Simbanggabi at, Diocese of Arlington, VA 20152 US - 2008, Dec 21 Sun Simbang Gabi @ St. Leo
2008, Dec 21 Sun Simbang Gabi @ St. Leo
BISHOP’S HOMILY DEC. 21
Each year the Filipino community gathers to celebrate Simbang Gabi. This is a time of intensification of faith and strengthening of family relationships that are so important in the Filipino culture. As we celebrate this seventh day of Simbang Gabi, we continue to reflect on the theme of “Christ, Our Hope.” Today’s particular theme is “Honor and Worship for Christ, Our Hope.”
These days of celebration, with the novena of Masses, draws us into the mystery of encountering Christ, Our Hope. Advent is a time for preparing spiritually for the celebration of Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ. It is only fitting then that we increase our prayer and our taking part in the Holy Mass.
In his homily for the First Vespers of the First Sunday of Advent, Pope Benedict XVI said that “Advent is the spiritual season of hope par excellence, and in it the whole Church is called to become hope, for herself and for the world. The whole organism of the Mystical Body (the Church) acquires, so to speak, the ‘colour’ of hope. The whole People of God continue on their journey, attracted by this mystery: that our God is ‘the God who comes’ and calls us to go to meet him. How? In the first place in that universal form of hope and expectation which is prayer. … ” (Homily, Celebration of First Vespers of the First Sunday of Advent, November 29, 2008).
Truly, then, we encounter in prayer Christ our Hope. Prayer is both personal, often private, and communal, especially in its liturgical expression. With this in mind, let us ponder more deeply today’s particular theme: “Honor and Worship for Christ, Our Hope.”
In prayer, we honor God by making Him first in our lives and by responding to His invitation to come to Him. When we pray, we do acknowledge that we are radically dependent upon Him, for in Him, we live, move and have our being. When we pray, we are, in fact, lifting up our minds and hearts to Him in response to His call to draw closer to Him. St. Therese of Lisieux describes prayer this way: “For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned towards heaven; it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy” (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2558).
In prayer, we encounter Christ our Hope: in His Living Word and in the Eucharist, both during the celebration of the Mass and in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament reserved in the tabernacle. How can we not pray daily and participate in the Eucharistic Sacrifice at least once a week on Sunday or on the Vigil of Sunday, since in praying we embrace and are embraced by the Lord Jesus Christ, our enduring hope!
Through prayer, we also express adoration and worship. Again, the Catechism reminds us: “Lifting up the mind towards God is an expression of our adoration of God: prayer of praise and thanksgiving, intercession and petition” (n. 2098). Liturgical prayer itself is an expression of our worship, “a participation in Christ’s own prayer addressed to the Father in the Holy Spirit” (Catechism, n. 1073).
Today’s Scriptures help us to reflect on today’s particular theme: “Honor and Worship for Christ, Our Hope.” In the first reading from the Second Book of Samuel, King David expresses his desire to build a house for God, a place of prayer to which people could go in order to experience God’s presence and assistance.
Our Blessed Lady is the first and best of all Christ’s disciples. In today’s Gospel account, Mary is asked by God through the angel Gabriel to become the Mother of His Divine Son. When the angel Gabriel came to Mary, he undoubtedly found her in prayer. So, in prayer Mary heard God’s Word and Will; in prayer, she responded with her “Fiat,” her “May it be done to me according to your word”; in prayer, she conceived the Savior, Christ, our Hope. In fact, Mary’s entire life was a living out of “that obedience of faith” which Saint Paul mentioned in today’s second reading from his Letter to the Romans, a faith which leads to prayer and a faith which flows from prayer.
I repeat, in prayer we encounter Christ Our Hope. In daily prayer we receive the strengthening grace to honor Christ Our Hope by the way we live each day. In liturgical prayer, especially in the Eucharist, we encounter Christ Our Hope Himself. In prayer, through this encounter with Christ Our Hope, we are transformed so as to acquire “the colour of hope” and to be beacons of authentic Christian hope in the world, specifically in those smaller worlds in which we live: the family, the workplace, the parish, the neighborhood.
Yes, Advent is a perfect time for rediscovering the hope that is “certain and reliable, because it is ‘anchored’ in Christ, God made man, the rock of our salvation” (Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, Celebration of First Vespers of the First Sunday of Advent, December 1, 2007). We turn again to Mary, the woman of prayer and pray: “O Blessed Mother, Mother of Emmanuel: God With Us, Mother of Hope, intercede for us and guide us in our journey. You who are full of grace, lead us into this new time of grace that God bestows on the Church so that as members of the Church, we may become a sign and instrument of hope for all people, Amen.”