Second Sunday of Advent – A Reflection
by Fr. Dodong Matulac
When you come to any mall here in the Philippines, you will notice that a Christmas tree is already set up at the entrance lobby weeks, even months before Christmas. It has been joked that Filipinos start celebrating Christmas as early as September. Of course, we don’t celebrate Christmas that early, but there is a bit of truth in it.
We are a nation that loves Christmas because we look forward to family gatherings. This is the time when loved ones who have been away, such as a parent working overseas, comes home. As for me, I am going back to my hometown in Mindanao to be with my ailing mother. She is now 84 years old. I make sure that I visit her often and I look forward to meeting other members of family too.
Today is the Second Sunday of Advent and the readings remind us, “Hey, we are still in the advent season, not quite Christmas yet.” We are invited to take a moment to deepen the significance of the coming of Jesus, Son of God, to us.
I am drawn to the character of John the Baptist in our gospel today, preaching in the desert of Judea. “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” During this advent season, we should make space for prayer in our family and appreciate the presence of God in our midst.
There are different forms of prayer. Maybe you can make a trip up to the mountain of Antipolo, at the foot of Sierra Madre, appreciate nature, the beautiful creation of God. Maybe you can be like one of the monks during the early beginnings of Christianity, who went to the desert in Egypt to spend their lives in prayer.
The Desert Fathers
Some brothers asked Abba Macarius, “How should we pray?” He said, ‘there is no need to talk much in prayer. Reach out your hands often, and say, ‘Lord have mercy on me, as you will and as you know.’ But if conflict troubles you, say, ‘Lord, help me.’ He knows what is best for us, and has mercy.”
There is a saying from Abba Poemen, the Abba said:
“Supposed that there are three men living together. One lives a good life in (prayerful) stillness, the second is ill but gives thanks to God, the third serves the needs of others with sincerity. These three men are alike, it is as if they were all doing the same work.”
A prayer can be taking your family to see nature as I mentioned a while ago. That there are nature parks in Antipolo like Masungi reserve or in Novaliches. Just at the edge of La Mesa dam is a watershed. It’s 27 square kilometer or 2,600 hectares. There are short trails there for walking and cycling. Activities like that is a good family activity, where you can contemplate the beauty of creation.
Pope Francis in Laudato Si encyclical says that “Contemplative attitude towards creation includes awareness that each creature reflects something of God and has a message to convey to us, and the security that Christ has taken unto himself this material world and now, risen, is intimately present to each being, surrounding with it his affection and penetrating it with his light” (LS 221).
So, that’s just my invitation for you. To set aside time for prayer in the family, maybe encourage the children to develop awareness of God’s creation and contemplation. Different ways to get in touch with the presence of God in us, in our family or even community.
Because Christmas is all about God with us. It’s a beautiful thing for the family to be together and celebrate this reality. And advent is a way to make that penetrate this reality into our lives – the truth that God is present among us. Blessing us, protecting us, including all creation.