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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.

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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.

 

On St. James, Apostle

james-2

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.