Monday, September 28, 2009


We pray for our sisters and brothers affected by the recent typhoon. The picture of devastation has left many of us confounded.

I received this presentation on the aftermath of typhoon Ondoy -

Along with our prayers, other forms of help would be very much appreciated. For one, I know that ABS-CBN is organizing help. For inquiries on how to give help, please contact:

ABS-CBN Foundation USA toll-free 1-800-527-2820 or
Sagip Kapamilya hotlines (02) 413-26-67; (02) 416-03-87 or
Ondoy response: ABS-CBN hotline (02) 416-36-41.

A friend in need is a friend indeed. Whatever we do to the least of our brothers and sisters, we do unto Christ.

Lord, God of all Creation, our help comes from you.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Glory of God's Temple

25th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday, St. Mary’s Church, 7AM

For this week, two prophets have accompanied us through the First Readings – the Prophets Ezra and Haggai. Both Ezra and Haggai in the selections we have read spoke about God’s temple.

The Temple is a central symbol in the religious and social life of the Israelite people. The Temple was the visible sign of the presence and faithfulness of Yahweh. The first temple was built by Solomon. And because it was of such great importance, he had it adorned with gold, silver and the finest of stones. It was however destroyed by the Babylonians when they conquered Judah, the Southern Kingdom and exiled the Israelites in Babylon for a long and difficult period. When the good king, Cyrus of Persia ruled, he released the Israelites, had them return to their land, and ordered that the temple be rebuilt. Darius, who replaced Cyrus as king of Persia pursued the assistance given to the Jews to rebuild the Temple. Years after the restoration and return to Judah, however, the temple had not yet been built. There was hardly anything. Prophet Haggai spoke words of encouragement to Zerubbabel governor of Judah, and to the people, prophesying that the temple will be built and its glory will be far greater than the first temple built by Jerusalem.

This was a prophecy not only of the physical glory of the second temple, but of a glory far greater that the structure. The true glory of the second temple is that it will be visited several times by God himself – Jesus Christ. This will be the temple during the time of Jesus. The Gospels tell us that Jesus presented in the temple, he was lost and found in the temple, he taught in the temple, he cleansed the temple, he sanctified the temple by healing in the temple. The Glory of God, Jesus Christ, will be in the Temple.

Today, in our Modern Christian world, we also have great physical structures which remind us of the presence of God. We have beautiful chapels, churches, shrines, basilicas. But the smallest and simplest of the mission chapels in a small and poor rural community, maybe made of lowly straw and beaten bamboo or mudpacks, are no less than the majestic churches of the finest and rarest marbles, mosaics and tapestry, with walls maybe even gilded with gold and silver.

(San Antonio de Padua Parish Church, Sugpon, Ilocos Sur, Philippines)

The glory of the Lord may be symbolized by the structure, but the true glory in the structure is in the humility of the Tabernacle. Our greatest treasure is the Eucharist – which we celebrate in this Holy Mass, and which endures and remains with us in the consecrated species of the bread and wine – the Real Presence, which we behold in adoration and receive in communion. That is why we are asked to behave properly in Church, especially before the Blessed Sacrament. That is why we are asked to cherish the last moments of the mass in thanksgiving to Jesus who has come to us.

As we contemplate then the glory of the ancient temple, and the beauty and magnificence of churches, shrines and basilicas, let us not forget that the glory of the Lord in these, is in the Real Presence, in the Eucharist. Utmost respect, reverence, love then is our most proper response to this humble glory before us.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Triumph of the Cross

September 14 is the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross, also called, the Exaltation of the Cross. Here is how the feast originated:

Early in the fourth century St. Helena, mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, went to Jerusalem in search of the holy places of Christ's life. She razed the Temple of Aphrodite, which tradition held was built over the Savior's tomb, and her son built the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher over the tomb. During the excavation, workers found three crosses. Legend has it that the one on which Jesus died was identified when its touch healed a dying woman.

The cross immediately became an object of veneration. At a Good Friday celebration in Jerusalem toward the end of the fourth century, according to an eyewitness, the wood was taken out of its silver container and placed on a table together with the inscription Pilate ordered placed above Jesus' head: Then "all the people pass through one by one; all of them bow down, touching the cross and the inscription, first with their foreheads, then with their eyes; and, after kissing the cross, they move on."

To this day the Eastern Churches, Catholic and Orthodox alike, celebrate the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on the September anniversary of the basilica's dedication. The feast entered the Western calendar in the seventh century after Emperor Heraclius recovered the cross from the Persians, who had carried it off in 614, 15 years earlier. According to the story, the emperor intended to carry the cross back into Jerusalem himself, but was unable to move forward until he took off his imperial garb and became a barefoot pilgrim. (American Catholic)

The cross was an ancient form of punishment which dates back to the Persians. It was later adopted by the Greeks, then also by the Romans. Crucifixion was considered the worst of all punishment, not only because of the pain felt by the crucified, and the slow and excruciating cause of death on the cross, which is asphyxiation – characterized by the loss of oxygen causing severe muscle paralysis among others. It was considered the worst punishment because of what it meant – the person is exposed, stripped naked which means the person is stripped of his dignity, and then he is hanged on the cross between heaven and earth which mean he is deprived of both heaven and earth – he is deprived of everything. The cross was not only a painful death, but a sentence of ultimate humiliation and of total deprivation.
The cross is by no means then a beautiful symbol. It is actually an ugly sign of cruelty. Triumph of the Cross then would be an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. The cross is anything by triumphant.
What changed it all is when Jesus gave himself over to be crucified. The authorities meant to humiliate, deprive, defeat Jesus. On the contrary, on the cross, Jesus was exalted, fulfilled, triumphant. On the cross, Jesus was exalted, raised up high, and just as the serpent lifted up on the pole symbolized, all who look on Jesus Crucified will be saved. On the cross, Jesus fulfilled his mission to be Messiah, whose suffering and death won the healing and life of broken humanity. On the cross, Jesus triumphed over violence, over sin, over death, over evil, over hatred. The cross is the triumph of Peace, of Grace, of Life, of Goodness, of Love.

The cross was a sign of defeat and of weakness. But the self-giving of Christ, which the letter of Paul to the Philippians sing about transformed it into a statement of triumph and strength. Very beautifully, Hans Urs Von Balthasar wrote that the divinity of Jesus shone most eminently in the cross. Jesus, was most God when he was there hanging on the cross – for only God can be capable of such great love. True, because God is love.

As the Church grew, the cross became a central symbol of the faith, and rightly so. We sign ourselves with the sign of the cross. The cross is central in the symbols of the Churches. We hang the cross in our homes, rooms, schools, workplaces, even in our cars. Some have the cross in their pocket. Some wear them as pendants, rings, or sometimes even as earrings. But more than just symbols, more than fashion accessories, let us remember that when we sign ourselves with the cross, when we hang the cross, or when we bring the cross, or wear the cross,

1. We are reminding ourselves of the great love of God – For God so loved the world, that he gave us his only son, so that all who would believe in him might have eternal life.
2. We are making a statement of faith – that we believe that Jesus Christ has saved us, that Jesus Christ has freed us.
3. And we are saying yes to cross – to take up our cross daily, to embrace the cross and let the cross triumph in our lives. The cross triumphs in our lives when we defeat violence, sin, death, evil and hatred, and let Peace, Grace, Life, Goodness, Love be concrete in our daily lives.

May we be always grateful for the immense love of God, proud of our Christian heritage of the cross, and aware of our responsibility to take up the cross daily.

Let us adore Christ and bless him because by his holy cross he has redeemed the world.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Mother's Name

September 12, Holy Name of Mary (Optional Memorial)

A Mother’s Name

Today we celebrate the HOLY NAME of MARY. This celebration began in 1513 and originated as a local feast in Cuenca, Spain and was celebrated in September 15. Later it was extended to the whole Archdiocese of Toledo, Spain. After the Battle of Vienna in 1683, in which the Christians’ victory was gained through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Pope Innocent XI made the feast open to the universal church. The reform of the Roman Calendar in 1954 set the date to September 12. The Roman Calendar of 1962 made the commemoration an optional memorial, due to its proximity to a more important feast, the Birth of Mary in September 8.

Although the latest Roman Calendar does not emphasize the celebration that much, it would still be helpful to celebrate this day, especially this year, when it falls on a Saturday, the day of our Lady, and given the help Our Mother offers us in our way to her Son, our Lord.
“The Hebrew name of Mary, Miryãm, (in Latin Domina) means lady or sovereign;
this Mary is in virtue of her Son's sovereign authority as Lord of the World. We
call Mary our Lady as we call Jesus our Lord, and when we pronounce her name we
affirm her power, implore her aid and place ourselves under her protection.” (Catholic
In the Divine Praises we pray, “Blessed be the great Mother of God, Virgin and Mother…. Blessed be the name of Mary, Virgin and Mother.”

As these are prayerful invocations, these are also affirmations of our faith. We honor Mary, not because of Mary, but because of her Son Jesus. Mary is the Mother of Jesus. And this is Our Lady’s surest hope – that we honor and follow her Son Jesus. At the Wedding at Cana, her instruction was, “Do whatever Jesus tells you.” In this same Gospel episode, we see the motherly attentiveness of Mary. She saw that the new couple was in danger of embarrassment since the wine had ran out. Our Mother sees our needs, and she fervently prays for us to her Son.

The celebration of Mary’s name is a celebration of the greatness of God, for having raised our broken humanity to wholeness, through his Son. This is also a grateful celebration of Jesus our Lord’s graciousness and providence, for having given us a Mother who has constantly helped us and guided us in our journey in this life, “an exile in a valley of tears” – like a Star of the Sea to weary seafarers.

Blessed be the great Mother of God, Mary Most Holy. Blessed be the name of Mary, Virgin and Mother.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Remembering Sin and Grace

Today's First Reading is from St. Paul's Letter to Timothy (1 Tim 1:1-2.12-14)

One of the things that stand out in this passage is Paul's insistence on remembering his own sin – “I was a blasphemer, and I did all I could to injure and discredit the faith.” Paul recognized and remembered that he was a cruel persecutor of the Christians. He was not content in talking against them; he was actively engaged in pursuing them, and meeting them with violence. Paul regarded himself as the chief of sinners. True, he could never forget that he was forgiven; but neither could he ever forget that he was a sinner. Why should he remember his sin with such vividness?

Should not Paul just move on? Should not Paul just bask in the triumph over sin? Should not Paul just glory in grace? William Barclay proposes these reasons for Paul's mindfulness of his sin.

1) The memory of his sin was the surest way to keep him from pride. It does a man good to remember his sins; it saves him from spiritual pride.

2) The memory of his sin was the surest way to keep his gratitude aflame. To remember what he had been forgiven is the surest way to keep awake his love to Jesus Christ, to keep awake the flame of gratitude within his heart.

3) The memory of his sin was the constant urge to greater effort. When he remembered how much God loves him and how little he deserved it, when he remembered that it was for him that Jesus Christ hung and suffered on Calvary, it compelled him to effort that will tell God he realizes what he has done for him and will show Jesus Christ that his sacrifice was not in vain.

4) The memory of his sin was bound to be a constant encouragement to others. It was not that he brooded unhealthily over his sin; it was that he remembered it to rejoice in the wonder of the grace of Jesus Christ.

Indeed, the grace of our Lord has been abundant, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. (1 Tim 1:14)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

September 8: The Birth of Mary

From the earliest of time, we read from Genesis 3:15, God said, as he cursed the snake, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel." And all of Israel from then on waited for the birth of this man who will destroy the serpent – and of course, waited for the woman to give birth to this Promised Savior.

At the appointed time, the woman who was to be the Mother of the Savior was born to her parents, Joachim and Anne. She was named Mary. Also in the appointed time, the woman was visited by an angel, whose announcement she lovingly accepted. And also in the appointed time, the woman, gave birth to a son, who was named Jesus. The rest, as they say is history – salvation history.

The birth of Mary brings us to reflect on our own birth and the life - which is definitely a special appointed time too.

I would like to believe, as the Sacred Scriptures attests to, that each of us is born for a specific purpose. In fact, the Bible reveals to us that God has called us even before we are born – we are dedicated to a unique and special role. Not that we are predetermined by fate, but that our birth is with purpose and it is our choice to fulfill that or otherwise.

In the concrete, it is pretty difficult to recognize and take hold of this purpose that God has for us. This is evidenced by the difficulty many encounter in choosing a career, a profession, a state of life.

A little aid from our enlightened peers might help. Frederick Buechner, an ordained Presbyterian minister once said, "The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet."

Our quest for our life's purpose, or calling, if you want to name it so, has two dimensions then – (1) where we find our deepest gladness and (2) the world’s deep hunger.

Our purpose in life which maybe manifested in a career, profession or state in life is first of all where we find our deepest gladness. The encouragement of many parents is proper – "Choose where you will be happy and fulfilled. We will be here to support you." Jesus said in the Gospel, "Where your heart is, there your treasure will be." In an increasingly financially difficult world, in an increasingly commercialized and secularized world, in a world where more and more the norm is material progress, this comes as a great challenge – does our choice of profession bring us deep personal joy, fulfillment and peace? Joy is not simply cheer. Fulfillment is not simply accomplishment. Peace is not simply security. Financial progress, career heights, a fat bank account, and accumulated wealth do not always bring deep, true, lingering gladness. The first measure then of our purpose in life is deep personal joy, fulfillment and peace.

Second, our purpose in life which maybe manifested in a career, profession or state in life is to be based, on the world’s deep hunger. Our purpose in life is not only for ourselves, but also in response to the world’s deep hunger. Cliché as it may be, still it is true that no person is an island, no person stands alone, each person’s joy is my joy, each person’s grief is my own. Our pursuit of a purposeful life, and for deep gladness should also take into consideration the world’s deepest need. The problem arises when in pursuit of personal happiness a person closes his or her eyes to the suffering of other people. Worse, when in pursuit of personal happiness, a person causes the suffering of other people, even myriads of peoples. We are reminded that our purpose in life is tied not only to our personal happiness, but to our contribution to the task of alleviating the poverty of the world, of quenching the deepest thirst of peoples, of filling the hungers of humanity.

Purpose and Joy. Life and Mission. We pray for these graces with the intercession of our Blessed Mother Mary.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women. And blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

From enemy to friend

23rd Week in OT, Thursday, September 10, 2009, SMR

From enemy to friend

In one Sunday reading, we heard of the sad episode of disciples deserting Jesus. They chorused – “This is difficult teaching. Who can accept this?”

Today, we hear again of difficult teachings from our Lord. Take for one, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly.”
We may ask, “How in the world can I love my enemies? Why should I do good to those who hate me? Or bless those who curse me? Or pray and wish the best for those who treat me badly?” First of all, of course we are called not to have enemies. “Enemy” is not a Christian category. We can choose not to identify people as our enemies. Somebody said that “we have to be close to our friends, but closer to our enemies”. Somebody also said that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Neither however is a Christian attitude. What another wise fellow said would be a more Christian attitude – “The best way to destroy your enemy is to make him a friend.”
We may ask, “But what, Father is they continue to do us bad, if they continue to gossip about us, if they continue to hurt us, if they continue mistreat us, if they continue to curse us, if they continue to make life difficult for us?” If they go overboard, of course we could and should bring them to the law. But retaliation, revenge is not an option. Befriending them may not end their aggression, but neither would revenge do. In fact, the cycle of violence will only grow worse.

Martin Luther King, Jr. put it so well – “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

If we are able to take on the attitude of Christ - love, goodness and prayer for aggressors, we actually triumph over our aggressors. By loving them, being good to them, praying for them, we become freer. We refuse to be enslaved by their aggression; we refuse to be enslaved by violence. We instead assert our freedom to choose our response, and we live up to who we truly are as children of God.

We pray that we may have the clarity of mind, the strength of will, and the openness of heart to respond to aggression with peace, to respond to animosity with love.


I have been out of the blogosphere for quite some time. For some reasons, I fell out - lack of time, juice, resolve and faithfulness. I am back. I hope to regularly get to this, and share stirrings and echoes that have come to me - as gentle breezes, gushing winds, calm waters, raging currents, troubling thoughts, silent reflections, and whatever that has disturbed, inspired, challenged, moved me.

I am now in the US. I arrived here last August 6. My Archbishop, Apo Erning, with the ICST seminary fathers sent me here for studies. I am deeply grateful for their confidence. I am also truly thankful to countless people who have encouraged me, supported me, pledged their prayers, and wished me well.

I have much to write about this. Wrting about it, I know will benefit me first. If it does something to you, thanks to the Eternal Stirring and Lingering Echo, the Spirit.