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A time of renewal for Christians
Benjie Oliveros, ucanews.com
Advent is an important season for us Christians. It is supposed to be the season when we reflect on our lives and discern where we are in terms of our preparation for the coming of the Lord.
The season is not the time for an exercise in enumerating New Year's resolutions. It is time for deeper reflection. It does not suffice that we, as we often do during the New Year, say that we would try to do again what we listed last year.
While Advent is a joyous season, it is also a season of reconciliation. We are taught that we must be ready "for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour."
But if the servant says to himself, "My master is delayed in coming," and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, and to eat and drink and get drunk.
The master is supposed to come on a day when we do not expect him and at an hour we do not know.
But we are also reminded not to be like the five maidens who did not prepare for the coming of the bridegroom and were out looking for oil when he came and were thus no longer allowed to join the feast.
How are we to discern our preparation for Christ's coming? We can look at ourselves as individual Christians, as members of the church, and as members of a community.
As a Christian, how far have I gone in my pursuit of "holiness"? Have I surrendered everything to God? Have I accepted my weaknesses and do I derive my strength from God? Do I still value material things or have I died, with Christ, to the things of this earth?
Can I now say that I am, as St. Paul said in his letter to the Galatians, "crucified with Christ" and let Christ live in me.
How is this in layman's terms? What do I value most in this world? Is it pride, wealth and material things? Or is it love and relationships?
Do I find fulfilment in my personal accomplishments or in helping others and making them feel loved?
Do I find happiness in the fruits of the Holy Spirit: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, faithfulness, humility, gentleness and self-control?
How am I able to manifest, in deed, my membership in the church? Do I offer the gifts given to me for the greater glory of God and service to neighbors?
Do I allow myself to be used by God as an instrument of His love to the least of my brethren? What do I contribute to make those on the peripheries of society feel the presence of God in their life and the concern of the church for their spiritual and physical wellbeing?
As a member of society, do I stand for and do my share in upholding justice and peace? Do I work for the promotion of the dignity and integrity of all of God's creation? Are my positions and advocacies consistent with the teachings of the church and the Bible?
We are not saying that all these could be achieved in one season, in Advent, nor in a year or years for that matter.
Attaining holiness is our life's work. Our preparation for the coming of Christ is a lifelong endeavor, and it defines our journey in life.
What for me is important is that every time we examine ourselves this season we could say that we are moving toward our goal of service. Otherwise, we have wasted another year in our life, a life that could end anytime.
Benjie Oliveros is a freelance journalist and an active Catholic lay leader in Manila.