Simbang Gabi- Day Five

20 Dec

The priest presiding over the fourth Mass of the Simbang-Gabi novena centered his homily on St. Matthew’s account of Jesus’ genealogy. In Matthew’s Gospel, there are five women mentioned: Tamar, who seduced Judah in order to advance his familial line, Ruth the foreigner, Rahab the harlot, Bathsheba the adulteress who nonetheless bore King David a son, Solomon, and Mary, who conceived while in a state of virginity. This bizarre genealogy culminates in God becoming Incarnate as Jesus Christ. I wrote in my last post that we are part of this seemingly bizarre plan. God calls us to salvation, and makes union with Him available to us by sending His Son to become one like us.

It is a recurring theme along our journey of faith: “As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts”. (Isaiah 55:9)

God’s plan is weird and surprising to our simple minds. We cannot understand the mysteries of God, yet to God all including Himself is simple and unified.

God presents us with yet another mystery as we continue on the way to the celebration of Christmas. The Gospel reading for the fifth Mass of the novena was that of the foretelling of John the Baptist’s birth from the Gospel of Luke. (cf. Luke 1:5-25) Zechariah, a priest, and his wife Elizabeth are said to have been “righteous before God”. (Luke 1:6) However, Zechariah was unable to comprehend the angel’s message that Elizabeth would bear a son. Elizabeth is described by Luke as “barren” because of her age. This term appears many times in Scripture. One occurrence that stands out is in Genesis, when Abraham’s wife, Sarai, is described as barren. (cf. Gen. 11:30) This is the first adjective in the Bible associated with Sarai.

The word “barren” is meant as an agrarian metaphor here, since Genesis was likely written to teach a civilization dependent upon farming. A barren soil would produce no new grain. Human reproduction, in the absence of today’s science, was understood along the same agrarian lines- within the man was a very small human being, similar to a seed. In fact, the Greek word “sperma”, whose English translation is self-explanatory, literally means “seed”. This “seed” would grow into a visible human being only when implanted in the woman’s womb, which functioned like a good soil.

God mysteriously made Sarai’s womb, considered unfit for conceiving a child, fertile. When God told Abraham of His plan to do so, Abraham “fell on his face and laughed”. (Gen. 17:17) But Sarai- eventually Sarah- did conceive and give birth to a son, Isaac, whose name is Hebrew for “he laughs”. (cf. Gen. 21:1-7)

In Zechariah’s case, he too didn’t believe that his “barren” wife was able to conceive, but she did so because of a miracle of God. Zechariah was made unable to speak until after the birth of John the Baptist. He couldn’t laugh as Abraham did; Zechariah was left to silently await the birth of John, and to wonder at the splendor of God. (cf. Luke 1:22)

As we await the celebration of Jesus’ birth, it is sometimes commendable to remain silent. We can speak, but then we are challenged to speak wisely. Even so, our wisdom cannot approach God’s wisdom. So we are better to wait, prayerfully and silently in awe.

In our waiting, our hearts become the fertile soil in which to grow faith, hope, and love. Jesus says so in His parable of the sower:

“When a great crowd gathered and people from town after town came to Him, He said in a parable: ‘A sower went out to sow his seed, and as he sowed, some fell on the path and was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered for lack of moisture. Some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it. Some fell into good soil, and when it grew, it produced a hundredfold’ As He said this, He called out, ‘Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’” (Luke 8:4-8 )

Lord, we open our hearts and lift them up to you. Help us to be fertile soil for your Word to come to dwell intimately within us. Be moisture that sustains the growth of our small seeds of faith, buried in the ground. Help us to reach the light of Heaven, making the thorns insignificant. Help us to be hopeful during the dark nights of faith when we await a new day. We pray in the words of the Psalmist: “Upon you I have leaned from my birth; from my mother’s womb you have been my strength; my hope in you never wavers”. (Ps. 71:6) Amen.

WRS

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