God is with us | Inquirer Opinion
Thursday, August 16, 2018
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God is with us

The story is told about airplane passengers who heard the announcement: “This is your pilot speaking. We are currently flying at a height of 35,000 feet across the Atlantic. If you look out of your window, you can see the two engines on fire, and the other two have conked out. If you will look at the ocean, you will see a little yellow lifeboat with three people in it waving at you. That’s me, the copilot, and one of the flight attendants. This is a recorded message. Have a good flight!”

In today’s Gospel (Mt. 1, 18-24), we learn of how Joseph did not abandon his wife, Mary, who was with a child not his. It must have been a difficult situation, but he stayed on, in obedience to God’s will. What an inspiration for all of us, especially in this day and age filled with so much unfaithfulness, betrayals, shallow commitments, and fragile relationships.

Emmanuel! God is with us! The message of Advent and Christmas is all about a God who came to be with us, and who stays with us, especially in the darkest, most painful and most difficult moments of our lives.

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“I am with you, always, till the end of time.”

Today, all the four candles of the Advent wreath are lighted, symbolizing hope, peace, joy and love. May these stay with us and may these continue to burn in our hearts not only during the Christmas season. May nothing and no one extinguish these flames in our hearts.

The “Simbang Gabi” is a wonderful Filipino tradition that helps people prepare for Christmas. It is like a serene flame that endures in the midst of the blinding lights of a materialistic and commercial Christmas. In the thick of the sparks and the flashbulbs, let us not miss the “candle glow” moments of Christmas.

Christmas is “the most wonderful time of the year,” but it may also be the saddest time of the year, especially for the poor and the needy in the face of all the extravagance flaunted before their eyes. God is with us, especially in the last, the lost, and the least this Christmas. Let us not be blind, or pretend to be blind, or just look away.

I had many sick calls and funeral Masses these last two weeks. People get sick, people die, even at Christmas. This is a reality in our lives. But precisely because of Christmas, the resurrection became a reality in our lives. What God began at Christmas with a little child was completed in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

A Christmas moment happened to me last Dec. 16 when I stayed alone late at night, keeping vigil with Fr. Peter Michael, SVD, the oldest member of the Society of the Divine Word, who slipped into eternity in his sleep at the age of 104. I felt like a little boy once again, contemplating the faithful and fruitful life of this missionary giant who spent 59 years in the Philippines. I was a child of 12 when I first met him at Christ the King Seminary. He was our teacher in Latin and our spiritual director. Father Michael, like many of our formators then, was strict, but he cared for us and was always present to us. He was there for us. I sang the Salve Regina (“Hail Holy Queen” in Latin) with so much joy and gratitude that night.

Father Michael and I have the same birthday (Oct. 1, Feast of St. Therese, Patroness of the Missions). Forty years apart! I always kidded him: “Father Michael, when you get to be my age, you have to learn to slow down!” And he always had that look and smile that knew and understood. It was so humbling to have lived with this quiet and hidden man of God who stayed on with the Lord, and with his mission, for a long, long time. Thank you,

Father Michael, for being an Emmanuel.

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A moment with the Lord:

Lord, thank You for being with us! Help us also to be present to You, and to our brothers and sisters, especially the “little ones,” at Christmas. Amen.

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TAGS: God, Gospel, hope, Joseph, Joy, love, Mary, peace
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