Monday, March 29, 2010

Thoughts on Palm Sunday

For the past Sundays of Lent, we have been meditating on the mystery of human iniquity and Divine Mercy. We have seen the deception of Satan’s temptations; how sin brings us nothing but misery, humiliation, and death; and how widespread sin has become for no one is found to be without sin. If the response of man to God’s goodness is sin, the past Sundays have shown us that the response of God to human sin is mercy: the fruitless tree gets a reprieve of life, the prodigal son is welcomed by his Father, and the adulterous woman was forgiven by Christ.

Today, Christ’s journey, as recorded by St. Luke, ends in Jerusalem where Jesus was condemned to death on the Cross. Here, as we look at Jesus on the Cross, we see the cost of human sin. He who is sinless bears the burden of suffering and death. We know he does not deserve it. What has he done to merit the Cross? He is innocent, he is sinless. “What evil has he done? I found him guilty of no capital crime,” said Pontius Pilate. Yet, he hangs on the Cross because he exchanged places with us. He, the Son of God, innocent and without sin, was led to crucifixion while Barabbas, a rebel and a murderer, was released to freedom. We should see ourselves in the person of Barabbas for our sin is a real rebellion against God. Ironically, the name Barabbas means “son of the father” (Bar – Abba).

He exchanged places with us and so he hangs on the cross and there, Satan returns to tempt him one last time. This time, the evil one speaks through the people who surrounded Jesus: “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the Messiah, the Christ of God.” But he does not come down from the Cross. He does not save himself. Because of this, he is able to obtain for us forgiveness of sins: “Father, forgive them, they do not know what they do.” Because he did not save himself, he is able to open paradise for us: “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” Jesus does not claim the kingdoms of the earth by coming down from the Cross but by going up to the Father: “Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit.”

And so, St. Paul says, “because of this God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every other name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess to the glory of God the Father that Jesus Christ is Lord.” We adore you, O Christ and we bless you, for by your Holy Cross, you have redeemed the world.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Viernes de Dolores

Holy Mother, pierce me through,
in my heart each wound renew,
of my Savior crucified.

From the Roman Missal

Sancta Mater, istud agas,
Crucifixi fige plagas
Cordi meo valide.

On the Incarnation and the Sacrifice

As we celebrate today the Feast of the Annunciation, my mind is raised to the relationship of the Incarnation to Christ's priesthood. The priesthood of Christ rightfully belongs to His human nature. In as much as the work of the priest is to offer God a sacrifice, Christ cannot offer His divinity in sacrifice because the divine nature does not die and cannot be annihilated. Remember that a sacrifice is consummated by the death and destruction of the sacrificial victim. If His divinity cannot suffer nor die, how could it be offered in sacrifice? It is precisely His human nature that he offers to the Father because His humanity can die. It is in the offering of Himself upon the Cross that Christ our Lord exercised His priestly office.

I wish to share the insights of Blessed Columba Marmion on this matter:

"Although itself without spot, the human nature of Jesus belonged to the race of sinners: in similitudinem carnis peccati (Rom. viii, 3), and in accepting the task of bearing the sins of the world, the Savior accepted the task of bearing the sins of the world, the Savior accepted at the same time the conditions of His immolation. This is why Jesus said: "O Father, the sacrifices of the Mosaic law were in themselves unworthy of you.": Hostiam et oblationem noluisti: holocautomata pro peccato non tibi placuerunt. "Here I am."Ecce venio: accept me as a victim. You have given me a body in which I can sacrifice Myself; grind it, break it, overwhelm it with sufferings, crucify it, I accept it all: "I come to do Your will."

Note these words: 'You have formed Me a body.' Christ wishes us to understand that His flesh is not glorious and impassible as it was after His resurrection, not even transfigured as it was on Mount Thabor, but that He accepts from the Father a body subject to fatigue, to suffering, to death, capable like ours of enduring every kind of maltreatment, every kind of suffering: "O Father, I accept this body as You have chosen it for Me."

Christ-the Ideal of the Priest: Spiritual Conferences of the Rt. Rev. D. Columnba Marmion, 23.

Monday, March 22, 2010

On Liturgical Preaching

"A well-attended Catholic service is the evening Mass at the Christ the King Seminary in Quezon City. Parishioners like that the bespectacled priest descends from his seat in the altar to dialogue with them during the homily. They love it whenever the lights are dimmed at one point, giving the Mass the nostalgic feel of a school recollection."

I came across this article "Schools of Preaching" written by Christian V. Esguerra and published at the March 23, 2010 edition of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. The article speaks about the changing standards of preaching: "To some extent, preaching is 'performance,' according to Fr. Nilo Lardizabal, OP, assistant director of the Institute of Preaching...It involves strategies and techniques - and even 'gimmicks' - all with the clear purpose of communicating the living Gospel of more than 2,000 years ago in the here and now." The article confuses preaching with entertainment. And it even justifies entertainment as the means to send the message across to the listeners.

Unfortunately, many modern preachers have this bias against traditional liturgical preaching which is oftentimes labelled as "pontificating": "He cites instances when some priests, no matter how academically grounded they are, fail to establish a 'connection' with their flock during homily. The result, he says, is either a monologue or outright pontificating...'We discourage pontificating,' Lardizabal said. 'We have to be casual. We have to take off from the internet, YouTube, Twitter - cool, funky, unsophisticated."

I feel that this is outrightly a sweeping statement that "pontificating" does not "connect" with the flock. In the desire of many preachers to be "relevant" to the modern audience, they have become overly concerned with the gimmickry and the entertainment value of their preaching at the expense of the content. I remember that when powerpoint presentations became a fad in the seminary, more time was spent by the seminarians in finding pictures and videos to make the report more "cool and funky". The depth of the supposed lesson is oftentimes sacrificed.

And is this not the sorry state of liturgical preaching today? The richness of the Word of God is oftentimes sacrificed for the sake of making the preaching "cool and funky". How much substance is there in the usual Sunday preaching? Is liturgical preaching a real preparation for the faithful to recognize the Lord at the breaking of the bread? Who is at the center of the preaching: Christ or the preacher? In all honesty, how much conversion comes out of all this gimmickry?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

On the adulterous woman

The Adulterous Woman
from The Passion of the Christ

When the scribes and the Pharisees dragged an adulterous woman to Jesus, their intention was quite clear: they wanted her punished for her sins. Their eyes were fixed on the woman’s evil. After all, it was very clear. She transgressed the law. What was left to do was to punish her in the way dictated by the law. Thus, when they insisted on what they wanted, they were taken aback by the verdict of Jesus: “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” For the past 3 Sundays of Lent, the Lord has been speaking on almost the same line: it is so much easy for us to look at other peoples’ sins without having recognized our own. In the 3rd Sunday of Lent, Jesus asked: “Do you think they were more guilty than the others were in Jerusalem? By no means! But if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did.” Last Sunday, the older son found it so easy to accuse his brother who squandered his father’s property on loose women without seeing how he himself served his father grudgingly. Today, we see how eager the scribes and Pharisees were to execute the woman until the Lord Jesus made them realize the universal affliction of sin: none of them were without sin. “And so they went away one by one, beginning with the elders.” All of them left, all except Jesus because he alone was the Sinless One.

And so, there they were: the sinful woman before the Sinless One, the adulterous woman and the Faithful One. The execution should have pushed through. After all, the one who had the right to cast the first stone was there seated before her. He is the one who could rightly say: “The Father judges no one, but he has given all judgment to the Son, so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father.” And yet, even though he had every right to do so (and he will exercise this right at the end of the world), he tells the woman, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and from now on do not sin any more.”

“God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.” The Lord Jesus repeats to us the lesson of the fig tree which, although deserves to be cut down for its lack of fruits, was given a reprieve of life, hoed around, and fertilized so that it may be given a chance to bear fruit. Indeed, by writing twice on the ground, he reveals himself as the Lord, the God of second chances. He is the One who makes things new: “Remember not the event of the past, the things of long ago consider it not; see, I am doing all things new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” This is the gospel, the real supreme good before which everything becomes rubbish: “I consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Jesus Christ my Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them to be so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him…” And rightfully should we regard all else as rubbish before him. After all, he picked us up from the rubbish of our sins, washes us with his own blood, and presents to us a future which nobody else can promise: eternal life in communion with him. He goes up to Jerusalem for this and willingly, we walk behind him with our crosses to bear: I “depend(ing) on faith to know him and the power of his resurrection, and (the) shar(ing of) his suffering by being conformed to his death, (so that)…I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” Because he cast behind my back all my sins, “forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit towards the goal, the prize of upward calling, in Christ Jesus.” Go and sin no more!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

St. Joseph, Patron of the Catholic Church

On this feast of St. Joseph, let us pray to the humble husband of the Blessed Mother and the foster father of our Lord, for the Church which is in most need of his protection. He is the patron of the Catholic Church. Let us ask him to protect the Church today as once he protected the Child Jesus.

O glorious Saint Joseph, chosen by God to be the foster father of Jesus, the chaste spouse of Mary ever Virgin, and the head of the Holy Family and then appointed by the Vicar of Christ to be the heavenly patron and defender of the Church founded by Jesus, most confedently do I implore at this moment they powerful aid for all the Church militant on earth. Do thou shield with they truly paternal love especially the Supreme Pontiff and all the Bishops and priests who are in union with the Holy See of Peter. Be the defender of all who labor for souls amidst the trials and tribulations of this life, and cause all the the peoples of the earth to submit themselves in a docile spirit to that Church which is the ark of salvation for all men.

Be pleased also, dear Saint Joseph, to accept this dedication of myself which I now make unto thee. I dedicate myself wholly to thee, that thou mayest ever be my father, my patron, and my guide in the way of salvation. Obtain for me great purity of heart and a fervent devotion to the interior life. Grant that, following thine example, I may direct all my actions to the greater glory of God, in union with the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary and in union with thee. Finally pray for me that I may be a partaker in the peace and joy which were thine at the hour of thy holy death. Amen.

from the Raccolta

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Prayer for Confessors

In preparation for the Holy Days of Easter, priests are once again busy in hearing confessions. (Although St. John Vianney was busy hearing confessions even outside the Lenten Season.) If we oblige ourselves to prepare for the offering of Mass with prayer, so should we also prepare in the same way for the hearing of confessions. The following is a prayer that the Raccolta proposes for a confessor to make before hearing the confessions of the faithful:

A Prayer to be said by Confessors before they hear the Confessions of the Faithful

Give me, O Lord, the wisdom that sitteth by Thy throne, that I may be enabled to judge Thy people with justice, and They poor and humble ones with true judgment. Grant me so to handle the keys of the Kingdom of heaven, that I may open it to none who ought to be shut out, nor shut out any to whom I ought to open. Let my intention be pure, my zeal sincere, my charity longsuffering, and my labor fruitful. Let me be kind without laxity, severe without harshness; let me not look down upon the poor man nor flatter the rich man. Give me sweetness that I may draw sinners unto Thee; give me prudence in asking questions; give me skill in instruction. Bestow upon me, I beseech Thee, zeal in withdrawing sinners from evil courses, diligence in establishing them in goodness, and earnestness in moving them to a better life: maturity in my answers, rightness in my counsels, light in obscure matters, insight in intricate cases, and victory over all difficulties; let me not be involved in useless talk, nor corrupted by shameful avowals; may I save others, without myself becoming a castaway. Amen.

Prayer for the Sovereign Pontiff

Lord Jesus, shelter our Holy Father the Pope under the protection of Thy Sacred Heart. Be Thou his light, his strength, and his consolation.

From the Raccolta

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Cuaresma Exhibit

El Beso de Judas
Kiss of Judas

El Beso de Judas
Kiss of Judas

La Ayuda de Simon Cireneo
The Help of Simon of Cyrene

El Calvario

I wish to share with you pictures of part of my collection of Holy Week pasos which were displayed in the Cuaresma Exhibit of the Hermanded de la Sagrado Pasion which ended last Sunday, March 14, 2010 at the Clamshell, Intramuros, Manila. Thanks to Dennis Raymon Maturan and Jmuego for the pictures.

On Facing the East

God's word tells us: The high priest shall put incense on the fire in the sight of the Lord. The smoke of the incense shall cover the mercy-seat above the tokens of the covenant, so that he may not die. He shall take some of the blood of the bull-calf and sprinkle it with his finger over the mercy-seat toward the east.

God taught the people of the old covenant how to celebrate the ritual offered to him in atonement for the sins of men. But you have come to Christ, the true high priest. Through his blood he has made God turn to you in mercy and has reconciled you with the Father. You must not think simply of ordinary blood but you must learn to recognize instead the blood of the Word. Listen to him as he tells you: This is my blood, which will be shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.

There is a deeper meaning in the fact that the high priest sprinkles the blood toward the east. Atonement comes to you from the east. From the east comes the one whose name is Dayspring, he who is mediator between God and men. You are invited then to look always at the east: it it there that the sun of righteousness rises for you, it is there that the light is always being born for you. You are never to walk in darkness; the great and final day is not to enfold you in darkness. Do not let the night and mist of ignorance steal upon you. So that you may always enjoy the light of knowledge, keep always in the daylight of faith, hold fast always to the light of love and peace.

(Origen, Homily on Leviticus, 9, 5. 10:

PG 12, 515. 523; Office of Readings,

Monday, 4th Week of Lent)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

On the Prodigal Son

The Return of the Prodigal Son
Bartolome Esteban Murillo

Amidst the gravity of Lent, the Church today is in a celebration mood. This day is called Laetare Sunday (the day of rejoicing) because we are halfway through the heavy discipline of Lent and Holy Week is almost here. Soon, it will be Easter. Thus, the Prodigal Son must be read in the light of this celebrative mood of the Church.

The parable shows us two celebrations, each in opposition with the other. The first is the one we are familiar with – the celebration of the younger son who, after having received his inheritance, left his father’s house, went so far away as possible, and squandered his inheritance on dissipate living. He really had the time of his life: too much money to spend and with as much independence as he wanted. He was far from his father’s control. Such is the kind of life which most of us yearn: one that is characterized by fun to our hearts’ content; far from the control of any authority or law. This is the typical American spring-break type of celebration: parties with lots of booze and sex. However, it is a type of celebration that leaves you empty: both in the pocket and in meaning. At the end, when all money was spent, and fair weather friends have left for home, the younger son found himself poor, hungry, and terribly humiliated.

It was in the middle of his misery that this son realized that he needed not to leave his father’s house in order to joy and happiness. Now that he lost everything, he began to see what he had always taken for granted: that in his father’s house was a celebration that did not end – even the hired workers had always more than enough to eat. Everyone was well provided for. Had he not abandoned his father, he would not have gone hungry, miserable and humiliated. This is the celebration where joy is genuine and lasting.

The parable of the prodigal son unmasks for us the deception of Satan who does to us what he did to Jesus: he brings us to the top of the mountain of temptation and shows and promises to us the possession of kingdoms of passing glory in exchange for our worship and loyalty. As he did with the prodigal son, he entices us to leave our Father’s house and find entertainment in dissolute living. The parable unmasks Satan as a fair-weather friend who, after enticing us to give up our heavenly inheritance, abandons us to misery, emptiness, and humiliation. He did that once to Adam and Eve. The serpent pretended to be Eve’s friend and reliable counselor. Once he succeeded to make the couple eat the forbidden fruit, he abandoned them to poverty (he left them naked) and humiliation (the couple were so embarrassed that they hid themselves in the bushes). He will definitely do it again to anyone who would commit the mistake of listening to him.

On the other hand, the same parable reveals to us that genuine and lasting joy can be obtained only if we heed the Father who, on the top of the mountain of the transfiguration, allows us to enter into the shining cloud and bids us to listen well to Jesus his beloved Son who transforms us into a new creation, delivers us from the passing glory of old things, and bestows upon us the newness of his grace and salvation. “And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ,” said St. Paul. Only He removes the reproach of the enemy from us.

On account of this, let us come to our senses. Look honestly at the depth of misery and poverty which we have brought upon ourselves when we abandoned the Father’s house. There is no genuine joy apart from Him. There is no lasting joy without Him. Let us rise and go back to the Father’s house where even his servants have more than enough to eat. Let us say to him, “Father, I have sinned against you.” He shall embrace us and restore to us the dignity which the devil, in his envy, has stolen from us. This He does by handing over to death not the fatted calf but His only begotten Son, Jesus, who, “for our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.”

Monday, March 8, 2010







March 28, 2010 PALM SUNDAY

1:00 pm Solemn Blessing and Procession of Palms / Mass


8:30 am Mass


10:00 am Mass of the Last Supper

April 2, 2010 GOOD FRIDAY

10:00 am Celebration of the Lord's Passion

(Mass of Catechumens, Adoration of the Cross, Holy Communion)

April 3, 2010 BLACK SATURDAY

April 4, 2010 EASTER SUNDAY

12:00 midnight Easter Vigil

On the Simplicity of Sacramental Signs

"If the prophet had told you to do something extraordinary, would you have done it? All the more now, since he said to you, 'Wash and be clean,' should you do as he said," so the servants tried to prevail over an angry Naaman who was upset over the command which the prophet Elisha gave him for his healing from leprosy. The place of this reading in Lent is best appreciated if we keep in mind that this season is the final phase of the catechumenate for those who are elected for Baptism on the Easter Vigil. I remember a mystagogical homily by a Father of the Church who tried to addressed the disappointment of the neophytes at the simplicity of the Sacrament of Baptism. They expected much of the Sacrament as they were told of its tremendous effects: Adoption as Children of God, incorporation into Christ's mystical Body, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Thus, when they saw a pool of water before them, they begun asking one another, "Is this it? Is this all?" Apparently, they could not reconcile in their minds the simplicity of the sacramental signs with the greatness of the graces they effect in us.

And even to our day, so many find the sacramental signs to be too simple for the graces they promise to effect. In fact, some take it upon themselves to "augment" these signs. Some men have themselves flogged until they bleed or even have themselves crucified on Good Friday in order to assure themselves of forgiveness of sins when all they had to do is to kneel and confess their sins to a priest. Of course, you may dismiss this as being the mindset of fanatics. However, is it not true that there is really an inclination today to embellish the liturgy with theatrics and dances? Apparently, the liturgy is too simple, too boring, too monotonous. It needs to be embellished so that it may acquire some commercial value. Without understanding the true nature of the liturgy, we unknowingly cross the line from worship to entertainment.

The simplicity of the sacramental signs reflects the simplicity of the Incarnation. After all, isn't the liturgy the extension of the Incarnation of the Lord? As the Lord descended on the womb of the Blessed Virgin without spectacle and fanfare, so also does the Divine Presence descend upon us through the Sacramental signs. Our eyes must not be deceived by the simplicity of the Sacraments. Externally, they may be humble but they confer upon us what only Christ our Lord can give: Salvation!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

On tragedies and repentance

The readings could not have come in more appropriate timing than today considering the series of earthquakes of catastrophic magnitude that are felt all over the world. The Lord Jesus himself spoke of 18 persons who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them. Such catastrophes confront us with the issues of crime and punishment, human evil and divine wrath. Did they perish because they were evil? Does this mean that survivors like ourselves are more righteous than they were? Or were we simply luckier?

Scriptures were not lacking in speaking of tragedies as acts of Divine wrath on account of the magnitude of sin. The floods of Noah’s time, the burning of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, the plagues of Egypt are only a few amongst many others that can be mentioned as examples of Divine wrath against the magnitude of human sin. In the 2nd reading, St. Paul warns the Corinthians: “God was not pleased with most of them, for they were struck down in the desert. These things happened as examples for us so that we might not desire evil things as they did. Do not grumble as some of them did and suffered death by the destroyer. These things happened to them as an example, and they have been written down as a warning to us upon whom the end of the ages has come.” What the Apostle said is affirmed by the words of the Lord in the gospel. Our Lord warns us that we should not be made complacent by our survival in tragedies for we should always take these tragedies for what they really are. They are warnings and calls to conversion coming from the Lord. We do not survive catastrophes because we are better and more righteous than those who perished. Rather, we are given more time to repent. Jesus said, “Do you think that they were more guilty than anyone else in Jerusalem? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”

The mystery of sin and its destructive nature can only be clarified in the light of the mystery of our religion. The Catechism says: “To try to understand what sin is, one must first recognize the profound relationship of man to God, for only in this relationship is the evil of sin unmasked in its true identity as humanity’s rejection of God and opposition to him, even as it continues to weigh heavy on human life and history” (CCC, 386). “Without the knowledge Revelation gives of God, we cannot recognize sin clearly and are tempted to explain it as merely a developmental flaw, a psychological weakness, a mistake, or the necessary consequence of an inadequate social structure…Only in the knowledge of God’s plan can we grasp that sin is an abuse of the freedom that God gives to created persons so that they are capable of loving Him and loving one another” (CCC, 387). It is when we recognize sin as our rebellion against God that we immediately understand the relationship of tragedies to sin. For God is the source of all goodness, of all life, and of all blessings. When we reject Him, we face nothing but evil, death, and woe. “The Church has always taught that the overwhelming misery which oppresses men and their inclination toward evil and death cannot be understood apart from their connection with Adam’s sin and the fact that he has transmitted to us a sin…which is the ‘death of the soul’” (CCC, 403). It is precisely from this death-giving sin that God wishes to redeem us. In the story of the Burning Bush, God said to Moses, “I have witnessed the affliction of my people and have heard their cry of complaint…so I know well what they are suffering. Therefore, I have come down to rescue them…” “The revelation of divine love in Christ manifested at the same time the extent of evil and the superabundance of grace” (CCC, 385). Yes, “Scripture witnesses to the disastrous influence of the one Jesus calls ‘a murderer from the beginning’” (CCC, 394) but we must never forget the power of Christ. “Although Satan may act in the world out of hatred for God…and although his action may cause grave injuries – of a spiritual and, indirectly, even of a physical nature – to each man and to society, the action is permitted by Divine Providence which with strength and gentleness guides human and cosmic history. It is a great mystery that Providence should permit diabolical activity, but ‘we know that God works for good with those who love him.’” (CCC, 395). As what was done to the fig tree, which did not only receive a reprieve from sure death but was even assisted by the farmer who hoed around it and manured it, God also deals with us. He does not only give us a chance to repent. His call for our repentance is always coupled with grace. He gives us grace to rise from our fall. He leads us back to Christ so that in him, we may find fullness of life.