Sunday, June 16, 2013

Undefiled by death (Late posting of meditation on the 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

The sight will never fail to strike a sensitive chord in the human heart: a mother burying her son. It is easier to look at a son burying his mother (for is this not supposed to be: that the mother dies before her son?) The huge crowd in the funeral procession was a show of sympathy for the mother. The sight definitely touched the heart of the Lord: When the Lord saw her, he was moved with pity for her. Out of pity, the Lord touched the coffin. What he did was a no-no for anyone who touches a corpse is defiled by the corpse. In the Mosaic law, contact with a dead body renders an Israelite unclean for a week (Numbers 19:11-19).  Jesus’ touch and word reverses that; instead of being defiled by contact with death, he gave life. The Lord could not be defiled by a corpse. He is God –he is not defiled by death. He conquers death and subjects it to himself. Notice that in the 1st reading, Elijah called out to the Lord: “O Lord, my God, let the life breath return to the body of this child.” Jesus, however, commands the corpse: “Young man, I tell you, arise!” He resurrects the dead by his own authority: “The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of man, and they shall rise out of their tombs.” He is Lord of life.

Death defiles man. “The Church’s Magisterium…teaches that death entered the world on account of man’s sin. Even though man’s nature is mortal, God has destined him not to die. Death was therefore contrary to the plans of God the Creator, and entered the world as a consequence of sin.” (CCC1008) Christ allowed himself to be touched by death itself. “Jesus, the Son of God, also himself suffered the death that is part of the human condition. Yet, despite his anguish as he faced death, he accepted it in an act of complete and free submission to his Father’s will. The obedience of Jesus has transformed the curse of death into a blessing.” (CCC 1009) Though he was touched by death, Jesus was not defiled by death. His obedience, his loving and absolute submission to the Father took away the sting of death. “Through Baptism, the Christian has already died with Christ sacramentally in order to live a new life; and if we die in Christ’s grace, physical death completes this ‘dying with Christ’ and so completes our incorporation into him in this redeeming act.” (CCC1010)

Because Christ obediently accepted death on a Cross, he transformed death. Following the example of Christ, we can transform our own death into an act of obedience and love towards the Father (cf. CCC 1011) In this transformation, death does not become a sad end to existence. Rather, it becomes an entrance into life. Death no longer becomes a violent separation from those we love. Rather, it becomes a joyful reunion with the Father who loves us and calls us to himself. At her death bed, St. Therese of the Child Jesus said, “I am not dying; I am entering life!”

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

Devotion and Gratitude

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

“If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner,” so said Simon the Pharisee to himself. And so he is right…the Lord knew who and what kind of woman this was who washed his feet with ointment. After all, Jesus is more than a prophet. He is God who alone is able to read the human heart. He is so much unlike us who are only able to judge by appearance. He is able to “see in secret”. Nothing can be hidden from him. He alone understands the complexity of the human heart. Such is what the Lord capable of doing that he did not only read the heart of the weeping woman. He read the heart of the Pharisee himself. Thus, the Lord gave Simon the lesson of the debtors who were both forgiven by the creditor in order to the drive the point that the one who is forgiven of greater sins is the one who is able to love more. The devotion which the woman showed the Lord was the sign that she was indeed a sinful woman – a woman who was forgiven much that is why she is now able to love much.

Oftentimes, our acts of devotion and piety are judged as hypocritical because they give people the impression that we love to make a public display for our righteousness. Apparently, such pious acts are frowned upon as practices of people with a holier-than-thou attitude. Thus, in the fear of being judged as such, we become very calculating in the expression of our devotion. We hesitate to show piety for fear of being labeled as “banal na aso, santong kabayo.” But anyone who makes an effort to look into our acts of devotion would realize that such are not displays of self-proclaimed righteousness. Rather, these acts of devotion are actually expressions of love and gratitude on account of the mercy which the Lord has shown us sinners. Take a typical novena, for example. Let us look at the popular novena to the Sacred Heart, and what do you read? You would read words like: “I admit that I am unworthy of your favors, but this is not a reason for me to be discouraged. You are the God of mercy, and you will not refuse a contrite heart. Cast upon me a look of mercy…and your kind heart will find in my miseries and weaknesses a reason for granting my prayer.” Never have I encountered a devotional act that arrogantly demands of the Lord what is asked for on account of the devotion undertaken. Never have I heard any prayer that said: Lord, I am doing this for you and so you better give me what I want…or else! The humble petition in spite of our lack of worthy is the stuff that devotions are made of. We dare approach the Lord not because we think we are worthy (we know we never are) but because we know that He is merciful: “Sacred Heart of Jesus, I know that there is but one thing impossible to you: to be without pity for those who are suffering or in distress…” It is the confidence in the tender mercy of the Lord that encourages us to keep on returning to him. We approach him even in spite of our sinful selves. The Lord knows this. We cannot hide anything from him. He knows who we are and because of what he knows, he allows us to draw near to him to touch him. He knows that we need him. He knows that we need his mercy very badly.   

Thus, it is not those who show devotion who are hypocrites but the worldly who accuse them project their hypocrisy to pious people. I say that they project their hypocrisy on the devout because they see themselves as having no need of the Lord’s mercy: I can do it on my own…I don’t need Divine help, thank you very much. This self-reliance is the new hypocrisy. It is the new pride. It is the new idolatry for it dares to extol the self in the place of God. It dares to substitute the reliance on Divine Mercy with self-reliance. It is lacking in authentic love for it dares not love anyone else but the self. But as for ourselves, let us continue to show devotion and piety, even in spite of what we are accused of. Let us make the words of the Psalmist our own: “For in sacrifice you take no delight, burnt offering from me you would refuse, my sacrifice, a contrite spirit. A humbled contrite heart, O God, you will not spurn.”

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

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Heart that Searches for the Lost

Praised be Jesus, Mary and Joseph!

One of the main themes of the Year of Faith is that of the New Evangelization. The New Evangelization is about preaching the Gospel to the people of the new millennium…most particularly to Christians who have abandoned their faith due to secularism. Many people have the false impression that the New Evangelization is all about new methods and new gadgets. How do we modernize our preaching? Should we use the power point for our homilies? Should we make use of the social networking sites? What gadgets should we use? Pope Francis opens for us a new perspective of the New Evangelization. In the Chrism Mass 2013, he admonished priests: “We need to ‘go out’, then, in order to experience our own anointing, its power and its redemptive efficacy: to the ‘outskirts’ where there is suffering, bloodshed, blindness that longs for sight, and prisoners in thrall to many evil masters.” “…grace, (which) comes alive and flourishes to the extent that we, in faith, go out and give ourselves and the Gospel to others, giving what little ointment we have to those who have nothing, nothing at all.” The Pope constantly reminds us that the Church must not wait for people to come to her. Rather, the Church should go out to search for and meet people. Before speaking of new gadgets and methods, we must bring the gospel to people by meeting and knowing the people we serve personally. This is a more effective way of evangelizing. This is the way that the Lord Jesus shows us in today’s feast of his Sacred Heart. Today, the Lord shows us that his Sacred Heart is the heart of the Good Shepherd. His Heart is a Shepherd’s Heart that does not only make sure that his sheep graze in good pasture or drink from flowing waters. His Heart is one that searches for the lost. He does not let up in searching until he finds that one that got away and carries it in his arms and places it back within the fold. Frustrated with the negligence of the shepherds of Israel, the Lord declares: I will do it myself. I myself will look after and tend my sheep…I will rescue them from every place where they are scattered when it was cloudy and dark. I will bring them back to their own country. The Heart of Christ is open to accept all people. So must also be the heart of the Church. The Church must open her arms to all people. She must go in search for the lost and welcome those who she finds. In fact, Pope Francis criticizes certain pastoral customs that have made the Church look unwelcoming. He puts as an example certain churches that do not admit to baptism the children born out of wedlock. Why deny children the salvation that Baptism accords simply because their parents are not married. Or consider some parish secretaries who, at first meeting with applicants for weddings, immediately discuss fees and requirements. The Pope asks: should we not first express joy that the couple is coming to Church to get married?  

The Heart of Jesus is an open heart. He searches for the lost and he welcomes those he finds. Our work is to go to the highways and byways of the world in search for the lost. Our work is to search and to bring them back to the fold. It will be the Holy Spirit’s work to bring about the conversion of those we find. Let us not limit the church to the number of the pious and devout. The Church is also for sinners and especially for sinners. It is not for us to look down at people and say: his kind is not for this place. When Christ mounted the wood of the Cross, he stretched out his arms to embrace all men. “Everything given to me by my Father will come to me and no one who comes to me will I ever reject.” Let us open our arms and our hearts as Christ opened his arms and heart.

The HEART OF JESUS is an open heart. Spend your time there...It is not an ordinary school...It is a school of Jesus where you come to learn. What have we to learn? To be meek and humble; if we are meek and humble we will learn to pray. If we learn to pray we will belong to Jesus. If we belong to Jesus we will learn to believe and if we believe we will learn to love and if we love we will learn to serve." - Bl. Mo. Teresa

Sacred Heart of Jesus, may your kingdom come!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A Memorable Corpus Christi Procession

The Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite celebrating the external solemnity of Corpus Christi
We walked in procession in the midst of the poorer sections of the parish
The Lord is passing by!
The rain poured heavily in the middle of the procession
Everybody was wet (including the priest)...everybody except the Lord.
They all knelt on the wet pavement
Such a wonderful manifestation of Faith
The children sang the praises of the Lord!
In the middle of the procession, the rain poured heavily. No one scampered for shelter. Everybody continued to walk and sing to the Blessed Sacrament. Imagine the choir singing the Te Deum in the rain! The only concern for everyone was to keep the Blessed Sacrament dry. At Benediction, everybody knelt on the wet pavement. Everyone was wet...including the priest...everyone except the Lord. It was truly a manifestation of great faith...indeed, a procession befitting the YEAR OF FAITH! (Thanks Ron Yu for the Photos and songs)

The Priesthood and Corpus Christi

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

To the disciples who suggested to our Lord that he should dismiss the crowd so that they could buy their provisions, the Lord said, “You yourselves give them to eat.” At that time, the disciples thought that the Lord was requiring them to feed the crowd from their own pockets. And so they protested that they have only so few provisions that they would not be able to fulfill their task. It would be at the last supper on Holy Thursday evening that they would begin to understand the task that they were ordained for. At the last supper, the Lord Jesus took bread and wine and consecrated these as his body and blood. And then, on that same night, the Lord will ordain these apostles as priests of the new covenant. The ordination took place when the Lord mandated these men to “do this in memory of me.” Both the Eucharist and Holy Orders were established on the same day (Holy Thursday) because they cannot be separated from each other. Without a priest, the Eucharist cannot take place because only an ordained ministry can consecrate the Body and Blood of the Lord. On the other hand, the Eucharist is the reason for the priest’s identity. The priest is a priest because he is the one who offers the sacrifice of the Mass.

Thus, when the Lord told his disciples: “You yourselves give them to eat,” he was referring to the Eucharist. His disciples, ordained priests on the night when the Lord was betrayed, are to imitate the Lord who on that same night took bread and wine, blessed them and said, “Take this all of you and eat of it, this is my body…drink from it, this is the chalice of my blood.” The food that the priests are to give  is not their own but the flesh of Christ. The drink that the priests are to give is not their own but the blood of Christ. The priests of the New Testament offer food and drink that is better than anyone can offer. All food and drink can satisfy bodily hunger and thirst and cannot do more than just sustain bodily life. None of them can keep a person from dying. (Last week, I had the wonderful privilege of offering a funeral Mass for a woman who died at the age of 101 years. I was so amazed at her age that I asked her children: What did she do to live this long? They answered: Oh Father, she lived on a simple diet of vegetables and fish. However, even with a very balanced and nutritious diet, death kept up with her at 101 years. She had to die sometime. None of them can keep her from dying.) The Eucharist, Christ’s flesh and blood, alone brings to us the assurance of the resurrection from the dead and life everlasting. While all else perish, this alone is the food that lasts unto everlasting life. And so, let us take advantage of the opportunities to worthily receive Holy Communion. If only we realize who is it that we receive in the Eucharist, we will not hesitate to say, “Lord, give us this food.” The one we receive is He who said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” He is the one who said, “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” He is the one who said, “I am the living Bread come down from heaven. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood will have eternal life. And I will raise him up on the last day.”

O Sacrament most holy, O Sacrament Divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment thine.