The Bishops Homily – 1st Sunday of Advent 2017

1st Sunday of Advent
Cycle B | 3 December 2017
Is. 63: 16-19; 64: 2-7
I Cor. 1: 3-9
Mk. 13: 33-37

INTRODUCTION: We begin today a New Year in the calendar of the Church and it is the first day of this New Year. As in every beginning, we start anew with a kind of spiritual basics. We go back to the words of that famous Advent Hymn – “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” (“Halina O Emmanuel) Until we can move to the spiritual space, suggested by this Hymn, we will not catch the meaning of this Season.

(1) “Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel that mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear.” (“Halina, O Emmanuel, at tubusin ang Israel. Namimighati siya’ng lubos, hinihintay Anak ng Diyos.”) The setting of this Hymn is the phenomenon of kidnaping for ransom that once in a while has occupied the news in our Country. Even in ancient times, the phenomenon made traveling quite dangerous. Take the recent kidnaping of Fr. Chito Suganob of Marawi as the situation of the whole Country of Israel, God’s Chosen People. Israel is held captive by a group of invaders as the Maute did in Marawi. The people are helpless. All they could do is wait, watch, and hope that someone might pay for their release. Is their situation desperate? Well, yes, for they are at the mercy of their captors or of the one who might bail them out for their release. They call on/long for God as Emmanuel (God with us) admitting how separate and alien they are from him and they ask Him to pay the ransom for their release from their place of exile. They wait long for their release until God finally comes to their aid and sends His Son to bail them out.

(2) With this background in mind, listen to the opening lines of our first reading from Isaiah 63: 16 “You, Lord, are our father, our redeemer you are named forever.” (“Ikaw lamang, Yahweh, ang aming pag-asa at Amang aasahan; tanging ikaw lamang yaong nagliligtas nitong aming buhay.”) The best name to call God is “redeemer” from the Latin verb redimere (to pay/buy back). God is the one who can buy us back from slavery or çaptivity. The best way to understand this idea is man’s addiction, what theology calls concupiscence. When one is addicted to alcohol or a person, drug, fame, money, etc., he is out of control or in the grip of a power that is stronger and alien to one’s purposes. He cannot even solve the problem by himself. The more he tries by his own efforts, the deeper he falls into his addiction until he admits to his helplessness and gives himself to a higher power, God. So, we understand Isaiah’s sigh: “… all of us has become unclean men, all our good deeds are like polluted rags; we all have withered like leaves and our guilt carries us away like the wind.” (“… lahat tayo’y naging marumi sa harapan ng Diyos; ang mabubuting gawa nati’y maruruming basahan ang katulad; nalanta na tayong lahat gaya ng mga dahon; tinatangay tayo ng malakas na hangin ng ating kasamaan.”) (64:5) How distant/alien we are and all our good deeds are tainted by the dysfunction of sin. So, what is the solution? “There is none who calls upon your name who rouses himself to cling to you.” (“Walang sinumang tumatawag sa pangalan mo;walang sinumang bumabangon upang sa iyo’y lumapit.”) (64:6) We call upon the name of the Lord and we cling to him. That is the Advent space!

(3) This now prepares us for the second reading from Paul’s salutation in I Cor.1:3: “Grace to you and Peace from the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (“Sumainyo nawa ang pagpapala at kapayapaan mula sa Diyos na ating Ama at mula sa Panginoong Jesu-Cristo.”) This is the entire Gospel preached by Paul. Yes, we are completely lost, incapable of doing good but Jesus gave us with the Divine Love “grace and peace”. His life, death, and rising from death represents God’s unmerited favor to us! “I give thanks to my God always on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus, that in him you were enriched in every way, with all discourse and knowledge, as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you, so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (“Lagi akong nagpapasalamat sa Diyos dahil sa mga pagpapalang ibinigay niya sa inyo sa pamamagitan ni Cristo Jesus. Dahil sa inyong pakikipag-isa kay Cristo, kayo ay naging masagana sa lahat ng bagay, maging sa pananalita at sa kaalaman. Ang katotohanan tungkol kay Cristo ay pinagtibay sa inyo kaya’t hindi kayo nagkukulang sa anumang pagpapala, habang hinihintay ninyong bumalik ang ating Panginoong Jesu-Cristo.”) (v. 4-7) Though we had no money, the price was paid for us; though we had no accomplishment, he took us to himself. So “God is faithful and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (“Tapat ang Diyos na tumawag sa inyo upang makipag-isa sa kanyang Anak na si Jesu-Cristo na ating Panginoon.”) (v.9) That is the Gospel, the Good News, God’s Word!

CONCLUSION: We are lost but have now grace and peace! That is the Advent space we are meant to move in!

Most Rev. Antonio R. Tobias, DD
Bishop of Novaliches