HAVE you ever felt the profound love of another human being? Have you loved someone so deeply? If you did, then you have experienced what it is to be truly human.
It’s because God created us for love and to be loved. It’s because we came from God, who is love.
We Filipinos are very romantic and sentimental. This is why our “teleseryes” and “peliculas” are filled with stories of love. We long to love and to be loved.
A few months ago, there was a Filipino movie showing in the theaters even here in the U.S. entitled “Seven Sundays.” It’s a story about a father, a widower in his 70s who longs for his children’s love and presence. One day he discovers that he has cancer, and so he calls his children about this sad news and implores them to spend the remaining seven Sundays with him. The children, their spouses, and their children hastily and readily responded, organizing a late birthday celebration, sleeping over at their childhood home every weekend, cooking their father’s favorite dishes, and going to the beach with him as one big happy family.
I won’t tell the whole story; otherwise, I’d spoil it for you. But please see it. See it as a family, and you will be inspired to love and be loved again.
God wants us to experience love. In the history of Israel, he showed the depth of his love. No matter how his people turned their backs on him, he still loved them.
The ultimate way that God showed his love to us, his people, is by becoming one like us, by being among us. So God sent his only begotten Son to dwell with us: Emmanuel, God is with us.
Not only that God wants to dwell with us, but he also came to save us. That’s why his Son’s name is Jesus, which means “God saves.”
He suffered and died for us on the cross so that we can be saved and inherit eternal life.
God continues to make himself present to us by giving us the Holy Spirit and leaving us his Church.
God continues to be present to us through his Spirit present in the Sacraments of the Church, as the Sacrament of Reconciliation where he forgives us from all our sins, and the Eucharist, which is the great testimony of God’s love. We celebrate Christ’s eternal sacrifice of love every time we celebrate Mass.
This bottom line, the heart of the matter of Advent and Christmas is God’s love.
We need to show this love to one another then. We need to show love, especially in our homes. The family is the domestic church. We don’t have to go anywhere. We don’t always have to think of grand ideas and engage in big projects to help the poor and the needy. The poor are near us in our families, our homes.
A few weeks ago I spent time with my sister and her family in the Bay area, and I was amazed by the way they practice advent. Each day they would do something spiritual and charitable, like baking a cake for the neighbors, sleeping together as one family in mom and dad’s bed, and reading the Scriptures together before a meal.
The family is the church. We don’t have to go anywhere. Let the love of Jesus dwell in our homes and hearts.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
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From a Filipino immigrant family, Reverend Rodel G. Balagtas was ordained to the priesthood from St. John’s Seminary in 1991. He served as Associate Pastor at St. Augustine, Culver City (1991-1993); St. Martha, Valinda (1993-1999); and St. Joseph the Worker, Canoga Park (1991-2001). In 2001, he served as Administrator Pro Tem of St. John Neumann in Santa Maria, CA, until his appointment as pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary, Los Angeles, in 2002, which lasted 12 years. His term as Associate Director of Pastoral Field Education at St. John’s Seminary began in July 2014.