Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Quid divinum

“Hay un algo santo, divino, escondido en las situaciones más comunes, que toca a cada uno de vosotros descubrir” (There is something holy, something divine hidden in the most ordinary situations, and it is up to each one of you to discover it).

In these few words, Saint Josemaría Escrivá described the message he was preaching all the years of his existence, since the founding of Opus Dei, a Catholic institution whose mission is “to help people turn their work and daily activities into occasions for growing closer to God, for serving others, and for improving society” (For more information, see http://www.opusdei.us/sec.php?s=8). The quotation is from his well-known homily entitled “Passionately loving the world”, which he pronounced on October 8, 1967 at a Mass on the campus of the University of Navarre, Spain. The homily has helped thousands of people find their vocation in life and continues to move hearts and mind.

On October 23 this year, the Prelate of Opus Dei, Bishop Javier Echevarria, second successor of Saint Josemaría, presided over the Holy Eucharist on the same spot where some 43 years ago, the Founder of Opus Dei celebrated it. This time, the occasion was the 50th founding anniversary of the Asociación de Amigos (Association of Friends) of the University of Navarre – an organization that supports the university from the beginning.

In his homily, Msgr. Echevarria evoked the content of Saint Josemaría’s preaching, putting emphasis on how our daily Christian life must be lived in all of its ordinary circumstances with reference to the Holy Eucharist. He said:

“El primer Gran Canciller de la Universidad nos animó –lo hace ahora desde el Cielo- a que, como consecuencia de una profunda vida eucarística, esencialmente eucarística, y conociendo que el mismo Dios hecho hombre ha decidido recorrer nuestros caminos, sepamos descubrir el quid divinum que se encierra en todas las circunstancias y ocupaciones, hasta las que parecen más materiales” (The first Great Chancellor of the University encouraged us – he’s doing it now in heaven – so that, as a consequence of a profound Eucharistic life, essentially Eucharistic, and knowing that the same God made man has decided to walk with us on our way, we may discover that “something divine” that is hidden in all circumstances and occupations, including the most ordinary ones).

And the prelate added: “Seremos más plenamente hombres, más plenamente mujeres en la medida que queramos y permitamos que el Cuerpo y la Sangre de Cristo nos alimenten y nos embriaguen de modo que la nuestra (vida) sea una continuación de su Vida: ¡podemos conseguirlo siempre, si le miramos más, si le tratamos más, si le amamos más!” (We shall become more fully men, more fully women in the measure that we want and allow that the Body and Blood of Christ to nurture and to inebriate us so that our own life may be a continuation of His: we can always make it if we look at Him more, if we treat Him more, if we love Him more!)

I think the search for the “quid divinum” in our ordinary life is what’s attractive of the Opus Dei message. Saint Josemaría has made it easier for us to understand that sanctity is accessible and that holiness of life consists in finding Jesus in the most ordinary circumstances of our everyday existence.

“You must realise now,” – the Saint said – “more clearly than ever, that God is calling you to serve him in and from the ordinary, secular and civil activities of human life. He waits for us every day, in the laboratory, in the operating room, in the army barracks, in the university chair, in the factory, in the workshop, in the fields, in the home and in all the immense panorama of work”. He was even quite sure in saying that “There is no other way, my daughters and sons: either we learn to find our Lord in ordinary, everyday life, or we shall never find him”.

With the Opus Dei’s message of holiness, preached in the words and in the life of its founder, ordinary people like us – secular priests and lay faithful – could find our own little way to God in the faithful observance of our duties and responsibilities, finding in them the “quid divinum” (something divine). These beautiful words of the Opus Dei founder are engraved in the hearts of those who listen to him and put them into practice: “Heaven and earth seem to merge, my children, on the horizon. But where they really meet is in your hearts, when you sanctify your everyday lives.”

(For the complete text of the homily, click this link: http://www.theworkofgod.org/Library/Sermons/JMScriva/Pasiontl.htm)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Homily of Saint Josemaría at the University Campus, October 1967

Life is not a tragedy

     Life is never a tragedy, although we see tragedies happening in life. Behind the dark clouds of life’s tragedies is always the sun of hope shining so brightly. This conviction is no mere romanticism for this is the truth that lies behind the meditation of the Glorious Mysteries of the Holy Rosary.

     These mysteries remind us that the darkness and evil do not have the last word and that if only we fight, we will truly triumph for God is with us and God never loses battles. Jesus’ triumph over death is our life; His ascension into heaven is our hope; and Mary’s assumption and coronation as Queen of Heaven is our joy. The glorious mysteries, then, are telling us that “Only when life is full of hope can we find immense joy in living”.

* * *

FIRST GLORIOUS MYSTERY: The Resurrection of Jesus. Presiding over the Holy Eucharist in one of the chapels of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem last March this year, I cannot resist the temptation of asking how was it that the women and other disciples of Jesus were able to give testimony to the truth of His rising from the dead and how has this truth survived for more than two thousand years now. For even now, still thousands of believers visit the empty tomb and return home with renewed faith. Jesus’ resurrection still has the power to transform lives in the same way it transformed the lives of His first disciples who came to His tomb and found it empty that dawn of Sunday.

     It is not that easy to be transformed only by glorious news of Christ’s resurrection – an account that happened 2,000 years ago. But what really transforms our lives is not the resurrection account: it is the encounter of the Risen Lord Himself.

     Two events, the exegetes say, proved Jesus’ resurrection: the empty tomb and the appearance of Jesus to His disciples during forty days. How do we encounter the Risen Lord? In faith, we meet Him in the Holy Eucharist, in the Confession, in our daily prayer, in our every day ordinary work. Only when we find Jesus in the most ordinary event of our lives can we really experience an authentic transformation of our existence.

* * *

SECOND GLORIOUS MYSTERY: Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven. On the Mount of the Ascension, a dome was constructed to mark the spot where our Lord stood – according to tradition – giving His last instructions to His disciples before He ascended into heaven. Our guide showed a pair of footprints preserved on the ground that some people believed to be those of Jesus. Personally I find it hard to believe as I admit I don’t need physical proof to accept the claim that the spot was where Jesus really ascended into heaven.

     Yet, there is one lesson this hard-to-believe story of Jesus’ footprints on the Mount of the Ascension could give us: though Jesus has gone back into heaven, He left us with an indelible mark of His presence in our soul – the indelible character that we received in our baptism. How we wish Christ’s presence in our soul would always manifest itself in our daily lives!

* * *

THIRD GLORIOUS MYSTERY: The Descent of the Holy Spirit upon Mary and the Apostles. The Upper Room where the Last Supper took place is believed to be the same place where the Apostles had their reunion with the Mother of Jesus fifty days after His resurrection. “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a mighty wind coming, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them parted tongues, as it were of fire, and it sat upon every one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they began to speak with diverse tongues, according as the Holy Ghost gave them to speak” (Acts 2: 2-4).

     Today, the Upper Room belongs to the Jewish religion and authorities do not allow Catholic rites there, though tourist visits are admitted. It is bare and has no artistic attraction. The only appeal it has is the fact that it was the Upper Room. Our life too could become a barren room without the grace of the Holy Spirit who inhabits our soul as in a temple. Our body is a temple of the Holy Ghost. Whenever we dishonor our body with sinful acts, we dishonor our Holy Guest and our temple becomes desolate.

* * *

FOURTH GLORIOUS MYSTERY: The Assumption of Mary into Heaven. In Jerusalem, a Catholic Basilica dedicated to Mary’s “dormición” (literally means, sleep) complements another Orthodox church in which Mary’s tomb is venerated, just like that of Jesus in the Holy Sepulcher. These correspond to two different traditions regarding Mary’s assumption into heaven. One tradition says that Mary did not die – nor She needed to – because She is the Immaculate Conception (conceived without original sin) and the wage of sin is death. Another says Mary died to share in the death of Her Son. Both traditions accept the dogma of Mary’s Assumption into heaven.

     Perhaps, it is not for us to know with certitude which of these two traditions is true. But the truth of Mary’s assumption into heaven is for us to hope for our own entrance into heaven. It reminds us that our only aim in this life is heaven. And if in the end, we don’t enter heaven as Mary did, then we are just wasting our time here. It also teaches us that heaven is already open for us. And Mary has preceded us there.

* * *

FIFTH GLORIOUS MYSTERY: The Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth. The Queen of England is often called “The Queen Mother”. But the ultimate Queen Mother is Mary: She is Queen and Mother by God’s decree. We can imagine the Holy Trinity – the Three Divine Persons – coming their way to greet the Blessed Virgin as She was assumed into Heaven. And the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit crowned Her Queen of Heaven and Earth.

     Truly, Jesus’ words were fulfilled: “More blessed are they who listen to God’s will and fulfill it”. Mary’s coronation is a living proof that God really rewards His faithful servants. But it also shows that God crowns with glory – brings into full completion – the work that He has commenced with His chosen children. What God has started doing in your life He will really bring that into completion only if you’ll cooperate with His will.

Looking at reality under God’s light

     We always see reality under a certain perspective. Our way of thinking, talking and doing things are – consciously or unconsciously – influenced by the perspective under which we see the world – our world. That is why, we say that a pessimistic person tends to see only the negative aspects of his or her experience while the optimistic one tries to find and to emphasize the positive side.

     We prefer being optimistic to being pessimistic in life. I suggest that one way to learn optimism is to look at reality with the eyes of God: to see things under God’s light. This is what we may learn if we meditate on the Luminous Mysteries of the Holy Rosary.

* * *

FIRST MYSTERY OF LIGHT: The Baptism of the Lord. John, the Baptist’s baptism was a purification rite for repentant sinners. Jesus did not hesitate to stay in the long queue of sinners to receive John’s baptism. John, at first, hesitated but the Lord asked him to proceed in order to fulfill God’s will.

     Whenever we look at ourselves with our own eyes, what we see are miseries, limitations, errors and sins. Then our immediate reaction is despair. We see no light and we tend to give up hope. We give up the fight thinking that it’s useless for we fall on the same error or sin again and again.

     Why not try to look at ourselves with the eyes of God? God looks at us with mercy. He knows our struggles and failures. But He is as much delighted to see our will to fight again, to stand again after a fall, as to contemplate our victories. In our sinfulness, He comes to us: to accompany us, to be on our side, to stay on the long queue of sinners like us.

* * *

SECOND MYSTERY OF LIGHT: The Manifestation of the Lord in the Wedding at Cana. In Cana, we see Mary as one of those invited, like Jesus and the disciples themselves. But Mary was more than just a guest. She acted as if she belonged to the family of the groom or of the bride. She was very attentive to every detail of the celebration. Among the guests, she was the first to find out that the wine has run out.

     “No one is too rich that he does not need anything”, affirms the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines. All of us have our own needs. And sometimes we get the sensation that we are the only ones who have needs, and that our needs are the greatest and the most urgent.

     But God perceives what we really need better than we do. Mary, who is now in heaven, also does perceive our needs and knows how much we necessitate essential things. If we look at our needs with God’s eyes, or even with the eyes of Mary, we will understand why at times God does not give us (or grant us immediately) what we ask Him for.

* * *

THIRD MYSTERY OF LIGHT: The Proclamation of God’s Kingdom and the Call for Conversion. “The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel”. We imagine Jesus calling on everyone with this theme. Every time He had an opportunity, He would immediately inject this teaching on His disciples and the people around Him.

     We have the tendency to call for the conversion of other people more than of our own. We often use expressions like “Dapat” (“Dapat ‘di niya sinabi ‘yun”, “Dapat ganito ang gawin n’ya”, “Hindi dapat ganyan”) to tell other people what they should do or not do. But how often do we tell ourselves what we often tell other people? Looking at ourselves with God’s eyes reveals to us how much we need conversion.

* * *

FOURTH MYSTERY OF LIGHT: The Transfiguration of the Lord. We contemplate the three apostles, Peter, James and John, witnessing how the Lord was transfigured in their sight. His clothes were as bright as the sun. Then, they saw Moses and Elijah conversing with Jesus. The Fathers of the Church teach us that the Lord’s transfiguration serves as an assurance for the apostles of His divinity, for them to remain strong when Jesus faces His passion and death.

     In our baptism we are transfigured into Christ: we become alter Christus (the other Christ), or, as St. Josemaría Escrivá used to say, ipse Christus, Christ Himself. This transfiguration makes us capable of conversing with God in prayer, like children conversing with their father. Such intimate conversation with God keeps us strong in times of adversities and difficulties.

* * *

FIFTH MYSTERY OF LIGHT: The Institution of the Holy Eucharist. During the Last Supper, Jesus manifested the intensity and the greatness of His love for us. He gave to His disciples no less than His own Body and Blood present under the species of bread and wine. “Do this in memory of me” is the command that He gave them – a command that perpetuates His presence among us today.

     But we can only be aware of Christ’s sacramental presence among us today under the light of faith. Only he who accepts by faith that inside the Tabernacle is Jesus Christ Himself in His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity can experience such presence and enjoy the abundant spiritual gifts that it brings. Let us ask the Lord to grant us more of His light so that we may see and believe, and in believing, our joy may be complete.

Strength in sorrow

     In a world where suffering is a taboo, many would find it totally absurd to meditate the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary and pick up from such meditation some spiritual benefits. I find it really mind-boggling that while many find violent movies entertaining, only a few comprehend that human suffering can be salvific because Christ has already transformed it through His own passion and death.

     It is the experience of this few and their comprehension of the meaning of suffering that we would like to look into as we contemplate the sorrowful experiences of Jesus – His experience of betrayal, rejection, mockery, physical abuse and death. Contemplating Jesus in His most vulnerable moments can be a source of strength for us in moments when we are most powerless.

* * *

FIRST SORROWFUL MYSTERY: The Agony of Jesus in Gethsemane. We find Jesus kneeling on the ground, with eyes fixed on the dark skies. Deep within Him are two forces fighting against each other: the obedience to His Father’s will and the horror of man’s sins and of His bloody death on the cross. And He looked at these two from the perspective of His infinite love: for His Father and for the human race – a love which received its first deadly blow from the betrayal of His friend, Judas: a betrayal sealed with a kiss!

     Jesus embodies our own experiences of betrayal, of loving and being betrayed. His inner conflict is just as real as the conflicts that inflict us every now and then. His agony is a model of every man’s anguish caused by the horrors of evil – evil that is even brought about by man’s undoing. But look at where Jesus’ agony has brought Him: to the garden of Gethsemane, on His knees. May our affliction bring us also to our own “Gethsemane” and on our knees!

* * *

SECOND SORROWFUL MYSTERY: The Scourging at the Pillar. Jesus could have eluded this unnecessary torment had Pilate immediately decreed His verdict – either conviction or acquittal. But in his desire to save Jesus from the wrath of the Jewish authorities (he knew that the motive was purely envy), he wanted Jesus scourged thinking of two things: to appease the mob’s anger and, subsequently, to release Him. But the result was a complete disaster: Jesus’ scourging became a prelude to His bloody death on the cross!

     Sometimes we have good intentions but we lack the will power to put them into practice. St. Josemaría said it is not enough to desire only to do what is good. We need to know how to do it, and effectively do it! Oftentimes great things are at stake: it could be our happiness. We could have eluded utter failures in life had we decided to execute our good intentions in the best manner we possibly knew.

* * *
THIRD SORROWFUL MYSTERY: The Coronation with Thorns. The pain that Jesus experienced was of double dimension: physical and moral or spiritual. Moral suffering – for instance, that which is caused by your loved ones rejection or betrayal – is greater than the physical one. Perhaps the mockery of the soldiers was less morally painful compared to the desertion of His beloved disciples. It was less painful than the thorns with which His persecutors crowned Him. Although we can also say that the disrespect of these soldiers was more heartbreaking than the excruciating thorn in His head.

     This only shows that what is more spiritual – the moral dimension – is superior to what is merely physical (though I am not suggesting a separation between the two). Not once I’ve heard people safeguarding their integrity saying: “I’d rather die of hunger first than to indulge myself into robbery”. St. Josemaría has a more radical way of putting it: “Antes morir que pecar” (I’d rather die first than to sin!).

     But today, lots of people give more importance to the appetites of the flesh than to the need of their spirit? For many would rather use condoms and other contraceptive device and indulge themselves into the desires of the flesh than observe continence and grow in maturity and self-control.

* * *

FOURTH SORROWFUL MYSTERY: Carrying of the Cross to the Mt. Calvary. When Jesus said: “Those who want to be my disciples should carry their cross, and follow me”, He was thinking already of doing it first, that is, of carrying His own cross so that others may follow. Of course, it is hard to imagine a scene wherein Jesus is carrying His cross going to the Mt. Calvary while at His back, His disciples carrying their own crosses.

     But what is literally difficult to imagine is metaphorically easy to prove by experience, for crosses of every kind we can easily encounter today even without trying to look for them: that mother-in-law who is difficult to get along with, our employment and economic problems, difficulties in your studies, relational problems, etc., -- these are inevitable crosses that we need to confront every day. And if we don’t carry them, who shall do it for us? And if we don’t carry them conscious that Jesus has carried His own first, for our sake, our crosses would seem very heavy and insufferable. But once we carry them with Jesus and for Jesus, they become light and meaningful.

* * *

FIFTH SORROWFUL MYSTERY: The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus. It is the culmination of Jesus’ suffering, but not of His life and presence in the world. It is the peak of His temporal existence, but with His death, it is not only, “It is over” but it is also, “It is fulfilled”. Jesus is not contented that His suffering is over: He is happy that His mission is now fulfilled.

     In life, we naturally would look for “It is over” and forget that what we must go after is “It is fulfilled”. How we wish our problems and difficulties would be over; how we wish, school is over; how we wish, this article will be over, etc. But beyond wishing what we wish would be over, we should wish and pray that “It is fulfilled”. For what is more important in life is not that we have finished something but that we are fulfilled or that something is fulfilled as we finish it. At the end of our lives, we shall be examined not by the life that is over and lived, but by the life that is accomplished and fulfilled.


Meditating on Jesus’ joyful moments

     As the month of September commences, what comes immediately to my mind is Christmas: the “ber-months” have come. The other day, we explained it to our residence director: in the Philippines, we celebrate the longest Christmas in the world. Part of being a Filipino is that joyful character. We cling more to what gives us joy than to what makes us sulky. And in case we lose our joys for some disgrace, we immediately try to recuperate them. Christmas is our most loved season of the year because it helps us recuperate that which we price most – our joyful moments.

     But Christmas is fundamentally Jesus’ joyful moments on earth. Jesus finds joy in becoming a man like us in everything except sin, in obeying completely His earthly parents – Mary and Joseph, and in working silently in Nazareth. These are some of Jesus’ happy moments that we meditate in praying the Joyful mysteries of the Holy Rosary.

* * *

FIRST JOYFUL MYSTERY: The Annunciation and the Incarnation of Jesus. I personally prefer to call this the Mystery of Incarnation rather than of the Annunciation, although the latter is prior to the former. When the Archangel Gabriel declared to Mary that she shall conceive a child whom she shall name “Jesus”, it was in a sense, not just an act of informing Mary, but of asking her consent. Mary’s “Yes” was a requisite for the Incarnation to take place. It is as if God was waiting for Mary to give her consent before the Second Divine Person could become man.

     Meditating on this mystery, we see a God Who takes pleasure in dealing with humankind, a God Who is very close to man, a God Who is concerned with everything that concerns man. We see a God Who considers first – Who patiently waits first for – a woman’s consent before embarking on the implementation of His greatest plan for mankind: the salvation of man. He is a God Who consults us first before implementing His great plans for us. Before saving us, He wants our opinion or our consent first. St. Augustine is right: “God, who created you without your consent, cannot save you without your consent”.

     In our life’s great plans, do we also consult God and ask His opinion or consent? In God’s eternal plan, you have a big role to play, a wide space reserved for you. But does God also have a place in your life’s projects?

* * *

SECOND JOYFUL MYSTERY: Mary’s Visitation to Her cousin Elizabeth. We see in this mystery two persons whose life projects are centered on God. In their life, God does not only occupy a considerable space or a bigger role: God is the center of everything. Elizabeth told Mary: “Blessed are you because you believed that what God has told you will come true”. Here is a little secret of happiness: believing that God will take care of us!

     But how many unnecessary worries in life lead us to depression? And why do we worry so much? We worry because things don’t turn the way we want them to. We are so filled with worries because we wanted absolute control of our lives. And we realize that it is simply impossible. Of course, the existentialists have a point in saying that man should decide for himself to be what he wants to be. This is also God’s will for man. But man can only achieve this with God’s help, for as the Vatican II teaches: “Without the Creator, the creature would vanish”.

     Do you really believe that without God you can achieve the objectives you have set with your life’s projects, with your business, with your lovelife, with your studies, etc.? If you want success in life, do your best and let God take care of the rest!

* * *

THIRD JOYFUL MYSTERY: The Birth of Jesus. It is already marvelous to contemplate an eternal God Who has entered into time – a divine who become human. But it is more marvelous to meditate what is temporal and what is human rise to eternity and the divine. In Christ’s birth, we marvel not only on God’s entering into our world but also on us entering into God’s life.

     Hence, though it is right to say “Accept Jesus in your life as your personal Lord and Savior” (as some protestants usually preach), I’d say, “Let yourself be embraced by Jesus and be received into His life”. Do not put obstacles for God’s grace to work in your life. Do not make it difficult for God to befriend you.

* * *

FOURTH JOYFUL MYSTERY: The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple and the Purification of Mary. Mary’s purification is usually left unrecognized in the praying of this mystery especially when the leader (or oneself) mentions only the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. But it calls our attention why Mary must undergo purification being immaculate herself, that is, conceived without sin. It is because according to Jewish law, the blood that flows from the woman in giving birth makes her impure.

     But we, Catholics, hold that Mary is Virgin before, during and after giving birth to Jesus. Hence, the purification rite is unnecessary. Yet, Mary decided to fulfill what the law commands in order to teach us a very important lesson today: the purity of life must be lived inside and outside, interiorly and exteriorly. How sure are you that you really and interiorly are struggling to live a chaste life if in your conversations green jokes are as natural and as spontaneous as breathing?

* * *

FIFTH JOYFUL MYSTERY: The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple. Lost and found seems to be no mystery at all, especially in a society where sections on “Lost and Found things” abound in department stores. But what is mysterious in this episode of Jesus’ life is the pain and worry that Mary and Joseph experienced for three days of looking for their beloved son. It’s natural, you may say. After all, Jesus is their son. True. But they also know, not only believe, that Jesus is their God. And yet, their faith could not keep away their pain and worry.

     Spiritual pain and worry should also engulf us whenever we find out that we have lost our God by committing a mortal sin. But it seems that this does not spiritually affect too much a lot of people today: that whenever we commit a mortal sin, we lose God’s grace – we lose Jesus, we lose our joy. And like any good Filipino, the only way to recuperate our joy is to go to the “Lost and Found” section: the Sacrament of Confession.

"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.