Sunday, March 30, 2008

No Better Mercy Than Divine Mercy

Today is the feast day of the divine mercy. We have the Gospel of John relating how the apostle Thomas missed the appearance of Christ to the apostles and asked that he be given the opportunity to put his fingers in the wounds of Christ for him to believe that Christ really resurrected. In the Gospel, Christ greeted the apostles with "Peace be with you!". It really means that they are forgiven for having deserted and being unfaithful to Chrsit especially when He was being arrested, put to trial, made to suffer and crucified to His death. Christ was initiated reconciliation because He loved them and they needed His mercy.
But what is divine mercy? How does it differ from human mercy? Human mercy maybe defined as any human beings response to the need of another to satisfy or ease the others lack or misery. It is a feeling for and a decision to address the predicament of a needy. It can also be a feeling of empathy. The effort to extend oneself to the other and share in his situation. No matter how great, human mercy is limited. It may have everlasting effect but not because of its own merit but because of divine grace.
This brings us to divine mercy. Divine mercy goes beyond human mercy. It seeks to address not only the material and worldly need of a person, but more importantly, his moral and spiritual need. In other words, divine mercy is always salvific. Its purpose is always for the salvation of the recipient. Why do you think our petitions for healing were not answered in spite of our insistence and faith? Why do you think people continue to be poor in spite of the many prayers that had been uttered? Why do you think some relationships have been continuously rocked by division and misunderstanding in spite of the many pleadings and sacrifices had been made for its sake? Indeed, a lot of our needs had not been answered as expected. The answer is because God's concern are salvific matters. He may allow some things no matter how difficult and painful they will be for us, but He will never allow an opportunity for salvation to pass. His mercy is always available and effective to those who will need it because of their repentance. His mercy is always effective in response to a contrite and repentant heart.
Everywhere in scriptures, we can find this attitude of God in the Lord Jesus Christ. The parable of the prodigal son reflects the great mercy of God to the young son who got his share of the properties of his father while his father is still alive. After squandering the money and realize he had committed a great sin against God and his father, he repented and humbly walked back home to his father. The father unconditionally forgave his son. Unfortunately, the older brother did not follow the example of his father. It would have been the best opportunity to rise to the occasion and transcend his humanity by being merciful his younger brother. Worse, he was wanting in human mercy. The father in the parable is God and his forgiveness of his son is God's mercy. Embracing the child again in the family is like a sinner being accepted back in the family of God. The same happened to Peter, Magdalene, Zacchaeus, Matthew, the thief, Paul and all the sinners up to our time today. We have been constant beneficiaries of the great mercy of God in Jesus Christ. The Good news is that God will never run out of mercy! As long as there are people who are willing to repent, mercy will be available. The peace of Christ is reconciliation. The peace of Christ is an initiative to unite. The peace of Christ is divine mercy in action!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Why Rice?

The government says that there is no rice crisis. However, the price per kilo of rice had risen to as high as 40 pesos from the previous mid-twenty-peso level. This is mind boggling. If there is enough supply, a slight mark up in price would be the worst situation. If the price is too high, as the present situation exists, either there is a real shortage of rice, or somebody is making a killing by hoarding them rice! Hmmm, only in the Philippines! Certainly, some people are holding the key to the solution and explanation of this phenomenon. Is the government and some lucky private businessmen profiting from this weakness of our people?

Rice is our staple food. It is staple precisely because it is abundant and available in our country. When it becomes expensive and sourced from outside the country, it becomes very alarming. Some people are toying with the feelings and survival instincts of the citizenry. The country and its people are being hit at their very weakness. The situation is analogical to the experience of one of my servant in the church. One lay minister approached me one day and told me how his wife hurt him so much one Sunday. This lay minister had made a commitment to serve a particular mass every Sunday. He finds great fulfillment and happiness in serving God through his ministry. His wife knew that passion and commitment. On that Sunday, the wife was asking him to schedule a trip for them abroad. He said he was not available because there were a lot of things to do in the office which he can not delay. The wife, frustrated at the response, told him that she would not go to church with him. It was very painful for him. He told me that his wife knew where to hit him most. He was very sad and reluctantly stayed home with his wife. Similarly, the rice "crisis" is the crisis we needed in order for us to be severely hit.

As an agricultural country and because of the availability of many arable lands, we do not have any reason to have a rice shortage much more a rice crisis. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the world's institution for rice studies and research is right here in our country. In fact, they claim that the Filipinos are the best farmers in the world. The combination of available lands and expert farmers should make us the best in terms of rice production. So, where did we go wrong? What is happening to us? Why are we being enslaved by our own expertise?

It is not actually hard to see why we are in this predicament. Agriculture is not a priority in our country. That is the sad fact. While other countries such as the United States, Europe, and neighboring Asian countries are investing greatly in agriculture, the Philippines just treat agriculture very lightly. Food security is national security. Food products are the best produce everywhere, anywhere, anytime! Lack of government support to agriculture is the foremost reason (unless it is deliberate so as to have the opportunity to import and thus open up possibilities for corruption!). Farmers find it hard to engage in productive farming because they lack the necessary support which can only come from government like; farm to market roads, irrigation water and facilities, crop insurance, fertilizers, processing facilities, and farm implements. Other countries have all of these available so that their farmers will be inspired and dedicated to work in the farm. Here, our farmers are on their own. We can not help but think that if there are allotted funds for these, they are even not fully available because of corruption. Short term benefits are more important than long and lasting ones. If only full support would be given, we can generate food production that would be enough to give all of us the progress we need. Add to this the effect of climate change. Farmers are now very tentative and afraid to plant because they are not sure when it will rain. The timing of the rain is crucial both in planting and harvesting.

Because of the uncertainty of the situation and lack of support, farmers are forced to abandon their farm and sell their land. For every farmer doing this, lots of metric tons of rice are lost. This will necessarily lead to a certain shortage and will force us to import rice in order to sustain our need. Gone are the days, in the eighties, when we are the exporter of special quality rice to Thailand and other Asian countries. We have lost that position and worse, we are now importing from them. We have the technology. We have the experts and the farmers. But we do not have the support and logistics. We can turn it around if we want. But that is the billion dollar question; why are we not turning it around? Why are we not throwing full support to agriculture the way we are throwing support to the military and other departments? Everything is to be gained once we go full force in agriculture. Our survival depends on the progress in agriculture. But it seems nobody is moving. Meanwhile, other countries are happy because we had become an avid customer.

And I ask. Why rice? There are other things they can tamper or play with. Why rice? Why? Let us pray fervently that people who are responsible for this will have a change of heart. It is not worth it. This is just too much.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The (Im)Morality of Professional Boxing!

MuhammadAli_GeorgeForeman.jpgThis may not be a popular position but just the same, I need to write it because I believe it is a moral issue. I am referring to professional boxing. I believe there is a need to pose and reflect on the morality of this so called "sport". There is another kind of boxing which may really qualify as a sport; amateur boxing. Amateur boxers wear head gears and use standard gloves. Once a boxer receives a solid hit, the fight is immediately stopped and the referee gives the boxer a counting to help him recover. They only box for three rounds and the winner is determined more by the skill the boxer has in hitting his opponent rather than knocking him down. A knock down, in fact, is only equivalent to a solid hit. With professional boxing, there are no head gears, counts are only given after a knockdown and the easiest way to win is always to knockdown the other boxer. No wonder, a lot of professional boxers had trained so hard so that their punches will be "killers". No wonder a lot of boxers encountered their death on the ring and a good number had been physically damaged if not handicapped after fighting professionally for some years.

One need not really look far in order to see what it had done to its aficionado's. Just watch those who are watching it and memories of the time of the gladiators come to mind. While the gladiator's fight always end in death, professional boxing may not be far if it is not there yet, or if hurting or incapacitating the other boxer had already become an acceptable outcome. By what reason can one really root somebody to severely hurt, incapacitate, or knock out another? Some say, it is a "sport". Well, calling it a sport does not allow anyone to hurt if not to incapacitate, and in some cases accidentally kill another. If that is the case, then, professional boxing must not be considered a sport. Most, if not all sports, are about showing their particular skills without hurting the other. If in case there are contacts, they are part of the game and tolerable enough but not damaging. Sports should enhance the skills of athletes and encourage competition but not to hurt. If at all, professional boxing caters to the hunger of some people to be a witness to an abuse if not a slaughtering.

Here in the Philippines, it has another use. Government officials are identifying themselves with a winning professional boxer named Manny Pacquiao. Worse, they are claiming it as the unifying factor for the nation! Huh? Really? (How low can some people be?) He had gained fame (?) and prestige for our country(!) but that is just it. To connect it with the progress and integrity of our nation is asking and getting too much from its real meaning and purpose. Is this really the way we want to achieve things for our country? Unfortunately, the boxer had allowed himself to be used. Or should I say, had realized he can also use them? There is truth to this. One election, he aspired to win a legislative position. Fortunately, even his own people still has the sense not to vote for him so that he lost the election. Those around him had really taken advantage of his weakness. People can really become so greedy that they are willing to do not only the improbable but also the immoral. I hate to say it but in this country, it has become a reality. Hopefully, it will not graduate as a standard! Because if it does, God help us!

Basic in the Catholic faith is not to hurt your neighbor. Even within a sport, it applies. There is a difference if one is hurt or killed accidentally or intentionally. The intention is always substantial to every act. Combined with the result, they comprise the very aspects of a moral act. With regards to professional boxing, it fails both in intention and desired results. Therefore, it is immoral and those who participate in it maybe guilty in varying degrees!

Manny Pacquiao is again due to fight this Sunday (Philippine time). A priest, in fact, had always been celebrating mass for him and all his supporters before his every fight. A mass was also celebrated after his last victory here in Manila. That is respected. Anyone can seek God's assistance and guidance in any endeavor of life. Anyone can offer to God his victory in life. The whole country will practically be glued to the live coverage of the fight. Cinemas, restaurants, cafes and many other establishments had offered, for a fee, to show Pacquiao's fight live. A government official gave eight (8) thousands ticket (worth 250 pesos) to his constituents so they can watch the fight. Other government officials sponsor to have the live showing available in gyms, sports centers, and other big venues. Many, from various levels of society, shelled out some pesos to be part of those who will watch it live. Many are anticipating a celebration come Monday. Government officials are flying, paying for their own expense (kuno!), to Vegas to watch the fight live and cheer for Manny. This entails a lot of expenses for a country that is supposed to be struggling with its economy and always complaining of poverty. No doubt, the Pacquiao fight had ranked one of our countries top event! And I am sure, this piece would make me a killer of joy!

In one mass, I dared to offer this view and I even intimated my wish for Manny to lose if only to wake us all up from this dream. If Manny loses, hopefully, all of these will end. But I take that back. Not because I have changed my view but because I know that it will not change everything. Manny should not suffer just because he was the one involved. It is the attitude of people regarding his career that needs change; whether rooting for him or using him for their own interests and gains. Also, even if there is no more Manny, and another one comes, as long as the attitudes are there, we will be back to where we were before. Tsk, tsk, tsk. This is complicated. But I sincerely hope that changes would happen both for the sport and the aficionados. Then and only then can we really enjoy the sport and its fruits!

(Just days ago, Manny Pacquiao won his seventh title but not without inflicting so much damage to his opponent Miguel Angel Cotto. On the eve of the fight, a Filipino boxer, Z Gorres won a fight but celebrated his triumph in coma. He is stable now, but the Gorres-Pacquiao incidents should make organizers to evaluate the rules of professional boxing.)

Catechism 101: The Resurrection

The resurrection is a matter of faith. It means it can not be proven via our scientific standards. It means there was no witness to the actual rising of our Lord. The most that we have are the accounts of the Gospel writers about the experiences of the apostles of the Lord after His death. There were many of them; Mary Magdalene's visit to the tomb, the visit of apostles John and Peter in the tomb, the appearances in the room where the apostles were gathered, appearance on the sea shore of Galilee, the appearance with the two who are on their way to Emmaus, etc. Therefore, one believes it or not, depends on his conviction, experience and belief in the accounts of the apostles.
The resurrection is at the very foundation of the Catholic faith. We die and live with it! St. Paul put it well in his letter to the Corinthians when he said that if Christ did not rise from the dead, all of what we are doing have no meaning. If we live life only for this earth, then it is not worth it. Not the worth the challenges, sufferings and deaths. Better if we have not lived at all. In fact, we hear this from some people whose life has been bereft of meaning. Those who see life as merely life on earth would tend to make the most of it here and most probably end with frustration or discontent. The Catholic Christian, because of the resurrection fully understands the meaning of "hope". Not only will they have hope while still living on this earth, but also to because of hope, they have more life even after life on earth.
The resurrection is God's answer to death which has entered human life because of sin. This is one of the greatest truth of the Catholic faith together with God becoming man in Jesus Christ, ministered during His lifetime, suffered, and died. No other religion can claim the same. The truth of death meeting its death is the source of inspiration of all Christians. Death, identified with sin, is mans greatest fear. But with the resurrection, every Christian has now reason to live here and beyond!
Some say, "Death is no more, no less!". It makes sense. But for a Christian it is more, because, "Death is the door towards everlasting life.".

The Liguorian Bread, A Renewal Food"

This Easter 2008, the Liguorian Bread Newsletter was released by the Eucharistic Minister of the Holy Communion of our parish. It became a reality as a result of some meetings in order to recruit, regain and retain its members. For these dedicated and committed men, it is important that whatever gains they had achieved, must be preserved and shared.
Reading the newsletter had given me a lot of thoughts and ideas on their concerns and longings. I was very happy to know how serious, efficient, and capable they are in the ministry. I guess, in the secular world, it is called, "professionalism". Specifically, I was touched by how they had been touched by their involvement in the church. How their work, family, recreation, and other concerns were affected by their active service in church. They came to realize that involvement in church is for everyone, does not compete with their concerns but instead support and fortify them, very enjoyable and gives you ultimate fulfillment!
Not having the time had always been on of the the reasons given why many could not actively involve themselves in active service. If this is really the reason, the answer would just be a question of the will to serve. As the saying goes, " Kung gusto, lahat paraan. Kung ayaw, lahat dahilan." (There is no way you can convince one who does not want and there's no way you can stop one who wants!").
"I am not worthy!", others would say. The answer is. "Then, who is?. This is not to say that there are no requirements anymore. It just means that before everyone, including me and my priesthood, is unworthy. But there must be a point in our lives when we try to be worthy. There must be a time when we redirect our unworthy lives to worthy lives. The question is, "are we willing to change? Are we willing to take the responsibility and give up our irresponsibility's?. With regards to the membership in the ministries, "walang masamang tinapay". Everybody who is willing and open is welcome. Here, we can notice that active membership is also the beginning of a conversion process.
Another reason is some believe that ministers themselves are sinners and that more intrigues and sins are happening in the church due to them. So why would they involve themselves in a community which maybe worse than them. It is of course an inaccurate perception but be that as it may, there is a big difference. As I have said, to be an active member means to have the will to change and be worthy. Having accepted does not mean that the member is already perfect and sinless. They still remain human, i.e. still tempted and still weak. But, their involvement had given them so much support in the Word of God they hear, the liturgy they celebrate, the graces of the sacrament of the Eucharist they receive, and the community of ministers they belong to. I believe it is not not hard to believe that it is easy to win a war with so much logistics and manpower available!
My congratulations to our ministers specially the Eucharistic Ministers of Holy Communion. To be a minister of this ministry indeed requires great responsibility if only for the fact that they share in the priest's ministry of giving holy communion to the faithful. To hold the Lord Himself and share them to others is enough to make one tremble in mystery. That maybe the reason why other men would not dare be a part of it. But that can also be a reason why they should. It is an opportunity given to every man. The beautiful truth is that they can be a part of it if they want. The decision is theirs, not the priests or Gods. Bottom line is, it is equivalent to conversion.
My prayers and support are with the Liguorian Bread staff. Through intercession of our patron, St. Alphonsus, may you touch more men who would be willing and courageous to trek the journey you have taken. A journey that maybe hard and challenging but certainly worth taking.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

May A Priest Turn Down An Invitation To Celebrate Mass?

This question came up yesterday because the supposed presider for the mass at the truth mass with ZTE-NBN witness, Jun Lozada, backed-out at the last minute and allegedly, no clergy in the Archdiocese of Cebu was available or declined to celebrate the mass. The camp of Jun Lozada claimed that the Archbishop of Cebu, Cardinal Vidal, after talking to Malacanang man Cerge Remonde, restricted the clergy of Cebu to celebrate mass with Jun Lozada.

Over the radio, the priest spokesperson of the cardinal denied the accusation and said that no one is being restricted to celebrate mass with Jun's group. Later, however, a priest came to celebrate mass. May a priest decline to celebrate mass to any faithful? What are the guidelines for this?

The mass is the central Catholic Christian celebration. It is a remembrance of the first Eucharist that the Lord did with His apostles before He died on the cross. The mass was instituted in order for the grace of salvation that Jesus will generate because of His death on the cross will be effective once and for all. It means that every mass celebrated is a continuation, and not a repetition, of what happened in Calvary. The very nature of the celebration is therefore spiritual. Its goal is salvation. This is the reason why the Catholic faithful is even obliged to participate in the celebration once a week on a Sunday. For the Catholic Christian, it is an opportunity to experience the salvific action of Jesus as it was in Calvary. Therefore, those who would participate and celebrate in it should be aware of this purpose.

The "Eucharist" means "Thanksgiving." Together with our purpose of attaining salvation by the celebration, we also take that opportunity to thank God for His wonderful gift of His Son and what He did for us. It is more a liturgical than any societal purpose. Other purposes maybe integrated but only on the basis of the spiritual and never vice versa or without it.

The situation that occurred yesterday may really be considered a hard case. The events that had unfolded recently made some faithful and clergy think that the mass is only being used in order to gather people and express their sentiments. Those who are with the cause are however averring that they are also seeing their cause as spiritual. It is a fight against corruption which is an immoral act. The celebration of a mass containing a cause to destroy the evil that is corruption is therefore within the bounds of the purpose of the mass.

It is really hard to know what are in the hearts of men. In this situation, in case of doubt, the best thing to do is to give them the benefit of doubt and proceed to celebrate mass. There are controls and conditions which the priest may impose as a condition. First, nobody will be allowed to speak within the mass. Second, no direct assault or criticism must be made against another person or group. Third, only general prayers will be allowed. Fourth, slogans or streamers are best kept out of the premises where the mass is being held. Fifth, the homily must dwell more on urging the faithful to embrace the Gospel values rather than on politics.

If priests could celebrate mass in penitentiaries, parishes, rallies, offices, and other places with people coming from different walks of life and unsure of their spiritual status, why not with the group of Jun Lozada. With all due respect to the political preference of the priest, he should not deprive others of his ministry because of difference in political views and inclinations. Only God knows what are in their hearts and it is always best to give them the opportunity to come to God and seek inspiration and hopefully, conversion and salvation. Once in the celebration, we would never know what God has in store for them!

The Cardinal, A Master Of Discernment

There were those who liked him very much. There were those who disagreed with him in some of the decisions he made. There even those who hated him. Jaime Cardinal Sin was indeed a popular but at the same time, controversial bishop during his time. On one occasion, a friend of mine, cursed the Cardinal because of his statements and actions during the time of President Marcos. I was taken aback by what he did but I keptcalm and triedto understand the hate and pain of my friend.
I knew him to be a very prayerful person. I was a witness to this when during our stay with him as oridnandi to the priesthood, w ewoke up at 4 am and joined him for morning prayers. I thought we will just pray the breviary. But I was wrong. Leading us in prayer, I think the cardinal prayed all the prayers he knew since he was a young boy. He prayed sincerely and with devotion. I can feel his passion for every prayer he uttered before God. I would not be far off if I say he prayed as if it will be his last and that everything depended on it.
I believe this was the main reason why he made many God-willed and inspired decisions. He knew God so well that he can make decisions from gut level. He decided with full trust and courage. He is confident that God was with him in those decisions.
In one gathering of the clergy of Manila, he went to me and suddenly put his arm on my shoulders and told me that he is sending me to do further studies in Rome. I was a bit surprised at the news. I looked at him and bravely told him if it is possible that I do not go to Rome for further studies but instead study in Loyola School of Theology in Ateneo or in the University of Santo Tomas. He insisted that he prefers Rome. I honestly told him that I do not want to go to Rome. I believe it will be very difficult for me to study in Rome. But again, he insisted. He said that is what he wants. Humbly but firmly I said, "Your Eminence, if it is your will that I go to Rome, I will go. But if you ask me, honestly, I do not want to go." I thought he would be angry. I thought he would shout at me. I thought it was a mistake. To my surprise and satisfaction he said, "Ok, I will not force you. You will not go to Rome."
He did not insist. He knew my heart. He knew God's heart. He knew God's Will!

Catechism 101 - The Lord's Presences!

It is good to know the meaning of our faith. There are many things we are doing in our faith that may not be that clear to us. Recently, I have noted some very important and interesting truths and symbols in our faith. Knowing them will help us appreciate more our worship and life of faith.
In the sanctuary, there should be three things that must be present and easily seen. What are those? They are the altar table, the lectern, and (would you believe) the presider's chair! Many would think that the tabernacle should be a fixture in the sanctuary. But it is not. Strictly speaking, it is a redundancy of the altar table. The three main fixtures represent the Lord Jesus in different ways and in varying degrees. The altar table represents the presence of the Lord in the Body and Blood. The lectern represents the presence of the Lord in His Word. The presider's chair represents the presence of the Lord in the priest. The other presence is the congregation. The tabernacle is another representation of the presence of the Lord in His Body which is already fulfilled by the altar.
But why the tabernacle in most sanctuaries? It should be noted that there was a time when there was no tabernacle. In masses during those days, the priest consecrates hosts that are just enough for the faithful. Every host consecrated was consumed. However, the need to give communion to the sick and the dying arose. It was decided that some hosts should be set aside in case a viaticum comes. Also, there was a time when the belief in the Eucharist was being attacked. In order to assert and proclaim the faith better, the tabernacle was placed in the sanctuary and in most cases, at the center. Since then, the utility of the tabernacle had evolved and developed up to the present. It now found a great expression in the adoration chapel.
The next time you enter a church, do not fail to recognize the presences of the Lord in the congregation, in the priest, in the Word, and in the altar. And if you want a more intimate presence and meeting with Him, go to the adoration chapel.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Sixteen Years Of Acceptance Of God's Will

Last 14th of March I celebrated my 16th year in the ministry. I began it with a concelebrated mass with my batch mates from UST (Fr. Arnel Recinto, Fr. Mon Eloriaga, and Fr. Adrian Magnait). We had mass at the Manila Cathedral's catacomb chapel where our ordinary, Cardinal Jaime L. Sin, was buried. There were some friends who attended the mass of thanksgiving for the gift of priesthood.

I was a little late that is why I was tasked to give the homily. I immediately reflected on my priesthood, and it easily came clear to me that it was a ministry of acceptance of the Will of God. In the first place, as most priest would feel, I feel unworthy of the ministry. To be chosen a priest is indeed a call. So many times during my formation years and specially in the sixteen year ministry that I had, I realized that only when one is called by God can one become and remain a priest. After the mass, we had breakfast together and continued our reflection by sharing our experiences with the Cardinal and the People of God.

I remember the day before my ordination, I went to the Cardinal's residence at Villa San Miguel. It was customary during the time of Cardinal Sin for all those who will be ordained will spend the day of the ordination with him. I arrived just before dinner because I was still attending to a lot of things regarding my ordination. We had dinner with the cardinal and an hour later we were seated around him in his office for the announcement of our appointments. Fr. Adrian and Fr. Mon would be assigned to San Carlos Seminary and the rest of us will be parochial vicars (assistant parish priest). I was really expecting it. Besides, throughout my formation, I had been preparing for pastoral work. I had been choosing elective subjects that will help me to become an effective pastor. During my diaconate year, I even made some plans for my future parish work taking notes of the experiences I had in the parishes I was assigned to. To my surprise, when the appointments were announced. I suddenly was assigned as formator to the seminary. I was very surprised I just uttered, "My God!". But immediately I recovered by telling myself, "If this is Your Will, so be it!". Later, when we were talking about that incident, I said to them, "Sino kaya ang nanggapang kay Cardinal that made him change the appointments?"

That was not the last incident I was faced with the challenge of accepting of God's Will. Two years after I was assigned in San Carlos Seminary, I was suddenly transferred in the neighboring Holy Apostles Senior Seminary, in the middle of the first semester! Again, I accepted it not without reluctance but with more faith. Slowly I was learning to set myself for more "surprises" coming in my ministry. Year after year I began to settle down in my seminary work. In fact, I was ready to spend the rest of my ministry as a formator and educator. But one day, I received a call from Msgr. Soc, the Cardinal's secretary. He said that I will be transferred to become pastor of a parish in Pasay. I was still surprised by the new appointment but because I had come to accept things about my ministry, It was not that hard anymore for me.

At that point in my ministry, I already realized that following the will of God for me is the best attitude. Specially in the ministry of the priesthood, you will never know when and where you will be assigned next. Focusing on the assignment would be a big mistake because it is so contingent and unexpected. Focusing in the ministry itself should be the norm. The ministry is basically the same anywhere anytime. To be detached from one's assignment makes one always available and effective.
As present pastor of St. Alphonsus Mary De Liguori, I have placed myself at the disposal of the archbishop. After experiencing the pain of watching the parish church got burned just 39 days after my transfer and six days after my installation as pastor of the parish, and building the church for one and a half years, I am ready and open for any change or developments in the archdiocese by the archbishop. It was not only the promise I made to him during my ordination, but it was the commitment I have made to God when He chose me to share in His Priesthood through the Sacred Orders.
Only God knows how many more years I will serve as His ordained minister. It really does not matter because what really counts before God are the quality of service and dedication I had given to the care of His flock. Was the Good News proclaimed faithfully? Did I lead them to a sincere and authentic worship? Was I a good shepherd to His flock? Was it His Will that prevailed all of my life? Only in this sense that the essence of my ministry will be fulfilled.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Jesus is alive! And so are we!

This is the day the Lord has made! Let us be glad and rejoice!
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia! Christ the Lord is Risen!
Yes, the Lord is Risen and so we are. We are Easter Christians. Our faith is founded and draws it meaning on the belief that the Lord Jesus Christ, truly human and truly God, was born, ministered to Israel, suffered, died and resurrected. We believe that our God fully empathized with us by becoming one like us and in the end of His ministry suffered and died but rose to life again in victory. Death is defanged and removed of its hold and power over us. In Jesus Christ, death meets its death!

While there was no one who actually saw our Lord resurrect, His disciples saw Him after His death. The meetings of the apostles with the Lord after His death brought back memories of the things He said while He was still with them. The descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles on the day of Pentecost was the turning point of their faith life. The experience of Jesus alive through the Holy Spirit, inspired and gave them the courage to go out and proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. Now they are not afraid to face those who threaten them. Now they are set free.
In the resurrection, we are also set free. We are set free from sin. We are set free from eternal death. We are set free from the harm of evil. The resurrection of our Lord offers us new life. It is the new life that we received when we were baptized. We benefit from the graces of the Lord's resurrection when we are baptized. In baptism, God welcomes us to His Kingdom. Our membership to the family of God makes us share in God's eternity. But this great gift is with an equally great responsibility. We must try to maintain that condition by always remaining in God's favor. We had been freed from the slavery of sin. We must not go back to it anymore.
We wish that we will stay that way. We wish that we will maintain our freedom from sin and freedom for God. But we know that the devil will not stop and will always find the perfect time and way to seduce us away from God. And many times, we must admit, we have failed. Not because the devil is more powerful than God, but because we have allowed the devil to do so by our cooperation. We have allowed the devil to inspire us more than the Spirit. We know what is right but we failed to do it. We know what is wrong, but we failed to avoid it. Such is our predicament that many had been rendered almost hopeless. Who can free us from this?
Precisely, the Lord Risen gives us hope. By His rising from the dead, our hopes are alive! The resurrection gives us reason and hope to fight evil. In fact, evil offers no contest at all to the power of God. If we remain with God, evil has no power over us. Sufferings, pains, challenges, sickness, and other spirit-killing situations are always seen and experienced by a Christian as life-and-faith-opportunities. It is the goal of every Christian to go through all of them armed with the belief that God is with him, faith will see him through, and eternal life is just waiting at the other end.
Easier said than done but must be done. Easter was not attained without Good Friday. Healing happens not without pain and suffering. True success would not come without hard work. It is not easy to be an Easter Christian. But it is harder if we are not. There is no greater expectation anyone can have than to be assured of life in bliss with God after death. Anything else is either limited, temporary, or less.
I guess the choice is clear.
Happy Easter and God bless you my co-Easterians!