Fixing, Mending, Restoring

Here is the homily I delivered this morning at the National Shrine of Mt. Carmel as we begin the first day of the novena in her honor.

Celebrating this Mass on the first day of the novena in honor of Our Lady of Mt Carmel, in her national shrine, is such a great honor for us children of St. John Bosco.

And our being here is a testament to Don Bosco’s love of Mama Mary. I am certain that he is smiling at us from up above.

The theme of fixing, mending, restoring strings the three readings as one.

In the first reading, we heard about Prophet Amos’ announcement that God will rebuild the house of Israel.

Israel committed grave sin against God and this led to its destruction. Ang bunga ng kasalanan ay kapahamakan. At kung nakamamatay ang pagtawid sa EDSA, mas higit pa dito ang dulot ng kasalanan. Ang kaluluwa nating hindi namamatay ay pagbabagain sa apoy ng impyerno, magpasawalang hanggan.  

But despite its sins, Israel is called back to return to the Lord. This is also our experience.

How many times we have offended God when we hurt the people we love? Sinasaksak natin ang puso ng Diyos kapag sinasaktan natin ang ating kapwa. Pinaliliit natin ang Diyos sa buhay natin kapag ang sarili natin ang pinipili nating paglingkuran. At laging nariyan ang tuksong isipin lagi ang sarili, kahit na mapabayaan ang iba. Kapag minumura natin ang kapwa natin, hindi lang sila ang ibinababa natin ang dignidad, pati na rin ang Diyos na may likha sa kanila.  

But similar with the experience of Israel, God continues to call us to return to His embrace. Siya na nga ang nasaktan, Siya pa rin ang nagmamaka-awang bumalik tayo sa Kanyang piling.

Our being here, in this first Saturday of the month, a day we set aside to show our devotion to the Mother of our Lord, is a beautiful way of heeding the Lord’s call to return to Him. Nandito tayo, kasi, gusto rin nating sabihin sa Diyos na gusto nating ayusin ang relasyon natin sa kapwa natin. Na napapagod na tayong maging makasarili, at nais na nating bumalik sa Kanya.

At ang disposisyon naman ng Diyos, parang isang meme sa FB, nagsasabi sa ating, “Uwi ka na… Hindi na ako galit.”

At Peace

We can tell if we are really in the presence of God. There is peace, there is serenity. There are still problems that come. There are members of our families who are sick. There are problems at work. There may be reasons to feel sad, and yet, we are surprised because we are still in peace.  

We are in peace, because we know that we don’t have anything to be worried about. He is present in our lives. He is in command.  

In the Gospel, we heard that the disciples of John the Baptist came to Jesus. That time, their master must have been in prison. And perhaps, they wanted to see Jesus because they needed to be clarified something. Gusto nilang linawin kay Hesus kung bakit parang hindi nangingilin ang Kanyang mga disipulo.

Sa relihiyon kasi ng mga Hudyo, ang pangingilin ay bahagi ng kanilang buhay pananampalataya. Isa itong palatandaan na mabuting tao ang kaharap nila kapag alam nilang ito ay nangingilin.

And for them, the disciples of Jesus appear different. Maybe because they are always seen eating everywhere.

To this question, Jesus responded with three metaphors:

First, He used the imagery of a wedding feast, second, the metaphor not putting a piece of new cloth on an old garment, and finally, a new wine is not to be placed into old wineskins.

These three metaphors direct us to put some orders in our life. Ang buhay Kristiyano ay hindi isang buhay na bara bara, mema at walwalan 24/7.

Our Christian life ought to observe a sense of balance. The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle puts it this way, a virtue is such because it stands in the middle. Hindi dapat sobra, hindi rin dapat kulang.

Mahalaga ang kaayusan sa ating buhay, kasi, ang Diyos mismo ang nagpakita ng halimbawang tulad nito.

Nang nilikha Niya ang sanlibutan, mayroon Siyang kaayusang sinundan. Nilikha Niya muna ang liwanag, tapos, ang titirhan ng tao, tapos nilikha din niya muna ang mga hayop na tutulong sa tao, at nang handa na ang lahat, nilikha Niya ang tao.

Kapag walang ayos ang buhay natin, magkakagulo. Ilang gabi lang ang nakalipas nang ang pinapanuod nating basketball ay nagmistulang wrestling na.

Nakakatawa…pero nakakalungkot, hindi ba?

Kapag hindi natin iginagalang ang batas na gumagabay sa atin upang maging maayos ang lipunan, nagiging magulo ang bayan. Nagiging napakamura lang ng halaga ng buhay ng tao. At pati ang katotohanan ay nagmimistulang pana-panahon na lang. Pabago-bago.

Sa kabila ng lahat ng ito, hindi tayo nawawalan ng pag-asa. Kasama natin ang ating Mahal na Ina ng Carmel. Kapag hindi na natin kaya ang ingay at gulo at problema sa buhay, mayroon tayong Nanay na laging naglalakbay kasama natin.

Mamaya, susuotan tayo ng mga iskapularyo ng Mahal na Ina, kalakip ang pangakong hinding hindi tayo maiiwang ulila.

Sa kabila ng kaguluhan ng mundo, ang iskapularyo ay mabisang tanda na may nakalaang plano ang Diyos upang iligtas tayo sa anumang panganib–at maging, sa apoy man ng impyerno.

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Deja vu

Here’s my homily yesterday, 6 April 2018, Friday in the Octave of Easter, on the occasion of the Thanksgiving Mass for our Batch 2018 Completers.

“Deja vu” is a French expression which literally means “already seen.”

It is used to label that strange feeling you get, when you are in a situation that eerily reminds you of a similar scenario which you already saw before.

I have a couple of examples:

  • Our Bosconians’ fixing their hair and uniform every single day, just before they report for the line formation.
  • Studying and reading notes up until the last second before they receive the test questionnaire.
  • At kahit na bawal ang cellphone sa classroom, they will snap a class photo–and, at times, together with their teachers–just so they have something to post in FB or IG.

And we see these “deja vus” year after year after year.

The Gospel reading we heard earlier also gives us a deja vu: Our newly risen Christ shows Himself to Peter, by the Sea of Galilee.

This reminds us of their very first meeting in that same place, where Jesus called Peter to be a “fisher of men.”

It was the Lord who chose Peter to be the leader of His disciples.
Jesus would build His Church on this very rock.
He would be hailed to be the first ever Pope.

Make no mistake about it, Jesus chose Peter neither because the former was the most brilliant, nor the most eloquent, nor he had sterling qualifications.

We’re just fresh from celebrating the Holy Week. And we will remember that Peter betrayed Jesus, not just once, nor twice –but three times over!

In other words, it was not Peter’s qualification that got for him the job.

The answer lies in Jesus. It is because of Jesus. It is because of the Lord!

Dear completers, you’re moving up to the next level.

By a happy confidence, we mark this thanksgiving Mass on this first Friday after the Easter Sunday, we look on the heart of Jesus, which symbolizes His great love for us.

Here in Don Bosco, we instilled in you to frequently visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament once you arrived in the campus, during your break times, and even before you go home. Because we want you to develop a profound friendship with Jesus.

Dito sa Don Bosco, adik din tayo sa Misa. We are not just contented to celebrate Mass once a month, but we do it every week. And so is the sacrament of confessions.

This tells us how you have grown in your friendship with Jesus through these sacraments which are very dear to St. John Bosco.

During my priestly ordination, the bishop reminded me in his homily that the Lord has chosen me to be His priest, not because I am the most intelligent, nor the holiest in our batch–but because it was Jesus’s mercy.

And, in this homily, I wish to pass on to you that gentle reminder, “Pinasa lang kayo ng Diyos dahil sa awa Niya!”

May kasabihan tayong “Nasa Diyos ang awa, nasa tao ang gawa.”

In the first reading, we heard how Peter was pushed back, harassed, and intimidated for having invoked the name of Jesus.

However, he stood firm. And this very effort, coupled with the grace of the Holy Spirit, resulted to the conversion of many.

Our dear Bosconians, we are challenged to follow his example of standing firm for Jesus, especially in these times when the truth appears to depend on popularity, or on the number of likes.

As you move up to the next level, you bring with you the light of Christ, ignited by your respective families, and guarded jealously by your family here in Don Bosco Makati.

Don Bosco, the saint, I am certain, looks forward to another deja vu. That is, for him to see each of us in heaven.

In a place he fondly calls the “Salesian Garden.”

And if that happens, we can say that, we have ultimately moved up.

My Gratitude Jar

*Removes layer upon layer of cobwebs*

Happy New Year of 2018! 

I know. 

It has been a while since I last put up something here. I really hope that with this brand new year ushered in, I’ll be able to find the time, inspiration, and more importantly, the conviction to regularly conjure more blog posts. 

Not that the regular followers of this blog, (Hi, Br. Jomar! Hi, Pao!) nag me to scribble a decent piece just like before, but because I am feeling the urge to write. 

And so, here it is, drum rolls please 🥁, my first entry for the year!

I’d like to begin this year something on gratitude

These pages of my 2018 giving journal (thank you, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf) caught my fancy earlier and pushed me to come up with a personal project so that I could track my blessings, so that in return, I could become a blessing myself to others. 

But wait, here’s more…

In one of his weekly conferences, Fr Henry, my then rector in the theologate, emphasized how gratitude wonderfully leads us, not just to appreciate a person who has done us good, but more importantly, gratitude gives us the opportunity to be humble, upon realizing that we can still manage to receive, even if we may already have everything

San Lorenzo: Martir, Diyakono

lawrenceGinagawa natin ang lahat ng bagay para mabuhay tayo. Hindi para mamatay tayo.

Pero ang sinasabi ng Panginoon sa atin sa pamamagitan ng Ebanghelyo natin ngayon, kailangan nating mamatay para tayo’y mabuhay.

Ang trahedya para sa atin, sa mata ng Diyos ay isang tagumpay.

Ito ang piniling kapalaran ng santong ginugunita natin ngayon–si San Lorenzo, diyakono at martir.

Isa siyang diyakonong katulong ni Papa Sixto noong ika-3 siglo. Noong panahong iyon, kapag ikaw ay isang Kristiyano, mayroon ka nang death sentence.

‘Yun nga ang kinahinatnan ni Papa Sixto kasama ng iba pang mga diyakonong kasama ni San Lorenzo. Pero dahil siya ang tagapag-ingat yaman ng Simbahan, binigyan siya ng pagkakataong mabuhay kung ibibigay niya sa Imperyong Romano ang kayamanan ng simbahan.

Binigyan siya ng tatlong araw upang ipunin ang ari-arian ng Simbahan.

Nang dumating ang takdang araw, pumunta siya sa pinuno ng mga kawal. Kasama niya ang napakaraming mahihirap, gayundin yung mga maysakit.

Sabay sabi niya: “Narito na ang kayamanan ng Simbahan.”

Tila naisahan ang pinuno ng hukbo. Bad trip siya. Kaya naman binigyan niya ng ispesyal na parusa si Lorenzo–nilitson siya ng buhay!

Siguro, wala naman siyang kagat kagat na mansanan. Kaya naman nakapagsalita pa siya, “Luto na yung kanan ko. Yung kaliwa ko naman.”

Ang trahedya para sa atin, sa mata ng Diyos ay isang tagumpay.

Sa unang pagbasa, pina-alalahanan tayo ni Pablo na dakila sa mata ng Diyos ang mga mapagbigay. Pero ang bawat totoong pagbibigay ay may sakit na kaakibat. Doon mo lng masasabi na nagbigay ka talaga.

Ang pag-aalay ni Lorenzo ng buhay ay sinuklian ng buhay na hindi lamang pansamantala, pero isang buhay na walang hanggan kasama ng Ama.

Heaven be like …

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Heaven? By Adriano Ortiz

They say that things come in threes.

Since two Sundays ago, we have been treated by our liturgy to Jesus’ parables in our Gospel readings.

Last Sunday, we heard the parable of the weeds, which accounts for the existence of evil in our lives.

Two Sundays ago, we heard the parable of the sower, which reminds us how God is like that of the sower who propagates the seeds anywhere and everywhere, which points us to how generous, careless, and abundant God is, in scattering His love.

And because things come in threes, we hear today three parables which make us see the Kingdom of God from various perspectives.

  1. Treasure hidden in a field
  2. A trader who finds a pearl
  3. Big fishing net laid down into the sea

These parables do not just present realities that point to the Kingdom of God. More importantly, these parables speak about the appropriate attitude on how to approach Heaven.

The first attitude toward Heaven is to set right our priorities. The man who finds the hidden treasure and the pearl know their priorities. And so, when they had found what they were looking for, they decided to give up all their belongings so that they could finally possess the treasure and the pearl.

This is also true for the young King Solomon in our first reading. When God asked him what he wanted to receive from God, he did not ask for a long life, nor for wealth, nor for military power so that he could over power his enemies.

Instead, what he asked was the capacity to choose between good and evil so that he could better govern his people. So that he could better serve as a king. He knew that when he has God in his life, he could never go wrong.

Ganito rin ba tayo? Inaanyayahan din ba natin ang Diyos na maging bahagi ng pag-gawa ng mahahalagang desisyon sa buhay? Kasama ba natin ang Diyos sa araw-araw nating pamumuhay?

The second attitude toward Heaven is the capacity to give up, to sacrifice.

Sacrifice has an interesting etymology. It comes from two Latin words “sacrum” and “facere.”  The former means holy, while the latter means to make. Hence, when you offer a sacrifice, you make that sacrifice sacred, you make it holy.

In the second reading, St. Paul reminds us how our God is not alien to sacrifices. He had a beautiful blueprint for us. But because sin destroyed this plan, He needed to sacrifice not just someone, but His very own Son for our sake.

Tayo, para ma-prove natin na mahal natin ang isang tao, pipili tayo ng isang regaling kaya ng budget natin. Pero ang Diyos, para ipamukha sa ating mahal Niya tayo, hindi Siya pumili ng isang bagay. Ipinagkaloob Niya ang nag-iisa Niyang Anak upang patunayang mahal na mahal Niya tayo!

This attitude of giving up comes when one knows his priority because we only offer sacrifice for something greater.

This is what we saw in the story of that man who found the treasure. This is what we heard in the story of the merchant who found the pearl of great price. Both of them had to give up something so that they could finally commit themselves to that which is greater than what they possess at the moment.

We also give up something for a greater cause.

I forego going out on a Friday night so that I could concentrate on my studies. I let go of my plans of buying the latest phone so that I could save up for a dream house. I set aside some savings so that I could add them up for the education of my children.

If God is on top of our priorities, we also give up something—or someone—so that we could possess God.

Is there a vice, or a thing, or a person that distance us from God at the moment? Can we commit to sacrifice them, to give them up, so that we could possess God?

The third attitude toward Heaven is inclusiveness. God is non-discriminatory.

Ang pag-ibig ng Diyos ay isang lambat na sumisilo sa lahat ng klase ng isda sa karagatan. Wala Siyang pinipili. Wala Siyang itinatangi. Lahat ay inaanyayahan Niyang samahan Siya upang makapiling Siya habang buhay.

We are also asked to have this attitude toward those individuals who test our patience, who challenge our charity.

Because Heaven is non-discriminatory, I will also choose to love no matter what.

If Jesus told stories to make us conscious of the reality of heaven, He also used the life story of the late Br. Elmer Rodriguez to indicate how our life on earth is already an indication of heaven that-is-still-to-come.

He helped to send thousands of young people to school. In many times, he would even have to shoulder their lodging.

Yesterday, we laid Br. Elmer to rest. That’s one of the most beautiful funeral rites I have witnessed. Not just because it was the most attended of all the burial rites in our cemetery in Canlubang, but because it became a fitting tribute to someone who was a firm believer that there is heaven.

His belief in God led him to offer his life as a Salesian, and in the process, became an instrument so that countless young people could also have a foretaste of it.

As we continue the celebration of the Eucharist, let us beg the Lord to help us set our priorities, make us give up, and grant us a big heart so that we may allow heaven to reign in our lives.