Sunday, December 30, 2007

The heart of family life


In my years in the priesthood, I myself wonder why priests like me are called “fathers”. In fact, Jesus himself said, “You shall not call anyone “Father”; only God is your Father.” (cf. Mt. 23, 9). Not until I read the readings for today especially in Sirach where it says, “The Lord honors a father above his children and confirms a mother’s right above her children.” (cf. Sirach 3: 2)

As the priest fulfills the privileged role of a “father” in a way that he leads God’s children safe and sound to “Our Father in heaven,” to too every father or mother is given such worthy role to mirror God’s fatherhood to his children.

In the feast of the Most Holy Family, may I invite you then to give the profoundest reverence to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph as the Holy Instruments of the Lord in spreading His love, forgiveness, and salvation. But this is also the time to realize how profoundly sacred our families are.

Unfortunately, so many issues have threatened that sanctity – abortion, contraception, separation of parents because of poverty and other things, live-in marriages, extramarital relationships, same-sex marriages – and a host of other problems which demean the very heart that binds family members and threatens the growth of the children. That is why the Lord’s command still remains unperturbed, “Honor your father and your mother.” (Ex. 20, 12)

Let we link all families to God’s eternal word and the sanctify of our very own families. Give joy to every member; let us support our parents in their old age; let love abound and remove any stain of sin and selfishness; let every family journey toward heaven, where God is all in all and we are His children. Let Jesus, Mary, and Joseph show us the way, amen!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Christmas well-observed

Christmas Day,
Cycle A,
Gospel: John 1: 1 - 18

The essence of Christmas is when we become the symbols of Christ and transformed according to His likeness with something that is lasting and not fleeting as the Christmas decorations, gifts, and food. How do we make this commitment to be transformed according to the image of the Christ Child?

First, it means to recognize that Christ joined our world, not for anything else except to be with us. When I was ordained a priest, I knew that God didn’t remove me from my woundedness; I knew that I was still the same person before and after I was ordained. But I knew that in this journey of the priesthood, He is with me and I am with Him; and it’s the only thing that matters.

Second, Jesus shared nothing else except love and only Love. By this, we are transformed and molded by Him who loves us. He heals us, forgives us, and gives us a chance to grow. Through Him, we rid ourselves of our selfish intentions each day.

Third, He enables us to share the same love to others, to touch others and heal them, and to bring Him to others. It is the triumph of love when the whole world is transformed, when each of us knows what to do and peace and justice abound as a consequence of all our actions; when all of humankind becomes one family united in love and everyone gives and receives life. This is the fruit of a Christmas well-observed.

God bless us this Christmas and the New Year!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A word of Hope

Third Sunday of Advent, Cycle A
Gospel: Matt. 11, 2 - 11
Picture courstesy of: Norwest Indiana Catholic Online

Pope Benedict XVI’s new encyclical Spe Salvi is a timely reminder for us especially this Christmas, which is also known as a season of hope.

“Spe Salvi,” in hope we were saved. The Holy Father says, "Hope is the distinguishing mark of Christians, the fact that they have a future; not that they know the details of what awaits them, but they know in general terms that their life will not end in emptiness.”

The Holy Father invites us to get to know our Lord more intimately, and that our hope would lead us to a real encounter with Him.

We have filled ourselves with false hopes. The lure of this world, the attractiveness of its scientific systems and technologies have left us feeling secured that we already possess the key to life.

But even reason is God's gift that we unfortunately turned as our own gods that we have become blind to the the true source of all reasons - God himself.

We need to pray, to listen, to understand, and open our world to Him. Listening entails that we empty ourselves so we can hear the Beloved speak when we are praying. We need to understand that life is limited, that no matter how advanced things seem to be, they could and will never compensate for the things of God. It is when we are weak that God is strong.
Finally our hope in the Lord opens us to the world of others who are hoping as we are that despite the hardships of life, everything will turn out because we believe, because we hope, and because we love.

May the season of Christmas be a season of hope to bring light to our lives brought about by the coming of the Christ Child who is our light and our salvation.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

A new way of looking at things


2nd Sunday of Advent
Cycle A
Gospel: Mt. 3: 1-12
Photo courtesy of Advent Devotions

A researcher filled a glass with water halfway, then he presented it to two subjects. He asked them this question, "How do you describe this glass?" One said, "The glass is half-empty." The other said, "The glass is half filled." Which one is correct among the two?

We look at reality in different ways. Noticing the negative things that are happening in this world, one could give a conclusion that this world is hopeless, and therefore, it justifies every act of self-survival, "It doesn't matter whether others suffer and die, as long as I and my family live." But others would treat the negative things in a different way, "Everything is not hopeless, I can still do what I have to do, not for myself but for my children.

We may look at the world in a negative way, but for God it is totally different. Ever since the beginning, He has a plan, a plan of salvation for us, a world where like in the first reading, "The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them (Is 11:6). All people live in harmony, peace, in hope, and in joy. This is a God who promises justice and peace and the poor will be taken cared of. He sends His very own Son to bring this to fulfillment.

Everything then is not hopeless. Let us join the work of the Lord and follow St. John the Baptist who cried out, "Make straight the way of the Lord!" Let us start with ourselves by heeding to the will of the Lord to bring salvation and hope into this world.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Yearning for something new


First Sunday of Advent Cycle A Gospel: MATTHEW 24 : 36 - 44 ( NRSV )

Is there something to look forward to this Christmas?

Judging from the scheme of things, they seem the same - prices increasing, people committing crimes, bad news in newspapers - the same old things seemingly on and on and man is no better than he was in the past.

But Jesus changed all these. He put an end to the old world and replaced a new world right in the hearts of men and women. He told us in the gospel that this world would end and He would come to rule us forever. And His kingdom will be a kingdom of love, peace, and justice.

Actually, for those who are living the old lifestyle, they are slowly dying. But for those who committed themselves to Christ in the past would enjoy the fruits of real life in the future.

Can you feel the new world coming? Can you grasp it from within and without? Is the whole family in that new world? Is Jesus the king of your new world? Do you see the poor having life in your world?

Let the passage to Christmas be a time to put the old world aside and yearn for the new one. MARANATHA, come Lord Jesus!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Is it easy to live as a Christian in today's world?

33rd Sunday in Ordinary time, cycle C
Gospel: LUKE 21 : 5 - 19

Though it seems that this is an easy question to answer, it's actually hard in truth and in fact. History will tell us that there wasn't a time when the Christian's path is smooth-sailing. Martyrs were born, the Church was subjected to political powers, secularist philosophies and materialist lifestyles. If the Master himself was subjected to every form of humiliation, then why are we choosing to live an easy life?

Living Christian lives is a really hard act to do. We may not be the martyrs who were killed in the Roman coliseum, yet everyday, our faith is tested whether we still find it as relevant as the economic survival of our families.

If in our hearts, there is none except to yearn for Christ, his teachings, and his love, then we are on the right path in our journey through life. Would we still dare call ourselves Christians? Then check if:

1. we are willing to espouse poverty and simplicity, knowing that the real treasure is in heaven;
2. we are willing to espouse purity of heart, possessing the spirituality of celibacy or single mindedness for God instead of being preoccupied with various earthly concerns;
3. we are giving up everything we want for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, to obey the Master's will, and to discern His glorious presence in daily life.

If we strive to do all these, we give witness to the real spirit of the gospel. Time will come when in the face of persecution, He will give us the "words and the wisdom that none of the opponents will be able to withstand or contradict".

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Think of the future today


32nd second Sunday in Ordinary time
Year C
Gospel: Lk. 20: 27 – 38
“Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection.”(36)


The Pharisees and the Sadducees were arguing whether resurrection exists or not. They turned to the Lord and asked a hypothetical question. But Jesus instead took it as an opportunity to give a catechesis on the resurrection and God’s desire to bring life to all His children. In a way, he opens the heavens and invites us to enter into His eternal home to be with him forever.

We all desire for heaven, for eternal life, and for salvation. But all these are true after we spend our lives here on earth. In the meantime, we are preoccupied of wanting to be greater and to have more. We dream of buying bigger homes, getting higher pay, buying more clothes, eventually serving ourselves and our immediate families.

We could at least connect the future with the present and not panic that our journey to heaven may be more immediate than expected. Each day we can ask this question, “Does my life today have something to do in the future, in my life with the Lord? Are my actions and decisions today leading me to being able to see Him who is my joy forever? Am I bringing my family and others, especially the poor to the knowledge of God and do I help them work their way to heaven or to freedom from slavery on earth?”

Let's ask these questions today and the Lord will guide us everyday.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Be merciful


31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C
Gospel: Lk. 19: 1-10
"Today, salvation has come to this house, for this is what it means to be a son of Abraham."

We have witnessed the Jubilee year which comes around every 50 years and is officially declared by the Holy Father as a "time of grace, peace, and justice." The Jubilee year has its roots in Jewish tradition as a new beginning, when all debts are repudiated, and the poor are given the chance to live.

The message of the Jubilee year is none other than the overwhelming mercy of God to us.

We can only hope that each day could be a time of grace and peace. But instead of grace, sin fills the world; instead of forgiveness, retaliation; instead of charity, apathy. There is a wound in every heart that keeps on bleeding; and this is brought about by selfishness. Could the overwhelming mercy of the Lord still find its way in every heart enough to transform it according to His merciful heart?

Yes, it can still be possible, if we only knew that each day is a miracle, at time for us to be agents of grace. If we realize that another day is added to our lives only because God wills it so, then we would know how to use it, not to further our greed and selfishness, but to live in love and giving.

Only mercy can heal the world. Jesus showed it to Zaccheus and he became free. It's time that we practice mercy to ourselves and others and give every person a chance to live.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

True prayer

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle C

Gospel: Lk. 18, 9 - 14

'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!'

The parable of the rich man and poor man's prayer reveals a lot about the meaning of prayer. First, prayer does not rely on our effectiveness to pray. Rather, it's simply grace. The very act of prayer is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. We would not be able to call God 'Abba' or Father had it not been for the Holy Spirit.

Second, prayer connects us with our loving God and makes communication possible. Prayer is a dialog between us and the Lord. Dialog becomes possible when one listens and shares. Prayer is not authentic when we talk more but listen less. Thus, thus fruit of authentic prayer is the ability to see the Lord and the capacity to know who we are in relation to Him. Prayer is a dialog between the lover and the beloved.

Third, prayer is God present in the world through the concrete manifestation of prayer and life. Our prayer comes true not only because God hears our prayers, but also, he uses us so we can prayers answered when we serve others and entrust all of our actions to God.

Do you have a special prayer? Pray as the poor man prays: totally dependent on God, totally recognizing God as God, and totally entrusting oneself to God.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Be patient!

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle C
Gospel: Lk. 18; 1-8

This may seem a paradox, but the more we're making new inventions to make life easier, the more life is getting complicated. Compare the concerns of people of yesteryears with our time today. Despite the advancements in technology, we never seem to be happy.

Probably we forget that the secret to enjoyment is not in the end result, but in the act of doing it. This is the joy of every painter, that in the act of brushing and combining colors, truth and beauty would slowly come out.

Same is true with life, that the process may just be as important as the end result.

We cannot short-circuit the way we bring up our children. They and us will have to experience the pains of growth and the art of bringing them up and our presence in their journey through life.

The secret to life is not in making things easier (buying a car, having high-tech gadgets at home), but in making sense of life and the time given to us.

We need patience to change ourselves, to forgive ourselves, and to help ourselves grow through the painful things that happen in our lives. We need patience in others too who are undergoing the same process as we are going through.

We need patience to know God, to understand his ways, and make our love for Him perfect while we undergo the trials of daily life. And know that from the very start, it is God who has been patient with us all along.

Finally, we need to grow patiently as a Church and as a people. When sin corrupts people, a whole generation is affected. We can work on promoting virtues for the next generation by living them out. We need to promote a community that is oriented to living out God's will toward genuine social transformation.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Thanks!

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle C
Gospel: Lk 17, 11-19

There's a story of two women who died and were at the waiting room before they go straight to heaven. The first was a learned, educated woman, the other, a poor one.

The rich woman told the other, "I heard that to enter heaven you need to present St. Peter the books you produced on earth that benefited others. So I studied and studied and produced books on education. Have you produced a series of books?"

"No, except this small one," the poor woman replied shamefully.

Then St. Peter came in asked them to submit their books. "Give me time to review them," he said, and went out of the waiting room. "I'll surely get to heaven now," said the rich woman.

Moments later, St. Peter came back. "I've reviewed your books. Some will go straight to heaven, the others, remain here at the waiting room." So he called the names of those who passed, among them was the poor woman.

The rich woman, not on the list, complained to St. Peter, "I've produced a library of books in my lifetime while this woman just made a small one. How come she goes to heaven and I don't?"

St. Peter answered, "My dearest, I know you made a thousand books, but this woman produced a book that contained the word, "Thank you." Every time she received kindness from another, she would write "Thank you"'; and every time a person would thank her, she would also write it down. So, she is entitled to enter heaven because her books contains a thousand "thanks" for the people in her life."

And the woman said, "Oh no, I wrote the wrong books."

Much have been said about thanks, sometimes, they come in cheaply, but most often, they come straight from the heart.

Saying thanks opens our worlds and let grace flow in others and in ourselves. Moreover, the greatest act of thanksgiving is a life transformed to goodness and glory of God.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Be Servants of the Lord

27th Week, Cycle C
Gospel: Lk. 17: 5 - 10
Photo courtesy of: Northern Dispatch Weekly

The gospel may sound uncharitable because the owner commands the servants to serve him first before themselves. But on second thought, it's probably right to be so because that's the main task of a servant, to do the will of the master, nothing more, nothing less.

The main challenge is: do we see ourselves as servants before the Lord or is the Lord our servant? When we go to the Church we remind Him to bless us and to hear our prayers. But we do little for Him. When he hears our prayers, we just ask the next one.

The picture of a servant is not new to us. Jesus is the main Servant in the whole work of salvation. "He emptied himself and took the form of a slave." And it is through this that salvation is possible. But do we see ourselves as servants?

I know how important it is for God to hear our prayers. But let's listen to Him first. If we do His will, we won't be praying for material prosperity, for health, for the safety of our family, for the upbringing of our children. If we do His will we won't be worried on how to get the next meal. If all people do His will first, poverty level will drastically go down and there will be an abundance of blessings, of food and life, simply because of an outpouring of generosity. Many will have jobs, the streets would be clean, and young people would grow up abhorring vices and wrong doing.

If we just fulfill our role as servants and not as masters, people would serve one another and would give glory to God.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Recover what we've lost

24th Sunday in ordinary time

Cycle C,
Gospel reading: Lk. 15, 1 - 32,
Photo coutesy of: Poor Clares Colettine Community

Have you felt real, unexplainable joy on something or someone that you lost?

The gospel helps us to feel the same joy in finding after losing, in living after dying, and in being with God after losing Him through sin.

Let us recall what we have lost recently apart from people and things: first, we have lost our dignity as moral persons when we succumb to lesser values and earthly pleasures instead of the ones above; we have lost our self-respect when we please ourselves and not others; we have lost God by putting ourselves as the center of our lives.

Therefore, let’s find ourselves again. Dream of a life filled rich in moral, material, and spiritual treasures. Make an honest inventory of how much life is lost simply because we’ve been insensitive and narrow-minded. Slowly but surely, let us start picking up the pieces and start recovering what we’ve lost. Let us help in building lives not only for ourselves and our families, but of our neighbors who are suffering.

Let us see the Lord’s gentle and assuring presence in the midst of all these, and after a fruitful life, please Him and give Him praise!

Monday, September 03, 2007

Lesson on humility


22nd Sunday in Ordinary time
Cycle C
Gospel Reading: Luke 14: 1, 7 - 14
photo courtesy of: Crossroadsinitiative.com



Next to forgiveness, humility might be the next virtue that's hard to live out, considering that the trend of the this world is toward getting oneself on top of others.

Jesus stressed that "those who exult themselves will be humbled, while those who are humble shall be exalted." It is brought about the example of his own life by when he took our humble nature and subjected himself to rejection, suffering, and death on the cross. But all these brought about our salvation.

Now he gives us an example. One does not change the world by comfortably sitting and lording it over others. On the contrary, by taking the form a slave and doing the will of the Father, one pleases Him by putting oneself at the service of the others.

According to John Ruskin, the first test of a truly great man is his humility. If only every man and woman would not be concerned with his stature; instead be more concerned with valuing others and the Lord, then the world would be a nicer and more humane place to live in.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Enter through the narrow door

21th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle C
Gospel: Lk. 13: 24 - 30
Photo courtesy of David Morrison


Through the centuries Catholics have developed preconceived notions of the faith; unfortunately they pass it on to the children and the next generation. These notions are solidified in terms such as "the Sunday Catholics" or those who think that Catholicism is just attending Sunday masses; "the nominal Catholics" or those who think that they are Catholics only by name, but not by word and deed; And like the "fallen angels", we have the "fallen Catholics" who abandon their faith altogether in exchange for another or simply none at all.

The Church has taught time and again that these notions, however popularly practiced, do not constitute what is "Catholic" or "Christian". On the contrary, the demands are high, as high as leaving everything behind to follow the Lord or taking up your cross and follow Him. It is as costly as God humbling himself and embracing our humble nature and eventually dying in the process. Why then are we doing so little while investing so much with things that will last?

We are badly mistaken about the laxity of our outlook on faith. It is not a picture Christ had in his mind. For Him, it consists of "entering through the narrow door" of trials and painful struggles, but with the vision of the eternal reward of being with the Lord and experiencing bliss in heaven together with our loved ones and all Christians.

Instead of being Sunday Catholics, let us be "Everyday Catholics", from the rising of the sun to its setting, that we praise the Lord endlessly;

instead of being nominal Catholics, I suggest that we become "Real Catholics", totally conscious about thinking of Christ, speaking Christ, and living out Christ;

Finally, let us shift from being fallen Catholics to "Resurrected Catholics", bonded together, fired up in the Spirit, and untiringly preparing the path to heaven for the next generation to follow, even if it means offering our lives.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Set your faith on fire!

20th Sunday in ordinary time,
Cycle C
,
Gospel: Lk. 12: 49 -53
photo courtesy of: http://catholicfire.blogspot.com/

The religious images always inspire us to remember and pray to God, angels, and saints. One of the most powerful images is the Sacred Heart and our devotion to our Lord who is “meek and humble of heart.”

It is quite surprising that the Lord in the gospel would not be talking about meekness, but fire, battles, conflicts; of separation of families, and a kind of baptism which His anguish is so great unless it is realized.

One time when I was counseling an unmarried couple who wanted to have their child baptized, I was explaining to them the importance of a Catholic marriage and family life with the Lord when the mother of the baby’s daughter interrupted our conversation and asked, “Father, when did this start in the Church that people should be married in the Catholic Church? What is normal is civil marriage. This was the first time in my life that I heard such statements!” Upon hearing this, I nearly fell off my chair!

The topic in question may not only be about Catholic marriage, it may be about anything that before that are immoral, unchristian, and inhuman but now seemed accepted by many, like contraception, abortion, divorces, homosexual marriages, euthanasia, etc. In these situations, we need more than being “meek and humble of heart.” As St. Paul says, “We need to fight a good fight and win the race.”

Do we possess a fiery faith or a lukewarm faith hiding in the face of meekness but actually is insignificant to our lives? Do we know the implications of Christian life in the face of ethical, social, political, and cultural issues? Do we get God out of the way of the normal affairs of life and leave him in the church? No wonder, humankind is becoming confused each day and is on the road to extinction.

We need to form our consciences. We need to choose what is inherently right and avoid what is evil. We need to know what conforms to God’s natural and divine laws. We need to know what is good for our salvation and and what is for the greater glory of God.

So shift the gear from a weak faith to a fiery one. Remember, the evil one is like a roaring lion, waiting for someone to devour. Be steadfast in the faith and actively lead others to Him.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Assumption: Mothers show the way

The Mother's parable by Temple Bailey best shows us the reason for celebrating the Solemnity of the Assumption:

The young mother set her foot on the path of life. "Is the way long?" she asked. And her guide said, "Yes, and the way is hard. And you will be old before you reach the end of it. But the end will be better than the beginning." But the young mother was happy and she would not believe that anything could be better than those years. So she played with her children and gathered flowers for them along the way and bathed them in the clear streams; and the sun shone on them and life was good, and the young mother cried, "Nothing will never be lovelier than this."

Then night came, and storm, and the path was dark and the children shook with fear and cold, and the mother drew them close and covered them with her mantle and the children said, "Oh Mother, we are not afraid, for you are near, and no harm can come," and the mother said, "This is better than the brightness of day, for I have taught my children courage."

And the morning came, and there was a hill ahead and the children climbed and grew weary, and the mother was weary, but at all times she said to the children, "A little patience and we are there." So the children climbed and when they reached the top, they said, "We could not have done it without you, Mother." And the mother, when she lay down that night, looked up at the stars and said, "This is a better day than the last, for my children have learned fortitude in the face of hardness. Yesterday I gave them courage, today I have given then strength."

And with the next day came strange clouds which darkened the earth, clouds of war and hate and evil--and the children groped and stumbled, and the mother said, "Look up. Lift your eyes to the light." And the children looked and saw above the clouds an Everlasting Glory, and it guided them and brought them beyond the darkness. And that night the mother said, "This is the best day of all for I have shown my children God."

And the days went on, and the weeks and the months and the years, and the mother grew old, and she was little and bent. And her children were tall and strong and walked with courage. And when the way was rough they lifted her, for she was as light as a feather; and at last they came to a hill, and beyond the hill they could see a shining road and golden gates flung wide. And the mother said, "I have reached the end of my journey. And now I know that the end is better than the beginning, for my children can walk alone and their children after them." And the children said, "You will always walk with us, Mother, even when you have gone through the gates."

And they stood and watched her as she went on alone, and the gates closed after her. And they said, "We cannot see her, but she is with us still. A mother like ours is more than a memory. She is a Living Presence."

Mothers show us the way, to courage, to joy, and to God. The Assumption, a dogma approved by the Church last November 1, 1950 also shows us the Mary's greatness of a mother leading all of God’s children to the Father.

This is the very reason why this day is important for the Catholic Church and for the whole humanity as well. It is the journey of our lives, with Mary leading us. How easy we tend to forget our beginning and our end. We tend to get stuck with the lures of this world. But the Solemnity of the Assumption lights up our paths to see where we are going - directly to the Father.

Meanwhile, let our heart be like Mary's heart as she sang the "Magnificat", "My soul proclaim the greatness of the Lord." Let us offer each day to thank the Lord for the wonders He is doing to us, how he is changing us and how we are learning life's lessons, "the end will be better than the beginning." Indeed, we thank Mary and our mothers for showing us the way.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

We are the stewards of the Lord

19 Sunday
Cycle C
Reading: Lk. 12: 32-48
Photo courtesy of: Blogcorner preacher

St. Ignatius of Loyola, in his Spiritual Exercises, presents a parable of three pairs of men who were given what might amount today as one million dollars each. All these men are devoted to the Lord and want to serve Him.

The first pair wanted to serve the Lord and promised to offer the money to Him, but ended up not doing anything about it.

The second pair wanted to serve and please the Lord and would want to get rid of the money, but they don't decide to leave it in order to go to God.

The third pair wanted to serve and please no other than the Lord, would want to get rid of the money, and force themselves not to like it, but only to use the money or leave the money in accord with God's will.

Which of these three symbolize your present situation as regards your outlook on material things and God in your life?

Jesus in the gospel says to "sell your possessions and give alms. Give your purses that do not wear out; treasures that will not fail."

The real treasure is a life oriented toward the Lord. Material treasures also have their proper place in God's world. From the perspective of faith, we don't "own" material treasures; we are in fact "stewards" of these treasures. We use them as God wants us to use them. We use gifts to lead people to the Lord. We use everything in us to please and to glorfify God.

If people are oriented to letting go instead of holding on, use and not abuse, and giving and not receiving treasures, then these would serve their real purpose - to make all people alive.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Blessings are meant to be shared


18th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle B
Gospel: Luke 12: 13 - 21
Photo courtesy of: Western Catholic Reporter

A father once bought her 3 year-old daughter a toy. Noting how happy her child was, he reported to me, "Father, nothing in this world would compare with the happiness my child is feeling right now. That's why I never hesitate to buy her what she wants." 5 minutes later, the baby girl threw away the toy. Her happiness was over.

Never make a mistake, people are more important than things. Even in the business world, the key to a successful product or service is persons, not things. How much more if we realize that God is more important than anything or anyone else - more than our children and loved ones. God is more important than ourselves and those we are trying so hard to sustain.

The parable reflects on the vanity of all things we value in this world. The first reading repeats it like mantra, "Vanity of vanities; everything is vanity." Jesus describes the rich man as a fool for building another barn that would keep the harvest. All the things that we have toiled for will come to naught unless we know why God allowed us to receive these blessings. Note that everything that we can think of - material blessings, relationship blessings of children and lifetime companion, blessings of health, etc. - everything has a purpose for being.

Practical tips for maintaining the proper attitude regarding all blessings:

1. Focus on the Giver - every gift points to the overwhelming goodness of the Lord. It is He who is reaching out to us. Everything good we receive reflects the goodness of God.

2. He wants that we use these gifts to come closer to Him - reflect on the place of these gifts in God's world and why he has given them to us in the first place. Reflect on the responsibility that goes with receiving gifts from the Lord. We may take good care of them instead of abusing them.

3. He wants that through these gifts others may live - it is not true that there is a lack of resources or wealth. It is not true that poverty cannot be eradicated. Poverty exists simply because others think they can own endlessly for themselves, even if the rest suffer. If everyone knew that gifts are not for personal consumption but is meant to be shared to others, blessings will abound, and even the poor could give and rich receive.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The day I stopped praying


17th Sunday in Ordinary time
Cycle C

Gospel reading: Luke 11: 1 - 13

Don’t get me wrong. I am a strong man of faith. At least I struggle to be one. But the day I stopped praying was when I was a child. I prayed to receive, receive, and receive. I prayed to get high grades, to receive honors, to receive gifts, and all others that I need to pray for. I asked God to focus on me and hear my prayer.

But time after I graduated from elementary, something happened with the way I prayed. By the time I finished Grade school, I was not really interested in what I was praying for. Yes, my prayer was answered. But I gained much more: I gained a Friend.


After grade school, I continued praying to Him, but unlike my first experiences of prayer, the next ones I found hard for the Lord to grant them. I prayed for so many, but it seemed that the Lord is granting only a few. Maybe, the Lord wanted me to grow in my outlook of prayer – from a childish one to a childlike one. For I was challenged with this thought, “If the Lord seemed not hear your prayers, would he still be your true friend?" I stopped praying to receive. Instead, I started praying for the Lord to hear others' prayers. I knew they would be more important than mine.

Later on, the prayer would further asking instead what my Friend would want - my time, my talent, my treasure? Since I knew that what I would give to him would not suffice for all the good He has done for me, I wouldn’t have anything to offer Him, except my own life.

This new journey of prayer led me to where I am right now. I decided to offer myself to the Lord as a priest and commended everything I love – my parents, my family, my friends, my concerns of the future – I offered all those dear to me. I knew that I value all these, but there’s no better way to value that to entrust everything to His care.

I still pray like a child. I’d pray with all my might, especially when my mother was confined at the hospital. I would bargain and plead to the Lord for her recovery. But I also knew that His will is a whole lot better than mine. I had to let go of what I want and allow him to do what is best. We in the family made a final commendation of our mother. He prepared her and received her into His loving arms. I knew that everyone would be secured in His loving arms and there is nothing to be afraid of.

Yes, I stopped praying wrongly, but the Lord taught me how to truly pray.

photo courtesy of catholicweb.com

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Doing God's work

16th Sunday in Ordinary time
Cycle C

In a book by Fr. Tom Green, S.J. titled "Darkness in the Marketplace", he cited the difference between "working for God" and "doing God's work." He gave the example of someone who would like to give another a present.

"What do you want for your birthday? Tell me, a new shirt, a car, a trip abroad. I can give you whatever you want." Then the celebrant said, "I want blue cheese for my birthday."

"I would not want to give something repugnant. I want you give you something else, something more valuable."

"Yes, you want to give me something valuable, but I still want blue cheese," was the reply.

If you're the one giving, which one would you choose, to give what you want or what he wants?

There are two types of those who serve God: those who "work for God" and those who "do God's work". The first type serve the Lord according to their own terms and availability. The service may be noble or grand, but it may not be what the Lord wants. For he wants "blue cheese." Sooner or later, we may opt to shift from "working for God" to "doing God's work."

Martha represents those who "work for God" and Mary, for those who "do God's work." Jesus said that Mary has chosen the better part and it shall not be deprived of her. It doesn't mean that the Lord rejected Martha and her work in the kitchen. But her work should be complimented with the total attention Mary gave to our Lord.

Martha also represents the millions of lay people who have the best intentions to serve the Lord but are overwhelmed with the concerns of daily life. Reflecting on lay spirituality should give people working in the world valuable insights on how "to do God's work" while working in the "marketplace" of life. All it takes is to go back to the most basic reality - to put God at the center of everything and to revolve all other concerns around Him. To do God's will is the best thing that we can ever do in our lifetime.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

How to be a neighbor


15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle C

"Who is my neighbor?" is the question posed by a lawyer to Jesus. Perhaps in this humorous anecdote we can also get a glimpse on who the real neighbor should be.

May nahulog sa kanal.
Uzi: ay, nahulog siya sa kanal.
Uzi: hihihi, nahulog siya sa kanal.
Realist: may kanal.
Optimist: kaya mo yan.
Pessimist: wala nang pag-asa yan.
News reporter: ngayong, nahulog ka sa kanal, anong nararamdaman mo?
City official: may permit ka bang mahulog sa kanal?
Matematician: gaano kaya kalalim ang kanal?
Doctor: baka maimpeksyon ka sa kanal.
Pari: may tatlong punto akong ipapaliwanag tungkol sa kanal.
BIR agent: nagbayad ka ba ng tax para isara ang kanal?
Jesus: Kunin mo ang aking mga kamay.

It is undeniable that true love can only be found in action. Remember the Church's spiritual and corporal works mercy? Simplest as they may sound, but doing them may constitute the most profound commitment to being a true Christian. Visit the sick, clothe the naked, bury the dead, console the lonely, advice the wayward ...

In action, we commit our fullest selves, put ourselves on the line, utilize every gift we have for the sake of the other. This is the quality of being a "neighbor". We extend Christ's loving arms to others through us.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

What matters most


14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle C

The song of Kenny Rankin titled "What matters most" pretty much summarizes the gospel message for this Sunday. You would agree with me when I say that in spite of the technological advancements to make life easier, life has become more complex, confusing, and oftentimes disturbing. Even kids would now have "child stress" brought about by various influences around them.

We need to remind ourselves "what matters most" - not the quest for more power, more luxury or material wealth, or more influence or so-called "financial security". As Kenny says, "What matters most is that we love at all."

The readings for this Sunday all point out to the one thing that matters most - God. Only God matters most. Only God gives life, provides life, sustains life. Even in sickness, sin, and death, only God can give life, not expensive, luxurious homes, not high-paying jobs, not the fantasies we built for ourselves and for our family. Only God is capable of giving life to us in all forms.

We need to go back to the basics. We need to learn from Jesus like in the gospel when he instructed his disciples to go to the households and preach the good news. They didn't have to bring everything; they just had to bring themselves. In this renewed way of life oriented to God, we only need to bring ourselves and to tune ourselves to God's will.

We also need to do what is right for our neighbors. Not business proposals, not strategies for making more money, but like the disciples, to preach the good news of God's salvation, to cure the sick, to bring life even to the dead. We need to put into concrete action the powerful reality of "love".

What matters most is that we love at all.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

"Forgive"

11th Sunday in ordinary time
Cycle C

Jesus' teachings on forgiveness are just inexhaustible. The parable of the prodigal son, the lost sheep, the number of times one should forgive - every parable and teaching points out to one unescapable reality - the necessity of forgiving.

Our inability to forgive seemed to be a natural consequence of our humanity. We want to get even, we want vengeance. Even our concept of justice points to getting even. But nowhere in Jesus' teachings can we find these limitations.

Jesus stressed in today's gospel a necessary component for forgiveness - love, "Because she has loved much." Love surpasses all hurts and all desires for vengeance. Love heals wounds, turns stony hearts to human hearts. Love enables one to see the reality of the other person not as a nemesis but a person needing to be healed. With love we can see another perspective to the issue of sin man commits against another.

If we find it hard to forgive, try injecting a dose of love, God's love. Then we shall see how to deal with the other, not vengeance, not hatred, but in love.

Love is the only key to forgiveness. Through love, our perspective about another person changes. Through love, we can see the other as Jesus does - someone who is subject to salvation and healing.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Ascension Sunday - Renewing Hope for the world

I was once concerned with the congregation leaving the mass before the final blessing. So, I made my research and came to know that the final blessing is the liturgical representation of the Ascension, that is, when Jesus ascended to heaven, he instructed the apostles and disciples to "preach the gospel to every creature, and to baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit"; to make disciples of all nations. Then he said, "Lo, I am with you until the end of the world."

If we were in the same original Ascension event, we would be filled with awe and wonder; we may not understand what is happening and how it can happen. All we know that Jesus our Beloved is going up to the heavens and we would not see him anymore. But even so, our hearts would be filled with peace upon knowing the Jesus indeed is the Son of God, and we would be taking up the mission to continue what Jesus started.

At the end of the mass, I wonder if we feel these same things. Probably not. But the challenge is still there. As the Eucharist is celebrated each day, let us take the invitation it brings to our lives:

- to experience Jesus concretely, to hear his word, to inculcate his values, and to turn away fromt the lures of this world. Only then could we embrace true peace.

- to be imbued with hope that all is not lost; rather, that everything becomes a new beginning for those who commit themselves to Christ. After the mass, we might see the same, almost hopeless situation of people who have lost faith in the Lord, of of relationships wounded by and estranged, and a situation of poverty brought about by selfishness, greed, and corruption. Yet, everything is not lost. It becomes a new beginning; there are new opportunities for us to serve.

- to heed unceasingly the call of the Lord "to preach, to baptise..." It is our ultimate call in this world, not to make ourselves rich, or to survive, but the ultimate call is to make God's word fruitful, to infect people with the goodness of the Lord; to transform the world.

At the end of the mass, instead of the usual "Thanks be to God", let our thanks be genuine. Let us contribute to transforming the world according to the Lord!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

I apologize for delay in sending my reflections

Friends,

I apologize for not sending my gospel reflections regularly. I had to go back home to the Philippines to attend to our mother Gilda who was confined to ICU of the Lung Center. She is slowly and very slowly recuperating from pneumonia and is ventilator (respirator) - dependent.
Please keep her in your prayers.

Meanwhile, continue your zeal to imbibe the values of the Gospel and live them out daily. God bless!

Fr. Lito

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Believe, do not doubt

Doubt sees obstacles, faith, the way
Doubt sees the darkest night, faith, the day
Doubt dreads to take the first step, faith, by strides
Doubt asks who believes? Faith says, I do.

Reflecting on the story of the doubting Thomas, we realize that the gospel is intended for us who haven't seen Jesus but are invited to believe.

Learn also from the following quotes:

"Faith is to believe what we do not see; the reward is seeing what we believe."
"Faith will not get us what we want, but what God wants of us. "
"Faith sees the invisible, the incredible, and the impossible."
"The world does not believe because they can’t believe that believers believe."
"Little faith brings a soul to heaven, but great faith sees heaven into the soul. "
"Faith is putting God between us and our circumstance."

HAPPY EASTER!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

To carry others' burdens


5th Sunday of Lent
Cycle C

Have our hearts become numb to the needs and feelings of others? Do we hold grudges against others and not want to let go through forgiveness?

When I was a child, there was once a very old, poor woman who had been pestering my mother to buy mangoes. I said, "If we always buy from her, we'll lose all our money. And besides, I feel that she's abusing your goodness."

My mother just smiled at me, not minding my foolish accusations. she continued to buy mangoes from the old mendicant.

One time, my mother was not at home when the old lady came. With arrogance in my heart, I told her,"She's not in." She pleaded for me to get the mangoes because my mother would buy them anyway. But I refused and remained uncompromising. She gave in and what she did afterwards is something I will not forget for the rest of my life.

With her bag still full of fresh mangoes, the old, thin, frail lady lifted them all up and placed them on her head. I asked her,"Where are you going?" She said, "I still have a long way to go. I have to sell all these mangoes." With that she left and I cried.

I understood why my mother had to buy mangoes from her. Not because she wanted those mangoes for us to eat. Rather, it was to help the old lady up in carrying her burdens.

This lenten season, learn from the ways of the Lord in forgiving the adulterous woman. Learn also when the Lord has to forgive somebody like you and me.

Photo courtesy of Ebay.com

Friday, March 16, 2007

"Yes!"


4th Sunday of Lent
Cycle C

The Parable of the Prodigal Son gives way to the Parable of the Loving Father.

It is the Father who is the main character here. The son is the antagonist. It's the father who waits for the son. The son squanders everything the father gives him. The father's love is supreme. The son's love is conditional. The father is self-giving, the son is selfish. This is the story of the loving Father.

Grant that we may see that it is not our actions that causes our salvation. All we can do is go to the Father. Like Mary, we can only say "Yes." But it is the Father's entire doing.

This coming Holy Week, we shall again experience the love of the Father through the self-offering of Jesus. Remember, it is totally God's action to save. Accept it by saying "Yes."

Friday, March 09, 2007

Why do bad things happen to good people?


3rd Sunday of Lent
Cycle C

"Why do bad things happen to good people?"

This is not just a title of a book; it is also a notion shared by many.

As God's grace falls on both the good and the bad, so too human weakness inflicts every person. But what separates the real Christian from the others is his faith. The unbeliever will rely on his own strength, but the Christian will rely totally on God and will find peace and real strength to endure the trials.

Whether believer or unbeliever, God is giving all of us the chance for conversion. How true is St. Paul when he said, "The Lord loved us even though we were sinners."

We should always recognize our need to turn to God in good times. For when the real trials start, we may realize that God has been with us all along.

Share your experiences on how you are living the gospel and enrich others as well.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Heaven on earth


2nd Sunday of Lent
cycle C

"Bad news is good news in media" because it spells profit for the owners and producers and media mileage for others.

But sometimes we are truly affected, like "Is this the only news?" It sometimes gets into our system as a people and as a nation that we cannot do anything right.

How can we take a positive outlook in life when we are already resolved to doing what is evil in the world?

The apostles saw the transformation of Jesus Christ from mere human being to somebody divine. Have we seen the divine in the midst of our humanity?

Lenten season is an invitation to us to look beyond our humanity and our sufferings see what lies beyond them - the presence of Christ who sanctifies all human actions and lifts them up to the Father. The end result is our salvation.

If we can see God's action rather than the frailties of men and women, then we would truly experience heaven here on earth.

picture courtesy of: http://conservation.catholic.org/catech13.jpg

Sorry, I'm only human?

1st Sunday of Lent

We often hear the words, "I'm sorry, I'm only human." But the question that still lingers is "Is wallowing in sin a sign of becoming human?

All of us are created in the image and likeness of God. Therefore, in us is the divine dignity, we cannot go lower than who we are.

It is like saying, "To err is human, to forgive is divine"; the mark of being human is found when we struggle over our weaknesses and sinfulness; when we take time to forgive even our enemies; and most of all, when we struggle day by day to live in the presence of God.

We become truly human when we rise above every temptation to wealth, power, and selfishness; then we are living according to our true identity of being sons and daughters of the Lord.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Are you a Christian?


7 th Sunday
Gospel: LUKE 6 : 27 - 38

Catholicism is the easiest of all religions. It doesn't impose too harsh regulations and leaves everything to the freedom and generosity of the person. The tithes are voluntary; any amount dropped at the collection basket will do. There's no police. There's not too much discipline follow-up, or checking of attendance and performance.

But these are not the signs of a true Catholic. For in the real Catholic, he should be able to follow the Lord unconditionally through the path of the cross.

Actually, it is the hardest of all religions. Its regulations affect the core of one's being; even in the level of thought one can sin against the Lord. It asks to forgive ones enemies and pray for those who persecute the person. The person is confronted to sell everything he owns and to follow Jesus.

On the other hand, the rules written in the hearts of people might have a deeper sense. Why? Not only because they are better alternatives; rather, they reflect the very heart of God who cares for all his children, humankind itself. He wants everyone to live, not just a chosen few. Go through the text again and you will see how life is being propagated and lived.

The sense of being a Christian lies in self - offering to the Lord. Imagine how beautiful this world would be if all people live its precepts. There wouldn't be any form of death, only life.

Photo courtesy of: Catholic Youth Foundation

Friday, February 09, 2007

True poverty


6 th Sunday
Gospel: Lk. 6: 27, 20 -26

The story of St. Bernadette is inspiring especially for those who are experiencing hardships. She came from a poor family but the Lady appeared to her and strengthened her faith.

She was sickly, but she brought healing to others through the water from the cave.

She died of sickness, but to this date her body was incorruptible.

She was poor, but she is the richest of all. Her wealth is Jesus himself.

This is the true gift of poverty that the Lord promises in the beatitudes.

Poverty in spirit will make us aware the we don't own this world, but we are its stewards. Poverty will tell us to be available to others and to care for others and not ourselves. Poverty will tell us to cling on to God.

Photo courtesy of: Lourdes Rosary Shrine

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The curse of pessimism


4th Sunday
cycle C
Gospel: Lk. 4: 21 - 30

There was once a man who went to a psychiatrist to be treated of his depression.

The doctor said, "Go out and enjoy new places!" The patient just said, "No use, I might have an accident."

The doctor said, "Then make your life at home fruitful. Go plant a tree." The patient said, "It's just hard work."

The doctor said, "Then make your house bright. Open all windows and re-decorate your house." The patient said, "But no one visits me."

The doctor became angry that he forced the patient to go with him to a cemetery. "Why did you take me here?" the man asked.

The doctor said, "You don't have any difference with these dead people except that you are alive. If you continue with this attitude, you'll end up one of them sooner than you think."

The Lord is always offering us life. It's us who don't accept him. It's us who are engulfed with our problems that we don't turn to him.

Pray to be a positive person in the Lord.

Photo courtesy of: http://www.catholic-church.org/kuwait/

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The dignity of marriage


2nd Sunday in ordinary time
Reading: John 2, 1 - 11

It is significant that Jesus began his public ministry not through some priestly action but through a miracle during a wedding banquet. In fact, he constantly referred the wedding to give a picture of the kingdom of heaven and to portray God as the bridegroom and the Church as the bride.

There must be a striking parallelism between Jesus' ministry and the sacrament of marriage. Even the ministry of priesthood and even the heart of Christian life can have its link with the dynamics fo marriage.

First, the sacred of married love is also the heart of Christian love, faithful, freeing, salvific. Simply put, all of us have to live in love to live in God. The best way it is concretized is through the family.

Second, the unity in diversity in married life also exists in Christian life. As family consists of the father, mother, and children, totally one, yet differenct in being and responsibility, so too we have to recognize each others' gifts and place them at the service of one another.

Third, we think of the fruitfulness of being family, extended family ties, a continuing lineage of families till the next generation - everything is an act of unity. This is to be our task, to build the family of God.

The future of humanity passes by way of the family. Jesus also came from a family. Work for the sanctification of every family.

Photo courtesy of: penitents.org