Weekly Reflection (5 Dec 2021)

2nd Sunday Of Advent Year C

Baruch 5:1-9
Philippians 1:4-6,8-11
Luke 3:1-6

Am I happy? Am I at peace? If not, it is time I truly accept Jesus into our heart let Him transform me.

My brothers and sisters, we have entered into the second week of our four-week preparation period for Christmas. This week, let us ask ourselves a few simple questions: Am I happy? Do I find fulfilment and contentment in daily life? Am I at peace? The truth is, many of us are not at peace. Many of us work hard in our job and in our faith communities. We strive hard for recognition for influence for wealth and for power. Yet we cannot quite achieve what we want. We feel insecure. And then there are the human relationship challenges that affect us. We have conflicts at home and at work; we have estranged relationships; we harbour past hurt and even vengeful thoughts. Even as we put up a fa├žade of happiness in public, deep down, we know we are not at peace. We are not happy.

What is the source of all the unrest? It is sin. Some of us may deny it but this is the reason why Jesus came into the world. As St John wrote, “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 Jn 1:10) Hence, in the First Reading this week, the prophet Baruch said, “Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem, and put on for ever the beauty of the glory from God. Put on the robe of the righteousness that comes from God” (verse 1-2) That’s right, my brothers and sisters. The remedy for our restlessness is to free ourselves from the clutches of our sins and put on righteousness. But this is easier said than done. There are seven cardinal sins that are the root sins of all other sins: anger, lust, pride, greed, gluttony, envy and sloth. These sins have a hold on all of us. The only differences among us are the severity of each sin and our susceptibility to one sin relative to another. So I ought to ask myself, is there a sin that has such a hold on me that I find it hard to break free? Perhaps it is so ingrained in me that I find it hard to even acknowledge it as a fault. Or perhaps I find myself always justifying my actions when I commit this sin. And if I feel this way, that itself is the sin of pride at work. How am I going to free myself from the clutches of my sins if I am not even able to admit it?

Chapter 4 of the Book of Baruch describes how the Israelites provoked God: “For you provoked the one who made you by sacrificing to demons and not to God.” (Bar 4:7). As a result of their disobedience, God lifted his protection over the Israelites. They were consequently conquered by a foreign power and exiled to Babylon. While their physical bodies were exiled to Babylon, their souls too were far from God. Their souls too were exiled – exiled to spiritual wilderness. Many of us are like the Israelites. While we might be physical present in church, we are spiritually exiled from God and finding it hard to come back. That is why when the disciples asked Jesus who can be saved, Jesus answered, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” (Mt 19:26) In other words, I cannot conquer my sins on my own strength. I need the grace of God.

The sad truth is, our sins does not just affect our own happiness. It affects others around us, especially our loved ones. In fact, without realising it, our sins lay the foundation for the unhappiness of our own children. This is the true meaning of God’s warning when enunciating the First Commandment to Moses, He said, “I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me” (Ex 20:5). No, we do not have a vengeful God who punish our children for our sins. Rather, our unrepented sins cause our children to make the same mistakes as us, inflicting the same harms upon themselves. For example, we know that children from divorced families have a higher chance of experiencing broken marriage in their own life. Similarly, children with broken childhood stemming from the criminal history of the parents have a higher chance of becoming criminals themselves. And even if our marriage are intact and we do not commit crimes, many of our lives are plagued by unhealed anger, lust, pride, greed, gluttony, envy and laziness, we risk passing on the same plagues onto our children.

We are in the middle of a global pandemic. Hardly a day goes by without the word “vaccine” being mentioned. Before the advent of the modern vaccines that we see today, old-fashion vaccines work by injected the person with a weaken strain of the virus, enabling to the body to build up resistance, resistance to the more potent strain of the virus that the person may encounter in the future. It is not easy to say this, but by our poor examples, many of us are “vaccinating” our children against the lifesaving teachings of Jesus. We profess Christianity, yet our life sets a poor example. Hence, like the old fashion vaccine, we gave our children a weak strain of Christianity, making them resistance to the potent strain of Christianity later in their life. Hence, while this is not the only reason, we see many young people today with Christian upbringing who no longer believe in God. Many no longer go to church. For those who goes to church, many do not truly know Jesus. In truth, they have been de-evangelised.

But do not despair. As part of our preparation to welcome our Lord Jesus at Christmas, this week’s readings offer us a chance at redemption from sin. The Scripture urges us to repent our sin, so that Christ may enter our hearts once again. The prophet Baruch promises us in the First Reading, “see your children gathered from west and east at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that God has remembered them. For they went out from you on foot, led away by their enemies; but God will bring them back to you, carried in glory, as on a royal throne.” (verse 5-6)

Just as we the parents are often the problem in the first place, we also hold the key to the solution. It starts with us. We need to listen to the message of St John the Baptist in the Gospel. “He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (verse 3). Yes, my brothers and sisters, it starts with us adopting a contrite heart, repent our sins and seek healing from Jesus. And Jesus will say to us, as He said to the adulterous woman, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.” (Jn 8:11) It is only when we truly repent for our failure to God that we can have the courage to put on humility, approach our children, and apologise for our failure to them. Say to our children the words of St Paul in the Second Reading, “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus.” (verse 6, 8) Only then, we can free our children from the enemies that led them away, and once again live as the children of the light.

But the devil will put many obstacles in our paths and the paths of our children. We need to call upon the grace of God. As the prophet Baruch said in the First Reading, “For God has ordered that every high mountain and the everlasting hills be made low and the valleys filled up, to make level ground, so that Israel may walk safely in the glory of God.” (verse 7) Echoing these words, St John the Baptised said in the Gospel, “Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” (verse 5-6)

My dear friend, the Christmas season is the season of hope. Let the coming of Jesus rekindles the hope that is in our heart. But this hope is not passive hope. But we need to do our part. By our repentance, by our humility and our love of God, we become His instruments rather than His obstacles. Let this be our reflection for the week: As I prepare for the coming of the Christ-Child, let me challenge myself to lead true Christian lives. Let me repent, let me be humble, and let me love as Jesus does. Amen.

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