Saturday, April 19, 2014

THE CORNERSTONE OF OUR FAITH


On one occasion I had the opportunity to talk to a group of young people about the resurrection.  I told them that as a Christian I believe in the physical and real resurrection.  I was surprise to see the disbelief in their faces.  Perhaps they still believe in heaven and the life after death, but they think that physical resurrection is impossibility.  But our Christian creed affirms the physical resurrection. That is why St. Paul in His apostolic labour said that the resurrection is a stumbling block among the Jews and was considered foolishness by the Greeks.  Even in Jesus’ time, Our Lord rebuked and corrected the errors of the Sadducees, the Jewish sect of which most of the Priestly class belong.  The Sadducees do not believe in the resurrection of the body.  But Jesus rebukes their unbelief and told them that God is addressed as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  In the light of the resurrection of the dead Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are not dead but they are alive in a futuristic sense. 

The resurrection of Our Lord also calls for faith.  The Scriptures tell us that Christ manifested Himself only to His disciples and to a few women who were witnesses of the resurrection.  What the others have seen was an empty tomb. The missing body of Jesus made commotions in Jerusalem in so much so that the leaders of the Jews were alarmed and instructed the soldiers who saw how the angels ministered to our Lord by rolling the stone, “... Say you, His disciples came by night, and stole him away when we were asleep.” (Matthew 28:13 Douay-Rheims).  I would opine that the reason why only the disciples and a few women have witnessed to the resurrection of our Lord was that to make us believe – to make us accept the Will of God in faith.  For by faith we are saved.  Jesus said, blessed are they who have not seen but have believed.  This was how our Lord rebuked St. Thomas for his unbelief... “Put in thy finger hither, and see my hands; and bring hither thy hand, and put it into my side; and be not faithless, but believing.” (John 20:27 Douay-Rheims)

The importance of the Resurrection of the Body as lived by Our Lord and as affirmed by our creed is that, this event demonstrates to us the completion of the redemptive act.  Of all the sting of sin, the last that must be defeated is death. Because death is the payment and the consequence of sin.  Sin has many side effects, it can cause sickness, it makes our lives miserable, it puts enmity between us and God, it leads us to do awful things, and ultimately it results in physical death.  “For the wages of sin is death.  But the grace of God is life everlasting, in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23 Douay-Rheims).  Christ once and for all has demonstrated that death can be defeated.  And if Christ has defeated death, we too who believe will in the last day rise again.  This is our Christian hope, a blessed hope.  This hope is reinforced many times in our traditions.  This is the reason why we have cemeteries consecrated, this is also the reason why we do not believe in cremation of the dead because even in our burial practices we want to express that faith and hope in the resurrection of the body.  If our bodies die in such humiliation Christ will give us a glorious body. 

Our faith in the resurrection completes the theology of suffering.  We do penance and we endure all sorts of voluntary poverty, persecutions and all sorts of self-denying activity not for its own sake but because we believe that this will make us worthy for the resurrection of the dead.  St. Paul said: “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” (1 Corinthians 15:19 Douay-Rheims.)  That is why the resurrection of the Body is a cornerstone of our faith.  Without it there is no rational justification for our Christian belief.  If the dead do not rise again on the last day then our religion is a miserable religion.  But this hope of the resurrection impels us to persevere to the end.  For death is our last enemy and Christ gives us hope of final victory which He has won.

Today as we celebrate this feast of all feasts, perhaps some us are like Thomas, or the apostles, or perhaps we are like Mary Magdalene and the holy women who went to the sepulchre.  Christ invites us to have an encounter with Him.  Are we like Thomas who doubts?  Let us put our fingers on the hands of our Lord and see by faith the cost that it took Him to win back paradise for us.  Are we like the disciples full of fear...let us put our trust in the victorious Lord, are we like the women full of devotion and trust?  Let us persevere in that attitude of service, for the reward is at hand. 


Let this encounter with the Lord moved us to be the salt and light of the earth.  To be an Easter people means that we permeate with hope, love and forgiveness this temporal world corrupted by sin and decay.  In our service to others we will only be able to express our love for God.  May this Easter also help us gain a deeper appreciation of the Eucharist, the summit of our Christian life and the pledge of immortality.   Jesus said: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven.  If any man eats of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread that I will give, is my flesh, for the life of the world.” (John 6:51 Douay-Rheims)

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Loneliness of Sin: My Good Friday Reflection

The  Image of the Crucified Christ used for Good Friday Liturgy
@ San Juan Bautista Church,
Tabaco City, Albay Philippines

            “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).  The Scripture said that our Lord before he died on the Cross cried out in a loud voice –“My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me?”  Has anyone ever imagined what it is to be wholly forsaken and to be totally lonely?  Has anyone felt what it is to be abandoned by the one you love?  Such is the lot of sinners.  God has nothing to do with sin and the person who sin will experience this desolation.  The Bible said that all men have sinned and was never able to measure up to the standards of God.  And the wages of sin is death (separation from God, desolation, abandonment), [ Romans 3:23 , 6;23].  Most of us sometime in our lives have experienced some form of loneliness or the feeling of rejection.  But for someone who have undergone such humiliation and suffering, the feeling of abandonment is terrible.  Christ on that Good Friday, became “sin” for us in order to offer himself for us a ransom.

            These words of our Lord signify the vicarious nature of his Sacrifice on the cross- “Because Christ also died once for our sins, the just for the unjust; that he might offer us to God, being put to death indeed in the flesh, but enlivened in the spirit.” [1 Peter 3;8 Douay-Rheims version].  We can never truly understand the mystery of sin, but it is a real experience for all of us.  I am often met with looks of scepticism whenever I tell my friends that original sin has made us all enemies of God.  The simple test is this –let us examine our thoughts, why do we love to do the things we know is contrary to God?  Why do we want to gossip and hate our enemies?  Why do we do those things that are contrary to goodness and sound reason?  Are we meant to be this way?  Original sin has clouded our sense of ourselves and it has clouded the image of God in us.  Darkly through a glass we see dimly this image, obliterated by shadows.  But the image of God though obliterated by these shadows (sin) is still alive.  And being separated from God because of these shadows (sin) we feel a sense of alienation and we feel a sense of enmity with ourselves, with our neighbours and with God our Father.  All have sinned and come short of the standard set for us by God.  But here Christ offered Himself to us as a ransom.  He made Himself as the bridge that restored our friendship with God so that we may regained the blessed status we lost in Paradise. 

But the work of salvation is a work in progress.  Conversion is a process, salvation is our goal.  Salvation is a promise that all converted received.  But it is a process.  This is best prefigured by the Sabbath, for in six days God work but on the seventh day He rested.  The history of salvation is also like the week and the Sabbath.  When Christ preached the gospel and accomplished the work of salvation, He accomplished it once and for all.  That is why the paschal mystery is the apex of the history of salvation.  The whole cosmos and history and time converged on this event.  That is why in the light of eternity (timeless existence), Christ is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end.  He is begins and finishes the race for us.  This whole process is best expressed by the sacramental life of the Church.  Baptism initiates us into the life of Christ and restores us to our blessed state, and cancels the punishment due to the sin of Adam and Eve.  But this is not a once and for all event, it is a process; we need to grow and mature and live perseveringly. 

As I grow in my faith, I began to see that my faith in Christ is best lived within the Church, for within the Church Christ accomplishes the work of salvation through the ministration of the sacraments.  Baptism initiates us to Christian life, confirmation strengthens us with the gifts of the Holy Spirit so that we can fight evil and sin.  Penance offers us the door to reconciliation whenever we fail and stumble.  Priesthood sets apart young men chosen called by God and the Church to minister to the people of God.  Marriage helps Christians to build strong families and find expression of the union of Christ (Groom) and His Church (Bride).  And finally the anointing of the sick prepares us for our final journey – death is the last of our enemies to be defeated, but Christ through His resurrection has defeated death for us.  As we prepare for our final journey the Church helps us to be at peace in the hope and faith that we shall rise again on the last day.

            Personally, I consider the Crucifix is one of my favourite sacramental because it expresses the saving and redeeming work of Christ.  This is in fact the meaning of the Mass.  Every time we celebrate the Eucharist, we proclaim His death till He comes again.  That is why the crucifix is one of the most important paraphernalia in the celebration of the Mass.  It should be place at the center, the symbol and focal point, as in “ad orientem”, facing to the east.  For Christ is our sun, the rising and our hope.  It sad to note that in some of our churches the crucifix has been banished into the sideline and in some have all together disappeared.  Perhaps because of the mistaken notion that the crucifix causes fixation with suffering.  They said that Filipinos are so fixated with the images of suffering that is why they say we are not emancipated.  To me this is a wrong notion.  Perhaps this idea of removing the crucifixes at the center of our liturgical celebrations is a product of an academic thesis, but the crucifix is the potent symbol of our redemption.  It is the image that symbolizes the heart of our salvation.  Just as Moses raised up the image of a serpent on a tree that healed the Israelites, so Christ (His Corpus) crucified on a tree raised up on calvary, provides healing for all of us.  For Christ’s crucifixion is not a defeat, it is the symbol of victory.  For on that tree Christ on our behalf redeemed us, and with that once and for all sacrifice offered Himself to God as a propitiation for our sins.  It satisfied and pacified the Divine indignation against sin, for God is Holy and He is a consuming fire.  With Christ hanging on a Tree the divine indignation is pacified and once more we are made friends with God.


For how shall I thank the Lord for all the things He has done for me – I will take the chalice of salvation and praise the Lord.  For even if I walk in the shadow of death, I will trust in the Lord.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

“How does it feel to be inside a tomb?”

MY PERSONAL SUNDAY REFLECTION, FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT, April 6, 2014

Gospel: John 11:1-45

“How does it feel to be inside a tomb?”

By Herbert B. Rosana



I wonder how it feels to be inside a tomb.  Perhaps, even when I am dead I would not experience what it is to be in a tomb.  But the tomb where spirits are in prison is the kind of burial that makes one either hope for deliverance or wrench in despair.

The message of this Sunday’s gospel reading revolves around the miracle that Jesus did when He raised Lazarus to life after being buried in the cave for four days.  Martha speaks about the hope of the resurrection of the body of which our Lord affirmed positively.  We know that we will see our brother Lazarus in the last day when all shall be resurrected to face judgement. But here our Lord, in order to affirm the message of the gospel said that Lazarus’ death was meant to demonstrate the power of the Son of God and the power of His message.  Thus even in a temporal way Christ has demonstrated His capability to deal with the mundane problems of life.  That is why Jesus demanded faith from Martha and Mary.  Because of these Christ demonstrated His power over death, sickness and whatever form of human affliction.  The resurrection of the dead is a fundamental belief of our faith and that we should affirm positively if we want to be saved.

Reflecting on the message of the gospel, and connecting this reflection on the opening statement I have made, how does it feel to be in a tomb? Only we could guess.  Perhaps it is awful, dark and miserable.  But as a natural consequence the dead will never know.  Sometimes there is also a spiritual form of death and many times we find ourselves in this kind of death and “entombment”.  How miserable it is to live in sin, especially the sin that separates us entirely from the life of God.  But even in this miserable state of life, we can always hope and call out to God.  Christ is the master who will call us out from the entombment of sin and misery.  We are the children of hope and even in deep misery we can always call upon Christ to save us.  Like St. Peter when he started to walk in the water, but the moment he began to doubt, he sank little by little, but there and then our Lord extended His hand to save and to confirm the faltering faith of Simon Peter.  We too often find ourselves sinking because of sin, but we can always hope and call upon our Lord to save.  His Name and hands are mighty to save.


Thinking of the various scandals that happened in our church, especially child abuse, abuse of power, clericalism and the ridicule of the world, these experiences are like entombment.  Even in this seeming failure, Christ works in order to purify our hearts and our Church.  The church will never be defeated.  That was the promise of Christ to Simon Peter, prince of the apostles.  But these events, has led us to be more open and to overcome the culture of silence and the culture of cover up.  Sometimes we cover up because we want to protect the reputation of the Church, but in so doing we do not address the problem but instead we make it worse.  But as in exorcism the first step is to name the “devil”.  So too in this process of purification we need to name our own evils so that we can address these evils and purify ourselves from these miseries.  From this “entombment”, we ask ourselves and we search ourselves, “how does it feel to be in the tomb?”  Like Martha and Mary let us affirm our faith in the Son of God so that just as He called Lazarus out of the tomb, we too can hear the call of Christ.  Yes, we are afraid, perhaps like Martha we would tell our Lord, “do not open the tomb, he has been buried for four days and there is the stench”.  Perhaps likewise we would say I do not want to acknowledge my sinfulness because it will hurt me.  My sin stinks.  But then, let us listen to the Son of God answer His call and we shall be delivered whole and entire.  For that is the way of salvation.  Amen. 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

What matters most



MY SUNDAY REFLECTION: March 2, 2014, 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time

“What matters most; A Reflection on Matthew 6:24-34”
By Herbert B. Rosana, Ph.D.

There are so many things that bother the human mind.  Sometimes in an effort to put a semblance of order we prioritized our activities.  But we have asked ourselves what it is that really matters most?  Sometimes, the way we worry about things is almost pagan-like?  Why do I say pagan-like? Because Christ referred to this kind of worrying as pagan-like!  Many people worry about what to eat, what to drink, and what clothes they are to wear.  Sometimes, people worry about the future.   I think that these questions are more challenging today especially that many countries are undergoing economic recession.  It seems that the more we hold on to our material possessions the more that chances of keeping them are slipping away.  But have we really thought of what is the most important in life?  People worry about clothes – But the body is more important than clothes.  People worry about food – but life is more than food. 

God Almighty of course does not want His children to be destitute.  Christ said: “Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all, but seek first the kingdom of God and all His righteousness and all these things shall be given you besides.” When we seek the Kingdom of God and do His righteousness we can be assured that God will provide everything we need.  But the question is who has the faith to believe?

For indeed no one can serve two masters.  We cannot serve God and money at the same time.  For we would either love the one and hate the other.  Thus, just as God hated idolatry, because idolatry takes away our love for God for the love of the creature, so God hates those who profess to love Him but their priorities are earthly.  This situation does not make a distinction between the rich and the poor.  Even the poorest human being on earth can be as covetous and greedy as they could.  It is also possible that the richest human being on earth can be the most generous and self-giving.

For indeed, it is not the outward situation in life that paints our character, but it is our hearts and our attitudes.  Christ said it is not what we put into our mouths that make us unclean, but what comes our mouth.  In our Christian life what matters most is how we prioritize the kingdom of God.  As we value the pearl of great price.  We are willing to give up everything just to possess that value of great price.  The more that the meaning of this gospel sinks into our minds, the more that the Lord’s Prayer becomes more meaningful.  In my Christian life, I could say that when I was immature, I thought that I have to pray with lots of words.  But when I came to realize the truth of this gospel, I also realize that the Lord’s Prayer summarizes everything.

A blessed Sunday to all of us.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Letter and Spirit of the Law

MY SUNDAY REFELCTION: February 23, 2014
Reflections from Matthew 5:38-48

THE GRACE OF GOD IS THE BRIDGE BETWEEN THE LETTER AND SPIRIT OF THE LAW.
By Herbert B. Rosana, Ph.D.

I found our readings for today the easiest to read.  The words and the message are spelled out so clearly that hardly there is a need to explain what our Lord would like us to know and do.  But from a different perspective, this teaching is actually one of the most difficult to follow.  How can we love our neighbour in the same way we love ourselves? And how can we love our enemies?

This week, in a recorded message of Pope Francis to the Evangelical Church – Kenneth Copeland ministries in the U.S., the Pope said that the greatest commandment of God is to love God and to love our neighbours, and if we have these, we can move forward.  The history of Christendom is replete with historical events that demonstrated how the church struggled to keep up with this teaching and yet history was punctuated with many controversies that put to test our love for our neighbours.  The great Christological controversies of the first three hundred years of Christianity, the great schism in the eleventh century and the protestant reformation and counterreformation are just examples of the church’s struggle.  But each time we see how the grace of God works.  God is leading His people towards reconciliation.  When we fail His chastisement comes but with the grace to help us rise up.  Today this challenge remains the same, but the grace of God is unlimited if only we would draw from it the help we need.

In the Old Testament we saw how the Children of Israel, the people of God were commanded to love their brothers. In Leviticus 19:17-18 God emphasized and affix His Name on that great commandment.  He said: “I am the Lord”. Reflecting again on the first reading and on the Gospel, I notice a parallelism.  The Old Testament emphasized love for one’s neighbour, and who is the neighbour?  The neighbour here is their fellow Israelites, and thus this excludes the Gentiles.  But in the New Testament, Christ reaffirmed this commandment but expanded it to include everyone and to even command love for one’s enemies, and the demonstration of love and compassion even for those bitterly oppose to us.

Christ came not to abolish the Law but to fulfil it.  He re-affirmed the unity and continuity of the Old and the New Testament.  Just as the Law came though Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  Christ came to fulfil the spirit of the Law, while Moses mediated the letter of the Law.  This very same grace brought by Christ, is the panacea for the sin that has afflicted humankind.  It does not only command obedience, but it gives the means to fulfil.  While John the Baptist baptize with water, Christ baptize with spirit and with fire.  Did we not remember how terrified were the disciples before the Pentecost?  But after the descent of the Holy Spirit, the disciples became bolder in their proclamation of the gospel.  The early church as a caring and loving church, witnessing to the message of Christ.  The fervency, love and courage shown by Stephen the proto-martyr demonstrated the kind of grace that comes from the spirit of the Law. 

In this age of grace, the light has shown among the gentiles.  Jesus is offering his  saving grace to all nations.  St. Paul said, no one can be saved by their own efforts.  Thus the legalistic observance of the Law of Moses is futile unless God gives us the Holy Spirit and gives us the extraordinary and unmerited help to overcome our weaknesses and our wounded nature.  As we walk in this narrow way, may we discover the joy and happiness of Christian perfection.  May we learn to truly love and to truly be compassionate so that we may become the children of the Father.  And this can come to reality when we listen to the Word of God.  Faith comes by listening to the Word of God.  Amen.



Saturday, February 15, 2014

Perfection: The Hallmark of Christianity

MY SUNDAY REFLECTIONS: From Matthew 5:17-37

Perfection: The Hallmark of Christianity
By Herbert B. Rosana, Ph.D.

“For unless your perfection exceeds that of the Pharisees, you shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”

The Judaism of Jesus’ time in Palestine  emphasizes strict adherence to the Mosaic Law.  Through the course of time, the Jews compiled several books of commentaries called the Talmud which form part of the Mosaic Law, or an addition to the Torah (the commandments found in the first five books of the Bible).  There were customs attached to the practice of the Mosaic Law.  At that time, to be a true believer is to perfectly obey the Law.  Because of this there was a marked difference between the common man and the Pharisees as well as the other sects of Judaism.  While the common people were considered ignorant and sinners, the Pharisees pride themselves of being the teachers of the law and obedient to the Law.

Christ, in the course of His ministry has rebuked the hypocrisy of these teachers of the Law.  Being a teacher in His own right, Christ has introduced a new way of interpreting the Law.  In so much so that He said that unless we surpass the righteousness of the Pharisees we shall not enter the Kingdom of God.  This is indeed a radical teaching.  Something that will catch the ire of contemporary teachers of the Law.  An idea that will stir controversy. 

Controversial at it may be.  Jesus in His teaching was introducing the message of grace.  One who is familiar with the books of the New Testament will see how St. Paul the apostle expounded on this theology of grace.  Since it was incapable for humankind to achieve holiness on their own free will, it is necessary that God in His omnipotence should intervene in order to strengthen the human person to obey the will of God.  Human beings on their own are bound to fail because of mortal sin.  St. Augustine introduce the doctrine of Original Sin.  Original Sin means the sinful tendencies, which made us enemies of God that we inherited from our first parents, Adam and Eve.  The effect of Adam’s disobedience darkened the soul and nature of human beings.  It clouded the image of God in us, but not completely.  Blurry as it may be the image of God is still in us.  That is why St. Paul was moved to say that even among the Gentiles who have never known God; His Eternal Law is inscribed in their consciences.  That there is a door of reconciliation, but this door or this way is a way defined by God and not by humans.  The various customs created by the Pharisees were too complicated to follow.  One would have spent a life time memorizing and mastering these laws, but it is of no help to human beings because no matter how they memorize these laws they are bound to disobey, because the force of sin is still much around the corner.

The only way by which humans can be delivered from sin is for them to accept Christ and believe in Him.  “I will send you the Comforter” says Christ.  To strengthen us and to save us.  Human beings need the “Grace of God” in order to be saved from these sinful tendencies.  We do not merit these graces, we do not work for it because it is something given by God freely.  This teachings should remind us of the grace we receive in Baptism, how Go forgave us of our sinfulness and washed us clean by the saving waters of Baptism.  It made us friends with God.  But sometimes we also commit mistakes and humans as we are, we are bound to commit mistakes and because of this the Church has provided us the Sacrament of Penance.  One thing I appreciate with our church is that it affords us the means of sanctification.  We say that the Catholic Church is Holy; it is holy because it has Christ for its founder, and it has the means by which human beings /her members could be made holy.  For if God will not make us holy, we will never be holy on our own.  This is the meaning of Grace.  And Grace comes through hearing and hearing the Word of God.  The overflowing of grace is not a onetime experience but it is a lifetime process.  A continuous action in metanoia. A transformation of the self. 

To be truly pleasing to God is not through servile obedience to the Law, but the continuous surrender of one’s will to God by listening to the Word of God and obedience.  Once filled with this faith and with this grace, our obedience to God will be perfect.  As Christ said, that the Law is subsumed into two commandments: (1) Love God above all things and (2) Love your neighbour as you love yourself.  It is only through this grace of God in Jesus that we win our sonship in the Kingdom of God, and in the course of conversion we win the friendship of God.  When we do what is pleasing to God that is the sign of friendship.  When grace is overflowing, truth and justice will follow.  For the Law came through Moses, but Grace and Truth came through Jesus Christ our Lord.

May God transform us to what He wants us to be, and may He grant us the grace to be perfect for this is the mark of our being Christians.

Amen.



Friday, February 7, 2014

TO BE TRAILBLAZERS



MY SUNDAY REFLECTION: February 9, 2014, 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 5:13-16

“TO BE A TRAIL BLAZER”
By Herbert B. Rosana, Ph.D.

Life is too short, but given the shortness of life, we are given a task to accomplish.  The sad part of living is that many people think that this life is the only life and thus they set the parameters of their goals based on the shortness of this life and thus they end up disappointed and spend old age and even their lifetime in despair. 

I have been following the daily homily of Pope Francis, thanks to Vatican News service for carrying his sermons on its pages.  Of recent, the Holy Father spoke of about the three graces we need to pray for.  These are, (1) To pray that we die at home-[meaning as a member of the church in the state of grace], (2) to die with hope, and (3) to leave a legacy, a human legacy.  This is one of the best homily I have heard from the Holy Father because it gave me lasting impressions.  I would think that others who have heard or read about the homily will also be impressed by the profoundness and the timeliness of the message.

Reflecting on the gospel reading for today, I found the holy Father’s thought very similar to the message of the gospel.  To be the salt of the earth, and to be the light.  Salt and light.  We put salt on our food to make it more tastier, but Christ said, what would the salt be if it has lost its savour?  What would the light be if we put it under the bed? As Christians our calling is to bear fruit.  And who said that salvation is a onetime event?  The Scriptures tell us that we need to work out our salvation (Philippians 2:12).  In order to be saved we must believe in Christ and allow ourselves to be transformed.  The process of transformation takes time.  In fact this is a lifetime event.  So that by being transformed we need to be renewed each time and to be perfected until the end.  This is what it means to have hope, because like the labourer we expect to receive our wages at the end of the day.  To those who obey the Lord the reward is immortality, to those who do not, the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).  

Perhaps the cares of this world, the lust of life and the vanity of sin, must have dampen our souls.  It may have cause us to lose our savour. If so, let us remind ourselves of our baptism, that day when we were wearing white clothing, ready for the saving waters to be poured on us, how the Lord made us clean, washed us by His Holy Blood, and make us whiter than snow.  Let us not be discouraged because of sin.  In every failure there is hope.  This is the reason why we have the sacrament of penance.  We have the Eucharist to nourish us.  We have the Word of God to guide and teach us.  We have the encouragement of the community of the faithful.  Let us not lose that savour.  Let us be the salt of the earth.  We must be an influence to the world.  We must sanctify the surrounding we find ourselves.  Even in the most secular activity we can infuse it with our faith.  Like the light in the candle we can penetrate the darkest corner of this world.  Let us be salt and light to our families, to our communities, and to our country, that by seeing our good works, the people around us will see the light of Christ and be encouraged to follow the path to salvation.  Let us become trailblazers that as we live and leave this short life we can trail a blaze that can be seen by everyone.  So that those who will see and remember us can say, “here is a man who has followed Christ and has loved Him until the end.  Let us follow him”.   With this hope of Christ Jesus, we shall find ourselves in the Kingdom of God, in the many mansions prepared for us.  As the prophet Daniel said: “But they that are learned shall shine as the brightness of the firmament: and they that instruct many to justice, as stars for all eternity.” Daniel 12:3 (Douay-Rheims Version).  Amen.  Blessed Sunday to everyone.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

THE ELDERLY: THE FORGOTTEN SECTOR EVEN AMONG CHURCH COMMUNITIES

ALONG WITH CHILDREN AND THE SPECIALLY-ABLED PERSONS, the elderly is one of the most vulnerable sectors of our society.  They suffer from neglect, discrimination and biases.  We see how some children neglect to care for their elderly parents, subject them not only to neglect but physical and psychological abuse.  Sometimes, society's attitude towards the elderly reflects discrimination.  For example we often hear words like, "si tanda", "itong matandang ito!", as if getting old or aging is a human defect.  There are simple words and expressions but they speak a lot how we society treat our elderly.  It seems that many has forgotten the fact that someday they too will become old.  As humans, and as individuals let us learn to reflect.  Perhaps reflection would make us realize some truths and make us more compassionate.

Read more from CBCP News

Saturday, February 1, 2014

SACERDUS MAGNUS



MY SUNDAY REFLECTION ON THE FEAST OF THE PRESENTATION:
February 2, 2014
“Our High Priest”
By Herbert B. Rosana, Ph.D.

“Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign to be contradicted – and you yourself a sword will pierce- so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

Today is the feast of “Candelaria” or candle mass.  We specially commemorate the presentation of the Lord in the temple.  Joseph and Mary in obedience to the Law of Moses presented Jesus in the temple because Jesus was the first born.  Being poor, instead of the lamb offerings, the couple offered turtle doves for their sacrifice.   This was in obedience to the Law of Moses of which could be read from Leviticus 12:6-8; 5:7-11.  Jesus was the first born and therefore as the law commands he should be dedicated as set aside.  This commemorates the pass over, when the angel of death claimed the first born of Egypt and the first born of the pharaoh but the first born of the children of Israel were saved by the sprinkling of the blood of the lamb and this symbolizes the final deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt. 

I imagine Joseph and Mary after forty days bringing their child to the Herodian temple entering through Nicanor’s gate.  Being poor in circumstance, the couple could not afford the lamb but instead brought in the pigeon as substitute for a sin offering as required by the Law.  There are several thoughts that run through my mind as I reflect on this reading. 

First, we saw that Mary and Joseph were examples of devotion.  Despite of their poverty, they joyfully and willingly complied with the requirements of the Law.  Second, It brings me to reflect upon the role of the Mosaic rituals in relation to the New Covenant revealed by Christ.  The Mosaic rituals were in essence ineffectual in saving men from the grip of sinfulness because they were symbols pointing to the one holy sacrifice made by Jesus on Calvary. That is why the Mosaic rituals have to be done repeatedly year after year. But St. Paul said, “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin.” Hebrews 10:3 (NAS).  What then is the purpose for the elaborate and detailed rituals of the Mosaic and Levitical rituals?  These rituals were symbols pointing us to the reality of the saving work of God.  This is the reason why Aaron and His sons were instructed to carefully observe the specifications given as for the worship of the One True God, because these rituals were windows and shadows of the heavenly worship.  These rituals, laws and precepts were meant to be our tutor, to prepare the people of God for the final redeeming act to be accomplished by God through His Son Jesus as pointed out in the promise in Genesis 3:15. 

          Thirdly, as pointed out by the second reading, the presentation in the temple revealed to us the priestly role of Christ.  He came as a poor man.  Blessed as are the poor for they shall inherit the Kingdom of God.  The blessedness of the poor consists in the fact that Christ embraced poverty.  He came to the world as poor, born in a stable, lived as an ordinary man and died the most abject form of death.  He passed through all the things we have experienced including temptation but He never committed a sin and he triumph over all these temptations.  So that when He ascended on High, He can be our advocate, a real Priest, not in along the line of Aaron but according to the order of Melchizedek.  Like Melchizedek without an origin and without an end. Christ came in poverty, he embraced poverty because He came to give hope, to announce the coming of the Kingdom and to usher in the age of grace that will eventually lead to the Parousia.  In order to accomplish this he has to be with His people who are poor and who are living in darkness.  So that by being with them, He can give them hope, give them salvation, and heal them.  That is why today we say that the Church is a church of the poor because the church has to carry out Christ’s mission of saving the poor.  The Church has to carry out this mission of giving hope and proclaiming the Parousia.  When Christ offered Himself on the cross and when He ascended into heaven, He became our advocate a real Priest, our high Priest.  A high Priest who is not detached from His people but is one with them.  This thought is captured by Hebrews 2:14, “Since the children share in blood and flesh, Jesus likewise shared in them that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is the devil, and free those who through fear of death had been subject to slavery all through their life.”

And lastly may this feast of the presentation not only encourage us to love the poor and to bring the saving hope of Christ to the poor but lead us more to the appreciation of the Eucharist.  For when the breaking of the bread is done, Christ is there, truly present, body, soul and divinity.  It takes us to the foot of Calvary, symbolized by the altar on which the Eucharist is offered.  Christ our High Priest offers Himself as propitiation for our sins, a sacrifice pleasing to God our Father.  May this Eucharist be always be the source of all our love, for it is the one sacrifice that will sanctify us, give us hope and make us inheritors of God’s Kingdom, in this life and in the life to come.  May the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose heart was pierced with a lance as prophesied by Simeon, accompany us in this journey.  Let us not fear...we have a High Priest on High who is able to strengthen us, to comfort us and to finally enable us to inherit God’s Kingdom.  This same High Priest- Christ Jesus, has strengthened the hearts of the ancient martyrs who braved the Lions and gladiators and willingly joined their blood and hearts to the Savior.

Happy feast day.  Amen.