Simbang Gabi Homilies: Day 1 with Fr. Jose Ramon Villarin, SJ

Posted on December 16, 2011

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Most probably, a black hole lives at the center of our Milky Way galaxy. It is probably a dead and very dense star pulling other stars and planets into itself like a sinkhole. Without wonder, we say gravity is what holds us together. We are no longer perplexed that two things (just by having mass, whatever that means) should attract (and not repel) each other. What is it about matter anyway that pulls or warps the fabric of space-time?

We say E=mc2; we see it working in the raging fires of our sun and in our nuclear furnaces, and we are no longer puzzled that energy should be “fungible” (i.e. interchangeable) with mass.

We hang electric lights on our trees and we take for granted the little ripples of energy that wave forth from these little stars to reach the tiny non-digital cameras in our eyes.

We see starlight and we are no longer startled.

We agonize over the kind of gifts to give one another, and open our gifts in our homes and we say this is how it has always been and how it should be every December.

We fight our wars relentlessly and we say this is realpolitik or deterrence or practical policy. We break into splinters and make divisive alliances, and the usual script is to blame the serpents on the other faction or fraternity.

We wring our hands over the greed and corruption that steal the future of our people and we say this is the way the world works. We see evil thrive and good people become bad, and we no longer wonder why we are powerless to right a wrong, to tell the truth, to dispense justice in the flawed systems we have made for ourselves.

We cheat and we say everyone cheats. We fight fire with fire to avoid being burned. When we are hurt, we exchange tooth for tooth, eye for an eye, and we are pacified somehow by this false parity and transient vindication. Of course, the pain is sharp, sharp enough to blur our sight so that we no longer see that eyes (or teeth) are not fungible.

We gaze at our spouse, our parents, and children. If our most intimate of relationships have become chores to us, it is because we no longer bother to even remember and rekindle the love that once was clear as morning.

When we wound one another, we drop our sorries and confess and do our penances. Do we still wonder why scars do stay, why the injury of sin, its trauma and its swelling do not just go away? We have grown to expect lesions to close at our speed and at our bidding, and not at the pace of those we have wounded.

We text our words and telegraph (or tweet) our emotions; we codify them into numbers (14344), and skype our presence. We tag each other and label “like” on our posts, without pondering any more about the longings beneath these kinds of digital connection.

We see our world spinning faster than ever even as it becomes flatter. And so we multi-task with the multi-info at our fingertips. We take all these in stride and yet we seem disabled from pausing to wonder why we are tired or stressed or distracted.

The child raises the string of sampaguita to our car windows and the stab of guilt lasts only until the light turns green and we settle back to our seats and curse the traffic.

We see a virgin giving birth to a child and we say, so what. Been there, done that. It is only a matter of time before we uncover the genetic secrets and wield the biotech tools to make that happen.

In countless Angelus prayers, we utter the same words of Mary’s oblation. Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me. To say yes to the summons of an angel, to risk the unknown, to go on living despite what we do not see: is it no longer astonishing, this faith that can endure and do wonders?

We see the child in a manger, immortalize this image in our belens. Does it still grab us, this mystery of mysteries of our redemption? From what again are we being redeemed?

Behold this wonder:
a living, moving,
startling likeness of who we are,
who God is;
what God awakens
when God sleeps
on the crossing
wood of our manger.

We have lost the wonder of it all, lost the gratitude, lost the likeness of who we are, who we are meant to love, how life again could matter.

No wonder, God came to us as a child in a manger.

(Fr. Jose Ramon “Jett” Villarin, SJ, president of the Ateneo de Manila University, delivered this homily during the Ateneo’s first Simbang Gabi at the Church of the Gesu this year. The text of the homily is also posted on Fr. Villarin’s Facebook page)

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