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Thursday, December 31, 2015

SON-TALK; MOTHER-TALK




[BREAKING THE BREAD OF GOD’S WORD]
Solemnity of Mary Mother of God
January 1, 2016

SON-TALK; MOTHER-TALK

As the Son rises to our consciousness, so, too, does the figure of His Mother rise in our collective imagination and appreciation. Christmas Day, the time when the world bows in worship to the coming of the promised Messiah, is followed a full week after by the celebration in honor of the one through whom the human birth of the 2nd Person of the Blessed Trinity came to happen.

The Divine Son rises in His full human and divine nature. The Mother rises to the occasion and allows herself to be the necessary instrument for the miracle of the Incarnation to happen.

This, my dear friends and readers, is what we honor Mary for essentially – for her unique role in the unfolding drama and story of salvation.

That role is unrepeatable, even as it is humanly speaking, inconceivable. No less than St. Paul recognizes the depth of this mystery. He acknowledges that Jesus, the Son of God, and Son of Mary, submitted himself to the Mosaic Law – thus, becoming like unto us in all things except sin. He became man in  the context of a specific moment and particular culture.

When we talk of the Son, we cannot but talk, too, of the Mother. If we believe, as we all do, that Jesus is Son of God, whose Person is no other than the 2nd Person of the Trinity, Jesus who was man-God, was “born of a woman, born under the law.”

Son-talk leads to Mother-talk. And today, January 1, octave of Christmas, we honor her who is logically called Mother of God, not in terms of her nature, which is human like yours and mine, but in terms of her singular role as the one chosen and blessed above all women, to be the Son’s mother.

Yes, dear friends, talk about the Son, cannot but lead to talk about the Mother. And when we call her Mother of God, it is the greatest acknowledgment that the Son born of this woman, born a Jew and like us in every way, is God.

Glory be to God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit!

Praise be to the woman blessed among all women for her singular and unique role in the salvation that has been promised us, and given us!

For a Son has been born for us, a Son is given to us!


Happy new and blessed New Year to all of you!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

IN THE FATHER'S HOUSE

[BREAKING THE BREAD OF GOD’S WORD]
Feast of  the Holy Family
December 27, 2015

IN THE FATHER’S HOUSE

Christmas is associated with family togetherness. My heart reached out to so many people who, on Christmas Eve, were trying their best still to catch a ride and go home to the provinces. All bus stations were filled to overflowing and the ports all over the country were no exception.

Christmas without family is just an empty celebration, devoid of meaning, and can only be enjoyed from afar. One’s heart belongs to hearth and home, and home is where the kernel of family is, “in the Father’s house.”

Today’s liturgy is about the “holy family.” It is prophetic to know that the life of the holy family shifted from simple to complicated just as soon as the child was born. After the foil and the tinsel and the romantic images have worn off, and envious insecure leaders like Herod already were entertaining crazy ideas, the complications began to set in. Led by Joseph, the mother and child fled to Egypt as the life of the young boy was threatened and in danger.

Christian families and families in general are now also endangered in many and varied ways. The life of families the world over are now complicated and besieged on all fronts. We saw some of it last Christmas eve. Hordes of frantic travelers were trying to beat the deadline and reach home to hearth and kin all the way up to the dying hours of the day, when families all over the country were just about ready to partake of what they were able to prepare for their “Noche Buena.”

Much like the boy Jesus, children, too, in our times are threatened by so many challenges against not just the value of life, but against so many other values or rights that children everywhere ought to be enjoying. And much life the holy family, many families in the country are forced to be on the move to get to the proverbial greener pastures.

The family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph also faced the challenge of a sudden painful separation. The boy, who was no more than 12 years old, one day went missing. The distraught parents were searching all over, frantically trying to understand the pain and the seemingly hurtful answer of the boy when asked: “Why do you look for me? Don’t you know that I must be about my Father’s business?”

The boy, early on, knew his priorities. The parents, somewhat belatedly too, understood that it was part and parcel of family life to become apostles, too, to others and on behalf of God. Somewhat belatedly, too, Joseph and Mary learned that family togetherness and unity does not only mean being physically huddled together all the time, but united in doing the Father’s business.

The boy, they understood in due time, had to be in the Father’s house to do as God willed – to begin his mission of being an instrument of the Father’s saving will.

Yes, dear friends, dear parents and dear children. Christian families are asked by the Lord to share the faith. They, too, are sent to become messengers too of the Father’s plan for the world and for humanity.

The family, according to the Church’s teaching, ought to be a domestic Church, and last thing I heard is, Church essentially means being sent, being about God’s business, and doing the Father’s will.


So what about you? When will you spend your time, effort and all resources you have in the Father’s house?

Friday, December 25, 2015

GOD HAS BARED HIS HOLY ARM!

[BREAKING THE BREAD OF GOD’S WORD]
CHRISTMAS DAY 2015

GOD HAS BARED HIS HOLY ARM

Promise has come to fulfillment today. A child is born for us; a Savior is sent to us. All our longings, from the historical viewpoint, took place in history. All our dreams and desires, have been given a definite pledge of fulfillment, though the fullness of which is not yet with us.

But the already of His birth has come to pass. The “not yet” of the fullness of salvation is something we still need to work for “in fear and trembling” but with a definite outcome on the side of the God of promises and the God of fulfillment.

Isaiah is definitely inspired today. He speaks of God “baring His arm.”

The arm is a symbol of power. The arm is a concrete sign of presence. When one’s arm is outstretched, it could be a hand of blessing or an arm of support. But the arm outstretched could also be an arm that reprimands, that punishes, that reminds us when we go our wayward ways.

But a gentle outstretch arm is also a sign of support, of caress, of tenderness and care.

The arms of the baby Jesus are now outstretched, reaching out to the world. For he was born for us and for our salvation.

Christmas has always been a time of giving and sharing, And it is so precisely because God has bared his arm to His people.

But there is a word that cannot be glossed over. God has bared His HOLY arm. That arm is geared for life, for support, for care, for mercy and compassion – the very same  virtues that ought to be characteristic traits of everyone this Jubilee Year of mercy, for that was what God did. That is what and who God is. For you. For  me. For the world.

Christmas is not just sentimental recollection of events past. No … It is a coming to fruition of what God has promised. And it is bearing fruit in plenty for the life of the world. It means being what the Child Jesus is, was and will be forever.


A Son born for us … a Savior given to us!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

BLESSED IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE!


[BREAKING THE BREAD OF GOD’S WORD]
4th Sunday of Advent Year C
December 20, 2015

BLESSED IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE

Today is the last Sunday prior to Christmas, and the fifth day of the novena in preparation for the second greatest feast in the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar.

Like we did last December 8, our thoughts are focused now on the one who made Christmas possible – the woman, who, by her cooperation with God, brought forth to the world the reason for the season – Jesus Christ, God’s Son! Five days before the mystery of the Incarnation takes place, we think about her who was a primary player in the Divine Con-spiracy of goodness, grace, and gift.

Without intending to spoil the message of Christmas, I would like to think of the big day for us Christians as epitomized by the idea of outpouring. Christmas is essentially an outpouring of grace, of blessing, of gift. But like in everything that happens in our earthly life, all gift, all grace, all blessing is always mediated, that is, given through channels or intermediaries.

The sunlight is filtered by the atmosphere. The rainfall, passing through the same atmosphere, does not come to us as a torrent, but in droplets, not in voluminous streams from above. The gifts of nature that we enjoy each day, do not come to us ready-made, but lovingly crafted or prepared by others. Even the fruits we eat have been laboriously cared for, watered and harvested by others. The food that we shall enjoy on Christmas day (and actually enjoying now in the days of Simbang Gabi), have been given to us through the efforts and hard work of other people.

The Savior whom we await did not come crashing through the gates one fine Christmas morning. No … he was born of woman, born of a virgin – Mary, by name.

This is the same Mary we called on last December 8, who, on account of the same outpouring of grace, was born without the stain of sin, prepared aptly by the same God, who chose a worthy dwelling place for her son soon to be born of her.

This is the woman whose participation caused (instrumentally that is, not in the sense of final cause who is God alone), the outpouring of salvation which we now look forward to celebrating in five days!

But a homily never should be a theological treatise, though some theology must get in the picture. A homily is meant to be a breaking down of deep Scriptural and theological teachings and concepts that are more for the doing, not for primarily for the reflecting and speculating.

And here is where Scripture ought to come alive for us. And come alive, it does, in and through the example of a human like us in all things, but elevated by the power of grace from above.

All the readings today talk of joy and hope. For the one who is to come “shall stand firm and shepherd his flock by the strength of the Lord.”

The Gospel speaks about a joyful meeting between cousins, Mary and Elizabeth. The joy spilled over into praise, for when the heart is filled with joy, it cannot but express itself as praise and thankful utterances: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” Yes, even the child joined in the joyful exultation by leaping in her womb. Elizabeth too, received an outpouring from the Spirit, and that outpouring showed best in her utterances.

But a homily never stops at exulting the greatness of Biblical figures. That would be to read Scripture merely as a morality play, a novel, a short story – designed to impress, but not to press us into being responsible ourselves.

And this is where the good news lies … the good news about a woman who was blessed, not just because he was soon to be mother of Jesus, but because she did more … She mothered more than just God’s Son. She mothered a virtue, an attitude, an openness to the Word, and a further and deeper openness to doing and behaving in accordance with that Word. She believed God’s utterance, and she, indeed, was “blessed” for she “believed that what was spoken to [her] by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

What about us? We have listened for God knows how many times to the readings we hear one more time today. But we are not anywhere near being blessed yet, unless of course, we promise today to hear, listen, obey, and do just as Mary did.

And, here’s one more piece of good news! … We are never wanting in grace. And lest we forget, let us say it one more time like we did at the beginning of this Mass:


“Pour forth we beseech you O Lord, your grace into our hearts, that we, to hom the Incarnation of Christ Your Son was made known by the message of an angel, may, by His passion and Cross, be brought to the glory of his resurrections. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

DISTANCE & APATHY, VERSUS NEARNESS & ACTIVITY



[BREAKING THE BREAD OF GOD’S WORD]
3rd Sunday of Advent Year C
December 13, 2015

DISTANCE & APATHY, VERSUS NEARNESS & ACTIVITY

Our times seem to lead us to being apathetic and uncaring. The world has seen too much misery, too much violence, too much corruption from among people in high places that hardly anyone now seems to care enough to change the way things go.

People are jaded, their hopes faded, their spirits sagging and their energies plummeting faster than the water tables underground are drying up. Without doubt, the next president of the country where I live will  again be a minority president, as most of those who don’t care anymore most likely will leave the elections to those who have learnt that it can be an alternative way to make money without really trying very hard, at the expense of an enlightened democracy, courtesy of moneyed politicians who are out there to serve the best interests, not of the common good, but of big businesses.

Advent goes right smack against such a mentality of giving up, of copping out, and surrendering to the tides of the times. Advent is a blow to the jugular of a mentality that all is lost, and that there is nothing more one can ever do.

Advent is a challenge to the way we think  - and act.

For one, it tells us to rejoice: “Sing joyfully, O daughter Zion!” And for good reason! For the Lord is distant, not far. “The Lord is in your midst, a mighty savior.”

Nearness is definitely very encouraging. Distance is very discouraging. There is nothing more demoralizing than knowing one is all alone, and far from the potential help and support of everyone.

Today, the readings tell us to raise our chins up high in joy and courage. “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.”

But like the crowds, we now ask, as they did ask St. John the Baptist: “What should we do?”

This hits us point blank. Now that we are aware that the Lord is near, not far, that His Kingdom is in our midst, that He means to dwell with His people for all time, all those thoughts and convictions of nearness, ought to lead us, not to non-activity, but alert and active waiting in hope.

And mind you, those who asked John the Baptist what to do were people who really had a lot to do: tax collectors who needed to change their ways, soldiers who had a penchant for abusing their powers on the weak and defenseless, and the general populace who were too deeply steeped in their old ways.

They all asked. They all drew near to John. They all did something. They shied away from extortion. They veered away from all anxiety and empty self-recrimination. They all turned around.

Now, that my dear friends, is what you call metanoia – conversion!

Who says Advent is all about empty waiting? Advent is that, but more. It is joy. It is rejoicing for the Lord is near, not far. And if the Lord and His Kingdom is near, that waiting takes on a very active role.

So, chin up dear fellow believer. The Lord is near, not far. The Kingdom has come and is in our midst. But in the meantime, roll up your sleeves and get to work and help God make His kingdom come to everyone, to all, friend and foe alike.


So quit you being detached and despondent about earthly things. Do your part. Be what John was, a voice that actively cried out even in the wilderness!