Wednesday, December 24, 2008

What makes a true Christmas?

Gospel: Luke 2:1-14

After the Simbang Gabi preparations, the latest being the realization the the world is enveloped by God, we hear the angels rejoicing in heaven, announcing the birth of the King of Kings, wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger.

Jesus chose the path of total helpless in contrast with those who are yearning for power. This is what makes Christmas, when we shed off any desire or quest for power and enter into the world of total service.

Secondly, the angels chose to show themselves to the shepherds and the lowly, a startling contrast with the way political authorities would align themselves with. Here, the poor understood that the time of peace is here, a kind of peace in which they are very much a part of, total and lasting peace that can be brought only by God alone, not like the shallow election promises. If we chose this path of aligning ourselves with the poor, then the reign of God is upon us.

Third, what makes Christmas? When everything has been shed off, what remains is our wounded empty selves needing desperately to be filled up ... let the love of God do that for us, not power, not influence, but love that flows from the Father. Let this love radiate to each and everyone. Let love be our joy and our gift to others.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Day 9. Simbang Gabi - Putting it all together


Gospel: Luke 1:67-79

After knowing that we are part of the unfolding of this great Christmas story, we say the "Benedictus", canticle of Zechariah, with emphasis on the following points, and note that these points are also our prayers:

first, everything is the work of the Lord, the salvation of the Lord, His goodness and love unfolding from every side, to finally free us from our sins and give justice to the world. The Christian is totally God-centered;

second, that He shows mercy (hasad) to all of us; His mercy endures forever; it is what is keeping us alive; in love, capable of giving. Grant that we may realize that every goodness in our hearts is the fruit of God's own goodness and that we are just mirroring it;

third, that God affirms our mission of our being to bring peace to the world through the conduct of our own lives.

Taken all these together, we realize that everything is in God, as in the liturgy - "through Him, with Him, and in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, Almighty God forever and ever, Amen." And that is what it means to celebrate Christ's birth!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Day 8, simbang gabi - After Mary, who else?


Gospel: Luke 1: 57- 66

As the themes of the Simbang Gabi are exposed, various characters serve as models in preparing for the coming of the Lord. We inculcate the discipline of John the Baptist and the obedience of St. Joseph. We learn from the fault of Zechariah while we regard with highest esteem the fiat the Blessed Virgin Mary. Who else is significant in the unfolding of this Christmas story? We are. As Zechariah's child was named "John" to signify that his history is now of divine origin, we now understand the full meaning of our identity the moment we were baptized - the Lord seized us and made us His own.

Secondly, as John was known to have God-given qualities, so too we are given gifts by the Holy Spirit to use in this world and help us come closer to our Lord. And as John realized his mission to prepare the way of the Lord, so too we have a mission given by the Lord to do in this world.

We are very much a part of this Christmas story. Christ's coming would rely on our response to do God's will.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Day 7, Simbang Gabi - Rejoicing


Gospel: Luke 1:46-56

There are two main theme's to Mary's Magnificat - God's magnificence and uplifting the poor.

Have you noticed that the more Mary rejoices, the more the Lord is exalted? This is so different from our case when we rejoice over our accomplishments, we lift ourselves. But with Mary, her humility and poverty give rise to the glory of God; everything is the Lord's.

Secondly, Mary reveals God justice - the proud shall be humbled while the poor will be blessed. Mary becomes the spokesperson of the poor and the persecuted. She gives birth to the Church of the Poor, with the Lord lifting them up. Isn't this the essence of salvation? Isn't this Christmas?

Therefore, let us rejoice with the joy of Mary. May God be praised always and forever!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Day 6, Simbang Gabi - Mary's unique role


4th Sunday of Advent

Reading: Luke 1:26 - 38


We have corrected our false notion of a Christless Christmas. Now we turn toward His second coming and the end of world. We are called to imitate St. John as he dedicates his to preparing the Lord’s way and to help us focus on giving witness to the light. Now, there is none other reflecting the Lord’s light than the light reflected by the Blessed Mother.

Mary who is immaculately conceived carries within her the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Mary, who is the product of pure love, carries Jesus within herself and her exclusive role in the work of salvation,. Mary is the model par-excellence of a Christian, a prototype – when she dedicated herself to the Lord, entrusted her life to him and allowed him to mold her to becoming the mother of Christ and mother of the Church.

We too should imitate Mary in our path of becoming authentic Christians. We may not be at par with her, but the least of all our efforts in doing so will always be looked upon by the Lord with kindness.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Day 5, simbang gabi - Mary's Fiat


Gospel: Luke 1:26-38

We are following so closely the indwelling of the Holy Spirit through the incarnation of Jesus Christ in Mama Mary's Annunciation. There are no more doubts like Zechariah; nor there are second thoughts like Joseph. There is nothing else except pure love - love from the Father and love from His creation - Mary's beautiful response of fiat.

We all claim to have loved. But how far will that love go? What are the components of true love? The components of true love are as follows: first, there has to be a solid commitment to identify and be linked with the beloved for life. Mary loved the Lord so much she desired to please Him all through her life. Secondly, there has to be the element of trusting the Almighty totally, unreservedly. Third, there has to be total willingness to be molded according to His will.

The result is tremendous, the incarnation of the Lord. Also, the result is ecclesiological, it signaled the birth of the Church, the real followers of Jesus Christ, spearheaded by Mary.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Day 4, Simbang Gabi - the consequences of doubting

Gospel: Luke 1:5-25

It may seem that Zechariah and Mary gave the same responses. In Mary's case, she questioned, "How could this be since I don't know man?" In Zechariah's case, he asked, "How could this be since we are old and my wife is barren?"

The difference is in the motive behind the question. For Mary, it is an innocent question since she totally dedicated herself to God, while with Zechariah, it is a matter of practical reality.

And so let us reflect on what it means to walk by faith and not by sight. First, it is to acknowledge that in everything we do, in all things happening in this world, God is always at work. This is to discern Secondly, that God means well. And third, he asks for our participation.

These will free us from our enslavement to sin which causes us to be mute in this this world when it comes to renouncing evil. Our silent fear will turn to prophetic proclamation of the truth.

Day 3, Simbang Gabi - Joseph's consent

Gospel: Matthew 1:18-24

It may seem too much that the Lord God still has to ask for man's consent to carry out His divine will.

In the case of Joseph, who was an upright man, the angel appeared to him in a dream and explained everything that it was God's plan. Joseph consented.

God risked granting us free will as a sign that we are created in His image and likeness. Joseph and Mary are examples par-excellence of obedience. But in our case in today's world how do we fare as far as obeying God is concerned?

Note then the consequences of not following God's will. He will not reject us, but He would really feel very sad for people not to carry out His will. On the other hand, He rejoices at every gesture of man in which He is consulted. Let us imitate St. Joseph, even though we don't understand what is going on, as long as we put our entire faith in the Lord, everything will be alright.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Day 2: Simbang Gabi - God's family

Day 2, Simbang gabi
Gospel: Matthew 1:1-17
Photo courtesy of Men's ministry of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church

Have you ever realized the importance of a family tree? I have. One time, the Reyes clan from Kalibo made an extensive research to trace all relatives up to five generations or more. I was amazed to meet some distant relatives during our last family reunion. We numbered more than we could ever imagine!

Because of the extensive research made to search all relatives, it gave me a sense of pride to discover how I am related to well-known personalities. More importantly, I am consoled to see how goodness and greatness can be passed on from generation to generation. In our family tree, I just discovered that there is a pattern of men becoming priests in different generations!

A family tree also presents an opportunity for healing and for understanding one’s dynamics. It is claimed that some sort of “original sin” is being passed from one generation to the next – physical, psychological, or social. For instance, if there’s a history of heart ailments in the family, then we should learn to take care of our health. Or if we discover that there are deep-seated hurts among family members and relatives, we should learn from these experiences and be careful not pass them to the next generation.

But still, the best advantage of knowing the family tree is when you see the whole picture – goodness far surpassed evilness, every name is valued, every person is fondly remembered - a consoling picture that the clan continues to be richly blessed with the goodness of God.

As the genealogy of Jesus is presented in today's gospel, may we be proud of our faith passed on to us since the time Abraham. Secondly, may we also be eternally proud of Jesus who shares with us the gift of joining God's glorious family.

May our history be guided constantly by Him to our ultimate goal.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Reflecting God

Simbang gabi, day 1

Gospel reading: John 5:33-36


It’s a mystery, but sometimes, people who are in love tend to look alike, feel alike, act alike. There is a fusion of world. I tend to identify with the beloved.

A family is identified with God. It is a direct reflection of God. Like St. John the Baptist who mirrored God’s will so the family is a direct mirror of God’s love. Maybe this is the best opportunity for the family to reflect if indeed we have become worthy mirrors of the love of God.


St. John pointed out two realities. First, when he likened himself to a light, reflected from the light of God. But he himself is not the light. Pray that we may not be self-centered. There is nothing in this world that we can be proud of by ourselves. Even the pride of our families, they are not our own. Grant that we may let go slowly of our possession of our families and enter into the bigger family of God.

Second, Jesus said, “Know by the works I do.” Eventually, we shall be judged this way. May I ask everyone to reflect what he has done lately and if that action is in accord with God’s will. Eventually, our own actions account to nothing. It is either filled with God or not.


Witnessing, let’s give in to witnessing. If we witness well, we become like the beloved. I tell you, the family as a witness mirrors directly what and who God is. Let the family check on how it is giving witness to God.

Christmas is witnessing. It may be a yearly activity, but if it doesn’t bloom, it’s barren; we may not be witnessing at all.

We can make a resolution to be reflections of God, inculcate the values of God.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Witnessing to the Light

Third Sunday of Advent,
Cycle B,
Gospel reading: JOHN 1 : 6 - 8, 19 - 28
Photo courtesy of: The Catholic Forum

On this third Sunday of Advent let us imitate St. John the Baptist as model of someone who is waiting with excited anticipation the coming of the Beloved.

As such, he also becomes a witness to the “light”. Light is a sure guide against the darkness. Light also gives us our rightful identity of being sons and daughters of the “Light” which is God himself. Finally, this light points to Christ and a deeper knowledge of who he is in our lives.

May I invite us all to ask the following questions: Who are we today and after Christmas – agents of light or darkness? Do we fulfill our proper roles as agents of the light? Finally are we intimately linked with Christ or with the world? The answers to these questions will mold the quality of our lives especially after Christmas.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Prepare the way of the Lord

2nd Sunday of Advent
Cycle B
Gospel: Mark 1: 1-8

In preparing for the second coming of the Lord, we need imitate the spirituality of St. John the Baptist in three points:


First, John's vision of preparing the way of the Lord is so clear to him. That is why his motivation to move people to repentance is beyond compare. What is our vision? Where are we going in this world?


Second: John lived a simple life. His spirituality is reflected in his very being. There are no side trips as far as he is concerned. If we say we love God then let our lives reflect it.


Third: his life is centered on Jesus. Even if he hadn’t seen him, his encounter with the Lord was for him the greatest moment of his life. He even instructed his disciples to follow the Lord, “I must decrease while He must increase.” Who is Jesus for us? Is our knowledge of him enough to move us out of our own selfish confines and serve Him?


Pray for a true and last Christmas, not just the fleeting and momentary one.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The warmth of Christmas


1st Sunday of Advent
Cycle B
Gospel: MARK 13 : 32 - 37
Photo courtesy of Dubai Chronicles

No matter how many Christmases we celebrate, we will always find something special about it. This time each year, we always find something in the mall to buy, a gift to wrap, and different reactions of those we give the gifts to.

On the other hand, there are those who suffer loneliness and pain in this time of warmth and love.

The reality of Christmas is Christ himself coming to our world to bring us love and peace. He did it by totally embracing our humanity and bringing new meaning to our lives. The gifts that we give and the decorations we use will always be the symbols of that spirit of giving Christ is for us. Without Him, our Christmas would be totally empty.

As we prepare for these days for the coming of Christmas, let us always remember to tackle the most important thing: not just the gifts and the food and the new things we'll buy at the store. Maybe, this eve could really be special if once and for all, we will make this firm commitment to let God be incarnated in our lives and touch us and mold us to touch others with His love.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Love is the key

Solemnity of Christ the King
Cycle A
Gospel reading: Matthew 25 : 31 - 46

Love is the key to salvation. God's love is the one saving us so let's love the Lord with all our hearts, minds, souls, and beings. The second is let us love one another as a sign that we love the Lord. Love compels us to move out of our comfort zones, the world of our families, and serve the world outside, where many are suffering due to poverty and injustices. Love compels us to use our time, talent and treasure to consider, serve, and assist the ones treated as outcasts by others.

Thus, in this present age when the tendency of man is to acquire, the main guage of success is not material things, prestige, or glory, but the fruitfulness of love given to us by the God of love. By this, we shall be judged accordingly.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Multiply!

33rd Sunday in ordinary time
Cycle A

Reading: MATTHEW 25 : 14 - 30

It is almost a fact that each person desires to accomplish and to be fruitful in his endeavors. God also expects the same from his creation, specially mankind. There are 3 things He expects from us: first, that we be fruitful in producing goodness in this world and not evil; second, that through our participation in His work, more people would be saved instead of falling into perdition; and third, that more and more people would multiply His presence in the world.

With the way things are going in this world, with the proliferation of what is evil, coupled with evil and selfish attitudes, the culture of death continues to creep in. We will definitely reap the fruits of our labor. Let us continue to aim for the eradication of evil through the multiplication of good through the proper use our time, talent and treasure.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Dedication of a Church

Feast
9 November 2008
John 2:13-22

The basilica of St. John Lateran is the oldest cathedral of the bishop of Rome which is the Pope himself. Built during the time of Constantine during 324, a time of peace and end to Christian persecution, he ordered that basilicas be constructed to honor Saints Peter, Paul, and the Christian martyrs.

The gospel portrays the proper relationship between the Church and our faith. The Church as an edifice is built on holy grounds; it is the dwelling place of the Lord. It mirrors the grandeur and holiness of God.

But the Church also mirrors the people who build it. In a community where a Church is built, the people make up the Church. It is their love and unity that builds the church that takes time and a lot of sacrifices to be built. It is the symbol of the people's faith. Thus, it coincides with the process of "being church", that very act by which each one commits to helping one another and inspiring one another to live in accordance with God's will.

For not posting enough, I apologize


To our friends and subscribers,

I apologize for not updating our blog and sending you the latest weekly reflections! Mea culpa!

From the looks of it, our brother-priests need this blog to add ideas for their homilies, and busy people need something to inspire them about God and about being Church.

So, I will hopefully send the homilies weeks in advance. And do continue sending your reflections.

Together, let us inspire one another with the power of the Good news right at our fingertips!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

God's kingdom

28th Sunday in ordinary time
Cycle A

It seems that we're giving the kingdom of God a hard competition with our own "kingdoms". I am referring to the the small worlds that we have created for ourselves - our own home, our jobs, our families, our lives. We are filled with our kingdoms that we don't have any time to dedicate ourselves at the service of God's kingdom.

The kingdom of God cannot be compared with our kingdoms. But let us give more time and priority to God's kingdom rather than our own. For one thing, in our own kingdoms, only us survive; but in God's kingdom, everyone survives; everyone lives. Secondly, our kingdoms do not reach up to heaven after our lives here on earth end; but God's kingdom continues till eternity.

We need to invest in the kingship of God; further delaying it will make matters worse for everyone as we're already experiencing today - a world where people turned selfish, greedy, and self-service. Only God's kingship can help us open our worlds to real progress - through generosity and love.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

The world is a vineyard

27th Sunday in ordinary time, cycle A
Gospel reading: MATTHEW 21 : 33 - 43 ( NRSV )
Photo courtesy of Green Catholic


The world is a vineyard. We are the workers while the Lord is the owner. The owner went on a journey, now he is coming back to ask for his share. But the workers become violent and do harm to the messengers of the owner. They even kill the son of the owner. The owner becomes indignant and slaughters the bad workers. He also entrusts the vineyard to the responsible ones.

What have we done with the Lord's world? Have we been good stewards of his creation? Have we done what we are supposed to do in this world? To be good stewards simply means to recognize that everything in this world is not ours to keep, hold, possess. Everything belongs to God. Secondly, to be good stewards means to ask the Owner what we are going to use these gifts for. We should not have ready-made answers. Everything should be for His disposal. Finally, to be good stewards means for us to be "fruitful and multiply", both referring to the human family and to take care of resources so everyone will have an abundance of food and blessings. Thus, any mode to thwart population or to consider the next generation of children "a burden" is definitely mute and academic. We should do our part because that is the very reason of our existence. In taking care of God's creation, we are fulfilling our basic vocation - to love, adore, and serve our God.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Catholicism: faith and action

26th Sunday, cycle A
Gospel: Matthew 21:28 - 32
Photo courtesy of: holycards wordpress


Ever wonder why despite the Philippines having 80% Catholics, it is infested with corruption and greed?

Do we just accept this fact without question or would we challenge the depth and maturity of the faith we profess? The Lord challenges the way we live out our faith toward one that is dynamic, self-offering, and concerned with the salvation of peoples, not one that is totally empty and useless.

The 2nd Plenary Council of the Philippines recommends 3 foundations for a deep, lasting, and fruitful faith - one that is enlivened by liturgy, deepened by Catechesis, and concretely manifested through social apostolate. Lose one and the tripod is imbalanced. Emphasize one over the other and extremism occurs.

It's time that we realize the beauty and grandeur of the faith and see it manifested in life.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Overwhelming generosity

25th Sunday in ordinary time,
Cycle A,
Reading: MATTHEW 20 : 1 - 16,
Photo courtesy of: Wikipedia

Man's point of view would reveal that the employer was unjust for not giving the equivalent compensation. However, Jesus is pointing out another reality - God's point of view.

God's message is not justice as we know it, but generosity. He decides to give to others as he pleases. It is his will that is at work. Morever, the salary is symbolical - whether big or small, it's effect is the same - we all receive the fruits of everlasting life. Finally, it is a question of our response to God's call - what time of our lives will we respond to serving the Lord - at the 3rd hour, sixth hour, or ninth hour? If we happen to respond at the 11th hour, it all depends on the generosity of the Lord to grant us what we deserve. But let our service be now, not later.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Forgive!


24th Sunday in ordinary time

Cycle A

Gospel: MATTHEW 18 : 21 - 35

Photo courtesy of Fr. John Zuhlsdorf


As far as I know, there is no religion as intense as ours when it comes to teaching about forgiveness. Its very basis is Jesus himself, God humbled who carried within Himself the very message of forgiveness and lived it till the cross. As God has forgiven us, so too must we forgive one another.


The next task is how to forgive. Genuine forgiveness could only be possible if we have a strong attachment to following the Lord, no more, no less. To possess his loving and forgiving heart is the very essence of being Christians.


The second step is commit ourselves to travel toward the path of forgiveness no matter what the costs are. The process may be hard, the healing painful, but it will redound to a greater good, the forgivenss of the other.


Third step is thanksgiving. The world accustomed to violence shall now rejoice and celebrate life because there is healing and forgiveness.