6th Day of Simbang Gabi / Misa de Gallo
Monday of the 4th Week of Advent – Year C
December 21, 2009

Readings: Sg 2:8-14 / Lk 1:39-45

Love is pure energy. It flames. It burns. It energizes even as it consumes. It purifies even as it cauterizes.

Such is the tenor of one of the Bible’s more intriguing books – the Song of Solomon! It sounds almost like soft porn. It is actually a paean to God’s love couched in words, symbols, and images that would speak to anyone whose heart has ever beaten like mad in the exhilarating experience of first love.

There is palpable excitement in the language – a deep sense of wide-eyed anticipation and runaway expectation … “Hark, my lover – here he comes springing across the mountains, leaping across the hills!” The poetry and the pulsating rhythm are both unmistakable. The image and rhythm build to a climax … they almost make the image of the gamboling gazelle come out alive in the page we are reading. I can’t help as I write, but hum in my head Carey Landry’s beautiful rendition of this passage … “Set me like a seal on your heart, like a seal on your arm. Set me like a seal on your heart. How right it is to love you!”

Even as I feel touched to the quick by the music and poetry of it all, I cannot but recall in my mind’s DVD player, the pure burning and cauterizing energy currently being spewed out of the mouth of Mount Mayon in Southern Luzon in the Philippines – a volcano that has spitted out pure flaming energy 40 times in 400 years!

And I cannot but see the parallelism and the connection – the relationship, if you will, between the two.

Both speak of arising. Both evoke images of getting past the dead of winter, the still of dormancy, and the simplicity of ordinariness toward a rousing call to become something great and beautiful for God! “See, the winter is past, the rains are over and gone!” See Mary, it’s not all that bad! We know you don’t fully understand. We know you don’t get it all. You are just an unknown lass in a forlorn, forgotten place. But some angel has now called you to “rise” and has given you some big thing to do … something definitely beyond your usual duties, even beyond your ken! For you are called to give birth to him who will be born of the Most High!

There is a faint image of rising here. Rising from your lowly place. Rising from your lowly land to go to the “hill country of Judea.” Something more than just a childish dream beckons … something more than just a figment of the imagination. One day you are a lowly lass, and another day you are called to become mother of the Son of the Most High.

But you went … dutifully … with love … for love means arising, moving, going, being told to do what you never chose to, but you followed all the same because you love. And even if you did not understand it, you obeyed, even if it meant dying a little, for love is stronger than death!

Take it from Muelmar Magallanes – all of 18 years old, and already a posthumous hero! Was he anybody great, who would make heads turn when he was just a lowly construction worker? Would he have merited a second look when all he did was maybe mix cement and sand and water, and obey orders from others, and being paid a subsistence wage to feed a young family and an extended family? No … he wouldn’t get anyone’s attention.

But the world took notice. Time International did take notice. For you did something so great. And it was great because you did it for love. “For greater love has no man than this: to lay down one’s life for others.” You did precisely that, for love is stronger than death!

We Filipinos are hungry for greatness, like Nelson Mandela told his countrymen, as he tried to galvanize a nation of 42 million, so sorely divided on all imaginable fronts. We are hungry for heroes, and unfortunately, we recognize heroes only and only when the world has recognized them ahead of us. No one took notice of Efren Penaflorida. No one of made much of Muelmar Magallanes’ feat. But when the world honored them, then the politicians and non-politicians alike joined the bandwagon to honor those worthy of honor! Too late the hero …

We are hungry for heroes for we are a people with such short memories. We had a hero back in 1983, and the overwhelming majority of the young people here below 26 years old do not even know him and what he did, and for what he died! We are hungry for heroes, but we despise all those who are poised and ready to do good that the big media networks all but ignore. Instead, we follow those made to appear bigger than life, courtesy of a whole lot of media “praise releases” with a lot of help from a “politics of association” that would sanitize one’s name because it sounds like someone we adulate and almost worship.

We are hungry for heroes because we don’t remember. We don’t remember because we have failed to appreciate mega narratives that go beyond “teleseryes” and “telenovelas” (Korean, most especially now!). We have failed to see the meta narrative of God’s magnanimous love as recounted in Scriptures – the one big story line that is underneath all the history, the poetry, and the songs of Scripture.

Today, 6th day of our novena, we are reminded once again of this unfolding and ongoing meta-narrative of God’s love. We are told this through the Song of Songs that I would certainly love to sing at this very moment … Set me like a seal on your heart! It is told by the psalmist who, on recognizing this great love, now declares: “Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song!”

It is a story told and retold even by innocent babes yet unborn (unless they are silenced forever by the evil of abortion!), for even the baby John the Baptist “leaped for joy” in Mary’s womb. This is the same story told by the simple woman Elizabeth who declared in a loud voice, a voice as strong as her love: “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”

It doesn’t take much to be great. It doesn’t require much to be a hero. Take it from the Beatles … All you need is love … and lots of it. All you need to do is rise! Rise above petty intrigues … rise above and beyond hate and envy and greed and selfishness.

Can it be done? Yes … babies yet unborn can do it. Little people can make it to the Staples Center at Los Angeles to receive the CNN hero of the year. Lowly insignificant laborers can do … and all you need is love … all you need is love…

Today, I would like to think we can do it. And we can do it because we have the assurance from no less than God, who, gamboling about in glee like a love-crazed gazelle, now tells us: “Arise my beloved, and come!”

I end by quoting … (can we sing it together?) Carey Landry’s song:

Set Me Like A Seal on your heart
Like a seal on your arm,
Set me like a seal on your heart,
How right it is to love you.

For love is stronger than death,
Stronger even than hell.
The flash of it is a flash of fire
The flame of Yahweh Himself.

Come then my love, come my beloved
No flame can Quench our love
For love, if real has no end


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