Sunday, March 25, 2012

Born to Die

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

Today, March 25, is exactly 9 months away from Christmas day. If it were not a Sunday of Lent, we should be celebrating today the Feast of the Annunciation – the Feast that commemorates the Incarnation of Christ in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. There is a long standing tradition that says that when Christ died on the Cross, that Good Friday happened to fall on a March 25. Thus, this day is truly significant: today, Christ entered into the world and also departed from it 33 years after. God has truly arranged history that he made the day of the Incarnation and the day of the Crucifixion fall on the same date.

That the day of Christ’s conception and death should fall on the same date is a wonderful illustration of everything Jesus said in today’s Gospel reading: the purpose of his birth was his death. In other words, the purpose of Christ’s life on earth was to die. He was born in order to die. The Lord Jesus called his death with a peculiar name: he called it his “hour”. In the gospel of John, the “hour” stands for the most important part of the life and mission of Jesus. It was the reason of his earthly existence: “It was for this purpose that I came to this hour.”

Jesus did not deny that he was humanly troubled at the coming of the moment of his suffering and death. Who is not troubled at the approach of death? Death is frightening because it goes against our desire to survive. There is a loneliness with the experience of death. We might be surrounded by loved ones on our deathbed but when the time comes, each person leaves everything and everyone behind and, alone, passes through the threshold of death.

Jesus says: “I am troubled now.” But, he resolutely faces this dreadful hour: “Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.” He resolutely faces death because this is the only way to glorify the name of the Father: “Father, glorify your name!” The devil marred the likeness of God in the human soul. Sin brought death to man who was supposed to live happily in eternity with God. Jesus knows that it is through his death that he shall restore to God what the devil has stolen: the glory of God in man fully alive! Thus, the death of Jesus will be his hour – it will be the hour of his victory: “Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” He will not be victorious by killing. He will be victorious by dying. For such is the logic of God which dumbfounds the logic of the world: “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.” Suffering does not destroy him. On the contrary, suffering perfects Jesus in his filial obedience: “Son though he was, Jesus learned obedience from what he suffered. And when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”

Therefore, let us allow ourselves to be drawn to him who hangs lifeless on the Cross. Let us draw close to the grain that falls and dies. Let us approach him with gratitude and obedience in our hearts for we know that only in following him along the way of the Cross can we serve him. Only in following him along the way of the Cross can we be where he is now. Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life!

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

Passion Sunday

Passion Sunday at the Holy Family Parish, Roxas District, Quezon City

Thanks to Joseph Onyl for the picture!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Feast of St. Joseph

Pictures of the Solemn High Mass on the Feast of St. Joseph at the Holy Family Parish, Roxas District, Quezon City, Philippines

Myself as Celebrant, Fr. Rodel Lopez, OMI as deacon, and Fr. Mark Sese of the Diocese of Pasig as subdeacon

Thanks to Dennis Maturan for the pictures

Prayers at the foot of the altar

Elevation of Our Lord's Body

Elevation of the Chalice

2nd Confiteor

for posterity

The Crucified One and the End of our Slavery

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

The Babylonian exile was the darkest moment in Israelite history. Due to the increasing infidelity of the leaders and the people against the Lord, “the Lord’s anger against his people was so inflamed that there was no remedy. Their enemies burned the house of God, tore down the walls of Jerusalem, set all its palaces on fire, and destroyed all its precious objects. Those who escaped the sword were carried captive to Babylon where they became servants of the king of the Chaldeans and his sons.” It was a foreigner, Cyrus, the king of Persia, who would bring this captivity and bitter exile to an end. He will order the rebuilding of the Temple of God and restore the freedom of the people of Israel.

Cyrus, the king of Persia, is a wonderful image of Christ. Just as he declared: “All the kingdoms of the earth, the Lord, the God of heaven has given me,” so will the Lord Jesus later declare: “Everything in heaven and on earth has been given me by my Father in heaven.” Just as Cyrus declared: “God has charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem,” so will the Lord Jesus later declare: “Destroy this temple and in 3 days I will raise it up.” Just as Cyrus declared that all the captive Israelites are to return to their homeland, so would the Lord Jesus later say: “He has sent me to declare freedom to prisoners.” Indeed, the captivity which the Israelites inflicted upon themselves by their sins was ended by Cyrus. In like manner, the captivity which we inflicted upon ourselves by our sins was ended by the Lord Jesus: “God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ.”

It is the love of God that has done this: 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. Contrary to the cruelty which the world accuses God, God has nothing but love for us. “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” God is not cruel to us. We inflict this cruelty to ourselves. We condemn ourselves by staying away from the light and love of God: “This is the verdict: that the light came into the world but people preferred darkness to light because their works were evil.” Don’t we sometimes wonder why people prefer darkness to light? Why are many young people attracted to a culture of darkness? Why a preference for darkness? Perhaps it is because the darkness gives people a false sense of freedom. Darkness gives people the illusion that under the cover of its shadows they can do what they want. And the forces of darkness refuse to let their subjects draw close to the light because they know that the light will expose the chains of slavery to which their subjects are attached. “Everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come towards the light, so that his works might not be exposed.”

God draws us to Jesus who is lifted up on the wood of the Cross. Christ on the Cross is the lamp placed on the lamp stand that illumines the entire household. Christ on the Cross exposes the ugliness of sin and the gravity of its slavery. When we look upon the Crucified One, we see what our sins have done to Him. And yet, Christ on the Cross reveals to us the greatness of God’s love for us. When we look upon the Crucified One, we see what God, in his love, is willing to do for us. In the Crucified One, God shows “the immeasurable riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” It is by this grace that we are saved!

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The True Temple, Sacrifice, and Priest

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

The Lord Jesus expressed the deepest respect for the Temple in Jerusalem. “Jesus went up the Temple as the privileged place of encounter with God. For him, the Temple was the dwelling of his Father, a house of prayer, and he was angered that its outer court had become a place of commerce. He drove merchants out of it because of jealous love for his Father: ‘You shall not make my Father’s house a house of trade.’ His disciples remembered that it was written: ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’” (CCC, 584.) It was out of jealous love for his Father that he drove merchants out of the Temple. He would not allow the merchants to transform the house of God into the house of mammon. “You cannot serve both God and mammon.” If one is to serve God, then he must serve only God. “You shall have no other gods besides me…for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God.”

In this day and age of political correctness, this idea of a jealous God is difficult to uphold. The idea of the plurality and equality of all religions will find the idea of a jealous God rather repulsive – it would immediately be judged as narrow-mindedness, fundamentalism, and simply unenlightened. We should be tolerant of religious differences, so we are told. After all, the Catholic Church, according to a lady senator, does not have the monopoly of the truth.

But have we ever asked: Why is there so much insistence in the jealousy of God? Definitely, it is not on account of the insecurity of a power-tripping god. Rather, God does not want us to have other gods beside him because such is the truth: THERE IS NO OTHER GOD BESIDE HIM. There is only one God living and true. “God is unique; there is only one God.” (CCC, 200) The others are pretenders, fakes, and liars. And it is very dangerous to worship false gods simply because false gods do not deliver. “They have eyes but see not, ears but hear not. They have nostrils but there is no breath of life in them.” False gods cannot save simply because they cannot do it. Mammon cannot save you. The world cannot save you. You cannot save yourself. Worshipping false gods is like worshipping no god at all. False gods cannot save you. Only the true God can do this.

In order to protect us from the deception of pretenders, Jesus presents himself to us as the true Temple where we encounter the true and living God: “Destroy this temple and in 3 days I will raise it up…He was speaking about the temple of his body.” In Jesus dwells the fullness of the Divinity. He is God the Son who is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit in essence, substance or nature (CCC, 202.) When we go to Jesus, we shall definitely know the Father because “no one knows the Father except the Son and everyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.” When we go to Jesus, we shall definitely encounter the Father, for “he who has seen (him) sees the Father.” When we go to Jesus, we shall definitely reach the Father, for “no one can come to the Father except through (him).”

And to make sure that the Jesus we approach is the real one, we have to be faithful to what we have received from the Apostles: “we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles, but to those who are called, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” The crucified Christ is the true Christ – one whose Temple (body) was destroyed but was raised up in 3 days.

And this is why, as Peter said last Sunday, “it is good for us to be here.” It is good for us to be here because we stand before the true Christ – the true Temple, the true Sacrifice, the true Priest. Because Christ is the true Temple, we are sure that we encounter the true God. Because Christ is the true Sacrifice, we dare approach the Father with the one Offering that is pleasing to him. Because Christ is the true Priest, we are sure that our worship is accepted “for there is only one Mediator between God and man: the man Jesus Christ.”

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Mass and the Priest

For each priest, the celebration of the Holy Mass is the reason for his existence. It is, it must be, an entirely personal encounter with the Lord and with his redemptive work. At the same time, each priest, in the celebration of the Eucharist, is Christ himself present in the Church as Head of his body; and he also acts in the name of the whole Church “when presenting to God the prayer of the Church, and above all when offering the Eucharistic sacrifice”. When we experience the wonder of the Eucharistic gift, which transforms us and configures us to Christ, there is only room for amazement, gratitude and obedience.

His Eminence Cardinal Antonio Cañizares
5 March 2012, University of the Holy Cross

Monday, March 5, 2012

Glory and Humiliation

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

The Lord was greatly pleased with Abraham who passed the test of faith by willingly offering Isaac, his own beloved son, when asked to do so by the Lord. Although the sacrifice was not consummated, Abraham’s obedience was clearly manifested in taking his son to Mt. Moriah to offer him to the Lord. Thus, God said: “Because you acted as you did in not withholding from me your beloved son, I will bless you abundantly and make your descendants as countless as the stars of the sky and the sands on the seashore. Your descendants shall take possession of the gates of their enemies, and in your descendants all the nations on earth shall find blessing.” Not only was Abraham’s faith put to test. What he did proved how devoted he was to God.

Abraham did not withhold from God his own beloved son and so God knows how devoted Abraham was to him. But do we know how devoted God is to us? St. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, shows us God’s devotion to us: “(God) did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all.” He who sent his angel to tell Abraham “Do not do the least harm to (the boy)” did not spare his own Son but handed him over to evil men. Do we actually understand what this means? The Face of Jesus, which is as radiant in his glory as God’s only Son, was stricken and defiled when he became Son of Man. Jesus, whose clothes were dazzlingly white in an unearthly way, was stripped naked and covered with nothing but sweat and blood. Jesus, who was glorified by both Moses and Elijah, was condemned to death at the clamor of the people who claimed to follow the teachings of Moses and Elijah. Jesus, whom the Father claimed as his own beloved Son, was handed over by the Father to crucifixion and death. “Son though he was, Jesus learned obedience through suffering.”

It is when we see the great difference between the glory of Christ and his humiliation that we realize the extent of God’s devotion to us. The sublimity of his glory and the baseness of his humiliation both leave us the question: “What would God not do to show his love for us?” Is there still anything he has not yet done to show his love for us? “He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not give us everything else along with him?” Is there anything that he has not yet done for us? Will there still be anything that he would not do?

Such love coming from God himself traverses the expanse of heaven and earth, glory and humiliation, height and depth. Such love that only God can give – it is such love that made St. Paul say: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Indeed, we are very sure that God is for us. He handed over his Son. He did not spare his Son just so that we may not perish in our sins. “It is God who acquits us.” He is not our accuser. He desires nothing but our repentance and our salvation. Therefore, let us listen to Jesus his Son and trust that he will bring us to salvation. Let us obey the words of God’s beloved Son for he alone has the words of eternal life – He is the Life. Let us follow his lead through the difficult way of the Cross – trust him: He is the Way. No one comes to the Father except through him. Let us listen to him for everything he says is true – He is the Truth. Never doubt that he cares for you – he invested so much on you: he bought you at the price of his Blood.

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Clerical Narcissism and Lent

Clerical Narcissism is a problem that afflicts many priests who think that the Mass is a venue to assert their own personality and preferences. I agree with George Weigel with his observation that this narcissism needs to be corrected.

"One implicit purpose of the new translations, with their deliberate recovery of a sacral vocabulary and their adoption of a more formal literary rhythm, was to discipline the tendency of priests to turn the Mass into an expression of the celebrant’s personality. The difficulties some priests have had with adjusting to the changes suggests that this tendency was, in fact, a real problem in implementing the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. Prominent Catholic psychologist Paul Vitz once wrote of this as a problem of “clerical narcissism,” and while the phrase undoubtedly stings, there’s something to it—something that needs correcting."

Clerical Narcissism and Lent | First Things