The Advent voice keeps reminding us that we are made for more in Christ. Recently, I was listening to Leah Darrow’s speech at the Steubenville Youth Conference in Ohio, titled, “Rise, He is Calling You.” Using the story of the healing of Bartimaeus in the scripture, Leah recounts her process of return to the faith. Leah had left the sacraments for ten years to pursue her career as a celebrity, however, she explained how Christ encountered her in a profound way while she prepared for an auditioning. With such stunning experience, she eventually abandoned the celebrity world, what ordinarily would have been termed a blossoming career. Leah says to her audience, “Sometimes, some choices that are offered to us don’t always lead to the path of righteousness. They are beneath our dignity and calling as Christians. But you have to be brave enough to recognize that and then accept what’s more.”
In the book, The Art of Living, Edward Sri addresses the four cardinal virtues of fortitude, justice, temperance, and prudence and discusses how the vice of intemperance can rob us of our dignity this way, “A man is made for more than pleasure. He is made to give the best of himself in his relationship. A lack of temperance prevents a man from loving his God, his spouse, his children, and his friends as well as he could.” Isn’t that the same as the voice of John the Baptist crying out in the wilderness and reminding believers, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths?” My challenge is for us identify whether we’re shortchanging ourselves as Christians and succumbing to less. Are you able to hear that voice speaking to you to realize that you are made for more? And what’s more for you?
The creation account shows that God made Adam and Eve and put them in the garden “to work it and take care of it” (Gen. 2:15). God’s voice spoke dignity into Adam and Eve when he breathed upon them, but they chose the negative voice. Adam and Eve lost their sanctity through disobedience, hence depravity and sin, injustice and dishonesty began to rule the world. This explains the reason for human brokenness seen in numerous biblical narratives -Israel’s infidelity, corruption among the shepherds of Israel, and in the new testament the prodigal son, Ananias and Sapphira, Judas’ betrayal, including the overall Jewish conspiracy to crucify the Son of God.
The theme runs through the entire readings of this weekend, God’s invitation, a summon to uphold the divine dignity in us through Christ the Emmanuel. The prophet Isaiah explains 1). the anointed king will come from the line of David 2). this king will establish justice and 3). through his reign, creation will be restored to the peace found in the original garden of Eden. Since the Israelite kings had messed with the order of justice and peace, the shoot from the stump of Jesse, will restore God’s promise of justice to his people. In line with Saint Paul, no one is an afterthought in God’s mighty plan of salvation. We are made for the glory of God.
Each time the message of repentance is preached, a voice speaks to us. That voice calls our attention to our dignity. That voice challenges us as Christians. That voice draws our attention to the real meaning of Christ’s coming. That voice tells the story of our restoration. That voice reminds us that in Christ Jesus, what was lost in the garden of Eden is raised once again to God’s original plan. Even though John the Baptist comes across as harsh in the gospel, his voice keeps speaking, “Produce good fruits as evidence of your repentance.” We are made for more.
What would you say you are made for? Different persons may have various answers to this. Possibly, our professions or vocations may strike us. But think about the saints for one moment. Mother Teresa, for example, lived according to three modest tenets: good works, the principle of life, and community. Mother understood that she was made not for the world but for Christ.
For us immigrants, it is good to flash our minds back to the times we’re still in our various home countries with the passion to leave for the US. Most of us had several images of America. We started looking for visas with all the frustrations that accompanied it. For those of us who came with student visa, the process started with applying for school in the US, getting a response from the school. Once accepted, we paid for DS 160 Form, then paid for SEVIS. We got the SEVIS, then paid the visa fee. We received a date for interview and prepared all the documents. A long process, but something spoke to us that in America, everything every problem would be solved. Rather than have our problems solved after arriving the US, it had been from one challenge to the other, one demand, expectation, goal, etc., to the other. Are we just made for the US?
Imagine how many hours you put up at work. Is work all you need in this life? Imagine that your passion is to look beautiful. Do you ever get satisfied? Each new day brings up new styles in dressing and fashion. You keep longing to meet up with the trend, yet it never stops. Imagine how many notifications come on your phone each day asking you for an upgrade. The latest version of your phone -iPhone, Android, etc. Imagine how many Apps come up each week asking you to upgrade. Imagine how many social media platforms exist now. Imagine how many video games there are. Keep imagining how much the world evolves in technology and how much you’re unable to use. So, is the world really the yardstick for satisfying human desires? What exactly are you made for -technology, fashion, physical fitness, education, profession?
What matters in life is that we serve God and serve humanity. Use the channel you have as a platform to produce good fruits, be a witness to God’s dignity in truth, love, and justice. John’s voice still speaks:
I am Mr. President, produce good fruit.
I am a lawmaker or representative, produce good fruit.
I am a priest, produce good fruit.
I am a politician, produce good fruit
I am a medical doctor, produce good fruit.
I am a nurse, produce good fruit.
I am a wife, husband, produce good fruit.
I am a teacher, produce good fruit.
I am a law enforcement agent, produce good fruit.
I am a lawyer, produce good fruit.
I am an electrician, produce good fruit.
I work as a librarian, produce good fruit.
I work for the CDC, produce good fruit.
I am a nun or a religious, produce good fruit.
I work for MVA, produce good fruit.
I work for IRS, produce good fruit.
The world would be much pleasant if we all strive to produce good fruits. For example, the guys playing soccer are at Qatar for the World Cup now are creating happiness through soccer and helping most people to forget the craziness across the globe. They are using their skills in a good way. Some persons watch soccer as a therapy for their blood pressure. Some couples use soccer as a coping strategy and a temporary escape from their fights. The message is to realize that you are made for more, that you are made for great dignity. Then strive to produce good fruits every moment of your life. Our good fruits bring glory to God and in turn bring dignity to our humanity. You are made for more.
READINGS: 1ST- IS. 11:1-10; 2ND- ROM. 15:4-9; GOSPEL- MT. 3:1-12