Saturday, December 27, 2008

Feast of the Holy Family (B)

Sir 3:2-7, 12-14; Col 3:12-21; Lk 2:22-40

Today we celebrate the feast of the holy family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The Church invites us to look toward the holy family and to consider it as true model of family life. Fathers must try to emulate Joseph – God-fearing, just, responsible, protective, hardworking, and provider. Wives must be like Mary – prayerful, brave listener, actively involved, caring and motherly. Children must imitate Jesus – obedient, respectful, and filled with wisdom and grace. In the holy family, there is mutual respect and care for one another, something that every Christian family must try to emulate.

The readings remind us of the essentials of healthy family life. The Book of Sirach presents the ideal attitude that children must have toward their parents. The author tells us that life would be meaningful when children honor and respect their parents (3:2-7). Modern studies of the family and our own experiences would confirm this important insight of the Bible. When parents and elders are revered, there is peace and harmony in the family.

Parents have the important task of keeping their dignity and respectability in the eyes of their children. In his letter to the Colossians, St. Paul admonishes husbands and wives to love and respect one another (3:18-19). They need to provide good examples because they are their children’s first evangelizers of the gospel. It would be very difficult for a child to maintain honor and respect to parents who live immorally – such as adulterers, verbal abusers, alcoholics and drug addicts.

The gospel illustrates an important obligation that parents have towards their children. Joseph and Mary bring the baby Jesus to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord . . . and they offered a sacrifice as ordered in the law of the Lord (Lk 2:22-24). Children are gifts from above and parents have the task of bringing and dedicating them back to God. Parents are encouraged to plant the seed of the faith in the hearts of their children and to nurture it patiently. The time and effort that they spend for this endeavor can be the parents’ most valuable sacrificial offering to God.

St. Paul enumerates the virtues that come to life and are nurtured in the context of a loving family (Col 3:12). It is in the family that children first experience compassion and kindness and then bestow it on others. It is in the family that humility and meekness shape their gentle spirits, so that the same tenderness will be extended to others. It is in the family that they learn to bear with one another and to forgive one another. 

Parents need to reflect on this poem written by Denis Waitley.

Children learn what they live, children live what they learn

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn

If children live with tolerance, they learn to be patient

If children live with ridicule, they learn to be shy

If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence

If children live with security, they learn to have faith

If children live with fear, they grow up standing at the end of every line

If children live with praise, they learn to stand alone and lead their parade, even if it’s raining

If children are spoiled with indulgence and permissiveness, they grow up full of compromise and greed

If children are given challenges and responsibilities, they grow up with values and goals

If children live with depression, they’ll need a drink, a puff, a sniff, a shot, a pill to get them high

If children live with optimism, they’ll grow up thinking they were born to fly

If children live with hate, they’ll grow up blind to beauty and true love

If children live with love, they’ll live to give their love away and become blind to hate

If children are reminded of all the bad in them we see, they’ll become exactly what we hoped they’d never be

But if we tell our children “We’re so proud to wear your name, they’ll learn to win, believing they’ll achieve their highest aim

Because children learn what they live, and children live what they learn.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Day

Is 9:1-6; Ti 2:11-14; Lk 2:1-14

Today, allow me to share with you some short stories that would partly explain the meaning of Christmas.

A legend is told about an African boy called Emmanuel who was always asking questions. One day Emmanuel asked the question, “What language does God speak?” No one could answer him. He traveled all over his own country with the same question, but still did not receive an answer.

Eventually, Emmanuel set off in search of the answer on other continents. For a long time, he had no success. At last he came one night to a village called Bethlehem. Since there was no room in the local inns, he went outside the village in search of a shelter for the night. He came to a cave, and he saw that it was occupied by a couple and a child.

Emmanuel was about to turn away when the young mother spoke, “Welcome, Emmanuel, we’ve been expecting you.” The boy was amazed that the woman knew his name. He was even more amazed when she went on to say, “For a long time you have been searching the world over to find out what language God speaks. Well, now your journey is over. Tonight, you can see with your own eyes what language God speaks. He speaks the language of love, which is expressed in simplicity, sharing, love, understanding, mercy and total acceptance.” 

What is the story telling us? The story reminds us that Jesus, first of all, is the Language of God. The Word made flesh. Irrespective of race and tongue, we are capable of understanding God’s Revelation because of the person of Jesus. He is the fullness of Divine Revelation. Everything that Jesus did and said manifest fully God’s love for humanity. This reminder should put an end to other images that we have about God. Jesus is the final Word. He expresses God as gentle Father, as Good Shepherd, not a merciless judge or harsh king.

A boy of seven asks, “Daddy, where can I find God?” 

The father gently replies, “Go and fetch some water from our well. When you look down the well, you will see God. But be careful.”

The boy does exactly as he is told. He then returns and tells his father that he did not see God in the well. 

“What did you see?” the father asks. 

The boy replies that he saw only his reflection. 

And the father says, “Then you have seen God, for he lives in you.”

What is the message of the story? Because of Jesus, the “seeming” boundary between the Divine and humanity is gone. God the Father decides to be one with humankind thru His Son Jesus Christ, and He in the Spirit dwells in each one of us. The mystery of the Incarnation explains the words of Jesus: “Whenever two or three of you gather in my name, I am in their midst”; “Whatever you do to the least of these little ones, you did it to me”. This means that we are extensions of Jesus, parts of God’s Word. Through us, with us, in us, God expresses Himself and His love. 

Every person’s heart can contain God. If such is so, we must be very careful never to wound a person’s heart.

A little girl asks, “Mom, how does God look like?”

The mother struggles to find an answer to the question. “Well, God is good. He is very caring and loving. He is a good provider and is very protective.”

The little girl exclaims, “Now, I know how God looks like. He is like daddy.”

What is the meaning of the story? From the beginning, we are created in God’s image and likeness. Whenever we do something good for another, we make real the image of God in us. Why do some people have a hard time understanding a God who is full of love and compassion? It could be because of bad catechesis or wrong instruction. However, the reason could also be the absence of a loving figure in their lives. How can an individual develop an understanding of a merciful God if others around him are hateful, quick to judgment and slow to forgiveness? 

Once upon a time there was an old, pious, Jewish couple. Their greatest hope was to have a child so that their love could walk the earth. So they prayed hard. Lo and behold the woman conceived. She gave birth to a delightful little boy, whom they named Razik. The boy grew in age and wisdom until it was time for him to go to the synagogue and learn the Word of God.

The night before his studies began, his parents sat Razik down and told him how important the Word of God was. Without the Word of God, they said, Razik would be as a frail leaf shaken by powerful winds. He listened wide-eyed.

Yet the next day, Razik never arrived at the synagogue. Instead, he spent his time in the woods, swimming in the lakes, climbing trees. His parents, upon hearing this, were mortified. Filled with shame and concern, they called upon the best experts: behavior scientists, child psychologists, and psychoanalysts to help the boy; but to no avail. Razik did not go to the synagogue; he stayed in the woods, swimming, climbing trees. 

Finally, the great Rabbi visited the village and his parents said to themselves, “Perhaps the Great Rabbi can help us.” They took Razik to the Rabbi and told their problem. The Great Rabbi bellowed, “Leave the boy with me and I will have a talking with him.”

The terrified parents rushed out of the room, fearful for their son, alone with that lion of a man. But when they had left, the Rabbi simply beckoned to the boy. “Razik, come here.” Trembling, Razik came forward. And the great Rabbi simply picked him up and held him silently against his heart.

His parents came to take Razik home. The next day, Razik went to the synagogue to study the Word of God. And on his way home, he went once again to the woods. And, the Word of God became one with the Word of the woods which became one with the word of Razik.

And Razik himself grew up to become a great rabbi. People came to him who were seized with inner panic, and with him they found peace. People came to him who were without anybody and with him they often found communion. But Razik often said, “I first learned the Word of God when the great Rabbi held me silently against his heart.”

What is the important lesson of the story? The Language of God is passed on effectively when one generation holds the next generation to its heart. Some parents have a hard time with their children. Maybe the children are spending more time in the woods with their peers drinking alcohol or taking drugs. Or, the children are busy swimming and surfing on the internet, having little time for personal interactions with others in the house. Or, the children are busy climbing trees or aiming higher positions in places of work, forgetting God and the Church. Dear parents, please do not be discouraged. Whenever and wherever it is possible, hold your children silently to your heart. Whisper some advice but do not bombard them with endless sermons or hurtful words. Dear children, please forgive us if we have hurt you with our bad examples or unkind words. Remember that we love you and we only wish what is good for you. Because of our eagerness to lead you to the right path, we sometimes express ourselves forcefully. We just hope that you can extend more patience to us. And, most of all, that you allow us to keep you closely to our hearts.

Merry Christmas to all of you!

Friday, December 19, 2008

4th Sunday of Advent (B)

2 Sam 7:1-5; 8-12, 14, 16; Rom 16:25-27; Lk 1:26-38

5-year-old Olivia and her best friend Claire were participating in a nativity play at school. Claire was playing Mary, and Olivia was an angel. Before the show, a young boy was going around the dressing room repeating, “I’m a sheep, what are you?” Each child responded politely, including Olivia, who proudly declared she was an angel.

The boy then turned to Claire, still struggling into her costume with her mother’s help, and repeated the question to her: “I’m a sheep, what are you?” Claire simply said, “I’m Mary.”

Realizing he was face to face with a lead character, the boy felt he needed to justify his own role. “It’s hard being a sheep, you know,” he said with all the seriousness of a 5-year-old actor with a big part. 

Claire’s equally serious response was humorously profound. “Yes,” she said innocently, “but it’s also hard being a virgin, you know.”

(The story is told by Msgr. Dennis Clarke)

The gospel is an account of the Mystery of the Annunciation wherein the angel Gabriel declares unto Mary that she is to conceive the Son of God by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Annunciation is the fulfillment of God’s promise to king David that from his heirs will come the Savior of humankind.

The first thing that we notice about the Annunciation is the simplicity of the event: A messenger of God visiting a poor young woman in a small, hidden and silent place. Nobody sees it and there is no other who knows about it except Mary. And yet, this incident is the turning point of the history of salvation. Mary’s humble acceptance of the will of God leads to the Incarnation or the becoming human of God.

In the first reading, king David expresses his desire to build a huge, beautiful dwelling place for God. However, through the prophet Nathan, God declares: "It is not David who will build a house for Me; rather, I will build a house for David." The house that David has in mind is a building; but the house in God’s plan is the people who will unite in the name of Jesus His Son. David’s house is made of worldly materials; but the house of God is to be founded on the love of Christ.

As a whole, the liturgy reminds us of the true meaning of Christmas and helps us to celebrate it meaningfully today. Christmas is God’s revelation of His great love for humankind. God wishes to become one with His beloved creatures, and for this His Son is to be called “Emmanuel” (meaning, “God is with us”). A meaningful celebration of Christmas is achievable not through parties and the exchange of material gifts but by our humble acceptance of Jesus in our lives. Mary’s “Yes” has opened for us the gates of salvation. And in the same way, we are saved in Christ through our submission to the will of God.

Today’s worldwide ongoing economic crisis provides us with a unique opportunity to celebrate Christmas in the spirit of simplicity and generosity. Let us celebrate simply because God himself has shown us that genuine love does not depend on material things. And like Jesus, let us be giving of ourselves (time, talent and treasure) this Christmas so that the poor will also experience the love of God in us.

Ika-4 nga Domingo sa Adbiento (B)

2 Sam 7:1-5; 8-12, 14, 16; Rom 16:25-27; Lk 1:26-38

Ang ebanghelyo nagsaysay kanato sa Misteryo sa Pagpahibalo sa anghel kang Maria mahitungod sa iyang pagsabak sa Anak sa Dios pinaagi sa Balaang Espiritu. Ang maong hitabo mao ang katumanan sa gisaad sa Dios kang hari David nga gikan sa iyang kaliwatan mahimugso ang Hari ug Manluluwas sa tanan.

Ang una natong mahinungan sa Misteryo sa Pagpahibalo mao ang pagka-ordinaryo sa maong hitabo: Usa ka mensahero sa Dios miduaw sa usa ka pobre nga batan-ong babae diha sa gamay ug hilum nga lugar. Walay nakakita niini ug walay laing nakadungog sa mensahe gawas kang Maria. Apan, kining maong hitabo maoy nahimong sinugdanan sa kasaysayan sa kaluwasan sa tibuok kalibutan. Ang mapaubsanong pagdawat ni Maria sa kabubut-on sa Dios mao ang punto sa pagkatawo ni Hesus nga atong Manluluwas.

Diha sa unang pagbasa, si hari David nagpadayag sa iyang plano sa paghimo og dako, nindot nga balay para sa Ginoo. Apan, pinaagi ni propeta Nathan, gipadayag sa Dios ang Iyang kabubut-on: "Dili si David ang maghimo og balay para Kanako. Hinunoa, Ako maoy maghimo og balay para kang David." Ang balay nga gihunahuna ni David para sa Ginoo usa ka dako nga edipisyo; apan ang balay nga giplano sa Dios para kang David usa ka katawhan nga magkahiusa pinaagi ug uban sa Iyang Anak nga si Hesus. Ang balay ni David hinimo sa kalibutanong mga butang; apan ang balay sa Dios mubarog tungod sa gugma ni Hesus.

Kining mga pagbasa magpahinumdum kanato sa tinuod nga kahulugan sa pasko ug magtabang kanato nga musaulog niini nga makahuluganon. Ang Pasko mao ang pagpadayag sa Dios sa Iyang dakong gugma kanato. Gusto niya nga Siya mahiusa uban kanato, ug tungod niini ang Iyang anak gitawag og "Emmanuel" (nga nagpasabut og “Ang Dios nahiusa kanato”). Ang makahuluganong pagsaulog sa Pasko dili makab-ot pinaagi sa mga materyal nga butang kondili diha sa atong pagdawat ni Hesus sa atong kinabuhi. Sama nga ang mapaubsanong “Oo” ni Maria maoy nag-abli sa kaluwasan sa kalibutan, ang ato usab nga pagsanong sa kabubut-on sa Dios maoy magdala kanato sa kaluwasang dayon.

Ang nagpadayon nga “economic crisis” sa kalibutan karon naghatag kanato og dakong opurtunidad sa pagsaulog sa pasko uban sa espiritu sa kasimple ug kamanggihatagon. Magpaka-simple kita tungod kay ang tinuod ug Diosnon nga gugma wala magdepende sa materyal nga mga butang. Ug magmanggihatagon kita tungod kay ang Dios mismo naghatag sa Iyang kaugalingon aron ang mga kabos makasinati sa kinabuhing madagayaon.

Friday, December 12, 2008

3rd Sunday of Advent (B)

Is 61:1-2, 10-11; 1 Thes 5:16-24; Jn 1:6-8, 19-28

The Mass of the third Sunday of advent begins with this antiphon: Gaudete in Domine semper! (Rejoice in the Lord always!). Traditionally, we call this day “Gaudete Sunday” or “Sunday of Rejoicing” in order to encourage people to remain enthusiastic in waiting for the Lord’s coming.

During advent, the priest wears purple or violet vestments to signify that this is a time for repentance. Yet, during the third Sunday of advent, the priest uses “rose vestments” in order to show that in their sorrow and regret, penitents remain peaceful and hopeful because the time of salvation is very near. The first reading tells us that we are to rejoice because the Mesiah will come to set us free from all bondages, physical and spiritual.

The gospel presents to us John the Baptist who bears witness to Jesus, the light of the world. The coming of the Lord calls for joy because he will remove darkness from the world and will enlighten those who chose to follow Him.

As Christmas draws near, the Church calls us to become like John and to bear witness to Jesus, the light of the world. Let us reflect his light in our lives so that we may illuminate the lives of people around us. How are we going to do this? Saint Paul, in the second reading, has some proposals:

“Rejoice always.” We can attract people to Christ only if they see us happy. Our joy is a product of a peaceful heart, not of material possessions and worldly honors. Genuine Christians remain positive and hopeful even in the face of trials and difficulties because they are confident in God’s help and protection.

“Pray unceasingly and give thanks to God in every moment.” In praying regularly, we show people that without Christ we are good as nothing. All life and happiness come from God. We remain grateful because everything is grace, including our talents and abilities. Because all that we have are from God, we should not hesitate to share our gifts with those who have less in life. “We receive without cost, without cost we should give.”

“Choose and do what is good; avoid evil.” Saint Paul challenges us to live righteously in the family, in school, in work, in business, and even in recreation. Let us be fair and generous with others. Every time we do this, people would see Christ in us and we become credible witnesses of the gospel.

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta gave us this prayer:

Dear Jesus, help us to spread your fragrance everywhere we go. Flood our souls with your spirit and life. Penetrate and possess our whole being so utterly that our lives may only be a radiance of yours.

Shine through us and be so in us that every soul we come in contact with may feel your presence in our soul. Let them look and see no longer us but only Jesus.

Stay with us and then we shall begin to shine as you shine, to shine as to be light to others. The light, O Jesus, will be all from you. None of it will be ours. It will be you shining on others through us.

Let us thus praise you in the way you love best by shining on those around us.

Let us preach you without preaching, not by words, but by our example, by the catching force, the sympathetic influence of what we do, and the evident fullness of the love our hearts bear to you. Amen.

Ika-3 nga Domingo sa Adbiento (B)

Is 61:1-2, 10-11; 1 Thes 5:16-24; Jn 1:6-8, 19-28

Ang santos nga Misa sa ikatulo nga Domingo sa adbiento pagasugdan niining pasiunang mga pulong: Gaudete in Domine semper! (Paglipay sa kanunay diha sa Dios!). Ang tradisyon nagtawag niining adlawa og “Gaudete Sunday” o “Domingo sa Kalipay” aron agnihon ang katawhan nga magpabiling malipayon sa ilang pagpaabut sa Dios.

Sa adbiento, ang pari magsul-ob og violet vestments agi og pagpakita nga kini ang panahon sa paghinulsol. Apan niining ikatulo nga Domingo sa adbiento, ang pari magsul-ob og “rose vestments” aron sa pagpadayag nga diha sa paghinulsol ang mga tawo angay nga magpabiling mahinangpon tungod kay nagkaduol na ang kaluwasan nga gidala sa Dios. Ang unang pagbasa nagsulti kanato nga angay kitang maglipay tungod kay ang Mesiyas muabut aron sa pagluwas kanato sa daghang matang nga pagkabilanggo, lawasnon ug espirituhanon.

Ang Ebanghelyo nagpaila kanato kang San Juan nga maoy naghatag og testimonya kang Hesus, ang kahayag sa kalibutan. Ang pag-abut ni Hesus maoy panahon sa dakong kalipay tungod kay wagtangon niya ang kangitngit sa kalibutan ug lamdagan niya ang kinabuhi sa tanan nga mosunod ug motoo kaniya.

Niining nagkaduol nga mga adlaw sa Pasko, kita gidapit sa Simbahan nga mahisama ni Juan Bautista nga maghatag og pagmatuod ni Kristo, ang kahayag sa kalibutan. Diha sa atong tagsatagsa ka kinabuhi, atong ipadan-ag ang kahayag ni Kristo aron nga malamdagan ang mga tawo sa atong palibot. Unsaon man? Diha sa ikaduhang pagbasa, si San Pablo nagtudlo kanato og pipila ka pamaagi:

“Pagmaya kanunay.” Para kang San Pablo, madani nato ang mga tawo ngadto kang Kristo kon kita kanunay nga malipayon. Kining maong kalipay bunga sa malinawon nga kasingkasing, dili sa bahandi ug materyal nga mga butang. Ang tinuod nga Kristiyano magpabilin nga mahinangpon bisan pag hadlaon siya sa mga problema ug pagsulay sa kinabuhi tungod kay masaligon man siya sa panabang sa Ginoo.

“Pag-ampo ug pasalamat sa Dios sa tanang panahon.” Diha sa makanunayong pag-ampo, mapakita nato sa mga tawo ang atong pagtoo nga kon wala si Kristo wala kitay mahimo. Ang tanang kinabuhi ug mga butang iya sa Dios. Magmapasalamaton kita sa kanunay tungod kay grasya man ang tanan, apil ang atong mga abilidad ug talento. Tungod kay grasya man ang tanan, dili kita angay magpanuko sa pagpaambit sa atong kaayohan ngadto sa uban nga may panginahanglan.

“Pilia ang maayo ug likayi ang daotan.” Si San Pablo naghagit kanato nga magpuyo og matarong nga kinabuhi. Sa pamilya, sa pag-eskuyla, sa trabaho, sa negosyo, ug sa pagdula, angay kita nga magmaki-angayon sa tanan. Likayan nato ang pagpamintaha ug pag-abuso sa atong mga kauban. Kon mahimo nato kini, makita sa mga tawo ang Ginoo nga atong gisunod ug mahatagan og kredibilidad ang pagtoo nga atong gihuptan.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Feast of the Immaculate Conception (B)

Gn 3:9-15, 20; Eph 1:3-6, 11-12; Lk 1:26-38

The Church defined as a dogma of Faith that from the first moment of her conception in the womb of her mother Anne, Mary was preserved from Original Sin. Every human being is infected with original sin from birth, but Mary was preserved from that because God prepared her to be the mother of His begotten Son, Jesus.

What does the feast of the Immaculate Conception tell us today?

Importantly, the feast reminds us that sin is ugly and the grace of God is beautiful. Our first reading describes to us the ugliness of sin – there is shame, guilt and anxiety. We need to realize that Adam and Eve’s experience is our experience, too.

When Adam and Eve had eaten of the fruit from the forbidden tree they went into hiding. They were afraid and embarrassed. Is this not our own experience when we sinned? When we do something bad, we feel nervous and scared. That’s the ugliness of sin.

When God was looking for his beloved creatures, Adam answered from his hideout, “I am here but I am afraid, because I am naked.” When we do something wrong, we lose our face. We see our nakedness. That’s the ugliness of sin.

When God said, “Have you eaten from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat?” the man replied, “Don’t blame me; blame that woman you gave me.” And Eve said, “Don’t blame me; blame that snake in the grass.” This is the ugliness of sin – we become proud, we become self-righteous. When we sin, we often make excuses and we tend to pass the blame on others. We develop the bad habit of “passing the buck.”

On the other hand, the second reading and the gospel tell us that the grace of God is beautiful. In the second reading we hear: God has chosen us to be his children. Is there anything more beautiful than to be called a child of God? God promised that he will not abandon us. God will save us in Jesus. We will be victorious over sin because Christ has blessed us with every spiritual blessing. Christ has chosen us in him, even before the foundations of the world, to be holy and blameless in his sight.

The gospel is a beautiful story of an ordinary woman highly favored by God. The story of Mary was one of peace, love and intimacy. There was the assuring presence of the angel, “Fear not Mary.” There was the greeting of peace, “Hail O favored one!” There was a gracious act of humility, “I am the servant of the Lord, be it done to me as you say.” The grace of peace, love, intimacy and humility is always beautiful.

Sin is ugly; the grace of God is beautiful. The problem with the world today is that it is preaching the other way around. What is ugly, the world makes beautiful; and what is beautiful, the world makes ugly. The feast of the Immaculate Conception makes it clear to us that sin is always ugly and the grace of God is always beautiful. There is no beauty in pornography because this would lead to more rapes, incestuous unions and sexual abuse of children. There is no beauty in sex outside the context of love and marriage because this would transform persons into mere objects of pleasure and sexual desires. There is no beauty in drugs because this would lead to killings and crimes of violent nature.

May the Blessed Mother make us appreciate more the beauty of a pure heart, a simple lifestyle and a humble service! All of us are sinners, but the blessed Mother will continue to console and inspire us to stand up after every fall. Sometimes we fall to discouragement because of constant sinning, but Mary will always be there to remind us that indeed we are predestined by Christ to be holy and blameless in His sight.  

Saturday, December 6, 2008

2nd Sunday of Advent (B)

Is 40:1-5, 9-11; 2 Pt 3:8-14; Mk 1:1-8

The gospel of Mark begins with an introduction about John the Baptist, the one to prepare the way of the Savior, as foretold by the prophet Isaiah: “I am sending you my messenger ahead of you to prepare your way. Let the people hear the voice calling in the desert: Prepare the way of the Lord, level His paths” (Is 40:3).

John preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. He established his credibility by living a simple, prayerful life in the desert. “John was clothed in camel’s hair and wore a leather jacket. His food was locusts and honey” (Mk 1:6). There was nothing extravagant in this man. Moreover, John the Baptist was a humble servant of God. He had neither illusions nor delusions as to his real identity. He was fully aware that he was just a voice crying out in the desert and that someone more powerful was to come after him.

During the season of Advent, the Church reechoes John’s call of repentance to all of us. We need to turn away from sin and straighten out our life. The Church wishes us readiness and a clear conscience as we await the coming of the Lord. St. Peter, in the second reading, reminds us: The Lord gives us time to prepare “because he does not want anyone to perish, but that all may come to conversion”. Confession and a genuine resolve to avoid occasions of sin will surely prepare us to celebrate meaningfully the Christmas Season.

The simplicity of John’s life should inspire us to put material possessions in their rightful place. We will use them only when they serve our needs and the needs of the poor. We will aspire for them only when they make us healthier and holier. But when material possessions start to disturb our relationship with God, with others and with creation, we must lose no time to detach ourselves from them. All things will vanish and they are not worth our tears as we wait for the day of the Lord’s coming (2 Pt 3:11).

If material possessions are starting to bother us now, why don’t we dispose some of them to benefit the poor and the less fortunate? This generous act would mean so much to us and to others as we approach the day of the Lord’s birth.

There was once a poor shoemaker who was always in a good mood. He was so happy that he sang from morning to night. There were always children standing at his window and listening to him sing.

Next door to him lived a very rich man. He spent entire nights counting his money, and then went to bed in the morning. But he could not sleep because of the shoemaker’s singing. One day he figured out how he could keep the shoemaker from singing.

So he invited the shoemaker to come over and see him. He did. To his great surprise, the rich man gave him a little bag filled with gold coins. Never in his life had he ever seen so much money. He counted it all out carefully, and the children watched him. It was so much that the shoemaker was afraid to let it out of sight and so he took it along to bed at night. But even there he kept thinking about the money and could not sleep.

So then he got up and took the bag of money up to the attic. But on second thought he was afraid it was not safe there. So the next morning he brought the money downstairs again.

He then thought of hiding it in the fireplace. “But I’ll just put it in the chicken coop. No one would look for it there,” he decided.

But he was still nervous about the money and so he dug a deep hole in the garden and hid it there. He was so preoccupied with the money that he never got back to making shoes. Nor could he sing anymore. He was so worried that he could not produce a single note. And worst of all, the children did not come around to visit him any longer.

Finally the shoemaker was so unhappy that he dug up the money and hurried back to his neighbor with it. “Please take this money back,” he said. “Worry about it has made me sick, and even my friends do not come to see me anymore I would rather be a shoemaker, like I was.”

Soon the shoemaker was again as happy and contented as before and he sang and worked the whole day.

(The story is from 1000 Stories You Can Use by Frank Mihalic, SVD)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Ika-2 nga Domingo sa Adbiento (B)

IIs 40:1-5, 9-11; 2 Pet 3:8-14; Mk 1:1-8

Naabtan sa pari ang managtiayon nga naglalis. “Unsa may gikabiklan ninyong duha?” nangutana ang pari. “Nagdebate mi padre kon unsay among ingalan ning among anak nga pabunyagan,” mitubag ang bana. “Kay unsa man diay gusto nimo nga ingalan sa imong anak?” pangutana sa pari. “Juan padre”, tubag sa bana. Unya, milingi ang pari sa asawa ug nangutana, “Ikaw, unsa man diay imong gusto?” “Juan pud padre”, tubag sa asawa. “Nan, nganong gaaway pa man mo nga parehas ra man diay mo og gusto?” Ug mipasabut ang asawa: “Ang akong Juan padre pangalan sa akong tatay nga pwerte kabuotan, responsable nga amahan ug diosnon pa gyud. Pero kanang iyang Juan pangalan sa iyang amahan nga pwerte ka parahubog, himabaye ug sugarol.” Ug mapahiyumon ang pari nga miingon: “Na hala, ayaw na kamo paglalis. Panahon ray maghukom kon unsa unya nga matang nga Juan ang inyong anak. Apan, mahinungdanon kaayo nga tabangan ninyo kining bata nga makatultol sa dalan padulong sa Dios aron siya mabuotan ug masantos.”

Si Juan Bautista adunay dakong papel sa kinabuhi ug misyon ni Kristo. Sa iyang pagka-propeta, siya nagsangyaw sa nagkaduol nga pag-abut sa Mesiyas. Giandam niya ang mga tawo sa pagdawat sa Dios nga Manluluwas. Siya mao ang tingog nga nagagikan sa kamingawan: “Andama ninyo ang dalan sa Ginoo; pataga ninyo ang Iyang agianan”.

Sama kang Juan Bautista kita adunay importante nga papel niining panahon sa adbiento. Labaw sa tanan, makatabang kita sa ubang tawo sa pag-andam sa ilang kaugalingon sa pagdawat sa Ginoo. Ato kining mahimo diha sa atong pagpasaylo sa mga tawo nga nakasala kanato, o sa pagpangayo og pasaylo kanila nga nasuko kanato. Makatabang usab kita pinaagi sa pag-agni sa uban nga magpinasaylo-ay sa usag-usa. Ang pasko mahimo lamang makahuloganon kon adunay paghiniuliay sa maayong kabubut-on. Dugang pa niini, matabangan nato ang uban nga makasinati sa presensya sa Dios niining umaabut nga pasko pinaagi sa pagtunol sa atong mga kamot aron pagtabang, o sa pagpaambit sa mga kaayohan nga anaa kanato ngadto sa mga kabos ug nanginahanglan.

Apan sa dili pa nato mabuhat ang papel ni Juan Bautista, aduna kitay angay nga buhaton o puy-an. Una, kinahanglan aduna kitay kinabuhi sa pag-ampo. Si Juan gagahin og panahon nga muadto sa kamingawan aron makig-estorya sa Ginoo. Sa Balaang Kasulatan, ang desierto mao ang lugar diin ang tawo makighinabi o makighiusa sa Dios. Didto sa desierto nasinati sa katawhan sa Israel ang Ginoo ug didto usab nakat-onan nila ang Iyang mga pamaagi. Karon, ang desierto pwede natong isipon nga usa ka dapit diin atong mabati ug mahinabi ang Dios. Aron masabtan nato ang kabubut-on sa Dios para sa atong kinabuhi, angay kitang mogahin og panahon para maghilom ug mamalandong. Kon kanunay kitang “busy” o mahadlok sa kahilom, walay puruhan nga makat-onan nato ang mga pamaagi sa Ginoo.

Dugang pa niini, angay natong ipakita diha sa atong kinabuhi nga ang Dios maoy labing importante sa tanan. Sa iyang kinabuhi, gipakita ni Juan Bautista nga ang tinuod nga kalipay dili makab-ot diha sa mga materyal nga butang kondili diha sa atong maayo nga relasyon uban sa Ginoo. Ang ebanghelyo nagpakita kanato sa kaordinaryo sa kinabuhi ni Juan: Ang iyang bisti ginama sa buhok sa kamelyo; nagsul-ob siya og sininang panit sa iyang hawak; unya, dugon ug dugos lamang ang iyang pagkaon. Tungod sa kasimple sa pamuyo ni Juan, nahatagan niya og igong panahon ang Ginoo. Kini unta ang ehemplo ang angay natong sundon. Sa atong kinabuhi, dili nato tugutan nga maghari ang materyal nga mga butang ug mapulihan ang lugar sa Dios. Kay kon ang kasingkasing sa tawo puno sa kalibutanong kailibgon, dili na kini masudlan ni bisan kinsa, bisan gani ang Ginoo.