The Ineffable Word

simbang gabi day 5 dec 20 2018

[Homily, December 20, Fifth Day of Simbanggabi. Assumption Chapel]

On this fourth day of our Simbanggabi, our shared prayer at the beginning of the Mass is particularly beautiful. We pray for humility. We pray to be faithful to God’s will. As Mary, our Mother was humble. As Mary humbly accepted to do God’s will. God knows, being humble is not a virtue we’re used to. We’re used to take pride in our achievements, to take pride in our reputation, to take pride in the achievements of our parents and relatives, and especially in the achievements of our children. We demand performance of ourselves and of others, and take pride in a job well done. But on this fourth day of Simbanggabi, we pray for humility because sometimes we need to step away from all the great things that we do, and will to do, and actually do, and in humility to be silent, in humility to notice the cacophony we create in the symphony that is life, in humility to listen to the way God speaks to us.

The prayer speaks about God’s ineffable Word. “Ineffable” means unspeakable. It bespeaks a reality too rich, too great, too awesome to be reduced to a word. Mary received God’s “ineffable Word” through the message of Gabriel and so became a dwelling place of divinity filled with the light of the Holy Spirit.” The humility that we ask for is the humility we need to listen to this ineffable Word. We need humility because too often we say this Word, and we falsify it, we express it, and we subject it to our misunderstanding, we speak it, and we utter stupidity not divinity.

God’s ineffable Word came to Mary through the message of the Angel: “Hail full of grace, the Lord is with you. Do not be afraid. You have found favor with God. You will conceive and bear a Son, and you will call him Jesus. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. … The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. … For nothing is impossible for God” (Lk 1:28-31.35.37)

The ineffable Word that came to Mary was not the Angel’s word. The effable Word was the Father’s Word that she accepted humbly on behalf of humankind. The ineffable Word of God, a word of Compassion, a word of Love, is now spoken incarnate in our world because of Mary’s humble response: “Be it done to me according to your word.”

In this context, let us listen humbly to what is happening here in the words of John the evangelist. We flashback not only to the beginning of human history; we flashback to the beginning of eternity; prior to eternity; that is in itself ineffable: we flashback to the ineffable Word:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

He was in the beginning God, and all things were made through Him, and without Him was made nothing that has been made. In him was life. And the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness. And the darkness does not comprehend it…

He was the true light, come into the world…

He was in the world, and the world came into being because of him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.

But to all those who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God…

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory of a Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth…” (Jn 1:1-5.9-12.14)

The glory of the Father is His Word, his Son, full of grace and truth, His Word made flesh and living among us.

From Paul’s letter to the Colossians we hear: “The Father rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption and the forgiveness of sins. He was in the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers – all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together… For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of the cross.   And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing all evil deeds, he has not reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him – provided that you continue established and steadfast in the faith” (Col 1:13-17, 19-22).

We pray for humility that like Mary we may receive God’s ineffable Word and give him a home within. That we may revere it. That we may fear it. That we may hear it – without distortion, without dilution, without diminishment. That we may recognize this as the Father’s Word being spoken to us in the Babe in the manger, in Jesus being baptized, in Jesus healing, in Jesus teaching, in Jesus preaching the Kingdom of the Father, in Jesus fighting the hypocrites, confronting the scribes and the Pharisees, in Jesus washing the Feet, in Jesus breaking the bread, in Jesus raised on the Cross, in Jesus resurrected, in Jesus reconciling us with himself through his blood poured out for us. Listening to this Word, may we like Mary respond in all humility: Let it be done to me according to your Word. May we respond in love and courage: Come, Lord Jesus, come!

About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
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