Covid-19 is still lingering everywhere, strong typhoons crashing many lands every now and then.  Many people of all ages are in dire need.  Our lives have been affected in so many ways: diseases and deaths, poverty increases, stress and anxieties, devastated environment, persecutions and injustices, economic distress… Indeed, faith and patience are undeniably tested.  It is such a tough experience for many.  When these trying times will end? Why is it taking so long?

Today, we begin the season of Advent, the season of attentive listening, of keen watching and of hopeful waiting.  Advent gives us time to prepare ourselves for a meaningful and profound celebration of the Birth of our Lord.

But, how do we prepare ourselves? What do we do while we wait? While the pandemic challenges us to stay in place, maintain our space, and cover our face to be protected from this outbreak, all the Readings on this first Sunday of Advent helps us to stay focus, maintain our hope and cover us with healthy cope… to prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus.

STAY FOCUS.  Advent invited us to focus on the return of the Lord.  Like the people of Israel, we pray for his coming “Return for the sake of your servant” (Is 63:17).  In the situations we are right now, we realize how fragile, how limited and vulnerable we are.  We recognize that we cannot live separated from Him.  The Body without Head is lifeless.  Even the Psalmist has the same cry “Let your face shine upon us and we shall be saved.”  This Advent, like the gatekeeper, we stay focus, we attentively listen to Him, we seek Him in prayer… “Maranatha, Lord come, we wait for your coming.”

MAINTAIN OUR HOPE.  Advent is a season of hope. A hope that does sprout from the profound experience of a loving God who does not abandon his children. A hope that wake us up every morning and allows us to take another step forward to encounter others who are in need. An encounter that brings change, not only to them but most especially to us. An encounter with a family beneficiary of the Center in the time of lockdown came to my mind. That little boy who asked his mother to ask for some medicine in the clinic of the Center that can prevent them from getting hungry again. “Nanay, humingi ka ng gamot para hindi na tayo magutom.” The “medicine” that the boy asked was to ease his aching stomach but there is so much hunger in the world that needs to be satisfied and it is hope that will sustain so many people who experience loneliness, fear, anxiety and isolation.

In the midst of this stormy times, the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians in chapter 1 (v.9) that God is faithful and by him we have been called to fellowship with Jesus Christ, our Lord.” God will never fail to journey with his children, to suffer with them, to cry with them. Even so, our Blessed Founder, Francisco Palau noted that “God is like a good father who takes me by the hand and leads me where he wants” Let us lift our heads and be watchful and alert like faithful gatekeepers watching, waiting in silence and in hope.

COVER OURSELVES WITH HEALTHY COPE.  In these depressing realities, Advent gives us sense of direction and leads us to anticipate with joy.  God’s coming bring salvation, not downfall.  He brings communion, not division.  He brings healing, not dying. He brings true peace and joy. In the Gospel today, three times Jesus exhorts his disciples to be watchful. The best way to keep vigil is to be mindful and to find life meaningful. It is also to do our works attentively and assiduously.  We work even if no one is watching and noticing. Let us keep our hearts awake, our hearts watchful like the gatekeepers waiting with anticipation for the Master’s coming, ready “whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow or in the morning.” (Mk 13:35).  

In this season of Advent, let us reassess once again our priorities, our decisions, and our way of life.  While we stay in place, maintain our distance and cover our face this pandemic, this Advent, Pope Francis in his encyclical letter “Fratelli Tutti,” offers us a way to step back from the precipice and to see one another as children of God in need of one another.  He reminds us that we are better together, that we have been created to be in relationship with one another, to love one another, no matter our differences; that we are brothers and sisters all, with the one loving God as our Father.  Let us always remember that a good gatekeeper is also a brother’s keeper. As we stay focus, maintain our hope, and cover ourselves with healthy cope, we are not alone, we are all brothers and “we are all work his hands” (Is 64, 7).