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.