Saturday, September 28, 2013

THE NEW WEAPONS ACCORDING TO POPE FRANCIS

"Napoleon is not coming anymore...[the] war today is something is else...It is a war that is not waged with the weapons that we recognize: it is a war waged with the tongue...If (you hear) someone gossiping, stop him! (Say) ‘here there can be none of that: walk out of St. Anne’s Gate. Go outside and talk there! Here you cannot!...We ask St. Michael to help us in this war: never speak ill of each other, never open your ears to gossip." - Pope Francis in his his message during the mass for the Gendarmes the Vatican Police Force founded by Pope Pius VII after the dissolution of Napoleon's Empire. They are primarily tasked with protecting the Vatican and enforcing the laws of the city-state. Source: CNA

HOW IS EVANGELIZTION BE FOCUSED?

There will be a conference in Manila, Philippine Conference on New Evangelization See here
Will this approach win new converts?
Is the message of this conference just a repetition of the theologies of the 70s which failed to produce results?
Does the "church of the poor" means changing the social structures of the present system through social activism?
Will ecumenism bring converts to the church?
Why the Misa ng Bayang Pilipino?  It has never been approved by the Church.

THE SUFFICIENCY OF THE GOSPEL MESSAGE



MY REFLECTIONS (Sunday, September 29, 2013)
Today’s readings: Amos 6:1a, 4-7.  1 Timothy 6:11-16,  Luke 16: 19-31

“The Sufficiency of the Gospel Message and the Surety of the Last Judgement”

            I was amazed at how two popes, one reigning and one emeritus would respond to the letter of an Atheist. It dawned on me that in the West (perhaps I am wrong in my assumptions), atheism, agnosticism and religious indifference is so prevalent, that it catches the attention of popes.  This is the reason perhaps why the Holy See launched the program of “New Evangelization”, that is to convert to re-introduce Christianity once again to the countries/peoples that once knew Christ but has abandoned or neglected the faith.  Sometimes the cares of this world has a power to overshadow whatever trust we need to have of God.  Not only the cares, but the confidence that financial success brings about has the ability to deaden whatever need of faith. In casual conversations with friends and even with some of my students, I sometimes try to bring out the topic of last judgement, that there is a need for us to be responsible for our actions because there is a day, when we shall die and after that comes the judgement.   I often receive a variety of responses when bringing out this subject for conversations.  Some would feign that they do not hear me, while some would plainly ignore the topic and some will express unbelief.  One of my students even said that if we know what we do and if we like what we do, then there is no sin.  Another would say, “Why bother about heaven or hell, we do not even know if they really exist.”  Another expresses such unbelief when asked are you not afraid to see the consequence of your action after you die, to which he replied, “When I am dead, then I am nothing so why worry?”  While some say, “are you sure that there is life after death?”  Indeed, the pride of this life and its cares have the power to drive away our perspective and vision of the afterlife.  Must it take someone who has died to come back to life to tell us that there is life after death and that there is heaven to gain and a hell to shun?

            The gospel reading for this Sunday, reminds us that the message of the gospel and the mission of the church is sufficient enough to warn us of the last judgement day.  Faith is a gift.  No one can come to God unless the Father draw him near (John 6:44).  The only way that faith can come to us is by faith.  And faith comes about by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17).  The implication of this is that, there is no need for extraordinary events to happen before we believe.  God has given us all the means to be saved.   Thus, when asked the question, are you saved? My answer is, “I am working out my salvation with trembling and fear.” (Philippians 2:12).  For nobody can really tell if you are saved.  No converted Christians even in the New Testament ever said that they were saved, but everyone believes that they will be saved.  I believe too that the gospel message is sufficient enough to warn us of the dangers of sin and hell.  It is only sad that now a day in homilies, sermons and the printed word, seldom do we hear about hell, sin and the devil.  Many seemingly want to be entertained with jokes and funny stories and many would resent being reminded of hell and sin.  But the reality is there.  As Abraham said to the rich man in hell, “if they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.”  Amen.

The New Evangelization in Manila?

"Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle said “The eyes of the Vatican are on us”, not to police but to see what happens in the Philippine Conference on New Evangelization (PCNE) that he as organized for October 16-18, 2013 at the University of Santo Tomas." - From RECAM  

My comments:  Is the Holy See now simply a watcher?  Is the Archdiocese of Manila independent?  I am bewildered!!!!!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

THE FACE OF THE FATHER



MY MEDITATION FOR THIS SUNDAY 24th of ORDINARY TIME

Jesus shows us the Face of the Father in this age of grace

Meditating on the first, second and the gospel readings for today, I could not help but be impressed by the interconnection of the verses that reveals to us the face and nature of God whom we call “Our Father”.  I was led to think how the history of salvation teaches us in a most unique way.  It gives us a grasp of the relevance and the hidden message in our salvation history.  

In the Old Testament we saw God as the law giver, the righteous one, and one who seeks justice, the one who is all holy.  But despite of the zeal of the Lord, He showed Himself as the Most Merciful One.  A God who listens to the entreaties of His servant.  For as Moses interceded for the children of Israel fallen into idolatry, God heard His prayers.  In remembrance of His promises to the patriarchs, His heart was touched with pity and mercy for His erring people. 

Perhaps we can call the age of the Old Testament as the age of Law-Giving.  An age where God through his Laws teaches His chosen people, placing them under tutelage of the Law so that when the fullness of time should come, they, with an open heart will accept the message of His Salvation.  St. Paul explained to us that no one has fulfilled the Law, everyone has violated the Law and that everyone deserves condemnation.  No one has fulfilled the law because everyone is under the sway of original sin.  And Christ by His Saving works has fulfilled the Law and cancelled the punishment by His propitious sacrifice on Calvary.  For we are saved not by the works of the Law (because no mortal will ever be able to fulfil its requirements) but by faith in Christ that shows itself in good works.  Christ has summarized the entire Law into two.  LOVE GOD ABOVE ALL THINGS, AND LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOU LOVE YOURSELF.   For as the Law came by Moses, so Grace and Truth came through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Thus upon seeing Christ walking in the desert, John the Baptist exclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sins of the world.”  In our Liturgy this exclamation was immortalized, for in the canon of the mass this same words of John the Baptist is said.

In this age of grace, Christ has shown us that God is our Father, and that He seeks our salvation and never wishes our detriment.  All of us are called to conversion.  Like the prodigal son, the first step to conversion is the realization that we have sinned and transgress the Law of the Lord.  The second step is the humbling of ourselves, as we realized that we have lost that sonship by sin, we are willing to be treated like slaves, if only to merit the saving grace of God.  And here Christ has shown us that our Father is more than willing to accept us and receive us.  Even beyond our imagination. 

In this age we should experience the face of the Father more and more.  Life is a gift.  Our responsibility is to do something about it.  Though the grace of God is able to effect everything imaginable and even the unimaginable, yet it does not destroy our human nature.  We must command our will to follow Him and with our hearts entrusts to him everything.  Have we been good stewards of this grace? 

I am reminded of what Soren Kierkegaard, an existentialist philosopher has said, that our lives are our project.  We have the personal responsibility to order it for our own good and for the glory of God.  People fail sometimes.  But in our deathbeds is the end of this project. All we can do is to entrust ourselves into the merciful hand of God who will judge us and whom we expect to be merciful to us.

From the Old Testament to the New Testament, there is fine logical thread that shows us what the Father is.  In the Old Testament we saw God as the Creator, the Law Giver, and the Holy One.  In the New Testament Jesus has shown us that God is our Father, a merciful Father who seek not our destruction but our salvation.  He is an all merciful God willing to forgive and give everything to be reconciled with us His children.  But the eschatological themes of the New Testament also portray God as a judge where all of us must make an account. 

In this age of grace, let us seek the face of God always.  For He is our Father.  Our enemy the devil will always portray God as a stern God, and this devil will continually accuse us before God, but we should always be on our guard for he is like a roaring Lion seeking anyone to devour.  May Jesus our Lord lead us to the Face of the Father and receive abundant mercy. Amen.

Prayer:  Jesus, strengths of our hearts, ever draw us closer to the merciful Father, so that through thy wounds, as if a window, we can see the loving heart of God full of compassion, ready to accept and forgive.  Amen. 


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Pope and the Atheist

"Responding to the three questions posed by the Italian journalist and writer, the Pope says the key issue for non-believers is that of “obeying their consciences” when faced with choices of good or evil. God’s mercy, he stresses, “has no limits” for those who seek him with a sincere and contrite heart." Read more @ News.VA

Saturday, September 7, 2013

COUNTING THE COST



SHARING MY SUNDAY REFLECTION:
September 8, 2013, Sunday

 Have we been doing our mathematics lately?  Today’s reading Luke 14:25-33 (22nd Sunday in ordinary time), speaks about the cost of discipleship.  The gospel reading tells us that “great crowds of people” were following Jesus as he went on his travel.  Of course Jesus was known as prophet, a teacher, a miracle worker and a symbol of hope.  Perhaps the number of people following Jesus was motivated by various and differing motivations, but they share one common thing - the need to fill a gap or a void in their lives.  Some of these needs perhaps correspond to various levels of awareness.  I remember the oft repeated and used theory of Abraham Maslow, the hierarchy of needs.  It assumes that our behaviours are motivated by our needs and needs have gradations depending on our awareness and interests. 

I would guess that these people following Jesus were motivated by various persuasions.  Maybe, some have seen the healing miracles of Jesus and perhaps they think that with these wonder working miracles they can live happily ever after.  Perhaps some of them have seen how the Lord fed the vast crowds in Capernaum with loaves and fishes. And perhaps some of these people posses a deep-seated need to fulfil a spiritual hunger.

No doubt each and every one of us considers ourselves followers of Jesus.  We are Christians and we are Catholics.  We believe in the gospel and we go to church every Sunday.  No doubt too that we support our church with our finances and with many other things, our time and talent.  But have we done our calculations lately?  No one can assess our motives except the Lord and ourselves. 

This Sunday’s reading comes like a double bladed sword, piercing our hearts and revealing our motives.  Our Lord tells us that if we wish to follow Him we must learn to take up our cross and that anyone who cannot renounce all his possessions cannot be His disciple.  We cannot serve God and mammon.  There are three mortal temptations that lead humans to perdition, (1) the Love for Power, (2) the material needs, and (3) presumptions.   Today’s readings reveal how material wealth can be a great stumbling block to our discipleship.

The key word in this message is RENUNCIATION.  Renunciation indeed is difficult in a world whose values emphasized wealth.  Where success is measured up according to how much one has accumulated in terms of savings, investments and income.  Success too is measured according to how many people you have outwitted and outrun in a dog-eat-dog corporate world.  But the gospel of Christ calls us to renounce any form of attachment to material wealth.  No one can do this renunciation unless one sees the “pearl of great price”.  No one will persevere in this narrow way unless one sees what is stored in the end.  “No one has heard or seen what God has reserved for those that believe in him.”  But with the eyes of faith we see the glory and the reward of those who seek immortality, holiness and exaltation.  St. Thomas Aquinas, when meditating on the crucified Christ, heard him say words of wisdom.  In that glimpse or droplets of beatific vision St. Thomas realized that his works were nothing in comparison to the Wisdom and Beauty of God.  It was as if his works were trash in comparison to the Eternal Wisdom.  From then on St. Thomas stopped writing and devoted the rest of his life to contemplation. 

Our daily experiences tell us that this world is really nothing.  Our lives are short and often our efforts futile.  But why don’t we realize the vanity of all these things?  Why don’t we realize the eternal beauty of God?  And why do we cringe on the thought that we have to carry our own cross?  Oh the cross, its pain and its shame.  Are willing to bear the shame and to renounce ourselves?  May God give us the grace to see the value of His promise.  May we have the grace to see the reward and the end of our calling.  And when we see this light, may hearts be moved to aid and to help our brothers and sisters to see this light too. 

Prayer:  Lord give me the grace to see the light of your promises.  Grant me a constant heart that will not fear the shame and pains of the cross.  For without you Lord, I can do nothing and I am nothing.  Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.