Sunday, November 15, 2009

Without Limits

I just saw this movie about the life and times of American long distance runner, Steve Prefontaine. The movie pictured him as a different kind of runner. One who saw running not only a sport but also an art; not only to win but to give one's best. "Pre", as he was called by everyone lived running. He saw it not only as a part of his life but the very way life should be lived. His coach learned more from him than he from his coach. 

"Pre" had been quoted a lot by his coach, team mates, friends, and fans. He ran in order to achieve his full potential as a person. Once he had ran his best, his next goal is to run more than his best, "without limits", that is why.

I particularly liked what his coach said during his eulogy; " There are times when you win even though your mediocre; and you lose even when you have given your best." Therefore, winning is not the ultimate goal. Giving one's best is.

He died in a car accident.

Here are some of the words immortalized by the late Steve "Pre" Prefontaine;

"To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the Gift."
"Somebody may beat me but they have are going to bleed to do it."

An anonymous sports writer once said, "When the great scorer pens your name, he writes not whether you win or lose but how you played the game!"
A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run to see who has the most guts, who can punish himself into exhausting pace, and then at the end, punish himself even more. Nobody is going to win a 5,000 meter race after running an easy 2 miles. Not with me. If I lose forcing the pace all the way, well, at least I can live with myself."

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Truth is the Truth.

"Sala sa init, sala sa lamig." This was what Jesus meant when He quoted  what children say to each other in the market place; "We played the flute for you, but you did not dance. We sang a dirge, but you did not weep." The scene was Jesus speaking before the crowds concerning John the Baptist and their doubt in Him. He could not understand the reactions they had given to Him and John. He said, "John the Baptist came neither eating food nor drinking wine, and you said, 'He is possessed by demons.' The Son of Man came eating and drinking and you said, 'Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners."

For His hearers then, the Lord saw that it was not really John or Him who were the reason for the people's rejection of their common message of repentance but their attitude towards them. Because they do not want to accept their sins, they resort to personal attacks or whatever reason they could give. Yes, it is important to be critical of the person saying the message. It is also important to understand the context or timing of the message. It is also important to know the motive of the message, but they should not absolutely determine the truth of the message. Otherwise, who then, can be believed? The truth of the message must also be examined. That was the mistake of the the hearers of Jesus. It was a mistake that we should avoid.

Whenever something is said and we thought it was said after the fact or long after it was relevant, the question, "Why only now?", always come up. There should be a lot of reasons why it only came up later. Granting that there is now a vicious reason from the messenger, it should not make us reject the message immediately. That is like throwing the bathwater with the baby. If all that is to be considered true are only those said by "credible" sources, then, nothing can be considered credible anymore. The Lord's point in the Gospel was to hear the message and discern its truth. We should not be influenced too much with personalities and circumstances. We have the responsibility to seek the truth amidst all of the doubts being cast around it.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Ask God To Free Us From The Fear Of Fear!

Everyday and maybe for the rest of our lives we will be faced with fear. We fear that we might fail in our school tests. We fear the possible lost of our jobs because of the contingency of the world's economic situation. We fear we might get sick. We fear our business might go bankrupt. We fear the failure of our relationships. We fear death. We know that we can not always rely on our riches, power, authority, and other worldly things. There will come a time when we are left on our own. But actually we are not alone. There is always Somebody who is with us. In fact, His very name means to be "with us"!

And so we utter a prayer. We come before His presence and ask Him to protect us from the cause of our fear. Remove the sickness, help us to pass the test, maintain our good relationships, make our business good, help us not to die sooner, and other favors. Unfortunately, if and when our prayers are granted, our fears do not stop. They come one after the other, At times they come in clusters. Before we know it, we are back in the same situation. We are again in fear and we are again going back to God for protection.

The psalmist has a response to this. Instead of asking God to protect us from what we fear, let us the Lord to deliver us from all fears! "I sought the Lord, He heard me and delivered me from all my fears!" (Ps.34:2-9). It is an acceptance of the presence of fears. Therefore, what we should ask for is liberation from all fears so that whenever and if ever fear of anything comes, we can face them with the assurance of God's presence.

I read once that when we worry and our worries were not true, we worry in vain. And when we worry and it is true, we worry twice! Shakespeare was more clear and blunt. He said "The brave man dies but once while the coward dies a thousand deaths." What is worst than death is the fear of death. In one of the eulogies to the late President Cory Aquino, she was quoted to have said that the opposite of fear is not courage, but faith. Apparently, Tita Cory saw deeper and had conquered her fear through faith. Human courage was translated and associated with God's grace. Without God we are indeed nothing. "I sought the Lord, He heard me and delivered me from all my fears!"

Lord God, help us to face all our fears by giving us the grace to be free from them!

Monday, July 20, 2009

We Loved The Rain (When we were children!)

"only happy when it rains" by ifotog, Queen of MSP (without computer).
Yes, we loved the rain when we were children. Even if we sang "Rain, rain, go away. Come again another day!"Or even if the late Karen Carpenter also sang "Rainy days and Mondays always get me down." (Ha ha ha. For us priests, we love Mondays!) Nowadays, rains are dreaded. They are unusually strong and heavy. In fact, too heavy now for the designs houses now have. If one is going to construct a house or any building today, rain should be a very big consideration. Otherwise, the tenants would just find themselves either with leaks or runoffs or excess water due to the inability of drainages in coping with the great surge of rain water. Today, when it rains, traffic easily becomes heavy. Roads are quickly flooded. Everyone is cautioned not to be exposed to rains because of its acidity that harms the skin. While rains continue to be a source of water for irrigation, drinking, and cleaning activities, its quality and effects had drastically changed.
When we were children, the first rains of the month of May is anticipated. I have not really asked the reason why but I think it has something to do with "health". It is good for the body, at least for the skin. We would immediately go to our mother and ask permission to bathe under the rain. Because we still have to wear our shirts and shorts, we would  bathe with nothing on! We would run around outside our house and periodically take turns in showering under the down spout. If a temporary pool appears, we would wade in it, or if our enthusiasm is just too much, we would swim in it. We would be like carabaos loving the rare chance of frolicking in water. We would go home not cleaner, due to the mud from playing in the pool of water, but very happy.

When we were children, we would always want to have the opportunity to bathe under it. My mother would always assess if it is safe. Lightning and thunderstorms might be present. But for us, we just loved the rain, lightnings and thunderstorms included. We would be very sad if we were not allowed and we would jealously look out from our windows at the children who were given that opportunity. We would call out to them and ask them if it feels good! Then we would participate in what they are doing from the window as if we are with them!
after storm destruction.. by ..AikiDude...
Once the rain stopped, we would immediately go out and see what the rain had done to our surroundings. Were there trees and plants that were destroyed? Were there flooded areas where we can wade? Were houses also affected? Were tributaries and small canals bigger or more active due to the rain water? Was the ground topography changed? And many more. As children, we were aware of all of these changes. We knew the effects of rain and flood.
paper boats by joannebk.
We had a small canal in front of our house. After the rain, it will have more water and the flow is faster. We use to make small boats, made of either of paper, wood, leaf, or any material, and make them race against each other. We would be very happy watching the boats speed to the designated finish line. We would spend ours doing it and at times many of us would produce many different kinds of boats in a day!
beetles 2 by Marko_K.
After the rain, opportunities to hunt for play insects (yes, we hunt them!) like beetles and spiders are on. We would equip ourselves with empty match boxes (at times my mother would just see the matches scattered and the match box gone!) filled with cotton for the spiders. Then we will play games with them.

Clay abounds after the rain. The effect of water ton hard clay softens them. So, we would gather as much clay as we want and create figures out of them. The game we would play will depend on the figures we have created e.g. animals, war soldiers and arms, carpentry tools etc. Our clay may not be as clean, sticky, aromatic, and colorful as now, but we did enjoy forming them.

Stilts Aren't Easy by Udaho.
Lastly, I remember, at one time, we made "tsakads" (wooden stilts) in order to wade through the flood waters. Though we still make and enjoy them even in sunny or flood less days, it was more fun, thrilling and challenging with water. We would challenge everyone to cross a certain distance and even add some difficulties to it after everyone had crossed. Some would fall but it was accepted as part of the game.  Definitely, everyone enjoyed it.

Unfortunately, some if not all of these are not anymore being done. Passe? Old? Crude? Maybe. But I believe, they are still sources of lessons in life like; determination, creativity, acceptance of failure, magnanimity in victory, development of skills, patience, teamwork, joy, competition, etc. The values gained are countless! I am sure, many of those values are still effective and present in the characters of those who lived by them! I am one of them and I am proud of it!
Double Bows by Nicholas_T.
P.S. The rainbow is a welcome sight after the rains. Not only because its colors of ROYGVIB teaches us about colors but more importantly, it reminds us of the promise of God that as long as we see the rainbow, He will not repeat what was done to the people during the time of Noah!

Friday, July 17, 2009


Lechon by Roberto Verzo.
"Many are getting sick" and "many are dying", I was told, not just once but many times, by some friends during the last few days. Indeed, it is true. News would come to me about an acquaintance who is sick and who had died. I would like to think that it is a regular grind of life; sickness and death comes to everyone specially to the elderly. But deep inside, something is telling me it is more than just the regular grind. There is a twist somewhere....I wonder what? This thought plummeted my reflective mind to investigate and analyze, not a ala Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes but a la Fr. Benny!
Grandma's Fried Chicken Wings by yauchan.
"Health is wealth." Very true. An actress was asked to choose between health and fame. She wisely chose health. She opined that with health, she can easily acquire fame. But the reverse is hard to achieve if not untrue. There are many factors to be healthy. I know that I am not a doctor and it is not my expertise. But I believe the following are important factors;
French Fries with Ketchup by Donnali.
Environment! Today's generation faces the challenge of coping with pollution caused primarily by the burning of fuel. Add to this the pollution emitted by garbage, residues, by-products etc. All of these had grown too much for the atmosphere to process. In the end, all creatures great and small will inhale them! The prevalence of respiratory diseases attest to this. A parent said that if one wants to be a doctor, he should specialize in respiratory diseases. He will be a millionaire in due time! ( And I thought it was to help the cause of respiratory patients!). I will not be far-fetched if I say that common diseases had become harder to treat and new ones had developed because of pollution. Or there will be a time when we will have to carry oxygen tanks on our back because the available oxygen in the atmosphere had become too thin or had disappeared!
Exercise! Oh yes, we do have a lot of gyms now. Going to the gym had in fact become a fad. They are not only full after office hours but throughout the day. People had suddenly become conscious of glandic hydro emission. (sweating or perspiring lang yan!). It is good for health. Then, it was a normal body activity. But the advent of air conditioned cars, malls, rooms, offices, supermarkets, and even bowling lanes etc. had made this regular body activity a rarity and a luxury! Now, one has to shell out thousand of pesos in order to avail of the services of a gym. That is not including the paraphernalia and proper gears even. Badminton had become popular if only due to its capacity to generate profuse sweating! Then, we walk to church, market, parks, school, and maybe even to the office! "Exercise" was part of the daily activities. Sweating was acceptable! People then were more active and has more "galaw galaw".
Aladdin Buffet Desserts by FrogMiller.
Rest! By virtue of the demands of daily activities, rest now is optional if not unnecessary. While offices close at five, activities continue not anymore through the wee hours but twenty four hours! Now, we have twenty-four hour stores, restaurants, gasoline stations, offices, markets, etc. Then, only hospitals, police stations, fire stations and other utility establishments operate non-stop. The availability of whole day cable television and Internet made it worst! Sleep had become relative. Rest had become again not a necessity but a luxury. Work! Work! Work! Play! Play! Play!....Rest? Rest? Rest? Today, either we are eating, watching, playing, or shopping! If you notice, malls had dominated the city. Almost all places, even the least strategic ones had already been invaded by the malls. Before, mall owners would first consider if the place has so many clients who frequent them. Now, all you have to do is basically find a location and build the mall. People will come to the malls. Malls create the need of people. The consumerist attitude of people is a weakness that mall developers seize to establish their business. I wonder how many malls we have in Metro Manila alone???
Genes! This, the next generation could not do so much about. That is why the generating generation should strive to have a good one for the the benefit of the receiving generation. Medical findings had proven in a lot of ways that many of our sickness were congenital or hereditary. We inherit them form our parents or ancestors. While advances in medical capabilities had improved so much, there are still diseases that are beyond human control. That makes us always vulnerable. And that should be enough reason for us to be serious and generous in finding cures and preventive measures to respond to them.
Club 33 Desserts
Given all of the factors given above, I believe, the one really crucial factor then, now and in the future is food! There is so much truth in the saying, "You are what you eat!"The food we intake becomes part of our body. If our body could (and it has the unique and amazing capacity to do so) process them well, then good for us. But if our body systems could not cope with the demands of the food we eat, the problem begins. The field of medicine had been very busy coping with the arrival and developments of sickness in our generation. Younger people are now afflicted with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cancer, organ failures, and other diseases which were normally mostly found in elders. With due respect to the existing gastronomic centers, the food that are being served nowadays are sickness generators more than health developers. A great percentage of food offered now are cooked in oil which contains a lot of fats (of all kinds!). Others are just too sweet or too salty. I empathize with young children now who grow up eating fast food products. Fast food restos had become popular because they are easily available aside from the fact that they had become cheaper. Other restos also follow by relying on taste, looks, presentations, and uniqueness and sacrificing quality and healthy offerings in order to lure patrons. Eating now has become a fad, status quo, and a "show" rather than nutrition! Unfortunately for us, the food that we eat would hit back through its effect in our bodies.
I could go on and on, but it will boil down to the same point; our food now is unhealthy. This maybe the reason why there is a "movement" to the production and patronizing of organic food. Organics are produced from ingredients that are "natural" and are free of chemicals. They are supposed to be healthy. But then again, we are not sure. Even fish and vegetables are now with unwanted chemical elements due to the absorption of the same from the soil and water which were recipients of previous interactions. In other words, it is now very hard to find an ingredient that is chemical-free! At most, we hope what we eat or produce has the least amount of these destructive chemicals.

The Food Pyramid

So, where do we go from here? Participants to all of these must stop for a while and think about the effect of what they are doing to the present and succeeding generation. Rather than think of getting much profit, they should reconsider lessening it and strive to provide everyone with the best healthy food they could give without sacrificing their investment. Government, by virtue of its controlling power should assert it by providing laws and guidelines that will insure the availability and production of only healthy food. People, on the other hand, should patronize these cooperative restos and food establishments. Let us join hands for our sake and the sake of the next generation. remember, "we eat to live and not live to eat!"

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

On The "Old" Or The "Elderly".

( I took this story from the book of Henri Nouwen, "Aging, The Fulfillment Of Life". He said this is an old Balinese legend which gives a strong message about how present society treats the old and the importance of imparting to our children the treasures of our generation.)

"It is said that once upon a time the people of a remote mountain village used to sacrifice and eat their old men. A day came when there was not a single old man left, and the traditions were lost. They wanted to build a great house for the meetings of the assembly, but when they came to look at the tree-trunks that had been cut for that purpose no one could tell the top from the bottom: if the timber were placed the wrong way up, it would set off a series of disasters. A young man said that if they promised never to eat the old men any more, he would be able to find a solution. They promised. He brought his grandfather, whom he had hidden; and the old man taught the community to tell top from bottom!"

Monday, July 6, 2009

Another Faith Story

"Jesus Healing the Leper, 1864" Giclee Print
Once after a healing mass in a chapel in Makati, I was approached by two couples to ask for the healing of the wives. Both wives had terminal illnesses. I asked them if they have faith that God will give them the healing grace they need. They replied "yes" and I proceeded to lay my hands on both women and asked God to give them His blessings and healing. Both couples left immediately after the healing session. Since then, I went about doing my daily ministry and had forgotten that healing of the two women. Until I got a call one evening from one of the husbands. He introduced himself and I remembered him and his ailing wife. I asked him why he called. He told me that he was calling to thank me for the healing of his wife. His wife had been to the doctor yesterday and she was declared completely free from the sickness. He said it was a miracle! I told him that it was God's healing power and their faith in God that brought the healing and that he should go to the church and offer prayers of thanksgiving. He agreed and promised to offer prayers of thanksgiving. He said that one of these days, he and his wife would visit me to thank me personally. I replied that they need not inconvenience themselves but if they so desire, I would be happy to meet them again.

Some months passed and I got another call in the middle of the day. The man from the other line introduced himself as one of the couples who approached me in one of the healing masses I did in a chapel in Makati. I said I remember him and his wife and even told him about the other couple who was with them. I also told him about the good news of the healing of the other wife. He was happy to know about the healing of the woman and he told me that the reason he called was also because of the healing of his wife. "Wow!", I told myself, "Another healing?"I was very excited to know the healing. So I asked him what happened. He narrated what happened since that day. He told me they went home and had a very peaceful sleep. Day after day they would continue to pray and visit the doctor for updates in her sickness. But she grew worse. The sickness had affected her other organs and she was growing weak. All the time, I thought the story is more dramatic and big! Then he said that his wife was finally hospitalized and they were told that she would die anytime. Suddenly I felt weak. I thought he was going to tell me about the healing of his wife. Suddenly I was afraid of what he would say next. There was silence between us. Then when he had gathered all the courage he could get, he told me that his wife had died. But, before she died, she had gone to confession and had received Holy Communion. Apparently, his wife, at some point had lost faith in God. But the healing session brought back her faith, His wife felt loved not only by God but by everyone. She had a happy death. He was happy for her. She may not have the physical healing she was asking, but she was given a better healing. She was healed spiritually. She died in the grace of God. Her faith wrought her not healing of body but healing of soul!

It would not be fair to compare the two healings. It would be easy to say that the spiritual healing is better. Yes, by some standards it is better. But the physical healing is still a sign of God's grace. The physically healed may still transform it to spiritual healing. The more important point is that faith heals in the sense that it opens us fully to Gods graces. Life of faith is the constant disposing ourselves to God. When we do, we have allowed God's unlimited powers to enter our limited being.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

True Faith, Saving Faith!

True faith means fully entrusting one's life to God. No "ifs", no "buts". This is not easy. This is not just saying "I believe." or "I love You, Lord!" It entails the real and actual surrender of the will, mind, memory, and everything held to God. That relationship with God is what will open us up to everything He can do for us. Otherwise, we have made ourselves close and indisposed before God. God can not do anything for us. Yes, that is the "limitation" of God if we can call it as such!

This was clearly shown in the Gospel today, the fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B). Jesus went back to His native place of Nazareth to visit his kinsfolk and also to preach the Good News there. He meant to do everything there including curing the sick and other relevant and necessary miracles. In the beginning, the people were astonished as to what He said. But their familiarity with Him, His parents, and His "brothers" and "sisters" bred contempt! His fellow Nazoreans were blinded by their knowledge of Him and His family. Suddenly they questioned His credibility. They asked how He could say and do all those things! This resulted to their blindness of who He is. Further, it resulted to their lack of faith in Him. The worst consequence was He could not do any more miracles for them save for some! Jesus was amazed at their lack of faith! This is something very big. Jesus amazed? For anyone to amaze Jesus, it must be grand. And this happened in Nazareth. Unfortunately, the amazement was a negative one; lack of faith! Jesus had travelled in so many places and most probably, He had never seen any place with such a lack of faith, in His native place at that!

From Jesus' native place, we shift the focus to our faith. It follows that f God is to be effective in us, we must have that faith in God; it is an entrusting of our lives in the hands of God. In our present situation, are we on that level yet? Had we arrive at a point when it is God who determines everything in our life? Every Sunday, at least, we profess our faith in God, but is it effective and real too in our lives? There was this parishioner who asked his pastor if indeed "Faith moves mountains!". The pastor said "Yes, of course! With God, nothing is impossible for those who have faith!" The parishioner went home and seeing his neighbor's fruit rich mango tree, decided to test his faith. He wanted to move the mango tree from his neighbor's yard to his. So, he concentrated on mustering his faith. He closed his eyes, focused on God and his faith and willed that the mango tree be transferred to his yard. He was perspiring and shaking in concentration. He was praying and uttering words of praise and petition to God. He was summoning his great faith in God that the mango tree will be moved to his place. When he was certain he had arrived at perfect expression of faith, he slowly opened his eyes to see the result. Lo and behold! The mango tree was still in his neighbor's yard! It remained where it was! Then he said to himself, "I thought so!" ("Sabi ko na nga ba eh!"). 

All along he doubted God. All along, he was lacking in faith! The promised miracle did not happen. The miracle will not happen because there was lack of faith. We have to admit that this had happened to us a lot of times. We believed we have that full faith. We apply it to our lives. And when it did not or nothing happened, we say, "I thought so!" or similar words of doubt all along. The so called "limitation" of God was not really about Him not being able to do what He wanted to do but about us not allowing Him to do it to us. God always invites in love and man must respond in faith. Without that faith-response, there is no communication with God. Without the faith response, God's graces could not be received. In all the miracles of Jesus, Jesus would always ask the person if he has faith in Him or Jesus would praise the person for having faith.

Hopefully, next time, Jesus would still be amazed not because of our lack of faith but because of the fullness of our faith. Not because He would be able to do all the miracles we need, but that the main grace of salvation will be received by everyone. What greater miracle is there than the miracle of being saved! And what greater event would there be than receiving that miracle of salvation!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Who Needs Who?

Corpus Christi, the last of the three feasts after the Easter Season was celebrated this Sunday. The feast recognizes God's everlasting love by instituting the Sacrament of the Eucharist where the bread and wine becomes the Body and Blood of Christ. We remember from Holy Thursday that the Lord Jesus, on the night before He died, gathered His apostles for the Passover meal. It was traditional to the Jews in remembrance of the day when God protected Israel from the plague of death which was responsible for the death of the son of the Pharaoh who was obstinate in setting the Israelites free from Egyptian bondage. This time, Jesus intended it for the liberation of mankind from sin. He would do it later by dying on the cross. The Eucharist would be a continuation of the saving action done on the cross whenever it is celebrated (remembered).
In that institution, the Lord Jesus commanded His apostles to eat His Body (the bread) and drink His blood (the wine). Here, we believe that the bread turned into His real and true Body and the wine turned into His real and true Blood. Otherwise, He should have said "This is the symbol of my body." and "This is the symbol of my blood." In another scene with His enemies during the Bread of Life Discourse, Jesus told His listeners to eat His Body because He is the living bread that came down from heaven (John 6:49-56). They were taken aback by the commandment. Bread was their staple food and they would easily understand if He took it as a symbol of His claim. But instead of being clear about it by claiming that He was the Bread of Life in the same way that the bread is their main sustenance for life, He told them to eat His flesh and drink His blood! Scot Hahn, a respected Protestant Scripture scholar saw this truth. He said that Jesus would have said "symbol" if it was the truth. That "truth" in fact was greatly responsible for His death. If He is to die, He should die for the Truth. But the Truth was what He said. He is the living bread that came down form heaven and whoever eats His flesh and drinks His blood will have eternal life.
The Eucharist is the Church's treasure. The Eucharist is found in the mass. That is why the mass is the greatest celebration of Christian worship. The mass is a remembrance of the saving action in Calvary. Whenever we celebrate the mass, it is the Lord Jesus who is present in His Body and Blood. Not a symbol, not a sign, not an idea, but Him par excellence! Our belief on this rests our regard and respect for the celebration and the place. If we believe tat the Lord is really present there, we will just be too happy and excited to come to mass and meet the Lord! What religion could give you such a unique and prestigious opportunity? But God made it that way so that we will be able to respond appropriately.
But our ways reflect our taking for granted, neglect, indifference, flippancy, and disregard for it; lack of preparation, coming in late, not actively participating, not listening, and others. This once a week opportunity is sometimes compromised. Many who go abroad would give the reason that they were busy with the tour or that no church was available. I have been in other countries too and I know that a church is available if one will just ask! Unless we realize the importance of this encounter with God, we would not exert much effort to fulfill it. Unless we realize our need for it, it would remain just an option which we may or may not take. It should be interesting to note that there are places or peoples in this world that hunger for the Eucharist but they could not avail of it because circumstances would not allow priests to come to them. They would be without mass for days, months, or even years! In the recent pastoral letter of Cardinal Rosales, he made mention of a group of martyrs in Abythynia who asked permission to celebrate mass in prison because they say, "Without Sunday, we can not live!"
As a last point, it should be clear to us that the Lord Jesus being present to us in the mass is for our benefit. It is for our salvation. We are the ones in need of the Lord. We owe it to Him to have provided us with this act of worship. God does not need us to attend mass. At most, His need is for our own benefit. He wants us to be saved. He wants us to be with Him in His Kingdom. Therefore, let us live and act aware of this important truth. So much in our lives rest on believing this truth.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A Student For Good And For God!

Once I wondered why the Catholic Church was into the field of education. Particularly, I am referring to establishing educational institutions like college, universities, and parochial schools. Today, all over the world, there are numerous educational institutions that are being ran by either Catholic religious congregations or by parishes. In the secular world, these Catholic educational institutions are known to give high quality education. They also provide good if not the best services available for their students; professors, facilities, buildings, books, laboratories, etc. They are the main reasons why they also charge a substantial amount of school fees. Catholic institutions are best known for skyrocket tuition and miscellaneous fees. The poor would have little chance of landing in a Catholic institution unless, maybe, because of a scholarship grant.

So, why is the Catholic Church into education? I believe it can be traced back to the medieval times when the Church, through religious priests, were at the of service of the royalty and were regularly relating with the rich and powerful at the time. The religious priests were considered with respect not only because of their status as men and women of God but also because they belong to the few learned kind. They saw the opportunity of influencing these leaders through their children, the future heir to the throne, the riches, and the powers of their elders. By offering them the best education, they can also integrate faith in the process. The ultimate goal is to have graduates who are not only intelligent and excellent in their field, but men and women of faith. They sought to relate everything to faith. They hoped that when these students finally assume the leadership and positions whom their elders occupy, they would be men and women leaders in faith! Thus, Catholic educational institutions were really intended to produce disciples of the faith. With them holding the key and powerful positions, propagation of the faith will be better if not easier. (However, once I was asked by friend about what is happening now to our Catholic education? Why is it that in spite of the Catholic education of many of our professionals who were graduates of prestigious schools like Ateneo, De La Salle, Assumption, UST, and UA&P, to name a few, corruption, deception, dishonesty, and illegalities still exists, and at a grand level at that! Much more, many of our government officials were graduates of respected Catholic schools and yet, un-Christian behaviors proliferate! Good question! I was caught flat-footed! I could not find a satisfactory answer.)

Last Sunday, we integrated the rite praying for a good school year for the students with the feast of the Blessed Trinity. The Trinity, being a community of love, is the best guide and protection for the students who will be facing a lot of challenges during the school year. We decided to do the rite for the sake of the students. They need a lot of prayers so that they will be protected and freed from the tentacles of drugs, lasciviousness, dishonesty, violence, diseases, abuses, accidents, and many more. We prayed that they will be focused in their studies and not be affected by the many distractions present around them.

In that celebration, I took the opportunity to remind both parents and students the real goal of education. Education, while it aims to acquire knowledge, has a very virtuous and serious goal. Having great knowledge provides one an opportunity to gain power, fame, and eventually, riches. For some, these are the main or ultimate goals of knowledge gained from education. But, as far as our faith is concerned, it goes beyond material or temporal gains. Its ultimate goal should be salvation. Whatever is learned should always be used for the greater glory of God. Education should lead to salvation. Education should not only make one rich, powerful, or famous, but more importantly, holy! Yes, holy! Unfortunately, to many, the word or the state of being holy is not achievable or close to being impossible, as if, Saints were created or made perfect from birth! Much more, that Saints were exceptional human beings. Actually they were not! They were just the same as all of us, until they attained the that distinct calling from God to turn away from sin and follow Him. Holiness, in other words, is a decision we make, not a hocus focus of God. We can be holy if we want to be holy. In the same way, we can be evil if we want to be evil!

I further pointed out in that celebration that parents should help their children realize this purpose. Parents should not be obsessed with just making their children get rich, famous, and powerful. The best result they could have for children is to be men and women of faith. They should be Christian doctors, Christian lawyers, Christian accountants, Christian teachers, etc. The stress is in the adjective Christian! This is God's expectation of their children and of them as parents. Other achievements fall below this main purpose. The Lord Jesus said, "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but suffers the loss of his own soul!" For what is the best education if the educated will not use it for God's greater glory? Education, if use in accordance with God's Holy Will, is a gift and a blessing! But used against God, it is a gift that becomes a curse. The anticipated majestic and blissful climax hopefully will not be twisted to end in a tragedy! 

(As a little note, I pray that students will study to learn and not just for the grades!)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Sacrament Of Matrimony Is Priceless!

In today's news in SAKSI (GMA 7 Evening News), it reported that more and more couples prefer civil marriage than "church marriage" or more appropriately called the Sacrament of Matrimony. The main reason given was financial. With civil marriage, the only fees being paid are about a thousand pesos. The presiding officer is not given any stipend. Mr. Steve Tamayo, a well known church wedding caterer, said that it will take about a hundred thousand to have a church wedding. It covers church fees, wedding gowns, the reception, etc. Bishop Broderick Pabillo, an Auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Manila, was interviewed, but I believe his explanations were edited. I am sure he was able to explain it well, but due to the constraints of television, he was just limited to his sadness about the way the sacrament was being perceived. In fact, I received a text message from him early in the evening advising me of the interview and even requested me to pass it to others. It is my intention in this blog to shed more light on the matter.
Based on the report and the interviews done by the reporter, the nature and necessity of the Sacrament of Matrimony seemed unclear to many. The sacrament is seen as not different save for the "blessings" of the church or of God. As to its essential meaning and purpose, either they are very much wanting or they are not at all aware. Before the eyes of faith, civil marriage is not recognized as deemed by God. In the eyes of God and faith, there is only one marriage and that is the "church marriage." Civil marriage only makes the union legal but not the sacramental or salvific union. The church marriage is more than just a union of two people but a witnessing to the love between Jesus and the People of God. As baptized persons, it is only apt that they be united in the sacrament. As children of God, it follows that they should live together according to the will of the God they believe in. Their marriage in church affords them of salvation. The statements of those interviewed, which maybe considered as predominantly the view of many nominal Catholics, expressed that they are already contented or just settled for civil marriage because church marriage, allegedly, is expensive. They thought that civil marriage already frees them from their moral and spiritual responsibility before God. Maybe they were able to save a lot, but at what cost? Further, granted for the sake of argument, that it is true that the sacrament, which we believe to be necessary for salvation, needs to be paid, are we not going to do everything to have it? Are we not willing to receive it at all cost?

Let it be clear that the sacrament is never for sale or needed to be paid. It is not being offered in exchange of something. All it requires is our faith. If it is for sale, by virtue  of its ultimate importance, it should cost us an unquantifiable amount! Megazillions of pesos will be too cheap for an act that will facilitate our salvation! Precisely, it is priceless! Priceless in the sense that nobody can buy it with all the riches in the world. And priceless because it is without a price. It is a gift from God!
Actually, the thousand pesos that couples spend in a civil wedding is much much expensive than the simplest of church weddings! What really makes a church wedding expensive are the non-essentials couples (not the church, take important note!) require or need. A church wedding can happen with only the following; Baptismal Certificate, Confirmation Certificate, Pre-Cana Seminar, the couple, the priest, a pair of witnesses, and holy water. Churches actually can accept even only voluntary donations from the couple. The "donations" are not payments (and therefore no demands may come from the couple and no commitments from the church). These donations will be spent as support to the maintenance of the church (electricity, water, cleaning materials, etc.) and salaries for its personnel. Even with nothing shelled out, a couple maybe given the sacrament. So what makes a church wedding expensive? Why is it expensive? Who makes it expensive?
If the couple wanted something more than the basic requirements mentioned in the previous paragraph like; reception, wedding gowns, flowers, red carpet, singers, air-condition, videos and still pictures, new and expensive rings, and other things, then it is really expensive. But take note, these are not required by the church. It is the couple who wanted them for themselves. The couple are the ones who are making their church wedding expensive. It is expensive because of their "ek-eks" or luxuries. The sacrament maybe celebrated, in fact best celebrated, without these luxuries. In fact they give the wrong impression that a luxury wedding will result to a beautiful marriage. Some couples have to admit it. Church weddings are good opportunities for them to have a"bongga" or grand wedding. Without making judgments, there maybe couples who do not really believe in a church marriage but still does it because the church and church rite are perfect for their purpose of maybe showing off their riches and popularity. 

In my previous and present parish, I never encouraged mass weddings. Mass weddings provide opportunity for couples to receive the sacrament free. But they come across as less dignified because they are usually only for the so called "poor".  It is as if the rich, who can "pay" the church, are the only ones who can marry on their own and mass weddings are for those who can not "pay".Although it was once made obligatory by the late Cardinal Sin, I told couples that they are entitled to choose their wedding dates and they deserve to be married alone, donations or no donations, "payments" or no "payments". Money is not an issue here. It is their faith in God and in the sacrament that is the matter. If indeed they are not capable of giving any contributions to the church, so be it. Money is not a requirement for the effectivity of the sacrament anyway. As a pastor, I am just very glad to minister to couples who want to be saved by availing of the sacrament. However, it is not appropriate if we will encounter a couple who would not give any donation to the church and yet will have their reception in a five star hotel, dressed in expensive gowns and tuxedos, adorn the church with so many flowers, and a videographer recording their wedding. In other words, they are willing to spend for some wedding luxuries but nothing for the support of the church which will be serve them! Besides, the "donations" (not payment) being given were to be used to sustain the utility and personnel maintenance of the church. The money being received is to ensure the basic services for the apostolate of the church.
Therefore, it is wrong to say that church marriages are expensive. What is true is that church marriages are necessary and are given for free. Rates are being given by different parishes in order to give the donors an idea of how much non-essential services may entail. But they are not required to give the suggested rates. If it is going to be expensive, it is because of the couple's preferences and not because the of the requirements of the church.

(Just to prove this, couples may go to any Catholic church and just be honest about their situation. The pastor should make every effort to help them receive the sacrament. If the pastor still insists on the "donations" even if the couple had already intimated their situation, the couple may go to the bishop and ask for his help. But I am sure, the pastor would be able to address the situation in his level.)

Monday, June 1, 2009

Never Challenge God's Presence (or Test God's Patience)

In the parable of the vineyard, Jesus depicted so much violence. The owner of the vineyard sent his emissaries in order to ask for the produce of the vineyard from the caretakers. One by one, the emissaries were treated harshly and some were even killed. Finally, the owner sent his beloved son thinking that they would respect him. But the son was also killed. In the end, the owner  vowed that he will render justice to these killers.

Jesus used the parable to remind the leaders of His time about what had been done to those sent by God to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom and the need for repentance. However, we can not help but notice the seeming silence of God during those times when everyone He has sent including His Son were rejected or killed. Why was God not doing anything to address the crimes being committed against His very anointed? Why did He allow the killings to happen? Was He helpless against them? Definitely not. But we can not ignore the fact that the silence was deafening. What happened was just too much to be ignored or allowed. Do we really have an absentee God? 

Even the evils that are happening in the present times are very dangerous, aggressive, massive, prevalent, and arrogant. Gone are the days when those who commit the crimes are afraid of being seen or caught. The criminals are not that afraid anymore. In fact, the victims are more afraid than the perpetrators. Now, it seems that crimes are easier to commit and when caught, easier to free oneself from. People are sometimes helpless against evil. These led many to believe that maybe there is really no God and He is just a pigment of the imagination. For it is true that if He does exist, then, these evil things we experience around us would not have been allowed. Where God is present, evil has no place. Since evil is everywhere, then God must be nowhere!

But we believe otherwise. We just celebrated the Feast of Pentecost, the day when Jesus fulfilled His promise to be with us through His Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God's guarantee of His presence in the world. So, where is the Spirit? How is God present? But there is a more relevant question than these. More than these information, the key to understanding this seeming absence of God is to know who He is in the face of these situations. He is actually not absent. God deals with man's sin the way He sees effective. once when Jesus was passing through a Samaritan town on the way to Jerusalem, the people rejected them. The apostles, angry at those who disrespected and rejected the Lord, asked the Lord Jesus to send fire to the people. But Jesus did not agree to the proposal of the apostles which was out of impulsive anger. The Lord Jesus was patient. His way is the way of love, forgiveness, and compassion. The best way to win souls is not by punishment or revenge but with love. The best testimony to this was when He was put to death on the cross. He was without sin and He was with all the power to stop His crucifixion. But He did not go against the very will of His Father. Souls will be won through love even if it will entail giving up His life by dying on the cross. 

If we stop and think about it, that is how God with us at all times. Let us make ourselves as examples. With the many sins we have committed, what do we deserve as punishment? What life do we deserve? What fate should we have? Is it not that the truth is that God had been super patient with us? Not that He would not render justice for every sin we have committed. That would come. Maybe here, or in the next life. Maybe now or later. Meantime, God's concern is to win us. Just like in the Parable of the Wheat and The Weeds when the field owner allowed the weeds to grow among the wheat and not to uproot them for the wheat may also be uprooted. The message of the parable was that God wanted to give the sinners (weeds) to change. Salvation is addition. Jesus promised to save everyone. No one will be lost. And so, He will do everything to save everyone.

It will do no good to keep on questioning God's presence. It will be an act of arrogance to test God's patience. Jephtah's story, Judges Chapter 11, should be a strong warning to us never to lose faith in God and never to offer Him anything in exchange for something we want otherwise we may lose even those things that are valuable to us. Facing a seeming defeat from the Ammonites, Jephtah turned to the Lord. In return for victory in battle, he vowed to God that he would sacrifice to God the first thing he saw on his return home. Jephtah won the battle and returned home. As he approached his house, his beloved only daughter ran out to meet him, which meant he had to sacrifice her to fulfill his promise. Jephtah need not bargained with God. God promised to be with him in battle. But he lost faith. He doubted God's presence. Worse, he challenged God. God taught him a lesson. Unfortunately, it cost the life of his daughter.

We have a patient God. We must acquire His patient attitude. Much more, we must exercise that patience to God's patience. Jesus already assured us of His present in the Holy Spirit. What we ought to do is to recognize His presence in the Spirit. "The stone rejected by the builders became the cornerstone." says Scriptures. Evil can never defeat God. Evil is afraid of God. Evil preys on us. If we do not allow evil, it can not do anything against us. If we recognize the presence of the Spirit, the evil spirit has no place in us. God prevailed then, He prevails now, He will prevail till the end and beyond time.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Why We Must Care For More Than Our Own

"No man is an island. No man stands alone. 
Each man's joy is joy to me. 
Each man's grief is my own." 
No man Island -  橋咀洲 by Steve Wan^_______________,^.
This is the first stanza of a song communicating the relationship of man and the rest of creation. There had been songs, movies, books, articles, plays and all other media in almost every language that had been created to share this message of "connectedness" among everyone and everything in the world. However, it seems that man, the center and appointed steward of creation seems to be oblivious of this truth and most specially its consequences.
brazil-stephenferry-getty460 by qu1j0t3.
Brazil is known to be one of the greatest sources of fresh air. People from nearby countries, Venezuela, Africa, Cuba, Mexico,and the United States, for example, benefit from the the fresh air being emitted by the forests of Brazil. Recent developments in Brazil, however, had affected this supply of fresh air. Brazil is now considered the third greatest supplier of carbon dioxide, (a gas which is mainly responsible for the creation of a film around the earth which results to global warming) because of its massive deforestation activities. Deforestation is a form of land clearing done by burning forests instead of the more expensive and time consuming cutting of trees. The activity maybe local, but the effect is global.

Global warming is another phenomenon when we can not just sit back because we believe we are not affected and not affecting others. The earth's condition is influenced one way or the other by every activity that happens in it, whether by living or non-living things. Even the the most simple breathing contributes to the earth's condition. God had created a perfect world in the sense that if each creation is let to live according to its nature, each will live long enough to achieve its purpose. Science had discovered the need for the earth to maintain its balance. Climate change, the effect of global warming , had affected different countries in varying degrees. Climate, as we know is vital to the lives of everyone and everything. Lifestyles, agriculture, economy, construction, health, and what not, will be affected. Unless a country is thinking of controlling its own climate by isolating itself, it can not help but be affected by this global phenomenon. And even if it can, it will only be fleeting, because eventually, if the all of the earth is affected, they too will be affected.
HIV-Virus by Ice Blade.
For so many years now, one of the dangers being posed before humanity, is the threat to health. While it is true that there had been plagues that had appeared many many years ago, it seems that they are appearing more and more at less time space these days. The development of wider and wider ranged anti-biotics will attest to this. There was the lethal ebola virus which has actually mutated a lot of times. SARS appeared in Hongkong. Now we have the A (H1N1), "swine flu virus". There are actually many more being discovered every week. Some are not that strong as to affect life, businesses, and homes. But they are there. We do not know how they will re-appear. We know that viruses are capable of mutating to a different strain. There is always a race between the virus mutating and scientists discovering the cure drug. We know that we are no match to them. Human lives would be sacrificed first before cures, if we are fortunate, would be discovered. In doing so, we spend so much time, talent, and money to do it. The question is, are we always willing to offer time, talent, and money? Last year, another killer virus called "Lujo" was discovered in Africa ( Maybe the authorities are still keeping the details of the virus but it is certainly present and ready to unleash itself unless we do something about it. The virus maybe in Africa but because of the constant, fast, and easy movement of people courtesy of advances in transportation and communication, they can easily be transmitted to other countries including island countries like ours. It will be more devastating if it had reached the human to human level of transmission. It will be at its height if it becomes airborne! In that case, a pandemic is inevitable. I can not imagine myself breathing myself to possible death! And I thought the World War II holocaust had already been condemned and stopped! Now, it seems that we are our own executioners!
All of these boils down to one common solution; cooperation and awareness of our connectedness. We are our brother's keeper. We can not just clean, maintain and sanitize our own  home and backyard. We have to care for the home and backyard of our neighbors too! Rodents, cockroaches, flies, and other agents of virus transmission would not just limit themselves to your neighbor's unkempt place. They can invade other homes too. And the easiest way to spread viruses and germs is via these very active and constantly migrating creatures. We can not just fortify, beautify, and maintain our own. We just have to be committedly but respectfully involved and interested in others too for the sake of all.   

The song's last stanza says all of these; 

"When I help my brother,
Then I know that I,
Plant the seed of friendship,
That will never die."   

If we love our neighbor as ourselves, death will not be seen as the end but as a part of living. If in doing anything loving for every neighbor is seen as a service to God, then death will be seen as the door towards eternal life. Be connected and live forever. Decide to disconnect, and be prepared to die forever!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Men Are Losers Too?

In the Catholic faith, the sexual act done outside of marriage, even between consenting adults, is considered an offense against God. But what is interesting is that it seems that society, specially here in the Philippines, sees the woman as the more or the only aggrieved party and receives the greater humiliation and shamefacedness compared to the man. There is no doubt that the woman was pained, wounded and damaged by the act. How about the man? Just because he is a man does not mean that he comes out of the act undefiled or untarnished! While it is true that the sexual act is viewed by some as merely a physical issue, it is essentially also a psychological issue to many. To the Catholic faith it is a spiritual issue and therefore involves salvation eventually.

I know that the following reflection may be a vexation to some, will befuddle a lot, and pique many, but I believe I have to raise the thought and at least offer it as a question. My point is that in an illicit sexual act, why is it that it is only the woman who is believed to have lost, had been wrecked, or put to the disadvantage? In many cases, the woman feels more guilty about what happened to her. Society looks at the woman with more pity. On the other hand, the man seems to feel less remorse or very much wanting in self reproach. He is not also seen by society as having lost rather as one who had taken advantage of a "weaker sex". However, before the eyes of faith and God, he is equally guilty. He maybe physically unharmed, but he is definitely spiritually weakened. Therefore, there is no reason why he must have less contrition. Society should also look at him as another victim of the situation.

This difference in treating a woman from a man involved in a sexual act outside of marriage seems to convey the idea that it is always the woman who is more harmed while the man is not. This is not true and should not be propagated. The man should be made aware that he too loses something in a sexual act. He must be made aware that he would also be responsible before God. He must also realize that it will haunt him later in his life. On the other hand, society must also be reminded on the quandary of the man. Without neglecting and easing on the culpability of the man in the act (in case he was responsible for it), society should come to the aid of the man in realizing his situation essentially, psychologically, and spiritually.

I have heard of some lady legislators together with cause-oriented women's group lobbying for more laws against men who "victimize" women. I have nothing against punishing men who are guilty abusing women (and children). If they are guilty, so be it. But I believe that society and the men who are involved in these situations also need elucidation on the subtlety, gravity, and depth of the matter, much more the spiritual and moral damage it has inflicted. Men, after all are human beings too. The damage they have received may have been less than the women, nevertheless, it should be plain that they too needed care and assistance. It will be sad if we have addressed chauvinism but in the process had become ultra-pro feminist! Then, we have shifted from one extreme to the other. We are back to a situation where the problem was just reversed.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Hasta La Vista, Tita Cora!

Tita Marina (Ilagan), one of the oldest member of our community, is a daily mass goer in our parish. If she happens to participate in the morning mass, Tita Cora (Padilla) would always be there to accompany her and attend to her needs in case she would need any. They will always be seated together in front. Every after mass, I would meet them and walk with them from the altar to the church door. Because Tita Marina speaks to me in Spanish, I would try to answer in my own smorgasbord Spanish. My Spanish would come from everywhere, e.g. "Si, Tita Marina. Las mujeres con todos los santos de las Islas Filipinas contigo. Entonces en seguida para per nalia aqui!" And then I would also recite with her the "Mi Ultimo Adios" of our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal. All the time, Tita Cora would be laughing at my Spanish which Tita Marina seem to understand! And all the time she would hold the hand of Tita Marina on the other side (the nurse on the other). When Tita Marina's car would arrive, Tita Cora will see to it that Tita Marina is safely in the car. 

A member of the Catholic Women's League, Tita Cora has always something to share during meetings. She speaks her mind. She proudly and lovingly expresses her feelings. She would always be relied on to remind everyone of some important details or announcements. She criticizes constructively. She is a woman of concern and charity. She rocks! She is!

Yesterday at about quarter to seven in the evening, Becky, her daughter, came to the office and asked for a priest. She wanted her mother to be blessed. According to her, they were having a good day. In the afternoon, they just had a sumptuous meryenda (including some doughnuts courtesy of Aida Tieng). Tita Cora retired to her room after the merienda. Later, one her nurses heard a fierce ringing of her bell alarm. The nurse rushed to her room and there she was, motionless, still, frozen. The nurse tried to revive her by calling out her name. But she was gone. I arrived just as the 911 mobile arrived. The doctor was already attending to her. I waited until she was ready for the blessing. As soon as the doctor was done, we immediately gathered near her bed and I gave her her last rites and blessing. Tita Cora will now meet her Creator. Tita Cora will soon fulfill her dream. Tita Cora bade goodbye to earthly life to enter into eternal life. Tita Cora will now accept Jesus' invitation to paradise!

Adios y Hasta la vista. Au revoir! Sayonara. Arrivederci. Shalom. Selamat jelan. La revedere. Paalam!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Not The Right But The True Connection.

vine leaves arching over the path by rosewithoutathorn84.
On this fifth Sunday of Easter we have the parable of the vine and the branches. The Lord Jesus used the image of the relationship of the vine and the branches to show our relationship with Him. In the same way as the branches could not sustain itself if not connected to the vine, we could not also live if we are disconnected from the Lord. In the same way that the branches could not bear fruit apart from the vine, we also could not bear fruit apart from the Lord. It was God who gave us life. It is God who sustains it. It will be God who would bring and receive it in its fullness.

So many times in today's Gospel, the word "remain" was mentioned. It reveals the importance of remaining in the favor of the Lord. Anyone, no matter how rich, famous, or powerful is nothing without the Lord. Anyone, no matter how deprived in this world, would be complete if he has the Lord. The Lord is our enough. The world is never enough.

In another teaching, the Lord said that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Him. In the last Gospels about the Good Shepherd, this was made clear. There are other kinds of shepherds whose caring and pasturing are wanting. In the same way, there are other kinds of vines which sustenance does not bring fruits. Only Jesus is the Good Shepherd and the "true" vine. He is the one who can see us through this life which His Father had created.

Genesis taught us that we were created in the image and likeness of God. It just follows that our fulfillment rests on living that image. No, it does not mean that we are God or we should become God. It means that God had shared Himself in a limited way to us and we have the responsibility to reflect them our lives. Kailangang magmana tayo sa Diyos! Because God was our creator, we are expected to exhibit His values, ways, most important, His Will. If dogs created us, then we can live like dogs. If crabs created us, then we have reasons to act like crabs. If we came from snakes, we should not wonder if we live like them. But as the Psalmist sang, "You have made me little less than a God and have lavished my heart with Your love. With dignity and honor you clothe me. Given me rule over all!" (Psalm 131). If we act other than our being, then we have degraded ourselves and we are not worthy of the dignity that God had given us.

Therefore, we must stay connected to God. Let us live in His milieu. Let our sustenance be His Word and His Deeds. And then, we will not only bear fruit, but much much more of them. Those fruits are what would form and develop us as children of God worthy of the Kingdom made available to us by the Lords death and resurrection. Those fruits will make our life complete. Those fruits will bring our life to its intended fruition.
Eaglet's future domain by aaardvaark.
(Let me share to you this story which is very relevant to the reflection above. There is a sad American Indian story about a young man who found an eagle's egg and put it into the nest of a prairie chicken. The eagle hatched with the brood of prairie chickens and grew up with them. All its life, the misplaced eagle thought it was a prairie chicken and did only what the prairie chickens did. It scratched in the dirt for seeds and insects to eat And it flew no more than a few feet off the ground with a thrashing of wings like other prairie chickens. Years passed and the unfortunate eagle grew very old. One day, it saw a significant bird high above cloudless sky. Hanging with graceful majesty on the powerful wind currents, it soared gracefully on its strong golden wings. "What a beautiful bird!" said the unfortunate eagle to its neighbor. "That's an eagle, the chief of the birds," the neighbor replied. "But don't give it a second thought. You could never be like him." So the poor eagle never gave it a second thought and it died thinking it was a prairie chicken.)

Not a few people had lived their lives different from how it should be lived because they had been placed in an environment or they were "branched" to the wrong vine. The difference we have from the eagle above is that we are human beings. God had given us the capacity to make decisions and changes if we want. Hopefully, once we realize that we are in the wrong environment or are being influenced by the wrong vine, we will have the strength and the will to find the true one. If we are open and sensitive, we will find the Lord who is just there in our hearts! Further, hopefully, it will not be too late or we would not die with it just like the poor eagle.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Fifty-Two And Surviving!

I could not believe it but am already fifty-two! To think that I could not have been more than forty or more years older? Yes, it is true. It is because I had a domestic accident when I was about seven. It was probably a Sunday morning then (because we were all home) when we were playing at the second floor of our house. The wooden "horse" used for ironing was located near the open window. I sat on the ironing horse to watch my brothers and sisters. At one point I was laughing so hard that I leaned back forgetting that I was sitting with the open window at my back. I fell down. I landed face down and my rib hit the hard ground. My heart may have gotten a shock and caused it to stop because I was not breathing when my father got to me. He immediately carried me and brought me inside the house where he tried on me everything he knew about first aid. The first thing I felt when I recovered consciousness was the splash of water on my face. I saw my mother and my siblings all seated on the stairs leading to our second floor crying. Maybe they thought I was gone. As soon as I regained consciousness, my father immediately brought me to the Rizal Provincial Hospital in Pasig. I remembered the doctor asking me to walk. I was a little "groggy" but I was very determined to show them I was not hurt and that I was good. Some more examinations were done to me and it was good. I had not incurred a brain damage (so it seems! Ha ha ha ha.), fractures and other severe effects because of the fall. After a week, I was back on my toes!

Another time, I was imitating Tarzan by hanging myself at the door. When I let go, I did not have the right footing for the fall. My feet slipped and I fell on my back. I was not able to protect my head so that it hit the concrete floor and was bouncing like a ball! I was vomiting hard after that and I was brought immediately to the National Mental Hospital (which was very near to our place). After some examinations, I was fortunate not to have incurred skull fractures and severe contusions. 

One morning, I was reaching for the kettle with the boiling brewed coffee to fill my cup, when suddenly the handle broke and the boiling coffee spilled on my body. As soon as my father (again) saw me, he immediately rubbed my body thereby peeling of the burned skin! I did not really feel the pain of the rubbing because I felt more the pain caused by the hot coffee! I suffered second degree burns. Again, I was brought to the Rizal Provincial Hospital. Incidentally, the same doctor who took care of me when I fell from the window, again attended to me. My father told me that the doctor commented that I will not die of sickness but my being accident prone! Up to now, I still have the scar of that burning in front of my body. It is similar to the map of Luzon island!

Another afternoon, me and my friends were playing in a vacant lot full of trees, particularly bamboo trees! I can not remember the reason but I climbed the bamboo tree! The bamboo tree I climbed grew inside a drum which rim was already destroyed by rusts! Suddenly, I miscalculated my footing and slid down. My knee was caught by one of the protruding edges of the destroyed rusted rim of the drum. At first I did not feel anything. Then, I just felt blood flowing from my right knee. That was the only time I realized I got a cut! Blood gushed forth from the wood profusely. I went home and saw my mother washing our clothes. I told her what happened to me. When she saw my wound, she was frantic but maintained her composure. She let me lie down, got some gauges and agua oxinada and merthiolate. I think it is better known as iodine tincture? Anyway, she was able to stop the bleeding, cleaned it and put some bandages. It took more than a month before it got healed!

I had many more accidents. I think I have mentioned them in a blog I wrote earlier. But I am writing this because I came to realize and appreciate again how much God loves me and the mission He wanted me to do. As the kumpare of my father said, I still have a mission to do. Little have I known that it will be through the priesthood. The call of God to me was simple and direct. He inspired me to embrace the call. Like Mary, I was graced to say "yes" to the call. And so here I am, striving and struggling to do God's Holy Will!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Witness or Wetness?

Before Jesus ascended into heaven, He left His apostle a command to proclaim the Good News to all peoples. This was after He appeared to them a lot of times after His death. There were many accounts of His appearances before the apostles and at one time, He asked for something to eat sending the message that it was really Him they have met. He even let them touch Him to compliment their seeing Him. The mission of the apostle was to share everything that they had heard and seen in Jesus during His life and ministry here on earth.

It is interesting to note that after His death, the apostles were frustrated, dejected, and demoralized. They could not understand what happened to Jesus, to whom they had given and left  everything just to follow Him. And then He died!? Is this the one who is going to free them from their oppression? Is this the one who would save them? Jesus, in His appearances answered all their questions and clarified all their confusions. What He had told them before about His suffering and death now has meaning and answer in the resurrection. Having seen the Lord changed everything in the life and faith of the apostles. Having seen the Lord made them ripe and very much prepared for the mission of proclaiming the Good News to others.

They will be "WITNESSES" of all that Jesus said and did. As witnesses, they will testify to what they had seen, heard and touched. They will be credible witnesses because they were there. Their experiences will speak for themselves. The account on the Gospels and the New Testament letters attest to that. What were written were what the apostles experienced. And as such, they are considered the Word of God proclaimed and borne out of faith. In other words, INSPIRED by God. Even in our daily life, the credibility of witnesses rests so much in their presence in the situation. No amount of hearsay can weigh more heavily than an experienced witness. The apostles were of those kind. Their personal accounts are considered Gospel truth. At the same time, one who had experienced the Lord can not but share that experience to others. The responsibility consists in faithfully communicating what the Lord Jesus did.

It is easy to understand this as the work of priests, nuns, lay workers and missionaries alone. That is far from the truth. Our Baptism makes us also responsible. As a member of the family of God, we share that responsibility. And so it should lead us to a reflection of how we have been a witness for the faith. The mass is a perfect example of how we can measure our witnessing. In the mass, we are supposed to have experienced the Lord; in the Word of God that was read, in the congregation gathered together in His name, in the priest who presides as a vicar of Christ, and most specially and perfectly in the Eucharist who is Jesus Himself made present in the form of bread and wine in the Spirit. Just like the experience of the apostles who became courageous and zealous in their witnessing after having seen the Lord, we too, after having experienced Him in the mass, should have the same attitude. After the mass, the priest would send us to mission by commanding as to "go and proclaim the Good News" or other similar words of mission.

But what happens after we "go..."? Do we reflect the image and presence of Christ to others? Do we get excited sharing to others our experience? Can we say that "We have seen the Lord!". Indeed, the mass should have given us an experience of the Lord. Unfortunately, the expected results were not there to some. Unfortunately, it was just a ritual which has little if not irrelevant in our daily life. Once I approached a son of a "religious" family in our community. I asked him why he was not going to mass with his family. His father told me that they were trying hard to invite him but he would not go. The son answered me with, "Father, if the result of going to mass is shouting at our household helps, cursing, dishonesty, quarreling, gambling, and even having illicit affairs, I would rather not go!" This response startled me. The son has a point. While the merits of the mass is not determined by the lack of witnessing of a couple, it should give us the message that what happens to us after the mass sends a very strong message to those who know we are participating in one.

And so the challenge is before us. Let us go back to our experience of the Lord. How real is that experience? How much do we believe in that experience? These are what will inspire us to go and proclaim the Good News. These are what will make us true and effective witnesses of our faith. Otherwise, we might as well be called, "WETNESSES", meaning we are doused with the cold water of passivity, fear, and cowardice rather than be inspired, moved, and inebriated by the Spirit.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Life Made Harder

Always we would encounter a book, video, an article, or a suggestion on how to make or do things easier. And it is true. There are a  lot of ways, techniques, systems, mechanics, etc. that can make things easier. Man, for so many years, had discovered and find ways to make life easier and faster. From the crude and primitive Stone Age, we have arrived at a very sophisticated and ultra-modern Computer Age. We are now hi-tech. However, on second thought, there are things that we have done that had made life more difficult for us that even sophistication and modernization could not do anything against. The ways of some had made life generally hard for everyone. Let me count some of those ways...

In spite of the availability of cell phones, fax machines, xerox copiers, and computers, it is very possible now to take you long to get necessary documents like birth certificates, pass ports, car registrations, baptismal certificates, marriage licenses, etc. This is because of the proliferation and availability of fake documents and to be protected against those who give wrong information or would want to have more than one identity. Using the very technology which were supposed to make life easier had made life harder. Apparently, showing yourself "alive" is not enough proof to give you your birth certificate. If your parents, relatives, or "kumadrona" had not registered you when you were born, and then you come to apply for a passport, you will undergo a lot of processes; get a certification from the National Statistics Office that you have no existing record, apply for "delayed registration" in your local civil registry (which has about ten requirements!), then apply to the Department of Foreign Affairs. In parishes, it is not surprising anymore to receive a letter from the Japanese Embassy sending a xerox copy of the Baptismal Certificate we issued and asking us if we issued such a certificate! Again, because of the prevalence of fake documents, the Japanese Embassy spends time in verifying the authenticity of the documents presented to them. I feel ashamed of the process, but they have their reasons for doing so. And in most cases, they are right, unfortunately! If people can only be trusted, things would be a lot easier. It used to be that applying for passports did not need the presentation of a birth certificate. As far as I know, there were a lot of countries, including the United States, when we were not required to get a visa. But because times had changed, meaning we Filipinos had become less trustworthy, we have to go through all of these scrutinies, interviews, presentation of documents, and even pay just to be accepted for application.

Travelling, specially abroad, had become so difficult. Because of the security measures existing now in air ports due to the threat of terrorism all over the world, you have to be at the airport at least three hours before boarding time, baggage now have a lot of limitations, you go through many check points from the time you enter the building to the plane (passport and ticket check, initial baggage check by a scanner/detector, metal detector, check-in check, baggage check-in check (remove your shoes, belt, cell phone, watch, keys, etc.), liquids must be limited to 100 ml, pass through a metal detector, manual checking by the guards, and visual checking by the  flight attendants. Whew! In spite of those checks, sometimes, some things still go through! I agree that all of these must be done because of the the present circumstances. But precisely, if the present circumstances are not present, travelling would be a lot easier! We have made things difficult for ourselves.

Big bills have to go through a fake money detector machine (which I think are not perfectly reliable). If you happen to have a very old and crumpled bill, most probably, it will not be accepted. But the point is, because of the possible presence of fake bills, our cash payments had to be examined first. While on the "fake", now, even fake merchandises, when detected or recognized, would be a reason for one to be disallowed entry to a country (the US and Europe). It is very possible that when you arrive at their airports, your luggage will not only be examined for explosives or deadly weapons but also for imitations! All of these because of previous experiences involving counterfeits. Again, this added to our difficulties.

Cars now have different security gadgets; alarms, steering wheel lock, automatic lock, car safe, GPS, key lock, etc. All of these in order to protect the car from being car napped, "basag-kotse" gang victim, forcibly opened, etc. Houses also have their own security gadgets like double locks, alarms, electric fences (this is expensive!), close circuit television system (CCTV), motion detectors, and the human guards! So much expenses and efforts for security which need not be if only the threats were not present. Again, we have made our life difficult and expensive too!

City travel, in spite of the presence of many vehicles can be easier if (all) drivers, specially bus drivers, are disciplined. Traffic should be more tolerable if we follow traffic signs. In Metro Manila, we have more traffic signs because our traffic managers have to address the unique driving habits of Filipinos; road dividers (steel,plastic, and cement fences), instructional signs, traffic enforcers, yellow lines (for buses only), allotted stops (private, taxis, and buses), number (color) coding, free windows, truck bans, cameras, etc. So many things which would not have been necessary if drivers are disciplined. The most important benefit is actually less accidents and less lives lost or endangered. Again, we have made our life harder!

If we can address these things, is it not true that life can really be easier? Unfortunately, these things had emerged for some legitimate reasons. It only show that our efforts should be concentrated in instilling good values to each and everyone. Otherwise, we would all suffer the consequences. The saddest part of it is that even if we have all the high technologies and most sophisticated gadgets available in our time, life would still be difficult because we still have to spend everything we have just to address our lack of discipline and immoral intentions and actions. Which, if not for those human inflicted difficulties, we could have used to make life even easier, which was really the reason for their discovery or development.

How about you? Do you know of something that had made life harder?

(This reflection was inspired by observing a fellow bowler who plays bowling the hard way!  Without explaining the mechanics of bowling, let me say that one of its most effective principle is; "the shortest way between two points is a straight line." This bowler would instead used a reactive ball (one that hooks) in order to down a single pin for a spare conversion. In the process, because of the unpredictability of the lanes (at times due to erratic oil distribution on the lane), he misses the pin by being too short or over. I thought he could write a book on bowling entitled, "Bowling Made Harder!" Who knows, it could be a bestseller here in our country !)