Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Friday, July 23, 2010
Sunday, June 13, 2010
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Friday, June 11, 2010
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Also, we must be the same with him. Our relationship with him must also be unconditional. We do not relate to him just because we benefit from him. We do not pray to him because he grants our wishes. We do not love him because..... . We must love him, period! It is unfortunate if we attach conditions and when they are not met by God, our relation with him is affected. Worse, we wane or even abandon our relationship with him. We act as if we can live without him.
I remember when I was still a deacon and I was about two months before my ordination to the priesthood. My throat was weak. I could not speak for more than an hour. I brought my situation before the Lord. I told him how ineffective I would be if my voice will only be good for an hour. How can I preside in masses, give recollections, seminars, and retreats, etc.? I went to the doctor and I was told to rest my throat for a month! Well, it seemed I had no choice. But I kept on praying. Ordination came and I was still in the same condition. I was very sad but I got to resign myself in that situation. If it is the way God will make me serve him, then so be it! In my early years in the priesthood, I will always find myself arranging my schedules so that I will have time to rest my voice. A lot of times I would decline invitations to have mass or give recollections precisely because I will not have the voice to do them. Some people found it unusual for a new priest like me. There were some who were angry at me! They could not understand and believe my reason. It was painful for me. I really wanted to serve but I could not. but, God had given me his answer. I was once tempted to give him an ultimatum to stop my ministry if I would not have my voice. But he gave me the grace to be humble. And I realize that I could not impose conditions on him. It was the situation he had given me, I will serve him through that capacity. I knew that exacting conditions at him will go nowhere.
I continued to serve accordingly. But I tried to help myself by constantly going to the doctor. The doctor told me that I had weakened my throat due to abused talking in my previous years. Before I entered the seminary, I was a professor in a university. I remembered really abusing my voice during those teaching years. Now, I am suffering its consequences. The doctor told me hat I can recover if I will take care of my voice. I did. After some time, I just realized, I had recovered. Thanks be to God!
Had I stuck to my conditions and not proceeded in serving, I would have allowed myself (or the devil) prevail and I would not have served at all or worse, not entered ordination. Truly, trust in God should always guide us. He knows what he is doing. Our human conditions may tell us one thing. But the divine wisdom is always supreme. Truly, God's unconditional love deserves an unconditional faith response!
Monday, March 22, 2010
This is a very touching story because it involves the bringing back to life of a young man by a widow in Naim. Touching because the widow during the time of the Lord Jesus lost her son who would not only be her companion in life but one who would give her representation in society. The patriarchal society prevalent during the time of the Lord Jesus renders this widow weak and outcast. Already devastated by the loss of her husband, now she faces the loss of her son! Jesus, fully aware of the situation, brought back to life the dead young man. This prompted the witnesses to the event to exclaim, "A great prophet has arisen in our midst!" and "God has visited His people!" These are two great statements any person can give to anyone at that time. The former is given only to prominent and credible people who had appeared in the streets of Israel and nearby villages. The prophet is an emissary of Yahweh! The former is another version of the latter but is more defined and divine. Jesus came to the life of this mother and son at the most appropriate time. And the Lord Jesus responded fully and with compassion!
People look for God in their daily lives. To some, when God does not appear to them the way they wanted or expected, would turn atheist. Others would not accept God's seeming absence or unwanted presence. But many are happy because God is very much present to them in their lives. They find God in the Eucharist, in the chapels, in their joys and sorrows, in their love ones and friends, in all the events happening around them, and in sickness, and in death. People living in the same place at the same time experience God differently. It is primarily because of faith. This makes the difference.
I noticed in my early years as priest that most of those who ask for me to give to them the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick were rich people. But when I was assigned in a parish relatively full of poor people, I discovered that the poor were even demanding for the presence of their priests during those moments of need. I was once called to give the sacrament to a very poor faithful in one of the depressed areas of my parish. It was raining hard and the flood water had begun to rise along the road. But the relative was determined to fetch me and give her mother an opportunity to reconcile with God and receive the anointing. When we arrived at their place, flood water had risen up to hip deep! I was very worried! But my companion was not. She was more concerned about her mother. I ended up administering the sacrament soaked in water. They elevated their mother by holding up her bed. It was difficult but I saw their faith. They could not endure having their mother go without God visiting her at all! I saw the calmness and peace in them while I was leaving. They thanked me but they thanked God more. One of the children said, "Salamat at hindi pinabayaan ng Diyos and nanay!" ("Thanks be to God because He did not forsake mother!"). They thanked me too for braving the flood. Deep inside, I thanked them for showing me their faith and teaching me about Gods' presence in the process.
I could have declined their invitation seeing the rising water. I could have told them I am not feeling well. I could have told them I have another appointment to meet. I could have told them a lot of reasons not to go. But I was glad and thankful I did not. Not only because I was able to minister to that mother. (Eventually, she died and I presided her funeral mass.) but because they had ministered to me and made me appreciate this great gift of God to me. God chose me to represent Himself to His people. Irregardless or including all my weakness, He made me His priest. Since then. my concern and awareness of my priesthood as a representation of God to His people had increased and deepen.
Thank you Lord for the gift of the priesthood. Thank you Lord for giving Your people a concrete way to see, feel, and hear You through us, Your priests. Thank You for visiting us!
This teaching of forgiveness was a very radical teaching from the Lord Jesus. It was one of the reasons why some questioned and rejected Him. But it was also for the same reason that many were attracted to Him. The teaching comes from the very essence of human life. The teaching comes from the Lord Himself who knows best whom He has created. The teaching comes from the ultimate purpose of salvation. The Lord Jesus knew it was difficult because of the common human tendency to retaliate when attacked, get even when abused, revenge when vilified. Then we had "an eye for an eye", now we also have "tit for tat", "a taste of his own medicine", etc. The Lord Jesus knew that these responses will amount to nothing better for everyone. The spiraling violence would just lead to more pains, destruction, and death. Such a fate was not part of God's plan when He created the world. Peace, harmony, bliss, glory, and the like are what He wanted for everyone. Therefore, FORGIVENESS!
There was a time in my when I thought I was already the worst sinner in the world. Not that I have committed all of the sins possible. I thought I have wronged so many people and had developed a very minimum regard for God. Yes, I believed in God, but it was merely in thought or a pronouncement from my lips. I still feared Him, alright, but not enough not to succumb to every temptation that I encounter. By God's grace, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, I was given the courage to humble myself before the Lord and went to a priest to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. After I had confessed my sins, I asked the priest if God can forgive me. He assured me that God had forgiven me because I was contrite. Just before I was leaving, I remembered somebody who had greatly offended me. I told the priest about it and the pain it was causing me. The priest asked me to forgive the person. I said I could not. I saw the wide surprise in the priests' face. He seemed floored by my answer. Then he reminded me about the forgiveness I just received from God. There I was very worried about whether God can forgive me, and yet, in spite of my many and grave sins, I was forgiven. But when it comes to the forgiveness of another person, I could not. Why? I want to receive forgiveness but I do not to share one. I want to enjoy being given another chance but I do not want to give another the same. Now, who is being unfair? Who is wicked? I felt ashamed.
One prayer that we always pray is the Lords' Prayer. In the last part it says, "Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us!" Put in another way, it means that we are asking God not to forgive us unless we forgive others. The prayer did not mean to attach a condition to Gods' forgiveness. Never does God give any condition to His forgiveness. We are forgiven once we admit our sins and resolve not to do them anymore. But Jesus, in teaching His apostles the prayer, wanted us to share the joy of forgiveness. He wanted us to live at peace and in harmony with each other. If we will continue to be divided even if we claim to be united with God, our joy will not be complete. The two greatest commandments are; Love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and with all your strength. And love your neighbor as you love yourself." It means that our relationship with God must also redound to our relationship with others. So how can we accept forgiveness when we do not give it to others? Unless "wala kang utang na loob!"
For the Lord Jesus to be amazed of the faith of someone, it is already amazing. For that someone to be a centurion, a pagan, it is doubly amazing. The Lord pointed out that He had never seen such kind of faith in Israel! Israel, according to God's plan, should be the one exhibiting such faith. And yet, the irony was that the very people He chose was rejecting Him and the very people He would address later were the ones accepting already Him! The centurion showed true faith by just relying on the word of Jesus. His response to our Lord Jesus had been quoted in the mass to prepare the faithful in accepting the Lord in communion; "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed!" For the centurion, physical presence is not anymore necessary for one who has faith. His experience as an officer, a person of authority, taught him that. Authority complimented with faith makes things happen.
The challenge of building a new church after it got burned was very daunting. To think that I was new assigned in the parish, merely a month after I took over and six days after my installation. The task of building the church was not a question. The question was how; how should it look? How will the funds be obtained? Who will design and construct it? Who will finance it? Specially the funding, the task at hand is a challenge to ones' faith. But that is the point of faith. To believe and trust in God in a situation like this. And trust and faith I gave. And trust and faith our faithful gave!
In one of the fund raising events we had, a dinner concert, the orchestra was playing and everyone was enjoying the performance. We were in the middle of our dinner when suddenly it drizzled. The event was being held right there in the ruins of the burned church. We did not provide a tent cover hoping that it will not rain. Besides, such an event is best experienced in open air. There were some who stood and find a place to protect them from the rain. But many stayed. It was still a slight drizzled. I just found myself bowed in prayer, to God, to Mother Mary, and to our patron St. Alphonsus. I sought Gods' intervention and the intercession of Mary and St. Alphonsus. But I was resigned to it in case it is really Gods' will that this fund raising event will be aborted.The orchestra continued playing. The music seemed a musical score to my prayer. But I had faith, a deep faith, that it will not be stopped. Suddenly, the rain stopped. Everybody went back to their places and the orchestra played more loudly approaching the climax of the piece it was playing. Everybody clapped their hands, both for the players and the rain!
We had many succeeding events to raise funds for our church. In all of those, problems and challenges occur. Every time, we have to rely on God to assist us. Every time, we have to summon the guidance of Mother Mary and our patron, St. Alphonsus. This has become a refrain in all of those events. I realized that life is very much like any fund raising event; never without God's presence and assistance. Yes, God had given us so many things and he had made us capable of achieving great things. But we can not completely be on our own. Our dependence on God is absolute. Our faith should guarantee that. Without Him we can do nothing.
This was also called as the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross referring to that historical account of the bringing back of the pieces of the original cross where our Lord Jesus was crucified. King Heraclius recovered the parts of the cross from the Persians who stole them earlier. When brought back to its original place and was displayed for worship, many were cured of their sickness. Now called as the Triumph of the Cross brought its meaning not only to the recovery of the parts of the Cross but to its real essence of being the main symbol used by God in order to save us. The Cross, representing the most scandalous, absurd, painful, and difficult way to die, had become a symbol of love, life, and salvation! That which was considered a message of death and defeat was transformed into victory and life in Jesus! The Christians adopted it as their dominating symbol.
However, at present, it seems that the cross had been misused, abused, and over used. Worse, Christians themselves are guilty. The cross has been used more of a decoration rather than a symbol of love and triumph over suffering and death. The cross, because of its powerful message and its place in the Christian, faith had been used to attract people's attention to use them for their own purpose. The cross is being threatened again by being devoid of meaning or at least given a different and adversary one. This feast reminds us to rally the cross back to its significance in the Christian faith.
A miracle (at least for the faithful of St. Alphonsus in Magallanes Village, Makati City) happened when our parish church got burned. Almost everything, from the pews, ceilings, glass doors and windows, and the statues were gutted down by the fire. Except for one, The wooden cross located at the church entrance. The late Msgr. Nico told me that the place of that cross had always been an issue among priests and parishioners. In any case, it found its place at that door entrance. After the fire, that cross stood alone, not unharmed by the fire, but the main features were still visible. Many saw it as a miracle. It was another triumph of the cross against the fire. It was the triumph of the cross against destruction. It was the triumph of the cross for the faith!
While the new church is being constructed, it was placed in the bahay-kubo, our make shift church. It served as our cross for all the masses held there. Everyone going to mass, recognizing what it had gone through, would pass by it, utter some prayers, kiss it, or hold it. It became a source of strength for everyone. It became an inspiration for all the challenges and sufferings we encounter in life. The cross was a living testimony to the power of God!
When the new church was finished, it was placed there on a side where people can have access to it. It was a hard decision to determine its location. But where it is now, seems to be the perfect place. People continue to visit it and others, in fact, had developed a devotion to it!
Today, whenever I look at that cross, I remember the difficulties we had in the reconstruction of our church. The work of reconstruction was a big task to fulfill. Going back to those meetings and supervision of the construction made me ask myself how I was able to go through them. The cross gave me the answer. Sufferings, challenges, and even death are not the ultimate destiny of life. We will all go through all of them and more. In the same way that the Lord Jesus defeated death on the cross, we too, in faith and with the Lord, will also be victorious over all. The cross does not anymore represent defeat but triumph, not death, but life, not hate, but love, and not damnation but salvation!
Do not judge! Such is the command of our Lord Jesus. Is this possible? Is it not incumbent of every human being to judge given that we see, touch, hear, taste, and feel? The mere use of our senses already make us guilty of judgment. As thinking people, are we not always guilty whenever we make an assessment, understanding, and conclusion of every situation we encounter? In other words, the only time when we can not make a judgment is when we are dead. And even that is questionable. So, what is the point of our Lord?
In the Gospel, His command goes further by telling us to first look at ourselves before we look at others. Is he against any criticism? Is He against any effort to try to help others to change. Surely, the Lord knows that we are not the best "judge" of ourselves. We need the other people to better ourselves. "No barber could cut his own hair!", the saying goes. So what is this commandment telling us?
There was a time when I was very critical of other priests. I was guilty of self righteousness. I look down on them and questioned God how He allowed them to be ordained to be His minister. I behaved as if I knew better and God was deceived. Until I was into deep formation work. As a formator, I became privy to the life and faith of seminarians. There I realized how human weakness seem to prevail at times over our will and noble desires. Then, during the renewal for priests, I was assigned as one of the Spiritual Directors who will assist and "direct" brother priests in their life and ministry. I heard their pains and joys, victories and defeats, loves and hates, etc. They were not perfect but they were sincere. They were not sinless, but they were struggling. They were not successful but they had given their best. After those heart to heart encounters, I found myself looking at myself. My own life and ministry. And I realized I was no different. We share the same challenges and temptations. I, too, had my own failures and guilts. I suddenly felt empathy. I began to judge less.
The point of the Lord in the Gospel was not to abandon our senses and refrain from criticisms. What He wanted was for us to see deeper and be aware of our limitations as human beings. We do not know the whole experience of the person before us. The first quality we have is that we are humans. We are creatures and therefore we are limited. At most, we only have our point of view or a part of the whole truth. Rather than be judgmental, we must be humble. The fact that we do not see what is in every one's heart, should remind us that we only know so much of the truth but never the whole truth. Only God knows that. but even if God knows everything about us, He would rather heal than destroy, love than punish, forgive than get even. Judgment is Gods'. Yet, He chose to love. That was why He went by way of the cross. Dying for us is the ultimate loving.
My formation in the Jesuit institution, San Jose Seminary, had given me a principle I would never forget but keeps me struggling to be humble and avoid making harsh and unwanted judgments. 'Always give somebody a plus sign." It means to give every one the benefit of the doubt. There must be a reason why he had done it. It is an attitude of trust in the person. And even after the truth is known and the person is "guilty", compassion rather than rejection should be the result. Come to think of it; that is how God is with us!
Thanks be to God!
The Lord Jesus began His teaching today by reminding people that a good tree does not bear rotten fruits and a rotten tree does not bear good fruits. It follows that because we were created by God, then we have divine qualities. Qualities proper to our humanity. We acquire and cultivate it to perfection every time we follow His command. To be a child of God means to live according to Gods' Will. Then, to further guide His listeners, Jesus gave the parable of the house built on rock. It means that if we are to be strong, consistent, and stable in faith, we must found our life in the LIVED Word of God. Having read or heard the Word only accomplishes an encounter with God. By the grace of God and our persistence, He will reveal to us its relevance in our lives. He will help understand its meaning and purpose. If we still persist, we will make it applicable in our day to day living. It will not just remain a knowledge but it will become a way of life!
So many times we claim to know God and calls to Him in prayer. Many times He had answered us and told us what to do. But many times we reject what He wants us to do. Worse, we do the exact opposite of what He wants. So, why do we remain with Him? Why do we even call Him our God? What the Lord Jesus said is true; "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord', but do not do what I command?" For what is the relation we have for Him as Creator-creature, if we prefer to be in command and not Him? Would we rather that we exchange places with God? We command and He follows? Of course not! But here we realize the challenge of who we are, what we are suppose to do, and where we are going. God created us. God sustains us. God will welcome us in the end. We belong to God and therefore, we must know Him, love Him, and serve Him!
After the mass one Sunday morning, a parishioner approached me and told me that I repeated my just repeated the homily I gave last year for the same occasion. I thought about it and admitted to him that it was the same homily. I asked him if there is a problem. He answered by telling me that it seems I did not prepare and that I just rehashed a homily. He has a point but I believe that repeating a homily is not bad. In fact, the Gospels give a united message: salvation. The Word of God is communicate this message of salvation. The prophets used the situations in their time to enflesh God[s everlasting Word. Preachers today have the same task. Armed with the right interpretation of the Scriptures, they must be able to help the people to apply them in their lives. It is not about giving a new message but in having a new way of communicating THE SAME message. Further, the burden is more on the hearer. If given the right message, the hearer must go and live the message.
I looked at the person and answered him; "Yes, I admit I delivered the same homily, the same message. Have you lived it?" Surprised at the table being turned against him, he just went away quietly. Hopefully the message was clear to him. He may attend all masses and take note meticulously of the homilies given by whom, on this or that day, but the most important part is in the application of those messages in his life. All of those awareness and knowledge will amount to nothing if he had not verified and confirmed those truths in his daily life.
We priests who give those homilies are not exempted from living the message. In fact, our witnessing to the Gospel message is the best preaching. If people see in our lives the message, I believe, we may already be exempted from giving homilies at mass! The goal is for the message to be received as the Lord had given it. Words are a good medium. But those words becoming flesh in the life and ministry of the priest is the best! Just in the mere preparation of the homily, the priest is already confronted by the Word. More than anyone, it is the priest who is first faced with the challenge of the Word. In a way, the delivery of the homily is affected by how much the priest had been affected by it. Hopefully, the message is not only given but already testified to by the priest.
Who is truly blessed? In the Gospel today Jesus enumerated them as the poor, hungry, weeping, hated and excluded, insulted, and denounced as evil. On the other hand, He gave His woes on the rich, the laughing, and those of good reputation. Is it not the other way around? Was Jesus mistaken? Then and now, this teaching would receive so much resistance and criticism, and ridicule. Indeed, during the time of the Lord, they find it hard to accept. Now, many belong to the Christian faith but these teachings are considered either irrelevant or optional. But Jesus knew what He was saying. He is the expert as far as blessedness is concerned.
The key to unlocking the wisdom of His reversal teaching is in the cause of the blessedness and the curse. Jesus points out that blessedness is achieved if the above situations occur because of Him. Poverty, hunger, weeping, etc. will be a blessed situation if we experience them because of faithfulness to the Lord. If in following His Holy Will we are put in those situations, then we are blessed! But if one, in his poverty, sorrow, and difficulties is unfaithful and resorts to sin, then, he is not blessed but cursed instead. Poverty or any merciful situation can not be considered blessed if experienced because of evil. Therefore, the rich, laughing, and those of good reputation are not absolutely and eternally cursed. They too can be blessed if they are faithful and good. Concretely, they attain blessedness if they share their gifts; the rich shares with the poor, the laughing sharing it with the crying, the healthy sharing it with the sick, or the powerful defending the weak. Any goodness and faithfulness merit blessedness as far as God is concerned.
Situations of dire need comes in every person. The temptation to take the easy way out of responding to it even in illegal and immoral ways is very strong. I was not spared of it. After I made an appeal for medicines for our parish medical clinic in one of my masses, one person approached me and told me that If I will write a letter to his brother doctor in the United States, he could send me a lot of of medicines. To make the long story short, the medicines in a cargo box addressed to the bishop (because I thought the cargo will be acquired easily if it was sent through him) arrived and was ready for pick up in the customs department of the international airport. Bringing with me the notice, I went to the customs office at eight in the morning and immediately on the first window, I was charged with an application form for twenty pesos without receipt! After that I was subjected to a lot of waiting, approaching one table after another, and talking to a lot of persons. To make the long story short (again), at three in the afternoon (a good seven hours!) I said enough. There is no way I can get those medicines today or even tomorrow. My paper was being processed very slowly. Reason? Because I was not giving bribe money to those persons. (Totoo pala yung bukas na drawer sa bawat table na dapat mong hulugan ng pera para umandar papel mo!) I refused to do so. It was immoral and as a priest getting the cargo of a bishop, it was unbecoming and unacceptable!
I left proud that I did not succumb to the temptation. I felt blessed in spite of not having obtained the cargo which would have been of help to many. But I was not giving up. I sought help from authorities and eventually, the cargo was obtained morally! Those people who are extorting and accepting bribes maybe amassing so much money but they are not blessed. Those people who are electing to bribe than go through the required process maybe saving so much time but they are not blessed. Blessedness is not in material things, power, fame or whatever this world could offer no matter how great. It is in having a good relationship with the Lord.