Saturday, April 26, 2014

Christ's Wounds and Our Woundedness

Divine Mercy Sunday, the Sunday after Easter

Today as we read in the gospel, we saw how our Lord confirmed the doubts of the doubting Thomas and coincidentally we also celebrate today the Divine Mercy Sunday as revealed to Sister Faustina but was accepted by the Church.   Both the gospel and the Divine Mercy devotion points us to the wounds of Christ.  It may be a bit off tangent to speak about wounds at Easter, but that is the reality, our woundedness is a present reality, the wounds of Christ are with Him to give us a window and a door to the infinite grace of God, the Father.

Perhaps as long as we are in this world or this mortal state of life, we can never truly phantom the mystery of sin. The wounds that we have are the product of our sinfulness.  The wounds we inflict on others is also the product of our sinfulness.  The wounds of Christ is also the product of sin, not of His for Christ can never sin, but a reflection of our sin whom He accepted on or behalf and to ransom us from the bondage of sin.

Let us not be doubting Thomases, but believe in the power of God and in the grace that is in Jesus Christ.  For as we touch His wounded side, and look into His wounds there we can find healing and solace.  Jesus, in a private revelation to Sis. Faustina said that those who are devoted to His passion are dear to His heart and that they will obtain great mercy in this life and on the Last Day.  On this Divine Mercy Sunday let us draw near to the heart of Christ through the Eucharist.  Let us consider the partaking of His Body and Blood a means of touching those wounds of Christ.  For as we touched those wounds we see Christ Himself, crucified and now glorified.  For eye have not seen nor ear heard of all the things that God has promised to those who love Him.  For we who seek immortality must seek to be good and to do good.  May the Blood and Water that gushed out from the side of Christ bring us to Eternal Life.  Amen. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014


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?”


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.