Good morning champions!

Please see below assignment of speakers for the Champoree on May 9-12 in Caliraya, Laguna:
Day 1 – May 9 1. Intro – Selina Cipriano
2. Who is a Champion – Fr. Ian Rosal, SDB
3. Loser / Winners – Luchi Martinez

Day 2 – May 10 1. Cultivate Character – Fr. Ding Cortez, SDB
2. Have A Heart – Muffet Flores
3. Aim For A Mission – Olive Ilagan

Day 3 – May 11 1. Maintain Balance – Abet Balin
2. Prioritise the Spirit – LeeAn Rosal
3. Stay The Course – Alan Sienes

Confirmed to attend on April 26 TTT in Don Bosco Canlubang: (Please be at Don Bosco Provincial House around 745am)
1. Selina Cipriano
2. LeeAn Rosal

Confirmed to attend on April 27 TTT in Caliraya, Laguna: (Please be at Don Bosco Provincial House 7am)
1. Alan Sienes
2. Abet Balin
3. Olive Ilagan

Walkthrough of the agenda is on April 26 in Canlubang because the 10 brothers from Canlubang are joining us. While the April 27 is in Caliraya.

It will be better if you can attend on April 26 for you to figure out the sequence of the program, but if you want to attend on April 27 instead, it is also okay.

However, on April 27, apart from agenda sequence, we will be more focused on the activities and where they will be conducted in the area.

See you….

God’s Mercy Endures Forever

During the war, my grandmother would share stories about how they travelled from place to place to flee from the invading Japanese. They would be joined by other neighbors whose descendants also eventually became our childhood friends. My lola told us that life then was difficult especially that they were uncertain what would happen next. Unlike today when news is fast and spreads quickly, people relied on radio and word-of-mouth for stories of events that happened during World War II.

Today’s Sunday Gospel tells us of a similar situation amongst the disciples of Jesus. Imagine, they must have been troubled, distraught of what has happened to them lately. The pains and aches that they are feeling inside is such that it’s so heavy and difficult. They have lost their friend, teacher and mentor. Just a week before, they entered Jerusalem triumphantly; the crowd cheered, and palms were laid on the street making the way for them. And then, fortunes changed as Jesus was crucified, and died on the cross. They have received all sorts of threats and stories; it couldn’t get worse than the fears and anxieties they are going through now.

And yet the disciples came together, perhaps sensing that in moments like these, they have to be together. Just like us — whenever we experience sorrow and pain, being with family and friends become important and everything else is relegated to the background. Thus in our state of brokenness, when with community, we can become closer to the Lord. We have no other one to run to, thus; our only alternative is to strengthen our hope and faith in Him. We can learn much from the first believers, who “devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.” The community is like an oasis in the desert, it affords us refuge and strength in times of hunger and thirst for the Word.

Today’s Divine Mercy Sunday celebration reminds us that Christ’s suffering is repeated over and over every time we fall. Yet, God’s love and mercy knows no limits. It only takes our humility to accept our own weaknesses and ultimate submission to Christ’s will for our lives. Obedience requires acceptance of the challenges and trials that make us who we are. The story of Thomas clearly articulates our own challenge: we are being reminded by St. Peter in the First Reading that we will suffer through trials so that the authenticity of our faith may bring us salvation ready to be revealed in the final time. (1 Pt. 1: 5) Because of this faith that we are called to, we’ll believe and love Him even without seeing. (v. 8) For us believers, the faith that is handed down to us starting with Peter, John, Thomas and the rest of the disciples, is enough. They are our witnesses that Jesus is truly risen. For this, we are among those who are “blessed” because we believe even without seeing.

“Have you come to believe in me, Thomas, because you have seen me? says the Lord; Blessed are those who have not seen, but still believe!” (Jn. 20:29)

The Empty Tomb

Every time I attend the Easter Vigil, I await with eager anticipation the portion of the Mass when the Litany of the Saints is sung. Reflecting on the lives of these great saints never cease to amaze me; it’s always a hair-raising experience. Here in the Litany are men and women of faith, who through it all, have survived the most difficult of challenges. In this Prayer, one can’t fail to notice the prominence of Mary Magdalene; in her simplicity, she has shown that it doesn’t need something really great to show Jesus how she loved him.

The first sentence of today’s Gospel according to St. John says,

“On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb.” (Jn. 20: 1)

In this narrative, Mary Magdalene showed that her mere presence in the tomb is enough proof of her profound love for Jesus. We also note that she is a very courageous woman; have you imagined yourself going to the graveyard very early in the morning while everyone’s still asleep? Her love was so strong, she has to rise, get dressed, and go to the place where Jesus was buried, while it was still dark. Have you been to the cemetery at night? Isn’t it creepy and eerie? And yet, Mary Magdalene’s deep love for Jesus was above and beyond her fears.

More than her courage, we also reflect on the sadness that must have engulfed her as she walked towards the tomb. Events that have transpired in the past few days happened so fast, culminating in the crucifixion and death of the Lord. So many may have lost hope; how can the Savior suffer a traumatic death? However, Mary Magdalene’s love for Jesus never failed, she was so steadfast. Most probably though, a mix of disbelief, shock, and conflicting emotions may have engulfed her as she arrived and saw Jesus body is gone. Where is Jesus body? She must be crying as she ran to tell the disciples to see for themselves the empty tomb. Peter and “the other disciple whom Jesus loved” ran to the empty tomb as fast as they could, to see what had happened. They examined the empty tomb, the empty burial clothes; Peter may have doubted, but the other disciple “saw and believed”.

During the crucifixion, they have lost all their hope in Jesus, but in this moment, perhaps there was a small ember of hope ignited by the empty tomb. In the midst of all the seeming sadness and hopelessness, something in the empty tomb begin to envelope them with hope, joy, and a newfound lease on their faith in Jesus. “The other disciple” had to open his heart for Jesus to come in and transform his life.

As Easter people, our joy lies in our being hopeful, that there is more to life than all the problems we may have now. To live in faith, hope and love is a decision we have to choose, not a set of emotions that pop up spontaneously. Like Mary Magdalene, we will appreciate the meaning of the resurrection if we ardently follow our Lord in faith, even in the emptiness, even in the darkness of our lives.

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice in it and be glad.” (Ps. 118: 24)

Obedience Even Unto Death

It took me time to get into the St. Francis Parish churchyard as it was already parked full when I arrived. The guard has to pull down the gate bar to ensure order inside the parking lot. While waiting, I can see people bringing palms with them to Church, buying these from the vendors surrounding the gates. It was half past ten and the sun’s heat was nearing its peak. Everyone was in a struggle walking under the sun, as they seem to hurry to minimize the scorching heat, despite their umbrellas. I wasn’t exempted; later when I got down from the vehicle into the Church, I have to bring my own weather protection as well.

With the heat we are experiencing these early days of summer, I couldn’t imagine what our Lord Jesus experienced on that first Good Friday:

On top of the hill in Calvary, Jesus is hanging in the Cross, winching in pain as His frail body sought to tear away from the nails pierced on His hands. He is sweating both in blood and in water, as His earthly life flickers away. Jesus is not a criminal, but He is crucified with them. He hasn’t sinned but He chose to suffer and die for us sinners. All the cruelty, torture, agony and humiliation He has endured for you and me, for all mankind. Yes, for all of us.

Back to the present time, as you go about your Sunday, you could be away in a retreat, at home, in the mall, or even in a distant beach relaxing the time away, nothing has changed much. Yes, there’s a lot of difference in as far as conditions are concerned. Technology has brought us a lot of cheer, comfort and convenience. But sin just appeared in different forms, perhaps looking more decent than the way it looked then.

Since we came into this world, there’s always been a lot of inherent goodness in each of us. We started as little angels and grew up as apples-of-the-eye of our parents and grandparents. Slowly though we have experienced evil and distractions that lured us away from this goodness. As a result, this scene in Calvary is repeated: every time we commit sin we mock, torture, humiliate, and scourge Jesus. Every hour, every day, when choices are made, He suffers the same Passion and Death experienced more than two thousand years ago.

On this Palm Sunday, we celebrate the fullness of our faith. It is not by coincidence that at the Procession with Palms we are read the Gospel wherein Jesus entered triumphantly into Jerusalem, where the crowds cried out and said, “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest.” (Mt. 21: 9)

At the Mass that follows, however; the Gospel reveals the forthcoming Passion and Death. The soldiers arrested and brought Him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. There they spat, struck and slapped Him. In front of Pilate, the crowd shouted “Crucify him!” Even if the governor didn’t find anything wrong with Jesus, and even with his wife’s pleas, knowing that he wasn’t succeeding at all, Pilate handed Jesus over to be crucified.

Today let us reflect whether we are part of the crowd that shouted “Hosanna to the Son of David!” or part of the crowd that shouted “Crucify Him!”, or even both, betraying Jesus at the last moment, unsure of our faith. As we begin the Holy Week, let us journey with Him, let us talk with our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, in the midst of noise and clutter of life. Maybe we will be able to understand better His cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

“Christ became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name.” (Phil. 2: 8-9)

Like Lazarus, We Will Rise

Having a foretaste of Jesus’ own passion and death seems to be the theme of this Sunday’s readings, which talk of death, resurrection, and God’s forgiveness and mercy. We are being invited to reflect on Jesus as the Resurrection and the Life in today’s Gospel according to St. John, which recounts (another miracle) the raising of Lazarus from the dead.

As can be read from the earlier verses, we read the growing hatred of the Jewish leaders toward Jesus. People have been asking Him to declare that He is the Messiah, though Jesus have been telling them to look at His works (Jn. 10: 37) which testify to His coming from God. Only a few believe however, and some even tried to stone Him for blasphemy.

Jesus loved Lazarus, Mary and Martha. Thus when word was sent by the sisters that Lazarus was sick, Jesus said, “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” But Jesus extended their stay for two days, and when He announced their journey to Judea, the disciples feared for His life. Thomas even declared that he and the other disciples should go to die with Jesus.

At Bethany, what happened next is more intense, if not, a sad one. Martha went to meet him and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Yet she remained confident that God will grant whatever Jesus asks. Their conversation grew deeper until finally Martha said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.” Martha’s sister, Mary, comes to Jesus with the same confidence, saying “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Jesus was deeply troubled at the sight of Mary and the others weeping, and asked where they have laid him. They showed Him the way. “Jesus wept.” (Jn. 11: 35)

Before Jesus raised Lazarus, He prayed, “Father, I thank you for hearing me. I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me.”

In raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus shows His power over death so that when He dies on the Cross a couple of Fridays from now, we might remember Him with hope and trust. As in today’s First Reading, God’s promise through the prophet Ezekiel is fulfilled in Jesus opening the graves that we may rise, put His Spirit in us that we may live. (Ez. 37: 12-14) This is the same Holy Spirit that St. Paul refers of in today’s Epistle. (Rom. 8: 8-11)

As a result of the Lazarus miracle, many of the Jews who had come and seen what Jesus had done began to believe in Him.

As long as we believe in Jesus like Martha and Mary, even if we die, we will live.

May we therefore have the strength and courage to proclaim, “Yes Lord, I believe that you are the Son of God.”

“With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.” (Ps. 130: 7)