Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Journey towards the ‘other’

A Journey towards the ‘other’

Aside from being a "Dominican" kid at heart, I have learned to love Philosophy since the moment I entered college. In the past three years of my life, besides being an active member of the Dominican Youth Network, I've been gearing toward excellence in Philosophy. I've been dreaming of getting a Master’s degree, a Doctorate degree (and maybe more), and eventually become a professor. That is my ultimate dream until an event last July 13, 2013 that changed the direction of my life.
I was a participant of the International Dominican Youth Movement World Encounter at Bogotá, Colombia. One of our activities was to visit Fizdeko, one of the slum areas of the country, and preach there. We had two options: to play with the adorable kids of the community; or to facilitate a short session with the adults. My English-speaking friends chose to be with the kids. It seemed that it was the reasonable thing to do, for we cannot really have a fruitful conversation with the adults who spoke only Spanish; and, likewise, we are ignorant of their language. I reflected on situation as I always do. I pondered on the options and I simply had to think it over again. Will I join the English-speakers with the charming, energetic and smiling kids of Fizdeko or the Spanish-speakers with the grown-ups of the community?

Then, I remembered St. Thomas Aquinas’ summary of St. Dominic de Guzman’s intuition: “Pass on to others what we ourselves have contemplated”. Before the activity, we were told to reflect on Matthew 6:19-21; it is about the treasures in heaven. I had some insights about the Gospel passage and I told myself that if I let this moment pass without taking action, my thoughts might just simply mix with the silence of the cool Colombian breeze. I simply had to step up and go beyond what I thought I could only do. I ended up in the short sessions with the adults. 

There were two groups of adults. The other room was facilitated by Fr. Jorge Angarita, OP. I had to make sense! My mind was in panic. Nevertheless, I was accompanied by a very good Colombian friend named Felipe Forero. Though we only had very little knowledge of each other’s language, he became my translator throughout the sessions. Being the only Asian inside the room and being the smallest (aside from the three kids with their mothers whose age ranges between two to five years old), all eyes were on me. I introduced myself and they asked me questions about the Philippines: how's our economy, what kind of food we eat, how is the climate, and of course, what are the traditional dances. 

After answering all their questions, it was now my time to ask them: “¿Que cosa es muy mas importante que otra cosas?” I have terrible Spanish, but somehow, they all understood my question perfectly. I knew this because they all answered “Familia, los niños, y las niñas…” This made me smile for it was actually easier to expound on the Gospel. 

When it seemed that I have said enough and there’s nothing more to say, I remembered something very important and I asked them “Who wants to go to heaven?” Almost immediately after Felipe had translated, all of them were raising their hands. I asked, “¿Porque?” Everybody stared blankly for a second or two. Maybe the question was a bit new and peculiar. Some of the answers were, “because in heaven there is no suffering”, “because in heaven we are all equal”, “because in heaven there are only riches” and “because in heaven we will always be happy.” Their answers filled my heart. I knew that this was free wisdom that I was getting from them. They were all older than me and whenever one of them wishes to say something, I was most eager to listen. 

In the end, I shared to them the reason why I wanted to go to heaven. My answer was inspired by Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation from EWTN: “I want to go to heaven because I know that, all my life, someone has loved me completely and unconditionally. Even before I was born, that ‘someone’ has loved me, and even though I’ve done bad things, that love remains unaffected. I want to go to heaven because if I go there, I will finally be with that person who has loved all of me all my life.” A fifteen second silence was followed by the most important claps I have received all my life. This was even better than when I delivered my first paper in Philosophy. First, it felt so great to share something you hold important. Second, their smiles and the way they looked at me, after I said those ideas, were priceless. Even now as I am writing this, I remember how their eyes glowed while looking at me and that fills me with so much joy. After the event, two elder men of the community shook my hand and hugged me tightly. Though I cannot completely comprehend what they were saying, the message was clear and until now it lingers. Maybe this is what being a true Dominican is about. That priceless and yet selfless happiness one feels when you have reached the other.

Before I left our country, I was so excited to meet other people with different cultures. I was simply excited to improve my Spanish. I was also looking forward to share to the IDYM the DOMNET Family in the Philippines. But amidst these, I was honestly troubled and saddened because I had to leave Philosophy for a while. For a time, I will not have time to read and I will miss my most treasured lectures of my professors. 

When we got back, I was literally a changed person. I still love Philosophy, but by this time, I know that there is something more out there. Though important, the goal of my life is not just to earn a Doctorate degree in Philosophy. The new goal of my life is to make sure that I reach out to the other through my chosen field of endeavor. I must never get tired of giving more because I have been blessed with an unlimited source of love and hope – GOD. Philosophy is no longer the trophy, it is the tool that I am to use to be able to touch hearts and make other people see more clearly. The day will come when everybody wants to go to heaven not simply because it is a place free from suffering, but because it is where we are all supposed to be as children of God. One day, the world will understand and I pray that God uses me as an instrument for this understanding of the world.

Mi español es terible. I was only a nineteen year old thrown in a room with community of grown-ups. I was in a foreign land and it was so cold; yet, everything worked out. There is no denying that this is where I am supposed to be: Praising, blessing, and preaching.©

Venus Ae Kaiel P. Basa is a student of the Faculty of Arts and Letters Major in Philosophy at University of Santo Tomas in Manila. She is the National Treasurer of DOMNET Youth Group; and a member of the International Dominican Youth Movement 

Special, OP Youth, Dominican, Mission, Heaven, Generosity, Philosophy, Preaching 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

All Saints' Day


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

30th Sunday in OT (C) - Saint, Sinner — or Both?

Luke 18:9-14
October 20, 2013

GOSPEL READING: The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.

He then addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else. “Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity—greedy, dishonest, adulterous—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’ But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

REFLECTION: Saint, Sinner — or Both?

A Pharisee and a Publican in the temple ... Lifting up their eyes and minds to God. To recognize His infinite goodness and their quasi-infinite misery? ... not quite so simple as that . . .

Each one speaks up as he sees himself. The Pharisee, standing tall in the center of the temple, proclaims loud and clear, and for all to hear, that he is a perfect man, faithfully keeping all the commandments of the Law — thus, somehow favorably comparing himself with God — And then even going to the extent of looking down upon a Publican whom he describes as dirty, refusing even to look at him for fear of contamination . . . And, yes, far down the temple, in a corner and hidden from sight by a thick column, the Publican who, hardly dare to look up and constantly beating his chest, makes public confession of his manifold guilt and asks to be absolved from it.

And, before both them, high on His heavenly throne, the All-Holy God Who had told them to “be Holy as I am Holy” (Lev 11:45). The All-Holy God, Who in this case, is presented as a Judge; and Who, as such, is expected to pass sentence.

He does pass sentence; indeed He does! And what sentence does He pass? — “I tell you the Publican went home justified while the Pharisee continued to carry his burden of guilt wherever he went.” Reason? “Everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, while he who humbles himself, shall be exalted” (Lk 18:14).

* * * * *

Another scene — The “Pharisee” and the “Publican” in Me — standing before the Cross!

The Pharisee (pride) in me makes me at times, if not all the time, think derogatorily of others — of how they speak, how they move about, how they pray! ... And thus, turning myself into a judge, I pass sentence on them...

All this with a clear attitude of superiority and a similarly clear challenge to them to be as I am and to do as I do . . . This “at times.” Perhaps “many times”; perhaps, “all the time ...” — And, if not always voiced out clearly and loudly for others to hear, at least spoken silently in the depths of my heart. And, what is much, much worse, in the presence of the God Who sees, hears and knows all about my pride, my impatience, my judgmental attitude, my comparisons...

Shouldn't I rather kneel in a corner, like the Publican; and in all humility, that is, in all truthfulness, lay my soul bare before the Lord on the Cross, the Lord Who shed up to the last drop of His blood for me; beat my breast and, from the bottom of my heart and the depths of my will, plead: “Lord, have mercy, for I am a sinner!” ... And then, thinking of possible “Pharisees” in the temple, add: “Lord, have mercy on them, too; for, no matter what they think or say, they are my brothers; and your Blood was shed for them as well as for me. Forgive us all, Lord, for we are all sinners, and as such are all in need of Your infinite mercy.”

Grant that each one of us may go “home” — to the altar of the Eucharist — as “new creations,” ready to walk along the way of the “new life” that your Body and Blood bring to us. Amen.


FR. GUILLERMO TEJON, OP is Dominican Priest and former Prior Provincial of the Dominican Province of the Holy Rosary.


Ordinary Time, Cycle C, OP Friars, Prayer, Righteousness, Sin, Impatience, Prejudice, Pride

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

29th Sunday in OT (C) - God has a Tender Spot

Luke 18:1-8
October 20, 2013

GOSPEL READING: The Parable of the Persistent Widow.

Then he told them a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary. He said, “There was a judge in a certain town who neither feared God nor respected any human being. And a widow in that town used to come to him and say, ‘Render a just decision for me against my adversary.’ For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought, ‘While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being, because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally come and strike me.’” The Lord said, “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says. Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them? I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

REFLECTION: God has a Tender Spot

I walked home from school one afternoon. I was in third grade. It was 1996. I was pondering about what we talked about in our religion class as I kicked the pebbles scattered along the rough road. Our teacher, a very young Dominican sister, told us about a Dominican saint – St. Vincent Ferrer. That afternoon, my heavy backpack did not bother me as it usually did. What bothered me was what the sister told us as she concluded our class, “The lesson of our story is this: prayer is man’s strength and God’s weakness.”

What the sister told us lingered in my mind. It affected my entire life. It was a very powerful preaching! As an eight-year-old third grader, I started to pray more often and view prayer as a game between me and God. I approached God as a friend, a playmate. I asked him whatever I wanted, most of the time very simple things. I thought God heard me even if he did not want to listen. He had no choice. It was my moment of strength and his moment of weakness. There were times when God gave me more than what I asked for. I never forgot to thank God, but in thanking Him I would laugh and naughtily chide, “I always win.” I enjoyed my game and God, perhaps, enjoyed playing with me, too.

Things took a more serious turn when during my sixth grade: my family had a vehicular accident. We were driving my mother to her work in the hospital. It was evening twilight. I felt sleepy so I left the backseat to sleep on the lap of my mother who was seated in front. After less than five minutes, there was a loud crash. A car bumped into us. The seat where I had been was totally wrecked. I was five minutes saved from being crushed that evening. I was unharmed. My father took some minor bruises but my mother was complaining of a severe chest pain. We rushed her to the hospital. She was referred to a more advanced hospital in the city. That night I prayed very hard. I knew I was at the losing end. I bargained. I pleaded. My mother’s life was in danger so I prayed, “Lord, grant that I may minister to my parents as your priest one day.” That night, God heard my cry and he listened to me. He granted my prayer and saved my mother. I realized that it is not that I always win but that he gives in and makes a way. This brought me closer to God and made my relationship with him more and more profound. Until now, I say the same prayer every day and everyday he listens to me. “Lord, grant that I may minister to my parents as your priest one day.”

God has a tender spot. The readings for today tell us that the Lord is very attentive to those who call upon Him. Jesus told the parable of the unscrupulous judge who ministered justice to a constantly pleading widow to show us the Father’s attitude to our prayers. If an unscrupulous judge can grant a poor widow’s request because he is constantly pestered, the Lord listens to us and grants our prayers because he is our Father Who dotes on us. God is more humane than the judge. He is, in fact, more humane to us than we to our fellows or even we to ourselves. God is very close to us, closer than we can ever imagine.

I no longer look at prayer as a game between God and me. It is already a very honest conversation between a very faithful friend and me. Like most of us, however, I also have had the experience of feeling empty at prayer. We, Dominicans, gather several times a day to pray. There are times when it feels like prayer is just an ordinary routine of the day – nothing special anymore. There are times, too, when it feels like I am just speaking into the void when I speak to God. Also, whenever I commit a terrible mistake in life, I feel very ashamed to present myself to the Lord and I tend to just shy away. There are many other difficulties to prayer and so St. Luke tells us that the Lord taught us to approach the Father “in our need for constant prayer so that we may never lose heart (cf. v.1).” God listens to our prayers and answers them in his own time. It might not be the time that we want but His time is the perfect time and He is always on time.

God has a tender spot and that spot is reserved for us. Try touching it and you will be touched.


BRO. ARTUR PANGAN, OP is Dominican Student brother from Camiling, Tarlac.


Ordinary Time, Cycle C, OP Friars, Prayer, Faith, Persistence

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

28th Sunday in OT (C) - Ten pleaded, One Believed and Thanked Him

Luke 17:11-19
October 13, 2013

GOSPEL READING: The Cleansing of Ten Lepers
As he continued his journey to Jerusalem, he traveled through Samaria and Galilee. As he was entering a village, ten lepers met [him]. They stood at a distance from him and raised their voice, saying, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us! And when he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.”* As they were going they were cleansed. And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”

REFLECTION: Ten pleaded, One Believed and Thanked Him

We rarely hear people say “thank you” to God or to someone. Why? Perhaps, for the simple reason that no one has taught them to be grateful. Observe how a child behaves when someone gives him something. He would take it for granted and say nothing until someone asks: ”What do you say?” The child would stare blankly until somebody tells him, “say thank you.” Being grateful is a learned habit.

In this Gospel, Jesus was met by ten lepers, pleading from a distance. Leprosy was considered a severe punishment from heaven. Recall the anger of the Lord to Miriam who dared to speak against Moses, and became a leper after being reprimanded by the Lord (Numbers 12: 10-15). Lepers are isolated, ostracized persons, victims of almost every negative relationship with individuals as well as the society as a whole. More than the illness itself are the consequences it entails. King Uzziah violated the law of the temple, became a leper until his death (2 Chronicles 26:19). The relation of the sufferer towards God is an expression characterized by “ being at a distance” from Jesus or from a fellow human being.

And how does Jesus react? He says “Go and show yourselves to the priests”. A command in accord with the Mosaic law being unclean (Numbers 5 : 16). And they obeyed. Their obedience resulted in their healing from distance. Their request for mercy from Jesus was fulfilled, distress removed, deliverance from leprosy granted. Then, one seeing that he was healed turned back. This reminds us of Naaman, the Syrian, he returned to the prophet Elisha after he realized he was cleansed (2 Kings  5:10).

Praise of God is always the reaction of people who received or are witnesses of a marvelous event. Like Naaman, the returnee is not a Jew, he is a Samaritan and therefore in the eyes of the Jews, a pagan. In his return and subsequent behavior this non-Jew acts as the Jews should have acted. The Samaritan represents the pagan nations who turn to the Lord. The contrast between the Samaritan and the nine others is that, he recognizes that in Jesus, he receives much more than the cleansing from the leprosy and therefore occupies a place comparable to that of the centurion of Capernaum (Luke 7:10). Both are contrasted with Israel for they show the only attitude which truly responds to Jesus: Faith.

When Jesus saw the returnee, he asked: “Has no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” By calling the Samaritan a foreigner, represents all aliens who were excluded from the temple worship and therefore could not give glory to God, where according to Jesus, it should be done. But here a foreigner is said to give glory to God without having to break through the barriers of the temple. He has found a new locus of worship, the new temple, JESUS.

Thus, the Samaritan gains salvation. Faith and through it salvation are given to those who open themselves to God’s saving action in Jesus, and understand his powerful deeds as signs of the Kingdom of God which has come near him.

Today, there are different ways of being cured. It takes this kind of insight as that of the Samaritan to acknowledge God’s presence, discovering his saving hand amidst so much sinfulness, sufferings, violence and oppression. Alas, too many eyes and minds are kept from recognizing Him, and Jesus has to reach out working signs and wonders so that their eyes may be opened.

The Gospel reading invites us to become more keenly aware that our very selves and lives are abiding gifts, an abiding divine presence. Do we thank God for the marvels of our body, for our intelligence, our Christian faith, families , friends, our communities, the blue skies and a thousand other things? Are we grateful for what people do to us when we lose our direction, or someone giving us a seat in a train or bus? Our present complex culture challenges us not to let our fears and prejudices reduce people to statistical “ lepers” but to reach out to one another with compassion and respectful generosity.

Listen to what Psalm 115:12-13 says beautifully. “What return can I make to the Lord for all He gives me? I will take the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.”

Let this be our prayer: Saving God, in your compassion, we are cleansed  from our debilitating sense of self, in your mercy we are restored to joy. Illumine our hearts and minds that we may not see others as lepers but welcome them as brothers and sisters in you. Make us look at you as the source of all the goodness that we receive in our daily journey in this earthly life.


SR. MARIA DOMINICA A. NUEVA ESPANA, O.P. is Dominican Nun of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary in Cainta, Rizal.


Ordinary Time, Cycle C, OP Nuns, Gratitude, Leprosy, Suffering, Faith