Saint Andrew, Apostle

St Andrew's Cross

 

This is Saint Andrew’s Cross.
Legend has it that Andrew told his executioners that he was not worthy to be crucified on the same cross style as Jesus, and persuaded them to alter the shape.

Today is the Feast Day of Saint Andrew, the first apostle to be called by Jesus.
He is the patron saint of Scotland, Russia and Greece,
places known for rebellions and revolutions.
Andres Bonifacio, the leader of the Philippine Revolution, was named after him.

Followers of Christ have often been seen as rebels and revolutionaries.
A serious reading of the gospels will show that the teachings of Christ are radical, counter-cultural and subversive of the existing order.
He once declared: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth.
I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”
In my youth, full of idealism and fired with romantic enthusiasm,
I was enamored by Christ the rebel, the revolutionary.

When I was active in the corporate world and even in the academe,
most everyone I knew aspired to be a leader including myself.
Today, in my old age, I struggle to keep pace with this same Jesus
as I try to heed his call to follow him.
Today I am more focused on leaving everything and being a good follower.
And it is so difficult to leave everything behind, specially the past.
Today, I wish for my life to be gentler, kinder, more tender and more loving;
but I am also still inspired by the Christ who, in righteous anger,
cleared the temple of those who would desecrate the place,
the same Christ who willingly laid down his life for his friends.

 

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The Incarnation

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Everything in nature is governed by the laws of nature.
What goes up must come down.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Every living thing is driven by and blindly follows its instincts.
There is beauty in the sunflower always turning its face to the sun.
It is autumn and trees shed leaves in a wild profusion of colors.
Winter comes and birds and butterflies migrate to warmer climes.
There are natural laws and natural instincts to explain phenomena we see.

Yet, there is something in humans that tends to rebel against these laws of nature.
Nature instinctively seeks a balance, an equilibrium, a state of rest and homeostasis.
Yet, there is this unquenchable drive in humans
that is constantly restless, persistent seeking, incessant searching.
Everything breaks down or dies eventually.
Yet, there is this deep yearning in humans to live forever.
It is because of our feelings of emptiness and loneliness
that we are aware there is a fullness of life somewhere.
It is when we bed low that we are lifted on high.

These intimations wouldn’t and couldn’t be quieted down.
These are yearnings endlessly seeking fulfilment.
If we but observe nature or merely rely on our default status,
we are faced with the impossibility of these feelings and yearnings.
Till the Creator revealed Himself to us. He is the Source
of all our endless yearnings, and unquenchable thirst, and insatiable hunger.
Through His grace, we can build and create as He does.
For we are made in His image and likeness.
Through His grace, we can be transformed
from sinners into saints, from heels into heroes.
Through His grace our emptiness becomes whole
and in our loneliness, He brings us in communion with Him.

Then, He became human just like us to show us how.
This is the Mystery of the Incarnation.
“And the Word was made flesh. And dwelt amongst us.”

 

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What Are You Grateful For?

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Business and politics, science and technology, entertainment and leisure
– these are things that seem to be driving the world today.
Much of the news is about these things;
and events in these areas always hog the headlines.

But life is much richer than these.
We need to celebrate and to preserve the beauty there is in nature.
We need to celebrate families and small communities where love lives and is nurtured. We need to celebrate the arts through which the human spirit is uplifted.
We need to celebrate our faith which gives us a glimpse of what we truly are.
Poverty and wars are a scandal because we have the resources and wherewithal
to banish these twin scourges forever.
Many of us are lonely and afraid and yet there are so many of us willing
and able to lend a hand and give comfort to one another.
There is so much frenzied activity with people in a hurry to get to nowhere.
We need to stop and listen, be touched and be moved and
be changed by the presence of God in our lives.

These are the things worth being truly grateful for.

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Why The Church Is Holy

This song is the theme of the movie “The Cardinal”, the story of a priest who faced temptations and challenges of moral dilemmas, the social issues of his times and the never-ending tests to his celibacy. He was not perfect and was always on the verge of sinning. But through God’s grace and mercy, he did overcome to rise in the hierarchy, becoming a Cardinal because of his devotion to his vocation. The song captures his angst as well as his redemption as he travelled the troubled path of his priesthood.

I have been hanging out quite a lot lately with my priests-friends and our classmates in the seminary. Their calling and dedication have always been a source of inspiration for me. Being close to them, I know both their strengths and their weaknesses, their talents and accomplishments as well as their failings and frustrations. But when I see what they are able to accomplish in their ministries, I can only say in faith-filled amazement, “This has to be the work of God.”

The Church is holy. Not because it is populated by saintly people. In fact, the Church has always been the refuge of sinners, populated by outcasts, society’s rejects, the poor, the vulnerable, those in the peripheries. It is holy because it is the place where these rejects and sinners are transformed into heroes and, yes, saints. It’s got to be God at work in His priests. And wherever God is, that is a sacred and holy place. This is the reason why the Church is holy.

I know my friends who have become priests. They are talented. They excel in sports, music, and the arts. They are conversant in math and the sciences, in literature and social sciences, in addition to philosophy and theology. And I also am aware of their foibles and fumbles. They are imperfect like most of us. And then seeing what they do – inspiring people, changing lives, building character, restoring broken spirits, I go “Wow! There is something else or someone else at work here.” In the equations of science, the inputs do not quite explain nor account for the outputs. It does not compute. It does not balance out. It’s got to be God then who is at work in and through them.

They are channels of God’s grace: imperfect channels of God’s perfect grace. Wounded healers. Sainted sinners. And herein lies one big realization. God, through the Church, holds out to men the possibility of salvation and redemption. “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

In today’s divided world, people are given labels and the labels often stick. Sexual offenders are tagged as such for life. Convicts are stigmatized forever. Some people are branded for their color, language, and culture and they are what they are no matter what. There is no changing that fact. In today’s divided world, there are no second chances and there is no forgiveness.

Christ came and he forgave sins, gave people second chances, and started changing lives. The adulteress was given a new life. The tax collector was declared a son of Abraham. The thief was brought to paradise on the day that he died. With his power, he can transform sinners into saints.

This is what priests do. They continue Christ’s work of salvation and redemption. And this is what makes the Church holy. Not the saints who are in there. But the sinners who have become saints because they have found their way there.

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On Generosity

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Generosity begins not with what I have but with what I am inside and who I am. Generosity is measured not by what I give away but by what i keep for myself.
If I can live with small amounts and simple things, by reining in my wants and desires;
I will have more that I can share with others.

Generosity springs from poverty of spirit,
which does not mean being poor as having nothing to give
but keeping one’s needs small and simple that I may have more to give.
For no one is so poor or bereft of gifts that he has nothing to give and share.
Often the things that are really appreciated and sought by others are not material things; but act of love and caring like a smile, a touch, time spent together, company, presence, just being there.

And the more I flex my generosity muscles, the more generous I become.

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And Now The End Is Near

Death by Rumi

Today id the end of the Liturgical Year. The Gospel is about the two thieves crucified alongside Christ. I posted what Jesus sag to the good Thief, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” Some of my friends reacted and commented, “But not today please. Not yet.”

I do not have a death wish but I often think of death. Lately, Anabelle have been going to wakes more than any other social commitments. Our lives used to be punctuated by weddings (ours and our friends’); then, birthdays of our children; then, their graduations; then the weddings of our children; then the birth of their children. And now, wakes of friends and family.

Life is fragile and tenuous. One misstep, one wrong turn, one reckless moment. Tha’s all it would take for it to end. When I think of that fact, I realize how fragile life indeed id. The end liturgical year always remind us of the end times: to stay awake; to be ready for the Lord’s coming; to prepare to give an account of my stewardship. For believers in Christ, death is not something to be afraid of but it is the doorway we have to go through to get to eternal life.

Our destiny lies beyond this present world; that we are in fact made to be in joy with God eternally. To be truly a Christian, then, is to commit yourself to hope in the life of the world to come. Eternal life is our inheritance, held safe for us by a loving God. This is the great promise of Jesus. Now, how awesome is that!

We all dream of a world where there would be “no more tears”, a world where people would live in peace and harmony. And that is how I would like to view death – the fulfilment of all my deepest yearnings, the ultimate answer to all my unanswered questions, the unravelling of all that I have feel deep inside me but could not express nor understand.

I do not have a death wish. And I am in fact afraid of dying, specially the pain and the uncertainty that come with it. But at the same time, I am truly excited to find out what is on the other side.

Posted in Aging, Death, Discipleship, Mystery | 2 Comments

The Sacrament Of The Here And Now

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I enjoy recalling memories of events from the past, both happy and sad,
how these have brought color into my life,
how these have helped me become the person I that I am today.
But memories are in the past and are no more.
They exist only in my mind and in my heart.
My dreams and aspirations are in the future and are not yet.
They exist only in my imagination and in my will.
The only reality I truly have and can work upon is the present, my here and now.
Life is a great gift and it exists only in the present.
Everything I am and everything I have is but the present.
Sure, I got here because of where I was in the past;
and it is from here that I will walk into my future.
Everything that happens to me happens in the here and now.
Here is the best time to be happy. Not yesterday. Not tomorrow.
Now is the best time to be good. Not yesterday. Not tomorrow.
I relish the present moment with deep gratitude
and make it count like it were my only moment,
making it my eternity as well.

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A Sacred and Holy Place

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Today, I was at the Apung Mamacalulu (Merciful Lord or Lord of Mercy) in Angeles City. We were invited by the current Rector of the Shrine, Fr. Raffy dela Cruz, to experience the place like we have never done before. The Shrine is popular among its Angeleño devotees. One sure mark of a genuine, original Angeleño is knowledge of and familiarity with the Shrine. In my childhood, my family and I used to go to Sunday Mass as this Shrine.

Fr. Raffy shared with us that at the Shrine everyone in welcome. There is no judgement and no one is judged. This is specially evident on Fridays when hordes of devotees come to pay their respects to the Lord laid out in his tomb. His eyes are closed. He does not look at the devotees in judgement. He just welcomes them to his side.

And they come from all over. There are the ordinary folks and the well-heeled. The professionals and the market vendors. The pickpockets, murderers, the dregs of society, and even the working girls from Fields Avenue. They come in all their weakness, their needs, and their sinfulness, knowing they will not be judged. They come anyway because they know they are sinners; they have done wrong; they are needy; they need strength and courage to face the vicissitudes of life. And here before the entombed Christ, they seek their redemption.

Seeing the steady flow of devotees, I feel the holiness and the sanctity of the place. Not that the people coming here are already good or are saints. On the contrary, they are admittedly and self-confessed sinners. They acknowledge they are weak and inadequate. But in this place, their prayers are heard and many are answered. Lives are changed. Hopes are restored. Trust and belief in goodness comes alive. Yes, miracles happen here because there is something sacred in this place and there is someone loving and holy in residence.

There is no science here to explain what these people experience. But something or Someone holy and sacred have touched their lives for the better.

Posted in Discipleship, Life, Mystery, Presence | Tagged | Leave a comment

A Sacred and Holy Place

IMG_20191029_170831-COLLAGE

Today, I was at the Apung Mamacalulu (Merciful Lord or Lord of Mercy) in Angeles City. We were invited by the current Rector of the Shrine, Fr. Raffy dela Cruz, to experience the place like we have never done before. The Shrine is popular among its Angeleño devotees. One sure mark of a genuine, original Angeleño is knowledge of and familiarity with the Shrine. In my childhood, my family and I used to go to Sunday Mass as this Shrine.

Fr. Raffy shared with us that at the Shrine everyone in welcome. There is no judgement and no one is judged. This is specially evident on Fridays when hordes of devotees come to pay their respects to the Lord laid out in his tomb. His eyes are closed. He does not look at the devotees in judgement. He just welcomes them to his side.

And they come from all over. There are the ordinary folks and the well-heeled. The professionals and the market vendors. The pickpockets, murderers, the dregs of society, and even the working girls from Fields Avenue. They come in all their weakness, their needs, and their sinfulness, knowing they will not be judged. They come anyway because they know they are sinners; they have done wrong; they are needy; they need strength and courage to face the vicissitudes of life. And here before the entombed Christ, they seek their redemption.

Seeing the steady flow of devotees, I feel the holiness and the sanctity of the place. Not that the people coming here are already good or are saints. On the contrary, they are admittedly and self-confessed sinners. They acknowledge they are weak and inadequate. But in this place, their prayers are heard and many are answered. Lives are changed. Hopes are restored. Trust and belief in goodness comes alive. Yes, miracles happen here because there is something sacred in this place and there is someone loving and holy in residence.

There is no science here to explain what these people experience. But something or Someone holy and sacred have touched their lives for the better.

Posted in Discipleship, Encounter, Mystery, Presence | Tagged

Conversion is God’s Continuing Creation

P1000920Before creation, there was nothing but the void and darkness, which are but the absence of matter and the absence of light. Then God said, “Let there be light.” And there was light, the Big Bang. And from that Big Bang came all the matter that exists today.

Since then, everything in the universe is in constant motion, from the smallest quark to the biggest black hole. For some, the motion may seem random and chaotic. For others, including myself, there is a certain beat, a rhythm, almost a song or a melody that goes with the motion. It sounds like the whole of creation is singing a hymn of the universe. And somehow there is interconnectedness in all the movements and the motion; so that the cries of a baby aborning or aborted triggers the birth of a young star or the death throes of a dying supernova. And all of this beauty and goodness will go just on forever, for matter once created is never destroyed.

Nature has been most spectacular in her awesomeness. Just watching the dawn or the sunrise, or hearing anew-born baby cry, or witnessing the power of a typhoon or a volcano, would leave anyone enthralled and enchanted. Nature is prodigal in providing us with such abundant resources. We have everything we need.

And yet there are shortages, poverty and famine everywhere. It takes more resources to feed and clothe one man looking out for himself rather than two persons caring and sharing with each other. There is more joy and happiness in people living and loving together rather than in individuals looking out just for themselves. There is enough goodness and beauty in nature to teach us. And yet, we often choose their exact opposite. We choose to dwell in the void and in the darkness.

When God said, “Let there be light.” I imagine it as God calling goodness out of the void and beauty out of the darkness. While we are part of that goodness and beauty, we also often succumb to chaos and the darkness. There is nothing more heart-warming as when one person changes for the better. It is God’s grace at work when a person experiences change and conversion to a new life. Sometimes, the circumstances are heroic and dramatic, like a catastrophe, a major disaster or a monumental crisis in one’s life. Oftentimes, all it takes to bring about the change and conversion is but a word, a touch, a simple encounter with another person. It is God’s continuing work of creation.

Every moment I am given is yet another present from God for me to become better, to change and be converted, to affirm the goodness and beauty there is in the universe and in me. I pray to be open and sensitive to these stirrings of the Spirit in my life.

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