“Advent is God Leading Us to New Directions in Life”: The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe-9 24 December 2018

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe-924 December 20182 Samuel 7:1-5, 8-12, 14, 16///Luke 1:67-79

            Finally!  It is the word of the day.

            Finally we have completed the nine-day novena of Christmas but that is not the true joy of our annual Simbang Gabi tradition.  What is most essential is in these nine days of rising early for the novena, we have rediscovered Jesus Christ in ourselves and among others while at the same time recommitted ourselves to Him again as our only fulfillment in life.  I hope that in the past nine days we have rediscovered and even brought back somehow to our lives our sense of the sacred that is now fast fading out in our very consumerist society.  Through the many religious symbolisms found in our liturgies and readings these Advent season, it is hoped that we have rediscovered God – as well as our sense of the sacred – who is the most meaningful and essential in life.  

            Finally today also, we find the only male character in St. Luke’s story of the coming of Christmas regaining his stature after being on the distaff side, Zechariah.  After disbelieving the good news of (finally) having a son through the angel Gabriel’s annunciation at the Temple when he was forced into silence by becoming mute and deaf, Zechariah was finally able to speak again after declaring his son shall be named John.  And his very first words after being silent for nine months were praises to God the Almighty like Mary during the Visitation.  Called theBenedictus, Zechariah affirmed and confirmed in himself first the reality and truth of God being present in our lives amid the many twists and turns in life, narrating His reality and fidelity to His promises from the time of the Patriarchs and the Prophets of Israel down to the birth of John who would prepare the Christ.  In effect, Zechariah had finally come into a full circle in singing the Benedictus:  like his wife Elizabeth and son still in her womb John, St. Luke tells us how Zechariah was also filled with the Holy Spirit at that instance on the naming of John when he prophesied, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel” (Lk.1:68).

          Zechariah shows today the fruits of his “forced silence” that had deepened his priesthood that is very evident in the opening line of Benedictus, giving glory to God for His fidelity and mighty acts to save Israel.  It is very similar with some of the popular parts of the psalms that every Jew prays.  There are three important reasons that Zechariah tells us why God is blessed:  “for he has come to his people and set them free,  he has raised up for us a mighty Savior, born of the house of his servant David” (Lk.1:68-69).  What is amazing in the Benedictus is that the verbs are in the past tense, of the works of God being done in the past like visiting His people, setting them free or redeeming them by sending Jesus Christ.  Like the Magnificat, it is a looking back and a looking forward to more great things God has in store for us.  Zechariah is reminding how God has never stopped working wonders for us, speaking and acting through prophets so many years ago even before the coming of Christ who is the fulfillment of all His promises.           We have mentioned how we priests and other religious and consecrated persons sing the Magnificat every evening; the Benedictus, on the other hand, is sung every morning prayers called lauds.  As we face a new day, like Zechariah at the birth of his son John, we look back and remember so that in the process we renew our faith and trust in God who never stops in working for our good.  We praise God and put our trust and confidence in Him for every new day, hoping He would continue to visit us, redeem us, and raise us up from the many challenges we are going to face. But most of all, we are reminded too by Zechariah at this time, on the eve of Christmas, to ponder in our hearts where the Lord is leading us to?  Zechariah had seen the hand of God in Israel’s history, in his own life, and could see it also present in the coming life of his son John.  It is very clear that God is our leader in life, the invisible hand who directs us.  When we come to think of it, Zechariah’s forced silence was a way for him to rediscover again his sense of God and his sense of the sacred.  So many times for us, including us priests that although we keep our prayers and devotions, they are devoid of God.  One of the things this generation is fast losing is that sense of the sacred when everything is not taken for granted and trivialized.  How I hate before the Metro Film Festival during Christmas when we as the only Christian nation in this part of the world celebrates the merriest and longest Christmas are feasting on movies about evil and horror movies.  At least these past few years, there have been marked improvements in our film industry with great movies coming out.  Last year I was able to see the adaptation of Nick Joaquin’s “Portrait of the Filipino as Artist” that was magnificent in its interpretation of the play.           On these remaining hours of the day before Christmas, imitate Zechariah to get some silent moments with our self and with God to reflect on where is the Lord leading us to this Christmas?  What direction in life is He asking us to follow?  In the first reading we have heard God asking David to stop his plans of building a temple for Him.  There was nothing wrong with building a temple but it was not the plan of God for David but for his son Solomon.  The same thing with us:  no matter how good our plans are for God and for others, it is the direction God has for us?  We can never prepare the way of the Lord unless we first sub it to His plan and follow His directions.  A blessed Christmas to you! AMEN. Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Parokya ng San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan.*Photo by author, altar linen of our Parish Church.  May we follow God’s directions for our lives.

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