1st Day of Simbang Gabi (December 16, 2022)
Something More than our Wishlist
The Philippines is not just fun for its wonderful and breathtaking tourist destinations. There are a lot of traditions and practices that are in itself is very much Filipino and identified with the Filipinos. These practices, that were handed down from one generation to the next generation make an occasion even more special. One of the pious traditions that we have as Filipinos that make the celebration of Christmas more meaningful and joyous is the Simbang Gabi or Misa de Gallo. It is an occasion, where almost all the churches, are flocked by people from all walks of life. This year’s Simbang Gabi is even more special after the restrictions brought about by the pandemic is raised.
With the people coming in great numbers, it cannot be denied that some of us bring with us our own personal wishes that we ask to be granted after the sacrifices (waking up early in the morning) that we make for nine consecutive days. Some would pray for good health, recovery from illness, financial stability, success in business and examinations, love life etc. Whatever we are praying for, we are given the assurance that in that gathering of faithful, God is in the midst. And what better way of assuring us of his presence than the Holy Eucharist? It is for this very reason why many would sacrifice for many days, to encounter Jesus in a very special way.
In the Gospel we see the persons of John the Baptist and Jesus. John sent his disciples to Jesus to confirm if he indeed is the Messiah. The confirmation was given and for sure the disciples went away with the assurances of their faith. In that encounter between the disciples of john and Jesus, something happened with them. We can assume that John knew who Jesus is even in their first encounter in the womb of their respective mothers. We can reflect on the reason why John sent his disciples to Jesus. The reason is that his (John) disciples would know Jesus in a personal way and turn their faith to him. Here, we see John decreasing and Jesus increasing.
In the same way when we faithfully attend Simbang Gabi, the invitation for us is to let Jesus increase in our lives. Often, without us knowing it, the focus of our nine-day sacrifice is ourselves together with our request. It is not wrong to ask or pray for something. However, if this would be focus and center of our endeavor, then we are in one way replacing Jesus this Christmas. All our attention even our motivation would be on our requests. We replace Jesus with our requests and petitions. Perhaps, it would be valid to say that the purpose of Simbang Gabi is for the granting of our wishes. This way we make Jesus like Santa Clause who looks into our wish list and gives what we ask for. The very purpose of Simbang Gabi is defeated.
John showed Jesus to his disciples so that they may turn to him and have faith in him. In the same way, this Simbang Gabi should usher us to see and encounter Jesus in a personal way and grow in his relationship. The very purpose of Simbang Gabi, more than our wishes, is for us to renew that relationship that we have with him. We sacrifice no longer for our wishes but for us to be able to follow him more dearly and grow in his love and companionship. If we have this as our motivation for our sacrifice, then we make our Simbang Gabi even more meaningful for us. All our sacrifices would be worth the while; and whether or not our wishes were granted, it would not affect our relationship with him. We are given a reminder that there is something greater than our Christmas wishlist, and that is Jesus Christ himself, the very reason why we have and celebrate Christmas.
Let us pray that this Simbang Gabi may truly be an avenue to discover Jesus who patiently waiting to be visited by us.