Simbang Gabi – Days Six and Seven

22 Dec

Magandang gabi…That’s good evening in Filipino. I along with a group of friends got a bit of a Filipino lesson from the priest after Mass tonight. Tonight’s presider is one of the youngest Filipino priests in Edmonton, and is therefore affectionately known in the Filipino community as “the baby priest”. Christmas, the celebration of the coming of our Baby Priest, is drawing ever nearer now. There are just over three days to go, and two Masses to go in the Simbang-Gabi novena celebration.

Today was a beautiful and very busy day for me. Between the end of work and the beginning of Mass, I had a meeting with the president of St. Joseph’s College, where I take courses and normally attend Mass. This was the first of our roughly bi-weekly meetings that will, I hope and pray, prepare me for the next step on the road to priestly ordination- becoming a candidate of an order on which I have yet to decide fully. This road of discernment is a long one, as I was duly reminded. One does not and ought not to fully commit to Holy Orders until the day the Bishop confers that responsibility upon a man. However, the journey is exciting. I pray, though, that I may never lose sight of God’s call amid the enthusiasm. I offer the same prayer for all those discerning vocations.

From St. Joseph’s College, I was off to attend the seventh Mass of Simbang-Gabi. My thoughts kept coming back to the role of children in our lives. In yesterday evening’s Gospel reading, the account of the angel Gabriel’s appearance to Mary was told. Gabriel not only tells Mary that she would bear a son despite her virginity, but also that her cousin Elizabeth would conceive, though she was deemed to be too old. Mary then assents to the will of God, and the seed of our salvation is placed within her.

This appearance of Gabriel occurs in Nazareth, a town with a somewhat poor reputation. (cf. Luke 1:26) In fact, when Jesus called the disciple Philip to serve Him, and then sent Philip to ask Nathaniel to follow Him also, Nathaniel’s first reaction was: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46) Philip responded to Nathaniel: “Come and see.”

Philip’s response to Nathaniel echoes that of Christ and of His followers. Our human nature is sullied by sin, yet there is much good in humanity. This goodness can be difficult to discern in some people. However, Christ beckons us to “come and see” what He has fashioned: a people created in His own image in order to aid in His works. (cf. Genesis 1:27-28 ) Children often see this goodness most clearly. The young are idealistic, working for justice, love, and peace. Speaking of peace, during last night’s Mass a child left his pew to make the sign of peace with as many people as possible before the singing of the “Lamb of God”. The child’s energy brought a smile to me. I pray that peace in the world becomes this easy with time. If only our leaders had the eyes of a child to see people in a congregation to greet with a sign of peace. If only they had the lips to whisper, “Peace be with you”. If only they had the hearts to welcome the Lord’s peace in return. When we see the face of God in a child, let us not harden our hearts…

As we celebrate at Christmas, the Lord comes to humankind, which has a bad reputation, like Nazareth did in Jesus’ time. We lack understanding of God’s peace. But with Jesus Christ, who came to us as a human being Himself to redeem us from our sinful tendencies, salvation and eternal peace become possible, not because we deserve this, but because God freely wills to share of Himself with us.

In accordance with this gift, we are first called, usually as infants, to the Sacrament of Baptism. With Baptism we die to sin and rise again in new birth in the Lord Jesus Christ. As we grow, our parents, guided by God, teach us the ways of righteousness and love. When we then come to more fully recognize our Christian mission in the presence of God, we are “sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit”, God’s sign of approval and of perpetual aid, upon receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation.

Our journey doesn’t stop there, though. We the children of God will continue to go through times of joy, sadness, elation, and hardship. It occasionally becomes difficult to maintain a sense of perspective. Thus we go through life restlessly. It’s important to recognize our ultimate purpose as did St. Augustine: “Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” (Confessions, I, 1)

God comes to enlighten the dark, confused lives of His children, and we respond in thanksgiving. Our thankful response should involve good works in God’s name. Our good works are a way of sharing of ourselves, just as God shared of Himself by emptying Himself on the Cross. Our small acts of sharing don’t need to be as dramatic, though we should be prepared to lay down our lives if necessary.

Christmas, the priest said in tonight’s homily, is a time of giving and of sharing. Sharing gives us joy, since a part of what we share remains with us. A more proper act of giving, where we divest ourselves of something possessed formerly in order to follow Our Lord, is then possible even when such an act is difficult. When we welcome Christ into our innermost being, we come to share Him with others, and we the children of God increase in our joy.

Lord Jesus, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, who bore you in her womb, the infant within Elizabeth leapt for joy at your presence (cf. Luke 1:44). May we joyfully welcome you into our lives, too, and share your wondrous joy with all your people. We pray:

O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of thy mercy. Amen.



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