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Third Sunday of Advent

Joy comes when we learn to embrace the Son of God. His joy enters our lives when we accept his forgiveness and his love. It is then that we learn to let go of our fears and anxieties and we begin to think of loving and serving others in spite of our limitations. This is the joy I sense in my friend who traded a high paying job for an NGO that forms and trains the poor. This is the same joy in the heart of our bishops who now courageously stand for the truth and lead the crusade for vigilance. Cardinal Rosales of Manila recounts the story of a child who was dying of cancer and who passed his remaining days by being preoccupied with filling up his empty softdrink cans with coins that will be shared with the poor.

Christmas sadness will linger if we only focus on ourselves. Christmas sadness will vanish the moment we focus on loving not our selves but loving others around us. Let us decide to welcome joy! With Jesus, let us focus our hearts on making others joyful. Joy comes to those who are instruments of joy for others.

More from my book: Rejoice and Be Glad: Reflections on the Sunday Gospels, Cycle C (StPauls, Makati City)

And now, thanks to Catholic Update for these weekday reflections…


(Nm 24:2-7, 15-17a; Mt 21:23-27) An unsettling faith

At times we honestly do see Jesus; at other times we’re not so sure. So we can sympathize with the chief priests and elders who approach him. Jesus deflects their question with another question. They realize that either answer they give will lead into a quagmire. We can admire their answer, “we do not know.” Often “we don’t know” is the best response, showing the dilemma of being human: already here, not yet arrived.


(Zep 3:1-2, 9-13; Mt 21:28-32) First or second son?

God’s promise to remove braggarts from our midst is exhilarating. God will send instead faithful, humble people who don’t lie about what they’ll do; they simply, quietly get the job done. In gospel terms, they are the first son. Maybe they don’t collect awards or trumpet achievements, but eventually they do the father’s work. When have we been more like the second son than the first?


(Is 45:6c-8, 18, 21c-25; Lk 7:18b-23) A bright torch in jail

One intriguing thing about today’s Gospel isn’t recorded—John’s response to Jesus’ description of his work. Jesus’ answer doesn’t mention glorious trumpets, excessive wealth or triumphant armies. But the word he sends corresponds to the core of Scripture, directly attuned to the prophets. We can imagine John receiving this word and retreating to a dark corner. There, perhaps, he grinned broadly and treasured Jesus’ message for the rest of his life.

Late Advent

is a time when we intensify our desire for the coming of the Lord Jesus.

Thursday – December 17

(Late Advent)

(Gen 49:2, 8-10; Mt 1:1-17)

A feminine viewpoint

One diversion during the long string of “begats” in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus is to listen for the names of his great-great-great-grandmothers. Tamar’s story, found in Genesis 38, is summarized: Widowed twice, she becomes pregnant by her father-in-law, Judah. Rahab runs a brothel; Boaz must negotiate for Ruth at the city gates; King David has Bathsheba’s husband murdered so he can marry her. They are sad stories because the women are faceless; with Jesus’ coming, women finally start being recognized as persons with full rights.

Friday – December 18

(Jer 23:5-8; Mt 1:18-25)

Not the scene on Hallmark cards

Much as we enjoy the coziness of our decorated homes, approaching this special feast, it’s important to remember that the first Christmas was chaotic, unplanned, uncomfortable. Life for refugees isn’t easy, and Jesus chose to come in the hardest possible circumstances, showing from the beginning his solidarity with those who suffer. Joseph’s fidelity to Mary, despite the public shame, is the anchor that holds the small family together.

Saturday – December 19

(Judg 13:2-7, 24-25a; Lk 1:5-25)

The symphony begins

Today’s readings sound like a musical overture, touching themes which climax on Christmas Day. The first theme is that God’s work happens without fanfare in remote regions. The second is the surprising group of people God chooses: barren women who have profound hope. The third is the initial response of people who meet God’s heralds: terror.

We know from our experience that God often comes through what we dread: change, insecurity, disease or death. Then we must sit with our fears long enough to become confident of transformation.