The longest Christmas Season in the world begins in our country today with the opening of the Simbang Gabi. Well, it is noticeable that the spirit of Christmas may seem to have come late this year. Even with December begun, many houses have tardied in setting up their decorations and lights. Is this telling of a spreading climate of secularism that has toned down our sensitivity to holy feasts? I have said in the past that the Simbang Gabi was instituted as a novena for the preservation of the Catholic Faith in the Philippine Islands. Thus, it would be beneficial that we take the last steps of this year’s Advent journey together with our Holy Father as he leads us to the Year of Faith which he intends to open on October 11, 2012.
It cannot be denied that times have so much changed that the lamp of faith seems to wane in many parts of the world today. The Holy Father observed that “it often happens that Christians are more concerned for the social, cultural, and political consequences of their commitment, continuing to think of the faith as a self-evident presupposition for life in society. (However) in reality, not only can this presupposition no longer be taken for granted, but is is often openly denied. Whereas in the past, it was possible to recognize a unitary cultural matrix, broadly accepted in its appeal to the content of the faith and the values inspired by it, today it no longer seems to be the case in large swatches of society, because of a profound crisis of faith that has affected many people.” (Benedict XVI, Porta Fidei, 2.)
A crisis of faith…this is a reality which we all have to recognize. But we should not accept this crisis with passive resignation. The Holy Father says, “We cannot accept that salt should become tasteless or the light be kept hidden (cf. Mt. 5:13-16). The people of today can still experience the need to go to the well , like the Samaritan woman, in order to hear Jesus, who invites us to believe in him and to draw upon the sources of living water welling up within him (cf. Jn. 4:14). We must rediscover a taste for feeding ourselves on the word of God, faithfully handed down by the Church, and on the Bread of life, offered as sustenance for his disciples (cf. Jn. 6:51). Indeed, the teaching of Jesus still resounds in our day with the same power: “Do not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life.” (cf. Jn. 6:27) The question posed by his listeners is the same that we ask today: ‘What must we do, to be doing the works of God.’ (Jn. 6:28)” (PF, 3)
What must we do to be doing the works of God? What must we do to avert this crisis of faith? The Holy Father answers: “The Church as a whole with all her Pastors, like Christ, must set out to lead people out of the desert, towards the place of life, towards friendship with the Son of God, towards the One who gives us life, and life in abundance.” (PF, 2.) We, as Church, once again teach the AUTHENTIC daang matuwid: “Observe what is right, do what is just…” We must once again teach our children to “keep the Sabbath free from profanation, and hold to (God’s) covenant.” We must “bring them to (God’s) holy mountain and to make joyful in (His) house of prayer.”
Our last Simbang Gabi together opens with the Lord speaking about John the Baptist as a man who “testified to the truth” and who “was a burning and shining lamp, and for a while you were content to rejoice in his shining lamp.” We should be like John the Baptist: shining lamps. Let us not pretend to be the light because we are not the light. Only Christ is the Light. We are merely lamps and our faith in Christ is the light. Let us make this faith shine brightly for “Belief in Jesus Christ is the way to arrive definitively at salvation.” (PF, 3)