27 November 2010

NO LONGER AN ARK BUT A HEART

Ist Sunday of Advent
Mt 24:37-44

One day, a mother went to attend to an out-of-town business. Before she left the house, she gave her two sons these instructions: “I don’t like any trouble when I get home. Before you play, make sure that you clean our house first. I want to find everything clean and in order when I get back.”

But the mother was delayed in coming home. Arriving almost at midnight, she was welcomed by a dirty and chaotic house.

“What did you two do the whole day?” she asked her sons.

“Nothing, mom,” answered the elder.

“And you,” turning to the younger, she asked, “what did you do?”

The younger son replied, “I was busy helping him do nothing.”

This rather funny story can come from anywhere except from the Bible. The Bible always tells us to be alert and ready.

Be ready for what? It is not yet December, but many are already preparing for Christmas. People are busy buying not only gifts for their loved ones, but also food for their noche buena and media noche. Last Friday, the news reported, prices in groceries and markets are already twice the usual amount. Traffic is worse during ordinary days; it is worst during Christmas season. There are also those who are yet preparing for exams. My Pipo will have their 2nd trimestral exams in La Salle Greenhills this week. Many are also preparing for their trip abroad or trip back home. Christmas is a special time for reunions, is it not? Others are getting ready for their wedding. In the Philippines, December, not June, is the favorite month of many brides. Still others are preparing for a delivery. Shirley, our parish secretary, is on the family way with her sixth child. And there are also those who are preparing to die. Life is an endless coming and going. Be prepared!

In the days of Noah, people were busy with their own daily affairs. But in the midst of the ordinary events, an old and eccentric man was busy, with his family, building a giant boat. But there was no flood. No storm either. When what was to happen finally happened, however, only Noah was ready because he was alert to something that the others did not care about: the coming catastrophe, a great flood.

Nine years ago, on September 11, the world was a speechless witness to the unexpected attack of terrorists against the United States of America. Two planes, commandeered by Al Khaida terrorists, went straight into the World Trade Center in New York. Another one crash landed at the Pentagon. That fateful day of September began like any ordinary day for all, especially for those who were actually working at the World Trade Center. Who among them knew that they would not go home to their loved ones anymore that day?

Here in the Philippines, we are familiar with floods and flash floods. But who among us expected that Ondoy and Pepeng would almost wash away most of Metro Manila, Marikina, and even the whole of Luzon from the map? We know very well that it floods in España, Taft Avenue, Manuguit, and Marikina, but did we know then that a portion of the perimeter walls of Valle Verde could be washed off by flood and the mansions of the rich and the famous in plush subdivisions could also be flooded?

Just last Wednesday, the day began just like any ordinary day for all and we were busy with our day-to-day chores. It was no different in South Korea which is barely a four-hour flight from Manila. But sometime in the afternoon, we were all shocked: North Korea bombed a South Korean island without any warning. Last Friday, North Korea did it again. Communists rule North Korea while the South is administered by a democratic government. And everybody knows that North Korea has nuclear weapons which it continuously develops and improves even as we speak. Will North Korea surprise us again when it releases one of its nuclear bombs on an otherwise another fine, sunny, and ordinary day?

We know that the greatest catastrophe we all face is no longer the great flood of Noah’s days but the perennial threat of nuclear warfare. In such a war, soldiers no longer need to fight face-to-face. All it takes is to push a button and the world ends. The Western defense system is always guided by the principle of vigilance and preparedness, but why was the World Trade Center successfully attacked by the Al Khaida? Noah built an ark that he and his family used to sail to safety through the great flood. But who can be saved from a nuclear attack: nowhere to hide; no shelter deep enough; no escape from radioactive storms. But we hope that there are ways to prepare for peace other than stockpiling more nuclear weapons: to convert the enormous energies we spend for war unto the cause of peace.

In the story of Noah, the lesson we are taught is not about building giant boats or digging deep shelters. The advice to us is to listen to the Lord so that, as the Prophet Isaiah in the first reading today says, “…He may teach us His ways so that we may walk in His paths.” Moreover, the Prophet paints for us a very beautiful picture of what was to come: “…swords will be hammered into ploughshares, and spears into sickles. Nation will not lift sword against nation, there will be no more training for war.” But it seems that none of us here will see that day. From the Gospel today, Jesus Himself seems to think that wars are permanent features in the landscape of human history. There is always war somewhere. Whoever are involved, however different are their languages, religions, and ideologies from one another, the script does not change and we know the ending very well. No one wins in any war. All are losers. And yet, it seems we always forget this lesson.

That is why we need to pay attention to the Word of God. St. Paul the Apostle tells us in the second reading for today, “You know ‘the time’ has come: you must wake up now…. Let us live decently as people do in the daytime: no drunken orgies, no promiscuity, or licentiousness, and no wrangling or jealousy.” These, which the Apostle warns us about, weakens our alertness to the kind of time we live in; they render our spiritual awareness numb and intoxicated. If the primary goal of man is to satisfy his base cravings, he loses the capability to face reality and be responsible for the world he lives in.

Thus, Jesus speaks in the Gospel today, the 1st Sunday of Advent, about the coming of the Son of Man. He wants to encourage us to live responsively for the present time. There is only one way to be ready for any unpredictable, and yet certain, event: live the present as a time of fidelity. He who lives faithfully has nothing to fear.

The sure way to secure the future is to take care of the present. We are all responsible for the world we live in; we are not passive victims of the inevitable. If we do nothing to care for the world and to make it a more peaceful and orderly place to live in, we should never accuse anyone of conspiring against us except our own indifference. Peace is not the gift of not being bothered or not getting involved.

The season of Advent is an opportune time for us to resolve: one, that we shall stay away from anything that weakens our alertness to and preparedness for the coming of the Lord; two, that we shall be responsible for the world we live in; and, three, that we shall shun indifference and get our selves involved in caring for the present to secure the future.

In the days of Noah, a big, strong, and wide ark saved him and his family from the great flood. In our days, nothing can save us except a heart that is alert, responsible, and loving.

1 Comments:

At 7:04 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I attended the sunday mass this morning and the priest's greetings in his homily was "happy new year!" Yes, for me, it is a new beginning and a new day because today is my birthday. Even though my loved ones were afar, this is the happiest birthday I'd ever had.

I was very sleepy at 12 midnight as the Holy Spirit woke me up. Perhaps, He wants to be the first to greet me a very happy birthday. :) I can't describe the happiness to be with Him. I don't know, but to be with Jesus is really the best thing that happened in my life.

I'm sorry, I can't help sharing this love of Jesus. God bless us all as we prepare ourselves in this advent season...

 

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