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Saturday, November 12, 2016

PERSEVERANCE THROUGH THE END




33RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - C

       We have now come towards the end of the journey in the Ordinary Time of the liturgical calendar of the Church.  Next Sunday being the last is the Solemnity of Christ the King.  Like any other journey, it has come to an end to give way to a new season which is Advent.  Life is cyclic! 

      Our gospel this Sunday belongs to a genre in biblical literature which what we call apocalyptic literature.  It is a unique body of work which describes in symbols the things to come at the end of time.  Because they are symbolic, they should not be interpreted in the literal sense.  One thing is sure though, that is, the world will come to an end like any other created realities.  

       The temple in Jerusalem was considered as one of the most beautiful buildings in the world during the time of Jesus.  It was predicted by Jesus that one day it would be put into complete ruins.  When he was asked the time of of its occurrence, Jesus did not say 'when' but rather he pointed out the signs that would accompany its fulfilment: false prophets, wars, insurrections, earthquakes, famines, plagues and other cosmic happenings.  There would be very harsh persecutions!  

      Because the Church brings us through a journey, it makes us realise that the end is inevitable.  The signs mentioned are those that would accompany the end.  They are more important than knowing the exact time of the end.  They are not only pointing to  the coming of the end of time but also act as warnings that the end is already at hand. 

       If the signs like wars, earthquakes, super typhoons and persecutions are already here with us therefore the end of time is also around the corner.  It means that our life and all other realities that we experience are telling us an important lesson:  impermanence!  Nothing will last!  Everything hangs on in a borrowed time!  The most important thing is not yesterday nor tomorrow but today that's why we call it present.  It is a precious gift that is lent to us by God!  

      To live life to the fullest by doing good to others is the best way to persevere despite the hard times ahead of us.  To entrust ourselves to God, knowing that nothing will harm us despite the overwhelming darkness and pains that continue to confront us, is itself the gift of faith!  To know that God is in charge of our life is itself a sweet victory!




Saturday, May 28, 2016

Saturday, April 2, 2016

BOUNDLESS GOD!


2ND SUNDAY OF EASTER 
(DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY)

         In a world that refuses to accept reality until it is verified by the senses and empirical science, transcendence becomes passé, spirituality is useless and religion is empty.   Doubting Thomas lives on until this  time with his legacy of skepticism which refuses belief until proven by  physical experience.

       Whether we accept it or not, we are born natural skeptics!  We do not want to appear naïve or credulous to other people and to simply believe in hearsays, unfounded stories, cheap gossips and unverified reports.  In a way natural skepticism is healthy because it protects us from falling into the pit of the gullible but it has its own limitations.   All of us are standing between the real world and the boundless mystery that beckons to be explored but our human limitations bow in humility to understand and capture the unknown. 
 
      Thomas as an Apostle and representing those men and women in the later generations demanded a proof:  “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails and place my finger in his side, I will not believe.”  When Christ appeared and agreed to Thomas’ condition, Thomas did not even dare to do the physical examinations, he said “My Lord and my God.”  It was an expression of affirming both the humanity (my Lord) and the divinity (my God) of Jesus Christ.  Now henceforth he would be representing all those peoples in later generations who without experiencing Jesus in the flesh will profess such profound faith. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”

      The belief in the Resurrection was not founded in the empty tomb but rather on the testimony of those who encountered the Risen Christ through the many resurrection stories which have been handed down through generations until they reached us and shaped our belief.  The story of Thomas is the story of us all.  We have moments of disbelief when we demand for proofs of the presence of God most especially in times of darkness and fear.  Often times there are no proofs given other than the invitation for a leap of faith to embrace God in the realm of the unknown.    We can never capture the sense of the mysticism and mystery of God unless we let go and simply believe like Thomas did!
       
Divine Mercy Sunday
  
  The celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday is not just about a devotion entrusted to St. Faustina and was made a universal feast of Pope John Paul II.   Rather it brings us back to that mystical event on Calvary.  When Jesus died and his breast was pierced with a lance, the heart of God was opened inviting all humanity to enter into the immensity of God's mercy.  The Church was born from the heart of Jesus beneath Calvary!   Mary and John representing the Church which was now the New Humanity, received the two great sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist symbolized by the water and blood that flowed from the heart of Jesus.  But only those who profess their belief, like Thomas, can enter into the heart of God and bask in the unfathomable mercy of God.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

GOD'S CHILD! GOD'S BELOVED!


SOLEMNITY OF THE LORD’S BAPTISM

Luke 3:15-16.21-22

        The Lord’s baptism is revelatory in nature.  It revealed who Jesus was through the manifestation of the Father and the Holy Spirit which we call “Trinitarian theophany”. It happened before Jesus embarked on his public ministry. The same manifestation would occur again towards the end of the public ministry of Jesus in the Transfiguration.  Between these two theophanies was Jesus’ proclamation of God’s Kingdom through his words and works.

        During his baptism before his public ministry, Jesus was affirmed by the Father of his identity: “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.”  As we enter into the simplicity of this season, we are also reminded of the profound reality of our true identity  given to us when we were baptized: an adopted child of God.   During our baptism the Father was saying to us personally “You are my beloved child, with you I am well pleased.” 

It was important to Jesus to accept his identity which would be the reservoir of his power during his public ministry.  During his intimate moments with his Father in prayer, Jesus would go back again and again to that special moment when he heard his Father’s voice.  In fact he needed to hear the same voice again during the Transfiguration before he could carry on the most painful days of his earthly life.

During this ordinary season, like Jesus we carry in our hearts the Father’s voice so that whatever happens to us this year, we believe that the Father will always be there for us the way he was with Jesus all the time.  It means that we are ready to accept the different theophanies of God in our life.  We welcome him as he manifests himself to us in life or in death, in pain or in joy, in the sunshine or in the rain, in light or in darkness, in good times and in bad.  These are the many facets of life which reveal to us the many faces of God.   We just have to be ready to accept  his creative surprises in our life.

Our baptism is both a gift and a responsibility.  As a gift, we have become adopted children of God!  We call him our Father and we are heirs of the Kingdom! As a responsibility, we witness a Christian life, a life which is patterned after  Jesus, his Son. 

As a child of God, I am God’s beloved!  It is my greatest identity!


Saturday, January 2, 2016

EPIPHANY: GOD AS A GIFT


Epiphany is the unfolding of God’s presence; it is the manifestation or the unveiling of the face of God!

God first made manifest his presence through creation which we call the vestiges or the imprints of the Trinity.  It was God’s first epiphany! It was the outpouring of God's charity!

When Jesus was born, God made manifest not just his imprints but his very face when he showed himself again to save creation by becoming a creature himself.  Through this epiphany, Jesus showed that his was the face of mercy! This time it was the outpouring of God’s mercy!

God offered Himself as a gift.  How did people respond to such a magnificent gift?  The Israelites sneered and rejected the gift; they would not even give him a room! Like the Israelites, Herod did not just reject the gift but he did all he could to destroy it. The magi who represented the Gentiles left their homes in search of “something greater than themselves”.  The star guided them in their journey.  (Those who honestly search for the meaning of life will always be guided by the disguised presence of God be it through the persons they meet on the way or through simple objects or even through insignificant events.  Some of the stars in our lives fade away in oblivion, we may even forget their names but they continuously shine brightly in our hearts.)  The magi offered the baby their gifts; they searched for Jesus not to ask but to give gifts to him!

The next persons who saw first the face of God were the shepherds because they were simple and pure of heart.  Like the magi, they were the first ones to proclaim the Word made flesh.  In the simplicity of their wisdom, they became the first prophets of the Incarnation.  Those who encounter God can not but become “evangelizers of the Word” not only by preaching but in the witnessing of their ordinary lives. 

But the very first receivers of God’s gift were Mary and Joseph; they were given the singular gift of gazing for the very first time the face of God.  One day, it would break Mary’s heart to see that face again covered with blood.   Mary would have to  give that gift to others as a supreme offering for to withhold the gift is to perish.  She teaches us that the supreme joy of receiving will lead to the excruciating pain in giving.  That is the true essence of a gift.


God’s greatest gift is himself! He gives it through many creative and unexpected ways, often in great surprises! 

Friday, January 1, 2016

MARY: MOTHER OF GOD, MOTHER OF MERCY


Today, the very first day of the New Year, we honor  Mary as the Theotokos, the Mother of God! 

    Her motherhood defines her whole being: she is the mother of Jesus, mother of the New Humanity, mother of the Church and mother of us all. Vatican II affirms the place of Mary in the history of salvation: "truly the mother of God and mother of the redeemer, in subordination to Christ along with him, by the grace of almighty God she served the mystery of redemption" (Lumen Gentium #56).
   
The motherhood of Mary to Jesus which started with the Annunciation reached its peak when she stood beneath the cross (Jn 19:25-26).  In his dying moment, she was called "woman" by Jesus which was the fulfillment of Gen. 3:15 ("I will put enmity between you and the woman…") and in reference to the woman during the wedding at Cana: "Woman what concern is that to you and to me?" (Jn. 2:4).   The same woman now clothed with the sun will be mentioned in the later part of the book of Revelation (Rev. 12).  After addressing her "woman", Jesus now turned to John and entrusted his mother to him: “Behold your mother”.  From that time on, Mary became the New Eve who is mother of the new humanity.  This will become her new role as the Vatican II puts it: "By her maternal charity Mary cares for the brethren of her Son who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties, until they are led to their happy fatherland' (Lumen Gentium #61). 

Mary who is the most distinguished member of the Church, is personified as the icon of the Church, hence we also call her the "Mother of the Church".  Consequently all those born in the Church by the virtue of baptism is also born of Mary, hence we also call her our own mother.  Because Mary personifies the virgin-Church (who is the "bride" of Christ), Mary remains a virgin and because the Church gives spiritual birth to all the children of God, Mary is also a mother.  This is the reason why we call her the Virgin Mother!

    It is because of the Church and Mary that we participate in the divine sonship of Jesus hence we have all become adopted children of God: "Then God sent his Son born of a woman that we should become adopted sons" (Gal. 4:4).  The proof that we are sons is the fact that God sent into our hearts the spirit of his Son which cries out 'Abba Father'! (Gal. 4:6).

    Here are the very words of Our Lady of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego during the earliest Marian apparition: "Hear me and understand well, my son the least, that nothing should frighten or grieve you. Let not your heart be disturbed. Do not fear that sickness, nor any other sickness or anguish. Am I not here, who is your Mother? Are you not under my protection? Am I not your health? Are you not happily within my fold? What else do you wish? Do not grieve nor be disturbed by anything."
   
In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, let us entrust ourselves unto Mary, the Mother of Mercy!