Balik-Tanaw | Be prepared

Aglipay Central Theological Seminary, Faculty

Psalm 25:4-5, 8-9,10,14
Jeremiah 33:14-16
1 Thess. 3:12-4:2
Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

The season of Advent is a time and season of hope and expectation. The old liturgical year ended, and the new one has begun, with our calling to mind the Lord’s final coming at the end of time, as we joyfully wait with anticipation, not with fear. We expect the divine to come anew into our world, and God has expectations for us and for our world. The writer of Psalm 25 pleads “Make me to know your ways, O Lord.” Though a personal plea, it becomes a communal intercession when the community sings these verses in worship. In the final verse (22) the psalmist resituates the prayer from the realm of personal guidance to national repentance. “Redeem Israel, O God, out of all its troubles.” We remember that in advent God’s presence make known itself in the public sphere as well in our personal lives.

On our readings in the book of the prophet Jeremiah, it reminds us that political leaders have an important role to play in executing justice. In this passage God promises a good King (33:5) who will one day rule over Judah. It states that justice will characterize the good Kings’ rule to such an extent that the very name of the land will be called “The Lord is our righteousness.”

On this First Sunday of Advent, we begin a new liturgical year. It is the season that reminds us to be alert, to be watchful and to watch the countless ways Jesus comes daily into our lives. However, the Gospel reading for this first Sunday of Advent is a bit unsettling. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples: “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and waves.” Jesus tells his disciples: “And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with great power and glory! Be attentive! These signs will tell you that your redemption is at hand!” He then cautions his disciples: “Do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness or the anxieties of daily life. If you do so, that day may catch you by surprise!” Jesus’ words are spoken in an urgent tone of voice. Clearly, he hopes we will be alert and awake to his coming, not only at the end of time but today and every day.

Being prepared and vigilant

As we read and reflect today’s Gospel (Luke 21: 25-28, 34-36), it tells us that at the return of Jesus there will be strange things happening to the sun, the moon and the stars. We read in this passage that Jesus’ followers are to be alert at all times, keeping watch for the One who is coming. It tells us that, we live and wait and hope; that those of us found living His message will experience great joy and triumph. The message is direct, frank and wholesomely disturbing, ‘now is the acceptable time’, ‘now is the day of salvation’, ‘be prepared’. To help us better understand the urgency with which we should anticipate the Lord’s return, Jesus compares us to servants awaiting their master’s return but not knowing exactly when it will occur. This uncertainty should not leave us dreading the future. It should impel us to live in such a way that whenever Jesus returns, we will be found ready and waiting.

For in sending His Son, the Father staked on the possibility of faith and behavior characterized by gratuitousness and by a response to the demand that justice and peace be established. It is for us to find time and ways with which to prepare us and others while waiting for the coming of the Lord anew. Being ready and prepared means that, our task here is to find the words and actions with which to talk about Christ in the midst of the uncertainties and starvation of millions, the humiliation of races regarded as inferior, discrimination against women, especially the poor, systematic social injustice and those that are deprived of their freedom, the sufferings of peoples who are struggling for their right to live. Urging and assertively awakening us in how we practice our rights as true image of God, our common humanity. Thus, it is but our right to be vigilant in the coming election, choosing leaders who could bring themselves to solidarity with the poor and suffering of the Filipino people. Challenging them to heed the call and be attuned to the sufferings of others and be more sensitive to persons in conflict and confusion than to the ‘order of the day’. The Philippines believes and upholds democracy, in democratic rule, but the government still has the responsibility to establish justice for the people. As Filipino citizens, we have both the ability and responsibility to remind, denounce and help our leaders understand the adverse effects of injustice, oppression, marginalization and the causes of poverty and hunger and the act to eliminate them. When history’s ‘losers’ follow in the footsteps of Jesus, they are seeing to it that the Lord wins his wager. As St. Gregory the Great says: “the cry of Jesus will not be heard if our tongues keep silent about what our souls believe. But lest his cry be stifled in us, let each of us make known to those who approach him the mystery by which he lives!”

The Coming of Christ: To be always alert and ready

Also in this week’s Gospel, Jesus challenges us to prepare for His second coming. He advises us to “be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly” (Luke 21:34), as when Christ returns. He desires us to be in a place of abundance and peace. It is so easy to get caught in the whirlwind of events and current of our daily routines; the social, economic and religious situation is instantaneous with unexpected turns and often leads to a loss of stability, it becomes extremely difficult to remain present in our aspirations and ministries. Physical, mental, and spiritual drowsiness weighs heavy on one’s heart, preventing doing natural awareness.

A compliant heart that is free from the chains of anxiety does not form on its own. It requires us to invite God into our struggles and trust that He will provide us with the strength and desire to keep living a life that reflects His love. “Be alert at all times and praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:36). As Advent begins, we are invited to draw close to God, allowing Him to prepare our hearts to receive His son. He desires for us to confidently rest in His abundant nature and surrender our fears and anxieties that prevent our service from reflecting His truth. God floods our hearts with a love that is refreshing and sustaining. When filled, our hearts will overflow and inspire a life of service. Hope and anticipation, must be a force that will give us the strength and energy that will impel us to do social justice that requires strong individuals with a heart that is refreshed and energized. The temptation to succumb to disappointment and anger is so strong in today’s society. The lie and fake news, oppression, suffering, greed, historical revisionism that beseech our society is a wall that we are called to tear down. Trusting in the providence of our Lord, and the constant spirit in seeking justice, peace, freedom and human fulfillment in harmony with the earth, we can stand up to injustices with receptive hearts and use our privilege to speak up for those without a voice.

We must be vigilant at all times and to pray for strength. To be always watchful and alert is also a weapon against those who create aggression, pessimism, sadness and hardship. The yearly remembrance of Advent celebrates God’s desire to become immersed in every aspect of the human experience and in our response to his call and yearnings, we will find Christ. One saint said that life should be lived in ‘attentive expectancy’, just like the way one waits for the phone call and messages/chat, for your child, or a spouse or friend and the doctor to call. We cannot make that call ourselves. All we can do is to be ready, and as Hamlet said, ‘The readiness is all’. (

Balik-Tanaw is a group blog of Promotion of Church People’s Response. The Lectionary Gospel reflection is an invitation for meditation, contemplation, and action. As we nurture our faith by committing ourselves to journey with the people, we also wish to nourish the perspective coming from the point of view of hope and struggle of the people. It is our constant longing that even as crisis intensifies, the faithful will continue to strengthen their commitment to love God and our neighbor by being one with the people in their dreams and aspirations. The Title of the Lectionary Reflection would be Balik –Tanaw , isang PAGNINILAY . It is about looking back (balik) or revisiting the narratives and stories from the Biblical text and seeing ,reading, and reflecting on these with the current context (tanaw).

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