The Dawn from on High

[Homily:  9th day, Simbanggabi, 24th, Martinez Sports Center, ADDU, December 2017]

With what more beautiful words can we end our nine-day Simbanggabi experience than these from the Canticle of Zechhariah?

In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

For nine-days we have come here in the dark of the night.  One can take that literally.  We’ve gotten up in the dark of night to come here; we come here despite the darkness in our homes, in our neighborhood, in our alleyways and streets.  One can however also take “the dark of night” figuratively – to refer to the darkness which hinders sight, the darkness which hides untold dangers, the darkness which is the result of our refusing the light, of choices that bring perilous darkness into our own lives and into the lives of others.  Once conjured, this is darkness that is not only beyond my control.  It is darkness that controls me, and makes me do things I would normally never do, say things I would normally never say, and hurt people whom I in fact would never wish to harm.  This is so, until in my life, what becomes my new normal is the way of darkness:  the cheating has become habitual, the corruption has become necessary, the injustice has become rational.  In this darkness, despite the superficial trappings of success, I know there is no joy.

In this context, these nine novena days of Simbanggabi have been our intensified Advent, as we came in darkness, yet waited for the dawn to come.  We waited, recognizing the darkness around us, yet knowing we have no ability on our own to break the darkness.  We waited consoled in God’s revelation of himself as a compassionate God.  “Com-passionate” – “suffering with”;  a God suffering with his people dwelling in darkness and the shadow of death, feeling compassion for them, instead of abandoning them to cold eternal darkness, suffering with them to help breathe into them new hope and new life.  New hope: in the conviction the darkness can be overcome.  New life: in the conviction the darkness does not lead to death.

Therefore the Good News of this Mass:

In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death…

We have not just come here in darkness.  We have come here in the hope of dawn.  We have come here knowing that the darkness which oppresses us and conditions us to choose to harm others can be broken.  The dawn from on high breaks upon us, shining on us who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.  It was the special experience of our Simbanggabi here in Matina.  Everytime we came in darkness, in this Simbanggabi, we wore liturgical white;  we sang the Gloria;  we celebrated the Dawn.  While all others remained in their dwellings of darkness and the shadow of death, our Simbanggabi became Simbangbukangliwayway – the Misa de Gallo that everyday welcomed the Dawn.  Today we do so with among the most beautiful passages of Scripture celebrating God’s good News:

In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death…

In the tender compassion of God…  God does not approach us scolding us, mocking us, taunting us;  he does not call fire and brimstone down upon us for having rejected his message of the primacy of the Kingdom and for having rejected him.  He comes gently, the tender light of dawn that slowly breaks the darkness, that with the drama of dawn allows the hues and colors of our lives to reappear, that gently replaces the darkness and depression with light and hope.  He comes today having first entered our lives on the wood of a manger, but having won our life back on the wood of a Cross.  He comes today in a manger in soft but brilliant Resurrection light reconciling the darkness with the light, the earth with the heavens, the sinful with the holy, the human with the divine, so that in peace together as the prophet Isaiah once wrote:  “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them” (Isaiah 11:16).

In the light and power of this Dawn let us allow this Child to lead us to Peace.  Too long, the adult has led us to war.  Let his Child bring us to reconciliation.   Let man be reconciled with his God, let creation be reconciled with humanity, and let man be reconciled with with his fellow man: the North Korean with the American, the South Korean with the Chinese, the Saudi with the Iranian, the Israeli with the Palestinian, the Bangsamoro with the Filipino, the Communist rebels with the Republic of the Philippines.

This is the Dawn that we celebrate at this Simbanggabi.

In the tender compassion of our God, the Dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death and to guide our feet into the way of Peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
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