The following homily was delivered by Bro. Cosme Carlo A. Lacang, SJ last 07 December 2016 during the Grade School mass for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.
Christmas and the Christmas break are just a few days away, so allow me to ask you: what do you look forward to the most this Christmas?
For some, attending family reunions and Christmas parties is at the top of their list. Understandably so, since, for many, this is a special time to meet relatives and friends who have been away – time to catch up on people who are important to us. This is time for us to gather as friends and family, and reconnect, and celebrate the joy of the season.
Food is also a common reason why people are excited to celebrate Christmas. In no other season in the Filipino calendar is food as abundant and inviting as in December. Imagine your mommy’s signature lasagna, or spareribs, or fruit salad! Food does not just fill the stomach but also satisfies the heart, as meal times become opportunities to nourish relationships.
I am sure a good number of you can’t wait to go on vacation, to far off destinations in the country or even abroad: two weeks of well-deserved rest!
But I suspect that many, including myself, can’t wait to get hold of our Christmas gifts! Imagine your parents surprising you with the gift you have always wanted to receive: maybe a new play station, or your favorite shirt, or a good book, or a new set of school supplies!
I suspect further that the moment a wrapped gift is given to us, the first thing we would do is tear open the wrappings and rejoice at our new possession. But think about this: oftentimes, the gift’s wrapping (how it was prepared) is as important as the gift itself.
Just a few years ago, when I was as young as some of you, my father gave me a simple brown Christmas box for a gift. I knew that this was special and that inside it was my dream toy: a batman action figure complete with a bat-mobile and some bat-mobile accessories. So I ripped open the box and enjoyed playing with my new toy. Later I learned that Papa felt sad because I did not see the fruit of his labor: pasted on the inside part of the box were photos of me as a baby and pieces of paper where I wrote my first words – Papa and Mama.
Oftentimes, how a gift is wrapped is as important as the gift itself—because how a gift is prepared shows how much love and thought and care was put in by the giver.
The Solemnity of Mary’s Immaculate Conception does not just point to how Mary was miraculously formed in the womb of her mother Saint Anne without the stain of original sin—it more importantly points to how God lovingly poured in love and care and attention in forming the most perfect vessel that would carry his greatest gift to us—the baby Jesus, our Savior.
Because the gift was infinitely precious, so the container was made precious and worthy herself.
And just as my father wanted me to receive not only my bat-man action figure and bat-mobile, but also his loving labor of wrapping these in a box full of precious childhood memories, so also is God inviting us to receive not just Jesus but also his mother.
Mary became the perfect vessel that carried the baby Jesus in her womb because God gave her that unique privilege. She is the perfect mother. She is perfect not because she has wealth or power or influence, but because he is simple and obedient and brave and loving. Her simplicity and obedience and courage and love opened wide a space in her womb and a space in her heart for the Lord.
In a few days, you will be receiving a lot of gifts from people who love you. I suggest that before you tear off the wrappings and grab what’s inside, spend some time appreciating the love and care that was put in in preparing that gift. Say thank you, and really, really mean it.
In the same way, as we continue to receive the gift of Christ’s presence in our daily lives, let’s make it a point to be thankful to the woman who allowed herself to become the bearer of the baby Jesus—and being thankful to her means allowing her to become our mother too—because she understands us (whatever it is we are going through) and cares for us in ways that only a mother could.
And so we pray: Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.