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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

DIVINE MOTHERHOOD


January 1, 2015
Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God



In the fullness of the appointed time
The virgin became a mother
But the mother remained a virgin
Whose womb became the New Ark
Pure, immaculate and undefiled
Holding not the tablets but the Word.

As she gave flesh to divinity
She gave birth to her Creator
Who created her to be his mother
Then God became a human pilgrim
That the new humanity may be born
Through the fertile womb of Mary

- Fr. Vladimir Echalas, SOLT - 


Note: For a full homily, please see:

http://frvlad.blogspot.com/search?q=theotokos

Thursday, December 25, 2014

THE GRANDEUR OF CHRISTMAS!



CHRISTMAS 2014

We were promised a Saviour
But we never dreamed that God himself would come to save us;
We knew that He loves us
But we never dared to think that He loves us so much as to become like us.
But it is the way God gives.
His gifts are never quite what we expect
But always better,
Something far better than we hope for.
We can only dream of things too good to be true;
God has a habit of giving things too good to be false.

That is why our Christian faith
Is the faith in the unexpected, a religion of surprise.
Now more than ever, living in times so troubles,
Facing a future so uncertain, we need such faith.
We need it for ourselves and we need to give it to others.
We must remind the world that if Christmas comes in the dead winter
It is that there may be an Easter in the spring.


- Horacio de la Costa, SJ -

Friday, December 19, 2014

MARY'S YES!




4TH SUNDAY OF ADVENT - B
Luke 1:26-38


This fourth Sunday of Advent, we turn our gaze to Mary, the ultimate guide to the Mystery of the Incarnation.
          Following the Fall of Man in the Old Testament, God promised a Messiah through a woman (Gen 3:15). If a woman was the reason of the Fall then it would be through another woman that humanity would be saved.  It took thousands of years for God to carry out his plan and to create that woman who would be the instrument for salvation.  In the language of St. Paul, the Messiah was born in the fullness of time through a woman (Gal 4:4).  This woman is Mary.
          In the Annunciation we contemplate first on the “obedience a priori” (the first obedience) of the Word to the Father who willed that his Son should become man!  We see here both the self-giving (Kenosis) of both the Father and the Son: the Father who, out of love, gave away his Son and the Son who, out of obedience, said his yes to the Father.  We also meditate on the Holy Spirit who was the instrument in the realisation of this eternal gift-giving.  Secondly, the faithfulness of God who in his graciousness fulfilled his promise of old.  Thirdly, we also see God’s humility by asking a woman, his mere creature a favor.  Out of God’s deep respect for freedom of the will, he asked Mary: “Would you be my instrument so that I can become a man?”  It was that very moment when heaven and earth stood still and almost hanged in a balance when God awaited for Mary’s response… a moment in history God had been awaiting for.  In all her humility, Mary said her Fiat, an abandoning and wholehearted YES: “May it be done according to your word”! And that very instant, the Word became flesh.  This glorious spark in history was made possible through the meeting of the faithfulness and humility of God and Mary.
         What is Mary’s Annunciation to us today?  Just like the Israelites who waited for the coming of their Messiah, we have been waiting and longing for the coming of Jesus.  How open are we to cooperate in the Incarnation of God in the present time?  Just as God needed the cooperation of Mary for Jesus to be born, he wants our participation in the eternal birthing  of the divine in us.  He wants our personal yes!
         The Word which the world cannot hold was contained in the humble womb of Mary.  It was made possible because God prepared Mary who, in her unconditional obedience, emptied herself totally without reserve and provided a sacred space to contain the immensity of God’s presence.  This is the fullness of Mary!  Such fullness which was designed by God because she was the only one who could reverse the empty disobedience of the first Eve; she would be the New Ark of the Covenant who could house the Word made flesh.  Fullness of life consists in abandoning our life to the will of God even if his ways are odd and difficult.  Like Mary, we just have to say YES!

         The Word can never be contained by the world but he can take possession of our humble hearts if, like Mary, we totally empty ourselves of anything that is un-godly.  From the womb of Mary, she gave birth to God whom one day she would give away, just like the Father, as a gift and ransom for humanity.  We do not stop in the contemplation of the indwelling of the Word-made-flesh in our lives; the moment we possess him, he only wishes “to be spoken” because he is meant be shared to the world….

Thursday, December 11, 2014

ETERNAL BIRTHING THROUGH SELF-GIVING



3RD SUNDAY OF ADVENT – B
John 1:6-8, 19-28

Jesus is “the reason of the season” and at the same time “the reason to rejoice in all seasons”!
 Today is GAUDETE SUNDAY!  It is a day of rejoicing because the Savior is close at hand!  St. Paul reminds us in the second reading: “Always be joyful!”  It is not just about joyful expectancy that Christmas is very near but a reminder that Jesus is the reason to rejoice in the midst of life’s pains, sufferings and tragedies. 
   
There is no man born of a woman greater than John the Baptist,” says the Lord.  The greatness of John the Baptist lies in his being the greatest prophet and witness par excellenceAs a witness, John the Baptist was  a sign pointing to someone greater than himself.  And yet he knew his place in this great drama; he knew he was just a messenger, a mere voice!  When the people flocked to him, he could have used  that opportunity to magnify himself but in all his humility he said “I am not fit to undo the strap of his sandal; he must increase, I must decrease.”   Our greatness does not depend on what others think of us; it does not  depend on earthly powers, not even on popularity.  It hinges in our personal relationship with God; on how we are able to carry on the mission entrusted to us.  The higher we go up in the ladder of life, the more we need to be rooted in our nothingness before the all-embracing providence of God!

To be a witness today may not require us to shed our blood like what the early Christians did in professing their faith.  To be a witness means to live the faith in an extraordinary way;  it is to be a sign pointing away from the self but towards others.  It is the un-selfing  of one’s ego, of one’s personal agenda and anything about self-consumption towards filling up the needs of others who have less in life.  It is the movement of breaking from the constriction of self in order to be outpoured to those who are wanting so that they may have more in life.   This is not about the destruction of the self but rather the emptying of anything that is un-godly to give a space for the presence of the divine who wants to indwell in our hearts!
        
John the Baptist also reminds us:  Standing among you, unknown to you, is the one who is coming…”  How often do we recognize the Messiah walking in our midst?  We wait for him and look for him in the grandest of things but he comes though incognito amongst the poorest, the lowest and the least. Unless we humble ourselves and learn to stoop down in the caves where the Unknown is lying amongst the crib of inhumanity, we will miss the divine encounter we have been longing for.  


A radical change of heart is what we need for us to encounter the Savior!  It is only through a heart willing to bleed out of love for God and others that we can truly celebrate our continuous birthing together with the eternal birthing of God in the Eucharistic manger of self-giving!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

VOICE OF HOPE


SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT – B
Mark 1:1-8


         There is a voice deep within that speaks to us, guiding us to do the right thing and to avoid evil.  This is our conscience. In the same manner, a prophet is like a conscience who speaks the voice of God to the people.  Israel being the People of God had a long prophetic tradition in the Old Testament.  The other religions have their oracles which the people consulted in all matters about life. 
In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah was sent to the Israelites who were exiled in Babylon (587-530 BC).   Jerusalem was far away and the Jews could not bear the terrible pain of being captives in a foreign land.  God was silent!  Suddenly in this desperate situation, Isaiah became God’s voice of hope for the Jews:  their slavery had come to an end!  They had to prepare for the coming of their Messiah.
          In the second reading, the promised Second Coming of Jesus (Parousia) was long delayed.  His disciples were in despair, thinking that Jesus might not be the Messiah, after all He had not come quickly as some had expected.  The Second Letter of Peter was written to give them hope:  God does not conform to human expectations and what they were awaiting was a new heaven and a new earth where justice will reign.
          For more than four hundred years, the Israelites had never heard nor seen a prophet.  Then suddenly came John the Baptist: God’s voice of hope to a people who lived in the shadow of death, to a land as barren as the desert!  His message was that of the prophet Isaiah’s:  “Prepare, the Lord is coming!  The long exile of sin had ended, a new spring time had come!"  It was a refreshing message like rain drenching the parched land; like ice-cold water to a weary and lost pilgrim in the middle of a desert.  So the Jews flocked to him like a superstar!  But what did they see?  A very simple man dressed in camel’s hair and fed on locusts and wild honey.  Like the prophet Isaiah, he spoke with a message of hope!  He was talking about the real Messiah who was about to come who would give them a new baptism and the Holy Spirit.  He could have glorified himself from such popularity and adulation but he knew he was a mere messenger, only a voice of Someone greater than anyone else.  He even declared that he was not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of His sandals.
          The world of today needs prophets more than ever before!  In this desperate time like the Babylonian captivity in the Old Testament and the slavery of the Jews by the Romans during the time of Jesus, we are hungry for prophets who can give us back the reason to hope!   And what is to be a prophet in this present time?  It is to be the voice of Jesus in a world that is desperately in need of salvation, of comfort and of hope!   We are these prophets to one another, to our families, our children, our spouses, our friends, our officemates, and even to strangers.   
The long wait is over! God continuously sends new Isaiahs and new John the Baptists: rainmakers to parched lands who cry out for the rain of justice; the voice of hope to those who have forgotten to sing other than their lamentations; a ray of light to those who dwell in the shadow of the culture of death.  Speak gently the truth that breaks the many un-freedoms of our people; shatter the status quo that enslaves the poor, but most especially be the voice of God to someone who has already lost the will to live. 

Speak up, prophets!  Let us make a difference to someone’s life today!!!