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Saturday, April 26, 2014

HONEST THOMAS


Second Sunday of Easter (A)
April 27, 2014

HONEST THOMAS

Times there are when people want and seek our honest opinions about something. More often than not, given our Filipino culture that almost makes it mandatory for us to please the other party, we think of answers that are less than sincere, less than honest. When some person of stature asks for our opinions, we end up giving him or her the answer that we think he or she expects to hear.

Thomas has received some kind of a bad rap in the past for being sort of skeptical. “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Indeed, on account of this, he has come down in history as the “doubting Thomas.”

He was a skeptic alright. He doubted. He did not give outright credence to what he heard. But Thomas, beyond being skeptical, was really honest about what he thought. And he told it like it is, without hemming and hawing; without mincing words; without beating about the bush.

We have often heard it said that our times, before anything else, are characterized with the massive crisis of truth. Truth is sacrificed on the altar of political gain. Truth is made subservient to economic considerations. Even newspapers who go by such seemingly admirable lines as “balanced news; fearless views” are anything but balanced, and are actually fearful of losing their patrons, big or small; powerful or lowly. Who says “envelopmental journalism” has been banished with the loss of the much hated dictatorship of a generation ago?

At least one news outfit comes across as patently anti-clerical. Since its inception in the digital world, that news outfit has ceaselessly been coming out with reportorial articles that seem to report as fact the sexually liberated mores now operative in Philippine culture. They always say they only report what is happening in the world. In actuality, they can also create the very reality they are ostensibly reporting “objectively,” thus giving the impression that the prevalent culture is indeed according to their reports and write-ups.

Today, I would like to look at Thomas as an example of honesty. Truth, we are told, is the perfect match between what is in the mind and what is outside the mind – the world of objective reality. Whilst objective reality cannot be bended and manipulated, the mind can actually be twisted, for many reasons. Thomas did not twist his mind nor bend the truth. He just said: “Unless I see … I will not believe.”

Our times are sorely tested in this regard. The pork barrel scam has reached a point in which there seems to be no one credible, least of all, mainstream media that seems subservient to whoever is in power. Whistleblowers’ accounts are either blown out of proportions or downright ignored, if not made to go the way of the proverbial forgetfulness of the Filipino people.

Honest Thomas reminds us of the need to be truthful, to be honest with our thoughts and feelings – to ourselves, first of all, and ultimately, to others. But Honest Thomas tells us more, which the gospel passage today shows us. It shows that honesty is not inimical to openness; that it is does not preclude being open to further truth, to other truths, to the ongoing search for truth. It also shows us that, in the presence of glaring and undeniable truth, there is no harm in changing one’s opinion and submitting oneself to the truth, totally and without reservation.

This, Honest Thomas did wonderfully well. When Jesus came a week later and told him: “Put your finger here and see my hands … do not be unbelieving, but believe,” Thomas blurted out: “My Lord and my God!”

I don’t know how all this convoluted and complicated pork barrel scam will end. Neither do I know how you all react and relate to this issue. I really do not care, in the end. What I do care about is not about the flimsy and fleeting truth about us and our political affiliations. What I do care about is our openness before the truth of God, who revealed Himself in Christ, His Son, who suffered, died, was buried and rose from the dead. What I do care about is how you and I relate to Him, who is the resurrection and the life.

Is He still your Lord and your God?

Saturday, April 19, 2014

ONCE IN DARKNESS, NOW BATHED AND SWATHED IN LIGHT FOREVER!

Tonight, we come face to face with darkness. Our paschal triduum reaches its highest point when new fire and the light it brings shall pierce the darkness. Darkness, and the intimations of death that are associated with it shall now be vanquished. Sin, the ultimate darkness and sign of death par excellence, is now vanished for all time, for all men, for always.

This Good News is something we all cannot remain silent about. We have been redeemed. We have been bought for a price. We are all called to move from darkness into God's wonderful light.

This is Easter Good News. We are an Easter people, and "alleluia" is our song, as St. Augustine aptly puts it.



IN SILENCE WE AWAIT!




Holy Saturday

Waiting is so very hard to do nowadays. In our digital generation, internet-saturated times, everything is instant ... everything happens in real time ... We hate delayed telecasts. We abhor slow connections. We despise having to wait at all. But the coming of the definitive Word of victory is something worth waiting for!

Friday, April 18, 2014

GOOD FRIDAY REFLECTIONS

Magkahalong lungkot at tuwa ... magkapatong na dalamhati at pag-asa ... naghuhumiyaw na pag-ibig; nagpupumiglas na pananampalataya ... Ito ang Biyernes Santo ... dito umiikot ang tadhana ng daigdig ... makasalanan ... marupok ... nguni't minahal ng Diyos nang walang kahulirip!


Saturday, April 12, 2014

THE APPOINTED TIME

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Palm Sunday
April 13, 2014

THE APPOINTED TIME



It was, very aptly stated, the appointed time! The words came from Jesus, no less: “My appointed time draws near.” First, we need to clarify what the appointed time is not. First, it is not coincidental. It did not come out of happenstance, from out of the blue. Second, it was not something totally unexpected, totally uncalled for, totally out of the Lord’s foreknowledge, and beyond his level of awareness. Jesus saw it coming. Jesus, by then, had total grasp of what and who he was, and what his mission from the Father was.



The appointed time is the “hour” that has come – the time of salvation, the moment of truth, the time that was foreordained, foreseen, foretold and prophesied ever so gradually from generation to generation. It was the beginning of the hour of fulfillment, that was part of the mystery long hidden but now gradually revealed, and gradually unfolding. It was the appointed “hour” for its fulfillment to take place in earnest.



That mystery of the Christ, his birth, passion, death and resurrection is broad and deep. That mystery is what today, Passion Sunday, opens for us, a mystery waiting to be savored, understood, lived, and loved.



The mystery is so broad it spans a complete panoply of emotions … from triumphant and tumultuous joy to soulful and solemn silence; from a heart-rending sense of vicarious passion to active compassion … name it, this entire Holy Week has it.



The mystery is so deep it pores through the even more complex layers of theological discourse … from an appreciation of Jesus’ humanity to an awed recognition of the same Christ’s divinity; from the acceptance of his bodily self-immolation and total self-giving on the Cross, to the appropriation of the Christ’s total self-giving of His Body and Blood from the first Eucharist during the Last Supper and onwards. Name it, and the entire Holy Week coming our way has it.



The mystery is so multi-faceted that all of salvation history, all that the Church teaches and stands for essentially is here for the knowing; here for the understanding; and here, too, for the doing.



The mystery is well worth reflecting on. This we do in abundant, but pregnant silence from the time the reposition of the Blessed Sacrament is done and the Paschal Fast begins, up till the Paschal Vigil of Saturday night, when the Alleluia and the Gloria will once more reverberate in all Churches all over the Christian Catholic world. The mystery is well worth participating in. This, we do in our Way of the Cross on Good Friday, right after the Veneration of the Cross, timed preferably at 3 PM. The mystery is also worth living in actuality. This we do, as we take part in the Lord’s passion via our Paschal Fast, and the fasting and abstinence on Good Friday.



Today, Palm or Passion Sunday, the whole mystery unfolds in memory, mystery, history, pageantry and poetry. It is tiring. It can be boring. It can be hot, as to make people pine for Boracay, Borawan, or simply for a soothing glass of cold water or a long, refreshing stroll in the cooler Malls that now act as cathedrals of commerce. But one thing we cannot say about it is that it is meaningless.



On the contrary, it so meaningful and theologically and spiritually significant … for those who are willing and open enough to drink in the fullness of what Palm Sunday and all of Holy Week stand for.



The appointed time is drawing near. It has come in history. It is still coming in mystery. And we celebrate it not just in memory, but in actuality. It is meant to be savored, understood, lived … and loved … Now!

Friday, April 4, 2014

NOT IN THE FLESH, BUT IN THE SPIRIT!

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5th Sunday of Lent (A)
April 6, 2014


NOT IN THE FLESH, BUT IN THE SPIRIT!



Mourning the death of someone you love and feel very close to, is most difficult. Presiding over funeral services of the same person is even more trying. But it can also be difficult to find the right words to say in the presence of family who has just suddenly lost a loved one.



People, on occasions like these, can be overeager and overzealous to help. In their desire to make the bereaved feel better, they thoughtlessly and cluelessly say words like “Don’t be too sad. It is God’s will. Just accept it and you will feel better.”



In their desire to sound consoling and empathic, they also say: “I know exactly how you feel. But God has a plan for you.” Some others would mutter something like: “Don’t be upset. He or she is in a much better place now.”



They are nice-sounding words, but the times I have gone through mourning myself, I was angry with God. And I wasn’t too sure at that time that it was really God’s will. And thanks, but no thanks, I really felt miserable for a long, long while, even after I have pledged “acceptance” of God’s will. Oh … please, you don’t know how I feel. Don’t rob me of the right to feel what I feel by invalidating it and making light of it, like as if you are an expert on how other people feel! Oh, and one more thing … I am upset. And knowing that he or she is in a much better place right now, does not really put me in the mood to party and frolic and have a nice time cause he or she is now in a much better place.



I was in grief and was mourning … and emotive as I by nature was (and still am), I was often in tears, with a big lump in my throat that wouldn’t go away, despite my having accepted God’s will.



Today, Jesus mourns with you and me and everyone else who has ever felt the dagger-like pain of losing someone dear. He had not come to the house of Martha and Mary to tell his friends that Lazarus was in a much better place. He did not speak at all about God’s will and thus rubbing in the painful reality of loss that stared them in the face. He did not tell them not to be upset.



He himself was upset. He himself was moved. To tears. To painful feelings associated with great loss. To action. Salvific action. To life!



Jesus, the Savior and Redeemer, came to suffer with Martha and Mary. He did not disenfranchise them of their real grief. No … he validated their grief. He grieved together with them. But as Savior and Redeemer, he talked, not about death, but about life. He did not deny death. No, but he declared victory over death by calling Lazarus to life, as foretaste and foreshadowing of the ultimate victory he would later claim when he himself would rise from the dead.



I am still sad when thoughts of those close to me who have gone ahead come flooding through my natural flash disk memory bank. Sometimes, a short burst of searing pain shoots through my chest and I would momentarily be paralyzed once more in grief. That comes from hindsight … I remember things past and I realize once again for a fleeting moment that there are things and people in my life that won’t ever come back ever again.



But Christian memorial that is not stored in mere human flash disks does not base itself on mere hindsight. It is also based on insight – a view to things that go beyond what our mortal eyes can see … the view of faith that tells us, yes … “Your brother will rise!” Jesus did not tell Martha and Mary, “Lazarus is not dead,” but “your brother will rise.”



This is the insight of Christian faith. It is based on the promises of the Lord that the Lord Himself has come to fulfill “I have promised, and I will do it, says the Lord.”



The Lord Jesus then proceeded to do “what no eye has seen, nor ear heard of.” He raised Lazarus to life and proved that what He said was true: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”



I still see dead people around and dying people around me. I also cannot avoid seeing the very same mortality that I need to be facing myself sooner or later. I still shed tears at having to confront untimely losses. I still feel miserable when persons close to me bid good-bye, and people close to me tell me in deep pain of their own stories of losses. Like Martha and Mary …. Like Jesus, too, I don’t need to hide my tears.



But today, I need to proclaim the foresight that this hindsight and insight of Christian faith tells me – the foresight of Christian hope, associated with Christian love – the love of God for me and for suffering humanity – that I was created, and born, not for death, but for life.



By his passion, death and resurrection, Christ has claimed you and me for his own. I am not meant to be in the flesh, but to be in the spirit! The lines of that song just wouldn’t leave me right now … We will run and not grow weary, for our God will be our strength and we will fly like the eagle. We will rise again!