The im­por­tance of con­text

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - LIFESTYLE - By Fr. Tito Caluag @In­q_Lifestyle –CON­TRIB­UTED

Dec. 9, Se­cond Sun­day of Ad­vent

Baruch 5: 1-9; Psalm 126, R. “The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy”; Philip­pi­ans 1: 4-6, 8-11; Luke 3: 1-6

Our Gospel for this Se­cond Sun­day of Ad­vent opens with the set­ting of his­tor­i­cal mark­ers, to es­tab­lish the con­text of the min­istry of John the Bap­tist, who in turn was to es­tab­lish the com­ing of the Mes­siah.

To­day let us re­flect on the im­por­tance of con­text—the time, the place, the sit­u­a­tion, the back­ground or his­tory, etc.—in our life, which is al­ways a key el­e­ment in our en­counter with God.

Ig­natius of Loy­ola gave wise coun­sel to the early Je­suits with re­gard to their min­istry. He ad­vised them that if one wishes to in­flu­ence or form oth­ers, one must en­ter the other per­son’s door and take him out from that door.

The con­text of the ad­vice is the Je­suits’ min­istries in spir­i­tual di­rec­tion, preach­ing, etc. Again, it’s show­ing the im­por­tance of con­text; oth­er­wise, the same ad­vice can be used for both al­tru­is­tic and self-serv­ing ends.


The great­est ex­am­ple of this is Christ him­self who, in the mys­tery of the in­car­na­tion, emp­ties him­self of his di­vin­ity and en­ters our hu­man sit­u­a­tion. Through his be­ing God-with-us, Em­manuel, he is able to show us the path to di­vin­ity.

As the words of the ab­so­lu­tion in the Sacra­ment of Con­fes­sion put it, “God the Fa­ther of mer­cies has rec­on­ciled us unto him­self through the life, min­istry, pas­sion, death and Res­ur­rec­tion of Our Lord Je­sus Christ...” Christ is the way, he who en­tered our hu­man con­di­tion, and world has given us the path.

In the call of his dis­ci­ples, Christ does the same thing. He en­ters the con­text of the per­son. He gets into Pe­ter’s boat, con­vinces him with a large catch of fish, and com­mis­sions him in an im­age close to Pe­ter: “From nowI will make you a fisher of men.”

En­ter­ing the con­text of oth­ers is ba­sic to ser­vice. And like Christ, it is not a deus ex machina ser­vice, but an emp­ty­ing of the self to al­low us to see our shared hu­man­ity with oth­ers, and the free­dom to choose our path.

It is with this recog­ni­tion of our shared hu­man­ity that we are able to es­tab­lish a gen­uine com­mu­nity of sol­i­dar­ity; a com­mu­nity that we can call sa­cred space where we are free to be au­then­tic be­cause we have the free­dom to choose to be so, “to thine own self be true,” and to choose to be more, our call to be mag­nan­i­mous in love and ser­vice.


A ques­tion I am of­ten asked is, how does one know God’s mis­sion, what God wants you to do? God works in pat­terns, not in ran­dom, ar­bi­trary acts. Our story, our nar­ra­tive, our con­text is the best way to see and to un­der­stand what God wants us to do.

Re­mem­ber­ing is re­con­nect­ing us to our story and re­stores us to a sense of whole­ness. Tak­ing own­er­ship is ex­er­cis­ing our free­dom to be col­lab­o­ra­tors of God’s plan and what he wants us to do to make our world bet­ter and our lives mean­ing­ful.

John the Bap­tist’s call in to­day’s Gospel is a beau­ti­ful call to free­dom, a free­dom to choose to col­lab­o­rate, be­gin­ning with a per­sonal choice to re­pent, and mov­ing on to the choice to be in the ser­vice of God’s King­dom, the New Cre­ation in Christ.

“Pre­pare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Ev­ery val­ley shall be filled and ev­ery moun­tain and hill shall be made low. The wind­ing roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the sal­va­tion of God.”

This is the call to col­lab­o­rate with God’s plan. It gives us the free­dom to choose to make the most out of our life and our world.

This makes Christ’s com­ing as God with us, which we cel­e­brate ev­ery Christ­mas, one that changed the course of the whole of cre­ation.

This is our Chris­tian Hope that in­spires our life to make this world bet­ter, a com­mu­nity of shared hu­man­ity, which makes up our con­text, and to which Christ will come again.

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