Thursday, March 20, 2008

Good Friday

Christ once and for all died for all of us. By his death we have life. We are no longer slaves of sin and death. We are no longer subject to the evil one. The wages of sin no longer have a hold over us. We are redeemed – in fact, paid in full.

But the world and humanity saved by Christ still lives in sin, in poverty, in corruption, in manipulation, in exploitation of people, in war, in discrimination, in a state apparently anything by saved.

Why do these happen? Because we have never really taken to heart the message of the Cross. The Cross is God’s offer of love – by it he showed us his great love. The challenge for us is to allow this love to change us – to make us lovers like Christ – selfless, sacrificing. The challenge for us is not to allow selfishness to take hold of us, not to allow greed to conquer us, not to allow self-centeredness to rule us.

Our remembrance, celebration and reflection of the Paschal Mystery continues. We shall see tomorrow that for Christ, it does not end with the Cross. The Cross is the way to salvation, to glory. The sure way. The only way.

Unless we love like the man on the Cross, we may have everything of this world, but we will never be truly glorious and victorious.

By Your Cross...

Yesterday morning, we had our parish recollection. I was sharing on the victory of the Cross as the victory of Jesus over sin and death. One of the participants asked, “Father, if Christ triumphed at the cross, then why does evil seem to triumph?”

The question is for sure very real – did Christ really triumph over sin and death?

If we look at the cross, and we find Jesus crucified, what appears to us is a scandalous death of an innocent man, condemned to death unjustly, killed at the cross while being mocked – all these, after he had offered his life for the people, healing their sick, expelling demons, feeding the hungry, even raising a couple of dead people back to life, announcing daily a message of hope in a loving God.

But this precisely is the triumph of the Cross of Jesus – that amidst the evils of this world – all consequences of selfishness, self-centeredness – Christ shows the triumph of selflessness, of sacrifice for others, the triumph of love.

Not even the powers of the Roman conquerors or the influence of the religious leaders of his time, indeed, not even death and the evil one could ever hinder Jesus from showing love – love in all its glory. Not even the ugliness of the cross could obscure the beauty of love.

Monday, March 17, 2008

To the once lover...

When we love, we give something of ourselves – indeed even all of ourselves. The mystery however is that the love we give completes us more than it completes the beloved. When our love is unreciprocated, or even scorned, it may feel like we lost something. But is that not the price of loving – giving? And the more we love, even if it may be unreciprocated or even scorned, we may be hurt and feel wanting – but we grow in the capacity of loving. That may be the wisdom of Alfred Lord Tennyson's lyrics - “It is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.” The reward of loving is loving itself.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Earthen Vessels

We hold this treasure in earthen vessels,
that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.
We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained;
perplexed, but not driven to despair;
persecuted, but not abandoned;
struck down, but not destroyed;
always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.
For we who live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
(2 Cor 4: 1-11)
As a Presbyterium (Community of Priests) of the Archdiocese, we had our Lenten Recollection last March 10. Fr. Tony Calautit led our reflection on the Spirituality of the Earthen Vessel. The above passage was our guide.

True enough, we, priests are like earthen vessels - we are made of humble matter, gathered, kneaded and molded by the Great Potter, to hold treasures of untold value. Formation, intensive and rigorous may be adequate but never enough. We are and shall remain earthen vessels - vulnerable, weak, sinful.

Our venerable seminary confessor once said, "when God called you, he called all of you - your strengths, your weaknesses, your idealisms, your vulnerabilities, your saved nature, and your fallen nature - all of who you are, your total humanity - unique goodness and even your weakness."

First in the Spirituality of the Earthen Vessel then is humility - to accept our vulnerability, frailty and sinfulness, and rely not on our own efforts but to cooperate with the grace of God - so that the power of God may be at work in us.

But to keep me from being puffed up with pride because of the many wonderful things I saw, I was given a painful physical ailment, which acts as Satan's messenger to beat me and keep me from being proud. Three times I prayed to the Lord about this and asked him to take it away. But his answer was:

"My grace is all you need,
for my power is greatest when you are weak."

I am most happy, then, to be proud of my weaknesses, in order to feel the protection of Christ's power over me. I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor 12: 7-10)

Thursday, March 6, 2008

A bus, a Church, 100+ couples, and more

My sister, who dropped by my office this morning told me how amused she was at the bus parked in front of the Cathedral - it was marked, "JUST MARRIED".

I checked it out myself, and got amused too. It was a whole bus for a wedding car.

I found out that there was ongoing in the Cathedral, a Mass Wedding. It was sponsored by the Cathedral Parish, the City Government and the Balikatan sa Vigan as part of the Women's Month Celebrations of the City of Vigan.

More than a hundred couples sealed their marriage before God. They sealed their commitment to love each other, be for each other, "to be one heart and one soul, from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health" until death do them part.

I think this is one noteworthy way of celebrating women.

Marriage is not just a social institution. It is not just a practical legality. It is not just a canonical requirement. Marriage is for life and love, commitment and communion. Marriage is for women as it is for men, for children, for family, for the Church, for society, for humanity.

Monday, March 3, 2008

We're all in this together

Received through e-mail:

A mouse looked through the crack in the wall to see the farmer and his wife open a package. "What food might this contain?" the mouse wondered. He was devastated to discover it was a mousetrap. Retreating to the farmyard, the mouse proclaimed the warning :
"There is a mousetrap in the house!
There is a mousetrap in the house!"

The chicken clucked and scratched, raised her head and said, "Mr.Mouse, I can tell this is a grave concern to you, but it is of no consequence to me. I cannot be bothered by it."

The mouse turned to the pig and told him,
"There is a mousetrap in the house!
There is a mousetrap in the house!"

The pig sympathized, but said, "I am so very sorry, Mr.Mouse, but there is nothing I can do about it but pray. Be assured you are in my prayers."

The mouse turned to the cow and said,
"There is a mousetrap in the house!
There is a mousetrap in the house!"

The cow said, "Wow, Mr. Mouse. I'm sorry for you, but it's no skin off my nose."

So, the mouse returned to the house, head down and dejected, to face the farmer's mousetrap . . . alone.

That very night a sound was heard throughout the house -- like the sound of a mousetrap catching its prey. The farmer's wife rushed to see what was caught. In the darkness, she did not see it was a venomous snake whose tail the trap had caught.

The snake bit the farmer's wife. The farmer rushed her to the hospital, and she returned home with a fever.

Everyone knows you treat a fever with fresh chicken soup, so the farmer took his hatchet to the farmyard for the soup's main ingredient.

But his wife's sickness continued, so friends and neighbors came to sit with her around the clock. To feed them, the farmer butchered the pig.

The farmer's wife did not get well; she died. So many people came for her funeral, the farmer had the cow slaughtered to provide enough meat for all of them.

The mouse looked upon it all from his crack in the wall with great sadness.

When one of us is threatened, we are all at risk.
We are all involved in this journey called life.
We must keep an eye out for one another, and be concerned.