Friday, November 7, 2014

Feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran - Mater et Caput

Ez 43:1-2, 4-7 | Ps 112:1-2, 3-4, 8-9 | 1Cor 3:9-13, 16-17 | Jn 2:13-22

Mater et Caput
Rev. Msgr. Daniel H. Mueggenborg has served as the Vice Rector for Administration,
Director of Admissions and Formation Advisor at the Pontifical North American College
in Rome. He is from the Diocese of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The basilica of St. John Lateran is a distinctive treasure of theology, spirituality and ecclesiology. As you approach the basilica, you see an inscription across the front that says this: Sacrosancta Lateranensis ecclesia omnium urbis et orbis ecclesiarum mater et caput (meaning “Most Holy Lateran Church, of all the churches in the city and the world, the mother and head”). In a real sense, the St. John Lateran is a mother who has been teaching us, as Catholics, what it means to be Church for more nearly 1,700 years. I think it is worth listening to a few lessons that I think this basilica, our Mother, has to offer us today even as she first taught them to the Church of Rome 1,700 years ago. 

The first lesson is what she says to us by her sheer size. You know, when Constantine legalized Christianity in 312/313 AD, he made it possible for Christians to worship publicly for the first time. But temples in the ancient world were very small, even the temple in Jerusalem had a very small sanctuary. That’s because people in the ancient world did not participate in worship. Instead, only the priest would enter the sanctuary to offer sacrifice. The people stood outside while the priest worshiped for them. So you can imagine Constantine’s surprise when he said to Pope Silvester, “how big of a temple do you want” and Pope Silvester replied, “How big can you build it?!” The idea that people would actually participate in worship was revolutionary. St. John Lateran was, in first place, built for public Christian worship in the City of Rome and as such it set the standard for all others. It taught them, and it teaches us, that the Mass is never something we watch like spectators but always something in which we participate. No one can do our prayer for us. Do you see why Jesus drove the moneychangers out of the temple? He didn’t want a temple in which others offer purchased sacrifices; He wanted a new temple in which the presence of God dwells and those assembled are members of His body raised up. So when we come here for our liturgies, do we watch the priest pray or are we transformed with the priest as he leads us in prayer? If the first words the come out of our mouths following a liturgy are observations of criticism rather than expressions of thanksgiving, then we are more observers than participants. But if we are participants, then every reading of scripture will speak to our heart and every Eucharist will be a life-changing encounter with Jesus.

The second lesson of St. John Lateran is in the Baptistry – it is the lesson of the red columns and beautifully carved pilasters. These were taken from other imperial monuments in Rome and used to build the baptistery. They could have used new materials when they built the baptistery – they didn’t have to use things from other buildings. They did so for a purpose, to teach a truth of faith. And I think the truth is this: In baptism, that which is secular becomes sacred; that which is profane, is now profoundly incorporated into the body of Christ. Those old pieces of marble and red porphyry used to adorn the monuments of the pagan emperors. They are symbols of all the forces of sin and death that tried to destroy Christianity – but through the grace of Baptism, they become a beautiful part of the Church. That is the power of baptism – It changes all people and makes them new in Christ. The Church always has been a community of sinners seeking God’s grace. The baptistery of St. John Lateran reminds us that no sin is greater than God’s mercy, and that the waters of Baptism and the grace of Reconciliation continue to take what is secular and make it sacred. How easy it would have been for the early Church to become elitist thinking that people had to earn their right to be Christian or somehow prove themselves holy before they would be accepted. St. John Lateran shatters that arrogant illusion. If the porphyry pillars that once served the personal needs of murderous pagan emperors could become the welcoming public entrance of a Christian Church, then there’s hope for us, too, and for all God’s people. St. John Lateran teaches us that the Church is where we trust and celebrate God’s all-powerful, unbounded, transforming mercy.

Lastly, the gilded bronze pillars near the altar of repose for the Blessed Sacrament. Constantine gave these pillars to the Basilica of St. John Lateran for a reason – because they tell a story. You see, in 44 BC, Augustus was named the heir of Julius Caesar. It was not an easy transition – he had to conquer Mark Anthony. And when he did, in the year 30 BC, he set sail to also conquer the famed and feared Egyptian navy of Cleopatra. And when it was over, he confiscated all the Egyptian ships of Cleopatra’s fleet and removed their prows – that’s the bronze decoration piece that was used on the bow. Augustus melted those bronze pieces and molded them into 4 pillars which he had placed in the temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill. They were a symbol to everyone that a new day had dawned and that a new era had begun. A new chapter in world history had opened – the Roman Empire had been formed. Those pillars were powerful. And Constantine gave them to the Basilica of St. John Lateran to make the same statement … but now for the Church – a new day has dawned, a new era has begun, a new chapter in world history is now opened – Christianity is no longer only a private, personal experience of faith; it is now a public witness that courageously forms society and transforms cultures and no longer hides in fear of persecution or rejection. Those pillars are a statement to us today that we are to be courageously prophetic, and publicly vocal in our witness of faith: That the new chapter of Christianity is still open and the Church has a necessary voice in world affairs. We need to remember that–today more than ever–lest we become silent and the bronze columns of St. John Lateran become nothing but interesting artifacts from the past. 

So when you visit St. John Lateran, and when you see her size, remember it is so, that we too can be participants in worship and not just watch it. When you see the columns and marbles of ancient Rome reused, remember it is so, that we too can be transformed by grace and the profane in our lives can be made profound by Christ. When you see the pillars of bronze around the tabernacle, it is so, that everyone may become priests and prophets of the Christian era in a secular world.

Today, we do not just celebrate the dedication of a church–we celebrate the dedication of that church which continues to teach us how to be Church.

Feast, Lateran, Basilica, Mother, Head, Teacher

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

30th Sunday of in OT (A) - The Absence of Judgment

OCTOBER 26, 2014
Mt. 22:34-40

The Absence of Judgment
Joseph Conrad Salenga (OP Postulant)

The Lord is commanding us all to love Him primarily with all our heart, mind, and soul. On the other hand, He is asking us to love our neighbors as ourselves. But the former com­mandment could be satisfied by fulfilling the latter. The image of God is reflected in our neighbors most especially in the least among them. As the Lord says, “whatever you do to the least of my brothers, you do it to me.” There­fore, if we are to love our neighbors with all our heart, mind, and soul, so are we doing the same thing to the one who created us all.

According to St. Teresa of Calcutta, “Love is the absence of Judgment.” Humans as we are, we are weak and have the tendency to falter most of the time. Since all of us belong to a certain community, there will always be misunder­standings between different individuals. For this reason, the love that the Lord is asking us to have becomes vague and frail because it contradicts the meaning of love which is the “absence of judgment.” Because of our self-centered differ­ences, we tend to criticize, mock, and hate on another causing divisions. In the seminary, we are all different from one another. Each one is coming from a cul­ture unique from everyone else’s.

We have different attitudes and capabilities. Because of our uniqueness, we end up misunderstanding each other and creating divisions. But the essence of the words of Mother Teresa gave us the reason to be reunited. The Lord is telling us all, according to the words of Mo. Teresa, that in order for us to live as one, we must not look at the differences we have but on what is commonly good among all. We do not judge our brothers and sisters according to how they differ from us but we must appreciate their goodness. We will never remove our sense of judgment towards the shadows of others directly but indirectly, by focusing our perspective towards the beauty in the person, not the shadows behind her/ him, only then will we be able to appreciate them. The Lord looks at all of us not by the way we see things but with a perspective full of hope. He does not look on our sinfulness and imperfections but on what is good in us. He always seeks the perfection in us amidst all our imperfections. He identifies our goodness so that he may use that to convert our misdeeds to hope. In order for us to love, we should take God’s perspective --- not judging the imperfections caused by differ­ences but appreciating the goodness that is common within us all.

On this day, the Order commemorates sixteen martyrs who labored to establish the Church in Nagasaki, Japan, and who were martyred at various times during the years 1633, 1634 and 1637. After enduring horrible tortures, they were executed by the method known as the “gallows and pit,” their bodies were burned, and their ashes scattered.

Of this group, nine were from Japan, four from Spain, one from France, one from Italy, and one from the Philippines. Father Dominic lbañez de Erquicia was the first to die on August 14, 1633. Lorenzo Ruiz, the father of a family and the protomartyr of the Philippines, died on September 29, 1637. Thirteen of these martyrs were members of the Dominican Family and three were associated with it. (cf. Dominican Missal and Lectionary)


Cycle A, Ordinary Time, OP Postulants, Neighbors, Commandments, Love, Martyrs

Thursday, October 16, 2014

29th Sunday of in OT (A) - Just is the Lord

OCTOBER 19, 2014
Mt. 22:15-21

Just is the Lord
Gary Ni-og (OP Postulant)

Jesus says, “Give to Ceasar what is Ceasar’s,” but He also adds, in the same breath: “and to God what is God’s.”

There is no indication that Jesus returned the coin to the Phari­see. Maybe as Jesus proclaims the punchline “and render to God the things that are God’s”--- He pockets the coin and has the last laugh.” and that is another story. Faced with the dou­ble-ended trap of the Pharisees and the Herodians, in which it was unsafe to clearly say yes or no, Jesus framed His answer in such enigmatic lan­guage that it would be hard for either party to trap Him. In this way, He succeeded in confusing not only His interroga­tors but also many of us who read the Bible today. If you think Jesus meant that we should have two parallel loyalties, it might help to know that the Pharisees who heard Him did not understand it in that way. In the trial of Jesus before Pi­late, one of the charges they brought against Him was that He forbade paying taxes to Caesar (Luke 23:2).

Instead of answering the direct question of whether one should pay the forced tribute to Caesar or not, Jesus raises the question to another level, that of the principle of justice. Greek philosophers before Jesus defined justice as “giving back to everyone what is their due.” Jesus seems to be saying that the only binding obligation is that of justice, that of giving back to every person what is due to them. Serving God is basically a matter of justice? If God has given to us all that we are and what we have, then we are bound in justice to give back to God some gratitude, loyalty, and service. The central act of Chris­tian worship is called Eucharist, which means “thanksgiving.” It is basically a question of paying back the debt of gratitude we owe to God.

Surely, even in our own lives, we might come to the point of asking God as if we are entrapping Him and blaming Him for all of our misfortunes that happened in us. But certainly, one thing is for sure, God will answer all of our questions in due time. Most of the time, we will not recognize his answers be­cause of too much self-centeredness and God is so mysterious.

This is the challenge for all of us --- to become a just man that is to render what is due to our neighbor and to our God. Do not ask your neighbor what good he can do for you, but rather ask yourself you can do well for your neighbor. As Jesus says what you do to others, you do also unto me. With this, we will be­come a just man that is pleasing in the sight of our Lord Jesus Christ. And I think, He will answer our questions clearly and directly this time.


Cycle A, Ordinary Time, OP Postulants, Justice, Eucharist, Neighbors

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

28th Sunday of in OT (A) - Come to the Feast

OCTOBER 12, 2014
Mt. 22:1-10

Come to the Feast
Raphael Tanseco (OP Postulant)

Every day we listen to the sound around us. The birds calling in the night, the breeze of the ocean, people talking, we all listen to them. In fact, we even listen to an­noying sounds even if they are not pleasing to hear but the point is, do we listen to God who is always calling us?

If you couldn't understand the parable of the wedding banquet, I can provide you with some insights. The king who is inviting the guests is God. The messenger whom he sent to invite the guests is Jesus our divine teacher and we are the guests who refused God's invitation. Despite of His invitation to us, we do not respond to His call rather, we reject it. God is calling out to us every day and He is reaching out to us but we completely ignore it at times.

All we need to do is to listen to God’s invitation and accept it. St. Paul even pointed out that faith comes through hearing. If we do not listen to our teachers, we will not understand anything at all. If we will not listen to the homily, we will not learn anything about the Gospel; and if we will not listen to God, we will not live a life of holiness and happiness. It's that simple. We need to listen and accept the invitation of God to a life of holiness and in order for that to happen, we need to open our hearts and our minds to Him.

God is inviting us and in His invitation we could choose whether we would accept the invitation or decline it. Jesus is always knocking at our door. It is up to us if we will open it and receive Him with our whole hearts. Remember, the doorknob is on the inside and not on the outside. It is our call if we are go­ing to accept His invitation or not.


Cycle A, Ordinary Time, OP Postulants, Vocation, Invitation, Wedding Feast

Friday, October 3, 2014

27th Sunday of in OT (A) – Pamamathala (Stewardship)

OCTOBER 5, 2014
Mt. 21:33-43

Pamamathala (Stewardship)
Vince Stanley Iñigo (op Postulant)

When I was still little child, my parents would always remind me whenever I borrow things to take care of other people’s belongings and treat it with love as if those were my own. Of course, they never fall short of reminding me to return those borrowed things; but so far as I remember some of those are still with me until now, I would like to apologize for that. Going bask, the reminder of my parents tells me of responsibility and stewardship.

Stewardship means “we are entrusted of something and accounted of something.” In Filipino, we translate this word in different ways: pangangalaga (caretaking), pagkakatiwala (entrusting), pamamathala (overseeing), etc. Now, let us focus on the tenants of the vineyard. When we say that we are tagapangalaga (Filipino root: pag-aalaga), we are given the task to take care of an object, an institution or a place.

When we say that we are katiwala (Filipino root: tiwala), we are entrusted an obligation. But pamamathala goes to a deeper meaning. In the olden times, the native Filipinos would call God, Bathala. When we consider ourselves as namamathala, we are given a responsibility in which God would have wished after the servants did not do anything productive. They beat one, killed another and stoned a third even the owner’s son was not spared. Do you think that they have practiced pamamathala in that manner?

In our daily lives, we are also called to practice stewardship. We are given talents, intelligence, strength and many more in different ways that God had fashioned us into and it's up to us if we want to discover more. Sometimes, we forget that we are only stewards to the point that our pride overpowers us. We tend to show off. We strive to own the world. We try to amass the produce by being indifferent to God's creation. It's time to wake up. It's time to fulfill our mission as stewards. The Creator entrusted us with natural and spiritual gifts in order for us to be productive tenants and servants for His Kingdom. My friends, remember that we are all stewards, that is tagapamathala.

NOTE:  Inspired by a composition entitled Dominican Poverty and Filipino Stewardship by Fr. Stephen Redillas, OP, page 24 of the book ““Nanahan sa Atin” by Pedregosa, Timoner, Marquez, etc.


Cycle A, Ordinary Time, OP Postulants, Stewardship, Mission, Entrustment 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

26th Sunday in OT (A) – Fulfilling our Word

SEPTEMBER 28, 2014
Ez 18:25-28/ Ps 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9/ Phil 2:1-11/ Mt 21:28-32

Fulfilling our Word

Today, we celebrate National Seafarer’s Sunday and remember our Filipino Seafarers in our prayers. Come to think of it, we are also seafarers since we are pilgrims on the way to our true homeland in heaven. But owing to our weakness, we sometimes divert from the right path to our destination. Yet what is important is that we revert back to the proper course. This is the message of today’s gospel. It is not so much saying ‘yes’ to God as repenting ourselves and doing His will that matters. For doing God’s way is the only way to have life. Our Lord explains this to Ezekiel in the 1st reading: “When someone virtuous turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies, it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die. But if he turns from the wickedness he has committed, and does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life; since he has turned away from all the sins that he has committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die.”

Does this mean that verbal promises are useless? Not at all. Otherwise, public promises or vows like ordinations & religious professions would be impractical. The reason why we could not keep our word is that we have become so used to disregarding it that we have become weak. This is quite different from the case of God who upon saying “Let there be light,” produces light. The technique here is to develop the virtue of keeping one’s promises starting with the simple ones.

A perfect example of a person who keeps his word is St. Lorenzo Ruiz whose feast occurs today and who is himself a seafarer. Upon receiving the chance to save himself by the judges, he says: “Had I a thousand lives I would gladly offer them all for Him. Never shall I apostatize. You may kill me, if that is what you want. To die for God—such is my will.” And he did; thereby, becoming the first recognized Filipino martyr. To emulate this saint, let us obey Paul’s exhortation in the 2nd Reading to conform ourselves to the Word of God—Jesus Christ. That is the best way of fulfilling our word.


Cycle A, Ordinary Time, OP Friars, Seafarers, Saints, Fulfillment

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

25th Sunday in OT (A) – Conforming our Ways with God’s Way

SEPTEMBER 21, 2014
Is 55:6-9/ Ps 145:2-3, 8-9, 17-18/ Phil 1:20-24, 27/ Mt 20:1-16

Conforming our Ways with God’s Ways

“My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.” We cannot but agree with these words of the Lord in the 1st reading as we try to understand the Lord’s mysterious and seemingly unfair actions in today’s gospel. But maybe today’s psalm can enlighten our understanding. As we repeat, “the Lord is near to all who call upon Him,” we realize St. Augustine’s words: “the Lord is nearer to me than I am to myself.” So no matter how sinful a person maybe, God is always ready to forgive him as long as he would humbly ask for it.

We can see this scandalous generosity demonstrated in the vocation of Matthew whose feast also occurs today. He was a tax collector, a profession that is often tainted with injustice and extortion. And yet the Pharisees (those who are called first) are scandalized when Jesus invites him to be His disciple (Mt 9:9-13). Indeed, God’s ways are not our ways. But we have to constantly pray and strive to approximate His mysterious ways. Starting tomorrow, we will observe the Laity Week. This celebration reminds us that holiness is not only limited to the clerics and religious, but to all baptized. We only need to conform our will to God’s will. St. Paul in the 2nd reading serves as a good model for this. He admits that he longs to die so as to finally rest with the Lord. And yet, he is open to the will of God to preserve his life for the benefit of his neighbor.


Cycle A, Ordinary time, OP Friars, Conformity, Generosity

Friday, September 12, 2014

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (A) – Look at the Cross and be Healed

SEPTEMBER 14, 2014
Nm 21:4b-9; Ps 78:1bc-2, 34-35, 36-37, 38; 2 Phil 2:6-11; Jn 3:13-17

Look at the Cross and be Healed

The Cross is part of our everyday life. We use it in our prayer and liturgy, in our homes, in our clothes, and even in our non-religious actions. Some of our drivers would touch the cross hanging from the mirror before leaving. I used to have a batchmate who had the habit of making the sign of the cross before shooting the ball in the game. And even Manny Paquiao himself (during his golden years) would make the sign of the cross when he
is inside the ring!

But the cross has not always been that popular. It used to be infamous for being used as a punishment for criminals. This is the reason why the Lord asks Moses in the 1st reading to make a bronze serpent and mount it on a pole. The serpent is a treacherous animal that tempted Adam and Eve. It is also the same animal that punished the nagging Israelites by biting and killing them in the 1st reading.

But Moses did not mount a true serpent on the pole. He just used a copy—a bronze image of a serpent. Unconsciously, Moses was foreshadowing the crucifixion of our Lord. To borrow the expression of Paul in our 2nd reading: Jesus is the Holy and Innocent God who humbled Himself and took the form of a slave—a criminal at that. Just like the bronze image of serpent which is not really a serpent, He was not a criminal but just appeared as criminal to the public.

What is good about the image of the Christ as a criminal on the cross is that Christ embraces everything—all of our sins and weaknesses and turns them into something new and good. This sheds light on the mysteries of life as expressed in today’s psalm. And this is also what makes our Bible unique. Just like the Quran of the Muslims, the Vedas and Upanishads of the Hindus, the Bible also has its own stories of violence which can be found in the Old Testament. But unlike the holy books of the other religions, the bible alone sheds meaning on its stories of violence in the light of the New Testament, in the light of the cross. The Cross shows us that God is against sin and violence because He Himself pays for it in His suffering. But at the same time, He also uses the cross to make us children of God.

And just like the rebellious Israelites in the 1st reading, many of us who are now experiencing some problems could blame no one but ourselves. The biting of serpents represents our constant struggle in this world. Some of us may not have enough money and that is because we are not working. Some of us may not be excelling in our studies and that is because we waste much of our time on less important things like computer games. Some of us feel unattractive and that is because of our vices and lack of discipline. But just like the wounded Israelites in the desert, let us repent of our sins, look at our Lord Jesus on cross, ask for His forgiveness and be healed... because the cross triumphs over our sin and failures.

Cycle A, Feast, OP Friars, Holy Cross, Challenges, Healing

23rd Sunday in OT (A) - Save the Sinner and Yourself by Private Correction

Ez 33: 7-9/ Ps 95: 1-2, 6-7, 8-9/ Rom 13:8-10/ Mt 18:15-20

Save the Sinner and Yourself by Private Correction

During one of the Quodlibetales (an academic exercise wherein anyone can publicly ask a master any questions) Thomas Aquinas received two questions (Quodlibet 1, q 8, aa 1-2): 1) whether a religious is bound to obey his superior so as to reveal to him a secret which was committed to his trust?; and 2) whether a religious is bound to obey his superior so as to reveal a fault of a brother which he knows? The dilemma here is that on the one hand, he seems bound to obey his superior because he made a vow (a religious assurance or profession and not merely a promise) to be obedient to him. On the other hand, doing this goes against the spirit of charity for he would reveal a secret entrusted to his care. Because of this predicament, many of us Filipinos pretend that we have not seen anything and simply be silent about it; thereby, avoiding tension. Aquinas starts by quoting St. Bernard who says that what was instituted for the sake of charity does not work against charity. After all, Paul tells us in today’s 2nd reading that charity is guiding principle in all our actions for it is the fulfillment of the law (Rom 13:8-10). So, the vow to obey his superior does not give the religious the license to obey superior’s commands that go against charity. He would sin if he breaks the trust committed to him.

The same is also true with revealing the fault of a brother. Personal and brotherly correction should precede the reporting of his fault to the superior. We learn this from our Lord Himself in today’s gospel. The first step of dealing with faults should always be the confrontation between you and the erring person alone. If he does not listen then take one or two others to further convince him of his fault. And finally, it may be related to the Church. Why so many steps? Aquinas explains: “For it pertains to charity that someone spare a brother as much as he can. Hence, he ought first to strive to correct the brother’s conscience, preserving his reputation by admonishing him in solitary fashion and afterwards in the presence of two or three.

Finally, public repute must be disregarded in order that conscience be corrected and the affair must be related to the Church, in which process consideration is taken for conscience. For a sinner, if from the beginning he saw his sin made public, would lose shame and be made to sin more obstinately.” An exception would be a danger that requires immediate action as in the case of a bomb that is about to explode. This
moment should be guided by the words of Isidore, “In cases of bad promises, break the faith.” But generally, by personally confronting an erring brother, we not only save him, but also ourselves as what the Lord tells us in the 1st reading (Ez 33:7-9). So, whenever we see a fault committed, let us not harden our hearts (today’s responsorial psalm) in being blind to it or in immediately reporting it. Let us love him by correcting him privately.

Cycle A, Ordinary Time, OP Friars, Sinner, Correction, Charity

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

4th Sunday of Easter (A) - The Shepherd's Voice

MAY 11 
Acts 2:14. 36-41 / Ps 23:1-3. 3-4. 5. 6 / 1Pt 2:20-25 / Jn 10:1-10

The Shepherd’s Voice

I had a working mom. Before her retirement, she used to work the whole day at the office and would normally come home past five in the afternoon. As a little kid, I would always wait for that moment. The mere sound of her heels on our floor would signal the excitement, that I would even jump once I hear her voice uttering either a simple “Mga anak!” (Children!) or “Ihanda na natin ang hapunan.” (Let’s prepare our dinner!). There were times when she would arrive a little bit late due to overtime. I would feel a sort of extended sadness in those exceptional days. As a child, there would always be a feeling of deep security and peace to know that mom is home. Hence, the constant longing to hear and recognize her voice. It was a voice of care and sincerity since a child would always be dependent and trusting to his mother. It was a voice that reminded me of a strong love and connection. With that, other voices seem to be just secondary if not insignificant. Hence, the Gospel is both a relief and a caution. 

The Gospel is a relief since we are assured of the immense love and connection of the Lord to us. This means that we would always have the capability to hear His voice. Being loved by Him, we have been given a sort of mechanism for voice recognition. On the other hand, there is a caution, especially for those who have been entrusted to take care of His flock. The sheep knows who’s real and who’s fake. An elder Dominican once told me, “Do not underestimate the people whom you preach to. They can sense if you are really making sense in what you say.” 

Yet perhaps, the worse sham is for a shepherd not to be heeded by his own flock because he himself has become a contradiction to what he is saying. When a religious congregation went to Africa to do mission and evaluated their venture, they found out that their efforts seem to be in vain. Only a small percentage of the people were being converted. They thought at first, it might be the language barrier or the lack of resources among other factors. Then, they asked a chief of a tribe about what seems to be the problem in what they are doing. The chief said, “We may not understand exactly what you say, but we understand what we see you do.” The Second Reading from the First Letter of Peter gives us a hint on how to become a good shepherd and be heard, “Remember Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example so that you may follow His way.”


Cycle A, Easter,  OP Friars, Good Shepherd, Voice, Preaching

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

3rd Sunday of Easter (A) - Easter Dawn

MAY 2 
Lk 24:13-35

Easter Dawn 

There was once a little wave that was bobbing in the ocean, enjoying the smooth breeze and the beautiful sunshine, until it noticed the other waves in front of it; they were crushing against the shore, and eventually faded away. The little wave felt so terrible upon seeing this. Another wave noticed its sadness and approached it and asked why; the little wave replied, “You don’t understand. We will all come to nothing. Haven’t you noticed the other waves on the shore? Isn’t it terrible?” The other wave said to the little wave, “Well, you’re confused. You don’t understand, do you? You are not a wave, you are part of the ocean.” (Adopted from the story of Mitch Albom, Tuesdays with Morrie)

At times, we encounter confusions in our life, not because life is complicated, but because life requires us to go through an episode that we temporarily do not understand. This is life’s way of letting us lose control of every detail on how we choose to live our life. These confusions allow us to become God’s finder keeps for we must sometimes be lost before we can be found. 

This is what the Gospel for this Sunday clearly describes to us. It tells the life-changing journey of the two disciples who were on their way to Emmaus. When Jesus approached them, sadness was written across their faces. They were lost, confused, and their hopes were crushed and dashed as pointed out by Cleophas, “We had hoped that he would redeem Israel.” But when we look into what really troubled them, it was actually coming from how they wanted Jesus to be. No wonder they failed to recognize Him because they couldn’t see Jesus for who He was. All that matters to them was the fact that the body of Jesus was gone. The two Emmaus disciples were definitely baffled by what had taken place. Probably, the least that they expected was the resurrection. But this was transformed into a spark of faith and hope when Jesus patiently walked with them. They started their journey with disappointment and confusion, and yet, concluded it with a plead, “Stay with us, Lord,” and wrapped it out with this proclamation: “It is true, the Lord is risen.” 

We, too, need to take such journey of faith. Perhaps not as exciting as that of the two Emmaus disciples; perhaps an ordinary experience as it could possibly be; but, it is nonetheless a walk with Christ where we make known our faith as much as our doubts. We don’t have to be afraid. Notwithstanding the troubled waters of life, there is no journey too perilous to undertake for someone who has faith. Jesus would not allow us to be lost. He’s too good in finding “lost sheep.” If there is something that needs extra care in this journey, it is our openness to the event that awaits us, the “Resurrection.”  Jesus is risen just as He said. We too must rise with Him. True enough, we have to live and breathe our own weaknesses, insecurities and pride in a daily basis, yet, in all these; we have to believe that Jesus already won the battle for us. 

Finally, hope is imperative in faith. The Emmaus event is situated towards the sunset of the first Easter day, marked by the baggage of uncertainty and doubt, but redeemed by the light of hope: “The Lord is risen.”  As Easter people, we have to keep intimately the hope of the Easter antiphon burning in our hearts and participate profoundly, as a unique part, in this Easter story by becoming hope ourselves. François Mauriac insightfully shares: “If you are friends with Christ many others will warm themselves at your fire.” Indeed, Easter dawns on everyone who takes the reverse journey from Emmaus to Jerusalem.


Emmaus, Cycle A, Easter,  OP Friars, Resurrection, Faith, Challenge, Trial, Hope

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

2nd Sunday of Lent (A) - Lord, it is good that we are here.

Mt. 17:1-9
March 16, 2014

GOSPEL READING: The Transfiguration of Jesus

After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him. “When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid. “And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone. As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, “Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

REFLECTION: Lord, it is good that we are here.

Few years ago, I had the privilege of joining the summer retreat of our Institute’s International Juniorate held in Algarrobo, a popular place for summer homes by the ocean in Valparaiso, Chile. It's a place where anyone, especially the nature lovers, could actually experience the closeness of the presence of God. We stayed in a cozy, simple summerhouse located on the slope of a hill overlooking the calm ocean and serene white sandy beach, which combines the sea and country landscape. This retreat was totally different. It was the most unique and memorable retreat I ever had. We were the ones who pleasurably and delightfully prepared our daily international cuisine. To attend masses in the nearby churches, we had to make our morning stroll for about an hour while savoring the aroma of pine trees and the cold breeze of the day. Our morning and evening prayers, including our meditation, recitation of the rosaries and spiritual readings were spent either in our own cells or on the beach while enjoying the soothing sound of the waves gently lapping on the shore, of the colorful yachts sailing and of the calls of the birds which creates a peaceful mood. When we had enough time, we also went on trekking and wandering on the rocky part of the beach. A wonderful way of encountering the Lord! Such a good place to stay forever!

         “Lord, it is good that we are here.” Jesus’ transfiguration before the very eyes of the apostles was a special moment in their lives. For the first time, they witnessed the divinity of Jesus in all His glory. Jesus is not merely a human being. He belongs to the sphere of God; He is the Son of God. It was a captivating experience that Peter was overjoyed with the presence of the vision; he even asked to make three tents and settled down with Jesus right there to bask in the glory, to experience the bliss permanently. We can identify with Peter’s sentiments. Peter’s cry of joy often resembles ours when God gives us consolations. As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI says, the Transfiguration reminds us that the joys sown by God in life are not the finishing end of our lines; rather they are lights He gives us in our earthly pilgrimage in order that “Jesus alone” may be our Law and His word the criterion that directs our existence.

         The Transfiguration event happens after Jesus’ predicted His paschal mystery. Jesus’ revelation of His eventual passion must have scared the apostles. Jesus revealed His glory to His apostles to fortify them with inner strength and sustain them during later trials and especially prepare them for the scandal of the cross.

         Jesus led the apostles up on a high mountain by themselves. It was an invitation for a journey away from the world and up back to God. It is the journey within one’s good self, to one’s inner self, and up to God. It is an image of contemplation. But contemplation does not mean isolating oneself from the world and from its contradictions. On the contrary, it leads back to the journey and to action.

To remain within the tent cannot be forever. Peter cannot cling to the pleasure of contemplation. He must come down from the mountain. The Life came down, that He might be slain; the Bread came down, that He might hunger; The Way came down, that life might be wearied in the way; the Fountain came down, that He might thirst; and do you refuse to labor? 'Seek not your own.' Have charity, preach the truth; so shall you come to eternity, where you shall find security (St. Augustine, Sermon 28 on the New Testament). Security is what we want, but we sometimes seek it by trying to get away from the problems of the world. But it is not about fleeing from the world…

         A retreat is just one of the many ways of scaling the mountain to meet God in prayer and contemplation. In as much as we longed to stay in an amazing place such as Algarrobo, we cannot remain there forever. Facing the demands and challenges of our daily life situation is an opportunity of encountering our Lord. Recognizing His presence in our daily trials, temptations, sufferings and joy, hardships and tribulations is an invitation for us to have a deeper faith and trust in Him. It is an experience of the transforming power of His presence that could lead us to an authentic life, towards transfiguration. We who are challenged to continuously scale the mountain in order to meet God, may we never forget the need to come down from the mountain to serve our brothers and sisters with the love of God and with the strength we have drawn from Him. In doing so, we will be able to proclaim every experience we have, whether joyful or sorrowful, “Lord, it is good that we are here.”


SR. MARIA ANNABELLE MURILLO, OP is a member of the Congregación de Religiosas Misioneras de Santo Domingo. She is a student of the Institute of Preaching.


Transfiguration, Cycle A, Lent,  OP Sisters, Contemplation, Recognition, Challenge, Retreat