Thursday, June 26, 2014

“You will find rest”

Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Homily, June 27, 2014

 St. Augustine’s famous saying summarizes the natural longing of the human heart: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” Jesus, true God and true man, who loves us with a human heart, knows very well the desires of our hearts. He is not indifferent to what we need, to what we seek, and to what burdens us.

That is why, on this Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, our Lord invites us: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

Notice how Jesus assures us twice that in Him we will find rest: “I will give you rest…and you will find rest for yourselves.” But in order to find the rest that our heart longs for, our Lord invites to do three things. Three steps to find rest in the Sacred Heart of Jesus: “come to me”, “take my yoke” and “learn from me”.

“Come to me”: This is an invitation to establish an intimate friendship with Him and to consider Him the center of our thoughts, words and actions. Why does Jesus invite us to come to Him? Because oftentimes we come to the wrong persons and things whenever we have problems and troubles in life. When overburdened by life’s struggles, to whom do you go? To alcohol? To Facebook? To your barkadas who give you bad influence?

Why not come and spend some time in front of the Blessed Sacrament? Pour out your troubles to Jesus in prayer. Tell Him your concerns. St. Peter, in his First Letter, assures us: “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (1 Pe 5: 7). I tell you out of my experience: it works!

But in order to do this, you have to believe first that Jesus is present in the Blessed Sacrament. Whenever I see people entering the Blessed Sacrament chapel and fixing their eyes on Jesus who is really present in the form of bread on the monstrance, I am amazed at the greatness of their faith. We need to have that child-like faith and trust that Jesus remains with us in the form of bread. Only then can we really come to Him and find our rest.

“Take my yoke”: Oftentimes, what hinders people from coming to Jesus is the thought that when they do, Jesus would give them burdens and yoke that they cannot carry. Some people are afraid to follow Jesus because they think He is very demanding. They think: “If I decide to follow Jesus, I’ll have to give up this vice or that bad habit. I’ll have to give up ASB (alak, sugal, babae).” And they could not bear the thought that they’ll have to give up passing pleasures if they decide to take the yoke of Jesus.

Some young people, for instance, who may have heard the call of Jesus to priesthood or religious life, are afraid to “take the yoke” because they think if they do, they would be deprived of many enjoyable and pleasurable things. Well, they are wrong! St. John Paul II, in 2003 in Madrid, told us, young seminarians by then, “that it is worthwhile dedicating oneself to the cause of Christ and, out of love for him, devoting oneself to serving humanity. It is worthwhile to give one’s life for the Gospel and for one’s brothers and sisters!” There is joy in following Jesus. His yoke is easy and His burden is light because they are the ones that truly give us joy and peace: the rest for our soul.

Lastly, “learn from me”: Now, here’s the true meaning of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus: to be a devotee to the Most Sacred of Jesus means “to learn from Jesus”, that is, to transform our hearts into the heart of our Lord. This is why he said: “Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart”.

To be transformed into the heart of Jesus is to strive to think, to speak and to behave like Jesus, to love what Jesus loves, to desire what He desires. In a word, it means to be Christ-like. In the words of St. Josemaría Escrivá, Founder of Opus Dei, a way of sanctification through our ordinary works: “We all have to be ipse Christus — Christ himself. This is what Saint Paul commands in the name of God: Induimini Dominum Iesum Christum — put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Each one of us — you! — has to see how he puts on that clothing of which the Apostle speaks. Each one personally, has to sustain an uninterrupted dialogue with the Lord.” To learn from Jesus means to put on the Lord Jesus Christ!

My brothers and sisters, on this Solemn Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, may we truly find rest to our souls by coming closer to Christ, by accepting the yoke of Jesus and following it in our lives and by becoming alter Christus (other Christ) or ipse Christus (Christ Himself) to our brothers and sisters. Let us ask the Blessed Virgin to assist us in these struggles. Amen.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

"Why do Catholics make the sign of the Cross?"

Holy Trinity Sunday

          Oftentimes, we, Catholics, find it hard to explain when we are asked one very basic question like “Why do we make the sign of the Cross?”

Sometime in 2004, when I was still a seminarian, I was asked to give a talk to a group of catechists in our parish in Ma-a. In our session, I let them watch Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ and then, I entertained some questions afterwards. One catechist raised a question which was not related to the movie. She said she was asked by an elementary pupil: why do Catholics make the sign of the cross? But she could not answer it.

Now, I throw to you the same question: Why, do you think, we make the sign of the Cross? Before we give some answers to the question “Why”, let us first answer the questions “What is the sign of the cross?” and “What do we profess in it?”

Whenever we make the sign of the Cross, we profess basically two truths of our faith: (1) the Mystery of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus (PDR), also known as the Paschal Mystery; and (2) the Mystery of the Holy Trinity. These are the two fundamental truths of our faith. But the most central – I would say – the source of all we believe and know about God is the second: the Mystery of the Holy Trinity, that God is One in Divine Substance (being God) but Three in Divine Persons (being Father, Son and Holy Spirit).

As we celebrate the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity today, let us review a little what we understand of the Mystery. A story is told about St. Augustine, who, one day, was walking on the beach, contemplating the Mystery of the Trinity. Then, he saw a boy in front of him who had dug a hole in the sand and was going out to the sea again and again bringing some water to pour into the hole. St. Augustine asked him, “What are you doing?” “I’m going to pour the entire ocean into this hole,” the boy replied. “That is impossible, the whole ocean will not fit in the hole you have made”, said the saint. The boy responded, “And you cannot fit the Trinity in your tiny little brain.”

Our tiny little brain can never contain the whole mystery, but this does not mean that the mystery is irrational and that we cannot be enlightened at least by some rational explanation. In order to avoid very simplistic explanations (like the electric fan metaphor, or 3-in-1 coffee analogy of the Holy Trinity), let us try to look into St. Augustine’s attempt to explain reasonably the Mystery as revealed to us in the Scriptures.

St. Augustine gave classic expression to the psychological analogy of the Trinity in which the unity of essence is likened to the rational part of the human soul, composed as it is of the mind, and the knowledge by which it knows itself, and the love by which it loves itself. St. Augustine likened the persons of the Holy Trinity to the human mind, knowledge and love.

In our human psychology, we have a mind that knows itself. We call it our “self-knowledge” or “self-image”. Our “self-image” is sometimes overrated or underrated. Sometimes, we pity ourselves simply because in our “self-image” we focus more on our defects or limitations rather than on our strengths.

God, the Father, also has a “self-image”: He looks at Himself, and He found His “self-image” very good; in fact, the Highest Good! The difference between our “self-image” and the Father’s “self-image” is that our “self-image” does not constitute another person because we are finite creatures. But the Father’s “Self-Image” constitutes another person because He is God, Infinite and Powerful. We understand, therefore, why St. Paul describes God the Son, Jesus Christ, as the “Image of the Invisible God” (Col. 1: 15).

As we look at our “self-image”, we tend either to love it or hate it, depending on whether we see ourselves as lovable or not. If we love our “self-image”, we say we have “high self-esteem”. If we hate ourselves, we say we have “low self-esteem”. However, because we are simply finite human beings, our self-love does not constitute another human person. But when the Father looks at Himself, He finds His “Self-Image” supremely good and, therefore, highly lovable. So He loves Himself infinitely. Since His “Self-Image” constitutes another Divine Person, that Person also loves the Father because love always involves two persons. Now, since these two persons who are in love with each other – the Father and the Son – are Infinite Divine Persons, their Love also constitutes another Divine Person, the Holy Spirit. Hence, the Holy Spirit is the Love that proceeds from the Father and the Son.

We see, therefore, that the best analogy in understanding a little rationally the Mystery of the Holy Trinity is through our psychological experience of our human mind that knows itself and loves itself. Mind, knowledge and love, therefore, could be likened to the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. But what is the significance of this very little understanding of the Mystery to our life of faith? Three points only:

 First, if God is our Father, and we are His children, then, we should not be worried whenever difficulties come. Our Father God will always provide for us, especially when we do our best. Second, since Jesus is the Perfect Image of God, the Father, if we want to be like God, we must be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ: to be a Christian, therefore, is to be Christ-like. Third, since the Holy Spirit is the love between the Father and the Son, we must ask the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love, so that we may truly love God and our neighbors as God loves us.

With this, we are now ready to give reasons why we make the sign of the Cross. We make the sign of the Cross because:
(1) We claim that we are children of God, the Father because we are baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Whenever we sign ourselves, we tell others that “We are sons or daughters of the Father”, the best Father of all (He should be the first that we greet: “Happy Father’s Day”).
(2) We manifest that we are disciples of Christ. The cross is the mark of discipleship. Pope Francis, in his first homily, emphasized the importance of the cross to Christ’s disciples. He said, “When we journey without the cross, when we build without the cross and when we confess a Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord: we are worldly, we are bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord”. By tracing the cross on our bodies, we are declaring that we belong to Christ alone: we become more Christ-like;
(3) Lastly, we declare that we want to live according to the Holy Spirit. When we sign ourselves, we express our decision to “crucify” the desires of our flesh – envy, jealousy, sensuality, anger, and all disordered inclinations – and to live according to the Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier. Like “tossing off a dirty shirt or blouse”, making the sign of the Cross indicates our stripping ourselves of our evil inclinations and clothing ourselves with the behaviors of Christ (see Col 3: 5-15).

So from now on, every time we make the sign of the Cross, we don’t just mechanically say “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. We are actually saying: “I am the son/daughter of the Father, a disciple who wants to be like the Son, and who wants to live a life in the Holy Spirit”. Amen.

"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.