December 14, 2008

Santa Claus, Manny Pacquiao, and Jesus

3rd Sunday of Advent
John 1: 6-8, 19-28 “He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might
believe through him. He was not the light, but he came to
testify to the light.

I cannot help but smile when the picture of laughing Old Santa Claus welcomes me at the door of the sacristy in Ateneo de Zamboanga chapel. I know that Christmas is just around the bend! Santa Claus is a very prominent character in our Christmas tradition. I have nothing against Santa, for when I was child, Santa brought thrills and joy when Christmas day comes as I eagerly look forward for his gift under the Christmas tree. Now I know Santa is not real, but he symbolizes joy to me. “He was not the light, but he testified to the light.”

I cannot help but smile again when I recall the last victory of the underdog Manny Pacquiao against the heavily favoured Oscar De la Hoya. The whole nation stopped to watch the Pacquiao and cheered for his victory. At that moment, we are proud to be a Filipino. His victory gave joy to the Filipino people. But we know that Manny is not the saviour of our country, but his victory inspires many to persevere and not to lose hope. “He was not the light, but he testified to the light.”

As we move closer to Christmas season, we ask ourselves, where can get that real JOY. Santa Claus and Manny Paquiao can make us happy but not to last for a lifetime. We need more than that. We need real happiness that comes from within us, a joy that comes not from “having things or winning.” We need JOY that will never fade away and will always remain with us.

Rejoice! It’s Gaudete Sunday, a Sunday that exhorts us to rejoice. The lighting of the rose candle reminds us that this is the time of great expectation for we have found the real source of fade-proof JOY – that is JESUS.

In our gospel for today, the priests and the Levites came to John to ask him if he is the Christ, or Elijah, or the Prophet who is to come. John responded that he was none of these. He was the one who is preparing the way for the Lord. They were not sincerely seeking the Messiah – the source of real JOY.

But we are. We are looking for His presence in our lives. We are looking for that JOY that will last for a lifetime. We are looking for his presence in our midst and within us right now. We are looking for Him to heal us, our families and our country. We are grateful to Pacquiao for giving us a little smile in our seemingly hopeless nation. Our “Santa Clauses” may make us jump for the giving us top of the line laptop and other expensive gifts. But the happiness will eventually fade away. What we need is a Joy that will never last. And Jesus is the only one who can give such Joy.

Unfortunately, in our gospel today, John disappointingly said, “There is one among you whom you do not recognize…” We failed to recognize that Jesus is always with us. We are distracted with so many things of lesser value. The lights, smell, taste, and sounds of secular and materialistic Christmas celebration may distract us from seeing the Savior who is always with us. Thus, we lost the JOY!

Our beautiful Filipino Christmas tradition should inspire us to go the Manger Scene. They should lead us to the newly born baby Jesus – our Saviour. Let us not be tempted and be blinded by the beauty of the gift wrappings that we never dare to look what’s inside the box. “There is one among you whom you do not recognize.”

This Christmas Season, let’s remind one another of the Incarnate God who are in our midst – the source of real JOY. We are Christians. Be proud and say, “Merry Christmas”. Don’t just say, “Season’s greetings,” or even “Happy Holidays.” Say “Merry Christmas.” Our greetings should be a statement of our faith – a reminder of the forgotten God. Christmas is the celebration of the greatest birth to ever take place, God becoming man in Jesus Christ. We have a good reason to celebrate and rejoice!

Many of us have already received their Christmas bonuses. Many of us are trooping now to the malls, seeking for something to fill their needs this Christmas. Children are looking for toys; young adults are looking for gifts that express love; my Nanay is thinking of food to fill our table for Noche Buena ; I do need to find a gift for my monita for our Christmas party; the Jesuits are asked to bring five gallons of ice cream for the clergy and religious Christmas party. These are all good. This is how we celebrate Christmas and we love them.

But what is it that we really need? What is it that we are really seeking? Something that will last and stay when Christmas is over.

The late Pope John Paul II said, “It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness. He is waiting for you when nothing else ever satisfies you. He is the beauty to which you are so attracted. It is He who provokes you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise. It is He that urges you to shed the masks of a false life. It is He who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle. It is Jesus who stirs up in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be grounded down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.”

Our world will be different when we allow Jesus to control our lives. Our whole values and priorities changes because we found the Messiah – the real treasure and the source of real JOY. Finding Jesus is finding our everything… and finding Him is finding ourselves. And that’s worth REJOICING!

Santa comes but once a year. Jesus is an ever present help.
Santa fills your stockings with goodies ...Jesus supplies all your needs.
Santa lets you sit on his lap ...Jesus lets you rest in His Arms.
Santa has a belly like a bowl full of jelly ...JESUS has a heart full of love.
While Santa puts gifts under your tree ...JESUS became our gift and died on the tree, for you and me.

Pacquiao, in the midst of his victory as the new “pound for pound king” humbly bowed to the real KING when he said in one interview, “When you pray, do not just tell God your problem. Tell your problem, you have a great God.”

We need to remember, WHO the real KING is.
JESUS is still the reason for the season.

- Fr.Willy M. Samson,SJ
Zamboanga Catedral
December 14, 2008

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