Day 9: Simbanggabi

24 December 2009. Misa de Gallo
2 Sam 7, 1-17; Psalm 88; Luke 1, 67-79

There are few times in a year that makes us easily smile and uplift our spirit, and perhaps, bring a few tears of remembrance than Christmastime. Nothing surpasses the season’s magic, and the world is transformed from a world of darkness, to a world of light. When traffic is caused, not by people off to work, but by people off to find a present for a loved one; when bus terminals are packed with people, not on their way to sell their wares, but on their way to be with their families; when our minds are bombarded not with business deals, but the gifts we bring. When what matters is not how much we earn, but how much we love. It is a time when we fulfill our promises of love.

Life is complicated. Yet, in a deep sense, life is finally about one thing: it is about how much we love, how much we make others feel loved.

Christmas is indeed a time of hopeful love. A love that conquers us only by winning our hearts. A love that doesn’t count the cost, because it is so engrossed with giving. Christmas is the story of God’s connection to all of us in the world who are dear to him. It is story of God’s self-giving.

You see, we ask ourselves, in anguish, why we are suffering, why we are sorrowful and lonely and in despair, we are plagued with tragedy and senseless accidents. Why we are not lucky. And God promised us a Savior.

At Christmastime, God answers at last. He keeps his promise. And we are silent and still: God is born a child, and makes himself as one of us, as part of our history. Here, in this magical season, God does not speak words to tell us WHY we are suffering, simply, he shares our suffering. He does not tell us WHY we are in pain and plagued with problems, simply, he shares the pain and accompany us in our struggles. He does not explain, WHY we are broken, simply, he himself is broken. We are no longer alone in an immense world of suffering. His name bears humanity’s answer: Emmanuel. God is with us. Leonardo Boff, OFM, says, “God does not ask questions, but lives out answers; he does not give any explanations, but whose life is the explanation itself.”

There is a story of a five-year-old named Janie who woke and began screaming for her parents, as a violent storm occurred. Her mother came quickly to comfort her. After calming her down, her mother began to leave. The child protested vigorously. Her mother, trying to reassure her, gently responded, “God is always here with you.” Unpersuaded, Janie replied: “But I need someone with skin.”

God knows we need someone with skin: people with whom we can connect as ‘one of us’ as ‘flesh of our flesh’. At Christmastime, God has put on skin. And we too are asked to reconnect with the whole of humankind, of people with skin. Those without skin cannot express love the way we need it: the hands that wipe our tears, the arms around our shoulders that relieves our aching heart, the kind words that soothes our souls. Or, simply, those who rush through traffic to touch the life of love ones with gifts of love, those at the terminal who eagerly awaits reconnection with family, those whose minds recall sweet and tender moments, are those who live out the answers to humanity’s questions. They are the Emmanuels of our lives who teach us the way God loves. These are the people we remember at Christmas. God’s gifts to us.

Let us gaze on the child’s eyes in the manger and adore him. God made flesh. Love made flesh. Let the ever self-giving goodness awaken in us our own goodness, let light shine in the darkness of our hearts. Much of our suffering comes from a heart of stone. Even those we love--- our families, our friends, our partners--- we have deeply hurt. And let God’s grace transform our hearts with that of his heart. The great philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard said, “When one has once fully entered the realm of love, the world--- no matter how imperfect--- becomes rich and beautiful, for it consists solely of opportunities of love.” If only politicians will honor their promise, if only friends will fulfill their promises, if only husband and wives will live their promises to each other, how different our world would be. Let God’s grace enable us to unhesitatingly grab all opportunities of love, and to keep our promises and the commitments of our lives.

And just as Zechariah, in his old age, proclaims with gratitude in the gospel today, that “God… raised a horn of saving strength as he promised… he remembered the holy covenant he made, the oath he swore”, we too remember that God indeed keeps his promises to be with us till the end of time.

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