Homily — Simbang Gabi[i]
Most Reverend José H. Gomez
Archbishop of Los Angeles
Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels
December 15, 2020
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
With our celebration today, at the beginning of Simbang Gabi, we enter into the mystery of Christmas, which is now just nine days away.
What is beautiful is that whatever has come this year — and it has been a challenging year to say the least — with this novena we know that our God is coming.
This is our joy, this is our hope. This is the new beginning we are all waiting for, after this long year.
And our readings this evening talk to us about making a new conversion, about making our hearts ready for our Savior who comes to us.
The first reading from the prophet is hard. Zephaniah talks about how the people will not accept correction, how they have stopped trusting in the Lord.
But God draws near, the prophet tells us. And God will give us the grace of a new conversion. He will grant us mercy and forgiveness and the grace to begin again.
We hear this beautiful promise: “For then I will change and purify the lips of the peoples, that they all may call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one accord.”
So, this is what we want to concentrate on, in these final days of Advent. Let’s make these nine days of Simbang Gabi a time of new beginning of faith. Let us renew our trust in God and his love.
Our God is with us. In this time of the pandemic, we can hear people’s doubts, their fears. With so many bad things happening, people wonder whether God is still in charge.
But he is, dear brothers and sisters! God is Creator of heaven and earth and he is still at work in his creation. Even in this time of distress and trouble.
And God is our Father, as Jesus reminds us in the Gospel today.
The parable Jesus tells us today is about our freedom. God is all-powerful, the maker of heaven and earth. But he gives us the freedom to make our own decisions about how we want to live.
In the parable, the father tells his sons to work in his vineyard. The one son refuses, he says, “I will not.” But later he changes his mind and goes out to serve. The other son says to his Father, “Yes, sir.” But then he didn’t go.
Now, Jesus points us to the most important thing. He asks us: “Which of the two did his father’s will?”
And of course we give the same answer as the people in the parable: the first son. He is the one who did the father’s will. We ask for that same grace tonight, to be like that first son.
Our Lord shows us that the meaning of our lives is found in doing the Father’s will. And our Father’s will for us is that we know his love for us and that we grow in his love, that we grow in holiness. St. Paul used to say, that God’s will for us is holiness.[ii]
As Jesus reminds us today — what we say or what we feel doesn’t matter. Our good intentions only go so far. We may say we want to do God’s will. But what really matters is, if we do it or not.
So, we ask ourselves tonight: How are we doing in following God’s will for our lives? Is our heart open to his love, to his calling in our life? These are good questions as we get ready for Christmas.
And the beautiful message of the parable tonight is that God’s mercy and forgiveness is always possible.
The Father wants to save us, he wants to make us holy. Every one of us. Even the biggest sinners. That’s the promise of Jesus: “Tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of God.”
There is no one that Jesus does not come to save. So, if we have someone in our lives, who we are worried about, who is far away from God. Let’s keep praying! Encourage that person to come back. Don’t give up on your loved ones — because God does not give up on them!
Like that first son, we all have people in our lives who have said “no” to God. But the good news is that they can turn back, they can say “yes.” And God is waiting for their “yes.” He is hoping for their “yes.”
And he is waiting for each one of us to say “yes” to him. Again. So, let’s prepare our hearts. Let’s try to make a good Confession in these days before Christmas
God is near to us, he is always close. And he is closer to us in these times of fear and uncertainty. Let us open our hearts to his mercy, to his love. Let us renew our faith that he has come to save every person.
I pray that this will be a beautiful and blessed Simbang Gabi novena for you and your loved ones.
Let us ask our Blessed Mother Mary to help us to open our hearts to receive her Son on Christmas Day and to always do the will of Our Father.
[i] Readings (Tuesday of the 3rd Week of Advent): Zep. 3:1–2, 9–13; Matt. 21:28–32.
[ii] 1 Thess. 4:3.