4th Sunday of Advent (C)
December 23, 2012
An ancient Latin aphorism that sounds like an oxymoron says: Festina Lente! It means “Make haste slowly.” How does one make haste? How does one does so but ever so slowly? How does one stop a rampaging Christmas season now at its climax, with excitement ready to explode any time now, at least for children who have things to look forward to? How does one look forward to Christmas at this time of year (the second in as many years) when thousands still lay desolate, despairing and dying (if not dead) in the typhoon ravaged areas of Mindanao in the Philippines?
Yes, I am wondering how on earth we can stop something we have taken for granted all our lives. And no! I am not about to stop you from celebrating Christmas. Please do. Please go along with the news of glad tidings that the angels brought to lowly smelly shepherds of yore. Please walk together with the Magi in honest search for the newborn King, for He was promised to reign forever and ever! Please don’t hesitate to open your gifts and give gifts (if you can afford them) to one another.
The Lord is indeed very near! Many have trekked home to the provinces. Many will spend this day trying to stretch every single peso to make of Christmas what it was meant to be – a day of joy, a day of thanksgiving, a day of rejoicing!
But please, if I may suggest, take it easy, take it slowly, go in haste, yes – like Mary did – but make haste slowly!
The Gospel today would have us see Mary “travelling to a hill country in haste to a town of Judah.” Was Mary excited? She definitely was? She got the news of a lifetime that would startle every small town lass. She had reasons to be. The news brought a lot of anxiety and a lot more questions.
Was Mary curious? Most likely, so, too! She heard more than just news for her. She also heard what appeared to be “a rumor of angels” – Elizabeth, too, was with child! Now that was news, too! She was young and with a child. Elizabeth was old and with child! I wonder which was the greater news or the more scandalizing rumor! Both women, one in her youth and single blessedness was with child … The other in her not-so-blessed wrinkleness was also with child, already in her sixth month!
Mary was definitely in haste.
But no … in her haste, she was not really all that taken up to do what the world thinks she should be doing. Let us pause and see for ourselves…
Mary was in haste to go to her cousin, but Mary paused … and prayed! “My soul magnifies the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Mary heard. Mary listened. But Mary, too, kept everything in her heart.
We are a people now in a hurry. The traffic situation makes all of us impatient, unable to wait, incapable, too, of pausing and praying and reflecting. We have a thousand and one in our lists of to-dos and to-buys. In our rush, we celebrated Christmas parties as early as November, to avoid, ironically, the Christmas rush, which was precisely the reason for the season. Our authorities wanted to give a gift (so they call it) to the Filipino people – the gift of an incipient culture that is patently anti-life before Christmas. It was, of course, railroaded, rushed, and done with haste, no more, no less.
We are also in a hurry to solve the massive problem of poverty. We are also in a rush to solve the mostly imaginary problem of women’s health, never mind if it had been an issue since the republic was born. But curiously we are in no rush to solve the real core and real source of it all, which has nothing to do with physical health, but with spiritual health.
Today, just less than 36 hours before Christmas, we would like not to be carried away by all the rush and the haste that commercialized Christmas leads us to.
We would like to go in haste toward the joys of Christmas, yes … but we would like to do it gently, slowly, soulfully, and meaningfully. We ask the Lord, as did the psalmist in today’s response: “Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.”
We want Christmas soon. We want to do the rejoicing soonest. We want to enjoy it sooner, not later.
But on second thought, we want Christ first, and Christmas, second. We are indeed making haste, like Mary, but we do it ever gently, slowly, soulfully, and reflectingly. We want today to turn first to the Lord, to see His face, and thus, be saved!
There was someone who was also in a rush. And he was in a rush to greet the coming of his Lord, for a mere blob of cells, he definitely was not. He was in a rush to show the world, that one is never too young to proclaim the glory of the Lord. He leapt in his mother’s womb, and almost became a premature baby, with a not premature wish, which was to proclaim the glory of the Lord!
So who’s in such a hurry? Festina lente, my friend! Pause. Pray. Reflect. Turn to the Lord, and see the glory of His face, and then behold the saving power of God!