Until now I am still pre-occupied with the effect of the typhoon that hit the Philippines few weeks ago. Many people have lost their homes, properties, possessions and even lives. Interestingly, the typhoon did not only cause destruction, but also it brings out the best in the faith of the people. This is what the Parish priest in one of the badly-hit towns has realized. “They may have lost their homes, everything, but they don’t have to lose their faith,” said Fr. Clark, the parish priest who decided to celebrate the 9 dawn masses in preparation for Christmas despite the fact that there’s not much left at the Church building. One beautiful expression of this faith of the people could be seen during the offertory. According to Fr Clark, they still gave their share in the collection. “I did not expect them to give anything since there was nothing to give but they still did,” the parish priest said. “Somebody had found the sibot (collection bag) among the debris and passed it around.” Another amazing expression of faith is in the words of one of the parishioners who commented: “Wala na ang simbahan (building) pero naandyan ang tao, naandyan ang pari, naandyan ang Diyos (The church may be gone but the people are there, the priest is there, God is there).”(Source: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net)
Friends I am sharing this with you because this tells us how amazing faith is. Thank God we are here today to express freely this faith. The experience of the Filipino speaks of a faith that is simple yet alive and even serves at the motivation of the many to keep up with life no matter how hard and how impossible things seem to be. This kind of faith, simple as it may seem always helps uplifts people, encourage people to face life and move on if necessary. This kind of faith is what empowers people to trust God all the more, to hope and long for him more often and to endeavour to love him as best as one can be.
I’m sharing this with you too, because this also speaks of Mary’s faith as we can deduce from our gospel today. She only had a simple faith. She was a humble maiden, maybe trying to be faithful to God in her daily tasks assigned by her parents. Yet, it is in this simplicity of faith that God designs her to be the mother of God-Incarnate. We can speculate the simplicity of her faith when she can only question the angel how can things be happening to her. We can only assess the simplicity of her faith when she continued to believe and trust in the messenger’s words even if things are not really that clear and easy for her. It was Mary’s simple faith that enabled her to declare: ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done unto me according to your word.’ This simple faith then made her available for God to be not only living in her but to be born into the world as human like us, through her.
But Mary did something that calls all of us to imitate. She didn’t keep the faith to herself. She didn’t keep the good news to herself. Our gospel today would tell us she set out quickly to visit her cousin Elizabeth, not basically to assure if the angel’s news of Elizabeth’s pregnancy is true or not, but because she believed that everything the angel said to her is true. She went to share the good news that God has made her a living tabernacle, to share the joys, the anxieties, the things that are happening in them, and to express support and care for her cousin. Mary then exemplifies for us how to put faith into action. Faith without action is dead, said St James. Faith expressed in action gives life, joy and wonder. We can see the beauty of this when Mary arrived at Elizabeth’s house, the child in Elizabeth’s womb leapt up and she was filled with the Holy Spirit because she received as her guest the mother of the Saviour. This just goes to show that when faith works together (as in the case of Mary and Elizabeth), the Holy Spirit fills us to the brim, and even gives joy to the innermost part of our being, as well as it radiates joy to the people around us.
We are now in the fourth Sunday of Advent and in a few days, we will be celebrating the feast of Christmas. It is time now to re-assess our faith. It is time now to examine ourselves how simple or how strong our Christian faith is. If something happens to us, like those people in the Philippines, will we keep up our faith?
I drove passed the city this morning and I can see how busy the streets are. I can see Christmas signs and symbols everywhere, but it made me wonder, is Christmas in everyone’s hearts. It made me wonder what really is our motivation of celebrating Christmas? Is it because it is a holiday? Is it because of the time catching up with friends and relatives? Is it because of the presents we give and we receive? Or is it because of our faith in God-Incarnate, the God who chooses to be personally identified with our humanity in order to save us and lift us up from our fallen humanity?
As we continue our celebration of Advent, while getting close to Christmas, we who are here today, have heard the good News that God loves us and cares for us so much, no matter how little or how insignificant we might think we are. So like Mary who put her faith into action and like the people in the Philippines who have kept up their faith despite the tragedy, let us share our faith to others by sharing in their joys, in their sorrows, and by bringing the Good News to them, the good News of Jesus Christ that brings hope for all. Amen.