2012 Aguinaldo Homilies
Proposed Misas de Aguinaldo Theme for
By Rev. Eutiquio ‘Euly’ B. Belizar, Jr., SThD
1.) Dec. 16: To Believe is to Encounter the Triune God in Jesus Christ
Zep 3:14-18, Phil 4:4-7, Lk 3:10-18, (Porta Fide, nn. 1-2)
2.) Dec. 17: To Believe is to Hear the Word of the Living God
Gn 49:2. 8-10, Mt 1:1-17, (PF 3)
3.) Dec. 18: To Believe Means Renewed Life in Christ (Vatican II) and Catechesis in the Faith (Catechism of the Catholic Church)
Jer 23:5-8, Mt 1:18-24, (PF 4)
4.) Dec. 19: To Believe Means Authentic Conversion
Jgs 13:2-7, Lk 1:5-25, (PF 6)
5.) Dec. 20: To Believe is to be Committed to the New Evangelization
Is 7:10-14, Lk 1:26-38, (PF 7)
6.) Dec. 21: To Believe is to Profess the Fullness of Faith Through Word and
Sg 2:8-14, Lk 1:39-45, (PF 9)
7.) Dec. 22: To Believe is to Profess the Faith Personally and Communally
1 Sam 1:24-28, Lk 1:46-56, (PF 10)
8.) Dec. 23: To Believe is to Rediscover the Faith as Catholic
Mi 5:1-4, Heb 10:5-10, Lk 1:39-45, (PF 11)
9.) Dec. 24: To Believe is to Fix Ourselves on the Paschal Mystery
(Jesus’ Incarnation, Suffering, Death and Resurrection)
2 Sam 7:1-5. 8-12, Lk 1:67-79, (PF 13)
10.) Dec. 25: To Believe is to Witness More Fully to Charity
Is 52:7-10, Heb 1:1-6, Jn 1:1-18, (PF 14-15)
Dec 16: To Believe is to Encounter the Triune God in Jesus Christ
Third Sunday of Advent
(Porta Fidei, nn. 1-2)
A cocky college graduate is applying for a job at a call center in Makati. He hands to the manager his resume and, as he brags about his achievements in college, the manager patiently listens. Then he rises and says to the applicant, “Mr. Ramirez, I think we have something for you.” Elated, the cocky college grad asks, “Really, Sir? What is it?” The manager replies, “It is called a door. Now please get out!”
A door functions as a mechanism of welcome when we say to strangers and friends, “Come in.” Alas, it can also do the reverse role; it can be a mechanism of rejection the way the manager used it to eject the cocky college graduate. However, God does not reject us although we often reject him by our sins. How do we know this? By our experience of faith, which is always welcoming and never rejectig us.
The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, in fact, thinks that faith is a door through which we come to encounter God. “The door of faith,” says he, “is always open for us, ushering us into the life of communion with God and offering entry into his Church…To enter through that door is to set out on a journey that lasts a lifetime” (Porta Fidei, n. 1).
If faith is the door, baptism is the key. In fact, the Holy Father affirms so. “It [the journey of faith] begins with baptism (Rom 6:4) through which we can address God as Father, and it ends with the passage through death to eternal life, fruit of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, whose will it was, by the gift of the Holy Spirit, to draw those who believe in him into his own glory (cf. Jn 17:22). To profess faith in the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – is to believe in one God who is Love [1 Jn 4:8]: the Father, who in the fullness of time sent his Son for our salvation; Jesus Christ, whose in the mystery of his death and resurrection redeemed the world; the Holy Spirit, who leads the Church across the centuries as we await the Lord’s return” [PF 1].
Two things are clear from the Holy Father’s words. One, without the ‘door of faith’ and baptism, its key, there is no way we can encounter God. Two, that when we encounter God by faith we encounter the Blessed Trinity: the Father who adopts us as his children; the Son whose death and resurrection has made this adoption possible; and the Holy Spirit who actually effects our adoption and makes us sharers in the glory and life of the Son.
I see a third point. That is, when the Holy Father points to our need to rediscover “the journey of faith so as to shed ever clearer light on the joy and renewed enthusiasm of the encounter with Christ” (PF 2). In other words, our encounter with the God we cannot see is through the God we see who is Jesus Christ who comes to us first on Christmas Day.
I once knew a young man who met a young woman at facebook, chatted with her through Skype and are now a happily married couple. I think of Skype or the Yahoo Messenger which people use to talk to one another not only verbally but also visually as an analogy of faith. These internet devices somehow enable people to encounter one another. That’s what faith does in our relationship with God. It enables us to encounter him in Jesus Christ.
Our readings this third Sunday of Advent bring us to the fruit of faith: a sense of the presence of God. You will notice the priest today wearing the rose-colored vestment which indicates, as it were, the Church’s ‘blushing’ as her Savior God is so near. As an old song once said, “It’s not the pale moon that excites me, that thrills and delights me. Oh no, it’s just the nearness of you.” In fact, the first reading from Zephaniah exhorts Israel to “shout for joy” and to “sing joyfully” not only because the “Lord has removed the judgment against you” and “turned away your enemies” but especially because the “King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst” (Zeph 3:15). Even the Responsorial Psalm’s response makes the message of faith clear: “Cry out with joy and gladness, for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.”
Imagine how excited we are when ‘artistas’ come during the election campaign. But this is where a sense of the Lord’s presence as fruit of faith is different. Human celebrities can only bring excitement. The Lord Jesus Christ brings JOY. St. Paul reinforces the point in the second reading. “Rejoice in the Lord always! I say it again, Rejoice!…The Lord himself is near,” (Phil 4:5).
Yet, our encounter with the Lord through faith has another dimension. To be authentic, it must be seen in the changes we make in our lives. John the Baptist, in his answer to the crowd’s question, “What ought we to do?”, guides us to the challenges of faith. First, the challenge to rise from selfishness into generosity. “Let the man who has two coats give to him who has none. The man who has food should do the same.” Second, the challenge of justice. To tax collectors, John says: “Exact nothing over and above your fixed amount.” Third, the challenge of sincere service and responsibility to others. The soldiers occasion John’s third exhortation, “Do not bully anyone. Denounce no one falsely. Be content with your pay.”
The program of life John the Baptist recommends to us reminds me of a story I heard originally from Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. There was this young man who had a problem with keeping himself clean and closing doors without slamming them. Suddenly he changes. He became so clean and well-groomed and well-behaved. The reason? He met his first love, Suzy. Indeed, if we had encountered the Lord, it must show in the changes we make in our lives out of love for him.
Dec. 17: To Believe is to Hear the Word of the Living God
Gen 49:2. 8-10
I never thought I would be enjoying watching a graduation ceremony on television. But I was. More strangely still, no one among the graduating students were related to me. I kept asking myself why I was not switching the channel. Then I realized there was something in the family of one graduating medical student that I could relate to. They were also poor. The wonder was now they had a doctor in the family. Before I knew it the television correspondent was interviewing the now widely grinning graduate. He was asked how he managed, despite his family’s circumstances, to have graduated with flying colors from medical school. He said simply and directly, “Oh, I just listened to both my parents. They told me to study hard so I don’t lose my scholarship, and not to spend unnecessarily. I’m grateful to the Lord I had parents who guided me throughout my years in medical school.” Wow, I said to myself. Then the parents were also interviewed. They were a simple and shy couple in their sixties. They were asked what they could say now that their son was a doctor. They looked at each other and said, “We’re just thankful to the Lord our son listened to us all these years…”
Listening as an essential key to success is seldom talked about. But it is. The medical student in our story is only one example. And it is not only true to the secular education. It is as much true to our spiritual life as well, and to our discipleship. In our first reading Jacob gathers his sons and counsels them: “Assemble and listen, sons of Jacob, listen to Israel your father…” What are they to listen to? To their father’s word of blessing raising Judah to a position of leadership in the family and in mysterious words prophesying an unworldly and unending lofty stature throughout the succeeding generations. “You, Judah, shall your brothers praise—your hand on the neck of your enemies; the sons of your father shall bow down to you…The scepter shall not depart from Judah, or the mace from between his legs, while tribute is brought to him, and he receives the people’s homage.” From our perspective as Christians, we know this is to be fulfilled when from out of Judah the Messiah will be born. The first name in our gospel’s genealogy is Judah. The last is that of Jesus, the Messiah, his descendant. The point is, Judah’s word’s were not his but God’s. His sons’ listening to his words indicates the right response to God’s revelation of his will and plan through their father.
The reason is that listening is the first moment of faith. It is a sine-qua-non moment of faith. That is to say, without listening faith is not possible. Hence, the Holy Father counsels that we imitate a model ‘listen-er’ in the gospel of John. “The people of today can still experience the need to go to the well, like the Samaritan woman, in order to hear Jesus, who invites us to believe in him and to draw upon the source of living water welling up within him (Jn 4:14)” (PF 3). But in the same way that the sons of Judah listened to God’s word through their father, we need to listen to the Word of the living God today through the living Word Jesus Christ as proclaimed to us by the Church. So says the Holy Father: “We must rediscover a taste for feeding ourselves on the word of God, faithfully handed down by the Church, and on the bread of life, offered as sustenance for his disciples (Jn 6:51)” (PF 3).
A man was told by his sister, a doctor, that he was overweight and had to diet. He stopped eating for a day. He was asked if he was hungry. He said, “No”. But before he knew it, he ate all the cake at the refrigerator when he opened it looking for water. His sister saw it all and said, “When you diet, it doesn’t mean you don’t eat anything. It only means you should eat the right food and the right way.”
We are like that man. I used to hear teachers say of some students, “Overfed but undernourished.” We are overweight because we are overfed by too much worldly things from television, the internet, the media and other things of the world, basically good but with a goodness so incomplete as to be unsatisfying. Yet, spiritually, we are undernourished because we do not feed ourselves with the right diet of God’s Word and the Eucharist, the Bread of Life. The Church is the last place we choose to go to. But for us to truly be happy and grow in real happiness the right diet is a must. For example, the Holy Father points to us why. “Indeed, the teaching of Jesus still resounds in our day with same power, ‘Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life’ (Jn 6:27). The question posed by his listeners is the same we ask today: ‘What must we do, to be doing the works of God?’ (Jn 6:28). We know Jesus’ reply: ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent’ (Jn 6:29)” (PF 3).
Fr. Mark Link says that the evangelist Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus tells us of three eras representing three landmark situations of Israel. The first era, from Abraham to David, represents the call of Israel to greatness. The second era, from David to Babylon, represents Israel’s fall from greatness. The third era, from Babylon to Jesus the Messiah, represents the restoration of Israel to greatness.
But this Israel is no longer the old one. It is the New Israel that includes you and me. The old Israel’s downfall had everything to do with refusing to listen to the Word of the Lord. Our restoration will depend on a contrary response: by expressing our faith through listening and doing the Word of the living God.
Dec. 18: To Believe Means Renewed Life in Christ (Vatican II) and Catechesis in the Faith (Catechism of the Catholic Church)
In Eastern Samar everybody knows, but especially the politicians, that it is not yet campaign season. Still, everybody sees tarpaulins of politicians and would-be politicians suddenly sprouting all over the province like wild forest mushrooms. They don’t exactly tell anyone to vote for them. On the other hand, everybody knows there is no known reason why they are there other than the coming 2013 elections.
In Manila there is a noisy movement against electioneering politicians’ tarpaulins and other self-promoting gimmicks. They call it ‘Anti-Epal’. In Eastern Samar there are mostly cynical remarks, such as, “Yana pala naglilimbong na, asay pa kon aada na ha pwesto (Even now they already cheat, what more when they get to power)!” Posters pay tribute to the ‘Matuwid na landas’ (straight path) slogan of the administration. In so doing they sometimes take what Eastern Samar Warays call ‘tuwad na landas’ (crooked path). A case in point was the RH Bill passage when in obvert and covert ways politicians aligned with the administration were ‘ordered’ to vote for the measure which the Church considers destructive of the nation’s moral compass, “or else”…
What we have are “new people in power but old ways of wheeling and dealing” that could easily trample what is right underfoot. Indeed, to say that deep in our political, economic and cultural structures we need renewal is an understatement. Indeed, having new politicians with high trust and approval ratings is no assurance of right and godly governance.
That is why the prophet Jeremiah’s prophecy must be heeded by all. It indicates not only the real agent and source of authentic renewal or change but also its measure and criterion. “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up a righteous shoot to David”. Up until the time of the prophet’s announcement Israel had been governed by petty and corrupt rulers and kings. The prophet, on the contrary, predicts the coming of a ‘righteous’ king in the sense of holy, in the sense of someone who would be utterly pleasing to the Lord God. We as Christians know this is Jesus. We know that the kind of ‘righteousness’ he possesses also brings true restoration that is beyond the Exodus event of the passage from slavery in Egypt to true freedom. It is a restoration and righteousness that would come from his own death and resurrection.
The only renewal, then, that is righteous or ‘matuwid’ is renewal in Jesus Christ. Incidentally many of our politicians and NGO leaders have graduated from Catholic schools and universities and yet one often wonders what went wrong when a number of them are the first to scoff at Church teachings on the sanctity of life and sexual morality. The Sacred Congregation on Christian Education recently issued a document on Catholic Schools that brings some light. It affirms that the mission of the Catholic Schools must be in line with the mission of the Church, that is, to form “new creatures in Christ” who are faithful to their baptismal commitments. In other words, the problem is that we may have produced “new creatures” in law, medicine, science, mass communications, arts and letters but we have failed to turn out “new creatures in Christ”.
It goes without saying then how much we need to re-assess ourselves and our efforts at doing our ministries and responsibilities according to the principles of the Second Vatican Council. These are the Church’s various spiritual guideposts meant to renew us according to the image of Jesus Christ our Savior and Messiah. We need to read, re-read, review, revisit documents such the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church that defines how we must understand who we are (Lumen Gentium o ‘Light of the Peoples’) or the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes or ‘Joy and Hope’) that indicates how we must relate to the world. Renewing ourselves in Christ is not possible if we do not understand our faith. Non-Catholic proselytizing is so rampant in Eastern Samar. Their common targets are Catholics with superficial or little understanding and formation in the Catholic faith. They often prove to be easy prey. Which is why the Catechism of the Catholic Church must become our constant and valued companion that must be held higher than our television sets, PCs, laptops, cellphones, ipods and ipads. No wonder these two are the foci of this Year of Faith.
The gospel of Matthew for today presents to us the figure of St. Joseph, the Messiah’s would-be foster father. Since the Messiah was the “righteous shoot of David”, his earthly father could never be any less. He discovered, when he took Mary into his home, that she was already “with child”. St. Luke describes his character this way: “an upright man unwilling to expose her (Mary) to the law”. By law Mary deserved to be stoned to death. This is a loud protestation that not everything legal is moral, a reminder to us today who struggle against unjust laws, including the RH Bill if passed, together with many others. St. Joseph, reminiscent of the Joseph son of Jacob also known as ‘just’, reveals to us in his action the secret of his righteousness and uprightness—his obedience to the will of God as revealed to him by God’s authorized agent, an angel. “When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had directed him…” Indeed, while Mama Mary emphatically expressed her righteousness by saying to the angel, “Let it be done to me according to your word”, St. Joseph expresses the same righteousness by his quiet act of obedience. Indeed, both Mama Mary and St. Joseph tell us that to be really renewed in the image of Christ Jesus their Son, we must pattern our lives after theirs both in explicit word and in quiet action.
If St. Joseph were to speak to us Pinoy Catholics, he would say: “Do as I did. Wake up and do as the Church, God’s authorized agent of his Word, directs you…”
Dec. 19: To Believe Means Authentic Conversion
I once asked a friend about a long-haired man on the street and he said, “Ay naku, sira kasi yan, eh (Oh, he’s just out of his mind).” If we were to see a long-haired man today who refrains from alcohol or any strong drink, would we come to the same conclusion? Long-haired people in this day and age, if they are not taken to be mentally challenged, are often seen as ‘rebels’ of sorts in society. Their non-conformity to society’s standards of acceptable behavior are explained in various ways. But they are seldom known for avoiding alcohol or the fruit of the vine. In fact, many could be alcoholics. In Old Testament times, however, meeting someone like them would have reminded people of Numbers 6:1-8, that is, of people who are consecrated to the Lord God through the ‘Nazirite vow’ which forbids them from wine or strong drink and from cutting their hair. A Nazirite and a barber would have been incompatible.
Enter Samson in our first reading and John the Baptist in our gospel. While some people made the Nazirite vow for only a certain period of time, both Samson and John the Baptist are destined by divine plan to live by the vow all their lives. The angel’s instructions that they be so consecrated long before their birth are an indication. Why would a ‘Nazirite’ live like this? It is not so hard to see. He was consecrated to the Lord, not to the world. He must shun, therefore, behavior or conduct that does not serve that consecration. Again, it is not so hard to see the connection between Christians and Nazirites. We were consecrated to the Lord in our Baptism. Hence, we must live lives following the Lord’s ways, not the world’s ways.
The Holy Father, in fact, speaks of Christian believers who compose the Church as, like their Master Jesus Christ “’holy, innocent and undefiled’ (Heb 7:26) ‘who knew nothing of sin’ and yet ‘came only to expiate the sins of the people’ (Heb 2:17) [And yet]…the Church…clasping sinners to its bosom, at once holy and always in need of purification, follows constantly the path of penance and renewal” (PF 6). In other words, the Church is like Jesus in her holiness but is, at the same time, unlike Jesus because she is also composed of ‘sinners’. But because she desires to be like her Master Jesus Christ, this Church of sinners is always responding to her “need of purification” by taking constantly “the path of penance and renewal”.
The tension in the Church between Christ’s holiness that is very real in her and the sinfulness that is equally real in us reminds me of an experience. Entering the kitchen one morning after a funeral Mass, I saw a frying pan and some plates piled up on the sink. Grease and traces of food and sauce covered them, making them look dirty. I just wanted to wash my hands but, knowing the cook was away, I found myself also washing the pan and the plates. I think that we, as a Church of sinners, are like the stained frying pan and plates on the kitchen sink who must constantly allow Jesus Christ our Savior to “wash” us through penance and renewal. The beauty of faith in Jesus Christ that gifted us with the holiness of Jesus at Baptism is that we can go back to that state again through the Sacrament of Penance, the sacrament of renewal.
In other words, as the Holy Father makes clearer still, our faith in Jesus Christ “is a summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Savior of the world” following the pattern of Christ’s own death and resurrection. This summons is first a call to ‘death’ which is death to sin, much like a Nazirite dies to the call of this world as symbolized by alcohol and conformity to worldly ways. But it is also a call to a ‘new life’ by virtue of Christ’s own resurrection. “Through faith, this new life shapes the whole of human existence according to the radical new reality of the resurrection” (PF 6).
How do we know that our life is being shaped by this ‘radical new reality of the resurrection’? According to the Holy Father, it is when we live by “’faith working through love’ (Gal 5:6)” which we adopt to be our “new criterion of understanding and action that changes the whole of man’s life”.
In Las Piñas I once blessed a house whose owner talked to me about their past and present lives as a family. He said he and his wife used to argue and quarrel about almost anything, from money to their children etc. But one day he realized how unhappy his children were and how unhappy all them were. Then he apologized to them and his wife, and asked them what they would want him to do. “Let’s just love one another, Daddy,” they told him. “Okay,” he said, “From now on, love shall be the rule of this house.” He smiled and then said, “You know, Father, ever since we made that decision, there has always been peace here. And I saw my kids happy again.” I now realize why. The family lived by the pattern of Christ’s death and resurrection
For the Nazirites Samson and John the Baptist, life did not just consist in avoiding the fruit of the vine and a haircut. It also meant faithfulness to the covenant of Israel with the Lord. In the same way, for us Christians, authentic conversion does not simply mean dying to our selfishness, pride, envy, lust, greed, violence and hatreds—in other words, to all manifestations of sin. It also means rising to a new life of faith that expresses itself in love.
Dec. 20: To Believe is to be Committed to the New Evangelization
Bishop Varquez, the bishop of Borongan, once remarked: “A person can serve without loving but he can never love without serving.” He cited the case of politicians who serve their constituents when it suits their political interests, such as being re-elected in 2013. The proof is their non-availability especially in time of need. We can say, then, that they serve without love. On the other hand, those who truly love their constituents clearly show it when, at the least, they make themselves available in their time of need. Because they love, they serve.
I believe there is a flipside to that remark: “A person can share without loving but he can never love without sharing.” For instance, if I were a big businessman, I would give out a lot of things, especially this Christmas, such as plenty of money for promos, sales, gifts to customers etc. to better sell my products or services. Only by a wide stretch of the imagination will people conclude that I am doing it out of love. In a word, I share all right but I do it without love. But let’s say I truly love my family. That will be obvious in the many ways I will express it. For example, when I share my free and honest feelings, ideas, feedbacks, good or bad, to a brother/sister/parent, when I spend time with them, when I give gifts, both material and spiritual, such as when I regularly pray for them. I cannot love without sharing by such means.
Christian discipleship is our life in Christ. It is a life of Christ’s love at work in us. The Holy Father affirms that this love of Christ compels us, urges us to share him with others through the new evangelization. “’Caritas Christi urget nos’ (2 Cor 5:14): it is the love of Christ that fills our hearts and impels us to evangelize. Today as in the past, he sends us through the highways of the world to proclaim his Gospel to all the peoples of the earth (Mt 28:19). Through his love, Jesus Christ attracts to himself the people of every generation: in every age he convokes the Church, entrusting her with the proclamation of the Gospel by a mandate that is ever new” (PF 7).
Isaiah the prophet in our first reading points to us how even in the Old Testament God had already meant to share himself and his life with us through the imminent birth of a son who will bring his presence among us. “Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel [because ‘God is with us’]” (Is 7:14).
St. Luke in the gospel shows us that our God fulfills his promises. And he also asserts that it is Mary’s consent and obedience to the Word of the Lord that also make way for such an eventuality. God fulfills especially his promise to be God-in-our-midst, the “Immanuel” or “Emmanuel” because Mary, a human person, allows herself to be his channel and agent. In a similar fashion we should allow ourselves to be an agent and channel of the new evangelization by first receiving the Word-made-flesh into our very lives after the example of Mama Mary.
A child was very ill and the only thing that could save him was a pill. But it was bitter-tasting. No matter how the parents tried to persuade him, the boy would not take it. Then his Kuya (an elder brother) took over. He himself tasted the pill and showed his younger brother that it was actually fun taking it because the bitter pill made him feel better. “Just think of this,” he said to his younger brother. “You will be up like me and play with me again if you take this pill. Don’t you like that?” Slowly, eventually the boy took the pill.
The child is humanity. The pill is the Word of God, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is hard to take, what with our appetites and the attractions of the passing world often going against the values it fosters. It often tastes bitter to people of today because we struggle against our desires to live by it. But it is the only thing that can truly give us peace, freedom and happiness.
The challenge is for us to imitate Mama Mary’s welcome of the Word and to follow the joyful way Jesus, our Kuya, transmitted his Gospel. The angels sang the joy of his coming. The crippled he made to walk, the blind he made to see, the sinners he freed from slavery—all attested to the joy and the healing power the “Immanuel (God-with-us)” brings.
That is why the Holy Father exhorts us: “Faith grows when it is lived as an experience of love received and when it is communicated as an experience of grace and joy” (PF 7). A judge I know and his family went to Davao City to visit a group of nuns to whom they donated a piece of land in Eastern Samar. After several days with them, both of them came away awed by the experience. “They were just so genuinely happy, Father,” they told me, “that they made us happy, too, about being Catholic Christians like them.” Background: the judge has non-Catholic relatives with whom he often has colorful discussions about religion.
The joy of the Gospel we proclaim is not new.
But it makes us always new and attracts people to Jesus Christ.
Dec. 21: To Believe is to Profess the Fullness of Faith Through Word and Sacrament
The story of Marcelito Pomoy touched a lot of hearts. His journey started in Mindanao when he decided to look for his family somewhere in Manila. His father and mother separated when he and his siblings were young. He found his mother and some siblings who, at first, were not too enthusiastic to receive him as he was another mouth to feed in an already cramped, squalid shelter somewhere in the metropolis. To make a long story short, Marcelito did not get discouraged but rather made use of his extraordinary gift, his ability to sing like a female and a male singing a duet. He had very stirring renditions of songs originally sung by Regine Velazquez and Celine Dione that he became Grand Champion of “Pilipinas’ Got Talent”. But what was particularly moving was how he used his triumph to reunite his father, mother and siblings who were all present when he won the contest.
Marcelito Pomoy’s unrelenting search for his family reminds me of the God we believe in. Our first reading today from the Song of Songs is, for all intents and purposes, not just about a lover visiting his loved one and causing joy and excitement in her. It is about God’s loving search for humanity to share his joy with them. Pope John Paul II once said that the difference between Christianity and the world’s great religions is that in the world’s great religions man searches for God but in Christianity it is God who searches for man. So profound is this truth that it is at the core of the Christmas message. Christmas happened and continues to happen because God has been looking for us in Jesus Christ his Son who seeks us among sinners and outcasts to bring us like lost sheep back to his Father’s fold.
The Visitation story in today’s Gospel points to us how God’s search for us is imaged in Mary’s haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth. In the figure of Mama Mary, with Jesus already in her womb, we have a human instrument of God’s search for us. Just as Mama Mary visits Elizabeth as she is about to give birth to John the Baptist, her great time of need, so God looks for us and visits us through human instruments who also brings us Jesus Christ, his Presence, among us by means of his Gospel. That is why, while Mama Mary in the Incarnation is Mary ‘as evangelized’, Mama Mary in the Visitation is Mary ‘as evangelizer’. Mary enabling the encounter between the baby Jesus and John the Baptist with his mother Elizabeth represents God, using a human instrument, finally finding man. The result is joy. When man allows himself to be found by God and encounter him in Jesus Christ, he experiences joy.
God’s search, fueled by his unrelenting love, pervades our life and our way of praying and worshipping as Christians—our liturgy. This being so, the Holy Father desires that the Year of Faith “arouse in every believer the aspiration to profess the faith in fullness and with renewed conviction, with confidence and hope” particularly in a more intense “celebration of the faith in the liturgy, especially in the Eucharist, which is ‘the summit towards which the activity of the Church is directed…and also the source from which all its power flows’ (Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 10)” [PF 9]. In the Eucharist’s Liturgy of the Word God searches for us by speaking to us directly in the readings of Scripture. In the Liturgy of the Eucharist God finally finds us welcoming him in Jesus Christ through our reception of his Son’s living Body during Communion. As always Jesus brings us the Father and the Father to us. Just as Marcelito Pomoy used his triumph as Grand Champion in a talent show to reunite his family, Jesus in the Eucharist uses his Death and Resurrection triumph to reunite us to the Father and to his Family the Church through Christ his Son’s Body and Blood.
I read about the father of a teen-ager whose daughter, Elizabeth Hart, was kidnapped by a cultist leader. After many years she was never found. But the father did not give up and kept on searching on his own. His relentlessness was rewarded when he finally found and rescued her. God is like that. He remembers us always when others do not anymore. When others have given up, he does not give up on searching for us when we are lost in sin. Our faith as expressed in the liturgy of Word and Sacrament celebrates God’s finding of us through the triumph of his Son’s Paschal Mystery.