Saturday, December 15, 2018

Late Post - 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time B: Hunger for God

AUGUST 5, 2018

Jesus, I trust in you!

The people of Israel have witnessed how with a powerful arm, the Lord liberated them from the slavery of Egypt. They saw how the Red Sea was divided so that they can cross it on dry ground with walls of water to their left and right. They saw how the soldiers of Egypt who pursued them were drowned at sea when the waters collapsed on them. Very impressive signs they saw and yet, as they walked to freedom, they could not forget how they sat by their fleshpots and ate their fill of bread when they were still in Egypt. They even complained to the Lord: “You had to lead us into this desert to make the whole community die of famine!”

So also did the people who came to Capernaum in search of Jesus. They looked for him because they ate their fill when Jesus multiplied bread and fish. The Lord knew their hearts and so he said: “You are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled.” Basically, we are always hungry for food and never do we become satisfied. This “craving for food eventually expands to include other things – clothes, cars, gadgets, houses, and wealth in all its forms. The irony is that the more we accumulate these things, the hungrier we become.” (Fr. Virgilio Ojoy, OP)

Seeing our insatiable hunger, the Lord tells us: “Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” “It is foolish to think that perishable material things can give us the happiness and the satisfaction that we seek.” (Ojoy, OP) Jesus reminds us that there is a concern greater than what to eat and what to wear. We are meant for eternal life. Material things give us temporary satisfaction. Only God can satisfy the deepest cravings of the human heart. Since the cravings of the human heart are endless, only the One who is eternal can satisfy it. “To make us appreciate more keenly the necessity to turn our eyes to eternal blessings, God has filled our hearts with desires so vast and so magnificent that nothing in creation is capable of satisfying them.” (St. John Vianney) Only in the Lord will we be happy for all eternity. “Do you want to be happy? Fix your eyes on Heaven; it is there that your hearts will find that which will satisfy them completely.”

The earthly food that we eat can sustain us only from one meal to the next. The only food that can help us endure to eternal life is the food that Jesus gives us. He gives us Himself. “The Bread of God is that which comes down from heaven. I am the Bread of life. He who comes to me will not hunger, and he who believes in me will never thirst again.”  For us to crave for this heavenly food, we must “believe in the one (God) sent.” We must believe in Jesus. “You must no longer live as Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds…” Learn Christ as truth is in Jesus. To believe in Jesus is to be renewed in the spirit of our minds: to see beyond the limits of this material world into the invisible and eternal world that Christ reveals to us. It is only when we believe in Jesus that we will beg Him: “Give us this bread always.” To hunger for God is to crave for the Eucharist. “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Taste him. Eat this bread from heaven and you will hunger no more. Believe in Jesus and you will thirst no more.

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

Immaculate Conception: Original Holiness, Justice, and Beauty

DECEMBER 8, 2018

JESUS, I trust in you!

The greeting of the angel Gabriel to Blessed Mary reveals the Immaculate Conception: “Hail, full of grace. The Lord is with you!” it was an appropriate description of Mary’s soul which was “full of grace” from the very beginning of her existence. Hers was a soul unlike all of us who were conceived and born deprived of God’s abiding presence: “All men have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God.” By the disobedience of Adam, sin entered the world. This sin, which we call “original sin,” is a deprivation of holiness and justice. God created man in a state of original holiness and justice. St. Paul tells us we were “created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph 4:24). God created Adam and Eve in a state of original justice and original holiness (CCC 375). According to the Catechism, original justice means Adam and Eve were in a right relationship with themselves, each other, and all of creation (CCC 376). Original holiness means Adam and Eve shared in God’s own life through sanctifying grace, so they were adopted children of God (CCC 375). After the fall, our first parents transmitted to all of us a human nature deprived of this right relationship with God, with one another, with ourselves, and with all creation. Ours is an inherited nature that is deprived of God’s own life, God’s indwelling which is called sanctifying grace.

But not so for Mary: she was full of grace from the very beginning of her mortal existence. This is because she was “chosen before the creation began.” In the world, people are chosen for certain positions according to their achievements and track record. But this is not the case with Mary. Even before she was created, she was chosen to be the Mother of God. Or better yet, when God created the Virgin Mary, he already intended her to be the Mother of his only begotten Son. Therefore, he infused into that little fetus a soul that is full of grace. From the very beginning, the Lord was with her and has never left her. Hers was a human nature that was endowed with original justice and holiness. She was the most beautiful creature that God has ever created. None will be lovelier than her. She is the loveliest of all God’s creation: Tota pulchra es, Maria, et macula non est in te.

This is why Mary is our fallen nature’s solitary boast. Mary shows us the original beauty of our human nature. Hers was the beauty of the human being before the fall. Hers is the beauty of human nature redeemed. In her, we see how God wondrously created man and how he even more wondrously redeemed him. Take away all the corruption, all the ugliness of sin, and you will find man as God originally intended us to be. We look at Mary and we see the original plan of God for creation: wonderfully sharing in his Divine Life.

And this is what we ask our Redeemer to make of us: transform us according to the pattern of Mary’s beauty! Save us from sin! Save us from our own selves!  Restore in us the beauty of your Divine likeness. O loveliest of all God’s creation, preserve us in the Baptismal grace. 

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

2nd Sunday of Advent: Returning Home

DECEMBER 9, 2018

Jesus, I trust in you!
Many of us think that Advent is simply a preparation for Christmas. However, last Sunday’s gospel reading tells us that Advent means something more. It points us towards the 2nd coming of Christ at the end of time.

St John the Baptist
Today, St. John the Baptist enters the picture. He will be our Advent guide. We often associate him with Christmas because he is the precursor of the Lord. He goes before the Lord to prepare his way. He is shown to fulfill the prophecies of Isaiah: “A voice crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight his paths…and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” However, we should pay attention to the end of the reading: “All flesh shall see the salvation of God.” When did it happen that all people saw the salvation of God? Was it when Jesus was born? Definitely not! When the Lord was born, only shepherds and magi saw and visited him. On that blessed night of the Lord’s birth, Bethlehem was fast asleep, unaware that God was born among them. In fact, later on, Jesus would weep over the ancient city of Jerusalem, soon to be destroyed because she did not recognize the time of her visitation. In fact, even until today, not everybody can see the Lord. Only those who have faith in him can see him.

And so, when will all flesh see the salvation of God? It will be at the end of the world. Remember last Sunday’s gospel reading? Jesus said: “And then they (all nations) will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” All people, whether they are believers or not, will  see Christ coming back in glory. That is why, the Lord told us to stand erect with heads held up high because we know that our redemption is at hand. The Prophet said: “All flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

And no one can escape the Lord’s inevitable coming. “That day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth.” The Lord’s coming is something we can neither prevent nor avoid. And so, we might as well prepare for it. How can we prepare for the Lord’s coming? St. John the Baptist tells us the way: “Prepare the way of the Lord. Make straight his paths.” John preached a baptism of repentance. Our preparation for the Lord’s coming should be by way of repentance. Our crooked ways must be made straight. We must make up for our shortcomings as valleys are to be filled. We must temper our excesses as mountains are to be made low. In society, we must also strive to bring about social justice. Many live in want because a few live in plenty. Preparing for Christ’s coming also means that the rich must temper their opulence so that by charity, those who are in want may have their necessities satisfied.

As Isaiah said in his prophecy: “Jerusalem, look and see your children gathered from the east and the west at the word of the Holy One,” we realize that listening to the Word of God leads us to this gathering of the Church. “Led away on foot by their enemies they left you: but God will bring them back to you.” Sin led us away from the Church and now, God brings us back to be reconciled with him and with the Church. Incidentally, the President tells us not to go to the Church and simply stay home. In doing so, he has done the work of the enemy who led the children of Jerusalem to leave her. Repentance means coming home to God. Repentance means coming home to the Church. During Advent, there is a better place to go than shopping malls. That place is the confession box. Return home to God. Return home to the Church.

As we joyfully await the glorious coming of Christ, we light today the candle of peace. This peace can only be received if we are reconciled to the Lord and to his Church. St. Paul said: “This is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.” (Narito ang aking idinadalangin: na ang inyong pag-ibig ay yumaman ng yumaman sa ganap na kaalaman at sa lahat ng pagkukuro. Makilala sana ninyo kung ano ang lalong mabuti at maging malinis kayo at walang pagkukulang hanggang araw ni Kristo, na puspos ng bunga ng kabanalan na nakakamit sa pamamagitan ni Jesukristo, sa ikaluluwalhati at ikararangal ng Diyos.)

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

First Sunday of Advent C: Looking towards the end

December 2, 2018

Jesus, I trust in you.

Every time we begin a new year, we are filled with hope. To many of us, a new year is an opportunity to erase mistakes done during the past year. A new leaf turns and so hopefully, things would get better. This hope is expressed by the word “sana”: “Sana maging masagana ang bagong taon”; “Sana matupad ang pangarap ko”; “Sana magbago na ang lahat.” Perhaps this is the reason why we light a candle of hope on the first Sunday of Advent. Inasmuch as the first Sunday of Advent is the beginning of a new liturgical year, we light the candle of hope which expresses our longing for something (or someone) in the future.
The Last Judgment

But why is it that the Gospel about the end of the world? The signs in the sun, moon, and the stars, the shaking of the powers of the heavens and the roaring of the sea and of its waves will cause all people to be perplexed and afraid in anticipation of what is coming upon the world. This fear will come from the fact that they do not know why these things are happening. But we Christians are told by the Lord that when these things happen, we should stand erect and raise our heads because we know that our redemption is at hand. We know that the Lord Jesus will descend in a cloud with power and great glory. We are so sure that this will happen because our Lord promised that he will return and he will keep his promise: “The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah.” We should raise our heads as if we are telling the world: “The Lord comes with vindication. Just wait and see…I told you that this will happen. The Lord will return to judge the living and the dead.”

There is no use for distress because our worrying will not keep the Lord from fulfilling his promise. Our worry will not stop the signs from taking place. “That day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth.” The day of his return is already set and nothing can we do to delay it. Every Advent season brings us closer to that appointed end. Time is running out.

Therefore, what must we do? St Paul tells us we should spend our remaining time in striving to increase in love for one another and for all. We must strive to be blameless in holiness before God at the coming of the Lord Jesus. As we received apostolic instructions on how to conduct ourselves to please God, we should do even more because we are closer to that day and time is running out. The anxieties of daily life and the corruption of the world must not allow us to be caught by surprise on that day. We know that the Lord will surely come. Therefore we must be vigilant in prayer and in charity so that we may be able to stand before the Son of Man.

Look at the overseas contract worker. Every day he works and toils and endures the pain of being separated from his loved ones. What sustains him is a date that he keeps in mind: the date of the end of the contract when he could return to his family. And as that day draws near, he saves his earnings so that he may bring something home to offer his family.

Let us keep in mind that we are strangers in this world. Every day, we work and toil as time brings us closer to the end. This hope should console us. We are going home at last and our true home is in heaven. Now that the end of our earthly journey is coming to an end, we should think of what to bring home to offer the Lord at his return. What harvest will I offer him? What good work? What offering of holiness will I give him? We shall soon be reunited with the Lord. That day will not be far away. Stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.

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