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Wednesday, October 30, 2013



     There is a more wonderful and sublime reason in the celebration of life both here and beyond rather than death and darkness.  Let me present the two different festivals which both happened around the same time of the year today.
The Solemnity of All the Saints (November 1st) and the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed (November 2nd) are Christian celebrations to remind us of an important article of our faith which is the Communion of Saints. The Communion of Saints is the super-natural unity of all the members of the Mystical Body of Christ namely: The Church Triumphant, the Church Suffering and the Church Militant.

For us Christians, heaven is our goal!  We believe that those who had been faithful to Christ until the end are rewarded with eternal bliss in heaven.  We call them saints and they comprise the Church Triumphant.   They are triumphant  because they are given the crown of glory by God in recognition of their holiness.   Because of their extraordinary lives they have reached their heavenly home and are proclaimed by the Church as blessed.  There are those who are still expiating their sins in purgatory  and we call them the Church Suffering.  They are being purged of the impurities caused by their sins.  Purgatory is an interim state where the souls are being cleansed before they go to heaven.   We belong to the Church Militant because we still continue to fight against our sinfulness as we strive to live holy lives.

There is a wonderful exchange of spiritual goods among the members of the Church: the saints in heaven are praying for us here on earth and for the souls in purgatory; we pray for the souls in purgatory as they also pray for us.  All of us share in the “treasury of the Church” which are the inexhaustible merits of Christ and the prayers and good works of the saints.   This exchange of charity overflows to all the members of the Church so that at the end, free from sin, we are able to have our final communion with God the Father.

The word Halloween is a shortening of All Hallows' Evening also known as Hallowe'en or All Hallows' Eve.  Halloween has its origins in the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain (pronounced "sah-win") which was celebrated on the night of October 31.  It was a celebration of the end of the harvest season in Gaelic culture. Samhain was a time used by the ancient pagans to take stock of supplies and prepare for winter. The ancient Gaels believed that on October 31, the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead overlapped and the deceased would come back to life and cause havoc such as sickness or damaged crops. The festival would frequently involve bonfires. It is believed that the fires attracted insects which attracted bats to the area. These are additional attributes of the history of Halloween.  Masks and costumes were worn in an attempt to mimic the evil spirits or appease them. (

Because the original Celtic festival has evolved and has been embraced by different cultures around the world, it penetrated our subliminal consciousness.  It has become part of our psyche that completely superseded the more important spirit of the Communion of Saints.   It is sad that the generation of today, especially our children, has been devoured by Halloween consumerism and its foolish antics which do not mean anything other than to scare people.

From something SACRED our celebrations now are making us SCARED no wonder we embrace a culture of death rather than life, of fear rather than hope, of darkness rather than light…..

Friday, October 25, 2013



Luke 18:9-14

         As the Gospel of Prayer,  St. Luke’s Gospel does not just show us Jesus as a pray-er (a person who prays) but also teaches us many things about prayer.  In today’s parable we reflect on the disposition of prayer in the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican.

         For the Jews, prayer is something personal and private while worship is communal and public.    Worship was usually done in the temple at 9:00am and at 3:00pm.   The parable must be in the context of a public worship when the two characters came to the temple at the same time to pray.  The prayer of the Pharisee was a litany of his good works which gives us a glimpse of his personal life which was extraordinarily devout.  A Jew fasted only once a year during the Day of Atonement but this Pharisee fasted twice a week.  A Jew was required to pay temple tax only on certain things but this Pharisee paid a tenth of all his income.   In the eyes of Jewish law, this Pharisee was indeed very pious.   On the other hand a Publican was a public sinner and was considered a traitor to the Israelites because he was working on behalf of the Roman Empire.   Because he had to bid and pay a large sum to acquire his job, he had to exact higher taxes against his fellow Jews to get back his investment plus with staggering interest.

         Let’s take a look at the manner of their praying:  the Pharisee stood up, praised himself and lambasted the Publican.  The Publican standing far off, would not even lift his eyes to heaven, beat his breast saying “O God be merciful to me, a sinner.”  Jesus concluded the parable by saying that the Publican went home reconciled with God but not the Pharisee.   
        The parable gives us an introspection of our personal prayer and public worship.  In our personal prayer, it is not bad to offer to God our acts of piety and all the good works we have done as long as we don’t use them to boast ourselves before God.  When we pray, we praise God not ourselves otherwise we become self-centered and our prayers are abominable.  The Pharisee’s biggest fault was not only the litany of his piety but when he judged himself better and holier than the Publican.  When we pray like the Publican, we acknowledge our nothingness before God.  The theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar calls it un-selfing!  It is in our self-emptying that God is deeply moved as the first reading from Sirach reminds us: “the prayer of the humble pierces the clouds…”

         Is our public worship a display of pharisaical pomposity and arrogance?   As members of our worshiping congregation do we feel proud as if we are pious and devout? Or do we carry the humility of the publican as we un-self ourselves and be filled with the limitless mercy of God.    
        If our prayer and liturgy do not touch the heart of God, it is because we and our congregation still need the prayer of the publican….

Friday, October 18, 2013


Luke 18:1-8

           Why do we have to ask God in prayer when He already knows what we need long before we even prayed?  Does God not hear outright that we have to pray again and again for the same intentions?  The first reading and the gospel this Sunday remind us about the three aspects of prayer: communion, persistence and faith.
         The Gospel of St. Luke is also called the gospel of prayer.  It shows us Jesus as a pray-er!   After a busy day Jesus would always find a time to pray.   Prayer for Jesus was the time to re-connect Himself with the Father and re-charged Himself with the energy from His Father.   In short, prayer was about communion between the Father and Jesus!   In our present language, we call it “bonding moment” or “spending quality time with a loved one”.   We understand it better in terms of relationship.   When we love somebody, we want to spend time with him/her that is why we wish to spend the rest of our lives with our loved ones.  It is one of the longings of the human heart that differentiates us from all other animals.   We just do not belong but we become part of a communion.  The first reading tells us about the power of intercession.   Moses acted as an intercessor for the Israelites; he was a pray-er for them.  As long as his hands were lifted up in prayer, the Israelites were winning the battle against the Amalekites so that Aaron and Hur held up his arms until sunset and defeated the enemies.   This is called intercessory prayer when somebody acts as a mediator on behalf of a person who is in need.   We see this in the celebration of the Mass when the priest raises his arms in prayer lifting up the needs of the Church gathered in the Eucharist.    It is also a powerful gesture of the priest as if embracing the congregation like a father uniting his gathered children in prayer.  This is the reason why we pray for each other because in the power of communion, we are each other’s mediators!   Jesus is our mediator par excellence before God our Father.
         The second aspect of prayer is persistence as shown in the parable of the unjust judge and the widow.   If the judge who was unjust could give justice to the widow because of her annoying persistence, how much more with God who is merciful and just?    God is not deaf that we have to pray again and again for the same intention.  More often in the many times that we keep coming back to God, we are able to purify our intentions, we become closer to Him and we become more humble.  
         The third aspect of prayer is faith.  Prayer is an act of faith!   Whenever we pray, we believe that God hears us although sometimes He delays or answers us in a different way.  Parents will have to delay a gift being asked by their child knowing the best time when it should be given.  Sometimes  they do not give in to what the child wants knowing it is harmful but rather give the child what they thought is best for him!   Because God is the Father who knows the best for His children, we just have to believe that our prayers will be answered in the appropriate time or in the manner which is best for us.  
         To those who do not lose heart in prayer become winners because the prayer of the humble  melts the heart of God!

Friday, October 11, 2013



Luke 17: 11-19

         Ingratitude in one form or another is one of the most distressing human attitude most especially after we have given someone a gift, favour or service.   It breaks our hearts when our gift is rejected and never acknowledged or appreciated.

         The Jews expected favours after all they were the chosen people of God.   The ingratitude of the nine Jewish lepers was a testament to such an attitude.   They felt it was their due and there was no need to say Thank You.  The Samaritan who was considered a foreigner turned back praising God in a loud voice and throwing himself before Jesus, gave thanks for the gift of healing.

         The word hospital comes from the Latin word hospes which means host or guest.  A hospital is not just a place of healing but a spiritual respite when we encounter God through pain and suffering.   It is a short period of rest or relief from something unpleasant when we are taken cared of as special guests.  Through the hands of doctors, nurses and staff and with the help of medical science and technology, we experience healing and revival.    It is an institution where we encounter the joy and wonder when a mother gives birth to her new born or when miracles happen beyond the explanation of medicine.  We also encounter frustration and distress most especially when death beckons in spite of the advancement of technology and science.  The hospital is a passage of life where we encounter God!    When a person leaves the hospital after being revived surely give thanks to the doctors, nurses and staff but the question is “Did the person encounter God while he/she was a guest in the hospital?”

         The nine Jewish lepers represent those who take the wonders of life without acknowledging God who is the source and the giver of all gifts.   These are the takers who think it is their due because they work for it so they deserve it.    Some think that these wonders are part of the accidents in nature and nothing else.  The Samaritan leper is the Christian who always goes back to God, acknowledging, thanking and praising Him for such wonders. 

         We say “Thank You” to God verbally, sometimes mentally when we receive favours from Himmost especially when our prayers have been answered.    But how do we “go back” to God just like leper did?  We do it when we praise God together with those who experience the same favour through the liturgy.   The word Eucharist comes from the Greek word eucharistein which means to give thanks.  The Eucharist is the highest form of prayer and thanksgiving.  It is the apex of our liturgy when we come together like “a community of lepers” needing God’s mercy and at the same time thanking Him for gift of healing which is our salvation.

         Pope Francis in a recent interview saw the Church as a “field hospital” where sinners are like lepers encountering the mercy and hospitality of God.   This is the reason why we always go back to the Eucharist because it is not enough to say “Thank You” to God alone and privately.  We need the other members of the Christian community to ritualize our gratitude through a liturgy which is acceptable to God.   This is the wonder of the Holy Mass!

Friday, October 4, 2013


Luke 17:5-10

         What if one morning you wake up to know  that you don’t have much time left because you lost your battle against a disease or cancer?  Or to realize that your loved one left you for good?  Or when a painful tragedy strikes your family? When your dreams have fallen apart, left without inspiration and no drive to move on? When at the end of the long tunnel you don’t see light at all, hit rock bottom and you feel alone?   The words of the prophet Habakkuk in our First Reading becomes our own: “O Lord how long must I cry for help and you pay no attention?"  Isn't this also our cry?
         In the same manner, the words of the apostles in our Gospel today becomes our own, too: “Increase our faith.”  Jesus responded that if we have faith at least as big as a mustard seed, we can do the impossible.  Faith here is not just belief which is the ascent of the mind to a religious conviction.  It is rather the deep personal trust and unwavering confidence in the God we believe in.  When we are besieged by evil that seems to triumph in the eyes of the world, the Lord calls for fidelity!  Faith in God most especially during horrendous moments when things just don’t fit in together and without meaning; faith in God even if it seems that He is not responding the way we want nor we feel He is not present at all.   The same resolute faith of Jesus when He was hanging on the cross, abandoning Himself to His Father who, in the eyes of the world, had abandoned Him.  The faith of the saints have been tested in moments when they were tortured and suffered the most horrible pain in the midst of a taunting world looking for God who seemed absent or silent.  We may not have such a huge faith; all we need is faith as tiny as a mustard seed to battle the worst storms in our lives.
     It is the same faith that does not expect any entitlement or reward.   We live in a world of legal entitlements as our right over the amount of time and effort we have exerted.  That’s what our jobs for; that’s how we build up our careers.   It is the law of commerce which determines our lives and status in the society.  But our lives as disciples of Jesus is far different from the commerce of the world.   God is not indebted to us in anyway whatsoever that we should expect Him to spare us from pain nor tragedies nor to reward us because we deserve it after doing something good.   God has His own ways of rewarding those who are faithful to Him, more than we can ever imagine.

         Our fidelity with God is mirrored in many different ways but most especially in the nuptial relationship of husband and wife.  Take the example of a couple who after celebrating their  wedding anniversary feel as if they are just starting their love story again.  Having been faithful to each other in the midst of tragedies and suffering or even after discovering each other’s unpleasantries, they vowed always to be together for the rest of their lives, for better or for worse.
      It is also mirrored in the life of a missionary who spent his/her whole life in the mission or an unknown monk in a far away monastery who left the world. To most of us who live ordinary lives, it is our day to day entrustment  to God believing He is in charge and that nothing will harm us because we are safe in His hands.   These are some expressions of humanity’s fidelity to God which does not expect rewards nor entitlements but is always ready to give oneself unselfishly to God because of love.
      At the end, we will realize that no matter what happens in our life journey, God will always be faithful to us otherwise He stops being God.