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Friday, July 26, 2013

OUR FATHER, BROTHERS and SISTERS

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17TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – C
Luke 11:1-13

         
          We know the “Our Father” by heart.  We pray it everyday!  It is almost a second skin to our spirituality as Christians.  But is more than just a formula of prayer, it is about relationship.
         Whenever the disciples saw Jesus in deep prayer, there was always something extraordinary with Him.  They knew He was in communion with His Father.  With this in mind, they asked Him to teach them to pray.  The response of Jesus the “Our Father” became the prayer excellence and the model of all prayers.
         The disciples did not ask Jesus to teach them “how to pray” but simply “to pray” so Jesus did not just teach them a formula of prayer.  For Jesus, “to pray” means to enter into a sacred realm with God as an expression of a special relationship between us and our God.  It is called filial relationship.  That is why we open the prayer with the possessive determiner “Our”.  To call God “our Father” means we identify ourselves as somebody in relationship with God as our Father and that we are His children.  It is in the plural which means that we also associate ourselves with the rest of those who call God their Father.  The prayer reminds us of our connectivity with God and with our brothers and sisters, not just among those who profess our Christian faith but to the rest of humanity and the whole creation as well. 
         To pray is to plug in ourselves into the source of our being just like when we plug in our gadgets like computers and mobiles to the power point to have them charged and keep running.  Without being charged, the batteries are dead and our gadgets useless no matter how expensive they are.  They are good for nothing.  In the same way, whenever we pray to God our Father, we re-charge the batteries of our souls so that being spiritually charged then we are up to living a fuller life.  When our batteries are depleted and down, we don’t need a wall or power point the way we charge our gadgets but a simple prayer like  the “our Father” to keep us going again.
         The Our Father as a formula of prayer is addressed to the Father just like Jesus always addressing all His prayers and activities to His Father.  The first part urges to give something first to God what is due to Him, namely to make His name holy and that His Kingdom may come.  We don’t jump outright to our petitions without acknowledging our need to give to God even if He does not need it because that is required by justice.   Then we tell Him our needs.  We call this as supplications or petitions. The first thing we ask is the need for material goods represented by our daily bread.  It is followed by the need of our souls that is the gift of inner peace through reconciliation.  The basis of our reconciliation is our initiative to forgive others first before we ask for our own forgiveness.  Lastly, we pray for the strength that we need in our journey through life that we be delivered from all evil.
         To pray is not to demand God what we want but to be open to all the blessings He has in store for us.   If our own fathers can give us the best for their children, how much more God our Father who can give us not just the best but fullness of life!   Amen.

Friday, July 19, 2013

ACTION CONTEMPLATION




16TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – C

Luke 10: 38-42



         Luke presents to us the two sisters Martha and Mary as mirrors which reflect back how we respond to the presence of God.   They also represent two seemingly opposite spiritualities which are actually complementary in nature, namely active  and contemplative.   They are the yin yang that shape our ministries, only if given the right direction towards active contemplation.

         Martha was a picture of a hospitality gone wrong.  Not that we judge her actions as totally incorrect because somebody needed to do what she was doing, that is, to prepare the best meal for Jesus.  What had gone wrong was her intention of falsely imputing malice against her sister.   She thought she was right in her own world and everything that existed outside herself was wrong.  Because of this mistaken perspective she demanded that her sister joins her world as if the other side had gone wrong.  Her actions became a display of external piety that required appreciation and reward.   Martha lends her mask to the Pharisee who berated the Publican before God and to the older son who judged and won’t accept his prodigal brother.  In many aspects, Mary becomes us most especially in terms of our judgment towards others making our work and our lifestyle the standard that measures up others’ failure or success.  In a sense, we control others without us knowing it and oftentimes under the guise of honesty and good intentions.   This is also true in our relationship with God when we expect that we be rewarded because we have done our best; that we be spared from pain or anything that we hate accepting because we have been faithful to God and never gone astray like others.   We become obsessive of deserving favor from God and others because we have been good.

Mary on the other side basked in the presence of Jesus and was completely lost in contemplation.  For her, to be in the presence of Jesus completed her being therefore she needed nothing more than relishing the Word became flesh in front of her.  Nothing much is said about her other than being praised for “being taken the better part.” Sad to say that our generation has lost the sense of contemplation because we are afraid to be still most especially when nothing is happening.  To the modern world, contemplation, silence and solitude are strange words and concepts, just like spiritual retreat or discernment.  They pose a threat to the noise that we are accustomed to,  as if it is waste of time being silent and alone with God.  In the Old Testament, Elijah met God through a silent breeze in the cave.  When was the last time we got lost in contemplation?

         Yes we need action as well as contemplation but we can only be evangelizers of the Word after listening to the Word in prayer.   After making the Word our own in silence, we now have a voice to transform the world through our action.  




Saturday, July 13, 2013

THE GOOD SAMARITAN



15TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – C
Luke  10:25-37

         The question of the teacher of the Law “Who is my neighbor?” may sound politically correct.  But it makes the self as the centre from which everything revolves or the standard which measures up things.   Jesus turned around the question into the right perspective by asking “How can I be a neighbor to others in need?”   It was not just about asking “who?” but “what can I do?”
         The half dead man after being robbed and stripped became the subject that tested the vulnerability and the true character of three passers by in our parable this Sunday.  A priest and a Levite passed by on the other side lest they incurred religious impurity which would hamper their worship in the temple.  Besides, they might have thought their own security and to save themselves from further trouble as many of us would do.  Both of them were Jews who in their own right were upright and pious.  Now the twist of the parable as always found in the stories of St. Luke was the introduction of the Samaritan who helped the man.  He was a foreigner and the most unlikely person to do anything good in the eyes of the Jews.   The characters in the parable are anonymous and faceless precisely because they speak to us as our own.
         The parable of the Good Samaritan is a break trough in changing our perspective in terms of treating others the Christian way.  It also destroys the self as a demi-god that treats others only for personal profit or pleasure. To be a Christian is to open our heart ready to love others regardless of colour, race, religion, political conviction, or ideology.  To be a Christian is to break away from our protective shells ready to get involved even if it means an invasion of our privacy.   It is to open our vulnerability to be disturbed by the surprises of strangers that come along our way.   It is our readiness to modify our plans and change our programs for the sake of a higher call.    It also to invest our resources in times when others refuse to help those who are in need.  
         We were once laying on the road with no one to help us and Jesus as our Good Samaritan passed by and gave us back our life.  To be a good Samaritan is to take on the revolutionary road of Jesus:  to embrace a stranger as our own, to bear the pain and suffering of someone not even related to us, to share our resources even if it disturbs our security.  It all meant loving others the way Jesus loves!
         In doing these, we may not even be appreciated with a sense of gratitude by the world nor by our beneficiaries, but to be a good neighbor to another person in need who is Jesus-in disguise, is itself our reward!
        
        



Saturday, July 6, 2013

MISSION

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14TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – C

Luke 10:1-12.17-20



         Last Sunday Jesus laid down the cost of discipleship to those who wanted to follow Him.  This Sunday we hear the missionary mandate of Jesus to the 72 disciples whom He sent by two’s.

         The radicalism of the discipleship was not just a requirement prior to following Jesus but more so in the actual living of it.  We see this in the definite instructions on how to do the mission relying solely on divine providence and charity of others.   In other words, their preoccupation was the proclamation of the message and not on provisions along the journey.  It may sound crazy to us in the modern world when we first think of our own security symbolized by the things put in on our luggage whenever we travel.   The early disciples were also empowered by Jesus with divine authority over nature and their enemies.   Being poor, they relied not on their own strength or material possessions but on the power deep within themselves to carry out what we may call a “mission impossible.” There was almost no room for personal agenda.  That is why at the end of their missionary journey, they were successful but Jesus reminded them that true happiness was not about success but the assurance that they were part of God’s family, the Church.

         The missionary mandate of Jesus did not end with the early disciples.  By the virtue of our baptism, Vatican II in a document called Lumen Gentium (LG) reminds us that we are intimately linked with Jesus’ life and mission. Being members of the Church which is the Family of God, we are not just empowered by the sacraments we receive but we carry on responsibilities just like we have in our own families.   Because of this, we are missionary in nature.   The genre surrounding the mission in the present age may have changed from that of the time of Jesus but the core of the message remains the same, that is, to continue the mission of Jesus.   To do missions is not just about leaving homes and families to go to unfamiliar places like the early missionaries did but to live and share the faith in our own creative ways. Some are indeed called to a more radical witnessing of the faith by embracing the evangelical vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in the work of evangelization.  But for most of us are called to sanctify the present order through the witnessing of our faith in the ordinariness of our lives.  “By the very nature of our vocation, we seek the Kingdom  by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God” (LG #31).  St. Therese of Lisieux never left the convent but became the patroness of the Mission.   On the other hand, St. Francis Xavier, another patron of the Mission, lived and died in a missionary land.
         Four years ago I left my country, family and friends to open a new SOLT mission in Australia.  We were so blessed being given a parish to administer and I was made a parish priest.  Aside from my pastoral ministry, I started to preach online through this blog and the Australian Catholic Radio Online.  To date, the blog has reached 117 countries with an average of 500 readers weekly.   From my room, I realize that I am able to do mission to peoples I have never met  by preaching the Word of God in different countries, some of which I have never been.           
         Being a member of God’s Family, what do you have to offer?  Have you found your mission in life? How do you carry it out?