Saturday, November 30, 2013

1st Sunday of Advent (Year A)

Is 2:1-5; Rom 13:11-14; Mt 24:37- 44

Karon mao ang unang adlaw sa Liturhikanhong Kalendaryo sa Simbahan. Daghang mga tawo ang wala masayud nga kita gasunod og laing kalendaryo para sa atong kinabuhing Kristohanon. Ang kalendaryo sa kalibutan gimugna sa lain-laing panahon sama sa panahon sa ting-init, ting-ulan ug ting-tugnaw. Sa susamang paagi, ang liturhikanhong kalendaryo aduna usay lain-laing panahon sama sa adbiyento, kwaresma, pagkabanhaw, ug uban pa. Dinhi sa kalendaryo sa Simbahan, ang matag panahon adunay kalambigitan sa mga misterio sa kinabuhi ni Kristo. Gituyo kini aron nga ang atong inadlaw-adlaw nga kinabuhi mahisubay gayud sa kinabuhi sa Diyos.
Ang unang bahin sa Liturhikanhong Kalendaryo mao ang panahon sa Adbiyento, nga atong gisugdan karong Domingoha. Ang pulong “adbiyento” nagagikan sa Latin nga adventus nga nagpasabut og “pag-abut”. Gigamit nato kining maong pulong aron itawag sa panahon kanus-a atong gipaabut ang Ginoo nga Manluluwas. Upat kini ka Domingo padulong sa Pasko sa Pagkatawo ni Kristo ug gisimbolohan sa upat ka kandila sa Advent Wreath. Ang dakong tema sa Adbiyento mao ang “pagpaabot ug pagbantay”. Kitang tanan gihagit nga magpabiling mabinantayon o mag-andam kanunay alang sa klase-klaseng pag-abut sa Ginoo sa atong kinabuhi.
Una sa tanan, ang mga semana sa Adbiyento maoy panahon sa pag-andam para sa adlaw sa Pasko, kanus-a atong handumon ang pagpakatawo sa Ginoo. Ato kining saulogon uban sa kasingkasing nga mapasalamaton tungod kay dinhi atong mabati nga kita gihigugma pag-ayo sa Dios. Ang Ginoo nagpakatawo ug nahisama kanato uban sa tuyo nga kita mahisama kaniya. Ang Dios maoy mihimo og lakang aron kita mahiuli ug mahiusa Kaniya. Ang liturhikanhon nga kolor sa Adbiyento mao ang violet o purple nga magpakita nga kini usa ka panahon sa paghinolsol. Aron mahimong makahuluganon ang pasko, angay kita nga magbag-o sa kinabuhi, magbasol sa mga sala ug maghini-uliay sa maayong pagtinagdanay.
Ikaduha, ang Adbiyento nagdasig kanato nga magbantay sa pagduaw sa Ginoo sa inadlaw-adlaw natong kinabuhi. Sa mosunod nga Domingo sa Adbiyento, ang ebanghelyo magsaysay mahitungod ni San Juan Bautista nga maoy magpaila kang Cristo, ang Dios nga anaa nakig-uban sa mga tawo. Kaniadto, si Jesus nagpuyo taliwala sa mga tawo, apan pipila lang ang nakabantay kaniya. Karon, Siya ania gihapon sa atong taliwala pinaagi sa Espiritu Santo, apan pipila lang ang naghatag og bili sa iyang pagpakig-uban kanato. Ang Adbiyento nagdapit kanato sa paghatag og pagtagad sa presensya ni Cristo sa atong kinabuhi. Siya atong ikahibalag sa Santos nga Misa, sa Kristohanong katilingban, ug sa matag tawo nga nanginahanglan og tabang.
Ug sa katapusan, ang Adbiyento nagpahinumdum kanato nga mangandam alang sa atong umaabut nga pag-atubang sa Ginoo. Kini mahitabo sa adlaw sa pagbalik ni Cristo sa katapusan sa panahon nga mao usab ang adlaw sa paghukom. Ang ebanghelyo nagpahimangno kanato nga ang “Anak sa Tawo” moabut sa takna nga wala damha, sama sa dakong lunop nga nahitabo panahon ni Noe. Miabut ang lunop samtang ang mga tawo nangaon, nanginum ug nagminyoay. Nga sa ato pa, wala gyuy timailhan nga nakapaandam kanila nga maglunop na. Ingon usab kuno niini ang mahitabo sa adlaw sa pagbalik ni Cristo. Walay “last call” or “warning signs”. Busa, ang hagit sa Simbahan mao kini: Pagmata kanunay! Ayaw pagpiyong-piyong! Pagpabiling mabinantayon!   Adunay nag-ingon: “Ang tawo nga mapakyas sa pagpangandam tabla ra nga nangandam sa iyang kapakyasan.”
Unsaon man nato nga magpabiling mabinantayon sa pag-abut sa Ginoo? Diha sa ikaduhang pagbasa, Si San Pablo naghatag og practical advice: Pagpuyo kamo kanunay isip mga anak sa kahayag ug likayi ang tanang buhat nga salawayon. Gipasabut ni Pablo nga angay kitang manginabuhi nga maligdong ug likayan ang daotang mga buhat sama sa paghuboghubog, pagpangaway, pagdinaotay, kasina, ug uban pa.
Ang panahon sa Adbiento usa ka maayong pahinumdum nga ang matag adlaw sa atong kinabuhi atong gayong gamiton sa pagpangandam sa atong pakigkita sa Ginoo. Manglimpiyo ta kada adlaw (dili kada semana, dili kada bulan) aron sa tanang panahon andam kita sa pagpakig-uban sa Ginoo!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

Wis 11:22-12:2; 2 Thes 1:11-2:2; Lk 19:1-10

It is quite ironic that the name Zacchaeus in Hebrew means one who is just or clean. Before he met Jesus, the Zacchaeus that we know in the gospel had no moral integrity. He was a chief tax collector who enriched himself through anomalous means.

Zacchaeus belonged to the higher echelon of society. Yet, he was unhappy for he had chosen a life that made him an outcast, an enemy of his own people. During the time of Jesus, tax collectors were employed by the pagan Roman occupiers and, ordinarily, they made money through the large interests that they imposed on the working people.  It was understandable that the Jews would look at tax collectors with disgust and anger.

The gospel tells us that Zacchaeus was seeking to see Jesus whom he heard would pass their place that day. Perhaps he was one of those people whose hearts were restless in search of something genuine and meaningful. He might have realized that wealth could not satisfy him or make him happy. Providentially, the Spirit was silently leading Zacchaeus to Jesus.

It was not easy for Zacchaeus to see Jesus. We are told that the crowd was blocking his sight because he was small in stature. Perhaps, this was the gospel’s way of expressing the awkwardness of Zacchaeus to join the crowd in welcoming Jesus given his bad public reputation. To solve his dilemma, Zacchaeus climbed up a tree which did not only make him see the Lord but also made Jesus find him.

The conversion of Zacchaeus was initiated by Jesus who invited him to come down from a high, embarrassing position. Commentators would interpret it as an invitation for Zacchaeus to leave his place of corrupted power and dishonest wealth. In a way, the Lord called him to come down to earth, to enter into contact with reality, with the people whose poverty he had taken advantage of.

Zacchaeus responded beautifully well: “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.” Notice how Zacchaeus suddenly recognized the poor and how he desired to make good reparations. Bible scholars tell us that Jewish Law ruled that if voluntary confession was made and voluntary restitution offered, only the value of the original goods stolen had to be paid, plus one-fifth (Lev 6:5). Zacchaeus manifested his sincerity by intending to give back more than what the law demanded.

A writer recalled how a rich young man failed to become a disciple of Jesus despite living a clean life. Zacchaeus led an immoral life but received salvation because he was willing to leave everything for Jesus, something that the young man refused to do.

The conversion-experience of Zacchaeus inspires us to do at least three things:

First is to find peace with our Creator. St. Augustine reminded us that we are made for God and our hearts are restless until they rest in Him. Zacchaeus knew this by experience. He found real joy only when he received the Lord Jesus in his life. May we likewise find our way to meet Jesus who also is constantly seeking for us.

Second is to acknowledge humbly our faults and ask for mercy and forgiveness. Sometimes we like to blame others for our wrongdoings. Other times we minimize the gravity of our sins or justify them with trivial excuses. Let us emulate the example of Zacchaeus who confessed his crime, accepted responsibility and showed remorse in the presence of Jesus. Saint Augustine once said: “The confession of evil works is the first beginning of good works.”

And third is to make sincere reparations for whatever injuries we have committed against others. Most of our sins have social implications. We offend others by taking advantage of their miserable situations, or by taking something that rightfully belongs to others, or by destroying another person’s name. We also harm others by living scandalously or by giving bad examples. If conditions would allow it, let us try to restore whatever damage we caused in other people’s lives.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

Sir 35:15-17, 20-22; 2 Tim 4:6-8, 16-18; Lk 18:9-14

In order to give a lesson to the self-righteous, Jesus narrates the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.

The Pharisee is a devout observer of the Law. He commits himself to a life of regular prayer, tithing and fasting. We might think that with these religious practices, the Pharisee would easily please God. Yet, according to the parable, the Lord criticizes the Pharisee because in his prayer he shows some kind of arrogance and self-righteousness. This is what the Pharisee says: “O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity – greedy, dishonest, adulterous – or even like this tax collector.” Obviously, the Pharisee recognizes the moral frailties of others but not his own human weaknesses. He behaves like he is a perfect individual, incapable of sinning.

In his letter to the Romans, Saint Paul reminds us that all have sinned, no one is exempted (3:22b-23a). Hence, God offers mercy to all of humanity through his Son Jesus Christ. The Pharisee is wrong when he separates himself from his fellow sinners. Because of this, he no longer feels the need to ask for God’s mercy and forgiveness.

The tax collector is regarded as someone with no moral integrity by virtue of his employment. By working for the pagan Roman occupiers, he and other publicans are considered traitors and sinners. Surprisingly, however, the Lord praises the tax collector for praying with all sincerity and humility. The parable says that he continues to beat his breast and prays: “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.” His humility to accept his unworthiness and sinfulness leads him to beg for God’s mercy. And for this, the tax collector goes home justified.

The story is told that one day Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, visited a prison and talked with each of the inmates. There were endless tales of innocence, of misunderstood motives, and of exploitation. Finally the king stopped at the cell of a convict who remained silent. “Well,” remarked Frederick, “I suppose you are an innocent victim too?” “No, sir, I’m not,” replied the man. “I’m guilty and deserve my punishment.” Turning to the warden, the king said, “Here, release this rascal before he corrupts all these fine innocent people here!”

(The story is from Throw Fire by John Fuellenbach)

What do we learn from today’s gospel?

First of all, we are taught that the virtue of humility is an important foundation of prayer. Like the tax collector in the parable, we need to approach God with a humble heart.  Jesus says that “the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” The first reading affirms by saying that “the prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds; it does not rest till it reaches its goal” (Sir 35:17)

Second, we are inspired to recognize our wounded nature and our sinfulness. Like the tax collector, let us entrust ourselves to the immeasurable mercy of God which is definitely greater than any sin we might have committed.

And finally, we are reminded not to look down on our fellow sinners who also need God’s mercy and forgiveness. Let us not follow the example of the Pharisee in the story whose arrogance goes to the extent of criticizing another worshipper at the temple. Instead, may we learn to support one another in our battle against all forces of evil and to pray for the salvation of all!

A voyaging ship was wrecked during a storm at sea and only two of the men on it were able to swim to a small, desert like island. Not knowing what else to do, the two survivors agree that they had no other recourse but to pray to God.

However, to find out whose prayer was more powerful, they agreed to divide the territory between them and stay on opposite sides of the island.

The first thing they prayed for was food. The next morning, the first man saw a fruit-bearing tree on his side of the land, and he was able to eat its fruit. The other man’s parcel of land remained barren.

After a week, the first man was lonely and he decided to pray for a wife. The next day, there was a woman who swam to his side of the land. On the other side of the island, there was nothing.

Soon the first man prayed for a house, clothes, more food. The next day, like magic, all of these were given to him. However, the second man still had nothing.

Finally, the first man prayed for a ship, so that he and his wife could leave the island. In the morning, he found a ship docked at his side of the island. The first man boarded the ship with his wife and decided to leave the second man on the island. He considered the other man unworthy to receive God's blessings, since none of his prayers had been answered.

As the ship was about to leave, the first man heard a voice from heaven booming, “Why are you leaving your companion on the island?”

“My blessings are mine alone, since I was the one who prayed for them," the first man answered. "His prayers were all unanswered and so he does not deserve anything.”

“You are mistaken!” the voice rebuked him. “He had only one prayer, which I answered. If not for that, you would not have received any of my blessings.”

“Tell me,” the first man asked the voice, “what did he pray for that I should owe him anything?”

“He prayed that all your prayers be answered.”

(The story is from an unknown author)

Friday, October 11, 2013

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

2 Kgs 5:14-17; 2 Tim 2:8-13; Lk 17:11-19

A little girl was going to a party and her mother told her to be a good girl and to remember, when she was leaving, to thank her hostess. When she arrived home the mother asked if she had thanked her hostess and the little girl replied: “No, the girl in front of me did and the lady said, ‘Don’t mention it’ – so I didn’t!” (The story is from More Quotes and Anecdotes by Anthony P. Castle)
As little children, we were taught by our parents to say “Thank you” every time we receive a gift or something good from others. And yet, from time to time, we still find ourselves failing to thank those who have helped us in some way or another. Sometimes, we even forget to thank God who is the source of all goodness and blessings.
“Thank you” is the language of a grateful person. The readings give us two examples of people who have possessed or developed a thankful heart. The Second Book of Kings tells us how Naaman, a Syrian general, tried to express his deep gratitude to the prophet Elisha for making possible his cure from leprosy. In like manner, the gospel of Luke narrates how a Samaritan came back to thank Jesus after being healed from his leprosy. Actually, there were ten lepers who received healing, but only one cared to return and give thanks to Jesus. Realizing this, the Lord asked: “Were not all ten made clean? The other nine, where are they?” The gospel suggests that God would like us to show gratitude whenever we receive a gift or a blessing, be it from him or from others. Let us not be like the nine lepers who, after being healed, ran away and forgot the source of their blessing.
Somebody made up the following story:
The Lord was walking around heaven when he noticed one room full of busy angels. They were busy answering the phones.
“What is keeping you occupied here?” The Lord asked.
An angel replied, “Lord, this is the Office of Requests and Demands. Here, we are receiving thousands of calls per second from earth. People are asking countless things, many of which are not really essential.”
The Lord simply smiled as he moved to walk to another corner on the streets. Then he came to another room full of angels who were sleeping on the job.
“Are you not supposed to be working at this time of the day,” the Lord demanded.
An angel replied, “Lord, this is the Acknowledgment Office. We don’t receive a lot of calls from earth here. In fact, very few would call to give you thanks. So, what else can we do but sleep?”(The story is from unknown author)
Some people are not grateful because they take for granted the many blessings that are given to them everyday. Fresh air, clean water, food, health, education, children and friends are just few of God’s blessings that make this world habitable and that make our life meaningful. Others do not find the need to say “Thank You” because they consider their achievements as their own doing only. They believe they can succeed without the help of God or of others.
In contrast, grateful people are those who appreciate every little thing that makes their life easier, or every person that makes their life worth living, or every opportunity that opens a window to success. Moreover, thankful people are those who recognize their dependence on others, particularly on the goodness of God. They know that life becomes beautiful only when it is lived in an endless cycle of generous giving and grateful receiving.
Today, we are reminded that saying “Thank You” or writing a note of gratitude is an important gospel value.  Whenever we say “Thank You”, we recognize the many gifts, big and small, that we received from God and from others.  Importantly, we also begin to appreciate the value of these gifts as expressions of God’s love for us.

Saturday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time (Year C)

Lucas 11:27-28. Kinsa man ang labing bulahan kanatong tanan? Dihay miingon kang Cristo: “Pagkabulahan sa babaye nga nagsabak ug nagmatuto kanimo!”  Apan gitubag kini niya: “Bulahan ang mga tawo nga naminaw sa Pulong sa Dios ug nagpuyo niini”. Kining ebanghelyo wala makapaubos sa bili sa papel ni Maria isip inahan ni Jesus. Gani, kini naghimo sa Mahal nga Birhen nga mas dalaygon tungod kay siya man ang labing nindot nga modelo sa usa ka tawo nga nagpuyo sa mga paagi sa Dios. Sa iyang pagka-inahan ni Jesus, si Maria wala nahimong mapahitas-on; hinuon, nagpabilin siyang mapaubsanon ug masinugtanon sa kabubut-on sa Dios. Karong adlawa gitawag kita nga magbaton sa susamang mga hiyas diha sa atong pagsunod kang Cristo.