Reading the newspapers and watching the news on television, I thought of writing about the season. Advent in the Roman Catholic tradition has a twofold character: as a season to prepare for Christmas when Christ’s first coming to us is remembered, and as a season when that remembrance directs our minds and hearts to await Christ’s second coming at the end of time. Advent, thus, is a period of devout and joyful expectation (General Norms for the Liturgical Year and Calendar, 39). Both characters signify the spirit of hope that, through the coming of Christ, there will be newness or perhaps a new and abundant life for everyone. But how to foster this hope, or can we still hope for newness of life and abundance? Can we still hope for change and renewal, not just in the Church but also in the government?
As a religious brother, I find it so difficult to preach the spirit of hope during Advent. I have witnessed concrete examples of various social issues due to my exposure to the PCPR (Promotion of Church People’s Response). I have been confronted by political killings and the forced disappearance of activists in the country; the conditions of indigenous peoples who are continually oppressed and marginalized, and now even slaughtered by government forces like pigs stripped of rights and human dignity; the unending issue of landlessness and absence of justice for the poor farmers of Hacienda Luisita, as well as the homeless people in North Triangle; and recently, the abduction and torture of security guard Rolly Panesa, who was suspected of being a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines by members of the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division and of the Philippine National Police.
What can we hope for this Advent? Justice? Equality? Freedom? Indigenous peoples’ rights and dignity? I really don’t know.
In the first reading we are made to hope that Jesus’ coming entails safety, security and the reign of justice. The second reading even tells us what to do while waiting for this coming “to strengthen our hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus.” We are also “encouraged and taught how to please God.”
The Gospel reading shows us the panoramic events of Jesus’ second coming—the day of judgment and the end times. We are reminded that we have to make sure that our hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, that we should be vigilant at all times and pray that we have the strength to stand before the Son of Man.
It seems to me that the government is becoming drowsy from carousing in serving the ruling class of society. The “matuwid na daan (righteous path)” is so promising, yet there are mass graves and a flood of blood from all the victims of political executions. Within this matuwid na daan, there are people suffering from dire poverty, there are destitute and illiterate children, as well as homeless families who try their best to survive every day. Added to these conditions and situations are some Church leaders who strengthen their hearts and keep themselves blameless before God only within the Church’s structures.
It is so painful for a young religious like me to see the prophetic Church slowly dying. It is not becoming vigilant but is paralyzed, divided and silent to the shrill cries of the majority. How can we stand before God and the Son of Man, to whom we are accountable and responsible for our people’s blood? We cannot continue to be false prophets.
The season of Advent invites us to prepare ourselves and our people for the coming of Christ, which entails salvation and deliverance from all forms of injustice. Advent is the season when Christ’s remembrance directs our minds and hearts to await Jesus’ second coming at the end of time with a sense of happiness—because we have become true prophets by adhering to what is true and rightful for the poor, oppressed and marginalized sectors of our society.
May the blood of all the martyrs—activists, lay people, religious men and women, and indigenous peoples who offered their lives for freedom and deliverance from the chain of injustice—inspire us to be more authentic and prophetic in our witnessing to the Son of Man, whom we desire to serve. May these aspirations bring us to a devout and joyful expectation of Advent—a season of hope, not hopelessness.
Bro. Dennis A. Batucan, MJ, 25, is a third year student at Loyola School of Theology, Ateneo de Manila University.