BY ARCHBISHOP SOC VILLEGAS
The last day of simbang gabi invites us to focus on the marvelous deeds of the Lord in the past. Those marvelous deeds in the past push us into the future with a mission to retell the story of God. Our faith is God’s gift. Our faith is also our mission.
Simbang gabi has a long history behind it. It is our duty to bring this tradition into the future regardless of the new normal that the pandemic has brought upon us. In the post Covid new normal, our religious acts must be considered essential for us to continue living.
The song of Zechariah invites us to revisit our understanding of religion. The root word in Latin is religare which is to bind. It is similar to our English word ligament. Ligament can mean both bondage and freedom. Without ligaments, bones will not be connected. Ligaments facilitate movement. Ligaments also restrict movement.
Our religion is very much like our ligaments. Some of us have negative experiences of religion and religious people. Some even consider religion as unhealthy and religious values as warped and harmful. I offer these lines from Carlo Carretto entitled Ode to the Church:
How much I must criticize you, my church and yet how much I love you! How you have made me suffer much and yet owe much to you. I should like to see you destroyed and yet I need your presence.
You have given me much scandal and yet you alone have made me understand holiness. Never in this world have I seen anything more obscurantist, more compromised, more false, and yet never in this world have I touched anything more pure, more generous, and more beautiful.
Many times I have felt like slamming the door of my soul in your face– and yet how often I have prayed that I might die in your sure arms!
We are members of an imperfect Church that constantly needs reform. It is a Church of sinners but it is holy because of the Lord. Our religious history is a ligament that binds us. It will also be our legacy to the next generations.
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for he has visited and brought redemption to his people.