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Advent 2014  Advent Notes
year end diary

"Our main task is to proclaim the Good News, which should be done in such a way that pictures the glory of the Gospel, that leads people to acknowledge that Divine revelation exists in our witness" (SVD Constitutions, 107)


  My Advent in Batam:
Desert: The University of Being Disciples of the Lord
 
 
       
by Aurelius Pati Soge, SVD  
................................................................................................................................ Sunday, December 7, 2014

 
“Father, I am green in envy with you”, said a friend of mine when we were having good time in a pizza-hut. “You seem to have joyful life, focusing yourself on God and ministries, do not worry of family life, what to eat tomorrow, what’s going to happen to kids, what bills you have to pay at the end of the month. I wish I could have been like you!” To this statement I briefly replied, that life was not as joyful as it seemed to be. “We, too, have trials and hardship in our life and ministry”, said I. “Priestly way of life is something unusual in common taste, as we freely choose to carry out ministries that is mostly related to life after death, faith and spirituality, or all questions of eternity, based on a so called divine revelation through his messengers. Things have changed, and the challenges we face also come in new forms that demand proper answer in its context. We might not really worry of daily needs, but in broader context, our life is very demanding.” I do not know, whether my answer penetrated his mind, but what I said is true, the thing that many people seem not to realize.
 
advent 2-1
 

Being mature in trials and hardship

I BELIEVE nobody likes to live hard life, full of challenges and trials. When possible, people like to make their lives as easy as possible. However, it is not always the right way to develop one’s life. A businessman friend of mine never allows his two kids to live easy lives. Although they have cars and fulltime drivers, kids have to go to school with public transport, given limited pocket money and have to do their own dishes and laundry. They have to submit written weekly review of their schooling days, including their highest and lowest achievements, along with the reason behind it. Once accidentally I saw these two kids standing by the road on broad daylight, waiting for the bus. I offered them a lift which they joyfully accepted as the whole family have known me for years. I related the story to my friend. He thanked me for that but he was certainly displeased. “Creativity, maturity and strength come through trials and hardship”, he said. “I am not a lunatic who enjoys my kids’ suffering. They have to learn all these so they are able to understand and respect the life of unlucky people. Only with respect they will have dignified life and earn other people’s respect. We do not only need facilities for good life, but more than that we need people’s acknowledgement. And it comes only when we acknowledge them as the same as us.” At that time I did not fully agree with him, but years later, looking at the two kids’ achievement when they grew mature, responsible and respectful to other people, I realized that he was absolutely right.

 

School of disciples and prophets of God

AS WE LIVE in tropical environment, many of us might have no idea what actually a desert looks like. Yet, we might have learned from many sources that this sort of wilderness provides very limited resources for creatures to live. That is why desert is mainly a deserted place for people but a safe haven for fugitives. After liberating his people from slavery in Egypt, Moses led Israelis in a nomadic lifestyle through the deserts for forty years (cf. Ex 7:7; Dt 34:7), not just to avoid frontal confrontation with King of Egypt’s arm forces but to educate the Israelis, so they could move from inferiority complex of slaves to confidence of a dignified nation. In the case of King David, when Saul failed to kill him, David and his followers fled to the desert for safety and further political consolidation (1 Kings 20:24; 23:14).

DURING the era of prophets, desert became a drill ground. Elijah had to wander through wilderness for forty days to meet God at Mount Horeb. Amazingly, when it happened, God did not appear to Elijah in a spectacular and frightening way like fire and storm, but in a “murmur of a gentle breeze” (1 Kings 19:12). Jumping to the New Testament period, John the Baptist lived in the wilderness before his ministry (Mt 3:1-4), and even Jesus himself spent forty days in the wilderness before His public ministry (Mt 4:1-2).

THIS DESERT PERIOD proves to be crucial for messengers of God. They have experienced the hardest of the hardest, which enables them to face challenges in the social political and religious affairs. Moses was rewarded with scenery of the promised land, just across the Jordan river, which he was not allowed to enter. David gained the throne the Lord had granted him. Elijah was able to liberate the nations from paganism. John the Baptist prepared the way for the Messiah without claiming the popularity for himself. Jesus portrayed himself as the Good Shepherd for all people, amid hardships and resistance from priests, scribes and Pharisees. All these messengers of God learned to listen to God. They were truly disciples of Yahweh, who was teaching them all things. With their new knowledge as fruit of divine revelation, they were ready to proclaim the will of God, probably at the price of their dignities and securities even their lives. Did they ever pull back? No! They did not, as for them the will of God is number one, the rest come later.

TO SUM UP, let me draw your attention to the very last messenger of God, Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Word Incarnate. As mentioned before, Jesus also spent forty days in the wilderness after being baptized by John at river Jordan, prior to His public ministry. The great part of the story is that what happened right after those forty days of fasting in solitude. The devil came with his temptation that directly touched Jesus’ human side. Three offers were made: (1) Physical needs: turning the stones into bread; (2) Popularity: throwing himself down from the highest wall of the temple to be saved by angels, and (3) Power: supremacy above all nations at the gesture of worshiping the devil. Amid his essence of the Son of God, Jesus succeeded overcoming these temptations that strongly touched his human nature, simply because he passed through days of trials and hardship in the desert. Forty days is already very long, another day added is certainly not a big deal.

*****

 

AS CHRISTIANS, we consider our lives as constant pilgrimage back to God. The world today is very attractive and offers variety of human pleasures. It is a serious challenge for us to sustain our mission as the people of God. Our mission is to gather all nations as one family around Jesus, the Saviour (cf. Mt 28:19), so hand in hand we will walk together to the new kingdom, where “a great crowd, impossible to count, from every nation, race, people and tongue, standing before the throne and the Lamb, clothed in white with palm branches in their hands...” (Rev 7:9).

While our mission has been executed throughout the world as commanded by Jesus, the devil never ceases to challenge us. The very same temptations of Jesus are here today, coming to us in renewed forms. Let me highlight some examples.

  1. Materialism and hedonism. They explore all human desires and encourage people to fulfil them. “Life is just once”, many argue, “so, why don’t we enjoy it now?” We might have ever encountered this statement some times. This is actually the first temptation Jesus faced at the beginning of his public ministry, the temptation to fulfil all human desires and live an easy life without any consideration of eternal dimension of humanity. When you ask what happiness is all about, it is no longer a taboo when people simply say that happiness has everything to do with dining table and bed, which refers to food and sex.

  2. Secularism. I often come across some statement in social media that pictures the values adopted by the secular world. “The reality is only today, tomorrow is a dream and yesterday is a nightmare. So stop worrying and enjoy life”, I once read, In London, Ariane Sherine, a comedy writer, supported by British Humanist Association and atheist campaigner, Richard Dawkins, put an advert on city buses, saying, “There’s probably no God! Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” Once in London, I was at an underground platform and happened to read this advert, “Football is our religion.” It is so similar to the temptation of Jesus. In order to be a true and powerful person, faith is not the right way, instead it is popularity through the modern highest wall of the temple, such as all human achievements in science, art, sport, etc. They are good, but when it loses its spiritual root, it could lead us to the destruction of the soul.

  3. Neo colonialism. While the period of colonial politics is generally over, and most countries enjoy the fruits of democracy, neo colonialism emerges in many different forms, especially economy. Through economy, powerful countries have all power and means to dictate and dominate other countries. The world is transformed to a global market that serves the capital owner. While the United States of America is considered as super power, in reality some trans-national corporation is even more powerful, as from behind the curtain they impose their policies in almost all elements of social life. There is only one reason, i.e. to be powerful. Power can be useful when it serves humanity, but when it is out of control, it tends to be abusive and neglects human rights. And when human right is no longer respected, it becomes a domain for the devil to manipulate human lives. Remember what Satan said to Jesus? “All these I will give to you with one condition: worship me” (cf. Lk 4:7). People who no longer use their power to serve humanity will serve and worship the devil and consequently become his slaves.

As we are facing the same temptations like Jesus, there is an option to follow Jesus in order to overcome them. What we need is a desert as the school of being prophets and disciples of the Lord. We live in different places and different era with different challenges, but the needs of desert remains the same. But, what is our desert today?

  1. Firstly, desert means a corner to be alone with God. It can be a space in our house, a quiet time in busy working schedule, some minutes to pray and read the word of God, a short visit to the Blessed Sacrament, etc. We can do it individually or in group.

  2. Secondly, desert means solitude for inner peace in order to gain spiritual power. When we are alone purposely, we distance ourselves from all distraction that might direct us away from God. Real solitude means being in constant communication with God. Here we open our hearts and minds to be animated by Him, which turns out to be our endless source of spiritual energy that is very much needed to overcome many temptations.

  3. Thirdly, desert means hardship that disciplines us. Only by hard training, an athlete will succeed in competition. It applies to our spiritual life. Without hardship and trial, we will be spiritually weak and become easy targets for the power of the darkness.
THESE MESSAGES stay relevant for us. Don’t worry when you face hardship and trials. They are your desert today. Stay faithful, the Lord will come to you, whispering His message of love, for you and for other people. Just remember what happened to Prophet Elijah, who was entertained by the Lord because of his faithfulness. He did not come in tremendous and frightening signs of nature but in gentle and peaceful way. It touched and inspired Elijah, hopefully it will touch and inspire us today.
 

advent1-2

 

Yahweh said to Elijah,
"Go up and stand on the mount, waiting for Yahweh."
And Yahweh passed by.

There was first a windstorm,
wild wind which rent the mountain
and broke the rocks into pieces before Yahweh,
but Yahweh was not in the wind.

After the storm, an earthquake.,
but Yahweh was not in the earthquake.

After the eartquake a fire,
but Yahweh was not in the fire.
After the fire, the murmur of a gentle breeze.

When Elijah perceived it,
he covered his face with his cloack,
went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.
Yahweh is near!
(1 Kings 19:11-13)

 

 

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All stories by TIRTA WACANA Team except where otherwise noted. All rights reserved. | design: (c) aurelius pati soge