In the Catholic Church, we celebrate the death of saints as the day they overcame the world with all its temptations and became united with God in heaven



BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas



Mark 1:1-8
A teacher was explaining to her grade school class the value of cleanliness and a healthy lifestyle. She placed four worms in separate jars. The first worm was put into a jar of alcohol. The second worm was put into a container of cigarette smoke. The third worm was put into a jar filled with soda. The fourth worm was put into a container of good clean soil.

The children saw with their own eyes the result: The first worm in alcohol – dead.

The second worm in cigarette smoke – dead.

Third worm in soda – dead.

Fourth worm in good clean soil – alive!

So, the teacher asked: “Class, what is the lesson you get from this experiment?” A boy quickly raised his hand and said, “Now I know that as long as you drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes and drink soda, you won’t have worms in your body!” People nowadays are serious about their physical health and wellbeing. This is truly commendable.

After all, we are reminded that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. However, while people take care of their body, there is not enough attention given to the spiritual health, the well being of their soul. Such is the fruit of the culture of materialism in the world. People give importance to the physical and material, but neglect and even ignore the spiritual aspects of life.

We are now on the second Sunday of Advent. People are already doing the countdown for Christmas. And definitely, most of us are making preparations for this long-awaited event of the year. Yet, the same thing happens: most preparations are only on the material and superficial levels.

The season of Advent, therefore, aims to direct us towards the more important aspect: the spiritual preparation. Hence, this Sunday, the main figure of Advent, St. John the Baptist, is being presented to us. He is the voice crying in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord!” The preparation that St. John refers to is not about decorations, gifts and parties. Rather, he is talking about internal and spiritual preparation. Based on our readings this Sunday, let me point out the elements of this kind of preparation. The first element is the virtue of faith. We must be sure that our belief in the coming of the Lord is firm and strong. Jesus comes into our lives in three ways: his coming in history, which is what we celebrate every Christmas; his coming in mystery, which happens everyday in the celebration of the sacraments, especially in the Eucharist, and in our encounter with other people; and his coming in glory at the end of time. As Advent people, we wait with patience and faith. And the best way to keep our faith strong is constant prayer. As St. Padre Pio said, “prayer is the oxygen of our soul.”

The second element is humility. This is clearly shown in the teachings and example of St. John the Baptist: “I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.” Knowing how sinful we are, we bow our heads in sorrow and shame, yet full of hope – for we have faith in a merciful and loving God. The Lord comes only to people whose hearts are pure and humble. Hence, humility is an essential element in our preparation for the Lord’s coming.

And the third element is repentance. The message of St. John the Baptist is constant and urgent: “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand!” As we wait for the Lord, we look at ourselves, and humbly admit our sinfulness and unworthiness. Sadly, this element is missing among many people nowadays. The loss of the sense of sin is so evident in our society. St. John pointed out to the people: “Look! There is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!” It is Jesus, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. How many people still believe this truth?

For a lot of people, it is politicians, Congress, or the movie stars or television that take away the sins of the world. Most countries in the world have already legalized divorce and the killing of unborn babies. Still others have also legalized same sex marriage. They have declared therefore, that these horrible offenses against God, nature and humanity are not anymore wrong and sinful. They are taking away the sins of the world! As a result, many have already lost the sense of sin. The cause of this sad situation is an erroneous understanding of human freedom. Many people think that personal freedom is absolute, and that we can change the moral law any way we wish. This is what Pope Benedict XVI referred to as the “dictatorship of relativism.”

Pope Saint John Paul II wrote about this in his encyclical “Veritatis Splendor.” He said, “Certain currents of modern thought have gone so far as to exalt freedom to such an extent that it becomes an absolute, which would then be the source of values. This is the direction taken by doctrines which have lost the sense of the transcendent or which are explicitly atheist. The individual conscience is accorded the status of a supreme tribunal of moral judgment, which hands down categorical and infallible decisions about good and evil.”

St. John preached a baptism of repentance as the way to prepare the hearts of people for the coming of the Lord. He did not mince words in pointing out sinful deeds and behavior and made sure they realize the horrors of sin. He fearlessly condemned the immoral and scandalous relationship of the king with his brother’s wife. In doing so, he was beheaded in prison by order of the king. He was willing to sacrifice his own life in order to bring people to repentance and conversion.

Such attitude is similar to that of Jesus who willingly died on the cross for our conversion and salvation. St. Peter expressed this in the second reading: “The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,” but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2Pet 3:9). Needless to say, the sacrament of Confession is an indispensable tool in making our Advent preparation fruitful and complete, “eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace” (2Pet 3:14).

This Advent Season, let our preparation be primarily spiritual, and as we prayed at the start of this Mass, “may no earthly undertaking hinder those who set out in haste to meet your Son." We ask the Lord to give us the grace of repentance so that, set free from the slavery of sin, we may grow in humility and in faith – the essential ingredients in our spiritual preparation for the coming of the Lord in history, in mystery and in glory.

Fr. Mike Lagrimas 
Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish Palmera Springs 3, Susano Road Camarin, Novaliches, Caloocan City 1422

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