Follow Me on Facebook

Saturday, May 18, 2013

RECEIVE! RESPOND! RETURN!


Pentecost Sunday (Year C)
May 19, 2013

RECEIVE! RESPOND! RETURN!

I would like to summarize today’s great feast in three words: received, responded to, and returned in kind.

Pentecost is all about receiving. The Gospel passage is very clear. The Lord says, “receive the Holy Spirit.” Let us go direct to the point. Christian life is such because we are gifted. Christian life is characterized primarily with receiving something that is not ours by our own merit, but by grace.

Today, the so-called birthday of the Church, we focus our sights on being gifted, on being recipients, on being enriched by the same God who created us, the same God who saved us, and the same God who now calls us to return what we received in kind.

The internet world is awash in articles that point to a growing narcissism epidemic. More and more people, young and old alike, are  becoming self-centered and spoiled brats who think they are burgeoning “cewebrities” or “celebutantes.” People’s profiles in facebook now are “picture perfect,” ideal, creaseless, ageless, and problem-less fairy tale existences. If one goes by the number of pictures of what they ate here or there, or the places they have visited, or the “languages” they speak, and the “achievements” they have done in the two decades of existence in this world, you would think everyone had a perfect childhood.

But nothing is perfect in the world. Let us name some, just in case we forget. First, after the Lord had been put to death, the disciples were not exactly moving up and about. They were cooped up somewhere “for fear of the Jews.” With their Master gone, despite the reported sightings of his Risen Body, the early band of believers were not exactly busy with what they were called to do. They were literally in hiding.

Second,  the Corinthians were exactly like us now … fragmented, disunited, and caught up in so much infighting and petty intrigues. Life was not rosy at all. Paul had to talk to them about being “one body with many parts,” about being different individuals yet belonging to the same community of believers.

Third, they probably each had some kind of talent and special skills which each one guarded very jealously. It was impossible, perhaps, to make them get their act together.

Fourth, and now this sounds very close to home base … Paul, in his letter to the Romans says that the believers, like us all, were continually drawn and pulled by the siren song of worldly flesh, instead of living in the Spirit. We are torn inside … and all of us, at one time or another, are behaving like “carnal Christians,” instead of “spiritual” ones, weighed down by lust, by thirst for creature comfort, and earthly concerns.

Today, though, all this, and more, was dramatically transformed, changed, renewed, and refashioned! How? Simply put, the promised Paraclete came down on the fearful, timid disciples. Today, we remember how we received the Spirit.

But history is not just about receiving. Today, we are told how those who received eventually responded. They were renewed! “The Spirit enabled them to proclaim.”

And so, the Church was born! They received gifts. They responded to those same gifts. And they what return did they make? They gave of the same gifts they received. They spoke in tongues, in different languages, and each one understood them in his own language! Those gifts sure were double-edged, double-bladed!

Last week, we were kind of scolded by the angel. Remember? “Men of Galilee, why are you staring up in the sky?” Don’t just stand there! Do something!

Today, we are given more than just a gentle nudge … Don’t just sit there. Don’t just be complacent knowing that you believe. Believe and belong! Receive. Respond to what you receive. And return in kind! Deep is calling on deep … love for love … faith for faith … Behave more than just disengaged believers, but more like empowered, enabled, and dynamic Christians!

So what are you waiting for? Don’t just sit there. Proclaim and stand proud of your faith!

Friday, May 10, 2013

HE, GOING AWAY; WE, KEEPING TO HIS WAY!


Ascension Sunday
May 12, 2013

HE, GOING AWAY; WE, KEEPING TO HIS WAY!

From the human viewpoint, Jesus’ death was a failure, a defeat. But God’s viewpoint, not ours, had the final say in the end. He rose from the dead. Today, God puts a definite period to this saga of seeming defeat. He ascends into heaven. In glory. In triumph. In joy. The Gospel of today tells us thus: “They did him homage and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were continually in the temple praising God.” (Lk 24:53)

This image of disciples going their merry, grateful way is a far cry from the two disciples dejected and destined toward their Emmaus of despondency, no more than 40 days before.

I would like to think of the Ascension of the Lord, among other things, as an image of the Lord’s going away … He takes leave of his beloved disciples. Physically, that is, not not much more. He says good-bye to them, but this is one good-bye that is not associated with sadness, and definitely not one that puts a definitive stop to whatever He taught, shared, lived, and showed.

What did he teach? What did he share, live, and show? Let us hear it direct from him: “Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”

Now, this is getting interesting. Is he going away or not? Obviously, he is … to sit at the right hand of the Father, and to prepare a place for us. But will he really go away and be lost, for as they say, “out of sight is out of mind?”

Today’s feast – together with all three readings – show us that he is going away, yes … but there is something that will continue to take place till the end of time. His absence does not mean being totally and fully away and distant from the people that he journeyed with, that he became a man for. His absence, really, is a new form of presence – a presence that now takes place in and through the hearts and minds and hands of us believers and disciples. For God “put all things beneath his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.”

Ascension has nothing to do with absence, but with presence. In a new way. In a different level. In a new mysterious, but no less real, way.

I would like to think that this is what the Acts of the Apostles is telling us. He may be away, but we are told to keep to his way: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

This is one good-bye that is true to its name – good. This is one parting that entails no permanent departing. This is a taking leave of someone in which no one is asked and expected to leave all hope outside the door. On the contrary, it is a going away, so that we all could keep to his saving and salvific ways, as we journey on toward heaven, our only true home. Amen!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

PEACE, YES! TROUBLE, NO!


6th Sunday of Easter Year C
May 5, 2013

PEACE, YES! TROUBLE, NO!

A decade ago, I was deep in study once again, somewhere in the US East Coast. It was supposed to be a Catholic institution, but I soon found out that most students were not only not Catholic. Some were even anti-Catholic! One day, there was an imam who came to talk about his religion. Of course, he did talk about it, and in the process also talked against my religion, ever so subtly. I wouldn’t have minded that one, coming as it does from someone like him. But when a “Christian” deridingly asked me whether Catholics were Christians, I was definitely incensed.

I wasn’t in the mood for peace at that moment. I was seething … like I was on so many other occasions in my life when my ego was stepped on, hurt, abused, or otherwise put down.

It is hard to be at peace when being a Catholic nowadays is equated with so many unsavory terms … when being orthodox means you are the object of the derision of so many politically correct, but intolerant and noisy minorities who accuse us of intolerance. (Look who’s talking!).

But today, whether I like it or not, I will have to talk of the peace that comes from the Lord … the only one who really can give it honestly, sincerely, truly, and fully!
Why, you might ask? Because He himself suffered violence … against his person, against what he taught, against what he stood for and paid for dearly with his life!

This is the only convincing peace that can only be given by him who was made to suffer immensely for it … the peace that the world cannot give … No … not even the Romans with their proverbial pax Romana that really meant fear, control, and weaponries.

But the gift of peace from the Lord is associated with three other powerful concepts to consider: love, keeping the Lord’s words, and the coming of the Advocate.

Now that is reassuring. The peace that He gives is not the peace that the world gives. It is the peace that is proven by deeds, by love and by adhering to his words. More than anything, it is a peace that comes along with a more important gift – the gift of the Holy Spirit, whom the Father sends in the Lord’s name.

Even now, I am often not entirely at peace. I am troubled when that cult founded in the Philippines, designed to destroy the Catholic Church … that cult whose apparent vision and mission and raison d’etre is nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else but to talk against us Catholics continues to attack us. But the worst is this … when fellow believers who claim to be catholics, too, take the podium and say nothing positive about the institutional Church, the Holy Father, or the official teachings of the Church, especially in the area of morals. Sometimes I am outraged.

But today, I am convicted. And I am sorry not to be at peace. For trouble is not what He has come to bring me and you, but peace. “Let not your hearts be troubled or afraid.”

I would suggest we all claim this peace, this gift, this promise. He is the only One who can talk convincingly of peace. But in the meantime, there is one thing we can do – live on in His love, and adhere to His words, and accept the gift of the Advocate. Anything less than this will mean trouble for me and you.

Now, do you see why we are so troubled?