His Presence is Real!

At the start of Chapter 9 of St. Luke’s Gospel, the Lord summoned the Twelve and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and then sent them to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He gave them explicit instructions on the apostolic journey and they set forth from village to village proclaiming the good news and curing diseases everywhere. When the apostles returned, they explained to Him what they had done. Then Jesus took them and withdrew in private to a town called Bethsaida. The crowds though knew about this and followed Him.

Thus,

Jesus spoke to the crowds about the kingdom of God, and He healed those who needed to be cured. As the day was drawing to a close, the Twelve approached Him and said, Dismiss the crowd so that they can go to the surrounding villages and farms and find lodging and provisions; for we are in a deserted place here.”(Gospel Today: Lk. 9: 11b-17)

Obviously, the apostles weren’t prepared for this situation. They thought that since food is barely available than what is needed for everyone, they have to dismiss the crowd considering that the number was big, about five thousand men. The apostles thought that there isn’t enough food for themselves. Yet Jesus said,

Give them some food yourselves.

It’s human nature to think first about one’s self for fear that there isn’t enough. In times like this especially for those in mission, it’s easy to limit your thinking to what is in front of you. We hardly take the time to reflect and pray for a resolution to happen or the better thing to do is to discern God’s hand on what action should be taken further. That’s what Jesus did and He has always shown and proven to us that there’s enough for everyone. When we place ourselves under the Lord’s care, there’s no need to worry. Since the time of the Israelites the message of Yahweh has always been “Do not be afraid!” Instead of worrying, when we begin to shred off our selfishness and start thinking of others first, the graces and blessings will overflow. Fr. Armand has said time and again that the path to real happiness is not the one that involves making plans how to become happy, but rather, about how to make others happy. It is only when you make others happy will you start to realize that their happiness become your own source of happiness. The journey to a happy life stems from the attitude of giving ourselves to others.

Our Savior showed it best when He offered Himself as a ransom for many. He suffered and died on the Cross to save us from eternal damnation. Or, have you thought about the food that you ate today? Did you realize that in order for you to enjoy it, the fish, or the farm animal has to die first?

Before Jesus did the ultimate sacrifice He told His disciples,

Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood has Eternal Life, and I will raise him on the last day. For My Flesh is true food, and My Blood is true drink. Whoever eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood remains in Me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on Me will have life because of Me.This is the bread that came down from Heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this Bread will live forever.” (Jn. 6: 53-58)

What a beautiful promise for those who partake of His Most Holy Body and Blood!  He left us these instructions which we’re honoring today, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi. More importantly, He didn’t want to be just a memory, but to remain with us, physically. This is essentially the Catholic teaching of the “Real Presence” of the Lord in the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, or “Transubstantiation”.

Today I remember fondly my First Communion after I had my First Confession, many, many years ago when I was still a young boy. For me, that’s one of the most important milestones in my life. It not only allowed me to partake of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist each time during Holy Mass, it also gave me access to God’s overflowing grace. Many miracles have been given to me and my family after spending time with the Lord in the Tabernacle. While I still sin like any ordinary person, I am confident that I am strengthened more and more as I continue to build on my faith. Many years after that First Holy Communion I went on to marry Alma, and I became witness to a woman who slowly became an ardent devotee of the Blessed Sacrament even more than I do. She visits the Tabernacle more often than I am and for that I’m eternally grateful to the Lord for this gift in my family.

How about you? Have you embraced the Holy Eucharist as a means of getting more intimate with Jesus? If Yes, keep it up and I’m sure you will become more rich in your faith. If No, it’s not yet too late, there is still time to nurture the love of Christ. You will never regret it, I guarantee you.

May this Solemnity strengthen our love for Jesus who is waiting for us in the Holy Sacrament of the Altar. May we not lose sight of its Eternal Beauty and become more aware of this Treasure who is in our midst.

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

The Most Holy Trinity

Ever since the Creation, as revealed in the New Testament, Man encountered God as Creator, Father, Lord, and Judge. Then, God “lived” on earth among men as God the Son. When the Lord was taken into Heaven at Ascension, the Holy Spirit filled the disciples with power and new life to take on the mission that Jesus Christ tasked them to complete. As you see, this doctrine is deeply complicated and remains a mystery not to be solved but to embrace by our faith in Him. Instead we should be consoled by the fact that the Lord, through the Holy Spirit will give us the grace of faith and inspire our lives to be guided towards our Father in Heaven. The readings today show us how the presence of God covers beyond time and imagination.

Indeed, one of the most challenging reflections to make is about the Most Holy Trinity, the Solemnity of which we celebrate today. It falls on the first Sunday after Pentecost, and is one of the few feasts in the Christian calendar that celebrate a doctrine rather than an event. This perhaps is adopted by the early Christian Church because this is the only way to make sense of something so deep, so complex and so incomprehensible, and as a way of understanding the events that are revealed in the Holy Bible.

When I reflect on the Most Holy Trinity, I can’t help but be reminded of the vision shared by St. Augustine of Hippo,

St. Augustine was walking by the seashore one day contemplating the mystery of the Holy Trinity when he saw a little child running back and forth from the water to a spot on the seashore. The boy was using a shell to carry water from the large ocean and pour it into a small pit that he had made in the sand. Augustine came up to him and asked him what he was doing. I’m going to pour the entire ocean into this hole,” the boy replied.“What?” said Augustine.That is impossible, my dear child, the sea is so great and the shell and the hole are so little.”

That is true,” the boy said. “It would be easier and quicker to draw all the water out of the sea and fit it into this hole than for you to fit the mystery of the Trinity and His Divinity into your little intellect; for the Mystery of the Trinity is greater and larger in comparison with your intelligence than this vast ocean in comparison with this little hole.” And then the child vanished.” (http://olmlaycarmelites.org/reflections/mystery-trinity)

For the faithful follower of God there’s no need to explain the Mystery of the Most Holy Trinity.

In the Gospel (Jn. 16: 12-15), Jesus was telling His disciples that there’s much more to be told, but that the disciples cannot bear it now. He assures them that when the Holy Spirit comes, He will guide them to all truth. He then spoke about the unity of the Most Holy Trinity,

He will not speak on His own,
but He will speak what He hears,
and will declare to you the things that are coming.
He will glorify me, because He will take from what is mine and declare it to you.
Everything that the Father has is mine
;
for this reason I told you that He will take from what is mine
and declare it to you
.”

Jesus was simply giving an outline of how the Most Holy Trinity is across time. Something deep that the Lord simplified for us. Yet, it goes without saying that it is not for us to fathom this mystery. The mystery of how God can be Three Divine Persons. The perfect unity of the Triune God. Because it is impossible to explain it, we can be consoled by the fact that He is Supreme God and He can be Who He is. We can only reflect, pray and believe in Him.

May God guide us to all truth, bring us peace and union in Him, and share the life of the Trinity with us. May we pray unceasingly,

Glory to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; to God who is, who was, and who is to come.” (Rv. 1: 8)

Lord, My God, You Are Great Indeed!

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues,
as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.
” (First Reading Acts 2: 1-11)

It’s my first visit to Tokyo and thus goes with it the unfamiliarity and challenge of going around the train and subway system. At the start of the second day, one of my worries is on how I can find the route to a Church considering it’s the Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday. I had to struggle with the idea considering there were places already set on the itinerary with limited time to find the way to Church, plus the fact that there were few that have English services. Naturally, these worries filled up my morning as my family were visiting tourist spots in Tokyo. After a visit to a shrine where we witnessed two weddings, I asked my daughter how’s our schedule looking like in the afternoon, to which she replied we don’t have that much anymore. That was the answer I prayed hard for so that it’ll be my turn to direct the remaining itinerary for the day. Surfing around the net to find a Church, what struck me was that there’s this St. Ignatius Church that we can devote locating the rest of the day. While we agreed we can still go there early evening, I took the chance of going earlier as there’s a 1:30 Mass. When we arrived there though, the Mass was already halfway through as the schedule on the website wasn’t followed as the Church is also celebrating today its 20th Anniversary.

Anyway, it still gave me that sense of fulfillment and affirmation from the Lord because while we weren’t conversant in Japanese, our familiarity with the Scriptures and the Holy Mass enabled us to understand what the Priest was saying during the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. And the Priest is not Japanese, but he’s speaking Nihongo so fluently that you won’t recognize he’s a Spaniard if you didn’t see him talk. What amazed me was that the Sacred Hymns played during the Mass were all familiar songs we learned during CFC days!

Later in the afternoon, with the active workings of the Holy Spirit, my family was able to meet a classmate from High School, after 39 years!!! Surprisingly, her daughter is scheduled to fly to Manila to attend school at Ateneo. Do you think these were all by coincidence?

Here’s more: In one of the recollections I attended facilitated by then Bishop Chito Tagle (now Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, the Archbishop of Manila), I remember him tell a story about how Filipinos’ close fellowship while working in a hospital abroad inspired a young woman to study Theology at Ateneo to understand more about the Philippines and its culture. She had learned from this group of Filipinos that what made them closer to each other is their love for Jesus Christ. And so because she wants to feel that love for God and the search for understanding what this “love of Christ” means, she went to study at Ateneo and curiously had a classmate by the name of Luis Antonio Tagle. Many years later when they met again, Bishop Tagle was so pleased to know she has risen in her Church to become like the Secretary of the Archbishop in her Church’s capital city. However, she was more surprised when she learned during the introduction of the Keynote Speaker, that classmate Chito is already a Bishop! (The good cardinal is one known for his humility and meekness, and stories abound about how he substitutes for priests in his Diocese riding a tricycle and without offering the information to the Church’s lay people who he is not until they ask his name for introduction at the start of Mass).

Anyway, it’s awesome for a woman who wasn’t a good communicator in English when she studied in the Philippines but became a willing servant of God years after she left the country. She came simply to study and understand a culture, not knowing that God had plans for her someday. She has unknowingly helped spread the Gospel in a big way.

Indeed, with the active workings of the Holy Spirit, the Church has continued to spread since that First Pentecost. Only by hearing the proclamation of the Sacred Scriptures did we know about what happened at that time. However, with the witnessing of the Apostles and the rest of the disciples who spread the Gospel to our land did we also arrive at a point when we were invited to the Church and transform our lives in a deep and personal way. By this changing of heart (“Metanoia”) and mindset did we allow the Holy Spirit to touch and enter our lives more intimately. With our opening to the Spirit of God, we allow Him to set our hearts on fire. By this we cooperate in the redeeming work of Jesus to change our life and others by the way we live.

On this Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday, let us ponder and reflect on how the Holy Spirit has led us closer to the Holy Trinity.

May we pray unceasingly,

Bless the LORD, O my soul!

O LORD, my God, you are great indeed!
How manifold are your works, O LORD
the earth is full of your creatures.” (Ps. 104: 1, 24)

His Continuing Presence!

He ascended into Heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from there He will come to judge the living and the dead.” So goes the line in the Apostles Creed. Today is the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord (Gospel: Lk. 24: 46-53), wherein Holy Mother Church commemorates the Ascension of Jesus Christ. Before going up into Heaven, Jesus told the disciples,

“…repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

At this time, the disciples have already experienced so much confusion in their lives. They followed the Lord upon His calling, experiencing joys and happiness and were witnesses to the countless miracles in their missionary journeys. They were devastated when He was separated from them through His Passion and Death; felt triumphant in His Resurrection, and then He again leaves them? Remember in last Sunday’s Gospel (Jn. 14: 23-29), He was telling them that,

I am going away and I will come back to you. If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father; for the Father is greater than I.”

It is necessary for Jesus to go to the Father so He can send them the Holy Spirit. Thus, even if Jesus is physically away, through the Holy Spirit, He is continually present. The Ascension is a transition phase in the perfect plan of salvation. With His continuing presence, and with the ups and downs of life, He is always an inspiring presence through the power of the Holy Spirit. The disciples will now have to pursue preaching the Good News of salvation (which they did). As faithful disciples, they gave up their futures and their lives for the Lord. They’ve travelled into a lot of places and preached the Gospel becoming witnesses to the Savior.

How about you, are you experiencing ups and downs in your life now? The message this Sunday is for you to completely trust in the Lord, no matter the situation you’re in. These phases of twists and happenings show something new, something different that you just have to reflect and marvel in awe of how God is taking you through these challenging events in your life.

A friend is having difficulties in choosing which job offer to accept, especially that there are contrasts and differences in the compensation and benefits. I advised her that the more pleasant job environment may not always offer the most attractive compensation package. Thus, her choice should be guided by wisdom and discernment. In the same token, when you are confronted with choices whether these be related to work, business or career, you just have to seek wisdom and discernment from the Lord through His Holy Spirit. 

Today, as we work in our missions, we are being assured of the Holy Spirit’s continuing presence. It means that even if we can’t see Him physically, His Spirit lives on and on to guide us through. Amidst the challenges and difficulties, we can only trust in His plans and marvel at the unfolding events that show His dominion over our lives and the rest of Creation.

Let us pray then for the strength to overcome difficulties and weariness. May He continue to refresh and inspire us. May we recognize His presence in the lives of people we meet. And may other people recognize Christ in us.

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