06 December 2009

THE VOICE

Second Sunday of Advent
Lk 3:1-6

There are voices we rather not hear, are there not? Whose voice do you not want to hear? Whose voice do you want to hear so much?

Perhaps, one of the voices we rather not hear is the voice that speaks about our wrongdoings. Sometimes, these voices even sound like broken records in reminding us about our blunders and misdeeds. If the voice that we hear is such, it is difficult to rise from our fall and do better, is it not? Moving on, learning from our mistakes, and growing seem to be almost impossible. We turn a deaf ear, our heart hardens, and we turn our back to such a voice.

In Sacred Scriptures, voice is very important, most especially the voice of God. In the Old Testament, for example, the glory of God is said to have departed from His People when His voice cannot be heard. In 1 Sam 4:21-22, we read that when Eli died, his daughter in law, Phinehas, conceived and bore a son who was given the name “Ichavod”. In Hebrew, ichavod means “no glory”. Incidentally, one of the Philippine dailies has a comic strip entitled after its main character, a mouse, whose name is “Ikabod”. A satire, “Ikabod” reflects the reality of Philippine society, presenting as comedy that which, in truth, is tragedy. I wonder if the creator of “Ikabod” knows the Hebrew language and really intends to say that there is not glory in what is happening in the country. Perhaps, he is even more right today more than when he first published his strip: we have a “Gloria” but we have no glory.

The name given Phinehas child was Ichavod because it was said that the glory of God has left His People, Israel, because the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant. However, long before the Ark was captured by the enemies, 1 Sam 3:1 says that there was already a problem with the relationship between God and His Chosen People: “In those days, the Lord rarely spoke and visions were very few.” At first, God spoke rather rarely; then, eventually, He just stopped talking to His people. Thereupon, the glory of God was said to have departed from the household of Israel. God was gone because the Ark of the Covenant was stolen, and the glory of God was not in Israel because the voice of God could no longer be heard.

It seemed that God’s voice would not be heard again. He was silent for a really very long time. And when He finally spoke again, He spoke through the prophets. Then, something beautiful happened: Heb 1:1-6 says, “In times past, God spoke to our fathers through the prophets; but in these last days, He spoke to us through His Son….” From then on up until today, God has never been silent again. We hear His voice. And never has He taken back His word.

Through the readings of this Holy Mass, we continue to hear the Word of God through four voices that encourage us to imagine the beautiful future God intends for us all. Encouraged, we are invited by these four voices to trust in God’s goodness and act accordingly.

The first voice is the voice of the Prophet Baruch. In the first reading, the prophet asks the people to change their wardrobe: “Take off your clothing of sorrow and anxiety and clothe your selves with the beauty of God’s glory forever.” Things would be alright, the people must be well dressed and not fear the future.

The second voice is from the psalmist. The psalmist reminds the people of the marvelous things God has done in setting His people free from slavery. Even heathens, the psalmist says, marveled. Thus, the psalmist encourages the people because the day shall come when they will no longer leave weeping as they carry the seeds for sowing; instead, they will come home rejoicing, carrying their bountiful harvest.

The third voice belongs to the Apostle Paul. In his letter to the Philippians, after expressing his gratitude to those who supported him and helped him in the work of evangelization, he admonishes them to be always ready for that day when they will enjoy perfect goodness.

The fourth voice echoes from the gospel of St. Luke for today. It is a voice that cries out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight His paths. All mankind shall see the salvation of God.” It is John the Baptist’s voice who himself is the voice of God. John is the voice, Jesus the Word.

What is beautiful in these four voices?

The heart of these four voices is the call of hope that encourages us to change and grow because something good is going to happen, given our sincerity and God’s faithfulness. These four voices do not speak about our blunders and wrongdoings only. They also invite us to keep remembering God’s goodness and our own goodness, too, despite our mistakes and shortcomings in life.

It is always worth considering: People begin to change for the better when they are encouraged to see their own goodness and not when they are criticized for their wrongdoings only. To tell the faults of a person and then leave that same person just like that is to abandon that person to his own destruction. Such a situation is like leaving the accident scene even with the knowledge that there is victim needing our help and care. Few people change for the better when forsaken, imprisoned in their own weakness, staring at their own mistakes in life. The height of this unwanted experience is the intense loneliness brought about by the awareness that “no one cares at all whether I change or not.”

We all need the help and encouragement to forsake the ways we have grown familiar with and yet are destructive to us and to others. We need help to see our selves in a different way, and imagine the good this will create not only for us but for others, too. We need to give time to reflecting on what kind of persons God wants us to be and what His will is for us. We need to trust in the future, we need the kind of hope that never wavers and see the power of God moving in the changes happening within and without us. We need the certainty of the Apostle Paul who said, “He who began this good work in you will bring it to fulfillment.”

The season of Advent is a time for us to hear this voice more clearly. And if Advent indeed is a time of hope, this is the time to encourage one another by remembering the fidelity of God, by evoking from one another one another’s innate goodness, and by sharing in the joy caused by the change of anyone for the better.

We hear many voices – there are those which we do not want to hear at all and those which we long to hear always. But in the midst of all these various voices, may we always hear the voice of God and strive to obey it. The silence of Advent is very important for us to hear that voice crystal-clear. God is speaking. Be silent so that you may hear. The hope of Advent is very important for us to faithfully do what that voice says. God loves us more than we know. Do not speak about that love only. Believe it. Act on it.

1 Comments:

At 2:57 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I usually read your reflections and really help and learned a lot from it. Just want to thank you for these. Nice picture ha! handsome. God Bless you always Father bob..

 

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