Sunday, May 27, 2012

Living in the Spirit

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

3 figures were at the spotlight this week: Lady Gaga, Jessica Sanchez, and Chief Justice Corona. I won’t go into the joke about them because I suppose you heard of it already. Let us talk about Lady Gaga whose 2 night concert in Pasay City was highly successful and was also very controversial. First, the concert was banned by the Indonesian government who judged it as dangerous to morals of society (good for them). The concert met protests from a small Christian group which, unfortunately, was immediately tagged as “conservative.” This “conservative” tag is unfortunate because the world today has a bias against “conservatives” and regards them as narrow-minded, bigots, or at least, intolerant of differences. Live and let live – we are told. The issue here is “differences”. Lady Gaga simply sings, dresses, and acts differently and so we have to respect this, so we are told.

Is there a pronounced difference concerned? The answer is definitely “yes”. But the difference is not between Lady Gaga and the world we live in because apparently, she is the best spokesperson of the world. The difference is between those who live in the flesh and those who live in the Spirit. “Live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh. For the flesh has desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you may not do what you want.” Lady Gaga’s philosophy is a very obvious way of thinking in the flesh: “Do what you want.” She said in her Manila concert: "Some people say I stand for things that are bad. The truth is, I want the best for every single one of you. My lifestyle is like one whole performance of liberation... for those of you who aren't free. Take this opportunity to free yourself." St. Paul says: “The works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, lust, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like…Those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” The “difference” which is at issue is the difference between truth and lies. Obviously, in courts of law, truth and lies cannot be appreciated as of equal footing. The difference between truth and lie cannot be simply swept under the rug and pretend, in the name of tolerance, that they can co-exist peacefully.

St. Paul reminds us that if we live according to the Spirit, we must reject what belongs to the flesh: “Those who belong to Jesus have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, we must follow the Spirit.” And this Spirit who we should follow is the Spirit of truth: “he will guide you to all truth.” Living in truth is not doing what the flesh dictates. Living in truth is doing the will of God. The Holy Spirit does not speak on his own or act on his own. He says what he hears from Jesus and does what he was sent to do. And so he is the Spirit of truth. What he says and does comes from him who called himself as the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

It is the Holy Spirit who glorifies Jesus by testifying to him. If we live in the Spirit, we will also glorify Jesus by testifying that we belong to him. Our witness to him is manifested by the fruits of the Holy Spirit in our lives: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Let us live in the Spirit by following the Spirit. Let us not be deceived by the world that cannot give what the Holy Spirit gives. Let us have nothing to do with the works of darkness. We are not simply talking here of differences in preferences. What we speak of refers to light and darkness, good and evil, salvation and condemnation. Let us live as children of light. 

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

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Ascension and the Mystical Body of Christ

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

For forty days, Jesus appeared to his Apostles and spoke about the Kingdom of God. After he had spoken to them, Jesus was taken into heaven, and took his seat at the right hand of God “far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion…” The Acts of the Apostles said: “a cloud took him from their sight.” Taking his seat at God’s right hand and having disappeared amongst the clouds, Jesus might seem to have left his Apostles behind. But this is not so. He may have disappeared but he did not leave. While he is enthroned far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion, the Lord Jesus nevertheless remains present in the world. He may have disappeared physically but this does not mean he is no longer here. The manner of his presence merely changed for Christ continues to be present in the world through his Church.

Before he ascended into heaven, he spoke of signs that will accompany his followers, that is, those who believe: “in my name, they will drive out demons…They will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Come to think of it, these signs Jesus referred to were simply the things he had been doing while on earth. By giving his disciples the power to do what he used to do while amongst them, Jesus was actually saying that the Church will continue to do his work on earth. The more precise statement would be: Jesus will continue doing what he has always been doing – this time, he will do his works through the Church. This is why St. Paul said that the Father, seating Jesus at his right hand in the heavens, “put all things beneath his feet and gave his as head over all things to the Church, which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.”

The Catechism says: “As Lord, Christ is also head of the Church, which is his Body. Taken up to heaven and glorified after he had thus fully accomplished his mission, Christ dwells on earth in his Church.” (CCC, 669) Also, the same Catechism says elsewhere: “Christ ‘is the head of the body, the Church.’ He is the principle of creation and redemption. Raised to the Father’s glory, ‘in everything he is preeminent,’ especially in the Church, through whom he extends his reign over all things.” (CCC, 792) “Christ and his Church thus together make up the ‘whole Christ’ (Christus totus). The Church is one with Christ.” (CCC, 795) Thus, St. Augustine exclaims: “Let us rejoice, then, and give thanks that we have become not only Christians, but Christ himself. Do you understand and grasp, brethren, God’s grace towards us? Marvel and rejoice: we have become Christ. For if he is the head, we are the members; he and we together are the whole man…The fullness of Christ then is the head and the members. But what does ‘head and members’ mean? (It means) Christ and the Church.” (Ibid.) The Church is the Sacrament of Christ. She makes him visible. Her teachings make him heard. Her presence makes him present. The common sense of St. Joan of Arc says it in very clear terms: “About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they are just one thing, and we shouldn’t complicate the matter.” (Ibid.)

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

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Read the Actual Text

 “It seemed to me that timing the launch of the Year of Faith to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council would provide a good opportunity to help people understand that the texts bequeathed by the Council Fathers, in the words of Blessed John Paul II, “have lost nothing of their value or brilliance. They need to be read correctly, to be widely known and taken to heart as important and normative texts of the Magisterium, within the Church's Tradition ... I feel more than ever in duty bound to point to the Council as the great grace bestowed on the Church in the twentieth century: there we find a sure compass by which to take our bearings in the century now beginning.” I would also like to emphasize strongly what I had occasion to say concerning the Council a few months after my election as Successor of Peter: “if we interpret and implement it guided by a right hermeneutic, it can be and can become increasingly powerful for the ever necessary renewal of the Church.” (Benedict XVI, Porta Fidei, 5)

Inasmuch as the constant invocation of the “spirit of Vatican II” to justify liturgical innovations has caused much confusion among the faithful, we should take advantage of the Year of Faith to read the actual text of the Constitution on Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium). I think we have had enough of so-called liturgical experts (technocrats) who legitimize their “creativity” by hiding behind the authority of Vatican II. If it is true that their innovations were mandated by Vatican II, they should support their argument with the actual text of Sacrosanctum Concilium. I might sound like a fundamentalist but I think it is about time that we question these experts: Where in the documents of Vatican II did the Church say that you could do what you tell us to do? It is about time that we stop accepting this barrage of liturgical innovations and begin questioning these “experts.” Let us empower ourselves. Read the actual text of Vatican II. 

Light and Darkness

"The darkness that poses a real threat to mankind, after all, is the fact that he can see and investigate tangible material things, but cannot see where the world is going or whence it comes, where our own life is going, what is good and what is evil. The darkness enshrouding God and obscuring values is the real threat to our existence and to the world in general. If God and moral values, the difference between good and evil, remain in darkness, then all other "lights", that put such incredible technical feats within our reach, are not only progress but also dangers that put us and the world at risk. Today we can illuminate our cities so brightly that the stars of the sky are no longer visible. Is this not an image of the problems caused by our version of enlightenment? With regard to material things, our knowledge and our technical accomplishments are legion, but what reaches beyond, the things of God and the question of good, we can no longer identify. Faith, then, which reveals God’s light to us, is the true enlightenment, enabling God’s light to break into our world, opening our eyes to the true light."

(Pope Benedict XVI, Homily on Easter Vigil 2012)

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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Love of God: the Motive of Vocations

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

When Jesus described the hireling who ran away at the sight of the wolf, he said: “he has no concern for the sheep.” These words reveal to us the motive of our Lord when he, the Good Shepherd, deliberately laid down his life for his sheep. If the hireling has no concern for the sheep, our Lord loves his sheep: “I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father, and I will  lay down my life for my sheep.” It is love that makes him know each of us who belong to his flock. It is love that makes him lay down his life for his sheep. And there can be no greater love than this: that a man should lay down his life for his friends. He offered his life in absolute freedom: “I lay down my life in order to take it us again. No one takes it away from me, but I lay it down on my own.”

It is this love of Christ that beckons us to himself. In his message for today’s World Day of Prayer for Vocations, the Holy Father says: “we need to open our lives to this love. It is to the perfection of the Father’s love (cf. Mt 5:48) that Jesus Christ calls us every day! The high standard of the Christian life consists in loving ‘as’ God loves; with a love that is shown in the total, faithful and fruitful gift of self…It is in this soil of self-offering and openness to the love of God, and as the fruit of that love, that all vocations are born and grow. ” The man or the woman who discovers how much he is loved by Christ, desires to responds to this love by loving in return. Love for love! The one who discovers the depth of love that brought Christ to lay down his life for us will also desire to offer his life for Christ.  “Love of God, which priests and consecrated persons are called to mirror, however imperfectly, is the motivation for answering the Lord’s call to special consecration through priestly ordination or the profession of the evangelical counsels.”

Let us never tire of proclaiming this love of God most especially to the youth. Our parish should create the conditions that will permit the young people to make their generous response to the love of God. We should foster in our youth a love for prayer, Scriptures, and the Eucharist which enable us “to grasp the beauty of a life spent fully in the service of the Kingdom.” In the Eucharist, “the love of God touches us in Christ’s sacrifice, the perfect expression of love, and it is here that we learn ever anew how to live according to the ‘high standard’ of God’s love.” When we instill in our youth a love for the Eucharist, we help foster vocations. My own vocation story was very much associated to the Eucharist. I was an altar boy who served at Mass every day. In the Eucharist I discovered God’s call to the priesthood.

Our families should live out their vocation to be communities of life and love where our children learn the lesson of self-giving love. The Christian family is ““the primary and most excellent seed-bed of vocations to a life of consecration to the Kingdom of God” (Familiaris Consortio, 53). When children experience authentic love in their families, they learn how to love and eventually respond to God’s call.

“See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we might be called children of God.” Christ, the Good Shepherd, laid down his life so that we might be called children of God. See the love of the Father. See the love of the Son. Jesus calls us to the perfection of the Father’s love. Let us open our lives to this love.

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

Communion with Christ

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

Last Sunday, the Lord Jesus spoke of the intimacy of the relationship between him and his sheep: “I know my sheep and mine know me.” Using the image of the Shepherd who leads his flock to the pastures, he says that the Shepherd walks in front of the sheep and they follow him because they recognize his voice. Today, the image becomes even more intimate. The Lord does not simply speak of mutual knowledge (I know my sheep and mine know me). Rather, he speaks of an indwelling. He does not speak merely of himself walking in front of his sheep. He speaks of himself as dwelling in us: “I am the Vine, you are the branches…remain in me as I remain in you…whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me, you can do nothing.”

Using the image of the vine and branches, our Lord describes his relationship with us as a vital, a life-giving relationship. Our communion with him gives us life. It is he who gives us life. St. Augustine said: “The branches do not confer any advantage upon the vine, but receive their support from it: the vine supplies nourishment to the branches, takes nothing from them: so that the abiding in Christ, and the having Christ abiding in them, both are for the profit of the disciples, not of Christ.” The vine gets its nourishment from the soil and distributes it to the branches. The Lord Jesus, who is the vine, receives the life-giving Spirit from the Father. It is the Lord Jesus who gives the Holy Spirit to the branches attached to him. So long as we are in communion with the Lord Jesus, we are alive. Apart from Him, we can do nothing because apart from Him, we are dead. Only as long as we are united in Him will we continue to receive the Holy Spirit. Only then can we continue to bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit: Charity, Joy, Peace, Patience, Benignity (kindness), Goodness, Long-suffering (patient suffering over an extended period), Mildness, Faith, Modesty, Continence, and Chastity. The presence of these fruits in our lives is the sign of our communion with Christ the true Vine. These fruits are the signs that we are truly alive!

Our Christian life is marked by our communion with Jesus. Let us do all we can to preserve the supernatural  life which we received in Baptism. We do this by the frequent reception of Holy Communion and by regular Confession. It would do us good to avoid anything that would endanger our life in Christ. In this way, we will abide in him as he abides in us.

Let us remain with Jesus so that we can remain with the Father. Let us abide with Jesus so that we can live in the Holy Spirit. Remaining with Jesus we have nothing to lose. Remaining with Jesus, we have everything to gain. St. Paul said, “To me, life is Christ.”

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