FOURTH SUNDAY OF OCTOBER 2016

DATE: October 23, 2016 (30th Sunday in Ordinary Time)
THEME: Missionary Church, Witness of Mercy
READINGS: Sir 35:12-14.16-18 / Ps 34:2-3.17-19.23 / 2 Tim 4:6-8.16-18 / Lk 18:9-14
REFLECTION BY: Vicente A. Robles

I begin with two quotes: “This man, I tell you, went home again justified; the other did not. For everyone who raises himself up will be humbled, but anyone who humbles himself will be raised up” (Lk 18:14). “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, each of us is encouraged to be compassionate like the Father: “Be Merciful like the Father.” This is a call for us to be compassionate and considerate of our neighbors rather than to be judgmental and critical. We are called to be bearers of God’s Mercy and Compassion.

I remember this story from Greek Mythology. It is said that we are born and given two sacks to carry in our lifetime. One sack is filled with our own faults and is slung across our back; the other sack, heavy with the faults of others, is tied around our necks. This is the reason why we are blinded to our own bad habits (on our backs) and quick to criticize others for their mistakes (around our necks). It is easy for us to find fault in things, far too easy for most of us. Many of us carry this tendency to the extreme.

Who I am I to judge? In one of the interviews of Pope Francis, he was asked: Why does God never tire of forgiving humanity? The Pope responded: “Because He is God, because He is Mercy, and because Mercy is the first attribute of God.” The name of God is mercy. We need only be conscious of our state, be honest with ourselves, and not lick our wounds. We need to ask for the grace to recognize ourselves as sinners.

Let us always remember the words of Saint John of the Cross: “In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone.” Let us manifest Christ’s mercy and compassion through the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy; they illustrate the ways to show charity toward others.

The Corporal Works of Mercy are: (1) Feed the hungry; (2) Give drink to the thirsty; (3)
Clothe the naked; (4) Shelter the homeless; (5) Visit the sick; (6) Visit the imprisoned; (7) Bury the dead. The Spiritual Works of Mercy are: (1) Admonish the sinner; (2) Instruct the ignorant; (3) Counsel the doubtful; (4) Comfort the sorrowful; (5) Bear wrongs patiently; (6) Forgive all injuries; (7) Pray for the living and the dead [Numbers 2 and 3 are extremely pertinent categories today, when so many people are confused about what the Church teaches on contraception, abortion, homosexuality, etc.].

Ang HABAG at AWA ni Kristo Jesus nawa ay magbigay lakas sa atin para sa walang kapagurang paglilingkod sa kapwa at sa KANYA. Ang PAG-IBIG ng Mahal na Ina nawa ay maging gabay natin sa pagganap ng ating tungkulin ng may buong kagalakan at pagmamahal sa ating mga puso. Katulad ni Santa Faustina Kowalska, San Maximillian Kolbe, at San Juan Pablo II nawa’y magabayan tayo sa ating masidhing pagnanasang ipalaganap ang HABAG, AWA at PAGMAMAHAL ni Kristo Jesus na ating Panginoon. Amen.

Father Vicente A. Robles is the Parish Priest of Santo Cristo and Saint Andrew Kim Taegon Parish in Lolomboy, Bocaue, Bulacan.

THIRD SUNDAY OF OCTOBER 2016

DATE: October 16, 2016 (29th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

THEME: Mission as Respectful Dialogue with Cultures and Religions

READINGS: Ex 17:18-13 / Ps 121:1-2.3-4.5-6.7-8 / 2 Tim 3:14-4:2/ Lk 18:1-8

REFLECTION BY: Ross Heruela

Currently I am doing mission in Balabac, Palawan. Balabac is a group of islands situated near the southernmost tip of Palawan. My parish, which is on the mainland Balabac, is composed of seventeen chapels. Twelve of these are in the neighboring islands. My farthest chapel is two hours away from Sabah (Malaysia), five hours away from the mainland Palawan.

Its proximity to Malaysia paves way for the influx of Muslims in the islands, although most of them have come from the Sulu area. They comprise 80% of the total population. Only15% are Roman Catholic Christians and 5% belong to other Christian denominations.

I share this with you because today our Church is celebrating “World Mission Sunday.” This reminds us of our identity as a missionary Church. We are all missionaries by virtue of our baptism. You may not be like me who is an ordained minister and belongs to a religious-missionary congregation, but you all are called, just like me, to be missionaries, bearers of the Word, evangelized evangelizers wherever you are situated.

To be a missionary does not strictly mean “going out” from one’s home country; your work place can also be a mission area where you have to wrestle with the situation so that the presence of God will be made palpable, just like in our first reading where Joshua wrestled with Amalek. We saw that Joshua won the battle not solely because of the strength of his men but also because of the prayers of Moses. Thus, to “wrestle with” in the mission area is to pray so that God’s presence will shine through. In as much as we use every needed preparation for doing mission, prayer is an essential element too. We cannot discount its importance.

I met Liza (not her real name). She is a Molbog (the indigenous people of Balabac) and a Muslim. She encountered Catholicism when she was studying in Puerto Princesa City. She shared with me that she participated in Catholic Eucharistic celebrations several times during her college years but without receiving Holy Communion. She said she felt being drawn to it and she could not describe the joy she felt when she was in our celebration. However, when she went back to Balabac, she stopped participating because of fear she would be excommunicated and eventually penalized by her community. It made her sad.

Upon hearing this, I did not offer conversion outright. I asked her to pray for it, since our faith is a gift from God; I asked her to invoke the enlightenment and guidance of the Holy Spirit and to listen to her heart. I assured her of my prayers and the prayers of the believing community too! Until now, she still sees me from time to time and her desire to embrace the Christian faith grows stronger. True enough, we cannot discount the power of prayer. Even our Gospel teaches us through the parable of the widow that when we keep on praying, God will listen to us. Because in the end, what really counts is not only our effort, nor our intelligence or our eloquent persuasion, but God’s will.

Furthermore, aside from the importance of prayer in doing mission, the significance of being conscious of one’s identity, especially in terms of our faith is also necessary. In Balabac, since we are in a predominantly Muslim environment, people tend to be more conscious of their Catholic Christian identity.

This holds true especially in the very distant islands of Balabac like the island of Mansee. This islet is close to Sabah. It is about 99% Muslim. Since it is very far from the mainland, it is seldom visited. Aside from its distance, the waves are terrible. Our means of transportation is only by navy boats; we depend on them. If they go there, we can visit and administer the sacraments to our brothers and sisters in the islet. If they do not, we pray that they will again visit the islet. But, what is very striking here is that Catholic Christians in this islet, despite not being regularly visited, remain true to their faith. They are steadfast in their identity even in the strong presence of the Muslims.

This reminds me of our second reading where Paul writes to Timothy saying, “You must remain faithful to what you have learned and believed, because you know who your teachers were. Likewise, from your infancy you have known the sacred Scriptures, the source of the wisdom which through faith in Jesus Christ leads to salvation.” These people are the kind of people that teach us fidelity to our faith, and not only loyalty to our faith but also sensitivity to people who are professing a different faith and living a different culture. I observed that their awareness of their identity made them more conscious of respecting others and at the same time, faithful to who they are; they become more sensitive without compromising their belief. This paves the way to an authentic dialogue of life, of culture and of belief with respect, understanding and love.

Thus, as we celebrate “World Mission Sunday” we are reminded that we are all missionaries by virtue of our baptism. It is an identity that we cannot simply keep to ourselves. We cannot also discount the importance of prayer in doing mission, for by praying, we enter into the process of deepening and fortifying our identity as Catholic Christians; this makes us loving, respectful, and understanding of other cultures and beliefs. These two elements are essential and they are imperative to our formation as true missionaries. If we have these, wherever we are, wherever we go, whatever we do, the Christ in us will shine through!

Father Ross Heruela, SVD, is a member of the Society of the Divine Word. He comes from Maria, Siquijor and is currently doing mission in Balabac, Palawan.

SECOND SUNDAY OF OCTOBER

DATE: October 9, 2016 (28th Sunday in Ordinary Time)
THEME: Mission of Mercy and the Needy and Poor
READINGS: 2 Kgs 5:14-17 / Ps 98:1.2-3.3-4 / 2 Tim 2:8-13/ Lk 17:11-19
REFLECTION BY: Anthony Dameg

Today’s Gospel shows Jesus’ concern for the outcasts of society, the lepers whom nobody notices. People in Jesus’ time would not dare to interact with them because of their infectious sickness; they were unclean. Jesus, the compassionate and merciful Savior, healed the ten lepers. From a life of seclusion and misery, he gave them a life of freedom. He valued them and gave them back the dignity they had lost because of their infirmity. In the light of the Gospel, we reflect on how in our modern age and time, many are “lepers” in our society, those that are not given much attention, those that are rejected or are inferior in the sight of the majority.
Who are the poor in our midst today? They are not only those who do not have the basic daily necessities needed to survive, but they could also be the millions of refugees, the indigenous people who are taken advantage of, the uneducated, the victims of injustices, those who are affected by famine and drought, and those who are deprived of their religious freedom and human rights.
The Sacred Scripture gives us a glimpse on how Yahweh in the Old Testament loved them and how Jesus in the New Testament concretely showed His concern for them. Jesus dined with them, preached to them, broke bread with them, and healed them. They heard Jesus’ words and witnessed his deeds. Jesus himself was poor. He was born poor, lived poor and died poor: “For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sake he became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9).
Pope Francis’ World Mission Day Message for 2016 tells us: “From the beginning the Father has lovingly turned towards the most vulnerable, because His greatness and power are revealed precisely in His capacity to identify with the young, the marginalized and the oppressed (cf. Deut 4:31; Ps 86:15, 103:8, 111:4). He is a kind, caring and faithful God who is close to those in need, especially the poor.” Such is the love of God for those who are deemed irrelevant by the world because they are powerless; they hold on to their faith in God whom they deeply believe will provide them with their needs in order to live.
There are so many poor people in our land; the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines acknowledges that “there are a great number of our people who wallow in abject poverty and misery” (312). Keeping this in mind, we as members of the mystical body of Christ are challenged to perform concrete actions to alleviate the condition of the poor; we seek to give them back their dignity and in doing so we are following Jesus who ministered and cared for them. We cannot just close our eyes and hearts to their plight; we are called to follow the footsteps of Jesus in becoming healers of this modern leprosy called poverty. For sure, we cannot solve everything, but small steps of helping others will surely be a great start. May we become the eyes, the hands, the heart, and the feet of Jesus in our world today!

Brother Anthony Dameg is the Formation Coordinator of the Pontifical Mission Societies, Philippines.

FIRST SUNDAY OF OCTOBER

DATE: October 2, 2016 (27th Sunday in Ordinary Time)
THEME: Missio ad Gentes as an Immense Work of Mercy
READINGS: Hb 1:2-3; 2:2-4 / Ps 95:1-2.6-7.8-9 / 2Tim 1:6-8.13-14 / Lk 17:5-10
REFLECTION BY: Jonathan Germinanda

The life and person of Jesus Christ, who is the perfect expression of the Father’s mercy to his people, became the core message that the apostles and the first disciples in the early Christian community proclaimed; they were faithful to the divine mandate of Christ: “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19). This mandate given by Christ to his apostles has been from the beginning of the Church the motivation and reason of all her missionary activities. The Church spread out and expanded throughout the world, because women and men, whether individually or in communities, endeavored to carry out this task in the face of various situations and conditions. Faced with the challenges at hand, they proclaimed the message of Christ; they labored so that the Gospel would eventually form the people and culture they encountered as disciples of Christ. How was this task of mission carried out?
Witness of Life and Works of Charity. The genuine witness of the Christian life was what gave authenticity and effectiveness to the proclamation of the Gospel message of salvation. The uniqueness of the Christian community was made visible in how they lived among themselves (Acts 2:42-47). The examples of individual men and women were beacons of light that helped spread the Christian faith. The strong bond of communion enabled them to imitate the works and deeds of our Lord, especially for those most in need, such as deeds of charity for the poor and neglected, forgiveness and acceptance for sinners, healing and caring for the sick and the weak, etc. The spread of the Gospel throughout the centuries has been accompanied by the witness of these works of charity for all peoples.
In his message for World Mission Sunday in this Year of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis invites us all to reflect upon the Church’s missionary activities as manifestations of God’s great mercy. Looking at the present situation and challenges to the mission of the Church to spread God’s message of salvation, we realize that there is still much to be done in proclaiming Christ to all nations. “The mission ad gentes is still in its infancy” as Saint John Paul II said in his encyclical letter Redemptoris Missio (40). This is still the greatest challenge in terms of the missionary activity of the Church.
People now, more than ever, are in great need of these acts of love and charity to which we Christians are called to witness. The value of Christian witness remains true and perhaps even more necessary today in the midst of a modern and secularized society plagued by war and conflict, amidst the continued violence in the world today brought about by the many tensions among peoples of diverse cultures, religions, and economic, social and political backgrounds. Confronted with the suffering and pain of so many people, we are called to become ourselves agents of these works of charity, proclaiming the mercy and love of God through our deeds and the witness of our Christian lives.
The words of Pope Francis challenge us: “I am a mission on this earth; that is the reason why I am here in this world. We have to regard ourselves as sealed, even branded, by this mission of bringing light, blessing, enlivening, raising up, healing and freeing” (Evangelii Gaudium 273).

Father Jonathan Germinanda, MSP, is Rector of the Mission Society of the Philippines Seminary in Tagaytay City.

October 19, 2014 (World Mission Sunday)

THIRD SUNDAY OF OCTOBER
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DATE: October 19, 2014 (World Mission Sunday: Ordinary Time: 29th)
THEME: Mission: Rekindling the Desire for Joyful Participation in Mission ad gentes!
READINGS: Is 45:1. 4-6 / Ps 96:1. 3. 4-5. 7-8. 9-10 / 1 Thes 1:1-5 / Mt 22:15-21
REFLECTIONS: Cuyos, Kroeger, and Recepcion

Mission: Rekindling the Desire for Joyful Participation in Mission ad gentes! – I

Father Stephen Cuyos, MSC

I write this reflection on a mobile gadget.  My use of a handheld device to write about things divine is becoming an everyday occurrence for many people today.  The proliferation of mobile technologies has profoundly transformed how we fulfill our mission to proclaim the Gospel to all nations.  It is not an exaggeration to say that the fulfillment of our God-given mission today depends largely on how well we use mobile technology and social media for evangelization.

We have been so used to one-way evangelization (through homilies, classroom instruction, books, and encyclicals) that we tend to think that it is the only effective way to spread the Word of God.   But to today’s hyper-connected generation, this type of evangelization is often unattractive and boring.  They want their evangelizers to use the technologies that they already use in their everyday life—mobile phones, tablets, and social media.  They also want their evangelizers to connect with them through the activities they already love doing online—posting tweets, uploading photos, sharing videos, and playing games.  If we are to be effective in fulfilling the mission God has given us in today’s world, we need ubiquitous access to digital technologies and utilize them in all our evangelization pursuits.

Jesus called us to be “fishers of men” (Mt 4:19) and since today’s proverbial fish are tech-savvy and are constantly connected online, the best way to catch them is to go and meet them where they are—in social media.  Pope Francis himself considers the internet a “gift from God.”  And, like other divine gifts, web-based technologies must be used to communicate the love of God to people.

As communicators of God’s love, we need to find creative and meaningful ways of utilizing tweets, photos, videos and games to rekindle the desire and the moral obligation of the faithful to take a joyful part in mission ad gentes.  We need to find new and inventive ways to harness the power of social media in order to make God’s Word viral and a trendy topic online.  We need to harness the full power of social media technologies to make God known and loved on a global scale and in real time.  For only by doing so are we truly able to “go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature” (Mk 16:15).  May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be loved everywhere!

NOTE: Father Stephen Cuyos is a member of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  He is currently the training and production specialist of the Communication Foundation for Asia in Sta. Mesa, Manila.

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Mission: Rekindling the Desire for Joyful Participation in Mission ad gentes! – II
Father James H. Kroeger, MM

Blessed Paul VI: Pope of Evangelization

Today is World Mission Sunday, and Pope Paul VI (1963-1978) is being beatified in Rome.  The choice of the date—Mission Sunday—is significant!  First, on Mission Sunday, the Church focuses on her missionary vocation and identity.  And, when elected in 1963 after the death of Saint John XXIII, the new pope specifically chose the name “Paul” because he saw himself preaching the Gospel to the whole world, following Saint Paul’s missionary dynamism.  Secondly, this date marks the close of a special Synod of Bishops on the family; it was Paul VI who established the synod of bishops in 1965 to assist the Church in both reading and interpreting the signs of the times.

Missionary Initiatives.  Aside from expressing his “core identity” with the chosen name “Paul,” Giovanni Montini accomplished much to bring the Gospel message to contemporary humanity.  Sharing John XXIII’s vision of Church renewal, Pope Paul successfully concluded Vatican II and systematically implemented its missionary vision.  In addition, Paul VI presented his “dialogical” vision of the Church in his first encyclical Ecclesiam Suam (1964).  He established the special Vatican office, Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, on Pentecost Sunday 1964.

Paul, the missionary pope, initiated papal travels, literally covering the globe.  His most extensive missionary journey in November-December 1970 brought him to Asia with visits to eight countries.  While in Manila he met with 180 Asian bishops, a pivotal event in the foundation of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC).  In addition, Paul VI vigorously promoted the growth of authentic, inculturated, local Churches.

Evangelii Nuntiandi.  Pope Paul will always be remembered for his 1975 apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Nuntiandi (EN), Evangelization in the Modern World.  This was the first papal document to flow from a synod (the 1974 world synod focused on the theme of evangelization).  This beautiful document [see the special “mission catechesis” in this booklet], as fresh today as when it was written, asserts that: (1) evangelization is the vocation proper to the Church; (2) the Church’s mission continues the mission of Jesus; (3) evangelization is a multi-faceted reality; and, (4) evangelization includes a commitment to full human development and social justice.

Paul VI asserted: “We wish to confirm once more that the task of evangelizing all people constitutes the essential mission of the Church….  Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity.  She exists in order to evangelize” (EN 14).  “For the Church, evangelizing means bringing the Good News into all strata of humanity” (EN 18).
Pope Francis’ Affirmation.  Our present pope draws extensively upon the missionary vision of Paul VI; he quotes EN thirteen times in Evangelii Gaudium.  From his earliest days as pope, Francis regularly speaks of EN, noting that Paul’s words “are as timely as if they had been written yesterday.”  He described EN as “the greatest pastoral document that has ever been written to this day”; on another occasion Francis said: “Still to this day it is the most important post-Conciliar pastoral document, which hasn’t been surpassed.  We should always go back to it … [because it] is a great source of inspiration” [refer to the “mission catechesis” provided in this booklet].

Conclusion.  Popes Paul VI and Francis share several common perspectives.  “Let us preserve the delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing” (EN 80); “let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of missionary enthusiasm” (EG 80); “let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the joy of evangelization” (EG 83); “let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of missionary vigor” (EG 109).  All Christians are challenged to be “evangelized evangelizers” (cf. EN 15) who are truly “missionary disciples” (EG 120); their spirituality must reflect “the fervor of the saints” (EN 80) and emerge from “a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ” (EG 3).  Popes Paul and Francis are truly “kindred spirits”—aflame with the fire of evangelization.  On this Mission Sunday—and always—try to catch the same “Gospel Fire”!

NOTE: Father James Kroeger, MM, teaches mission theology at Loyola School of Theology, East Asian Pastoral Institute, and Mother of Life Catechetical Center, all in Metro Manila.

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Mission: Rekindling the Desire for Joyful Participation in Mission ad gentes! – III

Father Andrew Recepcion

Being Sent as Agents of Renewal in Society

The context of the Gospel indicates that people during the time of Jesus had a distorted understanding of God in relation to society.  Jesus’ wisdom, however, led his believers to realize that there is no dichotomy between earthly reality and spiritual reality.  On the contrary, Jesus affirmed that there is a hierarchy of values in this world, but God is the only absolute value.

Mission today will have to help people find a new harmony of life in God.  It is a constant struggle for many Christians to be consistent in living with and for Jesus every moment.  It is important to highlight how Christian life can be perceived as a compartmentalized existence where the practice of faith is confined to Sunday obligation; the rest of the week, that is, from Monday to Saturday is for earthly activities that have nothing to do with God.   When one lives a compartmentalized Christian existence, there is no joy and meaning in daily life.  Christianity fails to inspire discipleship in Christ; it fails to attract to Christ those who are at the peripheries of our Christian communities.  Thus, Pope Francis invites us to experience mission in a new way “by being seized ever more by the love of Jesus” and by sharing that love “marked by the fire of the passion for the Kingdom of God” (Papal Message: World Mission Sunday 2014).

I was struck by the sharing of one of our lay missionaries who felt that when she committed her life to full-time mission work, she felt a new enthusiasm to go to Mass daily.  In the past, before her mission commitment, she simply participated in the Sunday Mass out of obligation for fear of committing a sin.  Her daily life was reduced to routine of work.  Her participation in the daily Mass, however, made her encounter Jesus personally and this experience made a difference in the way she taught her students; this made her ready to welcome every difficulty in her life with serenity.  She felt more strongly the love of God in her life.  It is this personal love of Jesus that gave her the passion to work for mission.

In the present order of things, it seems quite difficult for many lay men and women to live out their missionary vocation in the worlds of politics, entertainment, media, economy, sports, education, and so on.  Igino Giordani, an Italian politician whose cause for beatification has started, said that politics could either be a jumping board to heaven or a strainer to hell.  I think his point underlines the importance of finding God even in politics, of discovering God’s presence in the affairs of the world.  Mission is not only about geographical territories but also about human frontiers that need Jesus Christ, that groan for redemption.

It is about time to take seriously the words of Jesus as a reminder that when we forget God in our society, we end up making humans into God.  Let us beg the Lord to make us missionary disciples who do not have to go to distant places to carry out Christ’s mission.

Mission starts in our homes, in our work places, in our associations, in our government institutions, even in our daily commute by following the traffic laws.  Mission is now!

NOTE:  Father Andrew Reception is the Mission Director of the Archdiocese of Caceres.

Christmas 2013

Date: December 25, 2013 (Christmas)
Readings: Is 52:7-10; Ps 98: 1-6; Heb 1:1-6; Jn 1:1-18
Theme:  A Celebration of Love

A Celebration of love

It’s Christmas! We celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.

St. John’s gospel tells us the origin of Jesus – that in the beginning He was with God and He was God.  And the reason why He came into our world as man was because of love. As scripture puts it:  “For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life” (Jn 3:16).

Yes, incarnation happens because of love. As such, Christmas is therefore a celebration of love. The God who-is-love is with us.  For Jesus is the personification of that love!

As we celebrate Christmas, let us not forget to thank God for His gift of love to us. And may this time be truly a celebration of love!

Fourth Sunday of Advent 2013

Date: December 22, 2013 (Fourth Sunday of Advent)
Readings: Is 7:10-14; Ps 24:1-6; Rom 1:1-7; Mt 1:18-24
Theme: God is with us!

God is with us!

Signs of fatigue were visible in Neneng’s face. She had not gotten a good sleep after their house was destroyed by an earthquake.  As a matter of fact she and her family were temporarily staying at the tent city provided by the local government for fear of the constant aftershock. Yet, in spite of what happened to her and her family, Neneng never appeared to lose her faith in God. In fact, she became an inspiration to the many people in her place to turn to God for strength in the midst of a great tragedy. For Neneng God is more real and concrete in such kind of situation.

Today is the Fourth Sunday of Advent. It means Christmas is already around the corner. The celebration of Christmas reminds us of the great event in our history, that is, the incarnation. In His great love, God humbled Himself and became man like us in Jesus.

This story of God-becoming-man was foretold by Isaiah in the first reading when he said, “The Virgin is with child and bears a son and calls his name Immanuel.”  This prophesy of Isaiah finds meaning in the narrative of Matthew about the birth of Jesus. Matthew confirms that Jesus is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophesy of God coming to us. That is why Matthew’s account refers Jesus as the Emmanuel, which means: God-with-us.

Yes, Christmas is the time to recall and celebrate the mystery of God’s presence in our midst. But many a times we lose sight of the core meaning and significance of the celebration. What matters to most people are the material trappings of Christmas forgetting its true meaning – the coming of Jesus in our midst.  In some instance, we even lose the sense of God at this very holy season of Christmas.

Perhaps we need a person like Neneng to remind us what Christmas truly means.

Third Sunday of Advent 2013

Date: December 15, 2013 (Third Sunday of Advent)
Readings: Is 35:1-6a, 10; Ps 146:6-10; Jas 5:7-10; Mt 11:2-11.
Theme:  Joyful Waiting

Joyful Waiting

One day a friend of mine was restless and excited; he was so anxious to go home immediately from the office. The reason was that his wife was expecting to give birth to their first baby. It was his long dream to have his own child, a baby who would come from the bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. And, finally, his dream would soon come to reality.  It must be the most exciting moment of his life waiting to welcome the baby to come into this world.

Such experience of my friend can best help illustrate also the significance of the third Sunday of Advent. In the liturgical calendar of the church, the third Sunday of Advent is called “Gaudete Sunday.”  With the color violet as motif, advent is a penitential season reminding us to prepare for the coming of the Messiah. But Gaudete Sunday reminds us also that our penitential journey during this time of Advent is one that is joyful. That is the theme of today’s readings: “Let us all rejoice. It is because the Lord is coming soon. In fact, He is already in our midst!”

As Isaiah describes it, when that day comes there will be an explosion of joy and gladness for the whole of creation. And the people will witness the glory and majesty of the Lord who will render justice as He rewards those who are faithful to Him.

As we prepare for the coming of the Lord, it is our mission to radiate that joy to others who are still living in the darkness of ignorance and sin!

Second Sunday of Advent 2013

Date: December 8, 2013 (Second Sunday of Advent)
Readings: Is 11:1-10; Ps 72: 1-17; Rom 15:4-9; Mt 3:1-12
Reflection: The Holy Spirit as Agent of Mission

The Holy Spirit as Agent of Mission

“He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and fire,” says St. John the Baptist in today’s gospel reading. John, of course, is referring to Jesus who will come after him.

A quick analysis on John’s preaching about Jesus’ coming to baptize us in the Holy Spirit and fire will provide us of its deep implication for mission. First of all, let us remember that Jesus is the missionary par excellence sent by the Father. In fact, His coming signals the inauguration of his mission. And, secondly, we cannot overlook the fact that the baptism in the Holy Spirit and fire is closely link with mission.

This will bring us to two incidents in scripture which is related to what John is saying: first, the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost in which the Jews experienced tongues of flames, and; second, the commissioning of the disciples to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Yes, the theme on mission is made concrete in the two above-mentioned incidents.  As we know, it was after Pentecost that the early Christians started their mission in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and to the Gentile world. Likewise, it was after the commissioning of the disciples that they were compelled to go out to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth. The commissioning is viewed as the great mandate for mission.

While Jesus is the inaugurator of mission, it is the Holy Spirit that impels the Church to continue His mission. In fact, it is the Holy Spirit whom we can attribute as the agent of the Church’s mission.  Hence, as we prepare for the celebration of Christmas, let us also continue to invoke the Holy Spirit to inspire more people to become instruments of His mission.

First Sunday of Advent 2013

Date: December 1, 2013 (First Sunday of Advent)
Readings:  Is 2:1-5; Ps 122: 1-9; Rom 13:11-14; Mt. 24:37-44
Reflection: Tell Everyone to Prepare to Save Lives

Tell Everyone to Prepare to Save Lives

Today is the beginning of the new liturgical year. It means that we are in the Season of Advent. We kick off the season with the message to prepare because “the Lord will come” (Mt. 24:42) which is “nearer now than when we first believed” (Rom 13:11).

From our experience of many devastating calamities, we know the importance of preparation. It can lessen destruction and damages and can save lives.  But basic in every preparation is the information on what to do which needs to be disseminated to everyone.

While we do not expect a devastating calamity to happen when the Lord comes, the alarm call to prepare is more serious because it entails our ultimate destiny in life. It is the moment of truth in which we will be judged according to how we lived our life according to God’s plan for us. It is for this reason that we have to continuously inform the people to prepare.

And how are we going to prepare? St. Paul in his Letter to the Romans tells us what to do; he exhorts us to “throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light…[and] conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and licentiousness, not in rivalry and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh” (Rom 13: 12-14).

But who are the stakeholders in this endeavor who must be informed to prepare? The first reading from the Book of Prophet Isaiah gives us hint: all peoples of all nations (Is 2:2). So it is for everyone! And here lies the big task, which is our mission!

The season of Advent, therefore, reminds us of the urgency and importance of mission. There is little time to prepare and we have to inform everyone about the message. And we have to do it in order to save lives!

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