Sunday, June 21, 2015

Omnipotent God

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

Some of us may not immediately understand how our Lord could be fast asleep in the middle of a very violent squall at sea. His apostles were panicking because the waves were breaking over the boat. What was the Lord Jesus doing? He was asleep through it all. Was he very tired to wake up amidst such great danger? Did he not care enough? “Lord, do you not care that we are perishing?” his disciples woke him up and so asked him.

Why were the disciples panicking? Why do we panic? Perhaps the answer would be the fact that the situation they found themselves in was very much beyond their control. Is this not the same reason why we panic? We are simply frightened by situations that are beyond our control. We always want to be on top of things. We always want to be in control. If we cannot control a certain situation, at least, we want to prepare to face it. Kaya nga we use the sciences to predict storms. We want to face it prepared. Even the big one, the earthquake that is bound to happen, we want to prepare for its eventual occurrence. We want to be prepared. We want to be in control of the situation. That is why when things get out of control, we simply panic.

And this is the reason why the Lord was asleep through all this. It was not because he was tired. Nor was it because he did not care. He was asleep because he was in control of the situation. After all, he is the Lord who spoke to Job out of the storm: “Who shut within doors the sea…when I set limits for it and fastened the bar of its door and said: Thus far shall you come and no further, and here shall your proud waves be stilted.” (Sino ang humarang sa agos ng dagat, nang mula sa kalaliman ito’y sumambulat?...Ang tubig ay aking nilagyan ng hangganan, upang ito’y manatili sa likod ng mga harang. Sinabi kong sila’y hanggang doon na lang, huwag nang lalagpas ang along naglalakihan.) The Lord was in control. That was why when he awoke from his sleep, the Lord rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” and as expected the wind ceased and there was great calm. The disciples who, at that time did not yet know him, said to each other: “Who is this whom even the wind and the sea obey?” Who is he? He is the Lord who has power over all creation!

We are greatly distressed by the disturbances of the whole created world. In fact, Pope Francis himself has written an encyclical entitled “Laudato Si” wherein he spoke of the earth as groaning in travails for it has been abandoned, maltreated, burdened and laid waste by our irresponsible use of the goods which God has endowed her. (Francis, Laudato Si, 2.) And indeed, we must do our own part to help arrest this abuse of the earth which has brought about significant changes in the climate of the earth. However, while doing our part, we must not forget that the Lord is in charge and in control of all. We should not forget to call upon him as the disciples did when they woke the Lord up from his sleep. While we fortify our homes and participate in earthquake drill, we should not forget to call upon the Lord and ask him to spare us and keep us from harm. As we prepare for the monsoon rains and the floods that they will cause, let us not forget to call upon the Lord and beg him to protect us from such tragedies. For indeed, the Lord has that sovereign power over the entire created universe. There is a limit to what we can do. We can do only so far. And so after our part has been accomplished, we beg the Lord:

“God, who are offended by our sins but appeased by our penances, may it please you to hear the entreaties of your people and to turn away the stripes that our transgressions rightly deserve.

“We beg you, Lord, to repel the wicked spirits from your family, and to ward off the destructive tempestuous winds.

“Almighty everlasting God, spare us in our anxiety and take pity on us in our abasement, so that after the lightning in the skies and the force of the storm have calmed, even the very threat of tempest may be an occasion for us to offer you praise.

“Lord Jesus, who uttered a word of command to the raging tempest of wind and sea and there came a great calm; hear the prayers of your family, and grant that by this sign of the holy cross all ferocity of the elements may abate.

“Almighty and merciful God, who heal us by your chastisement and save us by your forgiveness; grant that we, your suppliants, may be heartened and consoled by the tranquil weather we desire, and so may ever profit from your gracious favors; through Christ our Lord.”

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

Small Beginnings and the Miracle of Growth

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

3 weeks ago, we celebrated Pentecost Sunday when the Risen Lord sent the Holy Spirit upon the apostles. The coming of the Holy Spirit marked the birth of the Church. It started with 12 men who, upon receiving the Holy Spirit, began to speak in different languages. St. Peter’s preaching to the people who gathered outside the Cenacle gained the first conversion of 3,000 men. On the very day of the birth of the Church, 3,000 people were added to the number of the 12. The rest is history…people will be added to this number and when we look at the present 6 billion Catholics all over the world, we will just stand in awe and ask, “How did this happen?”

Small beginnings and the miracle of growth…I think this is what the parables say about the Kingdom of God which Christ our Lord established on the earth. A mustard seed grows into the largest of plants that the birds of the sky are able to dwell in its shade. Seeds sown by a farmer grow and yield an abundant harvest. “The farmer would sleep and rise night and day and through it all the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how.” That the Church would grow into its present size, we know not how. It simply is a miracle of growth. It cannot be attributed to anyone except to God alone. Before this miracle, we simply stand in awe.

I myself am a witness to such a miracle of growth. As I spend the last 30 days of my ministry in this parish, I look back at what we were then and then look at what we are now and I could testify that the transformation of our parish is itself a miracle of growth. How it happened, I know not how. It was simply God’s doing. The growth is simply God’s miracle. Accepting this miracle with gratitude is part of living by faith and not by seeing. We live by faith and not by sight.

Awe and gratitude make us delight in the fact that the birds of the sky dwell in the shade of the mustard plant. We simply do what is expected of us like the farmer who tills the soil, plants the seeds, and waters the plants. Aspiring to please the Lord, we simply do our daily duties. That is all we have to do. What we do is nothing out of the ordinary. But what God does is awesome. God provides the growth. What is ordinary has become the raw material of God’s extraordinary action. The ordinary effort of man is the raw material for the miracle of God.

Because the growth is something we know not how, we come here to say: Lord, it is good to give thanks to you, to sing praise to your name, O Most High, to proclaim your kindness at dawn and your faithfulness throughout the night!tuloy ang pagbunga kahit ang punong ito’y tumanda, luntia’t matatag, at ang dahon nito ay laging sariwa. Ito’y patotoo na ang Panginoo’y tunay na matuwid, siya kong sanggalang, matatag na batong walang bahid dungis.

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

Held by Bands of Love

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

The feast of the Sacred Heart this year coincides with the celebration of the Philippines Independence day. As usual, this day glorifies the most valued of all modern day values…which is human freedom. Our present concept of freedoms means unbridled liberty from any control or authority. Thus, we value our right to self-determination because the only authority which most of us are willing to recognize would be our own selves. Nobody tells me what to do. Anyone who attempts to control me is understood to be an oppressor. I decide to what I want.

But the prophet Hosea tells us today: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, out of Egypt I called my son. Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, who took them in my arms; I drew them with human cords, with bands of love…” The Lord today spoke of “bands of love”. In tagalog. A band is “tali” or “pamigkis” which is easily interpreted as a restraint to freedom. Ang nakatali ay tila hindi malaya dahil napipigil o nasusupil ang kalayaang gumalaw. And yet, it is by means of a band or restraint that a child is taught to walk. The father holds the child up through such bands in order to train his legs for walking. In the beginning, the child’s movements seem restrained, but the bands keep the child from falling and support the child until his legs are able to hold up his entire weight. The Lord draws us with human cords, with bands of love. It is when we allow ourselves to be supported by such bands of love, it is then that we are most free to walk.  

God’s bands of love keep us truly free. When we free ourselves of any attachment to God, it is then that we become slaves…slaves to ourselves, slaves to the world, slaves to Satan himself. It is Christ who sets us free from the greatest oppression of all, and that oppression is called sin. By freely accepting suffering and death on the Cross, the Lord Jesus has overcome for us our greatest slavery: the slavery to the devil…the slavery to sin. By the Blood and Water which flowed from his wounded Heart, the Lord Jesus has ransomed us from the devil. He has redeemed us by his Blood. “If the Son has freed you, then you are truly free.”

When we allow ourselves to be bound to the Lord by his bands of love, we become free to be who we were created to be: we begin to possess the freedom of the children of God. This is what it means to be consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus: we bind ourselves to him. We declare that we desire to belong to him. We declare that we choose to conform our lives to his will. Just as a wife binds herself to her husband in love, so do we bind ourselves to Christ whom we know loves us. And we can entrust ourselves to his love which is always reliable. We know fully well that those who trust the Lord will never be abandoned and will never perish. Christ draws us to himself with human cords…with the cords of his Sacred Heart. Let us confidently abandon ourselves to him. Let us choose to belong to him and say: Sweetly we’ll rest on thy Sacred Heart. Never from thee, oh let us part. Hear then thy loving children’s pray’r: O Heart of Jesus, Heart of Jesus hear!

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

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Holy Sacrifice

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

“Ito ang aking dugo ng tipan, and dugong mabubuhos dahil sa marami,” (This is my blood of the covenant which will be shed for many) says the Lord. The reading for the feast of Corpus et Sanguis Christi this year gives more emphasis on the Blood of the Lord Jesus which was shed for the forgiveness of sins. By consecrating the wine into his blood of the Covenant, the Lord Jesus brings us back to Mount Sinai where Moses offered a sacrifice of young bulls as peace offerings to the Lord (Sila ay inutusan niyang pumatay ng mga hayop na gagamiting handog sa pakikipagtipan sa Panginoon). Moses splashed half of the blood on the altar and when the people pledged obedience to the covenant, he sprinkled the other half of the blood on the people as he said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you…” This was how the covenant between God and his people was sealed. If today, parties enter into an agreement by signing a contract, God and his people entered into an agreement or covenant by the sprinkling of blood. Blood, being the conduit of a living creature’s life, is sacred. It has consecratory power. It seals a relationship. It binds persons into a relationship.

In order for blood to be obtained, a victim has to die in a sacrifice. In the case of the covenant on Mount Sinai, the victims were bulls. At the last supper, the victim was Christ. In any religion, the sacrifice was always deemed as the highest form of worship. It was so because it was the costliest…it involved the death of a victim which was slaughtered to proclaim the sovereignty of the deity over life itself. For the Israelites, animals were suitable victims. For other religions, humans were offered. But for us, we offer to God his beloved Son Jesus: “Christ entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.” (Minsan lamang pumasok si Kristo sa Dakong Kabanal banalan, at iyo’y sapat na. Hindi dugo ng mga kambing at bisirong baka ang kanyang dalang handog, kundi ang sariling dugo, sa ikapagpapatawad ng mga kasalanan natin.) Thus, we should remember that the Mass is not simply a meal or a banquet. It is a sacrificial meal wherein the Body and Blood of Jesus is offered to the Father. Thus, the Mass is the highest form of worship not only for us Catholics, but for the whole world. We say this because the victim offered at Mass is not just any animal or human being. The Victim offered is Christ himself. He is the Salutaris Hostia, the Saving Victim, the one who dies in order to obtain the forgiveness of our sins: “Sa pamamagitan ng walang hanggang Espiritu ay inialay niya sa Diyos ang kanyang sarili na walang kapintasan. Ang kanyang dugo ang lumilinis sa ating puso’t isip upang talikdan na natin ang mga gawang walang kabuluhan at paglingkuran natin ang Diyos na buhay.”

We should always be aware of what transpires at the altar during the Mass. What we have in the Eucharist is more than just a banquet that celebrates unity. What we have here is a real sacrifice, a real offering of the Lamb who once was slain and now who lives for ever. “On the Altar of the Cross He offered up His Body to God the Father as a sacrifice for our reconciliation He shed His Blood as the price whereby He redeems us from wretchedness and bondage, and the washing whereby He cleanses us from all sin. And for a noble and abiding memorial of that so great work of His goodness, He has left unto His faithful ones the Same His very Body for Meat, and the Same His very Blood for Drink, to be fed upon under the appearance of bread and wine.” (St. Thomas Aquinas, 57th Opuscula.) Let us reverently enter into the presence of God. Let us partake of this sacrifice by keeping in mind that what we eat and drink is the One, who out of love for us, died on the Cross to atone for our sins.

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

The Athanasian Creed

Ang Pagpapahayag ng Pananampalataya ni San Atanacio

Ang sinumang nagnanais ng kaligtasan ay kailangang panghawakan nang higit sa lahat ang Pananampalatayang Katolika.

Sapagkat malibang tanggapin niya nang buong buo ang pananampalatayang ito, tiyak na mapapahamak siya magpakailanman.

Ito ang itinuturo ng Pananampalatayang katolika: sumasamba tayo sa iisang Diyos sa tatlo at sa tatlo na iisa.

Hindi natin pinaghahalo ang mga Persona, o kaya naman pinaghihiwalay ang pagkaDiyos.

Sapagkat iisa ang Persona ng Ama, bukod naman ang sa Anak, bukod din ang Espiritu Santo.

Subalit nagtataglay ng iisang pagka-Diyos ang Ama, at ang Anak, at ang Espiritu Santo, magkakapantay sa kaluwalhatian, at pare parehong walang hanggan sa kamahalan.

Kung ano ang Ama, gayun din ang Anak, at gayun din ang Espiritu Santo.

Walang lumikha sa Ama, walang lumikha sa Anak, at walang lumikha sa Espiritu Santo.

Hindi masusukat ang Ama, hindi masusukat ang Anak, at hindi masusukat ang Espiritu Santo.

Walang hanggan ang Ama, walang hanggan ang Anak, at walang hanggan ang Espiritu Santo.

Subalit hindi tatlo ang umiiral na walang hanggan kundi iisang umiiral na walang hanggan lamang.

Gayundin naman, hindi tatlo ang umiiral na hindi ginawa ninuman, o kaya naman tatlo ang umiiral na di masusukat ninuman, kundi iisa lamang ang umiiral na hindi ginawa at hindi masusukat ninuman.

Ang Ama ay makapangyarihan sa lahat, ang Anak ay makapangyarihan sa lahat, at ang Espiritu Santo ay makapangyarihan sa lahat.

Subalit hindi tatlo ang umiiral na makapangyarihan sa lahat kundi iisa lamang ang umiiral na makapangyarihan sa lahat.

Kaya nga ang Ama ay Diyos, ang Anak ay Diyos, at ang Espiritu Santo ay Diyos.

Subalit hindi tatlong Diyos kundi iisang Diyos lamang.

Ang Ama ay Panginoon, ang Anak ay Panginoon, at ang Espiritu Santo ay Panginoon.

Ngunit hindi tatlong Panginoon kundi iisang Panginoon lamang.

Sapagkat obligado tayo ng katotohanang Katoliko na kilalanin na Diyos at Panginoon ang bawat Persona, subalit pinagbabawalan naman tayo ng relihiyong Katoliko na sabihin na may tatlong Diyos o Panginoon.

Kaya nga iisa ang Ama, hindi tatlong Ama; iisa ang Anak, hindi tatlong Anak; iisa ang Espiritu Santo, hindi tatlong Espiritu Santo.

Sa tatlong Personang ito, walang nauuna at walang nahuhuli, walang nakahihigit at walang nagkukulang. Ang tatlong Persona ay pare parehong walang hanggan at magkakapantay.

Upang sa lahat ng bagay, dapat sambahin ang iisa sa tatlo, at ang tatlo sa iisa.

Ang sinumang nais maligtas ay kailangang sumampalataya sa tatlong Persona sa iisang Diyos.

Gayundin naman, upang maligtas ang isang tao, kailangang sumampalataya rin siya sa pagkakatawang tao ng ating Panginoong Hesukristo.

Ang tamang pananampalataya ay ang pananalig at pagpahayag natin na ang ating Panginoong Hesukristo, ang Anak ng Diyos, ay Diyos at tao.

Bilang Diyos, sumilang siya mula sa Ama bago magkapanahon. Bilang tao, sumilang siya sa panahon mula sa kanyang ina.

Siya ay Diyos na totoo at taong totoo na may kaluluwang makatwiran at katawan ng tao.

Kapantay niya ang Ama sa pagka-Diyos, ngunit mababa sa Ama sa kanyang pagka-tao.

Bagamat siya ay Diyos at tao, hindi siya dalawa kundi iisang Kristo.

At siya ay iisa, hindi dahil naging tao ang kanyang pagka-Diyos, kundi dahil ang kanyang pagka-tao ay inari ng kanyang pagka-Diyos.

Siya ay iisa hindi sa pamamagitan ng paghahalo ng kanyang pagka-Diyos at pagka-tao, kundi dahil iisa ang kanyang Persona.

Kung paanong ang kaluluwa at katawan ay iisang tao, gayundin naman, ang Diyos at tao ay iisang Kristo.

Namatay siya para sa ating kaligtasan, pumanaog sa impiyerno, at muling nabuhay sa ikatlong araw.

Umakyat siya sa langit, at naluluklok sa kanan ng Diyos Amang makapangyarihan. Mula roo’y paririto siya at huhukom sa mga nabubuhay at ang mga nangamatay na tao.

Sa kanyang pagbabalik, ang lahat ng tao ay babangon sa kanilang mga katawan, at magsusulit sila ng kanilang mga gawa.

Ang mga gumawa ng mabuti ay pupunta sa buhay na walang hanggan; at ang mga gumawa ng masama ay sa apoy na walang hanggan.

Ito ang pananampalatayang Katoliko. Dapat itong matibay at palagiang panaligan ng lahat; kung hindi, ay hindi sila maliligtas. Amen.

Come, Father of the Poor

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

“Come, Father of the poor! Come, source of all our store! Come, within our bosoms shine!” (Ama ng mga maralita, dulot mo’y pagpapala upang kami’y magkusa.)

We bring to an end today a journey which began ninety days ago when we all came to church in order to receive ashes on our foreheads. At that time, we heard the ministers of the Church remind us of the poverty of our human nature: “Remember man that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” God created the human being out of clay and breathed into him so that the human being became a living being. He gave us a spirit, a Divine consciousness (isang maka-Diyos na kamalayan) so that we can say that man, consisting of body, soul, and spirit, is the image and likeness of God. Something so low, so humble as clay, is given the dignity of being the image and likeness of God.
But sin destroyed our likeness unto God. Sin brought us to the depth of human misery which is death. We said that at death, man loses everything. That is why death is the ultimate poverty: man is reduced to dust. Seeing the poverty of man, God sent his Son who descended not only by embracing our human nature but went further down by humbly accepting death on a Cross. Last week, we saw how the Father exalted Jesus far above the principalities and powers. The Lord Jesus, at his ascension, brought our lowly human nature with himself. It was not only the Divine nature that returned to heaven. The human nature which is assumed at the incarnation we brought up to heaven as well. The ascension was the deification of the human nature.

Today, from the Father’s throne, the Risen Lord sends to us the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of the Father and the Son descended upon the Apostles on Pentecost Sunday. We received the same Holy Spirit on the day of our baptism. God descends upon man to dwell in us as in a temple. The Holy Spirit restores to us what sin took away, that is, our likeness unto God. He refines our human nature and then deifies it. The Holy Spirit gives us more than just enlightenment during examinations. He gives us Divine life. He gives us himself. Thus, he is called the “Father of the poor.” He is sent to us and transforms our poverty into the Divine likeness. The Holy Spirit is the forgiveness of our sins. He is the “most blessed Light divine” who fills our innermost being. He is the closest that God could be with us because he dwells within us.

And so the journey is complete. Man, who came from dust and was reduced to dust, now is the living temple of God. Let us always cooperate with the Holy Spirit. Let us allow him to heal the wounds of our sins and to renew our strength. Let us beg him to wash away the stains of our guilt. Let us ask him to refine our human nature, to “bend our stubborn heart and will.” By our obedience to the Holy Spirit, may we, at the end, receive the sure reward of virtue, which is salvation. Holy Spirit, renew our hearts. Renew the face of the earth!

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

From the Depths to the Heights

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

St. Mark tells us that Jesus “was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God.” The Ascension of Jesus is his exaltation. St. Paul tells us that the Father raised Jesus from the dead and seated him at his right hand “far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion, and every name that is named not only in this age but also in the one to come.” (Nasa ilalim ng kapangyarihan ni Kristo ang lahat ng paghahari, kapamahalaan, kapangyarihan, at pamunuan. Higit ang kanyang pangalan kaysa lahat ng pangalan, hindi lamang sa panahong ito kundi pati sa darating.) In fact, the Father “put all things beneath his feet and gave him as head over all things to the Church…the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.” (Pinailalim ng Diyos sa kapangyarihan ni Kristo ang lahat ng bagay, at siya ang ginawang ulo ng Simbahan…ang kapuspusan niya na pumupuspos sa lahat lahat.)

Why this exaltation? Why this immense power? It is because the Father was pleased by the humility and obedience of his Son Jesus who did not hesitate to empty himself in order to take our humble likeness. The Father was pleased with Jesus who humbled himself further by obediently accepting death on the Cross. Jesus was exalted far above all powers because he went to the very depths of our human misery; that depth of human misery is death where man has lost everything. The height of his exaltation is commensurate to the depth of his plunge. The abundance of his wealth is commensurate to the abjection of his poverty. The greatness of his power is commensurate to the weakness that he embraced. He who descended to earth ascends to heaven: he is the Son of Man who is in heaven.

Looking at what the Father did to his Son, we realize “what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us to believe.” St. Paul affirms that “this power working in us is the same as the great might which he worked in Christ.” Thus, his glory is ours…only if we descend with him into the depths of humiliation. His abundance is ours…only if we renounce everything to imitate his poverty. His power is ours…only if we rank ourselves among the meek and the gentle of the earth. Indeed, we will inherit the heavenly inheritance of Jesus only if we suffer together with him. There is no other way. The way of glory is the way of humility. Jesus said, “Those who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”  

Therefore, let us not hesitate to lose everything for the sake of Jesus. Just remember the abundant inheritance that awaits us. If we want to gain everything, we must detach ourselves from everything that the world holds dear. We must renounce everything, including our very selves, in order to follow the Lord along the way of humility, of poverty, and of weakness. When we follow him to the depths, he will bring us with him to the heights. The Lord did not promise us happiness in this life but only in the next.

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