Saturday, October 20, 2012

Year of Faith: On Christian Marriage

Year of Faith 20: On Catholic Marriage: I was surprised once when a parishioner told me that they can not get married yet in church because they had not been civilly married yet. I told them that sacramental marriage and civil marriage maybe done at the same time in church. In fact, that is the requirement in every church. When you apply for church marriage, you will be required to present the app
lication for civil marriage. Pastors apply for a license to marry citizens civilly. Thus, it is not true that couples need to have a civil marriage first before they can apply for sacramental marriage.
Once, I was invited to officiate the marriage of a parishioner. I was told that the place of marriage was in Paco Park. I assumed it will be in the church. When I arrived for the wedding, I realized that it will be done in the garden outside the church and that another pastor, licensed to marry citizens civilly, will preside. I asked my parishioner about it and it turned out that it was a civil wedding! I explained to him that I can not take part in the celebration. At another time, I was invited by a parishioner to their wedding reception. I did not question anymore why I was not invited in the wedding rites. I thought they had another priest who officiated. When I got to the reception, I came to know that their marriage was civil and not church. I told them that they should still get married in church. The answer I got was they thought, having been civilly married, they are already considered married and can now live together. I clarified to them that they were married according to law, and thus, are considered married legally. However, as far as their faith is concerned, they are still unmarried.
I was also told by a number of people that sacramental or church marriage is easier to "annul" than civil marriage. The answer is both yes and no depending on how you would look at it. One clarification, sacramental marriage, when valid from the very beginning can not be annulled for whatever reason. Thus, when "annulment" cases are heard in church, what is being determined is whether there was defect at the time they are being married. In that case, the declaration of nullity in the church is actually a declaration that there was no marriage from the beginning. In civil marriage, "annulment" means more. Even if civilly valid, marriages may be invalidated for some reasons, the famous being psychological incapacity on the part of a partner.
Sacramental marriage is more than just a rite. It is a sacrament as the name suggests. As a sacrament, it is a channel of grace from God. Couples are married not only for their own purpose. God has a purpose for them. The couple serve to witness to the love of God for us and our love for Him. Couples have the responsibility to mirror God's presence and care for us. This is clear in the marriage rite. Unfortunately, couples who are married in church do not take very important note of this. Marriage is a vocation not only for the couples themselves, but for God's purpose. Yes, they need to pro-create, and build a family where God's love may find a concrete relevance for the couple and the children. But it is not a private affair. They have the responsibility to share that love and faith to others. From here, all other challenges regarding married life are founded. Whatever problems, issues, questions, confusions, and other concerns, will find a satisfactory response in God's loving invitation and purpose.
Therefore, Sacramental Marriage is sacred! It is a means to salvation. Let it be that way!

Service Not Lordship

Twenty Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time is about servant leadership. This is a most wanted quality among leaders in Jesus' time and most specially today. The leader, for Jesus, forgets himself and focuses on those entrusted under his care. This is attested by the proliferation of corruption, as an example, nowadays. Corruption is motivated by selfish intentions. Corruption happens when a leader asks 
for what he will get in return for what he will give in service. Precisely, Jesus reminded the apostles and Christians of today to take care not to fall under this trap. Service, that is being the slave of all, dominates the Christian heart!
Many times in the olden days, during political campaigns, candidates will visit places, reach out to thier constituents, and shake hands with them saying, "Ang inyong lingkod, pag-utusan po ninyo!" it was a perfect translation of what Jesus meant. If they were true to this promise, their people will definitely be served! But alas, such an attitude are already missing. If ever, they are good for a certain time but not during their whole term.
For Jesus, leadership is others first and self last! It is making use of what God has given for the service of others. Leaders usually are equipped with experience, responsibility, commitment, goodness of heart, intelligence, and conviction. If they use all of these for service and they have the willingness to give to the fullest, they are real servants according to the standards of Christ.
This is a great challenge for the leaders of today. Hopefully they will start with themselves here and now. They could not point to the next leaders to make the sacrifice. The call is today, wherever they are.
Jesus knew what He was saying. When we serve others, all will benefit. When we serve only ourselves, few will benefit.
A story is told about heaven and hell. It says that heaven and hell are mostly the same save for those souls who are in it. In hell, as in heaven, all food are abundant and all souls possess stiff and straightened hands, and unbendable bodies. They walk like zombies. Hell is hell because each resident soul tries to feed himself. But because of the stiff and straight hands, he could not feed himself. He is left salivating for the food around him. Heaven on the other hand is the same except that all souls serve each other! They reach out for food and serve that food to everyone. In the end, others serve him too. Thus, everybody savor the food around.
If we do the same here on earth, we will have heaven on earth! As it is, hell seems to be the prevailing experience!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time B

Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time reads the final part of the sixth Chapter of John's Gospel, the Bread of Life Discourse of Jesus. We really can not get enough of this teaching. Repeatedly and without bore, Jesus tells His disciples who He is. He went as far as telling them to eat Him! The sincerity of Jesus in the message broke the camel's back to many. They could not accept being made cannib
als. They who left their families, homes, livelihood, and lands, felt shortchanged. It would not be far fetched to say that they thought Jesus was too much inebriated with wine that He did not know what He was saying. Or that He was affected by His hunger due to too much fasting and living in austerity! They thought He was the Messiah they were waiting for. With those words, He failed them!

Twenty-Eight Sunday in Ordinary Time: Eternal Life, Anyone?

Twenty-Eight Sunday in Ordinary Time: The Gospel is direct to the point; you want eternal life? Then, free yourself from everything and if I may add, everyone! The scene is very vivid. Here we have a rich man who may have only wish for one thing more. That one thing could not be acquired by his riches nor his talents. That one thing can only be given. And it is the Lord Jesus who can. I am sure he
 humbled himself before Jesus confident that his track record as a believer suffices. Then, he got the shock of his life. It turned out that none of what he has could obtain that one thing! Worse, when confronted with the choice between his many possessions and that one thing, he chose the former!

What do we have here? Simply that what is of the world is of the world. The created world has no value and place in eternal life. When we finally leave this earth, we should be free from them. We can even say that unless one has become completely free from the world he can not attain eternal life. The words of Jesus reverberate here; "For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but suffers the loss of his own soul?" Even the whole of the world can not do anything to merit eternal life.

Which brings us to the main issue here. How important is eternal life to you? The answer here will determine the way we relate with this world. If, like the man, our possessions or life here ranks better, then we will also leave Jesus. If not, then we will be willing to give up everything for that one thing which is eternal life.

Jesus does not really meant hat as soon as we make this decision, instantly we will gather everything we have and dispose them. No. Jesus just wanted to establish who is most important to us. That whenever it is required, we must ready to give them all up. St. Ignatius calls it "inordinate attachment". We can have ownership but never enslaved by them. Sabi nga sa wika natin, "Kung meron, salamat. Kung mawala, salamat din!" Our life does not stand on those things but only on God. At most, we use them to advance our relationship with God. And yes, even our life is included in this. Martyrs are good examples of that. As St. paul said, "Nothing can separate us from the love of God". Nothing too should stop us from attaining eternal life. This is very timely because in a week's time, another Filipino saint and martyr will be recognized by the Church. They exemplify the very message of he Gospel today. Different from the rich man, Lorenzo and Pedro heeded Jesus and abandoned their very lives to follow Him!

Beauty Is In The Heart Of The Holder

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder." I say, beauty is in the heart of the holder!

The Gospels these days are about the response of strong response of Jesus on the hypocrisy of the pharisees, scholars of the law, and the scribes. He criticized them for not being witnesses to what they teach. He reminded them not to just show off but work with humility. He pointed out to them the non-value of b
eautifying externals if the internals stink with ugliness and evil.

What is being beautiful before the Lord?

If you are, for the world, physically wanting in beauty and your attitude is found wanting too, you are beauty-less.

If you are, for the world, physically wanting in beauty but possess a good heart, you are beautiful!

If you are full of physical beauty but have a bad attitude, you have lost that beauty.

But if you are physically and internally beautiful, then you are full of beauty not only with people but also before the Lord!