Thursday, December 31, 2009

Blessings

Solemnity of Mary, mother of God
Gospel: Luke 2:16-21

Happy new year!

New years are the best times to make resolutions and feel hopeful that blessings would abound.

In as much as we focus on the gifts that are to come, let us also realize that new year is a time of grace, a time for new beginnings, and a time of utmost realizations regarding the meaning of our lives.

For the new year, we focus on the giver of the blessings - God himself with whom Mary kept pondering the events in her heart; God who is object of praise, honor, and adoration of the shepherds.

We focus on Mary's heart as our inspiration because she embodies how to praise the Lord. Remember, to focus on the gift and not on the giver makes our blessings futile. The gifts are reflections of how much God our Father loves us.

Second, our blessings should mirror Christ's redemptive act. To where are we going to use the blessings? For ourselves or for others? Let us join Jesus, the Savior of the world who aims to lead us back to the Father.

Third, our blessings should mirror the love of the Holy Spirit. They should be immersed in a sea of love, mercy, generosity, and sacrifice. In Pope Benedict's message for the World Day of Peace, we are called to the most profound sense of responsibility to creation through global and intergenerational solidarity and contribute to the cause of lasting peace, "If you want peace, protect creation." This third factor points out to our responsibility to the well-being of others and not simply ourselves, the common good and not our own interest, and our responsibility to the people of the next generation.

Pray that we may receive the blessings of the new year with renewed hearts. Without God, we are nothing.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The vocation of the family

Feast of the Most Holy Family
Cycle C
Gospel reading: Luke 2:41-52


As we glance at the manger we see the shepherds looking at the Baby Jesus. But we also see in a more central manner the figures of our Lady and Joseph looking tenderly at the newborn King. And not only they are the ones looking but so too millions of families with eyes glued to this holy scene, hoping that many would take Mary, Jesus, and Joseph as the model for their families.

Today, we celebrate the feast of the Most Holy Family. Every father should look at Joseph as the model for fathers - responsible, holy, and faithful. Every father is the mirror of God the Father who provides everything for His children. To provide is not simply giving money; rather, the whole person dedicates the whole himself to provide everything, including soul and life, to his family.

The mother should look at Mary as the model of mothers - inspiring, thankful, lowly, and filled with love. In her, motherhood becomes a fitting offering to God with whom she becomes a "maidservant."

The child should mirror after the Savior of the world; he/she should look up to Jesus as the model of children - obedient, respectful, and supporting to his parent. The love a child receives from his parents should become his strength to do what he is destined to do; i.e. do his Father's will.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas: the unfolding of a new world

Christmas night
Reading:LUKE 2 : 1 - 14


The context of the Lord's birth could not be far from our own world - a world in which political leaders want to maintain the status quo; where a small portion of the population want their exclusive share in the world's riches while the rest of the people wallow in suffering caused by these inhuman structures.

This is the story where the Holy Family found themselves in; they were displaced, outcast, without food, home or even a decent shelter.

Yet, from this desolate scene, another alternative world is coming about - it marks the indwelling of the Lord with his power and mercy. Now, the recipients of this new Kingship are the simple folks (including Joseph and Mary), a barren woman (Elizabeth) and an old man (Zechariah), and a group of poor shepherds. Why? Because a small, helpless, homeless newborn baby is now the Savior of the world.

In this alternative world, the poor and the outcasts are the most important people, us included, as we give witness to the goodness of the Lord.

May this new world flourish. May we continue that path that Jesus took. Eventually, may we have the strength to dismantle man's created world of power and greed and start a real world of justice, love, and peace.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Day 9, simbang gabi - our commitment to bring Christ into the world

Simbang Gabi, day 9
Gospel: Luke 1:67-79

With the last day of our preparation for Christmas, we realize fruit of the preparation - it is God who is preparing us all along to bring Jesus into the world, into people's hearts, into the workplaces and into communities; into churches and homes - everywhere. What started with God's story of love ended up being our own. Now we are a part of the story of salvation. The buck now falls upon us to proclaim the Christmas message - it is Christ who lives in all of us.

We can still commit ourselves more concretely to the work of salvation. Three things Zechariah prophesied in St. John that we can also fulfill in our lives:

1. "to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of sins" - in a liturgical way, for people to receive the sacrament of reconciliation and the Eucharist to receive full pardon always and forever;

2. "to give light to those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death" - we are the modern-day Catechists to remove the ignorance from people's minds and bring them to God's light;

3. "to guide our feet into the way of peace" - to live a life of charity and generosity, always making ourselves available, time, talent, and treasure, to help the poor back on their feet and for us to travel on the road to heaven.

These three things are the core 0f Christian life - liturgy, catechesis, and social apostolate. Remove one and Christian life is not complete. But live them out in an integral way and we possess a mature faith enough to make Christ's work of redemption fruitful.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Day 8, Simbang gabi: realizing our vocation

Simbang gabi
Gospel: Luke 1:57-66

Photo courtesy of the
Byzantine Archeparchy

As we near the end of our journey and the beginning of our journey with Christ this Christmas, it is evident that we are being prepared for something nobler and greater, i.e., to become the modern-day messengers of the Lord Jesus to our brothers and sisters. But in way do we become messengers? I will point out an important reality that would mark the essence of becoming messengers: the reality of our vocation.

Vocation is an affirmation of God's presence in our lives. Our vocation is not just to aim to have a high-paying job or a successful career or being able to send our children to private schools. In the world of vocation we acknowledge that this is not our world; nor it is our story. Rather, it is the story of God's tremendous love for us and we are witnesses of this love.

Second, vocation affirms who we are and why we are created in the this world. Who are we? We are transmitters of God's presence in the world - in schools, at work, in businesses and market places, and in our residential communities and parishes. We utilize all of our unique resources and expertise to bring about the kingdom of God here on earth. Unless this so, our lives will remain empty no matter how much we accomplish in this world. By not becoming messengers of the Lord, our lives remain empty and meaningless and our tendency is just to hold on to existing relationships whom we thought would be the source of all our meaning.

Third, vocation is our way to heaven. In the readings the Lord purifies us until we become pleasing offerings to the Father like Jesus. It may also be that we are purified so the Lord can continue working in us. Be holy models for your children and the next generation. Leave the mark of God's holiness behind. By doing God's will here on earth, we shall gain the everlasting happiness in heaven.

This Christmas, commit to living out our own vocation of being sons and daughters of the Lord.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Day 7: the thankful heart

Simbang Gabi
Gospel: Luke 1:46-56

I believe that with only 2 days to prepare till Christmas, we are slowly being prepared by the Holy Spirit to be living tabernacles like Mary who carried Jesus in her womb, and bring Christ into the world. Are we ready to take such role?

Let us examine our hearts if we are ready. Better yet, let us imitate the heart of Mary as she sings the Magnificat. Her heart is filled with recognition of the Lord, the source of her true happiness.

What constitutes a thankful heart? Mary's heart is a "lowly" heart, not a "proud" heart. It puts God at the top of everything. It provides an adequate space to let God in and learn His ways. A proud heart doesn't have the attention for others. It puts the self at the top.

Mary's heart is a "poor" heart, not a "rich" heart. A rich heart has always someone or something apart from God to cling on to. A poor heart is totally dependent on God.

Last but not the least, Mary's heart is a "giving" heart, always giving time to be available for others. A giving heart heals poverty and selfishness. Every person realizes his dignity with "givers", not with "takers". It is the giving heart that is the secret to eradicating poverty, not selfish hearts.

Eventually, a poor, humble, and giving heart is the very heart of Christ. Thus, the reason for Christmas. We are now prepared to celebrate Christmas.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Day 6: reclaiming the innocence of Paradise

Simbang Gabi
Gospel: Lk. 1:39-45

Photo courtesy of: AWF Media gallery

See how the Song of Songs was written: "My Beloved is leaping like gazelle, like a young stag ..." There's much in common with the world of husbands and wives and the Lord's love for us His children, "He is like a young stag..."

The story of Christmas is none other than a love story between us and the Beloved, and Christ as the supreme offshoot of this relationship. It is like a story of paradise all over again, but this time, more intense is our relationship with God. This can only be possible with a thorough, more committed preparation of His coming to our lives this Christmas and the days after that.

Would it still be impossible to recover the story of paradise? Have we really lost touch of our sense of the Lord? Have we forgotten to listen to Him? We can counteract all these if we like Mary, yearn to be "filled with grace". "The child in my womb leapt for joy" seems to be the symbol of pure and unadulterated joy; it is so innocent.

Reclaim by consciously making a commitment to rid ourselves of sin. Second, get genuinely interested in the Beloved who is higher than life itself and our very being. Third, commit to do His will and make Him happy. Be filled with grace and share it with others; then we'll see goodness and life overflow. Then we are ready to receive Christ this Christmas.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

To mirror God's love

4th Sunday of Advent
Cycle C
Gospel: Lk. 1: 39 - 44


We have been following the readings as we prepare to celebrate Christmas. Nowadays, there is a growing dichotomy between secular "Christless" Christmas and the authentic Christmas. In the Philippines, this is translated to an overindulgence in parties, merry making, and excessive drinking as compared with those who aim for the true meaning of Christmas through peace and conversion.

Mary is the prime example of the way to Jesus. We may not carry her inherent goodness, but we can be assured with the thought the God created us to be good. It is just a matter of cultivating that goodness in us and in others. Let this be our life's goal.

Mary did not remain inherently "good". She placed herself at the total service of the Divine King. May we also inculcate her words "I am the maidservant of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you say." There is nothing that matches a person who commits himself to totally doing God's will. In fact, this should be the only thing we should be doing in this world.

Thirdly, Mary realized God's will in her life. Let us lives be mirrors of God's love as a moon mirrors the light of the sun. Only then could we joyfully see Jesus, the real essence of Christmas. He is love abounding. Only then could we see the multiplication of love and service.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Day 4: Help us in our unbelief

Simbang Gabi
Reading: Luke 1:5-25

Yesterday, God inaugurated his plan with Joseph. But today, like Zechariah, not all are capable of understanding God's plan. They remain mute, deaf, and blind to the reality of God's presence. Reflect on the following:

1. It is us who prayed for life's blessings but we somehow get lost along the way. Let us remain faithful to the source of blessing. God hasn't broken his promise!

2. The promised blessing will be of highest quality, like God's promise to send an upright man, John the Baptist, into the world. God made us. We cannot be less than who we are.

3. A lot of it still depends on the quality of our faith. The Lord sees through us. The reason prayers are taking more time to be heard is because we are not prepared to see the glory of the Lord. Conversion would entail a life-long commitment before we can see the miracles of God abound. We may have to deal continually with our own disbelief until such time we are prepared to receive God's bounty.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Day 3: God's masterplan in actuality

Simbang Gabi
Gospel reading: Matthew 1:18-24

The main event for this day is Joseph agreeing to be part of God's plan to take Mary as his wife to start off the work of salvation. It is extraordinary that God would ask for our consent before carrying out His will.

But God always respects our capacity to choose. Unfortunately, we don't utilize this gift of choice well. We use it to turn away from the Lord. Let us utilize this opportunity to align ourselves with God wants and not what we want.

First, God's plan is all encompassing. Undoubtedly it hits all people and breathes life into it. God's plan may be likened to business plans. The only difference is that all of God's promises will come true with or without us. Pray that we may be part of this plan.

Second, there is an assurance of God's presence throughout the whole process. "Emmanuel" means God is with us, manifested concretely by Jesus Christ. We shall always see him around our lives.

Third, to realize the kingdom of God we need to connect with God. We need to align every activity, action, decision to His. Then the Kingdom will come with us in it.

Pray that we would all participate in the unfolding of the history of salvation like St. Joseph.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Day 2: the grace to acknowledge God's presence in our world

Day 2, Simbang Gabi
Gospel reading: Mat. 1: 1 - 17

From Dec. 17 onwards the liturgical texts of Advent are more directly concerned with the immediate preparation for the Christmas feast. The mystery of God's love, the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God (Eph 3:9), is the foreground. God realized it in the Lord's ancestros and proximately in the infancy of John the Baptist and in the persons of Our Lady and St. Joseph."
(Ordo 2010, p. 12)

Power, homage, compassion and peace - what is this special relationship God has for his children? Why does God give us all these blessings that we do not deserve?

More than the reasons are the consequences that spring from a God who loves us eternally and gives us blessings. First, we ought to thank God immensely for making us part of Himself. "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you...." Why is God doing this to us? Because he simply loves us unworthy creatures. May we change our orientation from disregarding God to repaying Him by loving and serving Him more.

Secondly, He has to do what was undone and destroyed by man's greed. He repaired our relationship with Him through His own beloved Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, who is the epitome of the loving obedient Son to His father. Cooperating with the salvific work of Jesus is our very identity, not a set of people who continue to cause God a terrible headache.

Third, God has been through the ages, present in our world. Let us analyze in our lineage how God works in special people who influence the family for good. Let us thank the Lord for saving us each day and leading us to His care. This is still God's story, not our own. But we have a part of it. We are the people whom God loves so tenderly as to let His Son do the sacrificing for us. Acknowledge it and cling to the Lord with all our might!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Day 1 of Misa de Gallo: a call to trust the Lord

Gospel: Lk. 7: 19 - 23

Day 1: the start of Simbang Gabi. Experts say that the first impression is always crucial to the success or failure of an endeavor.

Same is true with faith. We may start our "evening masses" to anticipate Christmas, but if we have started on a wrong foot, chances are we may not recover and see the light of the essence of this sacred event. Christ may not be born in our lives.

Let us invest in this first day to clear our intentions. In order to celebrate Christmas worthily we have to trust God to the fullest. Learn from the first reading, "I am the Lord unrivalled; there is no other god beside me." (Is 45: 6 ff) Be led by the power of the Lord and he will put our lives in order.

Second, pray to be strong in times of trials as Jesus is. "I did not promise you a comfortable life; but I promise you a meaningful life", so goes a saying. Pray for a sturdy faith that even in times of trials and we start thinking that God is not granting our prayer, we shall not falter.

Third, pray that no matter what, we shall be faithful. Notice that in the most interesting stories, the body is as important as the ending. When that time comes, would we still be interested in the unfolding of the message of a story?

Pray for all these and we shall see Jesus born in a manger. Only the faithful person would know that it is the Lord the world is celebrating this Christmas.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Rejoice!


3RD Sunday of Advent
cycle C
Gospel: Lk. 3: 10-18

As the third candle of the advent wreath is lit, we are reminded of how close the Lord is to us and how joyful we would be in meeting Him.

John the Baptist was also filled with joy as he announced the coming of the Messiah. But his approach was different. He did not focus on himself, on how good his words were, and how he could deliver a message of hope.

Rather, he immediately translated hope into action: to demand for payment other than what is required, to give one's tunic, not to extort anyone ... all these are signs of hope, especially for those who think that life is filled with despair.

The greatest teaching of John was to introduce Jesus as the Messiah, the transmitter of the Holy Spirit. This self-oblation puts Jesus at the center of things and not John. This act makes more concrete the work of salvation.

Again, we pray to be like John the Baptist on the road to helping others on the road to salvation. The most wonderful experience of Christmas is when a people, submerged in poverty and sin, would start moving on the road to healing and salvation just because they pave the way for the coming of the Lord.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Why we celebrate the Immaculate Conception


Why do we celebrate the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception?

First, what does the title connote? Mary as the Immaculate Conception connotes total unity with God who is our first beginning and our last end. Mary embodies the new man as God wishes it to be, sinful and undefiled like the Father.

Second, the title opens for us a world of hope of what we should be. We may have fallen from the state of holiness, but God has given us a concrete model to learn from, that hopefully in this world, we may struggle through to imbue holiness in our being. It also connotes that all the things we do in this world should be "sanctified" or made holy. Imagine if all people would travel in this world with this in mind. Nobody would be traveling in sin and no one should suffer as a consequence of sin.

Finally, Mary's Immaculate Conception always points to the reality of Jesus, our beloved Messiah. She was prepared by God as a living tabernacle, undefiled, for her Son. So too must we strive to bring Jesus and His work into the world.

Mama Mary, pray for us, your children. Lead us to your son, Jesus Christ, Amen!