Thursday, April 18, 2019

Live a Eucharistic Life

Today, with the celebration of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, we begin the Easter or Sacred Triduum (Triduum Sacrum), that is, the three-part drama of Christ's redemption: Passion, Death (that begun on Holy Thursday, continued on Good Friday) and the Resurrection (on Holy Saturday Easter Vigil).

Holy Thursday is also known as “Maundy Thursday”.The word “Maundy” comes from the Latin word mandatum (commandment), which is the first word of the Gospel acclamation according to St. John: “Mandátum novum do vobis dicit Dóminus, ut diligátis ínvicem, sicut diléxi vos”. (I give you a new commandment: Love one another as I have loved you. -- John 13:34). “Maundy Thursday”, therefore, is the true day of love (not February 14) because today, our Lord reminds us to love one another regardless of race, gender, political opinion or religion.

Today also, we recall the last actions of Jesus before He was arrested, condemned, crucified and died on the cross. These actions can be summarized as follows: (1) the eating of the Jewish paschal meal that commemorates the Passover; (2) the washing of the disciple’s feet; (3) the institution of the Most Holy Eucharist (the first Mass at which Jesus Christ, the eternal high priest, is the presider; the first Communion of the apostles; the conferring of Holy Orders); (4) the foretelling of Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denials; (5) the farewell discourse and priestly prayer of Jesus; and lastly, (6) the agony of Jesus in the Garden of Olives. All these events become sacramentally present in this Eucharistic celebration of Holy Thursday, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper.

But I wish only to highlight one very important action of Jesus during that Last Supper: the institution of the Holy Eucharist. It is a very important action because the Holy Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC, 1324).

By “source”, we mean that all the strength we need, whether spiritual or bodily, in order to face our daily struggles, our joys and hopes, our grief and anxieties, come from our Lord Jesus who is sacramentally and really present in the Holy Eucharist, in His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity.

By “summit”, we mean that the Holy Eucharist is “the culmination both of God’s action sanctifying the world in Christ and of the worship men offer to Christ and through him to the Father in the Holy Spirit” (CCC, 1325). Whenever we participate in the Mass, “we already unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy and anticipate eternal life” (CCC, 1326). We have a foretaste of heaven! Hence, we can imagine ourselves to be in heaven right now. 

But to be in heaven is not automatic – that you just attend Mass and puff! – you’re in heaven! Heaven is where Jesus is present. In the Eucharist, Jesus is present. But the Eucharist must not be confined only in the church building. The Holy Eucharist, the presence of Jesus, must continue to subsist in the hearts of each of us, in our lives, in our family, in our work, in our entertainment.

The concluding words of the Mass, “The Mass has ended. Go in peace” are originally rendered in Latin “Ite, missa est finita” or “Ite, missa est” (the shorter version). However, it does not simply declare that the Mass has ended or that the sacrifice has been accomplished. It also contains an exhortation to make your life a Mass.

The Latin “missa” also shares the same root as the word “missio” or mission. Hence, when the priest says “Ite, missa est”, it also means, “Go, you are sent to a mission”. And what is that mission? To make your life a Eucharist. Just how do we accomplish this mission of making our life Eucharistic? Let us go to the Eucharistic acts of Jesus at the Last Supper.

“For on the night He was betrayed, He Himself took bread, and, giving you thanks, He said the blessing, broke the bread and gave it to His disciples…” (Eucharistic Prayer III). Four action words emerge from this text from the Eucharistic Prayer: take, bless, break, give. A Eucharistic life is taken, blessed, broken and given.

TAKEN. Jesus, one time, assured His disciples: “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain” (Jn 15: 16). In our baptism, Jesus has chosen and taken us from among the many peoples in the world. Our Catholic faith is a pure gift, free initiative of our Lord. His words to the Prophet Jeremiah is a concrete proof to this: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart” (Jer 1: 15).

Thank God for having set you apart from among the peoples in the world today as His followers. Be grateful always for the gift of faith. This faith makes it possible for you to enter into communion with God and live a divine life. In the Holy Eucharist, we are divinized because we commune with God Himself!

BLESSED. Jesus does not just choose you and take you because you are the best among the rest, the cream of the crop. He loves you for who you are, not for what you have. As proven in God’s action in the history of Israel, God does not choose the qualified; He qualifies the chosen, that is, He fills with His blessings those whom He set apart. How does the Lord bless your life?

Recall the blessings you have received from the Lord in the past years. Do not focus so much your attention on the blessings your neighbor received. It will make you envious. Focus on your blessings. Then, fill your heart with gratitude. Only a grateful heart can truly be happy. Happiness is not what makes us grateful. Gratefulness is what makes us happy.

Your greatest blessing is the gift of your person. However, the gift of persons is not there only to thank for: it is also there to be shared. But before your person can be shared, the Lord allows it to be broken first.

BROKEN. Our own brokenness is not always a tragedy, in the same way that the Lord’s crucifixion is not a tragedy, although at first, it appears to be so. Sometimes, the Lord allows that we may be shattered into pieces, if only to break our ego and self-centeredness. Only when we are broken do we realize how we need God and totally depend on Him alone. Then, we learn how to trust more in God, and less in us!

God said through the Prophet Jeremiah: “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?... Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel” (Jer 18: 6). Each of us is also like clay in the potter’s hands. In the hands of God, we may be broken into pieces only to be shaped again according to God’s design. In this state, two things are most important: that we remain malleable in order to be shaped easily; and that we remain in God’s hands, the hands of the potter.

SHARED. After we have been broken and shaped according to the heart of the Divine Master, we can now be shared to others. For the blessing of our person – taken, blessed and broken – is not only a GIFT but also a RESPONSIBILITY: the greater the gift, the greater the responsibility! It must be shared.

We are not created for our own consumption. As St. John Paul II said, “Man cannot fully find himself, except through a sincere gift of himself.” The talent, time and treasure you spent in the service of others do not diminish your person and possession. Rather, the sharing completes you. It completes the Eucharistic life in you!

Taken, Blessed, Broken, Shared. This Eucharistic cycle is what makes our life truly a living Eucharist. Have you heard of the story of a kamote tops (sweet potato), a goat and a man?

Once a kamote tops saw a goat and admired how a goat can go anywhere. It told the goat, “I want to be like you…” The goat said, “If you want to be like me, I have to eat you so that you will converted into me and where I am, you also may be”. So, the kamote tops agreed and puff, it was eaten by the goat.

The goat saw a man and wondered what it would be like to be human being. The goat said to the man, “I want to be like you…” The man said, “If you want to be like me, I have to eat you so that you will be converted into me and where I am, you also may be”. So, the goat became a caldereta”.

And one day, man was praying inside the OLPH Church. He told God, “God, I want to be like you…” And God said, “If you want to be like me, YOU HAVE TO EAT ME, SO THAT YOU WILL CONVERTED INTO ME AND WHEREVER YOU ARE, I AM THERE ALSO”. And so man took the Holy Communion. And since then, his life becomes Eucharistic.

Brothers and sisters, do you want to be like God? Strive to make your life a Eucharistic life! AMEN.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Taming the Fox

Are you familiar with the classic novella, The Little Prince, the most famous work of the French aristocrat, writer, poet, and pioneering aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900–1944)?
If you do, then, it must be easy for you to recall how the Little Prince met the fox and how their conversation went. But in case you find it hard to recall, here, let me refresh your memory, though, pardon me if I skip some lines just to drive home my point:
* * *
“Come and play with me,” proposed the Little Prince. “I am so unhappy.”  

“I cannot play with you,” the fox said. “I am not tamed.”  

“Ah! Please excuse me,” said the Little Prince. But, after some thought, he added: “What does that mean — ‘tame’?” 
* * *

“It is an act too often neglected,” said the fox. “It means to establish ties." 

“‘To establish ties’?”  

“Just that,” said the fox. “To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world...” 

* * *

“Please--tame me!” said the fox.  

“I want to, very much,” the Little Prince replied. “But I have not much time. I have friends to discover, and a great many things to understand.”
“One only understands the things that one tames,” said the fox. “Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things already made at the shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship, and so men have no friends any more. If you want a friend, tame me...” 

“What must I do, to tame you?” asked the Little Prince.  

“You must be very patient,” replied the fox. “First you will sit down at a little distance from me – like that – in the grass. I shall look at you out of the corner of my eye, and you will say nothing. Words are the source of misunderstandings. But you will sit a little closer to me, every day...”  

* * *

To drive home my point, let’s follow the lines above in bold letters.

I know of not a few friends who have grown “so unhappy” with what’s going on in our society this post-election period. But I have my little reflection and a theory of what’s going on. When the players are not friends, no game is possible. “I cannot play with you,” the fox said. “I am not tamed.”  

To tame means “to establish ties”. But sad to say, in our country, “it is an act too often neglected,” said the fox. Why do you think?

“I want to, very much, but I have not much time,” said the Little Prince. “I have friends to discover, and a great many things to understand.” What an irony! In our desire to have friends and to understand many great things, we often neglect the most important ingredient: the art of taming.

“One only understands the things that one tames,” said the fox. “If you want a friend, tame me...” The fox is actually giving us a hint – the key to what we are looking for. If we are looking for friendships – and collaboration, solidarity, harmonious relationship, teamwork, healing and reconciliation, etc. – we should learn the art of taming. Do you really want to understand “a great many things”? Remember the wisdom of the fox: you only understand the things that you tame!

If you want to learn the art of taming, “you must be very patient,” said the fox. You must learn when and how “to say nothing” for “words are the source of misunderstandings.”

So, what do you think we need most this post-election period? I think we need to learn how to tame each other.
* * *

Last year, Pope Francis reminded the Italian bishops, during the opening of their Annual General Assembly in Vatican, “to act more like pastors than ‘pilots’ telling the faithful what to do… In reality, laypeople who have an authentic Christian formation do not need a ‘bishop-pilot’ or a ‘monsignor-pilot’ or clerical input to assume their responsibilities at every level from the political to the social, from the economic to the legislative. Instead, they need a ‘bishop-pastor’,” the Pope explained.

I think, a “bishop-pastor” should know how to tame the sheep (or the fox). What do you think?

 Cogito, 28 May 2016

Wednesday, May 11, 2016


Feast of Blessed Alvaro del Portillo
12 May 2016 * Homily

How many of you have visited the famous Underground River of Puerto Princesa? Can you still recall the different images depicted in the marvelous rock formations of stalactites and stalagmites? The corn, mushrooms, eggplants, the human heart. Do you remember the “Cathedral”, a huge dome where you could see rock formations looking like images of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Nativity, and the Three Kings?
 Then, the guide would explain to you how the stalactites and the stalagmites were formed. A stalagmite is “a type of rock formation that rises from the floor of a cave due to the accumulation of material deposited on the floor from ceiling drippings.” Its corresponding rock formation is a stalactite that hangs from the ceiling, formed from the dripping of liquid that carries minerals from the surface. The mnemonics have been developed for which word refers to which type of formation: stalactite has a letter “C” for “ceiling” and stalagmite has a “G” for “ground”.

When stalagmites and stalactites meet each other, they form solid pillars. There is one huge pillar that you can see inside the majestic Underground River of Puerto Princesa. A huge pillar of stone or a large fragment of rock that is very strong is called in Latin language “Saxum”.

St. Josemaría nicknamed Blessed Alvaro del Portillo “Saxum”. In a letter he wrote to Don Alvaro in March 1939, St. Josemaría said: “May Jesus watch over you for me, Saxum. That really is what you are. I can see that the Lord is giving you strength and making my word come true in you: saxum! Thank him for it and be faithful to him, in spite of… so many things. […] If you could only see how greatly I desire to be holy and to make you all holy! A hug and a blessing. Mariano.” (St. Josemaría, “Letter to Alvaro del Portillo”, Burgos, March 23, 1939).

If you notice, in his letter to Blessed Alvaro, St. Josemaría already pointed out why his first successor was like saxum, a rock to him. “I can see that the Lord is giving you strength and making my word come true in you: saxum!” If Don Alvaro was faithful and dependable like a huge pillar of stone, it was because God continuously showered him with numerous graces. It was also because Don Alvaro corresponded generously to God’s gifts. The more God’s grace drips from above like the stalactites, the more Don Alvaro grows from below like the stalagmites!

What a beautiful picture to behold for us as we celebrate his second feast today since his beatification last September 27, 2014! We, too, are like stalagmites that rise from the ground thanks to the continuous dripping of God’s stalactites of grace. God’s stalactite has a letter “C” in it but it does not stand for “ceiling”; rather, it stands for “Christ”. Slowly but surely, as God’s grace drips unto us, we are being formed into the likeness of Christ.

When the stalactite of God’s grace is met with the stalagmite of our generous correspondence and cooperation, we can also become a “saxum” to others. Let us, therefore, learn not to put hindrance for God’s grace to work in our lives. Like the Good Shepherd in today’s Gospel, Blessed Alvaro also taught us how to be generous collaborators of God’s grace, through his example of fidelity even in small things and a life full of sacrifices.

A little anecdote: “St. Josemaría established as a general rule that every priest of Opus Dei should have, prior to ordination, a doctorate in a secular field as well as a doctorate in an ecclesiastical discipline. But as it happened, the first three priests were all engineers, and at the time that they were ordained, even the highest-level technical schools in Spain did not grant doctorates. So Blessed Alvaro, because he could not get a doctorate in engineering, signed up for the Philosophy and Literature program at Universidad Central, in Madrid. He was however exempted from class attendance. And so having done the course work on his own, he obtained his licentiate on April 24, 1943 and his doctorate a year later, on May 12, 1944, (72 years ago today). His dissertation was titled “The First Spanish Expeditions to California”. Later it was published as a book, a quite lengthy one, under the title 'Discoveries and Explorations on the Coasts of California.'” (Facebook, Alvaro del Portillo Daily).

For Bishop Alvaro, our pains and sacrifices can actually be very meaningful. They are never senseless or futile. In April 19, 1990, when he visited a daughter of his, named Camino Sanciñena, who met a terrible accident at the end of January and was still in a very serious condition in an isolation ward of Miguel Servet Hospital in Zaragoza, Spain, -- practically her whole body was covered with burns – he told her “that even though this is hard to understand, pain is actually a caress from God”.

Pain and suffering can be a source of joy. The whole life of Blessed Alvaro is a testimony to this truth. The words of St. Paul addressed to the Colossians in the First Reading today attest to it: “It  makes  me  happy  to  suffer for you, as I am suffering now, and in my own body to do what I can to  make  up  all  that  has  still  to be  undergone  by  Christ  for  the sake  of  his  body,  the  Church.”  St. Paul could endure his sufferings because Christ is in him, “Christ in us, our hope of glory”. “It  is  for  this  I  struggle  wearily  on,”  he said, “helped  only  by  his power   driving   me   irresistibly.”

Our struggles and difficulties in life contribute a lot so that Christ may be formed in us. They can be channels of God’s grace dripping unto us so that we may grow and become stronger like the stalagmites. Conversely, it is only when we allow Christ to be formed in us can we really endure and find meaning in our sacrifices and pains. Hence, allow yourselves to be formed by God’s grace. Correspond generously to His grace so that you can become like huge rocks for others to depend on.

Through the intercession of Blessed Alvaro and St. Josemaría, may we grow in our fidelity to grace and perseverance in our struggles. May we become like saxum to others. 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.