opposite sides of the political spectrum, keeps us all at least worried that we may not have done, and still may not be doing things right with regards to the fragile environment, as we have seen in these recent years in Mindanao. The mass murders of Ampatuan notoriety is far from being a solved case, so many months after the dastardly deed.Terrorism still hovers like a menacing cloud over our peace of mind and serenity of heart. Given the bellicose stance of misguided individual leaders and entire fanatical peoples, governed more by hatred than by piety, our wishes and prayers of blessings for the rest of the entire new year can give us a much needed reprieve and a much needed headstart.

There is enough reason for us to be despondent and discouraged. This much, I confess to you. There were times this past year when I gave in to discouragement and to sadness. There were times last year when I almost felt sorry I worked so hard only to be blamed for things people second-guessed me for. There were times I almost was angry at myself for investing too much in what I believed in, and all I got was blame from individuals who thought I was doing them for personal, self-serving motives. Yes … and a great deal of those accusations, I must tell you, too, came from people who share my work in the common vineyard – people who should have supported me, or who should have rejoiced together with me in the same spirit of Christian hope.

Today, the first day of the new year, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, is no such day to wallow in despair and despondency. This is the Good News that I hear. This is the Good News that I preach. This is the Good News that I would like us to dwell on. This good news has nothing to do with frightful trends and with dour prognostications. It has nothing to do with the much-feared and much talked about “clash of civilizations” of Huntington fame. It has absolutely nothing to do with being overtaken and overpowered by paralyzing fear.

This Good News has to do, not with something but with someone!

Eight days ago, we celebrated this good news in person – the birth of Jesus the Christ, the Savior “come into the world.” This “pilgrim God” come in flesh is the good news that came as light to a world walking in darkness.

Today, another person takes center stage in this mosaic of good news that the liturgy takes pains to tell us all year round. And the focus of today’s good news is the woman through whose cooperation the light of the world came in order to dispel the darkness. This is the good news that Paul speaks of in the second reading. “When the fullness of time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman …”

But good news can only be truly good if there are other good people like Mary to keep the news going. This good news can only flourish if there are others like Mary who are ready and willing to make of their lives not only proclamations in faith, but also acclamations of hope. Too bad, most of us, torn by hopelessness and discouragement end up being merely exclamations! We exclaim endlessly: “When will all this end?” “Why me?” “Why does the Lord pick on me?” These are nothing but exclamations born of exasperation, born of the same thing I was guilty of at least for some time – the desolation of hopelessness!

Today, the woman through whom the savior was born takes center stage in our hearts. Mary, vessel, virgin, maiden, and mother, our tainted nature’s solitary boast, is also our fallen nature’s unica spes (unique hope). Mother of Jesus, God and man, Mary is mother of God. Mother of him who is the author of grace, Mary is mother of grace. Through her, grace is dispensed by God. Having born Jesus in her womb, she is vessel and channel of grace.

This new year’s day, we do very well to dwell on the idea of blessing one another, and being blessed by God. But we do best when we start with the most significant blessing of all – the gift of the Savior – born for us through Mary!

Friday, December 28, 2012


Feast of the Holy Family
December 30, 2012


Everybody is now in search for the child … The wise men “from the east” wherever that is, have gone down in religious history as proverbially out in search for the newborn child or “king” as both Scripture, tradition and yore would have us understand. The shepherds out at night plying their trade, by far, the lowliest of them all, brought out the news to a waiting world. Angels, with their figurative trumpets blaring and wings a-fluttering, delivered, not just an SMS, mind you, but a full-length recital and a momentous proclamation of the glories of a wondrous and mysterious God, who at some point, decided to be one like us and became man in and through His Son Jesus, Emmanuel!

His coming brought together an elderly man, a young woman, an elder woman and her equally elderly husband, who, like Mary the young woman, bore a child in her womb. Everybody then, as everybody now, was waiting for a child – nay, two children – to be born.

Everybody yes, but obviously not somebody. We all know the name of that potentate – Herod – who most likely did not look too kindly at children. Why, he had about 2,000 of them young boys murdered in cold blood! He, too, was out in search, but for a totally different reason and purpose.

Mary was a mother-in-waiting. Elizabeth, too, in her old age, was a mother-in-waiting … both of them expectant mothers in the fullest sense of the term, not reluctant child-bearers whose distaste for childbearing, totally obliterates the natural desire to be a nurturing mother.

But those who wait expectantly and eagerly and those who search with heart, soul, and mind have one thing in common … They either “go in haste” or do errands of charity, or welcome new life with alacrity and grateful glee.

Today we have a king and potentates allied with him who, like Herod, show so much distaste for new life. They are out in search for prosperity, for the good life, for that much ballyhooed GNP or WB ratings and rankings – mathematic all, that’s good for year-end reports, and definitely good for reigning kings and queens to gain more political mileage.

But  they cannot wait. They do not know how to wait. They do not like to wait.

Today, we have a story at one and the same time of a family, as much engaged in searching as in waiting.

Isn’t this the story of our lives? Isn’t this the story of most Filipino families? Isn’t this what so many millions of us do in well over 130 countries all over the world, working our butts off, enduring lonely days and nights, and longing for home visits and vacations that are few and far between, waiting, searching for loved one’s left behind in our beloved country, making do with SKYPE and Facetime in order to link up and show love even at a distance?

Isn’t this waiting and searching what we all grew up with? … so many of us waiting and searching for that elusive college degree, so that we could take up the cudgels for our families and help send other siblings to school?

Isn’t this the common story of the Filipino families right now threatened left and right by so many challenges that make it so difficult for so many struggling families that are separated by distance, but kept intact by our culture and by our faith traditions?

We are a people who are used to waiting and searching. We are a people out on the move, searching for a better life, for better opportunities, for better education and all. And those who cannot move stay put, and do nothing else but wait – patiently, lovingly, and hopefully.

We have got good news today for the struggling family. And the good news brought to us by Joseph, Mary and the child Jesus, is also a story of struggle, a story of migration, a story of being in flight, not just for a better life, but for survival, running away from a potentate who disliked newborn baby boys, and who definitely could not stand competition!

And the waiting saga did not end there. It was complemented by a story of searching. Twelve years hence, when we would least expect further storms in the horizon, a sudden squall blew in the direction of the home front of the Holy Family … Jesus, the 12-year old went missing! Their lives were shattered once again. It was anothere disappoitment in the offing, another challenge in the making. When they noticed that the boy was missing, we are told that “they journeyed for a day.”

They were in search. They were troubled. They were worried.

The Philippine Church, too, like the Holy Family, is now in search. It is troubled. And we who hold on to Mother Church, may be worried. We are in search for leaders who respect the law of God. We are in search for believers who really believe and belong, not cherry pickers who only accept the acceptable and reject the unpalatable doctrines.

We are once more in a figurative exile. We are once again on the move, searching for our own little promised land of development with a soul, of prosperity without the need to do away with life unborn, of a better life, without the need for a bitter pill of anti-life tactics and methods.

We are not just in search for the child. We are in search for life in its fullness, and, following the example of the Holy Family, we swear today, never to give up in the face of so many challenges and so much difficulty. We promise today, to be like Mary and Joseph, out in search for the truth, and live that truth cost what might, happen what may.

O Lord Jesus Christ, we are anxious. We are bothered. In our lack of faith, we would like to ask: “Son, why have you done this to us?” Why have you allowed your people to go astray? Why is it that so much evil happens even to good people? Why is there so much pain, so much sorrow in the world?

Please help us, Lord, in our unbelief. Through the example of your Holy Family, through the example of Mary, your mother and ours, and her husband Joseph, teach us to wait – in faith and hope, patiently and lovingly. But give us, too, the energy and capacity to be in active search – for a more just and loving world, for greater prosperity while safeguarding your sacred laws, particularly those that pertain to the sacredness of life.

We are once more in semi-exile. We are a people on the move towards our own promised land of peace and prosperity, but a type of well-being that is not to be achieved at all costs. Teach us to be active in our waiting. Teach us to be patient in our waiting. But above all, teach us love, patience, forebearance, forgiveness, and love in our searching. You who live and reign forever and ever. Amen.

Monday, December 24, 2012


I would like to state right at the outset that this post is as much my contribution to Christmas celebration as my personal tribute to a former confrere RENAN LUTERIA.

Rest in peace Renan! You touched many lives, including mine. May your example of selflessness live on in more young people!
Christmas Day

December 25, 2012


Anti-catholic haters abound these days. Yes, even, and especially on Christmas day. Some of them former Catholics themselves, whose very shallow understanding of what they claimed they believed in, was simply not enough for them to parry all the sloganeering and the proselytizing, they have one common line: What’s all the fuss about celebrating a commercialized Christmas? What does the flurry of gift-giving got to do with the second most solemn feast of the liturgical year?

My answer is, simply everything! The question they ask seems to be “what’s wrong about gift-giving on Christmas Day?” That seems to me the wrong question that in turn, would produce a wrong answer.

I suggest that the question ought to be: “What’s right about gift-giving on Christmas Day?”

Let me share with you a personal story that took place only the other day, just when most people all over the world are looking forward to celebrating Christmas as family, whole, at close ranks, and together. Just when all I wanted to do was to recover so much lost sleep on account of more than a week of Dawn Masses (Simbang Gabi), I received a call from a former student. One of their former companions back in seminary days whad fallen seriously ill and had not been able to recognize anyone, shaking uncontrollably in semi-coma, and doctors unable to pin down what was the matter. It had been a week since he sort of “snapped,” I was told.

I still don’t know what led me to answer “yes” at once. In a daze owing to lack of sleep, I normally would not read text messages all at once. I decided to, that day. And after knowing what was the matter, I immediately agreed to go to a relatively distant hospital where the young man, who had been one of our students in the seminary, was.

Even now, I thank God I did not refuse the opportunity to anoint someone seriously sick. Even now, I thank God that I had been instrumental in accompanying somebody who, it turned out, was in the last stage of his earthly journey. Even now, and especially now that he had passed on, despite my fervent wishes and prayers that he’d pull through, I thank and praise God that I had witnessed an example so clear of what Christmas is all about, and what the flurry of gift-giving really means, at bottom.

Let me tell you why.

Renan was a young man in his late teens when he got to know the Salesians in Samar, southern Philippines. He lived and studied and worked at the same time for a while in our training center in Borongan, Samar where he manifested the desire to be a priest like the ones who took care of him and educated him partly in Borongan. He went into the normal seminary routine, became a postulant, a novice, and eventually professed a Salesian. After the novitiate year in Cebu, he moved on to the Postnovitiate House in Canlubang, Laguna, where I was Rector and formator for many years.

But coming as he does from a poor family, he was torn between his desire to be a religious priest, and his equally legitimate desire to help his parents and siblings. At the end of the postnovitiate stage, he reluctantly decided to leave and do something to help his family.

And that was what he did precisely, holding a stressful, full-time job, initially getting one which gave low pay, but which he knew could be a staging point for him to grant other poor young people jobs, too. Eventually he landed in a call center where at the time of his death, he was already team leader, quite close to being manager. Focused only on work and on helping his family, acting like the father to his siblings, he sent a sister to school, built a house for his mother and other siblings, started a small business for his mother, and was in the process of starting a bigger business venture for his family of origin, never for a time entertaining thoughts of settling down, and pushing his desire for marriage on the back burner, and working passionately towards the attainment of his altruistic dreams.

That was how he lived. Working with panache, driven by a vision not for himself, but others. That was how he died, passionately dedicated to the welfare of his family, not for a moment thinking about his own comfort, always, as his close friend, another former student of mine says, thinking about what else to do to uplift his family’s economic status and total well-being.

When he collapsed in exhaustion and stress, brought about by a job that he handled so well despite the lack of psychic rewards, and the presence of so many problems and concerns, it appeared like he needed to rest for a long, long while.

He was brought to the hospital. Doctors could see nothing the matter from his MRI, CT-Scan and other tests, but he was in a state of semi-coma for a week, unable to recognize anyone, shaking uncontrollably in one hand, and unable to move the other hand, bleeding profusely in the stomach for days, and losing half his body weight in a matter of less than a week.

Last Saturday, when I got to the hospital room, and lost no time in giving him the anointing of the sick, I was close to tears seeing someone in the prime of his life ravaged by a mysterious sickness, reduced to a helpless state, but still apparently trying to put up a gallant fight to live.

And it was during and after the anointing that the miracle happened – the miracle that for this humble writer, who is old enough to be his father, is really the ultimate meaning of Christmas, among other things.

When I did the laying on of hands, the person who recognized nobody prior to that moment showed recognition and incipient awareness. He fixed his gaze on me, and even if he was burning with fever, managed for a fleeting few minutes to steady his eyes and fix his gaze around familiar faces, his former seminary companions, my former students. After the anointing, he was drenched in sweat, trying to mumble words, trying to tell me something very important. I thought I heard a rasp of a sound that spelled like F-a-t-h-e-r! And it was at that moment of lucidity that I told him I was giving him the absolution.

But the miracle of life did not end there. The best was yet to come. There was another shift. After being bathed in sweat trying his mighty best to communicate, and knowing that he had been absolved and forgiven, the struggle to say something was gone. The sweating subsided. The shaking dwindled considerably. Prior to that words were furiously trying to get out of his mouth. At that time, words were no longer necessary. I knew. He knew. Everyone in the room understood. Words now were simply optional, but peace and love were obligatory. I saw it. I felt it. I knew it.

He smiled. I swear that that was the most winsome and convincing smile I ever saw in my life. It was the smile of God, who told me, at least, that Christmas is about hoping, that Christmas is about joy, and that Christmas is about giving. Suffering is what I saw as I got in, but it was Christian resignation and acceptance even of the unacceptable that I brought out with me. I received something wonderful. I was given the gift that even the Magi could not have given.

Whoever says there is nothing right with gift-giving in Christmas either does not know Scripture or ignores it altogether. Let me repeat what Scripture says in all four Masses of Christmas Day:

“A child is born for us, a son is given to us.”  (Isaiah)

“Jesus Christ gave himself for us.” (Paul)

“A savior has been born for you who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke)

“But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God.” (John)


I got inside the hospital room poor as a mouse, in my lack of sleep, in my lack of hope, and in my cynicism. I brought with me a tired world, a hopeless world, a beaten world – beaten by the contours of hopelessness around me, even because of me. I got out of it a richer man, enriched by a dying man who gave me the best and most memorable Christmas gift ever.

So, pray tell me, what’s wrong with gift-giving? Nothing! What’s right about gift-giving on Christmas? Everything. And I got it all one day just before Christmas of 2012, thanks to Renan, because God gave His only begotten Son one day and became like me today.

For today is born the King of Kings, Christ the Lord!

In memoriam … Renan Luteria (1979-2012)

Friday, December 21, 2012


4th Sunday of Advent (C)
December 23, 2012


An ancient Latin aphorism that sounds like an oxymoron says: Festina Lente! It means “Make haste slowly.” How does one make haste? How does one does so but ever so slowly? How does one stop a rampaging Christmas season now at its climax, with excitement ready to explode any time now, at least for children who have things to look forward to? How does one look forward to Christmas at this time of year (the second in as many years) when thousands still lay desolate, despairing and dying (if not dead) in the typhoon ravaged areas of Mindanao in the Philippines?

Yes, I am wondering how on earth we can stop something we have taken for granted all our lives. And no! I am not about to stop you from celebrating Christmas. Please do. Please go along with the news of glad tidings that the angels brought to lowly smelly shepherds of yore. Please walk together with the Magi in honest search for the newborn King, for He was promised to reign forever and ever! Please don’t hesitate to open your gifts and give gifts (if you can afford them) to one another.

The Lord is indeed very near! Many have trekked home to the provinces. Many will spend this day trying to stretch every single peso to make of Christmas what it was meant to be – a day of joy, a day of thanksgiving, a day of rejoicing!

But please, if I may suggest, take it easy, take it slowly, go in haste, yes – like Mary did – but make haste slowly!

The Gospel today would have us see Mary “travelling to a hill country in haste to a town of Judah.” Was Mary excited? She definitely was? She got the news of a lifetime that would startle every small town lass. She had reasons to be. The news brought a lot of anxiety and a lot more questions.

Was Mary curious? Most likely, so, too! She heard more than just news for her. She also heard what appeared to be “a rumor of angels” – Elizabeth, too, was with child! Now that was news, too! She was young and with a child. Elizabeth was old and with child! I wonder which was the greater news or the more scandalizing rumor! Both women, one in her youth and single blessedness was with child … The other in her not-so-blessed wrinkleness was also with child, already in her sixth month!

Mary was definitely in haste.

But no … in her haste, she was not really all that taken up to do what the world thinks she should be doing. Let us pause and see for ourselves…

Mary was in haste to go to her cousin, but Mary paused … and prayed! “My soul magnifies the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Mary heard. Mary listened. But Mary, too, kept everything in her heart.

We are a people now in a hurry. The traffic situation makes all of us impatient, unable to wait, incapable, too, of pausing and praying and reflecting. We have a thousand and one in our lists of to-dos and to-buys. In our rush, we celebrated Christmas parties as early as November, to avoid, ironically, the Christmas rush, which was precisely the reason for the season. Our authorities wanted to give a gift (so they call it) to the Filipino people – the gift of an incipient culture that is patently anti-life before Christmas. It was, of course, railroaded, rushed, and done with haste, no more, no less.

We are also in a hurry to solve the massive problem of poverty. We are also in a rush to solve the mostly imaginary problem of women’s health, never mind if it had been an issue since the republic was born. But curiously we are in no rush to solve the real core and real source of it all, which has nothing to do with physical health, but with spiritual health.

Today, just less than 36 hours before Christmas, we would like not to be carried away by all the rush and the haste that commercialized Christmas leads us to.

We would like to go in haste toward the joys of Christmas, yes … but we would like to do it gently, slowly, soulfully, and meaningfully. We ask the Lord, as did the psalmist in today’s response: “Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.”

We want Christmas soon. We want to do the rejoicing soonest. We want to enjoy it sooner, not later.

But on second thought, we want Christ first, and Christmas, second. We are indeed making haste, like Mary, but we do it ever gently, slowly, soulfully, and reflectingly. We want today to turn first to the Lord, to see His face, and thus, be saved!

There was someone who was also in a rush. And he was in a rush to greet the coming of his Lord, for a mere blob of cells, he definitely was not. He was in a rush to show the world, that one is never too young to proclaim the glory of the Lord. He leapt in his mother’s womb, and almost became a premature baby, with a not premature wish, which was to proclaim the glory of the Lord!

So who’s in such a hurry? Festina lente, my friend! Pause. Pray. Reflect. Turn to the Lord, and see the glory of His face, and then behold the saving power of God!

Saturday, December 15, 2012


3rd Sunday Advent (Year C)
December 16, 2012


All three readings could not be any clearer! They are all a call to joy, to optimism, to rejoicing! It is just too bad that the call comes for the third time in as many years, when we apparently have all the reasons in the world to be sad, dejected, and despairing. As I write, news about the more than two scores who were shot to death in Connecticut is still fresh. Whilst the tragedy that befell southern Philippines is by no means fresh news, the number of those who died and those who are missing, increasing by the day, seems always new.

Today, Gaudete Sunday, so called because of the command for us Christians “to rejoice,” we feel like being at the crossroads. We feel challenged. We feel tested, even as we feel shaken by recent events that seem to contradict the call and run counter to the teaching.

And we are also a little confused, perhaps … So which is which? Should we go the way of Ebenezer Scrooge, ever sad, at least initially, at having to part that easily with his earnings? Or should we go the way of the world, ever at the ready, at the slightest provocation, to burst into grandiose celebration?

I think that this Sunday, we ought to make a little discernment, a little reflection, just as we Catholics are wont to do when we gather at the Eucharistic celebration.

First, a word about some facts … The prophet Zephaniah, for all his hopeful words, was the source of the final judgment coming described in frightful, terrible images – the famous “dies irae” or “day of wrath.”

Second, from where St. Paul penned those words that call to rejoicing, it was not exactly a place of joy. He wrote it in prison.

Third, John the Baptist, who preached against the prevailing culture, was not exactly laughing his way to his ministry. Someone else had the biggest laugh, and it was not him, but Herod, Herodias, and her daughter who gave erstwhile joy to the King and his guests.

There must be somethint else here … There must be something more and something greater here than meets the eye.

But this is precisely what the Good News is all about. It has nothing to do with the rewards of the here and the now, primarily. It has nothing to do with reaping earthly and material rewards this soon, this time, this place.

But it all has to do with hope. It all has to do with faith. It all has to do with love. And whilst it does not mean that all such things that are our cause for rejoicing would only come in some future, imaginary time, it does mean that for the man or woman of faith, hope, and love, everything has a reason. Everything has a meaning. Everything has significance. Yes … everything … including pain now, sorrow now, suffering now, and why not? – even material things, earthly joys, earthly possessions, earthly rewards, and material gifts … food, for example, that comes as fruits of our earthly human efforts.

The joyful Christian takes it all in … in stride! And that means whether we suffer like Paul in prison or not, whether we are like Zephaniah preaching something terrifying and frightening as the Last Judgment, whether we have little or nothing; much or overflowing, what really matters in the end, is that the Lord, the Giver of all gifts, the Gift Himself par excellence, is coming!

This is the reason for the season! He is the reason behind our joys. He is the reason why we need now to rejoice. He is coming. He is near!

So “cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel!”

Friday, December 7, 2012


2nd Sunday of Advent (C)
December 9, 2012


It is hard to write when one’s heart is filled with so many cares and concerns. As I write, 477 people have been confirmed dead and scores, if not hundreds, are yet missing in the aftermath of typhoon Bopha (Pablo) in Southern Philippines. As I tried to begin this reflection, reports say that another powerful earthquake struck Japan some place, with no details yet available.

One literally feels a little like clutching at straws, trying to make sense out of so many seemingly non-sensical events that transpire right before our eyes, here, there, and everywhere.

But Advent, among other things, has to do with expectation. Advent is about waiting. But Advent is also about anticipating what one is avidly and longingly waiting for. Advent is not about sitting down in a corner to twiddle one’s thumbs, and waiting in resignation for things to unfold, come what may, happen what might. Advent is all about doing things to assure that what one waits for would, indeed, take place. Advent, thus, is about being attentive, and actively attending so that hope becomes reality for us.

I guess this is what Manny Pacquiao has been doing these past months – actively waiting; waiting while engaged and involved in making his dream and goal closer to fulfillment. This was what Marquez, his opponent, has been doing for a much longer time – six months all told, for, apparently, he cannot afford to take any more chances with his formidable opponent.

This is what Baruch the prophet does and shows to us today. He dreams. He envisions. And he claims for his people what he sees in his proactive vision: “Take off your robe of mourning and misery,” he says, and “put on the splendor of glory from God forever.” If Miriam Santiago, the lady senator, can smeel victory for the RH bill in the air, Baruch can smell salvation coming his people’s way.

Baruch should know whereof he speaks. Tradition says he was some kind of secretary to Jeremiah, and both master and student saw for themselves the bitterness of exile in unwelcoming Babylon.

I would like to think that we are not far off from Baruch’s personal experience. We’ve had it all … earthquakes, typhoons, landslides, floods, and tragic deaths of defenseless people before the fury of nature, made worse by man’s greed and utter lack of care for the environment and for the future.

What twisted logic, we might ask, did Baruch have to make such a claim in the midst of so much pain and suffering? What further right does the psalmist have to acclaim, as we just did: “The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy?” (Response).

There is no human explanation for this. For the hope that Baruch preaches, is not based on logic. Hope defies and even goes beyond logic. Hope claims what, at times, logic denies and refuses, as, indeed, we often do, in the face of so many features of what Robinson calls the “contours of hopelessness.”

Said contours are clearly defined even more these days, with about a quarter of a million people in Southern Philippines rendered homeless and in utter misery after the typhoon cut a broad swath of absolute terror and destruction to so many people. Said contours take on the human face of greed of politicians, businessmen and ordinary people alike, who have been treating the mountains and the forests like their own private backyard, from which they can harvest anything and everything for sordid gain, or for simple survival, unwary of the dire consequences that would definitely come, sooner or later.

There is never logic to pain and suffering. There is neither rhyme, nor reason to it all. But logic is nothing but a bundle of straws at this time of pain and sorrow. And clutching at straws is not what men and women of faith do when they hope. Baruch and Jeremiah his mentor were not clutching at straws when they proclaimed for all to hear the message o joy that juts out of every sentence from both Baruch and Paul: “I pray always with joy in my every prayer for all of you.”

Is there something that Baruch saw and Paul knew that we simply don’t recognize? Is there something in me that makes me at times so despondent and discouraged that would make Jeremiah’s lamentations sound like childish whimpers, compared to my hopeless whinings?

This second Sunday of Advent convicts me then. For today is not the time to get lost on sadness and sorrow. This is the day the Lord has made!

This, too, seems to be the focus of the Gospel reading. When John the Baptist came to the scene, Israel was not picture-perfect. It was not exactly fun being in that God-forsaken land, then divided into four parts led by four artificial potentates forced upon them by a bigger potentate that was Rome. It was the worst of times, by any standard!

But it was in such a state that the “the word of God came to John, the son of Zechariah in the desert.” It was the best of times!

These are the best of times then to shine. And I can assure you there are selfless, nameless people who shine in this hour of need. I am in touch with a few of them. Busy though they are in their livelihood and with the cares of family life, they step up to the plate, and do their little share to help – from giving donations to delivering the goods to where they could reach the neediest. Even as I write, hundreds of rescuers are deeply engaged in the unheralded task of recovering the missing dead, hoping against hope to see more survivors.

John the Baptist was not sent to do a parade on a straight and paved road. No … he came more like a road repair crew to do an urgent task of “preparing the way of the Lord,” and “making straight his paths.”

And this, my friend, is what hoping is all about. It’s about waiting … and doing so that what you wait for and long for, is what unfolds, with a little help from each one of us. Would you mind being part of John the Baptist’s crew? Need I tell you the reward? … “all flesh shall see the salvation of God!”