Simbang Gabi Homilies: Day 4 with Fr. Norberto Bautista, SJ

Posted on December 19, 2011


What mostly attracts me, really, in the Annunciation story is not so much the grand plan of God through the angel for Mary to become the mother of the Son of God, or the fortunate fate of Mary as the one He has chosen. What I find touching here is the littleness of Mary – her poverty, and her pure innocence, and her natural and simple acceptance and trust in God Almighty in whom nothing is impossible.

God chooses the poor and the weak, the ordinary and the meek, like Mary. Through them, the face of the Lord shines, and the strength of the Lord is felt by people around them…. Among religious circles, the spirit of poverty is compared to a lady, called Lady Poverty, for to embrace the life of poverty – spiritual or material – is to embrace the will of God that liberates us from the wiles of the material world.

The spirit of poverty empties us of ourselves, so that this emptiness can be filled with the Holy Spirit. The virtue of poverty centers us on God, so that everything else is decentralized – centered on God and in intimacy with him. God is valued as the real source of our true happiness, joy, and peace. And this is felt as something strong and beautiful.

The spirit of poverty diminishes our false pride and leads us to our true selves. Stripped from what this world has to offer, she makes us realize the immense worth of the dignity of being the beloved children of God. We retain our purity and innocence because we place our full trust in a God who loves and cares for us, so much more than we do ourselves.

The wisdom of spiritual poverty is attractive because she invites us to pause and reflect on what really matters in life. She invites us to distinguish the essentials from the non-essentials. She teaches us that time and even life is limited, and whatever good that we can do today should not be postponed for tomorrow. The spirit of poverty, the wisdom of poverty, gives us an urgent need to share and serve.

The poor, weak, ordinary, and meek people, by their very nature of being especially chosen by God as His own people, have that power to influence us to live simply and serve magnanimously. We get converted and are transformed to be like them in some way – at least in spirit. We marvel at their capacity to suffer in faith and hope, and face great adversity in our lives. They are great teachers to us, like Mary – and like Mary, can give us the fullness of the Annunciation, to learn how to accept and to hope.

Difficult and deep encounters with our own poverty – like encountering death in the family, hearing some terrible news of a sudden fatal disease of a loved one, struggling with marital or financial hardships – strip us from our self-made illusions that we can save ourselves. They teach us to accept the fragility of life, and place our hope on God alone, for we begin to realize that nothing really is impossible for God.

The words of Mary to the angel once again resonate in our ears: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” The lesson of the Annunciation is a lesson in acceptance and hope. When an angel whispers to one in prayer, or through a prayer, or through an extraordinary powerful event, or through a dream, or in whatever form it may take, human beings as we are, sometimes we behave like Mary. We are greatly troubled, and get afraid. And we begin to ponder and ask: How can this be?

However, like Mary, we are assured of the overpowering and overshadowing presence of the Holy Spirit, that all shall be well and we can make better, and that for God, nothing really is impossible. At this point, I now invite you to watch this amazing piece (Watch video below).

Sung-Bong Choi does not have a sense of family. At five years old, he was sold in an orphanage where he was abused. After many years, he escaped…. He loves to sing, and so he would hang around the nightclubs and watch the professional singers perform. He said that when he sings, he becomes a different person. After his first performance at the Korea’s Got Talent show… he became one of the finalists in the show. He’s now a manual worker and also studies in a high school, the first school he ever attended.

Our hearts fall for him. We see the resilience of this young man to hurdle all challenges and adversities in life, and pursue his dream. We are inspired by his story. In Sung-Bong Choi, and others whom we know, we also learn how to accept what seems to be the unacceptable, including our own poverty. And we also learn how to hope.

Recently we have heard the tragic news about the flash floods in Cagayan de Oro, Iligan, and several central and southern provinces, brought about by typhoon Sendong. Some of us personally know people who have been killed… or have lost everything they had owned.

Again, we have heard stories of an enduring hope and faith in or God who always keeps his words. May this tragedy touch our lives to reach out and help, and make this opportunity to serve bring us closer to each other and to Christ this Christmas.

(The headmaster of the Ateneo de Manila Grade School, Fr. Norberto Ma. Bautista, delivered this homily during the Ateneo’s fourth Simbang Gabi at the Church of the Gesu this year. Transcript by The Wide Shot.)