‘Your Redemption Is Near at Hand’

‘Your Redemption Is Near at Hand’

Bishop Raica Celebrates Simbang Gabi Mass at St. Peter’s in Hoover

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, thank you for your kind and thoughtful welcome today. Christmas is near! Our Lord is near! Our Lady is heavy with child and awaiting the birth. So, as with other people of hope, our hearts beat just a little stronger today. We are anxiously awaiting to welcome God’s gift. Along with those in the Old Testament who were dreaming of the coming of a Messiah, their dreams became reality when the Christ child was born.

As you know, there is a certain pastoral nature of today’s celebration. Like being in the country where we hear the rooster crow at the dawn of day, today’s Simbang Gabi Mass, the Misa de Gallo, recalls the salient clues that the day is arriving. I especially thank Father Vernon Huguley, the pastor here at St. Peter the Apostle Parish, for his great hospitality and welcome. I also express my gratitude for the many priests who accompanied you during the past year and this week leading up to Christmas. We are putting the final preparations in place for the dawning of the new light to occur in our hearts and in our world.

Indeed, today we are solidly rooted in the Catholic faith tradition in the Filipino community. We are linked with our brothers and sisters in your homeland by an enduring bond. During the optimistic expectation of Advent, we highlight once again the evocative season of Advent with others as a time of preparation, a time of expectation, a time of hope. The darkness of our night is about to give way to the dawn of day! Like the Polish tradition of the Rorate Masses, full of candlelight, celebrated in the early morning, it is a time that our profound hopes are fulfilled in the birth of the Christ child. As we commemorate these Masses, we are invited to “lift up your heads and see; your redemption is near at hand.”

In fact, we read in today’s first reading from Malachi: “Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me; and suddenly there will come to the temple the Lord whom you seek, and the messenger of the covenant whom you desire. Yes, He is coming, says the Lord of hosts.”

John the Baptist, and every Christian who knows Christ, shares in this mission. “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths.” You will know. You will see. You will hear. Yes, “He is coming.”

Our Gospel acclamation, too, carrying on the tradition of the “O” antiphons reminds us: “O King of all nations and keystone of the Church: come and save man, whom you formed from the dust!”

Through the Christmas event, we rest assured. Despite the confusion and chaos of today, all is not lost. Like a shoot that emerges from the stump of Jesse, hope emerges once again as the dawn from on high breaks upon us.

So, our Mass today celebrates that great gift from God. He draws our attention to the fact that He cares for us. He loves us, no matter what may trouble us. In freedom, He invites each of us to “follow Him.” Mindful of the many blessings we have received, may we continue down the path He has set out for us. Afterall, through His mercy and forgiveness, we are positioned to become that which we were meant to be – what God dreamt of us and our mission. It is the fullness of life as a human being made in His image and likeness.

My friends, “Lift up your heads and see; your redemption is near at hand.”

May God bless you all!