homilies

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.

St. Jerome

caravaggio_-_san_gerolamo

For the entire week, the first reading has been taken from the Book of Job.  Even if we rarely open our Bibles, this name, undoubtedly, has an instant recall.

It is a common knowledge that Job practically lost all his possessions: his cattle were either destroyed by plague or carried of by robbers, his children were all killed in a tragedy, and even his wife left him when he refused to turn his back on the Lord in the midst of these misfortunes.

Over the past days, those who came for Mass or read the daily Mass readings learnt about his sufferings.  And for the past days, God has remained silent so far.

Today, we heard about God’s answer!  And boy, God did prepare His homework! His answers though were not declarations, but a series of interrogations.

Like a machine gun, He issued his questions one after the other.

To these, Job was able to mutter, “How can I answer you? I will put my hand over my mouth.” He was reduced to silence.

If God spoke in a series of questions in the first reading, we heard Him throwing exclamations in the Gospel. We could not immediately recognize that it was Him; it’s as if we’re listening to the President talking.

But our Lord Jesus here was talking  to the apostles. He was preparing them  for the worse. There are people  who are obstinate, hardheaded,  completely attached to their sinful way,
and we could not do anything to convince them to change.

Make no mistake about it, we are all sinners. The only difference is that some sinners keep fighting and some others have given up.

All of you have finished your retreat. In Batulao, you experienced the warm hands of God caressing you, comforting you, embracing you. Do we let this presence of God in our lives bear fruit? Will we respond to Him with love?

You strove to make good confessions, and attempted to firmly hold on to your resolutions. But weeks and months after you encountered the Lord in Batulao, are you still in touch with Him?

If there is one thing the devil excels at, it is to discourage us. The enemy spends his energy trying to convince us to give up: “You will never get rid of these sins” he suggests in your ear, “This is too hard for you,”

“There is no point in going to confession: you will need to confess the same sin again in no time…”

Do these sound familiar?

When we are tempted to commit sin, how do we attend to the temptation?

St. Jerome, the saint we honor today, is known for his terrible temper.  But he is also known, too, for having  a splendid way of not cooperating  with the devil. If he is feeling tempted, he would be up all night to continue to translate the books of the Bible to Latin.

His propensity to sin has given led him to the opportunity of becoming a saint.

St. Jerome found God in the Bible, and he cherished Him there. For most of you, in your last retreat.

Because we have encountered God, life will never be the same again.

It should never be the same again.

 

Padre Pio

download

David Herbert Lawrence, widely regarded as one of the most influential writers of the 20th century, beautifully conjures this line, “Death is the only pure, beautiful conclusion of a great passion.”

We see the concrete reality of this on how the first Pope of the Catholic Church breathed his last: he was crucified upside-down.

But that’s already how the life of Peter ended. Equally interesting is his reason of how he managed to offer his life for the sake of following Jesus.

In our Gospel passage today (Luke 9:18-22), we heard how St. Peter was able to identify who Jesus really is: the Messiah of God.

Of course, the Holy Spirit, must have revealed this truth to Peter. But we could also say that Peter also invested his time to know Jesus a lot deeper. His friendship with Jesus made him capable of identifying how Jesus is different from his other friends.

To speak of friendship with Jesus can sound so cozy and warm and harmless, as if God doesn’t do anything but to give all of us a group hug.

However, Paul Wadell, one of my favorite authors, warns us that it is dangerous to be a friend of God. This is so, because friends have expectations of each other and because every friendship changes us.

There may be grace and glory in being a friend of God, but there is also clearly a cost. Peter paid the price of his friendship with Jesus by his life.

Today, we commemorate St. Padre Pio. He was born in 1887, a year before Don Bosco had to leave for heaven. Padre Pio, too, had to pay a dear price because of his friendship with Jesus. When he was still alive, he had to bear the wounds of Jesus on his hands. Technically called stigmata, St Francis of Assiss and other saints also endured these wounds.

But more than the pain inflicted by his stigmata, it is the cruelty and harassment he received from unbelievers caused him to suffer more.

No less than the Church authorities forbade him to celebrate Mass publicly since he had started to attract the attention of many.

But when they found out that all his claims were truthful, he was given the signal to return to the public ministry.

We, too, are called to nurture our friendship with Jesus. Isn’t it one element of our Salesian spirituality Friendship with Jesus?  But, let me remind you, there is a price we have to pay.

Perhaps, it’s far from being crucified upside-down, nor be given a gift of stigmata, but we are expected to behave like our friend Jesus behaves: patient with one another, kind to others, merciful, polite, gentlemanly, and compassionate.

Let the oft quoted reminder of Don Bosco “Do your ordinary duties, extraordinarily well” become our life principle.

May this Eucharistic celebration remind us that Jesus Himself paid such a costly price so that He could keep us beside Him. So that we could enjoy His friendship.

May our thoughts, words and deeds today show that we value our friendship with Jesus.

The Cross of Jesus

triumph-cross

We heard from the commentator that our celebration of the Mass today is called the “Exaltation of the Cross.”

Exaltation. A quick check from an online dictionary tells us that “it is a feeling or state of extreme happiness.” With this definition come some synonyms: elation, ecstasy, delight.

Exaltation—we don’t have a problem with this word, do we? After all, shouldn’t we all feel happy and delighted every time we celebrate the Mass?

But the next word after “exaltation” appears to be quite problematic—the Cross!

We know that the cross is where our Lord Jesus died. During the time of Jesus, the cross was the most terrifying instrument to kill the thieves, slaves and criminals.

Jesus was sentenced to death because He was considered a criminal.

We heard from the Bible stories that before He was nailed on the cross, He was ordered to carry it first. The cross was heavy. And the parade going up to that mountain, where He would be crucified was not a walk in the park!

You see, to be killed using the cross was and, still is, the most frightful form of death.

That’s why, it’s just normal to ask “what’s the point of our celebration today?” “Why should we be happy about the Cross?” “Why even have a feast dedicated for it?”

To answer these questions, let us go through the readings.

The Gospel gives us the reason why: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

Jesus died on the cross because of you and me. God wanted us to be with Him in heaven. But this will not be possible because of our sins. Through the cross, Jesus gave His life freely, for all of us.

St. Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, reminds us that Christ Jesus, though He is God, chose to be lowly, and became obedient to the point of death–even death on a cross.

We don’t ask you to nail yourself on the cross. Jesus has done it for us once and for all.

You have your assignments, you have your tests. At times, you have very naughty classmates you need to face. These are your crosses. Let us not run away from them.

The cross is a reminder that God loves us so much even if we do not deserve this love.

In this celebration of the Eucharist, let us beg Jesus for the strength and courage to love others as well, even if it is not the easiest thing to do. Christ has shown the way, let us follow His example.

 

Naligaw, Nawala, at Nagwala

Human-Rights-500x261.png

Graphics courtesy of PCIJ.org

Tatlong kuwento ang matutunghayan natin sa ating Mabuting Balita (Lucas 15:1-10) ngayong Linggo. Ngunit ang bawat isa’y tumutukoy lang sa isang mensahe: Pinakatatangi ng Diyos ang mga naliligaw (salaping pilak), ang mga nawawala (tupa), at maging ang mga nagwawala (ang alibuhgang anak).

Ang tatlong ito’y sumisimbolo sa bawat isa sa ating patuloy na hinahanap at hinihintay ng Panginoong manumbalik sa Kanya.

Ang puso ng Diyos ay puno ng awa at habag. Ito ang mensahe ng ating unang pagbasa (Exodo 32:7- 11.13-14). Mayroon Siyang dahilan upang kamuhian tayo. Madalas kasi, lagi natin Siyang kinakalimutan. Ngunit paulit-ulit Niyang ipinaparanas sa atin ang Kanyang pagpapatawad at pagmamahal.

Si San Pablo, sa ating ikalawang pagbasa (1 Timoteo 1:12- 17), ay maaaring magsilbing isang halimbawa kung paano naging mapagpatawad ang Panginoon. Naging instrumento siya ng kalupitan sa mga tagasunod ng Panginoon, ngunit hindi lamang siya pinatawad nito. Higit pa dito, tinawag siya upang maging alagad ng Panginoon.

Sa pasimula ng liham niya kay Timoteo, inilahad niyang ang Panginoon ang patuloy na nagbibigay sa kanya ng lakas upang magpatuloy sa kanyang gawain.

Hindi naman kasi madali ang magpatawad, ‘di ba? Nais nating iparamdam sa mga taong nakapanakit sa atin ang galit natin. At kung tayo lang ang masusunod, lintik lang ang walang ganti! Ngunit hindi ito ang paraan ng Diyos.

Lahat tayo ay mayroong pagkukulang sa Ama. Isinugo Niya ang Kanyang Anak na si Hesus upang lahat tayo’y Kanyang tipuning muli. Kay Hesus, mababanaag natin ang mukha ng Amang mapagkalinga, mapagpatawad at mapagmahal.

Nawa’y mapaalala sa atin nito na kapootan ang kasalanan, h’wag ang may sala! At ang kumakalat na ideya na ang mga kapatid nating nalulong sa ipinagbabawal na droga ay “hindi na dapat ituring na tao” ay isang tahasang pagsalungat sa mensaheng ito ng Ebanghelyo. Ginagamot ang mga katulad nila, hindi pinapatay.

Kung tunay tayong mga tagasunod ni Kristo, ang misyon natin ay tularan ang Kanyang halimbawa: Hanapin ang mga nawawala, ibalik sa daan ang mga naliligaw at mahirap man itong intindihin, amuin ang mga nagwawala!

 

Change

Change-e1360817035602

Graphics lifted from http://www.selfstairway.com

The #changeiscoming became one of the hottest trending items in Twitter on June 30, with the inauguration of Rodrigo Duterte.

Heraclitus, one of the philosophers of the Greek antiquity, was convinced that the only constant thing in the world is change.

But there seems to be a controversy in today’s Gospel (Luke 5:33-39). Apparently, not everyone is happy with change—some are obviously resisting it.

We heard that some people went to Jesus to tell Him that they observed the disciples
of John the Baptist, and even of the pharisees—fast often, but the disciples of Jesus does not.

To answer this question, Jesus proposes a double analogy of the new cloth and new skins which refers to the newness of the Gospel. In the time of Jesus, they did not store wine in bottles. They used containers made of animal skin instead, which is more portable.

However, wine skins had to be treated with care, since the leather became worn over time and could easily break, especially if filled with new wine.

Jesus is the new wine. His teachings are revolutionary at that time—and even up to now! Let’s have a quick review of His teachings: Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, do not judge, and if you want to become a leader, learn to serve!

In the first reading (1 Corinthians 4:1-5), we heard from the letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians a reminder to heed these teachings. We are challenged to become visual aids of the love of God by becoming servants of Jesus.

‘Yun bang hindi mo na kailangang buksan ang bibig mo para madinig nila sa iyo ang pangalan ni Kristo. Pero sa pamamagitan ng iyong halimbawa, nakikilala nila ang galaw ng Diyos sa buhay mo.

Our dear grade 10 students, you are on this stage of your life in which change is very much felt. Some of you now are the leaders of the clubs, not only a few are given heavier responsibilities. At the end of the school year, you will feel it more because you will realize that some of the members of your batch will have to look for other schools where they will continue their schooling.

I pray that you will have an ever open attitude for change. People acknowledge that one great trait of Bosconians is their flexibility—in sports, in technical matters, even in winning the attention of the girls. But I hope that this flexibility is extended to the realm of your soul so that you could welcome Christ there. So that He could create wonders in you and through you.

In this first Friday of the new month, as we honor the Most Sacred Hart of Jesus, and as we continue with our Eucharist, let us beg the Lord to grant us a greater love for Him so that we could become true Bosconians in the mind of St. John Bosco: good Christians, upright citizens.

 

Huwag #Feelingero!

Ika-22 inggo sa Karaniwang Panahon–K
28 Agosto 2016

August 28.jpg

Graphics by Asp. Paul Lopez, Don Bosco Seminary

Huwag feelingero.

Ito ang diwa ng payo ng ating Panginoon sa Kanyang talinghaga sa ating Mabuting Balita ngayong Linggo (Lucas 14:1.7-14).

Kapag may handaan, huwag pakahanapin ang natatanging posisyong. Sa halip, makuntento sa pinaka-hamak.

Ang lawak ng sakop ng payong ito ng Panginoon—at hindi lang para sa handaan. Makikita kasi ang epekto ng pagmamagaling sa iba’t-ibang aspeto ng ating pang-araw-araw na buhay—sa eskwelahan, sa basketball courts, at maging sa social media!

Sa biglang tingin, iisipin natin na kailangan tayong magpakababa para sa iba para mas kalugud-lugod tayo sa paningin ng Diyos. Pero kung tutuusin, ang payong ito ng Panginoon ay para rin sa ating kapakanan. Hindi ba’t ayaw natin ng mga taong saksakan ng yabang, ‘yung ang tingin sa sarili ay “Gods gift to mankind?”

Sa ating unang pagbasa (Ecclesiastes 3:17-18.20.28-29), binibigyang diin ang kahalagahan ng kababaang-loob na sumisimbolo sa pananabik sa tunay na karunungan. Alam ng mga may mabababang loob kung saan sila lulugar. At katulad ng winika ng Panginoon sa Mabuting Balita, ganito rin ang mensahe ng aklat na ito para sa lahat, “Habang ikaw’y dumadakila, lalo ka namang magpakumbaba; sa gayo’y kalulugdan ka ng Panginoon.”

Kapag mataas kasi ang tingin natin sa ating sarili, hindi pwedeng hindi natin tingnan ang iba na kasing kapantay din natin. Ngunit ayon sa diwa ng liturhiya ngayong Linggo, inaanyayahan tayong baguhin ang ganitong gawi. Dahil may masamang epekto ito sa ating buhay. Kapag mataas ang tingin natin sa sarili natin, hindi malayong magkaroon tayo ng self-entitlement. ‘Yun bang pag-iisip na dahil magaling ako, dapat nirerespeto ako ng tao, walang tanong tanong, bow lang sila sa gusto kong mangyari.

Ang halimbawa natin ng kadakilaan ay ang ating Panginoong Hesus. At ang mga pinunong katulad Niya ay hinding hindi natin pagsasawaang dikitan dahil sa kababaan ng Kanyang loob. Sa ikalawang pagbasa (Heb 12:18-19.22-24), binibigyang diin na ang Panginoong Hesus ang tagapamagitan sa Bagong Tipan.

Siya ay Diyos na nagkatawang-tao. Hinubad Niya ang Kanyang kapangyarihan. Nagpakababa. Naging aba. At dahil sa Kanyang pagkakatawang-tao, nagkaroon tayo ng pagkakataong masilayan ang kadakilaan ng Ama. Si Hesus ang ating huwaran ng kababaang-loob, ‘yun bang hindi nangingiming makisalo sa atin, hindi upang magmagaling at ipamukha sa ating makasalanan tayo, ngunit upang iparamdam sa ating mayroong kadakilaan sa bawat isa sa atin, kung matututo lang tayong magpakababa.

At hindi Niya ito inihayag sa atin sa pamamagitan ng salita, naging katulad Niya tayo. At hinding hindi natin mapapantayan ang ginawa Niyang ito. Diyos kasi Siya e.

Kaya naman ang hamon Niya sa atin “pay it forward.” Gumawa ng kabutihan sa iba. Dun sa mga taong hindi natin inaasahang matutumbasan ang kabutihan natin sa kanila.

Kaya kung ikaw ay maghahanda ng isang malaking salu-salo, ang mga pulubi, mga pingkaw, mga pilay, at mga bulag ang anyayahan mo. Hindi sila makagaganti sa iyo at sa gayo’y magiging mapalad ka. Gagantihan ka ng Diyos sa muling pagkabuhay ng mga banal.

Tularan natin ang Kanyang halimbawa.