Sunday, December 9, 2012

Preaching in the Desert

PRAISED BE Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

St. John the Baptist is known to us as the voice crying out in the desert because it was in the desert that he preached “Prepare the way of the Lord.” Somehow, the desert seems to be a strange venue for preaching. After, there is virtually no one living in the desert because its circumstances make it inhabitable. The desert is the place of death. Perhaps this is the reason why John preached in the desert. Being the place of death, the desert has become the image of the world of man after the fall. “Through the disobedience of one man, sin entered into the world and together with sin entered death.” Man used to live in paradise because he used to live in communion with God. But turning away from God in whom is found life, man found death. Paradise became a desert.

The Holy Father speaks of a similar situation in our times: “Recent decades have seen the advance of a spiritual ‘desertification’. In the (Vatican II) Council’s time it was already possible from a few tragic pages of history to know what a life or a world without God looked like, but now we see it every day around us. This void has spread.” (Benedict XVI, Homily at the beginning of the year of Faith, 11 October 2012) (This week, the congress rejected the amendment that would require the government to respect religious belief. Is this not a manifestation of the advance of a spiritual “desertification”?) The world we are living in is increasingly becoming a world without God. And the Church must lead people out of this desert.

The Holy Father speaks of people of faith in the middle of the desert: “And in the desert people of faith are needed who, with their own lives, point out the way to the Promised Land and keep hope alive. Living faith opens the heart to the grace of God which frees us from pessimism. Today, more than ever, evangelizing means witnessing to the new life, transformed by God, and thus showing the path.” John the Baptist is an example of the people of faith we need to see in the desert. He provides the way out of the desert by “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” John the Baptist tells us that we must accept the Savior who comes into our desert. He tells us to take away all hindrances that prevent the Lord from entering into our world: the valleys of our negligence and the mountains of our excesses. We must make up for the good have failed to do and repent for the evil that we have done. Let us “discern what is of value”: “In the desert we rediscover the value of what is essential for living; thus in today’s world there are innumerable signs, often expressed implicitly or negatively, of the thirst for God, for the ultimate meaning of life.” (Homily at the beginning of the Year of faith)  Let us thirst for God, let us thirst for the ultimate meaning of life. In this thirst for the true living water, let us make straight all winding roads and make smooth all rough ways “and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

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

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Immaculate Conception and the Emnity with the Serpent

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

In the recent debates on the RH Bill, Congressman Edcel Lagman refused to look into the beginnings of life: “This House has no competence to tell when life begins,” he said. While scientists still debate on the question, the Church has a very simple answer: at conception. Life begins at conception. The mystery which we celebrate today tells us so: the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We believe that God infused an immaculate human soul into the fertilized ovum in the womb of St. Anne. (On account of the fact that the human soul is infused into the fertilized ovum, it is already a human person.) Mary has never been touched by sin in any way nor in any point in time. She has always been ‘full of grace’. The Lord has always been with her. The Holy Spirit has been dwelling in her soul since the first instance of her conception. (the mere fact that we speak of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in Mary at the first instance of her conception already tells us of the existence of the human soul at the early point of her existence. For if it were not so, where would the Holy Spirit dwell in her?) The greatness of Mary has been hers even from the beginning of her life.

The book of Genesis speaks of a perpetual enmity between the serpent and the Woman, between his seed and her seed. The spiritual battle wages on until today and all of us are in it. We have to take sides, there is no neutral ground. Either you are on the side of the Woman or on the side of the serpent. Either you are her seed or the serpent’s own. In this battle between good and evil, God has entrusted his cause to the Woman who was conceived without sin. It is to her that God has given to crush the serpent under her feet. But why? Why did the Lord entrust this spiritual battle to the Woman? Why to a creature so small and humble? Why to someone who seems utterly powerless before the rebellious serpent? Why to the Immaculate Conception? Imagine, the Immaculate Conception refers to Mary at the most vulnerable and most defenseless point in her life. (The human being is most vulnerable and most defenseless at the moment of conception. Why is it so? Well, a morning after pill is enough to expel a fertilized ovum from the womb ) Why did God make this Immaculate Fertilized Ovum the general of His army? The answer is found in the epistle of St. Paul: “And he said to me: ‘My grace is sufficient for thee’; for power is made perfect in infirmity. Gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) Our Lady’s humility is so much the reverse of the pride of the serpent. While he declared “I will not serve,” Our Lady said, “Be it done unto me according to your word.” While the serpent, in his arrogance, deemed himself equal to God, our Lady called herself “the handmaid of the Lord.” In the Immaculate Conception, the Lord reveals to us the sufficiency of his grace.

And so, while the enemies of God bask in their self-proclaimed glory, while the enemies of the Church gloat over their money (63 million dollars) and political power, we kneel before the Immaculate Conception and entrust to her our humble cause. All seems lost in our struggle against the culture of death but we continue to have confidence in the Immaculata. To her hands God entrusted the spiritual battle. To her feet God gave the power to crush the serpent’s head. “Who is she that comes forth like the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in battle array?” (Song 6:10)

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

Friday, December 7, 2012

On the First Sunday of Advent

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

Today is the new year of the Church – the start of a new liturgical year. Holy Mother Church has a very peculiar way of celebrating her new year. While most cultures would spend the New Year in thinking of new beginnings, the Church spends it by meditating on the end. Recalling the words of the Lord about frightening signs in the heavens and in the seas, the Church anticipates that point in time to which all history leads. The New Year of the Church brings us a year closer to that end of all times. It will inevitably come and no one can escape it: “For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth.” (There is even a rumor that this will happen on December 21 this year.) The end is near. It will really happen.
But the Church does not meditate on such things in order to engage in some scare tactics. The perplexity of nations comes from what they do not know. “People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of heaven will be shaken.” They do not know why these things take place. They could not make sense of all these.

But we are not perplexed because we know what will happen. We are told by the Lord: “When these things begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads.” Why? It is because “they shall see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” And His coming will the time of our redemption: “Your redemption is at hand.” It will be the time when our Lord will fulfill all his promises to those who strive to be faithful to him: “The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah.”

The definitiveness of the Lord’s return becomes the occasion for the Church to remind us to “be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.” The Catechism reminds us: “Before Christ's second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the ‘mystery of iniquity’ in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh.” (CCC, 675) “The Church will enter the glory of the kingdom only through this final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection. The kingdom will be fulfilled, then, not by a historic triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendancy, but only by God's victory over the final unleashing of evil, which will cause his Bride to come down from heaven. God's triumph over the revolt of evil will take the form of the Last Judgment after the final cosmic upheaval of this passing world.” (CCC, 677)

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