Homily of His Eminence Jose F. Cardinal Advincula
for the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord and the Feast of the Our Lady of Grace
February 2, 2023 at the Our Lady of Grace Parish, Mabalacat City, Pampanga
Your Excellency the Most Rev. Jacinto Jose, Bishop of Urdaneta, Rev. Msgr. Jose U. Lacap, our dear parish priest, Brother Priests, Assisting Deacon, Persons in Consecrated Life,
Government Officials, Parish Lay Leaders, Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
On behalf of the people of God in the Archdiocese of Manila, I bring you joyful greetings of a grace-filled Parish Fiesta Celebration. Happy fiesta po sa inyong lahat!
Today, forty days since Christmas, we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of our Lord at the Temple in Jerusalem. In the Jewish tradition, the first born is brought to the Temple, forty days after birth in order to be consecrated to God. Our Gospel reading today (Luke 2:22-40) teaches two important virtues: gratitude and generosity.
The first virtue is gratitude. In obedience to their laws and customs, the Jewish people are mandated to dedicate to God all of their first-born children. As well as the first-born of their animal livestock, and the first-fruits of their plant harvests (cf. Ex 13:1–2, 12; 34:19; Deut. 26:1-10).
This is quite similar to our Filipino custom of Buena Mano. We Filipinos have the practice of consecrating to God our “firsts.” Itinatalaga natin sa Diyos ang mga una natin: ang unang anak, ang unang araw ng trabaho, ang unang bunga, ang unang ani, ang unang kita. ‘Yung iba pa nga sa atin, itinatalaga pati ang unang sandok ng kanin, ang unang salop ng sabaw, at ang unang higop mula sa bote ng inumin.
Underlying this Filipino custom of Buena Mano and of the Jewish Law of dedicating the first fruits and the first born, is the faith that God's blessings on the first ones will graciously flow forth into the succeeding ones of the brood and the harvest. This signifies a spirituality of gratitude to God. A spirituality of recognizing that God is present in our social and personal lives. That it is God who moves and brings forth blessings, lessons, and grace.
When Mary and Joseph brought the infant Jesus to the Temple after forty days from His birth, they were not merely intending to fulfill a precept of the Law of Moses. They were in the Temple to signify their praise and thanksgiving to God. They were fully aware that the birth of the Messiah is not their own doing, but God's gracious intervention. The birth of Christ is not the product of human prowess, but God's act of mercy. Si Jesus ay hindi gawa ng tao, kung’di awa ng Diyos.
In our world today, that is seeing great advances in Science and Technology, we are easily tempted to self-sufficiency, self-entitlement, and self-grandiosity. Palibhasa “high tech” na ang lahat, palibhasa kaya nating kumita, palibhasa pinagpaguran at pinaghirapan natin ang ating mga natatamasa, kaya madali tayong mahulog sa tukso na isipin na kagagawan natin ang biyaya. Na hindi na natin kailangan ang Diyos. Na hindi na natin kailangan magpasalamat sa pagbibiyaya ng Diyos. Huwag sana tayong mahulog sa tukso na ito. Sa lahat ng panahon, magpasalamat tayo sa Diyos sapagkat Siya ang bukal ng lahat ng katotohanan, kabutihan, at kagandahan, na ating nararanasan.
Let us foster the virtue of gratitude.
The second virtue is generosity. The Presentation of the Lord at the Temple was an act of generosity. The Jewish custom of offering at the Temple all firstborn and all first fruits we're not only an act of faith in God. It also signified solidarity with the whole community. The firstborn of animals and the first fruits of plants were surrendered to the Temple. Not only to be burned as Holocaust or offering to God, but also to be distributed to members of the community who had no access to livelihood and sustenance: the poor, the disabled, the sick, the orphan, the widow, the elderly, and the sojourner. The firstborn child is presented at the Temple as a sign of the family’s renewal of commitment to the covenant with God.
Generosity is the natural consequence of gratitude.
When we recognize that every good that we enjoy is God's gratuitous gift, then we cannot help but freely share the blessings we receive. If we only keep gifts to ourselves, they cease being gifts that bless us. They become possessions that stress us. Kapag ipinagdamot natin ang biyaya, lalo tayong natutuksong magkasala.
Mary and Joseph did not fall into such temptation of keeping the Messiah to themselves. Knowing the nobility and divinity of the Christ-child, they could have felt entitled about Him; and enjoyed the perks, privileges, profits, position, and popularity that Jewish people accord to their awaited Messiah. Maari sana nilang ipagdamot si Jesus para kumita, rumangya, gumara, at sumikat, pero hindi nila iyon ginawa. Sa halip, dinala nila si Jesus sa Templo upang itanghal at ibahagi Siya sa kapwa, sa buong bayan. They participated in the mission of the Messiah as “a light to all nations'' (cf. Lk. 2:32), even to the point of dying to themselves and embracing the cross.
In our world today that is so preoccupied with individual profit, we are easily tempted to selfish gain and disregard for neighbor. Palibhasa sarili nating pagsisikap ang kumita at umunlad. Nawawalan tayo ng malasakit sa kapwa, lalo na sa mga dukha at sa mas nangangailangan. Huwag sana tayong mahulog sa tukso na ito. Sa lahat ng panahon, magbukas-palad tayo sa ating mga kapatid, sapagkat sabi ni Jesus, ano man ang pagtrato natin sa pinakaaba sa mga kapatid ng Panginoon ay siya ring ginagawa natin sa Kanya (cf. Mt. 25:40). Ibahagi natin sa ating kapwa ang natatamasa nating katotohanan, kabutihan, at kagandahan.
Let us foster the virtue of generosity.
Gifted to Give
Dear brothers and sisters, these days, we are already concluding our national celebration of the 500 Years Anniversary since the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines. Let our celebration of the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord remind us that we are “gifted to give.” Na binigyan tayo upang magbigay, na biniyayaan tayo, upang magbiyaya sa ting kapwa, and teach us the virtues of gratitude and generosity.
May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Grace, ang ating Apung Gracia guide us and intercede for us. Amen.
Transcribed by Joel V. Ocampo