Simbang Gabi – Days Two and Three

18 Dec

In the quiet of the night, or in morning’s early light,
Is your heart prepared for a King?

Will you hear an angel sing?
Will your own hosannas ring?
Is your heart prepared for a King?

Wait! Watch! Pray for the One who brings hope to a wearied earth.
Wait! Watch! Pray for the One who brings peace, who brings peace by His birth.

Can you see the shining star?
Does it call you from afar?
Is your heart prepared for a King?
Is the babe of whom we sing born to be our God and King?
Is your heart prepared,
Is your heart prepared,
Is your heart prepared for a King?

–Robert Lau

This hymn, which has been used by Taizé, the worldwide interdenominational youth group founded by the late Frère Roger, was sung during the preparation of the gifts for the second Mass of Simbang-Gabi last night. I think it did well to focus the congregation’s attention on the theme of the readings and of the Mass as a whole.

The theme of preparation also leads us into the Mass celebrated today. Today is called Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is Latin for joy. As the priest said in today’s homily, during the third Mass of the Simbang-Gabi novena, joy comes with preparing the way for the Lord to enter our lives fully. Joy doesn’t necessarily entail being happy all the time. Faith can be difficult. As St. John of the Cross and other saints have alluded to, the deeper one’s faith, the more distant one may seem from God, though the Lord is always present and close at hand, calling us and knocking at the door. As faith deepens, we allow the One who is with us to work through us and to become intimately one in us. Thus is the joy of faith.

During Advent, people can be seen preparing for Christmas in three ways. Firstly, many are preparing impatiently. Those who wish Christmas would just come, with no more shopping, no more massive crowds, baking, or decorating, fall into this group. We who are at times impatient in awaiting the Lord’s coming are like the child in the back seat of the car on a long trip repeating ad nauseum: “Are we there yet?”

Secondly, some may prepare for Christmas with dread. The priest cited students wearied by exams as falling into this group. Others dreading Advent and Christmas include the poor, the homeless, or those whose families live in faraway countries, like many of the Filipinos celebrating Simbang-Gabi in Canada or those who have no family. We pray that these people may experience some joy in Christmas despite their very real hardships.

Also, it is important to fulfill our role as good stewards of what we have. If we have plenty of something to spare, then part with it to help those with less. Also, it is essential to be content with the many gifts of time, talent, and treasure that we have. (cf. Luke 3:10-18 ) Justice, forgiveness, and kindness toward others ought to be desired and acted out. We pray that we may not turn back a brother or sister in need. For St. James reminds us, “faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead”. (James 2:17)

If we do this, loving our neighbour as ourselves, our faith will be strengthened and we will find ourselves in the third group, among those preparing joyfully for the Lord. Christ, who is joy, will come to reside deeply within us, each of us individually and as a community. Faith gives us hope, so that in times of impatience, of dread, or of feeling distant and forsaken by God, we may have certainty of better times that are promised to us. Faith and hope lead us to love, even when God is only seen “through a mirror dimly” (1 Corinthians 13:12). Thus “now faith, hope, and love abide, and the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).

Lord, strengthen your people in faith. Aid us in preparing for your coming in glory. You show us the way of hope and love in your life, death, and resurrection. Thank you, God, for the gift of your only Son. Grant us joy, peace and hope in Our Lord Jesus Christ. Gaudium, pax, et spes in terra. May our hearts be prepared for a King. Blessed Mary, Mother of God, and St. Rose of Lima, Patron Saints of the Philippines, pray for us. Amen.



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