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!”