Saturday, April 16, 2005

A Gift to the Lord!

He is a special child. He is affected with the Down syndrome.

He was hyperactive today. As soon as I got down from the Jeep, he was all over me. Almost embracing me, holding out his hand, and taking my hand for the customary "pinsiw". I was in his barangay to celebrate the regular barangay mass.

This afternoon, he did not want to leave my side. Even when I was already at the altar, he was still by my side. His mother came over and tried to talk to him to go down and stay with the rest of the congregation. He did not want to.

"Diman kalad leksab ta ongapo tayo lan manmisa", I told him. Only did he leave my side when I told him to go down with the people as we are about to begin the Mass.

He was singing extra loud! And he was making his own tune with his own lyrics! His mother had to tell him to soften a bit, as he was becoming the "choir" with the community his "back-up singers".

As I was giving the homily, he was seated, with a big smile on his face, looking at me. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him making gestures with his hands. I turned around and looked at him. As soon as I did that, he "clicked" his "camera"! He was making a "camera" with his hands and taking pictures of me! His face was all joy. His smile was wide! It was as if he was saying, "I got you!"

The Preparation of the Gifts. There was a procession of offerers, each one bringing their respective gifts for the celebration. When they stood up to go to the back of the chapel for the offertory gifts prepared on a small table, he went with them.

The procession started. Each one had their own gifts to bring to the altar: the candles, flowers, the bread and the wine. But, there was no extra gift that he could bring to the altar. Everybody had gotten what was prepared on the table. He had nothing left.

He was left standing at the back of the chapel, while the offerers brought their "gifts of bread and wine".

I received the gifts from them.

Then he came...

He was smiling. His face was glowing with joy. He had something in his hands. He had something left to offer to the Lord, after all.

He carried the whole table, and offered it as his gift to the Lord!

Thursday, April 14, 2005

How can I...?

"How can I, unless someone instructs me?"
Acts 8,26-40

There is this one barangay whose residents don't seem to care so much about how they are and will be as Catholic Christians. In their barangay masses which we regularly celebrate, only the very old and the very young attend. Women and children. And so few. We have to wait for almost half an hour before we can even begin the mass.

But then, as we celebrate the mass, I see a lot of people passing by the chapel. Some make the sign of the cross; some hurriedly walk, almost running. Others just walk as if nothing is happening. And there are the young who keep on playing basketball without so much care, and without even glancing at the chapel.

"How can I, unless someone instructs me?" It is a question which I have not heard in that barangay. This question presupposes a desire to know more about God so as to love Him more. And thus follow Him with more zeal and conscientiousness. The willingness to open oneself to God's grace. The desire to become true followers of Christ.

"How can I, unless someone instructs me?" We have been going there in that barangay without fail. We are more than willing to "instruct" them. But, how can we when nobody seems interested in God's word. There is indifference. Almost a "boring" indifference!

"How can I, unless someone instructs me?" I just pray that a lot of our people would ask this question.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005


"Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice,
"Lord, do not hold this sin against them";
and when he said this, he fell asleep."
Acts 7,51-8,1a

John Paull II was almost killed by an assassin on 13 May 1981. In December 1983, the pope offered forgivness to his assasin during an arranged meeting in prison. Is this possible? Are we able to do this? Forgive somebody who wants you dead?

Most responses would be: if this person wants me dead, I better do something so that he will end up dead, not me. Or to that effect. But to forgive somebody who wants you dead?

Stephen forgave his enemies, and those who wanted him dead before he was killed by them! John Paull II forgave his assassin. Jesus forgave all of us who brought Him to His cross!

Forgiveness is the greatest act of mercy anybody can ever do. It is not deserved. It is freely given.

It is possible to forgive. It can be done. It must be done. If we want to be called a true Christian -- Christ's true follower. And it is by the grace of God are we able to do so. Let us pray for this grace, and pray for it constantly and unceasingly.

She knelt down on the confessional box. This young woman who poured out his hatred for her father who had just abandoned them -- her mother and her siblings. I could almost feel the seething anger pouring out of her. Hatred for a father who had hurt them. And she confessed this hatred. Why would she do that?

She was crying for healing. The hatred was too much for her. It could destroy her. It was already destroying her, in fact. She went to confession and asked for God's forgiveness for this seething hatred. She said, "I am sorry God. Please forgive me." God would certainly forgive her. But would she forgive her father? She could.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Stephen's Enemies

"...they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke."
Acts 6, 8-15

Stephen had many enemies. Not that he made them his enemies by a life of murder, and deceit. Quest for power and wealth. On the contrary. Stephen' life was a life dedicated in serving his fellowmen. He was chosen to help distribute to the most needy the gifts of the church. He was for the poor. He was for Christ, his Lord and Master.

Stephen was "filled with grace and power, was working great wonders and signs among the people." He was an instrument of God in making His presence become real among the peope. For this he had many enemies. Enemies who could not stand the good being manifested in him; who could not even accept God's goodness among them.

Stephen's enemies could not face the truth about themselves. So they had to invent lies to silence him. His enemies could not bring themselves to serve others and be for others. So they had to kill him.

Stephen was a mirror of goodness and holines. When his enemies saw him, they saw the complete opposite of who they were. The mirror had to be broken, or else.

In many ways, and a number of times, Stephen's enemies continue to hate and destroy, tell lies and present false witnesses. To destroy Stephen, God's chosen one. They continue to do so even during these times. Even today. At this hour.

Stephen is found among the many good and dedicated servants of God: His priests and lay workers. Who tirelessly and silently without funfare do the work of God among His people. And endure the ridicule and lies told against them only because they had chosen to be "God's workers" in His vineyard.

The lies told can be very painful. They can almost snuff the zeal and the fire. But the enemies of Stepehen could not kill the spirit. And the grace. And God's blessings.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Pope John Paul II - "The Mercy Pope"

Pope John Paul II (1920-2005)

Pope John Paul II was laid to rest this afternoon (Philippine Time). Milions were in Rome to take part in the Funeral Mass; millions and millions more all over the world took part in the celebration in their TVs and radios.

Pope John Paul II was loved by so many, from all walks of life, not only by Catholics and other Christian denominations but from other religions as well. He was called "Pope of the People".

I was at the beginning of my Philosophical studies when Karol Wojtyla was elected as the 264th Pope of the Church on 16 October 1978. I was fresh from High School, and was a First Year Philosophy student, studying for the priesthood. Three years later, he visited the Philippines to beatify Lorenzo Ruiz, the first Filipino saint. He went to Baguio City where I was studying to celebrate Mass with the faithful of Northern Luzon.

To prepare for the Papal Visit, the seminarians went around the different college campuses of Baguio City and held symposia on the lives of Pope John Paul II and Lorenzo Ruiz. It was during these series of campus symposia that I first learned who this Pope was. We were assigned to speak to the students about his life -- from his childhood to his elevation to the papacy. We researched on his life. And talked about the papacy.

His encyclical "Redemptor Hominis" became a source of classroom discussions during the fourth year of my philosophical studies. A classmate even wrote his thesis on the Pope's philosophy of man based on that encyclical. At that time, the pope was just one of the philosophers whose works had to be studied, and debated upon.

As I went further in my priestly studies, Pope John Paul II began to put his mark and stamp in the life of the Catholic Church and the faithful. His writings and speeches, while I was in my theological studies, were sources of theological reflections. Many a times, he was quoted in so many endless and unending list of term papers!

I am now on my 17th year in the priesthood.

Pope John Paul II had ceased to become for me "just another philospher" and "just another theologian". He was those when I was studying philosophy and theology. The Pope had become during the years of my priestly ministry a source of guidance, a guiding voice through his exhorations and letters and encyclicals. A father exhorting his son in the life and ministry of the priest. And as he began to suffer from physical ailments, a source of inspiration and strength in my own insignificant priestly struggles. "Be not afraid", he said. I heard and listened.

He was the "Mercy Pope". The Pope of the Divine Mercy. Cardinal Ratzinger in his homily during the Pope's Funeral Mass: "He (Pope John Paul II) interpreted for us the paschal mystery as a mystery of divine mercy. In his last book, he wrote: The limit imposed upon evil 'is ultimately Divine Mercy' (Memory and Identity, pp. 60-61)."

In death, Pope John Paul II lives even more in our hearts and in our souls!

John Paul II, pray for us!