29 December 2007

Homily - Christmas 2007

Celebrating the Word who was made Flesh

There are four versions of the Christmas story as there are four Gospels. Matthew, Mark and Luke tells the story of the birth of the Lord pretty much the same, with some details added or absent in each one of them. Now the Gospel you just listened to comes from John. It also tells us about Christmas. But instead of a story, John gives us a theological assertion.

“In the beginning was the Word.
And the Word was with God.
And the Word was God…”

Friends, when you go back to your homes after Mass today, I suggest that you look in the Bible our Gospel today, the first chapter of John. There you will find a summary on the person and mission of Jesus, and who He is in our lives. Let us briefly examine the significance of this Word who is as much present now as in the beginning.

The Word creates. The first word that we hear uttered in the Bible: “Let there be light!” And there was light. The process of creation was started.

The Word judges. God asked Adam and Eve what they have done. From their very answer, Adam and Eve knew they would have to leave paradise. But not before God promised a time of restoration for all humanity represented by Adam and Eve, and a savior who will fulfill that promise. The Word promises.

The Word makes Himself known. Faced with a burning bush, Moses heard a voice telling him: “I am who am”.

The Word calls and sends. Throughout history God calls certain people – Abraham, Moses, David, the judges, and the prophets – and sends them into mission, to save His people from the misery that they often put themselves into. The Word is a saving Word.

The Word speaks through the prophets. In the Old Testament, the prophets would begin their prophecy by the formula: “dabar Yahweh”, the Word of Yahweh, to signify that the words they speak are not their own but that of the Spirit.

And finally, to top it all, the Word was made flesh and made His dwelling upon us. Jesus, the Son of God, became man for us and our salvation. John’s poetic introduction is a way of telling us that behind that quaint familiar story of the baby born in a manger, is an idea, a history, a power of infinite proportions.

What does this mean to us? How relevant is this teaching about the Word for the present generation? A little side story.

Two senior citizens were talking about the gifts they receive this Christmas.
Lolo 1: Pade, hilinga ini, regalo kan aki ko ngonyan na Pasko – a hearing aid. Malinaw na malinaw na an pandangog ko, lataw na lataw an mga tanog.
Lolo 2: Talaga pade. Manggurano kaya an presyo?
Lolo 1: Tama ka pade, dai na man nanggad ako napeperwisyo!
Iyo man giraray palan!

When God speaks, are we listening? It is especially important to listen to the Word today when so much information abound and is made available to us. Not all of them speak to us about the truth. Not all of them lead us to what is right and good.

A favorite Christmas carol goes: “Pasko, Pasko, Pasko na naming muli, taaging araw na ating pinakamimithi.” Ano nga ba ang ating pinakamimithi. Christmas is special for all of us because, among other things, Christmas evokes the deepest longings of our heart or, more precisely, it evokes the answer to the deepest longings of our heart; the answer which only the Word made flesh can give.

The Word gives hope. I was invited by the pastor of Manito to say Mass in his parish for the first five days of Misa de Gallo. I would ride a motorbike in the evening to Manito, celebrate the dawn Mass and another Mass, either for a funeral or a wedding, in the morning, then leave again for office work in Legazpi. I enjoyed that brief ministry in Manito. While I was there I had a conversation with a woman who came to the parish convent looking for a priest for advice and some help.

This is her story: A few days before, she, her husband, their eldest son, and two nephews went to work on a piece of property they own in Inang Maharang (the farthest barangay in Manito, near the border of Bacon town in Sorsogon, and where the Bac-Man Hydroelectric Power Plant is situated). The ownership of the land was apparently disputed by another party, but she claimed that her family has possession of the land title. Sometime later, they saw their son being attacked by a group of more than 10 bolo-wielding men. Her husband came to their son’s rescue. Two against more than 10: one could instantly imagine the almost logical outcome of that encounter. Both her husband and eldest son were killed that day. Her husband sustained 30 hack wounds, her son, 21. A member of the attacking party also got killed. Only two, whom she was able to identify, was caught by the police.

The Word inspires us to all to goodness.

Dear Editor, I am 8 years old.
Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
Papa says “If you see it in The Sun it’s so.”
Please tell me the truth. Is there a Santa Claus?
Virginia O’Hanlon

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence…”

to be cont...

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