The Misa de Gallo kicks off the nine-day novena beginning December 16 and ends on December 24. While the Mass usually begins at four o’clock, there are cities that have masses starting as early as three. The Misa de Gallo was started by Pope Sixtus V who ordered that Mass be heard before sunrise since it was the harvest season, and the farmers needed to be in the fields right after the celebration. White is the liturgical color authorized solely for Masses celebrated within the context of the novena; violet is used for any other Masses said during the day, as these are still considered part of the Advent season.
In the Gospel, John is in prison and has an important question for Jesus. While he was the one who baptized Jesus in the Jordan and knows His Lordship, John wasn’t sure about the connection of our Lord’s preaching and His establishing with power and glory. So as the Jews asked him “who are you?” it is now John’s turn to ask Jesus, “who are you?”
Then Jesus answered,
“Go back and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.” (Lk. 7: 22-23)
When confronted with earthly challenges and problems, our natural tendency is to pray to our Savior for help. We burn the wires to Heaven in order to be heard. In fact, a well-known folk belief among Filipinos is that if a devotee completed all nine days of the Misa de Gallo, a request made as part of the novena may be granted. However, when our prayers aren’t granted yet, we wonder where the Lord is. We want to look for Him! And if we were in Jesus time, where would we be looking for Him, in Bethlehem or in Jerusalem?
In those times, Bethlehem was an insignificant place. Nobody would even want to talk about where it is, considering how underdeveloped it was then, an equivalent of our barrio to a Jerusalem city. Instead, maybe most of the Jewish people would cite Jerusalem, being a large city in those days, a most likely place for a “King” to be born.
One insight is that we only have to look at the Belen, the most important decoration during the Yuletide season. In the Belen, we can see the infant Jesus in the manger, surrounded by the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, the shepherds and their flock, the Magi and some stable animals and angels. So it’s really not a likely place to find the Messiah, right? And yet the simplest people of all, the shepherds found that place to find Him. They were guided by the angels who led them to the manger, where the Christ Child is.
Do you remember the times when your prayers were answered, and how you felt so much joy and happiness that you say, “you’re close to Heaven”. And then when experiencing trials and sufferings, you again ask, “where is God?” When experiencing such feelings of dryness and loneliness, we easily get discouraged so that at times we think God is playing games with us. Of course, God doesn’t play dice with us! God is not giving us a problem to solve, but rather it is our stubbornness that makes us understand Him less!
The Scriptures tell us that we shouldn’t lose hope. God will fulfill His promise of sending the Savior to us!
“The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah. In those days, in that time, I will raise up for David a just shoot; he shall do what is right and just in the land.” (Jer. 33: 14 – 15).
We must believe, we must have faith! “God writes straight in crooked lines” (Archbishop Romulo Valles, D.D., Archbishop of Davao). Because of our fickle-mindedness, we need many Advents and Christmases to experience and to learn to love Him more. Are we the ones looking first for the Lord? It is actually the opposite: God want to see us more, before we even want to see Him! In the story of Zacchaeus the tax collector, while Zacchaeus climbed a sycamore tree to see Jesus, who was passing by, it was the Lord who called him saying,
“Zacchaeus come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.” (Lk. 19: 5b)
Take it to heart: Jesus will come and meet us. This is the experience of Christmas.