The WORD in other word (2022) by Fr Bernard Espiritu SVD – New Zealand
Wednesday 3rd Week of Advent
Photo: Light in the hilltop Church of Irosin, Sorsogon
This week the Catholic Church in the Philippines will start the Novena Masses traditionally called Misa de Gallo (the Mass of the Rooster since it is celebrated in the early hours of the morning, 4:00 or 5:00 AM) or Simbang Gabi (the Night Masses) which is also called Misa Aguinaldo (the Mass of Gifts).
Misa de Gallo is a tradition that has been practiced in the Philippines for nearly 500 years. It is a Catholic ritual that Filipino migrants have brought with them and is now introduced and shared in various corners of the world. It is a way to help people prepare for Christmas.
When emphasized as Mass of Gifts (Misa Aguinaldo), the occasion can focus on the fact that goodness has been experienced in the life of the faithful and therefore becomes a celebration of thanksgiving.
We find in today’s Gospel the faith-seekers who have been following John the Baptist. They were sent as envoys of the Baptist with the mission to inquire if Jesus was the Messiah. Instead of a verbal affirmation alone, Jesus replied pointing to what they themselves have seen and experienced: “the blind see again, the lame walk, lepers cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, the Good News is proclaimed to the poor and happy is the man who does not lose faith in me.”
These realities are happening only because the long-awaited Messiah is now here. These are signs of the presence of the kingdom. But notice how the declaration of Jesus ends with the phrase “..and happy the person who does not lose faith in me.” This confirms that though the signs are here, they are not the complete presence of the kingdom.
One of my mentors used to say, “The kingdom of God is already here, but not yet.” This should not lead one to “lose faith in him.” We can already see its marks happening, but we still find the imperfections caused by sin.
The recent tragic pandemic of Covid19 and its variants have claimed lives and brought sadness and fear, too. But along with it, we also have witnessed the faithful dedication of people who reached out untiringly and worked dedicatedly to assist the victims and to end the pandemic. All of them have been among the many living signs of the kingdom here and now.
Among the features of the season of Christmas are what some call “fairy lights.” Many call it Christmas lights. They are tiny, though many. Many flickers are beautiful to behold especially when lit at night. These Christmas lights remind me of the signs of the kingdom Jesus pointed to the envoys of the Baptist. The “sparks” of the signs of the kingdom, just like the Christmas lights, maybe small, but these shine in the darkness. They may not make the National Television News (for they are good news), but they bring joy and generate hope and peace.