For the Filipino faithful, one of the highlights of Christmas is attending Simbang Gabi or Christmas Day Mass celebrated by His Excellency, Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, at the Manila Cathedral.
These days, you’d have to be in Rome to experience that privilege, as the Cardinal has been based there for a year, having accepted the post of Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. He, in fact, recently became the first Filipino cardinal to celebrate Simbang Gabi Mass at the Vatican. What a treat for the 168 people who were in attendance!
For the rest of us, there’s YouTube and of course, My Pope Philippines, to help us reflect on his Christmas messages, which remain timeless and relevant no matter what the year.
2019: ‘More Than Your Christmas Bonus, Be Excited About the Birth of Christ’
What do you most look forward to at Christmas? Our Savior seems to be the last priority at a time of family reunions and gifts to give and receive. (Read: Vatican Publishes Compilation of ‘Lockdown Homilies’ by Pope Francis)
“Ngayong Pasko, si Hesus ba ang pinananabikan ng iba?” asked Cardinal Tagle in his homily for the first Mass of Simbang Gabi 2019. “Mukhang hindi naman, eh. Ang pinananabikan? Bonus. Pinananabikan makapag-shopping. Alam na alam lahat saan may discount—pero ‘yung ebanghelyo, parang hindi naman mahalaga.”
While presents are a perk of Christmas, let’s not forget the real reason behind the season. “Mga kapatid,” he said, “naghahanda tayo para tanggapin natin lahat at ng marami pang tao si Hesus.”
2018: ‘Christmas Is a Time for Us to Rediscover Our Youth’
In the Year of the Youth, Cardinal Tagle reminds us in his Christmas Day homily of a ruler who will inaugurate a reign of joy and peace. “For a child is given to us. A child is born,” he said. “Ang magdadala ng tunay na kaligayahan at kapayapaan ay isang bata, at ang pangalan niya ay Hesus.” (Read: 3 Kinds of Catholic Mass Celebrations on Christmas Day)
“Kaya po, doon sa mga nag-iisip na sila ay ‘adult’ na, pero nawala sa kanila ang pagiging tunay na bata katulad ni Hesus, ‘yan ang nagiging daan ng gulo at kalungkutan,” Cardinal Tagle said. “Christmas in the Year of the Youth is an invitation for all of us to see how a child can rule with joy and peace. That’s the promise a child is given us. Let us recover our being children like Jesus.”
2017: ‘This Christmas, Give Joy and Receive Happiness in Return’
— CNN Philippines (@cnnphilippines) December 25, 2017
Everybody is happy during Christmas, but we can only be truly happy when we are able to bring joy to others. “We find creative ways of making the sick, orphan, prisoner, widow, hungry, homeless, and victims of violence and natural disasters feel they are important and loved,” said Cardinal Tagle in his 2017 Christmas Day message.
“We witnessed this joy among the drug dependents who had completed the Sanlakbay Parish drug rehabilitation program, their families, the barangay officials, the police, and volunteers. We saw this joy in our Moslem brothers and sisters who had protected Christians from persecution in Marawi, and joy in the Christians who had experienced heroic love from those who differed from them.”
“Seeing their smiles, we are moved to tears,” he said. “As we give joy, we receive joy in return.”
2016: ‘May Christmas Make Us More Hospitable and Welcoming to Others’
At Christmas, receiving is fun, but giving—especially to those who have nothing or feel like they are less than nothing is this world—is far more fulfilling. It’s the message of Cardinal Tagle when he visited the New Bilibid Prison to celebrate Mass on Pope Francis’s birthday. (Read: Celebrate Pope Francis’s 84th Birthday — the Filipino Way!)
“As Filipinos and as members of the human family, we need to ask: why is there room for a new television set or the latest gadget but not enough for another child in the family?” Cardinal Tagle said. “Why are vices within reach of young people while education seems unattainable? Why are guns and weapons more accessible than decent jobs?”
“Christmas is a reminder of hospitality denied by people but reversed by the merciful hospitality offered by God,” he said. “I pray that our Christmas may make us more hospitable or welcoming to others, especially the poor and needy.”