Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Silence to Hear (23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time B)

Our Lady of Solitude: Model of Silence

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

In the very talkative world that we live in, much of the ideas that are expressed are shallow and meaningless. Much of what is communicated is unclear, almost gibberish. That is why the man who was brought to Jesus for healing today may best describe most of us today. He had a speech impediment. His words were unclear simply because he was deaf. I say that this man describes us because our incapability to communicate clearly to others the truth is due to our failure to listen well. In teaching, I notice that many of our students do not learn because they do not listen well. They talk with each other as the teacher teaches.  When asked about their ideas on religion, they give out shallow and unclear ones. This only shows that they do not think before they talk.

In order to heal the man, Jesus took him off away from the crowd. Before he opens the ears of the deaf, he separates the man from the crowd. Some sort of “distance” is needed in order to open one’s self to God’s word. For us to be able to listen well to God’s word, we need to distance ourselves from the noises around us. We need to set apart time to listen, to search, to study the truths of the faith. We need to give God our full attention to hear what he has to say.

In the Psalms, we hear the invitation: “Come children and hear me and I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” (Ps. 34:11) In the Book of Job, it is written: “Be silent and I will teach you wisdom” (Job 33:33). Silence is necessary to give God our full attention. Our ears will not hear the Lord speak unless we keep silent. When we listen intently and understand God’s word, our mouths become capable of speaking clearly and profoundly. We always say: “Silent waters run deep.” Profundity is marked by silence. Profundity is the sign of real wisdom.

“Today, there is a need for stronger ecclesial commitment to new evangelization in order to rediscover the joy of believing and the enthusiasm for communicating the faith.” (Benedict XVI, Porta Fidei, 7.) We will regain the enthusiasm for communicating the faith when we have rediscovered the joy of believing. This rediscovery of faith can only happen when we listen intently to the Word of God. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). We cannot preach the Gospel unless we hear it first.

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

On the Birth of the Blessed Virgin

Picture by Dennis Maturan

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

The ber months are already upon us and it’s beginning to look like Christmas. I do not say this on account of our overly excited friends to play Christmas songs and put up decors at the onset of September. You might have noticed, the readings today are very Christmassy. The prophet Micah speaks of Bethlehem from which will come the Messiah-king of Israel. And of course, who will not forget the genealogy of the Lord which is always read on the 2nd day of the Simbang Gabi and also on the vigil Mass of Christmas? We might find fault with those who begin Christmas early but it seems that today’s liturgy does the same thing.

Of course we are not celebrating today the Birth of the Lord but that of his Mother. And yet, we cannot help but associate the two with each other. After all, the birth of the Mother is the sure sign of the birth of the Son. Even the collect could not help but make the connection: …the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin may bring deeper peace to those for whom the birth of her Son was the dawning of salvation! It does not surprise us that on the feast of our Lady’s birth, the readings do not refer in any way whatsoever to her birth but to that of her Son Jesus. And I think it is because the significance of the mystery we celebrate today is found in the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God. The Incarnation of God the Son is the necessary step to the Paschal Mystery for what flesh and blood could Christ sacrifice on the Cross had he not assumed human nature? Would the Immortal God be capable of dying had he not taken upon himself human flesh? And could the Incarnation take place without involving a woman who would consent to be his Mother…the Virgin who shall be with child and bear a son who shall be named Immanuel? Indeed, she who was born today is the bridal chamber from where the Bridegroom shall rise to meet his bride. She is the ark upon which the Lord shall sit as on a throne. She is God’s field in which the Holy Spirit shall drop down heavenly dew so that it may bring forth a Savior. Hers would be a womb so blessed that it will bring forth a holy fruit who is Christ the Lord.

The birth of our Lady shows God’s resoluteness in fulfilling his promise of salvation to sinful humanity. God is truly intent on saving us…thus he brings forth the virgin who will soon provide his only begotten Son with the flesh he needed for the sacrifice. The unblemished Lamb of God will come forth from his Immaculate Mother. Here is the Woman who will be in enmity with the serpent and who will crush his head. God is fulfilling his promises. He may have given his people up but only insofar as the prophecy would be fulfilled: “The Lord shall give them up, until the time when she who is to give birth has borne.” Yes, that time of redemption is at hand. The one who is to give birth is born. The Lord will not give up his people any longer. His anger has abated. His anger does not last forever. He is now ready to reconcile the world to himself. The long night of waiting is drawing to a close. The rising of the Sun of Justice is soon to come. The one from whom He will come forth is born today!

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

Dulce Nombre de Maria

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Unstained by the world

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

The raging debate on Reproductive Health has manifested division in the Church, so they say. Catholics for Reproductive Health and of course, the controversial Ateneo professors who hid their dissent under the guise of academic or intellectual freedom, all seem to reveal that not everybody in the Catholic Church listens to the Teaching Authority (Magisterium) of the Church. Media and the whole freethinking world gang up against the Catholic Bishops for what they call repression of intellectual freedom. The accusers of the Church label the bishops as intolerant of modern thought.

Thus, I really think that the Word of God today speaks appropriately about the state of confusion that seems to appear in the Church. In referring to the scribes and Pharisees as hypocrites, Jesus quotes Sacred Scriptures: “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.” Then he said, “You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.” The detractors of the Church will apply these verses to bishops and priests whom they call as the modern day scribes and Pharisees. But in reality, these detractors are the ones who teach human precepts as doctrines as they disregard God’s commandments. For did God not make it clear from the very beginning when he created man and woman: “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth…” (Gen. 1:28) and did he not repeat the same commandment to Noah (Gen. 9:1)? In the 1st reading, Moses said to the people of Israel: “In your observance of the commandments of the Lord your God…you shall not add to what I command you nor subtract from it. Observe them carefully.” What seems to be narrow mindedness to the world is actually fidelity to the commandments of the Lord. We cannot add nor subtract from the commandment of God: Be fertile and multiply. Fill the earth. The staunch stand of the Catholic Magisterium against the so-called “reproductive health” is simply the fulfillment of the Apostolic Mandate which St. James referred to in the 2nd reading: (to keep) “religion that is pure and undefiled before God.” And what is this “pure and undefiled” religion? “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” To stand up for the commandments of God, even in spite of the “strong popular support” for the contrary, is, in reality, “keeping religion pure” and “keeping oneself unstained by the world.”

Dissenters enjoy much popular support because they say what the world says. They say what everybody says. They say what everybody wants to hear. And the bishops who uphold the clear commandments of God are labeled as narrow minded and outdated. But that is to be expected. For the thoughts of God are so different from the thoughts of man: “My thoughts are not your thoughts and my ways are not your ways. For I am God and not man.” (Isaiah 55:8) Let us keep our religion pure as God is pure. Let us keep ourselves unstained by the world.

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