Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Prayer of St. Thomas Aquinas

While browsing over the bookmarkers that accumulated in my breviary, I found a copy of the holy card for my priestly ordination. It has the prayer of St. Thomas Aquinas which is very dear to me:

give me a heart so watchful that no vain thought can distract it from you,
a noble heart that no unworthy passion can seduce,
an upright heart that no evil intention may contaminate,
a sturdy heart that is not crushed by tribulation,
a free heart that does not let itself be overcome by troubled passion.

Grant me
an understanding that knows you,
a love that seeks you,
a wisdom that finds you,
conversation that pleases you, perseverance that waits for you with confidence,
and hope that will finally embrace you. (St. Thomas Aquinas)

Happy Feast day!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Kingdom of God


6 million people during the Papal Mass at the Luneta
January 18, 2015
A week ago, 6 million people gathered at the Luneta for the Mass offered by Pope Francis. In spite of the bad weather, so many people came and the gathering broke the record of the World Youth Day with Pope John Paul II in the same place 20 years ago. This huge gathering is itself a manifestation of the Kingdom of God on earth and in today’s gospel, we are shown where it all began. It began when Jesus walked by the shores of the Sea of Galilee and invited Peter, Andrew, James and John: “Come after me, I will make you fishers of men.” The Lord Jesus began building his Kingdom on earth by calling 4 men to follow him, that is, to be his disciples.

Jesus began by preaching: “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand.” In fact, these words summarize the entire Gospel that the Lord was sent to preach to the poor. He was sent to proclaim the Kingdom of God. What is the Kingdom of God? The Catechism tells us:  “”To carry out the will of the Father, Christ inaugurated the kingdom of heaven on earth. Now the Father’s will is to ‘raise up men to share in his own divine life.’ He does this by gathering men around his Son Jesus Christ. This gathering is the Church, ‘on earth, the seed and beginning of that Kingdom.’” (CCC, 541.) When the 4 men heard the summons of Christ and left everything to follow him, they were actually gathered by the Father around Jesus…for the Lord himself said, “No one can come to me unless the Father draws him.” Here we see the beginnings of the Church, the beginnings of the Kingdom of God on earth. And looking back at that immense crowd that gathered in the Luneta, we have witnessed how the Kingdom of God, the Church, has indeed grown. From an initial calling of 4 men, the Father has gathered around his Son billions of people. The Kingdom of God is indeed like a mustard seed that is the smallest of all seeds and yet, it grows to be the biggest of plants and is able to provide shelter to all creatures.

What happened last Sunday was not simply a huge gathering around the Pope. In reality, it was an immense gathering of people around Jesus. Some people may have missed it but it was Jesus, and not the Pope, who was at the center of the gathering. The Pope and all of us were all gathered around the Altar upon which the Body and Blood of Jesus was offered to the Father.  Indeed, Jesus was at the center of that gathering: “Christ stands at the heart of this gathering of men into the ‘family of God.’” (CCC, 542.) And that was what we were last Sunday, and that is what we are now as we gather around the Altar of the Lord. Our gathering is the “family of God.” The Church is the Family of God. Let us not forget this: the Church is the Family of God…the Family to which we belong. “Jesus calls all people to come together around him…Into this union with Christ all men are called.” (CCC, 542.)
Sunday after Sunday, the Lord Jesus calls all men, all of us, to gather together around him. He summons us, as he did to Peter and Andrew, to James and John. And imitating the 1st disciples, upon hearing his summons, we must leave everything to follow him. “To gain his Kingdom, one must give everything. Words are not enough, deeds are required.” (CCC, 546.) To be part of this gathering, we have to leave behind our usual preoccupations, our usual concerns. We have to drop everything in order to be with the Lord. We leave everything behind to come here and gather around Jesus because we recognize that only in him is found life everlasting. As St. Paul says in the 2nd reading: “The world in its present form is passing away.” And St. Peter tells our Lord: “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life…and we have come to believe that you are the Holy One of God.”

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

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Faith in God and Feng Shui?

Mother of God

Feng Shui masters are the stars of the moment. I have always said that New Year’s Eve is perhaps the most superstitious night of the year because people are so obsessed with appropriating for themselves the power that does not belong to them, that is, the power to influence the elements of nature to their own advantage. But be careful of harnessing these so-called “powers” for these are not simple energies. Rather, they are what St. Paul calls the “principalities and powers, rulers of the world of this darkness, the spirits of wickedness in high places.” (Eph. 6:12) In other words, these are demons who will do all they can to deceive you into believing that they can assure you of a good future only if you do their bidding. Remember that our Lord himself was promised by Satan all the kingdoms of the earth if only he bows down to worship the devil. Many say that there is no harm in trying what to them seem to be innocent rituals. “Wala namang mawawala,” we always say. But we are wrong. Mayroong mawawala at iyan ay ang pananampalataya natin at pagtitiwala sa Diyos.

In fact, superstition steals away freedom and joy. Underneath the noise and merry making is fear and slavery. We are enslaved to the performance of these rituals because failure to do them might cause bad luck in the coming year. We are not conscious of it but we are actually compelled to have the 12 fruits on the table, to light firecrackers, to wear polkadots…all by the fear of ill luck. Father, you might says, hindi totoo yan…hindi kami napipilitan ng takot. Talaga? Sige nga, hinahamon ko kayo, kung talagang hindi kayo takot, pagsapit ng hatinggabi, huwag ninyo gawin ang lahat ng iyan at maglakas loob lang kayo na magtiwala sa Diyos. Magagawa ninyo? I challenge you to be truly Catholic tonight…to put your faith in action…to trust God’s love for you.

I found these tips for feng shui in the home and honestly, I think they are all a load of crap. But I will share them with you to point out what is the more Catholic way of doing it.

Clean it up!

Instead of just cleaning your house, why don’t you come clean before the Lord? Confess your sins and reconcile with your enemies. Start the year with a clean slate.

Be colorful!

I do not see how Red brings power, and green brings in wealth. Ano naman ang kinalaman ng kulay sa kapalaran? Instead of putting your trust in colors that have no powers at all to bring in fortune, why don’t you just allow God, family, and friends to put color into your life? Allow their friendship to bring meaning to your life.

Serve a spread!

How will a media noche feast, composed of meat, fish, and vegetable dishes and different types of fruits and cakes on the dining table, bring in prosperity and good luck? How can making sure that having leftovers of each will assure you will not run out of food the rest of the year? Go instead to Mass and receive Communion worthily. The Body of Christ is the Feast that God prepares for his people.

Go fruity!

At ano naman talaga ang kinalaman ng 12 different fruits: Pineapples, oranges, apples, grapes, bananas, mangoes, lemons, watermelons, papaya, lychees, avocadoes, and pomelosa kapalaran? How will the combination of these fruits bring about good fortune, harmony, happiness, prosperity, happiness, good fortune, and good health? Instead of being preoccupied with these 12 fruits, why not be preoccupied with bearing the 12 fruits of the Holy Spirit: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity. These are permanent dispositions which make man docile in obeying the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Check it!

Leaky faucets will not bring about leaks in your finances; nor will burned out bulbs bring poor “chi” flow. There is simply no relationship between them. Instead, engage in an examination of conscience tonight. Measure your life
against the 10 commandments and the 8 beatitudes. Examine the leakages in your relationship with God, meaning, those graces which you did not put into use for your salvation and those of others.

See red!

How can giving ampao, those red envelopes with gold Chinese characters, with some money inside bring protection and good luck? Instead, give to the poor. Donate to charities. Instead, think of those who are hungry tonight. Think of those who have suffered because of the storm. Share your food with the hungry. Charity covers a multitude of sins.

Make noise!

Blowing on your torotot and whistles, banging on those pot covers will not drive away evil spirits. Believe me, it does not work this way. I know what I am talking about. Evil spirits are driven away by prayer and fasting. That is why, tonight, it is better to pray. Sing hymns and canticles to God. Make joyful noise unto the Lord.

In the end will always be a disclaimer: kailangang samahan ito ng panalangin, pananampalataya, sipag at tiyaga in order to give a senseless report on geomancy some credibility to modern observers. I always say: if there is faith, effort, and patience, what do you need geomancy for? Feng shui compromises faith. It is an expression of lack of trust in the providence of God.

Tonight, let us imitate the Blessed Virgin Mary who kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. New Year’s Eve need not be expensive and dangerous. Libre at ligtas ang manalangin. Ang pagkakawanggawa ay nagdudulot ng kapatawaran ng kasalanan. Ang Panginoon lang ang nagdudulot ng kaligtasan.

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

Consecrated to the Father, Hated by the world

At the Main Altar of Holy Family Church
Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

The reason for the ritual of the presentation of the child Jesus to God is a law that requires every firstborn son to be consecrated to the Lord. This goes back to the night of the exodus when God sent the angel of death to take the life of every first-born male throughout the land of Egypt with the exemption of those who were behind the doors marked by the blood of the slaughtered lamb. Every first-born  son belongs to the Lord and he had to be redeemed from the Lord at the price of an animal sacrifice…in the case of Mary and Joseph, a pair of turtle doves which were the offering of the poor.
Obedient to the law, Mary and Joseph brought the 40-day old Jesus to the temple to present him to the Lord. Even without the ritual, the Lord Jesus already belongs to God. After all, God is his Father. Remember our meditation on Christmas night? We said that Jesus was born in one of the caves outside Bethlehem because there was no room in the inn. This also signified that Jesus did not belong to the world. He belongs to the Father. He is consecrated to the Father. He who is Mary’s first-born Son is the Only Begotten Son of the Father. “And we have seen his glory: the glory of the only begotten Son coming from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

And because he is consecrated to the Father, he will be a sign that will be contradicted by many. He came to his own and his own did not accept him. Contradicted will he be because he does not belong to the world. His teachings will directly contradict the teachings of the world. The values of the Kingdom are directly contradictory to everything that the world holds dear: wealth, power, influence, pleasure… His consecration to the Father was the reason for his life of obedience. He obediently accepted death, death on a Cross.

Abraham was promised a son even in his old age. When the promise was fulfilled, Abraham was put to the test. He was asked to offer his son in a sacrifice…something which, though difficult, Abraham was willing to do: “he who had received the promise was ready to offer his son.” Of course we know that before the sacrifice was consummated, an angel of the Lord kept Abraham from harming his boy. Isaac, Abraham’s son, became an image of Jesus, the only Begotten Son of the Father. Like Abraham, the Father was willing to offer his Son in the sacrifice on the Cross. But in his case, there was no angel who came to abort the sacrifice. The sacrifice was consummated. Christ obediently accepted death on the Cross. In the temple, Mary brought in the Lamb of sacrifice, Jesus her Son, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Simeon foresaw that Jesus would have to suffer deeply from those who rejected him and as a consequence, Mary would herself suffer with him in her heart: “A sword will pierce your heart.” Mary, being the first of the disciples, would be the very first to experience the hatred of the world on account of her association with Jesus: If the world hates you, know that it has hated me first. Like Mary, the disciple would have to suffer because he belongs to Jesus, and belonging to Jesus, he belongs not to the world but to the Father. Therefore, “Let us approach God who is thrice Holy to offer our life and our mission, both personally and as a community of men and women consecrated to the Kingdom of God. Let us make this inner gesture in profound spiritual communion with the Virgin Mary. As we contemplate her in the act of presenting the Child Jesus in the Temple, let us venerate her as the first and perfect consecrated one, carried by the God whom she carries in her arms; Virgin, poor and obedient, totally dedicated to us because she belongs totally to God. At her school and with her motherly help let us renew our ‘here I am’ and our ‘fiat’." (Benedict XVI, Homily on the Presentation of the Lord, 2010.)

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

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Word was abbreviated



Saint Peter's Basilica
Our Parish Belen for 2014
Sunday, 24 December 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We have just heard in the Gospel the message given by the angels to the shepherds during that Holy Night, a message which the Church now proclaims to us: "To you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger" (Lk 2:11-12). Nothing miraculous, nothing extraordinary, nothing magnificent is given to the shepherds as a sign. All they will see is a child wrapped in swaddling clothes, one who, like all children, needs a mother’s care; a child born in a stable, who therefore lies not in a cradle but in a manger. God’s sign is the baby in need of help and in poverty. Only in their hearts will the shepherds be able to see that this baby fulfils the promise of the prophet Isaiah, which we heard in the first reading: "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder" (Is 9:5). Exactly the same sign has been given to us. We too are invited by the angel of God, through the message of the Gospel, to set out in our hearts to see the child lying in the manger.

God’s sign is simplicity. God’s sign is the baby. God’s sign is that he makes himself small for us. This is how he reigns. He does not come with power and outward splendour. He comes as a baby – defenseless and in need of our help. He does not want to overwhelm us with his strength. He takes away our fear of his greatness. He asks for our love: so he makes himself a child. He wants nothing other from us than our love, through which we spontaneously learn to enter into his feelings, his thoughts and his will – we learn to live with him and to practise with him that humility of renunciation that belongs to the very essence of love. God made himself small so that we could understand him, welcome him, and love him. The Fathers of the Church, in their Greek translation of the Old Testament, found a passage from the prophet Isaiah that Paul also quotes in order to show how God’s new ways had already been foretold in the Old Testament. There we read: "God made his Word short, he abbreviated it" (Is 10:23; Rom 9:28). The Fathers interpreted this in two ways. The Son himself is the Word, the Logos; the eternal Word became small – small enough to fit into a manger. He became a child, so that the Word could be grasped by us. In this way God teaches us to love the little ones. In this way he teaches us to love the weak. In this way he teaches us respect for children. The child of Bethlehem directs our gaze towards all children who suffer and are abused in the world, the born and the unborn. Towards children who are placed as soldiers in a violent world; towards children who have to beg; towards children who suffer deprivation and hunger; towards children who are unloved. In all of these it is the Child of Bethlehem who is crying out to us; it is the God who has become small who appeals to us. Let us pray this night that the brightness of God’s love may enfold all these children. Let us ask God to help us do our part so that the dignity of children may be respected. May they all experience the light of love, which mankind needs so much more than the material necessities of life.

Also we come to the second meaning that the Fathers saw in the phrase: "God made his Word short". The Word which God speaks to us in Sacred Scripture had become long in the course of the centuries. It became long and complex, not just for the simple and unlettered, but even more so for those versed in Sacred Scripture, for the experts who evidently became entangled in details and in particular problems, almost to the extent of losing an overall perspective. Jesus "abbreviated" the Word – he showed us once more its deeper simplicity and unity. Everything taught by the Law and the Prophets is summed up – he says – in the command: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind… You shall love your neighbour as yourself" (Mt 22:37-40). This is everything – the whole faith is contained in this one act of love which embraces God and humanity. Yet now further questions arise: how are we to love God with all our mind, when our intellect can barely reach him? How are we to love him with all our heart and soul, when our heart can only catch a glimpse of him from afar, when there are so many contradictions in the world that would hide his face from us? This is where the two ways in which God has "abbreviated" his Word come together. He is no longer distant. He is no longer unknown. He is no longer beyond the reach of our heart. He has become a child for us, and in so doing he has dispelled all doubt. He has become our neighbour, restoring in this way the image of man, whom we often find so hard to love. For us, God has become a gift. He has given himself. He has entered time for us. He who is the Eternal One, above time, he has assumed our time and raised it to himself on high. Christmas has become the Feast of gifts in imitation of God who has given himself to us. Let us allow our heart, our soul and our mind to be touched by this fact! Among the many gifts that we buy and receive, let us not forget the true gift: to give each other something of ourselves, to give each other something of our time, to open our time to God. In this way anxiety disappears, joy is born, and the feast is created. During the festive meals of these days let us remember the Lord’s words: "When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite those who will invite you in return, but invite those whom no one invites and who are not able to invite you" (cf. Lk 14:12-14). This also means: when you give gifts for Christmas, do not give only to those who will give to you in return, but give to those who receive from no one and who cannot give you anything back. This is what God has done: he invites us to his wedding feast, something which we cannot reciprocate, but can only receive with joy. Let us imitate him! Let us love God and, starting from him, let us also love man, so that, starting from man, we can then rediscover God in a new way!

And so, finally, we find yet a third meaning in the saying that the Word became "brief" and "small". The shepherds were told that they would find the child in a manger for animals, who were the rightful occupants of the stable. Reading Isaiah (1:3), the Fathers concluded that beside the manger of Bethlehem there stood an ox and an ass. At the same time they interpreted the text as symbolizing the Jews and the pagans – and thus all humanity – who each in their own way have need of a Saviour: the God who became a child. Man, in order to live, needs bread, the fruit of the earth and of his labour. But he does not live by bread alone. He needs nourishment for his soul: he needs meaning that can fill his life. Thus, for the Fathers, the manger of the animals became the symbol of the altar, on which lies the Bread which is Christ himself: the true food for our hearts. Once again we see how he became small: in the humble appearance of the host, in a small piece of bread, he gives us himself.

All this is conveyed by the sign that was given to the shepherds and is given also to us: the child born for us, the child in whom God became small for us. Let us ask the Lord to grant us the grace of looking upon the crib this night with the simplicity of the shepherds, so as to receive the joy with which they returned home (cf. Lk 2:20). Let us ask him to give us the humility and the faith with which Saint Joseph looked upon the child that Mary had conceived by the Holy Spirit. Let us ask the Lord to let us look upon him with that same love with which Mary saw him. And let us pray that in this way the light that the shepherds saw will shine upon us too, and that what the angels sang that night will be accomplished throughout the world: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased." Amen!

Dayuhan sa mga Makamundong Bagay


Isang pagpapatala ng buong mundo ang iniutos ng Emperador Augusto kaya naglakbay si Jose, kasama ang kanyang maybahay na si Maria, patungong Bethlehem dahil si Jose ay mula sa lipi ni Haring David. Dahil sa pagpapatalang nagaganap, lubhang napakaraming tao noon sa bayan kaya nga walang lugar para sa mag-asawa sa panuluyang bayan. Wala nang lugar para sa kanila sa panuluyang bayan: makahulugan ito dahil ito’y lalong naglarawan ng sinabi ni San Juan sa pasimula ng kanyang sinulat na Mabuting Balita: Nasa sanlibutan ang Salita. Nilikha ang sanlibutan sa pamamagitan niya ngunit hindi siya nakilala ng sanlibutan. Naparito siya sa kanyang bayan ngunit hindi siya tinanggap ng kanyang mga kababayan (Jn. 1:11). Walang lugar para sa Manunubos ng sanlibutan. Ang lahat ng bagay ay nilikha sa kanya (Col 1:16), ngunit walang lugar para sa kanya. “May lungga ang asong gubat, may pugad ang mga ibon, subalit ang Anak ng tao ay wala man lamang mapagpahigaan at mapagpahingahan.” (Mt. 8:20) Siya ay sumilang sa labas ng lunsod at ipinako rin siya sa krus sa labas ng lunsod (Heb 13:12). 

Itinuring siyang tagalabas, isang dayuhan sa sanlibutan. Mula pa sa kanyang pagsilang, naging dayuhan siya, tagalabas sa larangan ng mga itinuturing na mahalaga at makapangyarihan sa pamatayan ng sanlibutan. Subalit ang tila walang halaga at hindi makapangyarihang sanggol na ito ay mapatutunayang siyang nagtataglay ng tunay na kapangyarihan, nakasalalay sa kanya ang lahat ng bagay. Ang santinakpan ay nilikha sa pamamagitan niya at para sa kanya. Niloob niyang sumilang sa labas ng lunsod dahil ang lahat ng mga itinuturo niya ay sumasalungat sa mga pinahahalagahan ng sanlibutan. Sa pagparito niya sa ating kasaysayan, iniwaksi niya ang lahat ng makamundong kayamanan at kapangyarihan. Sumilang siyang wala ni anuman maliban sa lamping ipinambalot sa kanya ng kanyang ina. Hindi siya humiga sa malambot na kama. Bagkus ang dayami ng isang sabsaban ang naging pahingahan niya. Hindi siya sumilang sa isang sikat na angkan ng mga maykapangyarihan sa panahong iyon. Bagkus, sumilang siya sa isang angkan na pinaglipasan na ng panahon, ang lipi ni David. Dati, sila ang makapangyarihan, ngunit hindi na ngayon. Ang naghahari ay isang dayuhang emperador na nagtalaga ng isang tau-tauhan sa pagkatao ni Herodes. Ginawa ito ng Panginoon upang ipakita na ang lahat ng mga pinahahalagahan ng mundo ay mga huwad na kayamanan at huwad na kapangyarihan. Siya ang tunay na liwanag ng mundo at pinapasok niya ang sanlibutan upang punitin ang kadilimang nagkukunwaring liwanag.  

Kaya nga ang sinumang nagnanais na sumampalataya at sumunod sa kanya ay kailangang tumalikod at iwanan ang lahat ng mga bagay na inaakala ng sanlibutan na mahalaga upang makilala niya ang katotohanan ng ating pagkatao at sa liwanag niya ay matagpuan natin ang tamang landas.

Upang makita natin siya, kailangang lumabas tayo sa lunsod. Kailangang sadyain natin siya na sumilang sa labas ng bayan. Hindi natin siya makikita sa gitna ng mga nagniningning at kumukutitap na ilaw ng lunsod. Hindi natin siya mapapansin hanggat hindi natin inilalayo ang ating sarili sa mga mapanlinlang at pansamantalang mga kaligayahan ng mundong ito. Hanggat hindi natin tinatalikuran ang lahat, hindi tayo magiging karapat dapat sa kanya. Kaya nga sa gabing ito, magtungo tayo sa Belen. Huwag tayong palilinlang sa mga huwad na liwanag. Ang gabing ito ay pinagningning ng liwanag ng mga anghel. Pakinggan natin ang kanilang sinasabi: Sa gabing ito sumilang sa inyo ang inyong Tagapagligtas, si Kristong Panginoon. Ito ang Mabuting Balitang magdudulot ng kagalakan sa lahat ng tao. Ito ang Mabuting Balitang magdudulot ng tunay na kagalakan. Wala ito sa kayamanan. Wala ito sa kapangyarihan. Wala ito sa makamundong kaaliwan. Bagkus, ito’y matatagpuan lamang sa kanya na sumilang ngayon bilang isang abang sanggol. Naparito siya upang bigyan tayo ng buhay, ng tunay na buhay, ng buhay na walang hanggan. Halina sa Belen. Halina at siya’y ating sambahin. 

Hesus, nananalig ako sa iyo. Ave Maria purisima, sin pecado consebida. 

Mysterium Lunae

PRAISED BE Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

When the angel spoke to Zechariah about his son John, he said “You will have joy and gladness and many will rejoice at his birth.” And so, in today’s gospel, those words were fulfilled. At the birth of John, many neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy towards Elizabeth, and they rejoiced with her. In spite of her old age, Elizabeth gave birth to him. And so, the newborn child was indeed a sign of mercy…that kind of sign that gives joy. When the mouth of Zechariah was opened and his tongue was freed, all the more did the people wonder about this child: “What will this child be, for surely the hand of the Lord was with him?”

What will this child be? The prophet Malachi responds: “Thus says the Lord, ‘Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me…” When John the Baptist was confronted by the priests who asked him “who are you?”, John replied by quoting the prophet Isaiah: “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘make straight the way of the Lord.’” Pope Francis said that John is the voice, but "it is a voice without the Word, because the Word is not him, it is an Other." Here then is the mystery of John: "He never takes over the Word," John "is the one who indicates, who marks". The "meaning of John's life - he added - is to indicate another." And John really "was the man of light, he brought light, but it was not his own light, it was a reflected light." John is "like a moon" and when Jesus began to preach, the light of John "began to decline, to set". "Voice not Word - the Pope said - light, but not his own" "John seems to be nothing. That is John’s vocation: he negates himself. And when we contemplate the life of this man, so great, so powerful - all believed that he was the Messiah - when we contemplate this life, how it is nullified to the point of the darkness of a prison, we behold a great mystery. We do not know what John’s last days were like. We do not know. We only know that he was killed, his head was put on a platter, as a great gift from a dancer to an adulteress. I don’t think you can lower yourself much more than this, negate yourself much more. That was the end that John met".

And here we see the greatness of this child. He will be great because he negates himself; he keeps pointing to the one who comes after him as someone so great that he himself is not worthy to untie his sandal straps. It is this kind of greatness that the Church must aspire for. The Church is a Church of the poor, a Church that always diminishes. Francis continues: "The Church must hear the Word of Jesus and raise her voice, proclaim it boldly. 'That' - he said - 'is the Church without ideologies, without a life of its own: the Church which is the mysterium lunae which has light from her Bridegroom and diminish herself so that He may grow.'

"This is the model that John offers us today, for us and for the Church.” Imitating John, we must be “a Church that is always at the service of the Word, a Church that never takes anything for herself. Today in prayer we asked for the grace of joy, we asked the Lord to cheer this Church in her service to the Word, to be the voice of this Word, preach this Word. We ask for the grace, the dignity of John, with no ideas of our own, without a Gospel taken as property, only one Church that indicates the Word, and this even to martyrdom.“

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