A MOTHER’S PLEA; A MOTHER’S GIFT
7th Day of Simbang Gabi/Misa de Gallo
December 22, 2009
Readings: 1 Sm 1:24-28 / Lk 1:46-56
Hannah is not unlike any other mother in this world. She is her own son’s best admirer, benefactor, and protector. Every mother has it by instinct to worry about, and work for her son’s welfare and best interest. Any mother would go to any lengths just to be able secure a safe and sound, and prosperous future for the fruit of her womb.
Hannah knew where to go and whom to approach. She brought her son Samuel to the temple, near where the prophet was, near where the gatekeeper of heaven’s favors stood – near where Eli stood. But she did not go there alone. She tagged her son Samuel along. She came to the temple laden with offerings, with gifts that a poor woman could ill afford – a three year old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine.
But she went there with more than just offerings. She went to the holy presence, by the altar of sacrifice with more than just those three gifts. She came with a gift – a big gift that was much bigger than her actual material gifts.
We sure can identify with good old Hannah. When favors are granted us, we ask ourselves this important question, “What return can I make?” People worthy of respect from others are first and foremost, respectable themselves. They are not free-loaders. They do not take what is given them for granted. They do not focus only of the gift and ignore the giver. They look back, go back, and give back, in some way.
We simply love Hannah for her sense of gratitude … for her wonderful capacity to recognize and acknowledge the good done to her. We commend her for going back to Eli to give thanks.
It is interesting to note that in Latin, the word for “giving thanks” is “gratias agere.” Literally translated, it means to “do graces.” What return can we make for the good that is done to us by God? We need to do graces. We need to give tit for tat. What is graciously and freely given as grace, we return in kind – in terms of graces in return … grace upon grace; grace for graciousness, and gratefulness for being so gratified, meaning so favored, in a good sense!
But how many of us could go beyond merely giving tit for tat? How many of us can bear to give more than what is customarily expected from us? How many of us could do a Hannah and give, apart from a bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, the very object of one’s plaints and pleas to the Lord – her very own son?
Now, this is a tall order! Now, this is impossible to do … This simply cannot be … I simply cannot do an Abraham and offer Isaac my only son as a living sacrifice!
Yesterday, we spoke about heroes. We found out just how hungry we are for heroes and for greatness. We are so deprived of them that we turn everyone into heroes (after the whole world has declared them to be such, far ahead of us!).
But in truth, heroism is so very difficult. We had a lot of them aspirant heroes during the first EDSA peaceful power revolution. Thousands of Filipinos rode on the wings of euphoria at the triumph of democracy, and thousands of aspiring politicians rode on the popularity of our most beloved former president, the secular patron saint of democracy, and turned out decades later, to be no better than the ones they denounced vociferously, and replaced, with eagerness and alacrity!
The heroes that we acclaimed, turned out to be duds and disappointments … and it did not take them too long to do just like – if not, worse than – the very hated personalities that they booted out of office.
What was missing? My theory is this … they just received the graces of leadership on a silver platter, offered by a people whose sense of euphoria, made them lose their objectivity and prudence, and allowed anyone who ranted and raved against the dictator, to be taken too seriously.
And now, 24 years later, the same old rotten political system of patronage has become even more well-entrenched. They failed to give tit for tat. They failed to do graces. Theirs was a violent model that was used to rape, pillage, and plunder the future of a people who were so busy rejoicing and gloating over the demise of the old regime, that they failed to notice that a new regime, exactly the same, if not worse, than before, was slowly creeping back into place.
There are two women who guide us in our reflection today. Hannah, a woman and a mother, went to the temple with plaints and pleas on behalf of her son, Samuel. But there was another woman, blessed among all women, who offered more than just two turtledoves to the Lord. She offered herself. She offered her Son. She offered all she had – with lots of love to spare.
And this is where the two women part ways with us. They did not give tit for tat. They went beyond – far beyond what was expected of them, for that is what love is all about – prodigal and generous beyond measure, unfettered by selfishness and human respect, unlimited by what the world considers as “enough.”
There was nothing more that Hannah should have done. She did “graces” by graciously offering what was prescribed by the Law. She offered enough. But the thanksgiving of biblical proportions would not be limited to the minimum. To do graces would mean to imitate the giver, to approximate what the Giver was to the Gifted, and give much more than what was given.
This, she did, by offering her son: “As long as he lives, he shall be dedicated to the Lord.”
Isn’t this all about the prodigality and self-diffusive and effusive love that the Bible speaks about? Isn’t this the same effusiveness that is behind the prayer that we just used to respond to the first reading of today? – My heart exults in the Lord, my Savior.
Isn’t this the same prodigality and effusiveness that we see in the beautiful rousing prayer of one who “has been exalted by the Lord?” “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior, for he has looked upon his lowly servant.”
Two women today show us the way of gratitude. And what we see from them is more than just tit for tat. They went beyond … for they gave back to Him who “who has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly … who has filled the hungry with good thing, and the rich he has sent away empty” …
The list goes on. What return can then make to the Lord who has given us all? Think about it. Christmas is all about the prodigality of God’s love for us. Gratias agamus Domino Deo nostro! Verum et justum est, aequum et salutare! Deo gratias!