Homily of His Excellency, Most Rev. Mylo Hubert Vergara, D.D. on the mass on the occasion of the Preparation for Advent, Dec. 1, 2013, Immaculate Conception Cathedral
Our readings today give us a further challenge as we know that this evening we will be starting our Advent Season. If you observed that I’m still wearing green and this is the last time at least for this day as we move on for the next Sundays of Advent that you will see this colour because later you will see violet and rose when we celebrate the third Sunday of Advent.
The first reading gives us a powerful image of what it means to look forward to God’s kingdom. You have observed the image of a river – a river flowing and at the other end you see that the fruits of the river will be blossoming of the plants because that is the symbol of life, if not eternal life. This even hints us of our disposition for the Advent Season since we talked about the Lord’s coming. Because if you observe, you will be seeing what will take place in eternal life when the Day of Judgment comes - this river flowing and the experience of blossoming and fruitfulness. Then, awaiting the Lord’s coming motivates us to a disposition of longing for the Lord. Sabi nga, nag-aantay tayo, ninanasa natin na siya’y dumating sa ating buhay kasi syempre kung nakikita mo yung magandang darating, sana dumating na. That’s why there is this urgent longing for the coming of Jesus in our lives – the coming of our Savior.
However, in our Gospel there is another disposition of the Lord’s coming that perhaps you should also be aware about. The key word is “beware”. Parang babala, sabi nga “Aba, maghanda kayo, kasi ito yung mangyayari.” As I said, whenever we talk about the second coming of our Lord – the parousia, it’s not easy to welcome that coming because it means death, it means the end, it means judgment day. But yet it also tells us even though there is death, judgment day, we should welcome the Lord’s coming with vigilance, with readiness so that we will all receive our eternal reward. Nakita n’yo, “longing – vigilance”, napakaganda po nung themes because I’m sure during this next Sunday, giving those two themes of longing and vigilance, your parish priests, guest priests, priests of the diocese will be talking about preparing for the Lord’s coming – paghahanda sa pagdating ng Panginoon.
However, I’d like to enter a practical side of preparing for the Lord’s coming. If you’ve observed in my talk a little while ago, I gave you seven points of Advent in the “Year of Faith”. Now I’d like to have another memory aid because there is a powerful symbol during Advent that I’m sure we are all aware about in our parish churches and in our homes. It is the Advent Wreath. In our Advent wreath there are four candles of advent. Notice, in the slides of my talk, may apat na kandila and at the center nandun si Mary and Joseph at si baby Jesus. Ngayon ang gagawin ko, I’m sure you have heard this catechesis on the candles of Advent that each candle symbolizes a Sunday of Advent so that it is a sign that the Lord is near. In a more practical perspective, I’d like to look at those four candles of Advent to dispose us to how we can best prepare in longing and vigilance. Iisa-isahin natin yung kandila. This reflection is sort of borrowed and the same time altered.
Many many years back there was this Jesuit priest who gave a recollection and shared that when we talk of preparing for the Lord’s coming, you can prepare it by looking at the candle and seeing the context of the lighted candle in your own experience. But he shared, meron daw tatlong candle light of preparation. Ang gagawin ko apat, because I’d like to look at the Filipino human experience. Madali n’yong tandaan para yung bawat kandila ay merong hamon sa atin.
The first candle, I call this the candlelight of prayer. Sa mga bahay natin may mga altar at sigurado ako na sa mga altar n’yo mayrong isa o dalawang kandila doon. At sa pagdadasal ay sisindihan natin ang kandila. This is a sign that we are entering our silence and solitude before God, right? So I think the first candle of advent tells us that we are called to rekindle our own intimacy with the Lord, so during this Advent season, light that candle. Literally, it may be lighting your small altars at home but really it’s lighting within your heart – your practice of prayer. Kasi yung iba nagdadasal lang pagkailangan si Lord, pag hindi kailangan, hindi magdadasal.
The second candle is the candle of relationship. Halimbawa, during Valentine’s Day yung mag-asawa nagka-candlelight dinner. It is an experience of a loving relationship. That is the candle I’d like you to light during Advent. This candlelight of rekindling relationship. Bakit? Kasi baka nga meron pong mga pakikipag-ugnayan kayo sa pamilya, sa parokya, pamayanan, sa opisina na mukhang patay na yung kandila. Ibig sabihin namatay na yung relasyon, hindi mo pinapansin, hindi mo binabati o kaya hindi mo mapatawad-tawad sa buhay mo. Makipag-bati ka na! That’s the second candle I’d like you to light – the candle of renewing relationship with people.
The third candle is the candlelight of solidarity. Nagsisindi tayo ng mga kandila na maramihan kapag may advocacy tayo, halimbawa, prayers for peace – nagsisindi tayo ng mga kandila sa mga bahay-bahay sa labas o kaya pag may mga rally nagsisindi tayo ng kandila – prayer rally. This is candlelight of solidarity. What does this mean? When you light this candle you become sensitive to the needs of others – the poor, the sick, the homeless, those in need, those who have no one to care for and to turn to. Minsan may mga pagkakataon iniisip lang natin sarili natin. I’d like you to light that third candle because this is a blessed opportunity that during Advent and Christmas we go out of ourselves. Magkawang gawa naman tayo, hindi puro inisip natin pasko natin. May mga kailangan magdiwang ng pasko, na mga nangangailangan ng pagmamahal, pagkalinga – let us share, yun ang candlelight of solidarity.
The fourth candle is the candlelight of holiness. Sa sementeryo nagsisindi po tayo ng kandila pagka Araw ng mga Patay o Araw ng mga Kaluluwa at inaalala natin ang ating mga yumaong mahal sa buhay. Why? Because when we pray for our departed love ones and friends, it is actually prayer not only for eternal life but the movement towards eternal life. During All Saints Day and All Souls Day, ang inaalala natin ang mga Santo at Santa sa kalangitan, pero inaalala din natin ang mga Santo at Santa na maaaring hindi kinikilala ng simbahan, pero mga Santo at Santang naging banal, naging inspirasyon natin para tayo maging banal din. Panalangin natin, sindihan natin yung kandila ng kabanalan. Why? Because that’s our goal. As we look forward to experience eternal life let it be our objective to live a life of holiness. Bakit parang sementeryo, kasi nga pagnagsisindi ka ng kandila sa sementeryo paalala din sa’yo – mamamatay ka rin! Kaya ngayon pa lang maghanda ka na, magpakabuti ka na, at magpakabanal ka na. Rekindle that candle of holiness. You observe four candles; the candlelight of prayer, the candlelight of relationship, the candlelight of solidarity and the candlelight of holiness.
But what’s the whole point, when you light these four candles of Advent, what happens to you, you make Christ live and be born again in your hearts not only this Christmas but always. Amen! /dpoc20130110, log: Bishop's homilies