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  • From: Rosalindcountry flag
    Total Posts: 1
    Wed, 30 Aug 2017 07:18:08 +0800
    Samochody _l_skie, U_ywane Auta Na Sprzeda_ OLX.pl (Dawniej Tablica.pl) _l_skie

    Aby zapewni_ najwy_sz_ jako__ us_ug i wygodne korzystanie z serwisu, u_ywamy informacji zapisanych w przegl_darce za pomoc_ plików cookies (pol.: ciasteczek). Sprzeda_ odbywa si_ na podstawie prostych i klarownych procedur, bez zb_dnych formalno_ci, w zgodzie z obowi_zuj_cymi przepisami prawa, zapraszamy siedem dni w tygodniu. Dost_pne w naszych komisach samochody osobowe u_ywane to szansa na zakup bezpiecznego i bogato wyposa_onego auta, w przyst_pnej cenie. Dost_pne w naszej propozycji samochody u_ywane (sprzeda_ - Warszawa i ca_y region samochody osobowe u_ywane volkswagen polo - st_d zg_asza si_ najwi_ksza liczba kierowców) oferowane s_ na dogodnych warunkach finansowania.

    Rozgl_dasz si_ miejskim autem do pracy lub szukasz terenowego SUV-a? Przejrzyj og_oszenia lokalne zamieszczone w kategorii Samochody osobowe, w których znajduj_ si_ pojazdy wielu kable rozruchowe do akumulatora popularnych marek, jak na przyk_ad Fiat, Chevrolet, Volkswagen, Mercedes czy Toyota. W_ród anonsów znale__ mo_na auta u_ywane w dobrych cenach, jak i nowe samochody osobowe.

    Mo_esz obserwowa_ tylko 300 wyszukiwa_ jednocze_nie. Wyra_am zgod_ na przesy_anie mi przez Grupa OLX Sp. z za pomoc_ _rodków komunikacji elektronicznej oraz telekomunikacyjnych urz_dze_ ko_cowych auto sprzedam szczecin informacji handlowych (np. newsletterów, wiadomo_ci SMS). Niniejsza oferta handlowa nie stanowi oferty w rozumieniu przepisów Kodeksu Cywilnego oraz innych w_a_ciwych przepisów prawnych.

    Prosimy odebranie maila w celu potwierdzenia adresu, na który b_dziemy wysy_a_ powiadomienia. Sprzedam Poloneza 1.6 GLE benzyna rok prod. 1994 przebieg 104266 km, hak, auto sprawne technicznie skoda jazda próbna ubezpieczone zarejestrowane. a te które prezentujemy s_ _ród_em utrzymania portalu. Mo_esz okre_li_ warunki przechowywania lub dost_pu do cookies w Twojej przegl_darce lub konfiguracji us_ugi.

    Sprzeda_ odbywa si_ na podstawie prostych i klarownych procedur, bez zb_dnych formalno_ci, w zgodzie z obowi_zuj_cymi przepisami prawa, zapraszamy siedem dni w tygodniu. Dost_pne w naszych komisach samochody osobowe u_ywane to szansa na zakup bezpiecznego i bogato wyposa_onego auta, w przyst_pnej cenie. Dost_pne w naszej propozycji samochody u_ywane (sprzeda_ - Warszawa i ca_y region kupowanie u_ywanego samochodu poradnik - st_d zg_asza si_ najwi_ksza liczba kierowców) oferowane s_ na dogodnych warunkach finansowania.

    i ju_ jutro dostaniesz powiadomienie je_eli podobne auto gdziekolwiek si_ u nas pojawi! Ka_de takie powiadomienie zawiera hyperlink do wykasowania malingu, wiec bez obaw nadmiar dobrego - zach_camy seat alhambra u_ywane do skorzystania! Klikaj_c Dodaj powiadomienie_, wyra_asz zgod_ na nasze Zasady korzystania i Polityk_ prywatno_ci oraz zgadzasz si_ na otrzymywanie naszych newsletterów i ofert promocyjnych.

    Prosimy odebranie maila w celu potwierdzenia adresu, na który b_dziemy wysy_a_ powiadomienia. Sprzedam Poloneza 1.6 GLE benzyna rok prod. 1994 przebieg 104266 km, hak, auto sprawne technicznie porsche u_ywane ubezpieczone zarejestrowane. a te które prezentujemy s_ _ród_em utrzymania portalu. Mo_esz okre_li_ warunki przechowywania lub dost_pu do cookies w Twojej przegl_darce lub konfiguracji us_ugi.

    Sprzeda_ odbywa si_ na podstawie prostych i klarownych procedur, bez zb_dnych formalno_ci, w zgodzie z obowi_zuj_cymi przepisami prawa, zapraszamy siedem dni w tygodniu. Dost_pne w naszych komisach samochody osobowe u_ywane to szansa na zakup bezpiecznego i bogato wyposa_onego auta, w przyst_pnej cenie. Dost_pne w naszej propozycji samochody u_ywane (sprzeda_ - Warszawa i ca_y area samochody toyota avensis u_ywane - st_d zg_asza si_ najwi_ksza liczba kierowców) oferowane s_ na dogodnych warunkach finansowania.
  • From: Janicountry flag
    Total Posts: 1
    Mon, 28 Aug 2017 16:41:09 +0800
    Kodiaq Family

    Historia istnienia marki si_ga roku 1859, kiedy to w Pil_nie za_o_one zosta_y zak_ady _kody, które w 1869 roku przej_te zosta_y przez Emila _kod_ od hrabiego Arnosta Waldsteina Pocz_tkowo zajmowano si_ przemys_em metalowym, a nast_pnie zbrojeniowym. Poznaj zalety oferty: niska suma op_at 102% (dla parametrów oferty: 3 lata, 20% op_aty wst_pnej, 1% warto__ wykupu); op_ata wst_pna ju_ od 0 samochody homologacja n1% warto_ci auta; okres leasingu - 2, 3, four albo 5 lat; szeroki pakiet ubezpiecze_ komunikacyjnych OC, AC, NNW, Assistance; ubezpieczenie warto_ci fakturowej RTI - zabezpieczaj_ce w przypadku wyst_pienia kradzie_y lub szkody ca_kowitej; wszystkie formalno_ci za_atwiane w salonie z pomoc_ doradcy; decyzja leasingowa w ninety minut.

    Nowe systemy zapewniaj_ce bezpiecze_stwo i komfort. Teraz mo_esz mie_ nowe auto p_ac_c bardzo nisk_ miesi_czna rat_, któr_ mo_esz wliczy_ w koszt uzyskania przychodu. Wybierz co_ dla siebie z podobnych, które znale_li_my. Oferta na wszystkie octavia iii laurin klement modele _KODY z rocznika 2017 przy skorzystaniu z ubezpieczenia komunikacyjnego i ubezpieczenia sp_aty kredytu oferowanych przez Volkswagen Serwis Ubezpieczeniowy Sp. z. Niniejsza informacja nie stanowi oferty w rozumieniu Kodeksu cywilnego.

    Poznaj _KODA Leasing Niskich Rat i zobacz korzy_ci dla Twojej firmy: wyj_tkowo niska miesi_czna rata; op_ata wst_pna ju_ od zero% warto_ci auta; okres leasingu - 2, 3 lub 4 lata; 2 mo_liwo_ci zako_czenia kontraktu: zwrot auta do dealera bohemia motors praca lub wykup pojazdu. Akcesoria _KODY pomog_ Ci w przygotowaniu si_ do wyjazdu. Wyra_am zgod_ na przesy_anie mi przez Grupa OLX Sp. z za pomoc_ _rodków komunikacji elektronicznej oraz telekomunikacyjnych urz_dze_ ko_cowych informacji handlowych (np.

    W przypadku zwrotu auta: brak k_opotów z odsprzeda__ (gwarantowana warto__ odkupu samochodu); mo_liwo__ zmiany na nowe (w ramach kolejnej umowy leasingowej); szeroki pakiet ubezpiecze_ komunikacyjnych OC, AC, NNW, Help; ubezpieczenie warto_ci fakturowej RTI; zabezpieczaj_ce w przypadku wyst_pienia kradzie_y lub szkody ca_kowitej; wszystkie formalno_ci za_atwiane w salonie z pomoc_ doradcy; decyzja leasingowa w ninety skoda rapid osi_gi minut; mo_liwo__ skorzystania z Pakietu dla Biznesu.

    _KODA Kredyt Niskich Rat i _KODA Leasing Niskich Rat otrzyma_y. Zadaj nam pytanie, wype_niaj_c poni_szy formularz kontaktowy lub skontaktuj si_ z nami korzystaj_c z numeru infolinii 801 234 234 lub sixty one 6 678 678. Do podró_owania z dzie_mi vw wynajem d_ugoterminowy warto si_ dobrze przygotowa_. Nic dziwnego, _e sylwetka nowej _KODY KODIAQ przyci_ga spojrzenia. Nowy, solidnie skonstruowany SUV z gatunku niezawodnych b_dzie dla Ciebie wiernym towarzyszem codziennych wyzwa_ i wi_kszych, rodzinnych misji.

    Poznaj _KODA Leasing Niskich Rat i zobacz korzy_ci dla Twojej firmy: wyj_tkowo niska miesi_czna rata; op_ata wst_pna ju_ od zero% warto_ci auta; okres leasingu - 2, three lub four lata; 2 mo_liwo_ci zako_czenia kontraktu: zwrot auta do dealera skoda rapid 1.2 mpi lpg lub wykup pojazdu. Akcesoria _KODY pomog_ Ci w przygotowaniu si_ do wyjazdu. Wyra_am zgod_ na przesy_anie mi przez Grupa OLX Sp. z za pomoc_ _rodków komunikacji elektronicznej oraz telekomunikacyjnych urz_dze_ ko_cowych informacji handlowych (np.

    Poznaj zalety oferty: niska suma op_at 102% (dla parametrów oferty: 3 lata, 20% op_aty wst_pnej, 1% warto__ wykupu); op_ata wst_pna ju_ od 0% warto_ci auta; okres leasingu - 2, 3, 4 albo 5 lat; szeroki pakiet ubezpiecze_ komunikacyjnych OC, AC, NNW, Help made a post; ubezpieczenie warto_ci fakturowej RTI - zabezpieczaj_ce w przypadku wyst_pienia kradzie_y lub szkody ca_kowitej; wszystkie formalno_ci za_atwiane w salonie z pomoc_ doradcy; decyzja leasingowa w ninety minut.

    Nowe systemy zapewniaj_ce bezpiecze_stwo i komfort. Teraz mo_esz mie_ nowe auto p_ac_c bardzo nisk_ miesi_czna rat_, któr_ mo_esz wliczy_ w koszt uzyskania przychodu. Wybierz co_ dla siebie z podobnych, które znale_li_my. Oferta na wszystkie skoda octavia poland modele _KODY z rocznika 2017 przy skorzystaniu z ubezpieczenia komunikacyjnego i ubezpieczenia sp_aty kredytu oferowanych przez Volkswagen Serwis Ubezpieczeniowy Sp. z. Niniejsza informacja nie stanowi oferty w rozumieniu Kodeksu cywilnego.

    Poznaj _KODA Leasing Niskich Rat i zobacz korzy_ci dla Twojej firmy: wyj_tkowo niska miesi_czna rata; op_ata wst_pna ju_ od zero% warto_ci auta; okres leasingu - 2, 3 lub 4 lata; 2 mo_liwo_ci zako_czenia kontraktu: zwrot auta do dealera skoda kombi leasing lub wykup pojazdu. Akcesoria _KODY pomog_ Ci w przygotowaniu si_ do wyjazdu. Wyra_am zgod_ na przesy_anie mi przez Grupa OLX Sp. z za pomoc_ _rodków komunikacji elektronicznej oraz telekomunikacyjnych urz_dze_ ko_cowych informacji handlowych (np.

    Poznaj zalety oferty: niska suma op_at 102% (dla parametrów oferty: three lata, 20% op_aty wst_pnej, 1% warto__ wykupu); op_ata wst_pna ju_ od zero% warto_ci auta; okres leasingu - 2, three, four albo 5 lat; szeroki pakiet ubezpiecze_ komunikacyjnych OC, AC, NNW, Assistance kwota leasingu; ubezpieczenie warto_ci fakturowej RTI - zabezpieczaj_ce w przypadku wyst_pienia kradzie_y lub szkody ca_kowitej; wszystkie formalno_ci za_atwiane w salonie z pomoc_ doradcy; decyzja leasingowa w 90 minut.
  • From: alvincountry flag
    Total Posts: 1
    Thu, 18 Feb 2016 19:12:53 +0800
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Homily for the Week

Solemnity of Christ the King

Solemnity of Christ the KingThere is so much goodness innate in man. Humanity is sensitive to the pain of Yolanda casualties. Indeed the reign of God is not only on the cross but on the persons who shares the suffering of the crucified Christ. the humanity is symbolized here by the good thief that despite of his own weakness he knows deep within his own soul, a profound sympathy with Christ.

Therefore the feast today has something to do with the fundamental value of our being, that indeed we are God's image. Only one who is in the image of God that becomes a manifestation of God's goodness.

Yet there is an obvious tension on what is happening in this particular event. A tension on centrality, who would lead, who to trust, who to follow. I am not in a position to give a sociological analysis of this, but obviously one can notice some frictions of relationship and leadership. There is no one king. Everybody wants to be a king on their own way.

If we magnify this phenomenon in the society, we see that because of too much secularism and relativism, we lost our integration, we lost our unity. If there is no Jesus to stand as King, we would build our own kingdoms, we certainly clash to one another. Inevitably we destroy each other in the long run.

The Kingdom of Christ is already in us, because our soul is the seat of God. we affirm its utter value in our vulnerability, in our pain, or in somebody's pain. The good thief without a doubt has exemplified this to us. the world will never attain unity, if we do not recognize this goodness in us. only in goodness, compassion and care that we can build the kingdom of God, not in our own vainglories and status, not in our pride and egotism.

Let us try to reflect on this and perhaps teach this to your children, that God's kingdom is in Us, that the beauty of our being manifests already God's presence. And that there would be no family if there is no Christ in our midst. There will be no Church if there is no Christ as head. Will you allow him to rule over your life as King? Will you allow him to manage your family as the head? Will you continue to share with his suffering and be able still to flourish that innate goodness in us despite our own sins and frailties? Perhaps the Kingdom of God will find its place again with us...


Papal Message for LENT 2013

Papal Message for LENT 2013Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The celebration of Lent, in the context of the Year of Faith, offers us a valuable opportunity to meditate on the relationship between faith and charity: between believing in God?the God of Jesus Christ?and love, which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit and which guides us on the path of devotion to God and others.

1. Faith as a response to the love of God
In my first Encyclical, I offered some thoughts on the close relationship between the theological virtues of faith and charity. Setting out from Saint John's fundamental assertion: "We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us”, I observed that “being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction
... Since God has first loved us, love is now no longer a mere ‘command'; it is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us”. Faith is this personal adherence?which involves all our faculties?to the revelation of God's gratuitous and “passionate” love for us, fully revealed in Jesus Christ. The encounter with God who is Love engages not only the heart but also the intellect: “Acknowledgement of the living God is one path towards love, and the ‘yes' of our will to his will unites our intellect, will and sentiments in the all-embracing act of love. But this process is always open-ended; love is never ‘finished' and complete”. Hence, for all Christians, and especially for “charity workers”, there is a need for faith, for “that encounter with God in Christ which awakens their love and opens their spirits to others. As a result, love of neighbour will no longer be for them a commandment imposed, so to speak, from without, but a consequence deriving from their faith, a faith which becomes active through love”. Christians are people who have been conquered by Christ's love and accordingly, under the influence of that love?“Caritas Christi urget nos”? they are profoundly open to loving their neighbour in concrete ways. This attitude arises primarily from the consciousness of being loved, forgiven, and even served by the Lord, who bends down to was h the feet of the Apostles and offers himself on the Cross to draw humanity into God's love.

“Faith tells us that God has given his Son for our sakes and gives us the victorious certainty that it is really true: God is love! ... Faith, which sees the love of God revealed in the pierced heart of Jesus on the Cross, gives rise to love. Love is the light?and in the end, the only light?that can always illuminate a world grown dim and give us the courage needed to keep living and working”. All this helps us to understand that the principal distinguishing mark of Christians is precisely “love grounded in and shaped by faith”.

2. Charity as life in faith
The entire Christian life is a response to God's love. The first response is precisely faith as the acceptance, filled with wonder and gratitude, of the unprecedented divine initiative that precedes us and summons us. And the “yes” of faith marks the beginning of a radiant story of friendship with the Lord, which fills and gives full meaning to our whole life. But it is not enough for God that we simply accept his gratuitous love. Not only does he love us, but he wants to draw us to himself, to transform us in such a profound way as to bring us to say with Saint Paul: “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me”.
When we make room for the love of God, then we become like him, sharing in his own charity. If we open ourselves to his love, we allow him to live in us and to bring us to love with him, in him and like him; only then does our faith become truly “active through love”; only then does he abide in us.

Faith is knowing the truth and adhering to it; charity is “walking” in the truth. Through faith we enter into friendship with the Lord, through charity this friendship is lived and cultivated. Faith causes us to embrace the commandment of our Lord and Master; charity gives us the happiness of putting it into practice. In faith we are begotten as children of God; charity causes us to persevere concretely in our divine sonship, bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Faith enables us to recognize the gifts that the good and generous God has entrusted to us; charity makes them fruitful.

3. The indissoluble interrelation of faith and charity
In light of the above, it is clear that we can never separate, let alone oppose, faith and charity. These two theological virtues are intimately linked, and it is misleading to posit a contrast or “dialectic” between them. On the one hand, it would be too one-sided to place a strong emphasis on the priority and decisiveness of faith and to undervalue and almost despise concrete works of charity, reducing them to a vague humanitarianism. On the other hand, though, it is equally unhelpful to overstate the primacy of charity and the activity it generates, as if works could take the place of faith. For a healthy spiritual life, it is necessary to avoid both fideism and moral activism.

The Christian life consists in continuously scaling the mountain to meet God and then coming back down, bearing the love and strength drawn from him, so as to serve our brothers and sisters with God's own love. In sacred Scripture, we see how the zeal of the Apostles to proclaim the Gospel and awaken people's faith is closely related to their charitable concern to be of service to the poor. In the Church, contemplation and action, symbolized in some way by the Gospel figures of Mary and Martha, have to coexist and complement each other. The relationship with God must always be the priority, and any true sharing of goods, in the spirit of the Gospel, must be rooted in faith. Sometimes we tend, in fact, to reduce the term “charity” to solidarity or simply humanitarian aid. It is important, however, to remember that the greatest work of charity is evangelisation, which is the “ministry of the word”. There is no action more beneficial – and therefore more charitable – towards one's neighbour than to break the bread of the word of God, to share with him the Good News of the Gospel, to introduce him to a relationship with God: evangelisation is the highest and the most integral promotion of the human person. As the Servant of God Pope Paul VI wrote in the Encyclical "Populorum Progressio", the proclamation of Christ is the first and principal contributor to development. It is the primordial truth of the love of God for us, lived and proclaimed, that opens our lives to receive this love and makes possible the integral development of humanity and of every man.

Essentially, everything proceeds from Love and tends towards Love. God's gratuitous love is made known to us through the proclamation of the Gospel. If we welcome it with faith, we receive the first and indispensable contact with the Divine, capable of making us “fall in love with Love”, and then we dwell within this Love, we grow in it and we joyfully communicate it to others.
Concerning the relationship between faith and works of charity, there is a passage in the Letter to the Ephesians which provides perhaps the best account of the link between the two: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God; not because of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them”. It can be seen here that the entire redemptive initiative comes from God, from his grace, from his forgiveness received in faith; but this initiative, far from limiting our freedom and our responsibility, is actually what makes them authentic and directs them towards works of charity. These are not primarily the result of human effort, in which to take pride, but they are born of faith and they flow from the grace that God gives in abundance. Faith without works is like a tree without fruit: the two virtues imply one another. Lent invites us, through the traditional practices of the Christian life, to nourish our faith by careful and extended listening to the word of God and by receiving the sacraments, and at the same time to grow in charity and in love for God and neighbour, not least through the specific practices of fasting, penance and almsgiving.

4. Priority of faith, primacy of charity
Like any gift of God, faith and charity have their origin in the action of one and the same Holy Spirit, the Spirit within us that cries out “Abba, Father”, and makes us say: “Jesus is Lord!” and “Maranatha!”.
Faith, as gift and response, causes us to know the truth of Christ as Love incarnate and crucified, as full and perfect obedience to the Father's will and infinite divine mercy towards neighbour; faith implants in hearts and minds the firm conviction that only this Love is able to conquer evil and death. Faith invites us to look towards the future with the virtue of hope, in the confident expectation that the victory of Christ's love will come to its fullness. For its part, charity ushers us into the love of God manifested in Christ and joins us in a personal and existential way to the total and unconditional self-giving of Jesus to the Father and to his brothers and sisters. By filling our hearts with his love, the Holy Spirit makes us sharers in Jesus' filial devotion to God and fraternal devotion to every man.

The relationship between these two virtues resembles that between the two fundamental sacraments of the Church: Baptism and Eucharist. Baptism ("sacramentum fidei") precedes the Eucharist ("sacramentum caritatis"), but is ordered to it, the Eucharist being the fullness of the Christian journey. In a similar way, faith precedes charity, but faith is genuine only if crowned by charity. Everything begins from the humble acceptance of faith (“knowing that one is loved by God”), but has to arrive at the truth of charity (“knowing how to love God and neighbour”), which remains for ever, as the fulfilment of all the virtues.

Dear brothers and sisters, in this season of Lent, as we prepare to celebrate the event of the Cross and Resurrection?in which the love of God redeemed the world and shone its light upon history?I express my wish that all of you may spend this precious time rekindling your faith in Jesus Christ, so as to enter with him into the dynamic of love for the Father and for every brother and sister that we encounter in our lives. For this intention, I raise my prayer to God, and I invoke the Lord's blessing upon each individual and upon every community!


Fr. Vlad’s Homily on Epiphany

Fr. Vlad’s Homily on EpiphanyThe three Persons of the Trinity from all eternity were giving the gift of their persons to one another in perfect charity.  We could say, that was the first “exchange gifts” ever.  The outpouring of that Trinitarian charity gave birth to creation which is the manifestation of the Trinitarian life.  God truly revealed His presence by walking in and through creation; St. Augustine calls it the “vestiges (or the imprints) of the Trinity”.  It was the first Epiphany of God.

When the Second Person of the Trinity became flesh, God once again manifest Himself by showing not just His imprints but His very face.  This time it was the outpouring of God's mercy that He showed Himself again to save creation by becoming a creature Himself.  Through this Epiphany, Jesus showed that His was the face of mercy!

God offered Himself as a gift.  How did people respond to such a magnificent gift?  The Israelites sneered and rejected the gift; they would not even give Him a room! Like the Israelites, Herod did not just reject the gift but he did all he could to destroy it. The magi who represented the Gentiles left their homes in search of “something greater than themselves”.  When they found the baby, they entered the house and from that very moment, the Messiah welcomed the first people into His Church.   The star guided them in their journey.  Those who honestly search for the meaning of life will always be guided by the disguised presence of God be it through the persons they meet on the way or through simple objects or even through insignificant events.  Some of the stars in our lives fade away in oblivion, we may even forget their names but they continuously shine brightly in our hearts.  The magi offered the baby their gifts; meeting God through the face of a little child is so powerful that it can melt the heart of the greediest person.   To those who truly encounter God can not but express their charity even to giving up their lives in the case of martyrs and saints.   After Christmas, it is more than the new year's resolutions that we promise God but the continuous gifting of ourselves even out of our poverty.  The magi after encountering God took a different route on their way home.  It was a sign of true conversion.  It is hard but sometimes after worshipping God, we go back to the many Herods of our lives.

The next persons who saw first the face of God were the shepherds because they were simple and pure of heart.  Like the magi, they were the first ones to proclaim the Word made flesh.  In the simplicity of their wisdom, they became the first prophets of the Incarnation.  Those who encounter God can not but become “evangelizers of the Word” not only by preaching but in the witnessing of their ordinary lives.

But the very first receivers of God's gift were Mary and Joseph; they were given the singular gift of gazing for the very first time the face of God because they had given their selves to God most generously.  One day, it would break Mary's heart to see that face again covered with blood.   Mary would have to  give that gift to others as a supreme offering for to withhold the gift is to perish.  She teaches us that the excruciating pain in giving would lead to the supreme joy of receiving.  That is the true essence of a gift.

God continuously shows His face to the world, in the “here and now epiphany” through the people around us; when we look into their eyes we can see the true image of God.


Opposites and Inversions

Opposites and InversionsFr. Tito Ayo's Homily
5th Sunday of Lent

In this world of stiff competition to survive, we always want to win, and we tend to separate, divide and alienate. We separate the body from the spirit, and we see others as if they are just walking dolls or hovering spirits. We separate the mind from the heart, and so we find people who may be emotionally disturbed or mentally disoriented. We see people as categories, and we are not one with them. We see the world as separate continents, so each one does not have to be responsible for another's problems. We alienate the poor from the rich, and we see them as affluent or needy. We alienate the “less educated” from the “educated,” and we seem to be comfortable with discrimination in workplaces, in applying for work and in the delivery of benefits.

We believe that the order of the concept of living is life and death. We treat the infamy of suffering as independent from the splendor of glory. We prefer to be served than to serve. We work hard to receive rather than to give. We seek happiness in material things now as if there is no other life, rather than seek the joy of human and divine values so that we can be happy here and in the life to come. We tend to care for our bodies as if we hold the reins of life, rather than seek the ways leading to eternity. We want to separate the love of God from the love of neighbor, so that we won't be accountable for our neglect and indifference.

In Jesus we see the combination of opposites and inversions. For Jesus the order of the concept of living is death-life. The grain must die in order to have life and bear fruit. The death of Jesus is not only for Him to have life, but that we may have life and have it to the full. He carried the cross so that all who are weary and tired may come to Him and find rest. He saw glory in suffering, life in death, and resurrection in being buried. For Jesus, His death is fruitfulness. His loss is gain for us. He taught that to go up to the Father is to go down deep into the self, to repent and be converted. He is the integration of the person: that man cannot be separated from himself, that mind and heart are one, that man cannot be alienated from his neighbor. Only Jesus is the answer to the difficult questions of life and seeming contradictions between suffering and glory, division and unity, alienation and friendship.

Despite His people's sinfulness, God did not forsake them. He renewed His covenant with them when He said through the prophet Jeremiah:

I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer will they have need to teach their friends and relatives how to know the LORD (31:33-34).

According to circumstances and judgments of the mind, if we base our relationships on reason alone, we become cold. According to changes in emotion and moods, if we base our relationship on feelings alone, we can become sentimental. However, in Jesus we make the decision to make our relationships meaningful. We exercise the power of our mind to choose and meet our feelings and emotions to make a reasonable and loving decision for something, for somebody or for a cause. This encounter happens in the heart where God has placed His law so that we no longer look for God outside of us. It is also in our hearts that we meet God and our neighbor.

This season of Lent allows us to go deeper into our hearts and
reflect on the ways we relate with God. It also allows us to go deep into the heart of Jesus so that we can go into the heart of the Church.

We may do these in many ways: a) pray the rosary for peace and for respect for life; b) visit the Blessed Sacrament and pray for the intentions of the parish and for the needy; c) visit the sick or do some works of mercy; d) avoid harsh or discouraging words, and decide to say only encouraging words; e) fast, not only from food, but also from pride, envy and from your favorites sins; f) go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation with a sincere heart; g) and many others. Holy Scripture tells us that God wants mercy more than sacrifice, for mercy is a loving relationship with others for the Glory of God.

In the Eucharist that we celebrate we encounter the humility of God and become open to His Word, and we hope to participate fully in the blessings of Holy Week and reap the fruits of our redemption at Easter.


Paralysis and Hope

Paralysis and HopeHomily of Fr. Tito Ayo, SOLT
Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time (B): February 19, 2012

Two little boys went to school everyday. The older brother would carry on his shoulders his younger brother uphill because of the latter's leg deformity. One day a neighbor commented: “you carry him everyday to school; he must be heavy.” The older brother responded: “He's not heavy, he's my brother.” This story, with many variations, inspired song writers and artists to put it on stage. Thus the famous song: “He ain't heavy; he's my brother,” a popular music ballad written by Bobby Scott and Bob Russell. Originally recorded by Kelly Gordon in 1969, the song became a worldwide hit (Wikipedia 2012).

Now, think of your parents, how they gave up many things just to keep you alive and healthy. They spent sleepless nights to care for you. They spent lots of hard-earned money to meet your needs. They did not even want a fly or a mosquito to land on you. Have you thanked them enough? Do you think you can thank them enough? How do you treat them now? Think of the person who took care of you when you were sick. He/She gave up his/her time and convenience just to be with you. How much have you thanked him/her? The person who took you to school everyday – Have you thanked him/her enough? And other people who helped you.

There is a so much indifference, selfishness, self-contentment, greed, and anger in our society today. Where these are present, people suffer from different kinds of paralyses. And society is not able to prosper. Among the paralyses that society suffers from are the following:

1. The paralysis that nothing can be done because “it has always been the same ever since.” People are content with their situation. They eat. They work. They survive. The boat should not be rocked.

2. The paralysis that nothing will ever be done because the people in control are wallowing in power. The giant should not be disturbed. Fear dominates this community. And people living in fear become motionless, directionless and visionless.

3. The paralysis that nothing should be disturbed, otherwise promises will not be fulfilled. People in this society do not want to compromise what they are comfortable with.

One of the causes of these paralyses in society is that many people, like the Pharisees and the Scribes, have decided consciously or unconsciously, that they have learned all that they need to learn. They are proud of their consistency. They are the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. You know what they are? Sleepwalkers.

The four men who carried the paralytic knew that something had to be done to approach Jesus. They were not discouraged by the size of the crowd. They had their eyes fixed on Jesus. The four men risked their time and their lives just to bring their friend to Jesus.

Do we see these paralyses in our lives, in our families and in our society? The story of the healing of the paralytic offers us some remedies full of hope:

1. The faith of our community will lead us to salvation. God invites us individually to follow Him, but He calls us as a community, to walk in the way of salvation and holiness. Apart from the community, salvation is uncertain, because at judgment day, Jesus will say,

whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.... what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me” (Mt 25:40,45).

St. Paul tells us: “Bear one another's burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal 6: 2).

2. The Words of Jesus bring life, power and health. When Jesus forgives us, He also reconciles us with the Father, thus bringing us back the integrity of being sons of God.

3. A sense of awe and wonder on the blessings of God produces enthusiastic children of God, for this quality belongs to those who sincerely seek the God who loves. This sense of awe and wonder brings more blessings and a life of joy to all.

Let each one of us bring to the Eucharist our families and community so that Jesus can heal us and make us whole again.


Soar High

Soar HighFr. Tito Ayo, SOLT Homily
Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time (B): February 5, 2012

I believe all of us have somehow experienced having some privileges in relationship, in work, in some office or at least in the family. One of the meanings that the dictionary gives us for the word privilege is that it is “a special treat or honor.” Usually we are proud of being treated with some privilege because it is “an advantage, a right or benefit that is not available to everyone.”

On the other hand, I also believe that at some time we have felt some sense of obligation that comes from a sense of indebtedness to a person, family, or institution. In other words it is “the state of being under a debt, as of gratitude, for a favor, service, or benefit.”

St. Paul had a unique experience of being called by the Lord. On his way to persecute the Christians of Damascus, Paul was met by the Lord Jesus and was called to become a preacher of the Gospel and be the Apostle to the Gentiles. For this, he was gratefully indebted to the Lord. He saw his ministry of preaching the Gospel as an obligation and a privilege; an obligation, because the Gospel is life for the Children of God and he was saved from damnation; a privilege, because he was particularly called to be an apostle and to preach the Gospel to the whole world, especially to the gentiles.

Moreover, Paul saw his ministry of preaching the Gospel not only as an obligation and privilege, but also as a stewardship. Stewardship begins and ends with the understanding of God's ownership of all (Wikipedia). The Psalms proclaim,

The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it (24:1).

While stewardship can refer to our care and development of the world we live in and to our obligation to be responsible for the development and support of the Church for her apostolate and ministries, it also refers to the use and development of our God-given talents, virtues and responsibilities for the good of our families and communities. St. Paul tells us in our 2nd reading today:

If I do so willingly, I have a recompense, but if unwillingly, then I have been entrusted with a stewardship. What then is my recompense? That, when I preach, I offer the gospel free of charge so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel (1Cor 9:17-18).... and woe to me if I do not preach it! (1Cor 9: 16).

There was a boy who put an eagle egg with the eggs of a chicken until all eggs hatched. The eagle chick (eaglet) grew with the chickens but did not know he was an eagle. One day the eagle felt some power within himself and felt that he did not really belong to the group of chicken. Then he saw an eagle flying above. He felt he could fly; and with success he was able to fly to the mountains.

We all have a power within ourselves, the power of soaring high in this world, the power to become children of God. Do we recognize that power given to us at baptism? Do we develop that power within us so that the Giver of life will not be disappointed? Do we dedicate that power to Him who can strengthen us more?

St. Paul encourages us to recognize the power of the Word of God in ourselves. The Word of God helps us to recognize and develop all the potential that we have to be real apostles of the Gospel: a) with our words, so that we can lead others to the Lord; b) with our actions and in our relationships, so that we can proclaim that God is present in our lives; c) with our hope, so that we can make this world a happy and lively place to live in and anticipate the second life without fear. In the Gospel Jesus gives us a clear example that prayer leads us to recognize and develop that power within ourselves, so that our relationships and ministry will be full of life.

The Eucharist is the food that gives us the power to live in faith, hope and love for the Lord. As we do not belong to this world but are citizens of Heaven, let us joyfully soar high and live as worthy children of God and heirs of His Kingdom.


Roaring Lion

Fr. Vlad Echalas, SOLT
4TH SUNDAY ORDINARY TIME – B
Mark 1:21-28

When God gave the commandments to the Israelites, He spoke with them face to face in the fire (Dt. 5:4).  But the Israelites begged to be spared in hearing the voice of God directly so Moses came in as intermediary between God and the people.  From then on the prophetic tradition in the Old Testament continued with the long row of prophets.  In the first reading today, Moses prophesied that God will send one final prophet who is Jesus Christ!

After the calling of the first apostles, now St. Mark presents Jesus' first preaching and the first miracle in his gospel.  This all happened in the synagogue in Capernaum.  The temple in Jerusalem was the only temple where the high priest would offer worship, sacrifice and atonement while the synagogues were used to proclaim the Torah or the Old Testament scriptures by the people.  Since there was no permanent teacher in the synagogue, the reading and exposition of the scriptures can be done by any competent Jew just like what Jesus did in our gospel today.
Jesus preached with authority!  This is how Jesus differed with the other prophets before Him and the Pharisees and scribes.  While the others were quoting the scriptures from which they got their authority to teach, Jesus was the Dabar of God, the Word personified.  That Word spoken by God to create everything in Genesis is now the Word alive re-creating creation.  This was manifested by the first miracle ever recorded in the gospel of St. Mark in the exorcism of the man with an unclean spirit.  By saying the name of Jesus, the evil spirit thought that he had control over Him, but the word of Jesus proved to be more powerful.  This is more than just exorcism!  Here we can see the power of the Word: “Be quiet!  Come out of him!”  When the evil spirit was defeated, it meant that the proclamation of the Kingdom ushered in the healing of humanity who had been suffering from the grip of the Devil.  That is why those who saw the miracle were amazed about the unusual authority of Jesus.

The Devil is as real as it was in the time of Adam and Eve, the time of Jesus and in our own time as well.  It continues to pester humanity in the many disguised forms of injustice, genocides, wars, poverty, oppression, etc.  It creeps its tentacles in the very fiber of our personal existence which manifest in our anger, addictions, hatred, indifference and our refusal to follow the way of righteousness.  We have to be always alert because “the devil prowls like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).   The Evil One continues to triumph not just when bad people sow bad deeds but most especially when good people stop doing good.  

That is why, every time we do something good to others, it is not just about pricking a thorn on the devil's head but celebrating our inherent goodness that glorifies God.  Before we close our eyes in the evening, let us ask ourselves “What good have I done today?”  If we can remember at least one good deed that we have done for the day, then we have not lived our day in vain... and we are not far from the Kingdom!


Dying to Live, for Christ

Dying to Live, for ChristHomily of Fr. Tito Ayo, SOLT/ 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

A person wrote, “When I was a small boy, I was dying to finish high school and go to college. When I was in college I was dying to graduate and work. When I was working I was dying to get married and have children. Then I was dying to retire. Now that I am dying, I remember, I forgot to live.”

We're always dying to do something. But when we're actually dying, we realize that we cannot do anything more that we had been dying to do. St. Paul says,

I should like you to be free of anxieties.... not to impose a restraint upon you, but for the sake of propriety and adherence to the Lord without distraction (1 Cor 7:32-35).

What St. Paul is referring to can also refer to anyone today who gets married deeply and many times to his work, his acquaintances, his property, or his favorite vices, to the detriment of his family and his spiritual life. We have not allowed God to work through us, for we forgot that there are many things that He can accomplish through us rather than we can accomplish through our own efforts. Yet we pray daily: “....Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

The devil is also dying to beat us in the following and in many other ways:

a) In our laziness. Idle minds are the favorite playground of the devil. Lazy people are easy prey to the devil's means to lead them away from the ways of God.

b) In loose families. A loose family doesn't care much about growth in love and in spiritual life, as long as everyone survives. They usually are more concerned about their livelihood, accumulation of property, and convenience. The devil is an expert in presenting that accumulation of material things is very necessary to life, and he starts to work in breaking up the family that also leads to the breakdown of communities and nations.

c) In our lies. The devil is the master of deceit. He is even better with half truths. People who do not form themselves in the truth, or who do not earnestly seek the whole truth are very vulnerable targets of the work of the devil in bringing chaos and misunderstanding in families and communities.

How do we work against the devil?

a) Don't settle for the mediocre or for an idle moment. Pray. Read the Scriptures or any valuable book. Work conscientiously. Don't waste your precious time in gossip and useless media materials. Learn to listen actively to people who are more knowledgeable and wiser than you are, and visit people who are weak and suffering. God will not abandon you.

b) Be faithful to your family. It's the only and best family that you can have and love intimately. If you think that grass is greener on the other side of your fence, then you have not worked on your lawn. So love your family. Pray with your family to Jesus as your daily Guest and Provider, and to Mary as your Mother and Protector. Jesus and Mary will never put you down.

c) Always seek and face the truth. The devil, who is the master of lies,  hates Jesus, who is the Truth. Jesus shows us the truth, Himself. To seek the truth we need to have the humility to learn, to listen and to follow Jesus. With truth and real humility, the devil is defenseless. So speak only what is useful to your family and your neighbor, do what is right and forgive the faults of others. Do not carry the heavy burden of defending what is not true and what you have not verified. The devil will put you down, but Jesus, the Truth, will always lift you up.

The Sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation are very clear examples of the power of Jesus to drive out the evil spirits in us, in our families and in our communities. They make us humble with the humility of Christ. So be humble in accepting Jesus in the Sacraments, for He came to destroy evil and bring us back to the Father. With Mother Mary on our side, let us be firm in our faith and hope in Jesus as the protector of our families and our way to peace. Our responsorial psalm today should resound to us daily:

If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts (Ps 95).


Conversion...conversation with God

Conversion...conversation with GodFr. Tito Ayo, SOLT Homily

What is conversion? If you want to convert your US dollar to Euro, you have to count. If you want to convert a right hand drive vehicle to left hand drive, you have to measure. If you want to instantly convert a car into an airplane, if you got the facility, you have to push buttons.

How about conversion of hearts? We do not count or measure distance or push buttons. We need to listen to the call of Jesus to repent, to believe the Gospel and to follow Him.

To repent is to turn around and to abandon sinful ways and tendencies, to change one's mind in pursuing harmful relationships and to seek ways to amend the wrong done to another person or to creation. True repentance does not only mean being sorry for the consequences of sin, but hating sin itself. Sin, no matter how small, is still a sin, and carries the punishment of alienation from God. A person who listens to the call of Jesus and repents has to hate sin, amend his ways and seek ways to love God and His ways in loving people and the Church. There is no middle ground between sin and holiness. It's either God or the devil.
However, God is merciful. He calls us to believe in the Gospel, to have the conviction that Jesus can really save us and lead us to the Father. To believe in the Gospel of Jesus is to avoid what is wrong and to do good to our neighbor, and to reflect the life of Jesus in our life.

We notice that conversion is both a call and a response. God's call demands a response. When God called the Israelites out of Egypt, He demanded full response from them: to obey Him, to trust in Him and to worship Him, and Him alone. When they broke this relationship, God punished them, at times with instant death. But when they repented, God brought them back to His love.
Besides the call of Jesus to repent and to believe in the Gospel, He calls us to follow Him. To follow Him is to walk in His ways, to proclaim Him as our God and King and to trust in what He offers: peace on earth to people of good will and eternal life to all who remain faithful.

And when everything seems to fail and to be hopeless, he calls,
Come to Me all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest (Mt 11:28).

To be with Jesus:
a) Pray, and pray with gratitude in your heart. Do not come to prayer with bitterness or anger or selfishness in your heart, for it is not worthy of the loving God, and He is slow to anger and full of mercy and compassion (Ps 103: 8). Many times we experience disappointment and frustration in prayer because we carry anger, bitterness and jealousy, or we are not really ready to listen to the Lord. All we want to do is tell Him what we want Him to do for us or how we want things to happen. Remember: He is greater than anything else in this world.

b) Be faithful to His commandments. Obedience is the way to holiness. There is no other reason why we cannot follow Jesus and learn from Him, for He is the way, the truth and the life.

c) Receive the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. The sacraments are the greatest gifts that Jesus has given us, so that we can be nourished and be strengthened on our way to the Father.

d) Have concern for and help the needy, the weak and the suffering. At judgment day, Jesus will say,
whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.... what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me (Mt 25: 40 & 45).
Service is a duty of each one of us that brings fulfillment and joy not only to oneself but most especially to the community.
In this Eucharist, we celebrate life, hope and love. Repent, believe in the Gospel, and follow Jesus, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.


THE ROYAL WEDDING BANQUET

THE ROYAL WEDDING BANQUETFr. Vlad's Homily
28TH SUNDAY - A
October 9, 2011

Weddings are the happiest celebrations we can ever have. The wedding reception completes the celebration wherein the invitees take part in the banquet prepared by the groom and bride.
          The theme of the readings this Sunday is about the Royal Wedding Banquet. It is a messianic banquet because it is the wedding of Jesus the Messiah to his bride the Church. It is also a heavenly banquet because it pertains to the Kingdom of heaven.  The first reading in the book of Isaiah prophesies that the banquet will be of fine wines and rich food which will be served for all peoples.
The parable is about the invitees to a wedding banquet and their attitude towards the celebration.  The first ones to be invited refused the invitation and killed the servants.  In anger, the king sent his troops to destroy the murderers.  Then the invitation was extended to everyone until the wedding hall was filled with guests.  Yet one of the guests was not in a proper wedding attire so he was punished as well.
          The Israelites were the first ones to be invited being the Chosen People of God.  In their stubbornness they killed their prophets and rejected Jesus as the Messiah.   In 70 AD the Temple of Jerusalem which was the center of the religious life of the Jews was destroyed by the Romans.  It was the punishment of Israel for rejecting and murdering Jesus. After the resurrection, the Gospel was preached to the Gentiles who willingly accepted it hence the growth and spread of the Church.  These were the new invitees to the messianic banquet who accepted Jesus Christ as the Messiah.
          The parable is a story not just of the past with the Jews and Gentiles but it is living  reality with us as its present characters.  We are the new People of God and being members of the Church, we are now the invitees to the Wedding Banquet.  Just as being the Chosen People of God was not an assurance of entrance to the messianic banquet, our baptism and membership in the Church is not our ticket to taste the heavenly banquet.  The invitation remains a constant calling to each one of us not just to be in the heavenly banquet at the end of our lives but here and now at the present time.  It is God who calls us in fellowship with Him together with the members of the Church.  This is very concrete when we gather together as a Christian community every time we celebrate the Mass especially on Sundays.  It is the time when we partake in a banquet prepared for us by God in the form of bread and wine which is the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.  It is the foretaste of the banquet we will be celebrating for the rest of our lives in heaven.  Our “wedding garment” represents our good works as fruits of our faith.
        
THE BANQUET

The door swings open and I behold a majestic hall
Crystals with most precious stones adorn the wall
Transparent as glass are the flowers in pure gold,
Ground covered with sand made of pearls untold
Around the table, twelve chairs of agate, jasper,
Emerald, onyx, carnelian, yellow quartz, sapphire,
Beryl, topaz, turquoise, amethyst and chalcedony,
The light at the inner chamber shining so brightly
Where all my friends are gathered clothed in white
Greeting me a hero's welcome beyond my delight
To my amazement, the banquet is prepared for me
It is my wedding to my Beloved Lamb in eternity....


26th Sunday - A

Fr. Vlad's Homily

YES TO THE WORD
(Mt. 21:28-32)

In the beginning God spoke his Word; it was called Dabar Yahweh.  In the New Testament, the spoken Word became flesh (Jn 1:14).   The Word who was now a human being spoke the words of man. His words were creative just like at the beginning when God spoke his Word to create everything.
          Our gospel this Sunday is about obedience.  The word obedience comes from the Latin words ab audire which means to listen.  Obedience comes from listening.  How do we listen to the Word of God now that he has become human like us?  The parable of the two sons answers this question.  When the father summoned the first son to the vineyard, he refused and yet later on he went.  The response of the second son was positive but later on did not go.  When asked who between the two sons obeyed the father, Jesus' hearers replied “the first son”.
          The Scribes and the Pharisees to whom the parable was addressed to, were the masters of the Law and the Prophets.  They believed that because they knew the Mosaic Law they were obeying the commandments.  Because of that, they always thought that they were righteous more than the rest.  But when they came face to face with the Living Word, they refused to hear his message.  They represented the second son who said yes but did not go to the vineyard.
          The Gentiles and sinners were considered outcasts.  At first, their response was negative which was represented by their sinful ways but when they met Jesus they amended their lives and obeyed him.  By reversal of fortune they are now considered the first son in the parable.
          Christianity is not a religion of the book but a religion of the Word of God, of the Incarnate and living Word.  This is how we Catholics differ from the other Christian sects whose belief is in the centrality of the written Word which they call “Sola Scriptura”.   Before the books of the New Testament were written there was already the Church alive in her oral tradition.  We believe in the Word Incarnate who speaks when the scriptures is proclaimed in the assembly through our liturgy.
          It is in the liturgy when we hear the Word speaks to us and as speaks he re-creates us as an individual person and as a community.  We listen to the Word and in the liturgy we say AMEN which is our way of saying YES.
          Our yes is challenged when we go out into the world, in our workplace, in our homes, etc. This is where we incarnate the Word that we heard in the concrete manifestations of our faith.   It is not the yes that we say in our prayers that we will be saved but how we are able make that yes concrete in our daily lives.
          Actually none of the two sons in the parable are models of obedience.   Our perfect model is Jesus who, in obedience to the will of his father, “emptied himself... accepting death, death on the cross,” as St. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Philippians in the second reading today.
          As Kahlil Gibran says “When love beckons to you follow him, though his ways are hard and steep. And when his wings enfold you yield to him, though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.  And when he speaks to you believe in him, though his voice may shatter your dreams.... (The Prophet)


23rd Sunday in OT, Sept 4, 2011

23rd Sunday in OT, Sept 4, 2011Fr. Tito Ayo, SOLT-HOMILY

1. You are always a prophet. Baptism opens us up to the whole mission of the Church: to live in Christ and to go and make disciples of all nations. At baptism we are privileged to share the prophetic role of Jesus, to proclaim the presence of God in people's lives and to make alive the hope that saves people from all pride, indifference and selfishness. In book 3 of “The Imitation of Christ,” Thomas A. Kempis writes the words of the Lord:

(87) I taught the prophets from the beginning, and even to this day I continue to speak to all men. But many are hardened. Many are deaf to My voice. Most men listen more willingly to the world than to God. They are more ready to follow the appetite of their flesh than the good pleasure of God. The world, which promises small and passing things, is served with great eagerness: I promise great and eternal things and the hearts of men grow dull.

They seek a petty reward, and sometimes fight shamefully in law courts for a single piece of money. They are not afraid to work day and night for a trifle or an empty promise. But, for an unchanging good, for a reward beyond estimate, for the greatest honor and for glory everlasting, it must be said to their shame that men begrudge even the least fatigue. Be ashamed, then, lazy and complaining servant, that they should be found more eager for perdition than you are for life, that they rejoice more in vanity than you in truth.

(88) My promise never deceives, nor does it send away empty-handed him who trusts in Me.... I am the rewarder of all the good, the strong approver of all who are devoted to Me.

2. St. Paul tells us to avoid debts. The business world encourages debts. The more loans you have, as long as you have the capacity to pay and you are a good payer, the more access you have to more loans. St. Paul was aware of the many kinds of payments people had to fulfill, like, taxes to the Roman Empire, taxes for their agricultural produce, property taxes, import and export taxes, tithes to the temple, and others. He encouraged people to fulfill them in order to avoid indebtedness to the government.

The only indebtedness that St. Paul is encouraging us to have that is laudable is the debt of love (see Rom 13:8-10). We have to consider that we do not deserve the love we get from God. We are all sinners, and God has redeemed us by the Blood of His Son. God only asks that we repay this love through our love for our neighbor and for one another, for he who does not love his neighbor does not possess God. He who abuses this love of God robs his family, his relationships, and other people of the life-giving presence of God in this world. This is why Jesus encourages us to correct our brothers patiently and lovingly. This is also why Jesus encourages us to pray with others and with the Church, so that our prayers, done in love, will be worthy of Him as our God and King.

3. It's unlikely that we can go to God (to heaven) alone (by ourselves). We go to God with Jesus and we go to Him as a Church, as a people. God called the Israelites from the slavery of Egypt as a people. The Second Vatican Council has clearly proclaimed this:

God, however, does not make men holy and save them merely as individuals, without bond or link between one another. Rather has it pleased Him to bring men together as one people, a people which acknowledges Him in truth and serves Him in holiness.... All these things, however, were done by way of preparation and as a figure of that new and perfect covenant, which was to be ratified in Christ, and of that fuller revelation which was to be given through the Word of God Himself made flesh. “... I will give my law in their bowels, and I will write it in their heart, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” . . . This was to be the new People of God.... who in times past were not a people, but are now the people of God (Lumen Gentium, Ch 2, #9).

Let this Eucharist be the sign and memorial that we believe as a people seeking salvation not only for ourselves but for all those redeemed by the blood of Jesus. Let us proclaim God's presence among our neighbors at all times, pray constantly with our families and celebrate life and love with the Church generously. The God of peace will always be with us.


20th Sunday in OT - A

Fr. Vlad's Homily
August 14, 2011

A LITTLE DOG PLEADING FOR SCRAPS
(Mt. 15:21-28)

     We have to understand that during his lifetime, Jesus limited his missionary activity to Israel and imposed the same limitation to his disciples.  It was only after Christ's ascension that the Gospel was preached outside Israel hence the Church became universal most especially during the missionary journey of St. Paul.
     The drama between the woman and Jesus may sound odd to the present readers most especially if we do not understand the unusual actuations of Jesus.  The woman was from Canaan, in other words for the Jews she was a foreigner.  When Jesus was passing by that pagan territory the woman must have heard about him and shouted “Lord, Son of David, have pity on me; my daughter is tormented by a devil.”  The woman acknowledged Jesus as a Jew by referring to him as the Son of David.  She was pleading for her daughter who was sick.  It was very unusual of Jesus who did not say a word in response to the woman.  Because the woman was becoming an annoyance, the disciples pleaded with Jesus who expressed the limitation of his earthly mission, that he was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.  Now the woman bowing low before Jesus pleaded “Lord, help me.”  But Jesus's reply might have hurt not just the woman but also those who were non-Jews:  “It is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to little dogs.”  It is hard to believe that those words came from the very mouth of Jesus.  Jesus may have sounded arrogant, discriminatory and dehumanizing when he likened the woman to a little dog.  But as a mother the woman could take anything just to save her daughter.  In all her humility, she did not only accept her like being a dog before Jesus and said “I am just asking for scraps that fall from the master's table.”
          For three times, the responses of Jesus to the plea of the woman might sound very negative because he was giving the woman opportunities to shine.  Each time, the woman was rising above her limited self until she passed with flying colors the test of faith.  Like all our mothers, she was willing to accept any humiliation for the sake of her daughter.  It was the greatness of a mother's heart that persevered throughout the difficult test.  It was also because of her humble heart that the woman won this very difficult argument with Jesus.
          How do we behave before God when we are praying for something?  Aren't we all beggars pleading for scraps that may fall from his table?  Are we ready to accept humiliation even to the point of breaking away from our comfort zones? Maybe when we are in desperate need like the woman, status quo becomes irrelevant.
To save a person we love most, we can do the impossible even to the point of breaking our hearts.     That's what Jesus did when he died for us: his heart was broken so that all of us may eat not just the scraps that fall from the master's table but that we as children may eat to our heart's content.  This invitation to dine in the heavenly banquet is not just for the Jews, for Christians but for all peoples because salvation is for all who trust.


19th Sunday in Ordinary Time - A

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time - AFr. Vlad's Homily
August 7, 2011

EYE OF THE STORM (Matthew 14:22-33)

We encounter God in so many different ways.  In the first reading, Elijah encountered God not in the hurricane, earthquake nor fire but through a gentle breeze.  Jesus would always encounter his Father on the mountain during his prayer.  The disciples encountered Jesus walking on the sea and they thought he was a ghost.  Peter encountered Jesus in the middle of the storm.

Typical of a very impulsive Peter, he challenged Jesus to bid him to come across the water. When Jesus said “Come,” Peter jumped out of the boat and started to walk across the water.  How did Peter do it? It could have been that Peter was looking at Jesus so he started walking  towards Jesus across the water.  But when Peter noticed the strong winds, he took fright and started to sink.  In desperation, he cried for help “Lord, save me!” Jesus put out his hand at once and held him.

The Archimedes Principle states “Any object, wholly or partially immersed in a fluid, is buoyed up by a force equal to the weight of the fluid displaced by the object”.   Because of this principle, we understand that if the density of the object is greater than that of the fluid, the object will sink.  This is the reason why under normal circumstances, our tendency is to sink in the water.  By showing that Jesus walked on the water is not only a defiance of the law of nature.  The evangelist wants to show to his readers that Jesus is the Lord of Nature.  The drama of Peter added more flavor and color to make the story more interesting and appealing to the readers.

Jesus manifests himself to us in various and very creative ways and most often incognito.  Because we do not recognize him, we miss a lot of opportunities of encounter.   As Fulton Sheen once said “Divinity is found in the least expected places.”  Because of the strong wind and waves, the apostles did not have a clear vision of Jesus so they thought he was a ghost. Mary Magdalene did not recognize the Risen Christ because of the tears in her eyes and she thought he was the gardener. Just like the apostles, our visions are also impaired by the many fears that engulf us so we do not recognize Jesus, too.

In the many storms of our lives sometimes we think that God has abandoned us.  In the middle of the storm, the most comforting words of Jesus are: “It is I, do not be afraid.”  

Peter represents us so the story becomes our own story.  There is no doubt, we have faith and as long as our gaze is fixed on Jesus, we can brave the storms of our lives.  But once we are besieged by our fears, our focus is turned to the strong wind and waves.  Just like Peter we begin to sink.  And unless we humble ourselves and cry for help from God, the weight of our unbelief will pull us down to the abyss of emptiness.  Peter who was a master fisherman cannot save himself from drowning; in all our self-sufficiencies, there comes a time when we have to cry for help because we cannot save ourselves.

What do the storms bring us?  They bring out our vulnerability hence we come face to face with our fears and inadequacies.  They also bring out the best in us because in the eyes of every storm we know that God is there loving and re-creating us.  We just have to believe!


FEAST OF CORPUS CHRISTI

FEAST OF CORPUS CHRISTIJune 26,

Fr. Vlad's Homily

SACRIFICIAL BANQUET

We can understand the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ through different perspectives or theologies just like looking at a diamond in its different facets and still we cannot grasp fully its grandeur and beauty.  I wish to invite you to look at the Eucharist in the perspective of SACRIFICIAL BANQUET.
          In our next meal, before we eat, let's take a look at the food on our plates.  Maybe there will be meat, fish, rice or bread, veggies and other stuff there.  All of them were once living creatures yet they gave up their lives to be our food to nourish us.  Maybe most of us will say “that's what they're here for.”  Without them knowing it, their lives were sacrificed so we can eat and grow and continue living.
          Now let's take a look at the two powerful symbols used in the Eucharist: the bread and wine. The bread comes from many thousands of grain of wheat which were ground into flour; in the same manner the wine comes from many grapes crushed into juice.  In a symbolic sense, the grains and grapes have to give up their individual lives to become part of a transformation that requires death and sacrifice.  Not only that, the wheat has to pass through fire and the juice has to pass fermentation, again symbolic of yet another stage of death and sacrifice. Once they become bread and wine, their highest level of sacrifice happens when they have to give up their being bread and wine to become the Flesh and Blood of the God who created them.  In a sense, their sacrificial act of dying to themselves is given the ultimate reward ever given to any created being.
          Jesus' flesh and blood were ground and crushed just like the grains and the grapes and passed through the summit of sacrifice on the cross in order to become real food and drink.  The word sacrifice comes from two Latin words sacra (which means “sacred”) and facere (which means “to make”).  Literally a sacrifice is an act of offering something to a deity who transforms the thing being offered which becomes sacred.  Jesus who is our High Priest did not offer anything other than his whole being on the altar of the cross.  It was the Father who accepted the offering of his Son and made it sacred.  Jesus offered his body on the cross and the Father transformed it into a transcended and transfigured body as a sign of his acceptance.   It was not just accepted by the Father but was given back to the people who murdered His Son to be their food.
          Whenever we gather as God's people in the Eucharistic table, we partake in the fellowship which is a foretaste of the heavenly banquet.  Here when we break bread together, just like from many grains, we are invited to be crushed and die to ourselves just like the sacrifice we celebrate.  So the Eucharist is not just a celebration where we feed our hungry souls with the bread from heaven but we celebrate our own death and resurrection with the Paschal Mystery of Jesus.  In the Eucharist, we just do not become what we eat, we are sanctified because we become the sacrifice we offer.   In the Eucharist, eternal life starts here and now.


Palm Sunday (Mat. 26:14-27,66)

Palm Sunday (Mat. 26:14-27,66) April 17, 2011

The Essence of True Love

“It's a foolish thing to be a Christian!” This is the cry of those who do not have faith in Jesus.

One day, a bird fell in love with a white rose. After few days, he proposes ‘marriage' to her. The white rose instead tells him that she will only accept his love and proposal if her whole body would turn red. Feeling the urgency of white rose's request, immediately the bird squeezes his body and spread his blood to the white rose until she turns red. Eventually, the white rose, now red rose fell in-love with the bird. However, the bird is already dead.

This is the essence of true love – giving oneself until it hurts... even until death. This is what the love of Jesus is all about. Jesus' way of loving is really very unique and different. Why is it that Jesus has to suffer much, be nailed on the cross and died? Why is it that he still needs to undergo many sufferings and accepts the curse of the same people he once served and loved? It is ironic that after hearing their accolades telling him, “Hosanna to the King of kings...” the same people would shout indignantly to him, “Crucify Him... crucify Him!”  I just couldn't fathom why He still has to tell His Father, “Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing” instead of asking Him to rescue Him while hanging on the cross. This is a great mystery we cannot just really explain using words. We can now understand why for some, Christian life is absurd... they cannot just follow the ways of Jesus.

Yes, it is true that Christian life is meaningless. It is meaningless to those who don't know how to make even a little sacrifice... how to give until it hurts. Christianity is indeed irrelevant to those who only think of themselves, those who are selfish. Sad to say, there are many Christians today who are spending a lot of efforts just to go away with suffering and hardship. They will do everything just to attain their desires and wants even if it means abandoning their faith in God. They become so engrossed in the pursuit of material prosperity and happiness that they forget about God and their fellow human beings anymore. Anything related to sacrifice and generosity is but a thing of the past. This is what the world is teaching us today, to embrace “instant” life. One can easily have instant coffee, instant noodles, instant money, etc. Materialism and consumerism seem to have already creep-in in every doorstep. There are also abortions and contraceptives who teach us not really the care for the self but to shun sacrifices and personal responsibility. This is the ways of the world exactly different from Jesus. Humility, obedience, and personal sacrifice – these are the ways of Jesus, the essence of His love. The cross is a witness to this. Like the bird in the story, Jesus also gave up Himself for love of us. It is not just blood and water he gave but His whole life in obedience to the Father's will.

As we begin the observance of this Holy Week, we are invited to imitate Jesus in His Passion, Death and Resurrection. Let us tell the world that we are indeed true Christians in words & deeds... always willing to face all the trials in life and willing to obey the Father's will even if it entails death, especially death to our selfishness. This is the essence of true love – unselfishness.

Are you a genuine follower of Christ? Are you a Christian? How much do you love?  


5th Sunday of Lent - A

5th Sunday of Lent - AFr. Vlad's Homily
John 11:1-45

The gospel of John is divided into two books namely the Book of Signs (Chapters 1-12) and the Book of Glory (Chapters 13-22). The Book of Signs contain the seven miracles of Jesus namely the wine of Cana, the healing of the royal official, the curing of the invalid, multiplication of loaves, the walking on the lake, curing the blind and the raising of Lazarus.  The miracles are called signs because they point to the divinity of Jesus.  The story of the raising of Lazarus for the fifth Sunday of Lent is the greatest of the seven signs because it prefigures  the Resurrection of Jesus.

Bethany, two miles from Jerusalem, was the hometown of Martha, Mary and Lazarus who were siblings.  It must be a favorite retreat place for Jesus whenever he travelled to Jerusalem from Galilee where he enjoyed the hospitality of the two sisters and the company of Lazarus whom Jesus loved very dearly.

When Lazarus fell ill, Martha and Mary sent a word to Jesus but the Jesus answered that the illness would not end in death.  Instead he stayed where he was for two more days before they went back to Judaea. By the time they arrived, Lazarus was already four days in the tomb.  Jesus knew that Lazarus was dying but why did he not go right away and heal him?  Because Jesus was in charge and he controlled the situation.  Sometimes when we pray, we feel the urgency for God to respond right away and we forget that God is in charge, not us.  If Jesus went right away, he could have healed Lazarus which would be just an ordinary miracle or sign.  But because he was in charge, Jesus now could perform the greater miracle: raising a dead man to life!

When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him while Mary remained in the house: the typical attitudes of Martha as active and Mary as contemplative (Lk. 10:38-42).  Now comes the beautiful dialogue between Jesus and Martha.  As most of us who are in the same situation, Martha reproached Jesus: “Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (this will be repeated by Mary when she met Jesus). But Jesus assured her “Your brother will rise again”.  Martha misinterpreted Jesus when she thought of the resurrection of the dead at the end of time since general resurrection was a common belief during that time. At this point, Jesus made the most profound proclamation “I am the resurrection and the life...!  When asked whether she believed this, Martha said “Yes. Lord!” Then she added the profession of the three Christological affirmations: “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming to the world.”  When Jesus saw Mary weeping together with the Jews, he was deeply troubled. Then Jesus asked where they laid Lazarus and they said “Sir, come and see.”  But why would Jesus asked? Because he needed the cooperation of the community in performing this greatest sign. Then Jesus wept (which is one of the two rare instances of weeping, the first was when he saw Jerusalem at a distance).  Jesus, needed again the help of the community, said “Take away the stone.”  Here Martha showed her fear by referring to the foul odor of Lazarus being dead for four days. After the stone was rolled, Jesus prayed to the Father and cried out “Lazarus, come out” which was the dramatization of Jn. 5:28 (“the hour is coming and is now here when the dead will hear  the voice of the Son of God and those who will hear will live”).  

Our resurrection already starts here and now, when we follow the voice of Jesus to come out of the caves of our selfishness and sinfulness.  When Jesus said “untie him and let him go” it was the turn of the community to unbind Lazarus and welcomed him as a new creation.  Eternal life starts here and now when our families, friends and community are able to unbind us of the many un-freedom of prejudices, biases and false judgments.

The paradox of this story is that when Jesus gave life back to Lazarus, it led him to his own death.  As disciples of  Jesus are we ready to do the same?


4TH SUNDAY OF LENT (Jn.9:1-41)

4TH SUNDAY OF LENT (Jn.9:1-41)Fr. Vlad's Homily

There are a number of blind people who changed the world because they refused to allow their lack of external light perception to quench or stifle their inner light. They illumined the world while groping in the midst of their physical darkness.  Let us name a few: Homer, the Greek writer who gave us the Iliad and the  Trojan War; Hellen Keller, the American author, activist and lecturer, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles and Andrea Bocelli who gave the world their beautiful music; Louis Braille the inventor and designer of Braille writing which enables blind people to read; Erik Weihenmayer the blind man who climbed the  Mt. Everest.

In this fourth Sunday of Lent we have a blind man to guide us in professing that Jesus is the Light of the World.  Like many of the stories in the gospel of St. John, the story itself is a beautiful masterpiece.  Let us now enter into the story and take part in the journey of the blind man.  It was believed that he was born blind either because of his sins or the sins of his parents, but Jesus changed this belief and declared that the blindness would show the wonder of God. It is interesting to note that he spat on the ground and made a clay of spittle which he used in anointing the man's eyes.  In the book of Sirach chapter 38, it was said that such a mixture was a medicine.  But in this story, we see Jesus re-creating the blind man in reference to the creation of man in the book of Genesis when God formed man out of clay and blew his divine breath.  The water of the pool of Siloam would wash that blindness away; because Siloam means “sent”, Jesus is the one sent by God to take away the blindness of humanity.  Then came the detailed interrogations carefully laid down by St. John in a stroke of a genius being a storyteller.  The neighbour could not agree if he was the blind man they knew and could not explain how he was able to see so the man admitted and explained to them what happened to him.  When asked where the healer was, the man said “I do not know”.  When he was brought to the Pharisees for interrogation, he related again his story but the Pharisees would not believe because the healer could not be from God because he did the healing on a Sabbath.  On the other hand a sinner could not do such a miracle either.  They were divided so they asked the man what he could say about him.  He said “he is a prophet'.  They would not believe the man so they called the parents.  Because of the fear of excommunication by the Jews, they were afraid to profess Jesus as the Christ so they said “He is of age, ask him”.  During the second interrogation, the blind man gave a lecture to the Pharisees who in turn cast him out.  This is the paradox of the story: the man born blind, uneducated and had no faith in juxtaposition with the Pharisees who could see, masters of the law and self-righteous.  The blind man now could see while the Pharisees were in darkness.

Knowing that the man has been cast out by the Jews, Jesus found him and the man professed his faith “Lord, I believe!” and he worshipped Jesus.  This story was written when the Christians were being cast out from the synagogues because they professed that Jesus was the Christ. It was to encourage the Christians that even the whole world cast them out, Jesus would be there to find them.  At the end of the story the Pharisees remained in their blindness.

Without light, even if we open our eyes, we will not perceive anything.  Without the Light of faith, even if we are not physically blind, we will never perceive spiritual realities.  If at this moment, we lose our sight and we become blind, what do we do?  What do we do when we see nothing but pitch black?
The Pharisees were spiritually blind because of their arrogance to accept Jesus as the Light.  Bereft by the light of faith, they were blinded by their refusal to the accept to see the Beauty that can only be seen by the third eye.  The Pharisees have been long gone in history but their disciples are still roaming the world, aimlessly...


4TH SUNDAY OF LENT (Jn.9:1-41)

4TH SUNDAY OF LENT (Jn.9:1-41)There are a number of blind people who changed the world because they refused to allow their lack of external light perception to quench or stifle their inner light. They illumined the world while groping in the midst of their physical darkness.  Let us name a few: Homer, the Greek writer who gave us the Iliad and the  Trojan War; Hellen Keller, the American author, activist and lecturer, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles and Andrea Bocelli who gave the world their beautiful music; Louis Braille the inventor and designer of Braille writing which enables blind people to read; Erik Weihenmayer the blind man who climbed the  Mt. Everest.

In this fourth Sunday of Lent we have a blind man to guide us in professing that Jesus is the Light of the World.  Like many of the stories in the gospel of St. John, the story itself is a beautiful masterpiece.  Let us now enter into the story and take part in the journey of the blind man.  It was believed that he was born blind either because of his sins or the sins of his parents, but Jesus changed this belief and declared that the blindness would show the wonder of God. It is interesting to note that he spat on the ground and made a clay of spittle which he used in anointing the man's eyes.  In the book of Sirach chapter 38, it was said that such a mixture was a medicine.  But in this story, we see Jesus re-creating the blind man in reference to the creation of man in the book of Genesis when God formed man out of clay and blew his divine breath.  The water of the pool of Siloam would wash that blindness away; because Siloam means “sent”, Jesus is the one sent by God to take away the blindness of humanity.  Then came the detailed interrogations carefully laid down by St. John in a stroke of a genius being a storyteller.  The neighbour could not agree if he was the blind man they knew and could not explain how he was able to see so the man admitted and explained to them what happened to him.  When asked where the healer was, the man said “I do not know”.  When he was brought to the Pharisees for interrogation, he related again his story but the Pharisees would not believe because the healer could not be from God because he did the healing on a Sabbath.  On the other hand a sinner could not do such a miracle either.  They were divided so they asked the man what he could say about him.  He said “he is a prophet'.  They would not believe the man so they called the parents.  Because of the fear of excommunication by the Jews, they were afraid to profess Jesus as the Christ so they said “He is of age, ask him”.  During the second interrogation, the blind man gave a lecture to the Pharisees who in turn cast him out.  This is the paradox of the story: the man born blind, uneducated and had no faith in juxtaposition with the Pharisees who could see, masters of the law and self-righteous.  The blind man now could see while the Pharisees were in darkness.

Knowing that the man has been cast out by the Jews, Jesus found him and the man professed his faith “Lord, I believe!” and he worshipped Jesus.  This story was written when the Christians were being cast out from the synagogues because they professed that Jesus was the Christ. It was to encourage the Christians that even the whole world cast them out, Jesus would be there to find them.  At the end of the story the Pharisees remained in their blindness.

Without light, even if we open our eyes, we will not perceive anything.  Without the Light of faith, even if we are not physically blind, we will never perceive spiritual realities.  If at this moment, we lose our sight and we become blind, what do we do?  What do we do when we see nothing but pitch black?
The Pharisees were spiritually blind because of their arrogance to accept Jesus as the Light.  Bereft by the light of faith, they were blinded by their refusal to the accept to see the Beauty that can only be seen by the third eye.  The Pharisees have been long gone in history but their disciples are still roaming the world, aimlessly...


2nd SUNDAY OF LENT – A

2nd SUNDAY OF LENT – AFr. Vlad's Homily

Last Sunday Jesus was tempted by the devil not to go to the cross by offering him three shortcuts to glory.  Jesus did not succumb to the temptations as he would embrace the cross in obedience to his Father.  For a number of times, Jesus predicted his passion to his disciples who were scandalized by the thought that their Master, the Messiah would undergo such suffering and death.  This second Sunday of Lent, Jesus tried to dispel that scandal by showing his glory as the reward for his impending death.

Let us go back to the Old Testament as a key in understanding the meaning of the Transfiguration.  In the book of Genesis, God made man in his own image and likeness.  After sin, that image has been tarnished and man did not look like God anymore.  The Messiah had been promised who would bring that image back to its original form.  And what is that form?  It is the 'christic" mold by which all of us were created.  Jesus would be that "mold" through which all of his followers would be re-created.

Let's go to the experience of the Transfiguration.  If you go to the Holy Land and climb Mt. Thabor, you will find a beautiful Franciscan church at the top of that mountain.  Inside the church are three chapels dedicated to Jesus, Moses (who represented the Law) and Elijah (who represented the Prophets).  When Peter saw the vision, he wanted to build three tents just to contain and lengthen the experience as most of us wanted to prolong a religious experience.  Suddenly from the cloud (which represented the Shekinah glory, that is the Holy Spirit), the Father's voice was heard "Here is my son, the Beloved, listen to him."  This is the second and the last trinitarian theophany wherein the three persons of the Trinity are made visible in a human experience.  The first one was during Jesus' baptism wherein the Holy Spirit came down as a dove and the same voice was heard proclaiming Jesus as his Son.  Some of us may ask why would the Trinity manifest himself at the Transfiguration?  It is because the Passion was a trinitarian experience, although it was centered on Jesus. This means that the Father and the Holy Spirit also experienced the Passion of Jesus.  Let us not forget that during the most difficult moments of our lives, the Father is there for us, reminding us that we are his child, his beloved and that he is suffering with us.

This week the world has been stunned by the massive destruction of the tsunami, earthquake and the nuclear radiation that hit Japan.  We see the face of suffering of once a very powerful nation brought to its knees, humiliated by nature.  We also see the pains of the peoples of Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen and other Arab nations as they long for a more humane life better than their governments are offering them.  We see in these experiences the longing of humanity in the transformation of society towards the fullness of life.  In the very heart of reality, there will always be a longing for the Transfiguration of man.

Maybe some of us will also ask why are we reading the life of Abraham in the first reading?  What is the connection of Abraham to the Transfiguration?  Abraham was called by God to leave Ur to go to the Promised Land.  Why would God ask Abraham to leave Ur?  Because Ur represented Abraham's old self where he was worshipping other pagan gods.  Unless we leave behind our old selves together with the idols and gods we have been worshipping in our lives, we will never experience our own transfiguration.  It was a very difficult journey for Abraham because he did not know where the Promised Land was.  Our own journey will not be easy either, like Abraham's.  Along the way, we will carry own crosses, we will be tested, we will fail, we will cry, we will ask questions.  But we do not walk only by sight because this is a pilgrimage of faith wherein God is walking with us all the way.  At the end of the pilgrimage is our very own Mt. Thabor wherein our true selves are awaiting to be transformed just like Jesus.

Whenever we come to the Eucharist, we come to our spiritual Mt. Thabor wherein we experience the transfiguration of Jesus on the altar as well as our own personal and ecclesial transfiguration together with Jesus.  


8th Sunday in O.T. - A

8th Sunday in O.T. - AFr Vlad's Homily
Mt.6:24-34

Food, shelter and clothing are the basic needs of man.  It is but normal to be reasonably concerned how to procure them to live a comfortable and dignified life.  Whether we like it or not, we need money to have them.
Jesus reminds us in our gospel today that we cannot serve both God and mammon.  The term mammon in the context of Jesus's milieu means material possessions.  When does a thing become a mammon that competes with God?  When does it become a god in its own right? Who among us do not want to eat good and healthy food?  Who does not want to wear good and decent clothes?  Who does not want to live in a comfortable house?   Justice demands that we should provide ourselves with at least the basic needs.
A thing becomes a mammon when it starts to possess us rather than us possessing it.  When we become possessed by a thing or a person, we become its slave and it becomes our god.  This happens in a very subtle manner, in fact we never acknowledge it because oftentimes we are not aware of it.   We make a precious possession or a person our god without us knowing it.  This happens when our life totally depends on that person or possession, the absence of which brings us death.  They become our idols and we sinned against idolatry.
Most of us have judged Imelda Marcos owning 3,000 pairs of shoes.  We say it is outrageous, coming from a very poor country wherein more than half of the population live below the poverty line.  3,000 gods being worshipped by her two feet.  Yet if we take a look at our selves, maybe we will find more or less than 3,000 gods lurking in the deep recesses of our souls, without us knowing we have been worshipping them.  Sometimes just like Imelda we justify ourselves why we have them.
The brightest faces of evil in the modern world today are consumerism and materialism.  The world entices us to get material more than what we can take and satisfy our ego that longs for more; to take more than what we need and consume them as much as we want.  When I first went to the USA, I was scandalized by what they call the fruits of the American dream: huge houses being occupied only by two people; wardrobes with unused clothes still kept in plastic bags; toilets as huge as car park and many more.  But we never call them evil because they look good to the eyes and we want to have them, too.
A thing becomes a mammon when our security depends on it and we do not need God anymore.  This is the evil that the affluent nations are facing when spirituality becomes passé and religion is a thing of the past and they do not have a space for the sense of the sacred.  When everything becomes secular and secured, who will need God?
The first reading today from the prophet Isaiah is one of the finest in the Old Testament. “Can a mother forget her baby yet even if she does forget, I will never forget you.  I have carved you in the palm of my hands” says God.  What a lovely thought that God is likened to a mother loving us unconditionally.
While all our created gods and idols will someday become stale and sooner will leave us, God will be faithful to us, forever and always...


6th Sunday in OT - A

6th Sunday in OT - AFr. Vlad's Homily
Matthew 5:17-37

The difference of man from the rest of creation is our rationality and freedom.  This means that we were given the gifts of intellect, reason and the capacity to choose.

Because animals, plants and inanimate objects do not have those gifts, they follow the dictates of nature we call natural law.  Even if we say that some animals have intelligence, they are only guided by instinct.  Because of our rationality, we are guided by a higher law called the moral natural law.  With this power given to us, we are the only ones who exercise responsibility over our actions.

Early on, two Sundays ago, we heard about the Beatitudes which is part of the Sermon on the Mount by Jesus. Our gospel today is the start of the main part of the Sermon on the Mount.  It is basically about the extended explanation of the 5th and the 6th Commandments, ‘Thou shall not kill” and “Thou shall not commit adultery”.  But since they are discussed in the context of the Sermon on the Mount after the beatitudes, they revolve around the Matthean theme of perfection; “Be perfect as your Father is perfect.”

The Scribes and the Pharisees were the masters of the Law of Moses which was the foundation of the Jewish belief in God.  When Jesus started his preaching, he had to take a stand, that is he did not come to abolish the law and the prophets which stand for the Old Testament but rather to fulfill them. When Jesus came, he gave us a new understanding of the law in contrast to the teaching of the Pharisees.  The Pharisees distinguished between small and big commandments; for Jesus there was no such classification since laws are the expressions of God's will.  Out of the 10 Commandments, the Pharisees made 613 positive and negative laws; Jesus summarized them into two commandments: love of God and love of neighbor.  The Pharisees were concerned about the letter of the law while Jesus was on the spirit of the law.

That is why we are reminded by our gospel today to surpass the pharisaical way of understanding the law: “Unless your justice surpasses that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of God.”

Maybe none of us are murderers.  But if we listen to the spirit of the law, how many among us are harboring hatred against a friend or a family member.  Yes, we may not have murdered them physically but long time ago, we already murdered them in our hearts.  Sometimes we are not at peace because that splinter thrusts through our heart that causes tremendous pain on us.  That is why, the offertory procession during the mass always reminds us that if we are not at peace with someone else, our sacrifice is futile, it is empty.  It is useless unless we reconcile first to the person whom we have murdered in our hearts.

Maybe none of us have committed adultery.  We hate to see rapists in the news or in TV. We are scandalized in the many sexual abuses in the wide spectrum of our society.  Most of the times, we are outsiders looking inside.  Our gospel today reminds us that the evil intention in our hearts against somebody is tantamount of committing adultery. A lustful thought or an unbecoming desire can breed the adulterers among us.

When we hear these things maybe most of us are guilty in one way or another.  If we are not, there is no point of making ourselves proud because anytime our hearts can betray us.

When we listen to the Sermon on the Mount by Jesus, he is just saying this to us: “Be perfect as your Father is perfect.” Being children of our Father, we will strive to be like him because that's who we are.


4th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

4th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME Homily of Fr. Vlad Echalas, SOLT
Mt. 5:1-12a

Since 431BC the world has heard the greatest speeches in history beginning with the Greek orators Pericles, Plato and Cicero until the most recent times by men and women whose speeches have made a great impact in the world.  But none of them can ever equal the greatest speech ever spoken by man, that is the Sermon on the Mount by Jesus.

The Beatitudes that we heard from the gospel today is the introduction of the Sermon on the Mount which is the second of the seven sermons of Jesus.  There are two versions of the Sermon on the Mount by St. Matthew and St. Luke.  Both of them have a common source which has only the four original beatitudes namely: 1. Blessed are the poor... 2) Blessed are the sorrowing... 3) Blessed are those who hunger... 4) Blessed are the persecuted.  Matthew added four more beatitudes and Luke did not add more to the beatitudes instead added four “woes” which are absent from Matthew. Luke addresses the materially poor while Matthew added the moral attitude, a disposition which is required by the hearer. Many biblical scholars believe that the Beatitudes are not the original words of Jesus but rather a compilation of the teachings of Jesus or catechetical instructions we call kerygma.

The book best sellers in the world are often about how to be rich, how to stay young and beautiful, and how to have power.  Certainly because these are all the ingredients of success and greatness according to worldly standards.  This is the reason why most of our parents would form and  educate their children towards this goal: to be successful in life!  Why? Because the world teaches us that happiness is measured by success.  So everyone wants to be successful because they want to be happy.

For us Christians, the Beatitudes of Jesus is the true standard of true happiness.  We can say that it is the magna carta that one has to follow if he wants to be he happy in the truest sense of the word.  If we can summarize the beatitudes in one sentence, it would be: Blessed are the poor!  For Matthew, the poor here means those people who bow before God and expect everything from him, those who are oppressed who can only turn to God and those who renounced their possessions and take poverty themselves for the love of God.
The Beatitudes is not the glorification of poverty or the canonization of the poor per se.  The poor are blessed not because of their poverty but because God takes side with them.  This is the reason why Jesus became poor.  When we are poor in the truest sense of the word, we have nothing except God.  The materially rich are still poor when they are detached from their riches.  The basis of all this is our nakedness and nothingness before God.  Before God, we are all poor!  Our happiness lies in living and accepting it.
I was once assigned as a parish priest in one of the poorest islands in the Philippines and I have seen and experienced myself what real poverty is together with my people.  They might lack even the basic necessities of life but in their simplicity, they are a happy people.

Isn't it true that we can only enjoy material things as much, our youth and beauty fades and power is only temporary?  At the end when everything is spent and taken away from us, we have only God and ourselves.  This has been what the saints have discovered after following the Beatitudes:  that the true happiness is finding God in our lives who is the only who can make us truly happy if only we accept that we are poor and that we need him.


Ika-3 Linggo ng Taon - A

Ika-3 Linggo ng Taon - AJan. 23, 2011

SUKATAN NG PAGSUNOD KAY HESUS
Mt. 4: 12-23

Isang lalaki ang nagpadala ng loveletter sa kanyang kasintahan. At ito ang nilalaman:
Dear Meriam,
Dahil sa pag-ibig ko sayo, kaya kong akyatin ang pinakamataas na bundok; languyin ang pinakamalalim na karagatan; kaya kong harapin kahit na ang pinakamabangis na tigre sa kagubatan upang iyong matanto kung gaano kita kamahal.
Ang lalaking handa kang ipaglaban,
Junior

P.S. (pahabol sulat) pupunta ako sa inyo sa linggo kapag hindi umulan...

Ang kawawang Junior, sa ulan pa lang takot na, sa tigre pa kaya?

Ang tunay na pagmamahal ay nasusukat hindi sa matatamis na salita na binibigkas kundi sa gawa. Ito ang handang patunayan ng mga mangingisda na tinawag ni Hesus upang maging kanyang mga alagad. Sa simula, hindi pa nila lubusang nauunawaan ang kanilang pagtugon sa tawag ni Hesus. Ang mahalaga nakaramdam agad sila ng pag-ibig kay Hesus. At ipinakita nila ito hanggang sa huli. Makikita natin sa kwento ng kanilang pagsunod ang maraming mga pagkakamali dala ng kanilang kahinaan. Tulad na lang ng ginawang pagpapahayag ni Pedro ng kanyang pag-ibig kay Hesus bago siya pahirapan. Sa Banal na Hapunan sinabi sa kanila ni Hesus, “Sa gabing ito, ako'y iiwan ninyong lahat...” Sumagot si Pedro, “Kahit na po iwan kayo ng lahat, hindi ko kayo iiwan... hindi ko kayo itatatwa” (26:31-35). Ganito katamis ang mga salitang binitiwan ni Pedro. Subalit ilang oras lang nang makita niyang pinapahirapan si Hesus at tinanong siya ng isang alilang babae kung siya nga ay kasama ni Hesus. Sagot ni Pedro, “wala akong nalalaman sa sinasabi mo... mamatay man ako talagang hindi ko kilala ang taong ‘yan...” Tatlong beses itinatwa ni Pedro si Hesus. At iniwanan Siya ng karamihan sa kanila.

Tulad ng mga alagad, tayo rin ay nangako sa binyag na susundan si Hesus. Kaya nga tinatawag tayong mga Kristiyano. Subalit ang karamihan ay mga Kristiyano lang sa pangalan at wala naman sa gawa tulad ng kuwento ni Junior. Sa katunayan, sampung porsyento lang ang mga aktibong Katoliko. Ang tanong, “nasaan ang 90%?” Ang karamihan ay abala sa kanilang trabaho, ang iba naman ay walang pakialam, at ang iba pa ay kusang tamad lang sa pagsasabuhay ng kanilang pananampalataya. Nariyan ang patuloy na pagtatatwa kay Hesus at ‘di pagsunod sa kanya. Kaya nga bago ang pagtawag niya sa mga alagad ito ang mensahe niya, “Pagsisihan ninyo't talikdan ang inyong mga kasalanan...”

Kung tunay na mahal natin si Hesus, magsumikap tayong sundan siya hindi lang sa panahon ng kasayahan kundi sa lahat ng oras. Nawa'y ang mga matatamis na salitang binitiwan natin sa binyag ay makita sa ating mga ginagawa araw-araw. Patunayan natin sa mundo na tayo nga ay huwarang tagasunod ni Hesus – tunay na Kristiyano.

Tulad ng nakasaad sa sulat ni Junior sa kanyang minamahal, at dahil na rin sa pag-ibig natin kay Hesus: “Kaya ba nating labanan ang anumang uri ng kasalanan sa mundo at ibigay ang ating buhay kahit na sa kamatayan alang-alang sa pag-ibig natin sa Kanya?” Ito ang natatanging sukatan ng ating pagsunod kay Hesus.


Pista ng Sto. Niňo - A

Pista ng Sto. Niňo - AJanuary 16, 2011

DAKILA KA BATA!
Mt. 18: 1-10

Isang araw dinalaw ng sikat na abogado ang kanyang kaibigang magsasaka. Naabutan niya ito sa kanyang palayan. Pagkakita sa kanya, winika ng abogado, “Kaibigan, kung nakatapos ka sana ng pag-aaral, eh di sana hindi ka na nagbibilad sa araw at din na rin napuputikan ang iyong mga paa. Tingnan mo ako laging malinis ang damit at may sasakyan!” “Kaibigan, nakikita mo ba ang aking palayan?” tanong ng magsasaka. “Pag-isipan mong mabuti, ang mga punong nakatayo ang siyang walang bunga, subalit yaong mga nakayuko ang siyang may bunga at mapapakinabangan.”

Napakayabang natin minsan. “Ako ang pinuno, dapat lang na ako ang masunod; ako ang may pinag-aralan kaya't ako ang marunong; ako ang matanda, hindi ako dapat pag-utusan.” Masyado tayong bilib sa ating sarili. Naaalala ko pa nang minsa'y napagsabihan ako ng isang aktibong kasapi ng Catholic Women's League sa isang parokya, medyo matanda na siya, “Father, nagtatampo ako sa'yo kasi hindi mo nabanggit ang aking pangalan sa pagpapasalamat mo sa Misa. Hindi mo ba alam na ako ang major sponsor?” Hindi naman ako nasaktan sa sinabi niya. Sa totoo lang, naawa pa nga ako sa kanya. Dito ko napagtanto ang dahilan kung bakit may mga taong ibig malaman ng mundo na sila'y mapagkawanggawa. Nakakalungkot lang dahil kahit mga taong-simbahan ay gumagawa nito. Ang akala ko mga pulitiko lang ang gumagawa nito. Idinidikit ang kanilang pangalan sa bawat proyekto o donasyong kanilang ibinibigay. Ibig nating maging dakila sa mata ng lahat.

Ganito marahil ang ibig ipahiwatig ng mga alagad ni Hesus nang tanungin nila ito, “Sino po ang pinakadakila sa kaharian ng langit?” Siguro iniisip nila kung sino sa kanila ang mas nakakaangat sa lahat ika nga o mas dakila bilang alagad ni Hesus. At siguro nabigla din sila nang itapat ni Hesus sa kanilang harapan ang isang bata at sinabi niya, “Ang sinumang nagpapakababa na gaya ng batang ito ay siyang pinakadakila...” At bakit kailangan pang gamitin ni Hesus ang bata maturuan lang sila ng aral tungkol sa pagpapakumbaba? Ano ang meron sa isang bata?

Una, ang bata higit pa sa pagiging “cute” ay mahina (weak). At sa tulong ng kanilang mga magulang at ibang tao sila ay nagiging malakas. Ganito rin ang ibig sabihin ni Hesus, na wala tayong maipagmamayabang – mga mahihina tayo at nagkakasala. At bilang mga “bata” o anak ng Diyos, kailangan nating manalig sa kanya at hindi sa ating sarili. Kailangang ibigay sa kanya ang ating pagpapasya at pagkatao at bahala na siya kung ano ang gawin niya rito. Alam ng Diyos ang mabuti para sa atin tulad ng isang mabuting magulang na alam kung ano ang kailangan ng kanilang anak.

Higit sa lahat, ang bata ay totoo at payak o simple sa kanyang sarili. Hindi siya mapanghusga,di tulad ng mga matatanda. Wala siyang pakialam kung anong klaseng tao ang nag-aalaga sa kanya, maitim o maputi, mayaman o mahirap, atbp. Wala siyang kayabangan. Ibig lang madama ng isang bata ang pag-ukulan siya ng pagmamahal maging ito man ay sapat o di sapat. Ganito rin ang Diyos, wala siyang itinatangi – makasalanan man o mapagkawanggawa, mayaman o mahirap. Sa kabila ng ating pagkakasala, mas nakikita niya ang ating kabutihan na inilagay niya sa ating puso noong tayo ay likhain – at ito ang puso ng isang bata katulad ng puso ng Sto. Niňo.

Kaya't hinahamon tayo na magkaroon ng pusong tulad nang sa bata – mahina, simple, at totoo. Ito rin ang puso ng taong mapakumbaba. Lagi natin tandaan: Kailangan natin ng Diyos upang patuloy tayong palakasin at bigyan ng mga natatanging biyaya tulad ng isang bata na kailangan ang gabay ng kanyang mga magulang.

Kapatid, sa harap ng Diyos wala tayong maipagma-mayabang. Tayo ay putik lang. Subalit kung tayo ay mapagpakumbaba, dakila ka bata!    


Baptism of Jesus - A

Baptism of Jesus - AJanuary 9, 2011

ANG KAMBING, BOW!
Mt. 3: 13-17

Kay gandang pagmasdan ang kambing. Maliban sa takot sila sa tubig, hindi sila marunong lumakad ng paatras. Kaya kung ang dalawang kambing ay nagkakasalubong sa maliit at makipot na tulay, hindi na sila nakakaatras pa para bumalik. Ganito ang kanilang ginagawa: ang isa sa kanila ay nagpaparaya, kaagad humihiga upang ang isa ay makaraan sa pamamagitan ng paglalakad sa gitna ng kanyang katawan. Napakagaling nila ano?

Ganyan ang ibinigay ng Diyos na uri ng puso sa mga kambing – ang magparaya o magpakumbaba. Ganyan din ang ibinigay ng Diyos na puso sa atin. Ang pagkakaiba lang natin sa kambing ay dahil marunong tayong umatras, kaya madalas hindi natin nagagamit ang pusong ito. Umaatras kaagad at di nagpaparaya.

Sa pagbinyag ni Juan kay Hesus, nakita natin ang pagpapakumbabang ginawa ni Hesus sa pamamagitan ng pagpaparaya niya sa kalooban ng Diyos Ama. Nagdadalawang-isip sana si Juan na binyagan siya. Subalit winika sa kanya ni Hesus, “Hayaan mo itong mangyari ngayon; sapagkat ito ang nararapat nating gawin upang matupad ang kalooban ng Diyos.” Sa pagsisimula ng kanyang misyon sa lupa ipinadama kaagad niya na handa siyang sumunod sa kalooban ng kanyang Ama. Saksi ang kanyang pagkamatay sa krus at ang muling pagkabuhay. At sa loob ng Banal na Misa, patuloy na ipinapamalas ang kanyang kagustuhang maging bahagi ng ating buhay. Patuloy ang kanyang pagpaparaya.

Ito'y nagpapaalala ng ating tinanggap na binyag, lalo na ang ating sinumpaan sa Diyos. Tulad ni Hesus, tayo rin ay hinahamon na magparaya at tupdin ang kalooban ng Ama at hindi ng ating mga sarili. Nakakalungkot sabihin, marami sa atin ang limot na sa mga sinumpaan natin sa binyag. Naalala ko tuloy ang kwento ng tatlong pari na nagkaroon ng pag-uusap kung paano nila mapapalayas ang mga naninirahang “bats” o paniki sa loob ng simbahan. “Nagagalit ako sa kanila,” wika ng unang pari. “Ang ginawa ko kumuha ako ng shotgun at pinagbabaril ko. Ang iba ay namatay subalit makalipas ang ilang araw, dumami na naman sila.” “Gumamit ako ng ‘pesticide spray,' sabi ng ikalawang pari. “Subalit makalipas ang ilaw araw bumalik na naman sila.” “Wala akong naging problema tungkol diyan,” wika ng ikatlong pari. “Ano ang ginawa mo?” nagtatakang tanong ng dalawa. “Bininyagan ko sila,” sagot niya. “Mula noon hindi ko na sila nakita sa loob ng simbahan.” Totoo, tulad ng mga ‘bats' sa kuwento, matapos na mabinyagan tayo, karamihan hindi na nakikita sa loob ng simbahan.  Nasaan na ang sinumpaan natin sa binyag? Higit sa lahat, ang binyag na tinanggap ni Hesus ay nagpapaalala rin sa atin ng ating misyon na ilaan ang ating mga sarili sa pagtulong sa kapwa kahit na ang kapalit nito ay buhay.

Kung ang kambing ay marunong magpakumbaba, tayo pa kaya? Ang ating binyag ay patuloy na magpapaalala na ang buhay natin ay magiging kalugod-lugod lang kung natututo tayong magparaya at tupdin ang kalooban ng Diyos tulad ng ginawa ni Hesus.

Kapatid higit pa tayo sa kambing. Tayo'y mga anak ng Diyos, may misyong tuparin ang kanyang kalooban. Matuto sana tayong mag-bow!


Epiphany of the Lord - A

Epiphany of the Lord - AJan. 02, 2011

BITUING MAY NINGNING
Mt. 2:1-12

May kwento ng isang Rabbi na nagtanong sa kanyang mga alagad kung paano nila malalaman na ang gabi ay natapos na at mag-uumaga na. Sabi ng isa, “kung maaaninag mo  ang isang hayop sa malayo at masasabi mo kung siya ay aso o kambing?” “Hindi” sagot ng Rabbi. “Ano po ang tamang sagot” tanong nila. “Kung makikita mo ang mukha ng sinumang babae o lalaki at maituturing mo ang bawat isa bilang iyong kapatid. Dahil kapag hindi mo magawa ito, kahit anong oras pa meron ka, iyan ay palaging gabi.”

Sa panahon ngayon na kung saan laganap ang digmaan at kaguluhan sa halos lahat ng sulok ng mundo, mahirap makamit ang pagkakaisa ng bawat bansa at salinlahi. May kahirapan na makita sa kapwa ang ating ugnayan bilang magkakapatid. Sa ating bansa, unti-unti nang nawawala ang tinatawag na “bayanihan spirit,” alay-lakad, atbp. Madalas nangingibabaw ang ating pagiging makasarili. Dahil dito mas lalong naging mahirap ang makita at madama ang presensya ni Hesus sa bawat isa.

Ang Epifania o ang pagpapakita ni Hesus sa mundo ay ang kagustuhan ng Diyos na maging bahagi ng ating buhay bilang tao – ng ating kagalaka't pagdurusa at pagpupun-yaging bigyang katuparan ang ninanais ng Diyos Ama sa atin bago pa man tayo likhain. Ang pangakong Mesiyas na noon pa man ay ipinahayag na ni propeta Isaias ngayon ay natupad. Siya'y nagpakita at nakisalamuha sa tao. Subalit iilan lang ang tunay na nakakita sa kanya. Sa katunayan marami ang hindi tumanggap sa kanya maging ang piniling bayan ng Diyos.

Sa kabaling dako naman, ang kuwento ng paglalakbay ng tatlong Pantas upang hanapin si Hesus sa pamamagitan ng bituin ay nagpapatunay lang na tulad din nila, magiging matagumpay at makahulugan lang ang ating paglalakbay dito sa lupa kung makikita, matatagpuan at magiging bahagi si Hesus ng ating buhay. At upang makita at makasalamuha si Hesus kailangan muna natin na magkaroon ng pusong mapakumbaba. Walang puwang ang Diyos sa pusong mayabang at makasarili. Ito ang makikita natin sa tatlong pantas. Ginamit nila ang kanilang buong makakaya upang hanapin at parangalan ang kadikilaan ng Diyos sa pamamagitan ng sanggol na si Hesus. Ang pag-aalay nila ng mga regalo ay pagpupugay lamang sa mga biyaya na ipinagkaloob sa kanila ng Diyos. Sa pag-uwi nila matapos makita si Hesus, ginabayan sila ng anghel upang ilayo sa mayabang at mapagpanggap na si Herodes. Ang pagpakita ni Hesus ay hindi nagtapos sa Betlehem o sa Golgota. Siya ay patuloy na nagpapakita at nakikisalamuha sa atin lalo na sa loob ng Santa Misa. Ang pagtanggap natin sa kanya sa Banal na Komunyon ay patunay lang ng kanyang patuloy na paggabay sa atin higit pa sa ginawa niyang paggabay sa tatlong pantas.

Ang dahilan kung bakit parang napakahirap makita at makasalamuha si Hesus sa panahon ngayon ay dahil mismo sa ating kayabangan at pagiging makasarili. Madalas ang nakikita na lang natin ay ang ating sarili – ang pangangailangan ng ating sarili. Ibig natin tuparin ang lahat na gusto ng ating sarili kahit na nga maisantabi ang ibang mahahalagang bagay na dapat sana ay napag-uukulan din ng pansin tulad baga ng pagkakaroon ng panahon sa pagbibigay ng tamang oras sa pamilya at pagtulong sa kapwa. Hindi nakakapagtaka kung bakit nahihirapan tayong ituring ang bawat isa bilang ating kapatid. Paano pa kaya natin makikita si Hesus sa bawat isa?

Kaya nga patuloy tayong hinahamon na hanapin at makita si Hesus sa ating kapwa. Ang ating kapwa ang magsisilbing bituin na nagniningning na gagabay sa atin patungo kay Hesus. Huwag natin tularan ang pagpapanggap na ginawa ni Haring Herodes – ang bituing walang ningning. Maging maingat sa pagpili ng mga namumuno sa atin na kadalasan dinadala tayo sa pagkalugmok at paglayo sa tunay na hangarin ng Diyos. At mag-ingat din sa pagpili ng kaibigan. Hindi yaong dadalhin tayo sa kasamaan, bisyo, paninira ng kapwa at paglayo sa Diyos. Maging mapanuri sa mga “modernong” Herodes, mga “stars” o bituin ng mundo, na walang ningning at walang ibig mangyari kundi ang ilayo tayo sa pananampalataya sa Diyos.

Kaya't patuloy na hanapin natin si Hesus sa ating kapwa – sa mga bituing nagniningning sa pananampalataya sa Diyos. Hanapin natin kung saan naroroon ang pagpapakumbaba at pagmamahalan, at tunay na madarama natin na naroroon din ang Diyos.


Pasko - A

Pasko - ADec. 25, 2010

PASKO: KAPANGANAKAN AT KAMATAYAN
Jn. 1, 1-18

Tinanong ng isang anak ang kanyang ina: “Ipinagdiriwang ba natin ang “birthday” ni Hesus tuwing Pasko?” “Oo anak, birthday ni Hesus tuwing Pasko,” sagot ng Ina. Ipinagpatuloy ng anak ang kanyang pagtatanong: “Kung ganun, bakit palaging bata si Hesus? Kailan siya lalaking katulad ko?”

Sa bawat pagdiriwang ng Pasko, ipinapamulat muli sa atin ang paglago ng ating buhay espritwal, lalo  na ang ating pagsunod kay Hesus. Bago ang lahat, muli nating balikan ang kahulugan ng Pasko.

Ang Pasko ay ang malayang pagkakaloob ng Diyos Ama sa kanyang nag-iisang Anak na si Hesus dala ng kanyang pagmamahal sa atin upang iahon tayo sa pagkakasala.  At ayon kay San Pablo, kahit nasa anyong Diyos, pinili ni Hesus na maging taong tulad natin maliban sa kasalanan, at siya'y nakipamuhay sa atin. Dahil dito nagkaroon muli ng ugnayan ang Diyos at tao. At sa pamamagitan ni Hesus, ibinahagi sa atin ang buhay na walang hanggan. Subalit nangangailangan ito ng positibong pagtugon mula sa bawat isa sa atin. At ito ang mahalagang katanungan sa pagdiriwang natin ng Pasko taun-taon: Hanggang saan ang ating paglago sa pananampalataya kay Hesus? Nakikita ba sa pakikitungo natin sa kapwa ang mga katangian ni Hesus?

Alalahanin natin na ang Pasko ay isang espiritwal na pagdiriwang. Hindi ito pagdiriwang na nakatuon sa materyal na paghahanda. Sa katunayan ang diwa ng Pasko ay ang pagpapakita ng hindi materyal na katangian. Ang mga palamuti, tulad ng Christmas lights, Christmas tree, parol at mga nakabalot na regalo ay hindi masyadong mahalaga kaysa sa regalo ng pagmamahal, pagkakaunawaan at pagkakaisa. Ang pasko ay dapat nasa loob natin at hindi sa labas. Aanhin natin ang napakagandang parol at Christmas lights sa loob at labas ng bahay kung ang ugali naman natin ay napakapangit pa rin? Paano natin masasabi na ating tinatanggap ang mensahe ng pagmamahal ni Hesus kung hindi nga natin kaya magpatawad sa ating kapwa? Ano nga ba ang halaga ng pagdalo natin sa Simbang Gabi kung napakabilis naman nating magalit sa kasambahay o katulong natin? At kung nauunawaan natin na ang Diyos ay naging tao tulad natin, hindi natin maaring balewalain ang mga taong mas higit na nangangailangan at nagdurusa kesa sa atin. Kung nananatiling  mahalaga ang pagdiriwang ng Pasko para sa atin, ito'y nangangahulugan lang na kailangan natin magbago. Kailangan nating mamatay sa mga makamundong bagay.

Tama ang Ina sa kuwento, “Ang Pasko ay ang pagdiriwang ng kapanganakan o birthday ni Hesus.” Magiging makahulugan lang ito sa ating buhay ngayon kung si Hesus ay palaging buhay sa puso natin. Subalit si Hesus ay hindi laging bata, siya'y lumaki at inialay ang kanyang buhay sa krus. Hinahamon din tayo na dapat lumago din ang ating pananampalataya at pagsunod kay Hesus sa pamamagitan ng pagbibigay ng ating sarili sa kapwa maging kamatayan man ang kapalit nito. Dito nagiging makahulugan at maligaya ang pagdiriwang ng Pasko.


4th Sunday of Advent - Cycle A

4th Sunday of Advent - Cycle ADec. 19, 2010

THE MODEL

One Sunday morning, a teacher decides to cook for her family. She misses doing this for sometimes because of the nature of her job. Early in the morning, she goes out to buy things needed in the kitchen. While on her way to the market, she passes by the Church and remembers that it is Sunday. She feels that it is her obligation to hear Mass as Catholic. The Mass has just started when she enters the Church. However, she cannot concentrate much and feels sleepy. To stay awake, she just lists the things she needed to buy, e.g., 5 peso union, 2 peso salt, 10 peso pepper, etc. She never notices that it's already communion time. She hurriedly stands and lines up to the communion. While waiting for her turn, she still keeps on thinking of other ingredients. When the priest gives her the host and says, “Body of Christ,” she replies, “just 1 peso Father.”

There are times that even inside the Church our minds are wandering. We are not prepared to hear God's Word and so cannot understand the Holy Mass. In life, there are things that we cannot easily understand, not just about our faith but even the basic events that are happening in our day-to-day life. Most often, these lead us to more complicated problems that we ourselves created. I've heard people telling God with a heavy heart, “This is too much Lord!” The truth is, we cannot really understand what is happening in our life because we are too focused on ourselves. And when we cannot understand even ourselves, we blame God.

This Sunday, the Church gives us somebody who can be our model in the person of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Interestingly, from the beginning when Joseph heard about God's plan for him through the angel, he also found it difficult to understand many things including the fact that before they lived together, Mary was already found with child through the Holy Spirit. That is why, he decided to divorce her quietly until God intervened. He made everything clear to Joseph through an angel. Joseph intently heard what the angel said and this time he finally understands God's plan for him. He listens not to himself but God alone.

We are being reminded that we can clearly understand what is happening in our lives if we rely not only through our own self estimations but God's plan and will for each of us. We really need to reflect and put ourselves in God's presence before coming up with a decision. Like Joseph, God also gives each of us a mission to accomplish. He never abandons us especially when we need strength and consolation. Indeed, we can only understand what is happening around us and the plan that God gives us if like Joseph we would try to become upright not only in worldly affairs but most of all in spiritual matters.  

May St. Joseph continue to become our guide and model as we make decisions in life so that we can fully understand the will of God for each of us.


3rd Sunday of Advent - A

3rd Sunday of Advent - ADecember 12, 2010

JOHN THE GREATEST
Mt.11,2-11

How can we say that a person is great?

I remember on the year 1996, almost all newspapers in the country bannered the extra-ordinary story of Emilio Advincula, a taxi driver from Cebu City. He returned the two million pesos his passenger left inside his taxicab. Emilio revealed that during that day he had a big problem. He needed a big amount of money to pay his in-law for his debt. After few hours, he saw the bag but was not tempted to open it. He rather remembered what his mother told him when he was still a child: “Son, do not get anything that is not yours even if somebody left it.” Hurriedly, he reported the matter to the police and returned the money to its owner.

For some, Emilio is so foolish. Others would say, “grasya na inayawan pa.” However, for those who have golden hearts, Emilio is truly great. He has a moral conviction and worthy to be admired and emulated by this generation.

In the Gospel, Jesus does not show any reservation praising the greatness of John: “...there has been none greater than John the Baptist...” What did John really do to deserve Jesus' acclamation? If we recall, John remains humble even in the midst of the expectant crowd who might probably accept him as the Messiah who is to come. But he hastily led them to Jesus instead. Furthermore, John speaks the truth and nothing but the truth. He was not afraid of anybody, including King Herod even if it would cost him his life. His humility and courage to speak the truth led Jesus to call him the greatest.

What our nation needs now are not those whom we call “honorable” or those who simply were bannering our flag for their achievements in sports, films, etc. But rather, what we need is great person like Emilio Advincula... like John the Baptist. They became great not because they occupy certain position in the government, not because they were educated, not even because they accomplished extra-ordinary achievements but rather because of their simplicity, humility, and the courage to speak the truth and do what is ordinary in an extra-ordinary ways.

In our country where corruptions, abuses, and indifference seem to be the business of the day, we need to learn the examples of Emilio Advincula and the inspiration of John the Baptist.

Advent season is a time to see clearly our role as Christians. Living out our faith in humility and truth will not cost us much. In fact, it is the surest way to becoming great in the eyes of the Lord!


2nd Sunday of Advent - A

2nd Sunday of Advent - ADecember 5, 2010

THE GREAT MESSENGER

One day, a man told his girlfriend: “Love, I will be leaving for Manila to continue my study. But don't worry I will never forget you.” “Oh really? There are many beautiful girls out there. You might soon replace me for somebody else's,” uttered his girlfriend. “Promise, I will never look for another girl. You are my only love and that is forever... and to prove my love for you, I will send you love letter every other day,” he further said. “Do you really promise to send me love letter every other day?” asked his girlfriend. “Yes I am, just to make you feel how much I love you,” replied the man.

He will stay in Manila for four years. From then on, he has been faithful to what he promised to her. Every other day, he composes love letter and send it to his girlfriend in the province via postal mail. So every other day the messenger delivers his letter to his girlfriend's home. For four straight years, the messenger faithfully delivers all the letters to his girlfriend. After his graduation, he decided to go home to make a marriage proposal to her. At last, the wedding ceremony happens – yet it's a wedding ceremony between the messenger and his girlfriend.

This second Sunday of Advent, God also sends us His “love letter.” And He asks John the Baptist to send it to us. John the Baptist becomes His messenger. Yet as messenger of God, he immediately warns the people “not to fall in love with him” but rather to owe their admiration and love to God alone. He says, “He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals.” Truly, John the Baptist is humble. He makes a way for Jesus to be recognized than his own.

As messenger, he delivers the message to the people by encouraging them to prepare the way of the Lord and make their paths straight. Thus, he urges them to repent for their sins as a fitting way of preparing oneself for His coming. Afterwhich, he starts baptizing each of them – a concrete testament of professing acceptance to the promised Messiah.

Advent season is a joyful time in which we commemorate and celebrate the coming of Jesus at Christmastime. This is more than recalling the first Christmas when Christ, the Son of God became flesh and dwelt among us. This is an invitation to look deeply on ourselves and see its significance in our life today. Like John the Baptist, we are also unworthy to accept Jesus in our life. Indeed, we need to repent and clean our hearts from impurities more than preparing and putting on Christmas decorations all over our homes. Yet we can only do this if we humble ourselves first. Advent & Christmas seasons are meaningless to proud people. And as we await His coming, let us not wane in prayer. This is the best way we can show our love not to the “messenger” but to the one who sent us “love letters” – to our loving God.

Let us imitate the humility of John the Baptist and learn from his unwavering commitment to deliver God's message to His people. Let our longing for God be always constant and alive. God continues to send “love letters” to us, especially when we gather in the Eucharist. May we become great and faithful messengers of God's good news to everyone.


First Sunday of Advent - A

First Sunday of Advent - ANovemeber 28, 2010

ARE YOU READY?
Mt 24:37-44

Are you ready?

There was a Pagan who decided to be baptized as Christian. However, he was hesitant to present himself to a priest for baptism because he knew nothing about Christian faith. He is afraid of what the priest would probably ask him. So he decided to prepare himself first. He went to a bookstore and bought many spiritual books like the Lives of the Saints, etc. After few weeks, he approached a priest and confidently told him, “Father, I want to be baptized as Christian.” Are you ready to become a Christian?” asked the priest. “Yes Father. In fact, I can tell you some great stories of the Saints including the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, the holiness of St. Therese of Avila, etc.,” replied the Pagan. The priest asked him again, “Do you know Christ?” “Who is he Father?” replied the Pagan.

Are you ready? This is I believe a question that is not easy to answer. I can still recall weeks before my ordination to the Diaconate, my superior asked me, “are you ready?” Honestly, I did not categorically answer him with yes or no. I just smiled. It was a simple question yet thought-provoking. It is only after thorough prayers and discernment that I was able to find an answer.

Are you ready for life? For studies? For work? For marriage? Are you ready for the trials that might come your way? Are you ready for the consequences of your decisions today? Are you ready if ever God would call you now for the next life? Do you really know Christ? If we look closely, the story of our life here on earth is a story of preparation – a preparation not only for this life but more importantly, for a life to come and this we call, eternal life.

Sad to say, many of us are not really prepared for this. Most of the times, we are concerned with non-essential things. I have witnessed families whose main concerns revolve around money and possessions. Many have already died, are dying and are willing to die for the sake of money and properties. Furthermore, we busy ourselves putting on home appliances and making sure we have all kinds of those stuffs the world is offering. We have come to consider the value of putting on our money in the bank for security yet neglecting the value of our spiritual life. To quote the essay entitled, “The Paradox of our Time,” it says that today: “We have bigger houses and smaller families; more conveniences, but less time; we have more degrees, but less sense; more knowledge, but less judgment; more experts, but more problems; more medicine, but less wellness. We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry too quickly, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too seldom, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.”

There is no problem preparing things inside and outside our homes. However, there is more than meets the eye. If we make lots of preparation in this mortal life, we must also look into some essential matters we need to decide and do, like preparing for everlasting life. We do not know the hour of our death. What we are certain is that we will die. Jesus said: “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

Are you ready? Do you really know Christ?


Feast of Christ the King (C)

Feast of Christ the King (C)November 21, 2010

The Real King!
Lk.23:35–43

There was pagan (one who does not believe in God) who went to a guru (teacher) and requested him: “Will you please show me a King whom I can worship!” The guru brought him to a museum of icons and introduced to him some of the prominent icons. They stopped at the first icon. The guru told the pagan, “This is Baghda, to those who worship him; he promises that he will remove all sufferings in this world.” The pagan simply grins a bit. They proceeded to the second icon. “This is Jopah,” said the guru. “If you worship him, he will teach you how to evade sufferings.” The pagan just nodded his head. At the farthest corner of the museum, they saw the huge Crucifix. The pagan was surprised by what he saw, so he asked the guru, “And who is this man who allowed himself to be crucified?” “He is Christ”, said the teacher. “He is the King and God of the Christians.” The pagan looked at the image of Christ intently and with pity.

After some moments, he told the guru that he wants to be a Christian. The guru was surprised, “What? Are you sure Pagan? Baghda promises that he will remove all your sufferings if you follow him while Jopah will teach you how to avoid them. But this Christ promises nothing to those who worship Him. Why have you chosen the King of the Christians?” The pagan replies, “The king who promises to remove all the sufferings of this world is not a true king. Sufferings are already part of life. And the king who teaches us how to avoid sufferings is a coward king. Sufferings in this world cannot be avoided. However, the King of the Christians who Himself had suffered is credible enough to teach us the true meaning of suffering and how to face it. If people would only understand the value of suffering and trial, there is real joy and peace in this world.” After these statements, the guru said to him, “That is true. Come on, I want to be a Christian also.”

The Catholic Church is celebrating the feast of Christ the King today and this is also the end of the liturgical calendar. We are remembering Christ as King, our King. It is but proper that we should ask ourselves: What kind of King is Christ in my life? Perhaps we should add, “Where can I find His kingdom?”

Sadly, in this consumerist generation, the spirit of sacrifice seems to be a thing of the past. We exert all our efforts just to avoid or ignore sacrifices. Hence, we look for a “king” who can assure us of happiness. There is no doubt that for some people, money and power become their kings because they rule their lives oftentimes. Others would choose vices, alcohols, drugs and even television as their kings. However, there is a moment in our life where we come to realize that whatever pleasures that money provides us; how tasteful alcohols and drugs are; how enticing watching television brings us, these are not the answer. We still find our happiness empty and meaningless until we discover that God is indeed the only King who can fill the emptiness of our lives and can teach us how to face all our problems and sufferings. But we need to be humble first. We need to accept Jesus as our only King and invite Him to stay in our hearts always. Surely, He can give us the opportunity to be with Him in His Kingdom. He has given this privilege to the crucified thief besides Him.

Like the story of the pagan who accepted Christ, we are also invited to accept and worship Him as our King. And every time we see Him on the cross, we should try to see the value of sufferings in our life and be ready to suffer for the sake of love.

Jesus our King, teach us how to love like you.


33rd Sunday of the Year - C

33rd Sunday of the Year - CNov. 14, 2010

GOD IS IN CONTROL!
Lk. 21: 5 -19

September 11, 2001 was the day the whole world changed. Terrorism became a reality. This will forever be remembered, especially by the Americans. Perhaps, this is an exaggeration but one thing we can possibly reflect upon is that it only takes a minute or two to annihilate all inhabitants of the earth. From then on, there was never an end to acts of terrorism in different parts of the world. Our country is not an exemption. It is not surprising that some people would believe that the end of the world is looming.

No one will argue that the world will surely end. This is stated even in our creed. “He will come to judge the living and the dead...” Yet when we ask when and how this will happen, Jesus instructed his audience that these things will happen first: wars, terrible earthquakes, famine, plagues everywhere, and many terrifying things in the sky, but this is not yet the end. More importantly, He emphasized that those who follow Him will experience religious persecutions. Again, this is happening in many countries today where there are Christians. However, Jesus also gave us a consoling words, “...do not be terrified...” In other words, he is telling us not to be afraid. In the New Testament, he mentioned this word many times.

While it is true that we are indeed experiencing these horrifying signs today, Jesus is asking us to persevere in faith: “By your perseverance, you will secure your lives.” This is the Good News: “God is in control!” God is ever faithful to His promise – He loves us and will never abandon us. In these trying times, faith matters most.

There was a man who fell into a deep ravine but good that he was able to hold on to a branch of an old tree. In his fear, he repeatedly shouts, “Lord, if you are really powerful, save me from here.” After a while, he hears a voice form heaven: “I'm going to save you, but first you need to let go of the branch you are holding on.” The man looks down and the more he becomes afraid. In desperation, he looks at the sky and shouts again, “Is there no other God there?”

Friends, in times of fears and doubts, it is but necessary to let go of ourselves and put everything in the loving hands of God and be assured of His protection even in the worst form of terrorisms. Christ Himself reminds us, “Don't be afraid!” God is in control!


32nd Week in OT - Cycle C

32nd Week in OT - Cycle CNovember 7, 2010

Spread your wings and Fly!
Lk.20:27–38

A man was walking in a forest when he saw a young helpless eagle. He brought home the eagle and took care of him. He placed him together with his chickens. The eagle steadily grew; learned how to eat what the chicken were eating and became accustomed to their behavior. In fact, one can hardly notice the differences of the eagle's behavior to that of the chickens. One day, a veterinary expert passed by and saw the eagle together with the chickens in one place. He asked the owner why he did not separate the two. “Since the time I found this eagle I let him joined these chickens having the same foods and became accustomed to the ways of the chicken. Eventually, he was not able to learn how to fly,” said the owner. “It is not proper. It has the still the heart of an eagle,” told the expert.

They both agreed to teach the eagle how to fly. The expert placed the eagle in his hands and said, “You are not meant for this place, you must be in the sky, spread your wings and fly.” However, nothing happened. The eagle just looked at him. And when the he saw the chickens eating, he jumped immediately and joined them. After few days, they taught the eagle again yet the same thing happened. For the third time, they brought the eagle to a higher place and loudly said, “You are an eagle, you are not meant for this place. You must be in the sky. Spread your wings and fly!” The eagle can now slowly manage to flap his wings but again, when he saw the chickens inside the cage, the flapping stopped. But the expert, convinced that the eagle can still fly, brought him to a higher plain. Slowly, the eagle spread his wings, flapped them and begun soaring the vastness of the sky.

Perhaps the eagle still remembers the company of the chickens. But he did not anymore come back and be with the chickens. He is an eagle and will remain an eagle even if he grew up and lived like the chickens.

Likewise, we are not only human beings, born and grew up here on earth. We are children of God. Our real home is not of this place. Even if we grew up here on earth, we have hearts that are heavenly and Godly. We are being called not only to live an upright life here on earth but also to search for eternal life in heaven.

In the Gospel, Jesus was asked by the Sadducees about life after death or the resurrection. They started it by putting him a question about marriage in the next life using words from Moses. They were surprised by the answer of Jesus. “The children of this age marry and remarry; but those who are deemed worthy to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.” While the Sadducees, an elite and religious group during the time of Jesus, did not believe in the resurrection, Jesus wanted them to realize that indeed there is a reward of the just after death, and we Christians call it, the resurrection.

Thus, we are being reminded today that we are not only citizens of this earth. We must use all our abilities to enter the Kingdom of God where there is no more suffering and death. We hope that during His second coming, Jesus finds us ready and waiting.

As children of God, we are not only for the earth, let us spread our wings and fly high!


31st Sunday in OT - Cycle C

31st Sunday in OT - Cycle COct. 31, 2010

What kind of Sinner you are?
Lk. 19: 1-10

One day, a father and his daughter were traveling by car. While it was raining, Gloria, the daughter told her father, “Dad, something entered my mind.” “What is it my daughter?” Asked the Father. She answered, “The rain Dad.” “What about the rain?” he asked. She said, “The rain is like our sins and the wiper is like God who continuously removes our sins.” “You are right, my child, but what is also the meaning of the continuous pouring of rain?” asked the father. “It means we continue committing sin, and God also continuously forgives us,” she answered.

Experience tells us that as human beings we always have the tendency to commit sin. In fact, we consider ourselves as sinners – no exception. But a good question is, “What kind of sinners are we?” This is an invitation to look deeply into ourselves and reflect.

In the story of Zaccheus in Luke's Gospel, we can digest at least three kinds of sinners. The first one is the unrepentant sinner. This is exemplified by the crowd. They are just there following Jesus because He makes miracles, feeds them, and ministers to them. They are not interested to become His disciples and to renew themselves for good. These kinds of sinners cannot in anyway appreciate the need for repentance. In fact, they blocked the way of Zaccheus who wanted to see Jesus.

The second kind of sinner is the one who firmly believes that he is too good and holy. This is manifested in the persons of the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law. When they saw Jesus entered the house of Zaccheus, they murmured and said, “He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.” This kind of sinner sees the defects of others, but cannot see his/her own sins. One is too proud of himself/herself.

The third kind of sinner is one who humbly seeks repentance and reconciliation with God. This is represented by Zaccheus. Zacchaeus is the chief tax collector and a rich man. During the time of Jesus, tax collectors were known to be sinners perhaps because they can cheat on people's money. This is the reason why Zaccheus became rich. Yet he is no ordinary sinner. He longed to see Jesus when he heard much about Him. He really makes his way to see Him so much that he climbed the sycamore tree. His longing was realized when Jesus saw him in the sycamore tree and ordered him to come down. After welcoming Jesus in his house, there was a change in his life. He realized how sinful he was and as an expression of his desire to repent and become a new person, he immediately told Jesus: “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone, I shall repay it four times over.” In response, Jesus said, “Today, salvation has come to this house...”

What kind of sinners are we? If ever we come to realize that as sinners we always long to see Jesus and need to repent, we should be like Zaccheus. We must also welcome Jesus always in our homes – in our hearts, so that He would also offer his salvation to us.


30th Wk in O.T. - Cycle C

30th Wk in O.T. - Cycle COctober 24, 2010

HUMILITY
Lk. 18: 9-14

Three monks are conversing with each other while having their period of rest. They shared a feeling of happiness and fulfillment in their spiritual growth, until they proudly told each other their “piece of accomplishment” inside the convent. The first monk said, “Brother, you should be happy for me because in just a short span of time, I was able to attain the purity of my heart. The second monk immediately grabbed the opportunity to also showcase his growth: “You know brother, it is not in my attitude to boast but you should bear in mind that in this monastery, I am the most obedient.” The third monk just silently nodded his head in disagreement of what his brothers have told. When he was asked about the good thing he had done so far, he said: “My brothers, I don't want to brag about my accomplishment anymore, but from the bottom of my heart, I am telling you that among us, I'm the only one who has a humble heart.”

How do we measure the goodness of a person? Is it really necessary that the whole world should know that we are good persons? One Sunday, after I offered mass, there was an old woman who approached me and said, “Father, I felt bad about you.” I asked her why. She answered, “You see, you did not even acknowledge me during the mass. Don't you know that I am the head of the group of collectors in this parish?” I was not able to utter a word, except to pity her. So many of us are like this old woman. If we give to the Church for example, we want it to be known by the community – our names should be inscribed on the items that we have given. And if ever they forget to thank us, we stop giving.

On the other hand, we can understand why this is happening even to those known churchgoers. This is what the world is teaching us these days. There is a need to be to be popular so to speak – to be the number one. Sad to say, this human drive to be number one is also happening to many Christians who believe that because they are active in Church's  activities, always hearing mass, and always praying, they are already better and holy persons, and that those who are not concerned or don't care about Church's affairs are sinners and unworthy of the grace from God. Hence, if this is really true, we are not far from the attitudes of the Pharisees – who thought that goodness and holiness are theirs alone; that they are the ones qualified to enter the Kingdom of God and others are excluded.

In truth, there is no need to tell the whole world that we are good and holy. Thanks be to the saints who really worked silently yet produced abundantly. The desire to be popular and to always seek recognition before everybody else is pride. On the other hand, goodness and holiness are the qualities of those who live-out their faith even if they are not recognized by the world.  

God knows what kind of persons we are. I always believe that at the end, God will judge us not according to the standards of this world but on the quality of our hearts – for God knows what is inside of it. In fact, we are unworthy to receive many blessings from Him. Thus, we are called to be humble and let God not man, do the task of recognizing our worth and good deeds. He said, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled; and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” We pray that we may be given the grace to be humble and like the Publican, we continue to tell Him: “Oh God, have mercy on me a sinner.”


29th Sunday in OT - Cycle C

29th Sunday in OT - Cycle COctober 17, 2010

Persistence in Prayer
Lk. 18: 1-8

A boy with cleft palate became so depressed in life. He was always asking: “Lornd, maal mo ma ako?” (“Lord, do you love me?”). He had always been teased and fooled by many people. One time he thought of making a nine day novena-prayer in the Church. He usually starts his prayer after the people leaves the Church. He really cries out his feelings in front of the crucifix. He always says: “Lornd, maal mo ma ako?” (“Lord, do you love me?”). “Hini mo yata ako maal? Palagi na lang ako ninonoko ng mga tao. Please naman, sangutin mo ako.” (“It seems that you do not love me. The people always make fun of me. Please, answer me.”) Everyday, he repeats the same prayer. The ninth day of novena came and again he prays with sadness. “Lornd, maal mo ma ako?” Hini mo na yata ako maal? Mangit ako ninonoko ng mga tao? Please naman sangutin mo ako, pag hini mo ako sinangot, magmamangamatay ako dito!” (Lord, do you love me? Maybe you do not love me. Why do people tease me? Please, do answer me. If you do not answer me, I'll kill myself here!”)

However, he did not notice that there was also a harelip boy who was praying and heard what he was requesting from the Lord. He thought to himself, “he just needed an answer...” So, hurriedly he went at the back of the crucified Jesus and when he heard the usual prayer of the cleft palate boy telling Jesus that he would commit suicide if He would not answer him, he answered him as if he was Jesus: “Ngongo, maal na maal kita. Iniisip nila ay hini maalaga. Masta't maal kita manging sino ka man.” (“My son, I love you very much. What they think about you is not important. Truly, I love you, whoever you are.”) The cleft palate boy at the foot of the cross got surprised and asked, “Lornd, ngongo ka rin ba?” (Lord, do you have a cleft palate too?”)

Persistence in prayer – this is the message of the parable in today's gospel. We can easily identify ourselves with the widow who persistently requested the judge to render a just decision on her case. The judge, realizing how persistent the widow was, finally handed over a just decision on her case. This is also true when we pray with perseverance. We need to storm heaven with our prayers without getting discouraged or tired even if at times it seems like our prayer is not heard. Like that boy with a cleft palate, we need to persist in our prayer until God makes His way. If the judge in the parable hears the insistent prayer of the widow, how much more will our Father in heaven not hear us, His children?  We should always be convinced that God knows our needs and that He loves us. Sometimes, God wants to purify our thoughts as we pray and surely He always reminds us that prayer is first and foremost a kind of a dialogue where we must not only talk but also listen to Him. Listening is an important aspect of prayer. Yes, God uses the same language we use so that we could easily understand Him, like the experience of that boy with a cleft palate. And the serenity that we fell when we pray I believe is enough to convince us that God truly listens to us and that he really loves us, maging sino man tayo (whoever we are).

How persistent we are in prayer? Do we really listen to Him?


27th Sunday in OT - Cycle C

27th Sunday in OT - Cycle COctober 3, 2010

Increase Our Faith
Lk.17:5-10

John is a religious yet hard headed man. One day, a heavy flooding took place in their place. He has nowhere to go except at the roof-top of his house. A rescue boat came to fetch him but he just ignored it and said to the rescuer, “Never mind, I have faith in God. He will come to save me.” The level of water reached higher and another boat passed by, but still he refuse to ride believing that his strong faith will save him. The water reached the highest level and became furious and he has nowhere to go. A helicopter came along to save him, but again, he did not go, still insisting that his faith in God will save him. Poor John, he was drowned.

When he faced God in the next life, he angrily asked Him: “Lord, despite my strong faith in you, why did you abandon me?” God answered him: “I sent you two boats and a helicopter but you did not go. What else did you want to happen?”

What kind of faith do we have? Jesus said: “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can tell to this tree be uprooted and be planted into the sea, it will obey you.” The mustard seed is one of the tiniest seeds but when it becomes a full grown tree, it is one of the biggest trees. Here, Jesus is teaching us that like the mustard tree, our faith must be strong enough, so that we can have the power and strength to face all problems and challenges that come our way. However, this faith must be measured and expressed not just by words, as John did in the story, but through concrete actions.

This kind of faith can be shown in the life of Jesus. In the midst of trials, sacrifices and sufferings, He did not lose faith. He could have chosen to safely remain on the mountain but he decided to go down to Jerusalem to face death. He showed his faith to the Father by carrying a heavy cross until the place of crucifixion. On the cross, we saw a person who were never defeated by the power of sin and remain complacent but one who even conquered death because of His strong faith.

In our world today, there are still a great number of Johns around us. Those who do not have faith and those who do have faith, yet without works – a faith that is not growing. Sad to say, many of us consider our faith in God as just a status qou or worst, it is simply a decoration. It never grows. It never affects our lives as Christians. In short, this is a faith that is devoid of any meaning at all.

Like the Apostles, we also ask Jesus to “increase our faith” and to make it even meaningful and stronger so that we could surmise whatever difficulties and trials we face everyday. God's love is constant and He continues to invite us to become faithful workers in His vineyard. He sends us not only a boat or helicopter so we will be saved; He gives us Himself in the Holy Mass, so that like the mustard seed, our faith in Him will steadily grow and become effective in words and deeds.


26th Sunday in OT - Cycle C

26th Sunday in OT - Cycle CSeptember 26, 2010

Ticket to Heaven
Lk. 16: 19-31

There is a story of a 10-year old boy who went to an ice cream shop and asked how much the big cup cost. The waiter said, “It costs fifteen pesos.” The boy started counting how much he had in his wallet. Then he asked how much a small cup cost. The waiter said, “It costs twelve pesos.” The boy asked for a small cup, he ate it, paid the bill and left. When the waiter picked the empty cup he was touched by what he discovered. The boy left three pesos. The waiter smiled tenderly as he realized that the boy had enough money for the big cup, but settled for a small one so he could leave him a gratuity for his service.

What a beautiful world we could have if each of us would try to give something to everyone out of whatever little we have. Still, we could imagine the best result if rich people would only be generous enough to everyone. Sad to say, many rich people only give their surplus and those that they do not need anymore. In my experience, it is the poor who is oftentimes more generous than rich people. Want to know? Go to a far-flung village in the province and stay for a while and you will discover how a poor Filipino family welcomes and entertains a visitor.  

In the Gospel, we saw the sad ordeal of the rich man. While on earth, he feasted on good food everyday, while a poor beggar Lazarus, whose leg wounds were licked by dogs, lay by the door waiting only for scraps to fall from the rich man's table.  The poor man died and was brought to Heaven; the rich man also died yet he was sent to Hell. Take note that to be rich is not a sin. In fact, in the Old Testament, wealth is considered a blessing. The rich man was sent to Hell not because he was rich but because he did not allow even a small thing such as a “crumb” or scraps to fall in the way of Lazarus. He was selfish and greedy and this is what keeps him in hell.

It is not enough that we refrain from doing harm to our neighbor. We must also do good deeds. We must be extra sensitive and generous especially to those in need. The goods of the earth are supposed to be enjoyed by everybody. In the face of the overwhelming poverty around us, we need a big helping hand. In the end, I believe, God will not ask us how much money we have in the bank, nor how many beautiful buildings we constructed, but how many lives we cared for. Only then can we join Lazarus in the company of God in heaven. It is not yet too late to do good deeds – to share even a little of what we have. “Pondo ng Pinoy” – a charitable program for the poor and needy of the Archdiocese of Manila rightly captures this spirit: “Ano mang magaling, kahit maliit, basta't malimit ay patungong langit.”


24th Sunday in OT - Cycle C

24th Sunday in OT - Cycle C September 12, 2010

THE FIRST STEP
Lk.15:1–32

A man approached a priest in a monastery and with a sad voice asked him: “Father, what is the first step that a sinner like me should do in order to be saved from eternal damnation?” “My child, you have made the first important step,” said the priest. “What is it Father?” asked the man. “You have accepted that you are a sinner.”

One of the reasons why we are not at peace with ourselves and others is because we are so proud and therefore, have difficulty accepting that indeed we are sinners. Oftentimes, we have many creative alibis to cover our faults and mistakes. We are afraid to face the reality that we are weak and are nothing... that we need other people... we need God.

The very reason why Jesus lambasted the Pharisees and teachers of the Law is because they looked at themselves as the only respectable, righteous and most of all, holy men. They have difficulty accepting that they are sinners. In effect, they were disgusted when they saw Jesus in the company of sinners. For them, it was unbecoming for one who is considered a Master or more, as a Messiah to associate with sinners. When Jesus speaks and dine with the sinners, they witnessed a different Messiah – totally distinct from them. For a proud Pharisees and Scribes, what Jesus did goes beyond their self-imposed morality.

The parable of the lost sheep shows clearly the mission of Jesus: to save the sinners and rejected. Finding a lost sheep is of great joy to God. It is a call for a celebration – for rejoicing.  Jesus said: “There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety – nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.” In doing so, Jesus gives way to the spirit of reconciliation and invites us to strengthen our hope beyond our brokenness.

God knows that we are weak; prone to sin. But what is important is our desire to acknowledge our limitations, take away all our pride and selfishness, and hold on to the power of God, especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. God can never be outdone in His mercy towards repentant sinners.

We have always been reminded time and again that if we want to experience true happiness, peace, and salvation, we must become like Jesus – loving, merciful and humble. The problem with people like the Pharisees and Scribes is that they looked at themselves according to their own egoistic measure. As Christians, we should look at ourselves according to how Jesus looks at us. But there is a need to do the first step, like what the prodigal son did – accept our sinfulness.


23rd Sunday in O.T. - Cycle C

23rd Sunday in O.T. - Cycle CSept. 5, 2010

CARRYING THE CROSS
Lk.14:25–33

One day, a master brought two of his disciples in the middle of the road. He gave each of them a cross with the same weight. He told them to carry their crosses until the end of the road where the he would be waiting. The first disciple carries his cross with joy while the other disciple starts grumbling and complaining as he walks. The first disciple finally reached the end of the road. With joy, he gives back the cross to his master. The master said, “Good child, come here.” Then the master embraced him. After almost two hours, the second disciple arrives. He immediately throws the cross at the foot of the master and complains: “You are not just, you gave a much heavier cross to me than the first disciple – that's also the reason why I was late.” The master looks at him with pity and says: “My child, both of you were given crosses with the same weight.” “Why is it that I have difficulty carrying mine while the first disciple seems comfortable carrying his?” asked the second disciple. The master told him, “Do not blame the cross. You have difficulty carrying it because you keep on complaining. The more you complain, the more the cross becomes heavier. The first disciple never has difficulty carrying the cross because he carries it with so much love. That is why, for every love he shares, the cross becomes lighter.”

Oftentimes, we carry crosses in life: trials, problems, difficulties, misunderstandings, and many others. There are times that even in prayer, we complain to God: “Lord, why I am suffering this much? Why is it that my cross seems getting heavier almost everyday?” We must realize that at this moment, grudging and complaining will not help us at all. Perhaps, God wants to awaken in us our faith and trust in Him in the midst of difficulties besetting us.

Following Jesus Christ does not mean a life without problems. His message to the crowd who were following Him is clear: “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” Our cross can only mean so much to us if we carry it with love and patience. And when we lovingly carry our crosses, we can no longer feel any hardships but a great consolation that somehow we are one with Jesus who carries His cross until death with love.  

As we continue our journey, let us ask God not to take away our crosses but to teach us how to carry it with love. Let us continue to enkindle in our heart a great trust for Jesus. So that in times that we fall and thought of giving up on life, He would fill our emptiness and give us strength so that we can continue to imitate Him. With love and humility, we can reach the end of the road where our Master is waiting to embrace us.


22nd Sunday in OT - Cycle C

22nd Sunday in OT - Cycle CAugust 29, 2010

HUMILITY
Lk.14:1,7–14

A rich young man visited his friend who is a farmer. He found him in the rice field. After greeting his friend, he told him, “You see, if you just finished your studies, you should not be sacrificing like that. You're working under the heat of the sun, bending low until the sunset, and with muddy feet. Look at me in a blue-collar dress working in an air-conditioned office. I always wear a branded shoes and I am always neat!” The farmer replied, “My friend, do you see these rice stalks? Those that stand tall and straight are empty and useless while those that are bent and lowly are heavy with grains. They are the ones who are useful.”

Bending or kneeling is a sign of humility. We bend when we show respect to others, especially to the elders.

With the influx of materialism and consumerism, the world today is teaching us to stand tall and straight – to be proud. No wonder, selfishness has become a second nature to many. In effect, we place little room for humility. We become too impersonal and individualistic in our dealing with others: “As long as I am fine, why should I care about others? “ In the process, we easily judge people and become so pessimistic so much that we have difficulty seeing the goodness of each other. Pride eats up our whole life.

If there is someone who gives us a shining example on how to be humble, it is Jesus Christ. His life story is enveloped in humility. Saint Paul said, “...though He was in the form of God, he did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave... he humbled himself, was obedient to death, death on a cross“(Phil.2:6-8). As he was dying on the cross and with all the sufferings he was enduring, still he was able to cry out: “Father, forgive them...” What an expression of humility!

In the Gospel, Jesus said, “He who exalts himself shall be humbled and he who humbled himself shall be exalted.“ Going back to the story of the farmer and his boastful friend, we are being reminded that the key to successful and genuine human relationships is not measured by what we have, what degree of education we accomplished, and how influential we are. Indeed, humility defines us.

Thus, every time we receive Jesus in the Holy Communion, we also receive His humility. Our Christian life must be likened to the rice stalks wherein only those that are bent and lowly are heavy with grains – are essential. It is through humble submission that we become more like-Christ.


21st Sunday in OT - Cycle C

21st Sunday in OT - Cycle CAug. 22, 2009

Ticket to Heaven
Lk. 13: 22-30

Watching a television one evening I heard a minister claiming that only their members would be saved. Outside their Church there is no salvation. It only means that almost two thousand years after the coming of Christ and before the foundation of his church, nobody was saved. What a big joke!

“Lord, will only a few people be saved?” This was the question asked to Jesus in the Gospel today. Jesus did not answer the question categorically by saying yes or no. He just said, “Strive to enter the narrow gate...” The second reading provides a clue to the meaning of narrow gate, “Endure your trials as the disciples of God... make straight the path you walk on...”  

Clearly, God plays no favorites. He wants all to be saved but we must work hard for it; we must strive for it. Nothing worthwhile comes so easy. To enter the kingdom of God, we must have perseverance and patience. These are important virtues we need. Most of all, it would be easier for us to enter the narrow door if we have no baggage. And while waiting for our turn, we should not remain idle. We should see to it that every moment of our life, there is a desire to become fruitful – to do essential things not just to ourselves but especially to our neighbors. Thus, we should go through many trials and difficulties in life with courage and love. We cannot be a true Christian unless we dare to follow the ways of Christ in and out of season. Believe me, it is not our social status and intelligence that matter but it is through our good examples that we can also be genuine instruments of God's saving grace.  

Our religion will not save us. Any minister who preaches that salvation is easily earned by just praising and putting our hands to the air is an illusion. It is rather good works and unwavering faith to Jesus that would give us a ticket to heaven.  


20th Sunday in OT - Cycle C

20th Sunday in OT - Cycle CAugust 15, 2010

The Assumption of Mary
Lucas 1,39-56

A story is told of a lady who is already in her death bed. She asks her boyfriend, “Could you please tell me where heaven is?” He looked at her intently with teary eyes and said, “My love, heaven is wherever you are!”

The doctrine of the Assumption of Mary points us to a state of life, we call heaven where Mary is. It is an official teaching of the Catholic Church. It is a dogma. It means, as Catholics we must believe what the Church teaches. But what is really the meaning of the assumption of Mary? What does the Church actually teach? The Church teaches us that after the end of the earthly life of Mary, she was assumed immediately into heaven, body and soul and united with God. This is also God's way of recognizing her faithfulness to His will when she became the mother of Jesus.

What about it's meaning to us? What does it have to do with us? What happened to Mary will also happen to us at the end of time. At the judgment day, we, who tried our best to live-out our faith, who are faithful to God like Mary, will be assumed into heaven body and soul. Hence, the Assumption of Mary strengthens our hope that we, who are trying to follow and live-out the will of God in spite of our failures and weaknesses, would someday be united with God in heaven like Mary.

Mary gave us an example. She shows us that hope. I also hope that through our prayers and good deeds, God would welcome us into His heavenly Kingdom. For where God is, there is the experience of joy – of heaven.


19th Sunday in O.T. - Cycle C

19th Sunday in O.T. - Cycle CAugust 08, 2010

WHERE IS YOUR HEART?
(Lk. 12: 32 – 48)

I was just a seminarian when I was assigned at a far-flung parish in the island of Cagraray in Albay, for a month of summer-apostolate. I was adopted by a family. Tatay Inso became my foster father. He is a simple man; poor, but with an extraordinary heart. With us in a very small house were his kind wife and eight children. One could imagine how we were able to sleep together comfortably in just one room. It is not unusual that many times I was awakened by the cry of a two-year old baby in a middle of the night with his urine flowing all over my body. To be able to survive, the couple sells sleeping mats which they themselves made. They did not own any modern equipment at home, like television, electric fan, etc. Their only property is a small and very old transistor radio enough to listen to an endless Filipino drama-anthology. A crucifix fixed on a wall is the only visible thing that could be seen inside their house.

“Could I stay longer here?” I honestly asked myself. However, after a week of uneasiness I was relieved. It was really a wonderful experience getting to know the whole story of the life of Tatay Inso. In spite of the poverty his family was experiencing, he became closer to God. Tatay Inso is also an active member of the Parish Lay Ministers' organization and other ministries. I cannot forget what he told me at a time when my heart seems so cold: “When you learn to attune your heart to God, He will never despise you.” As I am about to end my stay with them, I came to realize how they loved each other and how they were grateful to God. Mind you, there was not a day that I never saw them praying together. For many, Tatay Inso and his family are materially poor and despised. But for me they are truly rich – rich in their love for neighbor and God. They taught me a simple yet effective way of preparing myself also when the Lord comes.

Many people have been killed; are being killed; and others want to kill because of money or riches. We cannot anymore count those families who had been scattered and broken because of too much attachment to material things. Jesus said: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” These words imply that each of us is free to choose what our hearts desire. Thus, Jesus pointed out the story of those servants who remained vigilant for the arrival of their master. They are the ones whom Jesus called blessed and will be given a privilege place in His kingdom. A reverse will happen to those servants who did not make any preparation when their master arrived. Jesus seems to imply that they would have no place in heaven. Instead they would suffer a severe beating for their negligence and unfaithfulness.

What about us? What are the things we usually search for and make our life so “busy”? What are we preparing for everyday? How much time do we spend searching not only for the riches of this world but for what truly satisfies our heart – God? St. Augustine aptly said it: “My heart is restless O God, until it rests in you.”  

Life is a constant struggle of finding our heart's desires. Tatay Inso has found his – not in the passing allurement of this world but in trusting God and serving his neighbors. Indeed, when God becomes our treasure, our heart would truly rest in him.

Where is your heart?


PALM SUNDAY - C

PALM SUNDAY - CMarch 28, 2010

Are You Going to Open?
Lk. 23: 1-49

Marco is working as a controller of the bridge somewhere in America. The bridge connects two big highways and passes through a wide and deep lake going to the port where cargo and passenger ships usually docked. Once Marco sees a ship coming he pushes the button that will give signal to all vehicles to stop. Afterwards he also pushes a button to open the bridge so that a ship can pass safely. After a ship has passed, he pushes another button to let both ends of the bridge down. This is the time where vehicles can freely pass going to the other side. The job is simple, but risky. The life of many people is in Marco's hands.

One day, Marco went to work with his only son Daboy. The kid was playful. Marco's best friends arrived, Ronnie and Jay. They enjoyed chatting since they have not seen each other for a long time. He was not able to notice his son who happened to be playing just beside him. The kid was already in the middle of the bridge when he saw a coming ship. It will surely bump at the bridge if Marco would not make a way.

He should push the button so the vehicles would stop to give way to a ship. But what about his son? If he would open the bridge, his son is going to fall and die. But if he would not open the bridge to save his son, surely the ship will bump at it and many people will die. What will you do if you were Marco?

There is no doubt, the Father in heaven was the first one who opened the bridge so that we could be saved. He gave his only Son aware that he will soon face death.

Jesus' entry to Jerusalem signals the fulfillment of a long-awaited prophecy – the consummation of the Father's charity towards his wayward people through the gift of his Son Jesus. Jesus must have also been aware that his entry means willingness to do the will of his Father through sufferings and even death. It is also a moment where he would soon discover the true color of his disciples, of those people he served, and the beneficiaries of his many miracles. The loud “hosannas” does not really express the true sentiment of the people around him. And the evil intent of the temple leaders far surpasses the accolade they rendered to Jesus. In front of Pilate, Jesus was treated as a criminal as he hears people shouting that he be nailed on the cross and be crucified.

Many times we are being asked to be one in the sacrifices and sufferings of Jesus as His followers. At times God asks us to offer our time, talents, and even our own precious self not just to fulfill what we had promised during baptism but because we firmly believe in the value of giving one's life for the sake of our faith in God. Everyday our faith is being tested through the many problems and challenges that come our way. Thus, it is but imperative to ask, “Are we ready to carry the cross everyday? Are we ready to sacrifice and give ourselves even to the point of death? Are we ready to open the bridge of our life to others?

Following Christ becomes more meaningful if each of us would follow God not only in times of happiness and celebrations but most, in moments of extreme trials and sufferings. Let us now open the bridge and let God pass by. He is in control.

May our Holy Week celebration be really holy and life-giving.


5th Sunday of Lent - C

5th Sunday of Lent - CMarch 21, 2010

The Things that Eyes Cannot See
Lk.8:1–11

A monk was walking in a village when he saw his abbot kissed a beautiful young lady on her cheek. He was shocked and enraged by what he saw. So, he hurriedly went back to the monastery and told the other monks of what he had seen – they became angry. They were united in saying that their abbot was a hypocrite, an impure person and a sinner. They decided to give the abbot a hard punishment when he returns. They continued their plan. They tied the abbot to a post and flogged him severely. When they saw him helpless in pain, they locked him in a room without bread or water. They also agreed to punish the young woman whom the abbot kissed. When they saw the lady they hurriedly asked: “Is it true that you were kissed by our abbot?” “Yes that's true,” said the woman. “Are you admitting you have a relationship with him?” “Yes, we have a relationship,” answered the woman. “Your abbot is my elder brother.”

How many relationships had already been broken because of false judgments? How many people had been hurt because of malicious intrigues & gossips? We judge too easily but we find it difficult to understand and forgive. We always see other's mistakes and sins but we have difficulty accepting our own.

Jesus showed us that it is far more important to be compassionate and forgiving than being judgmental. A sinful woman who was caught in the act of committing adultery was brought to him by the Scribes and Pharisees. They argued that according to the Law of Moses she has to be stoned to death. Jesus simply responded to them by saying, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” With this, the woman was left untouched. On the other hand, Jesus also saw the weight of the woman's sin but did not judge her. Instead, He slowly let the woman felt His mercy and forgiveness, “Neither do I condemned you. Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.” The woman was given another chance and perhaps she herself realized how sinful she was.

Being compassionate and forgiving bring more benefits than being judgmental and merciless. How wonderful the world can be if each of us Christians would become an instrument of peace and reconciliation than hatred and division. More troubles could be avoided and many people could be given a chance to renew themselves. Eventually, conversion to faith might follow.

Indeed, we are being challenged to be compassionate and forgiving especially to those who sinned against us. Jesus' examples are enough to impel us to be one. Let us imitate our compassionate and forgiving Jesus. Yes, it is difficult but the Lord never stops guiding us. He continuously gives us blessings and strength – that each of us could really be His instrument so that every person would repent and go back to God.

These are the things that eyes cannot see.


4th Sunday of Lent - C

4th Sunday of Lent - C
March 14, 2010

The Forgiving Father
Lk. 15:1-3, 11 – 32

One day, Satan complained to the Lord, “You are unjust! So many sinners do wrong and you just take them back. In fact, some come back half a dozen times and you always welcome them. I make one mistake and you condemned me forever. It is not fair! The Lord replied, “Did you ever ask for forgiveness or did you ever repent from your sins?”

Nowadays, carrying heartaches, grudges, anger, and the like has become a second nature to many of us. At times, we find it difficult to admit our wrongdoings and ask for forgiveness. Sad to say, we have many reasons to justify our failures even if we knew that we were the ones to be blamed. We are too proud of ourselves!

The good news this Sunday is not just about the conversion of the prodigal son but the story of the forgiving father. The Father lavishly loves his prodigal son without any condition. In the words of Fr. Cantalamessa, the story “has touched more hearts than all the sermons that have been preached put together...” The Gospel is introduced with these words: “All the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to him, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So Jesus told them this parable...

The stories of sons and daughters who were disobedient to their parents and were concerned only of themselves, and their own happiness, are ordinary. Even the act of regretting and repenting for ones sins are very common. What is rare is the act of forgiving. Forgiveness is usually being set aside in search of justice. Hence, when the act of forgiving is not present, it results to a continuous cycle of disagreements and misunderstanding.

How many relationships were already ruined because we cannot forgive? How many young people have already gone astray because they cannot feel the real love from their parents? Until when is the end of much disagreement and bickering among our political leaders?

Jesus gave us an example to follow. “Father forgive them...” These are the words He uttered as He helplessly hanged on the cross. This is also what is being asked from us in the midst of continuous disagreements, troubles, and misunderstandings. Forgiving – seems hard but it brings us not just peace but also concern and love for each other.

As followers of Christ, may forgiveness reign in us brought about by repentance and not selfishness and hatred so that there will be real celebration and joy in heaven with the presence of the forgiving GOD.


3rd Sunday of Lent - C

3rd Sunday of Lent - CMarch 7, 2010

IT'S NOW OR NEVER!
Lk. 13, 1-9

A rich man once told his friend. He said, “People don't like me. They said that I am greedy and selfish. Yet they do not know that in my last will and testament, all my riches will be donated to the charity.” The friend answered, “Maybe you will learn from the story of the pig and cow.” One day the pig came near the cow whining, “People have been talking of the good things you are doing for them. Yes, it is true you give them milk. But they get more from me than you. They make use of almost all parts of my body but I am just being ignored, for them I am just a pig! Why is it like that?” The cow came to think of it for a while then said to the pig, “maybe it is because I give while I am still alive.”

Usually we do good deeds to others when it is already too late. According to an old saying, “what is the use of green grass if the horse had already died?” This invites us to examine how we become consistent in doing good things to others and in making our lives fruitful and meaningful.

Jesus told the people the parable of the Fig tree after reminding them of the need to repent and experience conversion. He knows that when we humble ourselves before God, we can easily get out from our selfishness and be able to see the goodness in us so that we can bear good fruits. Being a Christian is not simply a status quo or a title which is being imprinted in us after receiving the Sacrament of Baptism. Rather, to become a Christian is to continue to nourish and cultivate the divine life in us. In other words, becoming a Christian is living a radical life, which means being able to reach out to others in generosity, helping and defending the poor and needy, becoming instruments of peace, taking side with the victims of social injustice and oppressions, and the like. In short, becoming Jesus Himself. Yes it is indeed true that following and becoming like Jesus is not that easy. But at the end, I believe this is how we measure the fruitfulness of our faith in God. Jesus warns us that if we cannot bear good fruits, our Christian life is useless. It is better to be cut-off.      

However the Gospel story does not end in the cutting of the fig tree. The man who planted the tree begged the land-owner to give him another chance to cultivate the tree so that it would soon bear fruits. The land-owner gave him a chance. This is also what God is doing to us. He continuously gives each of us a chance in spite of our failures and sins, to become more alive and bear fruits. He does not even leave us alone in cultivating our trees, our faith. The sacraments of the Church, especially the Holy Eucharist serves as “fertilizers” so that our faith would continue to be nourished by the Living Word of God in order to become alive so that we can bear more fruits, goodness and generosity.

We should be like a cow – generous while he is still alive, and not when we are already dead like a pig. A funeral hymn aptly expresses this reality: “Oh whatever goodness I have, let me share it today for I will never pass this life again” Doing good must be done NOW not when it is too late.


2nd Sunday of Lent - Cycle C

2nd Sunday of Lent - Cycle CFebruary 28, 2010

Constant Change
Lk. 9:28-36

There was an old member of a religious group in the parish who was too hard to get along with. One day he joined a retreat which proved to be fruitful and effective for him. And to prove that he was indeed a “new person,” he made a sign and posted it in front of his house so that people would notice it. It says: “Here lives a new man, the old man died and is buried.” However after few weeks, his old bad attitudes start to surface again and people noticed it. One day, somebody wrote below the sign he posted: “On the third day, the old man rose from the dead!”

Renewal of oneself must be constant... However, it is truly proven not in times when we experience joy or gladness but when our faith and patience are being tested. The measure of genuine self-renewal cannot just be seen through externals but rather in the way we humbly relate with our neighbors and dispose ourselves before God. There must be constancy and consistency in both aspects. Hand to hand with our desire to change our old ways is our readiness and ability in facing trials and problems everyday. It is only through this way that real change could take place.

The transfiguration of Christ expresses a constant change. It expresses a message of despair and hope, suffering and glory, and death and resurrection. It is not just about the willingness of Christ to face a gruesome death but also His desire to invite us to share in His heavenly Kingdom. Peter and his companions seem to experience the foretaste of heaven. They instantly feel the serenity and calmness of the place, especially when they saw Jesus in dazzling white clothing talking to two men - Moses and Elijah. Peter in his usual self, grabs the opportunity to convince Jesus to just stay and not leave the place. However, the Evangelist Luke says that Peter did not understand what he is proposing about. It is only upon the intervention of a cloud from heaven and when he hears the voice saying, “This is my chosen Son; listen to Him,” that Peter begins to understand the whole purpose of Jesus' coming and in particular, he  understands who He really is – not just a real human being but also a true God. The Transfiguration event also prepares the faith of the disciples for His impending death and the glory of resurrection yet during His passion their faith ceased to function – there was a show of inconsistency and unfaithfulness among them. Thanks to the resurrection event, genuine renewal takes place among them.  

We are being challenged to renew ourselves constantly and consistently. This is not just a change in our physical outlook, which many of us in this materialistic world, sad to say, are so conscious of, but most of all, a “metanoia” - a change of heart. Oftentimes we are clouded by our own self-centeredness so much so that we even want to tell the whole world that we are holier than thou. Yet many times, we are inconsistent and unfaithful. On the other hand, we are also invited to strengthen our desire to follow Christ. Following Him is not that easy. At times, Jesus demands not just our “yes” but even our precious life to be united in his suffering and death. However, we are consoled by the fact that God never leaves us.
As we continue to live-out the mission that God has entrusted to us, may it be inside our homes, offices, in the factory, in school, and wherever we are, may we experience renewal or change of heart and constantly share this to our neighbors so that they too can see Christ shining through and in us. Genuine and real change takes place when people start to see and encounter Christ in us.

Do not easily be discouraged when the “old man” keeps rising from the dead. We have Jesus who keeps on giving us life. He keeps on transfiguring before us – we have just to be aware of His presence. In every celebration of the Holy Mass, He did not just let us feel His presence but He gives Himself to us in the communion we receive so that we would always have the strength and hope in life.



1st Sunday of Lent - Cycle C

1st Sunday of Lent - Cycle CFebruary 21, 2010

TEMPTATION
   Lk. 4:1-13

A newly ordained priest asked a sixty year old priest: “Monsigňor, until what age does temptation of lust end? “Ahh,” the Monsigňor came to think of it first for a while, until the sexy secretary of the parish passed by his side then answered, “maybe until sixty-five years old.”

Temptation is an ever-present reality in life. As long as we are here on earth, temptation won't leave us. Although temptation is not a sin, however it is an enticement to evil. The devil will not stop until he conquers us. Interestingly, he does not always appear as a horrible creature. He could appear as a well-dressed man with pleasing personality offering “indecent proposals” like approving anomalous contract and teaching us that bribing people, marital infidelity, cheating, back biting, telling white lies and deceits from time to time are good. Usually he comes when we are too busy with ourselves. Sometimes he comes like an angel until such time that we become his slaves.

Nowadays, many of us are slaves of temptations – of worldly things. In a poem entitled, “The Paradox of Our Time,” there is a line which says: “We have bigger houses and smaller families; more conveniences, but less time; we have more degrees, but less sense; more knowledge, but less judgment; more experts, but more problems; more medicine, but less wellness. We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry too quickly, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too seldom, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.” No wonder we don't even have time for God.

This maybe the reason why it is necessary to narrate the experience of Jesus fighting and winning over the temptations of the devil in the wilderness not just to prove to us His power but to make us realize that we cannot win over temptation and evil if we do not have faith and fear in the Lord. It reminds us that we can do nothing if we'll just depend on our own strengths. We need to be guided by God not only in times of temptations, but all the times, being aware that there is no definite time, hour or age the devil chooses in tempting us.

Temptation is a continuing struggle in our lives to keep God at the center. It is an invitation to hold on to the Lord and never leave Him.  On the other hand, the Lord is always giving us strength and abilities to fight whatever temptations that may come to us. He is ever-present in the Sacraments, especially in the celebration of the Holy Mass. But we have to remember that when the Lord drove away Satan, the struggle didn't end there. St. Luke tells us that “when the devil had finished tempting Jesus, he left him, to await another opportunity” (Lk 4,13).

Thus, in this Lenten season, we are being tested to choose good or evil; to be faithful or unfaithful; to be with Satan or to be with God. There is only one option. We are free to choose.


6th Sunday in OT - Cycle C

6th Sunday in OT - Cycle CFebruary 14,2010

ARE YOU BLESSED?
Lk.6:17,20-26

Juan used to pray at the foot of the cross of Christ. But he did it only after he stole something. He used to be a thief. One day, after he had stolen from someone who attended the mass, he came at the foot of the cross and thanked Jesus, saying: “Lord thank you for I was not caught. Now, I have something to buy for my children again. Unexpectedly, Juan heard the voice of Christ from the cross, “You are lucky Juan, you are lucky.”

Juan went home with a joyful heart because of what he heard from the Lord. The following morning, he stole and thanked the Lord again: “Lord thank you very much, I was not caught again. I can buy food for my children.” “You are lucky Juan, you are lucky,” said the Lord. Every time Juan stole something, he immediately prayed at the foot of the cross and he heard the same words from the Lord. One day, Juan did not hesitate asking the Lord: “Jesus, why do you say I am lucky?” Jesus told him: “You are lucky Juan because my feet are nailed to the cross, if not, I should have kicked you off from where you are kneeling.”

For many Filipinos, being blessed (mapalad) is synonymous with being lucky (masuwerte). According to some, to be lucky is to have some blessings in life. She was blessed because she was able to marry a rich man; because of her fine skin. He was blessed because he won the lotto jackpot, because he is not poor; because he had finished his studies; because he has a good job, and many others. Is this what it really means to be blessed? Is this what the Lord wants us to be?

Guided by the message of the Gospel, it is the reverse that Jesus wanted to emphasize: “Happy are the poor, the hungry, those who weep, rejected, insulted... but how terrible for you who are rich now, for you who are bountiful now, for you who laugh, and etc.

In the eyes of God, we are blessed not because of what we have in life. It is rather what we do not have in life in the eyes of the world that we become blessed before God. This is probably the reason why Christ ministers to, with and for the poor, rejected, and insulted in society, because they do not have something to be proud of, no guts to be slaved by worldly things, which are the cause of misunderstandings of many people in the world today.

In spite of our nothingness, come the grace from God so we can have strength and great hope – that we, who experience sufferings, trials, poverty, rejection and false accusations – in the end, we will be blessed by the Lord, as He promised: “Those who are proud, shall be humbled, and those who are humble shall be exalted.”

Indeed, if we have riches which we cannot share to the poor and bad attitude which we cannot change, how unlucky we are! Yet if we remain humble and merciful, if we try to be an instrument of peace than division, and if we remain faithful to God despite the poverty and problems we face, we are truly blessed!


5th Sunday in OT - Cycle C

5th Sunday in OT - Cycle CFebruary 7, 2010
Pro-life Sunday

The First Step
Lk. 5:1 – 11

There was a man who approached a monk, and with a lowly voice he asked him: “Father what should a sinner like me do in order to be saved from the anguish of hell?” The monk answered: “You've already done the first step.” “What was that Father?” he asked. “You admitted that you are a sinner.”

We must admit this, we are sinners. Oftentimes, pride reigns over us and we cannot just accept the mistakes we have done. We have many reasons to defend ourselves so much so that we even blame other people for our obvious faults. I believe this is the reason why there are seemingly endless troubles and problems in our society today. It also seems like we do not anymore receive heavenly blessings because we do not even want God to get involve in our life – we are so proud!

The Gospel today shows the reverse. It shows the humility of Peter by following the commands of Jesus. Although at first instance, Peter was hesitant to follow the Lord because he cannot believe that a man who knew nothing about fishing would order him to throw the net into the water. However, Peter eventually followed what Jesus instructed him to do. It resulted in a great number of fish that the Apostles were caught to the point that their nets were tearing. What is interesting was that after their rejoicing over the big catch, Peter went to Jesus and humbly admitted that he was a sinner.

Obedience to God's commandments and humility – these are probably some of the reasons why Peter was chosen to continue the work of Christ on earth. Jesus personally told him: “Don't be afraid, from now on you will be fisher of men.”

We are also invited to be a part of the mission that Christ first entrusted to the Apostles – to be fishers of men. We have enough blessings from God every day. We only need to be aware that we cannot face the problems & difficulties we encounter everyday without the guidance of God. We have no reason to be self-centered and proud. Like Peter, let us always obey God's will and humbly accept our sinfulness. By admitting how sinful he was, Peter did the first step and so he was especially chosen by Jesus to be the first leader of his Church on earth – an opportunity that Peter humbly accepted until he gave himself up as martyr of faith. The same call is being addressed to us by Christ today, so that we could have enough courage to follow God's commandments, most especially in becoming fishers of men and women. Let's do the first step – let us humbly admit that we are sinners!


4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

4th Sunday in Ordinary TimeJanuary 31, 2010
National Bible Sunday

Are you really blind?
Lk.4:21–30

A friend of mine sent a text message to me, which says, “There was a blind girl who hated herself because she was blind. She hated everyone except her loving boyfriend. He was always there for her. She told her boyfriend that if she could only see the world, she will marry him. One day a donor donated a pair of eyes to her. When the bandages came off, she was able to see everything, including her boyfriend. He asked her, “Now that you can see the world, will you marry me?” The girl saw that her boyfriend was blind. The sight of his closed eyelids shocked her. She refused to marry him. The boyfriend left in tears. Days after, the girl got a note from him, saying, “Take good care of your eyes.”

Have you already experienced being ignored, belittled and even rejected? How was it? The experience might be difficult depending on the circumstances and the person involve in the act of rejection.

It was during my last year in college when I visited my siblings to invite them to witness my graduation. One of my sisters proudly told about this news of my upcoming graduation to one of my relatives. However, my sister was surprised when instead of hearing a positive reply he heard these words from my Aunt with a sarcastic tone, “What? Do you have a brother who is graduating from college? How come? Perhaps you just bought a fake diploma from Recto avenue in Manila?” In short, my proud Auntie cannot believe that in our family, one can finish college education. My sister went home very sad. She cannot fathom the rejecting words uttered by one of our relatives.

What happened to Jesus was more hurting. As he went back to his hometown, He was rejected, ignored, and criticized by His town mates. However what was more painful was that there were those who have lost their faith in Him despite the good deeds, miracles, etc., he accomplished before their naked eyes. They were blinded by their own hypocrisy and selfishness so much that they cannot see what is beautiful, true and good in Him. This is why Jesus said: “A prophet is never welcome in his home town” (Luke 4:24)

Life would be peaceful and bearable if each one of us could only see the goodness of each other, instead of one's weaknesses and failures. Sad to say, most of us are haste to judge. We easily condemn and downgrade people. And when we only see ourselves, our wants and needs, there is no way we can appreciate and affirm the goodness of others. At times, we are imprisoned by our own prejudices and biases. The result of this would be, loss of trust and confidence in each other.

As Christians, the measure of how we should relate to one another is Jesus Himself. When some of His Apostles failed to live-out their promises to Jesus like Peter, He never condemned them but rather accepted them with great joy. This is not to tolerate their wrongdoings but to make them realize that they are loved in spite of their failures. In other words, Jesus saw their defects but gave much attention to their positive traits.  

Let us continue to welcome and accept Jesus in our hearts by seeing His faces in our neighbors especially those who are disabled, unwanted and insignificant in the eyes of the world. If you cannot do this and cannot even see the good things in your neighbor, perhaps, you are blind.

Are you really blind?



3rd Week in Ordinary Time

3rd Week in Ordinary TimeJanuary 24, 2010

DISCOVERY
       Lk. 1;1-4, 4:14-21

A teacher is telling the story of how gravity was discovered to her students. She said, “One day Sir Isaac Newton was sitting underneath an apple tree, when suddenly an apple fell down on his head. And that's how he discovered gravity. You see how wonderful it is.” “Right!” a student exclaimed. “See, if he was sitting in the classroom and looking at a book, he would have discovered nothing!”

Last March 2009, I was invited to be the guest speaker of a high school Commencement Exercises in my hometown. The school is my Alma Mater and I am the first and only graduate so far who became a religious priest. It was a humbling experience speaking before my town mates, former teachers and a diocesan bishop, who is the administrator of the school. But at the end of my speech, I felt how well they appreciated my talk. At home, many congratulated me and some of my high school teachers even told me how proud they are for me. They said they discovered something new from me.  

When Jesus unrolled the scroll of the prophet Isaiah and began to proclaim what is written in the scroll, according to Luke, “all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him.” After it was proclaimed, Jesus ended it by saying, “This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.”

Those who listened to Jesus, particularly the synagogue leaders and probably some of the Pharisees were surprised upon hearing Jesus' last words. They discovered something new and different from him. However, this discovery does not only lead to their positive appraisal of Jesus but eventually became the reason of an impending hatred and rejection they would soon implant in Jesus.  

Every day, God gives us an opportunity to discover something new in our environment, in work-places, in school, in the church, and in the events of our life, especially as Christians. On the other hand, God wants also to discover something new in us, not just our new home, new car, new electronic gadgets, new dress but first and foremost, our new way of being Christians especially in this seemingly materialistic world engulfed  in a self-centered morality. Thus, there is a need to show who we are as children of God. Like Jesus, we are being challenged to continue to speak about the greatness and love of God and be ready to live-out the demands of the Gospel even if it would cost pains, sufferings, and even death. This is the only way, wherein people around us would also come to discover that indeed we are truly God's children – that our God is ever alive in our life.

Upon reading this, you discover something!


FEAST OF STO. NINO (HOLY CHILD)

FEAST OF STO. NINO (HOLY CHILD)January 17, 2010

A CHILD IN US
Lk.2:41–52

Few months had passed, we were horrified by the news in national television about almost hundreds of youngsters used as “sex slaves” by those abusive businessmen who do not think of anything but themselves. At present, there are continuous abuses of the same kind in the internet, etc. There is also a problem of child-labor, slavery, abuses, poverty, etc... experienced by the youth who should have been in the classrooms. So we ask, “if the youth are the hope of our fatherland” as what Dr. Jose Rizal said, how could this be realized in this seemingly hopeless situation?”

As we celebrate the Feast of Sto. Niño (Holy Child), once again, our Mother Church wants us to realize the good attributes and values that are inherent in “children” in which we, adults used to ignore or just taken for granted. One of the values that is inherent to a child is his or her complete trust to his/her parents or guardian. At an early age, a child simply entrusts his/her whole life to his/her parents.

This might be the reason why St. Luke needs to mention this passage about the child Jesus: “...and Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and grace with God and men.” This is to show how Jesus entrusted his whole life to the care of the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph. It is also a manifestation of how Jesus completely trusted in the mission that his Father gave him. Although his parents did not understand Him sometimes, especially Mary yet they knew the child Jesus was just doing what His Father in heaven instructed him.

For this reason, we are also being reminded about the importance of having a complete trust in God. Our accomplishments and joys in life will be useless if we just see ourselves only and not God – who provides everything for us. Definitely, the moment we put no trust in God, we become self-centered and prone to evil desires and wants.  

The truth is: We cannot easily face the challenges of this world if we only depend on our human strengths. We need God – we need a Father, just like a child who needs his parents in order to experience the fullness of life. We need to trust in our loving God who willingly shared his only Son to us to remind us that we are His beloved children.

As we celebrate the feast of Sto. Niño let us be reminded about the truth that we cannot do anything without God who faithfully guides us. We have to put our trust in Him as His children as He also trusted us. Let us then be thankful of every child born into this world by respecting their inherent rights and dignity lest we forget that in every human activity, there is always a child in us.


Epiphany Sunday

Epiphany SundayJanuary 3, 2010

THE "STAR" OF MY LIFE
Mt. 2:1-12

I cannot anymore recall the title of Filipino films since I started watching movies and I also cannot recall those wonderful actors I admired and became my “secret idol.” When I was still in high school, some of the famous actresses were given a title. For instance, Nora Aunor is known as the “superstar”; Vilma Santos as “star for all seasons”; Maricel Soriano – “diamond star”; Sharon Cuneta – “megastar”; and many others. However, some would prefer being called “boldstars.”

To admire someone with beauty and talent has become I think a “second nature” to many Filipinos. Some would not let the day pass without knowing the latest in the telenovela they are watching. Some would even forego eating, taking a bath and praying just to be in front of the television following their “idols.”Knowing what happened to them is but enough already to make a day.

The same thing happened to the three wise men. They followed a “star.” And they all knew that the star in which they are following would lead them to the King of Jews who is Jesus. For them, there is no greater joy than to see the radiance of the “star” Jesus. Perhaps, they were already following His story through the movements of the stars long before they see the real star. However, the star they are following is very different from the “stars” of blockbuster movies and of telenovelas. This star has no title, has not won any award, no car and house of his own. In fact, he was just born in the stable to simple and insignificant parents. Yet they wanted to be under His power and guidance. Their gifts are concrete manifestations of their willingness. They knew that there is someone greater and wiser than themselves – that is Jesus.  Unlike King Herod, who also wanted to be a “star” of his own, the wise men remain humble and obedient.

Nowadays, there are also plenty of “stars” in our society – plenty of “Herods.” Just like King Herod, they too promised to worship and adore Jesus. But sad to say, they usually do the opposite by drawing people away from God, by enacting laws that are anti-life, propositions that divide rather than unite people, decisions that place our moral standards into the lowest level, and many other ways.

As Christians, we are being challenged to be on guard of the many “stars” of this world who would catch out our attention and eventually lose our true vision as children of God journeying with Jesus. Definitely, we could only obtain and experience real peace if each of us would always be eager to see and follow the real and true star – our Lord Jesus Christ and not the hypocrites and fake stars that many of us used to admire.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen once wrote: “Only two classes of people found Him: the Shepherds and the Wise Men – those who know they know little, and those who know they do not know everything; never the man who thinks he knows.”  

Friend, who is really the true star of your life?  


NEW YEAR

NEW YEARJanuary 1, 2009
Motherhood of Mary

SOMETHING NEW
Lk. 2:16 – 21

During the celebration of the Holy Mass, a man who is under the influence of liquor wasn't able to control himself from giving comments on every statement the priest said during his homily. As the priest said, “Brothers and sisters, we must love each other...” “That's already obsolete father!” the drunk man shouted. The priest just ignored him. He continued, “...That is why we need to cultivate our love for God...” “That's already obsolete father!” the drunk man shouted again. This time the priest cannot anymore control his emotion. He shouted at the drunk man, “If you don't stop, I'll kick you out of the Church!” The man answered, “That's something new Father!”

What is “new” in us this New Year? New outfit? New boyfriend or girlfriend? New hairstyle? New cell phone? New spouse? These might be the new ones in us. Let us not wait for the drunk man to come back and tell us, “that's already obsolete!”

Is there really a change in us? Or are we still the backbiters, gamblers, alcoholics, proud, unconcerned, lazy, easily angered, high tempered, self centered, and so on? Obviously, these are the things that need to be changed in us.

This New Year, God has given us the Blessed Mother as our guide and model. She can help us see and identify what is “obsolete” in us as we start a New Year. As she sings her ‘Magnificat' let us also be thankful to God for all the blessings He bestowed upon us the past year. We also thanks Him for our mistakes and weaknesses, because they, too, had taught us how to become better persons.

All of us commit mistakes and have weaknesses. What is important is not the many times we have fallen into sins, but the times that we have struggled to make things right; the times that we tried to come back to our senses and give up our sinfulness. However, we cannot just rely on our own strength in order to stand up. We need a companion and an inspiration who can teach us the right path. The Blessed Mother can do it.

We need Mama Mary to journey with us on the road less travelled. We need her love especially in times when we feel lonely and alone. We need her intercession so that we may be more worthy to face God, our creator. According to St. Louise Marie de Monfort, “If you don't have the assurance to enter the kingdom of heaven, never stay away from the care of our beloved Mother.”

This New Year presents new challenges and opportunities. It also invokes hope in every heart as we face this ever-changing world. However these things cannot be achieved by words alone. We have to do something concrete for ourselves, communities, environment and country. God can never be outdone in His goodness and generosity. Let this New Year be really “something new” to all of us.

Have a grace-filled New Year!


FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY

FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILYDecember 27, 2009

THE MOST IMPORTANT
Lk. 2:41–52

There was a couple who were both indulged into business – they had a big textile factory for export. Their business consumed most of their time, so much so that they still need to stay until the wee hours of the night just to manage it. They gave more importance to their business. However, their desire to earn more profit resulted in having no precious time for their children.

When their business was at the peak of its progress, one day, they learned that their daughter who was enrolled in high school got pregnant, and the youngest became addicted to drugs. Nobody accepted the blame. The father accused his wife of being irresponsible and the wife also blamed him in return. Their argument ended up in a temporary separation until the family was totally destroyed.

The story that is proclaimed in the Good News today is the opposite. Mary and Joseph, the parents of Jesus, were able to spend precious time attending to His needs despite the difficulties they are facing. They looked for Him when he was lost and were able to find Him again in the temple.

It is interesting to note that aside from the personal revelation of Jesus that he was indeed sent by the Father, it was also the admirable deeds of His parents that made him who He is. Right from the start, Mary and Joseph already knew that Jesus was no ordinary child, so if He might be lost, God will always be there for Him; however they were still worried about Him. At times, Mary had difficulty understanding the ways of her Son Jesus, but she just kept it in her heart. At the end, Jesus became submissive to them and He grew up in body and in wisdom, gaining favor with God and men (Lk. 2:52).

Any aspect that goes with the deterioration of families is usually attributed to parent's negligence, i.e., the lack of real care and affection given to children. Many parents believe that when they could provide all the needs of their children it is already enough, like food, education, clothing, shelter, mobile phone, etc. However, when we look deeper into their needs, material goods are not enough to make a good child. In fact, they are not the sole necessity than the presence of a father and mother who could incessantly listen to their lamentations and feelings; who acknowledge or praise them when they do something good; who lead them whenever they go astray, and who could bring them to love and fear God. Material goods could not just satisfy all these longings. According to St. Exupery, “The essential is invisible to the naked eyes.”

On the other hand, we cannot deny the fact that there is a need for parents to work hard in order to support the material needs of their family. However, other important concerns must not be neglected or taken for granted, like giving ample time to children lest we blame each other at the end. Let us imitate the examples of Mary and Joseph taking care of Jesus. Indeed, the most important thing in the family is when parents see their children progressing in wisdom and in age like Jesus.


CHRISTMAS DAY

CHRISTMAS DAYDec. 25, 2009

SEEING CHRIST IN OTHERS
Luke 2:15-20

I was just a seminarian then, when one day I saw one of our missionary priests giving respect to the kids through “pagmamano” (a Filipino tradition of expressing respect by kissing a hand of the elder). I asked the priest, “Father, may I know why you also do “pagmamano” to the children after they have kissed your hand?” He answered, “As a priest, people respect me because they see Christ in me. That is what I also do them, even to those kids for I also see Christ in them.”

The whole meaning of Christmas is God's willingness to reveal Himself to the people through Christ. Thus, Christ became man. His humanity teaches us that we have a God who lives not from a distance but a God whom we can embrace, see, talk, and mingle with – a God who humbles Himself. Saint Paul said: “The God dwells in Him yet He never aimed to be in same level with God. He humbled Himself and obedient until death...” (Fil. 2: 6-8) That is why, where there is humility, there is God.

Interestingly, many people have already attempted to see Christ being revealed by the Holy Church yet they were frustrated. How can we really see God in a society beset by violence, corruption, discrimination and dirty politics? How can we really see Christ in a politician who is promising to serve the people, and yet buying votes every election? How can we see Christ in an immoral individual serving the Church? How can it be possible to become a witness of Christ in a family who do not love each other? It is indeed necessary to ask ourselves: As Christian, do my brothers and sisters see Christ in me?

However, God still loves us after all. Christ is asking us to mirror Him in our everyday lives despite our weakness and sinfulness. This Christmas let us do our best to learn how to humble ourselves and live a life full of love, like the example of the infant Jesus.

I have been dreaming of a society wherein each of us would learn not just “pagmamano” but above all, to really see and experience the presence of Christ in each of us. It is only through this way that the world would be abundant and peaceful just like the first Christmas in Bethlehem. A Merry and Prosperous Christmas to all!


SIMBANG GABI

SIMBANG GABIDEC. 17 - Ikalawang Araw

KAPAMILYA AT KAPUSO
Mt.1:1-17

Isang mag-anak ang hindi pumapalya sa pagsisimba lingu-lingo. Subalit si misis at ang kanyang mga anak lamang ang nakapupunta ng simbahan. Kaya't nilapitan si mister ng kanyang ina upang hikayating sumama sa pagsisimba sa kanyang mag-anak. Subalit ang kanyang palaging sinasagot ay ganito: “Ang misis at mga anak ko na lang!” Patuloy din siyang hinihikayat ng kanyang asawa at kahit na ng kanyang mga barkada upang magsimba. Subalit ganun pa rin ang kanyang sagot, “Ang misis at mga anak ko na lang!” Noong nagbabakasyon ang mag-anak, pag-uwi nila nahulog sa bangin ang kanilang sinasakyan. Namatay ang  buong mag-anak. At sa pintuan ng langit, isa-isang pinapasok ni San Pedro ang mag-anak. Nang papasok na ang mister, pinigilan siya ni San Pedro at tinanong, “Saan ka pupunta?” “Gusto ko rin tumira sa langit,” sagot ni mister. Tinitigan siya ni San Pedro at sinabihan: “Ang misis at mga anak mo na lang!”

May kasabihan sa inglis, “The family that prays together, stays together” (Ang pamilyang nagsasama-sama sa panalangin ay patuloy na pinagbubuklod). Kaya't hindi nakapagtataka kung bakit may mga pamilya na kahit salat sa materyal na bagay at maraming pinagdaraanang problema, naroroon pa rin ang katatagan at pagkakaisa dala ng kanilang pananalig sa Diyos sa pamamagitan ng panalangin. Subalit hindi rin natin maikakaila na marami ring pamilya ang tuluyan nang napariwara dahil sa patuloy na bangayan at away, na madalas nauuwi sa hiwalayan ng mag-asawa at ang mga anak ang madalas na biktima.

Ang pamilyang pinanggalingan ni Hesus ay hindi rin perpekto. Sa narinig nating pagpapahayag ng kanyang salinlahi, nabanggit din hindi lang ang mga ulirang pangalan kundi pati na ang mga makasalanan. Kung gayon, bakit kailangan na ang pagparito ni Hesus ay dapat dumaan sa isang pamilya at sa isang makasalanang salinlahi? Naniniwala ako na ang pagsasakatawang-tao ni Hesus sa pamamagitan ng isang pamilya ay maliwanag na pagpapahayag ng Diyos Ama ng kanyang ninanais na ang bawat isa sa atin ay muling makabalik sa piling Niya bilang isang pamilya. At si Hesus ang magpapamalas ng paghahari ng Diyos sa sanlibutan. Ito marahil ang kahulugan ng Pasko: ang kagustuhan ng Diyos na tayo ay maging kanyang kapamilya at kapuso.

Gayunpaman, naririyan pa rin ang panawagan ng Diyos sa bawat isa na maging kabahagi ng kanyang paghahari. Hindi sapat na tayo ay nabinyagan lang, at lalong hindi katanggap-tanggap na ibang tao ang nagpupuri sa Diyos para sa atin. Ang bawat isa ay may pananagutan sa ating Tagapaglikha. Kaya't marapat na makiisa tayo sa lahat ng paraan sa pagsasabuhay ng ating sinumpaan sa binyag. Nang sa gayon, hindi lang misis at mga anak ang makapasok sa Kaharian ng langit kundi ang lahat ng kabahagi ng isang pamilya.

Nawa'y pagpalain ng Diyos ang lahat ng Pamilya!


SIMBANG GABI

SIMBANG GABIDEC. 16 - Unang Araw

ANG HUWARANG SAKSI
Jn.5:33-36

May ginawang pagtitipon ng mga pamilya mula sa iba't-ibang bansa. Pinag-uusapan nila kung paano magiging “effective” ang pagpapahayag ng Mabuting Balita. Isa sa mga lumahok ang nagsabi: “Sa aming bansa, ang ginagawa namin ay naghuhubog kami ng mga katekista at pinapaturo namin sa mga paaralan upang maiparating ang Salita ng Diyos. Ang isa nama'y nagsabi, “Ginagamit namin ang mga modernong pamamaraan tulad ng telebisyon at internet upang ipahayag ang Salita ng Diyos.” Tinanong naman nila ang isang pamilya mula sa Africa, “Ano naman ang ginagawa ninyo upang ipahayag ang Salita ng Diyos sa inyong bansa?” Sumagot ang Ama: “Sa aming bansa wala kaming katekista at di kami gumagamit ng telebisyon at internet sa pagpapahayag ng Salita ng Diyos. Ang ginagawa namin ay pumipili kami ng mabuti  at huwarang Kristiyanong pamilya at sila ang sinusugo namin na tumira sa isang lugar na walang gaanong Kristiyano. Sa pamamagitan ng pagsasabuhay ng kanilang pananampalataya araw-araw naipapadama nila sa mga tao ang tunay na mensahe ng Mabuting Balita at nahihikayat sila na matagpuan ang katotohanan.

Sabi sa englis, “Action speaks louder than words.” Nagiging kapani-paniwala ang sinasabi natin kung ito ay nakikita sa ating ginagawa. Kung kaya't para sa mga kabataan, kapag sinasabihan sila na “alam mo mahal kita!” Kanila naman itong sinasagot ng ganito: “Kung talagang mahal mo ako, patunayan mo!”

Ganito ang mensahe ng Mabuting Balita ngayon sa pasimula ng ating tradisyonal na Simbang Gabi. Sinasabi ni Hesus na ang mga ginawa niya ang magpapatotoo na siya nga ay tunay na sinugo ng Ama. Kanya ring pinapurihan ang ginawa ni Juan Bautista dahil ang huli ay naging saksi rin ng katotohanang ibig iparating ng Diyos sa tao. Ang kanilang pagsaksi sa Mabuting Balita ang naging dahilan kung bakit ang kanilang pagpapahayag ay naging kapani-paniwala. Ang pagiging martir ni Juan Bautista at ang pag-aalay ni Hesus ng kanyang sarili sa Krus ay wasto na upang ipaabot ang malinaw na mensahe na tayo nga ay mahal ng Diyos. Ito ang mabisang paraan upang ang bawat isa sa atin ay maniwala na si Hesus nga ang sinugo upang ipahayag sa atin ang katotohanan ng paghahari ng Diyos at upang ipadama sa atin ang kanyang walang maliw na pag-ibig.

Kaya't tayo ngayon ay hinihikayat na isabuhay, ipakita at ipadama ang ating pananampalataya sa Diyos araw-araw hindi sa pamamagitan ng mga salita o ng telebisyon ads kundi sa pagiging huwaran at mabuting pamilyang Kristiyano sa ating kapwa at kapitbahay tulad ng kwento ng isang pamilya sa Africa. Hindi na kinakailangang mag-alay din tayo ng ating buhay tulad ng ginawa ni Juan at Hesus upang madama ng tao na tayo nga ay tagasunod ni Hesus. Sa payak na pamamaraan, tulad ng pagtulong sa mga nangangailangan at pagpapakumbaba malalaman ng tao na tayo nga ay tunay na Kristiyano – nagpapahayag ng katotohanan tungkol kay Kristo.

Maging huwarang saksi ng Mabuting Balita!


3rd Sunday of Advent – Cycle C

3rd  Sunday of Advent – Cycle CDecember 13, 2009

The Power of Giving
Luke 3:10-18

There was someone who confessed: “Father, bless me for I have sinned.” “When was your last confession?” “A month ago,” said the man. “What are your sins?” asked the priest. He answered, “I have given a cup of delicious broth to my neighbor who is my enemy.” The priest was shocked of what he heard, so he told him: “Son, it is not a sin to give a cup of delicious broth to your fellow. “Be at peace for what you did was pleasing to the eyes of God, most especially the one you have given was your enemy.” “But Father,” said the man, “I mixed a poison on the delicious broth.”

How do we give? What do we share? It is sad to note that we usually give not from our hearts, sometimes just by force, or just to let the world know we are charitable to others. What we often share are the surplus or excess, those that we don't need any more or were already used.

The time of advent is a moment of giving not just of material things, most of all, of good values and manners. This is the time for us to show our love for our parents, brothers and sisters, housemates and especially the poor. What the world needs now are those who are willing to share their strengths, abilities and talents to the needy. This is what we can see in the person of John the Baptist.

He wants to show to us that the very reason of our willingness to give and live a moral life is our love and obedience to Jesus Christ. It was Jesus who gave us a concrete example on how to give when He became man and willingly offered Himself on the cross. In the Holy Eucharist, He continuously shares Himself to us every time we receive Holy Communion.

Our Christmas will be more meaningful if each of us is willing to give not just the gifts that are wrapped, but the gift of ourselves especially to those who are in need. This is the reason why Christ came into this world and in which John the Baptist willed to sacrifice his life in obedience to God's will.

Thus, it is necessary to examine oneself: what are the things or attitude I have now that hinder me from giving my life to others and to God? Share... and live an upright life. If you think you have nothing to give... give your sins to God.


2nd Week of Advent - Cycle C

2nd Week of Advent - Cycle CDecember 6, 2009

HUMILITY, THE ONLY WAY
Luke 3:1-6

A child asked his father: “Father, why do I need to be humble?” His father replied, “When you choose the lowly path, there is no place to fall and the only way is up.”

According to the teaching of the Church, sin is an offense against God (CCC 1849). St. Thomas Aquinas said, “It is a willful refusal of the love being offered by God.” As time passed by, sin is defined in many different ways. Nevertheless, if we go back to the experience of our first parents, it is clear that the reason why they committed the first sin was not really because they disobeyed the commandments of Yahweh; not even because of their refusal to the love which is being offered to them. I think, the root of their sinfulness is their pride – our first parents were so proud so much that they wanted to be God themselves.

Very early in his ministry, St. John the Baptist preaches about humility – the need to be humble. Humility is the only way to experience genuine repentance for the forgiveness of our sins. It is a concrete manifestation of our readiness to accept Jesus. St. John preaches the words of the prophet Isaiah to strengthen his call: “A voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths...” He wants to teach us that the first step to attain the salvation being offered by God to us through Jesus is to possess the virtue of humility. We have to admit that we are indeed sinners and that we need to repent and go back to God.

Sad to say, oftentimes we are not ready to repent and admit that we need to go back to God. We have a lot of excuses and alibis; we justify our sins. “Yes, I admit I am wrong but it's not really my fault... Yes, I have errors but...” Even in the admission of our sins there is still pride.

Christmas is already in the air. We usually prepare our homes with Christmas decors in and out. We start packing gifts for Christmas parties, reunions, etc. Let us be reminded of the most important and essential preparation that we should have as Christian, that is, the preparation of ourselves through repentance and reconciliation with God and with each other. However, this will only happen when there is humility in our hearts like St. John the Baptist. It is indeed true that when we are humble, “there is no place to fall and the only way is up.” Thus, Christmas is meaningless to those who are proud.

It is only through humility that we would be able to receive the most precious gift of God this Christmas – our salvation.      


FIRST WEEK OF ADVENT – Year C

FIRST WEEK OF ADVENT – Year CNovember 29, 2009

PRAY! IT REALLY WORKS.
Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

There was a ship that sank and only two men survived. Later, they found out themselves in an island. They did not know what to do, so they decided to pray for it was the only way – to call on God. However, they want to know whose prayer will be heard by God. So they parted ways and stayed at both ends of the island.

The first thing they asked was food. In the morning, the first man saw a tree filled with fruits and his hungry stomach was bloated. At the other end, the second man did not find any food to eat. A week later, the first man begun to feel sad, so he asked the good Lord to give him a wife. The next morning he saw a sunken ship. Only a single woman survived and she exactly drifted to the place where he was. Instantly, she became his wife. At the other end of the island, nothing happened to the second man. Again, the first man prayed that he may be given kids, house, and clothes to wear and all were granted to him. Still, nothing happened to the second man. Lastly, the first man asked the Lord for a ship so that he and his family could move out of the island. In the morning, a ship was already on the shore. The first man decided to leave behind the second man. He thought that the second man was not worthy of anything from God because not one of his prayers was answered by God.

As he was moving away, he heard a voice from heaven, “Why are you leaving behind your friend?” “These blessings are meant only for me for I was the one who prayed for all of these,” he replied. “Everything he prayed for was not given to him so he is not worthy of any blessing,” he continued. “You are wrong!” the voice answered. “He had only one prayer I granted. If not because of his prayer you will not have the blessings you have right now.” “Tell me,” the man replied, “What was his prayer that I needed to be grateful to him?” “He prayed that may all your prayers be heard and granted.”

At times when we experience series of problems, difficulties, trials and sufferings, and when we feel nervous and afraid, we believe that if there is still hope left for us to move on, it is prayer. Prayer offers not just peace of mind and heart but gives us new hope that there is a loving God who continuously listens to our petitions. This is one of the reasons why God the Father has sent His only begotten Son into the world to banish all our sufferings brought about by sins. The Incarnation of Jesus is the Father's greatest answer to our prayers. And everytime we offer the Holy Mass, God continues to give us His Son Jesus in the form of bread and wine.

As we prepare for the coming of Christ at Christmas time, it is better to start the first week of Advent with prayers. At this moment, it is very important for us to give much time to prayer as much as we spend ample times with our friends, with the computers, vices and etc. Perhaps, it is but proper to ask ourselves now: “When was the last time we really prayed to God with all our hearts?” “How often do we call on Him?” Sad to say, oftentimes we just call on Him when life seems heavy for us – when we have so much problems. Like the second man in the story, do we also pray for the needs of others or it is only centered on ourselves? Beside ourselves, we have many things and persons to pray for – our country, in particular our government leaders and those who have no time for God.

Our “advent” would only be meaningful if we spend it with untiring and dedicated prayer not only for ourselves but for others. Pray! It really works.            


Feast of Christ the King

Feast of Christ the KingNov. 22, 2009

Crown of Thorns
Jn. 18,33-37

A story is told about St. Elizabeth (of Hungary), a daughter of King Andrew of Hungary and a wife of Prince Louis of Thuringa. One day, while inside the Church she saw the crucified Christ wearing a crown of thorns. Immediately, she took out her crown and said, “I cannot imagine myself wearing a gold crown while Jesus the King of Kings wearing a crown made of thorns.”

A King must always have a crown and a throne. Jesus is truly a King. But unlike other kings, his crown is made of thorns and his throne is the cross. He must be a different King. Indeed, He is. First, He exercises his Kingship by sheered sacrifices and ultimately by dying on the cross. For the leaders of his time, this is nonsense. Even Estas, the bad thief mocked him. When Jesus allowed Himself to be crucified, the message becomes clear:  kingship is not about power and prestige but of total SERVICE. No wonder, he said, “I did not come to be served but to serve.”

Secondly, the kingship of Jesus is situated not in this world but in the Kingdom he promised and prepared for us. Thus, his death on the cross reveals his desire for us to be with him in His kingdom. This is what he told to Dimas, the good thief, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.”  

What a wonderful country we have if our leaders would really serve the people rather than themselves. In effect, there will never be any corruptions, injustices, wars, political bickering, etc. Thus, it is only when we learn to give ourselves selflessly in service that we become great and honorable; only when we die to many worldly desires that we become truly a king like Jesus.

At the end, what we really need as a Christian nation is a leader, an inspiration whose greatness cannot just be confined in boxing ring or popular votes but one who has the capacity to sacrifice, to serve, and even to die for the sake of others, especially the poor and underprivileged. I strongly believe that after our life on earth has been consummated, Christ the King will not ask us who we are, what economic and educational standards we belong, how many awards and citations we received, etc. But rather, he will ask us, “What have you done to the least of my brothers and sisters?”

Friends, selfless SERVICE and SACRIFICE might be nonsense to many people in this digital world, but for those who follow the King of Kings, they are keys to a more fulfilled, noble and great life like that of St. Elizabeth of Hungary and to many Filipinos who continuously wear a crown of thorns for others.      


33rd Sunday in OT – Cycle B

33rd Sunday in OT – Cycle BNovember 15, 2009


And then?
Mk 13, 24-32

A story is told about the cheerful St. Philip Neri who was walking along with a university student whose ambitions were great and whose worldly prospects were flattering. St. Philip asked him about his studies, “I'll finish philosophy next year,” he said. “And then?” St. Philip asked. “Then I will study law and get a doctorate in it.” “And then?” the saint persisted. “Then I'll make my reputation as a good lawyer.” “And then?” said the saint once more. “Then I'll get married and raise a family and get my inheritance.” “And then?” still asked St. Philip. “Well, I'll rise higher to a respectable senior position.” “And then?” still asked the saint. “Well, after it all, like everybody else, I'll probably die.” “And then?” was the saint's last question. The man's lips quivered and he flung himself at the saint's feet.

They say that in this world, only two things are certain –birth and death. However, many people give more attention to worldly concerns than giving time contemplating the reality of death. Death has become not just a taboo but a thing that has nothing to do with the present life. Hence, it is not surprising to see people lining up for the latest fads, mobile gadgets, etc., We can even notice creative television and radio ads enticing people to spend, to shape up, make a diet, etc., while almost nothing is ever said on how we can also spend, shape up and make a spiritual diet in order to prepare for our death. While many of us believe and in fact aspire to be in heaven after this earthly life, yet sadly, it seems no one wants to go ahead to heaven. We are afraid to die.    

A week before celebrating the feast of Christ the King and as we close the calendar year of the Church, Jesus reminds us of the passing of all created beings under heaven and earth in due time. He exhorts his audience to be ready for the coming of the Son of Man, “when you see these things happening, know that he is near, at the gates.” This is not to raise fear among them but to point out to what theologians call, the eschatological moment, the time when the harvest will be ripe and when the weed shall finally be separated from the grain and the goats from the sheep. In other words, it is a time when we come face to face with our Creator; when justice will be made perfect.

At present, we might have important commitments in life, e.g., job, family life, studies, etc. We even consider these to be among our top priorities. However, oftentimes we used these commitments to justify our failures to really make our faith alive and relevant in our life. We have become too complacent when it comes to living-out our commitment to God. We often utter this familiar phrase, “God is kind and forgiving; He will surely understand me.” Yet, for how long we would hold on to this perpetual excuse? When can we learn that life is not just a matter of eating, drinking and marrying but a journey towards our Creator, the giver of life? In other words, when are we going to make God our priority? Our time might be too short now.

Like the story of that university student, we might also be comfortable in our life today as we secure our future. There is really no harm dreaming dreams and enjoying the good things that this world can offer us. I am just afraid that after all the things we said and done; after we accomplished every ambitions and dreams we pursued and after our life has been spent, God would ask us: “And then?”


32nd Sunday in OT - Cycle B

32nd Sunday in OT - Cycle BNovember 8, 2009

Giving Until it Hurts
   Mk 12, 38-42

There is a story of a wealthy woman who, when she reached heaven was shown a very plain house. She objected, “Well,” she was told, “that is the house you prepared for yourself.” “Whose is that fine mansion across the way?” she asked. “It belongs to your gardener.” “How is it that he has one so much better than mine?” “The houses here are prepared from the materials that are sent up. We do not choose them: you do that by your earthly faithfulness.”

Just this week, I received an email from a concerned friend regarding the relief goods rotting in the DSWD warehouses with pictures of thousands of goods coming from foreign donors but are not moving. I don't know how true the news is, that when the secretary of DSWD was asked, “why the relief goods in DSWD warehouses are not moving?” the Secretary replied, “wala kasing volunteers...” (There are no volunteers). Is this a valid reason? Where do the millions of pesos go? Why not hire people who can pack up the goods for distribution if there were really no volunteers? This is a disturbing news knowing that thousands of victims of floods and typhoons are still wandering in desperation and hunger as of this moment. This issue would certainly define the attitude of some of our government leaders in terms of how they really extend help or services to the people – of how they give.

The gospel today speaks about generosity or giving. However, not all acts of giving are commendable and pleasing, especially to the Lord. What is important to consider, following the parable in the gospel is the intention of the giver. Both the rich people and a poor widow put in some amounts in the Temple treasury. However, Jesus gives credit to a poor widow than the rich people: “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.” Jesus' message is clear: our act of giving can only be meaningful and meritorious if it should have an element of sacrifice. In other words, when we give we experience some pains like what the poor widow did. Unfortunately, the rich in the gospel did not have this. They gave away what is extra and disposable.

Perhaps, we too could ask ourselves: When we donate or when we give, what is really our motive or intention? Is it because we want the world to know that we are generous and that our names will be broadcasted and published? Do we extend help to people because we want something in return, like election favor, etc.? If such is our intention our giving is selfish. Jesus teaches, “When you give something to a needy person, do not make a big show of it as the hypocrites do” (Mt. 6,2).

It is comforting to know that like the poor widow in the gospel, there are still Christians ready to give until it hurts, even at the cost of their lives. Thanks to the many heroes of the past disasters and to those who continue to give their helping hands not because they wanted their names to be published but because for them giving is a mission of every Christian as Jesus gave Himself even unto death, death on the cross – a highest expression of God's generosity.

Friends, what kind of materials you send to heaven? How much do you give? Do you give until it hurts?


31st Sunday in O.T. - Cycle B

31st Sunday in O.T. - Cycle BNovember 1, 2009 (All Saints' Day)

WE TOO CAN BE GOD'S SAINTS
Mt.5:1-12

A bishop once heard that there is a living saint in his diocese. Immediately, he asked one of his priests to look for the saint. The problem is how to recognize him. So the priest asks his bishop about it. The bishop answers, “It's very simple. You look for the most extraordinary man or woman in our diocese.” The priest starts to look for the extraordinary citizen in the whole diocese for many days but he does not find one. He told the bishop of his failure but the latter told him to search anew. Again, for many days though he has really tried his best, he still cannot find the living saint. When the bishop urges him not to stop and continue his search, he argues, “Your Grace, I think that the living saint you want me to find is indeed a saint.” “Why did you say so,” the bishop asked. “Because it's really hard to find one. They are indeed extraordinary persons. However, they appear so ordinary that they are not recognized. I come to realize that the living saint cannot be distinguished from other people. True sanctity is anonymous.”

I once asked the parishioners in my homily at the cemetery chapel during All Saints' Day Mass some years ago, “Who wants to go to heaven?” Almost everybody responded by raising their hands. I asked them the second time around, “Who wants to go ahead to heaven?” Nobody responded. This is the great irony of life: we all want to go to heaven but we're afraid to go ahead. The reason is obvious: because we're afraid to face death. But death is the most certain event in this world. Whether we want it or not we will soon die. What aggravates us further is the fact that we are not so sure if our souls would stay in heaven. We were taught that heaven is a place reserved only for holy people – for the saints. And looking at our mortality, sinfulness, and failures we deemed to be not worthy to even think of heaven as our destiny.  

I believe, this is the reason why the Church has to celebrate annually the “All Saints' Day” before “All Souls Day” to remind us that though we are sinners we are invited to become saints. St. Bernard says, “it's not yet too late for sinners to become saints.” In the Gospel Jesus gave us the formula or the characteristics on how to really become one of the saints in heaven:

The saints are those who are poor in spirit – living in the world but not of the world; the saints are those who mourn – who put their trust in Christ; the saints are those who are meek – those who humble themselves before others, willing to serve than be served; the saints are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness – those who condemned evil in the world and pray for peace and for their enemies; the saints are the merciful – those who knows how to forgive others as they ask God to forgive them; the saints are the pure of heart – those who can see and feel the goodness of God in all things; the saints are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake – those who speak against injustices in the world and are oppressed in many ways; and the saints are those who are falsely accused of all kinds of evil because they promoted and taught the Sacred Words of Jesus.
  
If we try to live out these characteristics, we become the living saints. At the end, life becomes meaningful only when it is lived with and for God, who is the fullness of life. It doesn't matter if nobody wants to go ahead in heaven because the fullness of life in God (or heaven) can already be experienced here and now. Heaven is not a place but a state of life – it is an experience of the God in us.

Indeed, true sanctity is anonymous. Living saints are not recognized because they appear so ordinary doing extraordinary things for God. As we remember the saints today, let us also pray for strength and perseverance as we try to live out the characteristics that Jesus gave us so that we too can be God's saints.

Therefore, let us rejoice and be glad, for our reward is great in heaven (Mt.5:1-12).


30th Sunday in O.T. - Cycle B

30th Sunday in O.T. - Cycle BOctober 25, 2009

SEEING THE BEAUTY AND GOODNESS OF LIFE
Mark 10:46-52

There is a story of a cruel King who was blind in one eye. One day he invited three artists to paint his picture. “If you do a bad portrait, I will punish you,” he warned, “but if you do a good one I will reward you. Now start!” The first artist produced a picture that showed the king as he was: blind in one eye. The king had him executed for showing disrespect to his monarch. The second artist showed him with both eyes intact. The king had him flogged for trying to flatter him. The third artist drew him in profile, showing only his good eye.
The king, pleased, rewarded him with gold and honors.

I was watching the evening news about the update of the coming typhoon when it was cut short for the “breaking news” regarding the formal declaration of candidacy for president of the Philippines of an old and controversial politician. I was really annoyed by his speech. He just delivered a litany of misdeeds and corruptions by the present administration while incessantly extolling himself as the hope and champion of the masses. In short, he sees no good in the Philippines today. He strongly believes that he alone can effect change & development – he only sees himself.

It was an exact opposite of what Jesus did to the blind man Bartimaeus. He sees the beauty and goodness of the blind man's heart and intention. Upon hearing the voice of Bartimaeus who was pleading for mercy, Jesus stopped and asked the disciples to call him. He began the conversation by asking the blind man, “what do you want me to do for you?” “Teacher, I want to see again,” the blind man told Jesus. Immediately, Jesus restored his sight as he told him, “Go, your faith has made you well.” The conversation ended with Bartimaeus becoming an instant follower of Jesus. On the other hand, it is also noteworthy to point out what Bartimaeus did to Jesus. First of all, he has a strong faith in Jesus. That is why when Jesus passed by, he never missed him. He does not even bother the pressure coming from the crowd trying to silence him. Yet, he was never discouraged... he never gave up against all odds... he persisted in his belief that God will soon hear his pleading. Finally, it was granted to him by Jesus.

Oftentimes, we are blinded by our own pride and prejudices. Like that politician, we never see the beauty and goodness in each one. We even fall into the temptation of blaming God whenever we experienced unresolved problems instead of looking into our own folly. We are not always aware that God is passing by in our lives everyday especially when we are well and good. And because our line is busy and our unit is unattended, so we missed Jesus' call. At times, we took Him for granted. We are worst than the blind man Bartimaeus.

Life can surely be meaningful, beautiful and good if we have faith like that of Bartimaeus. His blindness does not in anyway infer his belief that God is indeed good. He knew and accepted his miserable condition, but he also trusted in God's love and mercy. In response, Jesus showed him the way.  The blind man can now see the meaning of his faith and the fulfillment of his joy in Jesus.  

Thus, his story reminds us that God calls us out whatever situations we are in. It is indeed comforting to know that we have a God who is always willing to hear, stop, see, call, and heal us. To Him, each of us is worth stopping for. Like the king in the story, God always wants to see the beauty and goodness in each of us. We too is being challenged to see how beautiful and good life can be if we have Jesus in our way. He is calling you... don't miss it!


29th Week in O.T. – Cycle B

29th Week in O.T. – Cycle BOctober 18, 2009

HUMBLE PEOPLE ALWAYS WIN
Mk. 10, 35-45

Bro. Andrew Maria,MMHC tells a story of three Novices who were conversing during recreation period. Enthusiastic about their progress in spirituality, they started boasting good-naturedly about it. The first one remarked, “Sisters, rejoice with me for in but a short while I have reached a great degree of purity of heart.” Not to be outdone, the second novice said, “But, my sister, that is nothing compared to my achievement. You must know that among us here in the convent, I am the most obedient.” The third novice yawned when she heard all this. When asked about the virtue she had acquired, she answered confidently, “My dear sisters, I do not want to boast, but I can sincerely say that among all of us, I am the most humble of heart.”

I remember the words of an English humorist Gilbert Chesterton. He says, “There is a great man who makes every man feel small. But the real great man is the man who makes every man feel great.” Indeed, in this materialistic and power-hungry world, we always have a tendency to “feel great and be recognized as somebody.” Few weeks after I was formally assigned in a remote parish, after my (fiesta) Mass, an old lady approached me with stern eyes and said, “Father you forgot to acknowledge me. Did you not know that I am the major sponsor of that Mass you just celebrated? You must suppose to mention my name!” Honestly, I never said even a single word to answer her back. I just nodded my head, aware that I really forgot to thank her but deep within, my heart was burning in pain because I cannot imagine that there are still Christians who always wanted to be recognized in public for every detail of their great deeds. No doubt, our highways, streets and even church yards are full of streamers and tarpaulins displaying the names of ambitious men under the guise of great service but proud & selfish heart.  

This is the mistake of the brothers James & John in the Gospel. Not that they are so ambitious as to sit at the right and left hand of God in heaven but that they were not humble. That is why the rest of the apostles, according to the Evangelist Mark, “began to feel indignant” with them.  Peter must have really fumed, for he had been designated by the Lord as the leader of the apostles. Interestingly, Jesus did not outrightly condemn the two but instead He leads them to a deeper insight and the proper object of ambition which is greatness through service done in humility. Such was the greatness of a God who emptied himself, became man, selflessly served and finally, offered himself unto death, even death on the cross.

Thus, what makes us truly great in the eyes of God is when we “ambitiously” serve each other with humble heart. It makes one feel great. In the end, humble people always win.        


28th Sunday in O.T. - Cycle B

28th Sunday in O.T. - Cycle BOctober 11, 2009

THE POWER OF GIVING


         Mk. 10, 17-30

There is a famous story of two brothers who worked together on the family farm. One was married and had a large family. The other was single. At the day's end, the brothers shared everything equally the produce and profit. Then one day the single brother said to himself, "It's not right that we should share equally the produce and the profit. I'm alone and my needs are simple." So each night he took a sack of grain from his bin and crept across the field between their houses, dumping it into his brother's bin.

Meanwhile, the married brother said to himself, "It's not right that we should share the produce and the profit equally. After all, I'm married and I have my wife and my children to look after me in years to come. My brother has no one, and no one to take care of his future." So each night, he took a sack of grain and dumped it into his single brother's bin.

Both men were puzzled for years because their supply of grain never dwindled. Then one dark night the two brothers bumped into each other. Slowly it dawned on them what was happening. They dropped their sacks and embraced one another.

The most widespread misunderstanding is that giving is “giving up” something, being deprived of, sacrificing. This is a non-productive orientation and one feels that an act of giving is an impoverishment. However, giving is the highest expression of potency (to borrow a word from a philosopher) because in giving, I experience a heightened freedom that usually fills me with an expression of aliveness & joy. That is why giving is more joyous than receiving although at times, it really hurts. No wonder, the great Mother Teresa of Calcutta used to say: “Give until it hurts.”

When the rich young man approached Jesus, he asked Him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus then took turn in reminding him to observe the commandments given by God through Moses. The young man confidently told Him about his faithfulness in fulfilling all the commandments. Jesus looked at him with love as He was amazed by what this rich young man did. Yet to further guide him for fuller perfection, he told him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come follow me.” The conversation ended when the rich young man's face fell and went away sad, for he had many possessions and he cannot just give them for the sake of Christ.

We can be a person so perfectly faithful in doing our obligations to God by following all the commandments: going to Church and praying regularly, trying to win every temptation and occasion of sins, never cheat or lie, doing no harm to others, etc. There is nothing wrong with these. In fact, they are essential to holiness and most of us have to struggle to maintain this basic holiness. However, these are all self-centered. They invite us to apathy and worship of the self. Thus, some essential questions in life are still haunting us: “What good have we done to others?” “How far did we try to detach ourselves from the things and complacencies that enslaved us?” In other words, “how much do we give until it hurts?” In the long run, what defines our relationship to Christ is not what we possess or religiously do in following His commandments but how much love we give especially in the less fortunate of our brothers and sisters. This is the thing that the rich young man in the Gospel story missed. He couldn't do it. He was a good man but he had too many attachments, too much excess baggage to follow the Lord all the way. God is never satisfied when we are just good. He always wants us to be better.    

Like the story of two brothers, we are also being challenged to look beyond our needs – our attachments and start to give even if at times it hurts. We have no reason not to give regardless of our social status, whether we are poor or rich. The second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP II) beautifully says it: “There is no one who is so poor that there is nothing he/she can give, in the same way that there is no one so rich that there is nothing he/she can no longer need and receive.”

In the crucified Christ, we find the fullness of God's generosity. He gave Himself up and became powerful over death. May we also experience the power of giving – It is self-transcending.


27th Sunday in O.T. – Cycle B

27th Sunday in O.T. – Cycle BPROMISE!
Mk. 10, 2-16

In a best-seller book, “The Little Prince,” St. Exupery emphasizes the importance of keeping promises: “When you promise to call, make sure you don't forget. When you promise to come at 4 o'clock make sure you come on time. Because I remember your promise and I look forward to it, and when you don't call or come on time, I am very disappointed.”

They say, “Promises are made to be broken.” I believe at one time in our life, we have already made some promises. Indeed, some were just taken for granted, others were broken, yet there were also promises that were kept.

When I was still a seminarian, we were assigned in a remote village as part of our apostolic work every weekend. Giving catechesis to children was one of our activities. Oftentimes, I used to promise that I will be giving them chocolates the next time I come (hoping they would really attend the catechesis). However, I usually forgot to keep my promise, instead I gave them cheapest candies and they would simultaneously shout, “Nagsinungaling na naman si Brother!” (Brother lied again!) Then I realized children really look forward to what we promised them and how sad they are when we forget.  

Fr. Galdon, SJ, says that there are two kinds of promises or commitments in life. Some of them are temporary and a few of them are permanent. According to him, a job can be a temporary commitment because we give part of ourselves to the job and we can always change jobs and move on to something else. But there are commitments which are total commitments and demand full-time fidelity. One of them is married life. Marriage is a permanent commitment. It is built on a big promise: “For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part.”

This Sunday, the Church reminds us of the folly of divorce. In the Gospel, the Pharisees asked Jesus if it is lawful for a husband to divorce his wife. Quoting from the book of Genesis, Jesus expresses a powerful injunction, “Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” He told this after explaining to them that Moses was forced to grant divorce only because of the ‘hardness of the heart' of the people then.

The same “hardness of heart” is what we have witnessed to many couples today who after the grandeur of the wedding ceremony ended up in separation. The main culprit is INFIDELITY. They cannot hold on to what they promised to God because of the hardness of their heart. They became unfaithful.

Thus, we are being challenged to be faithful. Fidelity is keeping our promises, being faithful to our word. When we were baptized we already made a big promise – to shun away Satan and remain faithful to God. Let us try to keep our promises; to always enliven the commitments we made to God especially the permanent ones like married life. And when the going gets tough, let us always turn to God who is always faithful – who always keeps His promises alive in our hearts even when we prove unfaithful to our promise at times. Let us ask Him for the gift of fidelity.

Can you remember now the last time you promise? When? What you promised? Did you keep it?


26th Sunday in O.T. – Cycle B

26th Sunday in O.T. – Cycle B God Plays No Favorite
  Mk. 9,38-43.45.47-48

The storyteller Hoffsuemmer relates a story of John Wesley, founder of Methodist Church. Wesley had a dream. He came to the gates of hell and asked, “What kind of people are here? Catholics?” “Yes, many,” this was the answer. “Also Anglicans, Lutherans, Baptist and orthodox?” “Yes, many,” was still the answer. “What about the Methodist?” “Also plenty,” came the reply.Wesley was upset and so he went to the gates of heaven. He knocked at the door and asked the same questions. “Are there any Catholics here?” “No, not a single one.” “And Anglicans, Lutherans, Baptist and Orthodox?” “No, none.” Finally he dared to ask, “And what about Methodists?” “No, not a single one here.” He was shocked in exasperation and asked, “Well, what kind of people are there in heaven anyway?” The answer came, “Only Christians.”

It has always been an issue for centuries of who would really be saved. Some Christian sects would even argue among themselves when it comes to who would be the beneficiary of God's promise of salvation. Yet so far, no argument has been so convincing to prove each claim.

Catholicism is not an exclusive religion. We neither have the monopoly of salvation nor claim to be the only chosen people of God. However, we humbly claim to be faithful to the teachings of Christ through the Magesterium – the only assurance that we Catholics have.

In many instances in the Gospel, we notice that Christ Himself did not minister to just one group of people. In fact, he even extols the greatness and virtues of the so-called “outcasts” in Israel. We can never forget the story of the Good Samaritan, etc.

No doubt, Jesus reprimanded John when the latter tried to prevent someone from driving out demons in Jesus' name since he is not a follower of Jesus. Jesus told him, “do not prevent him... for whoever is not against us is for us.” This is, I believe a clear indication that Jesus plays no favorite. He sees the goodness of others and believes in the capacity of each one to transcend oneself and to do good beyond the boundaries of institutional religion. On the cross, Jesus' message displays His love even to his enemies, “Father forgive them...” Thus, after the Pentecost event, the first Christian community was already aware that they were not an exclusive community - no more Jew or Gentile; slaves or free but one in Christ Jesus.

As Christians, we are asked to recognize the good done by others, even by those whose beliefs and principles are very different from us. We are also asked to be a welcoming community whose desire is to help one another to grow. This reality also reminds us never to be an obstacle to the growth of others – to shun away the “crab-mentality” that becomes a hindrance to our development as a nation and as People of God. Furthermore, we are asked to really indulge in ecumenical dialogue and work together for the common good wherein everyone is given an opportunity to grow.

In the end, we are all brothers and sisters before the living God. I believe, when we come face to face with God, He would not ask us what religion we belong but instead what we do to the least of our brethren. For in His eyes, we are all His beloved. God plays no favorite.


25th Sunday in O.T – Year B

25th Sunday in O.T – Year BSept. 20, 2009

The Greatest
        Mk 9, 30-37

There is a story of a young professional who had an opportunity to visit his long-time friend who is a farmer. It's harvest time, so he went directly to the rice field. Upon seeing his friend, he sarcastically told him, “my friend why don't you walk straight like me? Look at me, I am so neat and well-dressed, unlike you.”  The farmer just nodded his head and said, “my dear friend, have you ever examined this grain field and noticed which heads are bent and which ones stand up straight? You will find out that the heads which are empty are standing tall and high. But the heads that make a good harvest are the ones that are filled and bending low.”

The young professional pondered those words and went home bowing his head.

Many people have come to believe that “greatness” consists of being always in the limelight receiving accolades and adulations of many. In some cases, it means possessing excellent academic distinctions and degrees. For others still, greatness rests on having wealth, power and influence. However, nothing can still surpass the enigma of “pride.” Pride has become a second nature to many of us. It is our refuge when we find it difficult to forgive and to ask forgiveness; a culprit of broken promises, ingrate hearts and failed relationships.    

The Apostles whom Jesus has chosen to follow His examples were not spared from the clutches of pride. It is quite unusual that as the evangelist Mark points out, they were arguing among themselves who is the greatest right after Jesus told them that “the Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him...” Does it mean they really never understood Jesus' statements at all or they were simply buying the idea that after His death one of them, the “greatest” perhaps, would replace Jesus? The Gospel already emphasized that “they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him.”

The message is clear:  when we are full of pride, we become self-centered person. We only see ourselves – our own achievements, wants and needs. There is no room for the opinion of others. A proud person often sees the defects of other people than himself/herself and he never listens wholeheartedly. This is what happened to the disciples. They never understood Jesus because they never listened wholeheartedly to Him. They only want to see and listen to themselves as to find out who's the greatest among them.  At this point, Jesus intervenes. He sat down, called the disciples and told them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” After this very brief sermon, Jesus took a child and the disciples understood the message.  

Indeed, greatness consists not in the number of times we received accolades and adulations, not in the power, wealth, influence and academic degress we possessed, etc., but rather in moments that we become like a child – dependent, meek and humble of heart. And if there is one thing that we must be proud of, it is the fact that we are children of God, created in His image and likeness. When we are always aware that we are God's children, we see ourselves as God sees us. Hence, there is enough reason for us to also see and treat each other with humble spirit and disposition. Yet it is not easy to be humble; it is not easy to selflessly serve, especially in this generation where competition has become a fashion. But as Christians, we are expected to live-out the spirit of Christ which is founded on humility and service. Through sheered humility and service, He defeated every calumny of pride and triumphs over sin and death.

The parable of a grain field truly captures the spirit we need when we are haunted by pride and selfishness: “The heads which are empty are standing tall and high. But the heads that make a good harvest are the ones that are filled and bending low.”

At the end, humble people always win. They make a good harvest. They are the greatest!

      


24th Week in O.T. - Cycle B

24th Week in O.T. - Cycle BSept. 13, 2009

Do we really know Christ?
       Mark. 8,27-35            

A Pagan wanted to become a Christian. However, his friend told him that he needs to prepare himself in case the parish priest would ask him something about Christian faith. Immediately, he went to a Catholic bookstore and bought religious books of great Catholic saints like St. Thomas, St. Therese, etc. For many days he was indulged in reading and was really captivated by the stories and teachings of these saints that he cannot wait longer to be baptized. A day before his baptism, he was called by the parish priest for an interview. The priest asks him, “Do you know what it means to be a Christian?” “Yes!” he confidently replied. "In fact, i can explain clearly the five ways of proving the existence of God according to St. Thomas, etc.," he continues. The priest further asks him, “Do you know Christ?” “Who is he Father?” asks the pagan.

Do we really know what it means to be a Christian? Do we really know Christ? These are the questions that continue to haunt many Catholics today. We might have a wide-range knowledge and information regarding the history of Catholicism, a deep appreciation of the stories of great Catholic figures and saints, a lively faith in the Blessed Mother, and we might even consider ourselves as “Saradong-Katoliko” (convinced-Catholics), however, in most cases these does not define our true faith in Jesus.

In Bicol Region, we are known to be faithful devotees of the Blessed Mother, our Lady of Peňafrancia. Millions of faithful flocked to Naga City to celebrate her feastday during the month of September. I am just wondering if indeed many of them really know Jesus as much as they know Mary. I am not against any devotion, in fact, I love the Blessed Mother much. She saved my life after I was orphaned as a young boy. She is also the reason why I have chosen this kind of life and why i prefer to stay in a Marian congregation like SOLT. It is just frustrating to realize that we never really grow deeper in our faith in Jesus. Surely, Mary would also feel the same. She always wants us to come closer to her Son Jesus.

It is therefore important to consider that when Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” He seems to ignore their reply. In our local parlance, “deadma lang si Hesus.” But it means a lot to Jesus when He asks them, “But who do you say that I am?” then came the reply of Peter, “You are the Messiah?” The evangelist, St. Mark adds this note after Peter's perfect reply, “Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.” We may ask: Why is it that Jesus has to warn them not to tell anyone about him, especially being the Messiah?  It seems to me that Jesus wants to deliver a strong and clear message to the disciples: IT IS NOT ENOUGH TO KNOW ME! That is why, Jesus summoned and told them, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”

This becomes Jesus' criteria or we may say, requirements in following Him. History would tell us that Jesus' disciples came to embrace and lived-out these criteria.

If we ask why our growth as Christians today seems so slow and at times, easily deteriorates? Go back to Jesus' criteria: SELF-DENIAL, TAKING UP ONE'S CROSS, FOLLOWING HIM. Difficult? Yes. Christian life is not a bed of roses. It is more than telling people that we are “Saradong-Katoliko,” more than memorizing Catholic prayers and creeds, more than knowing great church figures & saints. Knowing Jesus is serving Him until it hurts... until we learn to forget ourselves... until we learn to carry our crosses without complaining... until we start following Him until the cross.

Do we really know Jesus?


23rd Sunday in O.T. - Cycle B

23rd Sunday in O.T. - Cycle BSept. 5, 2009

MY DEAF-MUTE FRIEND

Few weeks ago, I've got a sad news from my former youth leader that her younger sister, who happens to be my close friend also, decided to abandon her work and in the process got lost in Metro Manila. I immediately asked the help of some of my friends in Manila to look for her. After two days, she was found at the Brgy. hall somewhere in Makati city. We were all relieved. When I asked what prompted her to do such thing, she brought out a glossary of ill-feelings which I can never imagine would happen to a promising young person like her. Slowly, I discovered that she was deprived of an opportunity to be listened to, aside from the fact that she was a victim of a situation she never ever thought to happen – broken family. She hated her father much for his arrogance. Inside their home, she was voiceless. No one seems to give her the opportunity to speak from within. She was unaccepted, misunderstood and rejected. She was deaf-mute.

One of our basic human needs is to be able to speak and be listened to. We cannot anymore count the many relationships which were destroyed because of our failure to really listen – because we never gave each one a chance to speak.

This Sunday's gospel presents another miracle-story of Jesus. He heals the deaf-mute man. The moment the man's ears were opened and his speech impediment was removed, Jesus' audience were exceedingly astonished and jubilant, so much so that they never heed the order of Jesus not to tell anyone about what had happened. We can even imagine the joy of this man telling the people how glad he is for what Jesus did to him. He must be speaking to his heart's content.

And just as Jesus cured the deaf-mute, we are also being challenged to reach out to present-day deaf-mutes. These “deaf-mutes” are not only the people handicapped in speech and hearing but those who have no voice or influence in society; those to whom no one listens. Let us begin inside our homes. Do we really listen to one another? Is there a person in our life to whom we really need to listen emphatically? On the other hand, this miracle event is also an invitation for us to properly use our speech faculty. We need to look deeper into ourselves and ask: Am I using my speech faculty properly? Are the words I usually utter makes a person affirmed or they are often destructive? Sad to say, saying destructive gossips and intrigues has become a second nature to many of us. We usually take for granted the fact that speech is intended to communicate truth and goodness; to affirm and not to reject; to bless and not to curse; and to proclaim the truths and not endless lies.      

My friend would never hate her life and got lost in the process if only somebody really listens and gave her the opportunity to speak and voice out her concerns. Like the deaf-mute man in the Gospel, she needs to be healed also.

Let us become Jesus to each other. He heals the deaf-mute man by listening to him, affirming him, and giving him the opportunity to speak. Let us listen, affirm, and give one another freedom to speak – this is the only way we can heal broken relationships and put an end to the cycle of rejection which this generation continuously adopted.


22nd Sunday in O.T. - Cycle B

August 30, 2009

LISTEN WITH THE HEART

A storyteller Tony Castle once wrote about a famous actor who was asked in a party by the guests to do a recitation for them. The actor asked if there were anything special they would like to hear. An old minister asked for Psalm 23 – “The Lord is my Shepherd” psalm. A strange look came over the actor's face. He paused for a moment and then said, “I will do it on one condition: that after I have recited it, you, my friend, will do the same. “I!” said the preacher in surprise. “I am not a professional speaker. But, if you wish, I shall recite it too.”

So the actor recited with all the finesse of his trade and held the audience spellbound. The old man – the preacher stood up and recited the same psalm with a weak wavering voice. But when he sat down, there was not a dry eye in the room.

Then the actor rose with his own voice quivering. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he commented, “I reached your eyes and ears; but he has reached your hearts. The difference is just this: I know the psalm. But he knows the shepherd.”

In life, it is a lot easier to speak than listen, especially with our whole heart. Very early in our life, we were oriented and taught to speak. A mother for instance, would untiringly teach her child to pronounce words like “Mama or Papa” and so on. At the end of the day, it's a parents' pride when they hear their child's glossary of words they taught. Ironically, in many instances, parents rarely listen to their children. They usually have the monopoly of words. In schools, the same concern is being addressed. Interestingly, even in tertiary level, a student is trained to become a good speaker. Academic loads like Public Speaking and Rhetoric are mandated and thus obligatory. Sad to say, we never heard of any academic curriculum which would teach the students how to really listen effectively and emphatically.

Jesus would want his audience, mainly the Pharisees and teachers of the law, to listen to him so that they could discover the true, good and beautiful – in other words, the essentials. “Hear me all of you and understand,” Jesus said. The problem with the Pharisees is not that they never heard Jesus; not that they never understood the meaning of the law and tradition. Rather they don't really listen to Him and just don't have the will to live out the spirit of the law and tradition. They become self-centered, judgmental, and hardheaded. Eventually, they cannot love Jesus; their hearts are all mischief and deceit.

Like the story, they know the Psalm but not the shepherd.

In like manner, we become like Pharisees when we do not listen wholeheartedly to the Words of God, amend our sinful ways, and live out the demands of the Gospel. When Jesus said, “what comes out of a man is what defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness...” He is asking us to experience metanoia, - a change of heart.

Let us then listen with our hearts to Jesus speaking to us in many ways, especially in the Sacraments. Let us always attune our hearts to Him. Allow Him to reach our heart, so that He may bless and purify it.

In the end, what really matter is knowing not the Psalm but the Shepherd. This is what the Pharisees missed.


21st Sunday in O.T. - Cycle B

21st Sunday in O.T. - Cycle BAugust 23, 2009

WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A CHRISTIAN?

There was a story of a Pagan magician who instantly admires Jesus upon reading his many miracle stories in the Bible. Eventually, he decided to imitate Him and wanted to be baptized.

On his way to the Church, he saw a funeral procession. He stopped the procession, went nearer to the coffin of a boy and uttered his magical words. The dead was restored to life. After this, he went on his way. Upon reaching the village, he also saw a gathering of the poor who asked him for help. Again, by his magic, he multiplied the bread. He felt so happy that he imitated Christ. Finally, he reached the river – opposite side of the Church. Using his magic formula again, he walked on water and felt deep satisfaction that he imitated Christ once more.

When this pagan magician reached the Church, he immediately told the priest, “Father, I want to be a Christian.” The priest then asked him, “Do you know what it means to be a Christian?” “Yes Father,” he proudly replied. “In fact, I have imitated Christ's miracles. I brought the dead man back to life, multiplied bread to the hungry, and walked on the water. “Tell me son,” the priest gently asked him, “can you love your enemies, serve unselfishly your neighbor, carry your heavy crosses, and deny yourself?” “That's absurd! Only fools will do that!” the pagan protested.

“But, Son,” the priests answered, “that is what it means to be a Christian.” Hearing this, the pagan walked away. He could not be a Christian.  

“This saying is hard; who can accept it?” This is what most of the disciples told Jesus in reaction to his teachings especially with regard to his body as the real food that gives everlasting life to those who would eat it. On the other hand, Jesus already knows those who would not believe him but still He continues to emphasize the necessity of believing in His words as coming to the Father. It is interesting to note that while many of his followers returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him, Jesus turned to the twelve apostles and asked them, “Do you also want to leave?” Peter grabbed this opportunity to express a valedictory remark, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

In our Christian life, we experienced that there were many questions than answers. Many times, for instance, we found it really difficult to believe to some of the teachings of the Church. We remain complacent no more especially when the teachings demand great deal of attention from us and when they challenge us to do more than what is common and ordinary. We easily complain.

Like the pagan magician, we also find it interesting to listen and discover the many wonders of Jesus. Nowadays, it seems so easy to profess faith in Jesus and be baptized. However, what the Church needs today is not many believers but few yet responsible, active and unselfish members, who are willing to love one's enemies, carry one's cross, serve one's neighbor and who can even deny oneself for the sake of others. Very hard? Yes, but that is what it means to be a Christian.


20th Sunday in OT - Cycle B

20th Sunday in OT - Cycle BAugust 16, 2009

HOW?
(Jn. 6, 51-58)

A man was asked, “How can you believe in God when the world has many problems?” The man replied, “With all these problems, how can you possibly make it without God?”

One of the difficult and heartbreaking questions that we encounter almost everyday is the question that begins with how. How can I experience happiness amidst anxieties and problems? How can I pass the coming examination? How can I please my beloved today? How can I make my life worthwhile? How can I be saved?

We should not necessarily be a philosopher to ask these questions. We just look around, simply live our lives each day, and we will discover that life is more than just eating, drinking and marrying. It is a journey... a continuous searching out of our potentials and living out our dreams until we get hold of the fullness of life in God, our Creator. Life itself is a big question... However, most of the times we just take for granted the search for life's meaning. We are most captivated by what the world can offer us rather than how we can change the world - “our world.” We simply let the day pass by without wanting to know where we are heading for and what lies behind us. In the end, we become so numb to the many changes around us.  

The Jewish people had been puzzled when Jesus told them, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” They hardly understood Jesus. For them, this is a new teaching which they could hardly accept. They were used to their own traditions and doctrines so much so that they already became numb to His teachings. We can understand why they quarreled among themselves and ask, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” This is a question that puzzled the Jews and definitely, made them hate Jesus. It also puzzles us and the whole humanity even up to this moment. With this question, Jesus presented his thesis on the necessity of eating the food that gives eternal life. For us Christians, we call it, the Holy Eucharist.

The question of the Jews strengthens our belief in the real presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist. The Jews gave Jesus an opportunity to tell us, Christians that He is always present in our midst especially when we celebrate the Holy Eucharist. Most of all, because of His abiding presence, we can always find an answer to every question we utter even the most difficult and heartbreaking question – How?

Indeed, with all the problems in the world, we can possibly make it with Jesus. He is Himself the answer to the many ‘how's” of life.


19th Sunday in O.T - Cycle B

   19th Sunday in O.T - Cycle BAug. 9, 2009

THE FOOD THAT TRULY SATISFIES US
(Jn. 6, 41-51)

I often asked the seminarians this question: “Why do we need to eat?” The usual answer is, to satisfy our hunger. However, did you not notice that there are some people who just eat and eat and never satisfied? It is noteworthy to realize that the very reason why we eat, not because we only want to feed our empty stomach, but because we want to gain strength in order to live for a day. You would notice that when we used to eating our meal with rice and somebody gave us pizza alone for our lunch, immediately after few hours we feel hungry. Why? Because our body becomes weak. Thus, taking foods strengthens our body.

Jesus is also concerned with the needs of our body so that we might not become weak. The many miracles he has done testify to this. When he heals persons with illnesses and multiplies five loaves and two fish to thousands of people, this clearly manifests his desire to attend to the needs of the body.

In the Gospel, Jesus presents himself as bread that can also satisfy our hunger. However, he clearly says that one who eats this bread will live forever and will experience no more death. He has now become the Bread of eternal life. This is a new teaching! There is no doubt that any law-centered Jew would object to this statement of a man coming from Nazareth and a son of a carpenter. But again Jesus insists that whoever eats this bread and believes in Him has eternal life, I repeat, eternal life – it means, one will be saved. Definitely, Jesus is obviously referring not to the bread that satisfies the body but to the bread that becomes a visible sign (sacrament) for the salvation of many – so to speak, to the bread that we partake when we celebrate the Holy Eucharist.

Thus, Jesus left us a great memorial and an assurance of his abiding presence when He instituted the Holy Eucharist. His words and actions were pregnant with meaning considering that it was a moment when He surely knew that He will be delivered up to the enemy and face the horrible suffering and death on the cross. “He took the bread, blessed it, gave it to His disciples and said, take this all of you and eat it. This is my body... Do this in memory of me.” Indeed, the Holy Eucharist is more than just a ritual that has beginning and end. It should not even be seen as part of our obligation as Catholic, so much so that when we miss to attend the Mass we will automatically incur a mortal sin. The Holy Eucharist is more than this. It is rather a concrete and visible way wherein God strengthens us with His presence and guidance through His Words from the Scripture and we are convinced that Jesus really loves us by giving us His very self in a form of a bread whenever we partake of the Holy Communion. Therefore, the Holy Eucharist is truly a symbol of Jesus' abiding love for us. And a symbol must be concrete and visible.  

The wedding ring for instance, is also a symbol of commitment between husband & wife. This is why marriage is built on a big promise – on a commitment. It assures each one that “I love you and I will keep on loving you.” So also with the Holy Mass – a concrete symbol of Christ's love for us. It is also built on Jesus' big promise: “Whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” Thus, every time we go to Mass we ought to be aware that God loves us and that He wants us to live forever – to have eternal life. When we don't go to Mass, we neglect the symbol. And when we neglect the symbol, our relationship to Jesus becomes less meaningful. Slowly, we become too weak to resist temptation... we falter... we hunger and we long for what can satisfy us...

The Church is perfectly right when she says that the Holy Eucharist is the center and summit of our Christian life. Because it is only through the Holy Eucharist that we can truly partake of the living bread of life – of Jesus Himself. So that even if we still remain a sinner, we are assured that God will give us strength to face every trials and temptations that may come along the way.

Indeed, the food we eat in every meal time will never ever satisfy our hunger. It never lasts. We need to seek for food that is lasting. Food that can truly satisfy even our hunger for everlasting life. Jesus is the answer – the Living Bread that we need... The food that truly satisfies us... Mind you, He is always present in the Holy Eucharist.        


To be simple = To be God-like

       Jn. 3:31-36

In 3 years of working as vocation promoter, I always asked the applicant this question: “Why did you choose the SOLT rather than other congregations or dioceses?” There were varied answers but most of them said: “I like your congregation because of your simplicity!” And my follow-up question usually is: “What do you mean by simplicity?” Some would equate it with the way SOLT members relate with the parishioners, esp. in the island-parishes; others would simply say, because of your lifestyle. I just can't help but nodded my head in agreement pretending that we really live a simple lifestyle.

However, it is interesting to note that many young men & women, and lay people alike have developed attraction to our community not because we are as brilliant as the Jesuits, as famous as the Dominicans or as rich as the Franciscans. Many applicants are right. They chose to enter the SOLT community because we have I suppose, the spirit of simplicity. At least our founder had said and lived out this fact. And we know that we can never be simple unless we are humble.

In the Gospel, the evangelist John affirmed the famous testimony of John the Baptist in the preceding verse, which says: “He must increase, I must decrease” (verse 30). He then pointed out that “the one who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of earthly things. But the one who comes from heaven is above all.” I would like to interpret this verse as a way on how we can be simple & humble like John the Baptist. The message is clear: to be simple is to be God-like. We come from God and we go back to God. We are not of this earth. Troubles in our lives and in our community begin when we cease to be God-like, when we simply remain human in our relationships with others. In this way, we only see ourselves, our own achievements, our degrees, our status, and our pride.  

Simplicity brings us to a deeper awareness that we are nothing. I simply become Fr. Choi not because I am rich, not because I have a Socratic mind, not even because I am handsome like Piolo Pascual but definitely, I become what and who I am now, because God in His Infinite Goodness has chosen me to be His instrument... the rest is mystery.              

Indeed, our applicants are right; they are attracted to us because we are simple. Our humble beginnings in Cagraray Island 30 years ago would attest to this. Thus, we are challenge to continue the spirit of simplicity which our founder has shared... which Jesus Himself had shown to us. To be simple is to be God-like.

To end my reflection, I would like to quote an old Buddhist saying which says: “In the end only three things matter: How fully you lived, how deeply you loved, and how well you learned to let go of things not meant for you.” And I would like to add one: “And it also matters how simple you are that you become God-like to others!”

(A homily given during the SOLT's Regional Assembly, April 7, 2005)