Saturday, December 31, 2011

Blessings!

Cycle B, Solemnity of Mary, mother of God

Our readings today call us to recognize our blessings in the most profound ways possible.  "May the Lord bless you and keep you!"  The best expression of a blessing is that of Mary "who pondered all these things in her heart."

How do we express authentic thanks for all the blessings bestowed upon us by the Almighty?

"Blessing" has its roots in Hebrew "Brk" which means "to bend the knee" in worship and praise.  God is the source of all blessings; he bestows us His happiness that no one can ever take away.  We may bend our knees all the time to our loving Lord, knowing that He grants us every good gift.

It may also have its roots in the Greek word "eulogein" which means "to speak well of" or "to praise".  Perhaps we may think of the many persons who have touched our lives and filled us with love, for they are indeed God's gifts to us.

Mary reflected on the good news of angels as told by the shepherds.  May we also take time to ponder where the real gifts of God are - in the scarcity of life, the every essence of being comes out - that all of us rely totally on the mercy of God.  By the conduct of our lives, may we inspire others to make life an act of thanksgiving and total service to the Lord and others.

May this inspiring thought help us to face the New Year with gladness and be filled with hope and love.  Life is a blessing; everything is a blessing from the Almighty Lord!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Gloria in Excelsis Deo!

Courtesy of turnbacktogod.com

Merry Christmas!

Yesterday, I invited us to sing, "O come all ye faithful" because Christ in the Liturgy prepares us to be the prophets of the Most High like St. John the Baptist and await the coming of Jesus.

Now, I invite us to sing "Silent Night" as our way of contemplating the presence of the Child now born in our midst.  "Round yon virgin mother and child Holy infant so tender and mild sleep in heavenly peace."

As we know, Jesus was born in this world without a dwelling place.  But surely, he must have a dwelling place - right in the center of our hearts.  To help us prepare ourselves to be the dwelling place of the Lord, let us reflect on the many time we have received our Lord in the Most Holy Communion.  We pray that we may rid our hearts of any impure intentions and wrong notions of the Eucharist that drown our knowledge and appreciation of it.


The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us the contemplative encounter in the Lord in the same we encounter Him in the Eucharist.

First, "we gather up: our hearts, recollect our being, and allow ourselves to become his dwelling place which we are."  Here, we make an inventory of where we have been, what happened to us, what wounds we have inflicted by ourselves through sin, and we ask to be forgiven.  We also become aware that God is present in others, that is why together, we make an honest admittance to allow Him to touch our lives.

As the mass progresses, our faith is slowly awakened.  We are confronted with who we are and are encouraged to remove all defenses and masks.  As we try to cover up, the Lord invites us to be who we really are - in need of Him.  Because the more we come to know ourselves, the more he reveals his love to us.

We now come to the best part.  Eventually, we are quietly immersed into the sea of His love that we find ourselves offering who we are and what we have.  We allow ourselves to be the living offerings of Jesus to His loving Father and meanwhile, we allow Him to continue purifying us and transforming us until we are born now in God.

This is what Jesus wants, with this new birth of ours, we can fully sing "Gloria in Excelsis Deo" and that we may rejoice fully with the angels as heaven unites with earth through the presence of Jesus.

May we enjoy our union with Jesus and utilize this strength to touch people's lives with His loving presence.  Please greet one another with the love of Jesus!

Friday, December 23, 2011

O come all ye faithful!

9th day, simbang gabi

Though it may seem tiring to even imagine getting up early in the morning to witness the Misa de Gallo, we shall miss these grace-filled days that lead to the birth of Christ.  Through them, we experienced a livelier, renewed faith.  It is not only Christ who was born; we are reborn in him.

The canticle of Zechariah exemplifies this renewed faith.  He tongue was loosened that he could reveal God's truth, not his own.  Unlike before when he was doubtful and discouraged, now he gives witness to God's will and His promise of salvation through Jesus Christ.

His prophesy to his son John may also apply to us, the new heralds of the good news.  We shall become the prophets of the Most high.  And that entails the loosening of our tongues; that our lives would be a living testimony of God's will to prepare others to meet him; and that we would commit our entire lives to instruct others so they would be able to enjoy God's presence eternally.

All of these will be like the dawn breaking, God's light will be shining upon us, and we will be walking along the way of peace.

Let us joyfully sing, "O come, all ye faithful!" with joy in our hearts.  "Maranatha, come, Lord Jesus!"

Thursday, December 22, 2011

the 8th day: The favor of God

Things are unfolding now that the kingdom of God is already here.  Jesus has started to unite us to the Father, probabaly even before the beginning of time.

At the time of John birth, note that Jesus was still there, in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  He may be the one preparing John to be his great messenger.  He is also actively preparing us to meet him this Christmas.  As he prepares John through his presence and blessing, he may also have been preparing us even before were born - to be with him and for him.

Perhaps, the etymology of the John could also give us a hint on our vocation as heralds of the Gospel.  John came from the Hebrew word Ioannes which means "God has favored" or God has given freely and overwhelmingly.  "Pinagkalooban ng Diyos", it is God's free will to give us his grace.  Could we detect all the graces we received from the time of our conception till now?  Everything is God's grace.  Offer them back to the Lord is total thanksgiving now that we know that our lives are themselves products of the overwhelming grace of God.

Finally, God's graciousness extends to helping us respond to radiate his love.  This is totally manifest in John, who even at his mother's womb, leapt for joy at the coming of his successor or the one whom he would serve.  This unconditional response is a picture of the glory of God which has existed even before time began but was almost destroyed by sin.  Thanks be to God for Jesus Christ who sends precursors to prepare his way.


May we be inspired this Christmas season to totally unite ourselves with Christ who is the source of all goodness and graciousness and faithfully serve him now and always.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The 7th day: When God sings

As we are getting closer to commemorating the day of Christ’s birth, we need to enter more deeply into a quiet contemplation with the events that are happening.

We now focus on Mary’s song of praise to God.  But notice it is not just a mere song of praise.  As Mary pours herself out to God, her whole being magnifies the Lord, her spirit is totally one with the Father.  Because of the Immaculate Conception, her song is actually the song of God giving life to her and to the rest of mankind.

This is Christmas: when we unite ourselves totally to Him without reserve.  Thus, we need to sing God's songs.

When God sings, we become holy in Him.  That is the union of God and man in Mary’s canticle.  The world of sin destroys that union, holiness seems to be pushed to the background.  Mary brings it back through the power of her Son in her womb.  Let us strive to lead holy lives inspired by the presence of God in us.

When God sings, every instrument is working in complete harmony with the others.  Let us recognize our roles in the orchestra of our Lord, now using our Spirit-given talents and abilities.  When the whole world works in harmony with one another, everyone begets life.  But if people find their own tunes and serve themselves, noise erupts.  Thus, God corrects those who are out of tune and who are not contributing to the harmony of music: he brings down the powerful, the well-fed, and the kings.

When God sings, the whole orchestra becomes one giant act of praise to Him.  Here, even the poor, hungry and the oppressed are lifted up and given the justice they deserve.

In the Magnificant, the lowly is exulted.  Mary’s name is revered by all generations.  May we fix our legacy to bringing Christ to the world this Christmas by sharing Him to others. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Passion of God

The sixth day of Simbang Gabi leads us to Mary hastening to see her cousin Elizabeth.  But it may in fact be Jesus who is hastening to meet his cousin John and vice versa.  May this meeting repair whatever coldness we feel in our relationship with God.


Let us then talk about the passion of God.

Passion is a powerful emotion, for example, an ardent love.  Its feeling is warm and embracing.  Passion reveals the very identity of a human person.  It also reveals who God is - pure Love.  His love enlivens us each day.  May we finally respond to Him in love.

Passion is also marked by a boundless enthusiasm.  The creative aspect of a passionate person is endless.  God has unlimited ways to bring us back to him, the best way being, the incarnation of his very own Son.  We should find ways to eradicate the boredom of our lives and respond equally to making our faith alive for the sake of our children.

Finally, passion is marked by the offering of one's life in martyrdom.  Passion becomes Jesus Christ as he hung dying on the cross for us.  It is also Mary's heart as she hastens to her cousin Elizabeth to serve her.

Pray for the strength to face where our faith would eventually lead us - toward the offering of our lives for the sake of the one we love, God himself.  May Christ finally come to our lives and change us forever!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Titles of Jesus

For this fifth day of our preparation for Jesus' coming, let us focus on the titles of Jesus, for we have heard two names from our readings: Immanuel and Jesus.  Pray to know more about our birthday celebrant, for He is the central character in our story of salvation.

"Jesus" came from the Hebrew word "Joshua" meaning "God saves."  By this, Catechism reminds us of two basic realities about Jesus: who he is and what his mission is.  Give Jesus what is due to him as God.  Serve him and be one with him in his mission to save us.

Second, the title "Christ" came from "messiah" which means anointed.  As Jesus was anointed to bring glad tidings to the poor, let us not forget that we too were anointed during confirmation to bring hope to others and be the soldiers of Jesus.

Third, the title "Son of God" reminds us of the divine Sonship of Jesus Christ.  But it also reminds us of our divine link with God.  We partake in the divinity of Jesus by being the adopted sons and daughters of the Lord when we were baptised.  Let us increase in works that would bring holiness to others.

Last but not the least, the title "Lord" of course points to the Lordship of Jesus as king of heaven and earth.  Thus, we give the proper reverence due Him as servants of the Lord, like the Blessed Virgin Mary who is the maidservant of the Lord.  Let us be available to do the will of the King.


All these taken under consideration, Jesus becomes more real to us.  Celebrating his birth would signal the celebration of our new lives in the God who saves us.  Maranatha, come, Lord Jesus!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Prayer and Christmas

The fourth day of Simbang Gabi takes us to Zechariah, who is supposed to be a faithful servant of the Lord.  Scripture says he was praying for a son but had not believed when it finally came true.

What killed Zechariah's faith?  His age and his wife's condition?  He was discouraged all along.  He prayed but lost hope.  We pray but our prayers do not lift up to God. What caused our disturbance in prayer and how can we counteract it?

Prayer in its simplest definition is devotion to God.  When we lose that devotion we cease the most basic gesture of reaching out to God.

Prayer is reflecting about God.  When we stop reflecting about God, we would be eaten by daily anxieties and not have the capacity to discern.

Prayer is communion with God.  If we lose this communion, we cease becoming His witnesses to the world.  We also would not be in communion with one another.

Prayer is the condition for experiencing the real meaning of Jesus' coming to our lives.  Christ would be born in people who have the zeal to pray.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The promise of God

As the third day of preparation for Christmas unfolds, we see the humble home of Mary, teeming with simplicity and poverty.  But in it the grandeur of heaven resides. The angel appears to her and gives her the promise of being the mother of the Savior.

Let's reflect on the definitive break between our old world of sin and the new world founded on Christ.  Let us dwell on the promise of God not only to David but for the rest of humankind, past, present, and future.

A promise is a solemn oath; a declaration or vow of fulfilling something.  God has not broken His promise.  Humankind shall live and enjoy prosperity but only because of him.  Let us convert this promise into faith the relies totally on God's promise of salvation.

Secondly, every promise is something favorable. It points to something very positive and fruitful.   To Mary, the angel said about Jesus, "He will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and his reign will be without end."  It is something to look forward to.  In this regard, we pray for the gift of hope that by releasing ourselves from our old way of life, we shall be redeemed by Him who is to come into our world and lead us back to the Father.

Thirdly, every promise has an indication of sure success.  "Know your kinswoman has conceived a son in her old age, for nothing is impossible with God."  After this, Mary said, "I am the maidservant of the Lord, let it be done to me as you say."  We also say, "Let your will be done.  Make our lives useful in you."  Let us pray that all our intentions may convert into genuine love that makes us submit ourselves to humble service to one another.

May Christmas finally come into our lives and change us forever!

Friday, December 16, 2011

2nd day of Simband gabi: Appreciating the family

The backdrop of the stage opens and what do we see in the second day of Simbang Gabi? The whole cast coming in from all sides to the stage and around it, encircling all of us - a throng of families from the old Testament from different generations from Abraham to the New Testament characters Joseph and Mary.  How do they relate with the Christmas story and the story of our salvation?

We have to realize that Christmas is not a simple family affair where families celebrate with gifts and food.  On the contrary, we have to open up to the reality of a greater family where even the poor are involved as well as persons from the past and the future.

Aside from the most common definition of a family as the smallest unit of society, a family consists of the descendants of a common progenitor.  Let us admit once and for that our progenitor is God himself from all goodness comes.  True, we came from the fallen Adam and Eve, but the whole humankind came from God who created us in his image and likeness.  Let us do everything to live up to that fact by living holy lives.

Another definition of family is a group of persons closely related by blood.   Some groups perform a formal act of being one by a blood compact. Others offer their lives for the ones they love.  Being family needs a certain act of commitment by offering one's life for others.  Can we do that to the person next to us?

Finally, Jesus challenges us, "Who is my family?  Those that do the will of my Father is mother and sister and brother to me."

Thus, the opening salvo of people in all generations celebrating life is a picture of real joy because all these people did God's will.  So will we as the new family of God.  In our midst Christ will be born.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Day 1 Simbang gabi: the story of our salvation unfolds

The analogy of a play would help us properly dispose ourselves to the Simbang gabi masses leading to Christmas night.

In a play, after all the practices and all preparations, everything is ready for the event.  The announcements are made and everyone is informed.

Three things make up a successful play: our presence, our participation, and our witnessing to the play.   A play is a play when we are present and are properly disposed to attend it.  Secondly, a play is a play when we participate; we are "in the play itself."  Thirdly, we give witness to the play because of its profound effect in our lives.

The story of Christmas is the story of our salvation.  It is God's story for us. But God said in the first reading that those who receive the gift are those who are properly disposed to receive it.  Either we are absent from God or we are present.

Secondly, we participate by uniting ourselves in Christ who became one of us. We are affected fully by his words, actions, and being.  We become like him.  Finally, we give witness to Jesus by the conduct of our own lives.  Jesus said, "My works testify that the Father has sent me."  Only the conduct of our lives would give witness to Jesus if like him, we follow God's will. 

Christmas may be the story of Jesus' birth.  But it is the story of our rebirth as well.  It is the story of our salvation in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

What Immaculate Conception means for us

In the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Pius IX in 1854: "The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin."

But how does Mary's reality appeal to our own wounded human nature?

I would like to dwell on the simple words "immaculate" and "conception" to understand that the Mary's message is indeed for us Christians on the pilgrim way to heaven.

"Immaculate" means to be free from any stain, a sure quality possessed by God Himself.  What is consoling is that our condition as fallen human beings is not really that hopeless.  Immaculate Conception connotes our condition with God before the Fall and that we are meant to be complete again only in God.  Mary and Jesus, the true Eve and Adam, broke every chain of dirt caused by sin to make God's words real, "Let us make man unto our image."  And there is no other image except that of being "immaculate".  As God is holy, so we are meant to be holy in God.

The second word is "conception".  From the simple dictionary, this word connotes a process of life itself as well as the birthing of an idea or concept.

Either of these definitions infer what Mary stood for as she shares in the conceiving power of God.  God is a God of life!  He is meant to multiply and regulate life.  Nobody in this world is born without having been blessed by God.  This of course is a manner of attitude for us to share in the procreative faculties of God; not the killers of his procreative powers as proposed in the RH bill.  The whole of creation is in the process of giving birth.  Of course the opposite of this is death and murder.  God intends that we be conceived as His new children, sharing in His love and life.

May we take Mary as the source and fulfillment of Christian life. To share in the Immaculate Conception means to share in the work of salvation, to make efforts to be the new Adams and new Eves in Christ our Lord.  Mary, may you continue to the hope and consolation for the pilgrim people of God.