The Preaching of St John the Baptist in the Desert, Massimo Stanzione, c.1634
Readings (New American Bible, Philippines, USA)
Gospel (Matthew 11:2-11)
When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ,
he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question,
“Are you the one who is to come,
or should we look for another?”
Jesus said to them in reply,
“Go and tell John what you hear and see:
the blind regain their sight,
the lame walk,
lepers are cleansed,
the deaf hear,
the dead are raised,
and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.
And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”
As they were going off,
Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John,
“What did you go out to the desert to see?
A reed swayed by the wind?
Then what did you go out to see?
Someone dressed in fine clothing?
Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces.
Then why did you go out? To see a prophet?
Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.
This is the one about whom it is written:
Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way before you.
Amen, I say to you,
among those born of women
there has been none greater than John the Baptist;
yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”
This Sunday a young man from Ozamiz City in the southern Philippines, Rodolfo Christopher Kaamiño IV, will be ordained deacon in Malate Catholic Church, Manila, where the Columbans have been working since 1929 when we first came to the Philippines. The evening before Christopher will take his permanent oath as a member of the Missionary Society of St Columban. We Columbans aren’t religious. We don’t take a vow of poverty but our oath is a commitment to celibacy and to obedience to our superiors.
The gospel has Jesus report back to John the Baptist what they see: ‘the blind regain their sight . . . Chris spent two years in Taiwan as a seminarian on First Mission Assignment. Here is something he wrote about the very down to earth way – using slightly inelegant language – about the way some adults with mental disabilities experienced the love of the same Jesus through him.
Reverend Rodolofo Christopher Kaamiño IV
Friends ask me what I’m doing here in Taiwan. Half-jokingly, ‘Washing asses’ is my frequent reply, and they laugh, thinking I might be joking or that I mean something else. Here is somebody who has studied for four years in graduate school in the USA now washing other people’s asses. It led me to wonder what’s ‘wrong’ with this, probably because it’s a ‘dirty’ job, or because it’s not a ‘classy job’, a ‘sophisticated profession’ such as engineering or accountancy. A friend asked me why I’m doing this. I told him I don’t do it on my own, or else I would have quit a long time ago. I have some help from above.
AiJia Community, Taiwan. Chris on right in white T-shirt.
After being in Taiwan for almost two years, I felt I was an ‘amateur in every field and professional in none’. Probably that's what being a missionary is all about. Being in the ministry for several months now, I feel that I don’t have to be a professional or a rocket scientist to be a minister. I arrived here with ‘professional ideas and concepts’ about mission and ministry learned in school. In ministry here at AiJia these don’t matter much. Mentally challenged adults don’t necessarily need a professional. They need a human companion, somebody who can ‘waste’ time with them.
AiJia core-members ans assistants. Christopher in blue T-shirt
The ministry at AiJia, of course, also requires professional nursing and care-giving and I learned both on the job. Probably it was my willingness and openness that enabled me to also take on those roles. It wasn’t easy. Being an adult, I don’t want to be told what to do. Yet being a ‘tongue-tied’ foreigner, I depended much on others in the ministry. In AiJia a professional nurse, caregiver or social worker may efficiently take care of the physical needs of mentally challenged adults but not necessarily of their human needs. It has been my continuous struggle in the ministry to provide the people here with professional care and at the same time to be a human companion to them.
Most of the first followers of Jesus knew only of one trade, and that was to fish. These disciples could have remained professional fishermen and serve the hunger of the people by providing them with fish. But Jesus invited them to a whole new level of fishing, to ‘fish’ for people, a whole new field beyond their professional expertise. It required less of their professional skills but more of their hearts and minds. A tall order, but they were willing and trusting. Despite their being slow to understand, Jesus patiently journeyed with them as they continued ‘fishing’ for people.
AiJia members after performing in a cheering-squad contest. Chris in blue T-shirt.
Like the first disciples, I too am slow to understand what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. Yet I continue this journey in trust and with help from above. We missionaries try to put some flesh on God’s love in this world. Each does it in different ways depending upon the different gifts each has been given. One can be a professional when the situation calls for such. But most of the time, people need a human companion, somebody who is willing to go the extra mile with them.
Article, slightly edited, and photos from Columban Vocations Website, Philippines.
The Highway of Holiness Passes Through the Desert
Biblical Reflection for 3rd Sunday of Advent, Year A
By Father Thomas Rosica, CSB
TORONTO, DEC. 7, 2010 (Zenit.org).- In his moving homily for the Inauguration of his Petrine Ministry as Bishop of Rome on April 24, 2005, Benedict XVI spoke these words: "The pastor must be inspired by Christ's holy zeal: for him it is not a matter of indifference that so many people are living in the desert."
He continued: "And there are so many kinds of desert. There is the desert of poverty, the desert of hunger and thirst, the desert of abandonment, of loneliness, of destroyed love. There is the desert of God's darkness, the emptiness of souls no longer aware of their dignity or the goal of human life.
"The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast. Therefore the earth's treasures no longer serve to build God's garden for all to live in, but they have been made to serve the powers of exploitation and destruction. [...]
"The Church as a whole and all her Pastors, like Christ, must set out to lead people out of the desert, toward the place of life, towards friendship with the Son of God, toward the One who gives us life, and life in abundance."
There is no better starting point to understand the Scripture readings for the third Sunday of Advent, especially today's first reading from the prophet Isaiah (35:1-10), than by reflecting on Benedict XVI's words. The themes of geography and desert in both the Pope's inaugural homily and Isaiah's stirring reading invite us to reflect on the deserts of our own lives. How do we live in the midst of our own deserts? How often have we become deserts of loneliness, desolation and emptiness, rather than flourishing gardens of community, joy and light for others? How have we resisted transforming our own deserts into places of abundant life? We may have to go into that wilderness where we realize we are lost, and alone, unfruitful and without resources - and only when we reach that point are we ready to meet God.
Full article here.