Hope, Peace and now Joy, the advent wreath is almost fully lighted up as we wait for the coming of Jesus. The color purple representing (hope and peace) symbolizes the need for repentance, fasting and the color pink represents (joy) the shift towards rejoicing and celebration. My examinations have come to a close and I can breathe a sigh of relief as I take time to rest and find the things that I am lacking in life. I hope that the combined university camp will help me prepare for Christmas and be a better person for the rest of the year.
This week’s gospel reading continues the testimony of St John the Baptist sent by God as a messenger to guide us on the right path and to evangelize the good news to the people that he met along the way. When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to John to ask him, “Who are you?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord.”(James 1:6-8). It tells us that St John the Baptist came as an ordinary person with the virtues of hope and peace in bringing about the good news of the Lord and also making people understand God’s message to his people.
Some of the Pharisees also asked John, “Why do you baptize if you are not the Christ or Elijah or the prophet?” John answered them, ” I baptize with water, but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” (James 1:19-28). The one aspect that I most admire about St John the Baptist is his perseverance about his call and mission to proclaim the good news and his sincere invitation of getting people to repent from their sins. Like John the Baptist, we are called to be the voice of the church which is to serve others and put Jesus first in all things that we do.
Many people often ask, “Where is Jesus in today’s world?” The answer is he is everywhere, present in people and in his creation (animals and nature). Jesus comes to us, but sometimes, we do not recognize him because of our own choices or reluctance. Furthermore, as the festive spirit draws near, we must know that Jesus does not come to us as a king but as one of us in all humility to bring us true happiness and joy to our hearts and homes.
I promised in my previous post that I would share more about the story of the Christmas Crib by Fr Alfred McBride. In the last year of his life, St Francis of Assisi told his friends, “This will be my final Christmas.I want to celebrate it in a new way.” Now, St Francis of Assisi had a friend in the lovely mountain town of Greccio, where his friend owned some land on a hillside which had several grotto-like caves and his friend allowed St Francis Assisi and his brothers to use the place as a hermitage.
St Francis of Assisi graciously accepted the offer and moved there with his brothers at the beginning of advent. However, he had one request which was to transform one cave into a Bethlehem scene. His friend carried out the preparations and transformed the cave into a manager with an ox and a donkey and he also included a small altar for mass.
About an hour before midnight, the village people of Greccio came in procession to celebrate Christmas with St Francis of Assisi. Their stream of lanterns looked like stars coming across the valley and their voices echoed the Gloria like the angels. What a sight it must have been! The villagers were amazed by the manger and their children were delighted! Soon St Francis of Assisi commenced the Eucharistic celebration and at homily time, he talked about the birth of Jesus.
One account says that at the end of the homily, a golden light filled their assembly. They saw St Francis reach into the manger and lift out a baby and cradled him in his arms. He said to the congregation, “My brothers and sisters, behold the Saviour of the world.” After the Eucharist, St Francis of Assisi disappeared. Not until dawn, when the morning star hovered in the sky, did someone find him. He was absorbed in prayer, his face turned toward Bethlehem.
This was how the custom of the crib began which showcases God’s profound love for humanity even though we are sinners. Last week’s Catholic Society sharing required us to be ready for the birth of Jesus by being Christ-centered, building a relationship with Jesus, having a positive Christian interior life and also having bridges beyond borders to seek Jesus and to experience his comforting embrace.
I would like to take this time to pray for the sick and suffering in the hospitals for God’s healing grace that they may experience the comfort and peace through their family members. I pray that we keep them in our prayers. Also I pray for the Catholic Society to maintain that communal spirit so that we may be closer to Jesus as a whole.
This is the prayer that came with the sharing of the Christmas Crib which sums up the true meaning of Joy and the spirit of advent celebrations. “Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God. Glory to you on this feast of your birth in Bethlehem. We are grateful for the simplicity of your mystery. We are ennobled by your choice to come into the world as a human being. We are inspired to search for you among the poor and the humble, and to be humble and poor in our own way. We rejoice in your birth and seek to live better lives as a result. Amen.
God Bless! May we be like St John the Baptist and St Francis of Assisi who, in their own ministries, testified as witnesses to the light and joy of Jesus Christ.
Written By: Darren Chan Keng Leong