Saturday, November 14, 2015

“Happy lang, walang ending”

33rd Sunday in O. T.

I’m sure you are familiar with that advertisement which says: “Happy lang, walang ending”. Of course, you would think, that statement is nothing more than just a cliché. And you may be right! But I guess this statement also embodies one of our greatest longings: the longing for eternity, for a life of happiness without end.

Nothing is wrong with this longing for eternity. It is perfectly natural. It simply shows what we are made for. As St. Augustine puts it: “You have made us, O Lord, for Yourself; and our heart is restless until it rests in You”. In God, lahat happy lang, walang ending!

On this second to the last Sunday in Ordinary Time, our liturgy gives us a glimpse of the possibility of attaining eternal life without end. Endless happiness with God is possible. However, as our readings reveal to us today, eternal happiness requires, first of all, the end of everything that is temporal and worldly. Time has to end first, then, comes eternity.

In the First Reading, the prophet Daniel describes the time of the end. He said: “there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; … Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.”

A similar scene we can find in the words of our Lord in the Gospel: “In those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken.” It is a very frightening sight to behold!

However, the Lord also added that people “will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then He will send forth the angels, and will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven.”

The end of time is inevitable. We know by experience that everything in this world has an end. Perhaps, this is the reason why many people today do not believe anymore in “forever”. Wala raw “forever” dahil lahat may “ending”.

The end of time has to occur in order for eternity, the “forever”, to take place. This is also a great lesson of life: if you want a new beginning, there has to be an end to the old ways of life. Oftentimes, the end is frightening. But the more horrifying is the end, the sweeter and more exciting is the new beginning!

Never fear the end of time. Instead, hope for eternity. When Jesus gives His disciples a glimpse of the end of the world, it was not to frighten them; it was rather to inspire them – and us today – to aspire for a world that does not end. Whenever we are reminded that everything in this world ends, it is to inspire us to look for things that endure.

Do not allow yourselves to be caught up by passing possessions, by fleeting pleasures and by treasures that corrode. Rather, aspire more for things that are heavenly, for enduring possessions, for incorruptible treasures. Now you know that the world will soon end, begin to long for heaven.

But Jesus also said: “But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” Perhaps, the reason why God did not reveal the exact date of the end of time is to keep us always excited and yearning for heaven.  It does not matter when; what matters is that heaven awaits us. Hence, let us fix our attention to that truth.

The Second Reading tells us that, even though the end of the world will surely come, we must always fix our eyes on Jesus, Who is now “seated at the right hand of God, waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet.” Hence, do not pay attention to that horrifying scene of  “darkened sun and moon” and of “falling stars”. Rather, fix your gaze on “the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.” Do not focus more on the fact that the world will surely end; rather, fix your eyes on the truth that Jesus will surely come!

Brothers and sisters, in a personal way, what our Lord is saying to each of us is this: whenever everything seems to end for you, never mind the ending, just focus your attention on Jesus. He is telling you and me: “when you see these things happening,” -- when life and your world seem to end – “recognize that He is near, right at your door.”

If Jesus is truly with you, dapat happy lang, walang ending!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

May forever kaya? Mary Answers

Homily * Solemnity of the Assumption of Our Lady

Totoo nga kayang may forever? This question became a trending among young people especially with the telenovela “Forevermore”. But what do you think? May forever nga kaya?

The question is relevant to our reflection today, the Solemnity of the Assumption of Our Lady into heaven in body and soul. Our answer to this question will help us appreciate the relevance of our Lady’s Assumption in our lives. If there is a “forever”, then Assumption is relevant to us. If Mary is assumed to heaven, then, there must be a “forever”.

If there is a “forever”, then faithfulness is possible. Husbands and wives will try to remain faithful to each other if they both believe in “forever”. If politicians don’t believe in “forever”, we will never get rid of corruption and selfish interests. If there’s no “forever”, paano na kaming mga pari at mga religioso? We left everything for the sake of “forever”. If there’s no “forever”, young lovers will never believe in real and authentic commitment in life. Would you truly and honestly say to your beloved “ITALY” (that is, I Trust And Love You) forever, if you believe that “forever” does not exist? ‘Pag ‘di ka naniniwala na may “forever”, marahil ang love song mo ay “It Might Be You”.

In the mystery of the Assumption, the Blessed Virgin Mary has confirmed to herself, and to us today, the truth that “forever” exists. She finally experienced everlasting life with God. In her, the words of St. Paul in the Second Reading took place: “That which is mortal clothes itself with immortality… death is swallowed up in victory”. But do you know why Mary experienced the “forever”? Because she was faithful to God and to the mission that God asked her to do. Mary was assumed into heaven, into the communion forever with God, because she was faithful.

How was she faithful? First, she bore Jesus in her womb. Second, but more importantly, she listened to God’s will and followed it. In this way, Mary shows us today the secret of finding the “forever”: bearing Jesus in our lives and following God’s will.

Bearing Jesus in our life. In the First Reading, we heard how David brought the Ark of the Covenant to the place he had prepared for it. According to the Letter to the Hebrews, “This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had flowered, and the stone tablets of the covenant” (9:4). These three things inside the Ark of the Covenant point out to Jesus. We know that manna is the bread from heaven. But Jesus Himself is the real Bread from heaven. The stone tablets contain the Law of God. And Aaron’s staff that flowered signifies that he was the chosen leader or prophet of God. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets.

But Mary is the true Ark of the Covenant because she did not only bear the holy things that point out to Jesus: She carried in her womb Jesus Himself. Indeed, in our Catholic tradition, especially in the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Blessed Mother is called “Ark of the Covenant”.

We, Catholics, are also called to be bearers of Christ – to be “Christopher”. Our greatest challenge is to manifest the presence of Jesus in our lives. Let us strive to let Jesus shine and be seen in the way we think, in our conversations, in our dealings with everyone, in our work and relaxation, in our choice of entertainment, in our decisions.

Yet, when we strive to be authentically Christians, true followers of Christ, we must embrace the whole of Christ, including all His teachings and His mentality. We cannot afford to be like “cafeteria Christians”, who just choose to accept those teachings of Christ that will fit our taste, our comfort and our preferences.

St. Josemaria said: “How I wish your bearing and conversation were such that, on seeing or hearing you, people would say: This man reads the life of Jesus Christ” (The Way, 2). He added: “Set aflame all the ways of the earth with the fire of Christ that you bear in your heart” (The Way, 1). True Christians must bear Christ in their hearts; authentic disciples of Christ strive to manifest Christ in their lives. Like Mary, true Christians must also become “Arks of the Covenant”.

Doing God´s will. In the Gospel, a woman cried out: “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.” But Jesus responded: “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” Jesus did not downgrade the “womb that carried Him” – His Mother. Instead, He raised Her dignity to the highest level by emphasizing her faithfulness and obedience to God’s will. St. Augustine said: “Mary was rather blessed by receiving the faith of Christ than by conceiving the flesh of Christ.”

Saint Pope John Paul II called Mary as “the Model of Discipleship for the Third Christian Millennium”. She is our Model of Discipleship because she is the Model of Faithfulness. Discipleship requires faithfulness. In an era like ours, that is full of doubts about whether commitment or faithfulness is still possible, the Catholic Church presents Mary as a proof that “Yes, faithfulness is possible because forever exists”. To do God’s will, like Mary, is our highest dignity as Christians.

If you think that commitment is just a piece of paper, look at Mary. If you think that faithfulness is just found in the dictionary, imitate Mary. If you think that “forever” is true only in telenovelas, then, stop watching telenovelas and start praying to the Blessed Virgin. Ask her for the gift of faithfulness.

Let us ask the help of our Lady of Assumption, that we may strive to be bearers of Christ and to manifest Jesus in our lives. Like Mary, may we also learn to listen to God’s will and follow it in our lives. Let us implore Mary’s intercession, so that we, too, may experience our own “Assumption into heaven” and discover that “talagang may forever”. AMEN.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Our Mission as Christians

15th Sunday in OT Homily

The commissioning of the apostles that we hear in today’s Gospel takes place also in our personal and individual life as Christians. In commissioning the apostles, Jesus gives them -- and us today – a preview of His Church's mission, a preview of our own mission as Christians. No Christian is an island, that is, no Christian is born for himself or herself alone. To be a Christian, a follower of Jesus, is to be, like what St. Ignatius of Loyola would emphasize, “a man for others”.

Like Amos in the First Reading, the apostles were not “professionals,” who earn their bread by prophesying. Amos said: “I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores. The Lord took me from following the flock, and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel’.” Like Amos, the apostles also were simple fishermen (see Acts 14:15) summoned from their ordinary jobs and sent by God to be shepherds of their brothers and sisters.

You don’t have to be a special somebody in the community to be sent to a mission. Even in the ordinariness of what we do every day, God is calling us to do something special for Him. What does God expect from you in your ordinary day to day activities? That is your mission.

The Opening Prayer gives a hint to the answer. It says: “O God, who show the light of truth to those who go astray… give all who… are accounted Christians the grace to reject whatever is contrary to the Name of Christ and to strive after all that does it honor”. We are asking two graces from the Lord in this Mass: (1) to reject whatever is contrary to being Christians; and (2) to strive for what gives honor to the name of Christ.

REJECT WHAT IS CONTRARY TO BEING CHRISTIAN: This is a very effective criterion for our behavior. Then, we examine ourselves: Are my actions contrary to my being a Christian? Is my mentality compatible with the mentality of Christ? Are my words and expressions the words and expressions of the followers of Christ?

When you refuse to forgive the person who offended you, is that not contrary to your being a Christian? When you judge the intention of others, when you are inconsiderate to the defects of others, are you not doing what is contrary to being a Christian? So, we ask the Lord: “Give us light, O God, to see what is contrary to the name of Christ. Then, grant us the grace to reject it.” Here’s a beautiful prayer that you can recite this week: “Lord, keep me away from whatever keeps me away from You”.

STRIVE TO HONOR THE NAME OF CHRIST: This is the positive side. If the other is to reject what dishonors the name of Christ, here, we strive to do what gives it honor. Why emphasize the positive side? Because Christianity does not consists only in prohibitions, as many people think, but in doing positive actions. (Di lang puro bawal ang kristiyanismo, kundi puro pagmamahal).

How do you honor the name of Christ? First, do not be ashamed of it. Do not hide your being a Christian. Then, strive to show it in your thoughts, words and actions. Keep your intentions pure and right. Keep your words clean and mild, not harsh and foul. Keep your conversations prudent, not galawgaw; your jokes clean, not green. When you try to obey authorities, to your parents, you give honor to Christ’s name because He was obedient to His Father.

Our mission is to do what God expects from us. And God’s expectation is that we give honor to the name of Christ – to our being Christians – by rejecting what is contrary to it.

Oftentimes, in trying to do our mission, we will experience resistance and rejection. Amos experienced it also. Jesus warns the apostles that some will not welcome or listen to them. But let us not get discouraged. As Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said: “God does not expect us to be perfect; just to be faithful”.

If we remain faithful to our mission as Christians, as Catholics, despite opposition and rejection, we will triumph in the end because, as St. Josemaria once said: “We are on the side of Jesus. And He does not lose battles”.

In the Second Reading, St. Paul reminds us that “God, the Father… has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before Him”.

Indeed, in this Mass, we ask God to bless us in Christ, “with every spiritual blessing”. Through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, may we strive to reject everything that dishonors the name of Christ and to do what honors it, through our daily ordinary tasks, growing little by little in our faithfulness each day. Amen.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Storms of Life

12th Sunday in O. T. Homily

Whenever we talk about “storms of life” – trials and tribulations of all sort – each of us has a story to tell. Our storms may be external or internal: conflicts in the family, broken relationships, financial crisis, failure in our job or profession, crisis in married life, emotional disturbance, moral disorder through sin, and doubts in our faith. But in whatever storm that we may be experiencing, our readings today remind us that Jesus is present in our boat. He may appear to be asleep, seemingly insensitive to our problems, but He is there, present, and just waiting to be awakened. Let us not hesitate to ask for His help and to tell Him: “Lord, don’t you care that we are drowning?”

Of course, the Lord cares for us! No doubt about that. If He didn’t care for us, would He come down from heaven and become man like us to save us from sin and reconcile us with the Father? Would He give up His life and allow Himself to be nailed to the cross and die if He did not really care for us? What more proof do you require to convince you of God’s love for you?

The storms of life that you are experiencing can be a proof of God’s love. How is that possible? If we try to reflect on the liturgical readings today, we may discover three (3) consoling truths: (1) Storms remind us of God’s presence; (2) Through our storms in life, we discover our limitations and our need for God; and (3) Storms bring out the best in us.

Storms remind us of God’s presence. Let us look at the experience of Job in our First Reading. Job was a good and God-fearing man. But God allowed that he undergo trials: his whole family died of a catastrophe; his possessions were gone; and he was afflicted with painful skin disease. When finally Job complained to God, “God answered Job out of the storm”. It is as if telling us that amidst the storms of life, God is present and is speaking to us.

Therefore, it is not true that whenever we encounter storms in life, God has left us. On the contrary, God is speaking to us out of the storms that we experience. What is God telling you in that family conflict? Or in that broken relationship? Or in that financial crisis? Or even in that committing the same sin again and again? God was telling Job out of the storm: “Hey, I’m just here. I can calm your storm: “Quiet! Be still!” Tell Jesus to calm the storm within you: your emotional disturbance, your wavering faith, your flickering hope. Ask Jesus to quiet the strong winds outside of you. Do not be afraid. In the midst of your trials, God assures you of His presence. God is speaking to you.

Secondly, through our storms of life, we discover our limitations and our need for God. Perhaps, the Lord allows that storm to come. In the Gospel, while strong winds tossed the boat, “Jesus was asleep” – an image suggesting that sometimes God allows us to undergo trials. Why would God do that? In order for us to discover our need for Him. Oftentimes, we feel self-sufficient and complacent. We think that we don’t need God anymore. God is aware of our tendencies to forget Him whenever everything runs so smoothly. So, from time to time, He sends us storms – trials which are not beyond our strength to confront.

Therefore, it is not true that whenever we encounter storms in life, God loves us less. On the contrary, God is telling us through these trials how much He loves us that He cannot afford to lose us. Why will you pray more to God only when you are in crisis? Pray more when everything in life is okay because when life is smooth sailing, you run the risk of feeling self-sufficient. You tend to be mediocre. God cannot allow that to happen. So He tries to disturb the waters.

In the words of St. Paul, in the Second Reading: “The love of Christ impels us”. Christ’s love cannot afford to let us be drowned by self-sufficiency, complacency and mediocrity. To save us from these tendencies, our Lord sends us storms of life. Whenever we have trials, let us wake up from our slumber. Let us acknowledge our own limitations and our need for God’s help.

Lastly, storms bring out the best in us. The movie San Andreas can be a very concrete illustration of my point. A family is experiencing a storm of life: divorce and separation, which is very common today. A catastrophe made them decide to stick together. The same catastrophe made heroes out of some of the characters of the movie. If God has reasons for sending us trials, this could be one of those: to bring out the best in us.

Therefore, it is not true that trials weaken us. On the contrary, they make us stronger. Do not disdain your trials and tribulations. Welcome them as opportunities to grow spiritually. St. Augustine said: “Trials and tribulations offer us a chance to make reparation for our past faults and sins. On such occasions the Lord comes to us like a physician to heal the wounds left by our sins. Tribulation is the divine medicine.” And St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina also commented: “The longer the trial to which God subjects you, the greater the goodness in comforting you during the time of trial and in the exaltation after the combat.” The Second Reading tells us that “the one who is in Christ is a new creature”. As Christians, our storms in life can make us “a new creation”.

My dear friends, whenever storms come into your life, do not be afraid. Know that Jesus is present and is speaking to you “out of the storm”. Let your storms help you discover your need for God. Then, come to Him just like the disciples did and tell Him: “Master, do you not care that I am drowning?” Surely, deep within you, you will hear Him saying to you: “Do not be afraid. Have faith”; and to the storm, “Quiet! Be still!” And you will have peace of mind and heart.

May the Blessed Virgin Mary accompany us as we brave our storms of life. 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.