IT’S THE SMALL THINGS
By ALEX M. EDUQUE
On the first day of Simbang Gabi, the priest opened his homily with these words: “A few hours ago, Pope Francis, for the very first time in the four hundred year history of the Catholic Church celebrated Simbang Gabi with ten thousand Filipino migrants, and over two hundred priests at Saint Peter’s Basilica. This tradition, he told the Filipinos in attendance, is your gift to the world.”
When the highest official of the Catholic Church utters these words, and then is echoed on in the wee hours of the morning, it strikes you in a different way – at least to me. A statement that gives credit, yet one which also leaves a marked impact despite being so selfless. It left me thinking about when I first started engaging in this tradition, and why. And my why, resonated with the rest of the homily.
The priest that morning went on to talk about how the Simbang Gabi is also known as Aguinaldo (which means gift in Spanish) because one is believed to complete the nine-day novena praying for a wish that is said to be granted at the end. I attended my very first Simbang Gabi as a senior in high school as I anxiously anticipated and waited to hear back from my first choice college. It is one of those things where you did all that you could, and then you are left with no choice but to leave the rest up to fate. In my case, I decided to leave it up to faith. I remember so well that it was on the fifth day of Simbang Gabi that year when I got my acceptance letter, and so the rest of the novena was spent in Thanksgiving. And while I believe that I have always been prayerful, I know in my heart that strengthened my faith, and sealed my unwavering belief in the power of prayer.
I do believe that whether or not you have a specific intention, prayer should be a part of your everyday life. Prayer is as much about giving thanks as it is about asking. To me, it should be a constant dialogue turned into habit. It is true when they say that one must be specific in prayer, but believe me too when I say that at your most challenging points, even when you are at a loss for words, you realize that God truly knows what is in your heart when you surrender all to Him. Prayer, to me, is not only for guidance. It is but the smallest of gifts to the big Man up there for all the blessings one has received. And though there is no one way to pray, nor is there a right or wrong way to engage in prayer, it is a language which I believe unifies all – regardless of race, ethnicity, and even religion. It is a poignant example of how differences can bring out more similarity if we make an effort to look more closely.
If we were to wake up everyday thinking about what gift we can give to our greater community instead of dwelling on the frustrations and negativity this world is capable of sometimes bringing about, we would most definitely be in a better and happier place. Positivity starts within, and the energy you evoke is how the environment eventually perceives you. Do one (preferably more) act of kindness a day, and the rest will follw. Be a gift to your community. Be a gift to this world.