Wednesday, December 24, 2008

What makes a true Christmas?

Gospel: Luke 2:1-14

After the Simbang Gabi preparations, the latest being the realization the the world is enveloped by God, we hear the angels rejoicing in heaven, announcing the birth of the King of Kings, wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger.

Jesus chose the path of total helpless in contrast with those who are yearning for power. This is what makes Christmas, when we shed off any desire or quest for power and enter into the world of total service.

Secondly, the angels chose to show themselves to the shepherds and the lowly, a startling contrast with the way political authorities would align themselves with. Here, the poor understood that the time of peace is here, a kind of peace in which they are very much a part of, total and lasting peace that can be brought only by God alone, not like the shallow election promises. If we chose this path of aligning ourselves with the poor, then the reign of God is upon us.

Third, what makes Christmas? When everything has been shed off, what remains is our wounded empty selves needing desperately to be filled up ... let the love of God do that for us, not power, not influence, but love that flows from the Father. Let this love radiate to each and everyone. Let love be our joy and our gift to others.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Day 9. Simbang Gabi - Putting it all together

Gospel: Luke 1:67-79

After knowing that we are part of the unfolding of this great Christmas story, we say the "Benedictus", canticle of Zechariah, with emphasis on the following points, and note that these points are also our prayers:

first, everything is the work of the Lord, the salvation of the Lord, His goodness and love unfolding from every side, to finally free us from our sins and give justice to the world. The Christian is totally God-centered;

second, that He shows mercy (hasad) to all of us; His mercy endures forever; it is what is keeping us alive; in love, capable of giving. Grant that we may realize that every goodness in our hearts is the fruit of God's own goodness and that we are just mirroring it;

third, that God affirms our mission of our being to bring peace to the world through the conduct of our own lives.

Taken all these together, we realize that everything is in God, as in the liturgy - "through Him, with Him, and in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, Almighty God forever and ever, Amen." And that is what it means to celebrate Christ's birth!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Day 8, simbang gabi - After Mary, who else?

Gospel: Luke 1: 57- 66

As the themes of the Simbang Gabi are exposed, various characters serve as models in preparing for the coming of the Lord. We inculcate the discipline of John the Baptist and the obedience of St. Joseph. We learn from the fault of Zechariah while we regard with highest esteem the fiat the Blessed Virgin Mary. Who else is significant in the unfolding of this Christmas story? We are. As Zechariah's child was named "John" to signify that his history is now of divine origin, we now understand the full meaning of our identity the moment we were baptized - the Lord seized us and made us His own.

Secondly, as John was known to have God-given qualities, so too we are given gifts by the Holy Spirit to use in this world and help us come closer to our Lord. And as John realized his mission to prepare the way of the Lord, so too we have a mission given by the Lord to do in this world.

We are very much a part of this Christmas story. Christ's coming would rely on our response to do God's will.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Day 7, Simbang Gabi - Rejoicing

Gospel: Luke 1:46-56

There are two main theme's to Mary's Magnificat - God's magnificence and uplifting the poor.

Have you noticed that the more Mary rejoices, the more the Lord is exalted? This is so different from our case when we rejoice over our accomplishments, we lift ourselves. But with Mary, her humility and poverty give rise to the glory of God; everything is the Lord's.

Secondly, Mary reveals God justice - the proud shall be humbled while the poor will be blessed. Mary becomes the spokesperson of the poor and the persecuted. She gives birth to the Church of the Poor, with the Lord lifting them up. Isn't this the essence of salvation? Isn't this Christmas?

Therefore, let us rejoice with the joy of Mary. May God be praised always and forever!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Day 6, Simbang Gabi - Mary's unique role

4th Sunday of Advent

Reading: Luke 1:26 - 38

We have corrected our false notion of a Christless Christmas. Now we turn toward His second coming and the end of world. We are called to imitate St. John as he dedicates his to preparing the Lord’s way and to help us focus on giving witness to the light. Now, there is none other reflecting the Lord’s light than the light reflected by the Blessed Mother.

Mary who is immaculately conceived carries within her the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Mary, who is the product of pure love, carries Jesus within herself and her exclusive role in the work of salvation,. Mary is the model par-excellence of a Christian, a prototype – when she dedicated herself to the Lord, entrusted her life to him and allowed him to mold her to becoming the mother of Christ and mother of the Church.

We too should imitate Mary in our path of becoming authentic Christians. We may not be at par with her, but the least of all our efforts in doing so will always be looked upon by the Lord with kindness.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Day 5, simbang gabi - Mary's Fiat

Gospel: Luke 1:26-38

We are following so closely the indwelling of the Holy Spirit through the incarnation of Jesus Christ in Mama Mary's Annunciation. There are no more doubts like Zechariah; nor there are second thoughts like Joseph. There is nothing else except pure love - love from the Father and love from His creation - Mary's beautiful response of fiat.

We all claim to have loved. But how far will that love go? What are the components of true love? The components of true love are as follows: first, there has to be a solid commitment to identify and be linked with the beloved for life. Mary loved the Lord so much she desired to please Him all through her life. Secondly, there has to be the element of trusting the Almighty totally, unreservedly. Third, there has to be total willingness to be molded according to His will.

The result is tremendous, the incarnation of the Lord. Also, the result is ecclesiological, it signaled the birth of the Church, the real followers of Jesus Christ, spearheaded by Mary.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Day 4, Simbang Gabi - the consequences of doubting

Gospel: Luke 1:5-25

It may seem that Zechariah and Mary gave the same responses. In Mary's case, she questioned, "How could this be since I don't know man?" In Zechariah's case, he asked, "How could this be since we are old and my wife is barren?"

The difference is in the motive behind the question. For Mary, it is an innocent question since she totally dedicated herself to God, while with Zechariah, it is a matter of practical reality.

And so let us reflect on what it means to walk by faith and not by sight. First, it is to acknowledge that in everything we do, in all things happening in this world, God is always at work. This is to discern Secondly, that God means well. And third, he asks for our participation.

These will free us from our enslavement to sin which causes us to be mute in this this world when it comes to renouncing evil. Our silent fear will turn to prophetic proclamation of the truth.

Day 3, Simbang Gabi - Joseph's consent

Gospel: Matthew 1:18-24

It may seem too much that the Lord God still has to ask for man's consent to carry out His divine will.

In the case of Joseph, who was an upright man, the angel appeared to him in a dream and explained everything that it was God's plan. Joseph consented.

God risked granting us free will as a sign that we are created in His image and likeness. Joseph and Mary are examples par-excellence of obedience. But in our case in today's world how do we fare as far as obeying God is concerned?

Note then the consequences of not following God's will. He will not reject us, but He would really feel very sad for people not to carry out His will. On the other hand, He rejoices at every gesture of man in which He is consulted. Let us imitate St. Joseph, even though we don't understand what is going on, as long as we put our entire faith in the Lord, everything will be alright.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Day 2: Simbang Gabi - God's family

Day 2, Simbang gabi
Gospel: Matthew 1:1-17
Photo courtesy of Men's ministry of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church

Have you ever realized the importance of a family tree? I have. One time, the Reyes clan from Kalibo made an extensive research to trace all relatives up to five generations or more. I was amazed to meet some distant relatives during our last family reunion. We numbered more than we could ever imagine!

Because of the extensive research made to search all relatives, it gave me a sense of pride to discover how I am related to well-known personalities. More importantly, I am consoled to see how goodness and greatness can be passed on from generation to generation. In our family tree, I just discovered that there is a pattern of men becoming priests in different generations!

A family tree also presents an opportunity for healing and for understanding one’s dynamics. It is claimed that some sort of “original sin” is being passed from one generation to the next – physical, psychological, or social. For instance, if there’s a history of heart ailments in the family, then we should learn to take care of our health. Or if we discover that there are deep-seated hurts among family members and relatives, we should learn from these experiences and be careful not pass them to the next generation.

But still, the best advantage of knowing the family tree is when you see the whole picture – goodness far surpassed evilness, every name is valued, every person is fondly remembered - a consoling picture that the clan continues to be richly blessed with the goodness of God.

As the genealogy of Jesus is presented in today's gospel, may we be proud of our faith passed on to us since the time Abraham. Secondly, may we also be eternally proud of Jesus who shares with us the gift of joining God's glorious family.

May our history be guided constantly by Him to our ultimate goal.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Reflecting God

Simbang gabi, day 1

Gospel reading: John 5:33-36

It’s a mystery, but sometimes, people who are in love tend to look alike, feel alike, act alike. There is a fusion of world. I tend to identify with the beloved.

A family is identified with God. It is a direct reflection of God. Like St. John the Baptist who mirrored God’s will so the family is a direct mirror of God’s love. Maybe this is the best opportunity for the family to reflect if indeed we have become worthy mirrors of the love of God.

St. John pointed out two realities. First, when he likened himself to a light, reflected from the light of God. But he himself is not the light. Pray that we may not be self-centered. There is nothing in this world that we can be proud of by ourselves. Even the pride of our families, they are not our own. Grant that we may let go slowly of our possession of our families and enter into the bigger family of God.

Second, Jesus said, “Know by the works I do.” Eventually, we shall be judged this way. May I ask everyone to reflect what he has done lately and if that action is in accord with God’s will. Eventually, our own actions account to nothing. It is either filled with God or not.

Witnessing, let’s give in to witnessing. If we witness well, we become like the beloved. I tell you, the family as a witness mirrors directly what and who God is. Let the family check on how it is giving witness to God.

Christmas is witnessing. It may be a yearly activity, but if it doesn’t bloom, it’s barren; we may not be witnessing at all.

We can make a resolution to be reflections of God, inculcate the values of God.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Witnessing to the Light

Third Sunday of Advent,
Cycle B,
Gospel reading: JOHN 1 : 6 - 8, 19 - 28
Photo courtesy of: The Catholic Forum

On this third Sunday of Advent let us imitate St. John the Baptist as model of someone who is waiting with excited anticipation the coming of the Beloved.

As such, he also becomes a witness to the “light”. Light is a sure guide against the darkness. Light also gives us our rightful identity of being sons and daughters of the “Light” which is God himself. Finally, this light points to Christ and a deeper knowledge of who he is in our lives.

May I invite us all to ask the following questions: Who are we today and after Christmas – agents of light or darkness? Do we fulfill our proper roles as agents of the light? Finally are we intimately linked with Christ or with the world? The answers to these questions will mold the quality of our lives especially after Christmas.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Prepare the way of the Lord

2nd Sunday of Advent
Cycle B
Gospel: Mark 1: 1-8

In preparing for the second coming of the Lord, we need imitate the spirituality of St. John the Baptist in three points:

First, John's vision of preparing the way of the Lord is so clear to him. That is why his motivation to move people to repentance is beyond compare. What is our vision? Where are we going in this world?

Second: John lived a simple life. His spirituality is reflected in his very being. There are no side trips as far as he is concerned. If we say we love God then let our lives reflect it.

Third: his life is centered on Jesus. Even if he hadn’t seen him, his encounter with the Lord was for him the greatest moment of his life. He even instructed his disciples to follow the Lord, “I must decrease while He must increase.” Who is Jesus for us? Is our knowledge of him enough to move us out of our own selfish confines and serve Him?

Pray for a true and last Christmas, not just the fleeting and momentary one.