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TREE, FRUIT, SOIL

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MARY, MOTHER OF GOD (A) January 1, 2014
TREE, FRUIT, SOIL
Romano Guardini’s image is striking. Talking about Jesus, the Christ, is a lot like talking about the tree, along with its blossom and fruit, he says. But it won’t ever be complete unless we also talk about the soil that enabled the tree to grow, blossom, and bear fruit. Jesus is the tree, blossom and fruit all at once. But Mary was the soil that enabled the fruit-giving tree become truly what it was meant to be.
Today, our focus, being on the exact octave (8th day) after Christmas, is as much on the Son, as on the one who brought forth the Son of God. Mary is not God, let me put it as clearly at the outset as possible. Today, we do not venture into idolatry, for a creature cannot be superior to the Creator; a human person cannot have ascendancy over the Divine Person, even as one does not pick apples from lemon trees. Mary is not God who gives birth to a God, in which case her Son would be of lower rank than his mother. No … but…

RISE, FLEE, AND STAY!

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Feast of the Holy Family (A) December 29, 2013
RISE, FLEE, AND STAY!
Something serious and potentially far-encompassing in scope is happening in our culture. Today’s issue of Pugad Baboy captures some of it, but not fully. People still flock to the Church during the nine-day preparation period, but there are serious signs worship of God, honoring the saints, and participating in the liturgy are not their topmost goals. Many don’t even care to go in and use the pews inside … no, they stand outside or sit on a bench, ready to respond to texts and Viber and Tango alerts. According to Pugad Baboy comic strip, there are those who drive in, remain seated in their cars, and look more or less toward the direction of the altar, and “attend” Mass from a distance.
I talked about this issue on Christmas morning, when huge malls like the Mall of Asia, were slated to be open all day of Christmas. I said that children behave in exactly the same way they do at malls as they do inside Churches. First, t…

GENERATIONS AND GRACE

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Christmas Day December 25, 2013
GENERATIONS AND GRACE!
Christmas is at one and the same time, an easy and difficult occasion to be preaching. It is easy as everyone is well-motivated, eminently receptive, and for the most part, responsive. But it is also difficult as the occasion is so rich, the readings so varied, and the themes so multi-faceted that it becomes hard to focus on just one, without feeling like not doing justice to all others.
But focus, we must, and speak of just one basic idea, we ought to, lest liturgy becomes, not primarily worship that it has to be, but another entertainment package or an opportunity for information overload.
The Gospel passage of the Vigil Mass is a repeat of what we heard in the last nine days – the story of the generations that led to the birth of the Savior, clustered in three groups of 14 each. The meaning of those generations is just as obscure as the names themselves of the people who, otherwise, we would not have known were it not for Scriptur…

BETWEEN PROMISE AND FULFILLMENT

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4th Sunday of Advent December 22, 2013
BETWEEN PROMISE AND FULFILLMENT.
Prophets definitely lived in interesting times. Isaiah was no exemption to this. He prophesied – or at least, tried to – during times when the southern Kingdom of Judah was in dire straits, threatened by dissolution by the powerful Assyrians. But interesting times are brought about by interesting characters – by individuals whose claim to big power is just matched by their big egos.
Ahaz was one such narcissistic leader. He wouldn’t listen to anyone, least of all Isaiah. He wouldn’t trust anyone, including the Lord Himself, who was ready to give a sign just so the Kingdom wouldn’t perish and go down in shame.
Our society and culture now, are full of such narcissists. In this age of selfies, where the case called “impression management” is the name of the game in social media and everywhere, leaders who make it on top, business people who reach the pinnacle of success, and dreamy-eyed idealists whose dreams are tall…

HERO OR HEEL? REED OR ROD?

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3rd Sunday of Advent (A) Gaudete Sunday December 15, 2013
HERO OR HEEL? REED OR ROD?
I am no Justin Bieber fan. I don’t know what he stands for, but right now, he is a hero to many young people in Leyte, whom he paid a surprise visit to, in order to give his help to all typhoon survivors in Eastern Visayas.
There are simply some people who rise to the occasion and prove their worth when tested, when tried, when needed. Isaiah was one such. More than a prophet, he proved to be an enabler, who encouraged, who gave strength, and who empowered people with buckling knees: “Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, say to those who are frightened: Be strong, fear not.”
Leaders, they say, do the right things. Managers, they further say, do things right. Either of them, or both, while doing the right things and doing things right, may experience fear, uncertainty, and doubt in the process. When either, or both, surrender to fear or uncertainty, and refuse to act, p…

FLOWERING REPENTANCE; FLOURISHING JUSTICE!

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2nd Sunday of Advent Year A December 8, 2013
FLOWERING REPENTANCE; FLOURISHING JUSTICE
We have heard it once too often … “It’s not me; it’s my genes!” … “I didn’t know anything about it; my signature was faked!” “I am not a thief!” “Ooops! Sorry; I am just having a bad day!” “Is it a sin to love? What’s wrong about loving someone totally, physically, completely?”
Yesterday, I really had a bad day … no, a bad dream … a nightmare, in fact. Something really, really bad happened to somebody good. I know her and her family very well, from years back. Exactly like what happened to a young, promising lady who had a “bright future ahead of her” … that is, until a group of unrepentant young men killed her in cold blood and, when caught, had this line to tell the world: “We really did not mean her any harm!”No remorse … no guilt … nothing … It just so happened she had the unfortunate lot of crossing their paths one early dawn, while they were cruising around town for the next victim.
Some really b…

SUDDENNESS. SURPRISE ... SALVATION!

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First Sunday of Advent (A) December 1, 2013
SUDDENNESS. SURPRISE … SALVATION!
Mountains have always mystified me. Oceans frightened me each time, but mountains always somehow make of me a little mystic. I have climbed at least 14 of them in tropical Philippines, a number of them for more than just once or twice, or even thrice, and every time I set my sights on one, I always sigh – and pine for – the heights.
The Israelites were spot on to think of mountains as a place of refuge and a place to encounter God. It certainly was – and is – refuge for me … Then and now … when times get tough and the rough and tumble of life get the better of me. It is also a place of encounter with God, especially when right from day one we started the group – and the tradition of trekking up heights at Don Bosco Mandaluyong, Philippines – we ended each weary day with a lively recitation of the rosary and the traditional Salesian pep talk called the “good night.” But the best was always the Eucharistic celeb…

SHEPHERD, SERVANT, KING

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November 24, 2013 Solemnity of Christ the King Year C Closing of the Year of Faith
SHEPHERD, SERVANT, KING
I missed my weekly “pan” last week. I was taken up trying to do what in my little capacity I could, to help the hapless victims of the supertyphoon that wrought death and unprecedented devastation to many places in Central Philippines.
It felt so humbling … being literally so helpless. The magnitude of the destruction was and still is, unfathomable. Money doesn’t grow on trees, and no one plucks it out of nowhere just when one needs it, no matter how urgent, no matter how important, no matter how noble.
But at the same time, it felt so encouraging. The little that was available for everyone to do was precisely what the suffering millions needed. The power that was not anyone’s innate resource was the very same power that God needed to do His mighty works. Aid came in trickles … a little bag here; a little bag there. A few hundred pesos now; a few hundred pesos later. By Tuesday I h…

NOT A GOD OF THE DEAD, BUT OF THE LIVING

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--> 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C November 10, 2013
N.B. I would like to join CNN, and the rest of the world, in paying tribute to my suffering compatriots down south in Central Philippines, who braved through the strongest tropical cyclone on earth in about three decades, by posting this pic I grabbed from CNN

NOT A GOD OF THE DEAD, BUT OF THE LIVING


Despite the systematic drive of anti-Catholics, most Filipinos trooped to the cemeteries, brought and lit candles and offered flowers for their beloved dead. Many also offered prayers and had the names of their beloved deceased relatives written and brought at the foot of altars in innumerable churches all over the country. They all are symbols and at the same time, actualizations of what many of us believe – that for us Christians, life is changed, not ended, and that we owe it to those who have gone ahead of us, to intercede for them, pray for them, that they all might be granted, in God’s mercy, eternal rest with Him i…

BROKEN BUT NOT BEATEN; FORLORN BUT NOT FORGOTTEN!

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31st Sunday Year C
November 3, 2013
BROKEN BUT NOT BEATEN, FORLORN BUT NOT FORGOTTEN!


I am afraid of heights. I fell from a tree once in my life, while doing  - you know – that childhood classic Batman stunt! (I will spare you the details!) But for one afraid of heights, I think I have done a mean feat climbing 14 Philippine mountains, one of them for more than 12 times!


I am a small man, too, by any standard, including by current Philippine standards where children of people not any taller than me, end up being a lot taller than their progenies. (Did we do the Star margarine challenge right? Or we just didn’t have Cherifer “tangkad sagad” back then?)


Today, I take comfort from the story of Zacchaeus. No … I don’t mean to gloat over his height (or the lack of it!). I meant, I take comfort from Zacchaeus, not because he was just as small as me, but because he was endowed with a big heart. He was willing to go out very literally, on a limb, because he had a great desire to see, to know, to…