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Friday, December 14, 2007

Dec. 24 Simbang Gabi

Commentary 1: Fr. Jose Aripio, SSP
St. Paul Seminary
Silang, Cavite, Philippines

Commentary 2: Fr. Lino Nicasio, SVD
Professor of Homiletics, Divine Word Seminary
Tagaytay City, Philippines
Principal, St. Jude Catholic School
Manila, Philippines

Reading 1: 2 Sm 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 89:2-3, 4-5, 27 and 29
R. (2) For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.
Gospel: Lk 1:67-79
COMMENTARY 1
George is a farmer who wakes up very early in the morning to pasture his carabaos. He has a wisdom honed by experience. One day I asked him why he has to go out very early. He answered that the time is cool and the grass is fresh for the carabaos. But what impresses is what he said: “It is at dawn that I could see the sun rising, its rays dispelling the darkness and giving definite forms to things around and seeing it I can feel hope for the future. I feel the blessings of the Almighty being poured on me as I see the dew glistening on the leaves of the trees and the grass in the fields and disappearing little by little as the horizon becomes brighter. And I would sing my favorite line, ‘Praised be the Lord!’” It’s a very simple song from an unassuming farmer but one laden with meaning.

Zechariah sings his own song of praise, the Benedictus, Latin word for “blessed.” He was struck mute and deaf for nine months earlier because of his disbelief on the angelic promise of the birth of his son. But when his son is born and he indicates that the child’s name is John, Zechariah regains his speech. Zechariah knows in his heart that it is God’s work.llt is God who has made him hear and speak, and in his canticle he thanks God with all his heart for God’s inexhaustible generosity. He no longer doubts the divine power. In his son John, “Yehohanan” in Hebrew which means “Yahweh has shown favour,” Zechariah sees the unfathomable graciousness of God to his people. God does not forget his promises. The messiah will be born to give hope in the midst of darkness to deliver us from our enemies, to forgive our sins, and to bring us into the way of peace. In Jesus alone is salvation and all John will do is to prepare the way for the Savior, “in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of fathers toward children and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to prepare a people fit for the Lord” (v. 17).

King David, in the first reading, remembers the kindness of the Lord. He is not at ease in his comfort “while the ark of God dwells in a tent.” So he wants to build God a temple. But the Lord turns down his offer; instead, the Lord promises to build a house or a dynasty for David. Although David committed a sin of infidelity and was punished, the tender compassion and the unconditional love of God now prevail over his justice. David is forgiven.

Tonight we will celebrate the birth of Christ. He is “the dawn from on high” who is moving down to us to dispel the darkness of sin and to fill the emptiness of our life. He is our God whose power is greater than freedom from our enemies, freedom from the “shadow of death” itself.

Then we can sing our own song of praise and thanksgiving, like the farmer George. When I asked how many kids he has, George, with a sheepish smile, answered, “eight”. I asked if he can afford to feed, clothe and send them to school. He said “yes” with a lot of conviction. “God is always with me,” the farmer adds, “and is always faithful to his promise to help me although I am not very ‘religious. I just work the best I can, help other farmers plough their fields, respect their rights, and go to Mass on Sunday.”

COMMENTARY 2 (from Bible Diary 2008)

People want to be remembered on their birthdays, anniversaries, and special events in their lives. People also want others to remember their promises to them, and are so happy when this happens. In the Gospel Zechariah exults because of “remembrances.” Let us reflect on these so as to be “infected” with Zechariah’s great joy.

First, God has remembered His promise of a Savior: “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for he has visited and brought redemption to his people.” During the Japanese occupation of the Philippines, Gen Douglas MacArthur had to flee the country, but not before uttering the famous words: “I shall return.” It took years, but he did return to fulfill his promise, much to the jubilation of an embattled, occupied nation. God, however, did something much greater than what MacArthur did. He fulfilled His promise of a Savior: “He has raised up a horn for our salvation within the house of David his servant.” He has sent His own Son to rescue humanity from slavery to sin and from death, thereby opening the gates of heaven for us His fallen children. Thus it is only right and just that we feel the joy that Zechariah feels in the Gospel, for God has remembered His promise, and in doing so He has remembered us. In fact God remembers us always. Blessed be the Lord God!

Secondly, part of God’s remembering to send a Savior involved sending a forerunner, in this case John the Baptist, Zechariah’s own son: “And you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways…” Every dignitary’s trips, including the Holy Father’s, are planned well in advance. Part of the preparations includes the sending of advance parties to smoothen the forthcoming visit, thus ensuring success. Zechariah proudly rejoices that his own child “will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.” These words hold true for us too, in the sense that we have to prepare the Lord’s paths to our own lives, by removing all obstacles to His coming. Thus he can truly visit us in order “to shine on those who sit in darkness and death’s shadow, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

As Christmas approaches, let us do our own “rememberings.” Let us remember to clean up our lives through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, to remember to help the poor and needy, and as Zechariah reminds us: “to worship him in holiness and righteousness…all our days.” This is the season to remember many good things, but more importantly, this is the season to remember the Lord and “the tender mercy of our God” towards us.

1 comment:

jOannE said...

i would just like to say...thanks for those homilies...it really helped me reflect for a while...more power to all of you! :)