Our country is prone to so many natural calamities. Just recently, a mudflow triggered by typhoon Reming in Albay led to the loss of hundreds of lives. A month before that the whole country experienced the fury of typhoon Milenyo. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, and the seasonal typhoons seem to find this country a favorite spot to visit . In most cases the survivors pick up the pieces of their lives and rebuild from the ruins. People find hope amidst adversity. We can say we are an advent people, a hopeful people.
Action Starter: Cheer up somebody this Advent.
Our readings this Sunday underline this theme of hope during difficult times. In the first reading, the writer Baruch, exhorted the people to rebuild their lives even as they were in exile in Babylon, “Led away on foot by their enemies they left you (Jerusalem) but God will bring them back to you. (Bar 5: 6)” In the second reading, St. Paul was writing from prison to his community in Philippi. It was a hopeful letter, “I am confident of this that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it. (Phil 1:4-6)” The Gospel shows John preaching in a time of hardships for the Jewish people. It was the time of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate and Herod. They were the symbols of Roman domination over Israel. It was during these times that John preached, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. (Lk 3:5)”
The most hopeful people I have met are the farmers. After the floods, they plant again. During a drought, they try to keep alive their wilting crops by watering them. They are perpetually in debt to landlords, storekeepers and financiers. Somehow they continue with their lives, confident that the sun will rise tomorrow and there will be better times ahead. Hope keeps them alive.
Hope is one of the three theological virtues. These virtues are the fundamental virtues pertaining to our relationship with God: faith, charity, and hope. We believe in a God we cannot see. We love a God that we cannot touch, and we have confidence that with God all things will be well. There is a big difference between a person who has hope and a person who has lost hope. In his book Man’s Search for Meaning, Dr. Viktor Frankl describes these two kinds of people among the prisoners in Hitler’s concentration camps. When a person smokes the cigarette that he promised to smoke only on the day of his freedom, they know that he has lost hope. He will be the next person to die. It was hope that made Victor Frankl and his fellow inmates survive the adversities and cruelties of prison.
We have our own real or even imagined trials and hardships. Is our attitude towards these one of hope? Are we confident that in God’s design goodness wins over evil, light conquers the darkness and all will be well?