Sunday, December 21, 2014

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SIMBANG GABI DAY 7


December 22
Reading: 1 Sm 1:24-28

In those days,
Hannah brought Samuel with her,
along with a three-year-old bull,
an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine,
and presented him at the temple of the LORD in Shiloh.
After the boy’s father had sacrificed the young bull,
Hannah, his mother, approached Eli and said:
“Pardon, my lord!
As you live, my lord,
I am the woman who stood near you here, praying to the LORD.
I prayed for this child, and the LORD granted my request.
Now I, in turn, give him to the LORD;
as long as he lives, he shall be dedicated to the LORD.”
She left Samuel there.


Reflection 1
if God gives you a gift, will you offer it back to him? Maybe not, because it was given to you, you own it, and you’ll keep it.  In the first reading, it may seem at first that a pious woman was performing a routine sacrifice at the Temple and his husband was there to support her. But no, something more serious is happening, because the offering is none other than their own son, their only child; God’s greatest gift to this family!  There were other offerings of animals and produce, but the centerpiece is the son.
Hannah and her husband had every right to be thankful to the Lord. From being another barren woman, she experienced fertility. From being likened to the dead, she has blossomed into a life-giver.  God filled her life with hope.  God filled her heart with joy.
Hannah had every right too, to enjoy the gift.  This is her son and what mother has no ambition of spending her life seeing her son grow, mature, and found his own family. Then she would also experience how it is to be a grandmother surrounded by her grandchildren.
But Hannah knew in her heart that the best response to the blessing received is to use the blessing for the glory of the Lord.  She was dedicating her child to God because he was from God in the first place.
We who have been gifted much, are we willing to make a return to the Lord of the blessings we have received? Or do we just delight in receiving, giving back a mere token to the Giver of all good things?

Reflection 2
In ancient times, there was the practice of offerign children to the Lord. In the Bible, it was the first born that was brought to the Temple.  Christianity continued this practice in good homes where the parents were aware that such is a gesture pleasing to God.
It is certainly the responsibility of parents to awaken in their children the love and worship of God. Piety starts at home. Faith is deepened in the midst of the family. Vocations too, originate in the context of a family centered on God.
How many parents still offer their children to God when they pray?  How many parents bring their children to the Lord through the fine example of their own lives?  Let us be inspired by the generous gesture of Hannah and her husband who led their son and dedicated him to the Lord’s service.

Lk 1:46-56 Gospel
Mary said:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
for he has looked upon his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
and has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever.”

Mary remained with Elizabeth about three months
and then returned to her home.


Reflection 1
In the annunciation, Mary called herself the handmaid of the Lord.  In this Gospel of the Magnificat, she calls her self the lowly servant. What Mary called herself in her response the angel Gabriel, she now calls herself in her powerful song of praise.  Both self-descriptions show what Mary truly thinks of herself – she is the slave of God, a religious servant of the Lord.
The early Christians in the empire were said to have come from the ranks of the poor, lowly citizens. Their sociological status was mostly that of slaves. In her Magnificat, Mary becomes the spokeswoman for all Christians, poor in worldly standards, and likewise poor in spirit.
Jesus too will show close identification with the poor. He will manifest a love for the poor. In the beatitudes according to St. Luke, Jesus was speaking about the concretely poor, the real hungry people, the truly suffering masses.  He was not praising poverty, but he was saying: God wants to raise you up! God will exalt you one day!
Christmas time is a reminder of how we too must feel close to the poor around us? What are you willing to do for them?  How do you plan to reach out to the poor as Jesus and Mary did?

Reflection 2
It has often been said that the Magnificat is the song of the anawin, the poor of the Lord.  But are all the poor anawin? It does not seem so. Some poor people are abusive of their neighbors. Some poor people are not poor in spirit.  The anawin are the first of all, the poor whose trusted solely in the Lord.  They are those who trust not in material wealth or influential people, but only in the Lord’s power to help and liberate them.  And because of this, their spirits are conformed to God’s.  They strive to become the children of God they were meant to truly be.
In whatever situations of poverty we find ourselves in, it is good to ask: do I lean on God alone? Do I have God as my inspiration, as I strive to rise from the plight I now experience, believing that God wills that I rise up and recover bravely from all these?

Reflection 3
The liturgy suggests a confrontation between Hannah and Mary. Both are thanking God; Hanna with an offering flowing from a gift received; God has made her a  mother, the mother of the future prophet Samuel. And she says: “Now I, in turn, give him to the Lord.”  Samuel is a return gift, yielded back to the Lord, so that her son will be a living connection between her and God.
Mary also thanks the Lord with profuse liberality of her soul. “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior.” Jesus is not even born and yet Mary thanks God and already offers him to the Father, because she has seen for herself how he has already started his work of salvation by sanctifying John in the womb of Elizabeth.
And the gratitude of Mary is not only based on words, but on life, it is a disposition of acknowledgment of the graces God pours on her in every moment of her existence.
Even for us this is a fundamental disposition we need at this time. We must give thanks to God with exaltation and with joy, since he comes to save us all, the people of the world today. It is here at Mass, that is both praise and gratitude, that our hearts and minds soar in endless gratitude.


PERSECUTED CHRISTIANS ALL OVER THE WORLD, BUT SPECIALLY IN IRAQ AND SYRIA WILL CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS THIS YEAR IN FEAR AND POVERTY. LET US PRAY FOR THEM AND REMEMBER HOW THEIR SACRIFICES STRENGTHEN THE CHURCH TODAY.  LET US DO OUR PART IN HELPING THEM IF WE ARE ABLE… AMEN!



Friday, December 19, 2014

SIMBANG GABI DAY 6 - SCROLL TO 4TH SUNDAY OF ADVENT BELOW

SIMBANG GABI DAY 5


December 20

Reading 1: Is 7:10-14

The LORD spoke to Ahaz:
Ask for a sign from the Lord, your God;
let it be deep as the nether world, or high as the sky!
But Ahaz answered,
“I will not ask! I will not tempt the LORD!”
Then Isaiah said:
Listen, O house of David!
Is it not enough for you to weary men,
must you also weary my God?
Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign:
the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and shall name him Emmanuel.

A. Commentary on the First Reading
1. it will be good if we go to the historical context of this first reading, to recall the situation of the time it was written. Israel was then a kingdom divided into two.  There was the northern kingdom and the southern kindgom.  The northern kingdom ravaged Jerusalem, the holy city and the capital of the Southern Kingdom. king Ahaz was the leader of the south. And as Isaiah prophesied that the southern kingdom will be led to victory, because of God’s fidelity, the king Ahaz had a hard time believing this claim. this is when Isaiah uttered the words that provide the motive of believing. There will be a sign that “a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call him Emmanuel.”  The woman was not named personally but she must have been Ahaz’s young wife, and the child was his heir, Hezekiah. Hezekiah will continue the lineage of David in the monarchy of Israel.
2. This reading is a great springboard for the gospel, on the Annunciation of the Archangel Gabriel to Mary.  Isaiah’s young woman is now identified with Mary, another young woman of Israel, soon to be the mother of the Messiah.  The child is Jesus, the true Emmanuel, the longed-for Messiah.  Jesus is of the line of David and so he supports the prophecy of Isaiah regarding the continuity of the monarchy, with Jesus now the ultimate and eternal King.

B. reflection on the Reading

Reflection 1

The first reading puts in the foreground an essential aspect of the divine dealing with us, which will be very obvious in the Incarnation.  It is the divine initiative, the gratuitousness of God towards us. not merely gratuitous in fact, but an action in favor of the rebels.
The Lord proposes to Achaz a saving solution towards victory. He asks the king to demand a sign so he can brign it about. Achaz pretends not to desire offending the Lord and so he did not want to ask for a sign. But God knew it was not the real reason. Achaz heart was stubborn and his mind closed.
Even if the king did not ask, God continued to give the sign.  This aspect of God’s initiative is very improtant because it defines the essentail content of salvation: it is the work of God flowind from his mercy, not called for by man’s action, but only because God wills it.
God loved us first.  If we believe this, then we are ready to receive the joy of Christmas.  we do not need to do anythiing for God to embrace us and take us to himself. God’s love is a gift and as a gift to be gratefully and received.

Reflection 2
This is the most famous of the prophecies of isaiah. In it we see not just the promise of an ordinary king.  As Christians, we see in it the promise of Gods own Son coming among the people.  He has a name: Emmanuel, God is with us.
To believe in Emmanuel is to believe that God is always present, never absent; God is always available, never preoccupied; God is always at work, never reluctant in rescuing his beloved.
Jesus is truly the Emmanuel born of the virgin and sign of God’s abiding love.  as he lived his earthly life, Jesus showed that God is present to all – rich and poor, educated and ignorant, healthy and sick, men and woman, young and old.  but in a special way, in Jesus, the disadvantaged, the margnalized, the alienated find a companion and a secure refuge, a remedy to the loneliness that entraps them in their life of separation from the rest of society.
But the name emmanuel fidns is real and most powerful resonance not on the crib, not in the public ministry either.  Its most cogent expression will come towards the end of Jesus’ earlthy journey. Jesus will be most Emmanuel when he hangs on the Cross. He is supremely Emmanuel as he rises from the dead.
God with us – in the experience of pain, helplessness, death.  The promise was made in the from of a child.  The fulfilment will happen in the one who si crucified and risen.




Reflections 3
Natural for us to look for signs.  And there are many signs around us today. but the signs htat we see are limited because we stop at the seconday causes we find. We do not progress towards the ultimate.
How can we when infact, it is easy to understand things now? There are easy explanations for almost everything. Reading calls us to see beyond the sign and into the giver of the sign.
In the church God supplies us with an array of signs of his love. these are the sacraments. Signs from the world around us and yet… not only… When we receive them we encounter not the sign but the one who gives power to the sign.


Gospel: Lk 1:26-38

In the sixth month,
the angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”

But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”

Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.


a. commentary on the gospel
1. a few years ago, Time Magazine ran a cover story on how the Virgin Mary is crossing the boundaries of faith traditions and is being recognized by an increasing number of Protestant communities.  This is because of the fact that the gospel paints the picture of Mary as the disciple par excellence. She was the first to hear the Word, to accept it, proclaim it, and live it. 
We must not think however that Mary’s assent to the angel’s offer of divine maternity was as spontaneous and ready as it appears in the narrative. More likely, Mary’s response was the culmination of an entire life of being sensitive and appreciative of the many visits of God’s Holy Spirit in her life. these daily affirmations of loving surrender to the Father in the Spirit, made her offer the definitive Yes to the role she would play in salvation history.
2. the purpose of this gospel is to clarify the transcendental roots of Jesus, that is, that Jesus possesses a divine nature. Yes, truly human because born of the humble maiden Mary but truly God because it was not any man responsible for his birth but the creative power of the Holy Spirit.
the believer is asked to respond by affirming his faith in the divinity of God’s Son, our Lord Jesus Christ whose divine origin is manifest in the words of the angel. Mary precedes us in accepting this mystery with joy in her obedience and surrender.  Great things happen to those who truly have faith.



b. Reflections on the gospel
reflection 1
let us ponder on the identity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  in matthews gospel, care has been taken to show the human line of Jesus origin, though not carnally from Joseph, but from the Virgin Mary.  Joseph provides the legal lineage of Jesus from David. Matthew shows us that Jesus truly embraced human nature in being inserted into the history of a real human family.
Now we hear from Luke as to the divine nature of the Lord. He is Son of the Most High God, the fruit of the Holy Spirit’s creative action in the womb of Mary, reminiscent of the Spirit’s action in the original creation.  Jesus was born without a normal male instrumentality but only through God’s powerful will.
We are not lacking in sects and cults that preach a merely human Jesus.  Since it is impossible for man to become God, then the human Jesus cannot be divine.  But that is not the flow of events in Jesus’ life.  it is the divine who became man, and all things, the angel assures us, are possible with God.  Jesus is God, human and divine and nothing less will be enough for Christianity.
It will do us good to remember this every Christmas time so that our faihtful will not be led astray by persistent and resurgent false teachings that dilute the facts given in the gospel.

Reflection 2
We love the Virgin Mary and specially wonder at the event of her dramatic encounter with God. many times though we think of Mary as a merely placid, just a passive participant in the plan of God.
The gospel however depicts a woman of faith, not of fear, a woman of decision and not of mere submission.  She was troubled but she engaged the angel in a dialogue of clarification. When she was assured and her doubts answered, she expressed her belief and the rest is history. There is strength in this woman of the annunciation. She accepted to be the partner of the Holy Spirit in this crucial moment in the history of humanity.
Later this Mary will join her Son in the first miracle at Cana.  She will follow him as he preaches in the villages and communities.  She will trace the drops of his blood along the way of the passion.  And while the apostles ran for cover, Mary the mother of the Lord, would be recorded in the gospel as the faithful woman who stood at the foot of the Cross. She would be there too in the gathering of the early Christians while they wait for the Holy Spirit to descend on the young church.
Let us reflect on the consistency of Mary’s Yes, the strength of her character which is an invitation for us to emulate as we follow the Lord.

Reflection 3
This gospel scene is not a remote memory that happened only in the gospel. As catholics, it is a picture forever etched in our minds and hearts and immortalized in a very simple but meaningful prayer – the Angelus.  Do we still pray the angelus? Do we stop our shopping when this prayer is aired in the mall we go to?
It is our dream that everyday will be Christmas day.  And yet we are given this opportunity to recall and relive and relish Christmas in the morning, at noon and in the evening, all our lives.
There was a time when filipinos stopped everythign they were doing when the angelus bell rang to join in the prayer.  It might be good to at least interiorly stop in our tracks and pray fervently this short prayer that is a perennial celebration of Christmas, a steady reminder of God’s love for us through the Incarnation.
Reflection 4
The gospel tells us how great Jesus is, that he is truly God’s Son, and as the Creed says: God from God, light from light, begotten not made, consubstantial with the Father.
But in his exalted position he lowered himself to embrace our human condition, weak as it is, decadent as it is, sinful as it is. Why is this so? Because we are loved.  We are important. We belong to God, not merely as creatures in his world but as children in his extended family.  The Lord loved us first. It is a great mystery and it is the source of so great a  hope for all of us! God, in Jesus, made himself a personal gift to his children.
This shows how important we are to God. he did not come to treat us with contempt, to reprove and correct us, to make us realize our  mistakes. Jesus came to save us by embracing who we are, by making our lives his own life.
Do we also value one another or forget that our neighbor is close to God’s heart?  Do we value our own life or allow it to be wasted?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

SIMBANG GABI: DAY 4


FOURTH DAY: DECEMBER 19

READING: JUDGES 13: 2-7; 24-25a

There was a certain man from Zorah, of the clan of the Danites,
whose name was Manoah.
His wife was barren and had borne no children.
An angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her,
"Though you are barren and have had no children,
yet you will conceive and bear a son.
Now, then, be careful to take no wine or strong drink
and to eat nothing unclean.
As for the son you will conceive and bear,
no razor shall touch his head,
for this boy is to be consecrated to God from the womb.
It is he who will begin the deliverance of Israel
from the power of the Philistines."

The woman went and told her husband,
"A man of God came to me;
he had the appearance of an angel of God, terrible indeed.
I did not ask him where he came from, nor did he tell me his name.
But he said to me,
'You will be with child and will bear a son.
So take neither wine nor strong drink, and eat nothing unclean.
For the boy shall be consecrated to God from the womb,
until the day of his death.'"

The woman bore a son and named him Samson.
The boy grew up and the LORD blessed him;
the Spirit of the LORD stirred him.

A. Commentary on the First Reading
1. We have here the depiction of events surrounding the birth of a great and admired personage in the Old Testament, the strongman Samson.  The mother of Samson could not bear a child because she was barren. An angel of the Lord came to her to announce what is truly good news: that she would soon give birth to a son. the woman readily accepted the angel’s word and with enthusiasm shared this with her husband Manoah.  Though the husband’s reaction was not recorded, it seems implied that he was unable to receive this angelic proclamation with the same faith as her wife. Every disciple of the Lord is challenged today and always to follow the example of Samson’s mother, her openness and responsiveness to the Word, and to avoid the attitude of Manoah who was foolish and slow to grasp the Word of the Lord.  The first reading provides an appropriate introduction to the Gospel about the conception of John the Baptist
2. the story of Samson’s conception and birth amazes us. it is a case of God’s miraculous intervention in the lives of his people. the mother is told not to take any wine or strong drink and as for Samson, “no razor shall touch his head,for this boy is to be consecrated to God from the womb. It is he who will begin the deliverance of Israel from the power of the Philistines.” This is what it meant to be a Nazirite: a man taken by God to become his instrument in the history of humanity.  In this story, the intervention of God surpasses the insurmountable human difficulty of sterility. God demonstrates that it is He who is to intervene, it is He who is to set his people free. through samson, he will work out a political liberation, from the oppression of the Philistines. Samson will oppose the idolatry and depravity of his people. God is the God of the impossible. He surpasses the greatest difficulties because of his will to save.


B. Reflections on the First Reading

Reflection 1
Why is the story of Samson’s birth an Advent-Christmas story too? His is one favorite story in Bible lessons for children, but specially his adult adventures in fighting. Children are fascinated by a super-hero defeating enemies, beating up their foes and in the end, dealing the final blow on his oppressors. the birth of Samson however clearly shows us the presence of the Holy Spirit in his personal history; he was a man filled with the Holy Spirit, just like Mary and Joseph and the other characters of the infancy narratives.
The Holy Spirit raises up men and women in times of need. Samson filled that need when people needed a liberator from the Philistines. Jesus, God’s Son is the liberator of all people in all times and in all places.  Who are the Spirit-filled people who are instruments of God in today’s situations of poverty and oppression? Are there politicians, economists, teachers, mediamen and women who allow the Spirit to move them as they serve their neighbor?  Let us pray for an army of men and women filled with the Spirit who will lead the Church and society today.

Reflection 2
Do you notice the emphasis given to barren women in the Bible?  They are everywhere, from the Old to the New Testament.  Suspicious though is the absence of stress on the sterility of men. It seems that the problem is always with the women!
Faith in the God who works against barrenness is an affirmation of faith in God, worker of miracles. This God can produce fruitfulness in the midst of barrenness. Many people today contend that though they believe in God, they do not believe in miracles anymore.  How can you believe in miracles when you can clone animals, produce artificial rain and apply stem-cell solutions to even the most difficult medical problems?
Christmas is a reminder though, that only God can save us. he is the Creator of the material world and therefore is higher than his creation. Miracles still happen, they do happen, because God is supernatural and not merely natural.  If we open our eyes to the presence of the Lord, there are daily miracles, big and small, happening before our eyes


Gospel: Lk. 1:5-25

In the days of Herod, King of Judea,
there was a priest named Zechariah
of the priestly division of Abijah;
his wife was from the daughters of Aaron,
and her name was Elizabeth.
Both were righteous in the eyes of God,
observing all the commandments
and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly.
But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren
and both were advanced in years.

Once when he was serving as priest
in his division's turn before God,
according to the practice of the priestly service,
he was chosen by lot
to enter the sanctuary of the Lord to burn incense.
Then, when the whole assembly of the people was praying outside
at the hour of the incense offering,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him,
standing at the right of the altar of incense.
Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, and fear came upon him.

But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zechariah,
because your prayer has been heard.
Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son,
and you shall name him John.
And you will have joy and gladness,
and many will rejoice at his birth,
for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.
He will drink neither wine nor strong drink.
He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother's womb,
and he will turn many of the children of Israel
to the Lord their God.
He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah
to turn the hearts of fathers toward children
and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous,
to prepare a people fit for the Lord."

Then Zechariah said to the angel,
"How shall I know this?
For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years."
And the angel said to him in reply,
"I am Gabriel, who stand before God.
I was sent to speak to you and to announce to you this good news.
But now you will be speechless and unable to talk
until the day these things take place,
because you did not believe my words,
which will be fulfilled at their proper time."
Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah
and were amazed that he stayed so long in the sanctuary.
But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them,
and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary.
He was gesturing to them but remained mute.

Then, when his days of ministry were completed, he went home.

After this time his wife Elizabeth conceived,
and she went into seclusion for five months, saying,
"So has the Lord done for me at a time when he has seen fit
to take away my disgrace before others."


A. Commentary on the Gospel
1. The Gospel introduces the parents of John the Baptist. These are Zechariah and Elizabeth, righteous people but were childless and are now both advanced in years.  but the power of God breaks through all sorts of human conditions, even the most difficult and painful. As with Abraham and Sarah before them, the Lord promises that Zechariah and Elizabeth would have a son, to the astonishment of their family and neighbors.
Zechariah receives the announcement of this divine favor as he was fulfilling his priestly duties at the Temple. This describes also the role of John, his way of life and mission in salvation history.  John will be the culmination and climax of biblical prophetic history. He will be the last of the prophets, and the direct forerunner and herald of the Messiah longed-for by Israel.
2. just like in the first reading, the gospel has its focus on the acceptance of God’s message and the failure to comprehend it. Zechariah had difficulty believing the angel’s words and for this he was struck dumb.  Although it was not specifically mentioned, Elizabeth his wife, recognized the hand of the Lord and rejoiced that her barrenness was eradicated.
Does this not typify the situations of lives of people today? every disciple of the Lord through all the ages waver between faith and doubt, credence and unbelief.  We are called to identify with Elizabeth’s silent but firm proclamation of faith and to resist the urge and temptation to yield to doubt and loss of heart.
But even though people are inclined to dismiss the power of God, still God breaks through the human condition of poverty and sin.  Divine intervention is fulfilled even in the midst of the strongest doubt.  Let us strive to live in faith. Remembering the God who will do everything for us in order to save us.

B. Reflections on the Gospel
Reflection 1
Today the parents of the Baptist are introduced to us.  Zechariah, was a priest from the line of Aaron; every direct descendant of Aaron was automatically a priest so there were many priests in Israel and there was a division of labor in the Temple. Elizabeth was also from the line of Aaron; she was pure Jew since priests could not marry anyone who was not a pure descendant. 
But there was a tragedy in the family.  The couple was childless.  In the writings of the rabbis, among the excommunicated of Israel, the first in line was the “Jew without a wife, and the Jew with a wife, but without a child.”  Sterility was ground for divorce.
We can imagine that each time Zechariah would go to the Temple service, this would be his prayer, to have a child. Until the vision occurred and Gabriel brought God’s promise of liberation for God’s people. to Zechariah though, this was first, God’s personal promise and fulfillment to him.  He was being removed from a posture of shame to one of honor in God’s sight.
The story of Christmas is really about God’s mercy on the people who have to endure the ridicule of other men and women because of their flaws, weakness or their poverty.  If they remain faithful to the Lord, then the favor of God is not far off.  It is just a matter of time and they will see the hand of God delivering them and raising them up.

Reflection 2
One thing stands out in the giving of the angelic message: The message came to Zechariah while he was in God’s house. We all wish that God would send us a message and we know the message can occur while we are at God’s house.  But at times, there seems to be no message at all.
In the play, St. Joan of Arc, the Dauphin (France’s legitimate leader), was asking Joan why God has to send messages to her and not to the king directly.  Joan replied:  “The messages come to you but you do not hear (in your heart).  You pray the angelus and make the sign of the Cross but only to get it over with.” His heart and mind are not as alert and receptive as Joan’s.

Today, God’s message still comes through God’s house, the Church. but as people in the Church, do we really listen to the Lord or just perform our functions and obligations? Are we truly open to God’s message or are we more comfortable with just obeying the laws? Is our membership and continued presence in the Church a matter of mere cognitive or intellectual response and not one also of the heart?
Many people, specially the young, have left the Church because of boredom, scandals or the attraction of other sects.  It is easy to explain that the church is a complex reality of both human and divine elements.  But it is also necessary to demonstrate that the living and growing in the church demands the joining of the intellectual with the affective, the laws with compassion, the traditions with commitment, the old formulas and practices with the new expressions. Only then can we truly hear God speaking in and through the church.

Reflection 3
We all need reminders and signs that God is still on the throne, that he is still powerful, that he is still faithful. In the Old Testament, the Nazirite vow was accompanied by visible signs which showed that a person was consecrated from birth to the plan of God.  we see this in John the Baptist and before him, Samson – hair uncut, refraining from liquor, abstaining from unclean food and being filled with the Spirit.  these external signs conveyed the message that these men belonged totally to the Lord and their hidden strength and their power came through their absolute obedience to the Lord’s will.
We too need some signs, symbols or reminders in daily life. we need to be reminded that God still holds us in wonder and he cares for us in simple and miraculous ways.  These signs also shows people how much we commit ourselves to God in a life of faith and dedication to him.
We wear medals, scapulars, rosaries and other signs of faith in our bodies and put them in our properties.  But we must remember to use them with the right intention and purpose.  We must be convinced that they are first of all for our spiritual maturity and stability, not displays or fashion statemetns that do not mean anything. Let us ask the Lord to give us the spirit of Samson and of John the Baptist who, in living with signs, became living reminders of God to the world around them.



Saturday, December 13, 2014

MEET THE SAINTS: SAN JUAN NEUMANN


ENERO 5



SAN JUAN NEUMANN, OBISPO

A. KUWENTO NG BUHAY

Tulad ni Santa Elisabet Ann Seton, ang santong si San Juan Neumann ay maringal na ipinagdiriwang din sa United States, dahil siya ay doon nag-alay ng kanyang buhay bilang pari at bilang obispo. Isa siyang US citizen tulad ni Santa Elisabet Ann.

Ipinanganak noong 1811 si San Juan Neumann sa dating Bohemia (ngayon ay Czech Republic).  Pangarap talaga niyang makarating sa America at maging pari doon.  Nang dumating siya sa bansang iyon, na-ordenahan nga siya bilang isang pari at pagkatapos ay naging bahagi ng religious congregation na tinatawag na Redemptorists.  Ipinadala siya sa ibat-ibang lungsod upang maglingkod bilang pari. Siya ang unang Redemptorist na gumanap ng kanyang pamamanata (religious profession) sa United States.

Sa Pilipinas, ang mga Redemptorists ay nasa maraming lugar pero mas kilala sila bilang mga pari at brothers na tagapangasiwa ng Baclaran Church. Isa sa mga debosyon na itinataguyod ng mga Redemptorists ay ang debosyon sa Mother of Perpetual Help.

Naging obispo si San Juan at masigla niyang itinatag ang maraming mga parochial schools at mga parokya para sa mga imigranteng mula sa Europa na nakarating sa America. Kaya nga noong dati, sa America ay karaniwang maririnig na ang isang parokya ay “German parish,” “Italian Parish,” o “Irish Parish.”  Ibig sabihin nito, ang parokya ay ispesyal na itinatag upang mangalaga sa mga nationalities na nabanggit at ang karamihan sa mga tao sa parokyang iyon ay mga katutubo ng mga bansang nabanggit. 

Matalino at masipag si San Juan.  Sa katunayan, matatas siya sa 12 wika na kanyang pinag-aralan at mabilis na natutunan. Sumulat siya ng mga libro sa katesismo, at ng Bible History para sa mga estudyante ng parochial schools. Mahal ni San Juan Neumann ang mga bata, ang mga madre at ang mga imigrante.  Pero kilala din siya sa pagmamahal niya sa mga American Indians. Nagkaroon ng kaugnayan si San Juan Neumann sa buhay ni Santa Elisabet Ann Seton.

Pumanaw si San Juan Neumann noong 1860 at naging santo noong 1977. Siya ng unang obispo mula sa United States of America na naging isang santo.


B. HAMON SA BUHAY

Maraming nangangarap ngayon na mangibang-bansa dahil sa kagustuhang yumaman o umunlad.  Si San Juan Neumann ay nangarap mag-abroad para maglingkod sa Diyos at sa mga nangangailangan ng kanyang tulong. Ipagdasal natin ang ating mga kababayang imigrante sa ibang bansa upang kasama ng kanilang pag-unlad sa buhay ay maging mga lingkod din sila ng Panginoon sa mga bansang kinalalagyan nila ngayon.

Ngayong Bagong Taon, si San Juan nawa ang gumabay sa ating upang maging buhay na ala-ala tayo ng Diyos sa mga kapus-palad.


K. KATAGA NG BUHAY

Mt. 19:29
At ang mag-iwan ng nga tahanan, mga kapatid, ama at ina, mga anak o mga bukid alang-alang sa ngalan ko, tatanggap siya ng sandaang beses at makakamit ang buhay na walang hanggan.

MEET THE SAINTS: SAN ANDRES BESSETTE


ENERO 6



SAN ANDRES BESSETTE,
NAMANATA SA DIYOS (RELIGIOUS BROTHER)

A. KUWENTO NG BUHAY

Maging ang mga lalaki ay nanamanata rin ng kanilang buong buhay sa Diyos (religious priest o religious brother). Ibig sabihin nito, sila ay nag-aalay ng sarili, bilang walang asawa o pamilya, upang maglingkod sa Panginoon sa pagsapi sa isang religious order o religious congregation.

Ganyan ang buhay ni San Andres Bessette na isa namang Canadian. Ipinanganak si Andres noong 1845 bilang ika-8 sa 12 magkakapatid.  Ang pangalang niya sa binyag ay Alfred. Naulila siya noong siya ay 12 taong gulang at napilitang magtrabaho ng ibat-ibang uri subalit hindi siya naging matagumpay sa mga iyon. Mahina ang kalusugan ni Andres at dahil dito ay palagi siyang absent sa paaralan. Hindi siya naging magaling bumasa at sumulat at naging masakitin sa buo niyang buhay. 

15 taong gulang siya nang pumasok sa religious congregation na tinatawag na Congregation of the Holy Cross bilang isang brother, hindi upang maging pari. Muntik na siyang hindi matanggap bilang ganap na brother pero nakiusap noon ang obispo ng Montreal para sa kanyang religious profession (pamamanata) upang maging ganap na bahagi ng religious congregation na ito.

 Napaka-simple ng mga gawaing ibinigay sa kanya ng kanyang congregation. Naging taga-bantay siya ng pintuan ng College of Notre Dame sa Montreal. Naging dyanitor, infirmarian (tagapag-alaga ng maysakit na mga kasamahan niya), barbero, hardinero, at tagasindi ng ilaw pagdating ng gabi.  40 taon niya itong ginampanan na may kababaang-loob at katapatan.

May isang malakas na debosyon sa puso ni San Andres. Mahal na mahal niya si San Jose, ang ama-amahan ng ating  Panginoong Hesukristo at asawa ng Mahal na Birheng Maria.  Ibinahagi niya ang debosyong ito sa maraming tao na natulungan naman ni San Jose sa kanilang mga kahilingan. Si San Jose ay talagang isang makapangyarihang tagapagdasal natin sa Diyos lalo na sa mga pangangailangan ng araw-araw na kabuhayan.

Dahil kay San Andres, isang maliit na bisita o kapilya ang naitayo sa karangalan ni San Jose.  Nang lumaon, naging shrine o dambana ito at ngayon nga ay isa na itong minor basilica na dinadayo ng mga deboto mula sa buong daigdig.  Maaaring ito na ang pinaka-pangunahing dambana para sa debosyon kay San Jose sa buong mundo.

Naging full-time na tagapaglingkod si San Andres sa shrine ni San Jose kung saan napakaraming tao din ang lumapit sa kanya upang humingi ng kanyang dasal para sa kagalingan sa karamdaman at para makipag-usap sa kanya tungkol sa kanilang mga problema at humingi ng payo sa kanilang buhay-pananampalataya. Halos 8 hanggang 10 oras ang ginugol niya araw-araw para harapin ang kanyang mga panauhin. Taun-taon ay tumatanggap siya ng halos 80,000 na liham ng mga taong nais makipag-ugnayan sa kanya.

Sobra ang kababaang-loob ni San Andres. Sabi niya: “Ako ay isang mangmang lamang. Kung mayroon pang mas mangmang sa akin, tiyak na kukunin siya ng Diyos upang maging kahalili ko.” At kapag may gumaling dahil sa kanyang panalangin sinasabi niya: “Si San Jose ang nagpagaling sa kanya. Ako ay alagang aso lamang ni San Jose.”

Namatay si San Andres Bessette sa gulang na 91, na isang simpleng lingkod ng Diyos noong Enero 6, 1937 at halos isang milyong tao ang nagpunta sa kanyang burol at libing upang parangalan siya. Libo-libong mga tao ang kumilala na gumaling sila sa karamdaman dahil sa panalangin ni San Andres.


B. HAMON SA BUHAY


Tahimik, simple at maliit na tao lamang si San Andres Bessette pero ginamit siya ng Panginoon upang maging tulay sa debosyon kay San Jose at upang akitin sa Diyos ang maraming tao.  Hindi kailangang maging sikat, mayaman o makapangyarihan tayo para maging kasangkapan ng Diyos. hilingin natin sa Panginoon na maging simple ang ating puso at kaluluwa tulad ni San Andres Bessette.

Ngayong Bagong Taon, turuan nawa tayo ni San Andres na maging tunay ng mga anak ni San Jose.

K. KATAGA NG BUHAY

Mateo 1:20-21
Habang iniisip-isip niya ito, napakita sa kanya sa panaginip ang Anghel ng Panginoon at sinabi: Jose, anak ni David, huwag kang matakot na tanggapin si Maria bilang iyong asawa. Gawa ng Espiritu Santo kaya siya naglihi, at manganganak siya ng isang sanggol na lalaki, na pangangalanan mong Jesus sapagkat siya ang magliligtas sa kanyang sambayanan mula sa kanilang mga kasalanan.