Wrapped in God. By God.

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The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fourth Sunday in Advent-B, Misa De Gallo IX, 24 December 2023
2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8-12, 14, 16 ><}}}}*> Romans 16:25-27 ><}}}}*> Luke 1:26-38
From Clergy Coaching Network, posted on Facebook 13 December 2023.

Afew days before Simbang Gabi, I posted on my Facebook wall (14 December 2023) this illustration, saying, “When the wrapping is the gift… not just to those grieving but also who are tired, taken for granted, forgotten, those who thought themselves to be strong but hurting inside. Wrap someone with warmth of Christ’s love.”

It is a fitting reminder to everyone this last Sunday of Advent that is also our last Simbang Gabi when everybody must have been busy with gifts and preparations for Christmas but have sadly forgotten the very essence of the season – Jesus Christ in each one of us! As we wrap our loved ones in our arms to feel Jesus Christ within us, we allow ourselves too, to be wrapped in God, by God.

Photo by author, Basic Education Department chapel, Our Lady of Fatima University, Valenzuela City, Christmas 2022.

Once again we hear for the third time this month of December Luke’s account of the Annunciation of the birth of Jesus Christ to Mary:  first was during the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, then last Wednesday in our Simbang Gabi, and today on this fourth Sunday of Advent.

This Sunday, our gospel’s focus is the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God and the cooperation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in that great divine plan. Though this Fourth Sunday of Advent would be very short because later this afternoon and tonight we shall have the Christmas liturgy, at least for this brief period we are invited to be like Mary to allow God make wonders in us, to let Him do His work in us so that Christ would come.

The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary.  And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace!  The Lord is with you.”

Luke 1:26-27

Photo by Mr. Boy Cabrido, Misa De Gallo at National Shrine of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, 21 December 2023.

Unlike Matthew who presented the annunciation to Joseph like a newspaper report to explain what had happened in the past, Luke is more of a live broadcast giving a first-hand account on the angel’s visit to Mary.  However, his presentation is not meant to satisfy our curiosity like in Facebook live or CNN Breaking News but to reveal a mystery and to nourish our faith.

To reveal a mystery.  Luke’s opening scene is the fulfillment of what we have heard at the first reading of Nathan’s prophecy to King David that from his lineage called the “house of David” would come the Savior of Israel.  True enough, it was fulfilled when God sent Gabriel to the Virgin Mary who was betrothed to a man named Joseph of the house of David.  But, there is something deeper than this when seen again in the light of the first reading where we heard how God objected to David’s plan of building a temple for Him.

It is not the God did not want it. In fact, He would direct David’s successor Solomon to build one for Him.  In objecting to David’s plan, God shows us it is always Him who takes the initiatives in our lives.  This is the reason why we always have to pray to know His plans for us.  He knows what is best for us!  Wait patiently for God surely comes to reveal Himself and His plans for us.

God is a mystery and part of this mystery of God revealed to us in the opening scene of the Annunciation is how He in taking the initiatives chooses those we consider as simple and ordinary – like Mary, a commoner from the obscure town of Nazareth in Galilee.

We are all special with God who has a specific plan for each of us whom He considers special. When we examine our experiences with God, they all share a common thread but there is always that personal touch that is unmistakably specifically just for me or for you. There is something too deep for words when God speaks to us, when He calls us that we could not explain but deep down inside we know it is so true, especially when we realize how little we are like a tiny speck of dust in the wide universe and yet – so special and chosen by this loving, personal God!

Photo by Mr. Boy Cabrido, Misa De Gallo at National Shrine of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, 21 December 2023.

Nourish our faith. For Jesus Christ to come not only on Christmas Day but everyday in our lives, we have to set aside our senses of grandeur and greatness when dealing with God for He is not like us.  We just have to believe and trust Him like Mary, always giving Him our fiat – be it done to me according to Your word!

Notice how Luke ended his story of the Annunciation, Then the angel departed from her.

I love that part. Unlike Joseph to whom the angel appeared four times to communicate messages from God about Mary and Jesus, the angel never returned to Mary! But she firmly believed in Jesus!

From His birth to getting lost and found in the temple as a child to His preaching, healing and other miracles, Mary was always there with Jesus up to the end at the foot of the Cross because she had always believed in Him. At the Pentecost, Mary stayed with the Apostles when the Holy Spirit came. She was never worried with what would happen next but simply nourished her faith in prayers and living among the disciples.

Faith is a gift from God but we are the ones responsible in nourishing that faith too. In the first reading, part of the problem of King David was what would happen after he was gone that he wanted to build a temple for God – to be always remembered too! When we are still preoccupied with ourselves, especially with our labors and everything, we do not have that deep faith in God yet.

Forget everything except God! Remain in Him by nourishing our faith this coming 2024 in the sacraments especially the Sunday Eucharist as St. Paul told us in the second reading, “To him who can strengthen you, according to my gospel and proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret for long ages but now manifested” (Rom. 16:26)

Iam always worried during Simbang Gabi because most people observe this beautiful tradition mostly to obtain special favors and wishes. What if you don’t get what you are praying for in this Simbang Gabi, would you then leave?

Most likely, we won’t see others with us tonight until the next Simbang Gabi again. And maybe, if lucky, we might meet again on Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, and Holy Thursday – the rest of the year, kami-kami na lang ulit magdiriwang at maiiwan!

Let me assure you, my dear friends in Christ that the moment you started the Simbang Gabi, you have been blessed, lavishly blessed by God who gives us Jesus daily! Allow yourself to be wrapped in God, by God in Jesus Christ. Pray and celebrate the Holy Mass where we have the Altar of the Eucharist as the new manger of Bethlehem which means “house of bread”. Simbang Gabi is not everything. It is Jesus Christ. Remain in Him even after December 25. See you tonight or tomorrow and the following Sundays! Amen.

Veritas Editorial

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

President of Radio Veritas

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