The Twelve

The merry month of May is almost over; this month’s festivals and celebrations ranging from the fiestas to the Mayflower festival are one of the most anticipated activities of the year. When I was still in my earlier years, we’d always look forward to attending fiestas, what with food and drinks flowing. Anyone can enter a home and join the festivities. This is hospitality Filipino style! And whenever it’s time to leave, most relatives and friends of the hosts are given food packs to be brought back to their homes. In the Gospel this Sunday, which is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ; Jesus made the people welcome. While His disciples wanted to send off the crowd, Jesus urged them to give food to the people. The disciples weren’t keen to the idea considering that they had only five loaves of bread and two fish, for the five thousand or so around. Not that they wanted to just get rid of them, they were concerned that the people haven’t had food for hours already. The people were aware of their hunger, but their desire to be in the presence of Jesus transcended their bodily needs. His words were eternal and life-giving, something they had never experienced before. They may have started out of curiosity, but Jesus’ words kept them staying, not wanting time with Jesus to end. Jesus nonetheless asked the disciples to organise the people in groups, took the five loaves and the two fish, looked up to heaven, said a blessing, broke them, and gave these to the disciples to set before the crowd. Everyone ate and were satisfied. Have we noticed that the order and words in the Last Supper and His celebration of the Eucharist on the first Easter night were as precisely these? And what about the “twelve”? Isn’t it amazing that the leftover fragments “twelve” wicker baskets (Lk. 9: 17) is also the number of the the Apostles of Jesus?

The Eucharist fulfils the offering of Melchizedek (Gn. 14: 18) and is the daily miracle of the perfect priesthood of Jesus. It is a priesthood confirmed upon the Apostles when He ordered them to feed the crowd in filling the leftover twelve baskets, in ordering them on that first Holy Thursday: “Do this in remembrance of Me”. We are therefore reminded to as often as we could, share in His body and blood in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. Through His priests, we are nurtured in this earthly exile while continuously proclaiming His victory over death, until He comes again in glory.

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven, says the Lord; whoever eats this bread will live forever.” (Jn. 6: 51)

Eternal. Wonderful. Guiding Light.

There’s a story told about St. Augustine of Hippo, who, while walking on the beach contemplating the mystery of the Trinity saw a little boy bringing some water again and again into a hole he has dug near the shoreline. “What are you doing?”, St. Augustine asked. “I’m going to pour the ocean into this hole.” the little boy replied. “Oh, that’s impossible, the whole ocean is so vast, such that it won’t fit into the hole you’ve made”, said the saint. The little boy said, “You can’t fit the Trinity into your tiny brain.” Then the boy vanished.
This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. The eternal character of God dictates no beginning and no ending. The Lord declares, “From of old, I was poured forth.” (Prv. 8: 23). He existed even before time came. The scientist in us may make this difficult to explain but just believe for God has power over time and all the laws of the universe. The Psalmist exclaims: “When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you set in place — What are humans that you are mindful of them, mere mortals that you care for them?” (Ps. 8: 4-5) I am just grateful that our God is loving and patient; despite man’s evil ways, He has remained faithful and true to us. Unlike the first mutant Apocalypse in the movie X-Men, who was trying to destroy mankind and install a new world order, our God has remained patient with our short-sightedness. What makes it all the more amazing is that “the Spirit of truth will guide us to all the truth.” (Jn. 16: 13) While we reflect on the depth of the mystery of the Triune God, let us not be frustrated in trying to understand the fullness of the Most Holy Trinity — that there is only one God in three Divine Persons, with the “same nature, substance and being”. Instead we should be consoled in the fact that the Lord, through the Holy Spirit will give us the grace of continuing belief in it and inspire our lives to be provided the true direction to Heaven.
“O Lord, our God, how awesome is your name through all the earth!” (Ps. 8: 2)

Enter into God the Holy Spirit’s Presence

A few years back I brought the whole family to the Ateneo bonfire, a traditional celebratory event to honour athletes and Blue Eagle champion teams. We had Holy Mass at the Gesu and then the fire-lighting ceremony followed after. While there was a drizzle that time, it didn’t bother us a bit. Looking at the wood fire, you can feel that the heat is greater, the flames deeper, and you can hear the popping of the wood, the sparks disappearing into the night sky, and the woody smell of the smoke. Fire is as old as life itself; fire is primal, fire is life. Gaze into the fire and you lose yourself, you bring yourself into time that transfigures your feelings as you live in the moment.

Pentecost is like that: it is life-giving fire. The Holy Spirit wraps us with that purifying life-giving brilliance and shows us what matters most, what our life mission is all about. If there’s someone holy that we should pray a lot to intercede for us, it should be the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has been and will always be the constant strength and beckon of the Church from the time Jesus ascended into Heaven and up to the present day. Jesus had told the disciples that he would send the Holy Spirit who will teach and remind them. Unaware of the upcoming events, Jesus words maybe were lost until the disciples remembered later. The Holy Spirit emboldened the disciples in the midst of their worries and fears and enabled the metamorphosis of timid followers into courageous and brave witnesses (Greek: ‘parakletos’, meaning: helper).

His words are very clear about the essential role of the Holy Spirit in our lives: He is our teacher. For the Lord’s followers, this is a very intimate formation and learning process. He calls us to discipleship (Latin: ‘advocare’, meaning: to call). God’s work here on earth is truly our own, with the guidance and wisdom of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit calls us to be Christ’s disciples and strengthens our aspirations to be the Body of Christ in this weary world. It is God’s Spirit who is the catalyst in our growth in knowledge and wisdom.

The Spirit won’t come to us in the same way that God called on Moses in the burning bush. Or like Jesus suddenly appearing before us and mesmerizing us. Those instances are rare. The Spirit will build on us slowly, transfiguring us in a way that is not as instant as 3-in-1 coffee. It’s more like wood fire: as the wood consumes itself, the flames die down and the embers lose the heat, so if we keep adding more wood to the dying flames it will be revived and can last a long time, even for as long as we live if we like it.

Our faith is like that. Oftentimes we experience spiritual dryness as we are caught in the anxieties and concerns of life, the distractions brought about by our other roles. Worry and fear overshadow us and our faith and love for Jesus die down. We are distracted by other events. To revive our faith and our zeal for the Lord, we need to put another log into the fire. We need to meditate on God’s word, go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, attend Masses, receive Holy Communion. Behold, the fire of Pentecost is bright again! Perhaps what is compelling for us this Pentecost is to study more closely the role of the Spirit, as we need to reflect more upon what is happening in our lives. We need to actively seek the wisdom to understand God’s purpose for all that we are experiencing through.

Is there anything blocking us from receiving fully the Spirit’s love and guidance?

“Seek the Lord while he may be found, call him while he is near.” (Is. 55: 6)

Valiant Soldiers of Christ

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1: 8)
Being with Jesus in His last moments must have been filled with sadness, as the disciples fear losing Him again. The disciples’ anxieties made them continue to huddle together for reassurance and protection. It takes tough courage to be a follower of Christ, especially in those days when being martyred was a daily happening. This courage can only happen when there is faith in God. Unlike today, when we just read it (happening elsewhere) while in the comfort of our homes. However, His ascension was a deeply spiritual time of blessing and joy. The farewell words of Jesus made them hopeful of good things to come. The disciples would be needing this as they will be encountering challenges and difficulties. In those times when the disciples were preaching the Good News, the fields were fresh with blood spilled for Christ. Thus, being committed to Christ requires total surrender to His commands and the willingness to open oneself to whatever may happen. Obedience is to be made as an act of faith for the Lord. Today being a Christian similarly demands a challenging and a changing life. We are constantly called to be witnesses to bring others to reconcile with Jesus. This Gospel reminds us that the Church of which we’re part is called to be a reconciling presence in the world. This reconciling presence of Christ is celebrated in the Church’s sacramental life. In the Sacrament of Baptism, we are washed from sin and become new creations in Christ. In the Sacrament of Penance, we experience and celebrate the mercy of God in forgiving sins. This reconciling presence is also to be a way of life for Christians. In situations of divisiveness and conflict, we are to be agents of peace and harmony among people. We cannot bring separation and disunity into the world when we are called to bring souls to Christ. Love for Jesus should be our desire and motivation. It should allow us to look beyond and discern what is happening as media bombards us with information (and misinformation!) everyday, for when we are Christ’s we understand better. We should walk in the shoes of others for us to be able to know and love them.

Let us not stay in our comfort zones, instead let us go where Jesus wants us to go. Letting go will not necessarily bring us sorrow but joy like what the disciples experienced when our Lord ascended into Heaven.

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations”, says the Lord; I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Mt. 28: 19a, 20b)

THE CROSSROADS AS CITIZENS

The champion in us calls for discerning the choice for the right leaders. These are leaders who take their allegiance to Christ seriously. We unite as a nation to pray for guidance in choosing the right leaders in the forthcoming election. We choose the right leaders because we deserve what is enshrined in the constitution as God’s people: justice, unity, progress and peace.

As We Grow in His Love

Among the several themes, the more important in today’s Gospel is about obedience as our way of showing love for God. Jesus tells us that we can’t love Him and yet disobey His words. He is the perfect model of obedience: throughout His earthly life, He was always in communion with the Father. As He prepares to leave, He tells of the Holy Spirit’s abiding presence as an assurance of strength for the disciples. Similarly when we’re tested and tired we can bank on the Holy Spirit for guidance and strength. We can’t read much often about the Holy Trinity than in these verses in the Gospel of St. John. It is a discourse at the Last Supper that is so deep with wisdom, revealing the unity of the Trinity throughout salvation history. As the world is filled with hypocrisy, deceit, lies and greed, we can get distracted in getting temporary happiness that in doing so also brings with it a lot of stress and pain. However, if we aim to grow in Jesus’ love, everything in our lives changes for the better. While not necessarily as dramatic as it can be, it is life-changing as among the first fruits is we start thinking of our own needs less and instead, think more about the needs of others. As we live focusing on Jesus, we grow in virtue and patience for others. Our love for Jesus allows us to see through the trials because this growth is fuelled by love which makes us reflect God’s love to others. As we grow in His love, the light of Christ brightens up the dark recesses of our lives. Growing in God’s love can be challenging as well as humbling but we also change our behaviours and attitudes to one of obedient discipleship. It is not easy that is why He assures us of God’s peace which is deep and lasting. Jesus knows these difficulties that’s why He forewarned and assured His disciples (including us) of the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you.” (Jn. 14: 27) Our capacity to love expands as a result of this peace. This gift of peace blesses us with the grace to resist evil and live holy lives. For it to last, we have to believe and trust in the Divine Providence. This is the grace that tells us not to worry and fear. It is the serenity that can only come from the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. To sustain us through, we have to get connected with Him constantly through prayer, as it allows us to open to the leading of God in our lives. Let us pray then that we may listen more than speak our needs to Him; that we may allow God to speak to our hearts and souls, knowing fully well that the Lord knows our needs even before we mention it to Him.

“Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him and we will come to him.” (Jn. 14: 23)