Friday, August 31, 2012

The Measure of Authentic Faith in Christ

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

The difficulty of our Lord’s teaching regarding the Eucharist has antagonized not only the Jews but his disciples as well: “This is hard: who can accept it?” They found it too much to bear that we should eat His body and drink His blood. The doctrine of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist was too difficult to accept. What prevented them from accepting what they called this “hard” teaching about the Eucharist? The Jews last Sunday have expressed their difficulty: “How could this man give us his flesh to eat?” They saw Jesus as no more than just a man. They did not see Jesus as God. For while it is impossible for a mere man to give his flesh to be eaten, for God, however, it can be done. God can assume human flesh and he can give it for us to eat. Nothing is impossible to God.
“Many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.” The Eucharist is the litmus test of a Christian’s faith in Jesus. A Christian cannot really say that he believes that Jesus is Lord and God not until he believes that Jesus gives his flesh as food to be eaten. Thus, I really question the faith of “bible Christians” who claim that they have accepted Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. How can they say that they believe that Jesus is Lord and yet not believe that his flesh is real food and his blood is real drink? They have turned their back on Jesus simply because what he said was too difficult to accept. And that is also why I am not at all surprised that in the 1960’s the same Christian communities also abandoned the Christian stand against birth control. If they could abandon Christ on account of the difficulty of the Eucharistic dogma, they could also abandon Christ on account of the difficult of the moral stand against birth control.

On the other hand, Jesus even challenged his 12 apostles to leave him if they found the doctrine of the Real Presence in the Eucharist unacceptable. Peter, the first Pope, answers the Lord: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of everlasting life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.” In spite of the big number of disciples who have abandoned the Lord, this humble band of apostles makes their stand on the side of Jesus. Thus, it comes as no surprise that even if the whole world, fellow Christians included, should turn its back to the Lord on issues like birth control, the Catholic Church will still stand by the Lord. If the Church did not abandon the Lord in spite of the difficulty of the Eucharistic dogma, she will not abandon the Lord now on account of a smaller issue like birth control. Even if they say that thousands of Catholics no longer listen to what the Pope and the bishops say…even if 190 Ateneo professors should abandon the Church’s stance against birth control, still, the humble number of Christ’s real faithful would stand by him for what is wrong and false remains to be wrong and false even if everybody does it and what is right and true will always be right and true even if nobody does it anymore. Like Joshua and the Israelites in the first reading, the small number of real faithful continues to say: “Far it be from us to forsake the Lord for the service of other gods…we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.” Like Peter, the first Pope, the Church continues to say, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.” “Decide today whom you will serve…As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord!”

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

He could not have said it any clearer than this!

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

The Lord could not have given the teaching in clearer terms than he does in today’s reading. He is not talking in some vague, symbolic language. He tells us in plain and simple language: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” His words are so clear that even his enemies murmured among themselves because they understood correctly what he was trying to say: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

The Jews were accustomed to sacred meals which they ate in the presence of the Lord as a sign of Divine favor. But what Jesus is saying is new for them. He goes beyond eating in the presence of God. Jesus gives his flesh to eat and his blood to drink. He himself is the meal. “In the Eucharistic meal, man feeds on God.” (John Paul II, General Audience on June 8, 1983.) The change of bread into his flesh and wine into his blood is not merely a change of perception, that is, a change in the way we look at what is on the altar. The change is ontological, that is, whether we perceive it or not, the bread, by the power of the word of Christ and by the Holy Spirit, becomes the flesh of Christ. In like manner, the wine, by the same power of Christ’s word and by the Holy Spirit, becomes the blood of Christ. It is a real, objective change – regardless of the perception of the onlookers. It is Christ truly present, body and blood, soul and divinity.

Christ is truly present so that the redemptive sacrifice can be made present. Bread and wine becomes his body and blood so that his sacrifice may be sacramentally renewed through the offering made by the ordained priest. And once his sacrifice is made present, the Lord makes accessible to us the fruit of his offering: eternal life. Eternal life is made accessible to us through this sacrificial meal. Eating his body and drinking his blood must not be understood in a metaphorical way for what we eat is truly his body and what we drink is truly his blood. As material food is necessary for the preservation and development of bodily life, so the Eucharist is necessary for the development of the Divine life in us. “Just as the Father who has life sent me and I have life because of the Father, so the man who feeds on me will have life because of me.” “The Father is the first source of life; this life he has given to the Son, who in turn communicates it to mankind. He who feeds on Christ in the Eucharist does not have to wait until the hereafter to receive eternal life; he already possesses it on earth, and in it he possesses the guarantee of the resurrection of the body at the end of the world: ‘He who feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (Ibid.) Truly, this is the food that does not perish. This is the food that “endures unto everlasting life.” “Wisdom has…dressed her meat and mixed her wine, yes, she has spread her table…and calls out from the heights out over the city: ‘Come, eat of my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed! Forsake foolishness that you may live, advance in the way of understanding.’”

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

Listening to Christ's word Helps us Recognize Him

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

This Church is seldom filled to capacity but for 3 days this week, it was filled with people not really because of some religious event but because it became an evacuation site for flood victims. We had as much as 1,300 people but today, we are back to the usual little group. I just realized that it is easier to dispose relief goods than to distribute Holy Communion. I personally buy the hosts for the parish and I have been buying the same volume as when I was in Sikatuna. In my former parish, the supply of hosts has to be replenished every 2 weeks. But here, the replenishment of supply takes place every 1 and a half months. It only shows that very few receive Holy Communion here. If I distributed relief goods at every Mass, perhaps the supply has to be replenished every day. Remember the words of Jesus last Sunday: “You look for me not because you have seen signs but because you have eaten and were filled. Do not work for food that does not last. Rather, work for food that lasts unto eternal life.”

Why is it that most people do not appreciate Holy Communion? I think it is because most of us have not really listened to God. In the Holy Gospel, Jesus says: “They shall all be taught by God. Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.” “No one can come to me unless the Father draw him and I will raise him on the last day.” A person will not approach Holy Communion not unless he believes that what is being given is Christ’s flesh for the life of the world. But faith can be elicited only as a response to Divine Revelation. No one comes to Jesus without first listening to the Father and learning from him. And no one can have eternal life unless he believes in Jesus. Listening to the word of God enables us to recognize the Lord Jesus who is truly present in the most holy Sacrament of the altar. “In the account of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, Christ himself intervenes to show, ‘beginning with Moses and all the prophets’, how ‘all the Scriptures’ point to the mystery of his person (cf. Lk 24:27). His words make the hearts of the disciples ‘burn’ within them, drawing them out of the darkness of sorrow and despair, and awakening in them a desire to remain with him: ‘Stay with us, Lord’ (cf. v. 29).” (John Paul II, Mane Nobiscum Domine, 12.)  “It is significant that the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, duly prepared by our Lord's words, recognized him at table through the simple gesture of the ‘breaking of bread’. When minds are enlightened and hearts are enkindled, signs begin to ‘speak’. The Eucharist unfolds in a dynamic context of signs containing a rich and luminous message. Through these signs the mystery in some way opens up before the eyes of the believer.” (MND, 14.)

As the disciples of Emmaus were duly prepared by our Lord’s words to recognize Christ at the breaking of bread, so must we truly listen to God’s word so that we may also recognize the flesh of Jesus which is given to us at Holy Communion. Only by approaching the Lord can we have eternal life. “Whoever eats this bread will live for ever.”

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

John Paul II on the Bread of Life

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

After the miraculous multiplication of the loaves, Christ says to the crowds who were seeking him: “Truly, truly I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give you.” “How difficult it was for Jesus hearers to make this passage from the sign to the mystery it indicates: from the daily bread to ‘the bread which endures to eternal life!’ Nor is it easy for us.” (John Paul II, Homily on May 31, 1997.)

It is clear that Jesus does not eliminate normal concerns and pursuit of daily bread. Man has indeed need of food and drink if he is to live. The human body needs food and drink to live, grow, develop, and work. This is the food of temporal, transient life, which ends with death. But the Lord points out that the real meaning of our earthly existence lies in eternity. In fact, the human soul also has need of food and drink in order to persevere in the journey towards eternal life. Man needs the Bread of life in order to be able to life in eternity the life that comes from God. (cf. Homily on June 13, 1987)

And so Jesus declares with consoling clarity: “My Father gives you the true Bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world…I am the Bread of life, he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall not thirst.” Jesus refers to the manna which God gave to the Jews when they crossed the desert. “We, too, like the people of Israel,…live on earth the experience of Exodus: the ‘promised land’ is Heaven. God, who did not abandon his people in the desert, does not abandon man in his earthly pilgrimage either. He has given him ‘bread’ that is able to sustain him along the way: the ‘bread’ is Christ. He is first of all the food of the soul with revealed truth, and then with his very Person present in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.” (Homily on August 5, 1979)

Proclaiming that the Heavenly Father gives us the true bread from heaven, Jesus “bears witness to God, who is not only Creator and Lord of creation, but is, at the same time, Father. And the Father feeds and nourishes his children. He feeds…and nourishes them with the food and drink of eternal life: the Most Holy Eucharist. The Church lives daily from the Eucharist; she lives unceasingly from it.”(Homily on May 29, 1986)
“In the Eucharist is inscribed the most profound thing in the life of every man…Here, the life of man, through the Eucharist, is inscribed in the mystery of the living God. In this mystery – as in the eternal Book of Life – man surpasses the limits of contemporaneity, proceeding towards the hope of eternal life. Here, the Church of the Incarnate Word, through the Eucharist, causes the inhabitants of the eternal Jerusalem to be born.” (Homily on May 22, 1983)

Mindful of Jesus’ promise: “My Father gives you the true bread from heaven”, we ask God our Father before communion: “Give us today our daily bread.” This daily bread is the Body of Christ without which we have no life within us. As children of heaven, we urgently need the bread of heaven. When St. Catherine of Siena was not able to receive holy communion, her body suffered more than if racked by intense pain, and she would pray: “Father, I am hungry. For the love of God, give my soul food!” The Bread from heaven “is not less necessary to the development of the divine life in the faithful than material food is for the preservation and development of bodily life. The Eucharist is not a luxury offered to those who would want to live more intimately united with Christ: the Eucharist is a necessity of Christian life.” (General Audience of June 8, 1983)

Like the people who said to Jesus: “Give us this bread always”, so when we pray to the Father to “give us this day our daily bread”, we ought to ask above all for the living Bread come down from heaven with which the Father feeds his children. “From our first Communion until the day we die, may we have a deep yearning for Christ, the true bread which gives life to the world.” (Homily in Cardiff, June 2, 1982) (John Paul II and the Mystery of the Eucharist, 58-60)

Jesus, I trust in you. O Mary conceived without sin, pray for 

Falsity is the Sign of the Devil

The Kiss of Judas

In his Angelus Message last Sunday, August 26, 2012, the Holy  Father spoke on the disciples who abandoned the Lord on account of the difficulty of the teachings on the Eucharist. His commentary on Judas Iscariot is worth reflecting on: 

"In the end, Jesus knew that even among the Twelve there was one who did not believe: Judas. Judas too could have left like the other disciples did; perhaps he should have left had he wanted to be honest. Instead he stayed with Jesus. He stayed not because of faith, not because of love, but with the secret plan to get back at the Master. Why? Because Judas felt that Jesus had betrayed him and he decided to betray Jesus in turn. Judas was a zealot and wanted a victorious Messiah who would lead a revolt against the Romans. Jesus frustrated these expectations. The problem is that Judas did not leave and his gravest fault was falsity, which is the sign of the devil. Because of this Jesus said to the Twelve: “One among you is a devil!” (John 6:70). Let us pray to the Virgin Mary, who helps us to believe in Jesus, as St. Peter did, to be ever more sincere with him and with everyone."

I think these are very courageous words. I think dissenters in the Church should not hide their dissent under the guise of Intellectual or Academic Freedom. If you do not believe... by all means, leave! Don't dissent and still call yourself Catholics! Falsity is the sign of the devil.

Read the entire address: ZENIT - On Believing in Jesus, Bread of Life

Truth is truth, there is no compromise

Head of the Baptist, Photo of Louie Nacorda

On the occasion of the Memorial of the Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist, the Holy Father spoke on the Baptist's witness to Christ:

"Dear brothers and sisters, celebrating the martyrdom of St. John the Baptist also reminds us -- Christians in our own times -- that we cannot give into compromise when it comes to our love for Christ, for his Word, for his Truth. The Truth is the Truth; there is no compromise. The Christian life requires, as it were, the "martyrdom" of daily fidelity to the Gospel; the courage, that is, to allow Christ to increase in us and to direct our thoughts and actions. But this can only occur in our lives if our relationship with God is strong. Prayer is not time lost, nor does it steal space away from our activities, even those that are apostolic; it is exactly the opposite: only if we are able to have a life of faithful, constant, trusting prayer, will God himself give us the ability and strength to live in happiness and peace, to overcome difficulties and to courageously bear witness to him. May St. John the Baptist intercede for us, that we might always maintain the primacy of God in our lives."

In the debates on the RH bill, it is important to keep this in mind: Truth is the Truth; there can be no compromise. Let us be faithful to the Gospel.

Dissenters in the Church: Let us allow Christ to increase in us and to direct out thoughts and actions.

Read the entire address: ZENIT - On the Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

On the Dormition of our Lady

Arise, Lordand come to your resting place,
    you and the ark of your might.
May your priests be clothed with your righteousness; 
    may your faithful people sing for joy.

(Psalm 131, 8)

Evacuation at the Holy Family Church

Even the sparrow has found a home, 
and the swallow a nest for herself, 
where she may have her young--
a place near your altar, 
O LORD Almighty, my King and my God. 

(Psalm 84:3)

A beautiful picture taken by Fr. Aris Sison of evacuees who took refuge in the Holy Family Church during the flood caused by the Habagat last August 7, 2012.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Transfiguration and the Kingship of Christ

In the mystery of the Transfiguration, our Lord revealed to his disciples the splendor of His Divinity which, till then, was hiding underneath the humble veil of His humanity. In becoming man, God the Son's Divinity was not diminished. The glory which He made manifest on the mountain of the Transfiguration was the glory of God's only begotten Son, full of grace and truth.

Indeed, Christ is truly the One in whom the Father set his seal. All things in heaven and on earth and under the earth has been given to Him by the Father. Thus, the vision in the Book of the Prophet Daniel, which was read in today's Mass, speaks of the Son of man receiving from the Father government, honor, and kingship. Every people, nation, and language will serve Him.

The Kingship of Christ is real. It is not a myth created by the human imagination. The world and everything in it belongs to Him. If this were so, why are government institutions excluded from His dominion? Why are public schools excluded from His Kingship? Why do people say that the Lord has no say on whatever married couples do in the privacy of their bedroom? Why do women say that the Lord cannot exercise His authority over their wombs?

Aren't these clear manifestations of defiance to the kingship of Christ? His dominion extends beyond the walls of the Church. His kingdom covers society as well. Let us not forget the public domain of Christ the Lord. He is God's beloved Son. Listen to Him!