Simbang Gabi Chronicle #9: SANCTIFY

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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?”

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Simbang Gabi Chronicle #7: MAGNIFICAT

ImageDearest Friends:

A blessed Christmas to all!

For our seventh day of our Simbang Gabi Chronicles, we listen to Mary’s sweet Magnificat. Out from her pure joy and gladness as she received the Lord Jesus, we hear Mary’s outpouring of praise to the Lord, with her visit to Elizabeth. Such spontaneity makes it so unique and resounds to all of us today – her firm faith is seen in her joy when she exclaimed the Magnificat. It tells a lot about us today – and we are invited to become Magnificat to others as well.

Personally, I have been freshly attracted to the Magnificat ever since I entered the seminary. There have been over seven renditions of the song of the Magnificat composed by our Filipino Artists which I put in my MP3 player. I would always feel goosebumps whenever I hear the song every now and then. It’s like even the song would flow rapidly in my bloodstreams, and then my heart would beat fast. Even when I munch the words of our Blessed Mother, it feels a new breath and a sense of joy to live in. I wonder how Mary was able to put those words in harmony and perfection – both in lyrics and in her spontaneity.

What makes the Magnificat  so unique is that it springs from Mary’s spontaneity and pure joy as she felt the presence of God in her life. She is so full of God, and with God’s presence in her came the joyful song. It is God’s initiative which made her outpouring of her innermost love for God and for all humanity. Definitely, she was not a Pharisee, Scribe, or other religious leaders during her time. But definitely, she is so full of God – in her humility and simplicity!

What does the Magnificat lead us to? It leads us to recognize the presence of God. And in our recognition of Him, let our outpouring become spontaneous and pure. It happens when we stop worrying and preoccupying ourselves with lots of things, and then we let the Spirit lead us to where He desires. Frankly, it is called “faith” – but that faith is a joy-filled faith. Today, it calls us to celebrate faith – not to die trying hard to be religious and righteous (isn’t that the same with workaholism?). Many thought that to obey the rituals would be enough (many died bitter and regretful because of this). Celebrating faith means our celebration of our true identity and uniqueness – and therefore, it has to be Spirit-led spontaneity. We have our God-given talents: why not spend time to discover, enrich them, and let it be God’s hand to let others discover His love? It’s way more than we thought it to be. Worth-pondering.

“When was the last time I used my talents to praise the Lord for His love?”