Be the Light to the World!

Today, the Sunday after Christmas, the Holy Mother Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. This is to honor Jesus of Nazareth, His mother Mary, and His foster father Joseph, as a beautiful and model family. The Gospel proclamation (Lk. 2: 22-40) reveals that after Mary and Joseph completed the prescriptions of the law of Moses, they took the Child Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law. Their family life is worth reflecting in the light of their humility, simplicity, and obedience to God. While the Sacred Scriptures do not present much details, surely theirs is a remarkable and perfect family. Although they may look similar to how the typical family at that time live their daily lives, theirs is also different in that they are a perfect model for families even up to the present age.

Amidst the current pandemic, today’s Christian family is a very challenged family. Loss of employment, underemployment, poverty, decent living and health, are some of the current issues affecting every Christian family. We see the same challenges that the Holy Family had during their time. They lived in poverty, despite their being “highly privileged” in the eyes of God. According to the Law, the prescribed offerings are usually lamb or goats, however; two young pigeons were accepted as sin offerings from the “poorer people”, and as purification offerings. In the Gospel account, the Holy Family fulfilled the sacrifice of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons, in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord. 

Why did God allow the Holy Family to be poor? Many of us find it hard to imagine the Holy Family living in abject poverty. Yet in His infinite wisdom, God shows us that the Holy Family, being poor is very much a “human family”.They handled all sorts of difficulties and challenges that life has to offer, to share our human experience that we may share in His Divinity. Despite the odds, the Holy Family was a very pious family. Joseph and Mary were apparently observant Jews, making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem every year with other Jewish families. They showed us that even in poverty, one can handle life’s daily challenges. Despite these issues, it is possible for one to be holy and obedient to God.

We celebrate Christmas because as the Church proclaims, we are reminded “Your Son shares our weakness: may we share His glory.” We celebrate the Season lest we forget that God loves us so much, that He sent His only Son to give us the opportunity to be saved from the effects of sin. In this feast of the Holy Family we are reminded that we can always strive to be holy, in our own humanly way. 

Let us be like the Holy Family to the world. For our families to be like them, we must find time to read the Word. We must pray regularly to God. We must be obedient to His Will. The readings this Sunday provide us a glimpse of what God wants us to practice (see Sir. 3: 2-6, 12-14; Ps. 128:1-2, 3, 4-5; Col. 3: 12-21). Doing these will make us better families, holy families.  Only then can we become the light of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph to the world.

Have a blessed Season!

Obedience to God

Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1: 38a)

Mary’s obedience to God is unprecedented. Without a shadow of doubt, she accepted the challenge of the Angel Gabriel, who was the same messenger sent to herald the news to Zechariah (in yesterday’s Gospel). The Blessed Mother’s attitude is one of a true servant of God, her attention to serve God was full and complete. She didn’t hesitate, unmindful of what this meant, but dedicating her life to serve no matter the cost. 

What would you have done if what happened to Mary happened to you? Would you believe the angel? I’m certain you’re not sure what your response would’ve been. Mary portrayed confidence in her answer and showed her total devotion to God. After being “greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be”, Mary found the courage to ask a question. In her innocence, humility and purity of heart, Mary truly believed. She had faith and never doubted.

The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren
for nothing will be impossible for God.”

The Gospel (Lk. 1: 26-38) in this Fourth Sunday of Advent exhorts us to believe the presence of God in our lives. Regardless of the situation we are facing now, let us realize that we are being used by God to do good to others. The Lord needs you to be a part of His miracles, whether it be a sick relative, a problematic child, or an unreasonable colleague at work. When you accept your daily challenges, your happiness will unfold as you become part of the process. 

Fr. Armand Robleza, SDB, shared a beautiful story of his friend, who is a father to three children — all with autism. When Fr. Armand asked him how he managed bringing up his children, the reply was, 

“Father, ewan ko nga eh, paano namin nakakayanan ni misis, pero sila yung ibinigay ng Diyos, makakayanan namin. Hindi kami pababayaan ng Diyos. Ibinigay Niya ito.” (I really don’t know Father, how me and my wife managed these, but they were the ones given to us by God, we will go through this. God will not abandon us.) 

What a beautiful answer! Fr. Armand said, 

“Walang imposible sa Panginoon. Kahit gaano kahirap, gaano kadilim ang buhay, may mangyayari at mangyayari diyan. Kailangan lang natin makisabay sa Panginoon, tayo ang alipin, tayo ang katiwala, sa atin Niya ibinigay ano man iyan. (Nothing is impossible with God. No matter how difficult, how dark life is, something good will come out of these. All we have to do is to walk with the Lord, we are the servants, we are the stewards, He gave these to us.)

Bakit kailangan ko pang sumali Panginoon? (Why do I have to work with you, Lord?) 

“Para malasahan ninyo, para tunay yung kaligayahan mo, kasi kasama kayong magluto.” (So you can experience it, so that your happiness will be true, because you’re part of the process.)

In this Fourth Sunday of Advent, let us reflect on our humility and obedience to the will of God. Are we humble to listen to God speaking through His messengers? Are we willing and freely-giving our obedience to Him? Are we sharing in the miracles God is performing to others?

Let us pray that our obedience to Him be complete, total and loving, so that we fully participate in His work now and for as long as we live. 

For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.” (Ps.89: 2a)

Recognizing the Lord

Life in the Lord shouldn’t be miserable. While we are experiencing bad things, there are reasons unknown to us why these events happened. It is hard to explain but let us be comforted with the fact that despite the difficulties, the Champ in us have to make sense of what’s happening, knowing that the Master Conductor is in control. The music remains a symphony waiting to be heard and appreciated. Will till you hear the finale! 

In this Sunday’s Second Reading (1 Thes. 5: 16-24), the Apostle Paul tells us to, 

Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” 

The Champ remains joyful because he believes that life is meant to be a happy experience. Being joyful doesn’t mean the absence of pain. He knows that to stay the course, he chooses to remain faithful. He knows that despite the incompleteness, “life blooms over and over again”.

One of the most important lessons that my beloved late Mom Charing has given to us by way of her example is the importance of prayer. She has always stressed the importance of attending Mass, especially on Sundays and other Holy Days. When they were still both walking this earth, Mom and Dad made it a point to hear daily Masses, even travelling to other places to attend special feast days of the Church. Since the time we started going to Church with them, we were not allowed to be absent from family Sunday Mass. It was a rule which we cannot change, and which we also try to bring into our respective families. Our home visits-cum-vacations would always end with the recitation of the Holy Rosary and these always conjure memories of constant communication with God. Prayer ensures that our connectedness to God is maintained and nurtured, despite the efforts of the enemy to cut off this vital source of power.

In the First Reading (Is. 61: 1-2a, 10-11) the Isaiah prophesied,

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord…” (Is. 61: 1-2).

Today’s Third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete Sunday, and is a counterpart to the Laetare Sunday (during Lent) and provides a similar break about midway through a season which is otherwise of a penitential character, and signifies the nearness of the Lord’s coming. The spirit of the Liturgy all throughout Advent is one of expectation and preparation for the Great Event of the Lord’s Birth as well as for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The penitential exercises suitable to that spirit are thus suspended for a while in order to symbolize that joy and gladness in the promised Redemption. Symbolically, rose-colored vestments are worn instead of violet, which is otherwise prescribed for every day in this Season of Advent. Despite the otherwise somber readings which have as a secondary theme theneed for penitence, the readings today emphasize the joyous anticipation of the Lord’s coming.

In this eager anticipation we are again reminded to be always grateful.  To be thankful in all circumstances, even in sorrow and even in pain. The Champ knows that this is part of creative development, of preparation for Eternity. He expects no less than cleansing and forming, trusting that the Lord knows what is best for him. As I write these thoughts, the Church is preparing for the first of the nine-day Novena Masses heralding the final preparation of the Baby Jesus’ coming. While we are still limited to physical distancing, the thoughts still send shivers up the spine as it also floods childhood memories of Christmas carols and loved ones, of home-made lanterns and gifts, cold mornings and native delicacies excellently prepared by my beloved Lola Andang. Yes, these are for now only memories but it also sums up the spirit of gratitude that is in my heart.

Reflect today on the need to remain in humble gratitude to the Lord, for seeing you through. Have you remained focused on yourself, instead of putting all the glory to God knowing that you are nothing more than His unworthy servant? Do you see value in imitating the humility of St. John the Baptist in pointing others to Jesus? Do you recognize the Lord as the source of all your talents, skills and abilities?

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.” (Is. 61: 1)

Humility and Greatness

One of the greatest challenges and struggles in life is pride. Many people boast of their achievements, their possessions, and their wealth. They crave for popularity and point attention to themselves. When in conflict, they insist on their correctness and that they’re right, even without hearing the other side. They want praise, honor and fame.

In today’s Gospel (Mk. 1: 1-8), we are told about John the Baptist who appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. People who acknowledged their sins and came to him were baptized in the Jordan River. He was considered by Jesus as “one of the greatest human beings ever to walk the face of the Earth” (see Matthew 11:11). Yet in that greatness we see humility, as in today’s Gospel St. John the Baptist said of Jesus,  “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

This Sunday, our Lord is telling us to examine ourselves especially on how we are to others. By being truly humble, St. John the Baptist showed us the example of what true greatness is. He knew who Jesus was. He acknowledged Christ as the Messiah and pointed his followers’ attention from himself to Jesus. 

Let us reflect on these acts of St. John the Baptist and imitate his humility. Let us acknowledge that if we want to find meaning and purpose in life, there is no other way but through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Use your life to honor and glorify Christ, make Him the center of your life and humble yourself before Him. It is only by embracing humility that one’s true greatness is revealed. 

One of the greatest challenges and struggles in life is pride. Many people boast of their achievements, their possessions, and their wealth. They crave for popularity and point attention to themselves. When in conflict, they insist on their correctness and that they’re right, even without hearing the other side. They want praise, honor and fame.

In today’s Gospel (Mk. 1: 1-8), we are told about John the Baptist who appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. People who acknowledged their sins and came to him were baptized in the Jordan River. He was considered by Jesus as “one of the greatest human beings ever to walk the face of the Earth” (see Matthew 11:11). Yet in that greatness we see humility, as in today’s Gospel St. John the Baptist said of Jesus,  “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

This Sunday, our Lord is telling us to examine ourselves especially on how we are to others. By being truly humble, St. John the Baptist showed us the example of what true greatness is. He knew who Jesus was. He acknowledged Christ as the Messiah and pointed his followers’ attention from himself to Jesus. 

Let us reflect on these acts of St. John the Baptist and imitate his humility. Let us acknowledge that if we want to find meaning and purpose in life, there is no other way but through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Use your life to honor and glorify Christ, make Him the center of your life and humble yourself before Him. It is only by embracing humility that one’s true greatness is revealed. 

Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his pathsAll flesh shall see the salvation of God.” (Lk. 3: 4,6)

Be Watchful! Be Alert!

We are all given a limited number of heartbeats in this lifetime. For the souls ahead of us, some were given a few years, some were given long lives, while some were given only up to midlife. As to how it’ll end for us, we don’t really know the answers. For Christians in general, we believe in eternal life for which we are hopeful to attain with God’s mercy and grace. 

When my Lola Andang was busy raising me and her other grandchildren, I always observe her praying the Holy Rosary and that created a deep and lasting impression on me. She was a very prayerful woman, saying prayers when she wasn’t too busy thinking about other things.Widowed early, she was left to raise seven children of which my mother is the eldest. Yet, despite the difficulties that life threw at her, she was able to lead her brood to successful achievements. Even to this day, we haven’t stopped talking about how courageously persistent she was. And I’m sure that God was always near her, within whispering distance.

In the Gospel (Mk. 13: 33-37), Jesus said to His disciples: “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. The Lord says that we need to be watchful, as we “do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight,
or at cockcrow, or in the morning.” 

This warning is perfect in timing and reminding of the need to be watchful.

Are you mindful of the presence of Christ? Being mindful means being fully aware of His presence every moment, every minute even at our busiest. It is about seeking, looking and anticipating God’s presence.Sin and wrongdoing can block our ability to feel spiritual matters so that there is haziness and cloudiness around. These noises can affect our hearing God’s leads and whispers. Without our realizing it, we are “asleep” instead of being watchful and alert.

Also, excessive attention to social media platforms are forms of “sleepiness” that contribute much to distraction in our faith experience. Beware of these addictions!

As we begin this Advent Season, let us reflect on how the Lord is constantly seeking our attention. He is not shouting, but is whispering softly and sweetly. He is persistent in telling us to be watchful, to be alert. After all, His words and leadings are all that matter. Thus, we need to listen deeply with our hearts. 

Let us pray that we take the effort and time to listen to Him. Let us pray to prepare for Jesus’ coming. Let us be awake in hopeful anticipation.

Show us Lord, your love;and grant us your salvation.” (Ps. 85: 8)