I was informed 3 months in advance about the event and got invited as a dear friend. Then 2 weeks before this big event, i received the invitation in glossy print with our names as sponsors, names familiar in political circles including officials from the Bureau of Customs and the Department of Public Works and Highways, a lawyer, a Congressman, a Police Superintendent, and myself a sinful blogger. On the event day, the pastiche of perfume, alluring to ones smell, filled first the aisle then onto the baptistery from men and women in coats and ties, Barong Tagalog and glittery bling-bling. It was not Baptism Day because we can afford to pay the special price. Besides, Baptism Days can get too crowdy for our privacy, simply a mishmash of the B and C and D classes of people for a baptismal festival. We want our souvenir photos, the pouring of water or the annointing with oil uninterrupted and unhurried by the celebrant. Soloing the Cathedral makes this social celebration plus sacrament more solemn in our opinion. A group photo at the altar afterwards, never mind the responsibilities as godparents, brings the event to its jovial element. These were all playing in our imagination in different frequencies as we await the celebrant to emerge from the sacristy. We, the less ideal, horde of sacrament recipients.
Here comes the priest, ambling towards the pews where we are all docked on. Then he begins, composed as a trial lawyer:
“You brood of vipers, miscreant beings who leech on the coffers of the people, rogues in officials’ robes, you who come here for social networking and fear that if this baby doesn’t get baptized, he would be cast into eternal damnation. You, you…”
Typical of our prideful, achieving and overeducated generation, we grudgingly stayed throughout the tirade, our nerves frothed with anger to hold back or cannon our own tongue-lashing charges. But this was not our turf, and instead, almost in unison, we whispered: “Never with this wicked bastard again, nor in this lousy cathedral.” We mindlessly made the sign of the cross.
My apology peeps. The story and event above is only imaginary to emphasize some points for this 3rd Sunday of Advent, points actually from our tongue-lashing hero par excellence – John the Baptist:
“So he began saying to the crowds who were going out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”
Not easy to hear at all, especially for an Asian race and sensibility whose softest core is being shamed in public. But the Gospel this Sunday has a very interesting, if not shocking, opening sentence:
“And the crowds were questioning him, saying, “Then what shall we do?”
I hear more than curiosity over practical strategies to conversion. I imagine depth after depth where arrogance and self-exultation are emptied out, replaced by open spirits and spaces. It is called teachability – the openness to be taught of certain things, to learn from those who treaded the self-emptying desert way like John. Am i teachable enough especially in the things of God? Are you?
This 3rd Sunday of Advent, i will light 3 candles along teachability: one for that part of me covered by hubris and remains un-teachable; the second, in gratitude for past spiritual teachers; and the third, for present spiritual guides and those God will still surprisingly send me along the way. It’s my way of making sense John’s fiery, baptismal tongue.
Photo credit: marc50