Tiwala (Faith) – Ij Gonzaga-Chan, SJ

Luke 1:26-38

My dear friends, on this sixth day of our Simbang Gabi, we hear once more the story of the Annunciation to Mary. We hear again the story of how a young girl’s “yes” ushered in our very salvation history. And so for tonight’s reflection, allow me to suggest the theme of “to have faith… tiwala.” To have faith in the context of trusting, of believing, of allowing that room in one’s heart to believe still, to hope still. Trust, hope – words so wanting in today’s disquieted world!


I tried searching the web for a nice picture of the Annunciation and this is what I found very striking. What strikes me is Mary’s facial reaction, of mixed fear and awe and concern but with an unexplainable glow, in the very privacy of her room – personal, deeply intimate. Her fiat was a personal one, a private one made in the very intimacy of her being with the Divine with no witnesses, no proof (in today’s language). What profound faith for a 14- or 16-year old, knowing how she could be misinterpreted, not believed, even stoned to death if people knew the condition of her coming pregnancy. Such trust and courage of heart that I can only imagine.

My friends, I invite us to try to picture that scene again, reconstruct that magnificent scene! And all that it stood for! Because a bit too often we forget that in that very scene, there were two who risked, who trusted, whose faith were truly unimaginable – Mary’s and God’s.

We are already at a loss at the profoundness of Mary’s risking, of her trusting, but what about that of God’s – the mystery of the incarnation: God becoming man, Infinite allowing the restrictions of the finite, Eternal to be made bound in time and space. Can we even make sense of this? But that day, as the angel stood before Mary, I can only picture God himself looking at the world, with all its brokenness and undeserved gifts being wasted and still seeing good and beauty. A God who still had faith in us to risk, to trust sending the Son, isang Diyos na patuloy na nagtitiwala at naniniwala sa kabutihan ng sangnilikha!

Tonight we celebrate Mary’s fiat, her trusting in the Lord. But what trust the Lord must have had in her, in us. There must be something good still in us for our God to hold on, believing, hoping, allowing room in his heart to have faith in us. For too often, we look at each other and we fail to see. We fail to see the goodness, yet we see the pain, the anger, the betrayal. We see the threat, the division, the hate. We teach our children to no longer trust, unconsciously jading them with our own jaded experiences of such a wounded world.

Tonight we are asked again, as we are reminded of how God looks at us, at the world, to also just have faith still, faith in each other, in ourselves, in our capacity to be good still. Advent reminds us of a God who trusted and continues to trust in us, a God who continues to believe in us even, or most especially, when we have lost faith in ourselves! Faith. Maybe this is what we truly need, especially in these days of uncertainty and seeming apathy. Leaving room in our hearts to trust enough that we do not lose hope in humanity, in ourselves!

For I believe, my friends, as one Jesuit friend shared in a conversation just this afternoon, in the end, we are asked to remember that it is God who loved us first and will continue to love us, and if only we would believe enough, trust enough, we would feel the very heartbeat of God!

And so as we continue with this mass, let us quiet down for a moment. We ask God for that space within, that as he prepares to engage the world in all its woundedness, so may we be willing to engage it with him. To be ready to receive the birth of the Savior, and be instruments of his heart and hope in today’s bleeding world. Amen.

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