4th Day of Simbang Gabi  

            Today’s gospel reading presents the priest Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth as a good and happy couple whose only disappointment is the lack of child. Elizabeth is barren and now way beyond childbearing age. The angel Gabriel appeared to Zachariah to announce that God has intervened in a special way and will give them a son to be called John. This son will be a joy to them and a prophet among the people.

            This gospel passage poses a question on us: What areas of our life seem barren or fruitless or lifeless? Talking about ‘lifeless’, I cannot help but connect it to the word ‘dead’ and think of an analogy.

            There are two seas in the Holy Land: The Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. Both seas (lakes, actually) are fed by the same river, the River Jordan. One is a freshwater lake teaming with fish and other forms of sea life. The other is a super-concentrated salt water that cannot support any living organism. If both seas are fed by the same river, how come one is fresh and life-giving and the other is dead? It is because the Sea of Galilee has an outlet for letting out water; whereas the Dead Sea has no such outlet. In other words, the Sea of Galilee receives and gives out water continually. Whereas, the Dead Sea only receives water and does not give out.

            We can learn a very important lesson from this:   receiving without giving renders us stagnant and dead. Receiving and giving keeps us alive and life-giving. There is life in giving.

            Muli, ang tema ng ating Simbang Gabi ay: “Gifted to Give.” At nabanggit natin noong unang araw ng Simbang Gabi na ito ay batay sa Matthew 10:8: “Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.” This passage is also translated in these words – which I prefer: “The gift you have received, give as a gift.” We have been gifted; we have been blessed.

            The Lord Jesus, in Luke 12:32, tells us, “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.” I want to invite you to spend some moments of silence and simply contemplate on these words… Allow these words to sink deeply into your heart.

            According to the Bible the most basic spiritual problem is FEAR. When we are afraid, we cling to ourselves and to our prerogatives and we become selfish and self-centered. When we are afraid and see others as competitors, even enemies, we distance ourselves from them, if not, lash out at them. When we are afraid and feel threatened by our surrounding, we keep the world at bay or build walls around us.

            If we really believe what Jesus says about God wanting to give us his Kingdom, his very life to us, and he delights in doing so we would know and see God as pure love, gracious love. God gives us his gifts freely. God blesses us with his grace out of pure and unconditional love for us. Pinagkakaloob ng Diyos ang kanyang mga handog nang libre. Hindi ito gantimpala sa pagsisikap nating magpakabuti at gumawa ng kabutihan. God gives us gifts out of pure love – nothing else.

            What we are talking about here is the principle of grace. God’s love comes first, and everything else flows from that love. This is the foundation and the heart of our spiritual life. When we get it backwards, what is the result? FEAR. “I have got to earn it, I have to deserve it, I have to merit it.” “I have to do everything to prove myself worthy of the gifts of the Kingdom.”

            Indeed, when we operate with the mentality that “I have to earn God’s grace” or “I have to merit God’s blessings,” fear sets in, then, trouble comes. Fear is a spiritual state that causes us not to trust in the lordship of God and to play master of our life. Kapag pinamamayani natin ang takot sa puso natin, hindi natin pinahihintulutan o hinahayaan ang Diyos na maging Panginoon ng buhay natin. Bagkus, parang ang sarili natin ang hinahayaan nating maging ‘panginoon’ ng buhay natin. Parang sa sarili lang natin tayo nananalig, parang sa materyal na yaman lang tayo nagtitiwala. We do not have to cling to all the material things that offer us false security. We have a never-failing treasure in God.

            Sana, ang pagnonobena natin ngayong Simbang Gabi ay magpalalim at magpatibay sa pananalig at pagtitiwala natin sa kabutihang-loob o generosity ng Diyos upang hindi tayo matakot at mangamba, lalo na sa usapin ng pagbabahagi ng mga biyayang natatanggap natin. Faith asks us to trust that God loves us enough to give us the greatest gift: no less than his Kingdom. However, we are also asked to give. We are, indeed, gifted to give!

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