HOMILY: CHRISTMAS NOVENA MASSES
SEVENTH DAY: SUB- THEME: DIALOGUE AND FRIENSHIP
Pope Francis states that the concept of life is the “art of encounter” with everyone, even with the world’s peripheries and with original peoples, because “each of us can learn something from others. No one is useless and no one is expendable. Every Pope has its own catch phrase. This phrase art of encounter or culture of encounter had been used by the Holy Father several times in His speaking engagements. It is reaching out, fostering dialogue and friendship even outside the usual circles, and making a special point of encountering people who are neglected and ignored by the wider world. "Encounter" is thus, in some ways, a proxy for "mercy" – placing the emphasis on compassion rather than, in the first instance, judgment as in the case of his controversial statement that LGBTs are also children of God that they “have a right to a family,” and then expressed his support for civil unions. Hence, the art of encounter is contrasted with what he called a "throw-away culture," meaning a society in which whole categories of people – the elderly, the ill, the poor, and so on – are regarded as disposable.
The gospel speaks to us about the visitation of our Blessed Mother to her cousin Elizabeth. Remember at that time both of them are already carrying babies in their wombs. Elizabeth was pregnant of John whom the later will be called the Baptizer and Mary was conceiving Jesus who will be called the Messiah. Although Jesus Christ is the very centre of the history of salvation, Jesus acknowledged him as “none is greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11.11-15 Dec. 11) because of the role that he has accomplished by preparing the way of the Lord. John was never regarded by Jesus as disposable but even with his surging popularity, he did not grab that opportunity to assert himself but invited them to focus on the very person of Christ. They asked him, "Then who are you? Are you Elijah?" He said, "I am not." "Are you the Prophet?" He answered, "No (John 1:11). Dialogue and friendship require first of all awareness of our capabilities and limitations and helping each other achieve a common goal.
Our parish community is challenged once again by the words of our Holy Father to practice such kind of culture first within the context of our parish life. I know that we regard everyone of us as equally important, from parish leaders and animators, to vulnerable, elderly, children, adults, young couples and teachers. In our meetings, we talk so much about what we can do for our parish but we never go down to the level of heart to heart conversation to listen to each other about our own struggles, weaknesses and limitations in life. Oftentimes, this is the elephant in the room. We are afraid to disclose our vulnerability and woundedness. However, we have to attempt to go to this level because we will never have a healthy parish community unless we have developed transparency, support for each other, healing, mutual acceptance and reconciliation.
Once again, I think it is the meaning of Emmanuel. He is coming to be one us, to understand us and gather together as one family then that’s the time that we can initiate a dialogue with others and gladly journey to the home of the Father.