Friday, December 31, 2010

Religious freedom, the path to peace

Solemnity of Mary, mother of God
cycle A
Reading: Lk. 2: 16 - 21

As I grew older, the more I realize that round fruits and noise don't have any link with a brighter future except possessing a positive disposition. Unless we realize that our concrete actions account for the situation we have, our preparations for the New Year come to naught.  We need to ponder like Mary.  What exactly did she ponder on?

First, the act of pondering is very important, especially when a person is oriented to God and wishes to do His will.  Do we desire to make the Master happy?

Second, Mary pondered on the shepherds themselves and what they had to say.  Have we seen God in others, most specially the poor?  Do we listen to what others are not saying?  Do we address the needs of the poor?

Third, Mary pondered on the Christ Child on what he would be in the future.  As Jesus is the Prince of Peace, I would like to focus on the message of the Holy Father for this year:  Religious Freedom, the path to peace.

Even though the context of Pope Benedict's message is the violence done against the Church in other countries, we may apply it also to our situation where instead of reflecting on our life with God, we chose to focus on other worldly concerns.

Religious freedom highlights the dignity of persons.  The more we think of our relationship with God, the more we value life that comes from Him.

Religious freedom enables us to celebrate the uniqueness of persons with whom God communicates Himself to.  It enables us to respect and help one another.

Finally, religious freedom enables public order, development, and regard for the common good.  These are the action components of peace.  How willing are we to do these things?

These are the things we need to do to realize Jesus in our lives.  This is what we are to become in our lives: bringers of life and love to others and realizers of God's presence in the world.  We would face the New Year with renewed hopes.

Happy New Year to everyone!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Our family this Christmas

Feast of the Most Holy Family, cycle A, Reading: Matthew 2:13-15,19-23 

In order to commit ourselves to bring Christ into the world this Christmas we need to enter into his Family, God's family. We need to make God's family our own.

In order to do this, we need to recognize God as our Father.  Joseph became father to Jesus because God willed it so.  Joseph mirrored God's fatherhood.

We also need to live out the love that is God himself, the love that binds the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  It is the binding force of a family.

Finally, we need to connect the whole family till the next generations.  What we live out today is transmitted to the next.  That is why what we do to our parents comes back to us.

Pray to be a Christian family where Jesus dwells, like with Mary and Joseph.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Prince of Peace

Photo courtesy of Musings of a Catholic Mom

Midnight Mass
Solemnity of the Christ's Birth
Reading: Luke 2:1-14

After being prepared by the Holy Spirit all these time to meet our Lord, imagine that we are slowly walking towards the manger ... to realize what is in front of us ...

We, who are not far off from the poor shepherds,  are also wounded and humbled by life, weighed down by crosses, persecuted each day, now come towards the humble stable.

We gather together in this great meeting announced by the angels. As we enter into the humble abode of Mary and Joseph, we finally see Him who has just been born into our world.  He cannot speak, but he is already saying a thousand words as a baby to his mother, and the mother feeling every bit with her sleeping child who stayed in her womb for nine months, now wrapped in swaddling clothes.

And as we gaze upon this humble Child, we begin to affirm that:

...  He is our Wonder counselor ... every time we invoke his name, we are consoled, cured of our illnesses, he heals our past, he gives us new life.

...  He is our Prince of Peace ... He brings us in communion with one another, as he has forgiven us, so too we forgive one another, we bring peace to others ...

And He is our Mighty God ... there is power in being a Child, but not an ordinary child, but a Child who loves, a Child who mirrors God himself.  We hold in our hands the King of the world, and allows us to touch him.  That is a real king.  That is our God.

As Christmas has dawned upon us, promise this humble Child to take care of him, to be his strength, to defend him, to fight his cause, to care for him, to share him with others.  This is true Christmas! Merry Merry Christmas to one and all!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The ultimate preparation for Christmas

Day 9, Simbang Gabi, Cycle A, Reading:  Luke 1:67-79

We are almost ready to receive the last set of graces before we receive the ultimate Christmas gift - Jesus himself.  We need to learn from the canticle of a man who was once mute but now could speak.  Now he utters the truths of God and not His own.  And the message of this canticle could be our own:

1. Our need for the Redeemer - He has visited his people; ask what you like the Lord to redeem... once and for all offer it to him and be confident he is already assisting you.
2. Ever faithful groom who never forgets his covenant - it is taking us and whole of humanity its lifetime to be molded according to the bride of Christ.  Not only be patient but remain faithful to Jesus...
3. a prophet to give witness to the glory of God -  Will we be the ones to give witness to salvation of Jesus?

Prepare for the blessed night that is to come.  And the final preparation is this - Plead our Lord to redeem us, dedicate our whole lives to remain faithful to Him; be a living testimony of the salvation of Jesus.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The gift of prophecy

Day 8, Simbang Gabi, Set A, Reading: Luke 1:57-66

After Mary's fiat and the the fruits of the Holy Spirit overflow, are we ready to bring Christ to the world?

This gospel invites us to focus on the gift of prophecy which is sorely lacking in today's world. When Christians turn off their prophetic role, evil finds its way in the world.

Sin makes us blind, deaf, mute.  Grace opens our eyes, fine tunes our ears, and tames our tongues.  Real prophets:

1. are able to see the divine in the midst of the material world.  They are not blind to the sin around them.  They denounce it.  They proclaim the presence of the Lord in the world.
2. Prophets are able to hear the sound amidst the silence.  People of the world remain deaf to the cries of the poor and the suffering.  Prophets could feel the sentiments of the poor and bounce into action.  They are able to hear the voice of God telling them what to do to cure the ills caused by sin.
3. Prophets are definitely not mute is speaking the truths of God.  Rather, they would prefer to suffer persecution and even death rather than silence God's word.

Taking all these, prophets cause God to be present in the world to cure people and bring healing and freedom to them.  Grant that we may turn out to be true prophets delivering Christ into the world.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

True joy is the gift of the Holy Spirit

Day 7, Simbang gabi, cycle A, reading: Lk. 1: 46 - 56

A continuation from yesterday's reading is the overflowing gift of the Holy Spirit.  And when the Holy Spirit flows, there is real joy.  What is false joy and what is real joy?

From Mary's Canticle we can detect three things that are sources of real joy:

1. When God is proclaimed above all else - the false joy will exult oneself, but true joy has God as our deliverer.  For Mary this is clear, "My heart rejoices in God my Savior."

2. When the poor are given justice - False joy arises in exulting one's wealth.  True joy stems from exulting the poor and the lowly.  We may always have the poor with us, but to keep them poor is terrible indeed.  We could have at least done something in our lifetime to change the outlook between rich and poor.  After all, we are all poor in God's eyes.

3.  When God has come to help Israel, his servant - that in everything that happens to our lives, it is the saving action of God all along.  False is the joy of a person who accomplishes by his own power, and he does everything to maintain it.  True joy results in humility before God and celebrating life because God has visited his people.

If we have true joy in our hearts, it is easier to see Jesus this Christmas.  Everything is the action of God!

Monday, December 20, 2010

The fruits of Christmas

Day 6, Simbang Gabi, cycle A, reading: Luke 1:39-45


For the fifth and sixth day, we turn exclusively to Mary as she assists her cousin Elizabeth (day 5, simbang gabi), but the service turned into a song (Day 6) because the Holy Spirit is at work, the Holy Spirit that caused everyone to be jumping with joy, for Mary to be filled with grace and for Elizabeth who was humbled that "the mother of my Lord would come to me, and my baby in my womb leapt for joy"  eventually Mary uttering the beautiful Magnificat, a prayer most especially dedicated to the Lord.  Tell me, are these your usual feelings as a Christian?

I'll give a hint on the fruits of the Holy Spirit as reflected by the gospel:

1. Generosity - service, selflessness; not a tinge of selfishness,  of thinking only about what is good for oneself.  Would you rather see a world filled with generous people or selfish people?  How do we inspire others to generosity and service?

2. Real joy - the joy inside Elizabeth because she was visited by the "Mother of the Lord".  Joy for the other, not envy; love, not jealousy.  What area in others' lives would you feel most joyful?  As we start admiring others, we begin to connect and life becomes relational - "Love one another as I have loved you."

3. Life - even inside the womb, not death.  Which would you rather see - life or death? Fruitfulness or barrenness.  Sooner or later, generosity or the lack of it accounts for life or death around us.  Choose the path to life by offering ourselves.

Then Christ will be alive, breathing, and his heart pumping for us this Christmas.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Fulfilling our Fiat

Day 5, Simbang Gabi, Cycle A, Lk. 1: 26 - 38


By now, we may be enthralled with the life offered by Immanuel, for now, he reveals himself to us.  What we need now is the spirit of Mary as she said "Yes!" to doing God's will.

"Fiat" is a Latin word meaning "Let it be done." Things haven't happened yet Mary already gave herself fully into the cause.  Into what?  Doing God's will.

How do we give in to to Fiat to God?  How do we remove the fear inside our hearts of following God's will?

1. Do some  practical calculations - if I do my own will, how many people will benefit? How many will benefit if I give in to God?  What do I receive if I follow my own will?  What do I receive if I follow His will?
2. Do some visioning (spiritual) - What could life be like if I do my own will?  How happy would I be?  Now what would life be if I follow God's will?  How will the world be like if I follow what I want and if I follow what he wants?
3.  Core of my existence - Why did He create me in the first place?  What is my mission in this world?  How could I survive if I follow His will and if I follow my own? 

From all these, may we see a new world unfold if only people including ourselves follow God's will.  I'm sure the world will be a better place to be.

God with us

Day 4, Simbang Gabi, cycle A

After our ancestor and Joseph, what are we really prepared for this day?

Ahaz was filled with fear, but God assured him of a child to be born and his name shall be Immanuel, meaning God with us.

God is always with us.  But how should we train ourselves to recognize that God is with us?

1. Breathe we know God is with us. (physical) - He is the breath of life, giving life to our mortal bodies.
2. Love and we know God is with us. (social) - If we love others the same way God loves us, then God resides in us.
3. Save and we know God is with us. (integral) - If we do the same work Jesus did and be the instrument of salvation for others, then God is with us.

God has been with us all along.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Be docile to God

Day 3: Simbang Gabi
Reading: Matthew 1:18-24

For this third day, I believe that the Holy Spirit is asking each one of us if we are ready to take part in doing God's work.

This is precisely who Joseph is for us.  We need his virtue so we can take part in the incarnation of the Holy Spirit.  We need the grace of docility in Joseph.

1. Joseph is in touch with righteousness - his willingness to leave Mary is to spare her from death.  He is willing to sacrifice for her.  Pray to stay on the right course of life.
2. Joseph submits to the angel's wishes - his decision is not final.  Even though it was a dream, he was fully convinced of God's plan.   We can accomplish so many things if we only submit to the Father's wishes.
3. Joseph performed his fatherly role with so much passion. - Every good tree bears good fruit.  This is the action part of salvation.  We are excited to still see this unfold in our lives.  Plan well, do well, live well.  But do all these as God wants. 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

God in the familiy

Day 2, Simbang Gabi

Inspired by the opening of the CBCP Year of the Youth this 2011, the Bishops invoked Jn 5: 33ff that says a lot about becoming a witness.  The young people are invited to give testimony to the living God through Jesus.  So, this is our prayer - that we may see the face of salvation through Jesus Christ this Christmas.

The genealogy of Jesus orients us to the fact the Jesus is true man born in this world just like the rest of mankind - with a lineage.  So, if we want to see Jesus in the concrete, I would invite us all to carry our family lineage so that we can all see Jesus, from our ancestors right to the next generation.

Let us pray to heal our family.  Let us reflect where in the family tree goodness prevails, and third, that we clarify where our lineage is really going?  Is everybody in the family going to God?

Pray to incarnate Jesus in the family lineage.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The face of salvation

Day 1,  Simbang Gabi

From the book of Isaiah: 
Thus says the LORD,
         "(A)Preserve justice and do righteousness,
         For My (B)salvation is about to come
         And My righteousness to be revealed.
    2"How (C)blessed is the man who does this,
         And the son of man who (D)takes hold of it;
         Who (E)keeps from profaning the sabbath,
         And keeps his hand from doing any evil."
    3Let not the (F)foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say,
         "The LORD will surely separate me from His people "
         Nor let the (G)eunuch say, "Behold, I am a dry tree."
6"Also the (N)foreigners who join themselves to the LORD,
         To minister to Him, and to love the name of the LORD,
         To be His servants, every one who (O)keeps from profaning the sabbath
         And holds fast My covenant;
    7Even (P)those I will bring to My (Q)holy mountain
         And (R)make them joyful in My house of prayer
         Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on (S)My altar;
         For (T)My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples."
    8The Lord GOD, who (U)gathers the dispersed of Israel, declares,
         "Yet (V)others I will gather to them, to those already gathered."


From the book of John
"You have sent to John, and he (AM)has testified to the truth.
 34"But (AN)the testimony which I receive is not from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved.
 35"He was (AO)the lamp that was burning and was shining and you (AP)were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.
 36"But the testimony which I have is greater than the testimony of John; for (AQ)the works which the Father has given Me (AR)to accomplish--the very works that I do--testify about Me, that the Father (AS)has sent Me.

Reflection:
Isaiah speaks of life; he speaks of a vision where the eunuch is not dry, and the stranger is welcome, and everyone is gathered to the Lord.  Meanwhile, the gospel speaks about being a witness to the truth so that we might be saved.

These readings show the face of salvation and God's desire that we be witnesses of salvation.  Havc we seen the face of salvation?

This year 2011 is dedicated to the Youth, "The CBCP Year of the Youth".  The Church wishes that the youth at their young age be living testimonies of the Good News.  How could we mold our youth and ourselves to be living witnesses of the salvation of the Lord?

We have to start from square one; reflect the beginnings of faith or the lack of it.  Life is not simply being converted from sin to grace.  Let us reflect on many instances the Lord entered into our lives through our parents, through the Church, through the goodness of other people.

Second, the faith we have will be subjected to tests until it is brought into perfection.  For the Lord forms us and makes our love perfect in the midst of trials.  Would we stay faithful to him?

Third, the faith we have will be fruitful in good works.  Now it can be seen and enjoyed by many. We can say at this point that we could see the faces of salvation in the way we deal with our neighbors, how we help the poor, and how we fight to bring about justice, peace, and love.  The only thing that remains is seeing Jesus face to face and smiling at us.

This is Christmas - that we become living witnesses to the presence of Jesus in the world.

How to see the extraordinary in the ordinary

3rd Sunday of Advent, Cycle A

As Christmas is fast approaching, with all the Christmas preparations around us, are we truly searching for Christmas in the right areas?

Jesus reprimanded the people, "What are you looking for in the desert - a man dressed in fine robes?"  Sooner or later they would not be able to recognize the Messiah even if he was in front of them.

Dare to see Jesus in the ordinary.  Make every meeting with people special.  Because they are gifts.  We could know how important people and things are once they are no more.  Make ordinary things special.

Secondly, learn to see the gift in all things and people.  Everything is an opportunity - the Church, the family, even our enemies.  If we don't close our worlds to these things, these will surely lead us to life and to God.

Third, make everything instruments of salvation - everything in us and around us could be instruments to lead others to salvation - even eating, drinking, and resting.  At the end of the day, reflect if all our interventions in the world lead others to God, to life, to forgiveness, to salvation, then everything becomes special.  Everything becomes God's presence.  That is what Emmanuel means, "God with us".

Saturday, December 04, 2010

On promises

2nd Sunday of Advent, cycle A

"Promises get nailed."  That's why we get cynical when someone gives promises.  We too don't give promises.

But we are immersed in so many promises - promises of a product that would make us young, strong, vibrant, schools that promise us good paying jobs, parents who will give us the best care, and so forth.  To which of these would we believe in?

Have we believed in the promises of God or of salvation?  Have we relied totally on Jesus or have we turned cynical, not engaging too much in the works of faith?

But the promises of the Lord is far too superior than any of our promises.  For one, the promise is coming from the sincerest of hearts - the heart of God himself who feels our pain.

Second, the promises of the Lord is carried on by his worthy servants who gave everything they have for God.  John the Baptist is a classic example.  His whole life is a living witness that God's promises are true because he puts his life on the life.  Of course, so did Jesus.

Third, God's promises bear fruits far greater than any other promises.  The effect is tremendous - the salvation of the whole of mankind and everyone living in the fullness of God.

The lesson here is simple: open our hearts to the Lord; do not be cynical.  Serve him with all our might.  Because His promises are true.