Advent: A Time to Rejoice Our Giftedness In Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Advent Sunday-3B/Simbang Gabi-2 Recipe//17 December 2017
Isaiah 61:1-2, 10-11///1Thessalonians 5:16-24///John 1:6-8, 19-28

At the start of our Christmas novena yesterday, we proposed that we must be inclusive in our celebration because Jesus Christ came for all of us, for everyone. With or without pun, our pink motif in the liturgy calls us to rejoice in the Lord, to make Christmas merry, happy and gay! All these bursts of pink is from the opening antiphon of today’s Mass called “Gaudete Sunday” – Gaudete in Domino semper – “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice!”(Phil.4:4-5). Today we lit the pink candle of the Advent wreath to show the shift of focus of our prayers and readings from the Second Coming of Christ during the past two weeks onto His First Coming more than 2000 years ago in Bethlehem.

As we rejoice for the fast-approaching Christmas, we again hear this Sunday the story of John the Baptist. It is a longer account of his person through John the Evangelist who testified to John the Baptist in a manner that looked like an official inquest, definitively placing him in relation with the Christ: A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light. And this is the testimony of John. When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to him to ask him, “Who are you?” he admitted and did not deny it, but admitted, “I am not the Christ.” So they asked him, “What are you then? Are you Elijah?” And he said “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us? What do you have to say for yourself?”(Jn.1:6-8,19-22) Note John the Baptist’s testimony that is very decisive and precise, cutting short any false notions about him, clearly stating “I am not the Christ… I am not Elijah… I am not the Prophet.” He never got tired answering repeated questions of his interrogators of his true identity: “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord, as Isaiah the prophet said.” (Jn.1:23)

The question asked of John the Baptist is the same question we are being asked today: “who are you? What do you have to say for yourself?” Unless we decisively answer like John the Baptist who we really are, we would never realize and see our mission and purpose in life. We would never be able to rejoice as there is a disorder within us, making it hard to relate well with others and ultimately with God. Unless we are able to answer that question of “who we are?” like John the Baptist, we would never meet Jesus Christ who comes first in our person.

One of the quotations I always share during birthday blessings is from the introduction of St. John Paul II to his encyclical “Evangelium Vitae” that says “every birthday is a small Christmas because with the birth of every person comes Jesus Christ.” So beautiful and so true! That is the “gospel of life” according to St. John Paul II which is our sharing in the life of God. While being the precursor of the Lord, John the Baptist proved this well in his declaration of who he is, that he is neither the Christ nor Elijah nor the Prophet. How sad that today, so many of us are claiming to be the Christ and Savior of the world, the King of kings who must be always attended to and served, understood and cared for. Called “Messianic complex”, it is very much around us in our homes, schools, offices, and government. Though we have all been anointed with Chrism during our baptism to be filled with the Holy Spirit as children of God and heirs of the kingdom of heaven, we are not the One being referred to in Isaiah’s prophecy as the anointed one of God. We were anointed in Baptism and Confirmation but we only share in the three-fold functions of Jesus as Kingly-servant, Prophet and Priest. We can only find fulfillment in Christ, not in claiming to be the Christ! All of us baptized Christians exercise our priestly roles in every celebration of the Holy Mass when we make present the saving sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. This is most true among us priests as “ministers of the Sacraments and the Eucharist”(cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis #5)!

Again we borrow the words of the great St. John Paul II in his 50th year of priesthood: “The priesthood, in its deepest reality, is the priesthood of Christ. It is Christ who offers himself, his Body and Blood, in sacrifice to God the Father, and by this sacrifice makes righteous in the Father’s eyes all mankind and, indirectly, all creation. The priest, in his daily celebration of the Eucharist, goes to the very heart of this mystery. For this reason the celebration of the Eucharist must be the most important moment of the priest’s day, the center of his life.”(Gift and Mystery, p. 75) We priests enter this “very heart of this mystery” right deep in our own hearts where we know and humbly accept the bare truth that we are nothing but “unworthy servants who simply do our duties.”(cf. Lk.17: 10)

Forgive us your priests when we forget who we really are, that we like John the Baptist tasked to prepare the way of the Lord and not the Christ; when we are afflicted with Messianic complex. Forgive us when we lord it over you instead of serving you, becoming like the Pharisees who put on so many weight on the people without bothering to lift our own fingers. Forgive us your priests when we not only forget who we really are and pretend to be the Christ but sadly assume other identities and roles in life like businessmen, actors, athletes, and celebrities who consciously or unconsciously create fans clubs and cults around us. Not to forget that in some instances, instead of becoming channels of the holiness of God, some of us have become foxes in sheep’s clothing, getting involved with child molestations and other sexual offenses as well as gambling. Pray that we may find anew our true identity as a person and as a priest.

When I came to my parish six years ago, one of our volunteers asked me how I would want to be remembered after my term. Since then until now, I say the same thing: there is no need to remember me. Jesus is the only Star in any Parish, not us priests. As a priest, it is my joy for people to experience the loving and kind hands of Christ in my works and services, of being forgiven and comforted by Christ in the confessions and anointing of the sick, of being loved and understood by Christ in their mistakes. My joy as a priest is to bring back even just one soul to Jesus, to realize his/her giftedness as a person, his/her value. As a priest, it is my joy when unmarried couples unite in Christ in the Holy Matrimony, when young people aspire to serve God and His people as future priests, sisters, or consecrated persons. My joy as a priest is for people to experience Jesus suffering with them whenever they see or learn about my own sickness and weaknesses. I rejoice most when I become like John the Baptist who must decrease so that Jesus must increase in me. A joyful week ahead to everyone!

Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II,
Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista,
Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan 3022