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