ON January 6th, the Feast of the Epiphany, the church will celebrate the biblical event where the Magi, also called the Three Wise Men or Three Kings, traveled from the East to pay homage to the newborn King, Jesus Christ. Many believe that this is the date when the Christmas season officially ends, being the end of the traditional 12 days of Christmas. Although, according to the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar, Ordinary Time doesn’t officially begin until the Monday after the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which (usually) falls on the Sunday after Epiphany (January 6th).
So before we officially end the Christmas Season, allow me to share with you a reflection from Most. Rev. Socrates B. Villegas, DD (Archbishop of Lingayen, Dagupan) on the message the Birth of Christ brings. Bishop Villegas shares:
It is Christmas. It means that God has become like us in all things except sin. God has embraced our hunger and poverty. God has joined us in our aches and adversities. God is not far. He is near. He has emptied himself of glory and wrapped himself with our human dirt and ugliness so that we may be wrapped by his robe of mercy. It was so courageous of God to allow himself to born like us.
It is Christmas. We are happy and we have hope in spite of the darkness we see. This darkness is not godly. This is the same darkness that rejected Christ when he was born two thousand years ago.
There is violence against political opponents. The statistics of unsolved murders continue to rise. There are more drugs to buy. There are more criminals set free and the opponents are threatened with imprisonment. Everything is turned into a bad joke. The poor are poorer and the rich are getting poor. We scold children who bully their fellow children but we laugh at elderly bullies who flaunt vulgar humor. We your bishops are called “walang silbi” and you have been encouraged to kill us. You are admonished to stay home and not go to the church because you will just see hypocrites at Mass who worship a stupid God. Accusations are hurled at innocent people without any basis at all. Fake news is unrelenting and the bashers against the truthful are shameless. Where are the true believers of Christ?
How long must we endure these? What is Christmas for? Is this what we have become as a Catholic nation? The answer must be NO! We must resist the spread of vulgarity and the contagion of violence. There is no Christmas hope for the cowards and the timid. Christmas demands that we stand up bravely for the Lord!
Christmas is about the courage of God to defeat evil by the power of love. The greater enemy to fight is cowardice and timidity. Tolerance is not a virtue. Tolerance of evil makes us accomplices. It is vulgar to laugh at vulgarity!
Christmas proclaims that the “walang silbi” are cared for not killed. The infants and the sick, the handicapped and the elderly, they seem walang silbi, but they are our treasures as a nation. This is what the angels taught when they announced Christ’s birth. How we treat the weak shows our real character. Let us resist the culture of abuse with the mercy and tenderness of Christ.
Christmas teaches us that the killing people who kill people is not human. Killing is the solution offered by jungle justice not by civilized societies. Herod wanted to kill Goodness and Love. We must be like the angel who led the Child and his parents into safety away from murder. In solving problems by killing, we side with Herod not with Christ.
Christmas invites us to return to childlike innocence and resist the erosion of good manners. There is joy in being innocent like the Child in the manger. When we hear vulgarity, stand up and proclaim the greater power of the innocence of a child. When we hear children curse, turn them away from the bad examples they see and bring them to the Child in the crib. Vulgarity is contrary to Christmas.
When women are taunted for being women, let us confront this violence against womanhood through the nobility of the Virgin Mary. When violent words are thrown at women and indecent gestures are offered to them, speak up and defend. The spirit of Christmas is contrary to the indecencies that our women are being subjected to.
Christmas is a feast of joy. It must also be a feast of courage -- courage to stand up for Jesus and defend what He taught us through the Christmas story. Let us stand up against vulgarity with the powerful innocence of the Christ Child. Let us defend human life by siding with Jesus and not applauding Herod. Let us stand up for womanhood best taught us by the purity of the Virgin Mary.
Jesus took the courage to become like us. Let us now take fullest courage to stand up for what he taught us. Christmas is not a shabu to make us forget for few moments our aches and woes. The greatest story ever told must be retold with greatest courage. Stand up for life. Stand up for purity. Stand up for human dignity. We cannot find Christmas joy in timidity and cowardice. Stand up and choose the Lord! Take courage so that your Christmas may be truly merry!
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