homilies

Loved by the Father


Clipart from https://www.publicdomainpictures.net/

Homily
December 1, 2018
Readings: Rev 22:1-7; Luke 21:34-36

Last July 7, I jump-started the series of the Journey of Faith sharing in our community for this school year. I begin this first day of the brand new month–and the very last day of the liturgical year–doing the same.

The readings of today’s liturgy speak of vigilance, but not that kind which alerts us to some dangers ahead–but that which fills our hearts with longing for, and anticipation of what is to come.

The first reading, derived from the Book of Revelation, paints a picture that is filled with hope, and closes with this solemn declaration, “Blessed is the one who keeps the prophetic message of this book.”

The New Testament scholar William Barclay differentiates “happiness” with “blessedness.”

For him, “human happiness is something which is dependent on the chances and the changes of life, something which life may give and which life may also destroy.”

On the other hand, he sees Christian blessedness “as completely untouchable and unassailable. It speaks of that joy which seeks us through our pain, that joy which sorrow and loss, and pain and grief, are powerless to touch, that joy which shines through tears, and which nothing in life or death can take away.”

This crisp description of Barclay on what Christian blessedness is, made me relish its concreteness on the love shown by the parents to their children in last week’s Salubong.

After each section of that grade level finishes its retreat, we invite the parents of these students to come to the school so that they could pick their boys–and alongside, a somehow impromptu program is held to provide a fitting conclusion to the retreat.

Somewhere along the program, a parent is tasked to deliver a welcome address in behalf of all the parents.

Last week, the father who delivered the speech, began it in this manner:

Even before you were born, until now, your mom and I are your biggest fans. We became paparazzi taking a lot of photos and videos even before you walked your first steps. We are your biggest supporters and fans. With every developmental milestone you reached, like your first tooth, your first word, your first whatever – we revel in joy and celebration.

This same dad ended his speech with these words:

Know that we love you and will always be there for you. No matter what, we’ve got your back. You are our son and always will be. We adore you, and there is nothing you could possibly do to change that.

We can sense here the longing of the father to be reunited once again with his child… It may be a human father who spoke these moving lines, but if it were to be attributed to God the Father, it continues to sound perfectly alright. It continues to hold its gripping effect.

He continues to call us back to Himself. He is thrilled to welcome us again. In the responsorial psalm, we responded: “Come, Lord Jesus!” But could it also be that Jesus exclaims: “Come, Fr. Ben…” “Come, Fr. Degz… “Come, Fr. Favie!?

The Gospel we heard points us to that kind of alertness “at all times.” This year, I mark my first decade as a Salesian of Don Bosco.

This ten-year journey is peppered with ups and downs, of peaks and valleys–which never fails to mark how God has been a real picture of a doting Father.

At all times” are three words that alert me

  • To the Providence of the Father–of the beauty and greatness of the mission God has entrusted to me–to us–as Salesians;
  • To the veritable home this community has become to me;
  • To the friends I made among the lay mission partners, and even the students themselves;
  • To the lessons I valued carefully wrapped in setbacks and failures and mistakes;
  • To never fail to hope again after some disappointing blows life gives me at times.

I pray that my next ten years as a Salesian will be as beautiful, and as relevant as these ten years were.

But even if they would not be so, I remind myself, and be consoled, to the realization that I am loved by the Father, and He will always be there for me. No matter what, He got my back. I am His son and always will be. That I am adored by Him, and there is nothing I could possibly do to change that.

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Homily
July 7, 2018
Readings: Amos 9:11-15;  Matthew 9:14-17

I thank Fr. Favie for giving me this privilege to jumpstart this Journey of Faith series in our community.

I anchored my sharing on the readings. And the readings of today’s liturgy speak of repairs.

This is quite obvious, particularly in the first reading. Despite the many big sins of Israel to God, God promised to rebuild it. He beckoned Israel to return to Him in His desire to patch up the broken relationship brought about by her past infidelities.

In the Matthean Gospel episode we just heard, we could infer into the purpose of the disciples of John the Baptist, as they went to Jesus to seek clarification about the reason why His disciples were not fasting. I see in this move an honest desire, not to nitpick, but to get into the bottom of things, to dialogue. To which, Jesus responded favorably, finding in this opportunity with the disciples of St. John a teachable moment, and a favorable time to forestall any perceived differences from his cousin’s end.

Allow me to share with you in this Journey of Faith some recent mending, fixing, and repairing God has been accomplishing in me.

SD Workshop

Last summer, I asked Fr. Favie if I could attend the workshop on spiritual direction. In my mind, this would be a good opportunity to learn the practice in keeping with this year’s strenna of Listening and Accompaniment.

The length of the Spiritual Direction workshop lasted for two weeks. But before the workshop proper on Spiritual Direction, we had one week of going through a module they call Ushering in Encounters with God, which exposed the participants to various prayer methods. This is anchored on the presupposition that Spiritual Direction capitalizes on a life of prayer.

Halfway through the module, the spiritual exercises helped me realize how I have been at the crest of experiencing  the proverbial dryness in the prayer life. How I gave priority to quantifiable outputs, and praying has been relegated to the peripheries.   

I see that my being there in that workshop is God’s way of calling me back to return to Him and experience once more His intimate way of caring for His own.

Serenity

In one of the prayer sessions, we were asked to go out of the hall and pray with nature. I sat before a pond. Marveling at the white lotus plants on its surface, I became aware of the ripples on the water caused by spider-looking insects that can suspend themselves on its surface. With the rhythm of the ripples on the water, I became mindful how this pond is like a mini universe pulsating with life, how it mirrors God’s work of creation that unfolds before my very eyes.

That realization brought deep consolation in me. God has been real before me with that first hand experience of His creation.    

In the prayer exercises we carried out in the prayer workshop, the sense of serenity secures me, confident that the quality of this remarkable gift can only originate from God. I note how peace has become a consistent fruit of my prayers during those days, which echoes our response to the  psalm today: The Lord speaks of peace to his people.

SD Session

The dynamics of the workshop on Spiritual Direction required us to have our own spiritual guide, whom we met once every week. I was assigned to a 70-something lady who had worked as administrator at the Ateneo, and has a Jesuit priest son.

Her demeanor speaks of the God she aimed to represent, and she is an epitome of how a spiritual guide ought to listen to and accompany another soul desiring to encounter God. She reminded me of Tita Wilma Militante in her eagerness to listen to my experience of God and her gentleness in prompting me to search for answers.  

In one of our sessions, she shared with me a book entitled Why Priests are Happy? written by Stephen Rosetti. One common answer of the priests interviewed was (1) They know who they are, and (2) they know whose they are, which refers to their primary central relationship.     

She proceeded in sharing with me how she witnessed the fall of talented and gifted religious because they did not give priority to their prayer life.    

After the workshop, I promised that my friendship with Jesus will be sustained by an intense, heart-to-heart prayer. A kind of prayer that has the power to radically change me.   

This has been a big help for me to renew my commitment to God as His priest. That before I go out and accompany other people fix their spiritual lives, God needed first to do some necessary repairs in me.

God is not done with His repairing me. Last month, my mama had a stroke. And the MRI result showed that there is a clog in her spine. She might need a surgery to remove it. Otherwise, she might fall into a paralysis.

I ask for your prayers that this repair in the life of our family may take place neatly and swiftly–according to His holy plan.  

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.

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.

On St. James, Apostle

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Ipinagdiriwang natin ngayon ang kapistahan ni St. James.

May ilang mga bagay tayong alam sa kanya dahil mababasa natin ang mga ito sa Bibliya.

Kapatid siya ni St. John na isa ring apostle. At tulad ni St. Peter, isa rin siyang mangingisda. 

Lagi siyang kasama sa mahahalagang pangyayari sa buhay ni Jesus—tulad ng Transfiguration at Agony in the Garden.  Kaya nga masasabing sa 12 apostles, isa siya sa tatlong BFF ni Jesus.

Sa Gospel ngayong araw, narinig natin ang tanong ni Jesus sa magkapatid na si Sts. James at John kung kaya ba nilang inumin ang basong iinuman ng Panginoon. 

Madalas, hindi tayo umiinom sa isang basong gamit na.

Ako, kung kailangang kailangang maki-inom sa baso ng may baso, sisiguruduhin kong hindi lang dapat kilala ko ang uminom dito, pero dapat, kahit papaano, ka-close ko ang taong gumamit nito.

Ito ang kahulugan ng pagsasabi ni James at ni John na kaya nilang tumagay sa mismong basong iinuman ng Panginoon. 

We celebrate today the life of the apostle James—and except for Judas—all the apostles are given much importance by the Church. The Mass that we are celebrating today is not just a mere commemoration, but a feast. Hence, we had the Gloria earlier.

You see, the apostles are not simply holy men, they walked side-by-side with our Lord Jesus. They witnessed to His life and teachings. They were His collaborators, and as such, we consider them pillars of our Church.

Let me highlight three qualities of James as an apostle: Prayerful, Courageous and Humble.

Prayerful

James’ first quality is his being prayerful.

When we speak of the prayerfulness of James, we do not merely speak of his strategy, or his skill, or his technique in praying. Ang pagdarasal kasi ay tumutukoy sa relasyong mayroon tayo sa Panginoon. At makikita natin kung gaano siya katinding magdasal sa pamamagitan ng pagtitiwala niya sa Diyos.

In the first reading, we heard from the second letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians a long list of difficulties which someone who belongs to Christ needs to undergo: trials, questions, and persecution.

James survived all of these. Not because of his own capacity, but because God provides.

By this time, you must have heard of the passing on of Br. Elmer Rodriguez. He’s that Salesian who was quiet, but had always that warm ready smile.

I remember that Br. Elmer also exhibited this trust in the Divine Providence. For almost 20 years, he took care of admitting poor young people to Don Bosco schools where he would be assigned. And because they were poor, he also would have to take care of looking for a roof over their heads.

Yesterday, a lay mission partner proved this to me, as he confirmed that Br. Elmer would sometimes borrow money from him so that he could support his poor scholars.

No wonder, many Salesians would hear Br. Elmer constantly repeating his favorite expression: God Provides.

If you pass by Bosco Hall, you will see his coffin. And you will realize that never for a moment it is alone. There are always people inside the Bosco Hall to see him off. In fact, countless people have been flocking there since the early morning of Saturday in order to see him for the last time.

Hindi natin masusukat kung paano natulungan ng Diyos ang hindi na natin mabilang na mga kabataan at ang kani-kanilang mga pamilya dahil nabigyan sila ng oportunidad na makapag-aral sa Don Bosco at makapaghanap-buhay ng marangal. At ito’y dahil sa isang simpleng Salesian brother na hindi mangiming magtiwala sa kabaitan ng Diyos.

When we speak of prayerfulness, we speak of trust. That’s the genuine way to pray. That’s how James—and Br. Elmer—showed their trust in Jesus.

Courageous

The second quality of James is courage.

Because James prayed fervently, he was ready to gulp down whatever was inside the cup of Jesus. His willingness to drink the cup which Jesus drank from was not just a mere issue of hygiene, trust or closeness.  It meant something else. It meant that he was ready to share in the destiny of Jesus.

And his courage to drink the same cup was such a real expression of his willingness to be with Jesus no matter what. He didn’t know what’s inside the cup. But when Christ had asked him if he could drink from the same cup he would drink from, he didn’t think twice. He immediately said yes. And when his Master Jesus was crucified, he must have an inkling that he would suffer the same fate.

Last year, I know of one of our teachers who braved the traffic and the distance just to drive to Don Bosco Batulao to visit his students who were having their retreat even if he was not given such a task. As the Christian Living teacher of the whole grade 10, he must have felt that he had to do it.

And as he drove to Batulao, he would tag along the respective advisers of the students. He covered all seven sections of them.

Last month, some of our lay mission partners were recognized for their perfect attendance. After the assembly, I asked him why he did not get the award. He reminded me, that at some point, he had to leave Makati for Batulao so that he could catch his students, effectively disqualifying himself from being considered for the award.

If James is dauntless in the face of death, Sir Alfie Rogel is courageous enough to spend some more on gas and toll, sacrifice the time which he could have devoted to his family and work and forego the possibility of receiving any recognition and cash reward given to our lay mission partners who register perfect attendance—solely for the reason to be with his students.

Humble

 The last quality of James is humility.

James showed us how the Kingdom of Heaven is far different from our world. That it is not given to the powerful, rich or those who are in control, but to a lowly fisherman who would be willing to humble himself, follow the instructions of the Lord, and serve others.

With his readiness to drink the chalice of Jesus, James gave his yes to the Lord whatever might come, as long as he was in His company.
But in the crucifixion scene, we learnt that out of the 12 apostles, only one stayed with Jesus at the cross—John! James also fled along with the rest. Hence, he failed.

However, James showed his love for Jesus by offering his life for Him. In the Acts of the Apostles, we read the account of His death, making him the first apostle who offered his life on account of his being a follower of Christ.

Ang pagpapakumbaba ay ang pagkilala na sa harap ng Diyos, ang talino natin, ang ating kakayahan—maging ang ating buhay—ay galing sa Kanya. At magkakaroon ito ng higit na kahulugan kung ipagkakaloob natin sa Kanya.

The apostles were imperfect men. Matthew was a public sinner. Thomas doubted that Jesus really was alive. Peter, the head of the apostles, denied Jesus three times. But because they were humble enough to recognize this, Jesus made wonders in their lives.

Today, we celebrate the feast of James. He is an apostle. An apostle is someone who is sent. As me reflect on these qualities, we also remember that we, too, are sent.

We are sent to live the Gospel, to embody Christ, to become a witness to the Kingdom that is to come.

Perhaps, Jesus is not asking us to follow the footsteps of James to offer our lives for His sake.

Perhaps, Jesus is asking us to just spend some more time in being with Him in prayer.

Perhaps, Jesus is asking us to just stand by Him, by choosing the right thing, even if it is not the easiest.

Perhaps, Jesus is asking us just to be humble in forgiving those individuals who have caused us so much pain.

The greatest form of devotion is by imitation.

Let us be like this apostle in his prayerfulness, in his courage, and in his humility.

Let us ask Jesus for such grace.

Aso

​Mayroon bang matutuwa pag sinabihang “Aso ka!?” Kahit na may mga magagandang katangian ang aso–aso pa rin yun! 

At tao tayo. Kahit na may mga katangian tayong hindi man kapuri-puri–ikararangal pa rin nating tawaging “tao” at hindi “aso.”

Kaya nga mantakin nyo, kung makarating sa isang taong may tumawag sa kanyang aso, sa palagay ninyo ba, matutuwa siya?

Sa ating Mabuting Balita ngayong araw (Lucas 3:31-35), hindi lang basta isang tao ang tinawag na “aso.” Hari ito. At nang huling maiulat sa Bibliyang hindi na siya natutuwa sa pananaway sa kanya ni Juan Bautista dahil nangangalunya siya, pinapugutan niya lang naman ito ng ulo.

Kaya nga maiisip nating tila hindi ma-ingat ang Panginoon sa kanyang pananalita. Hindi din siya tactless. Hindi lang naman kasi ang sarili niya ang dala niya. May mga tagasunod na siyang maaaring maapektuhan sa mga pinagsasabi niya. 

Pero kung tutuusin, sa isang banda, sigurado siya sa kapangyarihan ng Amang nagsugo sa Kanya. Kaya nga, kahit tawagin pa niyang ipis, daga, o langaw ang hari, wala siyang dapat na ikatakot. Hindi Siya dapat mangamba. 

Marahil, ito rin ang hamon para sa bawat isa sa atin. Na maging sigurado sa kapangyarihang taglay ng ating Panginoon. 

Hindi naman sa pagtawag na lang ng kung anu-ano sa kung sino-sino. Pero dapat, mas maging tiyak tayo sa pag-ibig na dulot ng ating Panginoon. Na sana, ito ang ating panghahawakan. Ito ang ating masasandigan. Ito ang unang-unang bagay na maaari nating pagkunan ng lakas ng loob sakaling dadaan man tayo sa mga pagsubok.

Ito ang mismong hamon sa atin ni San Pablo sa panimula ng kanyang liham sa ating unang pagbasa ngayon (Efeso 6:10-20), maging matatag tayo sa Panginoon.

Pinatunayan niya ito sa pamamagitan ng kanyang patuloy na pagpapalaganap ng aral ng Diyos kahit na nakakulong na siya sa piitan. Sige lang–para sa Diyos!

Hilingin natin sa Panginoong bigyan tayo ng tapang upang magampanan natin ang ating tungkulin bilang isang Kristiyano. 

‘Yun bang hindi tayo maduduwag, hindi maninino, hindi mahihiyang ipakilala na Kristiyano tayo sa ating pag-iisip, sa ating pananalita, at sa ating pinag-gagawa.

Ina ng Santo Rosaryo

rosary-banner-2

Litrato mula sa ihradio.com

Narinig natin sa ating unang pagbasa (Gawa 1 : 12-14) na nang nilisan ng Panginon ang ating mundo upang umakyat sa kalangitan, hindi Niya tayo talagang iniwan. Sapagkat naroroon ang mga apostol na kumakatawan sa bagong tatag Niyang Simbahan.

At siyempre, nandoon din kasama nila ang Mahal na Ina.

Patunay lang ito na habang buhay tayo, hindi tayo makaka-graduate talaga sa problema, pero sinisigurado sa ating hinding hinding hindi tayo mag-iisa.

Makakaasa tayo sa tulong ng ating Mahal na Ina. Dahil “napupuno siya ng grasya.” Kaya nga sa Mabuting Balita (Lucas 1:26-38), nagulumihanan man siya, hindi man niya naintindihan ang binalita sa kanya ng Anghel, pero nanalig pa rin siya.

Ngayon, ginugunita natin ang Ina ng Santo Rosaryo, at inaanyayahan tayong huwag mag-alinlangang magtiwala sa pag-ibig ng Panginoon.

Nakita natin ang taglay Niyang kapangyarihan hindi lamang sa buhay ng ating Mahal na Ina, kung hindi, maging sa kasaysayan din ng ating Simbahan.

Noong ika-labing anim na siglo sa mismong araw din na ito, nagkaroon ng labanan sa karagatan sa pagitan ng mga Kristiyano at Muslim. Dehado tayo sa laban. Mas madaming ‘di hamak ang bilang ng  barko ng kalaban. Ganun din ang bilang ng kanilang mga sundalo. Naitala din na masama ang lagay ng panahon noong mga araw na iyon.

Ngunit dahil sa pag-gabay ng ating Panginoon sa pamamagitan ng ating Mahal na Ina, nanaig ang puwersa ng mga Kristiyano.

Sa pamamagitan ng aral na ito na hatid ng kasayasayan, inaanyayahan din tayong magtiwala—tumaya sa walang hanggang pag-ibig ng Diyos.

Patuloy nating hingin natin ang tulong ng ating Mahal na Inang patuloy niya tayong akayin patungo sa Anak Niyang si Hesus.