Month: September 2014

Standing on the shoulders of the giants

FRANCIS AND JOHN (800x571) (1)

Confronted by the “the new areopagus of modern times” (John Paul II, Redemptoris missio, 37), which challenges the congregation to journey with the young in a “new playground,” The confreres of the FIN Province held an assembly on social communications last Saturday, 27 September at Don Bosco Technical Institute in Makati City.

The assembly took off through the celebration of the Holy Eucharist led by Fr. Paul Bicomong, SDB, FIN Provincial. In his homily, Fr. Paul noted the wonders which communications technology can do to bridge the gap and form communities. Among these technologies is social media, which, he mused, make it possible to send our message at once to anyone in the world.

Fr. Drans welcomes the confreres to the assembly. Photo by Br James Aro, SDB

Fr. Drans welcomes the confreres to the assembly. Photo by Br James Aro, SDB

Fr. Bernard Nolasco, SDB, head of Commission on Social Communications of the FIN Province took off by welcoming the confreres and put everyone in context as regards the emerging landscape of the world of communication.

Given that the titular patron of the congregation is St. Francis of Sales, patron of editors and Catholic publishers. Don Bosco himself followed his lead by writing and publishing innumerable books aimed to educate and evangelize. Indeed, realizing the contribution of these two saints to mass media is like “Standing on the shoulders of giants

Fr. Fidel Orendain, SDB of the FIS Province was invited as a resource speaker. He spoke about the emerging realities and views on communications ministry.

In the afternoon, five Salesians shared their personal experiences and insights on how they use various means of social communications in the service of evangelization and education.

The five Salesians were Fr. Sal Putzu (On Print, Radio, and Lectures) Fr. Chito Dimaranan (On Both the Traditional and New Media) Fr. Fidel Orendain (On Forming people on the power of the media) Cl. Donnie Duchin Duya (Animating communities thru Social Media) and Cl. Juvelan Samia (The virtual presence complements the real).

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It will be of interest to note that these Salesians come from different age brackets and that the organizers thought of this set up in order to bring forth the message that social communications knows no age limit.

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Tale of two sons

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A tale of two sons. Graphics by Br Luke Maloloy-on, SDB & Br Paul Dungca, SDB

Warming up with his audience, Jesus told them this parable (Matthew 21:28-32).

A father asked his first son to work in the vineyard. The son initially said ‘no,’ but changed his mind and did as he was told. The second son was given the same command; he said ‘yes’  but never went.

Wanting to interact with his listeners, he queried: Which of the two did his father’s will?

His listeners, the high priests and the elders of the people, must have gotten the cue. Having aligned themselves on the stance of the first son, they replied, perhaps even gloating: the first!

What Jesus said next shocked them: Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.

Prostitutes and tax collectors are professions which were at the lowest scale of the Jewish society that time. And they were just compared to these.  But Jesus saw it right that they needed to be awakened to this reality.

Their insincerity has just won for them an honor lower than the groups of people they look down upon. Their sense of entitlement–tied with the offices they held–blinded their eyes in preaching the Law which they themselves never followed.

And when a messenger came in the person of John the Baptist to point this out, they never bothered to listen, much less, to heed him.

Unlike them, the prostitutes and tax collectors—these lowly sinners—who said ‘no’ initially, repented when they heard the exhortation of John the Baptist. Jesus just gave them the ticket to enter the Kingdom of His Father.

The hypocrites may have their turn only after the prostitutes and tax collectors.

There are two things which set the first son different from the second. These two differences earned for him the title “the obedient son” and the latter, “the wicked one.”

First, is change. There was the transformation in the first son which never took place in the second. We ought not judge a person’s future because he did wrong in the past. This is evident in Ezekiel’s  call of renewal in the first reading: “But if he turns from the wickedness he has committed, and does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life.” God continues to call us toward conversation and transformation. Let us not be hard on others who struggle to be good. Likewise, let us also be good on ourselves who fail and stand up, but fails again.

Second, the change of mind became only apparent when there came in between the former self and the new self: a realization that something crooked needs some straightening out. There came the humility to recognize one’s fault and the resolve to do better. St. Paul echoes this piece of advice in his letter to the Philippians in our second reading today: “Humbly regard others as more important than yourselves,” an important detail which  the chief priests were not mindful of. Perhaps because their bloated ego couldn’t hear the soft whisper of John the Baptist.

Hopefully, these two points may help us choose the first over the second, because as we struggle to do good and avoid evil, we realize that the tale of the two sons is our tale, too. 

God’s genus of generosity

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What is not suprising is this: It is God's genus of generosity! Graphics by Br Paul Dungca, SDB

God’s love is way beyond one’s imagination.

Most of the time, the meaning enshrined in the sentence above consoles us.

Conversely, when we are not on the receiving end of His love, it gives us something to complain about.

Such was the action of the characters in Jesus’ Parable in this Sunday’s Gospel (Matthew 20:1-16).

The Word in other words

Jesus narrates that a landowner goes out at the break of dawn to employ workers for his vineyard.  He gets a group at 6 AM, agrees to pay them the usual daily wage and then sendds them to work right away.  

At 9 AM, he gets another group.  At 12 NN, he recruits again another team, and then at 3 PM, another one.  

By 5 PM, he realizes that there is still something to be done in his vineyard and thus, finds still more laborers who are willing and able to work.  

As was their custom, the last group  can only do as much. The sun was about to set and before the day ends, the landowner instructs his staff to pay the amount he promised to those whom he recruited at 6 AM starting with those who were recruited last at 5 PM. 

One dinar was the amount given to the last batch of workers. This was the same amount given to those who worked at 3 PM, 12 NN, 9 AM and 6 AM.

The Kingdom of God, Jesus illustrates, is likened to this. 

Fair enough?

Clearly, most of use will find some issues against the landowner. Yes, he gave all groups an equal amount as a compensation for their work, but not all of them worked for the same number of hours. And one could further: It is not a joke to work under the smoldering sun for nearly 12 hours to be paid with an amount that is also given to those who worked only for less than hour.

This was the cry of those who were called to work at the first hour. They had worked the longest, and they expected to be compensated more than those who did not work as much as they did.

We could offer our sympathy: “It is not fair; it is not just.” But the Prophet Isaiah reminds us in the first reading that God’s “thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways” (55:8).

We realize that if the landowner follows what the actual practice is, those who worked for only an hour will be able to bring home practically nothing.

Jesus is teaching us that His brand of justice goes beyond offering someone due to that person. And thus, it is beyond recognizable to the sensitivity of an ordinary person who is trained to be fair only if everybody plays a fair game, to treat people with respect only if  he is given the respect, and to show kindness to others only if he becomes a beneficiary of it first.

Jesus leads us to that narrow path of loving even if it is unconceivable to do so; no ifs, no buts, no conditions.

Jesus shows us to do away with how the world calculates, sizes up, measures.

Jesus offers His love; this is His brand of justice.

This is what surprising about His genus of generosity.
 

Cross: a symbol of death … and life eternal

First, some pick-up lines:

Do you believe in love at first sight or should I walk by again?
Do you know why I can’t see any stars tonight? You outshine them.
Did you know you’re like my blood… you’re A+ and always in my heart
Did you just fart? Cause you blew me away!

Pick-up lines have been in the limelight of late. This is so because of our attachment to symbols.

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Symbols are fundamentally important not because of what they are, but because of what they stand for.

This Sunday, the Church marks the Exaltation of the Cross. In our Gospel, we get a glimpse of Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, a Pharisee. Jesus tells him “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

Before this conversation takes place, John narrated that Jesus’ reputation as a wonder worker has preceded Himself; many came to believe in Jesus because of the signs He did (2:23-25).

Today, we exalt the cross not because it is the cross, but because Jesus’ dying in it makes it possible for the Father to gift us with life eternal.

Cross communicates pain and death, but looking at the life of Christ, we realize that only through it can we experience the joy of resurrection.

True, we don’t like the sensation of pain and we do not like the feeling of being hurt, but avoiding these makes us also conscious in crossing out love in the equation.

But when we are called to become heroes, we do not just calculate that we are going to risk an arm or a leg as a consequence, we risk of letting go of our entire selves.

And if anything, this is what the symbol of cross tells us: Consider that when God gives, He gives nothing short of Himself: Jesus’ life came to an end so that we may live our own.

What kind of life do we gift Him with?

A Step Further Toward Priesthood

In celebration of the Nativity of the Blessed Mother, 19 new acolytes and lectors were installed during the celebration of the Holy Mass last 8 September.

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Newly installed acolytes and lectors. Photo by Br Keith Amodia, SDB

Fr. Paul Bicomong, SDB, provincial of the FIN Province, presided at the celebration.Those taking these ministries toward priesthood came from five of the eleven circumscriptions in the EAO Region: FIN, FIS, ITM, PNG-SI, VIE-MGL (Mongolia Delegation), one from IND (Bangladesh) and another is a diocesan seminarian from the Diocese of Monterey who is undergoing his formation in the Seminaryo.

The acolyte is instituted “to serve at the altar and to assist the priest and deacon. Among his functions count the preparation of the altar and the sacred vessels and if there is a need, distribute the Eucharist to the faithful” (cf. GIRM 98).

On the other hand, the lector is instituted “to proclaim the reading from Sacred Scripture, with the exception of the Gospel” (cf. GIRM 99).The Salesian Ratio marks this movement of these candidates to Holy Orders as the “progressive exercise of the ministry of the Word and of the altar” (cf. 474, SDB Ratio).

Addressing the newly instituted lectors and acolytes, Fr. Paul reminded them that the “Yes” they gave to the Lord to express their desire to become a Salesian, everything else fell into place. It is in this way that this response of theirs becomes similar with that of the Blessed Mother.

Newly Installed Acolytes
1. Donnie Duchin Duya, SDB
2. Phil Vincent Dumanacal (Diocese of Monterey)
3. Venancio Freitas, SDB
4. Noble Lal, SDB
5. Moise Paluku, SDB
6. Stephen Musya, SDB

Newly Installed Lectors
1. Br. Joseph Nguyen Quoc Dai, SDB
2. Br. Sami Ghouri, SDB
3. Br. Martino Duong Quoc Huy, SDB
4. Br. Marc Will Lim, SDB
5. Br. Ramil  Maranan, SDB
6. Br. Matthias Pinto, SDB
7. Br. John Paul Rasay, SDB
8. Br. Juvelan Paul Samia, SDB
9. Br. Yulius Dadang Supriyanto, SDB
10. Br. Julio Da Silva, SDB
11. Br. Joseph Pham Van Truong, SDB
12. Br. Antonius Werun, SDB
13. Br. Ambrusius Widiyantoro, SDB

Go gentle with everyone

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To correct with love is to treat each one as a brother or sister. Graphics by Br Paul Dungca, SDB

One emphasis of St. Matthew’s Gospel is the Church community. Note that his rendition of the Lord’s Prayer begins with ‘Our Father ’ as compared to how Luke begins his: simply, ‘Father.’

Another striking illustration of this is seen in this Sunday’s Gospel pericope (Matthew 18:15-20). 

Jesus counsels His disciples that if someone in the community sins, they have to reach out to that fellow. If he listens to him, then they have won him over to them.

The message of the Gospel links us up with the message of the First Reading (Ezekiel 33:7-9). God appoints the Prophet Ezekiel a watchman of Israel. He was tasked to remind the people of their evil deeds. God promises death to evil-doers and Ezekiel’s failure to call their attention to this means negligence of duty. If this is so, the prophet is responsible for their death. 

This Gospel pericope speaks of a mechanism which is put in place in the Christians community to correct an erring brother or sister. This is a silent declaration that in the Church exists both weed and wheat, sinner and saint.

Implicitly, too, to call back the lost brother or sister to the fold is one’s Christian duty.

But then, it’s been proven that it’s more convenient to keep mum about something which does not affect us, and until such time that the consequence of the evil has reached our door step, only then we would speak.

Personal sins do affect the community. Apathy to one’s wrong deeds is not being politically correct to let someone mind his or her own business; on the contrary, it is about encouraging that erring brother to carry on with it, since no one cares anyway.

To win our brother or sister is not to apply force nor pressure. Gentleness is the way to go. It is the way to win him or her over to our side.

St. Thomas Aquinas, a saint and an intellectual luminary of the 13th century, did not just pray for thoroughness but also for charm as well.

St. Francis of Sales would say that a spoonful honey will attract more flies, than a barrel of vinegar.

This same formula was taught to St. John Bosco in his dream when he was barely nine years old: win young people not with blows, but with gentleness and kindness.  

I am sure that if there is one way to introduce Christ to others, this is the way to go. This is how Christians ought to rule the world: to go gentle with everyone, and to treat each one as a brother or sister.