Sunday, January 20, 2013

Pit Senyor: Long Live the Holy Child


The Icon of the Santo Nino is not a magic. It is not a talisman that will invite good fortune and money as some ignorant people believe it is. But rather it is a powerful icon in the sense that it transports our consciousness from the material to the spiritual of which the icon represents. The Santo Nino indeed can bless us materially, more abundantly even beyond our imagination, but above all the Santo Nino wants us to be saved, he wants us to live in the state of sanctifying grace, to live by the gospel and to show our love for the poor. If we do this then our popular expression of devotion will never be in vain but it will be efficacious and redeeming.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

THE STO. NINO: THE PARADOX OF FAITH AND DOOR TO GOD'S KINGDOM


This 3rd Sunday of January marked a special feast for the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines.  Today is the feast of the Holy Child or popularly known in the Philippines as the Santo Nino.  The Santo Nino is one of the most popular and well venerated icons of Christ representing His Childhood and Kingship.  The Santo Nino has occupied an important role in the Evangelization of the Philippine Islands.  Fernando Magallanes (Ferdinand Magellan) gifted the King and Queen of Cebu with an Image of the Infant of Prague.  The death of Magellan and the departure of the first expedition created an interregnum until the second expedition fifty years later.  On the return of the second expedition, the Spaniards were surprised to find out that there in Cebu the image of the Holy Child were preserved and kept by the natives. To this day the Santo Nino is venerated by Filipino Catholics and almost every home the image of the Santo Nino is displayed for veneration.

Like my fellow country folks, I am also a devotee of the Santo Nino in my own way.  In this devotion I find and see the face of Jesus and the promise of paradise/Eden.  Let me offer to you my personal reflections. 

[1] The Icon of the Santo Nino beyond the material importance that we give to the icon is the essence of God’s Kingdom.  The Kingdom of God means the reign of God in our lives, in our community and in the world.  We speak about this in both our devotional/personal lives as well as in its eschatological dimension.  Simply put it, the Kingdom of God is something that is given to us now by faith, and in the future at the end of the ages, when Christ will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.  For this reason Christ said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.  Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” – Luke 18-16.  The image of the Child Jesus tells us that the only way we could regain our status in Paradise is to have the humble and trusting faith of a child.  This calls for the surrender of our wills to God – to follow God’s will.  Humankind lost paradise by succumbing to temptation and pride.  “You can become like god”.  Perhaps God was withholding this to you because you have the potential to become like God, says the tempter.  And because of the weakness of the flesh and the vanity of humankind Adam and Eve succumb to Pride which led to their downfall.  “Behold they have become like us, knowing what is good and evil.”  Humankind thought that by obtaining the power to control themselves apart from God, which they will be able to free themselves.  But by gaining the desire for self-will and knowledge, humankind was plunge into evil and darkness.  Humankind can never find its way back to God, if they will continue to believe and think that by their own powers and will, they could find the way back to God.  A Saint Paul said: “God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” – Romans 1:24.  That is why even today, with the advances in science and technology, even with higher education; still our nation is still plunge in corruption, ineptitude and violence.  But how many of us own or venerate the icon of the Holy Child?  How many of us participate in Holy Mass every Sunday? How many of us would give donations to charity, as if we think we could repay our evil deeds with money?  Our veneration of the Holy Child will be futile and fruitless unless what we seek from Him goes beyond the material benefits towards the spiritual benefits.  Aptly our Lord said: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you.”  As we look at the icon of the Holy Child, let us be reminded and be instructed that the way to God’s kingdom, the way to peace and the way to real prosperity is by surrendering our will to God and see in the Santo Nino, the New Adam, the New Father of the Human Race, born to be a salvation and blessing for all humankind.  A heart full of repentance is what the Lord is seeks from us.

[2] Another point that I would like to give in my reflection is the need for us to mature in faith. The Filipino people are blessed with a believing and trusting hearts.  That is why when the Faith of Jesus Christ came to these shores 400 years ago, the Filipino nation embraced the faith so willingly.  This made manifest in the collective outpouring of devotion as shown by how we make a display of our affection for God through our festivals, like the one we are having in the Sinulog, Quiapo, Penafrancia and many others.  Some people and some of our friends who do not belong to our faith often criticize us that the outpouring of our devotion is bordering on paganism.  There is always one answer I give to the critic, whether pagan or Christian, human beings possess that innate desire to worship God and put tangible expression for that devotion.  What makes popular devotion popular, of which the Sinulog is one example, is its simplicity.  It puts the faith in a form that is simple and therefore comprehensible, within the reach of all (New Advent Encyclopedia).  There is nothing against Catholic dogma and doctrine in this practice.  Therefore it serves as a powerful vehicle to promote growth and maturity in faith.  Faith is both human and divine.  It is human because, human nature is always there at play.  God does not force anyone to believe, but Humankind is given that freedom to accept and reject.  But coupled with that freedom is the understanding that our choices have consequences.  Faith is Divine in the sense that it is something given to us as a gift, as a display of favor.  “Christ did not come to destroy nature, He came to sanctify it,” to make it perfect and conformed to the image of God.  For God, even in the darkness in which humankind fell, did not abandon them but retained within them the life and light of the Divine.  Jesus came to give us that sanctifying grace, so that God’s image, overshadowed by sin can be recreated in us.  This truth aptly is demonstrated in waters of Baptism.  Thus, from the popular outpouring of devotion we must grow into a full understanding of what it is to be a Christian.  We honor Christ and lavish Him with outpouring of devotion, but the most tangible and saving response is to live according to His Teachings.  Our fervor and unabashed display of love should be channeled into a concrete and intelligible understanding of the faith so that in our everyday lives we can show what it means to be in the state of sanctifying grace.  The Icon of the Santo Nino is not a magic.  It is not a talisman that will invite good fortune and money as some ignorant people believe it is.  But rather it is a powerful icon in the sense that it transports our consciousness from the material to the spiritual of which the icon represents.  The Santo Nino indeed can bless us materially, more abundantly even beyond our imagination, but above all the Santo Nino wants us to be saved, he wants us to live in the state of sanctifying grace, to live by the gospel and to show our love for the poor.  If we do this then our popular expression of devotion will never be in vain but it will be efficacious and redeeming.


Saturday, January 12, 2013

THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD: A REFLECTION


John the Baptist, Administering baptism to Our Lord Jesus. Photo by Dr. H. Rosana, from the Shrine of Our Lady of Penafrancia, Naga City, Camarines Sur, Philippines



“...’Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased." Luke 3:22

Today we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord and in today’s Liturgy we read about John the Baptist and about Jesus.  John preceded the Lord in his ministry.  He was well known among many Judeans as the baptizer, that is why they called him the Baptist.  His fire and brimstone preaching had its impact on his audience.  He came with the power of Elijah.  His words touched on the hearts of the people, that according to the Scriptures even the soldiers, the prostitutes and even the prominent religious teachers of his time (including the Pharisees) listened intently and inquired of John what they should do.  Though he did not perform any miracles or signs, Jesus, our Lord said that of all the prophets born of women, there was no one greater than John the Baptist ( I would opine that John the Baptist will occupy an important place in the Kingdom of God).  John’s prominence was so obvious that many thought John would be the Messiah, the anointed one who will deliver Israel from bondage.  But when asked about it he said, "I baptize you with water; but he who is mightier than I is coming, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” Luke 3:16. 

Now Christ like many of the Jews of the time went also to John’s Baptism, John recognized him and said that he was not worthy of Baptize the Lord.  But Jesus our Lord told that this has to be done because this was the requirement of God’s righteousness.  If there are two things that unite John the Baptist and Jesus, was their humility and submission to God’s Will.  Both obeyed God even in the most smallest detail.  They were devoid of worldly mentality and in fact despise the standards and honours of this world.  John showed his renunciation by wearing a camel’s skin as his clothes and he nourished himself only with bread, honey and water.  Jesus for His part said, that birds have nests but the “Son of Man” has nowhere to lay His head.  Moreover He said on one occasion that the Kings and prominent men of this world are served and are obeyed, but in the Kingdom of God, the one who is the greatest is the one who serves. 

Thus, in today’s reading we saw how God has anointed His Messiah, the saviour and king of Israel and the saviour of the world.  When John Baptized Jesus, the Spirit of God affirmed this in bodily form for everyone to hear.  God, Almighty said: "Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased."

John’s humility and Christ’s humility were the redeeming manifestations of God’s grace.  For if Adam and Eve lost their place in Paradise by disobedience and pride, and if Lucifer fell from heaven because of pride, here Christ is telling us that humility and submission to God’s Will, will open the door to paradise and to the tree of life [which is Jesus, Jesus is the tree of life, the man who hanged on the tree-the cross, became our source of life.].   The lesson for today is telling us that like John and Jesus we should follow the way of obedience.  The word obedience is something not easy for our present world.  This is because the modern Man tells us to disobey the will of God.  The relativism of this age makes the individual person the moral arbiter.  There is a general attitude to despise values and faith commonly shared by all believers.  This is evident in many facets of our communal, and national life.  There are times when even our religious leaders when they teach the truth, are often despised and maligned.  But we who are called to follow Jesus, must learn to seek the Will of God, no matter how difficult or unpopular it is.  There are many practical situations when this is tested.  For example when we emphasize and stood for the value of life and the value of the Christian family, we are maligned by the world.  We are touted as intolerant and closed-minded.  Yes it is true, we do not impose our views on others, but neither can we remain silent and put our beliefs and faith in the closet.  For Christ said that, when we lit a candle, we put that candle on the receptacle and on top of the table for everyone to see.  So that its light will shine on everyone.  Furthermore we are also called to be the salt of earth.  To give flavour.  But what if the salt has lost its savour? Will it be good for anything still?

Sunday, January 6, 2013

REFLECTION ON THE FEAST OF THE MAGI

The Baby Jesus, The Author's Personal Collection
THIS SUNDAY we celebrated the feast of the magi. The readings in the mass today spoke about the wise men from the East or magi. What is the signification of this feast. We are told in the Scriptures that wise men came from the east because according to the gospel narrative, they have read from the stars that on that day the King of the Jews was born. According to our tradition it was said that there were three magi. In fact oral tradition had names for them, Melchor, Gaspar and Batazar. It was also said that one brought with him an incense, the other brought gold and myrrh. These three gifts stood for what Christ was going to do for the human race. Gold, to signify that Jesus Christ is King. He is the King of Israel, he is the anointed king coming from God. Incense stood for his priestly office. Jesus Christ is our High Priest, He was the one who entered into the Holy of Holies and has offered the eternal sacrifice most pleasing to God and efficacious. Myrrh because of the passion and suffering that he was to undergo. Christ, the eternal High Priest who offered Himself to God as a clean oblation, most pleasing and propitious. Another important signification of the feast of the magi, was to tell us that the Kingdom of God and salvation was open for all people, of every race and of every tongues. Salvation will come from the Jews but it was meant not only for the Jews but for the gentiles as well. Those believe and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord will be saved. This is what the apostles of ancient times and this is what the Catholic Church still preaches until today, till the comsumation of time, when Christ will come to judge the world in righteousness. - Happy Epiphany, to God be the glory!

Friday, January 4, 2013

RH Bill / Law: A Divisive Debate but a May turn to be a Blessing in Disguise

AN EYE OPENER, WAY FOR SELF-REFLECTION, AND A BLESSING IN DISGUISE. The decline of Church influence in state matters is indeed tragic as it could open a way for haters of the church and her enemies to pass laws and policies that would undermine the faith and doctrine of the Church. But this also calls self-reflection. Perhaps the Bishops should concentrate now on how to effectively promote faith via Catechism and enhancing the devotional life of the faithful. Just like prior to Vatican II when people would listen and obey the advice of their Priests. The Bishops I think have never paid attention so much on these. The social concerns and liberation theology has gotten hold on a few and this has sidetrack the church. If the Bishops could raise spiritual devotion it would not be very difficult to persuade politicians and the faithful to adhere to the teachings of Christ and of the church. I salute the Bishops who were physically present there at congress. They have proven themselves to be real shepherds. To those who have been silent and complacent and the fearful ones, I say, you are accountable to Jesus, the master shepherd who has appointed you to guard the flock against the wolves. Now that the wolves have attack the flock through un-Christian legislation, where are they now? Will they hold their peace?

Here is an article from Rappler.