Homily of Fr. Silvino L. Borres, S.J., Rector of Loyola House of Studies, at LST’s Advent Mass and Memorial of St. Lucy held on 13 December 2021 at the Richie Fernando Covered Court
Readings: Numbers 24,2-7,15-17; Mt. 21,23-27
The name “Lucy” comes from the Latin word “lux,” which means “light,” and celebrations of her feast often include young girls wearing a crown of lights. She is also the patroness of the eyes. Little is known about St. Lucy, whose feast is today, except that she was martyred at the beginning of the 4th century and quickly became a famous saint. Tradition has it that during the persecution of Emperor Diocletian, Lucy distributed her dowry to the poor and was suspected of being a Christian. Lucy was reported to the authorities by the young man to whom she was betrothed for this kind deed. During the nights on Dec. 12 and 13, one can see meteors that come from the constellation Gemini. These are known as the “Lucy’s Lights. (https://www.setonmagazine.com/latest-articles/saint-lucy-early-christian-martyr-patron-saint-of-eyes)
For our homily this morning, I thought I would offer a short reflection on the authority of God. We saw how the chief priests and the elders challenged His authority in the gospel we just read. What was His authority, and who gave it to Him? Elsewhere, his authority impressed his listeners. After the healing of the man possessed by an unclean spirit in the gospel of Luke, the people exclaimed: “A new teaching with authority!”
Why such reaction among the ordinary people? Until they met Jesus, their image of God is taught by the scribes and Pharisees: a God who needs to be appeased with good works and strict observance of the Law; a God who metes out punishment to those who sin. A distant God, remote.
However, people see a different image of God when they encounter Jesus. The God whom Jesus revealed was loving, no less tolerant of evil ways, but compassionate and merciful nonetheless. A God who does not come with threats but with an invitation; a God who associates with sinners and outcasts. It was refreshing to hear Jesus talk about a God so close to them and loving, a God whose authority they can easily submit themselves to.
We may say Jesus’ authority is an authority of LOVE. The authority rooted in Jesus was the simple power he carried within him that represents the best people could be. He believed in the goodness of people.
When someone walks into our presence and tells us that they believe in us, telling us stories that connect to our experiences and speaking a word of hope, they have enormous authority over us.
Anthony de Mello tells a story of a journalist who wants to write a book about a guru. Therefore, he visits him and begins with the question, “People say you are a genius. Are you?”
“You might say so,” the guru answered none too modestly. But the journalist – who was not particularly shy either – immediately fired another question. “And what makes one a genius?” The guru responded, “The ability to see.” With this response, the journalist was at a loss and helplessly mumbled, “To see what?” The guru quietly answered, “The butterfly in a caterpillar, the eagle in an egg, the saint in a selfish person.” Whoever sees this is a genius in love. He picks up what is hidden in the other and is able, through his loving way of looking, to summon it, to call it forth.
Today we received the sad news that Fr. James A. O’Donnell, SJ, longtime educator, has died around three in the morning. Many people are mourning, especially his students whom he mentored. A cousin had the privilege of having Fr. Jim as director of her thesis here at the Ateneo. He believed in her, consequently restoring her self-confidence. She owed to him her calling as a teacher.
To see as God sees. The oracle in the Book of Numbers affirms this divine way of seeing: “The utterance of Balaam, son of Beor, the utterance of a man whose eye is true, … of one who sees what the Almighty sees, enraptured and with eyes unveiled.” Balaam was a wicked prophet commissioned by an evil king to pronounce curses on Israel but instead blessed Israel several times at Yahweh’s interventions. Although the oracle concerns the vision of the Almighty of Israel, it calls our attention to the Star of David, to Jesus, whose loving gaze at everyone he meets transforms and gives life.
To love is to reveal to a person their beauty and goodness. Jesus had a special gift for this. Jesus created a climate in which people could discover the good within themselves. Recall Mary Magdalene, Peter, Zacchaeus, Matthew, and many more. It is not difficult to imagine then that each encounter with God is much like an exorcism, stripping from every person, layer upon layer of lies and deceits, allowing the person to come forward and bask in the light as befitting children of God.
In the book Starlight (John Shea), a section discusses how God sees things, contrasting it with how human beings see things. Our view of things is always fragmentary; it is not complete. There is never a moment that we do not blink our eyes. The moment our eyes blink, we miss something of reality. God, on the other hand, does not blink at all. He sees things in their entirety and wholeness. Perhaps, this explains why God is not quick to judge and condemn people as we do? Perhaps, this explains why God is incredibly patient with people because he sees something we don’t?
There is no authority more powerful than the authority of love. May you hear the voice of the Lord in this season of Advent, tender and encouraging, summoning the beauty and the goodness unfolding within you. And may you be granted the same grace to love and see as God sees, revealing to others who they are: beloved of God.