Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The family mission

The Son of God whose birthday we celebrate on Christmas day was born into a family in Nazareth, the greatest Gift of God to uplift sinful humanity.  God Himself chose to come into the world in a human family which He himself formed.  The family itself introduces fraternity into the world, through the example of the parents aware of their responsibility to educate their children in finding their own lives to lead.  “An intelligent son listens to his father’s advice, but a mocker listens to no correction” (Prov. 13:1).

As Pope Francis writes in his Apostolic Exhortation, ‘Amoris Laetitia’, article 18: The Gospel reminds us that children are not the property of a family, but have their own lives to lead.  Jesus is a model of obedience to his earthly parents, placing himself under their charge (cf. Lk. 2:51), but He also shows that children’s life decisions and their Christian vocation may demand a parting for the sake of the Kingdom of God (cf. Mt. 10:34-37).  His statement: “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it” (Lk. 8:21) shows the need for other deeper bonds even within the family.  At twelve years of age, Jesus tells Mary and Joseph that he has a greater mission to accomplish apart from his earthly family: “Why were you looking for me?  Do you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Lk. 2: 49).

May Jesus’ birth awaken us to the role and mission of the family in bringing up children in the faith.  One of the Psalms celebrates the proclamation of faith within families: “All that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us, we will not hide from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders which he has wrought…that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them totheir children” (Ps. 78:3-6).  The family is thus the place where parents become their children’s first teachers in the faith. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The search adventure

Life is a constant seeking for answers to quests, questions and uncertainties, particularly in relation to the Great Beyond, or to the God of the Universe.  Questions have frequently lured the youthful mind on the state of suffering in the world, and why a caring God seemingly does not care about the plight of the poor or why innocent persons become victims of violence and injustice.  This points to one’s knowledge of the nature of God or one’s ignorance of God’s Being, perhaps even asking why the Son of God was born poor and daringly faced the death penalty for a crime He did not commit. Ergo, the search for the truth
The answers are best found in history: God present in historical revelation and processes, as far back as the Bible stories.  “God manifests himself in time and is present in the processes of history,” Pope Francis said in an interview with Fr. Antonio Spadaro,S.J., in La Civilta Cattolica. The pope added that “A contemplative attitude is necessary…profound peace, spiritual consolation, love of God and love of all things in God.”  The renowned English theologian, Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801-1890) was an Anglican priest who was converted and accepted into full communion with Catholicism in 1845 after his studies of the Scripture and the historical writings by the Church Fathers convinced him that the Catholic Church was in closest continuity with the Church that Jesus founded. Likewise, St. Paul and St. Augustine immediately embraced the grace of a change of heart upon encountering the truth of God’s Revelation and lost no time in spreading His Word far and wide. In the same vein, Cardinal Newman wrote 40 books and 21,000 letters. Many others, like the ‘golden-voiced’ Venerable Fulton J. Sheen, American Archbishop, also promoted Jesus’ teachings and Catholic morality through prolific print and broadcast media. 

The adventure of seeking and meeting God continues at various stages of one’s life journey and the history of our world. The great faith of our ancestors can be read in Hebrews 11. God is present in all persons even if their life is destroyed by drugs or vices.  God is present in events, especially the disturbing and painful ones that serve to strengthen our faith and fuel the spiritual thirst for communion with the God of Love. We can, and must try to seek, discern, contemplate God in every human life, and trust that God will set the encounter, in His own time, as long as there is truth and love in the heart. The German Jewish convert to Catholicism, St. Teresa Benedict of the Cross, OCD (Edith Stein), wrote: “He who seeks the truth, seeks God, whether he is aware of it or not.  Do not accept anything as the truth if it lacks love. And do not accept anything as love which lacks truth.”

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Go and do

The title is an active reminder and challenge to action, to get out of one’s comfort zone and do the hard work of helping one’s needy neighbor, following the example of the Good Samaritan, of whom Jesus said, “Go and Do the Same” (Lk. 10:37). Go and Do the Works of Mercy now, as St. Mother Teresa did when she saw a dying person abandoned in the streets of Calcutta.  Go and Be a true disciple, witnessing to the total surrender of the King of Mercy on the Cross, alert to share one’s time-talent-treasure to be a prophet and servant to restore the Kingdom Values to a rabidly secularized world.
We cannot rest contented and secure that the heavenly glory is ours if we close our hearts to the suffering of our brothers and sisters.  The verdict will come at the Last Judgment before the King who will say to those on His right: “Come, blessed of my Father!  Take possession of the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world.  For I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me drink…sick and you visited me….Truly, I say to you: whenever you did this to these little ones who are my brothers and sisters, you did it to me” (Mt. 25:34-40).

Working for good and living a witnessing life is what contributes to one’s growth as a human being.  Even a listening ear to one in crisis in the family or community will help dispel the inner fears  and pains, and restore the confidence within the person’s aggrieved heart.  For a Christian, constant prayer and discernment are needed to nourish the baptismal commitment to Jesus who came to be born as man to redeem and form humanity into the Father’s divine family.  With child-like trust in the providence of God, we let go of our anxieties and follow the Father’s will for us.  We bring to prayer the concerns and realities we encounter, reading and discerning  God’s word and message in our dialogue with people and events of various socio-cultural contexts.  “You will reveal the path of life to me, and at your right hand everlasting pleasures” (Ps. 16:11).

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Put on the wings of mercy

The closing of the Jubilee Year of Mercy does not mean the end or slowing down of the practice of mercy and compassion to our brothers and sisters, especially to those in need, but instead spurs  each faithful disciple of Jesus to put on wings of mercy in order to speed up one’s acts of mercy to others, first of all to those nearby, as among family members and neighbors, for it is said, “Charity begins at home.”  Constant acts of mercy will bear fruit in generosity, sharing, tolerance, forgiveness, peace, and humility (self-forgetfulness) in recognizing that all good things & opportunities come from God.” 

In extending mercy to others, Jesus showed His speed as when He did acts of healing to those who begged for this.  Take the case of the blind man who shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!” even if ordered by others to keep quiet.  Jesus immediately halted and told the pleading man, “Receive your sight.  Your faith has healed you” (Lk. 18:37-42). St. Luke also narrates the same story that happened to the ten lepers who called out “Jesus, Master, have pity on!” (Lk. 17:13). Through his own mother at Cana, Jesus showed his pity for the newlyweds by performing His 1st miracle, even if “My hour has not yet come” (John 1: 2-11).

“Let no soul fear to draw near to Me…my mercy is so great…Everything that exists has come forth from the depths of My most tender mercy…,” wrote St. Faustina Kowalska about the Lord’s revelation to her (Diary, 699).  May Mary, Mediatrix of All Grace, grant us the grace of this most tender heart of Divine Mercy that we may not be afraid or hesitant to ask and share His mercy for others, on the wings of a tested faith and God’s love.  If our focus is on the Lord, His light and mercy can shine through us to reach others who suffer from spiritual blindness, lukewarmness, or frustration from worldly deceptions.  “Lord, have mercy!  Save me from sinking in my own doubts, fears, vanities, and defeats. Give me wings to be instrument of your mercy to those beset by dangers and stormy trials in life.”

Friday, November 11, 2016

We belong!

Every person has an identity by which he/she is recognized, or belongs to, as an individual and member of a group, starting with the family.  The stronger the sense of belonging, the more secure and supportive the person becomes so that all members garner the feeling of unity and mutual self-giving.  Active membership spells loyalty that will strengthen the binding force that will unify efforts for success in endeavors undertaken.  This means participation in meetings and events, readiness to sacrifice and face struggles and differences courageously, always with respect for one another, regardless of rank, gender, social status, and ethnicity.  From the responsibility shown by the parents in the family, the child will also learn to be responsible and honest in his/her future family, community, and, as a Christian, the covenanted faith community or the parish. There will be joy in going through all the hard work and sacrifice because of true love that is at the root of relationships. 

The season of Advent-Christmas once more reminds us of the great love of the Blessed Trinity whereby the Father “gave His only Son so that everyone who believes in Him may not die but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16).  “The Word became a human being and, full of grace and truth, lived among us.  We saw His glory, the glory which He received as the Father's only Son” (Jn. 1:14). Jesus, the Son of God, wanted to belong to humanity. “He always had the nature of God, but He did not think that by force He should try to remain equal with God.  Instead of this, of His own free will He gave up all He had, and took the nature of a servant.  He became like a human being and appeared in human likeness” (Phil. 2:6-7).

As the year of the Parish as a Communion of Communities opens, it will be good to look into the quality of belongingness, fellowship and participation experienced by members of any parish or basic ecclesial community, with the aim of building a parish that is truly a faith community immersed in the lives of its people. Ultimately, we belong to God the Source of all being, and God will always give us what we need to fulfill His destiny for us.  May each day deepen our realization as being a 'child of the Most High God' and prod us to discern His loving will for the good of our family, community, and society.  Jesus our Brother has shown us the way, as He was born in and belonged to a  human family, and redeemed us unto His family–God's family.  If we could hear God sing, He might use the words of an old popular song: “You belong to My heart, now and forever.”

Monday, November 7, 2016

An alternative way of living

The modern world embraces multi-cultures yet the varied creeds and outlooks clamor for decent and dignified living for the deprived or poorer sectors.  Amidst the situations of poverty, the call remains to  work hard, earn one’s living, live simply and not be dominated by possessions.  Too much wealth used for one’s exclusive comfort may alienate a person from being “Good News” to the poor. To follow Jesus of Nazareth is to be a counter witness to the spirit of the world that puts greed over sharing.

Living a life of sharing what we have and accompanying people in their crises is witnessing God’s love to others. This is enhanced by an attitude of dependence on the providence of God than on worldly security.  We gratefully accept God’s gifts and are responsible for what God has entrusted to us. We also learn the difference between need and greed. God invites us to heed the cry of the poor and to accompany them in a mutual journey to retrieve equal human rights.

Whatever it is that we have, we can always share, be it a smile, an encouraging word, a material good.  It has been said that the more we share the more we grow.  A rich person may have abundant food and clothing but lacks knowledge, so we share our knowledge.  A poor person may have experienced love and understanding but not have good food, so we share food with that person.  Too much excess, it is believed, leaves a person unhealthy.  And we need to see our giving not so much as charity but as something we owe.

In response to Pope Francis’ Jubilee call for Mercy and Compassion, have we shown our true witnessing by attentively reaching out to our less fortunate neighbors?  We too can “wake up the world!” by being counter witnesses to the ungodly way of doing things, and instead go the alternative way of heroes and saints, the way of Jesus’ selfless loving and total self-giving.  “Give and it will be given to you, and you will receive in your sack good measure, pressed down, full and running over.  For the measure you give will be the measure you receive back” (Luke 6:38).