Sin No More…

A homily on the 5th Sunday of Lent (Year C)

It was during our baptism that we made a first covenant with God. Through the faith of our parents and godparents we promised God to detest evil and do the good and in return God promised to be our protector and providence.

To put ourselves into perspective, covenants are usually made between 2 nations: one weak and one strong. The weak nation promises to serve the strong nation, while the strong nation promises to protect the weak nation from other strong nations. This is so with our God. We promised to serve him in turn He promised to protect us.

And what would happen when a weak nation does not do as she promised? the strong nation would destroy the weak nation, as in obliterate them – to erase them from the face of the earth. But this is not so with God, for our God is a God of Mercy and Compassion. He will not destroy us but rather forgives us.

And that is what we hear in our Gospel today. Indeed he expressed his power by defeating the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. And we could see in the Gospel that his power is not a power that obliterates but rather is power that loves, that shows mercy. He does not care of the sins the woman committed but he cares for the person – the object of his love and mercy.

Christianity s not only about laws, things to do, and things not to do. But first and most important of all, Christianity is about relationships. It is our relationship with the world, with ourselves, with others and most especially God. It is not centered in laws and actions but it is centered in relationships. And the very center of relationships are persons – and the very center of which is “the Person” – God.

But does that mean we tolerate the sins of the person? Does that mean we close an eye to every sin we see? NO!

Indeed, Jesus did not condemn the woman, however, he commanded her not to sin anymore. Because sin degrades a person. It is an obstacle of our being a human person. Every time we sin, we are not trying to be persons. Lying is unbecoming of a person. Stealing is unbecoming of a person… so is killing, etc… Not to sin any anymore is a command to become real persons. Because a real person is one who is truthful, protects life, who loves God through loving his neighbor. A true and real person is… God-like because we are created in his image and his likeness.

The Loving Father

A Homily on the 4th Sunday of Lent (Year C)

To understand well the meaning of a parable, one has to see the exaggerations made by the storyteller. This is what makes a parable different from an allegory. An allegory has meanings on all figures and actions used, while a parable has usually only have one message behind usually hidden in an exaggeration. In this parable one can find 3 exaggerations: (1) the son has asked his father for his share; (2) he ate with the swine; and lastly, (3) the father ran towards him! Having all these exaggerations in mind, we can deduce that this parable is about the dynamics of sin.

First exaggeration: The son has asked the father for his share. As you all know, we can only have the share of our inheritance when both of our parents die. In this case when the younger son asked for his share, he considered his father dead, and so he broke-off his relationship with his father. This is what sin is: to break our relationship with God.

But in order to appreciate this all the more, we must know that Catholicism is not merely an ideology, nor merely a philosophy, nor merely a way of living, nor merely a religion, but rather it is a relationship with the Person… a relationship with God. When we sin, we stop to consider God as our Father, and so we broke-off that relationship with God. But what will happen to us if we broke away from that relationship? This will lead us to the second exaggeration of the parable: He ate with the swine.

In a feast, we would usually see at one table all young people, at another table all old people. You would also see a table filled with rich people and a table filled with poor people. One’s status is also seen at table, especially in banquets. One is very important if he seats at the presidential table. If we are persons of least importance, we do not usually put ourselves with the same table of those who are in the elite. We eat together with those who are at the same social status with us. Now, the younger son ate with the swine and so, he made himself with the same level as the swine. This is how it is when we commit sin. We put ourselves in the same level with the swine. We too, will eat with the swine! We become like pigs every time we sin. In other words, we become worthless.

But is it the end of it all?

No it is not! This is what is beautiful of our religion… Every time we sin we move one step away from God. If we sin the second time, we move another step away from God, if we sin the third time, we move another step away from God… so on and so forth. However, if we want to return to God how many steps do we need? We need only one! The rest of the steps God will do it for you; hence, we arrive at the third exaggeration of the parable: the father ran towards him. This father is not anymore a young man but an old person whose sons are old enough to be on their own. Where do you see an old man running? Only in the Bible, you will see such a thing! To top it off, it was not a short run but a long one… let us read again, “but while he was still a long way off, his father saw him, and felt compassion for, and ran and embraced him, and kissed him.” All one need is to go to confession. It does not matter how big, huge, gigantic your sin is he will always, always ready to forgive! All we need is to move a step closer to him. Why? Because no matter what we become, we can never be a swine in his eyes; we will always be His sons. Yes, we become like pigs every time we sin, however, in the eyes of God we are still His children.

Our Fruit is Love

a homily for the 3rd Sunday of Lent (Year C)

In a time wherein practical ideas are held and valued, we cannot but measure things with their usefulness. Things are valuable because it can be used by us. This maybe is a wrong way to see the value of things, however it would make it easier for us to understand the Gospel today.

Tablets and smartphones are valuable not only because it is expensive but because it is also very useful. The more apps it has the more useful it would become. The lesser apps it has the less useful it is, hence, it has less value.

A flower is useful when it has flowers, and a tree is useful when it bears fruit or give a shade. Thus the value of the flower increases by the number of flower it has, and the value of the tree increases by the number of fruits it can give to the farmer. When a flower does not bloom it is useless and so it is for a tree when it does not bear fruit are give a shade to passers by. Just like the tablet or the smartphone when it cannot be used it is better for it to be thrown away and be replaced by another one. And so it is with the fig tree in the parable, since, it is useless because it does not bear fruit better for it to be cut-off, says the owner of the garden.

When we were baptized the seed of faith is planted within us. How is that seed of faith today? Did it grow as a tree? or it remained a seed? or it is just a seedling? Did it already bear fruit? Or the owner of the garden is telling us now that we are to be cut-off because we are not bearing fruit, a useless tree.

Let us all remember that the fruit of our faith is love. Our value as Christians is not about our usefulness but how loving we are. Our value is not measured with our success in life but how we give our love in this lifetime. Our simple acts of love are our fruit in our tree of faith. Hence, the more solid is our tree of faith the more fruitful we can be.

We can only grow in love if we also grow in faith. We are now in the season of Lent and we are asked by the Church to be fruitful and reminded by our Gospel to day to do so. Hence, aside from our sacrifices and prayer we are ought to act in love through corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Let us bear fruit, and give opportunity to our faith to mature in love.

To Love as the Greatest Commandment

A Homily (on Mk 12:28-34, Thursday of the Ninth Week of Ordinary Time) given to the Missionary sisters of Charity in Pasil, Cebu

I do not know if you were able to ask these questions once in your life: “Why is to love the greatest commandment? Why does God command people to love?”

Because from the beginning of creation we are created in the image of God; and God, as written in 1 Jn 4:16, is love. Therefore, we are created in the image and likeness of love. The reason God created us is love, and the cause of our birth is the love between our parents which gave fruit to us their children. We are born out of love and we are created in the image of love. Hence, we are commanded to love because our purpose in this world is to love.

No wonder, the happiest persons here on earth are those who are loved and at the same time they felt that they are loved because they were able to do what God meant them for. And the saddest persons are those who were not able to love and not feel that they are loved because they were not able to achieve their purpose.

However the challenge comes when we love and we do not feel any fulfillment, any consolation. But whenever we love despite the feeling of desolation it is when we truly love. Love is the total gift of self to the other. When we love, we consume ourselves… we lose ourselves… but in exchange we win God… we gain God. We gain the person we want the most the All-True, the All-Goodness, the All-Beauty!

Thank You, O God, for the GIFT OF PRIESTHOOD!!!

Most Rev. Jose Palma (ordaining bishop), Most Rev. Antonio Ranola (concelebrating bishop), Fr. Godofredo Atienza (Provincial Superior of the Salesians Philippine – South Province), [representative of the Philippine – North Province],  Fr. Henry Bonetti (rector of Seminaryo ng Don Bosco), Fr. Jerome Dublois (rector of Lourdes Parish), Fr. Andrian Mendoza (rector of Don Bosco Youth Center – Pasil), Dear Salesian confreres, Salesian family, My family, relatives, friends and dear guests,

Good Morning!

I would like you to join me in thanking God for this wonderful gift of priesthood. This gift of priesthood is not only for me, not only for all of us here, but rather for the whole Church, the whole People of God. Because the gift of vocation is God’s sign that God still continues to be “Emmanuel” – God with us. The gift of vocation is a sign that He continues to among us, pitched his tent among us, His people. The gift of vocation is a sign that He continues to love us because He is love. With this in mind, let us thank Most Rev. Jose Palma, Archbishop of Cebu, of conveying this gift to me, the gift of priesthood, and to you, the gift of a new priest Salesian.

Let us also thank my family: my parents, for being generous and willing enough to give one of their sons to the Church and the Salesian Congregation; and my brothers and sisters, for their continual support in heeding God’s call and following it.

To my Salesian confreres, especially those who took care of me and contributed to my formation. I am very much thankful for helping me become a better person and a Salesian.

To my relatives and friends, who are always praying for me, for my joyful and holy perseverance.

As the day of the presbyeteral ordination was drawing near, one of the frequent questions asked of me is, “are you excited?” and my constant answer is, “no.” I was not excited. The reason is that every time someone asked me that question the first advice of Mamma Margareth to Don Bosco when he became a priest would come to mind. And this is her advice to which all Salesians are familiar with, “To begin to say Mass, is to begin to suffer.” Who will get excited when he knows that he will be suffering?

Dear friends, this is the reason I chose the theme, “Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold your Mother’,” to which the whole context of which is the Passion and Death of Jesus on the cross. To remind of that my priesthood is a life of suffering; that this is not the end but only a beginning of a difficult journey. That in this journey I have also Mary as our Mother who will help me get through all these life’s difficulties. As she lead me to this way of life, she would also help me get through this life joyfully and faithfully.

Life is hard! That is the fact. Whatever state of life one is in, life is difficult. Same is true to priesthood. It is a difficult life, but same as all others it is also a beautiful life.  But when does life become beautiful? It is only when we find love in it. However, “God is Love.”  Hence life is beautiful only when we find God in it. This is what the crucifix and death of Jesus mean for us Christians, that despite all sufferings, there is always a day of resurrection because God is present. That despite all sufferings joy can still be found because God is present. We all know that life is difficult, but we also acknowledge life is beautiful because God is present.

All of us are happy now, because we see God in the gift of the priesthood. Pray then with me, that I may let others see the beauty of life in my gift of priesthood because I gave them the opportunity to see God in my priesthood, that in my priesthood people can say “Life is beautiful… indeed it is!”

Hellos and Goodbyes

My philosophy teacher would say, “Life is full of hellos and goodbyes. But what matters most and the most important thing is what happened in between.” It is how you spend your time in between the hellos and goodbyes that really counts. It is how you spend time with each other that will make you value each other. It is how you spend time with them that make your hellos meaningful and your goodbyes difficult.

When goodbyes are difficult, it entails real separation and a great sacrifice. For me as a religious, I am constantly on the move. Time and again, I am moved from one religious house to another. Staying there for a few years, saying hello to people, encountering people, knowing people, being part of those people and most importantly saying goodbye to people. Leaving important things behind is not so difficult compared to leaving people who became part of your life. Leaving them behind entails great sacrifice, at the same time it will lead me to a new kind of hellos.

But does saying goodbye simply mean leaving persons behind and saying to new hellos – encountering people? If hellos would only end in goodbyes, why do still need to meet people and leave them afterwards? Because real hellos would not end in simple goodbyes. Real and meaningful hellos, although those persons are not present in one’s life, they are present in one’s memories. These people will become your strength when you are down, one simply has to recall those memories. These people will become your counsel when you are in doubt, one simply has to recall those memories. These people will become your happiness when you are sad, one simply has to recall those memories.

There is a saying that goes, “God created memories that one would be able to see roses during winter.” It is also good then to say that we create real and meaningful hellos, although it would end in goodbyes, to have roses in our memories.

For all those people who contribute to the roses in my memories… thank you very much… we may be far apart, but my memories of you made my life more meaningful.

God’s Gift to the World

a sermonette given to students of theology

As I was trying to think of a topic on my sermonette, this story came to my mind with a new light:  A Russian orthodox priest, a mullah, and a rabbi discussed how they distributed the money brought by parishioners. The priest said, “I draw a line across the floor in the church. Then I hurl all money into the air. Whatever falls on my side of the line, is mine, the rest is for God.”  The mullah said, “I draw a circle on the mosque’s floor, and hurl the money into the air. Whatever falls within the circle, is mine, the rest is for God.”  The rabbi said, “I just hurl all the money up in the air. Whatever God wants He can keep. Whatever he lets fall back down, is for me.”

Whatever we throw up to God, always comes back to us.  Continue reading

Life is Difficult!

A Homily – 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Life is difficult! In whatever state of life you are in, life is difficult. For the poor, life is difficult. Even for the rich life is also difficult. No wonder, you would hear in the news some rich people committing suicide because they could not anymore handle life, and so they try to end it on their own.

When I was a student, I would hear my classmates wanting to finish their studies as soon as possible because they thought then that the life of a student is very hard. Seeing the people who are working, it seems their life was a life was a lot easier. But when they are already the ones working, they wished that if only they were students again, studying and receiving allowances from their parents.

Even the life of a priest is difficult. You prepare your homily every day. Not only in minutes, but hours of preparation in order to give a 7-10-minute homily. Then at mass, people are not listening or even sleeping while you are talking. It is discouraging at times but we have to do it for the sake of some who are interested to listen and who really desired the Word of God to explained for them.

In whatever state of life… life is difficult.

After many Sundays of celebrating feasts and solemnities, we are now back again in the Ordinary Time in our liturgical season. And in our Gospel today, we are invited to return to our reality, to return where we are. May be, we may have forgotten our state of life after celebrating Easter and many Sundays of Feasts and Solemnities that followed. We are now confronted again with our reality, that is, life is difficult. In fact, some of us are tired of living life. Having to face difficulties every day and sometimes it would seem there are no solutions.

Everywhere we go, it would seem problems are following us around. When we are at home, there are problems. When we are at school, there are also problems. When we are at work, there are also problems. Then, just right after you have given a solution to a problem, another problem comes up. Then life becomes very heaven, life becomes a burden.

But in our Gospel today, Jesus is inviting us, those people “who are weary and burdened” to come to him so that He will give them rest. He is inviting those who are tired of caring their yokes in life and carry His own yoke for it easy and light.

Offer your difficulties in life to Christ, and He will give you rest.

Offer your difficulties in life to Christ, and He will give you a yoke that easy and a burden that is light.

But why is it that every time I offer my problems to God, I still have the same problem? Indeed you will still have the same problem, but you will be seeing it in a different light.

To understand it better, let me tell you of an experience to which some of you can relate. I do not like to drive. I usually would ask my sister or my brother to drive for me if I would want to go somewhere. I do not like to drive because of traffic, because it is difficult to look for a parking space, all the many excuses you can think of, and because it is tiring. However, when my mother would ask me to drive, all of these excuses will be gone. I would drive her, for the whole day, without complaints, without any reason. Yes, it is tiring for me but it becomes a burden that is light because it came from someone whom I love. It is because of love that a burden becomes light.

Actually, it is the same yoke that Christ is giving you in return. But this time, knowing that it comes from Him, it should become light and easy because, this time, you are doing it with love. God is not a slave driver, God is meek and humble of heart. If you put love in it, if you believe that it is from God, your burden becomes light, your yoke becomes easy.

You would just realize that even if life is difficult, it is good to be alive!

Before St. Peter, There Was Simon; Before St. Paul, There Was Saul

A Homily on the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul

All men have weaknesses. Sometimes we are angry of ourselves because of our weaknesses. We are angry because of our being impatient. We are angry because of our vices. We get angry because even though we already decided to stop drinking, we still find ourselves drinking and getting drunk. One day, we firmly decided to stop smoking and found ourselves 20 days sober but because of stress at work, at school, or at home, we end up smoking again.

And so, we say it is difficult to be us. We tend to think that other people are better than us. He is not impatient. He is not a drunk. He is not a chain smoker. Etc… But deep inside they too have weaknesses, for all men have weaknesses. We just did not know it.

St. Peter and Paul, of which feast we celebrate today, were also men. Hence, they have also weaknesses. Before Peter and Paul, there was Simon and Saul.

Before St. Peter, there was Simon, who was impulsive and a traitor. Just like in Gethsemane, he reacted at once and cut the ear of one of the guards who wants to imprison Jesus. Because of it, Jesus reprimanded by Jesus. He is impulsive. He is also a traitor, not once, not twice but three times he denied Jesus. Three times he said, “I do not know him (Jesus),” for fear of being judged and imprisoned as well.

Before St. Paul, there was Saul. Saul was a terrible person. Before he became a Christian, before he baptized people to Christianity, he was putting under trial those who believe in Jesus and put would stone them to death.

Before St. Peter, there was Simon – impulsive and a traitor. Before St. Paul, there was Saul – who stones Christians to death.  But they were able to change. We want to change just like Simon and just like Saul. We want to like Peter and we want to be like Paul.

We want to be stronger than who we are today!  We want to be renewed! If Simon became Peter and Saul became Paul; we too, want to change from the old to the new.

But why were they able to change?

It was their personal encounter with Jesus that transformed Simon to Peter, that changed Saul to Paul. It is not enough to know Jesus. All of us here know Jesus, and we did not change. We did not change because we did not have a personal encounter with Him. It is the reason why we do not have the strength and the grace to change. We have the effort, yes! But we do not have yet the grace to change.

A personal encounter with Jesus is a grace. In our Gospel today, Simon was given a new name, Peter, by Jesus. When we personally meet Jesus, when we know Him really, we will change. And it is by grace that we will really know and meet Jesus personally. It was through their effort and God’s grace – through their encounter with Jesus – that change them.

Where do we encounter Jesus?

Pope Francis said, “Through the Sacraments, especially Confession and the Eucharist, are privileged places of encountering Jesus.” Every time we go for confession, every time we attend the Eucharistic celebration we have the chance to encounter Jesus personally.

Let us continue and persevere in our effort to change. Change is not instant, change is gradual. After Simon’s personal encounter with Jesus, he still remained impulsive, he still remained a traitor. He only changed after Jesus’ death, that is 3 years after. After Saul’s personal encounter with Jesus, he still has to go to the desert for 3 years.

Do not get discourage of not being able to change. Believe in yourself. God believes in you that you can do it. Be patient with yourself, as God is patient with you. It took years for Simon to be Peter. It years for Saul to be Paul. We are no better than them. But like them, we can become better!

24/7

A Homily for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi

I always find it funny seeing lovers who just parted ways not longer than 5 minutes would send text messages like, “I miss you.” And the other would response, “I miss you too.”

I would sometimes find it funny that my father would not leave home because my mother would not go with him. I also feel that it would seem it is not only happening to my parents, I believe it is also happening to your parents as well.

The reason if I would ask them why they do such things is that they love them. They send messages, “I miss you,” right after they parted ways because he loves her. The reason why my father would not leave home without my mother, its because my father loves my mother. It may sound “cheezee” but I think there is a grain of truth about it because all human persons does not want to be separated from our loved ones. We always want to be with them. We always want, if it is possible, to be 24/7 with our loved ones.

Such is the story of our faith. It is a story of a God who wanted always to be with His beloved people. No wonder, in man’s thinking, He did a lot of unimaginable things! What kind of a God, who is powerful and infinite, who wants to become man, who is weak and finite just in order to be with his people.

Yet, He did so, because He loves His people and He wants to be with them. Still not contented of standing alongside His beloved, He made Himself to be their food and drink by becoming bread and wine.

Every time we celebrate the Eucharist, we see God who is dead crazy in love with us. He is not contented  just to be alongside with us. He wanted to be in us, He wanted to be one with us, He wanted to be in communion with us. And so He made Himself bread and wine, to be always with us, to be always in us,  to be needed by us.

God desires for us that as much as possible we receive Him during communion. No wonder, he taught us to pray the “Our Father”… “Give us this day our DAILY BREAD…” This bread is Jesus himself.

He desires to be with us, because He loved us.

But how much do we desire God? How much do we love Him?

Every day we always want to see our crushes, every day we always want to do what we love to do. But how often do we want to see God?

If it is possible we want to be 24/7 to be with our loved ones. But it is very difficult for us to attend Mass for just an hour for one whole week.

We who are nothing is no. 1 in God’s list! But where is Jesus – who is EVERYTHING, who is the BREAD OF LIFE, who SUSTAINS our lives – in our list?