Simbang Gabi Chronicle #9: SANCTIFY


Dearest Friends:

Wishes of a happy Christmas to all of you!

I have now come to end my Simbang Gabi Chronicles by reflecting on Zechariah’s Benedictus. In  simple terms, benedictus would mean “blessing” or “sanctify”. Zechariah made such praise after giving the name of his and Elizabeth’s first born child as “John”. Even now, the Benedictus is being recited in the Morning Prayers in the Liturgy of the Hours. But in our simple ways, we can be and are called to become Benedictus to others.

Here in the Philippines, it is customary to address our elders with a “mano po sign. This involves one approaching an elder with the hand and then putting the elder’s hand into the head of the one asking for the blessing. It is one of our esteemed gestures which we treasure and would like to hand-over to future generation of Filipinos. It creates an atmosphere or cordiality, respect, humility, sense of culture and sense of love.

One striking experience I have is among my priest-formators. Before going home for vacation or after arriving from vacation, I see to it that I approach the Fathers and ask for their blessing or the “mano po” sign. To me, it is a treasure that I admire having most. To ask for blessing is a sign of humility and respect. It creates in me a confidence and trust that the elders would wish me well – much as being intercessors in prayer. Sometimes though I tend to exaggerate it, with one experience that reminded me – after one Sunday Mass, I approached the celebrant to ask for the “mano po” sign, but then he told me: “Isn’t the final blessing enough already for you?” I told him: “Ah, Father, because I want more blessings!” This may sound childlike – but I like to have it as part of my vocation journey.

I also experienced imparting the blessing of “mano po” with the children entrusted to me in the Apostolate. Most of them, out from the blue, would run and grab my hand and would ask for blessing. One Sunday Apostolate, I could not yet rest because of so many children who asked for my blessing. I am not certain what they saw in me, but I hope they saw in me Jesus who desires to reach to the children. On another experience, I was able to witness the Baptism of the two youths whom I desired them to have many weeks. From that time on, they would approach my hand and would ask for blessing. My return greetings then would always be “God bless you!” as I have done with those whom I meet.

In this Year of Faith and in this Christmas, we are invited to look upon our Baptism. As we are welcomed in the Family of God, so too we undertake our three-fold ministry: priestly, prophetic and kingly. But all these ministries goes down to one important reality: we are called to be holy and let others discover holiness in them. All of us are created in the image of a loving, holy God. And that is why we need to revisit our identity as beings formed in the holiness of God. Though imperfect, we can be sanctified and sanctify others as well. Sanctifying others does not limit itself on the sacraments (since it would be on the ordained who does them), but also on being a blessing to others in simple things. When we think, speak and act with pure heart and love – this is already a blessing to others. Let us then be a “blessing” to others, leading them to God!

“Do I take time to say ‘God bless you!’ whenever I end a conversation, a meeting, a dialogue or a cordial chat with the people whom I meet everyday?”

Simbang Gabi Chronicle #4: IDENTITY

ImageDearest Friends:

Greetings of Christmas to you!

Today, December 19, our Simbang Gabi Chronicle leads us to the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth in the Gospel. With “identity” as the theme for our reflection today, I cordially invite you to see and feel the presence of God in our lives – how God works in us in special and unique ways. Hence, we are reminded of the psalmist’s song in the Holy Scriptures: “I praise you; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).

With the Gospel today and the Psalm, I am reminded of the significance of my name. My parents named me after two great saints: St. John Bosco and St. Francis of Assisi. Up until now, they have been my examples on how I live my Christian faith. Even being named after them is already a gift and a blessing to me. In their lives, they remind me how God loves me so much – and I would love to proclaim it to everybody (amidst my lapses…). I could not just help but notice that this endeavor, a child being named after Saints, is gradually vanishing. It is a puzzle to me that many children are named according to celebrities (good if they serve as good examples) and other peculiar names. Now, what’s going on? What’s happening?

Perhaps, with the influence of social media and technology, we become attracted to what is “popular”, “tasty”, and according to public opinion, rather than on what is essential. We begin to identify ourselves with productivity more than our true identity. We confuse things between our needs and wants. We seek approval based on public opinion and not on the true and real. What happens now is a collapse of the search for meaning, which in turn would cause us to neglect recognizing our true identity as men and women in the image of God. This is catastrophic – and would be one of the greatest tragedies people would see.

But perhaps one of the greatest victories people would experience is to recognize our true identity as the beloved of God. Hopefully this Christmas Season, and the days to come, amidst a busy and noisy world, there would always be courage to stand for life identified in God’s love. This begins when we respect who we are – that we cannot just abuse ourselves and kill ourselves for the sake of getting more. There is more in respecting our growth, rather than in rushing our growth. Everything will fall in its proper place.

That is why if we decide not to screw up our identity by being absorbed by worldly dictates, it would be nice to always draw a demarcation line between what is necessary and what is extra. It takes time but it harnesses our will to search on what is meaningful in our life. After all, when we come to terms with God, He would not be asking us what were our accomplishments. Rather, He would ask us how we lived our life in His image. Christmas, aside from being a liturgical celebration, is also a celebration of human identity – for the humanity of Jesus (much the same with our humanity) was never an accident. Jesus’ humanity, as well as our humanity, has its purpose – and it is fearfully and wonderfully designed by God. We just have to search it.

“What have I discovered myself so far, in my search for meaning?”