Preparation: A Commitment for Advent

Advent

Preparation: A Commitment for Advent

IMELDA MARCOS. Does this name ring a bell to you? Filipinos would know her for sure. She’s known as “Steel Butterfly” or “Iron Butterfly” because of her extravagant lifestyle and immense power that she wielded in the Philippines. She’s also known for her 2,700 shoes that made her famous. A word in urban dictionary was coined after her, “Imeldific” to mean “extravagant.”

I once heard this story about her in one of my conversations with my brother-seminarians back when I was in the seminary:

Imelda dies and goes to heaven. The heavenly court is gathered to welcome all the newcomers to heaven. God the Father is there seated on his throne in his entire splendor. The Second Person of the Trinity is there also, and the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary, and all the saints.

As Imelda enters, everyone stands up ­ except God the Father, who does not get up from his throne. Jesus, the second Person of the Trinity turns to him, and says, "Heavenly Father, what's the matter? Why don't you stand up to welcome Imelda Marcos?

God the Father replies: "I am afraid to lose my seat. If I stand up, Imelda will take my throne.”

Though powerful as she may have been portrayed in this story, she’s got under her belt 901 lawsuits accused on her behalf and her late husband Ferdinand Marcos. Of these cases, 32 were dismissed. Guess who’s responsible? His lawyers of course! But one very distinguished lawyer in the name of Gerry Spence truly stands out. His reputation precedes him as to never have lost a trial. In his blogsite he posted that the secret, which kept him on top of his game, could be summed up in one word: PREPARATION!

Preparation is a very powerful word indeed. It takes commitment and dedication. It takes patience … it takes perseverance. As we celebrate 2nd Sunday of Advent, we are called to prepare … to prepare for the coming of Christ. But how? Our Gospel reading has the answer as we can find three ways of preparation:

First way of preparation: The Desert Experience. John the Baptist’s exhortation in the Gospel was so compelling that even the Scribes and Pharisees were driven to listen to him regardless of whatever intentions they may have in doing so. The advent season just like lent, is a season of repentance (the very reason why we use the color purple on both seasons). Advent from the Latin “Adventus” means “coming.” As we await for the coming of the Savior, we are called to repent and for St. John, it is to go to the desert or the wilderness. The desert is a place of being alone with God. We go into the desert when we take time off our normal job and household occupation to be with God in church, in prayer, and in reading the word of God. The desert is the place where we encounter God. We ourselves must take the first step to go into the desert, to reach out to God, to look for God.

In this sense, how do we prepare ourselves as we go to the “desert” to be alone with God? Every Sunday we walk in to this Church in order to adore Him. At times we come late for some reasons, which we may not be in control of, but our coming to Mass speaks about the way we treat the sacrament. The Mass is a sacred “desert moment.” It is something that connects us with God; it is a significant channel to express repentance, which in humility, we offer to Him our sinfulness. If so, are we to miss every single moment of the Mass from beginning (Introductory Rite) to end (Concluding Rite)?

Second way of preparation: Receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Once we open our hearts to God in the desert, God Himself comes and fills us up. Let us always remember that when we go to confession, God takes the first initiative as He has first drawn us to Himself in the desert. Through the Sacrament of Reconciliation he comes to us, to fill us, to renew us, to transform us, to remold us into God's image that we are created to be. Through this sacrament we are being born again. When we do this step, we are eventually drawn to spend the whole day alone with God in church, in prayer, in Bible reading. Sin divides us away from God and at times confuses us of our true identity as Christians. The sacrament draws us back to Him in peace and makes us open to appreciate and love Him all the more in joy! But like St. John, we must go on to live our lives and carry out our duties in the family and in the society.

The third way of preparation: Preaching by example. Having experienced the goodness of the Lord in our own lives, our next desire is to share this experience to others. It's like being invincible as without any doubt we proclaim how great God is! People look at us and see the joy and peace and serenity that radiates from us and they would like to be like us. They would like to be our friends. And then we can, in turn, help them by showing them the pathway to the desert, the place where they, in their turn, will encounter God personally. The experience of God is like the experience of love. You can tell people about it. But they will not understand what you are talking about until they themselves experience it.

When Mother Teresa once left her convent in order to respond to a higher call, she started being alone. At some point, she’s experienced the “tears of loneliness.” But it did not take her much time to draw people to join her in her cause for the poor and the marginalized. Her secret? Preaching by example. As she would often say, “It is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the doing. It is not how much we give, but how much love we put in the giving.”

We cannot make the most of this Advent Season without having to prepare for it seriously. If Imelda Marcos has Gerry Spence to keep her out of trouble from the law, we have with us Christ’s forerunner, St. John the Baptist. A forerunner who just gave us three significant ways to prepare for the coming of Christ: The Desert Experience, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and Preaching by Example.

Last week we’ve learn what this season is all about. This week it tells us to do the necessary preparation. Preparation is a tedious process. But it gives us a true spirit that enables us to become worthy participants of the whole plan of salvation. It does not only keep us away from trouble, but makes us more worthy in welcoming the coming of Christ in our hearts!

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