In this Canticle Zechariah is prophesying, not just the prophetic mission of John as precursor of the Messiah but also the redemptive mission of the Messiah in Jesus.“You my child shall be called the prophet of the Most High. You shall go before the Lord to prepare his way…” And what is that way? “To give his people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins.” This spells out the difference of the coming Savior. He will be the face of the merciful and compassionate God, not of a vindictive judge demanding retribution. He will be like the dawn breaking upon us “who live in darkness, in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” He echoes prophet Isaiah’s oracle of the Messiah com-ing as a humble Servant of the Lord, who “will not break a bruised reed nor quench a smoldering wick”. He will take upon himself the suffering that is meant for us, sinless though he was, ready to give up his life as a ransom for the salvation of sinners. The mission of Christ is also the mission of the Church. We who are part of the Church are part of the body of Christ. He ransoms us so that we can be part of his redeem-ing mission. He gave up his life for the forgiveness of our sins, and now invites us to do the same for the world. That is why at each Mass we repeat the words that he said at the Last Supper,“This is my blood…which will be poured out for you and for many FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS.” It is not enough to just remember what he did. He reminds us constantly to “DO THIS in memory of him.”
SIMBANG GABI 2021
Luke is deliberately portraying Zechariah as a representation of the Israelite nation. Like Zechariah, Israel languished in silence in the past few centuries before John, because no prophet had ever been heard among them again. It meant that they had become unable to hear God’s voice because of their hardness of heart. It is now this child who will enable them to hear God’s voice all over again. Sometimes it takes a while before we get to realize the true significance of the things that are happening in our lives. Sometimes, after grieving what we may have thought was a loss or a tragedy, we look back and get to see the hand of God in it. And then we realize it was actually a “blessing in disguise”. It was Isaiah who led Israel to this realization, that God had allowed them to be dispersed all over the world because he intended to make of them “a light to the Gentiles” so that his salvation “may reach the ends of the earth.” (Isa 49:6) This is also our story as Filipinos, especially of our OFWs, who have been scattered like dust all over the world. Pope Fran-cis now refers to them as the “smugglers of the faith”. Now many of them realize that their dispersal has been for a purpose that may not have been obvious at the start. It was not a tragedy but a blessing, one that would realize their prophetic mission, like that of John the Baptist: to let God be heard again through them by a world that is longing to be renewed and recreated by God’s transformative voice.
Elizabeth has just proclaimed the blessedness of Mary as she welcomed Mary’s Visitation. Mary’s response is her “Magnificat.” This canticle teaches us what it means to live A BLESSED LIFE.
Firstly, to live a blessed life is to be aware of God’s wonderful deeds. People will not be thankful unless they first get to acknowledge God’s grace at work in their lives. And it is usually the poor and the lowly who are quick at recognizing God’s grace. That is why Jesus addresses the good news to them.
Secondly, to live a blessed life is to be a conduit of God’s blessing to the rest of the world. It is to be an instrument of God’s mercy and justice, of God’s desire to fill the hungry and lift up the lowly by casting down the mighty from their thrones, or teaching a lesson to the greedy.
To be a blessing is to be an equalizing agent of God in society. It is to insist that nobody is above or below anybody, that we are all equal in dignity. There are no masters and no slaves. We are brothers and sisters. This is the radical message of Mary’s Magnificat. It is the same radical message of the blessed fruit of her womb.
As soon as Mary enters the house of Elizabeth and Zechariah she offers a greeting and immediately Elizabeth’s child jumps in her womb. Elizabeth praises Mary not so much for herself, but for the child she is carrying. She recognizes Mary as the mother of the Lord. Elizabeth continues on to praise Mary for her belief that what Gabriel told her actually come true. Faith is important in bringing about the incarnation of the Son of God. Both of the women, but especially Mary are portrayed as pillars of faith. They are for the most part just ordinary women who have responded to God’s call in extraordinary ways. They are examples and models of what authentic Christian faith is. It is not power, knowledge, fame, or wealth that makes these women great. They are great because of their radical faith that God will keep the promises made to them.
Do you believe that God will do the same for you as a sign of salvation all the more burns in our hearts?
Has God ever interrupted your life? We are speaking of a moment when God breaks into our everyday world with a message. That is the focus of our readings today. God has a tendency to enjoy breaking into our mediocre and ingrained patterns with a surprise visit. When it happens, we feel un-comfortable, but we quickly realize that God works in our lives to accomplish His purpose – each of us is a part of the process.
In the Gospel we hear about an angel interrupting Mary. Talk about having your world turned upside down! Mary is given a sign as she hears of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. God is doing something impossible. Elizabeth is too old for a baby. Yet Mary delights in God’s news and reacts with faith, trust and joy.
How do you appreciate the best gift God has given us – the gift of His Son Jesus?
In the gospel we have two women who are legitimately astounded about their pregnancies. Elizabeth is advanced in years and was thought to be barren. Mary, on the other hand, is young, unmarried, and somewhat mystified at the circumstances surrounding her “being with child.” With this surprising situation, one can just imagine when the two women met, they exclaimed to each other, “Can you believe this?” Yet, they do. Today’s gospel ends with a declaration of faith by Elizabeth and this passage is followed immediately by Mary’s profession of faith: the Magnificat. God’s promises to Israel are being fulfilled in surprising and unlikely ways. God has still many surprises for us, do you believe that?
God created us without us but he does not save us with-out us. This means that God made us without asking for any consent from us but he does not save us without our own cooperation. So, when the Son of God can come to live among us as man, God had to get the concurrence of the two persons who would take care of him – Mary and Joseph. He had to send his angel to explain to these two persons their mission. We hear today the annunciation to Joseph. In spite of his doubts, once enlightened Joseph promptly and willingly gave his YES. Then the prophecy of Isaiah of the coming of the Emmanuel came to fulfillment. Joseph is of the tribe of David who is a descendant of Judah. The baby that he would adapt as his own, Jesus, is the king announced by the prophet Jeremiah who would rule with Justice and who would bring together the scattered children Israel. This also is one of the joys that Christmas brings, the coming together of families, although this is now hindered by the Covid situation. So, the longing to be brought together by the Lord Jesus.
The Son of God came into the world not out of nowhere and all of a sudden. God has a plan for salvation and he sent his son according to this plan. So, St. Paul wrote: “When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law.” (Gal. 4:4) The genealogy of Jesus, which is a list of the ancestors of Jesus, which spanned about 2,000 years, from the time to Abraham, is meant to tell us that Jesus, the Son of God made man, came from a long series of men and women which carried the plan of God for our salvation. In our first reading we heard of the dying words of Jacob to Judah. He told him of the place of his tribe in God’s plan. His is the kingly tribe and from his family would come one whose reign will be made firm. Jesus is the fulfillment of this prophecy. He came from the kingly tribe of Judah. God’s plan to salvation continues up to our time, and we too are part of this plan. We participate and contribute to the work of salvation.
We start the Aguinaldo Masses today. This devotion, which is now deeply rooted in the Filipino culture, of nine days of masses before Christmas is a devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, asking her help to keep and grow in the Christian faith as we await the coming of the Savior. This is particularly apt this year within the celebration of 500 years of the Christian faith.
Everybody is welcome to participate in this faith. Prophet Isaiah said that foreigners can join themselves to the Lord for he is Lord of all peoples, not only of a particular race. Thus, God’s house is a house of prayer for all peoples. The common requirement for all is to observe what is right and to do what is just. Salvation is about to come to all. He is Jesus whom the Father sends to us. John the Baptist testiﬁed to him. His very works of mercy and power bears witness to this. We all the more feel the nearness to the coming of the Savior of all as the Simbang Gabi starts.