Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Holy Family: Custodian of the Incarnation

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

Jesus became man in order to destroy the works of the devil. That the demons know this is shown by the fact that during exorcisms, they would greet Jesus with the words: “Have you come to destroy us? We know who you are – you are the Holy One of God.” Thus, early on in the Lord’s life on earth, the Evil one made attempts on the life of the Holy Child. This he did through King Herod: “Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.” Herod, whose legitimacy as king is questionable because he was not a descendant of David, felt that the birth of this new-born King threatened the stability of his reign. The Light has come into the world and invites all to step into his radiance…but Herod chose to remain in the dark. The darkness of his mind was revealed when he commanded the massacre of all babies in Bethlehem and its environs. The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it…no matter what it does.

The darkness tried to overcome the Light but just before it could happen, an angel of the Lord commanded St. Joseph to rise and take the child and his mother to Egypt. God, who rules the world with a mighty hand, humbled himself by submitting himself to the protection of St. Joseph. He, who delivered the people of Israel from the slavery of Egypt on the night of the Exodus, was delivered from the hands of Herod and brought to Egypt in the middle of the night. Plagues did not come. The Red Sea did not part.  Their only protection was the thick shadow of the night. Their only means of transport was a donkey. Hastily brought by St. Joseph and the Virgin, God was running for his life. The Son of God was born into a humble family to be protected by it.

Through His humble submission, Jesus our Lord shows us that the Divine Life in us is protected by the Christian family. “Whoever honors his father atones for sins and preserves himself from them. When he prays, he is heard; he stores up riches who reveres his mother.” In so far as the family maintains its Christian identity and lives up to its calling to be salt and light of the world, the Divine life which Baptism imparted to its members will always be secured. When heart-felt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and mercy are practiced in a family…when love which is the bond of perfection is lived in a family, the Divine life will always be secured. 

And by remaining in the Divine Life, the family experiences joy. Pope Francis said: “Dear families, you know very well that the true joy which we experience in the family is not superficial; it does not come from material objects, from the fact that everything seems to be going well...  True joy comes from a profound harmony between persons, something which we all feel in our hearts and which makes us experience the beauty of togetherness, of mutual support along life’s journey.  But the basis of this feeling of deep joy is the presence of God, the presence of God in the family and his love, which is welcoming, merciful, and respectful towards all.  And above all, a love which is patient: patience is a virtue of God and he teaches us how to cultivate it in family life, how to be patient, and lovingly so, with each other. To be patient among ourselves. A patient love.  God alone knows how to create harmony from differences.  But if God’s love is lacking, the family loses its harmony, self-centeredness prevails and joy fades.  But the family which experiences the joy of faith communicates it naturally.  Ibid. That family is the salt of the earth and the light of the world, it is the leaven of society as a whole.” (September 27, 2013)

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

Christmas Mass at Day 2013: Encounter with the Word Incarnate


In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God…and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. With the shepherds, our eyes behold a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. This baby is the Word of God who was made flesh. We look at the baby and we realize that through him, God is engaging in a conversation with us. “In times past, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets…now, he speaks to us through his Son.” He speaks to us through his Son. “Christ is the ‘eternal Gospel’ (Rev 14:6); he ‘is the same yesterday and today and forever’ (Heb 13:8), yet his riches and beauty are inexhaustible. He is forever young and a constant source of newness. The Church never fails to be amazed at ‘the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God’ (Rom 11:33).” (Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 11.) We look at the baby Jesus and in him is found that depth of Divine riches, wisdom and knowledge. Year after year, we celebrate Christmas. Year after year, we look at the baby in the manger and yet, we are always amazed at what we see. There is always something new to discover about him. His riches and beauty are inexhaustible. He is forever young. Forever he is a source of newness.

At Christmas, as always, we encounter Jesus made flesh in the Eucharist. But we also encounter him made flesh in his word. Jesus is the Word of the Father. He engages us in a unique and personal conversation…a transformative conversation. In Jesus his Son, he tells us that he loves us. In the Baby Jesus, he begs to be loved by us. This conversation of love is an invitation to communion with him – for isn’t every conversation meant to promote understanding, acceptance, and communion? And we must be willing to be surprised at what the Word is able to do in our lives. The Word that comes from the Father’s mouth is so powerful. This is the Word through whom all things were made. In this Word, all things continue to exist. “God’s word is unpredictable in its power. The Gospel speaks of a seed which, once sown, grows by itself, even as the farmer sleeps (Mk 4:26-29). The Church has to accept this unruly freedom of the word, which accomplishes what it wills in ways that surpass our calculations and ways of thinking.” (EG, 22.) But wherever the Word takes us…it will definitely take us out of our loneliness, fears, and sin. He will definitely bring us joy. “In Christ, joy is born anew.”

The Word does not only bring us to communion. Our communion with him transforms us into missionaries. “The Church’s closeness to Jesus is part of a common journey; ‘communion and mission are profoundly interconnected’. In fidelity to the example of the Master, it is vitally important for the Church today to go forth and preach the Gospel to all: to all places, on all occasions, without hesitation, reluctance or fear. The joy of the Gospel is for all people: no one can be excluded. That is what the angel proclaimed to the shepherds in Bethlehem: ‘Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people’ (Lk 2:10). The Book of Revelation speaks of ‘an eternal Gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tongue and tribe and people (Rev 14:6).’ [EG, 23.] Therefore, like the shepherds who proclaimed to all what they have heard and seen, let us go forth and proclaim Christ, the Eternal Gospel. Go tell it on the mountain, over the hill and everywhere. Go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born. “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet  of him who brings glad tidings, announcing peace, bearing good news, announcing salvation, saying to Zion: “Your God is King.”

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

Midnight Mass 2013: The Christmas of Essentials

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

“Do not be afraid! Behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the city of David, a savior has been born to you who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” The words of the angel tonight tell us of a Christmas that seems to be so far from what we know of it today. Indeed we all acknowledge the fact that this night is a night of great joy. But for many people, joy would mean merrymaking: food, wine, shopping and revelry. We all come here to church in our best look: new clothes, and even shoes. There is great expectation for gifts and of course, lots of love…love as in hugs and kisses.

But the good news of great joy is not about food, gifts and good company. It is about the birth of a savior, who is both Christ and Lord. The angel does not invite us to attend a grand Christmas ball. He tells us to go to the City of David, not to search for some celebrity wrapped in finery but for a new-born baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Christmas is not about glitter and tinsel. Rather it is about the darkness of the night made radiant by choirs of angels praising God as they sang: Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests! Christmas is not about parades. It is about a procession of shepherds to Bethlehem to see for themselves whatever the angel told them. And it would all be in accord with what they were told: a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. They would behold him: Savior, Christ, Lord, Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace. They would behold him not wrapped in finery but in swaddling clothes, not in comfort but in a manger.

Padre Pio said: "The heavenly Babe suffers and cries in the crib so that for us suffering would be sweet, meritorious and accepted. He deprives himself of everything, in order that we may learn from him the renunciation of worldly goods and comforts. He is satisfied with humble and poor adorers, to encourage us to love poverty, and to prefer the company of the little and simple rather than the great ones of the world."
Christ made himself poor to be close to the poor. Pope Francis wrote: “ God’s heart has a special place for the poor, so much so that he himself “became poor” (2 Cor 8:9). The entire history of our redemption is marked by the presence of the poor. Salvation came to us from the “yes” uttered by a lowly maiden from a small town on the fringes of a great empire. The Saviour was born in a manger, in the midst of animals, like children of poor families; he was presented at the Temple along with two turtledoves, the offering made by those who could not afford a lamb (cf. Lk 2:24; Lev 5:7); he was raised in a home of ordinary workers and worked with his own hands to earn his bread. When he began to preach the Kingdom, crowds of the dispossessed followed him, illustrating his words: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor” (Lk 4:18). He assured those burdened by sorrow and crushed by poverty that God has a special place for them in his heart: “Blessed are you poor, yours is the kingdom of God” (Lk 6:20); he made himself one of them: “I was hungry and you gave me food to eat”, and he taught them that mercy towards all of these is the key to heaven (cf. Mt25:5ff.).” (Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 197.)

“God shows the poor “his first mercy”. This divine preference has consequences for the faith life of all Christians, since we are called to have “this mind… which was in Jesus Christ” (Phil 2:5). Inspired by this, the Church has made an option for the poor which is understood as a “special form of primacy in the exercise of Christian charity, to which the whole tradition of the Church bears witness”. This option – as Benedict XVI has taught – “is implicit in our Christian faith in a God who became poor for us, so as to enrich us with his poverty”. This is why I want a Church which is poor and for the poor. They have much to teach us. Not only do they share in the sensus fidei, but in their difficulties they know the suffering Christ. We need to let ourselves be evangelized by them. The new evangelization is an invitation to acknowledge the saving power at work in their lives and to put them at the centre of the Church’s pilgrim way. We are called to find Christ in them, to lend our voice to their causes, but also to be their friends, to listen to them, to speak for them and to embrace the mysterious wisdom which God wishes to share with us through them.” (EG, 198.)

The Pope does not speak only of activities or programmes of promotion and assistance. Above these, he is speaking of loving attentiveness to the poor. “This loving attentiveness is the beginning of a true concern for their person which inspires me effectively to seek their good. This entails appreciating the poor in their goodness, in their experience of life, in their culture, and in their ways of living the faith. True love is always contemplative, and permits us to serve the other not out of necessity or vanity, but rather because he or she is beautiful above and beyond mere appearances: ‘The love by which we find the other pleasing leads us to offer him something freely’. The poor person, when loved, ‘is esteemed as of great value’, and this is what makes the authentic option for the poor differ from any other ideology, from any attempt to exploit the poor for one’s own personal or political interest. Only on the basis of this real and sincere closeness can we properly accompany the poor on their path of liberation. Only this will ensure that ‘in every Christian community the poor feel at home. Would not this approach be the greatest and most effective presentation of the good news of the kingdom?’ Without the preferential option for the poor, ‘the proclamation of the Gospel, which is itself the prime form of charity, risks being misunderstood or submerged by the ocean of words which daily engulfs us in today’s society of mass communications’. (EG 199)

The Lord Jesus said: I will be with you until the end of times. He also said: The poor you will always have with you. Both are connected: Jesus will always be with us…not just through his abiding presence in the Blessed Sacrament, but also in and through the poor. And so if we are attentive to the poor, we become attentive to Jesus. Let this be our gift to Jesus: a Christmas closer to his Christmas…a Christmas of essentials, a Christmas of sharing, a Christmas for the poor. May our parish be a place where the poor feel at home for it is only in being so that we can truly and effectively proclaim the gospel of the Kingdom.

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

Misa de Aguinaldo December 24, 2013: Stepping into the Light at the Break of Dawn

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

Christ the Light
Advent began with a reminder by St. Paul: “The night is far spent, the day draws near.” Today, it ends with the song of Zechariah: “In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.” The words of Zechariah tell us of the impending coming of the day. Yes, we find ourselves still in the middle of the dark because the Kingdom of God has not yet fully manifested itself and the darkness and loneliness of the world still prevail, injustices still occur, hunger still is widespread. However, the day draws near. The dawn from on high breaks upon us. The Light has come.

The breaking of dawn invites us to step into the light. Christ invites us to follow him who is the Light of the world. No one who follows me will walk in darkness. How to we bring ourselves to step into the light. First, it begins by casting away deeds of darkness. It means conversion. It means abandoning our works of selfishness, pride and hatred in order to embrace the love of the Lord. Living in the light means loving God and our neighbors. Pope Francis wrote: “Loving others is a spiritual force drawing us to union with God; indeed, one who does not love others ‘walks in the darkness’ (1 Jn 2:11), ‘remains in death’ (1 Jn 3:14) and ‘does not know God (1 Jn 4:8). Benedict XVI has said that ‘closing our eyes to our neighbour also blinds us to God’, and that love is, in the end, the only light which ‘can always illuminate a world grown dim and give us the courage needed to keep living and working. When we live out a spirituality of drawing nearer to others and seeking their welfare, our hearts are opened wide to the Lord’s greatest and most beautiful gifts. Whenever we encounter another person in love, we learn something new about God. Whenever our eyes are opened to acknowledge the other, we grow in the light of faith and knowledge of God. If we want to advance in the spiritual life, then, we must constantly be missionaries. The work of evangelization enriches the mind and the heart; it opens up spiritual horizons; it makes us more and more sensitive to the workings of the Holy Spirit, and it takes us beyond our limited spiritual constructs. A committed missionary knows the joy of being a spring which spills over and refreshes others. Only the person who feels happiness in seeking the good of others, in desiring their happiness, can be a missionary. This openness of the heart is a source of joy, since ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive’ (Acts 20:35). We do not live better when we flee, hide, refuse to share, stop giving and lock ourselves up in own comforts. Such a life is nothing less than slow suicide. [Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 272.]

One who follows Jesus embraces the light. Remember that we are children of light and of the day. This is a brand that baptism has sealed us with. “My mission of being in the heart of the people is not just a part of my life or a badge I can take off; it is not an ‘extra’ or just another moment in life. Instead, it is something I cannot uproot from my being without destroying my very self. I am a mission on this earth; that is the reason why I am here in this world. We have to regard ourselves as sealed, even branded, by this mission of bringing light, blessing, enlivening, raising up, healing and freeing. All around us we begin to see nurses with soul, teachers with soul, politicians with soul, people who have chosen deep down to be with others and for others. But once we separate our work from our private lives, everything turns grey and we will always be seeking recognition or asserting our needs. We stop being a people.” [EG, 273.]

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

Misa de Aguinaldo December 23, 2013: Your Sons and Daughters Will Prophesy

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

St. John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Lord, is born and at his circumcision, the tongue of his father Zechariah was loosened when he insisted that the name John was to be given to the child. Remember that Zechariah was made dumb at the apparition of the angel and his ability to speak will only return when all that was told him would come to pass. And true to the angel’s word, his speech was restored. Zechariah’s silence before the birth of John portrayed the silence of God because for many years, no prophet was sent to Israel. John’s birth broke the silence not only of Zechariah but of God as well. God once again sends a prophet and after the prophet, his Son. First, the voice and then followed the Word.

But it is not only John who will prophesy. Zechariah will prophesy as well. Here we see the signs of the day of the Lord: “In the last days, God says,  I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions,  your old men will dream dreams.” Acts 2:17. To prophesy is not to predict the future. To prophesy is to speak in the name of the Lord. And the Spirit poured out on all people on the day of the Lord will make of us visionaries, dreamers, and prophets.
Pope Francis wrote: “In all the baptized, from first to last, the sanctifying power of the Spirit is at work, impelling us to evangelization.” [Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 119.] “In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples (cf. Mt 28:19). All the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization, and it would be insufficient to envisage a plan of evangelization to be carried out by professionals while the rest of the faithful would simply be passive recipients. The new evangelization calls for personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized. Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization; indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love. Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus: we no longer say that we are ‘disciples’ and ‘missionaries’, but rather that we are always ‘missionary disciples’.” [EG, 120.]

“…each of us should find ways to communicate Jesus wherever we are. All of us are called to offer others an explicit witness to the saving love of the Lord, who despite our imperfections offers us his closeness, his word and his strength, and gives meaning to our lives. In your heart you know that it is not the same to live without him; what you have come to realize, what has helped you to live and given you hope, is what you also need to communicate to others. Our falling short of perfection should be no excuse; on the contrary, mission is a constant stimulus not to remain mired in mediocrity but to continue growing. The witness of faith that each Christian is called to offer leads us to say with Saint Paul: “Not that I have already obtained this, or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own” (Phil 3:12-13).” [EG, 121.]

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

Misa de Aguinaldo December 22, 2013: The Song of Mary, Queen of Prophets

All generations will call me blessed.
Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

The Holy Spirit filled John the Baptist and sanctified him in his mothers’ womb. The Holy Spirit filled Elizabeth and made her recognize the blessedness of Mary. Rejoicing in the same Holy Spirit, Mary sang a prophetic song about the consequences of the favor that the Lord has shown her. First, Mary acknowledged that what God has done to her will change her life forever: All generations will call me blessed for the Almighty has done great things for me and holy is his name.

Mary recognized the fact that the wonders that God has done for her will change not only her life but the direction of the history of the world. The Incarnation of God the Son in her womb was the decisive intervention of God into the affairs of the world. By the mystery of the Incarnation, God resolutely acted to save man who cannot save himself. Christ, the new Adam, will inaugurate a new creation that will restore whatever sin has destroyed. Christ will challenge the order of things in the world whose sense of values was upset by sin. Sin has created a world order wherein the proudly conceited, the powerful kings, and the constantly satisfied rich are always on top and they get to have their way at all times. Sometimes, they demand that courtesy be accorded to them on account of what they have. But Christ confronts this order and reveals to us that God is always at the side of the lowly, the humble, the hungry and the down trodden. When God magnified the Virgin Mary, he magnified all those who are like her: the humble, the poor, the down trodden. When God blessed Mary, he blessed all those who are like her. Thus, Christ would later on say: Blessed are the poor in spirit…The Lord Jesus in the womb of Mary will inaugurate a new order of things where the proud are scattered, the kings are cast down from their thrones, and the rich are sent away empty. In the new order of things, the lowly are exalted and the hungry are filled with good things. This new order is the order in the Kingdom of God that Christ establishes in the Church.

However, as we see it now, Mary’s prophecy is far from reality. Pope Francis speaks of the imbalance in the gap between the poor majority and the earning minority. This is caused by the prevalent idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy that has no real concern for human beings. As is constantly taught by the world, the thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. And so, anything that stands in the way of increased profits is devoured. [Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 55-56.]

The constant witness of the Church is the humble path towards the spread of the order of the Kingdom of God. The Pope said: “Money must serve, not rule! The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor. I exhort you to generous solidarity and to the return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favours human beings.” [EG, 58.] Like the Pope, we should never tire of giving witness to the teachings of Christ. The Kingdom of God is slowly built by constant witnessing. May we keep following the Lord along the road of humility, service, and solidarity with the poor.

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

Misa de Aguinaldo December 21, 2013: A Visit Turned into an Encounter with God

Praised Be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

An Ordinary Visit, A Divine Encounter
Having heard from the angel that her cousin Elizabeth was with child in spite of her old age, Mary set out in haste to the house of Zechariah in order to visit her. The encounter seemed like an ordinary visit of one woman to a relative. But something else took place: the Holy Spirit filled Elizabeth and sanctified the six month old John the Baptist in her womb. The baby John leapt for joy in his mother’s womb while Elizabeth recognized the blessedness of Mary. This encounter became an occasion of joy because at that moment, Elizabeth and John the Baptist encountered Jesus who was then in Mary’s womb.

An ordinary visit that turned into an encounter with the Lord – this is what the visitation turned out to be. And this becomes for us a paradigm for the new evangelization. Pope Francis wrote: “Today, as the Church seeks to experience a profound missionary renewal, there is a kind of preaching which falls to each of us as a daily responsibility. It has to do with bringing the Gospel to the people we meet, whether they be our neighbours or complete strangers. This is the informal preaching which takes place in the middle of a conversation, something along the lines of what a missionary does when visiting a home. Being a disciple means being constantly ready to bring the love of Jesus to others, and this can happen unexpectedly and in any place: on the street, in a city square, during work, on a journey.

“In this preaching, which is always respectful and gentle, the first step is personal dialogue, when the other person speaks and shares his or her joys, hopes and concerns for loved ones, or so many other heartfelt needs. Only afterwards is it possible to bring up God’s word, perhaps by reading a Bible verse or relating a story, but always keeping in mind the fundamental message: the personal love of God who became man, who gave himself up for us, who is living and who offers us his salvation and his friendship. This message has to be shared humbly as a testimony on the part of one who is always willing to learn, in the awareness that the message is so rich and so deep that it always exceeds our grasp. At times the message can be presented directly, at times by way of a personal witness or gesture, or in a way which the Holy Spirit may suggest in that particular situation. If it seems prudent and if the circumstances are right, this fraternal and missionary encounter could end with a brief prayer related to the concerns which the person may have expressed. In this way they will have an experience of being listened to and understood; they will know that their particular situation has been placed before God, and that God’s word really speaks to their lives.” (Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 127 -128.)

We fail to recognize the effectiveness of this person to person approach because our paradigms for evangelization are narrowed to the formal catechism classes, seminars, and homilies. We think that formal classes are the only effective ways of preaching the gospel. While we cannot deny the importance of dogma and theology, we must also accept that fact that the Holy Spirit enlivens our faith through dialogues of life experiences. Only a few have the charism of teaching, all of us are capable of conversations and visitations. The Holy Spirit moves in our lives and sharing with one another how He touches us is a moment of witness and evangelization. We are all disciples and being a disciple means being constantly ready to bring the love of Jesus to others. May we be bearers of glad tidings as Mary was to Elizabeth and John.

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

Misa de Aguinaldo December 20, 2013: The Encounter of the Two Submissions

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

Behold, the Handmaid of the Lord
The fullness of time has come. At last, God sends his Son, born of a woman. The gospel records this joyful moment. The angel Gabriel was sent to the Virgin Mary whom he greeted with the words: “Rejoice, full of grace.” Mary has every reason to rejoice because through the angel, the Lord comes knocking at the door of her heart. The words of the angel to her are a Divine invitation to open her heart to accept God’s Son into her womb. Remember what the Fathers of old said: Before Mary conceived Christ in her womb, she conceived him in her heart. Mary had to accept the Divine Proposal first before the Incarnation could take place. Her free consent, her loving obedience of faith, was necessary for the Holy Spirit to fructify her womb. The Son of God lovingly submitted to his Father’s will: Behold, I come to do your will. Mary also had to lovingly submit to the same will: Behold, the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done to me according to your word.

Two humble submissions bring about the most decisive encounter between God and man. God the Son lowered himself. The Virgin met him in this abasement. Lowering himself, the Son became man’s salvation. Humbling herself, the Virgin became God’s mother. God the Son emptied himself and shared our humanity’s poverty. In that abasement, Mary encountered Christ and welcomed him into her life through her own humility…she called herself “handmaid of the Lord.” And where man encounters God, there is joy. Pope Francis wrote: The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew.” (Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 1.)

Here is the proclamation of the Gospel: “Christ is the ‘eternal Gospel’ (Rev 14:6); he ‘is the same yesterday and today and forever’ (Heb 13:8), yet his riches and beauty are inexhaustible. He is for ever young and a constant source of newness. The Church never fails to be amazed at ‘the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God’ (Rom 11:33)… Saint Irenaeus writes: ‘By his coming, Christ brought with him all newness’. ”(EG, 11.) At the Annunciation, we clearly see the Divine initiative. It is God who comes down to man. It is he who announces to us the Good News. “Jesus is ‘the first and greatest evangelizer’. In every activity of evangelization, the primacy always belongs to God, who has called us to cooperate with him and who leads us on by the power of his Spirit. The real newness is the newness which God himself mysteriously brings about and inspires, provokes, guides and accompanies in a thousand ways. The life of the Church should always reveal clearly that God takes the initiative, that ‘he has loved us first’ (1 Jn 4:19) and that he alone ‘gives the growth’ (1 Cor 3:7). This conviction enables us to maintain a spirit of joy in the midst of a task so demanding and challenging that it engages our entire life. God asks everything of us, yet at the same time he offers everything to us.” (EG, 12.)

God asked everything of Mary, yet at the same time he offered everything to her. In like manner, the Lord asks of us our total submission. He asks everything of us. But this is nothing as compared to what he offers us. In return for our offering, he gives us all of himself. He gives us himself, so that his joy may be ours and our joy may be complete.

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

Misa de Aguinaldo December 19, 2013: John the Baptist's Ministry of Reconciliation

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

St. John the Baptist was the one foretold by the Prophet Isaiah as the voice crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord. His mission was made clear by the angel who announced his birth to Zechariah his father: “he will bring many of the children of Israel back to the Lord their God. He will go before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of fathers to their sons, and to bring back to the righteous way those who go astray. In this way, he will prepare a people worthy of the Lord.”
The ministry of St. John the Baptist is clearly a ministry of reconciliation. He calls for the conversion of people. He preaches a baptism of repentance. “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” In the new evangelization, the Church must take up this task of St. John the Baptist. Pope Francis wrote: “all of us are asked to obey his call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the “peripheries” in need of the light of the Gospel.” (Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 20.)

The message that the Church bears is no different from that of St. John the Baptist – it is always a call, an invitation to all people to go to Jesus. Pope Francis said: “I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since ‘no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord’. The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms. Now is the time to say to Jesus: ‘Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you. I need you. Save me once again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace’. How good it feels to come back to him whenever we are lost! Let me say this once more: God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy. Christ, who told us to forgive one another ‘seventy times seven’ (Mt 18:22) has given us his example: he has forgiven us seventy times seven. Time and time again he bears us on his shoulders. No one can strip us of the dignity bestowed upon us by this boundless and unfailing love. With a tenderness which never disappoints, but is always capable of restoring our joy, he makes it possible for us to lift up our heads and to start anew. Let us not flee from the resurrection of Jesus, let us never give up, come what will. May nothing inspire more than his life, which impels us onwards!” (EG, 3.)

The Church must undergo a conversion which the pope calls as the “missionary conversion.” The Church must experience “a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.”(EG, 27) We must exert all our efforts to reach out to those who need to hear the gospel. “Pastoral activity needs to bring out more clearly the fact that our relationship with the Father demands and encourages a communion which heals, promotes and reinforces interpersonal bonds. In our world, especially in some countries, different forms of war and conflict are re-emerging, yet we Christians remain steadfast in our intention to respect others, to heal wounds, to build bridges, to strengthen relationships and to “bear one another’s burdens” (Gal 6:2).” (EG, 67.)
The work of the Church is the same as John’s. Let us heal wounds, build bridges and strengthen relationships.

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

Monday, December 23, 2013

GMA 7 Features Rorate Caeli Mass

We ventured into celebrating the Rorate Caeli Mass this year from December 15-23, 2013. The Misa Pastoril was sung...complete with tambourines and castanets. GMA 7 featured it in a live feed during the late night news of December 23.

Go to link: Huling anticipated Simbang Gabi ng isang parokya sa QC, nasa wikang Latin | Video

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Misa de Aguinaldo December 18, 2013: Joseph Accepts God into his house

Joseph took Mary into his home.
Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

When St. Joseph chose Mary to be his wife, he probably had plans for their life together: a modest family supported by his job as a carpenter, a house which he had built himself, and perhaps a simple life which he had always lived. I am so sure that the child that Mary bore in her womb before they came together as husband and wife was not part of that plan. It is not that St. Joseph did not plan to have children with Mary, but rather, the circumstance of her pregnancy made it so clear to him that the woman he intended to marry was no ordinary maiden. She was chosen for something great as she conceived even without his help. She conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. This was clearly a heavenly sign of something great and awesome – something so very different from the simple and quiet life he first planned. Definitely, this was not for him, for he was a simple carpenter, a devout and just man who was content with a quiet life. He could not see himself as part of this Divine Plan that God had for Mary his betrothed wife.

It was an angel that appeared to him in a dream that assured him that God wanted him to be part of this plan: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary for your wife for she conceived by the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son and you shall name him Jesus.” Mary will give birth but it would be Joseph who would take the responsibility of fatherhood for that child. He will name the child Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.

In Mary is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah: The virgin will conceive and bear a son who will be named Emmanuel, meaning God is with us. The point of wonder here is not only the fact that a lowly virgin becomes the Mother of God. Even more wonderful is that God comes down from heaven to dwell among us. God dwells among us – and for St. Joseph, it will even have a greater implication: God will dwell in his house.

And St. Joseph need not fear that a mystery so great is coming into his house because God does not intend to destroy the simplicity of Joseph’s house. As his coming into Mary’s womb did not compromise nor destroy her virginity, so also his coming into Joseph’s house will not destroy its simplicity and silence. He does not intend to come as He did on Mt. Sinai amidst cloud and lightning. He will come in the simplicity of a little baby. He will not disturb his silence with peals of thunder. He will come in the tranquility of a silent night, holy night. And later on, St. Joseph will see it for himself: God the Son will grow up learning the trade of a carpenter in his house. His house will not be disturbed by curious onlookers because the child will not pursue a celebrity status. The child will grow up in the anonymity of Nazareth. In his house, God will not flaunt his divinity. Rather, God will humbly submit himself in filial obedience to him and to Mary.

And this is the humble way which God incarnate will teach us: the way of humility and silence. This is the way that he wants his Church to tread. Pope Francis warns us against spiritual worldliness in the Church: “… this spiritual worldliness lurks behind a fascination with social and political gain, or pride in their ability to manage practical affairs, or an obsession with programmes of self-help and self-realization. It can also translate into a concern to be seen, into a social life full of appearances, meetings, dinners and receptions. It can also lead to a business mentality, caught up with management, statistics, plans and evaluations whose principal beneficiary is not God’s people but the Church as an institution. The mark of Christ, incarnate, crucified and risen, is not present; closed and elite groups are formed, and no effort is made to go forth and seek out those who are distant or the immense multitudes who thirst for Christ. Evangelical fervour is replaced by the empty pleasure of complacency and self-indulgence.” [Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 95.] Pope Francis criticizes this as something which is not truly according to the path taught to us by Jesus: “How often we dream up vast apostolic projects, meticulously planned, just like defeated generals! But this is to deny our history as a Church, which is glorious precisely because it is a history of sacrifice, of hopes and daily struggles, of lives spent in service and fidelity to work, tiring as it may be, for all work is “the sweat of our brow”.  [Evangelii Gaudium, 96.] I think that Pope Francis’ choice that he begins his Petrine Ministry on the Feast of St. Joseph should signal for us that he intends to lead the Church back to the path of simplicity that first shone in the house of Joseph. And we should not fear to take up this task: the task of welcoming Christ into our home as Joseph did. And Jesus will teach us what he learned in the house of Joseph: the lessons of sacrifice, service, fidelity to work…work as the “sweat of our brow.”

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

Misa de Aguinaldo December 17, 2013: Behind every name is a story

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

Typhoon Yolanda did not only destroy properties. It also took lives. Officially, the body count has already reached the 6,000 mark and bodies are hurriedly buried in mass graves. What may seem to be merely numbers in statistics to many are actually human beings, each with a name and a distinct history.  Oftentimes, we forget that human beings are persons, each of them with his own unique and unrepeatable history.
As we listen to the genealogy of the Lord Jesus, we usually fall into the same temptation of failing to see beyond the list of names of people. To us, these are mere names of faceless people we do not even know. And so, we forget that what we have just made was to travel through thousands of years of human history. Many forget that each name mentioned is a story of a lifetime. Each of us here is a unique story which makes a contribution to the wonderful story of humanity. When we make a survey of the social networks, we realize that every picture posted has a story behind it. And these stories are intertwined. It takes a little faith to recognize the Divine hand that sews all the stories together.

And so we look at names. We look at the stories behind the names. When we make an effort to recognize the thread that connects all the events to one another, we discover that the thread is none other than Jesus himself. The life of each person in this genealogy led humankind closer to Christ. Abraham and his sons, David and his clan, the generations of the post Babylonian exiles - all of them contributed to humanity’s journey toward Jesus the Redeemer. Each story was a movement of history towards the fulfillment of God’s promise of salvation to all humanity.

The genealogy of the Lord Jesus tells us that salvation did not happen at the snap of the hand of God. The genealogy is a beautiful story of real people who may have not been aware of the fact that they were part of the preparations which the Father made for the Incarnation of his only begotten Son. The House which the Father is building for His Son, the Kingdom which He is establishing in His Son, is made up of living stones. The ancestors of Jesus are these living stones. You and I are also these living stones built on top of each other. We are all being built up into a spiritual edifice. How wonderful is it to know that our stories are intertwined. How wonderful is it to know that my life and yours are intertwined with that of the life of Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God.

“The salvation which God has wrought, and the Church joyfully proclaims, is for everyone. God has found a way to unite himself to every human being in every age. He has chosen to call them together as a people and not as isolated individuals. No one is saved by himself or herself, individually, or by his or her own efforts. God attracts us by taking into account the complex interweaving of personal relationships entailed in the life of a human community.” (Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 113.)

God has found a way to unite himself to every human being in every age. We look at history and we look at our own stories and we realize that God is gathering all of us in His Son. He is reconciling all of humanity together to himself through the death and the resurrection of His Son. May we never see our lives as unconnected to each other. May we see our stories as part of that one great story of how God gathers all people into his Son. Jesus said, “When I am lifted up, I will gather all people to myself.”

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

Misa de Aguinaldo December 16, 2013: God's House for all people

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

The recent calamities left us so many pictures of devastated houses. A religious sister who hails from Tacloban told me that when she visited her home province, she was saddened to see that there was not a single house that survived the typhoon. Everybody, whether rich or poor, was left homeless. It was this image of homeless people that I immediately remembered when I heard today’s first reading about God’s house which he intends to open to all people: “My house shall be a house of prayer open for all peoples.”
Isaiah’s prophecy reveals to us the very accommodating heart of God. Listening to the first reading, we immediately see how God opens his house even to the foreigners: “Let not the foreigner say, when he would join himself to the Lord, ‘The Lord will surely exclude me from his people.’ The foreigners who join themselves to the Lord…them I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer…” Access to his house will not be limited to only one clan or one nation. It will not be a members-only club. It will not be for a chosen few. Rather, it will be for all.

As we begin our Simbang Gabi tonight, we begin our meditation on how the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph traveled to Bethlehem and searched for a place fitting for the birth of the Son of God incarnate. Our hearts are touched as we see the Blessed Couple knock from door to door, from house to house and they were rejected at every time because there was no room for them in the inn.  But if we look at the wider picture, we see beyond the narrow confines of the human heart which finds difficulty in giving space to God. When we look beyond the horizon, we behold God whose heart is wider than we can ever imagine. While we are restrictive, the Lord is more welcoming. The welcoming heart of God exposes the evil of what Pope Francis calls the “economy of exclusion.” The Pope wrote: “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape. Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a ‘throw away’ culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the ‘exploited’ but the outcast, the ‘leftovers’.” [Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 53.]

The answer of the Lord to this economy of exclusion is the Church, which is God’s house of prayer for all nations. The “people which God has chosen and called is the Church. Jesus did not tell the apostles to form an exclusive and elite group. He said: ‘Go and make disciples of all nations’ (Mt 28:19). Saint Paul tells us in the people of God, in the Church, ‘there is neither Jew or Greek... for you are all one in Christ Jesus’ (Gal 3:28). “ [EG, 113.] “The Church must be a place of mercy freely given, where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel.” [EG, 114.] People may exclude Jesus from their homes but the Lord will never exclude us from his. Not even the foreigner should say “I have been excluded by the Lord.”

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