RESOURCES OF FAITH
Paying Taxes to the Emperor
The Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech. They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion, for you do not regard a person’s status. Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” Knowing their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites? Show me the coin that pays the census tax.” Then they handed him the Roman coin. He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” They replied, “Caesar’s.” At that he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”
The Parable of the Wedding Feast
Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come. A second time he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those invited: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast.”’ Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come. Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.’ The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to meet the guests, he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. The king said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ But he was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’ Many are invited, but few are chosen.”
The Parable of the Tenants
Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people:
“Hear another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey. When vintage time drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce. But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat, another they killed, and a third they stoned. Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones, but they treated them in the same way. Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’ They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?” They answered him, “He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times.” Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes? Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”
The Parable of the Tenants
8 October 2017
Everything that we enjoy here on earth is a manifestation of God’s great love for all of us. All the good things that we see, feel, touch and experience are God’s gift to us. It is God’s continuing providence that makes all these things possible. Each day God never ceases in doing great things for all he loves. Even giving himself
totally through His Son, he emptied himself in order to embrace our broken humanity. This is what love is all about and this is God’s invitation to all of us to share the gift of His love to all our brothers and sisters.
But when we look around us it seems that we disfigured God’s plan for all of us because of the continuing disintegration of our relationship with each other and the rest of His creation. There is a widening gap between the rich and the poor because of greed for possession and fame to those privilege few who think that they own the world. There is an increasing violation of human rights to those who are in power whose common victims are the poor and the voiceless members of our society. There is continuing destruction of our natural resources which alarmed all of us brought by climate changed. These things happened because we lost our connection to our God who is the source of everything.
Our present reality affects our relationship with ourselves, others and our Lord. In the presence of evil and suffering we often ask why can a loving God allow these things to happen. Many times we asked this question as to how and where do all these evil things come from. Why can’t only good things happen? Why do we have to struggle all these harsh realities of life? Perhaps we will never resolve all our attempts to understand why certain things happen if we take away ourselves from the picture. When we look at things in a perspective that God is in control of everything as if God did not give us the freedom to choose goodness over wickedness, light over darkness and generosity over greediness. God’s love should not be taken as a separate reality from human freedom because out of God’s love we are free to give ourselves fully to him or not.
This is the message of our readings for today where all of us have not responded God’s invitation in the way that he wants from us. Instead of becoming sharers of His divine life what we did is that we put ourselves as the center of everything thinking that whatever He created is under our disposal. As what prophet Isaiah says in the first reading that the owner did everything good for his vineyard and expecting to bear a good fruit but what happened is that it bear wild fruits of abuse and bloodshed. Despite God’s goodness we continue to disobey him and reject his offer of new life every time we follow the ways of our ego. Our self-centered desires lead us to self-absorption and destruction. We became prisoners of our own beliefs that we can achieve fulfillment and happiness if we own the richness of the world. Our lifestyle speaks how greedy and selfish we are. Our desire for more breaks the web of our relationship with each other. We no longer treat each other as brothers and sisters because we are blinded by the empty promises of this world that being rich, famous and powerful is the ultimate source of happiness. This is what St. Paul says in his letter to the Philippians: “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving make your requests known to God. We will have a fruitful life if everything that we do and everything that we desire for will be in accordance to the Will of God. This is God’s dream for all of us and we can only respond to his invitation if our hearts and minds are open to His love.
God’s love in us has a transformative element in our life if we allow him to change our ways. His love is freely given to us. He cannot force us to love him in return because his love in the first place is not imposed to us with conditions. Despite our shortcomings, God never gave up on us. No matter how ungrateful we are amidst all the blessings that we received from him our God finds ways to bring us home. Our home is represented by the vineyard that the parable of our Gospel today wants to highlight.
The owner leased his vineyard to the tenants and went on a journey. When the appropriate time came, he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce. But the unexpected event took place where his servants were beaten, stoned and killed. Thinking that that the tenants will pay respect to his son whom he sent, the more they threw him away and killed him. This parable mirrors our response to God’s invitation whom he gave us the responsibility to take care his creation. The sad thing is we responded him inappropriately.
The vineyard is the world that we live in. It was given to us by God for us to cultivate and take care which everyone is given equal opportunity to enjoy its fruits. We are reminded that we are stewards of God’s creation not as owners. But the way we live reflects as if we own God’s creation. We often think that we are entitled to what we have. Having a sense of entitlement pushed us to the limit thinking ourselves as god. We used God’s gift in our own terms and comfort. We even use them as a way to take advantage to those who are underprivileged. All those tenants are accountable to their wickedness which holds true to the selfishness of the human heart. If we are honest to ourselves we will accept all our shortcomings and they destroyed God’s original plan to all his creation.
We see our own faults of not responding to God’s invitation and learned from our mistakes. It’s good to look deeply into ourselves and ask how our lifestyle affects the integrity of God’s creation. Are there times when we asked ourselves if we have done something to the massive corruption in our country which widen the gap between the rich and the poor? Have we done something to the continuing violence that is happening in our country today? Have we shown our compassion and empathy to those who are living in desperate and hopeless situation. Have we given voices to our less fortunate especially our indigenous brothers and sisters who are severely affected by the massive destruction of our rainforest? Oftentimes, we are caught by our own needs and we feel that we have all the right to satisfy our needs to the point of exploiting others and objectifying them.
May all of us seek God’s dream for all of us and we can only do this if we deepen our relationship with our Lord Jesus who showed us and thought us how to live according to God’s plan. As we received the body and blood of Christ, let our hearts be transformed and opened to do His will. We will only do this if we treat our brothers and sisters as important as we are. Everything that we do is always grounded on the love of God and this love reflects on how we relate with others. Amen.
The Parable of the Two Sons
Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people: “What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He came to the first and said, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ He said in reply, ‘I will not,’ but afterwards changed his mind and went. The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did his father’s will?” They answered, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you. When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.”
The Parable of the Two Sons
1 October 2017
God’s Kind of Love
While I was doing my apostolate in New Bilibid Prison - Medium Security Compound, I met one prisoner who had been in the prison cell for almost 30 years. At first, I was hesitant to approach him because I was bothered by my prejudices towards them who are in the prison. When I saw him smiling, my discomfort started to fade. I began to be more accommodating as to what he wanted to share to me. I felt blessed as he entrusted to me his story which he kept for himself for so many years. He became spontaneous and emotional as he shared how he was brought to the jail and how his life has been during the many years in prison.
Listening to his story, I was moved by how God use the story of every person to make Himself known. There is nothing that can stop God in doing marvellous things to those people who are open to his revelation. Our conversation became a faith-sharing experience. This is how God works. God used whatever time that we had so we could experience his reassuring presence that our encounter was not an accident. Everything happens for a reason. I was sent there in the prison thinking that I will bring God’s love to the inmates but I was surprised because God was already there waiting for me.
God sees more than what we see. He goes beyond the box where we usually think that any person who had a dark history is not capable to change. Even the man himself thought that way because he asked some questions which bothered him a lot. His questions brought him to tears as he expressed his need of God’s forgiveness. Can God still forgive him? Can God still love him? Is he still capable of changing his life even if the society already labelled them as “criminal” and they don’t deserve for a second chance? These are his questions that he constantly asked himself. Alongside with these questions he was grappling with his guilt. He felt sorry for what he did and even asked God every night to forgive him for everything that he has done.
After our conversation I had a deep sense of joy because I saw his face light up. He was able to express everything that he wanted to share. That conversation gave him hope that despite what had happened in his life, God never ceased to love him. He felt the liberating love of God which gave him reason to forgive himself and to embrace whatever goodness that he is capable of doing.
After my visit with that inmate, I left the prison believing that everyone has a chance. Both of us were used by God to be his instrument of healing and hope.
While I was reflecting on that experience, I was brought to the theme of our readings for the past Sundays and our readings for today, “God’s justice is his mercy and love.” We can never understand God’s love for all of us if we use our own way of understanding what love is. Oftentimes, we set our own conditions on people we love. We set our own boundaries, rules and limits as a standard of our loving.
If we measure God’s love against our limited understanding of love, then we would say that God is unfair because God loves both sinner and saint equally. There is no partiality in his love. This is what our first reading on the prophet Ezekiel says, that “The way of the Lord is unfair. Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way unfair? Is it not your ways are unfair.” This is how we see God. We limit God’s love as a merit to our good works. But God’s love goes beyond that. Even the worst sinner or criminal is tenderly loved by God. That is why Jesus’ teaching is unacceptable to the Pharisees and High priests because it does not suit their legalistic framework of who God is. It was even a scandal to them that Jesus dined with public sinners and even invited them to be part of God’s kingdom. God’s love calms the wandering heart of every sinner who wished to change his/her life. It is a kind of love that heals, liberates and transforms.
This is how God loves us. His invitation to love is open to all. The challenge now lies on how we respond to his invitation. This is exemplified by the parable of Jesus that is highlighted by our gospel today. The story about the man who invited his two sons to work in his vineyard is the story of each one of us that explains the quality of our response to God’s invitation. In this parable, we could say that the Father represents God’s invitation to all of us where all of us are given equal opportunity to be part of his community of love. God gives us the grace to be able to respond to his call but his invitation is not imposed on us. God does not suppress human freedom. After all, His love is freely given to us and it needs an open heart to participate to that love. Love begets love. If we only know how deep God’s love for all of us then we could have a special space in our hearts which is docile to his invitation to love.
Our experience tells us that most of the time our response to God is based on our own comfort. We respond to him not according to what he desires for us. Many times, we fail to understand what his love for all of us is because of our limitations. Our selfishness, brokenness, and painful history control us and become obstacles to respond appropriately to God’s love. We cannot love the way he loves us. It is shown in the way the two sons responded to the invitation of their father to work in his vineyard. This is how our life operates. At times, our Yes to God is only in word but not in action. We go to church regularly, pray to God daily, and read the bible as our daily habit, but we do not allow the Lord to transform us. We believe in God, but our lifestyle is still anchored to our earthly desires. It is still our ego which controls us. This is manifested in the way we relate with others and the rest of God’s creation. To some extent we are also like the first son who initially did not respond to his father’s invitation but later on changed his mind. It happens to us when some circumstances of our life change the way we look at things that lead us to conversion experience. With that we try to amend whatever broken relationship that we have. We try to fix things and surrender to God what we wished for our life.
All of us are like these sons. At this point, we are invited by God to examine the quality of our response to Him. The kind of life that we have shown our response to God’s invitation to participate in his mission. We can only do this if we have an active and dynamic faith that God wants us to have.
May the love of God inspire us to say our YES not only in words but also in our deeds. Through the intercession of St. Francis, may these lines of the song: “Lord, make me a channel of your peace. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned. It is in giving that we received. When there is death there is new life,” be our song as well. This is what we pray for, - that our life will be a living response to the God who loves and cares for us. Amen!
The Workers in the Vineyard
Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out about nine o’clock, the landowner saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’ So they went off. And he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o’clock, the landowner found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’ “When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’ When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’ He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’ “Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
The Workers in the Vineyard - 24 September 2017
Reflection / Homily
Reverend Erl Dylan Tabaco
God’s Justice is Mercy
I grew up believing that God’s love is something we earn. I need to be at my best to please God. As a little boy I was constantly told by my grandparents, my parents and even my elementary catechists that I needed to be good all the time so that the Lord will bless me more. This is the image of God that was instilled in me, until I entered the seminary, where I realized I was wrong. I often ask myself, Is God’s
love available to all even to those who have walked astray? Is there any partiality in the mind of God? Does God limit his love according to our deeds? Perhaps these are the common questions that we ask if we tried to understand that God’s justice is not the same as how the world sees it. God’s justice is mercy. And everything that God does is always grounded in His love.
The readings for today highlight that God’s ways are not our ways. God has His own way of showing his great love for all of us. His love is unmerited for it is a pure gift that only comes from a God who only knows how to love. Isaiah in the first reading urged his people to turn their backs from their wicked ways for Yahweh will show his great mercy. The Lord is generous in forgiving and his generosity has no limit. Anyone who desire to live with God will surely experience the fullness of life. This is what St. Paul professed in his letter to the Philippians that Christ’s love has transformed his life. It is in living with Christ which became the source of his gospel proclamation. When we live in the Spirit of the Risen Christ, our life will be totally attuned to the gospel values. We became more generous to others like what the owner of the vineyard did in our gospel today.
The Gospel points out that generosity is God’s initiative to bring us back to his flock. Like the landowner who looked and hired for laborers in different periods of time, the Lord also called us in different circumstances of our lives. We are all called and invited to be part of God’s mission but for some reasons we vary in the way we respond to his invitation. Those laborers who agreed to work in the vineyard at different hours of the day but received the same amount of salary show how we struggle in understanding the tension between God’s justice and mercy. Mercy in the first place is God’s nature. Out of mercy God desires to be with us always. He blessed us with different gifts. All that we have does not come from our own effort. Everything is grace. When we think of grace as something that we merit for our hard work then there is a problem in understanding that God’s justice is distinct from His mercy. This is what happened to the laborers who were hired first. They imposed their own standard of justice contrary to the mind of the landowner. They could not accept that they received the same amount of wage as the others laborers had. It was a form of injustice for them.
When our understanding of grace is on the basis of merit rather than God’s gratuitous act then we could say that God is not fair. But if we accept that God’s grace is beyond human effort then we realized how blessed we are. We will be grateful for what we have because we truly understand that God’s justice is mercy.
How about us? How do we understand that God’s justice is mercy? Can these two stand together? In our own lives, do we see ourselves as those laborers who grumbled because of God’s generosity or are we grateful in every blessing that we received. Let us ask the Lord that his generosity will inspire us to be grateful all the time. Having this kind of disposition we will become channel of God’s grace to others. Amen!
Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, 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 in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,
which means “God is with us."
Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
8 September 2017
Mary, A True Disciple of God
In the past, God has spoken to the patriarchs, prophets, kings and judges, but in the fullness of time God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law. Centuries have passed; long lists of generations came, but the human still fail to love God despite the immensity of His love for all of us. Humanity continued to walk in the darkness of sin and evil and this broke the heart of God because He created us to share His goodness and divine life with each one of us. Even when the overwhelming presence of evil enslaves us, God never gives up on us.
God’s great love has broken the chain of the ugliness of sin and evil through Mary’s YES to be the mother of our Savior. Her total obedience to the Will of God changed the entire course of human history.
Today, we celebrate the birth of our Mother Mary whose whole life is totally in accordance to the Will of God. Her YES marks the dawn of human’s perfect response to God’s outpouring grace. Finally, we have Mary which points us to her Son, the only mediator to the Father.
We, Filipinos, have great devotions to Mary. We love her so much. We even have many names that are associated with Mary. We have full lists of it. At times we are confused if the Lady of Lourdes is the same as the Lady who appeared in Fatima. Despite this confusion and despite the many names that she has, one thing is for sure. Mary remained the humble servant of the Lord who only knows how to love and make that love active in her life. We may know her very well, but how does our knowledge affect our faith? Have we ever pondered Mary’s life? Have we ever entered into the scenes of her life? Does our faith in her mirror how we live our life? Perhaps, these are good points that we need to reflect on as we celebrate her birthday today.
In our gospel today, we heard how Mary enters into the picture of God’s unfolding revelation of His love. She has been engaged to Joseph but before they lived together, she has been found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Mary lived in a specific context and time. Like any of us she has her own dreams and plans for her life. And living in a society there must be an expectation from her. But all those things changed when the angel Gabriel appeared to her and revealed God’s plan for her. She now has a vital role to play in making God’s plan of salvation concrete and active in our lives.
For my reflection, I would like to highlight four points that represent the four stages of Mary’s life in connection with her mission of being the mother of Jesus and all of us believers.
First, Mary’s Fiat (YES to GOD) paved the way to our salvation. It is her YES that has broken the chain of sin and evil. Her YES did not mean that Mary understood everything that was revealed to her by Angel Gabriel. She has expressed her confusion and tried to make sense of what the message could mean. She did not fully understand but she knew that the invitation was coming from the Lord. Her heart was undivided. She surrendered her entire life to God. She surrendered what she has planned for her life. What great faith she has when she responded to the call by saying, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to your Word.”
Second, Mary’s Magnificat. She began her journey, a life full of grace as she brought her faith to her cousin Elizabeth. Mary is a woman of faith and this faith always brings goodness to someone. A faith that fills her heart with joy which made her thought of her cousin Elizabeth who was then pregnant. Her song of praise, “My soul proclaims the goodness of the Lord, MY Spirit rejoices in God my savior,” expressed her fidelity to her call. Instead of staying in her comfort zone, she managed to visit in haste proclaiming the good news of our salvation. She began her journey as a true disciple of her Son. DISCIPLESHIP is her concrete response to the immense love of God.
Third, Mary’s Conservabat. Mary pondered everything in her heart. Her Yes was not a onetime event. It was a Yes that as we know was not easy to live. It was a Yes that bestowed no privileges and distinction. In his prophecy during the presentation of the infant Jesus in the temple, Simeon told her that a sword will pierce her heart, and indeed it did. Her whole life is her authentic witness to her vocation to love nurtured by her intimate relationship with her son.
Last, Mary’s Sufrat. Her maternal love expressed her fidelity to her mission even at the foot of the cross. Now, she understands what her YES was all about. It broke her heart but deepened her faith. We find in her a true mother, one who helps us to keep faith and hope alive in the midst of difficult and painful situations in life. We look at her at the foot of the cross and we feel understood and heard. As she grieved the death of her Son, we have now a mother who understands everything that we go through in life. We can sit down to pray with her and use common language in the face of the countless situations in her own life. We can tell her what is happening in our lives because she understands. She will point us to Jesus the great healer and consoler. Mary is always with us.
As we celebrate her nativity, let us always remember that Mary is a woman of faith, the model of a true disciple. She is not only the mother of Jesus but she is also the mother of the Church. Her whole life testifies that God does not deceive us or abandon us even in moments of situations when it might seem that he is not there.
May Mary’s Fiat, Magnificat, Conservabat and Sufrat be ours so that we will have a fruitful life that God wants for us. Mary, pray for us. Amen!
Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount. Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt. At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’ Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan. When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount. He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ But he refused. Instead, he had the fellow servant put in prison until he paid back the debt. Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair. His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.”
Jesus said to his disciples:
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector. Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again, amen, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised. Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay all according to his conduct.”
The First Prediction Of Passion - 3 September 2017
Reflection / Homily
Reverend Erl Dylan Tabaco
The Ways of God
It is a natural instinct for us humans to avoid pain and suffering. Nobody wants to dwell on their pains and difficulties. As much as possible, everyone desires to have a peaceful, smooth, and happy life. But our experience tells us that life has its own shares of sufferings and pains. We stumble and fall many times. In those times, we felt our brokenness, loneliness and even hopelessness. During those times, we struggled in reconciling our faith in a loving God and the presence of suffering and horrific face of evil in the world. This is not new to us. Even our forefathers, way back to the Old Testament, struggled the same way as we did. How then do we understand suffering in the context of being followers of Jesus Christ? Our readings for today speak of one truth and this truth lies on the continuity of God’s mission despite the possible persecutions, rejections, sufferings, and death. Jeremiah in the first reading had experienced the brutality of his adversaries, the price that he won in doing God’s mission. He almost crashed to the ground with all the pains and sufferings that he had been through in proclaiming the greatness of God against the false gods of his time. He tried to escape away from God but all the more God’s word became a fire burning deep in his heart. No one could resist God’s plan in our lives, even the worst situation that we may experience in life.
St. Paul in his letter to the Romans begs his compatriots to give themselves as a living and holy sacrifice, pleasing to God. What could this holy and living sacrifice mean? For St. Paul, it is allowing our lives to be transformed by the cross of Christ, and not by the empty promises of this world. When we do something for Christ, it gives meaning to our lives. It gives us reason to see beyond what our eyes can see. It is our eyes of faith that can see the sufferings of others more than ourselves. It is the eyes of faith that can see the meaning of life beyond the weight of the cross that we are carrying. It is the eyes of faith that liberates us from the pain of this world, enslavement to our many sins and fear of restless life as we wait for the triumphant loving presence of God in eternity.
Now, Jesus made it clear to his disciples, specifically to Peter, about his imminent death. He revealed to them that the fullness of his earthly mission will take place in Jerusalem where he will be handed over to the Jewish authorities and suffer a terrible death, the most humiliating form of death, death on the cross. His disciples could not understand what he meant because their concept of Jesus as a Son of God is someone who has the authority like an earthly ruler who would eradicate all his enemies. But Jesus has his own way, he chose the way of the cross, a way that was contrary to the expectations of Peter. Peter tried to stop Jesus with playful words, the same as the devil who tried to stop Jesus in doing the mission of His Father which will be fulfilled in the cross.
No one could stop God in loving us. No one could separate us from the love of God. Jesus humbly accepted the worst judgment from the Roman emperor triggered by his own people, insulting words from Jewish authorities, pain of isolation from his friends and terrible brokenness as he was nailed on the cross. He endured all these things because of love. How deep the Father’s love for us that he offered his only beloved son to bring us back into his heart. God is not looking for powerful means; it is through the cross that he conquers evil. Jesus on the cross feels the whole weight of evil, and with the force of God’s love he conquers it, he defeats it with his resurrection. There is no greater love than this for someone who offered his whole life for us.
As we gaze at the cross of Jesus, let us be reminded as well of our own crosses in life. If we wish to follow Jesus we must deny ourselves, take up our own cross and follow him. There is no shortcut in following Jesus. We will experience pain and suffering once we give our life to God. But do not be sad and discouraged because once we endure in carrying our crosses we will experience the fullness of life that only God could give. Are we ready to name our crosses in life and surrender it to Jesus?
I would like to end my homily with a short story. Once there was a man who asked God for a flower and a butterfly. But instead God gave him a cactus and a caterpillar. He asked what went wrong to my prayers. The man was sad, he didn’t understand why his request was mistaken. Then he thought: ok well, God has too many people to care for. So he decided not to question. After some time, the man went to check up on his request that he had left forgotten. To his surprise, from the thorny and ugly cactus a beautiful flower had grown. And the unsightly caterpillar had been transformed into the most beautiful butterfly.
The moral lesson of the story is that God always does things right. His way is always the best way, even if to us it seems all wrong. You can be sure that he will always give you what you need at the appropriate time. What you want is not always what you need. God never fails to grant our petitions, so keep going to Him without doubting and murmuring. Today’s thorn is tomorrow’s flower. God gives the very best to those who leave the choices up to Him. The way of the Cross is the best choice that God has given us. We will never experience the fullness of life without the cross. The cross is a scandal in the eyes of the world but it is precious in the eyes of God.
Let our crosses shine in the four corners of the world where there is so much hatred, violence, greed, selfishness, and indifference. May the self-sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, the greatest expression of God’s love, help us carry the saving cross through the roads of the world, through the alleys of poverty and misery. We will only understand the true meaning of our suffering, the true meaning of our cross, when we allow God to love us deeply in a way to love others. When we suffer because of love, it brings out the best in us.
Our suffering makes us more human because we are living the life that God intends for all of us. As what St. Francis said, “it is in giving that we received, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life”. Amen!
Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi and he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her. Jesus’ disciples came and asked him, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.” He said in reply, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.
Jesus and the Canaanite Woman of Faith - 20 August 2017
Reflection / Homily
Reverend Erl Dylan Tabaco
How deep is our faith? How strong are we given the different circumstances of our life? Oftentimes, our faith is tested when we are in our low moments. We begin to ask questions when the things that we are asking for don’t happen the way we want it. How do we react when everything that we prayed for remained unanswered? Are we patient enough to wait for God’s perfect time? Are we willing to accept God’s will which is far better than ours? How persistent are we in asking? How faithful are we in our prayer?
When I did my Clinical Pastoral Education in San Juan de Dios Hospital 5 years ago, I met a woman in one of the wards of Oncology department. She is the mother of 12 year old boy who was diagnosed of Leukemia, stage 3. Her only son was battling of a deadly disease. In our conversation the mother shared how desperate she was. She was a single mother after she was abandoned by her family and recently by her husband. At the peak of our conversation she became emotional as she narrated her story. “You know what brother I feel so helpless. I don’t know where to go. I don’t know what to do. If I could only change our situation I’ll rather chose to be in my son’s condition. I couldn’t bear the pain of watching my son suffering especially when several apparatuses are injected into his body. I loved my son very much. He is the only one that I have. He is the source of my strength and inspiration. I will do everything for him. I know that I made wrong decisions in life but I asked the Lord to look at me with mercy. I am so bothered by the kind of work that I have which made me think that my son is paying for it. I was forced to be in this situation because of the painful circumstances that I’ve been through. I am so desperate and I keep on asking the Lord to extend the life of my son.” While she was telling the story I noticed that she was wiping the body of her son by a white handkerchief. Prior to my visit she went to Baclaran Church where she spent prostrating herself in front of the image of the Mother of Perpetual Help. As she wiped that handkerchief to her son’s body, she trusted wholeheartedly that what she has is not just an ordinary white cloth but a cloth that contains the healing power of the Lord. Despite the many questions and preoccupations that she has, she remained steadfast in her faith.
The greatness of one’s faith is the theme of our readings today. It is the faith that was first given to the Israelites whom was given not just a privilege but a special mission to share this faith to the rest of humanity. Blinded by their egoistic ideology they have forgotten that other nations as well are beneficiary of God’s grace. It is their pride and honor that puts limit to God’s love.
For my reflection I would like to highlight the 3 acts of faith which is shown in the encounter of Jesus with the Canaanite woman in our gospel today. First, faith is an act of courage. The Jews believe that they are special in the eyes of God. They enjoyed certain privileges which other nations don’t have. As chosen people of God, the Jews used this privilege for their own advantage and became apathetic to the needs of others. Here, the Canaanite woman whom she knew very well that she is outside the circle of Jesus. Not only outside the parameters of Jesus’ mission but also she was treated as an outcast in the Jewish society. Nevertheless, she didn’t allow the prejudices of the Jewish society to stop her in getting closer to Jesus. She showed courage as she started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David.” With the possibility of rejection and humiliation, the courageous act of the woman brought her plea to the attention of Jesus. She remained committed in her quest to appeal for Jesus’ intervention for the healing of her daughter who was tormented by the demon. The more she was reprimanded by Jesus’ disciple the more she insisted. It is her act of courage which made her persistent to bring her request to Jesus’ consciousness.
Faith, as an act of persistence is the 2nd point of my reflection. As the woman knelt before Jesus and even shouted all the more, “Lord, helped me,” showed how firmed she was in her faith. In her desperate move she was thinking all the while that she won’t stop of expressing her need. She pushed herself beyond the limits by breaking the exclusivity of the Jewish thought. When the doors are closed as one tried to knock all the time accompanied by a voice of melancholy, there is still a possibility for the owner to change his disposition. This is what happened to Jesus as his heart was softened by the cries of the woman. No words could stop the woman from asking. Even though she was already reprimanded by Jesus as he expressed his primary mission which is for the lost sheep of Israel, still the woman did not succumb to defeat. Even the worst form of rebuke where she was treated like a dog as Jesus told her “that it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs,” the woman swallowed all the shame of rejection and remained humble as she persistently cried for her plea.
She gave her full trust to Jesus. She never got tired of asking which mirrored how great her faith is. The climax of the story unfolds when the woman made a strong statement expressing her faith as an act of confidence, which is the 3rd point of my reflection. The woman’s response changed the entire course of the story. “Yes, Lord, even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table,” is a powerful response that showed confidence to the one whom you have entrusted your plea. It is in her response that made Jesus praised the greatness of her faith. This is a story on how our faith as an act of courage, persistence and confidence make things possible. This is a kind of faith that moves mountain.
Faith as an act of courage, persistence and confidence is an important value that we need to develop in order to deepen our relationship with God. Like this Canaanite woman we are also in need of God’s providence. How many times in our life when we are in our desperate moments? In those times where we don’t know what to do? Are willing to take a leap of faith? Are we willing to exhaust all our energy by incessantly asking the Lord what we want? We need God in our lives. Life without God is like a stream that is running out of water. He is the source of the living water that satiates our thirst. We need to be reminded of God’s loving care for all of us especially in times when life’s difficulties choke us and disorient us. It’s easy to conclude that God doesn’t care when life’s tribulation almost crashed us to the ground and the feeling of emptiness breaks our heart. Nevertheless, God is always at our side. He will never abandon us. He is doing great things in our life. We just have to trust in His ways. He assures his healing presence to us like what had happened to the answered prayer of the Canaanite woman. She showed her great love to her daughter which made her possible to ask the Lord for her healing. Love is the best springboard to take a leap. This is something that we need to hold on.
What is it that we are in need of God’s healing grace at this moment? Is it a physical healing? Is it a healing of our past broken relationship? Is it a healing of our soul wounded by our habitual sins? May the faith of the Canaanite woman help us to persevere in our faith life and persistently ask the Lord for the graces necessary for our spiritual growth. Amen.
After he had fed the people, Jesus made the disciples get into a boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone. Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. “It is a ghost, ” they said, and they cried out in fear. At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.”, Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” After they got into the boat, the wind died down. Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”
Jesus Walks on Water - 13 August 2017
Reflection / Homily
Reverend Erl Dylan Tabaco
Conquering our Fears
Are you afraid to fall in love? Are you afraid to get hurt? Are you afraid to confront the things that give you discomfort? Are you afraid to make major decisions in life that will either give you a brighter or dull future? Are you afraid to bring to the surface all your dark moments?
Fear is a stumbling block to our growth. We are so afraid of many things. At times, our fears are groundless and only because we think of the future with pessimism. Every time we do this, we are afraid to go beyond our comfort zone. We don’t take the risk to move an extra mile. We remain complacent where we are. When fears control us, our perspective in life is also affected. The worst thing that could happen is we lose our zest to live our life to the fullest. Our fears paralyze us to become what God wants us to be.
It is good to recognize and confront our fears. Perhaps it takes courage to do it. It takes faith to undergo this life-long and liberating process in dealing with our fears and surrendering them to the lord.
I was reminded of the story of a man sleeping one night in his cabin when suddenly his room filled with light, and God appeared. The Lord told the man he had work for him to do, and showed him a large rock in front of his cabin. The Lord explained that the man was to push against the rock with all his might. So, this man did, day after day. For many years he toiled from sun-up to sundown, his shoulders set squarely against the cold, massive surface of the unmoving rock, pushing with all his might. Each night the man returned to his cabin sore and worn out, feeling that his whole day had been spent in vain. Since the man was showing discouragement, the adversary (Satan) decided to enter the picture by placing thoughts into the weary mind: (He will do it every time)! Satan said, “Why kill yourself over this? Just put it in your time, giving just the minimum effort; and that will be good enough. That’s what the weary man planned to do, but decided to make it a matter of prayer and to take his troubled thoughts to the Lord. Lord, he said, I have labored long and hard in your service, putting all my strength to do that which you have asked. Yet, after all this time, I have not even budged that rock by half a millimeter. What is wrong? Why am I failing? The Lord responded compassionately, “My friend, when I asked you to serve me and you accepted, I told you that your task was to push against the rock with all your strength, which you have done. But, is that really so? Look at yourself. Your arms are strong and muscled, your back shiny and brown, your hands are callused from constant pressure, and your legs have become massive and hard. Never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it. Your task was to push. And now you come to Me with your strength spent, thinking that you have failed. Through opposition you have grown much, and your abilities now surpass that which you used to have. True, you haven’t moved the rock. But your calling was to be obedient and to push and to exercise your faith and trust in my wisdom. That you have done. Now I, my friend, will move the rock.”
Our readings for today give us a clear picture of how God reveals Himself to us in times when we feel his absence. When our fear takes hold of us, we often forget that God is right beside us, constantly telling us that everything will be fine. When our storms in life overwhelm us, the Lord will meet us where we have stumbled and almost crashed to the ground in a seemingly desperate and hopeless situation. There is no mighty wind, disastrous earthquake or blazing fire that God could not calm. There is no deep-seated fear within us that God could not take away.
The rock in the story symbolizes our fear. We are prisoners of our fear. This fear hinders us to recognize the loving presence of our Lord. In our first reading, Elijah waited for the Lord. He thought that he will encounter the Lord in the mighty wind, in the terrible earthquake and in the blazing fire. But he never encountered the Lord there. He was surprised when he heard a gentle voice of the Lord as he stood at the entrance of the cave. God revealed Himself in a most unexpected way. The same is true with what happened to the apostles as they traverse the raging waters brought about by the mighty wind. They did not recognize the presence of Jesus because their fear took away their concentration from him. In fact, Peter tried to get closer to Jesus, and mustered enough courage to walk on the raging waters. Out of sight from Jesus, Peter started to panic and began to sink slowly . Nevertheless, Jesus extended his hands to him and said: “Do not be afraid. It is I. Have faith in me.”
Sometimes we think that nothing seems to be happening with our efforts to come to Jesus. Nothing seems to be happening with the problems we are trying so hard to solve. Sometimes we feel our lives are not moving forward. And we feel so tired and discouraged. The story of Peter and Jesus in the gospel today tells us that God is always doing something beyond what our eyes can see. We just have to trust and keep believing.
Same as the man in the story, he has to get out from his room so that he can push the rock for him to encounter God’s presence. The same is true with Elijah and Peter; they needed to get out from the cave and boat in the midst of great earthquake, mighty wind and overwhelming fear.
How about us? How do we encounter the Lord? I believe we need to get out from the darkest areas of our life. We need to get out from our room where our fears keep haunting us. We are discouraged by our failures, but even our attempts, no matter how feeble, just like Peter’s attempt to come to Jesus, ultimately strengthen us. In the words of Fr. Richard Rohr, everything belongs. I am certain that Peter learned something very important in this situation. He had probably understood more about himself, about Jesus and what it means to have to walk desiring to come to Jesus. The Lord always does something to lead us to better lives, greener pastures. Our part is to remain in Him in obedient, trusting love.
Just like Elijah, we need to stand at the entrance of our caves, whatever may be cold and dark in our lives and pay attention to God’s voice. Because to remain obedient to God is to notice, pay attention and respond to his voice. Take even 5 minutes each day after lunch or after dinner, before you sleep or when you rise, to be silent so that like Elijah you may hear God’s tiny voice in your heart. And like Peter, have the courage and desire to come to Jesus and walk towards him and the wonderful life he desires to offer you.
We need to grow in faith because God’s love is far greater than all our fears in life. May his invitation give us the courage to walk with him amidst all the storms in life. Amen!
Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother, John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.” And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone.
As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, “Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
The Transfiguration of Jesus - 6 August 2017
Reflection / Homily
Reverend Erl Dylan Tabaco
On many occasions in my missionary life, I have had many exposures to different communities living in far-flung areas. Most of those communities are situated at the top of the mountain where one can see the grandeur of God’s creation and l. Life can be viewed from a different perspective which is far bigger than what can be imagined. It needs determination, openness, and inspiration to be able to reach those places enriched by a personal encounter with God through the locals whom I have met. And those experiences have given me a deep sense of joy and gratitude which eventually became a channel of my transformation as I begin sharing what has transpired in my journey.
God reveals Himself to us in many ways. He makes his love available to us even before we ask for it. Our life’s stories speak to us about this reality. Every act of love, every act of mercy, every act of belief, every act of asking, every act of enduring the pain and life’s difficulties, God is always there. Those moments give us the foretaste of what transfiguration is all about. When God is in our midst, then we are transfigured to our original identity as beloved children of God. We are loved by God no matter what happen to our lives. There is no short-cut in life. Everyone has to go through a certain process and becoming God’s children both word and deed is a process.
Transfiguration is a special event in Jesus’ life. It happened prior to his journey to Jerusalem where the ultimate act of self-giving took place. We just heard in our gospel today that Jesus took with him Peter, James and John and led them up to the mountain where he was transfigured before them. In Jesus’ transfiguration, two great men in the history of Israel appeared with him, Moses and Elijah, which overwhelmed his apostles to the extent that they wanted to stay there and build three tents for them. That extraordinary experience opened the eyes of his apostles about Jesus’ divinity and at the same time gave them a profound understanding of his humanity where God’s mission has to be in flesh in the earthly life of Jesus from womb to tomb. The tomb is not the end of everything because the power of Christ’s resurrection gives eternal life to those who believe in him. Transfiguration gives us a glimpse of God’s eternal glory expressed by Jesus’ love to the Father and the entire humanity. From that scene, we might be asking why God would choose a mountain from all the places where He wanted to make Himself known to his chosen people. Mountains have significance in the Bible. Our readings today expressed how God’s love story unfolds in the mountain. It is often the place of encounter between God and humanity. It bridges the gap between heaven and earth. It is in Mt. Horeb where God reveals his steadfast love to the Israelites through Moses. It is in the mountain where Elijah saw the great vision of God. It is also in Mt. Tabor where the three apostles experienced the transfiguration of the Lord.
I would like to highlight three points for my reflection today using the image of the mountain, whether literal or symbolic, which has a significant impact to our faith life. First is ascent, our going up to the mountain. As we go up to the mountain, we acknowledge our need of God. In our busy life with all its demands, we need space for ourselves. We need to go away in order to have a break from the usual things that we do, .to spend time with ourselves, and look back at what life has been to us with all its joys, pains, successes, failures, laughter and tears. At times, it is difficult for us to get in touch with ourselves, to climb up the possible mountains that we want to reach because there are some areas of our lives which are broken and need to be healed. It is our determination that energizes us to keep on moving amidst all the possible challenges that we will encounter along our way.
As we moved at the top of the mountain, we encounter the presence of God, the holy longing of our heart that only the love of God can satisfy. Staying at the top of the mountain, which is my second point, gives us a sense of wonder on how God works in our lives. Entering into this sacred space of our hearts where we feel the love of God despite our darkness brought by our selfishness and our inability to love genuinely. It is at the peak of the mountain where love made manifest and active in the form of burning bush experience of Moses that awaits the liberation of the Israelites; in the form of pillar of clouds that Elijah had seen the beatific vision of heaven and in the form of clouds being opened with a voice that comes from above saying “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased”, as experienced by the three apostles. On the mountain, God and human become one. The mountain became the meeting place of human and divine. There could be no communion without openness on our part. The God of love reached out to us and lived among us.
That encounter should not remain at the mountain alone. Inspired by the consoling words of God to Moses, “Do not be afraid”, I will be speaking to pharaoh through you to let my people go. “Do not be afraid” as Jesus commanded Peter, James and John in preparation for their mission, reminding them that there could be no true glory without the cross. What was experienced in the mountain became the content of their proclamation. Their intimate encounter with Jesus’ divinity and humanity became their inspiration to go down the mountain where their hearts are burning as they keep on proclaiming the good news that God’s greatest power is love. Love that is so powerful that even sin and death cannot separate us from God. He gives Himself totally in Jesus Christ, God-made man. Through Jesus, with Jesus and in Jesus we are transfigured by his ultimate love on the cross. He offered his life to make us sharers of God’s divine life.
As we are gathered together in this celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we are experiencing as well our own transfiguration. In our ascent to the holy altar by contemplating the body and blood of Jesus Christ, we are reminded of what had happened in Mt. Calvary, the greatest love story of all time. Partaking his body in the form of bread during Holy Communion allows us to experience an intimate encounter with Jesus who now resides in our hearts. Now, he dispels the darkness of sin and the power of evil forces. And this is the good news. I and God are one. All of us are one. Our descent from the altar begins our mission. Now is the time to share this great experience of being loved as we go to the peripheries to meet our brothers and sisters weighed down by sickness, injustice, ignorance, and brokenness. We will not remain here in these four walls of the church without sharing the goodness of God’s great love to all of us. Let us go out and show how this love gives way to other’s transfiguration. Amen.
Jesus said to his disciples:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind. When it is full they haul it ashore and sit down to put what is good into buckets. What is bad they throw away. Thus it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.
“Do you understand all these things?” They answered, “Yes.” And he replied, “Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.”
Parables of Jesus - 30 July 2017
Reflection / Homily
Reverend Erl Dylan Tabaco
What are the true riches that we are looking for? Where can we find them? What make us think that these are the riches that satisfy us? In our journey, we often encounter these questions and they lead us to constant searching. Our heart is always restless because what we desire here on earth is not the end in itself.
There is a saying that the glory of God is seen and felt by someone whose faith life is active and dynamic. The glory of God is His kingdom and this kingdom is planted in the depths of our heart. In our heart, we encounter the true wealth. Once we find it, we are willing to give up everything that we have and hook ourselves into it. It is the wealth that only the love of God can give. A love that gives us life, strength, light and hope that no matter how difficult life seems to be we would always overcome all the challenges that would come our way. We just have to be patient because our loving God is always patient with us and he will never leave us in our journey in searching for the treasure he has entrusted to us.
Five years ago, I did my ministry with the kids in Smokey Mountain, Tondo, Manila. It is one of the biggest dumping sites of the country. I could not imagine that there is such a place like Smokey Mountain. I have seen the harsh reality of life where poor people were scavenging for food for them to survive. From sunrise to sunset, a huge flock of people both old and young, male and female, working together as they segregate the garbage to find things that would still have value in the market. They are already immune to the awful smell and the scorching heat of the sun because what they have in mind is how to survive. This is their treasure.
In my encounter with the locals, there was one young boy who caught my attention. His name was Romeo. He was 9 years old and the eldest of five children. I invited him to join us in our tutorial session every Saturday afternoon together with some other kids his age. He smiled at me and begun to tell me how eager he was to join our session only that he could not come early to join us. I asked him why, and he shared to me the reason. He said, “Brother, I am the eldest of my four siblings and my mother is very sick. I woke up early in the morning to help my father in scavenging and after that I go to the market to buy our food before I go to school. Sometimes I thought of quitting school but there is a part of me that holds on to my dream to finish school. We are poor and I know how my family struggle to survive. That is why I promise myself that I will strive hard to give my family a better future. I only dream of having a simple life where my family can eat three times a day. At times when I am tempted to quit, I just focus on what I can give to my family if I would finish my study. I condition my mind and body to work hard especially when I am sick. Most of all, I already set my heart that everything that I do is for my family. Hopefully, I could make it because every Saturday I help my neighbor in repacking the charcoal. It would be a big help for me especially that I receive P100 which is good enough for the medicine of my mother.” After he shared his story, he smiled at me with tears in his eyes. I was really struck by what he told me. I became emotional and I was out of words to express how I felt on that encounter.
Every word that I heard from him shows how God works in marvelous way. I thought I have many opportunities to bring God’s love to the people in Smokey Mountain. But I have realized that God was already there waiting for me. He taught me what love and sacrifice is all about through Romeo. Anything that is done in the context of love is life-giving, fulfilling, liberating and very inspiring. This is what the Gospel is all about. The living Word of God makes us go beyond ourselves and our comfort zone in order to make room for others. If the heart is full of love, humility, and compassion for others, then we can say that the Kingdom of God is already within us.
Reflecting on our readings for today, the common theme is all about seeking and finding the true treasure that God wants for us. In our first reading of the Book of Kings, Solomon was rewarded by the Lord because of his selfless motive. He was neither seeking for a long life nor earthly riches but what he asked for was wisdom. Wisdom that would help him discern what is right and wrong. With wisdom, he could help his people and address their needs for good governance.
Jesus Christ, the human face of God, is the true treasure that the Father has given us. When the heaven was opened, the Father sent His Son and through His Spirit of love, all of us became co-heirs of the kingdom. It was mentioned in Paul’s letter to the Romans that “all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” We may not have everything that we want and long for in our earthly life. But one thing is sure. If we have God in our hearts then we have everything. This is ironic when our minds and hearts are set to temporal things that our world keeps on feeding us. I believe this is the reason why Jesus used concrete images rather than concepts in explaining what the Kingdom of God is all about. This is why he used a lot of parables because our own story is depicted in these parables. And we heard it from the gospel that Jesus compares the kingdom of God to a treasure in the hidden field. He says: “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys the field.”
How about us? How do we define true riches? What are the riches that we are enjoying now? Do these riches satisfy the desires of our heart? Do they fill the emptiness of our hearts? All of us have our own ways and standards in associating richness in our lives. We could associate it with our dreams, professions, achievements, power, reputation, promotions and all our earthly belongings. Yes! These are all treasures. They all come from God. Everything that we enjoy here on earth comes from the generosity of our God. but we tend to limit God’s generosity thinking that what we have is for ourselves alone. The temptation for self-referential is always there. If these gifts make us apathetic, proud, greedy, judgmental and selfish, then this is not what God intends us to use these gifts. This is not the Will of God. It is because all the riches that we have is directed towards our constant search for the true treasure that only comes from God. This is the treasure that would bring us to an everlasting joy. It is the joy that gives us the true meaning of our life. May all our efforts, undertakings and daily endeavors bring us to the greatest treasure that comes from the Lord who sowed them in our hearts. It is in the heart where we bring out memories of love, compassion, goodness and gratitude to the Lord. These memories will make us active and dynamic participant of God’s mission. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be. Amen!
Jesus proposed another parable to the crowds, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well. The slaves of the householder came to him and said, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”
He proposed another parable to them. “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the ‘birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.’”
He spoke to them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened.”
All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables. He spoke to them only in parables, to fulfill what had been said through the prophet: I will open my mouth in parables, I will announce what has lain hidden from the foundation of the world.
Then, dismissing the crowds, he went into the house. His disciples approached him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” He said in reply, “He who sows good seed is the Son of Man, the field is the world, the good seed the children of the kingdom. The weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.
“Just as weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
The Parable of the Weed - 23 July 2017
Reflection / Homily
Reverend Erl Dylan Tabaco
Love conquers everything. This is the reason why all of us are here today. It is the love of God who made all these things possible. God is love, and out of perfect love, God created everything good. His love is everlasting and he won’t get tired doing marvelous things in our lives. But there are situations in life that shakes our ground and make us doubt the existence of this loving God. If God is love then why does evil exist? Why is there is so much pain, suffering and sins in this world? Where does this evil come from? Why would this loving and merciful God allow evil things to thrive?
These are the questions that we keep on asking. No matter how much we analyzed and philosophize, we will not be able to collate any answers for these questions. It is only through the scandal of the cross that we could have a glimpse of the mystery of evil and sin. Our God became a victim of sin and evil. He entered into the darkness of humanity so that he could bring out the light of resurrection, a sign that God’s love is more powerful than any evil that exists.
If we look into our own lives we could attest that all our experiences are both good and bad. As a historical being, whatever we experience in life makes us the person that we are now. They have contributed a lot to our growth. Same with any drama series, we Filipinos easily relate on how the stories unfold, waiting for the clash between the protagonist and the antagonist. Whether it is a GMA or ABS-CBN teleserye, our attention is drawn to it. We are carried away by every scene that we watch. When we saw that the “bida” (protagonist) is being maltreated or exploited by the “contrabida” (antagonist), there is something in us that is triggered. We wanted to do something to curtail the wickedness of the “contrabida.” We wanted to give voice to our anger and at times we would wish to become the director/script writer of the movie so that we could allow goodness to triumph against evil. The success of any of these “teleseryes,” depends on how the actors and actresses affect the consciousness of the viewer. Every time we watch these “teleseryes” have we ever asked ourselves why we are angry. Is it because we know so many bad people in our lives that keep us reminding of the evil deeds that they have done to us? Is it because deep within us we are experiencing a battle between good and evil?
Deep within us there is a tension. There is chaos because the goodness in us is always in tension with our capacity to do evil. Why is that so? It’s difficult to fathom. No words could explain this reality. Why does a powerful God cannot eradicate this tension? As we look into our own lives, our heart is like a ground where both wheat and weeds grow together. This is the central theme of today’s gospel from the parables that Jesus taught to his disciples. Jesus simplified his language so that it would have a lasting effect to his audience. These parables are not just taken out of context. They were used to explain not only to those who are present in Jesus’ time but also to our present time. Our heart, the seat of our desires is the battle ground between good and evil. We have virtues and at the same time we have vices. We want to do good but on the other hand we become prisoners of our past and darkest areas of our lives. This is the reality of the world where we live in. At every step along our way, we encounter different events and make decisions in life. These decisions are either life giving or destructive. But no matter what happens, as long as we have faith as deep as the ocean and as wide as the horizon, then we will have the strength to overcome all our challenges.
For my reflection today, I would like to highlight that our faith life is an important element of God’s kingdom, and Jesus Christ used three metaphors to explain what the Kingdom of God is all about. Our faith life is a process. It is like a mustard seed that needs enough sunlight, water, and other nutrients which represent God’s grace and cooperation on our part to make this seed grow into a tree where birds come and make nests in its branches. Likewise, when our faith is lived out with words coupled by good deeds, it will be like the yeast which the woman took and mixed and became leavened bread. All these things will not happen within just a snap of a finger. It is a process.
In the process, we need first to appreciate our own goodness. All of us here are good because we are created by a good and loving God. We are created to be good and to do good. Our heart is like a mustard seed and yeast that the Lord is preparing for it to grow and bear fruit abundantly. As part of this process we need also to accept our faults, shadows, weaknesses and sinfulness. Even though we are created by good God, this goodness does not reflect on how we live out our lives. We make wrong decisions in life. We use our freedom in the wrong way. That is why we hurt others, we become insensitive to someone’s needs, and we even break our relationship with each other. In spite of this, God continues to love us. He is very patient with us. No matter how much we run away from Him, our God is patiently waiting for our return. And upon our return, we can be sure that He will do all that He could so that we won’t be lost again. When we are lost, he will search for us. Once he finds us, he will make sure that he will not give up on us.
This is His dream for all of us - that at the end of our earthy life we will be with him. During harvest time, may all of us be part of the wheat where God has wished for all of us. This is how the Lord loves us. Nothing can separate us from the love of God and this is something that gives us hope. Hope gives us energy to move on with our lives. In the end, it is goodness that prevails. Goodness will triumph over evil. May the love of God bring fruit to all our efforts in doing His will. The three parables are our own stories. May our lives reflect the wonderful lessons that Jesus wants us to live out. Amen!
On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd stood along the shore. And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
The disciples approached him and said, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” He said to them in reply, “Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted. To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because they look but do not see, and hear but do not listen or understand. Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says: You shall indeed hear but not understand, you shall indeed look but never see. Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts and be converted, and I heal them.
“But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear. Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.
“Hear then the parable of the sower. The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it, and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart. The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy. But he has no root and lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away. The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit. But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”
The Parable of the Sower - 16 July 2017
Reflection / Homily
Reverend Erl Dylan Tabaco
What kind of ground are we? What kind of preparations have we done so far in order for the seed of faith to get into the depths of our hearts, germinate and yield a bountiful harvest? These are the questions that we need to ponder as we examine the kind of life that we have.
During my final comprehensive exam in theology, one of my panelists asked me, “Why do we need to make a sign of the cross? How would you explain the gesture that we are doing when we touch our forehead, our chest and our shoulder?” It sounded easy because we used to do this before and after any activity. But when I reflected on the gestures about touching our forehead (representing the Father), our chest (representing the Son) and our shoulders (representing the Holy Spirit), the first thing that came to my mind is how God moves in our lives. God moves in vertical and horizontal directions. God is present throughout human history. There was a time when our forefathers in the Old Testament thought of a God who just stayed somewhere out there. A God who showed might and power that even to mention His name “Yahweh” is prohibited. He only existed in the mind as a powerful and unreachable God. But in the fullness of time, God sent His Son out of perfect love. Now, God became one with us and shares our human condition. He took everything that is human except sin. Jesus Christ, the Word of God dwells in our heart.He stays in our heart through his Spirit to make us active sharers of his divine love. The more we share God’s presence in our lives, the more we become a fertile ground where good and bountiful harvest is expected from us. That’s how I understood the movement from our forehead to our chest and eventually to our shoulders which summarize how we journey with our faith life. Our faith should not remain on the head level alone. It must be deepened by a personal relationship with a God who loves us first, perfectly expressed by Jesus’ death on the cross as a sign of self-giving love. This love should form our hearts and reflect a deep personal relationship with Jesus. Ultimately, this personal relationship should be translated into action by loving, caring and understanding our brothers and sisters.
Our readings for today are full of symbolic images which point to a reality on how God manifests his ways. God is always at work using everything that we have so that He can establish His Kingdom here on earth. No one could stop Him in making His will be done in all circumstances of our lives. My theme for today’s reflection is the “generosity of the sower and the receptivity of the ground.” God, the source of everything is always generous. His generosity is limitless, boundless and unconditional. Oftentimes, it is us who put limits to His generosity, thinking that God’s grace is only available for good people. But God gives sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and unjust alike. Like in the story of Matthew’s gospel that we just heard……The sower went out to sow, as he sowed, some seeds fell on various grounds. Here the sower represents the act of God who lavishly poured out His love for us. As he sowed the seeds he was not thinking whether the seeds fell on the right ground or not. He just sowed them and waited for the right time for those seeds to bear fruit. Those seeds represent the Word of God, the living word that Jesus taught and lived out throughout his earthly life. It is the Word of God that brings sight for the blind, food for the hungry, freedom for the oppressed, healing for the sick, good news for the poor and light for those who lived in darkness. These seeds have a transformative power in us if we allow our hearts, the ground of our faith, by accepting and cooperating God’s work in us.
God, the generous sower, allowed the seed of faith to take root in our ground. But how open are we to receive His Word? In the parable, we encounter four kinds of ground where the seeds fell. These four kinds of ground represent our individual hearts which are the recipient of the seeds that Jesus constantly plants. Those seeds that fell along the path are those whose hearts are hardened by their self-gratifying needs. There is no room for the seed to take its roots because the ground is covered by layers of selfishness, complacency and indifference to the needs of others. The seeds that fell on the rocky ground are those whose hearts have initially accepted the Word of God with joy and excitement. But since the commitment to allow the seed to take its roots is not strong enough, the seeds wither. The commitment is shallow because the heart is pre-occupied with appearance and external observance of the law. The motivation was more of self-appraisal by giving impressions to others. The seeds that fell among thistles are those whose hearts are ready to cooperate with God as long as their lives run smoothly. If problems and difficulties come, when the journey of life becomes rocky and bumpy then the heart tends to falter. There are conditions set in allowing the seed to sprout on the ground. Then the last ground, the fertile one which makes the seeds grow and produce crops in hundredfold are those whose hearts are open to God in whatever circumstances of life. This ground has a solid foundation because the heart is totally open to the Will of God. And this is God’s dream for all of us. This is what our journey is leading to. But before we get to be this fertile ground, we need to recognize that at some point in our lives we are like those grounds which never bore fruit because of our self-centered ambitions and longings. If we won’t die with our pride, resentments, anger, fear, greed, cling to power and earthly riches, we will never bear fruit. This should not discourage us. In fact, we need to boast on our weaknesses and shortcomings because God’s grace has overcome it. God is always working in us. He never gets tired doing good things to us. He always does the first move to make our ground fertile and he will always wait for the right time for the good harvest. The Lord never gives up on us. No matter how rough the path is, how rocky and thorny the ground is..….our God is always generous. He was, He is and He will always be. How about us? Are we generous enough to allow our hearts, the ground of our faith, to make the seeds grow and bring forth a bountiful harvest? As we examine our hearts today, let us be humble and accept our need of God in our lives. Amen.
At that time Jesus exclaimed:
“I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
The Praise of the Father / The Gentle Mastery of Christ
Reflection / Homily
Reverend Erl Dylan Tabaco
Our faith is strongly link to our image of God. The more we discover God in our lives, the more we grow in faith. All of us have our own images of God. And these images are constantly evolving in our consciousness. Some might have an image of a punishing God, who usually associate that life’s tragedies is a punishment of God for the wrong things that we have done. Others might have an image of a controlling God, thinking that God suppresses human freedom. Human culpability is not at work here because everything is determined already by God. For us children in our times, we grew up with a notion that we needed to be good all the time so that God would reward us. Or else something bad might happen if we are being naughty. We all have these images. Either we got it from our parents, grandparents or friends. But predominantly our image of God is shaped by our experiences. We cannot impose our own image of God to someone who is still discovering who God is in his/her life.
Our readings for today re-echo the image of a God who loves us tenderly. A God who embraces us from all our pains, miseries and weaknesses. God is love. God is mercy. God’s profound tenderness. It is very beautiful and powerful image. Isn’t it? But is it true to all circumstances. Sometimes this image of a loving is being questioned by those people who are experiencing tragedies in life. I remember in one of my encounter in Divine Mercy Village in Cagayan de Oro City. Last December 15, 2011, a strong typhoon named “Sendong” hit my city and left a tremendous damages both properties and people’s lives. It seems that some parts of the city were like a ghost town. I have heard many stories of agony and despair. There was this woman who lost her husband and 4 children. Even until now their dead bodies were still missing. She is the only one who survived in her family. Looking at her I have no words to lighten her pain. I guess what she needed at that time is someone who could spend with her, being there to listen to her cry, anguish and grief. Where is God in the midst of tragedy? Why did God allow me to live? This is too much for me. What have I done to experience all this pain and suffering. God…God…God…why me? These are the questions that I heard from her. I have no answer. I cannot understand how she felt. She has all the right to express those things.
For my reflection today I would like to focus on three things which are essential in our journey of faith. First, we grow in faith when we journey to our inner self. At certain point in our lives we encounter events that would shake our ground. We don’t know what to do. We became helpless. Don’t be afraid to ask questions especially if this is the best way to express how we feel. We need to journey into our hearts, which is the seat of all emotions. We need to confront our pain, anguish, doubts, fears, worries and even our darkness. This is not an easy process. It would take courage and will. It would take patience and gentleness to oneself. In our first reading today as what has been prophesized by the prophet Zechariah “Shout for joy, daughter of Jerusalem! For your king is coming, just and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey.” We are not alone in this journey. For we have a humble God who is riding in a donkey accompanying us on our way. God’s way is not like a magician who would take away all our feelings in just a snap of his finger. Our God will get into our feelings and keep telling us to have a space for Him. He would search those restless part within us and in there He will show how wondrous his deeds. He would show how profound his tenderness for all of us. Out of God’s initiative through the working of His grace, we would realize that no matter how painful the process is, no matter how broken we are…..there is always a spark of hope within us because our God has taken the most sacred space in our heart. And this is the 2nd point of my sharing; our journey of faith enables us to accept our need for God in our lives. We need to humble ourselves and accept the fact that we don’t have all the answers of our questions. Sometimes we just have to pause and allow those questions to give way to the inner working of the Spirit. In Paul’s letter to the Romans, we are reminded that “our existence is not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, because the Spirit of God is within us.” Whenever we have the Spirit within us, all our pains will be turned to joy, all our despair will be tuned to hope and all our brokenness will be turned to wholeness. This is how the Lord works. We just have to entrust everything to Him. He knows what to do. And this is the last point of my reflection; our journey of faith is leading us to the heart of God. When we recognize and confront all our feelings and acknowledge our need for God then our Lord conquers everything. What a consoling words that we just heard from the Gospel of Matthew: “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest.” This is our journey of faith. Do not be afraid for our God is always with us. As we grow in faith, our image of God will also be purified. We just have to be patient, gentle and meek in heart. Every story of our faith journey always leads to a fruitful life.
The same story that I shared of that woman who have lost everything but through time God put back together all her brokenness. After 6 years, I have heard that the same woman is now one of the leaders in their Basic Ecclesial Community (BEC). The God whom she taught as a punishing God, a distant God and a God who doesn’t care is the God who brought healing and wholeness to her life. Yes she lost her love ones and everything that she has………but her faith transforms her in becoming the person that God wants from her. Her story is our story as well. We all have different circumstances but it’s the same journey that we are about to take…a journey of faith, a journey leading to the heart of God. My question is: “Do we make space for God in our lives?” May the tenderness of God’s love empower us always to entrust our lives to Him. Amen.
Jesus said to his apostles:
“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
“Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because the little one is a disciple— amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.”
The Conditions of Discipleship / Rewards - 2 July 2017
Reverend Erl Dylan Tabaco
In my childhood years I used to hear my classmates saying: “When I grow up I want to become a doctor… I want to become a dentist… I want to become an actor… I want to become a lawyer… I want to become the president of the Philippines. These are the usual ambitions that any kids used to dream of. Then my teacher asked me and the rest of my classmates why we wanted to become someone like those we mentioned. Some responded that they want to be a doctor or lawyer because they want to get rich and famous. Others wanted to get special status in the community. And the list of reasons was getting longer and longer. I haven’t heard someone saying I want to become a priest. Even me myself I didn’t want to become a priest even the idea of serving in the Church was not yet in my consciousness.
While I was reflecting those responses I asked myself why is it that nobody wanted to become a priest. What does it take to become a priest? Are they the only one who can serve and become Christ’s disciples? Is it not possible that one can become a doctor and a disciple of Christ at the same time? Is it not possible that being a lawyer could also be Christ’s disciples as well? Why not? These are the questions that I often asked.
Oftentimes, we limit our understanding of being a disciples of Christ. As if being a disciple is only for selected few. My dear brothers and sisters all of us are called to discipleship. God does not prefer someone from the other. Every moment of our lives God is calling us to share in His mission. We are called in different ways. God can never be outdone in generosity. He keeps on giving us bountiful blessings to show how much He loves us.
Our calling is not about us. It is all about our God who loves us first and make us worthy to His call. But how do we know if God is calling us. How do we recognize His voice amidst the many voices that feed our restless heart? We are turn between two lovers, isn’t it? The world that we lived in keep telling us to become rich, to have more and more until all our worldly longings control our lives. The world re-echoes the message of power, fame and dominance. When we have special status in the society our life would be more dignified than the others. It breeds the culture of competition and exploitation. The more power you have the more voice you have in the society.
These are strong voices that affect our life’s choices and perspectives. These are the voices that make us difficult to understand what God wants from us. If our mind and heart is worldly then Jesus Christ will be the most uncomfortable person to be with. He would challenge us always because His life is contrary to the standards of the world. He came down from heaven not to live like the worldly king that we have. He came down not to store earthly riches and to have power that ostracized others. But Jesus came down to give us life and to teach us what servant hood is all about. He came down to teach us how to love, how to gives ones’ self to others and most especially to teach us how to live our lives with deep faith in Him and His Father. Even in our trying times when we ask whether God abandoned us, Jesus gave us a profound answer in His death on the cross. For Jesus, suffering done outside the context of love is torture. But is suffering is done in the context of love is salvific. It is life-giving. He gave us the real meaning of suffering. This is the cost of discipleship.
In our readings for today, what is being highlighted are the values necessary for someone who wish to follow Jesus. The values that are non-negotiable in becoming God’s disciple in shaping the world through the values that God wants us to uphold. In our first reading in the Book of Kings, we encounter the hospitality and generosity of the rich woman to Elisha. Her discerning heart makes her believe that Elisha is a holy man of God. When the prophet visited her house she was receptive to the invitation of God. Her hospitality was enormous which made her home a dwelling place for the prophet. God is indeed never be outdone in generosity. Her generosity was rewarded by an unexpected blessing which is to bear a son. A great gift that only God can give. In our lives, how open are we to receive stranger. How do we treat those who are different from us especially the poor and the voiceless members of our society? Are we generous with them? Are we open with them or we just ignore thinking that they don’t exist at all. If our lives form part of Jesus’ mission then it will be fruitful and life-giving.
When we follow Jesus our life will be transformed. Our life will never be the same again. And every transformation there is a corresponding cost. There is a price to pay. And that is price is too great and precious that earthly wealth can’t buy. There can be no resurrection without crucifixion. There could be no Easter Sunday without Good Friday. There is no shortcut in following Jesus. Discipleship is always a process and this process involves dying and rising. And this is the message of our 2nd reading today from the letter of St. Paul to the Romans and the Gospel of Matthew, “Whoever does not carry his own cross and follow me is not worthy of being my disciple.” What are our crosses today? Are they heavy enough to endure in our road to discipleship? It’s good to reflect our crosses in life. It could be our wrong decisions that we made in life. For some their crosses would be the kind of life that that they have now which is full of fear, anxiety, greed, envy and low self-esteem. Could it also be our difficulty to forgive ourselves which make us difficult as well to forgive others and eventually accepting God’s forgiveness? Or could it be our favorite sin that blocks our growth in becoming the person that God wants us to be. God knows our crosses and he wants us with full trust to surrender those crosses to Him. There is nothing that the Lord can’t do for us. He loves us so much. He died for us. And there is no greater love than this. Are we willing to follow Jesus and be his disciples in this fast changing world? You, I and all of us are called by God. May we have an open heart to respond to His invitation. Amen.
Poyong, The Little Prince
Kurt Zion, Columban Father, Philippines
(Repost from Columban Interreligious Dialogue http://columbanird.org/)
“Mamiss kita kuya!” (I will miss you big brother!), Poyong said while I sipped my last cup of coffee on the island. During that entire week, I got to know him and his friends. On the first day on the island, a medical mission was being conducted which included free circumcision operation for boys. He bravely volunteered to be circumcised and so we accompanied him.
I had been living on the island for almost a week as part of the Silsilah Summer Course on Muslim-Christian Dialogue in Zamboanga City, where young Muslims and Christians come and live together for about a month. After the course I decided to spend a week on the island of Great Sta. Cruz.
The first occupants of the island were Tausugs who left Jolo to escape the war and fighting during martial law days. Now there are about 87 registered families and a total population of about 400 people on the island. I was adopted into the family of Isnira (Ka Indah) and Hanapi Kasan, a couple with their two sons, Firsaud and Rashid. The family lives with the parents of Ka Indah, Inah Amina and Amma Ali. The family also looks after Poyong and his sister Jamila, who are the children of Ka Indah’s sister.
One evening, I found Ama Ali praying inside the house. After his prayers, he told me that as a young man, he decided to focus his life to Allah and perform the “ibadat” which includes doing the “lima waqto” or praying five times a day. After he was done praying, I got a chance to ask him if I go with him to catch crabs and he told me I could. On that night we spoke about life on the island. Amma Ali observed that things has changed, men don’t have time any more to pray but just work and work because life is getting harder and harder on the island. I asked him about a rosary-like thing I saw him carrying one time. He stood up and after some time came back and showed it to me. Then he gave me one of them. The rosary–like thing I referred to was the “tasbih” which they use in reciting the glories/names of Allah.
Amma Ali and I finally went out to catch some crabs the next morning. We sat on the boat and slowly paddled out into the sea. Amma Ali uses a crab trap called “panggal” and he has about 10 of them. We went into lagoon. He dropped the traps as we went deeper into the lagoon. When he was done, he exclaimed, “Allahu Akbar!” (God is great!) then we went on shore to the place were he takes his rest. I noticed there were newly planted mangrove shoots near the shore and so I asked him about them. He told me that he used to cut a lot of mangrove trees for firewood and other things and so in order to replaced what he took from the mangrove forest, he has been planting mangrove trees. Most of the other trees he planted like guavas, lemon and papaya were dying out because of the dry weather. After about an hour, he decided we return to check the traps. He picked up all the traps and only 3 crabs were caught but still he said, “Alhamdullilah!” (Praise be to God!) He added that these days he has been getting less and less, smaller and smaller crabs. He considers the pollution and over harvesting of crabs to be the reason why there are lesser and smaller crabs.
Inah Amina teaches children to read the Quran. Everyday girls and boys come to do “pangadji” or the reading of Quran, some of them to it in a singing manner and are very beautiful to listen to. Among those that come is “Edeng” another grandson of Inah Amina. Edeng comes to the house to check on me and join me on my walks together with the other children. Edeng is the son of Ka Badzair, who is the eldest brother of Ka Indah and the community leader of the island.
My encounter with Poyong the Little Prince, the family of Ka Indah and the entire community on the island helped me understand what dialogue is all about. I remember the conversation of the Little Prince and the Fox. The Little Prince asked the fox to play with him and the fox told him that the prince has to tame him first. Taming is according to the fox like establishing ties. Fr Michel de Girord used the story of the Little Prince to explain what dialogue is in his book “A Parable of Dialogue: The Little Prince Revisited”. Dialogue requires taming the other person. It means that like the fox we are all wild to one another – we unknown to each other, strangers and sometimes violent to each other. We must also allow ourselves to be tamed. I am like the fox to the people of the island. The island and the people have tamed me. I have been considered a friend and a family. Poyong, the Little Prince has tamed me. The fox told the little prince a secret: “It is only through the heart that one can see rightly what is essential is invisible to the eye.” May we begin to see the other through our hearts and not merely through our eyes!
What I have learned about IRD from this, and other experiences?
Interreligious dialogue is about building relationships. It requires more than just understanding the other at the intellectual level like answering empirical questions. It is a lived experience – something one has to encounter, using all the senses.
Dialogue requires that one is not just interested to learn from them but to show genuine interest, how? studying their faith, attending their religious celebrations, asking real and not just for the sake of asking kind of questions. It must also go beyond intellectual inquiries but more into personal interaction later on. Dialogue is not imposing oneself on people but making oneself vulnerable and open to people. When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and open, people will see we are sincere and not just patronizing them. Allowing ourselves to be tamed.
At an Indian wedding in Fiji With Columbans in Yangon
On a personal level, IRD has allowed me to evangelize through dialogue of life. It has personally deepened my own faith and demands of me to understand, study and know more not just the other’s faith but also about my own self and faith. It also expanded my perspective about life and helped me in overcoming my introversion by learning to reach out first and become more vulnerable and open to people. Lastly, I have found IRD is a great platform for other Society priorities like JPIC.
(All photos by Fr. Kurt Zion)
Courage Under Persecution - 25 June 2017
Reverend Erl Dylan Tabaco
Do not be afraid. This is one of the most consoling words of Jesus that he always used to strengthen the faith of His disciples. I was amazed when I found out that these words “Do not be afraid” appear 365 times in the bible. And we know that there are 365 days in a year. It only shows that our God is reminding us that we are not alone in our journey. When things go wrong and when difficulties shake our ground, the Lord gives us the assurance that He will take care of us. He is with us every moment of our lives.
But brothers and sisters, how would these words of our Lord appeal to us when we are facing the different forms of evil in our society today. When we open our television or even the front page of the newspaper, the usual news that we encounter always inflict fear on us. On-going armed conflict in Marawi, terrorists attack in different parts of the world, widespread of deadly diseases, increasing number of victims in extrajudicial killing and continuing climate change which gives rise to different natural calamities. These are some of the recurring social issues that we are facing today which make us afraid of.
When we look into our own lives, we have many things also that we are afraid of. We are afraid if we still have enough food on the table. We are afraid to fail in an exam which would deem our chances of having a brighter future. We are afraid to fall in love because of the possibility to get hurt. We are afraid to reveal our true selves because of possible rejection from our friends and colleagues. We are afraid to open up to our love ones about some secrets of our lives because they may alienate us. We are afraid if we still have enough wealth in the bank, if we still have power to hold on and if we still have fame to boast ourselves. And the worst thing is that we are afraid that our sinful condition would give rise to God’s anger and anything unpleasant things that happened in our lives, we often associate it that God is punishing us. It’s sad to say that even our image of God is affected by our fears within us.
Fear is a greatest obstacle of faith. Fear paralyzes us to become the best version of ourselves that God wants us to be. We experience all these fears in every circumstances of our lives because we don’t know what will happen in the future. But our readings for today invite us to get in touch with our fears and allow God to have space in our lives so He may touch those areas which are not life giving. As Christians we are always work in progress in becoming a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ. In our own journey, God is always cooperating with us. In our desire to follow Him we will be disturbed by some events in our lives. It is normal for us to experience fear because we don’t have the full control of our lives.
I would like to bring out three points for my reflection today. My first point is (1)recognition. When we follow Jesus it is not automatic that we will be exempted from life’s challenges. The more we get closer to him the more we get in touch with our fears. The more we recognize our need for Him. It’s good to recognize our fears and to be honest to our Lord on how those fears affect us. But recognizing our fear is not the end of the story, we need to recognize as well that God’s providential care is bigger than our fears. It was shown in the 1st Reading for today that Jeremiah was denounced by his compatriots for speaking on behalf of God. Nevertheless, he remained faithful to his mission. He is telling us that we need to expel from our mind all our fear and worry because God is with us, he will protect us from all evil. We should not allow our fear to control us. Let God handle our fears and use them for His greater purpose.
If we remained faithful to Him despite the overwhelming challenges that we may encounter along our way, the Lord will liberate us from all our fears. And this is the second point of my reflection, 2) Liberation. This is the reason why Jesus Christ became human like us to liberate us from our brokenness, sinfulness and all worries in this world. True security does not lie on worldly things. It only comes from God, the source of joy and fulfillment. As what St. Paul said in his letter to the Romans that “The grace of God is great and it is a free gift given to us in and through Jesus.” Every act of surrendering all our worries in life and believing that God will take in charge; it is already an experience of liberation.
Once our faith is deepened then we become a new creation. We are no longer those people who lived in darkness because what operates in us is the transforming power of God. And this is the last point of my reflection, 3) transformation. This is the ultimate end of our discipleship. But we won’t have a transformative experience if we don’t go through the first two elements which are recognition and liberation. We have confidence that we will go through this process because of God’s grace. We are special in God’s eyes. It is very clear in our gospel that Jesus commanded us “Do not be afraid, we are worth than many sparrows”
Through this reflection, let us ask ourselves this question. “What are the things that you are afraid of? Offer it to God in this Holy Mass and asked for His grace that you will have the courage to recognize them. As you recognize them, believe in his liberating power that He will fix all the brokenness of your lives. By doing this you will no longer be the person who lives in fear. You are now a transformed and new creation that the Lord wants you to be. Be a channel of God’s healing love to others. Do not be afraid. Amen.
Jesus said to the Jewish crowds:
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”
Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
(Corpus Christi) - 18 June 2017
Reverend Erl Dylan Tabaco
Do you remember the movie Titanic, Maging Sino Ka Man, and Only you? Or even the famous tagline “May forever ba?” Sounds familiar, isn’t it? We are fun of watching romantic movies. Oftentimes we are carried away on how the story unfolds. We even rushed to the story line and jumped to a conclusion that would resort a happy ending. No matter how beautiful the story is nothing could match the greatest love story which happened 2000 years ago. It is a love story of God to humanity expressed by Jesus in Mt. Calvary. Jesus, the human face of God, took the form of a servant and became obedient even up to death, death on the cross. A death which changed the entire course of human history. A death that liberates, heals, transforms and unites. We bring the memory of that love story now. Jesus is here with us now. He tells us how much he loves us. In the form of bread and wine, Jesus is reaching us and inviting us to receive Him. Holy Eucharist, the sharing of Christ body and blood is a celebration of love, a love that is so inspiring which even until now we still celebrate. There is no greater love than this.
When I was in Peru, I did my mission in a far-flung community which is 4600 meters above sea level, three times higher than Mt. Apo. It is at the top of the Andes Mountain. Imagine how high it is and I even had a problem of breathing because of less oxygen. I felt dizzy and freezing at that time. But one thing that took away my dizziness was when I saw a significant number of people from other distant communities with huge baskets full of fruits and root crops, who were hiking for almost 6 hours just to attend the Mass and there is only one Mass in a year in that community. When they arrived in a small chapel…..they were all excited and their smile was very contagious as they started to greet each other. Then we proceeded to the celebration of the Mass. During the offertory as their leader brought the bread and wine to the altar, they also offered all the fruits of their labor. Everyone participated fully, consciously, and actively in the Mass. It’s a foretaste of a heavenly banquet. After the mass we had lunch together. Whatever they have had they shared it among themselves.
From that story, I could bring out three points for my reflection in relation to our readings for today. My first point is (1)our desire to know our want for God in the Eucharist. In our First Reading in the book of Deuteronomy, it was said “Yahweh made you experience want but he gave you manna to eat for you to show that one does not live on bread alone, but also by everything that comes from the mouth of God.” Looking at their journey who had spent 5-6 hours in a narrow and rocky road under the heat of the sun just to reach the chapel and attend the celebration of the Holy Mass, shows how much they hunger and thirst for God. They know what they want. It’s more than earthly food. It is the bread of life. Their sacrifice was meaningful because after their long journey they have encountered the real presence of Jesus in the appearance of bread and wine. As they received His Body and Blood they became one with Him and which is the 2nd point of my reflection (2)our desire to be in communion with God and others in the Eucharist. As what St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians says “The bread is one and so we, though many, form one body, sharing the one bread.” As they offer all their baskets filled with fruits as a symbol of their gratitude to the Lord for a good harvest, they also offered their challenges, pains, dreams, joys and hopes for each other as one community gathered by a loving God who is always been part of their journey. Their admiration to the Eucharist is so intense which moved me deeply. They may not have the same opportunity to attend masses regularly like us here in Malate but their understanding of the Eucharist was so rich and deep. When they shared what they have after the mass, it expresses how their faith has been nourished and became a living witness of what Eucharist is all about. As what we have heard in the Gospel, “I am the living bread. The bread I shall give is my flesh, and I will give it for the life of the world.” And this is the last point of my reflection, (3)our desire to be transformed to be a living witness of God’s love in the Eucharist. For them there is no gift which is too small. A gesture of compassion, care respect and generosity are the fruits of the Eucharist. True love transcends. Sacrifice born out of love is what Jesus wants us to imitate. And this is the meaning of the Holy Mass.
If we only understand the true meaning of what we are celebrating today “The Body and Blood of Christ” and allowed ourselves to be transformed by the grace that this sacrament brings I believe there will be no beggar on the streets. There will be no violence and hatred among nations. There will be no greed, selfishness, division, corruption and dominance in this world. Because what God wants from us is to share that greatest love story in every people we meet through our words and deeds. Happy feast day and Father’s day as well. Amen.
God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
Feast of the Holy Trinity - 11 June 2017
Reverend Erl Dylan Tabaco
When I was young around 4 years old, my mother taught me how to make the sign of the cross. That was the earliest memory that I had about the Trinity, the first catechism that I had believing in One God in three persons: Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. As I grew up I became accustomed to it since every gathering that we have had, either in school, church or in our house, we always start and end by making sign of the cross as we invoked the presence of the Trinity. It sounds very simple, even small kids could recite it audibly. But my familiarity with this basic doctrine of our Christian faith remained only as an idea, an abstract idea enough for me to say that I am a Christian, I am a follower of Jesus Christ. The more I became familiar to it the more questions that were puzzling my mind. How can I reconcile my belief that there is only one God but there are three persons? Whom am I worshipping to? Is it the Father, the Son or the Holy Spirit? Is there any difference when I only pray to the Father in the morning, Son in the afternoon and Holy Spirit in the evening? What does Holy Trinity is all about?
Trying to understand the reality of the Trinity by using concepts, Bible, theology books or even symbols, we will always fall short in understanding its fullness because Trinity is not an idea. It is a living reality bound by loving communion of the three persons in one God. Our task as a Christian is not to explain fully the doctrine of the Trinity. After all Christianity as religion is not just a list of doctrines. Christianity is about relationship. Hence, outside the context of relationship, Trinity is impossible to understand. Human intellect is not enough, we need God’s grace. It is the grace of God, the Spirit of God who continuously forms our consciousness and transforms our lives to make the Triune God visible within us in the way we relate with others.
We have heard in our first reading in the book of Exodus, that Yahweh is a God full of pity and mercy, slow to anger and abounding in truth and loving kindness. Upon hearing this, it presupposes that God from the very beginning want to have a loving relation with us and the rest of his creation. His love is creative and since it is creative, he always provides. God desires humanity to enter into his inner life. This inner life of God speaks of the mutual love of the three persons in one Godhead. Every time we profess our faith during the Mass, we stand in awe and wonder on how God works in our lives. He never stops working in us. Each day is always an opportunity to grow in love with a God who loves us first. Our Creed is Trinitarian in structure: the Father and the Son are united in the Spirit of love. The inmost secret of all reality is the divine loving communion. Trinity is a relationship, it is a community bound by mutual love. Whenever there is an act of love, an act of compassion and an act of mutual sharing, the presence of the Triune God is there. As our 2nd reading in the 2nd letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians highlighted “The grace of Christ Jesus the Lord, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all. He is with us today. This is the reason why we are all gathered here celebrating as one community in Our Lady of Remedies Parish. It’s good to hear that as we celebrate Trinity Sunday, we are also celebrating Parish day bearing the theme “Pagdiriwang ng Pag-ibig ng kabanal-banalang Trinidad sa Sangnilikha.”
This celebration reminds us of our own calling. We are all different in terms of gifts, history, interests and skills. Yet we share the same calling, our vocation to love. Seeing the things that is happening in our world today, armed conflict in Marawi, extra-judicial killing, destruction of our natural resources, persecution of Christians in different parts of the world, wide gap between the rich and the poor, it’s difficult to feel the loving presence of God. So many questions that may come out in our mind. But you know what brothers and sisters, our God is capable of embracing all of human history with all its sinfulness, brokenness and limitations. God draw straight in crooked lines. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Amidst all these happenings, we are always a community of hope because of our faith that God would never abandon us. We know that out of super-abundant love, God created us and shared his Love for all of us so that in return we will love Him by loving each other and the rest of his creation. This is our challenge to continue hoping and believing. And this is the heart of the message of our Gospel today…..God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in Him may not be lost, but may have eternal life. Jesus the human face of God taught us how to live. As he was sent by the Father to show how much we are loved, we are also sent to show to others how loving our God is.
The mutual self-giving of the Father and the Son bound by the Spirit of love should be our model on how we should live out our lives. It is the love of the Triune God that guides all our decisions in life. This is our mission. It is in the silent sanctuary of our own hearts that we make room for the transforming power of love to grow within us and radiate through us. Love is something that gives meaning to our existence because we are all created out of love. After all love without action remains an abstract idea. But if love is lived out and practiced it becomes a reality that would change the present structure of our world. Each day is an opportunity to let this love grow in whatever ways we express. It is only in loving that would help us understand the Trinity. Start loving yourself and let this love grow in your family, community and to where God is leading us to make a better world. Have a Blessed Trinity Sunday to all.
Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you, just as you gave him authority over all people, so that your son may give eternal life to all you gave him. Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ. I glorified you on earth by accomplishing the work that you gave me to do. Now glorify me, Father, with you, with the glory that I had with you before the world began.”
“I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you gave me is from you, because the words you gave to me I have given to them, and they accepted them and truly understood that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours, and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them. And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you.”
7th Sunday of Easter - 28 May 2017
Fr. Leo Distor
Maaring marami sa atin ngayon dito ay may mga pamilya, kamag-anak o mga kakilala na nasa sa ibang bansa at malayo sa atin. Marami sa ating mga kababayang mga ina at ama, anak, kapatid o asawa ang lumilisan sa bayan at nangingibang-bayan ay sadyang iniiwan ang pamilya upang mag-trabaho sa malayo at kumita ng mas malaki-laki.
Nguni’t alam natin na ang paglisan o pangingibang-bayan ng mga kababayan natin ay hindi pag-alis upang mahiwalay, o upang mapalayo. Ito ay isang pagsasakripisyo na ang pakay ay upang lalong mapaghandaan ang darating na kinabukasan ng kanilang mga mga mahal sa buhay. Itong paglisang ito ay hindi pagpapabaya o pamamaalam, kundi pagsisikap, pagtitiyaga, para sa ikagaganda ng buhay ng kanilang mga mahal at ang katuparan ng buhay na ito para sa mga mahal ay tunay nilang tagumpay at kagalakan.
Si Jesus man ay lumisan … umakyat sa kalangitan. Madalas nating ilarawan ang Pag-akyat ng Panginoong Hesus sa langit bilang pag-iwan na sa atin dahil tapos na ang kanyang laban. O kaya naman bilang pagkakamit na niya ng korona ng tagumpay dahil nakamit na niyang muli ang kanyang luwalhati bilang Anak ng Diyos. O kaya naman, tila ito pagpapasa na ng Panginoon sa kanyang mga alagad ng misyon na sinimulan Niya at sila na lang ang bahalang magpatuloy nito.
Hindi umakyat ang Panginoon upang lumisan, kundi upang luwalhatiin ng Ama. Iniluklok ng Ama si Hesus sa kaluwalhatian kung saan ay taglay Niya ang lahat ng kapangyarihan at kaluwalhatian ng langit. Naangkin ni Hesus ang lahat ng kapangyarihan sapagkat bilang ibinangon ng Diyos mula sa kamatayan ay kaniya ang tagumpay at siya ang itinatanghal na Panginoon ng sanlibutan at tagapagligtas ng buong daigdig. Ito ang ipinagdiriwang natin ngayon.
Ang pag-akyat ng Panginoon ay hindi pamamaalam, hindi upang mawala sa ating piling kundi pananatili sa ibang paraan, sa mas mataas na antas sa pamamagitan ng biyaya,. Ang pag-akyat niya ay hindi paglisan kundi para Kanyang tuluyang gawang pagliligtas, at sa pakikipagsalamuha sa atin sa pamamagitan ng kanyang sambayanang Kristiyano….ang kanyang simbahan. Nais ni Hesus na ang lahat ay maging kanyang mga alagad. At ang kanyang pangako….. ay lahat ng araw siya ang kapisan at kaagapay.
Sa pag-akyat ni Hesus sa langit, dala-dala Niya tayo sa kanyang isip, sa kanyang puso. Naalala niya lagi tayo habang nasa luwalhati kasama ng Ama at ng Espiritu Santo. Nananabik siyang makapiling tayong muli at makaugnay muli.
Ang Pag-akyat niya sa langit ay hindi para sa kanyang kabutihan, o kapahingahan, o kaluwalhatian lamang. Bumalik siya sa Ama para sa kapakanan ng kawan na tinipon niya sa lupa, para sa bayang ipinagkasundo niya sa Kaharian ng Diyos. Hindi ba sabi niya na babalik siyang muli?
Ang hamon ay nasa ating mga kamay, hamon na maging tapat sa ala-ala ni Hesus. Ngayong hindi natin siya nakikita sa harapan, minamahal din ba natin ang kanyang ala-ala at lagi ba tayong nabubuhay na may pagtitiwalang nananatili siya sa atin? May pananabik ba tayong makasama siya sa ating buhay? Ang panahon ng pagkakahiwalay natin sa Panginoon ay oras upang pahalagahan at gamitin na inspirasyon ang ala-ala ni Hesus saating pamumuhay. Iniisip niya tayo lagi, ganoon din ba tayo sa kanya?
Pero, tingnan nating muli ang ebanghelyo … Hindi siya lumisan. Hindi siya namaalam. Patuloy siyang nananatili, pero may iniutos siya sa atin: “Humayo kayo at gawing disipulo ko ang buong daigdig.” Tayo ay itinalaga ni Hesus bilang isang kapatiran ng mga misyonero, mga sugo niya, upang ang lahat ng tao ay makaisa niya sa buhay at pag-ibig ng Diyos. Tayo ay inatasan ni Hesus na ipangaral ang kanyang salita at tanggapin ang sumasampalataya sa ating sambayanang Kristiyano - sa ating kapatiran.
Tayo ay pinagkalooban niya ng kapangyarihan na sa kanyang pangalan ay gawin nating mga alagad niya ang lahat ng mga tao. At siya ay mananatili sa piling natin sa bawat sandali. Siya ang magbibigay sa atin ng lakas at tatag. Siya ang kaisa natin at kapiling kasama ng Ama at ng Espiritu Santo hanggang sa katapusan, na siyang simula ng walang hanggan.
Sa ulitin, ang pag-akyat ay pananatili sa piling natin. Ang pag-akyat niya ay isang paghamon, upang tayo ay gumanap sa kanyang ginanap, ang katotohanan tungkol sa kung sino siya … ang Diyos na sumasaatin!
Ang pag-akyat ni Hesus sa langit ay simula ng bagong panahon. Ito ay ang panahon ng simbahan –ikaw, ako, tayo na puno ng Banal na Espiritu upang ipagpatuloy ang gawang pagliligtas ng Panginoon. Ang kaluwalhatian ng Panginoon ay ang siya rin nating kakamtin. Bawat isa sa atin ay may nakalaang tahanan sa Panginoon. At hindi lamang natin ito makakamtan sa kabilang buhay.
Ayon kay Santo Papa Benedicto, ang pagtungo natin at pakikipag-ugnay sa Panginoon, ay ang nagdudulot sa atin ng langit. Kung magkagayon, ang langit ay hindi lugar dun sa kalawakan, Ang langit ay nasa sa pakikiisa natin.
Jesus said to his disciples: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows him. But you know him, because he remains with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”
6th Sunday of Easter - 21 May 2017
Fr. Leo Distor
Today Peter tells us in the epistle, “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.” Peter’s statement implies that Catholics are supposed to be persons of hope; and that we need to be capable and ready always to give the reasons for our hope to anyone who asks us. This proclamation of hope is an essential part of the Good News each of us is called to live and proclaim.
This Gospel of Hope is needed today as much as ever because so many people are living without hope. Many are led to fear, despair and suffering by things and situations in the world - the threat of terrorism, the destruction of environment, the problems flowing from drugs and poverty in our own country. Many lose hope due to situations in their own lives —problems at home – marital problems, family problems, difficulties in work places, various health complications and so many other personal situations. Even within the Church, there are other problems that make people lose hope – scandals in the church, many people are not living-out the faith and people come to church only to pray and ask for their self-centered needs. In positions of leadership, there is the failure of many to lead a life that truly cares for the welfare of others and to sacrifice for the people. With all of these problems we cannot seem to hope and succeed in the struggle to live as God wants.
But despite all of these challenges, which are not greater than the challenges that Peter faced in his own time, we should not despair. Peter easily could have despaired because the challenges far exceeded his human ability to face it, but He counted on the Lord to give him what he needed. That’s why Peter’s words to us today in his first letter are so important.
The fundamental reason for our hope has nothing to do with our individual talents, bright personalities, educational attainments, great accomplishments, important connections. The essential reason of our hope is GOD. Hope is based on the deep conviction that God is faithful to his promises, that he will always give us what we need and what is best for us. He who is the all-powerful Lord of the universe loves us with an everlasting love, from which no human situation, no matter how seemingly desperate, can separate us from Him. During this Easter Season, we celebrate the fact that not even Jesus death on the cross can extinguish hope! We have hope because God brought the greatest good out of the worst evil on Good Friday.
One essential reason for our hope today is that God has come back to life through the Holy Spirit. In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that when he goes.
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where I am going you know the way.” Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said to him, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.”
5th Sunday of Easter - 14 May 2017
Fr. Michael Martin
One friend says: Home is where the heart is.
Another prefers: Home is where you are understood.
A young man got involved in crime. He became a robber, and spent 3 years in jail.
Not a single one of his family visited him. He felt disowned by them
Others helped him change. He himself took the initiative and wrote to his parents:
I will be released soon. I do not know if you ever want to see me at home again.
If you do want me to go home: Pin a huge white ribbon on the top of the tall fruit tree in our garden.
If you pin a ribbon on the tree, I will see it from the train which runs past our house.
On the train, he could not sit at rest. The man beside him was willing to listen:
Where is your house, I will keep watch for the tree, but may I ask:
What then is your plan if there is no ribbon?
I will know then that I have no home to go to ever again!
Nervously, the companion kept vigil. Yes, we are getting close now “LOOK, LOOK” the companion said, as both of them looked again and saw the tree, now covered with so many white ribbons
Pope Francis has repeatedly said to us all: Welcome home, the Church was your home; the Church is your home. WELCOME HOME. HEAVEN is our promised home
Jesus repeatedly said: I AM THE WAY, Jesus says. I am going home. I will not leave you orphans. I will come and bring you to where I am. I am the Truth, I am the LIFE. Another translation reads: I am the way, which is Truth and life.
TRUTH: We are a community which gathers to hear God’s word, prays together, cares for one another and for all life and creation, breaks the bread, and is faithful to the teaching of the Apostles.
Is it true that EJK does not apply to drug addicts? It is not true. It is lies. Drug victims are humans like you and me. Shame on the Speaker of such words.
Would you believe words like that or do we not admire WHISTLE BLOWERS who speak the truth and have everything to lose and little to gain? LIFE Death penalty handout
Are Malate’s financial reports on our Parish blackboards TRUE? I am the way, which is TRUTH
Jesus, the Risen Lord, says to us today:
Home has many mansions - all people are welcome - all are invited - walk the way I walked
Parents get a letter from a daughter coming home to Ireland after several years in Australia/I Will take the boat from England to Ireland/Mother says she will meet her/ Daughter says she will wear a red skirt……
Mother: Do you think a mother will not know her daughter, will not recognize her child
Do you think I could ever fail to recognize you, my daughter?
Jesus will recognize you. He has said so. He keeps his promises
Jesus knows that you witnessed to the truth….and respected life.
You were life giving, healing & uplifting spirits, especially the spirits of those most denied life – in our land, in our parish, in our world today.
“Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber. But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.” Although Jesus used this figure of speech, the Pharisees did not realize what he was trying to tell them.
So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came be-fore me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”
4th Sunday of Easter - 7 May 2017
Fr. Leo Distor
Ang ika-apat na Linggo ng Pagkabuhay ay laging nakatalaga bilang Linggo ng Mabuting Pastol. Sa ating pagninilay sa mga magandang katangian ng pastol mauunawaan natin ang pag-mamahal, pagmamalasakit, pag-gabay, at pagtatanggol sa atin ni Hesus bilang mabuting pastol.
Kung mayroong plano ang Diyos sa atin bilang kanyang mga anak ito’y para sa ating ikabubuti, hindi niya hangad na tayo’y mapahamak kundi nangangarap siya para sa ating ikabubuti. Ang Diyos natin ay hindi lang natin Diyos, kundi Siya’y ating maituturing na Pastol; isang Mabuting Pas-tol na naghahangad lang sa atin ng isang matagumpay na buhay at isang buhay na ganap, sabi nga sa Salmo Responsorio dinadala tayo ng ating Pastol sa “mainam na pastulan at tahimik na batisan.
Sa ating kapanahunan ngayon, maingay ang ating kapaligiran. Marami ang sala-salabat na tinig, marami ang salu-salungat na takbo ng isipan … maraming umaakit at nananawagan ng ating atensyon. Lahat ay nagpapanggap na may hatid na katotohanan … lahat ay nagsasabing wala nang dapat pang pakinggang iba pa. Ito na at wala nang iba.
Sa panahon natin ngayon, ang buhay ay masyado nang komplikado. Marami ang nakakatakot at nakakapangamba na mga kaganapan sa ating paligid. Naririyan ang patuloy na pagpaslang sa ating kapwa-tao sa ngalan ng digmaang kontra droga sa paniniwalang ang ganitong paraan ay ma-ghahatid sa ating bansa ng ligtas, matiwasay at maginhawang buhay. Naririyan din ang pagkasira at pagpaslang ng ating kalikasan sanhi ng pagtataguyod ng sariling interés ng iilang nagpapakasasa na sa kanilang yaman subalit hangad pa rin ang magpayaman, kayat patuloy pa rin ang dusa ng kalikasan at ng mga kapatid nating mga katutubo dahil sa iresponsableng pagmimina. Naririyan pa rin ang pamamayagpag sa ating mga pamunuan sa ating gobyerno ang kawalan ng tunay na pag-mamalasakit at pagtataguyod para sa tinatawag na ‘common good” at pilit na itinataguyod ang ba-tas na walang puso para sa mga maliliit, kung kaya’t talamak at tumitindi pa rin ang kahirapan at pagdurusa ng nakararami.
Kung minsan parang dumarating na tayo sa punto na nagtatanong tayo sa ating sarili, “nasaan na ang kapangyarihan ng Diyos sa mga kalagayang ito”, “Nasaan na ang mabuting pastol na gagabay at magliligtas sa atin? Maaaring ang dapat na ating katanungan ay, “kinikilala ba natin ang Diyos na tunay nating pastol”?, “kilala at pinakikinggan ba natin ang kanyang tinig”?, “tayo ba ay mabubuting tupa”?
“Nakikinig sa akin ang aking mga tupa; nakikilala ko sila, at sumusunod sila sa akin”. Sa isang maiksing pangungusap nasasaad dito ang mga katangian na inaasahan sa mabuting tupa. Una, nakikinig ang mga tupa sa tinig ng pastol.
Sa dami ng opinyon na isinusubo sa atin mula sa media, mga namumuno sa ating lipunan at sa maraming iba pa, nakakalito kung sino ang pakikinggan. Kung di tayo mag-iisip at magbabantay sa mga mali, at di tayo matibay sa ating pananampalataya, madali tayong matatangay ng iba’t-ibang ingay sa kapaligiran.
Ang isang katangian ng tupa na wala sa ibang hayop ay hindi siya puwedeng mabuhay ng walang Pastol, hindi niya kayang ipag-tanggol at asahan ang kanyang sarili, maari niya itong ikapahamak. Parang tao, hindi maaaring wala siyang Diyos sa buhay, bagamat meron siyang mga ibat-ibang resources na maaari niyang gamitin at panghawakang magsasalba sa kanya sa kanyang buhay pero ang totoo “Kulang tayo”.
Una. Kulang tayo ng lawak at lalim ng nakikita at nauunawaan kung kaya’t kailangan natin ang pag-gabay ng mabuting pastol upang mapaalalahanan at magabayan tayo palayo sa kapahamakan at panganib sa ating buhay paglalakbay. Ang tanong, nag-papagabay ba tayo sa Diyos at sa mga kinauukulang pinagkatiwalaan Niya o mas pinakikinggan natin ang ating mga sarili?
Kulang tayo sa katatagan kung saan ay madali tayong mapanghinaan ng loob, mawalan ng pag-asa, madali tayong ma-destruct sa ating nakikita at nararamdaman, madali tayong sumuko at madaling mapagod. Pero ang ating mabuting Pastol, binibigyan tayo ng “pananaw” sa ating puso upang mag-hangad, upang umasa at mangarap. Ang tanong, mayroon ba tayong mga pangarap at hangarin na magpapabago sa simbahan, kumonidad at lipunan natin o para lang ito sa ating sarili?
Kulang tayo ng pagtitiwala at pakikipag-ugnay sa iba. Minsan pakiramdam natin “kaya nating mabuhay ng wala ang ibang tao”, pero ang totoo katulad ng tupa na hindi siya puwedeng walang kawan, nilikha tayo ng Diyos na likas ang kaugnayan sa iba. Sabi sa Banal na Kasulatan kapag ang isang tupa ay nawawala sa kawan, hinahanap ito ng Mabuting Pastol at muling dinadala sa ka-wan. Tunay nating kailangang kilalanin ang Diyos at sundan ang kanyang mapaggabay na tinig pa-ra sa ganap nating buhay. Nakakamtan lamang ito dahil kilala ng tupa ang pastol at buo ang pag-titiwala niya sa kanya.
Maraming paraan nagpapakilala ang Diyos sa atin – sa bibliya, sa sakramento, sa pagtuturo, sa mga nilikha, o sa mga mabubuti at makakapag-bigay buhay, pag-asa, malasakit na mga gawain ng tao sa kapwa. Mahalaga na ilapit natin ang ating sarili sa mga pamamaraang ito at gamitin ito bilang instrumento ng ating pagkilala sa Diyos. Sa mga munting pamamaraan, sikapin din nating maging mabubuting pastol sa mga ipinagkatiwala sa atin.
Ang ika-apat na Linggo ng Muling Pagkabuhay ay laging inilalaan ng Simbahan upang ipagdasal ang pagpapalaganap sa bokasyon hindi lamang ng pagpapari at pagiging relihiyoso kundi sa pagi-ging tunay na kawangis ni Kristo. Malaki ang pangangailangan ngayon ng ating simbahan at ng ating mundo ng mabubuting pastol na naaayon sa halimbawa ni Jesus.
That very day, the first day of the week, two of Jesus’ disciples were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred. And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him. He asked them, “What are you discussing as you walk along?” They stopped, looking downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?” And he replied to them, “What sort of things?” They said to him, “The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him. But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel; and besides all this, it is now the third day since this took place. Some women from our group, however, have astounded us: they were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his body; they came back and reported that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who announced that he was alive. Then some of those with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women had described, but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures. As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther. But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the eleven and those with them who were saying, “The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!” Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of bread.
3rd Sunday of Easter - 30 April 2017
Fr. Leo Distor
The disciples on the way to Emmaus saw their hopes and dreams smashed and crushed. They were expecting Jesus to be a mighty warrior and liberator. They never imagined the scandal of the cross. Everything seemed finished and they lost hope.
But Jesus himself drew near and walked with the disciples. Jesus entered their conversation without revealing his true identity. He listened to them and in the light of what they said he read the past for them in a new way. Jesus listened patiently to the version of history that those two disciples had. He didn’t cut them off. He heard them out. Had Jesus cut them off, their doubts and objections would have remained inside them, suppressed and therefore all the more powerful, it would have buried them in their sad past, in hopelessness and despair.
Many of us still remember the violence done to us and we hold on to the pains it caused us. We give so much power to it and let it control our lives that we can become deaf accordingly to the invitation of Christ. We let our pains, hopelessness, fears and doubts tell ourselves to stop moving on and to give-up, we tell ourselves ‘Ganito na ako e, hindi ko na ito mababago, kaya magtiis na lang kayo ”.
If this is the powerlessness and hopelessness that color our vision, then we would also believe that someone who is a “trouble maker” will always be a troublemaker and we fail to see the signs that the person is gifted in some area. Or, we would believe that someone who is a criminal will always be a criminal and will never really change for good, even when there are signs otherwise. We tell ourselves not to dare believe and expect the extraordinary to happen and not to see that life can change. We make snap judgments and we miss the incredible reality of what is in front of us. Jesus is with us and in our midst constantly. He promises us: “Behold I am with you always, even unto the end of the world”. He’s here, but too often we don’t see him.
Like those two disciples, beneath our baggage, doubt, sadness and despair lies a deep yearning and a holy hunger. Beneath our disbelief is our hope and our need for God to be alive, vibrant and present.
The risen Christ is with us always… all through the day, in every one we meet. But too often, he goes unrecognized. He is only a Sunday presence at best… here for the breaking of the bread and then ignored in our self-absorption. Jesus does not want His disciples to simply recite a role of hope – reducing hope to an ideology or mere theory, to a mere slogan saying, “Christ is risen”, to mere appearances and feelings.
It is not enough that we see Christ in our midst. It is not enough that we recognize him. It is not even enough that we look for Christ in others. We must show the world that the risen Christ lives in us, too. We must actively witness his love. Our lives must be clear proof of the Resurrection. Jesus wants His disciples like us “to be hope”. We cannot afford to simply be people “who were hoping.” Rather we must become hope.
A grandfather played with his grandson by showing him a cookie on one of his hands then brought his hand behind him and after awhile made his grandson choose which of the closed hands bear the cookie. The grandson opened his grandfather’s left hand and found just half of the cookie and the grandfather opened the right hand to show the other half.
I think that’s where hope lies – when we break bread and life like that,”half for us and half for others”. There is more love when it is given away than when it is kept. Jesus is inviting us and is teaching us to live in a world of loving sacrifice. When we sacrifice for the good of others and of this world, there will be no scarcity and the ‘sacrificers’ are fed by their own sacrifices.
We come here week after week, breaking bread and listening to the good news that Jesus is with us. We strengthen one another when we look around with eyes that are looking for the Jesus who is alive. When we look at the world around and really see what is happening around us through Jesus-eyes, we cannot help but see hope and that we can’t keep it to ourselves anymore but “to be hope”.
As we walk on our Emmaus roads may we dare to turn to those who are walking beside us and see the light of Christ that is in them. Jesus did not call us to be ‘alone, but to be the new community. And He is no longer simply a historical figure, a regretted lost friend, a memory; He is risen; He is the way forward; he is the Way to the Father; “through Him we have access in one Spirit to the Father”.
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
Now, Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.
2nd Sunday of Easter - 23 April 2017
Fr. Leo Distor
On Easter Sunday there was rejoicing on Jesus’ resurrection but the very next day after Easter, the disciples were hiding in a locked room in fear of the Jews. They had doubt about what they should do.
It is very, very easy to be a person of faith when all goes well. When life is without any really deep crises, it is easy for each of us to be a person of faith. But when a crisis tears at our hearts, then very often we feel our faith shaken, we begin to doubt if God is really with us and cares for us. Many times we enter into a period of doubt and even of anger at God.
Like the disciples, it was easy to believe in the Lord and stick with Him when they felt the magnetism of His words, when they witnessed His healings, when they saw His miracles. But it was much harder for them to believe and remain with him after He had been taken away to be killed. It was harder for them to believe when they realized that they also could be killed for having been His followers. Thomas doubted the Resurrection because he had suffered the crisis of the crucifixion. His faith in God waned. Like the other chosen disciples, Thomas ran and hid. He was too afraid and sad that he could not remember the promise of the Lord that the Lord will rise back to life.
Thomas was sincere that he really doubted the resurrection of Jesus. He didn't pretend. He was bluntly honest about where he was. He told the truth. Thomas did not understand what was happening, so he did not presume that he knew everything. He could not grasp it fully that a person died and came back to life. He was a man who was having trouble hearing from others that Jesus had been raised from the dead and that it was something to rejoice over.
Doubt is a part of life and it is okay. Who among us can tell that we do not doubt? All of us doubt. But let us use our doubts to inform ourselves about what bothers us and what we do not understand. Doubt is a natural part of the faith journey of many Christians. If you doubt, just like Thomas," Tell the Lord about it. Don't hold back in your prayers. God can handle our doubt. God wants us to be completely honest in prayer for it will lead us to a deeper faith than we had previously.
Thomas taught us a lesson that if we do not understand, then, let us humbly, honestly and sincerely accept the fact that we do not know and understand, so we ask others to explain it to us. This does not mean that we have lost our faith. It simply means that we are being called to a deeper faith. At the end Thomas just said: “My Lord and my God!”
At this point Jesus told Thomas about a greater faith, a faith that He has called you and me to grow into. The Lord looked at Thomas and then looked at us and said, "Blessed are those who have not seen yet believe." This is where honesty with God leads. This is the outcome of an open confession of doubt. This is not pretend faith. This is not the sort of Christianity we wear as a wrapping to impress others. It's a genuine faith that comes from the deepest corners of our soul. It's a faith that transforms our lives.
Jesus does not scold Thomas for his unbelief. Rather, he gently and mercifully offers Thomas exactly what he had wanted. Jesus met Thomas right where he was. And he offered himself to Thomas: "Here, touch me, and believe." The same is true about Jesus to us.
In his time and in his way, Jesus comes to us and makes himself known to us. Sometimes he does it in the way we have wanted. Sometimes he doesn't. But he always gives us exactly what we really need. And it comes, not because we have earned it, but by grace.
Many of us struggle with doubt that can seem to choke the very life out of us. We can fall into a pit of despair and cannot get out of it. We can be stuck in unbelief and helpless and hopeless before God. But when we pour our hearts to God, eventually, we may feel a calming presence surrounding and embracing us. The desperate doubts that can torment our souls, is replaced by the deepest peace we desire. Our tears of sorrow may become tears of joy.
When Jesus said to Thomas: "You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who haven't seen me and believe anyway." It’s as if Jesus himself is saying to us, “Don't be faithless any longer. Believe!" These are words of encouragement for you and me. Because we don't get to see Jesus, you and I are those who have to believe without seeing.
And in this we are blessed. Being blessed does not mean we are great, or worthy, or morally superior. Being blessed means that God has chosen to pour out his goodness upon us, to be gracious to us, to reveal his Son to us. Indeed, all who believe without seeing are truly blessed.
Let us just listen to his invitation to find true life in Him. No matter where we are in our relationship with Jesus today, though we might still feel like we haven't been ready to put our trust in him, the good news is that he meets us where we are at in our faith life. In his time and his way, he graciously draws us near to his heart so we might know his love and grace. He who gave his life for us so that we might be forgiven, He who was raised so that we might live forever, seeks a genuine, honest relationship with us. He wants, not just a religious performance, but an intimate friendship. So no matter where we are on the road of faith, let the risen Jesus walk with us today, tomorrow, and every day from here on.
One time in a good buffet restaurant where we were invited to dine, Fr. Martin was asked by our host, ‘Is your food good, Father?”, he replied, “well, if I don’t have good food it’s already my fault since I have so much that I can choose from”. It is when we choose not only the shouts of “Alleluia” but to be with Jesus who invites us to be present in the Easter moment, which is a way of life, then he enters wherever we are and says “Peace be with you” ... in this, we live the good life that is nothing less than the Kingdom of God. Easter blessings!
Urbi Et Orbi (to the city [Rome] and the world)
Message of His Holiness Pope Francis
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Happy Easter!
Today, throughout the world, the Church echoes once more the astonishing message of the first disciples: “Jesus is risen!” – “He is truly risen, as he said!”
The ancient feast of Passover, the commemoration of the liberation of the Hebrew people from slavery, here finds fulfillment. By his resurrection, Jesus Christ has set us free from the slavery of sin and death, and has opened before us the way to eternal life.
All of us, when we let ourselves be mastered by sin, lose the right way and end up straying like lost sheep. But God himself, our shepherd, has come in search of us. To save us, he lowered himself even to accepting death on the cross. Today we can proclaim: “The Good Shepherd has risen, who laid down his life for his sheep, and willingly died for his flock, alleluia” (Roman Missal, IV Sunday of Easter, Communion antiphon).
In every age, the Risen Shepherd tirelessly seeks us, his brothers and sisters, wandering in the deserts of this world. With the marks of the passion – the wounds of his merciful love – he draws us to follow him on his way, the way of life. Today too, he places upon his shoulders so many of our brothers and sisters crushed by evil in all its varied forms. The Risen Shepherd goes in search of all those lost in the labyrinths of loneliness and marginalization. He comes to meet them through our brothers and sisters who treat them with respect and kindness, and help them to hear his voice, an unforgettable voice, a voice calling them back to friendship with God.
He takes upon himself all those victimized by old and new forms of slavery, inhuman labour, illegal trafficking, exploitation and discrimination, and grave forms of addiction. He takes upon himself children and adolescents deprived of their carefree innocence and exploited, and those deeply hurt by acts of violence that take place within the walls of their own home.
The Risen Shepherd walks beside all those forced to leave their homelands as a result of armed conflicts, terrorist attacks, famine and oppressive regimes. Everywhere he helps these forced migrants to encounter brothers and sisters, with whom they can share bread and hope on their journey.
In the complex and often dramatic situations of today’s world, may the Risen Lord guide the steps of all those who work for justice and peace. May he grant the leaders of nations the courage they need to prevent the spread of conflicts and to put a halt to the arms trade.
Especially in these days, may he sustain the efforts of all those actively engaged in bringing comfort and relief to the civil population in beloved Syria, so greatly suffering from a war that continues to sow horror and death. Yesterday saw the latest vile attack on fleeing refugees, resulting in the death and injury of many. May he grant peace to the entire Middle East, beginning with the Holy Land, as well as in Iraq and Yemen. May the Good Shepherd remain close to the people of South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, who endure continuing hostilities, aggravated by the grave famine affecting certain parts of Africa.
May the Risen Jesus sustain the efforts of all those who, especially in Latin America, are committed to ensuring the common good of societies marked at times by political and social tensions that in some cases have resulted in violence. May it be possible for bridges of dialogue to be built, by continuing to fight the scourge of corruption and to seek viable and peaceful solutions to disputes, for progress and the strengthening of democratic institutions in complete respect for the rule of law.
May the Good Shepherd come to the aid of Ukraine, still beset by conflict and bloodshed, to regain social harmony. May he accompany every effort to alleviate the tragic sufferings of those affected by the conflict.
The Risen Lord continues to shed his blessing upon the continent of Europe. May he grant hope to those experiencing moments of crisis and difficulty, especially due to high unemployment, particularly among young people.
Dear brothers and sisters, this year Christians of every confession celebrate Easter together. With one voice, in every part of the world, we proclaim the great message: “The Lord is truly risen, as he said!” May Jesus, who vanquished the darkness of sin and death, grant peace to our days.
(© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana)
We are Easter People… and ‘Alleluia’ is our song!
Fr. Kevin McHugh
One of our parishioners recently reminded me of a Homily I preached one Easter Sunday. It was the opening line that caught her attention. When spoken aloud there is something very solemn, very dramatic about it: We are Easter People… and ‘Alleluia’ is our song!
St Augustine, one of the great saints of the Church, was a Bishop in the country we now call Algeria. One Easter morning, about 1600 years ago, while preaching in his Cathedral he spoke these immortal lines:
“If we were silent about the joy that comes from the risen Jesus,
the very stones of our cities would cry out.
For we are Easter People and ‘alleluia’ is our song”!
Here in Malate church we ‘sing our song’ during the Easter Vigil which begins at 3:00AM. Yes, that’s right, 3AM! Those who have been able to join in this dawn celebration will recall the jubilation that is expressed in the opening verses of the magnificent hymn of praise – the Easter Proclamation.
Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels!
Rejoice and dance, bright stars and blazing suns!
Jesus Christ, our King, is risen!
Sound the trumpet of salvation.
Let our joyful voices resound this night!
Let God’s people rejoice on this Day of days.
With joyful hearts and spirits set afire
draw near to sing this Easter Candle’s praise!
A group of dancers then perform the Pandango sa Ilaw around the Candle as if to say, the Christian community of Malate welcomes the Risen Christ.
The celebration of Christ’s Passover from death to life – the Passover of the Christian community – draws powerfully on the rich imagery of the Old Testament Passover stories: the sacrificial lamb, the Passover meal, the passage through the Sea of Reeds, and the entry into the Promised Land.
In the early part of the Vigil the dominant symbol is the Paschal Candle. It is both the ‘pillar of fire’ that led the people of the old covenant through the wilderness, and the light of the risen Christ that shines in the lives of the people of the new covenant. It is placed in a prominent place in the Sanctuary and is lighted for Liturgical Services during the whole fifty days of Eastertide.
Why is the Easter Vigil the most important celebration in our Christian calendar? Because after joining the disciples in an experience of sorrow and defeat we publicly attest to the foundation of our faith: Christ is Risen!
He has conquered all the forces of evil arraigned against him.
By his Death and Resurrection he showed the world that:
Light is stronger than Darkness.
Good is stronger than Evil.
God is more powerful than Satan
Life is stronger than Death!
Jesus opposed the forces of evil in this world and for this he was killed. But this was not the end; Jesus was raised by the Father and is gloriously alive among us today.
It is because of Christ’s victory over the forces of evil that we, the baptized, can walk with faith and hope in the newness of life. We can face failure and rejection, persecution, and even death itself knowing that the God of Jesus is also our God who will never desert us.
So, dear readers, with Christians all over the world, let us rejoice during this Easter Season. Christ is risen! Hallelujah! We are Easter People… and ‘Alleluia’ is our song!
Dust You Are and Unto Dust You Shall Return!
Fr. Kevin McHugh
These are the words you will hear on Ash Wednesday when the Priest or Lay Minister puts ashes on your forehead.
There has been a long custom in our Church to make ashes from palms that were used on the previous Palm Sunday. Ashes are like dust. But what does it mean when we say that we came from the dust of the earth? The Bible does not give us a scientific answer but the Book of Genesis describes the emergence of humanity into our world in this way. “The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.” (Gen 2:7). We believe that that we have come from Creator God. We are not our own masters. We did not call ourselves into this life. We came from the breath and life of God.
The ashes are reminders of our littleness before God. We are all equal in the sight of God; men and women, young and old, sinner and saint. In themselves, ashes have no value – except in the sight of God. They are nothing but dust. We are nothing without God.
At the beginning of Lent, through the Signing of the forehead with ashes in the form of a Cross, the Church challenges us to take a fresh look at our lives. The message is clear. Don't delay, don't hesitate, now is the time to "Come back to me with all your heart" (Joel 2:12).
What is being asked of you this Lent? Is there something in your life that you need to deal with because you know it is holding you back from wholeheartedly following Jesus? An injury you can't forgive, a jealously that is gnawing at your heart, an anger that is ‘eating you up’?
Take time this Lent, even five minutes a day, to sit quietly and look at your life. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you. The more open and responsive we are to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, the quicker our heart is renewed. "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your bodies and give you a heart of flesh instead" (Ezek. 36:26).
The penances or little sacrifices we undertake express our desire for this new heart. God works with us and on us in this conversion process, shaping us like the potter forms her clay. How do we compare with those who indeed fasted and prayed but incurred the judgment of God because they neglected that which was far more important - justice? (Is. 58).
True conversion awakens in us a real concern for the plight of others, a determination to fight the causes of injustice, even at great cost to ourselves. "Rend your hearts and not your garments" (Joel 2:12).
Down through the centuries our church, following the Gospel of Ash Wednesday (Matt.1-6, 16-18), encourages us to PRAY, FAST and GIVE ALMS.
In closing I will relate a true story. True, because it happened to me when I was a young boy of 13, a student in a Boarding School for Boys. I ‘gave up’, that is, I fasted from eating candies for the whole of Lent. Any candies that I received from others I put in a ‘supot’ and kept for myself. I ate them all on Holy Saturday as I travelled to my home – a four hour journey by bus. I fasted from candies - Good; but I did not share them with others -Bad, Selfish. I had missed the whole point of the exercise. Following the practice of the Death Squad people I should have printed on my T-shirt, DON’T FOLLOW ME!
What are you going to ‘give up’ or abstain from this Lent? Here are a few suggestions. For children / youth. Depending upon your age you might consider: Cutting down the time on the Computer / Cellphone from 10 hours a day (joke lang) to 1 hour. No drinking of “soft drinks”. Limiting yourself to one Snack a day. Offering to help your mother with household chores. Come home from School at the agreed time – it will save you from being scolded, so it is a Win-Win decision. Go to Mass every Sunday during Lent. Befriend someone in school that has few friends.
For Adult men: I will NOT ALLOW other people to make me angry by the way they drive. I will not drink Alcohol….watch inappropriate material on my Computer….. waste time and money in the Casino.
For Mothers. I will spend quality time with my teenage children every Sunday. I will try to convince my family to come together in our home for one meal every Sunday. I will try to minimize the consumption of Water, Electricity, and Plastics in my home.
The Lord is calling all of us to take seriously the words of the Prophet Micah:
“The Lord has shown you what is good.
He has told you what he requires of you.
He wants you to promote justice.
You must love to show mercy.
And you must be humble as you live in the sight of your God.” (Micah 6.8.)
Points to ponder:
Do you know of people who would admit that their lives are ‘in ashes’?
Do you know people who, though no fault of their own have ‘bit the dust of the earth; those who live on the dust of the earth and not in a house, who squat on the bare floor; those who have eked out from the dust just enough to have a small pot of rice for a large family.
There are also those who cry out from the ashes of a broken marriage; or children who suffer from the dust of verbal and physical and sometimes sexual abuse.
We all know people like this so during Lent we are challenged to join the HAPAG-ASA Program of the Archdiocese.
A Woman of No Distinction
By Chris Kinsley & Drew Francis
I am a woman of no distinction
of little importance.
I am a women of no reputation
save that which is bad.
You whisper as I pass by and cast judgmental glances,
Though you don’t really take the time to look at me,
Or even get to know me.
For to be known is to be loved,
And to be loved is to be known.
Otherwise what’s the point in doing
either one of them in the first place?
I WANT TO BE KNOWN.
I want someone to look at my face
And not just see two eyes, a nose,
a mouth and two ears;
But to see all that I am, and could be
all my hopes, loves and fears.
But that’s too much to hope for,
to wish for,
or pray for
So I don’t, not anymore.
Now I keep to myself
And by that I mean the pain
that keeps me in my own private jail
The pain that’s brought me here
at midday to this well.
To ask for a drink is no big request
but to ask it of me?
A woman unclean, ashamed,
Used and abused
An outcast, a failure
a disappointment, a sinner.
No drink passing from these hands
to your lips could ever be refreshing
Only condemning, as I’m sure you condemn me now
But you don’t.
You’re a man of no distinction;
Though of the utmost importance.
A man with little reputation, at least so far.
You whisper and tell me to my face
what all those glances have been about, and
You take the time to really look at me.
But don’t need to get to know me.
For to be known is to be loved and
To be loved is to be known.
And you know me.
You actually know me;
all of me and everything about me.
Every thought inside and hair on top of my head;
Every hurt stored up, every hope, every dread.
My past and my future, all I am and could be.
You tell me everything,
you tell me about me!
And that which is spoken by another
would bring hate and condemnation.
Coming from you brings love, grace,
mercy, hope and salvation.
I’ve heard of one to come
who could save a wretch like me
And here in my presence, you say
I AM He.
To be known is to be loved;
And to be loved is to be known.
And I just met you.
But I love you.
I don’t know you,
but I want to get to.
Let me run back to town
this is way to much for just me.
There are others: brothers,
sisters, lovers, haters.
The good and the bad, sinners and saints
who should hear what you’ve told me;
who should see what you’ve shown me;
who should taste what you gave me;
who should feel how you forgave me.
For to be known is to be loved;
And to be loved is to be known.
And they all need this, too.
We all do
Need it for our own.
I brought a young Filipino priest to his new parish, until then cared for by Columban missionaries.
“How do you like your new assignment?” I asked him when we met a month later.
“Fantastic”, he replied, adding a comment which I will never forget:
“The people will convert me – if I let them!”
In 2016, I needed to somehow thank my family and friends whose hearts went out to the survivors of the horrific typhoon that, overnight, killed seven thousand Filipinos.
I put together a small book of short stories about a few of the people who converted and inspired me.
Such people have made me more thankful for the gift of life, the joy of the Gospel, and the call to mission.
I am happy to share a selection on the Malate parish website.
~ Fr. Michael Martin
Forgiveness - Elmer Rex
By Fr. Michael Martin
Excerpts from “Walking in Their Light”
Going back to Kabankalan, even for a short visit, was a pleasure; I had spent ten years there, it was home away from home.
This time, I was chatting to the relatively new Filipino parish priest, Msgr. Pepe Iledan, when the phone rang. Obviously an emergency, it was a call for him from the local hospital: “Please come over, Elmer Rex has been shot”.
In shock, both of us hurriedly got into the nearest vehicle, which was the one I had driven there earlier, and rushed immediately to the town’s small, but always busy, hospital. Informed that Elmer was alive and conscious, my companion went straight to him, knowing I would check on other available resources. There were two doctors with Elmer Rex and several nurses were assisting them; he had been shot at close range just above his neck in the back of his head, and they had intervened to limit and stop the bleeding.
The bad news was that the hospital had no X-Ray equipment, and the doctors had no way of knowing what brain damage he might have suffered. We all knew the nearest hospital with proper equipment and specialist doctors was a hundred kilometres away in the city of Bacolod. Kabankalan had its own ambulance, but that had gone off with another patient a short while earlier.
The first good news was that the bullet seemed to be embedded in the skull bone, but obviously treatment was urgent. The immediate available alternative transport was the vehicle I was using, a Toyota HiAce Van. It’s usual driver was not with me, so I readily offered to drive, and, within minutes we were on our way, accompanied by a doctor and a few hospital personnel, including Elmer Rex’s wife Cecile, who was in fact the head nurse in the hospital.
Elmer Rex and his wife and family were long-time friends. A geologist, he worked for a wealthy enterprising family and in addition, with four young socially conscious town mates, published a local newspaper. Their paper was special; it promoted transparency and accountability, and exposed anomalies.
Politically, Elmer represented those who were most dedicated to social change; he was a friend and adviser to the Church-supported organizers of sugar cane workers and small settler farmers in the hills. He was actually walking towards the office of a Church-sponsored group working with detainees when he was shot from behind, at almost point blank range. He was seen as a threat by some of those entrenched in power. His wife had recently been attacked by a man wielding a knife, so they had been warned.
The result of our mad rush to the city was that Elmer Rex got to the hospital, got an x-ray, was properly treated, and fully recovered. The bullet which was intended to destroy him was a .45 calibre, and it lodged in the skull bone – at its hardest and thickest point - at the back of his head. The surgeon said that the bullet was within a fraction of a millimetre from reaching his brain. He was a lucky man to be alive.
Looking back, the fact that the engine of our HiAce vehicle died out as we entered the city, and we had to transfer all our load to a local shuttle bus, is of little significance to the story – but it did not seem like that to us at the time when we were rushing a seriously injured friend for emergency surgery and treatment.
Elmer, Cecile, and their three children later emigrated to the U.S.A., and brought with them their talents, their love of the Philippines, and their faith. Over the years, we Columbans enjoyed visiting them as friends and seeing their lives as a blessing to many.
In recalling the past, pain is unavoidable, but their forgiveness of those who attacked them stands out. “How can we call ourselves Christians if we get caught up in a chain of violence and retaliation?” the family reflected, “Someone has to stop the cycle of violence.” Elmer vividly remembers the shot that was meant to silence him, and says “I prayed for life, I prayed that I would continue to be a voice that would denounce the injustice which breeds violence.
God has given me a voice and extra time so that somehow, wherever we are, we will be life-giving, and forgiving.”
Life-giving, yes indeed; forgiving, certainly; light giving, absolutely.
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Advent with Mary
By Sr. Redempta Twomey
December 6, 2016
Advent is the gentlest of times. It is Mary's time and your time and the time when, if you open your heart, you will be aware of a quiet, persistent call underlying all the hard and harsh and difficult things in your life. You are being asked to let go of your very real anxieties, your recurring fears and to trust in the mystery of this time. It takes a good deal of courage and commitment to stay waiting with Mary.
She has so many ways of being present to us, but it is especially in Advent that we meet Mary as one who understands our vulnerability, the terrible fragility of our being human. A young woman, pregnant and with little support, she knows the road we walk. Here she is in the final weeks of her pregnancy, tired from the long journey to Bethlehem, among strangers, alone with poor, anxious Joseph. No angel now. No Elizabeth to help her.
St Paul has written of this great mystery of the Incarnation, 'hidden from all eternity'; saints have exulted in the glory of this unassuming woman; artists have painted her on a thousand canvases, made sculptures, composed great music to honor her. We recognize her as "the highest honor of our race."
But what did Mary know in those final weeks of her pregnancy? What did she have to sustain her, to comfort her at this critical time when the birth of the infant in her womb was imminent? The bleakness and poverty of her surroundings - like so many back alleys, refugee camps or shacks today - were a far cry from the angel's stirring words, the promise of "the throne of David his father" (Lk 1:32). She didn't understand; she reflected over and over on her situation. Regardless of the extraordinary circumstances, of there being 'no room at the inn', of her being without her kin at this most crucial time in a young woman's life, of being far from home and from all that was familiar, she first of all and above all, trusted in God's word to her. She believed. This is what Elizabeth saw and what she sang out so that we, down the centuries, could look at Mary and join in this great song: "Blessed is she who believed" (Lk 1:45).
We can take stock of our lives, often bleak, often anxious, littered with broken promises, with failures and betrayals. It may be that we have no one to help us, no friend to turn to, no hope for the future. Mary knows our situation, understands us like a mother and will help us to believe in God's promises, even as she did. Wait with her this Advent, trust her; she will bring you to her Son.
"Following her, you will never go astray. Asking her help you will never despair. Keeping her in your thoughts, you will never wander away. With your hand in hers, you will never stumble. With Mary protecting you, you will not be afraid. With Mary leading you, you will never tire. Her kindness will see you through to the end." (St Bernard).
Columban Sr. Redempta Twomey is the Assistant Editor of The Far East Magazine in Ireland.
By Fr. Kevin McHugh, MSSC
It is over 30 years ago since I heard the story about an Indian Jesuit priest who conducted a Retreat for a group of Religious Sisters here in Manila. One of the statements that helped change my life and my ministry was this. God loves us before we sin, while we are sinning and after we have sinned. And therefore, God forgives us before we sin, while we are sinning and especially after we have sinned. I have tried to apply all this to myself and find that while I believe in my head that this is true, I still find the need to confess my sins…. to “go to confession”.
As a Confessor, I have shared this insight with those penitents who had been away from Confession for many years and were carrying a heavy load of guilt. The fear, the doubt that they could ever be forgiven had prevented them from plucking up the courage to go to confession. To know that they had already been forgiven by a merciful God was great news for them; they could now lay down their heavy burden since there was no need to carry it any further.
Recently, I chanced to read an article by the late Dominican Theologian, Fr. Herbert McCabe, which gave me additional assurance that what I had been sharing with penitents over the years was accepted Catholic teaching. In Self-Confessed Sinners McCabe says: “When you come to confession, to make a ritual proclamation of your sin…. you are not coming in order to have your sins forgiven…… you come to celebrate that your sins are already forgiven”.
To emphasize his point, McCabe says in another place: “You are not forgiven because you confess your sin. You confess your sin because you are forgiven”.
Most of us have the mistaken notion that we have to “earn” God’s mercy. We have to plead for it, otherwise it will not be granted.
McCabe continues, “Never be deluded into thinking that if you have contrition, if you are sorry for your sins, God will come and forgive you – that he will be touched by your appeal, change his mind about you and forgive you. Wrong thinking! God never changes his mind about you. He is simply in love with you. This is all the real God ever does, because God, the real God, is just helplessly and hopelessly in love with us. He is unconditionally in love with us”. “God’s love for us doesn’t depend on what we do… or what we are like. God doesn’t care whether we are sinners or not. It makes no difference to him. He is just waiting to welcome us with joy and love.”
The three parables of Jesus as relayed in Chapter 15 of St Luke’s Gospel underline this basic truth about God. All three have similar endings. They describe how an ordinary Housekeeper, a conscientious shepherd and a prodigal father insist on a feast to celebrate that what was lost has been found.
In the Opening Prayer that we occasionally use at Mass here in Malate, we pray:
"What do you look like, O God of compassion?
A shepherd who carries home the lost sheep:
a woman who sweeps the whole house to find a single coin:
a father who never gives up hope that the child who hurt him
will come home to be loved.
So in Jesus you have come searching for us -
and when you find us, you welcome us with open arms
May we never forget how much we are loved.
May we never refuse to love others as much.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. AMEN".
In this YEAR OF MERCY, may we all take to heart the advice of Pope Francis and approach the Sacrament of Reconciliation because we know that we have already been forgiven by a loving, merciful God.
Pope Francis’ homily at the Mass of the Easter Vigil
“Peter ran to the tomb.” (Lk 24:12) What thoughts crossed Peter’s mind and stirred his heart as he ran to the tomb? The Gospel tells us that the eleven, including Peter, had not believed the testimony of the women, their Easter proclamation. Quite the contrary, “these words seemed to them an idle tale” (v. 11). Thus there was doubt in Peter’s heart, together with many other worries: sadness at the death of the beloved Master and disillusionment for having denied him three times during his Passion.
There is, however, something which signals a change in him: after listening to the women and refusing to believe them, “Peter rose” (v. 12). He did not remain sedentary, in thought; he did not stay at home as the others did. He did not succumb to the sombre atmosphere of those days, nor was he overwhelmed by his doubts. He was not consumed by remorse, fear or the continuous gossip that leads nowhere. He was looking for Jesus, not himself. He preferred the path of encounter and trust. And so, he got up, just as he was, and ran towards the tomb from where he would return “amazed” (v. 12). This marked the beginning of Peter’s resurrection, the resurrection of his heart. Without giving in to sadness or darkness, he made room for hope: he allowed the light of God to enter into his heart, without smothering it.
The women too, who had gone out early in the morning to perform a work of mercy, taking the perfumed ointments to the tomb, had the same experience. They were “frightened and bowed their faces”, and yet they were deeply affected by the words of the angel: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” (v. 5).
We, like Peter and the women, cannot discover life by being sad, bereft of hope. Let us not stay imprisoned within ourselves, but let us break open our sealed tombs to the Lord so that he may enter and grant us life. Let us give him the stones of our rancour and the boulders of our past, those heavy burdens of our weaknesses and falls. Christ wants to come and take us by the hand to bring us out of our anguish. This is the first stone to be moved aside this night: the lack of hope which imprisons us within ourselves. May the Lord free us from this trap, from being Christians without hope, who live as if the Lord were not risen, as if our problems were the centre of our lives.
We see and will continue to see problems both within and without. They will always be there. But tonight it is important to shed the light of the Risen Lord upon our problems, and in a certain sense, to “evangelize” them. Let us not allow darkness and fear to distract us and control us; we must cry out to them: the Lord “is not here, but has risen!” (v. 6). He is our greatest joy; he is always at our side and will never let us down.
This is the foundation of our hope, which is not mere optimism, nor a psychological attitude or desire to be courageous. Christian hope is a gift that God gives us if we come out of ourselves and open our hearts to him. This hope does not disappoint us because the Holy Spirit has been poured into our hearts (cf. Rom 5:5). The Paraclete does not make everything look appealing. He does not remove evil with a magic wand. But he pours into us the vitality of life, which is not the absence of problems, but the certainty of being loved and always forgiven by Christ, who for us has conquered sin, death and fear. Today is the celebration of our hope, the celebration of this truth: nothing and no one will ever be able to separate us from his love (cf. Rom 8:39).
The Lord is alive and wants to be sought among the living. After having found him, each person is sent out by him to announce the Easter message, to awaken and resurrect hope in hearts burdened by sadness, in those who struggle to find meaning in life. There is so necessary today. However, we must not proclaim ourselves. Rather, as joyful servants of hope, we must announce the Risen One by our lives and by our love; otherwise we will be only an international organization full of followers and good rules, yet incapable of offering the hope for which the world longs.
How can we strengthen our hope? The liturgy of this night offers some guidance. It teaches us to remember the works of God. The readings describe God’s faithfulness, the history of his love towards us. The living word of God is able to involve us in this history of love, nourishing our hope and renewing our joy. The Gospel also reminds us of this: in order to kindle hope in the hearts of the women, the angel tells them: “Remember what [Jesus] told you” (v. 6). Let us not forget his words and his works, otherwise we will lose hope. Let us instead remember the Lord, his goodness and his life-giving words which have touched us. Let us remember them and make them ours, to be sentinels of the morning who know how to help others see the signs of the Risen Lord.
Dear brothers and sisters, Christ is risen! Let us open our hearts to hope and go forth. May the memory of his works and his words be the bright star which directs our steps in the ways of faith towards the Easter that will have no end.
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