Friday, March 28, 2014

Fount of Living Water

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

“The water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (Ang tubig na ibibigay ko ay magiging bukal sa loob niya, babalong, at magbibigay sa kanya ng buhay na walang hanggan.) The Samaritan woman wondered how the Lord was going to give her this living water when in fact the Lord did not even have a bucket to use to draw water from the well. Little did she realize that the Lord Jesus was not referring to the water from the well. Rather the Lord was referring to the water that would flow with his blood on Good Friday. As Moses struck the rock in Horeb and from it flowed water, so also the soldier would strike the side of our Lord and from his wounded side would flow blood and water. This water would be the life-giving water of Baptism.

We all know water as a life-giving element. All living creatures need water to survive. But seldom do we think of water as an agent of death…and yet the evidences are all around us…Yolanda and Ondoy are some of the names that would remind us that water, being an agent of life, can also be an agent of death. And the waters of Baptism inflict on us both death and life. St. Paul said that all who are baptized are buried together with Christ. Baptism gives us all a share in the death of the Lord. The old Adam dies and is buried in the waters of baptism. But this is so in order that we may receive the Holy Spirit. St. Paul says that we are buried with Christ so that the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead will raise us up together with him. We are buried in Christ in order to rise with him. The Old Adam dies so that we might rise up as a new creation.   
The miracle of death and life in the sacrament of Baptism is made possible by the Holy Spirit whom we receive through the saving waters. The waters of Baptism are called life giving waters because they are Spirit-filled. Being Spirit-filled, the baptismal waters give life because the Holy Spirit is Lord and Giver of Life. The waters of Baptism give to us the Holy Spirit, the Giver of Life. Thus, St. Paul says:  “The love of God has been poured upon us through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” As baptismal water is poured, so the Holy Spirit is given to us. And the Holy Spirit gives life.

Thus, we should not take Baptism for granted. It is not just a social ritual that our children have to pass through in order conform to social norms. Baptism is rebirth by water and the Spirit. He who does not receive the Holy Spirit is spiritually dead because he has not received the Breath of Life from the Giver of Life. And the life that he gives is eternal life. The baptismal water is the “spring of water welling up unto eternal life.” Baptism is the door of eternal life. No one can enter into the Kingdom of God unless he be born of water and the Holy Spirit. Thus, we should be grateful for being baptized. Also, we should never procrastinate the baptism of our children. Like the Samaritan woman, we should eagerly ask the Lord: “Sir, give me this water…” I want this eternal life for myself. I want my children to have it too. Allow us to draw water constantly from this fount of salvation. We know for ourselves that truly, you are the Savior of the world!

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

And His Clothing Became White

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

On the mountain of the temptations, Satan challenged the Lord Jesus to prove that he is the Son of God. However, by refusing to display his divine power, Jesus did not give in to the seductions of the tempter. On another mountain, what Jesus refused to display to Satan, he revealed to his disciples Peter, James, and John. “He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.” The glory that Jesus showed these disciples was his glory as God’s only begotten Son…full of grace and truth. The Father was not at all ashamed to declare who Jesus truly is: This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him!

As we continue to look at the Baptismal character of Lent, let us reflect on the white baptismal garment. The gospel spoke about the clothes of Jesus becoming white as light. We will appreciate the meaning of the baptismal garment if we keep in mind that when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, the first thing they realized is that they were naked. Nakedness means deprivation of dignity. A person who is dishonored is stripped of his dignity. Nakedness brings shame. Thus, in the parable of the prodigal son, the father commands that his son be given the finest robe at his return. His prodigal son received back the dignity he lost to loosed living.

Jesus, the Son of God, was clothed with a white garment. In Sacred Scriptures, a white garment indicated that the person wearing it came from heaven. Thus, the angels who appeared at the tomb of Jesus and also at his ascension would wear white garments. Jesus’ white garment revealed that he is the Son of Man who came from heaven: No one ascends to heaven except the one who descended from heaven…the Son of Man who is from heaven. Jesus, who is clothed with unsurpassable light in heaven, emptied himself of that glory when he came down to earth to save us. On the Cross, he hung stripped of his garments. He was humiliated…exposed not only to the elements but also to the mockery of the passersby. And this he did so that you and I would be restored to the dignity which the evil one took away from Adam and Eve on the day they ate the forbidden fruit. The Son of God stripped himself of heavenly dignity so that he could share it to those who will be baptized. He made us sons and daughters of his Father by the sacrament of Baptism. “He saved us and called us to a holy life…according to his own design and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began…” Our baptismal dignity is a heavenly dignity. It means that we belong not to this earth but to heaven. Our true home is in heaven, St. Paul would later on say. In the book of Revelations, the souls of the just in heaven would be shown wearing their robes which were washed clean by the Blood of the Lamb.

“Ang damit pambinyag ay tanda ng muling pagsilang kay Kristo at ng dakilang karangalan ng mga anak ng Diyos. Nawa’y panatilihin niya itong walang bahid hanggang sa muling pagbabalik ni Kristong ating Panginoon.” With these words we were clothed in white on the day we were baptized. Let us always keep in mind who we really are: we are sons and daughters of God. Let us live as such. Let us live lives worthy of our Christian vocation. Remember, we are not children of darkness. We are children of light and of the day. Let us shun deeds of darkness and live as children of light.

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

Monday, March 10, 2014

To a newly ordained priest

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

The season of Lent always opens with the Gospel on the Temptation of the Lord in the desert on account of the fact that this season is a 40 day fast in imitation of the 40 day fast of the Lord Jesus in the desert. “He fasted for 40 days and 40 nights, and afterwards he was hungry.” It was then that the tempter approached the Lord. Why tempt Jesus? It is because Jesus is the Son of God. He comes from God. He belongs to God. This fact made Jesus more desirable to the devil. He wanted to get Jesus because Jesus does not belong to him. The devil’s hatred for God moves him to steal what belongs to God in order to destroy its beauty and integrity. The devil works this way even until now. He loves to disturb seminaries and monasteries precisely for the same reason: he wants to destroy what belongs to God.

When the bishop laid his hands on you and prayed the prayer of ordination, Fr. Arvie, you were changed in a very special way. Not only were you given special powers, you were given a new identity…you became a priest, configured in the likeness of Christ who is the High Priest of the New Covenant. In a way, the identity of Jesus becomes yours. This is what it means when we say that the priest is Alter Christus. Yes, you are another Christ through whom the Lord Jesus will continue to perform his saving mission for the life of the world. By the Sacrament of Holy Orders, Jesus draws you close to him. You are consecrated to him. You belong to Jesus.

Thus, Fr. Arvie, you become a more attractive prey for the devil. He will want you because your hands are anointed. He will want you because you are anointed. He wants you for the simple reason that you belong to the Lord whom the devil hates so much. The devil will constantly tempt you through your hunger. He will tempt you to turn stones into bread, to take advantage of your priesthood for monetary purposes. There will always be something you need to have, something you need to buy. And I will tell you…it is really very easy for a priest to fall for this temptation as we all know that religion can easily be turned into a lucrative business. Fr. Arvie, do not set your heart to the love of money. Always set your heart on higher things for man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.
The devil will constantly seduce you through your need for affirmation. He will tempt you to make a spectacle of yourself. There will always be applause and recognition which will make you want for more.  And I tell you, it is really easy for a priest to fall for this temptation as we all know that admirers will easily be organized into fans’ club and make you a celebrity. Fr. Arvie, do not perform your religious office for other people to see. Even in the performance of your priestly office, always learn to enter into the inner room of your heart. You do not need the adulation and approval of admirers. You are not a celebrity but a priest. The only one thing you need is the approval of the Father who sees everything in secret.

The devil will constantly seduce you to seek kingdoms, to seek positions of power and prestige. Ikaw pa, Fr. Arvie, you have what it takes to pursue a career in the Church. I tell you, with your intellectual capabilities, you can easily seek promotions in the curia. Fr. Arvie, always keep in mind that the priesthood is not a career. It is a vocation, a way of life that is closely associated with the Sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. Your life as a priest is not a pursuit of promotions. Rather, it is one of self-abnegation. The priesthood is an unending sacrifice. It is an experience of one self-denial after another in imitation of Jesus who emptied himself and took the form of a human slave and humiliated himself even further by obediently accepting even death, death on a Cross. Imitate Christ the Obedient One. His obedience made many righteous. Be obedient to the Bishop. Allow him to break your will if necessary. Obey without question. Obey without complaint. Give up the right to choose your career path. Let it be the bishop’s problem to determine the path your priestly life will take. Remember that the voice of the bishop is the voice of God. Christ’s sacrifice is pleasing on account of his unconditional obedience. Make your offering pleasing also through your unconditional obedience.

Fr. Arvie, keep in mind what the priesthood is…it is the service of God. You were chosen by him. You belong to him. Always serve the Lord single-heartedly. Serve the Lord for his sake. Prefer nothing to the love of Christ. Love the Lord with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your heart, and with all your strength. The Lord your God shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.

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

Rejecting Satan

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

Most of us associate Lent with penance and mortification and very few give due regard to the baptismal character of the season. Lent is a period of preparation for catechumens who will be baptized on Easter vigil. It is also a period of preparation for us, the baptized, to renew our baptismal vows on the same Easter feast. The series of Lenten readings for this year will help us contemplate on this great sacrament of Baptism.

We begin by looking at the real abasement of the human being. Last Ash Wednesday, the ashes imposed on our foreheads reminded us of our mortality: Remember, man, that you are dust and to dust you shall return. Death, which is the way of all flesh, was inflicted to us on account of our slavery to sin. St. Paul reminds us: “Through one man, sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus, death came to all men, inasmuch as all sinned.” Sin entered the world because our first parents were deceived by the Serpent who was the most cunning of all the animals. They believed the serpent who told them: “You certainly will not die!” They believed the serpent’s word over God’s word which allowed them to eat the fruit of any tree except that of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The devil indeed is the father of lies. His assurance that they would not die was all a lie. They were fooled by appearances: the woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom. Taking the forbidden fruit, they caused death on all humanity.

The Lord Jesus, the Son of God, came to earth to destroy the works of the devil. Physically weakened by fasting, the Lord confronted the devil who came to tempt him. The devil came with his attractions and his empty promises: food that does not satisfy, fame that is not lasting, and kingdoms that he could not give. Son of God that he is, the Lord Jesus reveals that only the Word of God gives life and satisfies the hunger of the soul. He also reveals that the Father’s love is sure and needs not to be tested. Lastly, he need not bow in worship of the devil because all authority in heaven and earth are bestowed on him by the Father in heaven. It is only to the Father that he bows in filial obedience. And it is his filial obedience to the Father that brings “acquittal and life to all.” “Through the obedience of one, the many will be made righteous.”

As we prepare to renew our baptismal vows, let us be resolute in our rejection of Satan, his works and his pomps. Satan cannot deliver anything he promises, no matter how pleasing and appealing it may be. The only thing he gives us is death. Satan loves no one but himself. He hates us for being the image and likeness of God. He looks at us and he sees the God whom he hates. Only in Christ can we find life and salvation. God, in Christ, loves us all very dearly. With the assurance of God’s love for us, let us cast away Satan: Get away Satan! The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve!

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


Saturday, March 8, 2014

Dei praesidio fultus: Ash Wednesday A.D. 2014

Dei praesidio fultus: Ash Wednesday A.D. 2014: On 5 March 2014, Ash Wednesday,  Reverend Father Michell Joe B. Zerrudo  celebrated Mass at the Parish of the Holy Family in the Diocese of ...

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Breaking our self-centeredness

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

While congress is busy legislating about our national dish, perhaps it would also be good to settle once and for all the issue of the national past time. If I had my way it would be “selfie.”  The social networks have provided the venue for self-broadcasting and now, it seems to be an unstoppable trend. Call it “self expression” but we cannot deny that the proliferation of “selfies” is really a manifestation of our self-centeredness. If I may use the words of Pope emeritus Benedict, we have become a “self-enclosed society.”
At the beginning of Lent, the Lord cautions us against self-centeredness. He warns us against false benevolence, that is, performing acts of charity for people to see. He also warns us against false piety that makes a show out of worship. He likewise warns us against self-assuring mortification. He thrice repeats his displeasure against religious acts done for other people to see. Those who perform such acts do not genuinely seek the Kingdom of God and his righteousness. Rather, they use charity, piety, and mortification as occasions to broadcast themselves. And how many times do we see ourselves as belonging to this “selfie” generation. We broadcast to people how beautiful, or intelligent, or busy, or important we are. As we receive ashes today, I appeal to you…please do not upload your selfies with ashes on your foreheads.

The season of Lent is much known to us as a season of Penance. It is a time for fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. These spiritual disciplines are meant to help us lose ourselves so that we may give due attention to God and to our neighbors. True fasting means voluntary self-denial so that we could breakthrough the barriers of
our self-centeredness and open ourselves to the Other. True fasting leads to authentic prayer. When I truly deny myself, my prayer becomes more focused towards God. Prayer becomes less about myself and more about God. True fasting leads to charity. When I truly deny myself, I become sensitive to the needs of my neighbors. The objective of our fasting is not to achieve the healthy weight and perfect figure. The objective of our fasting is to be able to share with those who have nothing. Our fast-to-feed program for this Lent is for the children survivors of the super typhoon Yolanda. Pope Francis presents to us the example of the Lord Jesus who made himself poor in order to enrich us with his poverty. Our self-denial, our voluntary poverty must enrich others. We lose so that others may gain. “…we imitate Christ who became poor and enriched us by his poverty. Lent is a fitting time for self-denial; we would do well to ask ourselves what we can give up in order to help and enrich others by our own poverty. Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance. I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.”

Our sacrifices must be low-key and hidden. We do not collectively engage in mortification, prayer, and charity to earn a place in the Guiness book of records. We do not want the recognition of the world. All we want to do is to seek the Kingdom of God and his righteousness. We need not gain the admiration of the world because we are not of the world. We do what is right only for the pleasure of the Father who sees everything in secret. “The world admires only spectacular sacrifice, because it does not realize the value of sacrifice that is hidden and silent.” (St. Josemaria Escriva, The Way, #185.) Spectacular sacrifice gains the admiration of the world. But the sacrifice that is hidden and silent merits the approval of God.

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