Sunday, December 11, 2016

3rd Sunday of Advent, A


Rejoicing

Matthew 11:2-11 

"Gaudete" means rejoicing.  But what the people of this generation rejoice in?  Malls? Money? A lot of gifts and merrymaking?

We have to distinguish what is true and false rejoicing.  If we feast on what is fleeting, what serves the self, orsurely, what is evil, then that is extremely false rejoicing.  There cannot be any joy except in Jesus alone.

The gospel points out the sources of true rejoicing:

First, the poor are helped

In the gospel, it says, "The blind see again, and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised to life and the Good News is proclaimed to the poor;"  If we see that life in the community is flourishing - the ignorant are taught, the poor are helped, the sick are visited, those who are dead in sin are raised to life in the Spirit; that is true rejoicing.  We need to invest in these every moment of our lives.


Second, Jesus in the ordinary

Jesus asked, "What did you go out to see? ... a man wearing fine clothes?"  Only in recognizing the presence of Jesus in each one of us can we detect true rejoicing.  Even the most ordinary person can be an instrument of Jesus.

Third, Jesus above all others

In the gospel, it says, "A greater than John the Baptist has never been seen; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he is."  We are referring to Jesus, our Lord and King, and all that He stood for; we should prioritize Him in our lives.  This also symbolizes the triumph of goodness in the world, especially the goodness that comes from Jesus, who will bring about the final d
efeat of evil.

These are the sources of true rejoicing that the world cannot supply.  These will surely lead us to the ultimate good - God himself.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Inspirations at your Fingertips!: 2nd Sunday of Advent, A

Inspirations at your Fingertips!: 2nd Sunday of Advent, A: Integrity Matthew 3:1-12  The readings for the second Sunday of Advent reflect a quality that is present in John the Baptist and of cour...

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Christ the King


Kingdom of Christ


Luke 23:35-43 


What is it like in the kingdom where Jesus is King and Lord of all heaven and earth?

It's like this:

The kingdom of heaven is filled with disciples.

Only disciples are allowed to enter heaven.  People who consider themselves as good and have done good works on earth may be entering heaven based on the merits of their good works.  But have they heeded God's words?  Have then done Jesus' will?  Did they pass through the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus?


Second, the kingdom of Jesus is also on earth through the Church.

The Church is icon of the Holy Trinity.  It is the body of Christ.  It lives in unity in Christ, sharing all gifts and charisms.  Did we really consider ourselves as active members of Christ's body.

Third, the kingdom of heaven is found on the passion and death of Jesus.

He fulfilled his kingship not through the crown or throne, but on the cross, a symbol of the forgiveness of sins through his passion, death, and resurrection.  Do we also embrace our crosses?  Are our crosses the means to save others?

Let the kingdom of heaven be upon us through Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

33rd sunday in ordinary time, C

The problem is we don't seem to connect heaven and earth.  Heaven is future while what we have right now is earth.

But we can't delay heaven.  God is not future.  He is today.

We have to correct the notion of separation of heaven and earth:

1. kingdom of God is now, it started while we were children and it is on-going.  
2. Jesus - how much have we known him?  We need to identify with Jesus now.
3. love - not only families, but also the poor.  Love now.

This is how we connect heaven and earth.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, C

Resurrection 

Luke 20:27-38 

"Resurrection" is the theme of today's readings.  In the Book of Maccabees, the seven brothers would rather give glory to God rather than sacrifice their faith.  They believed that they would receive everlasting life.

In the gospel, Jesus took the discussion of whose wife will the widow be to another level.  "They shall not marry because they are like angels..."

Let us also take our lives to the next level.  How often do we sacrifice spiritual life for money, power, comforts of this world, or even reputation?  These do no not have any merits in heaven.  But Jesus said, "But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal." (Mt. 6, 20)

What do we store in heaven?

First, focus on heavenly things.  Remember your childhood when you were asked, "Who wants to go to heaven?" And we raised our hands.  What happened after all these years?  Focus on Jesus, the king of heaven and earth.  Move out from there.

Second, our lives on earth is itself our journey to heaven.  Imagine what heaven would be like.  Live exactly like it on earth.  All saints in heaven were disciples while they were on earth.  Let's be disciples of Jesus.

Third, lead others to heaven.  By the conduct of our lives, we already know whether we are going to heaven or not.  But much more, everything that we do to our brothers and sisters account for our entrance to heaven.  Lives of faithful service will get us to heaven.


Saturday, October 29, 2016

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, C


Grateful heart

Luke 19:1-10 

See how God loves what is small, who is humble, and how he blesses them.

Zacchaeus is in the same predicament.  Aside from being small in statue, his dignity has fallen considering the ire of the Israelite for being a tax collector.  But Jesus called him by his first name and even invited himself to his home.  Zacchaeus was indeed grateful that he offered to pay four times the amount he stole and give half of his belongings to the poor.

These are the signs of a grateful heart:

Remorse - the sinful man realizes how much he offended God not only because he deserves just punishment but more so, he offended God who is all-good and deserving of all his love.

Amendment - the sinful man experiences how he is deeply loved by the Father despite his sinfulness that he is willing to make amends, correct all wrongs, and restore things and relationships to their proper state.

Offering - a grateful heart is an offering heart that loses all selfishness worsened by sin and releases the person from further slavery to it.  He gives his life back to God and offers his services to others.

Gratefulness is the experience of heaven itself as nothing can ever separate us from God.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, C

Between pride and humility

Luke 18:9-14

Jesus' parable opens us to the world of the proud and the humble.

But the book of Ecclesiastes opens us to God's world as judge who rules the world with fairness and equality, decides in favor of the poor and the oppressed, and favors the humble.  In knowing the justice of God do we learn about the life of the humble and the proud.

First, God is a just judge who is fair to all.  The humble man treats everyone with respect.  The proud look only on themselves and looks down on everyone else.

Second, God has preferential option for the poor, the oppressed, the rejected.  The humble man, aside from treating himself as one of the persons mentioned above, is filled with compassion for the poor and the oppressed.  He would do everything to help them up their feet.  The proud will further oppress the poor and justify their poverty.

Third, God loves the humble. The humble becomes a model for all others of a fruitful life that leads to everlasting life.  The proud man's life ends here on earth.

Choose then which one would you prefer to live out: pride or humility?

Saturday, October 01, 2016

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, C

The heart of a faithful servant

Luke 17:5-10

For this Sunday, as we reflect on the faithful servant as described in the gospel, I would like to use St. Ignatius' "prayer for generosity" to show the qualities of a servant:

"Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to ask for reward,
save that of knowing that I do your will."

First, the faithful servant deeply knows his master.  He asks for generosity because the master is overly generous.  And to serve the master as he deserves implies total respect and honor to him.  The reference point of service is the master, not the self.

Second, the faithful servant knows who he is and what he should do.  He knows his responsibilities.  Giving, fighting, toiling and laboring are far worthier than costs, wounds, resting, and rewards.  Without expecting to be paid, the servant fulfills what is expected of him.

Third, the faithful servant is oriented totally to his master.  He is set to do the master's will and not his own.  The master's will is in itself the reward for all his efforts.  Following the Lord's will will definitely bring order to the world and to people's lives.

These constitute the very heart of the servant as he utters, "We are merely servants: we have done no more than our duty.”  This is also the heart and life of a true disciple by we are called to be.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, C

On Christian charity

Luke 16:19-31

Amos warned those who are living the comfortable life, shielded from any sentiments or feelings of mercy and compassion for the poor and thus, unable to extend arms to help them, "That is why they will be the first to be exiled; the sprawlers’ revelry is over." (Amos 6, 7)

In the Gospel for today, the rich man descended to Hell (or Hades) because he deprived Lazarus even of the crust that fell from his table.

Their lives are devoid of love and that is the exact meaning of hell.

Let's reflect on the spirituality of Christian charity.

First, charity is one of the theological virtues.  Virtues are formed out of habits or repetitive actions based on the intention to do what is good.  (CCC 1823) What makes charity a theological virtue is that it mirrors the source of all good: God himself.  When we are charitable, we live out the love of God who is first and foremost the generous One.

Second, loving is a commandment, not an option.  The Old Testament speaks about loving God above all things and loving neighbor as ourselves.  This is further strengthened by Jesus himself: "I give you a new command: love one another as I have loved you." (Jn. 13: 34 - 35)

The Lord commands us to love, the least, the last, the lost, and even our enemies.  Jesus loved us even when we were still enemies (Rom. 5, 10)  While on the cross, Jesus forgave his enemies, "Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they do." (Lk. 23, 34)  Thus, charity is inclusive and all embracing.  Selective loving is false love.

Third, charity is the source and goal of Christian maturity. (CCC 1827)  It is the motive and goal of all our actions.  Charity raises human love to the level of divine love.  Once we reach it, we shall find rest. (CCC 1829)

In living out charity, we live out God himself, for "God is love." (1 Jn. 4, 8)



Sunday, September 18, 2016

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, C

Curing social problems

Luke 16:1-13

Amos is known as a social prophet, meaning, he reveals the social sins of the people of Israel like desecrating the Sabbath and being dishonest in dealing with business transactions.  God will render his just punish
ment over them.

In the gospel, even though the man in the parable is a dishonest steward, the owner still commended him because of his astute ways.  Then Jesus pointed out the message of the story, "For the children of this world are more astute in dealing with their own kind than are the children of light."

Despite our religiosity, our country is beset with social problems.  As of press time, even the Philippine President admitted that the corruption in government extends from Luzon to Mindanao and that he alone could not solve the problem. How do we as Catholics help the President in solving this gargantuan problem?

Social sin needs social action to eradicate it.   Let's band together to solve it.  The problem is ourselves.  Neglecting the situation, we continue to think about our own selves, not aware of the social consequences of our actions.  We don't heed to these words of wisdom, "Love people, use money".  Instead, we "love money and use people."

Social transformation starts with personal conversion.  By serving God first and using everything to help people, we become the trusted stewards of the Lord.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, C


In search of true wisdom


Luke 14:25-33 

Wisdom may arrive at moment of realization, after we have done something wrong and we haven't done anything at all about a situation.  Only then do we learn.

In an article "5 regrets of the dying", a nurse recorded the most common regrets of the dying.  The five regrets are: "I wish I'd have the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me"; "I wish I hadn't worked so hard"; "I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings"; "I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends"; "I wish that I had let myself be happier."  These are words of wisdom coming from dying person.

And if I may suggest, Christians as we are, may I include three more to the list:

1. "I wish I had thought of others more than myself."  By thinking more about how to serve others and make them happy, we are actually contributing to our own happiness.

2.  "I wish I'd listen to the wisdom of the Church rather than myself."  In the long period the Church has existed in history, it's credibility lies in being able to withstand the test of time, taking into consideration all its frailties and mistakes.  If we don't listen to the Church, we only risk committing the same mistakes as our ancestors.

3.  "I wish I'd thought about the world to come rather than my own world here on earth."  If heaven were in my mind even when I was born, I would have spent everyday of my life getting there.

In all of these, in loving others, in the Church, and in heaven, God is present.  He is the source of true wisdom.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

True Humility

Luke 14:1,7-14

Today's gospel is so pointed it challenges us to confront ourselves whether we are living lives of humility or arrogance.

Noting that in heaven, there is no such thing as first or second class saints, we need to live this value right here on earth by ruing every form of selfishness, arrogance, and greed and imitate Jesus in humility, self-emptying and service.

What are the marks of true humility?

St. Ignatius pointed out the path to true humility.  These are:  embracing poverty over wealth, service over power, and God over self.

Embracing poverty means despite our material possessions, we are all poor in God's eyes.  There is no distinction between the rich and the poor because we all need God.  We need to know who we are: helpless human beings totally dependent on God for our lives.

Second, embracing service means that I place whatever power and authority I have to serve others and not myself.  I cannot serve unless I stoop down and make myself available to help them, feel their pains, and help free them from their sufferings.  This is exactly what Jesus did to save us.

Third, embracing self-emptiness means to fill my life with God while emptying myself of self-indulgence.  Pride is the enemy of God.  Like St. Paul, let's pray that we may say, "It is not I who live but Christ who lives in me." (Gal. 2, 20)

In embracing these three things we would gain the true treasures of heaven, especially the love of God in us.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, C

God or this world?

Luke 12:49-53

artwork from dailyencouragement.wordpress.com

Jeremiah was thrown into the cistern for speaking against Israel.  It was fortunate that Ebed-Meleck, the Ethiopian, pleaded King Zedekiah that he be saved.

Jesus in today's gospel said, "I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already! There is a baptism I must still receive, and how great is my distress till it is over!"  Jesus came not to bring peace on earth, but division.

A Christian witnesses for Christ; he doesn't compromise with the world.  St. Peter said, "It is better for us to follow God rather than men." (Acts 5, 29)  It's high time that we reflect if our lives are series of compromises with the world or we are still faithful to God?

We have compromised with the world if our values are worldly - giving in to wealth, power, or pride rather than poverty, humility, and persecution for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven.

We have compromised if our children have opted to live in the same way as we have lived.

Thirdly, we have compromised our lives when we have not worked for the salvation of others.  Despite our accomplishments, we have accomplished nothing.

Be more sensitive with God's presence and His promptings.  Our lives will find its true meaning only in serving Him.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Choosing the better part

Luke 10:38-42 

It may seem that Jesus preferred prayer over work.  But this is not the message of the story of Martha and Mary.  The message is "choosing the better part."

Abraham, though he had a wife and household, chose the better part when he decided to accommodate the guests who turned out to be angels.

Jesus chose to suffer and die for our salvation.  What better part are we choosing?

If we continue to work actively in the world instead of working for the salvation of people and for the greater glory of God, we have not chosen "the better part."  Even for people who say that serving God through the family but are actually too busy to serve God directly are not really choosing the better part.

To choose the better part, we have to consciously and unreservedly choose to follow Jesus above all else, Jesus who is "the way, the truth, and the life." (John, 14, 16)  From this basic premise lies what we are to do in this world.

We follow Jesus as "way" when we follow him to his passion, death, and resurrection and carry our own crosses for the salvation of others.

We follow Jesus as "truth" when in spite of the noise this world offers, we choose to heed only to the truths of faith.

Finally, we follow Jesus as "life" when we choose to live in the love that he offers to us, unconditional, pure, and self-giving.

If our decision will redound to bringing others to God's reign and giving the honor and adoration due to God, we have chosen the better part.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Saturday of week 15 in Ordinary Time, II

On being chosen

Matthew 12:14-21

All of us have own plans on earth, replacing what God wants us to do in the world.  By own actions we thought we can just move about the earth and follow our dreams.  But imagine a dream followed that is not in accord with God's dream - death is sure to follow.

In the midst of life's plans, there is Someone who calls us, chooses us and sends us on a mission.  His name is God.  And He will not take it sitting down until his will is followed by everyone.

Let's focus on "being chosen" vs. "choosing ourselves."  The former may in the passive tense, but it connotes a much direct reference on the One who chooses us, God himself.  While the later would consist of a stream of self-motivated actions with us moving according to our own whims and caprices, the former directly reflects the very image of God who chooses us make this world a better place.

God chooses us, but unfortunately, we couldn't detect it because we are so busy saving our lives.  How do we live a life chosen by God?

First, for the chosen, God's spirit dwells in him.  Jesus, whose spirit is God's spirit, is the concrete image of the God's presence in the world.  We as human beings are meant to manifest God's spirit and not our own.

Second, we are able to proclaim the true faith and not be swayed by false ones.  Millions of schools of thoughts and philosophies continue to be created.  But chosen will be able to detect truth from lies.  The worst form of lie is the absence of God or even the irrelevance of religion as a way of life.  From our view of religion, our way of life is affected and how we spend our time, talent and treasure.

Finally, the chosen will directly reflect God's love.  He would not be violent or vindictive, but salvific as God's love saves us.  Our dreams  will account to nothing if we don't live out God's love.

The result: all nations will put their hopes in God because His way is the way of truth, love, and life.  Everything points to Jesus.



Sunday, July 10, 2016

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, C

Mercy

Luke 10:25-37

The reading from Deuteronomy assures us, "The Word is very near you, it is in your lips and in your heart." (Deut. 30, 14)

Such is God's law that is planted in the very hearts of people. Another word for this is simply "mercy".

Mercy is Jesus as he saves us by enduring all sufferings for our sake.  And as God is overly merciful with us, so we need to be merciful to God, to others, and also to self.

Mercy or "hesed" is God's loving care.  It is love with hands and feet that moves and acts for others.  Three more action words connote mercy.  These are forgiveness, empathy, sharing.

In the world of forgiveness, we share in God's forgiveness.

In empathy, we need to feel with one another before we can help them.

In sharing, we use what we have and share them to our brothers and sisters.

Mercy can only be the concrete and tangible way of loving God and our neighbor.


Saturday, July 02, 2016

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Be laborers of the harvest

Luke 10:1-12,17-20

Everything in  the first reading tells us about life - flowing river, a nourishing mother, flourishing like the grass.

This is how God sees the world and us.  Though we see sin, evil, and poverty, Jesus sees a great harvest, "The harvest is great but the laborers are few." He commands us to ask the Father to send laborers to the harvest. (Lk. 10, 1-10)

We are those laborers.  But do we allow ourselves to be God's laborers?

In order for us to be laborers, we need to know the following:

1. Do we know our roles here on earth?  If we are intent on just following our dreams of a better life, we are not laborers of the harvest.  Why are we on earth for?

2.  Have we responded to God's cal to send us?  Have we gone to communities, even the peripheries?  Do we even know that we are sent?  Again, if we are too busy with our affairs, we don't have the capacity to listen to the one who sends
us.

3.  Have we cured the sick?  When was the last time we gave food to the hungry, clothes to the naked, home for the homeless.  When have we brought sight to the blind and made the lame walk?  Have we brought a dead man back to life by bring hope to him?

If we haven't started any of these things, no wonder we cannot attribute all good things as coming from God, nor do we recognize the flowing river, the nourishing mother, and the flourishing grass.

But we have experienced these things.  Can we just allow ourselves to be sent by Jesus and the real beauty in this world?

Saturday, June 25, 2016

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, C

Following Jesus

Luke 9:51-62

The readings reflect the urgency of following God.

Elisha followed Elijah and succeeded him only after doing final service to his father.

In the gospel Jesus  reprimanded those whom he called but have to do some errands first, "Those who look back are not fit to enter into the kingdom of heaven."

There are three connotations of following: the first one is about following the law; the second one involves physically following another, and the third one involves offering one's life to do the will of another.

Jesus commands us to radically follow Him.  Going to church every Sunday and following the 10 commandments are simply not enough.   We need to follow the Lord and live out His will if we wish to gain eternal life.

The Song "Day by day" can give us a glimpse on how we can follow Jesus.  The lyrics go this way:

Day by day
O dear Lord, three things I pray -
to see Thee more clearly,
love Thee more dearly,
follow Thee more nearly day by day.

See Thee more clearly ... The reason we opt for material things instead of God is because we don't exert effort to know him each day through the teachings of the Church and the Word of God and the reception of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist.  We cannot start loving someone whom we don't know.

Love Thee more dearly ... It's a bit odd for men to propose love to women if in the first place, they neither know how God loves nor do they love God.  For love to be sincere, it has to be deeply rooted in God's love, for God is love.

Follow Thee more nearly ... Each day, let us make it a point to get closer to Jesus, to develop intimacy with Him, serve Him, and follow Him in carrying our crosses.  Martyrs receive the crown of everlasting life because of their adherence to Jesus through the offering of their lives.  Are we ready to align our lives with Jesus?

If we do these things, seeing, loving, and following Jesus, then everything we do is Jesus' fruitful work on earth.  People would see and feel the love of Jesus concretely.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Suffer for love of Him

Luke 9:18-24

Jesus may have asked, "Who do people say I am?" but actually, he wants us to know him as one who suffers for our sake.

The first reading mentions it, "They will look on the one whom they have pierced; they will mourn for him as for an only son, and weep for him as people weep for a first-born child." (Zech 12, 10 - 11)

The Eucharist is not just a celebration of food and thanksgiving.  It is a remembrance of the sufferings of Christ.  Whenever we receive the Eucharist, salvation is attained at the expense of Jesus' offering of self on the cross.  Reception of the Eucharist is not a right to be demanded; but a gift freely given by God who loves us.

May we identify with the sufferings of Christ.  First, we need to know what we are suffering for.  For Jesus it is very clear, he had to suffer and die to save us.  To what are we suffering for?

Second, to suffer means to feel with those who are actually suffering.  We stop complaining not just because we don't have the luxuries but because we know there are those who are dying each day for lack of food and justice.  We need to empathize with them before we can help them.

Third, the path to heaven is a series of wounds inflicted by sin but healed by forgiveness and love.  This is our real connection with Jesus.  We live each day embracing our crosses, sacrifices, and sufferings to be totally united with him and with one another.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time, C

Forgive

Luke 7:36-50


We are invited by the readings to forgive.

But forgiveness cannot be possible unless we admit that we have sinned.  Imagine, if we claim we have not sinned, then the world would be living in unity and sharing.  But it is not.  Unless we admit our sinfulness, God cannot forgive us.

Second, know that God is the one who forgives and not just ourselves.  When we forgive we are sharing in God's power to forgive.

Third, we need to realize the fruits of forgiveness - the state of becoming whole and well, uniting with God, healing, restoring to life.

We should be more concerned about this than inflicting pain, hatred, and vengeance against those who sinned against us.

Forgive then; forgive endlessly.