Saturday, December 6, 2008



The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

As it is written in the Isaiah the Prophet: "Behold I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way.

A voice of one crying out in the desert: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths.' "

John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance and for the forgiveness of sins. People of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins.

John was clothed in a camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He fed on locusts and wild honey. And this is what he proclaimed: "One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

Fr. Joel Fernandez had recently been assigned to the parish of Our Lady of Lourdes and wanted to construct a good training center for the out-of-school youth as well as a multipurpose hall for the most diverse activities to be carried out in the parish. Full of enthusiasm, he asked some architect friends to prepare the plans, which were approved by the parish council and then sent to a German funding agency with the request that it grant the P40,000,000 needed for constructing, furnishing and equipping the two buildings.
Three months passed.

When Fr. Joel finally received the answer from the funding agency, he was saddened to learn that the application had been rejected because the project did not show any counterpart to be shouldered by the local parishioners in the overall expense. Fr. Joel and his parish council were obviously disappointed and consulted the Bishop on what to do next. The Bishop explained that such was indeed the procedure of all the funding agencies because they wanted to make sure that the local beneficiaries did not just receive the required sums without doing their own share of sacrifice and effort.

The project proposal was redesigned accordingly, showing that the parishioners would contribute
up to one third of the total cost. It was then sent again to Germany with the request that the funding agency reconsider its previous decision. That time, the reply was positive and so a great dream became a reality – thanks to the collaboration between the generosity of the funding agency and the contribution of the beneficiaries.

It is pretty much the same with the great enterprise of our salvation. The Lord is always ready to come to our rescue. He is actually the One who takes the initiative for He knows how badly His intervention is needed and that without Him, we would get nowhere.

Whenever we experience the bites of suffering, we raise our voices to God asking Him to "show His Kindness and grant His salvation".
But He also demands our active collaboration, for He does not want to spoon-feed us as if we were babies or handicapped who are totally dependent on the help of others. Though wounded by original sin, we are still capable of cooperating with God’s grace and God wants us to do just that.

This is what we are challenged to do this Advent and throughout our life. This is what is meant by John the Baptist’s call to repentance, which we find in today’s Gospel passage. We must, indeed, “prepare the way of the Lord.” Out of sheer love and mercy, the Lord comes to save us, but we also must do our share.

The call to repentance and conversion was made by John the Baptist to the entire people of Israel when the time came for God to send them the promised Messiah. This call of the fiery Prophet spans the centuries and reaches us today, as urgent as ever. We, too, need God's help and forgiveness. But in order to enjoy this, we have to do our share, we have to go back to Him.

Rightly St. Augustine wrote: “He who created you without you will not save you without you.” This means that we must “walk toward Him” and “walk in His way” with a purified heart, having done our best to remove from ourselves what defiles us and is incompatible with His presence in our lives.

Euchalette, 7 December 2008

MCPO Box 1820, Makati City 1258, Philippines