N.B. I will try to do a series for Simbang Gabi. I will also try to do a series in Tagalog which may be found at my Kalakbay at Katoto site, the link to which is found at the right.

First Day of Simbang Gabi
December 16, 2009

Readings: Is 45:6b-8,18, 21b-25 / Lk 7:18b-23

I just came from watching a beautiful movie which I am sure many of my readers have also seen, or will yet see. As part of my self-imposed commitment to pitch in my two cents’ worth in the business of evangelization, I sit down this pleasant Sunday afternoon to write my English and Tagalog reflections in time for the first day of Simbang Gabi (Christmas novena traditionally done at early dawn all over the Philippines – and where Filipinos are – all over the world!).

The recent events in our country back home are no secret to anyone who has been following the news. At a time when most countries have taken their rightful place under the sun of democracy and civility, we were all jarred and shaken to the bones by the ugly news that is as undeniable as it is ghastly and beastly – the massacre of 57 people – to our utter shame and embarrassment as a people. It came in the heels of two other unfortunate – albeit natural – calamities that befell many parts of our struggling nation – the twin typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng and the untold destruction that both has caused us, from which we are still reeling and trying our best to recover.

But we Filipinos are incorrigible optimists! Our resiliency is something that surprises even ourselves – our almost unlimited capacity to live through what ordinary mortals all over the world, probably could ill endure; our limitless ability not just to “grin and bear it,” but to take everything in stride, and face indescribable odds with a smile – even – laughter! “Pinoy talaga!” is all we could self-deprecatingly utter in the face of something not easy to describe, not easy to put a handle to.

Today, the liturgy does have its own take. The liturgy, among other things, is meant to give us God’s point of view, an opportunity for us to reflect on things from the prism of God’s horizon – in the hope that our human horizon, our own level of experience, can be placed, kind of, on the crucible of faith-inspired reflection, so that we could generate meaning that is the core of the message of salvation – for us, in the here and the now!

But beyond being incorrigible optimists, we are also a people with such short memories. We forget all too easily. And as we forget so soon, we forgive and forget. We lose sight – or consciously or unconsciously choose to lose sight – of all the wrongs done to us as a people. We even forget the crimes of former ruling elites once we have seen them make a comeback on the celluloid screen, or once they have shed a few crocodile tears on TV, for we are also a showbiz crazed people, who can easily be misled if not misguided by anyone who is known much more than Saint Lorenzo Ruiz is known, courtesy of two warring giant TV networks!

But Liturgy is meant for us to remember. As Christians, (not as Filipinos), we are a people of the memorial! We are a holy nation, a people set apart, made holy, on the basis of a well-kept memory that is both a promise, and a pledge – and a proof that what we have seen and heard – “the lame walking; the blind regaining their sight, the leper being cleansed, the deaf hearing, the dead being raised, and the poor having the good news proclaimed to them” is both something of the past, and the future - and the present!

We are a people of the memorial. We remember. And what we remember with the heart and the mind, we celebrate. And by virtue of remembering and celebrating, we thereby proclaim what we believe – in sign … in song … in symbol.

We start one such huge symbol today – the beginning of the nine-day novena in preparation for Christmas, a celebration the likes of which is not done elsewhere in the whole Catholic Christian world.

Our readings attack our worst fears and our worst concerns. They hit us right on target, without missing a beat. They all sound so contemporary, so apropos what we experience as a people.

For as a people, beset as we are with a myriad of difficult problems, we need more than just optimism. We definitely need more than just wishful thinking. We need to remember and remember with faith!

This, Isaiah reminds us in a passage that is at one and the same time, a promise, a pledge, and a fervent prayer. Promise: “I am the Lord, there is no other.” Pledge: “Turn to me and be safe.” Prayer: “Let justice descend, O heavens, like dew from above!”

We, at Simbang Gabi, gather for a reason … (and mind you, it is not the season that brings us here!) And that reason is we want assurances from the Lord. We want to hear what He has to say about our utter godlessness and sinfulness as a people.

We gather because we remember, we celebrate, and because we believe, as that beautiful song goes.

We have come to bask in the glory of God’s presence and promise. This we can do because we have faith in Him who now reminds us once again: “Turn to me and be safe.”

But we have also come to beg Him in His mercy and love. Propelled on by hope, goaded on by the vision of what is to come – God’s pledge and promise that is ours to share together in sign, song, and symbol – and sacramental reality … we come together on bended knees – even as we gather in typical Filipino glee and gracious fun – to beg Him that same promise – that it may happen, that it may come sooner than we might expect it – in God’s own good time, but if possible, that His Kingdom, might indeed come – here and now – on a country and people filled with so much pain, yet rejoices in so much promise … and this is our prayer – uttered even in pain:

Rorate coeli desuper nos, et nubes pluant justum! Bedew us heavens from above, and rain on us the just One!”

I am a cry baby. I am easily moved to tears and that movie INVICTUS was no exception. I pine for so many things. I pine for familiar sights and sounds of home. I pine for the past – the happy past – when the world was younger and we were all more carefree and free to roam the wide open fields under cover of the star-studded skies on nippy cool and dark December nights, out in my little quiet and peaceful hometown in forgotten Mendez, Cavite. But more than all this, I pine for the promise of the Lord, when the lion will eat hay like the ox, rooming with kid lambs in utter and glorious peace!

Rorate coeli is not just wishful thinking for me and for all of us who believe. It is this – and a whole lot more! It is a promise. It is a pledge. It is a prayer. And it is fulfillment.

Nelson Mandela did it. He unified a divided nation, torn by apartheid, torn by economic collapse, torn by so many other things. But he found solace and strength and conviction in this beautiful poem by William Ernest Henley and entitled INVICTUS, that I now wish to quote:

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.


Father What's the Point of Your Homily?(about the media)
it is not the main topic but just a reminder that it can mislead as much as it can inform depending on how media savvy consumers are. what many end up becoming is simply consumers, not prosumers who follow blindly what media says
Amen Father!(I know it's not the main topic but the subject of the media called my attention, in turn I also called to your attention since I don't understand your partial high-winded homilies)Anyway I am Fed up with Lopezes's(Kapamilya) and the Gozuns's(Kapuso) Lies and Deceit!!! they add some lies to the truth about corruption, to make the news more agitating to the public to be politicized (I call it Sensationalism with Hidden Motives!)not to mention make comments on the news programs themselves(News Anchors)

May God Save us.from evil corporate Media!!!