All posts by Alan Sienes

Reflections by Alan Sienes on the Sunday's Gospel

Enduring Trials

Over the previous weekend I went to this convention hall to check on the travel sale and saw the large number of people availing themselves of discount tickets and tours. While there were lesser people in the morning, there were quite so many later in the day lining up the different booths. While there seemed to be so many new opportunities, the available seats on the different tour routes dwindled as the three-day event came to a close. In the end, the discount seats were already taken and many of those who came late already bought tickets on a higher cost. Continue reading Enduring Trials

Say it: My Lord and My God!

I have a childhood friend whose uncle used to tell him every time he leaves for Sunday Mass, not to join his parents, because anyway, “Heaven is already here on earth.” Years later, his uncle was found with tumor and diagnosed with cancer. When he knew of his predicament, the uncle repented and begged the Lord for mercy and forgiveness. There was no healing from cancer but there was certainly spiritual healing. Up to the time the uncle passed away, he became pious, prayed the Holy Rosary daily and started to hear Mass again. Continue reading Say it: My Lord and My God!

Having the Light and Power of Christ

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Men do not light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket. They set it on a stand where it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, your light must shine before men so that they may see goodness in your acts and give praise to your Heavenly Father. ”(Mt. 5: 14-16)

We have heard this part of the Gospel many times already I’m sure. And we would always consider it as an inspiration to be called the “light.” We’d probably rejoice and take pride in that fact. If we’re not careful however, we can easily fall into the trap, which Fr. Armand would call “holy pride”. As it gets into our head, we could lose focus on the real source of our “power” that is God. This will eventually lead us into the sin of pride, which is one of the seven deadly sins, the others being wrath, avarice, sloth, lust, envy and gluttony. Eventually, our “power” loses strength, until ultimately, we self-destruct. We become powerless and we become frustrated.

Alma would always remind everyone at home to unplug appliances when not in use. She has this big, handwritten reminder posted on strategic locations, to remind us of the same. Even power savers are constantly connected to ensure that no power is wasted. She would always tell us, “don’t waste limited resources”. We know for a fact that fossil fuels (our primary source of energy) are exhaustible and are good only for the next fifty or so years. Lately, rotating brownouts are back in some parts of the Visayas and Mindanao. And not only that, in some areas these brownouts reach up to eight hours. Yes, eight hours!

Imagine: what if you try to take a bath in pitch darkness? Or even eating your meal, without a ray of light? Or looking for your favorite socks inside the cabinet? I’m sure everybody can relate to the fact that it’s so difficult, if not impossible to achieve these tasks, no matter how basic these are. But have we even thought about it?

Connectedness to God is like the way a light bulb is connected to the power source. Unplug it, and the light goes out. Remove our connection from God (by our pride and selfish thoughts that we are the source of power) we become powerless, we become helpless. Have we realized that this is a major reason why people are frustrated, why people feel hopeless? They keep trying, not realizing that their efforts can be futile and useless.

There was a time in my life that I relied on my own power and strength. I struggled hard, thinking that I can be what I want to become, with my own effort and hard work. Even though I already served in the Altar early on, my youth was my disadvantage because back then, my service was more out of duty rather than out of love. Then with God’s Spirit, I realized that we become who God created us to be, by His grace alone, and not on our own power and strength. God has gifted us with talents and capabilities but when we have fallen out of grace, blessings can’t reach us anymore because sin is blocking these graces from reaching us, and leads us away from Him.

Let us pray that the God of Light continue to enlighten our minds, that we may not fall into thinking that we can do it all alone.

The champion has no extraordinary powers; he only has God who knows, and who cares. The embrace of God around his soul is never the object of doubting questions. He senses the presence of the Divine around which he organizes his life. He never walks alone. And he knows it.

Choosing Obedience

It took time to start the iMac keypad moving on these reflections but on the last hour, the inspiration focused on the events happening at the Vatican residence of Pope Francis last Sunday, who hosted two warring leaders, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres, in an appeal for peace in the Middle East. The meeting was both real and providential, as the appeal for peace wasn’t made through traditional means, like a summit, or a high-level meeting, but through prayer. Yes, PRAYER!

A prayer for peace.

This Sunday, is Pentecost Sunday, one of the most ancient feasts of the Church, celebrated as early as the time of the Apostles (Acts 20:16 and 1 Cor. 16:8). It is the 50th day after Easter and it superseded the Jewish feast of Pentecost, which took place 50 days after the Passover and celebrated the sealing of the Old Covenant on Mount Sinai.

On that first Pentecost, the Apostles and the Blessed Virgin Mary were gathered in the Upper Room, where they met Our Lord after His Resurrection:

“Suddenly from up in the sky there came a noise like a strong, driving wind which was heard all through the house they were seated. Tongues as of fire appeared, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. All were filled with the Holy Spirit. They began to express themselves in foreign tongues and make bold proclamation as the Spirit prompted them. ” (Acts 2:2-4)

As Christ had promised His Apostles, He would send His Holy Spirit on Pentecost. The Apostles began to preach the Gospel in all of the languages that the Jews who were gathered there spoke, and about 3,000 people were converted and baptized that day. This is why Pentecost is often called the “birthday of Holy Mother Church.” It must be such a brilliant and awesome display of the powers of the Holy Spirit, on Her birthday! Despite the challenges that the Church have encountered and is continuously facing, the mighty hand of the Spirit has guided and protected the bark of St. Peter from the waves of destruction. Jesus was fully aware of this, and one of his most touching prayers said during the Last Supper was the prayer for unity among his followers in the Church:

“O Father most holy, protect them with your name which you have given me (that they may be one, even as we are one). ” (Jn. 17: 11)

A prayer for unity.

He must have foreseen the breaking out of some of them from the Church later on. Jesus always preached of obedience. Throughout his life, Jesus always prayed for guidance from the Father. He submitted himself to the Father’s authority, and wanted his Apostles to remain the same. He exhorted them to “live on in my love.” He told them further, “You will live in my love if you keep my commandments, and live in his love.” (Jn. 15: 10) Thus, the only way of being in Jesus love, is in obeying and loving him, manifested in obedience to authority, loving God and our fellowmen.

Despite the seeming difficulties of obtaining peace, may we also join in the call for peace and unity, starting here in our land, and trust that the Lord’s hand will be blessing our efforts with success. So that His name may be glorified.

The champion has no extraordinary powers. The embrace of God around his soul is never the object of doubting questions. He senses the presence of the Divine around which he organizes his life. He never walks alone. And he knows it.

Spiritual Life

The talk of Fr. Armand made me realize my shortcomings in life. It helped me become conscious on what is  really happening in our everyday lives. Most especially it enlightened me to develop a more spiritual life.

Rinalyn Quijano, Don Bosco Technical Institute-Tarlac

S for Sharing

One of the most beautiful traits a Christian should have is the capacity to share oneself. In itself, sharing is a manifestation of love, an expression of one’s godliness. Even people we label as “bad” also have the capacity to share. The only thing that probably separates “authentic” from “by-name-only” Christians is the capacity to share even to those who are not relatives, not friends, but even those considered as “enemies”. When one becomes more mature in his faith, his authenticity tends to show itself all the more. He tries and outwardly manifests love, and sees the soul rather than just the physical body of the other person. Thus, mercy and compassion become more prevalent, even when one is hurt and in pain. He is more concerned with helping others. To him, it is more than just serving and sharing one’s self. To him, it is about seeing Jesus in the other person. It is about obedience to the Lord who came not to be served, but “…to serve — to give his life in ransom for the many ”. (Mk. 10: 45)

This Sunday, the Church commemorated the Solemnity of the Ascension of our Lord. A great event in the Church, the Ascension is one of the five major milestones in the Gospel narrative of the life of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the others being baptism, transfiguration, crucifixion, and resurrection.

And Jesus came forward and addressed them in these words, “Full authority has been given to me both in heaven and on earth; go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations. Baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them to carry out everything that I have commanded you. And know that I am with you always, until the end of the world.” (Mt. 28: 18 – 20)

Jesus instructed his apostles to carry on the mission and share it with the rest of the world. He didn’t ask them to keep the Gospel messages to themselves, but he asked them to share it.

Last Saturday, we commemorated another great feast in the Church, which is in itself is a showcase of a life of love and dedication to service: the Feast of the Visitation, when Mary, the mother of Jesus, went to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Even if the Blessed Mother was already pregnant, she still took the pain of traveling more than a hundred kilometers over mountains and hills in order to serve her older cousin, who was having a difficult pregnancy. She was doing this just like what Jesus would do later in life: serving others who need help. Our Mother is modeling how we should be, and telling us that witnessing to Jesus is when we bring his love and compassion to others.

Knowingly or unknowingly, when we dedicate our lives to helping others in need, we witness Jesus to the world. Let us continue to ponder on St. John’s Gospel about becoming witnesses,

“You will bear witness as well, for you have been with me from the beginning.” (Jn. 15: 27)

Jesus also tells the apostles about their sadness because he will be gone from them, and yet,

“…your grief will be turned into joy. “ (Jn. 16: 20)

He was preparing them for the sadness that they will experience at the Crucifixion, but also ensuring them the joy of reunion at the Resurrection.

We also experience this in our own way of the Cross. Especially when we are in God’s service. We sometimes feel alone and deserted. But if we hang on in faith, we unite our sufferings with Jesus, who did it out of love to a world that abandoned him.

“In the same way you are sad for a time, but I shall see you again; then your hearts will rejoice with a joy that no one can take away from you.“ (Jn. 16: 22)

Our Lord is speaking about the difficulties of service. However, if we persevere, our faithfulness to Jesus will create in us a new life, full of vigor in love and in faith. Let us take this to heart and experience the inner peace that only Jesus can give.

Champions celebrate and share their life with others. Alone, it does not make sense.

Yearning for Our Love

The Gospel of St. John is often referred to as the “Gospel of Love”, because his views are so much identified with the words of Jesus Christ, to whom he stood “more closely related than any other disciple, that it is difficult to separate them.” St. John speaks from personal experiences and testifies of that which his eyes have seen, his ears have heard and his hands have handled, of the glory of the only begotten Son of the Father, full of grace and truth. His Gospel can be summed up in the words: God first loved us. He exhorts us therefore to love Him and our fellowmen.

The past week’s Gospel readings continue to speak of God’s love for us. It started with the Lord telling us that,

He who obeys the commandments he has from me, is the one who loves me, and he who loves me, will be loved by my Father. I too will love him and reveal myself to him.” (Jn. 14: 21)

Further he said, “He who does not love me, does not keep my words.” (Jn. 14: 24)

The Lord is telling us that the proof of loving him is obedience to his commandments. We can’t say we love him and yet do the contrary. This is difficult in the light of the challenges that we encounter in this earthly pilgrimage. But Jesus tells us not “…to be distressed or fearful.” He offers us his peace and assures us of the presence of the Holy Spirit to guide and strengthen us.

Christ’s life is the perfect example of a life lived in absolute love. We don’t need to look far, we only have to look at the Cross. He did everything for love and obedience to the Father. “There is no greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (Jn. 15:13) He set the example and yearns for us to do the same.

Do everything with love” is one of my favorite verses. (1 Cor. 16: 14) Anything we do in life should be done out of love, whether it is work or play. Doing service or even going to Church shouldn’t be seen as an obligation, but one that’s done out of love for Jesus. While yes, it is an obligation, as a practicing Catholic, we should view Sunday Mass as a love offering for God. We can never repay His goodness but we should try to show our gratitude for his blessings, protection and mercy. There is a lot of beauty and benefit in doing all things with love. Try it, I’ve experienced it myself!

Finally, let us remember that there is a “twist” to all that we’ve been told all along: love is not an option, but a commandment:

This is my commandment: love one another, as I have loved you.” (Jn. 15: 12)

In my life, Jesus matters much. Despite my weaknesses, I will continue trying to love and obey Him. I am grateful to him, for his kindness and mercy knows no limits.