Saturday, March 31, 2007

When Late Is Late?

A lot of times I had been asked how late one can be for mass and still be considered as having attended it? At what point must one make sure that he is already in the church so as not to be guilty of having missed it? Are there reasons that are valid enough to be excused for being late? May we make up for the missed parts of the mass in the next mass? Related questions like; How grave is the sin committed in being late? What if he is in a place when there is no church? When one is sick or suddenly has some important things to attend to, is he excused?
I believe these are very dangerous questions. They are questions that are usually proposed by those whose attitude, in this case, whose worship, are determined more by having attended rather than experienced and celebrated the liturgy in its essence (presence more than essence). For someone who is serious about his faith and considers it as necessary in his life, being late is not an issue.

In the first place, there is no reason to be late. Exceptional cases are legitimate excuses. The assumption is that one had prepared well for the celebration. Enough time and anticipation of unexpected delays had already been considered. Therefore, if one is late because of too much traffic, helping somebody in need on the way to the church, an emergency, flat tire etc., he is excused. It really does not matter at what part of the mass he arrived. The point is if he really intended to be present on time but did not make it because of unanticipated delays. Without the anticipated delays, however, there is no excuse to be late.

This brings us to the very meaning of the mass in our lives. It is the summit of Christian worship. It is also the center of our Christian life. We can not be a Christian without celebrating the mass. There was a time when attendance in a mass is not really a celebration because of meager participation (if it can be called as such) from the congregation. The priest faced the tabernacle with his back towards the people. The congregation responded depending on the gestures made by the priest. That was the only way they could determine at what part of the mass they were already in. They were practically reduced to being watchers to the mass. Vatican II paved the way for the renewal of Christian worship. The mass is now being celebrated the way we have it now. Priest and congregation are now having a dialogic celebration. There is greater participation on the pat of the people. Now, worship is more alive and active.

The mass is the continuation of the act of Jesus in Calvary. His death on the cross was the bloody event that merited forgiveness of sin and salvation to all. The saving action of Jesus did not end in Calvary. When He instituted the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper, He commanded the apostles to do the meal in remembrance of Him. He told them that every time they do the meal, He is being remembered and that it effects the salvation of all. Therefore, every mass that is celebrated is not a repetition or mere intellectual remembrance of the event in Calvary, but a continuation of that same event in an unbloody manner. (“Remember” in the Jewish tradition and the Christian meaning is not only an exercise of the mind but an experience of that that happened in the past.) In the mass, it is still the Lord Jesus who is the Victim. The priest, by virtue of his ordination, represents Christ, the true Lamb of God.

It follows too that if we really value our salvation, then, the mass is a necessary event. More than any other commitment, the mass should rank the highest. Because of its unfathomable worth, it can not be taken for granted. It can not be compromised. It can not be forgotten. It can not be set aside. It can not be missed. We can not be late for it.

At the mass, we believe that Jesus is present in Himself (mismo). He is actually present in so many ways in a mass. He is present in the priest (His alter Christus). He is present in the gathered community. He is the Word of God read before the congregation. But He is perfectly present (par excellence) in the Eucharist. When we receive communion, the priests says, “Body of Christ!” He means to tell the communicant that he is giving Jesus Himself. The communicant responds with “Amen!”. It is a response of faith, meaning, “Yes,, I believe it is the Lord Jesus I am receiving.” Nowhere in the world could we best find and meet the Lord than in the Eucharist. Therefore, the necessity for the mass can never be overemphasized. Its meaning and significance extends beyond it.

The more relevant questions should be; Why should we go to mass? How must we prepare for it? How should we participate in it? What do we miss or lose when we fail to participate in it? Can we live without it?

So, do not be late! Rather, anticipate it with excitement!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

What Did Jesus Write?

After the mass for this fifth Sunday of Lent where the Gospel was about the adulterous woman, I was approached by at least three people and asked me about what Jesus wrote on the ground while waiting for the elders to cast a stone at her. I was a bit surprised at how that little detail interested and intrigued some of the people. As far as I know, there had been books by some theologians trying to interpret that act of Jesus. But nothing was conclusive. I believe it was just an attempt of the Lord Jesus to merely while the time while waiting for some actions from the elders. It was a gesture of being disinterested. The key to the Gospel is not in what Jesus wrote but in what He did for the woman and the challenge He put before the elders. The Gospel showed God's mercy to the miserable and His serious quest to save everyone. On the other hand, His statement of challenge to the elders was just to probe and expose their real motivation for bringing the woman before her. In the first place, they could have gone on punishing the woman. But they, instead, used her for their purpose of trapping Jesus. There was no doubt as to the guilt of the woman because she was caught in the act. Jesus had no dispute against the law of Moses nor did He insinuated that the best judgment can only be made by one who is clean. He was questioning the intentions of the elders. The decision o f the elders not to cast a stone at the woman proved that they had evil intentions rather than seek for justice.

We must be thankful that God is God. We must be thankful that He is merciful. The mercy that we doubt and do not want for other sinners, maybe the very mercy we will need for ourselves! Mercy had been God's way from the very beginning. We just had not tried it fully yet. If only we will exercise mercy to each other, justice and peace are not that far away!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Divinity Through Forgiveness

"To err is human, To forgive is divine." This seems to be the refuge of many and I may add, some sinners. It is a very convenient excuse when we are guilty. It has become an easy resort for our weaknesses to cope with our human limitations. It further implies that hard commandments like forgiveness and loving one' s enemies are not achievable by us but by God alone. Therefore, because we are humans, we can commit mistakes now and then and not feel guilty about it.

But forgiveness is at the heart of the Christian faith. A Christian could not just dispense "forgiveness" as strictly a divine act. He is expected to live it. The fact that he had been created in God's image and likeness proves that he are capable of the divine. His humanity does not enslave to the point that we can not transcend it. The grace of God, when received and lived would help any human being to go beyond himself and achieve that which is normally impossible.

I claim that many would not believe divinity would be achieved through forgiveness because they had not tried it at all! We usually get even. We prefer to the "silent treatment" tactic. We prefer to plant grudge or keep it in our hearts. We feel violated and therefore, forgiveness is merely a sign of weakness much more an act of consenting or allowing what had happened. These are what are expected in every human. These are expected of those who prefer to remain human. These are what happens to those who wanted to take cover in their humanity. These are what we resort to. But these are not what we are only capable of. We can forgive if we want. We can be like our Father who is perfect not because we want to be God too, but because it is what had been willed by the Father for us. The least we could do is to fulfill God's plan and hope for us. That much we must do if only to be worthy of this life, His life, that He shared to us.

Indeed, to forgive is divine! But not to mean that because God is divine, He is the only one who can forgive. When humans forgive, they share God's divinity. It is precisely the reason why He commanded us to forgive. God wanted us to achieve divinity in being forgiving. The Christian differs from from all other believers due to his capacity and willingness to forgive. Forgiveness is being Christian. Forgiveness is being divine!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

St. Al's Rebuilding (2) - It Was A Fiery Welcome!

After our September 3, 2004, (Friday), Installation ceremonies, we prepared for the next important celebration; September 8, the birth of the Virgin Mary. The faithful brought their images of the Virgin Mary in the church. The altar was beautifully decorated. The joy of the installation and the celebration of the birth of the Virgin made us more inspired and elated. Little did we know, that it will be the "calm" before the storm. At the ceiling, heat had been intensifying and slowly developing to a potential fire. I was awakened in my sleep at about five in the morning by the sounds of sirens from firemen and a knock from one of my households. Fire! Fire! Fire! I asked, "Where?" "The church!", came the response. I could not believe it. How can our church, which is dominantly concrete, could catch fire? When I looked to see the fire, I could not believe it. The fire was raging and gives off too much heat. I just found myself staring blankly at what was happening. I did not know how to respond. I just froze! It was useless to get inside and get the Blessed Sacrament. Nothing can be saved anymore.

After the fire, I asked the security guard-in-charge, what happened. He said that he went to the church at about half past four to open the door, as was customary, for the early mass goers who would pray the rosary. He did not notice that the church at that point was already full of smoke and was very very hot. When he opened the door, the church immediately went aflame. The fire quickly spread all over the church. After investigation, it was found out that it was caused by "faulty electrical wiring". When the church was air-conditioned, a ceiling was placed to cover the wiring and provide for aesthetic and acoustic purposes. The fire started in the ceiling and got to the pews when burning ceiling panels fell down.

The early mass goers were also there witnessing what was happening. The church that had served them for more than forty years is now being gutted slowly by fire. Many were in tears. Gen. Aglipay, a regular morning mass attendee was there to give support. He told me that we will immediately rebuild the church. After the fire, we gathered ourselves in the bahay-kubo at the back of the church. We celebrated mass together with Fr. Raffy, our guest assistant priest. When the time for my homily came, I was only able to say some introductory words and then I broke down and cried. What dawned on me was what I said during my installation. I felt guilty having said that I was in this parish not to build buildings but people. I realized that I was being given a lesson by God for not being humble and for having my own will than His. Now, I am faced with building a new church. In the Sunday that followed, I gave a message to the people and explained to them what happened and what are our plans. Now, we will build the community through the rebuilding of the church. These are times when we have to live more our faith. The burning of our church is not the end. It is our Good Friday that will lead to its rebuilding which will be our Easter. It will be a blessing in disguise. It is part of God's plan. God has a very important message for all of us. God will see us through this.

The day after, many came to see the remains of our burned church. They have their own stories to tell regarding their experiences in our church. I was there to welcome them and inform them about what happened. They empathize with us and promised that they will help. Archbishop Dency Rosales, who was just with us six days ago during the installation also visited. He condoled with me and intimated that during the installation, he meant to tell me that the church needed renovation because it was too dark. Little did he know that not a renovation but a complete rebuilding would be done. He said, "Fr. Benny, you had a fiery welcome!"

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

It is God's Power And No Other!

In our Gospel reading we have today, the paralytic waits for the pool of Bethesda to stir and strives to plunge himself to the pool first in order to obtain healing. But he would always be beaten by another sick person who is quicker. It seems that he should resign himself not to be healed anymore for he could never get to the pool first. But Jesus came and thanks to Him, he was healed without having to get to the pool first.

The Jews believed that if they plunge themselves to that pool first, they will be healed. They have faith that the pool water will cure them. It was not mentioned in that Gospel of John whether those who plunged first were all cured. But Jesus, in healing the paralytic, had driven home the essential meaning of healing or a miracle. It is God's power that heals. It is not the water (in this case), or the oil, or the words, or the touch, or the cloth, or anything that is being used in healing, that heals. Nor is it the person or place. Things, places, and persons are instruments of God who is the real healer. It would be wrong to attribute the healing to any of these other than God. Miracles or healings happen when the grace of God meets with the faith of human beings. Miracles can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime. God always make available His power. You need not be in Fatima (Portugal), Lourdes (France), Naju (Korea) or Lipa (Batangas, Philippines) in order to be healed. Yes, those places were special places of healings for many, but not to all. Faith still is necessary. Those who had gone there did not necessarily change or were healed. In fact, they are even expected to exhibit more holiness because they were able to be in a place of special presence of God.

If change, or conversion, or healing or miracles do always happen in these places, then, all we have to do would be to finance the trip of people who we believe need change. In that way, the world will be a better place to live in. But we know it is not the case. It is the grace of God and the faith of men that effect change. Remember that God is everywhere and He could effect miracles or healing anywhere, at anytime, to anyone. Also, it hard to imagine that only those who can afford to be in special places of miracles, approach gifted healers, or avail of healing materials, will be healed or converted. God would then be a God of those who can afford and avail. No, it is not so. God graces are available to all.

The Good News is thatthe perfect presence and graces of God are really readily and always available to all of us, especially here in the Philippines. The place and event when we can meet the Lord in His perfect presence and avail of His healing grace is in the daily mass, in the Eucharist. One can expect healing in every Eucharist attended. The Eucharist, being the highest form of prayer and worship offers God' Himself in His body and blood. The Eucharist is salvific because it is the continuation of Jesus' saving action on the cross. The salvation that resulted in His death on the cross is also given in every celebrated Eucharist. The Eucharist is the bloodless saving action of Jesus Christ.

Therefore, in order for one to obtain healing, or miracle, or conversion, he can avail of it now, here, and to himself. More than anything, anyone, or anywhere, God's power does it. Faith is the only response that can put it into fruition. Believe and live!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

It Is A LOVE Offering

The Offertory maybe one of the most misunderstood or misinterpreted part of the Catholic Mass. The Offertory draws its meaning in the scriptural tradition of offering to God "the best" fruits of one's labor. It is his way of thanking God for the graces he had received especially in his livelihood. The offering may then be used by the Christian community (Church) especially the more needy. The story of Cain and Abel depicted it clearly. Cain was jealous of Abel because God praised the offering of Abel. Abel, an animal raiser, offered the first born (considered the best of the flock) of his flock and some fats as well while Cain, a farmer, offered the fruits of the soil. Then God told Cain that if what he did was right, he had nothing to be ashamed of. The consequent reaction of Cain showed that he was more absorbed with his jealousy than in giving to God the best fruits of his harvest. The offering should be an act of thanksgiving to God for His generosity and not to give for the sake of giving or to just a show for God.

The mass is the highest form of worship of the Catholic faith. Part of that worship is offering himself to God. In the mass, the faithful offers himself to God in the form of the fruits of his labors. In the mass, God also offers Himself in the form of the bread and wine which becomes His Body and Blood. At present, money is the most convenient and appropriate symbol of offering. Before, animals, vegetables, and other products and properties had been offered. However, the impracticality and inconvenience of these material offerings pave the way for more simple but still meaningful offerings be made. Money or the like became the most popular offering. While the best products of one's labor is not anymore being offered, the purpose is still achieved by the equivalent of the offering in monetary terms.

The money offered voluntarily is usually used to support the maintenance and operations of the church. Other excess funds maybe used for apostolates. The Church depends so much in the offerings of the faithful. The support of the faithful will sustain the ministry of the Church. The offerings are also considered as donations. They are not "payments" in the case of the sacraments. Sacraments are free. They are done for the salvation of the faithful. Donations are asked or voluntary given as support for the church. However, nobody is denied of the sacraments just because he has nothing to give or to donate.

The community must set aside certain part of their income to be offerings in support of the church. This is to always make available the ministry of the church for the salvation of all. Their assistance, which are fruits of their labor, would become aids in bringing everyone to salvation. The amount is not important. Whatever one can afford is enough and sufficient. Everything must be given out of Love. It must be seen not as investing something for the future bu as an act of thanksgiving to God who can not be outdone in generosity.

Friday, March 16, 2007

St. Al's Rebuilding (1)- Installation Of The New Parish Priest

Starting today, I will be writing my accounts, ideas, reflections and views on the construction of our church building here in St. Alphonsus Mary De Liguori Parish, Magallanes Village.

It will be good to start with the day of my installation as the new parish priest on the afternoon of September 3, 2004, a first Friday. We were blessed with the presence of then Archbishop of Manila, Arch. Gaudencio "Lolo" Rosales and some priests. The church were filled with friends, relatives and previous parishioners from San Juan Nepomuceno, in Malibay, Pasay City. The celebration started smoothly and with solemnity. But something happened after the rite of installation. I was then kneeling before the Archbishop who was sitting on a chair. Then, we both stood. He, near the chair, while I, to the chair to sit. The movements are to show the Archbishop entrusting to me the teaching authority, pastoral care, and liturgical leadership in the parish as parish priest. However, the server, thinking that I was going to pose with the Archbishop for a picture, removed the chair I was suppose to occupy. Trusting that the chair was still there, I sat without knowing the chair had been removed already. I fell, but not completely, because the Archbishop was quick and alert to grab my hand. He saved me from completely falling and hit the floor. It was very symbolic! Will he be the one who will take care of me in the coming days?

The story did not end there. In his introduction in his homily, he said that now, I already know who is my greatest enemy in the parish; "the server who pulled the chair". It drew some laughter from everybody, including me! After communion, it was my turn to speak. Part of what I said was what I also said when I was installed in my previous parish. In full, I said that I am blessed by having a new parish that already has everything in it; a church, a convent, a memorial chapel, a columbarium and a parish office. There is really nothing more to build. Anyway, I came to the parish not to build buildings, but to build people.

Six days later, the church got burned!

Why Confess To A Priest?

This is one of the questions regarding the Catholic Sacrament of Reconciliation. Why confess to a priest? Maybe, the better question would be, "Why the Sacrament of Reconciliation?" We, Catholics believe that it is instituted by the Lord Jesus when He commanded the apostles to bind those sins that must be bound and free those sins that must be freed. The apostles also witnessed and experienced the attitude of forgiveness by the Lord Jesus. They also heard all His parables and teachings about forgiveness. The act of forgiveness is constitutive of the ministry of the Lord Jesus.

The rite of the sacrament of reconciliation was not the way it was during the time of the Lord Jesus. He did not hear confessions as priests are doing it today. Even during the time of the apostles, after the Ascension of the Lord, reconciliation was done differently. The early Christians, based on their experience and life of prayer, developed the rite of reconciliation as we have it today. However, the very essence and spirit of the act had been preserved and maintained.

It is obvious during the time of Jesus. He directly forgave those who had sinned against God. During the time of the apostles, as told in Scriptures, they were told to talk it over between them. They should ask another to be a witness if they could not reconcile by themselves. Then, the community was the last resort. It should be resolved in the community. They are encouraged to deal with it in the church. Later, because of some complications and the call for sensitivity, privacy and prudence, reconciliation became more private. The priest, the most trusted and respected leader in the community, became its designated minister. As the community lived its faith, the rite of the sacrament developed and improved. But in spite of these developments and changes, it remained the way the Lord Jesus meant it to be, that is, to give an opportunity for a sinner to reconcile with God, the community, and himself.

But why not directly to God? Why to a priest? Well, why not? Confession to a priest does not eliminate nor disregard direct confession. But, the sacrament provides the human aspect of the need to reconcile with God. The priest represents God and the community. If one is contrite, he will definitely be forgiven by God. That is assured by God. But how can we know when we are forgiven? How can we be helped in understanding our sins and therefore more successful in avoiding them? How can we learn from them so that we will not repeat them anymore? Yes God is there and He will enlighten us. But we must also recognize that He uses ministers, who had been formed and trained in the faith, to concretely address and help sinners. In other words, the minister in the confessional provides for the penitent the words, companionship, and empathy he needs to feel Gods' wonderful love and forgiveness. We need to hear a voice, feel a touch, see compassion, smell understanding, and taste being loved again!


I was guest today in the program of Bishop Chito Tagle, "Light Talk". It is being aired every Sunday at 11 pm every Sunday. Quite late but it is worth it. Our topic was "Sin and Forgiveness".

It is interesting to note that the tagalog word for "sin", "sala", says so much about its nature. "Sala", which translates in english, "to miss the mark", is really about missing the mark. One sins when he veers away from his designated path. One sins when he steps out of the path of God. One sins when he adapts a direction that will not end with God. This much can help us understand sin.

If God is our goal. If to be with Him is our destiny. If we believe that our hearts will never rest until it rests in God, then we should stay on path and do everything to reach our goal and destiny who is God.

God's answer to our sinfulness is forgiveness. The value and reason of forgiveness had been questioned so many times. Its true purpose and value had been doubted. But what should be our response to sin? Sin? Revenge? Getting even? Are these really solutions or are they really doors to further sins? The latter seems to be the truth. Sin spirals to greater sins when we address them not with forgiveness. Only forgiveness puts it to a stop.

We can now understand why the Lord Jesus, instead of wielding His power and authority on those who crucified Him, uttered words of forgiveness while dying on the cross. While it is true that there are still sins today, we must admit that it could have been worse if there are no Christians who live forgiveness. The world is with hope because of the call and response to forgiveness. Our life had been with livable because of people who are willing to give others a second, third, or even a fourth chance.

It is interesting to note that many still had not discovered the beauty and greatness of forgiveness. God had given us a very good example. Are we not glad that God is God? If anyone of us had been God, where do you think we will all be? The fact that God is God gives us a chance to be forgiven. We are better understood by the God that we have. We do not anymore deserve life by the sins we had committed. But because God loves us so much, even giving His own Son to die for us, we continue to live and we are given so much chances to redeem our lives.

"Forgive us our sins. As we forgive those who sin against us." This is part of the prayer taught to us by the Lord Jesus. It is a perfect prayer because it came from Jesus. It is a perfect prayer because it contains everything that a prayer must have. Forgiveness is at the heart of the teaching of Jesus . It is at the heart of the Christian faith. Every Christian is expected to forgive. Forgiveness re-connect that which had been disconnected. It unites what had been divided. It heals what had been wounded. It perfects what is wanting. Therefore, if we want to be complete, to be full, to be one, we must forgive and ask forgiveness. There is no other way. There is no other choice. There is no other.

How many times must we forgive? Not seven times, but seventy times seven times!

Friday, March 9, 2007

Satisfying Everyone

"You can not satisfy everyone." It is a statement based on the everyday and proven experience that there will always be one person or an opinion that will not agree with yours. It is the resignation of one who had arrived at a point of decision without achieving full agreement from everybody. If this is the case, does it mean then that no decision or project can be made without anyone disagreeing? Does it mean that no project will be successful? Is success equivalent to the agreement of everyone?

But given that it is hard to have, at times, a unanimous decision on certain matters, it is still a good attitude to aim for perfection in order to set a high standard in one's work. "Be perfect as my Father is perfect", says Jesus Christ. To give the best is always a good attitude which brings the best if not the perfect result. Also, it makes one always humble yet aspiring go greatness

In the end, what matters is that I had done what I believe should and could do. Having left no stone unturned had given me sleeps that were sound because I was spared from the thought that I could have done more or should have done this or that. I had given my best and if my best was not good enough, I had accepted it with all humility. It served as a challenge and inspiration for me to go on and not get discouraged. "When the going gets rough, the Christian gets going!"

All of these failures and successes should converge to a certain purpose. Salvation! Yes, it is the bottom line and goal of everything. Not mere success. What really matters is the end for which life had been lived. We do not live for this world alone. Successes are not the only requirement for eternal life. Nor failures are life's minuses and therefore an obstruction for entry into heaven. It is about the whole of life. It is about attitudes, intentions, the heart and the spirit of living. After having loved, believed, and hoped, God would look at how we have loved, believed, and hoped.

Eureka! It is not about satisfying anyone or everyone. It is about satisfying God. It is about following His will. That is what is life is about. To belong to God and be obey Him at all times.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Election 105 - Crossing The Line?

At present, there is an intense and big clamor from some people of Batangas for Mayor-Actress Vilma Santos-Recto to reconsider her earlier decision not to run for governor of Batangas against her brother-in-law, Vice-Governor Ricky Recto. In a speech she gave before the increasing crowd of supporters in front of the City of Lipa Municipal Office, she said that she is going to make a final decision after a week. It will be recalled that Ms. Santos-Recto originally decided to run for governor. However, it got complicated when her brother-in-law, the incumbent Vice-Governor Ricky Recto, decided to also run for governor. The Recto family, a political power in the area, is now threatened to be divided due to this development. Sen. Ralph Recto, husband of Mayor Santos-Recto, persuaded his wife to give in to his brother without promising to support him. Mayor Santos-Recto reluctantly agreed.However, the recent development of the active and open clamor of the people of Batangas for Mayor Santos-Recto to run as governor made her reconsider.

In order to make a correct and responsible decision, the mayor sought the assistance and guidance of the Archbishop of Lipa, Arch. Ramon Arguelles, D.D., to help her in the discernment process. However, there were talks about the Archbishop agreeing with the candidacy of Mayor Santos-Recto. As a leader of the Catholic Church, it would seem that it was unexpected of him to express his favor for the mayor. Many, in this country, had cried, "Separation of The (Catholic) Church and State." whenever an official of the Church expresses his opinions and suggestions to people in government, much more expressing ones preferences among candidates. Many know that the Catholic Church is very influential in this country. What it says usually has an effect and following, politics included. Therefore, this incident may become an issue against the Catholic Church.

Had the Archbishop crossed the line here? Was he dispensing his ministry faithfully here? Personally, while I agree that he is walking on thin ice here, I trust his judgment. There are times when a leader of the Church may "cross the line" for the sake of the People of God. The ministry of the priesthood, especially the bishop, is essentially to serve the people. It includes even helping them in the selection of their leaders. And when it is very very clear, he can even side with or endorse one. The Church can never just watch on the side especially when the threat of evil or devastation of her people is at stake. I really do not know all the things that are happening in Lipa. The Archbishop knows better. He even know Mayor Santos better. I believe he has great reasons for coming out and practically endorse Ms. Santos. He knows what are at stake here. He was risking his office and the Catholic Church. It must be worth it.

I do not know where this will lead to. What will be the effect of this to the people of Batangas? How about other places? What has the CBCP has to say to this? How about the Pope? I am sure he had already been made aware of this. How will the other party react to this? What will media cook up from this? In any case, the authentic and serious efforts of the bishop and the Church to lead humanity towards a good life here on earth and glory in the next life, would definitely bring everything to its intended destiny. The Church can never and will never be a fence-sitter in situations like these.

My prayers and support go to Archbishop Monching!

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Mother Power!

"Mother knows best." A mother usually knows her every child. Why? Because she is bonded with her child from conception to birth and early childhood. For nine months, a mother had carried her child in her womb. Then, the birth of the child further cemented their relationship. The labor and birth pains which put the life of the mother in danger became an instant reason for their super closeness. And rearing up a child exhibits one of the most intimate relationships this world has known.

I would like to share two stories which happened between a mother and a daughter.

A friend mother told me about her child of three years who gave her a lesson on the importance of being careful with what we say to our children. One day she discovered that her bag had been touched. After examination of its contents, she found out that some bills were missing. She remembered that it was her daughter who last touched it. So, she called her daughter and asked her about the money. The child told her that she threw them in the waste basket. She tried to contain her anger. She asked her child why did she throw the money in the waste basket. The child answered, "Because you told me that money is dirty!". Oo nga naman mommy! Di ba sinabi mo nga yun?

Another mother told me about her daughter of nine years who was not feeling well and had severe colds and cough. The mother gave her a tablet which the daughter immediately took. Then she went to school. At school, the teacher noticed that the child was not her usual bubbly self. She looked woozy and weak. The teacher sent her to the school doctor. The mother was called and was asked what medicines were given by her to her daughter. The mother told the school doctor that she was given a cold and cough tablet. Later, the mother, realized that she had given the wrong medicine to her child. She was given a relaxant instead of an expectorant! That was the reason for her being weak and sleepy. The child, when asked why she took the wrong medicine, answered, "It was what mommy gave me!" Basta sabi ni mommy!

We really need to appreciate the power of a mother to her child. Mothers should take advantage of their great influence to their children. If children are taught good values, they would grow with those values. You, can you remember the influences your mother had given you that had contributed much to your maturity and are still useful at present?

The Catholic Church: Constructing On Criticisms

Who is afraid of criticisms? If there is one institution that is being criticized left and right, side by side, down and under, and all over, it is the Catholic Church. As an institution that had been in existence for more than two thousand years and had been attacked, shamed, undermined, betrayed, and what have you, she had continued to exist and even progressed through all those years. After each threat and test, she emerged as more stable, strong, true, and credible.

The Catholic Church had never wavered and retreated against any criticism (constructive or destructive). She had always viewed every criticism as an opportunity to proclaim what she believed. She had always considered every criticism as a door to clarify and define her beliefs (thus, the emergence of dogmas). She had always accepted criticisms as challenges to her faith. She had always constructed and even thrived on criticisms. Because of criticisms, the Catholic Church in fact became bigger in spite of the departure of some faithfuls.

The Catholic Church had not claimed that all of her beliefs are crystal clear and could be logically and empirically explained. Precisely because she is an institution of faith, she accepts the fact that she is a human reality and at the same time a divine mystery. Her destiny is not in this earth and in this lifetime. She is just on a journey here on earth and has her goal geared towards the next life which she believes as "heaven". She is very confident about her faith because it came directly from the Son of God. She is humble enough to accept that there are things she does not know and will never know because it is beyond her human capacity. But that is enough for her to sustain her life here on earth. At the proper time and with the right disposition, God would reveal to her the facts of life and faith. And through the years, God had proven it.

That is why, when phenomena will arise undermining and confusing the faith, the Church does not panic nor does she immediately react negatively. Recently, there had been incidents like these, e.g. The Da Vinci Code, Gospel of Judas, and now, the finding of the alleged tomb of the family of Jesus. It is really hard to see the reasons of those who are responsible for the emergence of these "criticisms(?)" or "attacks(?)". In any case, it is not important and relevant. As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the emergence of these phenomena would just pave the way for a better Catholic Church. She provides an opportunity to explain the faith at an atmosphere when everyone is interested. The three things mentioned above helped a lot in gathering an interested audience be clarified and taught about the Catholic faith. In other words, the Catholic Church had gained a lot out of these "controversies".

Therefore, as the saying goes, "bring it on". Not that the Catholic Church is challenging those people who are against the her. Nor is she being arrogant knowing that she has nothing to lose. Or even taunting them just so she would be able to develop her faith. But just communicating the message that she is the One, True, Holy, Apostolic, and Catholic Church. Amen!

Friday, March 2, 2007

Election 104 - Do We Really Need A Citizen Arm?

Elections in our country used to be simple compared to how it was in the last 20 years. Well, at most, more simple. I remember in the '60's, there were only two political parties, the Liberal Party(LP) and the Nacionalista Party(NP). Those who ran for elections who were not members of these two parties would ran as independents. In a national election, the maximum presidential candidates usually were three, one each from the LP, the NP, and independent. Senatorial and Congressional candidates were usually between the two parties. I also remember that each party advocated a specific platform of government (much similar to the Democrats and the Republicans of the USA) and exhibited outstanding party unity and commitment. I believe, we used to have such atmosphere in our politics. While it was true that there were some violence committed, they were not as serious as today. What I was really very surprised at these last few elections was the blatant and brazen cheating that happened. Evidences supporting these cheating were very damning and fool proof and yet had been disposed without much objection from the people. That is very disturbing and a bad sign. Dati nahihiya pang mandaya, but now, parang tanggap na ng marami at puede na. What gave many the courage to cheat was because they can get away with it anyway. Up to now, there had been just a number who had been convicted of cheating. Many had been accused, with good reasons and clear evidences, but they only went as far as having been charged, with a few being heard but not immediately consummated. The worst I have heard was a certain protesting candidate who had been proven to have been cheated but was only given his office the day before the end of his term. If this would be the trend of the decisions on cheating charges , then nobody could be stopped from cheating. And if found guilty, they could still govern throughout their term. anyway. One only has to be proclaimed by the COMELEC, and then, "maghabol ka na sa tambol mayor"!

It was a similar situation during the time of Marcos. The citizenry had become aware of the cheating done by Marcos and company. The Filipino people rallied to preserve the dignity of the elections and to fight the dictatorship. A citizen's arm, NAMFREL was born due to that need. A watchdog must appear to help the COMELEC and the parties to conduct a credible election. Some people who are willing to be non-partisan joined for the sake of the elections. I, still a seminarian then, participated as a NAMFREL volunteer in 1985 (?) elections between Cory and Marcos. We, as seminarians, were forced to actively participate just to ensure a clean and honest elections.

That should have been the last time NAMFREL, acting as a citizen arm, operated. Having gained a new set of leaders with fresh and credible mandate, it should have proceeded to more trust and faith in the system specially the elections. But it did not turn out that way. Parang lasing pa rin yung iba sa dating gawain. It seemed that the "electionem cheatarus virus" only transferred to the next set of leaders. Di pa rin nangyari yung inaasahang pagbabago. The "Kami naman." attitude prevailed. Thus, not much change had happened. In the next elections, the citizen arm was still needed.

Now we have other citizen arms aside from NAMFREL. PPCRV, an advocacy group formed by the Catholic Church, responded to the same situation. The commitment of the Catholic Church to help in having a clean and honest election was being called. "Boto Ko, Dangal Ko! was its battle cry. It was a non-partisan group that sought to promote the dignity of one's vote. It was not only a political duty, but a spiritual activity as well. We owed it to our country and our people. We owed it to God.

But do we really need a citizen arm, whether it is NAMFREL or PPCRV or any group? Do we really need to guard the parties and the COMELEC regarding how they are conducting the elections? Is it really not possible to have a clean and honest elections without an independent non-partisan group watching? Is it not a sign of lack of maturity on the part of the parties and the COMELEC? Di ba magiging para silang mga bata na dapat pang bantayan kung tama ang gagawin o kung mandadaya o hindi?

I believe the citizen arm is not anymore needed. Not that I discourage the people not to get involved and be vigilant in the election process. If the members of the parties will just toe the lines and see to it that they will be ladies and gentlemen before, during, and after the elections, who needs a citizen arm? Why the effort, time and money from a watchdog when it can be done even without them? The presence of a citizen arm will in fact give the impression that the parties and the COMELEC can not be trusted! Our country needs another group to guard and see to it that there are no cheating among the candidates? For me, it just does not look good. More importantly, it means lack of political maturity. After many years of elections, we have not matured? We have not grown? As the oldies would say, " Tumatanda ng paurong."

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Election 103 - The Media?

Yesterday, there was a Memorandum Of Agreement (MOA) signing among Radio Veritas, PPCRV (Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting) and the CMN (Catholic Media Network) for the purpose of covering the coming May 2007 elections. Members of the media were invited. Some came and covered the event and did some interviews to the heads of the three institutions. The questions regarding the elections and its conduct were answered very well and comprehensively. Basically, the aim is to preserve the dignity of the elections. It begins with the education of the voters regarding responsible use of their power to vote. Then the encouragement to go to the polls and vote. Then the vigilance to guard the vote. The citizenry should see to it that their votes are counted. Whoever wins based on the votes, should be accepted as winner. That basically constitutes the work and also the non-partisan stand of the Church. While it is true that bishops and priests have their own preferences, they must externally maintain not pushing for a particular candidate but help everybody to make a good decision ad see to it that the elections had been conducted well.

I was hoping that these views and positions would be transmitted to the people through the help of the media people present. A lot of footage were taken and a lot of answers were said. I anticipated the showing of the coverage in the news at night. Finally, I caught one on GMA7 (who incidentally came late), I was surprised that nothing on the signing and the stand for the elections was shown! Instead, footage on the answers regarding the discovery of the tomb of Jesus were given importance. I came to know that the questions were not limited on the event. Some of the media present took advantage of the opportunity to ask the Catholic Church regarding the news about the finding of the alleged tomb of Jesus.

Well, that is media, they said. But that is unfair. And yet they claim to tell the truth? Rather, it should be more of their chosen truth. They cry that the public has a right to know. Well, it becomes clear that they only give what they want the public to know. It was really frustrating that the more important aspect of the elections brought about by that event had been set aside. Now, we have to find some other ways to do it.

Next time, we have to be careful.

Media can really make or break a situation. Worse, they really can make or break you!