“Advent is Looking Back – and Forward – to God’s Goodness”: The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe-7 22 December 2018

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe-722 December 20181Samuel 1:24-28///Luke 1:46-56

          Mary’s prominence lies not only in giving birth to Jesus Christ but more of her being His perfect disciple, the first Christian, the first receiver and doer of the Word who became flesh in her womb.  After sharing Christ with Elizabeth in the Visitation, Mary now sings the Magnificat like the song of Hannah in the first reading when she was gifted by God with the child Samuel despite her barrenness.  It is very amazing that the Blessed Virgin Mary is the only person who has appeared most – five times – as a cover of the TIME Magazine.  Likewise, her Magnificat is said to be the only poem that has been set to music more than any other in the whole history.  Almost every great musician has worked on Mary’s canticle like Bach, Mozart, Vivaldi and Rachmaninoff while for over a thousand years it had been sung or recited in the evening in monasteries around the world following St. Benedict’s rule in the sixth century. The Magnificat is a song of praise and thanksgiving to God, Mary’s own experience of God not only in her own life but also in her cousin Elizabeth who was barren and old yet conceived a child to become the Lord’s precursor, John the Baptizer.  At the Visitation, Elizabeth praised Mary but when it was Mary’s turn to speak, she praised God instead of Elizabeth contrary to common gesture of returning her favour because it was very clear with her that every gift is from God, and the greatest gift we can all have from God is His Son Jesus Christ whose birthday we celebrate on Tuesday.            What is so remarkable with the Magnificat is its Advent flavor:  it is not only a praise and thanksgiving to God for all the wondrous things He had done to Mary and to us all but also a song of looking forward to more blessings to come from Him!  That is what Advent is all about, a looking back to the first Christmas and a joyful waiting for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ!  This is very evident in her opening lines, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.  For he has looked upon his lowly servant.  From this day all generations will call me blessed:  the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name” (Lk.1:46-49).  It is definitely a fruit of her prayer or gestational silence we mentioned the other day like what Elizabeth did.  Mary took into her inmost being the message of the angel to rejoice as a highly favored one of God, acknowledging the work of grace in her despite her stature in life.  Again we find here some strong Jewish flavors of which Mary must be aware of like the expression “the Almighty has done great things for me” which has strong roots in the Old Testament experience of the Israelites and their prophets when God saved them from Egypt and so many trials.  Think of the great things God has done to you also and rejoice!  Look back to the past 12 months and here we are, still together although some badly beaten with some even bruised in life but like Mary and Elizabeth meeting together, there are so many reasons for us to celebrate and thank the Almighty for the great things He had done to us.  And the most wonderful blessing next to God is the gift of family and friends around us, like the two cousins, a beautiful imagery of two pregnant women rejoicing together, celebrating life as they looked back in their personal lives and in their nation’s history the many good things God had done to them since the time of Abraham.

           The Magnificat shows us too that most of the things Mary mentioned have not happened yet:  “He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation.  He has shown the strength of his arm, and has scattered the proud in their conceit.  He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly.  He has filled the hungry with good things and the rich he has sent away empty.  He has come to the help of servant Israel for he has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever” (Lk.1:50-57).  These are a mixture of images from the Old Testament about the things God had done to Israel and to the two cousins but at the same time mention other things that would happen only upon the completion of Christ’s mission.  This is to show us that Mary’s Magnificat is also about the perfect presence of God in Jesus Christ in our lives who is the “same yesterday, today and forever” (Heb. 13:8).

             Last year I was privileged to join my former colleagues at GMA-7 News as their chaplain on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land – all for free with everything in first class!  On our flight back to Manila, we met some OFW’s and one of them was so ecstatic in meeting Ms. Jessica Soho, making a commotion like crazy at the Ben Gurion Airport which is noted for its strict security measures.  A female security officer caught our attention and held us for a while as she checked our papers and passports.  Making things worse, the crazy OFW kept telling the officer to let us go because Ms. Jessica is a celebrity in our country.  That got the Israeli’s blood boiled and turned her attention to me, the only man in our group, asking me to go with her to their office.  That was when the three women of GMA News stood for me – our SVP Ms. Marissa Flores, Ms. Jessica Soho, and newly retired VP Ms. Kelly Vergel de Dios – telling the airport official that I am their friend, a friend for over 30 years, explaining how I used to work with them until I resigned and became a priest.  I felt my world stopping momentarily like in a dream sequence:  everything happened so fast!  There was the possible delay and a lot of interviews but I also felt God’s strong arm holding me, also tenderly caressing me with His mercy when I heard the three veterans of news defending me.  It was the final blessing I got from God during that pilgrimage when the three women of GMA-7 News were like Mary and Elizabeth reminding me how God had worked in our lives all these years.  It was like a Magnificat moment for me that until now I can recall the sweet smile that incident had left me.  Try praying the Magnificatstarting tonight as you thank God for the many wondrous things He had done to you despite the many trials you have also gone.  Thank God for the faithful and wonderful friends who have visited you to see His plans for you and most of all, be open for more blessings to come from Him this Christmas.  Let us pray for the many great women who have changed our lives, the Marys and Elizabeths who visited us and brought us closer to Jesus Christ.  AMEN. Fr.NicanorF.LalogII,Parokya ng San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan

*Photos by the author:  above are the bronze statues of Mary and Elizabeth at the Church of the Visitation; below, our group photo during our Holy Land Pilgrimage last April 2017.

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