Friday, Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church, 24 January 2020
1 Samuel 24:3-21 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> Mark 3:13-19
Blessed are you, O God our loving Father! Thank you for the gift of self, the gift of everything especially our temperament.
Many times it is our temperament that lead us to a lot of troubles as well as to holiness like in the story of David today, the appointment of 12 Apostles by Jesus in the gospel, and the life of St. Francis de Sales whose memorial we celebrate today.
Thank you, Lord, for making us all too complex that despite the four types of temperament – sanguine, phlegmatic, melancholy, and choleric – there is really no clear cut category for each one of us.
Thank you for making us that way to have enough room for you to work on us, to help us subdue ourselves to your will and be holy.
How wonderful was the attitude of David not to harm Saul while they were hiding inside the cave: he chose to be kind and even magnanimous by “cutting off an end of Saul’s mantle” to show his goodwill (1 Sm.24:5).
In doing so, he earned the respect of his enemy, Saul who declared, “And now, I know that you shall surely be king and that sovereignty over Israel shall come into your possession” (1Sm.24:21).
In the gospel, your Son’s choice of the 12 Apostles are very revealing of your love and mercy to us: a mix of different people of different even extreme backgrounds and temperament but all given with the chance to be a part of Jesus Christ’s mission.
Last but not least, O God, the choleric and fiery temperament of St. Francis de Sales was a lifelong struggle for himself even in is old age but he never stopped subduing himself to serve you best by effecting the return of about 70,000 Protestants into Catholicism in Switzerland, not to mention the millions of souls touched until today by his 21,000 letters and writings as well as the 4,000 sermons he had left that still inspire people today.
Indeed, he who conquers and masters himself for you, O God, is the victorious of all! Amen.
1 Samuel 18:6-9; 19:1-7 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> Mark 3:7-12
Praise and glory to you O God our loving Father in heaven!
Today, I just want to bask in your immense love for me, to let myself immerse in your love, in your grace, in your mercy.
Please, loving Father, let me be assured always of your love through your Son Jesus Christ.
As I prayed today’s readings, I realized that next to pride, the most sinister sin we have is jealousy that silently creeps into our being, making us forget your enormous love for each one of us. It is something we never outgrow that actually worsens as we age!
Saul was very angry and resentful of the song, for he thought: “They give David ten thousands, but only thousands to me. All that remains for him is the kingship.” And from that day on, Saul was jealous of David.
1 Samuel 18:8-9
Jealousy is more than an insecurity of being less worthy or fear that we are loved less.
At its worst, jealousy is something we have always “nurtured” within us, part of our lack of faith and belief that we are loved, that we are cared for.
That is why jealousy can easily arise within us because it is an enemy we “host” within us!
The Pharisees and the scribes were jealous of Jesus Christ because they have always lacked belief in themselves that is why they kept on quarreling among themselves, competing who would be most admired and accepted by the people.
But the people who came to follow Jesus, seeking healing from him, felt so assured of his love and mercy. No one among them was jealous of others being healed because they felt Jesus loved them all!
That is why I pray today, O Lord Jesus, to let me dispose of that inclination to be jealous always, of wrongly believing and fearing of being denied of your love that is boundless and immense for each one of us. Amen.
Wednesday, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr, 22 January 2020
1 Samuel 24:3-21 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> Mark 3:1-6
Dearest Lord Jesus:
Today I realized something new, something different: that biblical term “hardness of the heart” may not be totally wrong at all.
It sounds negative but may mean two things also like of hardness of the heart for God or a hardness of the heart against God and others.
Hardness of the heart for God: When King Saul was trying to dissuade the young David from facing the Philistine giant Goliath, David explained:
“The Lord, who delivered me from the claws of the lion and the bear, will also keep me safe from the clutches of this Philistine.”
1 Samuel 17:37
Would it really matter, O Lord, if we face a great or little obstacle in life if we have that complete faith and trust in you, if like David we would have such heart so hard for you?
David was very insistent on fighting Goliath – he knew and was convinced that no matter what, God will fight his battle! He had a hard heart for you, O God. Very adamant in fact.
When we have total faith and trust in you, O Lord, there is no one or nothing we should be afraid of.
Hardness of the heart against God: When Jesus confronted his enemies during a sabbath at the synagogue regarding the healing of the man with a withered hand there, they chose to be silent than make a stand for what is good and right.
Then Jesus said to the Pharisees, “Is it lawful to do good on a sabbath rather than do evil, to save life rather than destroy it?” But they remained silent. Looking around at them with anger and grieved at their hardness of heart, Jesus said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out and his hand was restored.
Lord Jesus Christ, remind us always of the beautiful imagery of your Cross, of you always standing in our midst, presenting yourself before us to always choose you, side with you in making choices in life.
Give us the grace and courage like with St. Vincent, the first martyr of Spain who bore all forms of torture with silence and grace, remaining faithful to you.
Give us that grace to give you a chance to work in us.
Tuesday, Memorial of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr, 21 January 2020
1 Samuel 16:1-13 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> Mark 2:23-28
The Lord said to Samuel: “How long will you grieve for Saul, whom I have rejected as king of Israel? Fill yor horn with oil, and be on your way. I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem, for I have chosen my king from among is sons.” But Sameul replied: “How can I go? Saul will hear of it and kill me.” To this the Lord answered: “Take a heifer along and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I myself will tell you what to do; you are to anoint for me the one I point out to you.” Samuel did as the Lord had commanded him.
1 Samuel 16:1-4
How many times have I found myself, O God, in the same situation as Samuel? You know very well how I felt so afraid to do your work, so fearful for my reputation and most especially of other people who might harm me in doing your work.
But what really makes it so difficult in obeying you, O God, is when I doubt if you are the one truly speaking to me, when I doubt myself if I get it right from you to do something opposite the way and thoughts of most people.
Oh… how sweet it is to remember those days when I just threw myself to your will, when I just did and say whatever you willed!
It was very scary, Lord, but we did it!
You did it very well, every step of our way!
Thank you, so much, O God! Thank you!
Send us your Holy Spirit to center our lives in your Son Jesus Christ like the disciples “who began to make a path picking heads of grain one Sabbath day” (Mk.2:23) and the Pharisees lambasted them.
Surely, the disciples would have not done that without seeking permission from Jesus. And even if Jesus had allowed them to go and pick heads of grain, I am sure there were some who still doubted him giving the permission to do it!
So nice that they trusted Jesus, like the young and lovely St. Agnes who remained adamantly faithful to him in the face of death. May I be given that same faith and courage today, Lord, to find you in every step I take. Amen.
1 Samuel 15:16-23 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> Mark 2:18-22
Praise and glory to you, O Lord Jesus Christ!
Let me rejoice this first day of work and school in your divine presence, O Lord. Let me celebrate your coming in my life! Let me live in your divine presence most especially when everybody feels and thinks you are not with us, that you do not care at all.
Forgive me, Lord, when I act like Saul in the first reading: obediently fulfilling your will and instructions and yet, insisting on my own ways as if you are not aware of what is in our minds and hearts.
Like Saul, I always confuse your will with my “good intentions”, with what I think as good and the best for you and for others when in fact, I am playing God, “presuming” you will approve and like whatever I deem best for you and others.
But Samuel said: “Does the Lord so delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obedience to the command of the Lord? Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission than the fat of rams. For a sin is like divination is rebellion, and presumption is the crime of idolatry.”
1 Samuel 15:22-23
Help me, sweet Jesus, to always “pour new wine into fresh wineskins”, to always see something new daily in you, to find you present among people and things I take for granted.
Today we are celebrating an extension of Christmas Season with the Feast of the Sto. Niño that falls every third Sunday of January.
It is a special indult granted by Rome to the Philippines in recognition of the crucial role of the image of the Child Jesus we fondly call Sto. Niño given by Magellan to Queen Juana of Cebu almost 500 years ago when the Spaniards came to our shores to colonize and Christianize us as well.
The Sto. Niño is the second most popular Catholic devotion in our predominantly Christian nation, next to the Black Nazarene of Quiapo which we celebrated two weeks ago.
But a lot often, people forget the deeper meaning within the Sto. Niño that the path leading to becoming true disciples of Jesus, of following him to the Cross starts in becoming like a child, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt.18:3).
We will never be able to carry our cross and follow Jesus in selfless service and love to others unless we set aside our attitudes of being adults who know everything, insist on everything.
And that is why for this Sunday we have chosen the late Michael Jackson hit from his 1987 “Bad” album, Man in the Mirror.
It is one of the two songs in the album Michael Jackson did not write. It was written by Siedah Garrett and Glen Ballard who eventually both carved names for themselves in the music scene composing for other artists later.
According to stories, Michael and his producer Quincy Jones have asked their pool of composers to come up with a song that would serve as “an anthem” for the Bad album that would “spread some sunshine on the world”.
Michael liked the song right away and even after he had died, the song has become a classic with its timeless message that if you want to change the world, change yourself first.
And we say that looking on the man or woman on the mirror is the first step in becoming like a child as Jesus would want us all to do to enter the kingdom of heaven.
A blessed Sunday to you, dear reader and follower!
Isaiah 9:1-6 ><)))*> Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-18 ><)))*> Matthew 18:1-5, 10
Looming high always at the center of our Christian faith is the Cross of Jesus Christ. Whether inside or outside any church, there is always the Cross reminding us of our salvation in Jesus and of the path we have to follow as his disciples.
But, so often we forget that the first call of the Cross is for us to be a child of God above all in order to follow his Son our Lord in his Passion, Death, and Resurrection.
Here we find the full meaning of our celebration of the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord last Sunday, of how in our Baptism we have become the children of God in Jesus Christ who became like us so that we may become like him, blessed and divine as the eternal Son of the Father.
Such is the plan of God in the very beginning of his Creation.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will, for the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved.
It is only in our becoming first the sons and daughters of the Father in Jesus Christ that St. Paul declares how we are saved in this part of the second reading skipped by the liturgy today:
In him we have redemption by his blood, the forgiveness of transgressions, in accord with the riches of his grace that he lavished upon us.
Work of Christmas continues
We are already into the second week of Ordinary Time in our liturgy but, we in the Philippines are still celebrating an “extension” of the Christmas Season this third Sunday of January for the Feast of the Sto. Niño, the Holy Child Jesus.
And, for a very good reason! to remind us the story of Christmas continues even after the Feast of the Lord’s Baptism or when all decors have been kept.
The work of Christmas, of sharing Jesus Christ in our loving service with others continues the whole year through. In fact, it is during the 34 weeks of Ordinary Time where we are most challenged to continue Christ’s work he started at Christmas when he became a child among us.
And there lies the very core of his teachings, of his message to us: our being like a child!
At that time the disciples approached Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.”
Jesus remained the Child of God until the end
If we examine everything in the Gospel, from the Incarnation and Nativity of Jesus, his hidden and public lives, his miracles and preaching, into his Passion, Death, and Resurrection, everything is anchored in Christ’s being like a child, the eternal Son of God.
When he was lost and found in the temple at the age of 12, right away he told his Mother his being the Son of God: “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Lk.2:49)
At Last Supper, Jesus explained his being the Child of the Father: “The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works” (Jn.14:10).
His being one with the Father is due to his being the Eternal Son that reached its highest point of expression at the crucifixion where Jesus repeatedly called God his “Father”.
Here we find as in our gospel today the essential requirement of first becoming a child of God to make it into the kingdom of heaven. It is impossible to follow Jesus to his Cross when we remain adults who know everything!
This is the problem with the Traslacion that has become rowdy, even crazy over the years which is completely the opposite of the Pit Señor de Sto. Niño in Cebu that remains solemn and orderly despite its vast crowd of devotees.
See how in Quiapo the devotees “fight” and insist on their own ways of doing the procession, of how things are now turned upside down with the hijos lording over (pun intended) everything every January 9 with the gall to call Christ “Padre Nuestro Jesus de Nazareno”?
Everybody wants to fulfill one’s panata of jumping into the revered image of the Nazareno, in total disregard of others.
Where is the spirit of being a child, of being generous and kind with others?
What we have been seeing these past years in the Traslacion is more of machismo, of who is the greatest to be able to reach the Nazareno. And included among them are the growing members of media suddenly becoming devotees with the panata to anchor Traslacion!
Being a child is a call to daily conversion in Christ Jesus
Becoming like a child a daily call to conversion to Jesus, a going back to the story of Christmas, of being humble and small. I like that word used by Jesus today – turn – when he declared, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children…”
To be able to carry our cross and follow Jesus, we have to turn first, that is, be transformed from world-wise, self-sufficient, all-knowing adults of the world into abiding children of the Father of Jesus Christ by the grace of the Holy Spirit.
Children always have that glow within them that can disarm us of our insecurities and fears. Below is a painting by the Danish-German Modern Artist Emil Nolde (1867-1956) portrayed children with Christ in bright colors while the adults were all dark and gloomy.
Being like a child is letting go of our fears and insecurities to entrust ourselves to God’s care and providence. And to others dependability and reliability too!
Maybe that is why as we get older, we mellow: we realize after all that we remain children of God and of somebody else in the end. There is always somebody out there who would look after us especially when we are already old and weak. There is always somebody whose heart would always be moved to come to our rescue or simply to warm our hearts or make us smile.
If each of us can become like a child daily, simply loving and trusting others, then we can bring light into this world deeply plunged in the darkness of sin and pride, of rat race without any winner, or arms race without any war at all.
If we can become like the child, we can become like Jesus Christ, the great light in the land of gloom bringing joy and great rejoicing (Is.9:1-2) with his life of love flowing from the great sacrifice at the Cross. Amen.