Sunday, July 13, 2014

Nurturing the Seed which is the Word of God

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

Like any seed, the Word of God possesses so much potential for life. It has the capacity to germinate so long as it is accepted by hearts that present no obstacles for its growth. The parable of the Sower is fulfilled in this very place where we are. The same Word of God was heard by everybody here present. But it will not produce the same fruits in all of us because we received the same Word of God in different ways. Some heard the Word but did not listen simply because they never considered God’s word as worth listening to. There is an outright rejection by hearts that chose not to believe in anything God says.

Some were willing to give the Word of God a try but they immediately give up at the sight of the Cross that comes with discipleship. They simply do not want to suffer for the sake of Christ. Some are willing to accept the Word of God but are overcome by love of material things and worldly anxieties. Only those who are willing to renounce attachments to worldly things and to embrace the Cross are the ones who will bear abundantly the fruits that the Word of God promises to bring into their lives.

The secret to cultivating the Word of God into our lives is rather simple. First, we have to listen to it, accept it and believe in it. “Listen carefully, my son, to the master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ears of your heart…welcome it and put it to practice,” so said the Rule of St. Benedict (prologue: 1)

Then, we should allow the Word of God to convert our hearts. We should be willing to let go of worldly attachments that stifle the desires of the spirit. We should will to be free from “slavery to corruption” in order to live in the “glorious freedom of the children of God.” “Renounce yourself in order to follow Christ; discipline your body; do not pamper yourself, but love fasting.” (Rule of St. Benedict 4:10-11)

Then, of course, we must embrace the Cross because there is no authentic discipleship without it. Willingness to endure sufferings for the sake of obedience to the will of God is a necessity for following Christ. “The labor of obedience will bring you back to him from whom you had drifted through the sloth of disobedience.” (Rule of St. Benedict, Prologue:2) It is difficult to obey the commandments of the Lord but this is the only way to real life. “All who come to Christ will live forever.” (alleluia verse)  “Sufferings of this present time are nothing as compared with the glory to be revealed for us,” so said St. Paul in the 2nd reading.

This is the part which the Lord asks of us. For his own part, the Lord will always water the seed planted in our hearts with the Holy Spirit whom he gives to us through the sacraments we should frequently receive. Therefore, let us constantly draw from the well of the sacraments the water of life which we need to nurture the seed of the Word of God planted in us. Christ plants the seed, we cultivate it with our cooperation, and the Holy Spirit provides the growth. Let us strive to bear the fruits of the Spirit so that we may be able to present to the Lord a rich harvest! 

Jesus, I trust in you. O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The King is Meek and Humble of Heart

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

In our celebration of the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, we saw that when the Lord Jesus established his Church, he gave St. Peter the keys to his kingdom. When we talk about kingdoms, we often have images of kings and queens, royalty and nobility, palaces and vast territories. There is always something grand in our idea of kingdoms. Thus, we think that those invited into the kingdom should be the best, the brightest, and the strongest. Thus, the words of the Lord might come as a surprise for he invites the humble into his kingdom, he reveals the secrets of the same kingdom to the little ones: Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.

The Catechism teaches us: “The Kingdom belongs to the poor and the lowly, which means those who have accepted it with humble hearts. Jesus is sent to ‘preach good news to the poor’; he declares them blessed, for ‘theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.’ To them, the ‘little ones’, the Father is pleased to reveal what remains hidden from the wise and the learned.” (CCC, 544.)

The Kingdom belongs to the poor and the lowly because he, the King himself, is humble, meek, and gentle of heart. He is rich and powerful for “all things have been handed over to (him) by the Father.” And yet, he is “meek and humble of heart.” He is in possession of the most profound secrets for “no one knows the Father except the Son,” and yet, he hides this secret from the wise and the learned and reveals them to little ones. “Jesus shares the life of the poor, from the cradle to the cross; he experiences hunger, thirst, and privation. Jesus identifies himself with the poor of every kind and makes active love towards them the condition for entering his Kingdom.” (CCC, 544.)

Here we see how the mind of God is so much different from the mind of the world. We see here how the way of the Spirit is so much different from the way of the flesh. Power, wealth, influence, pleasure – all these deemed as important by the flesh are unimportant to the Holy Spirit. In fact, these are even dangerous for “if you live according to the flesh, you will die.” Being the little ones to whom the Lord Jesus revealed the secrets of the Kingdom of heaven, we should put to death the deeds of the body and take Christ’s yoke upon ourselves. Christ’s yoke is his humble submission to the Father’s will. He humbled himself, obediently accepting even death on a Cross. And this is the irony: the more we insist on doing our will, the more we live according to the flesh, the more enslaved we become, all the more we become burdened. But when we die to our will and take up the yoke of Christ, the more we find rest for ourselves, all the more do we become truly alive.

Therefore, let us live by the Spirit. Let us take his yoke upon ourselves and learn from him who is meek and humble of heart. Striving to fulfill his will, we have no fear of being burdened. For the Cross which we embrace is his Cross. The will we submit to is His will. His yoke is easy and his burden is light!

Jesus, I trust in you! O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Solemn High Mass: Saints Peter and Paul A.D. 2014

Our Solemn High Mass on the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul at the Holy Family Parish, Roxas District, Quezon City, Philippines: Dei praesidio fultus: Saints Peter and Paul A.D. 2014

At the Asperges
Gloria in excelsis

Consecration of the Body of the Lord

Consecration of the Blood of the Lord

The True Religion


Caesarea Philippi was a forested area where pagan worship of the spirits abound. Numerous shrines were built to honor the false gods. It was there where Jesus posted the question to the disciples: Who do people say that I am? The many answers given were all wrong. And so, Jesus asked them: Who do you say that I am? Simon Peter, having received the revelation from the Father who alone knows the Son, responded: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. This declaration of faith was made amidst the idols that were worshipped in that forest. Simon Peter gave witness to the one true God and by doing so, he declared all the others as false. There is only One and that is you, O Jesus the Christ. All the rest are false gods that have eyes but do not see, have ears but do not hear, have nostrils that have no life in them.

Because Peter glorified Jesus by declaring the truth of his divinity, the Lord in return declared the new identity of Simon: He is Peter upon which Christ builds his Church. The Lord once said that the wise man build his house upon solid rock so that even if the winds blew and torrents fall, the house would stand for ever. More than a wise man, Jesus is himself the Wisdom of God. So he established his house upon solid rock and that rock is Peter. His Church will withstand not only wind and hale. The Gate of hell will not prevail against it!

At Caesarea Philippi, Peter singles out Jesus as the true God from amongst the false gods. At Caesarea Philippi, Jesus singles out the true religion from amongst the others. He clearly said that he was establishing only one religion…only one Church: On this Rock, I will build my Church. Notice that he said Church, not churches. The Only Begotten Son of God established only one Church. Jesus is the Only Begotten Son of God, he and no other. He established only One Church, that and no other. But as we see, there are many who make claims that they are the one. But if there can only be one Church that he founded, it would mean that the rest are false. Because there is only one God, the rest are false deities. In like manner, if there is only one Church established by the only Begotten of the Father, then the rest are false churches, false religions. Now, which one of them would be the true Church established by Jesus? Jesus said to Simon: You are Peter (Rock) and upon this Rock I will build my Church. The one true Church, the one true religion was established by Jesus upon St. Peter. Therefore, which Church can present evidence of an unbreakable chain of leaders from St. Peter to the present Pope? It has to be the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church! Which Church could present the bones of St. Peter? Still, it would be the Holy Catholic Church. The bones of St. Peter rest underneath the Papal altar of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Rome, where the seat of the true Church is, is home to the bones of both Peter and Paul. Some “churches” take pride in their centennial anniversary. However, the true Church will be 2,000 years old on the year 2033 AD. The Catholic Church in the Philippines is even older than the Iglesia because while they celebrate their 100 years of existence this year, we in the Philippines are on our way to our 500th year in 2021.

Many people dismiss the need for religion: We do not need religion so long as we have a relationship with some gods. Well, we cannot call simply on any god and hope to be saved because if we call on a false god, that is, a god that does not exist, we cannot expect to be helped by someone who does not exist. Our relationship with a deity is called “religion”. Therefore, if the god we relate to does not exist, how can a so-called relationship with someone who does not exist prosper? We cannot say that all religions are the same because the true religion is not the same as the false religions. Even in human courts of law, the truth and only the truth is worth considering and lies cannot be evaluated as equal to the truth. How you be saved by something that is not true? Because we need to be saved, we need to call on God. But we cannot call on just any god…only the true and living God can deliver his promised salvation: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. It cannot be just any religion, it had to be the True Religion: You are Peter and upon this Rock I will build my Church.

Jesus, I trust in you! O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Drawn to the Most Blessed Trinity

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

During the joyful celebration of Easter, we saw how God worked out our salvation: the Father sent his only begotten Son to save the world through the sending of the Holy Spirit. Today’s gospel reading is a fitting description of the entire Paschal Mystery: God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. When we look back at the wondrous things God has done for us through Christ and in the Holy Spirit, we ask: Why did God do all these for us? And the only answer is: It is because he loved us.

He loves us because that is who he is – “God is love: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” (CCC, 257) The 3 divine Persons, each of them is God whole and entire, are distinct from one another on account of the relationships which relate them to one another: “In the relational names of the persons, the Father is related to the Son, the Son to the Father, and the Holy Spirit to both.” (CCC, 255) Their relationship with each other is marked by communion in love: The Father loves the Son, the Son loves the Father, and the Holy Spirit is that love they have for each other. “Because of that unity, the Father is wholly in the Son and wholly in the Holy Spirit; the Son is wholly in the Father and wholly in the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit is wholly in the Father and wholly in the Son.” (CCC, 255)

Because he is love, “God freely wills to communicate the glory of his blessed life. Such is the ‘plan of his loving kindness,’ conceived by the Father before the foundation of the world, in his beloved Son: ‘He destined us in love to be his sons’ and ‘to be conformed to the image of his Son,’ through ‘the spirit of sonship.’ This plan is a ‘grace (which) was given to us in Christ Jesus before all the ages began,’ stemming immediately from Trinitarian love. It unfolds in the work of creation, the whole history of salvation after the fall, and the missions of the Son and the Spirit, which are continued in the mission of the Church.” (CCC, 257)

In communicating to us the glory of his blessed life, the Blessed Trinity draws us towards himself. He wants us to have access to his Divine Life. “The ultimate end of the whole divine economy is the entry of God’s creatures into the perfect unity of the Blessed Trinity. But even now we are called to be a dwelling for the Most Holy Trinity: ‘If a man loves me,’ says the Lord, ‘he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our home in him.’(Jn 14:23)” (CCC, 260) What a loving God we have! He comes to us and makes his home in us because he loves us. Patiently, he leads us to himself so that we might find our home in him. “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.” Indeed, he is the Lord, “a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.” He does not desire our condemnation but our salvation. Truly God is love: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be world without end. Amen. 

Jesus, I trust in you! O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee! 

Entering into the Trinitarian Communion

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

In last week’s meditation on the Mystery of the Most Holy Trinity, we saw that God wills that all his creatures enter into the communion of his Trinitarian life: “The ultimate end of the whole divine economy is the entry of God’s creatures into the perfect unity of the Blessed Trinity.” (CCC, 260) He wishes us to have access into his Divine Life which is a Communion of life and love. We may ask: How? How are we to participate into the communal life of the Blessed Trinity. The Lord Jesus answers this in today’s reading: “Just as the living Father sent me, and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.” Yes, you heard it right: he wants us to feed on him…to eat his flesh and drink his blood. It might sound odd to you, but do not worry, it also sounded the same way to the Jews who heard him. In fact they quarreled among themselves: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” They thought they heard him say that Jesus wanted them to eat his flesh. They just wanted to be sure that they heard him right. And so Jesus confirmed what they heard: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have life in you.” As if it were not enough, he continued: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him on the last day.” Just in case you did not understand him, Jesus reiterated: “For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.” And so that there would be no further misunderstanding, he repeats: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.”

The words of Jesus undeniably speak of the mystery of his Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist. The Eucharist is truly the Body and Blood of Jesus. In the Eucharist, Jesus is truly present: Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. Let there be no mistake about this. The Eucharist is the Sacrament of the Presence of Christ. But let it not be forgotten that the purpose of his Presence is to be offered as Sacrifice. At the Last Supper, Jesus took bread and said: “This is my Body which will be given up for you.” Likewise, he took the chalice of wine and said: “This is the Chalice of my Blood which will be shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.”  His Body is given up…offered up. His blood is shed…poured out as a libation, a drink offering. And this is why he wishes us to eat and drink his flesh and blood: partaking of sacrificial food brings about the communion of the recipient with the God to whom the sacrifice is being offered. In the Acts of the Apostles, the Apostles forbade the gentile converts from eating meat offered to idols. This is because eating the meat offered to idols would bring about communion between the eater and the false gods to whom the meat was offered. In like manner, eating the flesh of Jesus in Holy Communion brings about our communion with the Blessed Trinity to whom the Sacrifice of the Mass is offered: “Just as …I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.” Understand that when we approach the Altar for Holy Communion, we are not receiving ordinary food. We will be eating the Body and Blood of Jesus himself. This is the reason why we kneel for communion. This is why we receive communion with great reverence and devotion. We are approaching Jesus himself truly present in the Holy Sacrament of the altar. And in doing so, we enter into communion with the Most Holy Trinity. Thus St. Pope John Paul said: the Eucharist “is at one and the same time a sacrifice-sacrament, a communion-sacrament, and a presence-sacrament.” (Redemptor Hominis, 20.) In the Holy Eucharist, we have the abiding presence of the Lord Jesus whose body and blood is offered and poured out for our salvation and in doing so, he brings us, the Church, into communion with the Blessed Trinity. “The Eucharist is the sacrament of sacrifice and communion. All of us who participate in it as sacrifice receive it in communion. At the same time, we receive God’s gift of himself in the Holy Spirit, whom Christ merited for us through his passion.” (John Paul II, Homily of Mass for the Sick, June 14, 1987.) 

Jesus, I trust in you. O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Unseen and yet ever present!

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

This coming Thursday will be the 40th day of Easter and the bible tells us that Christ our Lord ascended into heaven on that day. Oftentimes, people think of the Ascension as the farewell of the Lord to his disciples. The Lord says goodbye because he is leaving them. He is going home to heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father. However, the gospel today says otherwise.

The Lord is not leaving his disciples. Rather, he is simply disappearing from the sight of the world. But this does not mean that he is abandoning his disciples. Remember the story of the disciples at Emmaus: they recognized Jesus at the breaking of the bread and then, he vanished from their sight. “He disappeared but he did not abandon them,” Blessed John Paul would say. The Lord Jesus said in today’s gospel reading: “In a little while, the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live.” The Lord himself assures us that even though the world does not see him, we will continue to see him living among us. He will continue to be with us and we will continue to recognize his presence in our midst. And the one who will help us recognize the Lord Jesus in our midst will be the Holy Spirit: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, because he remains with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.”

The Lord will not leave us orphans. He will come to us through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gathers us and brings about the presence of Jesus who said: “Whenever two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in their midst.” The Holy Spirit transforms bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. The Holy Spirit dwelling in us the baptized gives us the interior witness to Christ. He is the Spirit of Truth. He teaches us what is true. He teaches us that Jesus is alive and is among us. The Holy Spirit brings about our communion with the Blessed Trinity: “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.” Although he sits at the right hand of the Father, Jesus continues to remain in us and we continue to remain in him. And the sign that we remain in Jesus is our obedience to his commandments: “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me, and whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.” We obey his commandments not out of fear but out of love. We love the Lord whom we encounter everyday through the Church and through the Sacraments. The more we love him, the more we keep his commandments. And the more we keep his commandments, the more he reveals himself to us. And as he reveals himself to us, our love for him increases. Thus, we become caught up into the “vicious” cycle of love. We are caught up into the communion of life and love with the Blessed Trinity.

Therefore, let us strive to remain in the Lord who promises to remain with us always. “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts,” said St. Peter in the 2nd reading. Let us continue to give blameless witness to the Lord by keeping his commandments. Let us keep our consciences clear. Let us remain in his love.

Jesus, I trust in you! O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!