Sunday, December 31, 2017

Tempus Fugit on New Year's Eve

December 31, 2017

Jesus, I trust in you!

To Mary we entrust the New Year
Of the many days of the year, we could not be more attentive to time than tonight, New Year’s Eve. People get very excited over the countdowns towards midnight. I had the privilege of being in Hong Kong last New Year’s Eve. It was my first time to be out of my parish at the end of the year and I noticed how the secular world gave much importance to every minute, every second that passes by. The excitement builds up towards the last 10 seconds of the passing year.

This New Year’s Eve is the occasion for us to consider seriously the reality of the passing of time. Time is running (Tempus fugit). It always has and it always will be. Time moves forward and we can never take back lost time. Once time has passed, it is gone forever. And we cannot claim that there is an infinite supply of time.  Time is limited. We move towards a specific and determined end of time. That end is set in the secrecy of the heart of God the Father. It is a deadline that will never be moved and so every moment that passes by brings us closer to that end. When we say that time is running out, we are literally saying the truth.

This is why time is valuable. We say that time is gold. It is worth more than gold. And we will make an accounting for it before the Lord Jesus when we stand before his judgment seat. At the end of our lives, we shall render an account to the Lord about how we used his graces and the time that he has given to us during life. That is why tonight is the best opportunity to make a year- end evaluation of our lives. Spend time to make a very personal year-end report. What were the graces I received during the year? How did I use them? How did I waste opportunities for goodness that the Lord gave me? What did I do with my time? Was every second well spent? Did I increase in holiness this year? Am I more loving or less loving? Have I become more generous now or have I become more selfish? Am I closer to God now or have we drifted apart this year? Write down your year-end report in a notebook. It would be good to read it time and again so that you may be aware of your progress or regress. This honest examination of conscience is necessary. Remember, we are moving toward the deadline and time is running out.

It sounds like this New Year’s Eve will be quieter than the previous ones because of existing laws on firecrackers. I think that this is better. Firecrackers will not scare off the demons anyway. It is best to confront our personal demons with prayer.  A sincere examination of conscience is the best way to confront the evil lurking within us. And after examining our conscience, let us beg the Lord for forgiveness and mercy. Many of us were busy cleaning our houses in time for the New Year. But have we cleaned our hearts? Have we gone to confession? Have we asked for forgiveness?  Have we settled our account with God? Have we paid our dues to him? Nakabawi na ba tayo sa kanya?

On this New Year’s Eve, our prayer must be: “Lord, teach us to number our days, so that we may gain wisdom of heart.” (Ps. 90:12) Instead of counting the seconds backwards, it is better to ask: what we have done with this time given to us? Do not meet the New Year. The Year is not alive. It is just a measurement of time. Meet the Lord tonight instead. He is here in Church. He is alive and he wishes to engage in a heart-to-heart conversation with you. Spend an intimate date with the Lord tonight. The opportunity of the New Year’s Eve is just right. Time passes away. Why hold on something that eventually gets lost? Only God stays. He is eternal. He is forever!

 “My past to your mercy Lord; my present to your love; my future to your providence.” (Padre Pio) There is nothing else that I ask.

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

Saturday, December 30, 2017

The silence of the Octave of Christmas

As the shepherds made known the message that had been told them about the child, "Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart."

As things have slowed down in church, I thought that Christmas had turned quieter elsewhere. I was mistaken. People have not yet finished their shopping. Mall have devised a scheme to keep customers coming back - they declared holiday sales. Not satisfied with commercialism encroaching into Advent, it now invades the Christmas Octave. Many take advantage of the holiday spirit and prefer to spend the octave in leisure. People are everywhere...except in Church. 

This makes me wonder: How many of our faithful have taken time to sit in silence before the Manger of the Lord? I suppose that with all the activities that vie for our attention during the holidays, so very few can honestly say that they have spent time in silent prayer before the Lord's manger. 

Our Lady wrapped her new-born Son in swaddling clothes and laid him on a manger...and then, she silently reflecting on this great mystery that unfolded before her very eyes. She teaches us the proper attitude that we must take before this great mystery of the Incarnation. It is the attitude of prayerful silence.

I chanced upon a Mister Bean Christmas episode. It showed Mr. Bean playing with the figures of a Belen. The cow "moooed" and St. Joseph told it: "Shhhh." The donkey "neighed" and Our Lady said to it: "Shhhh." One of the magi coughed and his companions told him: "Shhhh." It is funny and it may seem irreverent for the standards of the pious and the devout. But from this funny episode, I realized that for one to stand before the manger, he must heed the warning: "Shhhh! Be quiet!" Be still, my soul, because you stand in the presence of God.

I suppose that the carol "Silent Night" did not only refer to the silence of the night when the Savior was born. It also referred to the silence of the mouth that is needed so that the heart may recognize the Savior who quietly came down from heaven.  Silence is needed so that we may enter into the depth of the mystery of the Lord's kenosis.

The Octave provides for us this opportunity for silence. The crowds prefer to stay away from Church and spend their time in places of leisure. And we have the Baby Jesus all for ourselves. Together with Our Lady and St. Joseph, we kneel in silence before the new-born Son of God. We kneel in the silence of a cave. 

And we take advantage of the silence of the octave. We should savor this silence before the guests (magi) come on Epiphany. When he is revealed on the Jordan River and in the marriage feast of Cana, it will noisy from then on. People will want to take hold of him: "Everybody is looking for you." The public ministry which epiphany will usher in will definitely be busy.

This is the reason why we have to keep the silence of the Lord's nativity while the octave gives us the opportunity to do so. When Epiphany comes, it will be busy for us once again.  Thus, while Epiphany is not yet here, let us go to Bethlehem and see this new-born king. let us be like Mary who kept all these things and reflect on them in her heart!

Friday, December 29, 2017

On the Preparation of Altar Bread in the ciborium

I offered Mass in another parish and during communion, I discovered that there were a lot of broken pieces of the Sacred Species in the ciboria taken from the tabernacle. During the purification of the vessels, I decided to collect the broken pieces of the Sacred Species and all these filled one fourth of a ciborium (added to this would be the thick mound of Sacred Particles / "crumbs" for the uncatechized).

St. Therese as sacristan
I was saddened by this because such should show so much carelessness in the preparation of the gifts for the Mass. It seemed that the sacristan / some other minister in charge simply opened a plastic bag of altar bread and poured the contents into the ciboria without even bothering to check if the bread poured were broken or damaged. He might even have carelessly poured in the crumbs also.

Does the presence of the crumbs in the ciborium matter? So what if there were broken pieces of altar bread included in the gifts to be consecrated? I think proper attention should have been given to the preparation of the hosts not simply on account of some "pickiness" on my part but rather in the theology that goes with it.

I remember the Rev. Fr. Frederick Fermin, OP, our rector, once reprimanded me regarding the preparation of the altar bread. He insisted that the big host and the small hosts should be carefully selected. Care must be taken in the selection of the altar bread. The one in charge of this must make sure that there are no breakage in each piece.  This is because the lamb selected for the sacrifice must always be unblemished and uninjured. This is the reason why the shepherds kept watch during the night of the birthing season of the sheep. They have to make sure that each lamb born from the Temple flock would be wrapped in swaddling clothes to keep them from injuring themselves. The lambs born from the Temple flock had to be unblemished so that they can be offered in sacrifice during the Paschal feast.

If we keep in mind that the Mass is truly the Sacrifice of Christ, we will understand the necessity of carefully selecting the altar bread to be used. The "lamb" must be unblemished. The only time the Lamb is broken would be at the breaking of the bread. The ritual of the breaking of the bread is not done only to distribute and share the Body of Christ among those who take part in the sacrifice. The breaking of the bread is also the moment of destruction of the Sacred Victim. It is the moment when the Holy Sacrifice is consummated. Thus, the spotless, unblemished, uninjured Host is destroyed in an act of Sacrifice which renders God the highest act of worship.

Thus, the sacristans must be mindful of their job. I have offered Masses in convents of consecrated women and I truly appreciate how the altar bread are selected and neatly arranged in the ciborium. This care and attention for such details indicate true devotion and a real appreciation of what is about to transpire at Mass: the offering of the unblemished Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. 

Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Mishandling of the Octave

I am disappointed with the way we treat the Christmas Octave. Churches are filled with people for the 9-day Simbang Gabi. There is a heavy turnout of parishioners, servers, musicians, lectors, and other ministers. Even in the Extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, servers and choir members are excited over the Rorate Masses. So many candles were lit and so much incense was burned to make the days of the Rorate more solemn.

But after the Midnight Mass, everything changes. On the morning itself of Christmas day, the churches are almost empty. Maybe, it is because people have fulfilled their Christmas obligation with the Midnight Mass that they saw it unnecessary to return for Church on Christmas day. However, it becomes more disappointing beginning the Feast of St. Stephen. There, we begin to see less and less people coming to Mass. Lectors and other ministers do not report for duty. Servers were limited to the minimum (1). Even the Sacristan did not see it necessary to light all the 6 candles on the Altar nor to light the Christmas Lanterns in and outside of the Church. The Choir and Cantors are nowhere to be found. And I am not referring only to the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite. This year, I committed myself to a daily offering of the Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite throughout the octave and also until Epiphany. I was dismayed by how the octave of Christmas is being treated.

There is something wrong with our liturgical culture. So many assist Mass during the last 9 days of Advent but almost nobody will be there during the Octave. Isn't the Octave the extension of Christmas day? I recall our studies on the Liturgical Year. We were taught that the celebration of the Octave is due to the fact that the Divine Mystery commemorated on Christmas (or Easter) day is so rich that one day is not enough to celebrate it. And so the celebration is extended to 8 days. The 8 days are considered as only 1 day. Thus, the Gloria and the Creed are sung as on the day of Christmas (or Easter). And so everyday of the Octave is Christmas day (or Easter Sunday).

If this were so, why do we treat the Octave days so very badly? Have the Simbang Gabi exhausted us so much that we find it reason enough to stay at home and sleep throughout the Octave? It is as if were have been very busy preparing for the Fiesta and so we disappear and sleep off the actual festivity itself. And allow me to remind you that Advent, the Simbang Gabi, the Rorate Masses are but preparations. YES, ONLY PREPARATIONS!!!!! The Christmas (or Easter) Octave is the REAL CELEBRATION.

We have allowed the commercialism of the secular Christmas to creep into the sacred liturgy itself. We have anticipated Christmas in Advent that there seem to be nothing else to celebrate when the real Christmas came. Where are the servers? Where are the cantors? Where are the lectors? Where are the other ministers? (Where are the priests?)  If only our Lord could speak directly to us, he might say: "There were so many of you present during the preparations for my coming but when I can, everybody went out for their vacation."

Is this the way to treat the Octave days? If this were so, then I might take my vacation as well. This is no way the Octave should be treated. This is simply WRONG LITURGICAL CULTURE.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

St. John the Apostle

On this Feast of St. John the Apostle, I remember this picture which was used for the souvenir card for my diaconal ordination 25 years ago (November 21, 1992). I chose this picture because at that time, i felt that my entrance into the clerical life was an act of abandonment to the Lord. At the back of this picture were the words: You are my inheritance, Lord!

May the Lord keep me in his service all the days of my life!

Christmas Day: Christ the Word Incarnate

DECEMBER 25, 2017

Jesus, I trust in you!

The Word made Flesh
The new-born Baby is the Word of God made flesh. He is called Word because he is the self-revelation of God. St. Paul fittingly explains: “In these days, God has spoken to us through the Son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe, who is the refulgence of his glory, the very imprint of his being, and who sustains all things by his mighty word.” With these words in mind, we look at the little Baby and we ask: How could this be? We find it difficult to believe because we know God to be powerful. And so, we expect something big…something grandiose…something Bongga! But all we see is a Baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and laying on a manger. Where is the refulgence of Divine glory? Where is the imprint of God’s being? Where is the might that sustains all things?

The difficulty comes from the fact that we keep trying to see the Baby from our own point of view…from the point of view of the world. We keep forgetting that God’s ways are not our ways and his thoughts are not our thoughts. We keep imposing on God the way we want to see him. But the Baby born to us is not God the way we want to see him. It is the way God sees himself. It is the way God wishes to be known. God sees himself as the simplest of beings. God wishes to be known as the simplest Truth, the purest Good, as the truly Beautiful. And what could be truer than a new-born Baby, one that does not know how to pretend, one that tells you that what you see is what you get? What greater Good is there than a new-born Baby, one that simply makes you smile, one that elicits nothing from you but love? What is more beautiful than a new-born Baby, one that naturally attracts, one that does not even have to make an effort to draw people to himself? He is simply who he is!

We always say that Divine glory is hidden in this little Child. But this little Child is himself the Divine glory! He is “far superior than the angels and his name is more excellent than theirs. For to which of the angels did God ever say: ‘You are my Son; this day I have begotten you.’” His glory is not his external garments. His glory is who he is: He is God’s Son! “We saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.” When we look at this Baby what do we see? We see grace and truth! Grace is God’s gift of himself. Truth is who he is. When we look at this Baby what do we see? We see the invisible God. Jesus himself said it: “He who sees me sees the Father.” “No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him.”

But he does not only reveal God to us. In this Baby, we see God giving himself to us. He gives himself to us so that we may transformed and become like him. “To those who accept him, he has given the power to become children of God.” The only begotten Son of God makes us like him – children of God. He became like us so that we can become like him. He came down to us so that we can rise up to him. Though Baptism, he shares us his Holy Spirit. He gives us a share of his Divine life. His Holy Spirit enables us to call God in the very same way Jesus calls him: “Abba! Father!” He transforms us and elevates us to himself. This was what Lucifer was afraid of: the “divinization of man”. He was afraid that God would also call us his sons and daughters. In vain did he try to prevent this from happening. But nothing could stop God from sharing his love. Nothing could stop God from sharing his Divine life. Nothing can stop God from giving himself. Nothing…not even Satan himself.

And so, we stand before the manger and we see our food. We look at the Baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and we see the victim to be sacrificed for us. We look into his eyes and we see so much love and that love is for us. That love will feed us. That love will die for us. We can say nothing else but “Thank you.” Thank you, Jesus for coming. Thank you for loving us. Thank you for simply who you are…grace, truth, and love. “From his fullness we have received grace upon grace…grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

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

Christmas Midnight Mass: Christ the Priest, the Victim, the Bread of Life

DECEMBER 25, 2017

Jesus, I trust in you!

Our Parish Belen for 2017
Tonight we return to Bethlehem as Joseph and Mary did as they sought to comply with the worldwide census declared by Augustus Caesar. They had to return to the city of David because Joseph was of the House of David. It was necessary for the Messiah to be born in the city of David because he is Son of David, the legitimate heir to the throne of his royal ancestor. But there is another reason for the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. The name “Bethlehem” means “house of bread.” Bethlehem is the fitting birth place for Jesus who is the Bread of Life. In fact the sign which the angels gave the shepherds was that of a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and laying on a manger. The manger is the receptacle of animal food. On it is placed the hay for the feeding of the ox and the donkey and even of the sheep. The new-born baby of Mary was laid on a manger not because the hay was soft but because Mary’s child is our food: “I am the Bread of Life. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood will have eternal life. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. The food that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

It is rather remarkable that we celebrate today the birth of the Son of God in the flesh. And later on, he shall give his flesh as food for the life of the world. We cannot deny the Eucharistic character of this Holy Day that we are celebrating tonight. It is called “Christmas” and its name is derived from two words: Christ and Mass. The Church, even from ancient times, has understood the mystery of Christ’s Incarnation in the mystery of the Eucharist. In fact, St. John Paul II himself said that the Eucharist is the continuation of the mystery of the Incarnation to our times.

And it is in this light that we have a renewed appreciation of the mystery of the Priesthood. We are celebrating this Christmas in the Year of the Clergy and the Consecrated People. As Mary brought forth the birth in the flesh of God the Son, so also the priest, by the power of the Holy Spirit and the authority of the words of Christ, brings about the transubstantiation of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus. The Mass, presided by the priest, is not only our encounter with the Paschal Mystery. It is also our encounter with the mystery of the Incarnation: And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us. The Incarnation took place in Mary’s womb. The Transubstantiation takes place in the hands of the priest. The priest may not be as pure and sinless as the Virgin Mary. But nevertheless, the Son of God humbles himself to take flesh in the bread and wine offered on the altar during Mass.

In fact, we cannot miss the fact that the angels appeared to shepherds who were keeping watch over their flock at night. The sheep they were tending were the Awassi sheep, the only breed of sheep that is indigenous in Israel. The Awassi sheep breed in the summer and drop lambs in the winter. Thus, in Israel, the principal lambing season runs from December to January. These shepherds to whom the angels appeared were Levitical shepherds who were tasked to keep watch over the temple flock. The reason why the shepherds kept watch at night was that they were attending to the dropping of the lambs. Once a lamb is dropped, they bring it into the cave where it is wrapped in swaddling clothes to keep it from being injured at birth. The lambs they watch over were destined to be the Passover lambs that are supposed to be unblemished. Thus, the shepherds understood what the angel’s message meant: the one born on this night is the unblemished Lamb of God who would be sacrificed on Passover. Christ born today is not only the Bread of Life. He is also the Paschal Lamb, the Victim who would render God the most perfect and the highest act of worship. This Lamb of God is also the High Priest of the new covenant. Being the first-born of creation, he is the head of the household who offers the sacrifice of the family of humankind. He will offer not the blood of animals or of other human beings. He will offer his own flesh and his own blood for the redemption of the world.

As we celebrate the birth of Jesus, let us not look at him simply as a cute new-born infant. The one who rests on the manger is the Bread of Life. The one who is wrapped in swaddling clothes is the unblemished Lamb of God. The first-born of Mary is the first-born of creation, the High Priest of the new covenant. This great mystery is renewed every day during Mass. In the Mass, the priest acts in the person of Christ the High Priest. In his hands the incarnation takes place so that the Lamb of God may be offered to the Father and he be returned to us as the Bread of Life that we must eat to enter into communion with God and so receive access to the Divine Life. Truly, this is Christ’s Mass where Jesus comes both as Priest and Victim. Come, let us adore him.   

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

Simbang Gabi 9: The Priest as Herald of the world to come

DECEMER 24, 2017
Jesus, I trust in you!

On the last day of the Simbang Gabi, we hear Zechariah’s song of praise. Remember that he was silenced for 9 months and on the day of the circumcision of his newly born son, his mouth was opened, his tongue loosed, and he began singing the praises of God. His is a fitting song because it was basically about the end of the night of waiting and the coming of the dawn: “In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall 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.”
Every Advent, St. Paul reminds us that “The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is far spent; the day draws near. So let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” (Rom 13:11-12) He compared the time of waiting to night and the coming of salvation to the drawing near of the day. And every Advent brings us closer to that promised day. Zechariah ends our Advent journey by referring to the dawn from on high breaking upon us. He recognized that his son, John the Baptist, is the one “who will go before the Lord to prepare his way.” He could almost see the end of the long wait. His son is the precursor and he prepares the way of the one who is sure to follow. The Dawn of Salvation is so close. He is sure to come.

The Precursor of the Lord
This is the witness of John to the coming of the Lord. The priest also gives witness to the same coming of the Lord. He points out the nearness of salvation. Not only does the priest bring Christ closer to people by making him present in the preaching of the word and the celebration of the sacraments, he himself gives witness to the world about the coming end…the day of the resurrection. Leaving his biological family, the priest puts himself in the service of the family of God. His celibacy does not only provide the availability that he needs to fully serve the kingdom. His celibacy is also the sign of the world to come where men and women no longer will marry not be given to marriage because they will be like the angels. His priestly service will be the only one that remains in heaven. In the afterlife, doctors, soldiers, architects, engineers, teachers and other professions will no longer be needed. There is only one thing that we shall do in heaven and that is to worship God for all eternity. That is why Christ’s priesthood is an eternal priesthood. It is one that does not cease on earth but rather in continues in heaven for all eternity.

It is when the priest comes to anoint the sick and to minister to the dying that he clearly becomes a herald of the nearness of the dawn. Oftentimes, people are afraid of calling for a priest because they mistakenly think that the priest is the bringer of death. The priest is not the bringer of death because whether he comes or not, death will come upon a person if his time is already up. The priest comes with the consolation of the sacraments. He provides for the dying person the spiritual helps he needs as he prepares for his final battle on earth. Remember that Satan wants the dying person’s soul. That is why he uses all the tricks and deceptions in his book in order to instill in a person some sense of despair, some thought that he cannot be saved. That is why a person’s greatest battle will be the hour of his death. This is the reason why the ministry of the priest is very important at that moment. The priest comes in the name of Christ. He provides for the dying the forgiveness of sins and also the help of the Holy Spirit so that the person might remain steadfast in his faith in Jesus. The priest is not the bringer of death. Rather, he is the bringer of hope. He is the bringer of mercy. He is the bringer of strength in that moment of great spiritual distress. When a priest ministers to the dying, he is like Zechariah who says: In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us. He, who is ministered to by a priest, will surely close his eyes in this world and will open then in the next, in the world of the eternal day. He need not fear the night of death because the sacraments will make sure that the eternal day will come.

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

Simbang Gabi 8: The Priest as Minister of the Word

DECEMBER 23, 2017

Jesus, I trust in you!

When the angel Gabriel announced to Zechariah the birth of John the Baptist, he had difficulty believing in it. Thus, he was made speechless, unable to talk until the day of the fulfillment of the words of the angel. And so, he spent 9 months in silence. Deprived of voice, Zechariah experienced what the prophets of old lamented in the past: “We have in our day no prince, prophet, or leader, no burnt offering, sacrifice, oblation, or incense, no place to offer first fruits, to find favor with you.” (Daniel 3:38) The silence of the Lord was a deafening silence.

It was at the circumcision of John when the silence ended. Asked about the name of the child, Zechariah wrote: His name is John. “And immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God.” The birth of John brought about not just the end of the silence of Zechariah but also the end of the silence of God. At last, a prophet was sent. And the one who was born was not just a prophet. He is the voice in the wilderness who would declare: “Prepare the way of the Lord.” The voice is born. The Word will follow soon.

The birth of John the Baptist gives us the occasion to speak about the Priest as the Minister of the Word. “The People of God is formed into one in the first place by the Word of the Living God, which is quite rightly sought from the mouth of priests. For since nobody can be saved who has not first believed, it is the first task of priests as co-workers of the bishop, to preach the Gospel to all men.” (Presbyterorum Ordinis, 4.) The first task of priests is to preach the Word of God. The priest is ordained to preach. He carries out the mandate which Christ gave to the apostles: “Go to all the world and preach the Gospel to all creatures.” This task is vital for the Church. “By the saving Word of God, faith is aroused in the hearts of unbelievers and is nourished in the hearts of believers. By this faith, the congregation of believers begins and grows according to the saying of the Apostle: ‘Faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes from the preaching of Christ.’ (Rom. 10:17) ” (PO, 4.)

Thus, it is important that priests share the Gospel to everybody. “Whether by having their conversation heard among the gentiles they lead people to glorify God, or by openly preaching proclaim the mystery of Christ to unbelievers, or teach the Christian message or explain the Church’s doctrine, or endeavor to treat of contemporary problems in the light of Christ’s teachings – in every case, their role is to teach not their own wisdom but the Word of God and to issue an urgent motivation to all men to conversion and to holiness.” (PO, 4.) Like John the Baptist, the priest is just the voice. He is not the Word. The only Word is Christ. He speaks not in his own name. He repeats the words of Jesus himself: “The word that I speak is not mine but of the one who sent me.”

Because the word he speaks is not his but of the One who sent him, the priest “ought first of all to develop a great and personal familiarity with the word of God…He needs to approach the word with a docile and prayerful heart so that it may penetrate his thoughts and feelings and bring about a new outlook in him…Nor should (he) forget that ‘the greater or lesser degree of the holiness of the minister has a real effect on the proclamation of the word.’ As St. Paul said: ‘we speak, not to please men but to please God who tests our hearts’ (1 Thess. 2:4). If we have a lively desire to be the first to hear the word which we must preach, this will surely be communicated to God’s faithful people, for ‘out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.’ (Mt. 12:34)” (Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 149.)

Thus, the priest must be a man of the word of God. He is, first of all, an obedient listener and then an ardent proclaimer. He is the voice and not the Word. He is its servant and not its master. Like Zechariah, the priest must open his mouth and speak the praises of God.

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

Simbang Gabi 7: The Priest and the Church of the Poor

DECEMBER 22, 2017

Jesus, I trust in you!

Elizabeth called Mary blessed because she believed that everything told to her by the Lord would be fulfilled. Mary’s response was a song that the Holy Spirit inspired her to sing. In this song, she acknowledged the greatness of the Lord who looked upon her with great kindness. Elizabeth’s praise is the first of so many people who would call her blessed simply because the Almighty has done great things for her.

However, Mary’s song goes beyond thanking God for favors she personally received from him. She recognized how God is now moving in order to bring about the renewal of the entire created world. She sings of God’s mercy inverting the established worldly order: the proud being scattered in their conceit; the mighty being cast down from their throne and the lowly being lifted up; the hungry being filled with good things and the rich being sent away empty…This inversion of the world order is the breaking in of the Kingdom of God in the world. Wherever the gospel is preached to the poor, wherever the brokenhearted are healed, wherever the oppressed and the prisoners are freed, the Kingdom of God is found. The Kingdom of God is the gathering of people around Christ so that they may share in his Divine life. In this gathering of believers, Christ’s law of charity, justice and mercy is lived out.

The priest plays an important role in establishing on earth the Kingdom of God. “Priests exercise the function of Christ as Pastor and Head in proportion of their share in authority. In the name of the bishop, they gather the family of God as a brotherhood endowed with the spirit of unity and lead it in Christ through the Spirit to God the Father. For the exercise of this ministry, a spiritual power is given them, a power whose purpose is to build up.” (Presbyterorum Ordinis, 6.) The work of the priest is to gather and build up the family of God. He builds the kingdom of Christ by treating everybody with great kindness and by acting towards people according to the demands of Christian doctrine and life: “Be urgent in season and out of season, convince (manghikayat), rebuke (magsaway), and exhort (magpayo), be unfailing in patience and in teaching.” (2 Tim 4:2) His work is to educate people to reach Christian maturity: “Christians must be trained so as not to live only for themselves. Rather, according to the demands of the new law of charity, every man as he has received grace, ought to minister it one to another, and in this way all should carry out their duties in a Christian way in the service of their fellow men.” (PO, 6.)

“Although priests owe service to everybody the poor and the weaker ones have been committed to their care in a special way. It was with these that the Lord himself associated, and the preaching of the Gospel to them is given as a sign of his messianic mission.” (PO, 6.) The Magnificat is fulfilled not through an armed struggle or a class war. It is fulfilled in the exercise of charity, of mercy, and of justice. The inversion of the world order takes place through conversion – the conversion of the Church so that it may be a church for the poor. Pope Francis said: “I want a Church which is poor and for the poor.” (Evangelii Gaudium, 198.) The priest not only leads the community in works of charity for the poor. He must also allow the poor to be evangelizers themselves.  “We need to let ourselves be evangelized by (the poor). The new evangelization is an invitation to acknowledge the saving power at work in their lives and to put them at the center of the Church’s pilgrim way. We are called to find Christ in them, to lend our voices 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.)

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

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Simbang Gabi 6: The priest as vessel of Divine mysteries

DECEMBER 21, 2017

Jesus, I trust in you!

Having heard that Elizabeth was pregnant in her old age, Mary immediately went in haste to the house of Zechariah so that she may be of some help to her cousin. But what transpired revealed that something mysterious happened…something which the eye could not see. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, she was filled with the Holy Spirit and the Baby John leaped in his mother’s womb. It was a moment of salvation because as the angel said to Zechariah, “He will be filled with the Holy Spirit in his mother’s womb.” John, who was conceived in original sin, was sanctified by the Holy Spirit on the 6th month of his mother’s pregnancy. Thus, in his mother’s womb, John was liberated from original sin.

The sanctification of John in his mother’s womb could only point out to what was yet invisible to the human eye, and that is the presence of Jesus in Mary’s womb. And so, it was not only Mary who went in haste to visit Elizabeth. She brought Jesus whom she carried in her womb. Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, acknowledged this when she said: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”

The priest also lives in a similar way. As a man consecrated to God, the priest bears in himself the presence of God. “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves…” (2 Cor 4:7) The priest may be a human being like other human beings, frail, weak, and sinful. He is so much unlike the Blessed Virgin who is pure and unstained by any sin. And yet, in spite of his sinfulness and weakness, the priest carries with him an anointing that makes the presence of God felt wherever he goes. When our Lord sent his disciples to go in pairs in every town, he admonished them to take nothing with them except the blessing of God: “Take nothing with you…into whatever house you enter, say “Peace be with you!’ If a peaceful man lives there, your peace will rest on him but if not, your peace will return to you.” The presence of a priest should bring about God’s blessings upon a place. He comes in the name of the Lord.

The priest is the conduit of God’s blessings upon the world. As Elizabeth and John were sanctified by the Lord through the Blessed Virgin, so also people are sanctified by the same Lord through the presence of the priest. This is why it is important for a priest to pursue a holy life because he must first be sanctified by the mysteries he bears so that he can sanctify others. Contrary to present opinions that the priest must conform himself to present trends and fashions of the world, he must actually strive to conform himself to Jesus in whose Name he comes. The priest must strive to be a man of the Spirit more than of the flesh. He must strive to be a man of God and not a man of the world. The priest should strive to live a life worthy of his consecration.

Elizabeth was blessed to welcome Mary into her home. But remember that Our Lady did not go to Elizabeth’s house for the adulation. She went there to serve her cousin in the hour of need. In like manner, it may seem unavoidable that the priest be considered a welcome guest in homes and other places. But he goes not for the adulation. He goes to serve. He goes so that he may bring Christ closer to people. He goes to bring Christ’s blessing to them.

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

Simbang Gabi 5: The Incarnation and the Priest

DECEMBER 20, 2017

Jesus, I trust in you!

The most awaited moment has at last arrived. It is the fullness of time and at last, God sends his Son into the world to be born of a woman. He sends his Angel Gabriel to a virgin named Mary. The angel acknowledged the Virgin’s blessedness: Hail, full of grace. The Lord is with you. And then he proceeded to reveal the Divine plan of her conceiving and bringing forth into the world the Son of the Most High. It was planned even from the beginning of time, yes, even before the fall of man. God intended to send his Son as man in order to give man a share of the Divine Life. It was the plan that Lucifer resisted and rebelled against. He thought that by seducing Adam and Eve to sin, he could prevent this plan from being fulfilled. But the fall of man even gave God greater reason to pursue the plan of the incarnation.

And so the plan was all set, only one thing was still missing and the angel Gabriel was sent to get it: it was the consent of the Woman who was destined to be his Son’s mother. The Son was willing to descend from heaven. The Holy Spirit was willing to make it happen. All that was needed was for the chosen Woman to say “Yes.” And so it happened. Mary said: “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done to me according to your word.” And the Holy Spirit overshadowed her. The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.

God elects. God calls. And yet man must respond, “Yes.” This was the story of Mary. This is the story of every priest and consecrated person. We have seen in the past nights that God elects and calls every priest from the people of God. We heard yesterday that God wills to make men his allies and helpers in his work of sanctification. He chooses his men and calls them to follow him. Through Holy Ordination, the Lord will bestow on them the authority to transform bread and wine into his Body and Blood. In other words, the Incarnation will once again take place upon the altar…if only priests would imitate the Blessed Virgin and consent to his will.
When the Virgin said “yes” to God, the Son’s “yes” to the incarnation is enacted by the Holy Spirit. in like manner, the priest who has said “yes” to God’s call is bestowed the power to bring about the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ on the altar. When the priest repeats the words of the Lord upon the bread and wine, the Holy Spirit overshadows the offerings and transforms them into Christ’s body and blood. In a way, Christ obeys the words of the priest and descends upon the altar. Thus, bread is no longer bread but his body and wine is no longer wine but his blood.

St. John Eudes said: “Do you not envision Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of angels and men, Who was subject to His Mother and to St. Joseph on earth, erat subditus illis (Luke 2, 51), actually subjected to the power of His priests? Does He not obey their commands and their words? Does He not hear their voice when they summon Him to come into their hands at the consecration of the bread and wine in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass? Have they not power over His Mystical Body, which is the Church, over His Holy Spirit, over His grace and His mysteries? Is it not through priests and their ministry that the Holy Spirit is imparted to the faithful, that the treasures of grace are distributed and that the secrets of the eternal mysteries are made manifest? For that very reason Sacred Scripture attributed to them the function of "dispensers of the mysteries of God (1 Cor. 4, 1). Above all else, how wonderful is the power of priests over the very Body and Blood of the Saviour! That power not only gives them the right to bring Our Lord down upon the altar whenever they wish or to transport Him from one place to another; it also extends to the point of sacrificing Him every day, and of annihilating Him so far as it is possible to annihilate Him, because sacrifice means the destruction of the object sacrificed. Whoever possesses sacrificial power likewise must have power to destroy what he sacrifices. This is indeed the greatest and most absolute power God Himself can exercise over His creatures, to destroy and annihilate them for His glory.

Thus, God has honored the sovereign Priest, His Divine Son, and all those whom He has called to this holy state of the priesthood.‘’

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

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Simbang Gabi 4: The Priest and the Sacrifice

DECEMBER 19, 2017

Jesus I trust in you!

The calculation of the date of the birth of the Lord is really based on the story told by the Gospel today. The Angel Gabriel announced the birth of St. John the Baptist to Zechariah as he was fulfilling his temple duties during the evening sacrifice on Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement, which normally is offered in the month of September. Zechariah was serving in the temple because he was a priest. He came from the tribe of Levi which was the priestly tribe of Israel. Because he was a priest, Zechariah performed duties related to worship.

This is basically the work of a priest. In every religion, there are priests tasked to offer the highest act of worship, and that would be the offering of a sacrifice to the deity. The offering of the sacrifice was a sublime task because it was and continues to be the highest act of worship. The sacrifice is the highest act of worship because it involves the killing of an animal or a human victim in acknowledgment of the deity’s dominion over life and death.

Before the Levites were appointed as the priestly tribe, the offering of the sacrifice was the work of the head of the household, a work that was later passed on to the first-born son. After the worship of the golden calf at the foot of Mount Sinai, the offering of the sacrifice was given as the task of the sons of Levi who were the only tribe that did not take part in the idolatrous worship.  And so the sons of Levi took turns in their temple duties and that was what Zechariah was doing when the angel appeared to him.
Christ’s offering of himself on the wood of the Cross is the most perfect sacrifice because what was offered to God was not the blood of any animal nor that of any human being but that of God’s only begotten Son. This perfect sacrifice of Jesus nullified all other sacrifices because nothing else will be as worthy of Divine Majesty as the offering of God’s Son. Thus, at the death of Jesus, the temple curtains were rent into two, marking the end of all sacrifices to give way to the one perfect sacrifice of Jesus.

Jesus perpetuated his sacrifice by establishing the Holy Mass during the Last Supper. On Holy Thursday, he established the Holy Eucharist and in order to perpetuate it, he ordained his apostles as priests. He had to ordain priests because only priests can offer the sacrifice. “God, who alone is the holy one and sanctifier, has willed to take men as allies and helpers to become humble servants in his work of sanctification. The purpose for which priests are consecrated by God through the ministry of the bishop is that they should be made sharers in a special way in Christ’s priesthood and, by carrying out sacred functions, act as his ministers who, through his Spirit, continually exercise his priestly function for our benefit in the liturgy.” (Presbyterorum Ordinis, 5.)
The offering of the Eucharist is the center of the life of the Church. “The other sacraments and all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate are bound up with the Eucharist and are directed towards it. For in the most blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself our Pasch and the living Bread which gives life to men through his flesh – that flesh which is given life and gives life through the Holy Spirit.” (PO, 5.)

Because of the supreme importance of the Mass in the life of the Church, the work of the priests is so important. Without priests, the sacrifice cannot be offered. Without the sacrifice, God cannot be worship in a way he rightfully deserves. “The Eucharistic celebration is the center of the assembly of the faithful over which the priest presides.” (PO, 5.) Let us assist at the most perfect Sacrifice. Let us teach our children to love the Mass. Loving the Mass, we will love God all the more because through the hands of the priest, we offer God the one whom he loves the most: Jesus Christ his Son.

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

Simbang Gabi 3: The Spiritual Fatherhood of Priests

DECEMBER 18, 2017

Jesus, I trust in you!

“Live with me and be my father and my priest!” (Judges 17: 10)

Definitely St. Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus. The Gospel reading was clear: “Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.” To allay doubts of the involvement of a third party, through a dream, the angel assured Joseph: “Do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home, for it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived.” However, even though he was not the biological father, St. Joseph was entrusted with the responsibility of being a father to God’s only Son. “You are to name him Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.” Although Jesus did not come from his loins, he was still called “father” by our Lord. When the child Jesus was found in the temple, our Lady said to him, “Your father and I have been distressed looking for you.”
Is it not strange that on account of the discipline of celibacy, the priest has no biological children of his own and yet he is called “Father” by so many people. In the parish, I am even amused by the fact that people older than me still call me “Father.” Many still call me “father” even without knowing my name. I left the possibility to have a wife and children of my own and yet turned out to be father to so many people…so much more than I could ever beget for myself.

Why do Catholics call priests “father”? Christ is the true priest of the New Testament. As the first-born sons were the priests before the Levitical priesthood, so Christ, who is the first-born of all creation, is the priest of the new covenant. As the first-born is a fatherly relationship with his brothers, so Christ, the first-born, exercises a fatherly role with all of us.

All priests of the New Covenant pattern themselves after Jesus. They share in the priesthood of Christ. Thus, St. Paul says: “I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” (1 Cor. 4:14-15)  The fatherhood of priests is a spiritual fatherhood. Fatherhood is a life-giving task. Through Baptism, the priest brings about the rebirth of the children of God. In the Eucharist, the priest provides the Bread of life for his spiritual children. In Confession, the priest forgives sins and restores the penitent to the communion of the family of God. In the Anointing of the sick, the priest provides consolation and strength in times of bodily weakness. Acting in the person of Christ, the priest becomes the first-born son, and therefore, he exercises a fatherly role towards his brethren. He does not replace the one Father of all. Rather, he has been handed a share in the Fatherly role of God in the lives of his children.

The man who has given up marriage has become the eldest brother of the Christian family. Renouncing the possibility of having biological children of his own, the priest receives more brothers and sisters, more sons and daughters that he can ever have on his own. Thus, like what he did to Joseph, God has made the priest the head of his household and ruler over the King’s possession. (Ps. 105:2)

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

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Simbang Gabi 2: The Priest called from the People of God

DECEMBER 17, 2017

Jesus, I trust in you!

The 2nd day of the Simbang gabi will always be memorable because we always read today the long list of the Lord’s ancestors. Here we see a glimpse of the family of the Lord in a span of many centuries: 14 generations from Abraham to King David, 14 generations from David to the Babylonian exile, and 14 generations from the Babylonian exile to St. Joseph. At the end of this long list is Jesus Christ, the son of Mary.

Jesus came from this long family line.  It would be to this family that the promised Messiah will be born. Jesus came from this family. As in the case of Jesus, the priest will always be called from the people of God. Ministers are called by the Lord from his faithful. These ministers will be called to be at the service of the people of God. Thus, all the members of the People of God must do their part to foster priestly vocations. “The duty of fostering vocations falls on the whole Christian community, and they should discharge it principally by living full Christian lives. The greatest contribution is made by families which are animated by a spirit of faith, charity, and piety and which provide as it were, a first seminary, and by parishes in whose abundant life the young people themselves take an active part.” (Optatam Totius, 2.)

Priestly and religious vocations do not just happen. They are fostered. This means that the family and parish must provide an atmosphere that is conducive to the forming of priestly vocations. Indeed, a vocation is a calling from the Lord. But we must provide our young people with an atmosphere that can help them hear the voice of the Lord. Pope Pius X said that the family is the first seminary. Seminary means seed bed. It is in the family where the seeds of vocation are planted. Pope Pius himself experienced this. Pope Pius’ real name is Guiseppe Sarto. When he was studying for the priesthood, his mother worked as a cleaning lady to support his studies. Eventually, Guiseppe was ordained priest and later on, was ordained a bishop. After his ordination as bishop, he proudly showed his mother his episcopal ring. He said to her: “Mother, look at this ring, which is so beautiful.” His humble mother took off her wedding ring and said to him: “My son, without this ring, you cannot have your ring.” Pope Pius discovered his vocation thanks to his parents who were faithful in their wedding vows.

The family is the domestic Church. It is the first school of faith where children first learn by experience faith and love. In a prayerful family, children first learn to love God. When a family is generous to the poor, children learn the lesson of charity. Children observe and learn the lessons of sacrifice and self- giving when they see it in their parents. When children are educated with examples of faith, love and self-giving, they increase in their desire to serve God and his people. Here we have the beginnings of priestly and religious vocations.

Thus, we must truly live out our faith in our families. We must help our children listen to the voice of God. Why should we care? Why should families care about fostering priestly vocations? It is because a priest is a great blessing to the family. St. John Bosco said: God’s greatest blessing to a family is a son-priest! 

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

Simbang Gabi 1: The Common Priesthood

DECEMBER 16, 2017

The following are the homilies I wrote for this year's Simbang Gabi. In as much as the Church in the Philippines is celebrating a Year of the Clergy and Consecrated Persons, our Parish Simbang Gabi homilies were centered on the mystery of the Priesthood.
The Interior of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
of the Diocese of  Cubao, Philippines

Jesus, I trust in you!

We celebrate the Simbang Gabi this year at the beginning of the Year of the Clergy and Consecrated Persons which is part of the Philippines’ nine-year novena in preparation for the 500th anniversary of the evangelization of the Philippine islands. Therefore, let us meditate on the priesthood and the consecrated life and try to see their place in the new evangelization.

But before looking at the ministerial priesthood, we have to first affirm the priesthood of all the faithful. “The Lord Jesus makes his whole Mystical Body sharer in the anointing of the Spirit wherewith he has been anointed: for in that Body all the faithful are made a holy and kingly priesthood, they offer spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ, and they proclaim the virtues of him who has called them out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (Presbyterorum Ordinis, 2.) “The whole community of believers is priestly. The faithful exercise their baptismal priesthood through their participation, each according to his own vocation, in Christ’s mission as priest, prophet, and king. Through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, the faithful are ‘consecrated to be a holy priesthood.’” (CCC, 1546)

“The common priesthood of the faithful is exercised by the unfolding of baptismal grace – a life of faith, hope, and charity, a life according to the Spirit.” (CCC, 1547) Therefore, each of us is called to live a holy life, a life worthy of our Christian vocation, because in this way, we are able to offer our lives to God as a living sacrifice. The prophet Isaiah in the first reading speaks of gentile nations who were formerly strangers but are now part of God’s chosen people. They wholeheartedly serve the Lord. They make holy the Sabbath day and faithfully keep his laws. God promised that he will bring these gentile nations to his holy mountain. There, the Lord shall receive them with joy in his holy Temple and he will accept their sacrifices.

We are these gentile nations referred to by the prophet Isaiah. Through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, God admitted us to his holy temple and accepts our sacrifice. But what could we give to the Lord? What could we offer him? We offer him our lives. We offer him our fidelity to his commands. We offer him our humble and contrite hearts.

The Lord in the holy gospel praised John the Baptist for his witness to the truth. “John was like a light burning brightly and people rejoiced in his light.” Like John the Baptist, we must be witnesses of truth. Our light must shine before men. Our light shall give joy to the world. This is how we must live our baptismal consecration. By Baptism, each of us was consecrated to the Lord. To be consecrated means to belong to the Lord. We are consecrated to be holy. We are consecrated to be light of the world. And this should really make us think: Do I bring light or do I bring gloom? Does my presence radiate joy or sadness? Am I witness of truth or bringer of fake news? What can I offer now to the Lord? Is my life a spiritual sacrifice worthy of him?

Let us always do what is righteous and just for the salvation of God will surely come. It will not delay. Let us live lives worthy of our identity as a priestly people. Glorify the Lord with your lives.

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

Immaculate Conception: Creation, Fall,, Redemption

Jesus, I trust in you!

Before original sin, there was first original holiness and justice. “The first man was not only created good, but was also established in friendship with his Creator and in harmony with himself and with creation around him…” (CCC 347) Adam and Eve were constituted in original holiness and justice wherein they shared in the divine life. They lived in Divine intimacy and in doing so, were exempted from suffering and death. Living in the garden was the sign that our first parents enjoyed God’s friendship.
But all was changed when man allowed himself to be seduced by the devil. The serpent disguised as good and pleasurable what is actually fatal. “Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in the Creator die in his heart and abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command.” (CCC 397) In that sin, man preferred himself to God and by that very act scorned him. He chose himself over and against God, against the requirement of his creaturely status and therefore against his own good. Constituted in a state of original holiness, man was destined to be fully ‘divinized’ by God in glory. Seduced by the devil, he wanted to be ‘like God’, but ‘without God, before God, and not in accordance with God.’ (CCC 398) Because of their first disobedience, Adam and Eve immediately lose the grace of original holiness. They became afraid of God of whom they have conceived a distorted image – that of a God jealous of his prerogatives. The control of the soul’s spiritual faculties over the body is shattered, the union of man and woman becomes subject to tensions, their relationship henceforth marked by lust and domination. Harmony with creation is broken: visible creation became alien and hostile to man. Because of man, creation is now subject ‘to its bondage to decay…Death makes its entrance into human history. (CCC 400) The personal sin of Adam and Eve affected the human nature that they would now transmit in a fallen state. They will transmit a human nature that is deprived of original holiness and justice. They will transmit a human nature that is wounded in the natural powers proper to it, subject to ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death, and inclined to sin – an inclination to evil which is called “concupiscence.” (CCC 404-405)

The Immaculate Conception
The response of God to all this is the promise of a Savior. God will send his Son to be born of a Woman who will be established in perpetual enmity with the devil. As Adam is the source of sin, Christ is the source of grace. The bad news of original sin will be reversed by the Good News that Jesus is the Savior of all men, that all need salvation and that salvation is offered to all through Christ. (CCC 389) Mary, who is destined to be the Mother of the Redeemer, became the first to be redeemed. By God’s decisive act, Mary did not inherit a human nature that is deprived of original holiness and grace. Instead, she is “full of Grace” because from the very beginning of her human existence, she was filled with the Holy Spirit. The Lord was truly with her. In Mary, we find that paradise lost became paradise regained. God, who is wonderful in creating man, was even more wonderful in restoring him to grace. This wondrous act of God is concretely seen in Mary. In Mary, we behold the glory of the new creation in Christ which far surpassed the beauty of original holiness and justice. All beautiful in the grace of God, Mary rightfully appropriates for herself the song of the prophet Isaiah: “I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul; for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation, and wrapped me in a mantle of justice, like a bride adorned with her jewels.” (Is 61:10) Mary shows us the beauty of creation redeemed and human nature fully divinized by God in glory. Hers is the glory that we aspire for. Thus we turn away from the wickedness of sin and struggle against our concupiscence. Purified by the grace we receive from the sacraments, we hope that one day we shall also regain the paradise we lost. To Mary, we cry for help: “Bend from your throne at the voice of our crying. Look to this earth where your footsteps have trod. Stretch out your arms to us living and dying, Mary Immaculate, Mother of God.”  

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