The Blessed

Solemnity of All Saints

Our world today proclaims happy those who live according to its standards:

  • Convenient is life for those who are materially rich, famous and powerful, because the earth is theirs.
  • Happy are those who plunder the riches of the land and the sea, for they will be well-off at the expense of many.
  • Happy are those who are angry, short-tempered and overbearing, for they will subjugate the weak and the gentle of heart.
  • Happy are they who laugh at others’ weaknesses and are praised by people, for they will have their paradise here on earth and need not be comforted.
  • Happy are those who are proud, for they will have much of themselves and reap the fruits of conceit and self-absorption.
  • Happy are those who have no mercy, because they act as arrogant kings and they do not need mercy.
  • Happy are they who work for war and manufacture weapons to kill their fellow men, for they shall be called children of the god of war.
  • Convenient is life for those who submit to and perform abortion, for they shall be rulers of their bodies because they can eliminate the unwanted.
  • Convenient is life for those who escape justice through influence and bribes, for they will rule in this life and live as kings.                 (adopted)

But in Psalm 37, God has this to say to the faithful and obedient: Be still before the LORD; wait for God. Do not be provoked by the prosperous, nor by malicious schemers. Give up your anger . . . it brings only harm. Those who do evil will be cut off. . . But the poor will possess the land, will delight in great prosperity. . . Better the poverty of the just than the great wealth of the wicked . . . The jus t always lend generously, and their children become a blessing. . .Turn from evil and do good, that you may inhabit the land forever. . .The mouths of the just utter wisdom; their tongues speak what is right. God’s teaching is in their hearts; their steps do not falter. . . But all sinners will be destroyed . . . The salvation of the just is from the LORD. . . The LORD helps and rescues them, rescues and saves them from the wicked, because in God they take refuge” (7ff).

To understand and to live the beatitudes we will have to look into ourselves and in what we can do for the people of God:

  • Spend time in silence, prayer and reflection at home, in Church or wherever you can. In silence you gain wisdom.
  • Respond to and obey the teachings of the Church. She is the defender of human beings who seek the Almighty.
  • Be faithful to your responsibilities and lawful relationship. They are your way to holiness.
  • Be aware of the needs of others, especially the poor, and respond to them, They are your key to heaven.
  • Defend the culture of life. Don’t stifle the power of God in life.
  • Learn humility and love of neighbor. We are all children of the same Father and redeemed by the same Lord Jesus.
  • Avoid unnecessary judgment of others. If you have nothing good to say about others, shut up.
  • Keep your temper in control. Uncontrolled temper only leads to evil.
  • Preserve purity of thought and action. Always be aware of the presence of God in all that you do wherever you are.

St. Clement, the Pope, wrote to the Corinthians: “Let us reverence the Lord Jesus, whose blood was shed for us. Let us respect those in authority, let us honor the presbyters. Let us train the young in the fear of God. (Let us) lead (our) wives toward all that is good. Let them show by their conduct that they are lovers of chastity; by their gentleness let them reveal a pure and sincere disposition; by their silence let them manifest the control they have over their tongues; let them bestow an equal charity, without respect for persons, on all who have a holy fear of God.

          Your children must share in the way of discipleship in Christ. They must learn how effective humility is before God, what chaste love can accomplish with God, how good and noble is the fear of God, for it brings salvation to all who possess it and who live holy lives with a pure heart. . .”

The Book of Revelation tells us of God’s servants on whose foreheads the seal of God is imprinted. They wear white robes washed in the blood of the Lamb and have been saved by the work of Christ. Let us celebrate this Eucharist in confidence, saved by the work of Christ and sealed with His blood, and renew our trust in Him who humbled Himself to be like us and to be with us. And with all the Saints in Heaven, let us offer ourselves, all that we are, all that we have and all that we do, as sacrifice to Him, so that we will be among those He calls “blessed.”

This week read and pray the beatitudes of St. Matthew in chapter 5, and also read Psalm 37. Let the Word of God work in you and in your families. And make it a habit to read the Scriptures. God bless you.

 

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About Religion

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Man’s heart is made for love. If one’s heart is not for the love of God and for what He loves, it will seek what the world loves for it offers many kinds of love: the love of money, of power, of influence, of pleasure, of convenience and many others. The (inordinate) “love of money is the root of all evil”; (the inordinate) love of power leads to corruption; the (inordinate) love of influence leads to abuse of authority and relationships; the (inordinate) love of pleasure leads to extreme self-absorption; the (inordinate) love of convenience leads to driving God out of one’s life and makes himself the misguided authority of his decisions and actions. The devil even uses the word love to deceive God’s people.

St. Paul praised the Thessalonians for their life of faith and love for the Lord Jesus:

you became imitators of us and of the Lord, receiving the word in great affliction, with joy from the Holy Spirit, so that you became a model for all the believers (1Thes 1:6-7).

Religion, as our life, has ways that we can reflect upon:

1. Religion is about our faith and hope in God. It means that we believe in our minds and hearts that He is the origin and end of our life. We offer to Him our mental, spiritual and physical capacities so that we can grow in wisdom of who He is in our lives.

2. Religion is about loving God. It means that we give our whole self to Him, that He dominates our decisions, and that we are committed to Him by obeying His commands. We cannot give our heads to God and our hearts to the devil; we cannot give our right hands to God and our left hands to the devil; we cannot offer our souls to God and our bodies to the devil. It’s not a contest, for with the devil nobody wins, but with God nobody loses. It is God’s life that we receive. It is God’s desire that all return to Him.

3. Religion is about respecting and loving man, whom God has created in His image and likeness, and whom God has made the crown of His creation. It involves respecting the whole of creation, maintaining and improving it for the good of all and to keep the proper balance of nature now and for generations to come. It means respecting life from conception to natural death. It also means that we are aware of the plight of the needy and the suffering, and that we become instruments of His loving presence and healing mercy. St. John said that if you say you love God but hate your neighbor, you are a liar.

4. Religion is also about participating and getting involved in the activities of the Church. The more frequent activity of our Church is the celebration of the Eucharist. The Eucharist is not only an affair to remember, but a life to be lived: a life of love and of faith, and a life that brings hope to families and to our community in the midst of contradictions in the world.

5. Our Religion is also about loving and venerating Mary, the Mother of God. Together with Her, we also remember all the Saints in Heaven who have given us the example of life in the faith and hope in God. Mary proclaims: “…. all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me.” Indeed, for many generations She has been venerated by those who have hoped for salvation. She showed us the loving heart of Her Son and, in Her many apparitions, expressed Her desire that all come into His Kingdom for “He has mercy on those who fear Him.” Our prayer to Mary and to the Saints is a prayer to God, for in their unity with God they intercede for us and for our needs.

Today we are called to listen to the cries of the suffering and the voiceless. We are called into the silence of our hearts to listen to those who are suffering because of hunger, wars, loneliness and oppression, and to respond to the need for the Gospel to be proclaimed to all.

Jesus makes us realize that it is not so much the evil things that we do not commit that will lead us to Him, as the good and loving actions that we do for God and for the people whom God loves. Let us celebrate the Eucharist worthily that we may go and preach the Gospel to all, and carry out our love for our neighbor.

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Caesar or God

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

The Pharisees were so concerned about their good status before the people. As we saw the past few Sundays, the Pharisees and the Jewish leaders saw themselves as the disobedient son in the parable of the two sons. In the parable of the wicked husbandmen they saw themselves as the wicked caretakers. In the parable of the king’s feast they were the unworthy and ungrateful guests. And they were angry with Jesus. This time they wanted to test Jesus and find something wrong in Him so that they could be justified in bringing Jesus to their courts. They would bring the King of the universe and the origin of human laws before human courts and emperors.

From today’s readings, let us reflect on the following:

1. Jesus asks us to be mindful of what is worthy of human beings and what is worthy of God.

A person was trying to decide whether or not the money that he got was for him or for God. So he decided to do a lottery between him and God. He told God, “I will toss these bundles of money in the air. What goes up is yours, what comes down is mine.” So he did. And sure enough, the money became his.

The Bible tells us of the rich man who was so comfortable with what he had that he would put all grain in his barn, sit, eat and drink, and be merry. However, God said, “You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong” (Lk 12:20)? What is worthy of God is mercy and compassion, a sorrowful and humble heart, a faithful, hopeful and loving heart that will lead others to a realization that God is alive and working in the lives of people. The problem is that greed and pride and jealousy eat up peoples’ hearts, so they become heartless and self-centered. They are never satisfied with what they have, that even the little things that others enjoy, they would still take. So Jesus tells the Pharisees and the elders: “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God (Mt 22:21).

2. God calls each one of us by name and proclaims that there is no one else like Him in the universe. The neighboring nations of Israel were worshiping many different gods that allowed them a life of pleasurable, worldly and even sinful activities. The Israelites were worshiping only One God who wanted that they follow only His commands. The Israelites envied the other nations and would also worship their gods. In God’s wrath He would punish them.

The world is offering people so much to worship. It has created its own gods out of what it has and out of peoples’ cravings. It has created gods of power, of money, of pleasure, of convenience, of fame, of the stomach and many others.

We have been called children and heirs of God’s Kingdom. We have to respond to his call. Many times, though, we are deafened by calls for temporal activities and “are trapped in a milieu of monologues, inattentiveness, noise, intolerance and self-absorption” (Bp. Tagle at the Synod on God’s Word Considers God’s Listening, Oct 10, 2008). God calls, and He expects us to respond to Him so that we may grow in faith and in the exercise of our freedom to be His children.

3. St. Paul encourages us, as he encouraged the Thessalonians, to grow in the “work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1Thes 1:3). So we continue our good works in the faith and live in the commands of the Lord.

This is a sign that we are called to join Him in His Kingdom together with Mary, our Mother, and all the Saints. As we celebrate the Eucharist, we stand before all the heavenly court singing the praises of God, and proclaiming that what we celebrate is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, and blessed are we who are called to His banquet.

May God bless you and your families, and reward you now and in the life to come for your openness, your generosity and your good examples in the faith.

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Grounded on the Word

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

The Church encourages us to ground ourselves on the Word of God, because He is the only real One and the Truth that matters in a world that will pass away. In October 2008 at the opening of the 12th Ordinary General Assembly of Synod of Bishops, the Holy Father reflected on “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church,” and he wrote that

the Word of God is the foundation of everything, it is the true reality. And to be realistic, we must rely upon this reality…. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount the Lord speaks to us about the two possible foundations for building the house of one’s life: sand and rock. The one who builds on sand builds only on visible and tangible things, on success, on career, on money. Apparently these are the true realities. But all this one day will pass away…. The one who builds his life on these realities, on matter, on success, on appearances, builds upon sand. Only the Word of God is the foundation of all reality, it is as stable as the heavens and more than the heavens, it is reality. Therefore, we must change our concept of realism. The realist is the one who recognizes the Word of God, in this apparently weak reality, as the foundation of all things. Realist is the one who builds his life on this foundation, which is permanent (Benedict XVI, Oct. 6, 2008, http://www.vatican.va).

Our readings today present to us these distinct points:

1. Every Christian is called and invited to the joy of the banquet of the Son of God. This invitation to the banquet is not only a gift to be received; it is a grace that carries a great responsibility. The Christian has to realize that he is not worthy of a call from the God whom he has offended by his sins, but in His mercy God desires that man returns to Him and gain eternal life. The Christian is called to be a saint, not to remain a sinner in God’s family. Man is invited to come and see where Jesus lives. He has to come to Jesus, see Jesus and imitate Jesus.

2. Every Christian has to be prepared when the King calls him to the banquet. An ordinary human voice simply fades away, but it can make or break relationships; it can make history. The voice that calls is that of a Person, and the Word is a Person, who invites us to make Him alive in our relationships. Preparation to respond to the call is a daily endeavor. The King cannot wait; the Kingdom cannot wait; the Kingdom is at hand. A Christian who thinks that the arrival of the King will take a long time is like the five foolish virgins who were invited to the wedding but came unprepared. The Christian has to prepare himself for life with the Lord, and to be a saint.

3. Every Christian has to wear his/her garment for the banquet. Though I really believe that we should come to the Banquet of the Lord decently clothed, this garment is not only an outer outfit; it is the garment of the mind and the heart: the garment of humility, of respect and reverence, of faith, hope and love, of expectation for the blessings of God. Too often we come unprepared to celebrate the Eucharist. We fill ourselves with worries, with concerns for the things that we want to do, with small and judgmental talks against others, with just other things that make us uneasy during the celebration of the Eucharist. We put on the garments of the world, rather than the garment of holiness.

The man who had no wedding garments had to be thrown outside for he was not worthy of the king’s presence. In the same manner, no person is invited to the Banquet of the Lord to remain a sinner or mediocre, but to be converted, to grow and to be a saint.

Should we listen intently to the Word of the Lord, should we prepare ardently for the call of the Lord, and should we graciously celebrate the banquet of the Lord, we can proclaim with St. Paul: “I can do all things in him who strengthens me” (Phil 4: 13).

With the guidance of Mother Mary, our Lady of the Rosary, let us prepare ourselves daily, listen to the Word and obey His commands, transform our hearts radically, and receive Him joyfully in the Eucharist. God will supply our needs. Then we can proclaim boldly: “I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.”

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Called And Sent

Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

The readings today describe to us God’s predicament regarding His people and the blessings He gave to His people Israel and the Jews.  They were the chosen people.  They were the people who received the promise that the Messiah would come from them. They believed, but when the Messiah came, they wanted to eliminate Him. They abused their situation. They abused the love of God. And God gave them what they sought for: first, for His vineyard, He would “take away its hedge, give it to grazing, break through its wall, let it be trampled!… it shall not be pruned or hoed, but overgrown with thorns and briers.” He would “command the clouds not to send rain upon it” (Is5:5-6). Second, with the unfaithful, selfish and greedy caretakers, “He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times” (Mt 21:41). And of His Kingdom, He said, “the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit” (Mt 21:43).

The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel (Resp. Ps). The vineyard is His people, our families, our communities. When there’s abuse, God takes away His blessings from us. God will leave His vineyard to ruin, to grazing by others and to be trampled, and give the kingdom to those who will bear fruit. And this happens when:– we abuse our capacities and virtues;

– we have lost the sense of the presence of God;

– we abuse and abandon our responsibilities to our families, which is the abode of God;

– we take into our hands the life of others, especially the unborn and the weak;

– we transgress God’s commandments to our own convenience and gratification;

– we take advantage of the weak;

– and many more.

St. Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, encourages us:

1. “By prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God… will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (4:6-7). Yes, just like a son who tells his father about himself, there is nothing too big that God cannot take, and nothing too small that He will not appreciate. In the spirit of thanksgiving, the basic attitude in all prayer, we can offer to Him all our experiences, whether or not we like them; we ask help for others and for ourselves; we ask forgiveness for the sins we have committed; we praise and adore Him, His majesty and His goodness. Then, He will guard our minds and our hearts.

2. “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (4:8). So, think about these things:

a) Who are your friends? Good friends are always rewarding. Bad friends bring us curse.

b) What are your obsessions? Remember that whatever you seriously desire mentally, good or bad, will come to you.

c) What do you do with your free time? My parents were so concerned with what we did with our free time. We just could not sit and do nothing. We had to read a book or do something worthwhile. I remember a caption in a priest’s rectory that reads, if you have nothing to do, don’t do it here. Don’t give the devil a chance to work in you.

3. “Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you” (4:9). St. James would say: faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (2:17). Paul’s self-confidence is based on his hope and love for Jesus, because he saw himself as loved by Jesus, called by Jesus, and sent by Jesus.

Let us do what we have learned. Paul gave us the example of faith, the value of hard work, and the meaning of suffering for the Lord Jesus. Let this Eucharist lead us to an understanding of and to a life of gratitude for true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and grace-filled relationships. Then the God of peace, the God of wisdom and the God of power will always be with us.

 

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Consistent Ways

Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

How consistent are we in life? How fair are we in our relationships, in our work, and in what we say? When somebody breaks the law, he says: “it’s ok, nobody saw me.” When one is late, he blames the heavy traffic. When one hurts somebody, he says: “oh, it’s only a small thing”; or “if you were not there, you would not be hurt.” When one gets an extra change from a store, he says: “it’s all right, they had so much already.” When one misses a meeting, he says: “they will understand, I’m a busy person.” When a spouse cheats on the family, he/she says: “everybody does it, anyway.” How often do we say yes when we mean no, and no when we mean yes? These are a few of the many questions that we have to ask ourselves if we have to grow in relationships, in service and in holiness so that peace may reign in our hearts.

We can also go on with a litany of excuses. When we’re at fault we look for someone or a situation to blame, hoping that we can get out of our accountability for our actions. But we’re still accountable for what we are and what we do, and how we manage ourselves on the things that we have to do.

We shout, “Fairness,” or “Justice.” But many times, we don’t even care to move our fingers to do what we are supposed to do and to be what we are supposed to be. We play God on ourselves. We want to sit and wait, and expect to be looked up to. The Israelites even accused God that His way was not fair. And the Lord answered,

Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair? (Ez 18:25).

St. Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, invites us to an understanding of our relationship with Christ and with our neighbor in following passages:

1. “Complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing” (2:2). No person can walk in disunity with his neighbor and say he loves Christ and is united with Him. The Eucharist, prayers and other devotions, service and other activities, will have meaning and impact in our lives only if they are done in love with the community and for all people whom Christ has redeemed. In his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul says,

“Love is kind. It is not jealous…. it is not inflated…. it does not brood over injury…. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (13: 4-7).

2. “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory” (2:3). If we are not satisfied with what we are and with what we have, we will never be happy. If all that we do is for our own interests only and for our own satisfaction, we will never have peace of mind. And it’s one of the great miseries in life.

3. “Humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also for those of others” (3-4). We all have our virtues, capacities and capabilities. They are God-given. We cannot boast of anything as ours. All God’s gifts are not only for ourselves, but also for the good of our community and all people. The book of Proverbs tells us:

If you remain indifferent in time of adversity, your strength will depart from you (24: 10).

Unity is our strength in the Lord. Respect for others, their capabilities and their needs, will lead us to our much needed unity and peace in the world. When Jesus came to the world, He respected our situation and condition. He became like us and was obedient, even until death on the cross. In the same context, St. Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, says that love “does not seek its own interests” (13:5).

We are all God’s children; and Jesus, in His Church, invites us to love the Sacraments, especially the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist. They always make us aware of God’s constant love for us and His consistent act of forgiveness. With Mary, Mother of joy, let God’s love then burn in our hearts in whatever we do and in whatever we say.

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The Generosity That Counts

Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Today’s society instills in us the idea that each one should get as much as what his neighbor gets or even more, especially when one has to work harder. Others would go to the extent of doing even what is dishonest and immoral just to get what they want. One would claim a bigger share just because he’s older or bigger or has worked for a longer time than another. This is a situation of taking advantage of others, especially when there is a condition of stronger or weaker person or group.

On the occasion of St. Paul’s Jubilee year, the Holy Father cited three characteristics of Paul as the Apostle of Christ (Saint Paul’s Concept of Apostolate, Benedict XVI, http://www.vatican.va, Sept 10, 2008):

The first is to have “seen the Lord” (1Corinthians 9:1), namely, to have had a decisive encounter with him, virtually chosen, by the grace of God…. In a word, it is the Lord who constitutes the apostolate, not one’s presumption. The apostle does not make himself, but is made by the Lord.

The second characteristic is to “have been sent.” The Greek term “apostolos” itself means, in fact, “sent, ordered,” that is, ambassador and bearer of a message; therefore he must act as charged with and representative of a mandate. It is because of this that Paul describes himself as “Apostle of Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 1:1; 2 Cor 1:1), namely, his delegate, placed totally at his service, so much so as to call himself “a slave of Jesus Christ” (Rom 1:1).

The third requisite is the exercise of the “proclamation of the Gospel,” with the consequent foundation of Churches. The title “apostle,” in fact, is not and cannot be honorary…. In the First Letter to the Corinthians, Paul exclaims: “Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord?” (9:1).

Isaiah encourages us to “seek the LORD while he may be found, (to) call him while he is near” (Is 55:6), so that God’s peace will reign in our hearts. In his book, The Imitation of Christ, Thomas á Kempis writes,

We should enjoy much peace if we did not concern ourselves with what others say and do, for these are no concern of ours. How can a man who meddles in affairs not his own, who seeks strange distractions, and who is little or seldom inwardly recollected, live long in peace?…. We are too occupied with our own whims and fancies, too taken up with passing things. Rarely do we completely conquer even one vice, and we are not inflamed with the desire to improve ourselves day by day; hence, we remain cold and indifferent…. He Who gives us the opportunity of fighting for victory, is ready to help those who carry on and trust in His grace” (Bk 1, ch 11).

In today’s Gospel God is leading us to consider very real situations in life:

1. Avoid the temptation of thinking that you should always get more than what your neighbor has. If you take something that God has not given you, God will take away something that He has given you, because God cannot fill you with His graces if you are full of yourself or full of the things of this world. You cannot have what is given to you and what is not given to you at the same time.

2. Thank the Lord at all times for what you have and for what you are. Be grateful to God for the people in your life. They are your way to the Father. Make sure that you are able to share your capacities with people who are in need. Gratitude will always make you conscious of your dependence on the providence of God.

3. Remember that it is the generosity of God that counts in life. You are only a dispenser of God’s blessings to your family and your community. So, you cannot claim having been ahead of anything or having worked so hard for anybody or for any cause.

The Eucharist is our celebration of Christ’s offering of Himself for the glory of God and the salvation of all. He is the life to imitate and the meal to partake. With our life and example, may others also live in grace and grow in the life that God wants us to live.

 

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