Friday, August 28, 2009

Fornication is a mortal sin!

“¡No hay derecho! Me siento decepcionada. Ha sido una violación de mi derecho de tener relaciones sexuales con mi novio sin tener que estar embarazada. Tengo todavía muchos planes en mi vida. Además, este niño no es deseado. Ya no puedo estudiar bien.” (It’s unfair! I feel disappointed. It was a violation of my right to have a sexual relationship with my boyfriend without getting pregnant. I still have many plans with my life. Besides, this child is unwanted. I can’t study well.)

Listening to this declaration coming from a 25-year-old lady on a morning Spanish TV program (one that deals with social complaints), I was quite stunned and – I guess – had a little of nausea. She was complaining against the doctor who gave her a prescription of contraceptive pills. She’s finishing her course but living in the house of her boyfriend and his parents.

What made me sick – besides the foolish idea of living with her boyfriend while still studying and having many plans in life – is the fact that she believes that to have a sexual relationship with her boyfriend is a basic right!

Just when is fornication considered a basic human right? Fornication is a mortal sin! See 1 Corinthians 5: 1ff.

* * *

“Hear me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile” (Mk 7: 14-15).

When Jesus, in this Sunday’s Gospel, made this affirmation, He is trying to rectify some erroneous mentality of His time. Today, I think, we need to voice out in the open a lot of rectification of this kind. It seems that our silence on this matter is doing a havoc especially on the young minds.

Fornication is a sin NOT ONLY because the Bible says so. The Bible says it is a sin because it goes directly against God’s will and design regarding sex, love and marriage. God wills that “a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Gen 2:24). Besides, He ordered that they “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:28).

In other words: sex (becoming one flesh) is a sacred gift from God – a gift with a double dimension, both complementary and inseparable: union in love (“unite with his wife”) and procreation (“fruitful and multiply”). And it is given within the context of marriage ONLY (“a man…and his wife”). Fornication or pre-marital sex (including sex outside marriage, meaning with non-spouse) goes directly against this divine will.

* * *

Another erroneous mentality of our time: Condoms are an effective instrument to prevent AIDS.

Pope Benedict XVI has been very clear and bold in declaring that THIS IS FALSE: “The condom does not prevent AIDS. Only responsible sexual behavior can address the pandemic," he said. But the international press was scandalized at hearing this truth.

Now, a scientist and expert on AIDS prevention, Edward Green corroborates the Pope’s affirmation. Green explained that scientific studies point out a phenomenon of human behavior called "risk compensation," whereby a person "feels protected and thus exposes himself more." When one believes condoms protect him, he would indulge himself more in irresponsible sexual activities; thus, elevating the risk of being infected.

Dr. Green asked: “Why has an attempt not been made to change people's customs?” “The world industry has taken many years to understand that measures of a technical and medical character are of no use to solve the problem,” he added.

Now it’s time for people to change their mentality: in the same way that “nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile”, nothing from the outside can protect the person from AIDS but the things from within: abstinence and fidelity.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A priest in love

“Ganyan ba talaga kayo magsalita? Quote kaagad ang Bible o di kaya isinasali kaagad ang Diyos? Di ba puwedeng magsalita ng normal tulad naming mga secular?”

Words of my lady friend as they appeared line by line on the chat box of Facebook. Although surprised by the sudden change of topic of our chat, I surmised that these words were provoked by a favorite quotation that I sent her: “God can write straight with crooked lines”. Perhaps, she didn’t expect such profound truth as a comment on a petty human experience like cooking dinner for the family.

Well, what caught my attention was the thought behind these words – a thought that represents succinctly what I would call a common secular mentality today. Besides, there’s more to it than what appears! Let me explain.

* * *

Firstly, I can sense a perplexity at the fact that priests (as I am) would immediately refer to God things (or topics) that apparently have less or no direct connection to Him. In other words, that we (priests) would “inject” a divine perspective on “secular” (as opposed to the ‘sacred’ – a sense employed by my friend) events and experiences is something that still raises eyebrows today. Some would consider it off-tangent. Others, deeming it less considerate to the listeners’ sensibilities, would even reprimand it.

As Christians, I think, it is our responsibility to infuse society and the world today with a divine perspective. No reality in the world – for very “secular” as it may seem – is immune from the capacity to be impregnated with the sense of the divine. It’s because all reality is God’s work. And baptized in the name of Jesus, we are expected to leave a Christian imprint even in the most ordinary reality of our existence.

The Gospel calls it “lifting up the Cross of Christ in the midst of the world”. Jesus said: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself" (John 12:32). I think, it is looking at the world and human existence with the eyes of God – something that is slowly forgotten today!

* * *

Secondly, I can perceive in the preceeding questions a certain role bias. It sounds that only priests are expected to talk about God, to quote the Bible, to have a ready-made, God-ridden, touching and inspiring words for any given circumstances. And this role has somehow distinguishes us from the “normal” and “secular” people.

I am glad that priests are associated with such role. What would be unfortunate (for a priest, of course) is when a lay faithful could talk about God and quote the Bible with more ease than a priest. But I am not at ease with making a biased distinction of roles: “priests normally talk about God while the ‘secular’ normally talk about earthly realities”.

What is normal for all Catholic Christians – clergy and lay faithful alike – is to talk about God even in the most ordinary (or ‘earthly’) circumstances in life. Although we usually distinguish the ‘sacred’ and the ‘secular’, we cannot afford to shun away the sense of the divine from any wordly reality.

* * *

“Di ba normal lang sa mga in-love o mga nagmamahal ay pag-uusapan ang kanilang minamahal?” I asked my friend. She replied, “Depende.”

Any person who has fallen in love can attest to this: not only a person in love tends to think about the beloved all day, but also, he or she tends to talk to others about the beloved, about the beloved’s great virtues, the things the beloved does, etc.

If this is true in human relationships, why can’t it be true in our relationship with God? A person who is truly in love with God and with all that God loves, would naturally and normally – without even being aware of it – talk about his or her beloved. If this is true with any person in love with God, why shouldn’t it be MORE TRUE with priests?

If “priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus” (as St. John Mary Vianney said), then all priests should be the first to be in love like crazy with Jesus – with God. Hence, it should not cause bewilderment when priests talk like crazy about their beloved every now and then. The contrary should!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Vida de Cristo en nosotros

(Homilia sobre las lecturas del XX Domingo del T.O.)

Las lecturas de hoy destacan el carácter realista de la Sagrada Eucaristía: de que no es solamente una doctrina fascinante o un dogma de fe atractivo – una idea impresionante. No! Nos encontramos con un acontecimiento real: una Persona que nos da realmente su Cuerpo y su Sangre para salvarnos, transformándonos en su misma persona. Aunque tal realismo sólo lo vislumbramos desde la fe.

Hay personas que están dispuestas a dar su vida por una ideología, aunque a veces, a pesar de ser una ideología equivocada. Otras están dispuestas a quitar la vida de otros por defender su convicción o por promoverla. La enseñanza cristiana NO ES una ideología: una ideología es un conjunto de ideas que pretenden transformar al mundo. Lo que Cristo nos enseña NO ES un mero conjunto de ideas transformadoras. Nos da su propio ser: su Cuerpo y su Sangre – no sus ideas – son los que nos dan vida y transforman el mundo.

Si es posible dar la vida por una ideología o una convicción, con mucho más razón tenemos que dar la vida, o mejor, vivirla por una Persona: Cristo, Quien nos la ha ofrecido para que vivamos en Él.

La Primera Lectura del Libro de los Proverbios resume el proyecto de Dios para nosotros al darnos su Hijo Amado. Dios, al querer salvarnos, “ha edificado una casa” – la Iglesia – y “ha labrado sus siete columnas” – los siete sacramentos a través de los cuales recibimos con abundancia la gracia salvadora. (9:1)

Con vista de darnos el verdadero pan del cielo – no como el pan que comieron los Israelitas en el desierto y murieron (Cfr. Jn 6:58) – el Padre “ha preparado el banquete”, “ha mezclado ya el vino”, y ha enviado a sus criadas a anunciar en lo alto de las colinas de la ciudad: “Venid y comed de mi pan, bebed del vino que he mezclado; dejaos de simplezas y viviréis, y dirigíos por los caminos de la inteligencia” (9:5-6).

“¡Gustad y ved que bueno es el Señor!” canta hoy el Salmo Responsorial. Y con más urgencia nos dice San Pablo en la Segunda Lectura de su Carta a los Efesios: “Por tanto, no seáis insensatos, sino comprended cuál es la voluntad de Señor” (5: 17). ¡Cuanta insensatez perder el tiempo en muchas otras cosas menos en la mesa del Señor donde Él nos proporciona el “verdadero pan de la vida”!

“Si no coméis la carne del Hijo del hombre, y no bebéis su sangre, no tenéis vida en vosotros” (Jn 6: 53). Es tan real como lo ha dicho Jesús que los judíos discutían: “¿Cómo puede éste darnos a comer su carne?” Ellos entendieron bien el realismo de las palabras de Cristo. Pero no entendieron que el Señor se refiere al gran milagro – mucho más grande que la multiplicación de los panes: hacer que el pan se convierta en su Cuerpo y el vino, en su Sangre en la Sagrada Eucaristía.

Nosotros tampoco lo entendemos del todo lo que llamamos “transubstanciación”. Pero creemos firmemente porque no hace falta entenderlo del todo para creer. (De la misma manera que no hace falta que la ideología se haga realidad primero para que los fanáticos den su vida por ella.) Creemos en la transubstanciación porque Cristo nos la revela y la aceptamos. Es más, damos nuestra vida por Cristo: o mejor dicho, vivimos la Vida de Cristo dentro de nosotros.

Es así como Cristo quiere salvarnos: transformarnos desde dentro dandonos su vida, cambiar desde dentro nuestro modo de ser, de pensar, de hablar, de actuar, de amar, para hacerlo parecer a su modo. “El que come mi carne y bebe mi sangre, permanece en mí y yo en él” (Jn 6: 56). ¿No hemos notado que cuando recibimos a Cristo fielmente en la comunión, nos duele cada día más nuestros pecados y los del mundo, pensamos más en hacer cosas buenas al prójimo, tendemos a ser más comprensibles y amables con los demás, somos más alegres, más esperanzados?

Pues, ¡ésta es la Vida de Cristo en nosotros! Pidamos ahora a la Virgen que nos ayude a vivir esta Vida de Cristo y a ayudar que los demás la vivan también.

Friday, August 14, 2009


To tell a woman to be PRO-CHOICE is to play the role of the serpent in Paradise, in his dialogue with Eve – the result of which is the Fall of Man!

Let’s be clear about it! “PRO-CHOICE” is a vague concept popularly understood as “I have the right to make a personal choice; no one should dictate me what to do”. Applied to the issue of women’s rights, it is translated as the woman’s right to make her own decision of what to do with her body.

Under such right, the woman can do whatever she wants to do with her body. “It’s my body,” she says. Hence, if she wants to abort her baby, nothing or no one should interfere with her rights to choose, to decide for herself.

This mentality carries with it a number of VAGUE IDEAS:

(1) Is the baby inside the woman’s body a member of her body (like an appendix, a lung, a heart, etc)? If the answer is YES, then,

(2) Are we morally justified – under the pretext of human right – to cut off whatever member of our body, just because we don’t like it, or because it hinders our well-being?

If we want to avoid another Fall from Paradise, we need to study the following CLEAR IDEAS:

(1) Women have rights to choose. Personal choice is part of human freedom.

(2) Women have rights over their own body and can do whatever they want for as long as it is within the bounds of morality (You don’t just cut your thumb because it is fashionable!)

(3) BUT THE BABY INSIDE THE WOMAN’S BODY IS NEVER A MEMBER OF HER BODY. It is another human being and it has its own rights and human freedom like the mother herself.

(4) Besides, because it is inside her body, without being her body, the woman has the responsibility to protect and to take care of it until it is born. AND THE MORAL LAW DEMANDS THAT SHE SHOULD DO SO!

(5) THEREFORE, to affirm the rights of the fetus is never a violation of the rights of the woman. Instead, it is an affirmation of her responsibilities towards her baby: the FOREMOST OF WHICH IS TO LET THE BABY LIVE!



IT IS LIKE THE DEVIL SAYING ONCE AGAIN TO EVE: “Take this fruit and eat it, and you will become like God.” To all women, before making yourself PRO-CHOICE, think again!

“Father, can I have a confession?”

“Father, puwede ho ba akong mangumpisal sa inyo pagpunta n’yo rito sa Tarragona?” The voice was so soft and pleading. A mixture of timidity and determination to do what she longs to do for a great number of years could be perceived in it. “Oo ba. Sige, pagdating ko d’yan, bago mag-umpisa ang misa”, was my response.

I go to Tarragona twice a month this summer (July and August) to celebrate Tagalog mass with the Filipino community there. Before the mass starts, I always make an announcement encouraging those whose wanted to make a confession to approach me or the community officers. But oftentimes, I get no reply.

This time, the reply comes through the phone. And the lady is calling from Tarragona to Valencia, in a parish where I stay this summer. Indeed, when I arrived in Tarragona two Sundays ago, I had three penitents waiting in line. Praise the Lord!

* * *

What a change of reaction! I remember in my two years as newly-ordained priest in Davao, how I have greatly desired to receive the faculty to hear confession immediately after the ordination. But out of obedience, I had to adhere to the bishop’s custom of delaying the grant of such faculty to newly-ordained. After a few months, I received the faculty to hear confessions only of little children.

Then, as I was assigned in the seminary, I was given permission to exercise such faculty to all the faithful in the archdiocese. I remember how I stayed hours, together with other young priests, hearing the confessions of retreatants from colleges and universities, teachers and students alike, of religious sisters, etc. And with the long lines of penitents, how I had wished it would soon be finished.

Indeed, a priest needs supernatural sense to feel immense joy at the sight of endless queues of penitents. I had prayed hard for this grace because the immediate human reaction is to say “Oh God, how long it would take me to finish this!” And the physical and psychological fatigue was unbearable. But now, what a joy to find even three penitents!

* * *

When I was a seminarian, I observed that in every parish a signboard reads: Confession, every Friday, 5-6 PM, (or other day, depending on the parish) or upon appointment, which means, as the penitents call on a priest for confession. Yet I noticed – now as a priest – that a few penitents follow this last one. Those who really have the custom to confess regularly would prefer to follow the given schedule.

Now, when they would present themselves on the given parish schedule, hardly they could find a priest in the confessional. Where’s the priest? “In his room,” the sacristan may answer. “Just call him if someone wants to confess”, he would add. “Why would I stay in the confessional if no one wants to confess?” would be a seemingly justifiable cry of the parish priest. Besides, he has a lot other parrochial concerns: meetings, reports, invitations, emails, homily preparation, etc.

I think, the priest’s presence inside the confessional is a great encouragement for penitents (especially those who are still in doubts if they’d go or not, or those who are timid to ask the priest who is still in his room) to finally decide to receive the sacrament. I have proven it myself recently.

* * *

This summer, in one parish I am helping, I usually come 30 minutes before the mass. In other days, I would stay and prepare for the mass at the Adoration Chapel. But one day, it occurred to me something different. I put on an alb and a violet stole. Then, I sat in the confessional. There were only five persons in the church.

As soon as I have taken my seat, one old woman approached, kneeled down and started her confession. She was followed by two others. At other times when I was at the chapel, it seldom happened that one would approach and request for confession. How much more if I were confined in the comfort of my room!

* * *

One last consideration: the use of confessional. Aside from the fact that this is the prescription of the Church as the ordinary place to dispense grace – the court room of Christ’s mercy, I think the use of confessional is both prudent and catechetical.

If psychologists and psychiatrists, medical doctors and dentists attend to their patients in designated places – have you seen a doctor operating a cancer patient outside, even if the operating room is just nearby? – and whenever we want to open up some intimate truths to someone, we always go a private place, why can’t we do with more reverence whenever we dispense God’s grace in the Sacrament of Confession?

Besides, it is the penitent’s right to be confessed privately. If he wants anonymity, he should not be denied of it. How many people I know who are inhibited to confess because they are ashamed of their parish priest!

Confession outside the confessional is done only in extra-ordinary circumstances. But I think, in a parish, not having a confessional is not an extra-ordinary circumstance where it is very possible to construct one or two.

On this Year for Priests, we are told how St. John Mary Vianney spent up to 18 hours hearing confession. But we should not forget that before he reached this mark, he also spent hours inside the confessional without hearing the words: “Father, can I have a confession?”

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Jesús es nuestra fuerza

(Reflexión sobre las lecturas de hoy, domingo, 09 de agosto de 2009)

Nos cuenta la Primera Lectura que el Profeta Elías estaba cansado y desesperado en el desierto después de tanto caminar, huyendo de la persecución. Pero Dios envió un ángel que lo despertó para darle comida. Y “con la fuerza de aquel alimento caminó cuarenta días y cuarenta noches hasta el Horeb, el monte de Dios” (1 R 19: 8).

¿Cómo no vemos en la imagen del Profeta nuestra situación de peregrino en este mundo? Nosotros, los cristianos, caminamos día y noche hacia la Patría definitiva – el Monte de Dios: el Cielo. Muchas veces nos vienen el desaliento y la desesperación. Tal vez, por alguna persecución del ambiente que poco a poco se vuelve hóstil a los principios cristianos.

Cada vez que proclamemos estos principios, sobre todo, afirmando nuestra convicción acerca de la importancia de la vida, de la libertad religiosa, del verdadero significado del matrimonio o del derecho de los padres en la educación de sus hijos, nos sintimos perseguidos por parte de los que no los comparten con nosotros. Como Elías, no sólo que estamos caminando fatigados, sino también peregrinamos perseguidos hacia la patria celeste.

O tal vez, el desaliento proviene de nuestro propio cansancio espiritual. Es que el pecado poco a poco absorbe la energía del alma hasta dejarla muerta. ¿No es cierto que después de enfadarnos nos sintimos tristes, débil y sin ánimo? Por experiencia sabemos que la amargura, el odio, la envidia y cualquier pecado nos quita la paz del alma. Por eso, dice San Pablo en la Segunda Lectura: “No entristezcáis al Espíritu Santo de Dios, con el que fuisteis sellados para el día de la redención. Toda acritud, ira, cólera, gritos, maledicencia y cualquier clase de maldad, desaparezca de entre vosotros” (Ef 4: 30-31).

Pero el Señor nunca nos deja en estas situaciones: Él nos envía un alivio – una prueba, una vez más, de su infinita misericordia y gran amor para con nosotros. Prueba también que si nos alejamos de Dios, no es porque Dios nos ha dejado sino porque hemos decidido nosotros mismos alejarnos de Dios. Porque el Señor siempre nos anima, nos empuja a seguir caminando como diciéndonos: “Ánimo, hijo mío. Que estoy contigo.”

“Levántate y come, porque el camino es demasiado largo para ti”, (1 R 19: 7) nos dice el Señor también a nosotros. Y nos ofrece su Cuerpo y su Sangre en la Sagrada Eucaristía como alimento en nuestro caminar. La Sagrada Eucaristía nos da fuerza para realizar el viaje de vuelta hacia la casa del Padre. Por eso se llama también “Viático”.

“Yo soy el Pan de la Vida”, dice Jesús en el Evangelio (Jn 6: 48). Jesús es el Pan que nos da fuerza. ¡Jesús es nuestra fuerza! Su Cuerpo y su Sangre que recibimos en la Sagrada Comunión nos da vida. ¿Cómo se realiza este milagro? ¿Cómo nos da vida la Eucaristía?

Los Santos Padres de la Iglesia nos proporcionan la respuesta. San Juan Crisóstomo nos dice: “Nos unimos a Él y nos hacemos con Él un solo cuerpo y una sola carne”. El gran papa San León Magno también lo afirma: “No hace otra cosa la comunión del Cuerpo y la Sangre de Cristo sino convertirnos en aquello mismo que tomamos”. Pero San Agustín es más categórico: “Yo soy el Pan para los fuertes. Ten fe y cómeme. Pero no me cambiarás en ti, sino que tú serás transformado en Mí.”

Este es el efecto propio del Sacramento: transformar al hombre en Cristo de tal modo que pueda decir con San Pablo: “Vivo yo, más no yo, sino que vive Cristo en mi” (Gal 22, 20). Con la Sagrada Eucaristía, nos vamos pareciéndonos cada vez más a Cristo en nuestra manera de pensar, de sentir, de actuar, de hablar, de amar… ¿Cómo piensa Cristo? ¿Cómo habla? ¿Cómo ama Jesús? Así serémos también nosotros.

Pero es una verdad lamentable que hoy, hay personas que se alejan de Cristo: que no quieren parecerse a Él. Es más, rechazan la manera de ser y de actuar del Señor. No aceptan sus enseñanzas. Es más, las atacan. Se sienten fuertes y suficientes en su caminar que ya no necesitan ni a Cristo ni a la Iglesia. Es más, los consideran como istorbo. Viven como si Dios no existiera. ¿Qué sería de nosotros, de nuestra vida, de nuestra familia, de nuestro país, si nos alejamos de Cristo?

Pidamos ahora a la Virgen, cuya Fiesta de su Asunción al cielo en alma y cuerpo celebraremos el sábado que viene (15 de agosto), que nos acerque a su Hijo. A Ella que ya ha llegado antes que nosotros al Monte de Dios, pidamos que nos otorgue la gracia de poder caminar con esperanza hacia la patria celeste. AMEN.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

La Transfiguración de los cristianos

¿Qué significa que el Señor se transfiguró? Simplemente que tras su figura se veía otra realidad: su ser Hijo de Dios – su Divinidad. Su cuerpo deja de ocultar el verdadero sujeto. Su Humanidad deja traslucir su Divinidad como una vidriera que transparenta la luz. Nosotros los cristianos, tenemos que dejar ver también lo hay tras nuestra figura: nuestro ser hijos de Dios. Como vidrieras, tenemos que transparentar la vida de Cristo dentro de nosotros. ¡Necesitamos también una verdadera transfiguración!

"Sacerdotes, 'consagrados en la Verdad'"

Estar inmersos en la Verdad, en Cristo, de este proceso forma parte
la oración, en la que nos ejercitamos en la amistad con Él y aprendemos a
conocerle: su forma de ser, de pensar, de actuar. Rezar es un caminar en
comunión personal con Cristo, exponiendo ante Él nuestra vida cotidiana,
nuestros logros y nuestros fracasos, nuestras fatigas y nuestras alegrías -es un
simple presentarnos a nosotros mismos ante Él. Pero para que esto no se
convierta en un autocontemplarse, es importante que aprendamos continuamente a
rezar rezando con la Iglesia.