The story is told about a speaker who gave such a long and boring speech, and yet from time to time, sounds of clapping could be heard. Why? People from the audience were slapping themselves and each other just to stay awake.
In today’s Gospel (Mt. 3, 1-12), John the Baptist “slaps” his audience loud and clear with his message: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” He did not mince words, calling the hypocrites a “brood of vipers,” shattering their complacency and entitlement as children of Abraham. He preached the inconvenient truth not to please his audience, but to proclaim the will of God.
We can learn much from John the Baptist as a preacher. First, he did not preach himself. His ministry was all about Jesus, not himself. Second, he did not enrich himself. He remained poor and simple. Third, he reached out to everyone passionately and zealously, going much beyond his comfort zone to proclaim God’s message and to help save his brothers and sisters. Fourth, he knew how to fade away, and let Jesus shine. He remained humble. He had no illusions about grandeur and fame.
“Six days of the week he is invisible, and that one day he is visible, he is not understandable.” Presence and clarity are what the sheep need from their shepherds. May we who claim to be disciples of Christ be constantly reminded that ours is a ministry of presence and essence.
The coming of Typhoon “Tisoy” was an Advent reminder. It made us realize the need for vigilance and preparedness. It made us pray more and put God in our radar, as individuals and as a nation. Also, it made us realize how small and frail we are. Finally, it made us realize our need for God, and for one another. Yes, we are all brothers and sisters. We should reach out, share and help one another.
As it were, Tisoy slapped us out of our cozy Christmas feelings, and made us see the reality and meaning of Christmas in our present-day issues and sufferings, reminding us that Christmas is not so much about beautification decorations and gatherings, as sanctification, involvement, caring and sharing.
Today is the feast of the Immaculate Concepcion of the Blessed Virgin Mary, principal patroness of the Philippines. As a country and as a people, let us journey on, aware and assured that we have a Mother who will not leave us, and who will help us, especially in difficult moments of our journey.
Today is also the birthday of our beloved Mama Conching. She would have been 97. The more I think of her, the more I realize the power of her humility, simplicity and prayerfulness. Mama did not leave behind big footprints in this world, but she left behind indelible and memorable heart prints. Thank you, Mama, for beautiful memories and learnings.
The parishioners of the Sanctuario de la Immaculada Concepcion, in Concepcion, Tarlac, did not allow the winds nor the rains brought by Tisoy to stop them from their novena Mass last Dec. 3. The parish priest, Fr. Ramon Capuno, also told me that the hermana mayor of their fiesta celebration is already lined up all the way to 2041! Such a long tradition, and strong devotion to our Blessed Mother!
Think about this: “We tend to dwell on yesterday, work to death for tomorrow and forget to live for today; accept what is, let go of what was and have faith in what will be.”
A moment with the Lord:
Lord, “slap” us when we become too comfortable and proud. Amen.
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