Homily

Advent, Christmas and the Sto. Niño on the way to the 51st International Eucharistic Congress 

Homily Guide by Fr. Roy Cimagala

1. November 29, FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT, Jer 33,14-16 (I will raise up
for David a just shoot); 1Thes 3,12-4,2 (May the Lord strengthen your
hearts at the coming of our Lord Jesus); Lk 12,25-28,34-36 (Your
redemption is at hand).

Season of Advent is time of preparation for Christmas, the 2nd coming
of Christ, and proximate preparation for the 51st IEC. The Holy
Eucharist is the best way to live the season of Advent

Today, we begin the season of Advent. It’s the beginning of
a new liturgical year. We just ended the last liturgical year last
Sunday, with the celebration of the Solemnity of Christ the King, when
we reminded ourselves that everyone and everything is meant to submit
to Christ our King, because he is God, the God who became man to
redeem us, to bring us back to him from whom we come and to whom we
belong, but from whom we strayed because of our sin.

It’s good to remind ourselves that our Christian life has to
be a liturgical life, a life patterned after the liturgy of the
Church, because the liturgy is the Church’s participation in Christ’s
perpetual prayer in the presence of God in the Kingdom of heaven. We
can have our own personal prayer, but we also need, and much more so,
to pray together with the whole Church in the Church’s liturgy. This
is because as persons, we are both individuals and social beings,
organic members of the people or the family of God who created us and
redeemed us. If we want our prayer to be truly effective, we actually
cannot help but make our prayer both personal and liturgical, with
Christ himself leading the praying and sacrifice for us.

With this season of Advent, we are expected to prepare for
the birth of Christ. As our Savior, he is actually everything to us.
That’s why in the Collect prayer of today’s Mass, we pray, “Grant your
faithful, we pray, almighty God, the resolve to run forth to meet your
Christ with righteous deeds at his coming…”

Advent, therefore, is a time of preparation that has to be
done deliberately, with great longing and anticipation, and filled
with life-changing resolutions, starting with one’s own conversion,
which we always need no matter how good we feel we already are, and
proceeding with continuing acts of spiritual growth in love for God
and neighbor. There is no limit to this spiritual growth. We can
always be better.

This preparation for the birth of Christ is also a
preparation for the second and ultimate coming of Christ at the end of
time, when God “may be everything to everyone” or “all in all” (1 Cor
15,28) Advent, therefore, has the character of a journey, a pilgrimage
to a destination that is quite clear and with a path that is also
quite clear.

We have to pursue this earthly pilgrimage without let-up,
avoiding as much as possible distractions and other worldly
entanglements, and knowing how to make use of all our conditions,
situations and circumstances in our life as steps to move further in
the journey, as well as how to resume that journey if for one reason
or another we have stopped or got entangled with something.

In this regard, it might be timely to recall some words of
Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, who said: “I would like to say to all of
you and also to those who are passing through a difficult moment in
their journey of faith, to those who take little part in the life of
the Church or who life ‘as though God did not exist’ not to be afraid
of the Truth, never to interrupt the journey towards it and never to
stop searching for the profound truth about yourselves and other
things with the inner eye of the heart. God will not fail to provide
Light to see by and the Warmth to make the heart feel that he loves us
and wants to be loved.” (General Audience, Wednesday, August 25, 2010)

In this life-journey of ours, we are given all the means to
reach our destination. And foremost of these means is the Holy
Eucharist which in a sense summarizes all the other means for our
salvation. As such, the Holy Eucharist is the best way to prepare
ourselves for the birth of Christ and for his second coming.

That’s because the Holy Eucharist is Christ himself, his
body and blood, his redemptive sacrifice on the Cross that continues
to take place every time the Holy Mass is celebrated, the
indispensable spiritual food in Holy Communion for our earthly
pilgrimage. It is the referred to as “the source and summit of
Christian life.” (Lumen gentium 11)

This January, we are going to host the 51st International
Eucharistic Congress in Cebu which is both a great honor and a
tremendous responsibility for us. That it is a great honor is quite
obvious. But that it is a tremendous responsibility may need more
explanation. By hosting the 51st IEC, we, the Church in the
Philippines, are expected to be in the forefront of the appropriate
devotion due to the Holy Eucharist. We need to develop an authentic
Eucharistic piety, making ourselves Eucharistic souls, whose very life
and growth depends on the Holy Eucharist.

Let us make this season of Advent, which we begin today, the
proximate preparation also for this big event in our country, the 51st
International Eucharistic Congress. Let us be generous in offering
prayers and sacrifices for this purpose. Let us make unstinting effort
to grow more in love with the Holy Eucharist by frequently attending
the Holy Mass and receiving Holy Communion worthily, by visiting our
Lord in the Blessed Sacrament regularly, by seeing to it that all our
thoughts and desires begin and end with the Holy Eucharist. In short,
our whole life should revolve around the Holy Eucharist and should
grow and develop through it. All the other elements of our life, both
big and small, both good and not so good, should be referred to the
Holy Eucharist for them to be properly considered and treated.

Pope Francis also told us that “In those days, the heart of
the Catholic world will fix its gaze on the supreme mystery of the
Eucharist to draw from it renewed apostolic and missionary zeal…It is
important to prepare oneself well…to help the faithful of every
continent comprehend ever more and ever better the value and
importance of the Eucharist in our life.”

In ending, let’s go to Our Lady who, together with St.
Joseph, is the best person to teach us how to prepare for the coming
of Christ. She will be the best person to show us how the Holy
Eucharist is the ultimate way to be with Christ our Savior in our
earthly journey toward heaven. Amen.

2. DEC 6, SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT, Bar 5,1-9 (Jerusalem, God
will show your splendor); Phil 1,4-6,8-11 (Show yourselves pure and
blameless for the day of Christ); Lk 3,1-6 (All flesh shall see the
salvation of God).

Advent reminds us that all earthly things should be a means for us to
go to heaven. Christ in the Holy Eucharist gives redemptive value to
all things in our life

In this Second Sunday of Advent, our thoughts are directed
to the need for making all our earthly affairs, all our earthly
concerns and projects, a means to meet Christ. This is somehow implied
in the Collect prayer of today: “Almighty and merciful God, may no
earthly undertaking hinder those who set out in haste to meet your
Son, but may our learning of heavenly wisdom gain us admittance to his
company.”

This is also what is meant in the gospel of today, John the
Baptist quoting some words from the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one
crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight
his paths. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill
shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the
rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

This is a clear invitation for all of us to know more about
Christ through the faith that has been given to us and is now
articulated in the teachings of the Church, like in the Catechism and
the many instrumentalities that are made available in the Church.

In all of this, we have to keep one very fundamental thing
in mind, and that is that Christ, the Son of God who became man, has
assumed not only our human nature but also the consequences of our sin
without committing sin, in order to identify himself completely with
us for the purpose of showing us the way to our own salvation.

In other words, everything in our life, whether good or bad,
can and should be referred to Christ for it to be seen and appreciated
properly, and later to be used for our own salvation. We should go
beyond experiencing and understanding them according to our human
estimations alone, no matter how brilliant these estimations may be.
It is Christ who gives them their true meaning and role in our way to
our salvation, ours and that of everybody else.

It is to him that we should go to seek knowledge and wisdom,
to seek the Truth that brings us not only to some earthly advantage
but also and most importantly to our ultimate, eternal life.

We should disabuse ourselves from relying completely on our
earthly knowledge, without giving due regard to the knowledge of God
that is actually given to us in abundance through Christ in the Spirit
now acting in the Church.

This meeting with Christ, the living Christ, here on earth
takes place in many ways but most especially in the Holy Eucharist,
when we visit the Blessed Sacrament, when we attend Holy Mass and
receive Holy Communion.

In these occasions, we should bring all events of our life,
good and bad, to Christ, begging him to give us light and proper
understanding so that we can make use of them to further, and not to
hinder, our pilgrimage on earth toward heaven.

In doing so, we would be cooperating actively in the
providence over us of God who expects us to cooperate with him.
Precisely because we are his image and likeness, and adopted children
of his through Christ, God treats us the way he treats his Son who
became man, Jesus Christ.

What is expected of us is total obedience to the will of
God, that obedience that was vividly illustrated in the agony in the
garden of Gethsemane, when Christ told his Father: “Father, if You are
willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.”
(Lk 22,42) This is the secret of attaining that union with God, that
living our life with and in God as it should be: fulfilling the will
of God.

We should try to know, love and follow the will of God in
every event, situation and circumstance of our life. This is actually
what would liberate us, what would give us true freedom, what would
give us the proper understanding of all the elements in our life and
help us to use them for the salvation of all, ours and that of
everybody else.

In the Holy Eucharist, we have the best moment to know the
will of God for us at any given time. That’s because in the Holy
Eucharist, we have Christ himself, alive and ever so eager to help us,
Christ who is the fullness of the revelation of God to us, Christ who
is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (Jn 14,6) for us.

On this Second Sunday of Advent, as we prepare for the birth
of Christ on Christmas Day, and also for the second and ultimate
coming of Christ on the last day, as well as for the 51st
International Eucharistic Congress, let us deepen our Eucharistic
piety by reviewing and examining our attitude, understanding and
devotion to the Holy Eucharist.

Let us never forget that in the Holy Eucharist, under the
appearances of bread and wine, the Lord Christ is “really, truly and
substantially” contained in the Blessed Sacrament, offered in the Holy
Mass and received in Holy Communion. In short, Christ, the living
Christ who is our Way, Truth and Life, is with us, and is easily
accessible.

We just have to have the proper disposition of faith to get
in touch with him, or better still, to be with him, knowing and doing
his will. This means, among other things, that we have to master our
Catechism that systematically teaches us about Christ, so that we can
readily know his will and ways as we meet him in the Holy Eucharist.

Toward this end, let us also go to Our Lady and imitate her
practice of always pondering things that she saw and heard from her
Son, so that we may discern and follow God’s will and ways that
usually come to us in very mysterious forms. Amen.

3. DEC 13, THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT, Zeph 3,14-18 (The Lord will
rejoice over you with gladness); Phil 4,4-7 (The Lord is near); Lk
3,10-18 (What should we do?).

Advent should also be marked by joy. Since it is the real presence of
Christ and his redemptive sacrifice on the cross, the Eucharist gives
us the joy proper to Christmas and to our whole life

Today, being the Third Sunday of Advent, we are reminded
that joy should be with us as we await for the coming of Christ on
Christmas, on the last day when he comes again, and during the 51st
International Eucharistic Congress in January.

That is why, this Sunday is called “Gaudete” Sunday,
referring to the first word of the Entrance Antiphon of today’s Mass,
which means “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say, rejoice.”
Indeed, there is nothing and no one else that can give us true and
abiding joy, but Jesus Christ alone, who is “really, truly and
substantially” present in the Holy Eucharist that we are celebrating
now!

In the Collect prayer, we reiterate the same sentiment: “O
God, who see how your people faithfully await the feast of the Lord’s
Nativity, enable us, we pray, to attain the joys of so great a
salvation and to celebrate them always with solemn worship and glad
rejoicing.”

Advent, no doubt, is a time of rejoicing in the Lord, for
joy is an integral part of the Christian life, in spite of and even
because of the cross, the sorrows and the pains involved. Christ will
always triumph through the Cross. Love always wins if that love
springs from the love of Christ, just as he commanded us: “A new
commandment I give you, that you love one another as I have loved
you.”

We need to strengthen this conviction especially because we
will always be confronted with all sorts of situations in life, and
many of them, if viewed only in the human sense, may not give us joy,
but rather sadness, and even depression.

It is only in Christ who can turn everything, including our
most depressing human situations, into an occasion of joy, because
Christ bears them with us and turns them into a means of our
redemption.

This happens especially in the Holy Eucharist, when in the
Holy Mass, all our sufferings, physical or moral, can be united, by
God’s will, with the passion and death of Christ on the Cross,
sacramentally renewed in the Holy Mass, and bring them to the victory
of his resurrection.

Let us be quick to realize this happy truth of our faith and
take advantage of what Christ is offering us, especially in the Holy
Eucharist. We should not waste time feeling bad, or worse, getting
depressed and pessimistic over our mistakes and sins, because Christ
is all too willing to forgive us and to save us.

This is beautifully expressed in the second reading of
today’s Mass, from the Letter of St. Paul to the Philippians: “Rejoice
in the Lord always…The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in
everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your
requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses
understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
(4,4-7)

We obviously have to do our part also, since as St.
Augustine once said: “God created us without us, but he did not will
to save us without us.” And that is because we are free beings, and as
such, we also need to be responsible for everything in our life
insofar as with God’s grace we are able.

Our Catechism teaches that: “To receive his (God’s) mercy,
we must admit our faults. ‘If we say we have no sin, we deceive
ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is
faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all
unrighteousness.” (CCC 1847)

Because of this, let us be eager to develop an appropriate
spirit of penance that is best exercised through the frequent recourse
to the sacrament of Confession. Pertinent to this need for penance,
let us do our best to practice charity all the time, tackle
temptations properly and avoid sin, do examination of conscience
regularly, wage a continuing ascetical struggle, do acts of atonement
and reparation, etc.

This is somehow reflected in the gospel of today when John
the Baptist told the crowd what to do. “Whoever has two cloaks should
share with the person who has none,” he said. “And whoever has food
should do likewise.” And to the tax collectors, he said: “Stop
collecting more than what is prescribed.” And to the soldiers: “Do not
practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied
with your wages.” (cfr Lk 3,10-18)

All these will make us realistic in facing all the
challenges of our life. It will simplify and lighten our conscience,
and will contribute greatly to generating joy and peace in our life
that in turn will facilitate whatever work we do, especially that of
doing apostolate.

All these considerations would become most vivid and moving
when with the proper dispositions we attend Mass, receive him in Holy
Communion and visit him in the Blessed Sacrament.

In these moments, we see our Lord reassuring us that all
will be fine, everything can be taken care of, there is nothing to
worry, there is cure for everything, including the humanly or
naturally incurable, God’s mercy and compassion is forever, I have
come to save all. Just have the proper dispositions.

When we go to our Lady, we can have that proper dispositions
God expects from us. Her Fiat to all God’s will for her, that “be it
done to me according to your word,” is the model we have to follow.
It’s also a most faithful reflection of the perfect obedience of
Christ to the will of his Father that went all the way to his death on
the cross. Let’s go to her, and learn from her how to believe, how to
obey, how to do God’s will and to attain the joy proper to us. Amen.

4. DEC 16, Wednesday, Is 45,6-8.18.21-25 (Let the clouds rain
down). Ps 85,9ab.10.11-12.13-14 / Lk 7,19-23 (Go back and tell John
what you have seen and heard.)

In the Holy Eucharist, we have Christ waiting for us. Let’s approach
him this Christmas with Mary and Joseph.

This morning, we start a happy tradition in our Philippine
Church of preparing for Christmas by attending a 9-day Simbang Gabi or
Aguinaldo Masses. It is a tradition that started long ago, and is
meant for us to protect, defend and, in fact, to proclaim as well to
the whole world our Christian faith. May we keep it vibrant, healthy
and fruitful in terms of our personal sanctification and of our
personal apostolate.

During these times, the growth, protection and spread of our
Christian faith is an urgent necessity as we are facing developments
that, if we are not careful, can cause confusion in us. With these
string of Simbang Gabi, let us strengthen our resolve to deepen our
faith because together with hope and charity, it is our way of
connecting with the source of our life, God himself our Father and
Creator, God who revealed himself fully in Jesus Christ.

Let’s do this with Mary and Joseph who during these times
must have been awaiting with eagerness the birth of our Savior. In
other words, let us develop a deep hunger and thirst for Christ who
actually makes himself totally available to us in the Holy Eucharist.

Let’s deliberately stir up our hunger and thirst for Christ.
We cannot and should not expect that this hunger and thirst would just
come about automatically, as if it is going to be physically felt and
biologically dictated. This is a spiritual hunger and thirst that
needs the impulses of our faith, the dynamics of grace and the
cooperation of our spiritual faculties.

On the part of God, he is already giving us all that we need
to have this hunger and thirst be felt by us. His grace is made
available in abundance. Even when we are in the state of sin, that
grace is there. “Where sin has abounded,” St. Paul said, “grace has
abounded even more.” (Rom 5,20) And so, instead of running away from
Christ because of our sin, we should be more drawn to him.

Besides, the whole mystery of God, if properly appreciated,
can never quench our hunger and thirst for him. We can never know him
and love him enough. And that state, instead of making us indifferent
to him, should continually spur our desire for him.

It’s just how we react to all this goodness of God that we
need to train ourselves properly. And this can mean cultivating that
spiritual hunger and thirst for him that should be with us all the
time.

We need to pause and reflect on this truth of our faith, so
that we can be more aware of it, and more importantly, would know how
to act accordingly. We really would need to spend time knowing him
more by praying, studying and meditating on God’s word, cultivating a
certain fondness for him, having regular recourse to the sacraments,
especially the Holy Eucharist.

We have to be wary of the many factors that tend to deaden
our appetite for God by replacing it with merely earthly appetites. We
all know that the inordinate fascination for worldly pleasures, be it
in food and drinks, sex, sports, entertainment, etc., can easily
dominate us. Thus, we need to be properly guarded.

That’s why Christ told us that if we want to follow him, we
need to deny ourselves and carry the cross. It’s not that we have no
right to have these earthly pleasures. We can have them as long as
they are legitimately and morally resorted to, that is, they begin and
end with God, giving glory to him, our Father and Creator, which is
what we are all supposed to be doing all the time.

We have to be wary of how we are exercising our freedom,
because we have the tendency to abuse it, using it at the impulses of
our selfishness rather than giving glory to God and loving others.

St. Paul already warned about this. “You, my brothers and
sister, were called to be free,” he said. “But do not use your freedom
to indulge the flesh. Rather, serve one another humbly in love.” (Gal
5,13)

St. Peter made a similar warning. “Live as free people,” he
said, “but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil.” (1 Pt
2,16)

We need to frequently ask ourselves about how we are using
our freedom to see if it is serving the law proper to it, that is, to
give glory to God and to serve others. In these times, many things
work to compromise the proper exercise of our freedom. We should be
more adept in handling this particular aspect of our life.

What should ideally happen with the use of our freedom is
that our desire and appetite for God and for others is always whetted,
not diminished, when we are handling our legitimate temporal affairs,
whether it be about money, politics and the other things that give us
some degree of pleasure.

We are actually facing a tremendous challenge, since the
current dominant world culture is precisely held captive by merely
earthly things and values. The more important spiritual and
supernatural things and values are, at best, held as optional, not a
necessity.

The task at hand is to instill little by little the sense of
the spiritual and supernatural in everyone, starting with those close
to us—the family, friends, relatives, colleagues, etc.—so that the
appetite for God is not compromised, but rather fostered and enhanced,
protected and defended.

We have to wean everyone from being overly dependent on
earthly and temporal things that at best only have a relative and
passing value. But first, let us make Christ really known and erase
the false images of him, so everyone would find it natural to have
hunger and thirst for him.

Let’s always go to Mary and Joseph, and be inspired by their
eagerness to see the birth of the Only Begotten Son of God who stays
with us now in the Holy Eucharist.

5. DEC 17, Thursday, Gen 49,2.8-10 (The scepter shall not depart
from Judah) Ps 72,1-2.3-4ab.7-8.17 / Mt 1,1-17 (The genealogy of Jesus
Christ, the son of David)

In the Holy Eucharist, Christ inspires us to hope with a sporting
spirit in life. The sense of acceptance and abandonment of Mary and
Joseph deserves to be emulated.

IN this life, we need to acquire a good, healthy sporting
spirit, because life is actually like a game. Yes, life is like a
game. We set out to pursue a goal, we have to follow certain rules, we
are given some means, tools and instruments, we are primed to win and
we do our best, but losses can come, and yet, we just have to move on.

Woe to us when we get stuck with our defeats and failures,
developing a loser’s mentality. That would be the epic fail that puts
a period and a finis in a hanging narrative, when a comma, a colon or
semi-colon would have sufficed.

We need a sporting spirit because life’s true failure can
come only when we choose not to have hope. That happens when our
vision and understanding of things is narrow and limited, confined
only to the here and now and ignorant of the transcendent reality of
the spiritual and supernatural world.

An indispensable ingredient of this healthy sporting spirit
is the sense of acceptance and abandonment that we need to
deliberately cultivate. This does not come automatically, as if it’s
part of our genes. We have to develop them.

We have to learn to accept things the way they are or the
way they can be. Yes, it’s true that we can shape things and events in
our life. We can even shape, to a certain extent, persons.

There’s a certain validity to the saying that “life is what
we make it.” But this cannot be true all the time. We cannot succeed
in all our plans all the time, no matter how pure our intentions and
heroic our deeds. Life has aspects outside our control.

It would be wrong to fall into anguish and bitterness just
because of these frustrations. In the Book of Ecclesiastes, we are
already warned to be ready to accept all kinds of possible situations
and predicaments.

“Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” What does it a profit
if one works or not, is wise or not, if he succeeds or loses.
Everything will just be the same in that everything ends and is thrown
into Sheol, that is, into darkness and oblivion.

Of course, this Old Testament wisdom has a limited
validity. It is imperfect and incomplete, in that it has not yet known
the liberation and perfection brought about by Christ, the Son of God
who became man precisely to save us.

But it is basis enough for us to develop an attitude of
acceptance in life, which also has to be accompanied by an attitude of
abandonment in the hands of God. This latter attitude is rooted on a
richer truth that comes from our faith, our belief that there is God,
our Creator and Father, who loves us and provides for us everything
that we need.

We need to enliven our faith, detaching ourselves from the
suffocating grip of our senses and reasoning alone that can only
discern things to a certain extent, but not all the way. We need faith
to put ourselves in the omniscient and omnipotent system of God.

As Pope Benedict said in his Letter, Porta fidei (Door of
faith), that proclaimed the Year of Faith for 2012 to 2013, “there is
no other possibility for possessing certitude with regard to one’s
life apart from self-abandonment, in a continuous crescendo, into the
hands of a love that grows constantly because it has its origin in
God.” (7)

Only the doubters and skeptics, the agnostics and atheists
subjectively exclude themselves from the all-embracing providence of
God, who governs everything out of wisdom and love.

A certain sense of abandonment is needed in life. It surely
is not the type where we just do nothing. It’s an active, intelligent
abandonment, driven by faith and love for God.

We can know God, and know him a lot. We can cooperate with
him, and cooperate with him a lot. But we cannot know him completely,
nor cooperate with him 100%.

Someone said that if anyone claims to know God completely,
and by corollary, to cooperate with him completely, we can be sure
that that God is not the real God, for God, while knowable and
relatable, always transcends our ways. So trust, a sense of
abandonment, is unavoidable.

Christ, the fullness of divine revelation, himself taught
us to live a certain sense of abandonment. And he lived it to
perfection when he abandoned himself to the will of his Father by
accepting his death on the cross.

Let’s meditate on his passion and death often. Let us
realize that Christ was born to die on the cross for our sins, for our
salvation.

\

6. DEC 18, Friday, Jer 23,5-8 (I will raise up a righteous shoot
to David) Ps 72,1-2.12-13.18-19. / Mt 1,18-24 (Mary will give birth to
a son and you are to name him Jesus.)

God adapts himself to us so we can be with him. We need to seek God.
Devotion to the Holy Eucharist nourishes our hunger for Jesus, our
savior.

THIS should be the proper attitude to have. It does not mean
that with it all will be fine and perfect in our life. There’s always
the possibility that seeking him does not end with finding him. Or
even when we find him, we can still misunderstand or misread his mind
and fail to follow what he tells and shows us.

We should expect some drama at least in this regard, not to
mention that we can still commit grave mistakes even in our effort to
seek God first. There have been, for example, people who in their
frenzied search for God end up self-righteous, becoming hateful
instead both to God and to men. Our history is full of cases like
this, with special mention of the chosen people.

It can also happen that even while ignoring God and even
campaigning against him, as was the case of Saul before he became St.
Paul, God can enter into one’s life in some dramatic fashion. It’s a
case of not seeking God, and yet finding God. We can be surprised by
God.

This, of course, gives us a lot of hope, since even in the
worst of scenarios that our abused freedom can produce, the likes of
the story of the conversion of St. Paul show that God never abandons
us. He actually intervenes in our life always, sometimes in an
extraordinary way. He can change things in some drastic ways if need
be.

Still the proper attitude to have is to seek God first and
let all our other concerns follow after that. This would put us and
our concerns on the right track in life, in spite of whatever. After
all, God through Christ told us clearly: “Seek ye therefore first the
kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added
unto you.” (Mt 6,33)

We should not expect God to intervene in our life in some
extraordinary way, since the ordinary ways of seeking and finding him
in our daily duties and concerns are all available. Expecting him to
intervene extraordinarily is tantamount to tempting him.

Seeking God first would somehow help us to cooperate in the
all-wise, all-merciful providence of God. We would be in a better
position to help in building up a culture of love and compassion,
justice and true freedom in the world. We would know what to
understand and how to react to every situation and predicament we may
have.

Seeking God first does not exempt us from our duties and
responsibilities. Quite the contrary. It would sharpen our awareness
of them, always somehow accompanied by the sense of confidence that
we, with God with us, can handle them, whether we succeed or fail.

Nowadays, we see many people simply dancing to the tune only
of their bodily, emotional or psychological conditions, or to that of
some social trends and political consensus. At best, they dance to the
tune of some brilliant ideologies.

They may get some sporadic perks and highly transient
privileges. But these would never last. These are all perishable. In
fact, if not corrected or purified, these can lead to greater dangers.

Especially in the area of politics, if God is not sought as
a first priority, we cannot help but tear ourselves into unavoidable
conflict, division and fragmentation. It’s in areas like politics
where the need to seek God first should be most intensely felt.

Seeking God first does not mean that we will have everything
in uniformity. God allows and in fact loves variety and differences of
views, condition, circumstances. These are nothing but part of our
human condition. But God knows how put them in unity for the good of
the parties involved and of everyone else, the common good.

Let us remember that God is the very foundation of reality.
Everything is under his providence, including our own mistakes and
sins. He knows what to do with them, what good to derive from them.

That’s why we need to look at every event of our life,
especially our difficulties, problems, challenges, errors, blunders,
crises from his point of view that can be accessed by us if we do our
part, that is, to seek him first.

Seeking God first obviously triggers off a series of things.
We soon will realize that we have to know him through the study of his
revelation, the doctrine of our faith. Then we have to avail of the
sacraments, develop the virtues and wage a lifelong ascetical struggle
to keep ourselves safe from sin and always united with him.

7. DEC 19, Saturday, Jdg 13,2-7.24-25 (The birth of Samson is
announced by an angel.) Ps 71,3-4a.5-6ab.16-17. / Lk 1,5-25 (The birth
of John the Baptist is announced by Gabriel)

The birth of Christ has been prepared by a long line of patriarchs,
judges, prophets, etc. Christ continues to need our cooperation to
prepare his way for all of us. In the Holy Eucharist, Christ is asking
us to do personal apostolate.

BEFORE it gets frozen and confined in what may be called as
a religious asylum, we have to strongly affirm and remind everyone
that the duty to do apostolate belongs to everyone of us.

It’s not meant only for priests and nuns. It’s for all of
us and most especially the lay faithful, since they form the majority
in the Church and since they are spread out in all corners of the
world—from the basic social unity which is the family to the most
global levels.

Vatican II spells it out very clearly. “The Christian
vocation is by its very nature a vocation to do apostolate.”
(Apostolicam actuositatem, 2) So, anyone who wants to be truly
consistent to his Christian identity and calling should realize ever
deeply that he is called to help others get closer to God. This is
what apostolate is all about.

This duty actually springs first of all from our nature. We
are not only individual persons. We are also a social being. Our
sociability is not an optional feature. It is part of our essence,
violating which would be equivalent to violating our very own nature.

We can never live alone. We need to be with others. And
more, we need to care for one another. We have to be responsible for
one another. And while this caring and loving starts with the most
immediate material human needs like food, clothing, etc., it has to go
all the way to the spiritual and more important needs of ours.

That’s why we need to practice affection, compassion,
understanding, patience and mercy on everyone. We have to understand
though that all these can only take place if they spring and tend
towards God, “the source of all good things” for us.

Forget it if we believe we are capable of doing these
duties merely on our own will power. We can give some semblance of
their fulfilment, but if not anchored on God, the mask will just fall
off sooner or later.

We have to be more aware of this duty. We need to talk
about it more freely and more often. In the first place, because it
has its complex and dynamic side that should be dominated. Besides, it
has to contend with a world culture that is quite averse and even
hostile to it.

There is so much self-seeking around, and many people are
practically shackled by all sorts of human bondage—ranging from
dependence on sensual and worldly things, to psychological obsessions
and addictions—that hamper them in their duty to serve others, to give
themselves to others, in short, to love, the very essence of
apostolate.

Any appearance to care for others is often driven by some
ulterior, selfish motives. We don’t seem to graduate from that level,
and in fact, we look like we are sinking more deeply into more
self-interest than concern for the common good.

To be effective in the apostolate, each one of us has to
immerse himself in the love of God. We cannot give that love if in the
first place we don’t have it. And so we have to understand that
apostolate can only be a working venture if there is also an earnest
abiding effort to achieve personal holiness.

We have to constantly examine ourselves if we truly are
driven by love of God. If we notice that such love is missing or is
not that strong, then we really need to do things to keep the flame
alive. That’s the reason why we need to be hot, spiritually and
morally, not lukewarm or, worse, cold in this department.

We have to take care of our spiritual life, because that
would be the engine that transforms the fuel of God’s love into an
energy for our apostolate, with the view of igniting others in such
love too.

Of course, this personal apostolate has to be developed in
true friendship and confidence. It has to go beyond formalisms and
generic actions. We should be able to enter into some intimate
communion of mind and heart, otherwise, it would not prosper.

This means that we should be willing to spend or to “waste”
time with others, eager to understand them and able to motivate them
to pursue the most important goal of life, which is to love God and
others the way God loves us through Christ.

We should be willing to go beyond our personal preferences
to be able to be all things to all men, as St. Paul once said, which
is indispensable if we are to reach everyone for God.

8. DEC 20, FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT, Micah 5,1-4 (From you shall
come forth the ruler of Israel); Heb 10,5-10 (Behold, I come to do
your will); Lk 1,39-44 (And how does this happen to me, that the
mother of my Lord should come to me?)

The birth of Christ signifies that he wants to save us. The Holy
Eucharist tells us that Christ wants to share his life with us

We are now nearing Christmas on this Fourth Sunday of
Advent. That’s why we exclaim in the Entrance Antiphon with the words
from the Book of Isaiah: “Drop down dew from above, you heavens, and
let the clouds rain down the Just One. Let the earth be opened and
bring forth a Savior.”

In the Holy Eucharist, we actually have the Just One with us
already. We just have to learn to open our heart to welcome and
receive our Lord and Savior gratefully. This is the task we have to do
in these few days before Christmas, a rehearsal of what is going to
happen also on the last day. This is also what should preoccupy us as
we approach the celebration of the 51st International Eucharistic
Congress in January.

God’s promise to send a Redeemer after we have fallen into
sin is being fulfilled. This is somehow illustrated in the First
Reading of today’s Mass, from the Book of Micah—“From you shall come
forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel.” (5,1)

And this promise has come to pass. Christ is with us,
especially in the Holy Eucharist. Are we ready to acknowledge that
reality and act accordingly? Do we know how to receive him and what it
means to be and to live with Christ?

Together with the doctrine of our faith and all other
instrumentalities in the Church, the recourse to the Holy Eucharist
will show us how to receive our Lord and to live with him. Let’s
remember that our life is a shared life, a life with God and with
everybody else.

We need to be reminded of this fundamental truth about
ourselves, since there are now many tricky factors around us that tend
to undermine this important character of our life. They make us think
our life is just our own.

In fact, we need to develop the skills not only to protect
and keep this property of our life, but also to continually reinforce
and enhance it. That’s because our life is always a dynamic affair,
with new challenges and changing circumstances.

We cannot remain naïve and think that our life more or less
would just automatically be a shared life. Some people say so, because
they claim we cannot avoid sharing our life with others.

To a certain extent, that assertion is true. But neither can
we be blind to the fact that we and the world in general have ways,
often subtle and deceptive, that effectively annul this shared
characteristic of our life.

We can appear to share our life with others, but in the end,
we actually are maneuvering things so they play to our own advantage,
if not nourish our own selfishness.

This is not to mention that there are now a good number of
people who openly think our life is not a shared life. They even have
developed philosophies and ideologies that praise and adore the
“goodness” of greed, egoism and practical isolationism.

But first, let’s clarify why our life is a shared life.

Firstly, because that’s how we are made. That we have
intelligence and will, that we have feelings, memory, imagination,
etc., can only show we are meant to be with others, we are meant to go
out of our own world. They are not there just for our own private
enjoyment.

But more importantly, especially for those with Christian
faith, it’s because God created us that way. We are the image and
likeness of God, elevated through grace to be nothing less than
children of his.

And since God is love, is self-giving, we therefore cannot
be other than that—that is, we are meant to love also and to give
ourselves to others. Thus, God’s commandments to us always exhort us
to love, first Him, and then everybody else.

We actually are sharers of God’s divine life. Of course,
with the misuse of our freedom, we can lose that most sublime
privilege. But there is no doubt, through faith, that we are meant to
share in God’s life.

Our sharing in God’s life takes a very dramatic turn with
the Son of God becoming man, Jesus Christ, whose birth we celebrate on
Christmas.

The Incarnation, God becoming man, means that in Jesus
Christ, God enters into our own life, assumes everything that is human
except sin, such that what is His is also ours, and what is ours is
also His.

The Catechism expresses this truth in this way: “Christ
enables us to live in him all that he himself lived, and he lives it
in us…the Son of God has in a certain way united himself with each
man…” (521)

This means that we don’t have to look far to find Christ.
Even the most ordinary thing in our life has Christ in the middle of
it. A saint described this well when he said:

“Understand this well: there is something holy, something
divine, hidden in the most ordinary situations, and it is up to each
one of you to discover it.”

It’s this teaching that has recovered the often neglected
truth that holiness, especially for the ordinary believers immersed in
earthly affairs, can be achieved by everyone as it is meant to be.

The lay believers should not feel like second-rate citizens
in the Church, inferior to the priests and religious. Everyone is on
the same footing insofar as the duty to be holy is concerned.

Christ shares our life, and our life cannot be any other
than a life shared with Christ, and through Christ, with everybody
else.

The crucial thing to remember though is that we have to
develop that shared life according to Christ’s will, not the reverse.
Whatever situation we find ourselves in, Christ always has something
to say, and we have to follow it.

In the Holy Eucharist, we would be reminded of this
wonderful truth about us, about our shared life with Christ. God
becomes man so we can be with God. And with our devotion to our Lady
whose life revolved around Jesus and his Church, this possibility of a
shared life can easily become a reality

9. DEC 21, Monday, Songs 2,8-14 (Hark! My lover comes, springing
across the mountains) or Zeph 3,14-18 (The Lord will rejoice over you
with gladness.)

The few days before Christmas should arouse our zeal for God and for
souls. God hungers for us. We have to hunger for him. In the Holy
Eucharist, that’s what we see: Christ hungering and thirsting for us.

WE have to make sure that we are always burning with the
zeal of love. We have the danger to fall easily into complacency,
lukewarmness, mediocrity. We should always be on the lookout for these
perils.

We need to fill our mind and heart with love, and all that
love brings—goodness, patience, understanding and compassion, mercy,
gratuitous acts of service, generosity and magnanimity.

Yes, there’s effort involved here. Great, tremendous effort,
in fact. But all this stands first of all on the terra firma that is
God’s grace, which is always given to us in abundance if we care to
ask and receive it. Nothing human, no matter how well done, would
prosper unless it is infused also with God’s grace.

We have to be wary of conforming ourselves, whether openly
or subtly, intentionally or mindlessly, to worldly ways, to mere
social trends, or to some inertia generated merely physically,
hormonally, economically, politically, culturally, historically, etc.

We need to be most aware and sensitive to these dangers
which are so common as to be part of what we call normal in life.
Let’s train ourselves to smell out their symptoms and their approaches
as soon as they arise. And then be quick to resist them.

The zeal of love should always come out fresh from the
heart, fresh from its real and ultimate source who is God. It’s always
new, original, virginal, creative and productive. Love, if it is real,
can never grow old and stale, it cannot be just a copycat. It likes to
renew itself perpetually, without getting tired.

It always likes to be better, to do and give oneself more.
Its motto can very well be captured in the message of an old song that
says today should always be better than yesterday, and tomorrow better
than today.

And even if that love is meant to be shown, shared and given
to everyone, it cannot be promiscuous. It’s always pure, wholehearted
and faithful to the end, not divided, fractured, inconstant and
fleeting. This is the magic of love which can come about only when it
springs from the love of God.

This is the love vividly described once by St. Paul in the
following words: “Charity (love) is patient, kind, it envies not,
deals not perversely, is not puffed up, is not ambitious, seeks not
her own, is not provoked to anger, thinks no evil, rejoices not in
iniquity but rejoices with the truth, bears all things, believes all
things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Cor 13,4-7)

We should disabuse ourselves from the thought that this kind
of love is inhuman, is impractical and impracticable, is not realistic
or is up in the clouds, abstract, disconnected from the realities on
the ground, or otherwise, that it is fanatical or triumphalistic.

Though these fears can have basis when the love one has is
not the real one, the truth is that when love is real, that is, that
it is the one that comes from God, it cannot but be the most human
thing to have and to do, the most practical and realistic, always
attentive to the real and objective, not the false and subjective
needs of men.

It is this kind of love that would drive us to know people
and things deeply and comprehensively. It does not get stuck with our
biases, preferences and our human capabilities. Rather it transcends
them, even at the cost of great sacrifices.

It does not shy away from challenges and difficulties no
matter how big or impossible they are. That’s because it is not only
human love, but also divine love, since it is infused with the
omnipotence of God with whom nothing is impossible.

That love would lead us to know others thoroughly. It’s not
contented with knowing others superficially, casually, inconstantly.
It keeps us to know others ever more deeply, going into concrete and
specific conditions of the people. It will never say enough.

That love would also lead us to deal with others properly,
loving them all the way to showing them details of affection and
understanding, quick to forgive, to find excuses rather than finding
faults, to find reasons and impulses to reconcile and unite rather
than to remain indifferent because of our unavoidable differences,
etc.

Finesse, refinement and extreme delicacy are not only
optional in a love like this. They are the necessary packaging,
without which that love is not complete and consummated.

Love prevents us from getting tired, and though we die one
day, it prepares and launches us to eternal life.

10. DECEMBER 21, Monday, Songs 2,8-14 (Hark! My lover comes,
springing across the mountains.) or Zeph 3,14-18 (The Lord will
rejoice over you with gladness), Ps 33,2-3.11-12.20-21. / Lk 1,39-45
(And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should
come to me?)

Soaked with joy as we approach Christmas, let’s be generous in our
self-giving. The Holy Eucharist is the very substance of self-giving.
Let’s imitate it as best we can with the grace of God.

YES, of course, where there is love, there is generosity. The
two cannot be separated.

It’s in the very essence of love to give oneself without
measure, without calculation, without expecting any return. It just
gives and gives, even if along the way it encounters difficulties,
rejection, suffering. It embraces them, not flee from them. By its
nature, it is given gratuitously.

Love engenders generosity and its relatives: magnanimity,
magnificence, compassion, patience, pity, etc. This is the language of
love, the currencies it uses. It thinks big, even if the matter
involved is small according to human standards. In fact, it’s love
that makes small, ordinary things big and special.

That’s in theory. In practice, though, there can be elements
that put limits and conditions to that love. This can be due to a
number of reasons.

One, because man grows by stages, and his capacity to love also
develops in stages. It goes through a development timeline, much like
one’s growth timeline from childhood to adulthood and maturity.

Thus, philosophers have distinguished more or less like 3 kinds
or stages of love: “eros,” where one loves another because of what he
can get from that other person. This usually happens among children
who love others mainly because of what they can get in return from
others. That’s very understandable.

Then, there’s “filia,” where one loves another because he shares
the same things—interests, likes and dislikes—with that person. This
is typical of young boys and girls who happen to like sharing things
among themselves.

Then, there’s the final stage of “agape,” where one loves
another because they just want to, without expecting any return, and
continues to love even if that love is unreciprocated, or worse,
rejected. This is the love of the truly mature persons, and definitely
of heroes and saints.

Each one of us has to figure out which kind of love he has, does
or lives. It can happen that even if one is already of a certain age,
he is still stuck with the “eros” type of love. But if everything in
the development process goes well, he should reach the ultimate,
perfect level of love.

There can be reasons why one gets stunted in his loving. When
one, for example, is mainly dominated by an emotion or material-based
kind of loving, then he tends to be self-centered, unable to transcend
beyond his own interests and preferences.

He cannot truly love. His loving has some strings attached or
ulterior motives. He cannot soar far and high from himself.

We have to understand that to be able to love, we need to be
with God, for God is love. He is the source, pattern and end of love.
All our loves here on earth, to be real, have to be inspired by that
love that is in God. Otherwise, they are fake.

It stands to reason then that we need to go to him, to pray and
meditate on his love—how he created us and endowed us with the best
things in life, making us his image and likeness, and in fact children
of his.

We need to realize ever deeply that his love goes to the extent
of forgiving us for our sins and stupidities, and not only by
decreeing things, but by assuming even our sinfulness and dying to it

We need to feel that love in a very direct and immediate way,
which can only be achieved first of all with his grace, but also with
our effort. We need to feel that such love is the one that inspires,
directs and energizes our loves here on earth.

So, we really need to spend time entering into this reality,
first of all, by praying, by meditating, then by studying the doctrine
of our faith, since God’s love is not mere sentiments. It involves
truth whose substance is passed on to us through the doctrine revealed
and lived by Christ, and now authoritatively taught by the Church.

We need to outgrow our tendency to fall for an unrealistic and
sugary understanding of love, so common these days, especially among
the young, or worse, associating love with the purely carnal and
selfish. There are many caught in this kind of predicament.

When we have this kind of love, we will spring into action,
always with joy and peace. Sadness, feeling lazy and the like are
dregs and signs of self-love. God’s love, on the other hand, makes us
very alive even in the midst of so much trials and suffering.

11. DECEMBER 22, Tuesday, 1 Samuel 1,24-28 (Hannah gives thanks
for the birth of Samuel), ! Samuel 2,1.4-5.6-7.8abcd. / Lk 1,46-56
(The Mighty One has done great things for me.)

Mary’s Magnificat shows where one’s greatness comes—in humility that
lends itself to all other virtues. Let’s learn the humility of Mary,
and Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.

Humility makes us see the truth. It wipes away fantasies,
illusions and delusions. It is the foundation of many other virtues,
the good ground on which the seed of virtues can grow. Without it,
good intentions cannot prosper, and what may begin as a good deed
would soon turn into an evil one, dripping with malice.

Humility makes us see who we really are, in our most radical
self. That is to say, it makes us realize we are first of all
creatures of God who created us in his image and likeness and who has
adopted us with his grace as his children.

Its opposite vice of pride precisely makes us forget this
fundamental truth, and leads us to think that we are our own God. This
was precisely the seemingly irresistible temptation that led to the
downfall of our first parents while in Paradise and that caused the
original sin that we now all inherit.

Humility is of such great value that one saint said that one
simple act of humility is worth much more than all the knowledge, both
theoretical and practical, that we can amass in this world.

To develop and nourish this virtue, we need to realize that
our heart and mind are in constant flux. Its stability is never static
but rather very dynamic. It can turn one way or another in just an
instant, and in fact it can go to extremes.

We need to realize that our control of these powers of ours,
which need to be properly grounded and directed, is at best tenuous.
And thus we have to constantly be watchful and at the same time
proactive in developing this virtue, never waiting for occasions to
come before we do something about it.

Let’s remember that among the consequences of sin, both
original and personal, is the pride of life. It’s just kind of
automatic for us to be proud, so much so that another saint once said
that pride is so ingrained in us that it would only disappear 24 hours
after our death.

That could be the reason why Christ had to be born in such a
humbling manner as to be born in a manger, and to live in a very
austere manner in direct contrast to what he rightfully deserves as
God.

In fact, he taught his disciples to be humble. “Learn of me
for I am meek and humble of heart,” he once said (Mt 11,29). And among
the beatitudes, he highlighted the virtue of meekness and humility.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the land.” (Mt 5,4)

Christ told the people to avoid going to the seats of honor
when invited to a banquet, because he who exalts himself will be
humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

And when throwing a party, he advised that we should rather
invite the poor, blind and lame, and those who cannot repay the
goodness, because we should be more interested in the reward we get in
heaven than the one we can get here on earth.

He did not stop at nice words. He lived it by washing the
feet of his apostles and commanding them to do the same to one
another. Finally, he offered to give up his life on the cross for our
sins. This is the ultimate of humility when it becomes entirely
identified with Christ’s supreme act of love for us.

So, we just have to continually practice and develop
humility by obeying, doing acts of service, being generous with our
self-giving while passing unnoticed, always thinking of the others as
better than us, as suggested by St. Paul (cfr Phil 2,3), always
patient, merciful, taking the initiative to reconcile, etc.

If we can only do these things, I really believe that the
world would be a much better place to live. What do you think?

12. DECEMBER 23, Wednesday, Malachi 3,1-4.23-24 (I will send you
Elijah, the prophet, before the day of the Lord comes.) Ps
25,4-5ab.8-9.10.14. / Lk 1,57-66 (The birth of John the Baptist.)

As Christmas approaches, we learn about the birth of John the Baptist,
the precursor of Jesus. This shows the abiding, never-failing
providence of God over all of us. In the Eucharist, Christ continues
to provide us with what is most necessary in our life.

IT’S always a necessity for us to be able to see the bigger,
if not the whole picture, and to avoid getting stuck with the small
picture. More than that, we need to see the vital link between the
small picture and the big one, the local and the global, the
here-and-now and the ultimate, and play the part of that link that
belongs to us.

We need to convince ourselves that our life and everything
in it, including our work especially, is not an isolated and unrelated
element in the very fluid ocean of the universe. We are always a vital
part of a whole plan of God’s love and wisdom, a verse in the divine
epic of the continuing work of God over all of his creation.

We have to overcome our tendency to have a very restrictive,
narrow and shallow view of our life, ruled solely by mere human
estimation of things, worldly standards and criteria, instead of our
faith that gives us the complete vision of things and the adequate
means to reach our ultimate end.

We have to be most wary when we are simply carried away by
the impulses of our senses, our emotions and passions, and some
worldly values that, while legitimate, do not give us the complete
picture. This is a real challenge, because we do need a radical
paradigm shift, a quantum leap to achieve what is ideal for us.

Again, to be sure, God has given us everything for us to be
what we ought to be, to do what we ought to do. Things now just depend
on us, on whether we are willing and humble enough to make the
necessary adjustments to conform ourselves to God’s plans and ways.

We have to be more aware that with our creation by our
Father God, we are meant to work. Work for us is an essential,
inalienable part of our human nature. It is the very operation of our
God-given powers and faculties that range from the spiritual to the
intellectual and mental, to the emotional all the way to the manual
and the physical.

It is what relates us to God and to others, what enables us
to attain the ultimate goal of our life—full communion with God and
with others. We need to understand then that our work is a vital part
of God’s abiding providence over all his creation, especially over us.

God’s providence is the organic, necessary extension in time
and all the way to eternity of God’s creation. When God created us, he
just did not put us into existence and then left us to be on our own.
He continues to be with us, governing and leading us to him with due
respect of our freedom, because as Creator, God cannot leave us,
otherwise we will cease to exist.

This providence of God now involves itself in the salvation
of man, after we have alienated ourselves from him through sin, both
the original and the personal. Since our work is our participation in
that divine providence, we have to understand that our work ought to
be involved too in our own salvation.

It therefore has an eminently redemptive character. It just
cannot be stuck with purely worldly objectives, no matter how
valuable, recommendable and legitimate these worldly objectives are.

It’s indeed time to realize more deeply this distinctive
character of our human work. It just cannot be wasted on brilliant
technicalities, very advantageous, profitable and most tempting and
irresistible earthly motives and worldly pursuits.

We have to be more aware of the ultimate value and purpose
of our work, no matter how small and humanly insignificant it may
look. We need to sanctify it, offering it to God and doing our best in
carrying it out, and always trying to see how our work at the moment
plays in the over-all plan of divine providence.

But beyond that, we need to continually discern what God
wants of us in a given moment, what work we are supposed to be doing
at that time. Yes, we are already given some general indications of
this by the duties and responsibilities attached to our state in life.
But we always need to more sharply figure out what God wants us to do
in a given moment.

We have to help one another in this regard. This is not an
easy task at all. But trusting in God’s grace and guidance, we can
always make some progress in this pursuit. God’s providence somehow
needs our work!

11/22/15 – SOLEMNITY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, KING OF THE UNIVERSE

THE GOSPEL
Jn 18:33-37

REFLECTION
Today, the last Sunday in the church calendar, we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King. It sums up all we have been trying to learn all year: How to listen, love, and follow Jesus above everything else.
Jesus is not our King just because we go to Mass but afterward claim complete authority to do anything with our body and our life; or if we twist & bend His Truth to accommodate the ideas of men; or if we refuse to actively identify with the goals & aims of His Kingdom.
Jesus is our King when we follow Him through discomfort & sacrifice, when we bend our mind and conform our heart to the message of the Gospel, and when His Word penetrates every part of our being.
CHRIST is KING!

SUGGESTED HOMILY POINTERS
By Fr. Carmelo O. Diola, SSL
Dilaab Foundation Inc. (in partnership with the Sub-Commission on the On-Going Formation of the Clergy, Archdiocese of Cebu)

FEBRUARY 08, 2015, FIFTH SUNDAY ORDINARY TIME: JOB 7:1-4,6-7; PSALM 147; 1 CORINTHIANS 9:16-19, 22-23; and MARK 1:29-39. WANNA BET? By Fr. Carmelo O. Diola, SSL

Service is Jesus’ power Mk 1:29-39 he is no mere restless one Jb 7:1-7 but a life of praise Ps 147 by becoming servant to all 1Co 9:16-19, 22-23. Wanna BET?

• Mark 1:29-39: today’s gospel summarizes Jesus’ typical day: his power is displayed through acts of service. The term “to serve” originally meant “waiting on table,” in ancient Greece. Closely related to this is to provide or care for, actuations expected mainly of women. The Greeks developed a certain disdain for service. Service, particularly manual service, was not considered dignified, unless this was service to the state.

Judaism had a much deeper understanding of service. Leviticus 19:18 (“You shall love your neighbor as yourself”) captures the essence of service in the Hebrew mindset although this was limited to fellow Jews. Jesus’ radical stance stands out since it is based on self-sacrificing love that breaks socio-cultural & religious boundaries.

• Job 7:1-7: only through humble service can we overcome our inherent restlessness as human beings, for service is a form of praise to God (Psalm 147). Preaching the gospel calls for service since we try to become all things to all men (1Co 9:16-19, 22-23).

• An Image from Pastoral Life: the mass in Tacloban with Pope Francis who braved typhoon Amang to be with his flock. He is an ideal servant-leader.

• A Liturgical Connection: the Eucharist is sacrifice but also a meal and volunteers of different ministries are called to roles of service.

• Action Points: “Learn how to love and how to cry. But allow yourself to be loved by others.” Do we allow the poor to love us?

 

SUGGESTED HOMILY POINTERS
By Fr. Carmelo O. Diola, SSL
Dilaab Foundation Inc. (in partnership with the Sub-Commission on the On-Going Formation of the Clergy, Archdiocese of Cebu)
FEBRUARY 1, 2015, FOURTH SUNDAY ORDINARY TIME: MARK 1:21-28; DEUTERONOMY 18:15-20; PSALM 95; AND 1 CORINTHIANS 7:32-35. WANNA BET? By Fr. Carmelo O. Diola, SSL

Jesus’ authority comes from his deep rapport with God Mk 1:21-28 who chose him Dt 18:15-20 to be always in his presence Ps 95 completely 1Co 7:32-35. Wanna BET?

• Mark 1:21-28: After Jesus calls his first disciples, he gives them a glimpse of his authority and the power they will eventually exercise. He does these by teaching in their synagogue and curing a possessed man (vv. 21-28). All the action takes place in Capernaum which is the headquarters of his public ministry in Galilee.

Two elements are worth noting. The first is the witnessing of Jesus whose righteousness was visible to all. The other element is Jesus’ statements which is not quoted from any other rabbis unlike other scribes.

The term for authority in Greek is derived from two Greek words meaning “out of” and “being”. Authority may literally mean: “out of one’s being.” Jesus draws his authority out of his very being, in his \relationship with the Father.

• Dt 18:15-20: although there were prophets before him, Jesus completely fulfills God’s promise to Moses of raising another prophet. Jesus is always in God’s presence (Ps 95) whom he serves completely (1Cor 7:32-35).

• An Image from Pastoral Life: the image and impact of Pope Francis as a moral and spiritual leader and his authority expressed through his spontaneity and his short but effective homilies.

• A Liturgical Connection: we end our prayers in the liturgy “in the Name of Jesus” in whose authority we connect with the Father.

• Action Points: as we enter into the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we ask ourselves how we have contributed to the unity of Christians recognizing that there are more that unite us with other Christians than what divides us.

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