The following homily was delivered by School President, Fr. Aristotle Dy, SJ on 20 December 2013 during the Simbang Gabi at the High School Patio.
What voices do you listen to? Whose words do you value? Whom do you trust?
The first reading today can be confusing and certainly not comforting, but it contains an essential message– a warning: Ahaz, King of Judah was playing a dangerous game. He had entered into an alliance with powerful Assyria to protect himself from neighboring kings.
When the prophet Isaiah heard of this, he insisted that Ahaz put his trust in God, rather than, military power, even promising a sign of God’s fidelity. But Ahaz boldly refused to accept a sign from God. The ironic truth was that he had more confidence in the power of Assyria than in the power of God.
Isaiah, however, would not be ignored and uttered the sign that finds fulfillment in the gospel we hear today: The virgin shall be with child and bear a son. This child was a pledge that the kingdom of Judah, over which Ahaz reigned, would be a sign of God’s continued presence and protection.
When the angel Gabriel came to Mary, she was filled with fear. She did not understand how this could be. She questioned the messenger from God. She was told that what was seemingly impossible by human effort was possible, because the Holy Spirit would act within her. Those words gave Mary reassurance. Unlike Ahaz, she had absolute trust in the power of God. She said: Yes! to the plan of God for her.
Mary said, Yes. Let us be very clear about what is occurring at the moment. Mary is not simply acknowledging God’s power but submitting herself to a mysterious, solemn, dramatic, rearrangement of her life. She did not see immediately all of the implications of that surrender. But she submits.
Are we willing, like Mary, to submit to risk, or are we more like Ahaz finding security in the obvious?
My friends, as we go on Christmas break, there will be many voices calling out to us—to party, to shop, to just laze around, or to use our time on meaningful activities like volunteering our time and services to make Christmas more joyful for the poor and those who suffer. There are families grieving the deaths of loved ones at this time, like two families in the Grade School where the fathers died in the past days. There are so many of our kababayans who are still suffering the effects of Typhoon Yolanda. Just last Monday, the 20 people who died in the bus that fell out of the Skyway have families who cannot even have a proper wake and burial yet for their dead loved ones.
This is a time to count our blessings and spend time with our families, but let us also listen to the voice of God calling us to give and share love with those who need it the most. Let us heighten our sensitivity to the needs of people around us.
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Do you know Joan of Arc? If you recall, Joan of Arc heard voices instructing her to help restore the exiled French king to the throne. People would not believe her and she was eventually burned at the stake. In the play, the king becomes exasperated with Joan who keeps talking about the voices. He tells her, “Oh, your voices, your voices! Why don’t the voices come to me? I am the king, not you!”
Joan replies, “They do come to you, but you do not hear them. You have not sat in the evening listening to them. When the angelus bell rings, you cross yourself and you are done with it; but if you prayed from your heart and listened to the trilling of the bells in the air after they stopped ringing, you would hear the voices as well as I do.”