Thursday, December 31, 2015

Mary, Mother of God, C

What lies in Mary's heart?

Luke 2:16-21

photo: Immaculate Conception Cathedral Belen 2015

Today as we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, we ponder what lies in Mary's heart, like the heart of a Mother who's starting her journey towards taking care of her baby.

What lies in her heart is blessing.  Motherhood is a blessing.  It is treasuring all things in her heart - the witnessing of the shepherds and seeing baby Jesus before her and how she is a witness to all these.

First, what lies in Mary's heart is God greatness!  Even in the baby Jesus, she can see the splendor of God.  He is the source of every good gift.    This is what should lie in our hearts - thanksgiving to God, thanksgiving to life, and thanksgiving to the son / daughter before us.

Second, what lies in Mary's heart is pure mercy.  She is the primary witness of the overwhelming mercy of God that favors everyone and not a chosen few.  His actions of mercy redound to the salvation of humankind.  To be a mother, God's heart and the mother's heart are filled with mercy.  Every child should be reared in pure mercy.

Third, what lies in Mary's heart is pure and eternal joy for carrying out God's plan for humanity.  Eternity and time are connected.  Heaven and earth unite in one act of adoration.  Mary thus is Mother who leads her sons and daughters to their final destination - to be with God in heaven.

Let us pray that we may possess the same heart as Mary's heart - adoration for God, mercy for humankind, and joy in uniting humankind with God.  Then we will face the New Year with joy!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Holy Family, C

Doing the Father's Affairs

Luke 2:41-52

It is quite interesting  a woman who asked God for a son would actually make real her promise to offer him as the Lord's servant.

In the Gospel, Jesus' answer when his parents questioned him about not following them: "Did you not know I must be busy with my Father's affairs?

The very task of the family in line with the readings seem to point to the task of every parent to see to it that the children are doing God's work here on earth.  This same task of Joseph and Mary produced the Messiah in Jesus Christ.  How can we rear the children to be open to God's will?

First, every family needs to consciously root themselves in God and His Church.  The Church is a community of families called to serve God at the outset.

Second, every member needs to know his/her role in the work of evangelization.  PCP 2 of the Philippine Church lays down the roles as follows:  the father is the image of the Holy Father and example to his children and beyond the family circle; the mother learns from Mary’s role as virgin and mother in the history of salvation; and the children are the present and future of the Church.

We should all be busy doing the Father's affairs.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Midnight Mass before Christmas day, C

Christmas and the Mercy of God

Luke 2:1-14

There was a man who looked and acted like a Scrooge, never understand what Christmas meant and why Christ had to become human.

One snowy night, when he was comfortably reading a book by the fireplace, he heard a disturbing noise outside.  He peeked through the window and saw a flock of birds, looking helpless in the snow, trying to look for a secured place so they can rest.

The man immediately decided, "They need help.  I have a barn, I can place them there."

He immediately went to his barn and opened it.  But the birds did not come in.  He decided to put crumbs near the entrance so the birds can be enticed to enter but they didn't.  He made gestures and signals, but the more they scattered.

He said to himself, "They don't trust me.  If I were a bird, they would have understood what I meant."  Just then he heard the bells ring for the Christmas midnight mass and suddenly he thought, "Now I understand what Christmas means and why Jesus had to be human."  (Author unknown)

In this year declared by the Holy Father Pope Francis as the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, he said, "Jesus is the face of the Father's mercy...  Mercy has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth, reaching its culmination in him. The Father, “rich in mercy” (Eph 2:4), after having revealed his name to Moses as “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex 34:6), has never ceased to show, in various ways throughout history, his divine nature. In the “fullness of time” (Gal 4:4), when everything had been arranged according to his plan of salvation, he sent his only Son into the world, born of the Virgin Mary, to reveal his love for us in a definitive way. Whoever sees Jesus sees the Father (cf. Jn 14:9). Jesus of Nazareth, by his words, his actions, and his entire person[1] reveals the mercy of God." (Miserecordiae Vultus, no. 1)

I shall base my Christmas reflections on Miserecodiae Vultus no. 2: "We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy. It is a wellspring of joy, serenity, and peace. Our salvation depends on it. Mercy: the word reveals the very mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. Mercy: the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us. Mercy: the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life. Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness."

A wellspring of joy, serenity and peace ...  When have we felt truly joyful, serene, and peaceful?  True joy and peace are not as the world offers them, but as God does.  True joy and peace reach eternal happiness in heaven.

The very mystery of the Most Holy Trinity ...  does my life here on earth reflect the unity and diversity of the Most Holy Trinity?  Do I treat the Church as the living image of the Most Holy Trinity?

A supreme act ... When have we participated in the sufferings of Jesus for the salvation of our brothers and sisters and of the entire world?

The fundamental law dwelling in the heart of every person ...  What lies within my heart?  Unconditional love for others or an exclusive one?  As Jesus loves us, it is time for us to truly love one another without conditions.

The bridge that connects God and man ... When all of our actions and motivations lead to connecting people with God and God to us.

Mercy has become incarnate in the the vulnerable body of the Baby Jesus.  Let us also incarnate and live out mercy in our bodies and souls as well.  Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Day 9, Simbang Gabi: 24 December

Blessed be the Lord!

Luke 1:67-79

In this last day before we commemorate the birth of the Lord Jesus, we remind ourselves that we are Christmas gifts being prepared by the Lord to be given to others.  We hope to inculcate the various qualities that are important in the formation of that gift - integrity, offering, obedience, love, mission, etc.  The last quality I would like us to reflect is blessing.

Blessing or "berakhah" means to acknowledge God as the source of blessings.  David in the first reading desires to give a house to the Lord as a sign of thanksgiving.  But it is the Lord who blessed David and renews an oath with him.

In the Gospel, Zechariah prays the Benedictus, "Blessed be the Lord the God of Israel for he has visited his people."  "He has raised up for us a Mighty Savior" and "He has come set his people free."

Let our lives be an expression of utmost thanksgiving because of God's blessings instead of asking and asking from the Lord as if we haven't received any.  The Lord has given us so much that He gave us even His own Son.  Let us acknowledge all gifts of the Lord.

Second, blessing carries with it a wish for good fortune. "Blessed art thou, and it shall be well with thee" (Ps. cxxvii, 2)  It carries every good intention one has for the other.

Third, it signifies the sanctification or dedication of a person or thing to some sacred purpose; "Christ took bread and blessed, and broke" (Matthew 26:26)   Pray that everything we do may be sanctified and consecrated - our family, our work, the whole universe.  Let every heart be consecrated to the Lord.

We may now be ready to enjoy the real Christmas - Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Day 8, Simbang gabi: 23 December

Being God's messengers

Luke 1:57-66

Christmas is truly getting nearer; Christ is coming!  Are we truly ready to meet him?  As Christmas gifts, what qualities do we possess that please the Lord?

Let us continue to learn from the readings for today.  From the Book of Malachi, God said, "Look, I am going to send my messenger to prepare the way before me."

For course the prophecy may refer to John the Baptist in the gospel; but for a moment, we can also reflect on ourselves and say, "Can I be God's messenger? What would it take for me to be a messenger?"

A messenger is a prophet like St. John the Baptist.  It may be likened to parents who prepare the way of the Lord to their children.  What then would be the qualities of messengers?

There is an intimate relationship between the source of message and the messenger; he should be the exact replica of the Communicator, John mirrors Jesus though they haven't seen each other.  Do we know Jesus most intimately?

Second, he should also possess the heart of the Communicator - "He shall turn the hearts of fathers to their children."  (cf. first reading)  What lies in our hearts for our brothers and sisters - love or apathy?

Third, the messenger speaks the truth about God.  Zechariah was freed from being deaf and mute.  He gives witness to to the glory of God.  Those who don't attest to God's presence remain mute in this world.  They live in the darkness; but people of the Lord live in the light and give witness to the Light.

Let us be God's messengers, attesting to the glory of Jesus to others.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Day 7 Simbang Gabi: 22 December

Generous Givers

Luke 1:46-56

We are generous offerings of the Lord to proclaim the mercy of God that shows his power for the hungry and the lowly.

As we come closer to Jesus, our real Christmas gift, this is the best time to consider ourselves as Christmas gifts of Christ to others.  And a compelling quality by which we are molded to be worthy Christmas gifts is to be imbued with the gift of generous giving.

As Jesus is the overly generous giver who causes our salvation, must we still say no to generosity?  Our lives are pure gifts; so are all our blessings.  A way to witness the saving mercy of God is to be generous with our time, talent, and treasure, which all came from God.  In generosity we have received, in generosity we also give.

Our second model is Mary, who also gave herself totally at the service of God.  Her Fiat opened our salvation.  Her Magnificat contains the generosity of God in her life; first, he chose a lowly woman to be the mother of God.  Second, God's generosity is shown in how he cares for the hungry and the lowly, while the powerful and the rich he leaves with nothing.

If we start being generous to God, He cannot be outdone in generosity.  Let us start offering even a tithe of our time, talent and treasure to do His work here on earth.  Remember, those who have will be given more, while those who have not, even the little they have will be taken away from them.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Day 6, Simbang Gabi: 21 December

Put love in that gift!

Luke 1:39-45

If we are are to be molded as God's Christmas gifts to others, then we better put a dash of love in that gift.  And real love can only be possible if a person has a firm and unconditional love for Jesus himself.

This is the very heart of Christianity.  And Jesus says, "Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me." (Matt. 10, 37)

The reason we have not love Jesus enough is because we treat him only as a functional God; a God who fits our needs.

The readings help point out that a relationship with God would be more that of lovers. There is excitement in being with the beloved.  There is unconditional acceptance of the beloved; not one who should fit our picture.  When we expect that the other should fit our requirements before we can love them, that is not true love.  The person simply becomes an image of our distorted ego.

Loving also is like Mary, setting out in haste to cater to her cousin Elizabeth.  To love, one should totally lose oneself to serve the other.  In loving, you don't get to choose whom to love.  The best sign of love is loving the last, the least, and the lost.

Finally, is like Elizabeth, always quick to recognize the hand of the Lord at work.  A loving person is a thankful person.

For a person who loves, like those who believe, no explanation is necessary; but for a person who does not love, no explanation is possible.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Day 5: 4th Sunday of Advent, C

Obedience, the mark of a true Christian

Luke 1:39-44

The readings now seems to point us directly to Christmas - a Savior from Bethlehem to rule the world with justice and peace and a woman who is honored among all women because of the fruit in her womb.  And what is our response?

I will take it from the second reading.  We are molded to be obedient to erase the disobedience of our first parents.

It is not in the number of times we attend our masses or prayed our novenas; nor the number of times we went on processions or decorated images make us true Christians.  If we are not ready to obey God's will, all these religious practices come to naught.  The true mark of Christianity lies in our willingness to let go of all our desires to heed what God wants us to do in this world.

The models of obedience are Mary, Jesus, and Elizabeth.

Obedience is Mary uttering to the angel, "I am the handmaid of the Lord.  Let it be done to me as you say."  Mary also went in haste to assist her cousin Elizabeth.  Now the fruits of obedience are unfolding.

Obedience is Jesus demonstrating God's will.  He is the Good Shepherd who feeds his flock.  He rules the world with justice and peace.

Obedience is Elizabeth and John in her womb recognizing the presence of God and acknowledging his saving work.  Obedience is joy felt in being sensitive to the presence of Jesus.  Our lives are filled with true joy that can only be attained in following God's will.

Thus, obedience is uttering our first unconditional yes, living out God's will, and enjoying the fruits of obedience - justice, peace, and joy.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Day 4 of Simbang Gabi: 19 December

Sense of mission

Luke 1:5-25

In the fourth day of our preparation for the coming of Christ in our lives, we are being prepared for a life-long mission which needs our total and unwavering commitment.

Like Samson and John, all of us have a mission here on earth.  Let us imagine our guardian angels talking to our parents, "You shall bear a son / daughter. He/ she shall be great in the sight of God and filled with the Holy Spirit.  He / she has a mission to fulfill."

The sense of mission actually makes us a persons.  We are meant for a particular mission.  Archbishop Emeritus Cardinal Rosales said, "A priest without a mission is a traitor."  That is what touched my heart.  I have to fulfill a mission; this is the very reason why God made me.  Our mission defines who we are.

I know of a couple whose relationship turned sour the moment the husband lost his job and their comforts in life.  The reason why the husband lost direction is that he thought that success and money define him as a person.  He thought his wife doesn't love him.  That is not our ultimate reason.

Take it from Samson.  His mission is to redeem / save Israel from the Philistines.  Whatever our mission is, it should lead to saving people from sin.

Take it from John the Baptist.  His mission is to turn the hearts of fathers to their children, the disobedient back to wisdom, and to prepare for the way of the Lord.  Our mission should lead people to know the true and living God in Jesus Christ.

Third, take it from the disbelief of Zechariah.  Disbelief turns us into mute people, unable to give witness to God simply because we are not attached to him.  All we see is ourselves.  To pursue the Lord is my primary mission on earth.

Like all missionaries, may we be Spirit-filled; everything should come from the Holy Spirit.  The fruits of the Holy Spirit are peace, joy, goodness among all others.  This is the fruit of doing a life-long mission on earth.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Day 3: 18 December

Integrity

Matthew 1:18-24

For our reflection on the third day, let us aim that as God's Christmas gifts for mankind, that we may be men and women of integrity just as for this year, the Lord would like us to be people of mercy, possessing both integrity and the mercy of God.

That is the first reflection.  How often do we distance ourselves from God's attributes that eventually, we justify even sin and malice?  No, there is a one-to-one correspondence between the Creator and the created.  We are all created in the God's loving image.  And God continues to create us.  Let us be molded to be persons of integrity.

To be a person of integrity means to be an a person of honor and credibility, God-fearing like St. Joseph. This is not built-in in Joseph.  Rather, each day is a day of being formed according to God's image.

Second, to be a person of integrity means to be dedicated to do the mission entrusted by God, no matter what the consequences are.  So, if Jesus' mission was to save, then he did it till the last drop of his blood.

Third, to be a person of integrity means to live out "Emmanuel", God-is-with-us; to mirror God living among his people and the people enjoying the immensity of God's presence.


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Day 2: Simbang Gabi

Family truly blessed

Matthew 1:1-17

We all have our family lineage.  But what makes Jesus' lineage so special?  Although we can think of a million reasons, the greatest being, that the lineage is being prepared to bring forth the Messiah, God's son, we are praying that our family lineage in God be consecrated as well.  This includes all members of our family in all generations.

As we come from a lineage marred with sinfulness and woundedness, God invites us to cut off that lineage and embrace a new one, a renewed lineage that even the ones before us can be redeemed as well.  This can only be possible if once and for all, we acknowledge Jesus as the root and end of all lineages.

Let us also pray that as a renewed family, we may embrace three qualities of successful lineages.  First, from Abraham to Jessie, we can inculcate the value of TOTAL obedience and entrustment of our lives to God.

Second, from David to Jeconiah, we can learn about the value of being favored, or being favorable in the eyes of the Lord as David was.  This can only be possible if we maintain a life favored by God.

Third, from Jeconiah to Joseph, we can learn about the value of humility at all times; humbling ourselves before God and being totally available to serve him.  Only then can we truly claim that our family is blessed!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Day 1: Simbang Gabi

The image of the Lord in us

Luke 7:19-23


Look at the concrete hand of the God in the Gospel, "Tell John what you have seen and heard,the blind see again, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, the Good News is proclaimed to the poor and happy is the man who does not lose faith in me." (Lk. 7, 23)

Let's focus on being concrete.  It's not justifiable that we who receive constantly the Holy Eucharist be men and women whose hearts are so far away from Jesus.  So, let's focus on allowing Jesus to be concrete: first, in our thoughts, by exposing ourselves to the teachings of Church and in constant discernment; second, in hearts, by feeling as God feels - mercy.

Third, by our lives. We can only focus on the quality of our words and actions if indeed they are synchronous with Jesus' words and actions.

Only then can we fully experience that power of the Lord to save.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

2nd Sunday of Advent, C

God's majesty

Luke 3:1-6 

Whenever we think of majesty, we think of pomp, and extravagance.  God's majesty is in his beauty and splendor and how he rules the world with justice and mercy.  John the Baptist also reflected the majesty of the Lord in terms of the conversion, baptism of repentance, and preparing the way of the Lord.

I recall in the orientation of prayer of St. Ignatius, we hope that all our efforts will tend to serve and glorify his divine majesty.  What does it mean for us?

First, to serve and glorify his divine majesty is to accept his kingship over the whole world and our lives as well.  Let us pray that we may entrust everything to his care.

Second, to serve and glorify his divine majesty is to place ourselves under his feet; only Him shall we adore, love, and serve.  Let us pray to be his disciples.

Third, to serve and glorify his divine majesty is to align all our work and efforts in this world to manifest his kingship in the world most especially in serving the poor and in the forgiveness of sins.  Compassion and mercy are the very basis of every action; all these should lead to everyone living a life of love, service, and forgiveness.

Let us reflect the majesty of the Lord!