Thursday, October 31, 2013

ALL LIVE IN CHRIST



MY REFLECTION:  Today is All Saint's day.  The world celebrates Halloween, but we who are members of the Church celebrate All Saints' Day.  To understand the meaning of this practice we have to get back to the Creed.  This practice is founded on our confession of faith in the "communion of the saints".  What does the communion the saints mean? The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

Communion with the saints. "It is not merely by the title of example that we cherish the memory of those in heaven; we seek, rather, that by this devotion to the exercise of fraternal charity the union of the whole Church in the Spirit may be strengthened. Exactly as Christian communion among our fellow pilgrims brings us closer to Christ, so our communion with the saints joins us to Christ, from whom as from its fountain and head issues all grace, and the life of the People of God itself"

Communion with the dead. "In full consciousness of this communion of the whole Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, the Church in its pilgrim members, from the very earliest days of the Christian religion, has honored with great respect the memory of the dead; and ‘because it is a holy and a wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins' she offers her suffrages for them." Our prayer for them is capable not only of helping them, but also of making their intercession for us effective.

Reflecting on these realities brings joy and warmth to the heart.  We are led to think of the greater scope of the universal church, the people of God.  That we as a community of believers (both the living and the dead) are bounded by that one cord of faith, life, community of spiritual goods and we share the same salvation.  By our company with fellow Christians we are strengthened in our faith and resolve to walk the narrow way.  By our communion with the saints in heaven we are strengthened by their prayers and intercession and by our prayers for the dead we help them loosed the bonds of temporal punishments for sins committed and they too are able to help us by their prayers.  This is the reason why we pray novenas and invoke the help and prayers of the Saints.  This is also the reason why we offer our prayers and masses for the dead.  In this way we too are helped and we draw that life and grace from the fountain head which is Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Some of our protestant friends will not understand why we pray to saints and we pray for the dead.  Sometimes they ask why we invoke the help of dead persons.  They say they are already dead.  But remember what Jesus himself said in Mark 12:26-27:

"But regarding the fact that the dead rise again, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the burning bush, how God spoke to him, saying, 'I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, and the God of Jacob '? "He is not the God of the dead, but of the living; you are greatly mistaken."

The context of the verses quoted above is based on the discussions that Jesus had with the members of the Sadducees, a Jewish sect mostly the priestly class of the Judaism in Jesus’ time. The Sadducees do not believe in the doctrine of the resurrection.  Jesus rebuked them and without any apology told them they were mistaken. 

Therefore from the verse quoted above and from a clear understanding of the doctrine of the communion of the saints we confess and we believe and we base our practice of praying to the saints and praying for the dead.

May these feast days brings us comfort in the thought that we are surrounded by a multitude of saints in heaven and that we commune with them.  As the Litany of Saints is sung, we can meaningfully reply, “Ora pro nobis”.

Friday, October 25, 2013

THE UNFATHOMABLE JUDGMENT OF GOD



Luke 18:9-14
[My Personal Reflection for this Sunday October 27, 2013, 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time]

Every day people manage to create impressions.  There is a saying, “first impressions always lasts.” Indeed for many people this is true.  This is the reason why perhaps corporate people, businessmen, and other people always invest in the so called impressions management.  Perhaps this tendency is all too human.  And it is natural to be that way.  We are careful and we treasure our reputations. We are affected with how people perceive and talk about us.  This feeling of being accepted and of being perceived as good is all too common for us human beings.  Even in religious life we tend to manage our lives in this way.  The gospel reading for this Sunday tells us about the parable spoken by Jesus about two men praying in the temple.  I think that the choice of the characters of that parable was poignant.  The Lord was trying to impress us with something.  Even in the practice of religion we tend to create a “resume”.  We want to be perceived as good Christians and we tend to measure others based on the “resume” we made for ourselves.  But this simple parable of our Lord gives us a glimpse into the mind and heart of God.  God sees everything, He is all knowing, we cannot create a “resume” to impress Him.  For God sees the heart.  Perhaps this is a call for us to stop judging other people.  Every person has its own context.  There are factors surrounding the lives of each and every one of us of which only the love and wisdom of God can see.  We should always espouse humility in our lives.  For we are poor in spirit.  Poverty of spirit means that we feel that constant need of God’s help.  It is a sincere feeling of inadequacy but it is hopeful.  Hopeful in the sense that despite of this inadequacy, there is a God, who is a merciful Father who will lift us from the quagmire of hopelessness.  Seeing ourselves from the perspective of God, will make us more humble and will drive us closer to Him.  But when we have pride in our hearts the more that we see of ourselves rather than God.  May God draw us ever closer to His heart.  It means more than life to us and the more we realize it the more it will draw us closer to Him, realizing that apart from Him we can really do nothing.  Amen.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

OF FAITH AND BEING SERVANTS



MY REFLECTION: Sunday October 6, 2013

The gospel reading for this Sunday is from Luke 17:5-10.  As I was reading the passage, I was trying hard to reflect what the connection of the first verses with the later part.  The first part talks about faith while the second part talks about the kind of attitude we should have as servants and handmaids of God. 

Faith is a gift from God, because no one can come to the Father unless the Father would draw him near.  No one can believe in his rational frame of mind that a single command for the mountains to be uprooted and thrown into the sea would ever happen.  But Jesus said that with faith it is possible.  Indeed, how we wish we have that that faith.  But like any other gift, faith has a medium.  It does not come from nowhere.  One of the most often quoted verse of St. Paul talks about faith as coming from listening to the Word of God.  When we read the Bible and listen to the words of the saints, this is one process by which faith grows into our hearts and as it grows it bears much fruit.  Like a little bird trying to learn how to fly, we begin in simple ways.  But as we grow in our reflection and our immersion to the Word of God, our faith grows and it matures.  Once it bears fruit, the more that it will lead us to be more humble and to show that benefit to others.  Like a tree, it begins to give shelter to others, and becomes a source of refreshment.  A mature faith that leads to the summit of our faith which is the Mass, where Christ offers Himself for us in the forms of the Eucharist as a pledge of salvation.  All our devotions must lead to this summit.  Once in this summit we grow into that confidence of love and hope that whatever we ask from the Lord and that whatever we wish in our hearts being in conformity with His will, He will give to us.  But we must attribute everything to God which is the source of all goodness.  This is the main reason I always dislike the hand clapping or the applause that seem to become a part of the conclusion of our masses.  I do not know where this practice came from.  The mass becomes as if it is a show or a program where the celebrant, the altar servers, the lectors and the people are given applause.  This is basically contrary to what our gospel reading tells us.  Christ said that after performing our tasks as “servants” we should never expect to thanked or applauded, because we are servants.  This is the humility of service.  There is a danger that once you receive applause, you already get your reward on earth.  This is the main reason why I feel uncomfortable about this handclapping during mass.  Lectors, altar servers perform their duties for the sake of Christ, but once they receive applause in public they forfeit their rewards in heaven.  I hope that the liturgical commission of our church will correct this custom of hand clapping or giving applause.  For in the Holy Mass one should receive an applause – it is God who gave His Son for us as the one and only sacrificial victim that saves and connects us to God and reconciles us to Him.