Last week’s Gospel reading calls on us to be alert and vigilant because we do not know when the Lord will come. But in the Second Sunday of this season, the Scripture calls on us to prepare the way for his coming. A voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths,” says the Gospel of Mark. It announces the coming of John the Baptist, the precursor of the Messiah, who spoke the words of God but also acknowledged that there is one greater than him whose sandal he is not worthy to unstrap.
The period when Christ came into the world was a time of uncertainty and insecurity. The chosen people were groaning under the yoke of foreign oppression. John the Baptist’s message resonated among the people who were beginning to doubt God’s providence, feeling that he has abandoned his people. His message was one of hope amid hypocrisy, violence and greed, conflict and confusion. It was at this time when everything seemed hopeless that God sent a messenger to rekindle the hope of the people, calling on them to put their trust in the Lord.
Much like in the time of John the Baptist, many are now teetering on the verge of hopelessness, as we reel from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the myriad calamities that face us such.
This Advent, the Lord is once again calling on us all to renew ourselves. Just as John called on his people to prepare the way for Jesus, we too are being called to welcome Him this Advent Season and illumine, and to reflect on the words of wisdom of the Holy Father to free ourselves from our internal idols, heed the cry of John the Baptist and focus on the Lord, never doubting his eternal love for us.
One person that has prepared the way for Christ for many people, especially priests, is Fr. Timoteo Ofrasio SJ. Fr. Tim, as we fondly call him, is a great liturgist of the Philippine Catholic Church, a lyricist of some of the most beautiful songs for religious celebrations, and a formator of priests in the Philippines and in Mindanao.
Last December 1, on the Tuesday of the first week of Advent, sad news from Fr Peter Pojol, Socius of the Society of Jesus: began appearing in my multiple social media and communications channels—in Facebook, Viber, Gmail, Telegram, and Messenger: “This is to inform you that FR. TIMOTEO J. M. OFRASIO, S. J died about 8 p.m. this evening in San Pablo General Community Hospital, San Pablo City. Fr. Tim, 72, had been on home leave and tested positive for the virus. He was hospitalized several days ago but seemed to be recovering. His death is quite unexpected, except that COVID-19 has often been seen to be more treacherous and deadly than anticipated.”
When I saw the news, I could not help but cry, posting this in Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram:
“Oh Fr. Tim! You just texted me a few weeks ago from Laguna! I am glad that we have reconnected these past years. As I told you when you reached out to me, I will do anything for you!
Fr. Tim, I love you! You were a spiritual rock to many of us since you were a young priest in the early 1980s. Your friendship with Fr. Lennie was an awesome example for us in the ACIL Tañong-San Mateo group. I look forward to my next retreat in Sacred Heart: I always ask your good friend to help me fight the demons that visit me in my first nights; now your gentle presence through your songs will be as powerful as well.
Visiting you in Buug one Christmas season in 1983 was so magical an experience as I saw how you led a happy congregation. That misa de gallo you celebrated was one of the most joyful Christmas dawn masses I have ever experienced.
I also remember New Year’s Eve mass with you in Barangka in 1981—but that was noisy! Later, when we would attend the corporation meetings of Xavier University together, I saw how happy you were in Vianney as Rector!
And more recently, I have appreciated your celebration of the Latin Mass and wanted to reach out to you to learn more.
I thank the Lord for the priest you were, for the holy person you had become!”
As announced by Fr. Pojol, for now there will not be a big wake or funeral mass for Fr. Tim. But I hope there will be one later for this priest who has been an architect of so many great Jesuit and Church celebrations. It is enough to know that Fr. Tim’s work—in liturgy, in his songs, as a formator, and as a friend—prepared the Way of the Lord for many of us. And in heaven, he is welcomed by the angels, with trumpets and all, this man of God, this son of Ignatius of Loyola.
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