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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Feast of the Holy Family


Today, a day after we celebrated Christmas is the Feast of the Holy Family.

We all know that before the beginning of time, the Most Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, was the “primordial family”.  They were a perfect family where love was the bond in a fellowship of charity.  This charity overflowed through the creation of the human family.  Adam and Eve were the first family of God.  Everything was just so perfect until the devil came into the scene.  The devil who was alone and will never have a family of his own because of the absence of love and charity, did everything to destroy the first family of God.  Yet God made a promise to create the new family of God through the Messiah.
When Jesus was born, he did not just become a member of the human family but a member of a particular family of Joseph and Mary.  We call them the Holy Family.  They were holy not just because Mary and Joseph were holy people, their family was holy because of the presence of Jesus.  Jesus was the center of their family.  The family of Jesus, Joseph and Mary becomes the icon of every human family because it mirrores the family of the Most Holy Trinity where there is love and an overflow of charity.
But like any other human family, the family of Jesus, Joseph and Mary experienced the lights and shadows of life: joys, pains, sufferings, temptations, hunger and other struggles just like anyone else’s.  In fact in our gospel today, we see the Holy Family besieged by evil through King Herod who wanted to kill the child.  Joseph was told by an angel in a dream to flee to Egypt to save the child.  This is not just an historical event but a symbolical reality of the devil wanting to destroy the sense of the sacred in the human family.  The devil will do everything to destroy our families.  Why? Because the family is the “domestic church”.  It is the microcosm of the Church, of the Mystical Body of Christ.  It is through the Church that the blessing of God will overflow into the world.  And since the devil cannot destroy the Church as a whole, his “modus operandi” is the destruction of the Church by destroying the families.
Let us take a look at our families.  Let us ask ourselves if Jesus is really the center of our families?  Let us see how the devil makes use of “modus operandi” in destroying our families.  The many forms of addictions are the new labels of tools being used by the devil to cut through and divide our families.  Addiction of drugs, alcohol, prostitution, pornography, the use of the contraceptive methods and many others: when any of these addictions enter into our families, we see the destruction of our values and little by little our families are destroyed.
I have seen many families who became vulnerable, being eaten up by the fire they have made which is beyond their control.  Every single family that is destroyed is a trophy for the devil.
We have to admit that our families are susceptible to all the evil influences of the world.  That is why there is a need for us to protect our families from everything that harm us.  We need to strengthen our family value system through good education , evangelization and good witnessing.  We need to frequent the reception of the sacraments to strengthen us in our weakness and vulnerability.  We need to gather always in the celebration of the Eucharist where our families are nourished by the Word of God and the Flesh and Blood of Jesus.
We say that that there is no perfect family.  Each of our families have skeletons in the closet and secrets we keep from the public.  Yet we continue to hope that despite the darkness and shadows of our homes, we have Jesus as the center of our families; Jesus is our light and life.

Saturday, December 18, 2010



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We all know that Mary was the recipient of the Good News of the Incarnation. In the account of St. Luke, Mary took the center stage in the Infancy Narratives.  But in today’s gospel of St. Matthew the Good News of the Incarnation was also shared to someone else who would be playing a pivotal role in the salvific event.  His name was Joseph.
WE know that there was a boy in the Old Testament named Joseph the dreamer.  He was the one responsible for the Israelites to go to Egypt and from there the People of God would be born.  Now another Joseph in the New Testament who was also a dreamer would be responsible for the birthing of the new People of God.
In the Jewish customs, when a man and a woman are betrothed, they are practically and legally husband and wife.  After bethrothal Joseph found out that Mary was already with child.  To save Mary from stoning to death because of an impending scandal, he contemplated to divorce her.  It was in this point that the angel appeared to him in a dream and explained to him the mystery that was happening.
Most of us call Joseph as the foster father of Jesus.  Yes that is true but there is something more to Joseph than just being a foster father .  Let us now reflect on the role of this great man in the history of salvation.  Joseph was the one who gave the name Jesus.  How do we understand this?  When we hear the genealogy of Jesus, we traced the lineage of Jesus to three fourteen generations back to Abraham and David.  At the end of many names, we hear the name of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Because Joseph was the husband of Mary, her son is legally the son of Joseph. It was because of Joseph that Jesus was connected to the lineage of David hence is called the Son of David.  And what is so important with this?  We all know that the Messiah will come from the stump of Jesse who was the father of David as prophecied by Isaiah in the first reading.  If this is not true of Jesus, then he would be an impostor.  That’s the greatest contribution  of Joseph in the life of Jesus and in the history of salvation.
Secondly, the gospel relates that Joseph took Mary his wife into his home.  He did it because of his obedience to the angel.   By this, we understand that he became the “Guardian of the Incarnation”, husband to Mary and the legal father of Jesus.  Pope John Paul II wrote a beautiful encyclical letter “Redemptoris Custos” or the “Guardian of the Redeemer”.  Here lies the greatness of this man who has never spoken any single word in the gospels.  Here is the power of silence and contemplation!  Joseph stayed behind the “limelight” of the Mystery of the Incarnation, he stood at the background in obedience and in silence. What an inspiration for us who like to be looked upon, be applauded, be at the center of attention.
          Most of the pictures of St. Joseph depict him as an old man. This was  because the artists wanted to guard the virginal conception of Mary but in fact he must be a young husband to Mary.
In 1889 Pope Leo the XIII declared him the patron of the Universal Church. Indeed if God has entrusted to St. Joseph the legal fatherhood and guardianship of the Incarnation, then it is but fitting that we entrust our Church under the care of this great man.  St. Joseph, pray for us.

Saturday, December 4, 2010




 Starting the Second Sunday of Advent, we will be guided by John the Baptist in our preparation for the coming of Jesus.   As we enter into this season, as if we enter into a 40-day retreat and our retreat director or master is John the Baptist.  Rightly so because he was the one who prepared the people of Israel for the coming of the Messiah.
          St. Matthew introduced to us the locus of his preaching and that is the desert of Judea.  This was a glimpse of the state of life John had.  John wore a clothing made of camel’s hair and had a leather belt around his waist.  His clothing tells us not just about his garments but the sacrifice he took as part of his prophetic role.   It was most uncomfortable to wear.  The leather around his belt must have caused him pain tremendously.  His food was locust and honey which were all taken from the desert.  I once visited the summer palace of the parents of John the Baptist in Ain Karim and it gave me an impression that they were a very wealthy family. When most of the people were living in caves during the time of Jesus, John the Baptist aside from his house had a summer palace.    We know that John came from an aristocratic priestly family and yet he left everything and lived in the desert in preparation for his role.   
 His message was “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.”  This is the core of John’s prophetic cry: for the people to repent and reform their lives for the sake of the kingdom.    It is amazing to know the charismatic power of John when all of Judea were going out to him to be baptized by him.  People from all walks of life including the Pharisees and Sadducees were listening to his message.   For the people, there was something more than the message.  They knew that John was more than an ordinary man.  In fact St. Matthew said that John the Baptist was the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah that we hear from the first reading today.  The coming of the Messiah will usher in the Kingdom of God where the justice and peace will reign.   The visitation of God will not be through the instrumentality of his prophets like the ones in the Old Testament but through the Messiah.
 That is why we say that John the Baptist was the greatest of all the prophets not just because of his message but because of the way he lived his life.  Later on he will be giving up his life for the message and for Jesus.  But in all this greatness, he tells us about his spirituality of humility “I am not worthy to unfasten his sandals.”   Jesus in the later part of the gospels will say that no one born of a woman is greater than John the Baptist.  Maybe next to Our Lady and St. Joseph, we could even say that John the Baptist was the greatest man ever born.  And yet, in all this, he knew himself so well : “The one coming after me is mightier than me”.  
When we reflect John’s life, we embrace his message with joyful expectancy.  This is what Advent is all about.   Jesus is coming not just in the world and the Church once again but most especially in our personal lives.  His coming is a visitation which will bring peace and blessing to us.   We need to hear the “voice crying out” in the wilderness and dryness of our hearts.  And the message is repentance or metanoia.  The word metanoia comes from the Greek words meta and nous which mean beyond the mind and literally it means a complete turnabout from our former lives to something new because we are meeting our Messiah.
My brothers and sisters, we will be hearing more of John the Baptist in the coming Sundays.