By Mel Jasmin
In the Philippines, the Sunday following the Feast of the Lord’s Baptism has been celebrated as the Feast of the Sto. Niño. The devotion to the Sto. Niño in the country has become popular. One can easily notice an image or icon of the Sto. Niño displayed in places for business, offices, and at home. However, this devotion has also raised some questions, like theological questions. Some laugh at this popular devotion because Jesus, accordingly, has never remained a “child.” He grew, he preached, he died, and he rose from the dead. For these people, they say that Filipinos have missed an important point.
Well, we may have missed the point but we have to realize that there is a point in the “childhood” of Jesus that we should not miss.
Equally, there are points or traits in children that we should not miss. This is the heart of the Gospel. Jesus says, “Whoever does not accept the kingdom like a child will not enter it.”
Children during Mark’s time were insignificant, powerless, and dependent. This may not be the picture of children that we see today. I pity some parents nowadays because their children have become a problem to them.
The children are uncontrollable and disobedient. They are problematic, in other words.
However, children, good or bad, have qualities which are worth emulating. The good characteristic that subsists in children is dependence, that is, dependence from parents. Some children may be bad, but never would they think that they can live all by themselves. They would always cling to their parents because they know they cannot live without them.
God's Word and Daily Life
By Mel Jasmin
By Fr. Bernard Holzer, aa
During the Angelus last Sunday, Pope Francis shared with us his secret to render ordinary things extraordinary:
« Let us not tire of invoking the light and strength of the Holy Spirit, so that he may help us to experience ordinary things with love and thereby render them extraordinary. It is love that changes: ordinary things seem to continue being ordinary, but when they are done with love they become extraordinary.”
Let us remain open and docile to the Spirit who inspires our daily thoughts and actions.
The liturgical “ordinary time” is the time of the Spirit, the time of the mission.
By Fr. Bernard Holzer, aa
« Where is the newborn king of the Jews?” asked the magi from the East to King Herod in Jerusalem.
Where can I find Jesus today to pay him homage?
Let me share with you the story of the monk Epiphanus.
One day Epiphanus discovered a special gift: how to paint beautiful icons. He wanted to paint the face of Jesus. But where could he find a model that expresses at the same time suffering and joy, death and resurrection, divinity and humanity?
Epiphanus then went on a journey. He travelled around the Mediterranean Sea examining every face. He found nothing that could represent Christ. Tired, he fell asleep repeating the words of the psalm: "I look for your face, Lord, show me your face!"
During the night, he had a dream. An Angel appeared to him, he brought him back to the people he met, and for each person he pointed out to him a detail that made this face similar to the face of Jesus: the joy of a lover, the innocence of a child, the strength of a peasant, the suffering of a sick man, the fear of a condemned person, the tenderness of a mother, the dismay of an orphan, the hope of a young, the mercy of a confessor, the mystery of the bandaged face of a leper......
And then Epiphanus understood. He returned to his convent and went to work. The icon was ready in a short time and he presented it to his abbot. He was surprised: the icon was wonderful. He wanted to know who was the model he had used because he wanted to show him to the other artists in the monastery. The monk replied: "No one, father, has served as a model for me, because no one is like Christ, but Christ is like everyone. You do not find Christ in the face of one person, but you find fragments of the face of Christ in every person. »
During this New Year, let us find Christ in every person: “Fratelli Tutti” – “All brothers and sisters”! Happy and Blessed New Year!
By Ada Escopete
Are you ready for the Misa de Gallo or Simbang Gabi? As we go through this nine days novena Mass let us try to prepare ourselves to be worthy to the coming birth of our savior. This we could do best by having an interior renewal of ourselves, by reconciling with our enemies. And by not focusing on the material side of Christmas focusing rather on the true essence of Christmas which is the birth of our savior Jesus Christ.
Have you testified for Jesus by the way you talk and live? Have you humbly called for repentance and renewal? John humbly did all of these noble things, he was sent by God to prepare the way for the coming of Jesus. Have you done something also to prepare the way for the coming birth of Jesus?
For example, if you’re a parent, have you taught your children that the true essence of Christmas is not the material gifts that they would be receiving not either the appearance of Santa Clause? Have you pointed out to your children that the essence of Christmas is about Jesus our savior?
Slowly but surely the true meaning of Christmas is being overpowered already by materialism and commercialism. In our own little way, we could be like John also if we would try to highlight the true reason for this Christmas season no other than the birth of Jesus.
By Father Bernard Holzer, aa
This week, we celebrate two important feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary namely her Immaculate Conception (on December 8) and her apparition at Guadalupe, near Mexico City (on December 12). What example does Mary give us for the difficult time we are going through?
I will highlight two of her characteristics:
Her total trust in God. When the angel told her that she would be the mother of the Savior, she got troubled, she was afraid, she wondered and asked questions to the angel and to God himself. But in the end, she had this wonderful answer: “May it be done to me according to Your word.”
Her sense of service. While pregnant, she traveled in haste to her cousin Elisabeth to help her while she waited for the birth of her son - who would be a prophet. She left her house and her town to help and to take care of her cousin.
In this difficult time of pandemic, let us follow Mary's example: let us surrender our life serenely to God, abandon ourselves to Him and take care of others. There are two inspiring attitudes or characteristics to prepare us, our families and our communities for the real Christmas.
Let us renew our trust in God by praying the Song of the Lamb.
The Psalm of the Lamb (Revelation 4: 4)
“Great and wonderful are your works,
Lord God almighty.
Just and true are your ways,
O king of the nations.
Who will not fear you, Lord,
or glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
All the nations will come
and worship before you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed.”
Let us pray
How difficult was this his year!
It revealed our strengths and weaknesses,
our faith and our lack of faith.
This year we put it in your hands:
sanctify it, cleanse what needs to be cleaned.
Increase our faith and our trust in you.
Send us your Spirit to build a new world,
more fraternal and more humane.
Give us to become builders of peace and hope.
Through Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
now and forever. Amen.
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.” – Revelation 3:20
Like Zacchaeus, the tax collector, God is calling me.
Let us listen to the Good News of Jesus (Luke 19:1-10).
“Jesus came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town.
Now a man there named Zacchaeus, who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man, was seeking to see who Jesus was; but he could not see him because of the crowd, for he was short in stature.
So, he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way.
When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.”
And he came down quickly and received him with joy.
When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.”
But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “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.”
And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham.
For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”
Let us pray:
I thank you for not losing patience with me,
I thank you for calling me.
Give me the grace to hear your call,
to meet you,
and to answer your call with generosity,
with the help and strength of your Holy Spirit.
Teach me to help and to give. Amen.
By Father Bernard Holzer, aa
There are so many challenges and confusion in our world, in our lives, in our families, in perhaps within us...
Let us ask the Lord to give us His Wisdom, to welcome it and to live with it.
A reading from the Book of Wisdom (6: 12-16)
« Resplendent and unfading is Wisdom
And she is readily perceived by those who love her,
And found by those who seek her.
She hastens to make herself known to those who desire her
one who watches for her at dawn will not be disappointed,
for she will be found sitting at the gate.
For setting your heart on her is the perfection of prudence,
and whoever keeps vigil for her is quickly free from care;
Because she makes her rounds, seeking those worthy of her,
and graciously appears to them on the way,
and goes to meet them with full attention.”
Let us pray with King Solomon (Book of Wisdom 9: 1-6, 9-11):
“God of my ancestors, Lord of mercy,
you who have made all things by your word
And in your wisdom have established humankind
to rule the creatures produced by you,
And to govern the world in holiness and righteousness,
and to render judgment in integrity of heart:
Give me Wisdom, the consort at your throne,
and do not reject me from among your children;
For I am your servant, the child of your maidservant,
a man weak and short-lived
and lacking in comprehension of judgment and of laws.
Indeed, though one be perfect among mortals,
if Wisdom, who comes from you, be lacking,
that one will count for nothing.
Now with you is Wisdom, who knows your works
and was present when you made the world;
Who understands what is pleasing in your eyes
and what is conformable with your commands.
Send her forth from your holy heavens
and from your glorious throne dispatch her
That she may be with me and work with me,
that I may know what is pleasing to you.
For she knows and understands all things,
and will guide me prudently in my affairs
and safeguard me by her glory.”
By Father Bernard Holzer, aa
During the month of November, the Church invites us to look far, to take root with the Lord's promises to keep hope. The Church also invites us to remember all those who have marked us and inspired our lives. She invites us to pray for them and with them: May they rest in peace and bring us peace!
Let us reread the vision of St. John to be inspired by it.
From the Book of Revelation 7: 9, 14, 17
“After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands (…) These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (…) The Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
In this vast humanity, each of us remains unique. There is no anonymity, God calls each of us by his name. This is enough to support our hope.
Let us pray :
Lord, I thank you for my family, for my parents, for my friends, my formators, all those who have allowed me to grow, to open my heart, to understand the world, for those who have encouraged me and led by example, for those who have helped me to know you and to live your Good News. Keep them close to you, bless them, and welcome them into your Kingdom. Blessed are you, Lord. Teach me to love and to be generous!
by Ada Escopete
A article described conditions in Manila City Jail: “The inmates were cupped into each other, limbs draped over a neighbor’s waist or knee, feet tucked against someone else’s head, too tightly packed to toss and turn in the sweltering heat.”
With the perceived inhumane reality in Philippine prisons, the Catholic Church has been active in providing inmates with better conditions.
The Philippine Jesuit Prison Service Foundation (PJPS) has been advocating a more humane approach to the rehabilitation of not just the incarcerated individuals but also their families.
Since its founding in 1994, the group has worked with the Philippine Bureau of Corrections to provide programs to alleviate inmates' living conditions. The group also provides livelihoods, medical assistance and scholarships to children of prisoners.
Executive director and Jesuit Father Eli Lumbo said doing prison ministry is a full-time job where one cannot easily rest due to a plethora of church work.
“Each time I enter the prison camp, I do not know what to expect. After all, I minister to more than 20,000 inmates in the National Penitentiary ... Majority of them come from poor families and a good number have not had education or a good education,” Father Lumbo wrote in a 2017 article of the PJPS.
Father Lumbo also said that the Church’s role in prison ministry is not to judge but to give accompaniment and spiritual direction to inmates.
“I would not begrudge them their choices. I will not make the prejudices of our society the basis of how I deal with supposed criminals. As a priest, I am invited to enter the world of the convicted felon,” Father Lumbo added.
Visiting the prisoners is one of the corporal works of mercy. When I feed the hungry or give alms to the poor, I always have the impression that I am doing something for my neighbor. It is I who give — my neighbor merely receives.
But after an experience last month, my perspective has changed. The experience did not only change the prisoners. It also left a mark on the very person who visited.
More than the willingness to help a client, I was confronted by my own sins. I was reminded of my own imperfections and weaknesses. Yet there I was — a knight in shining armor for a client’s cause.
I saw Christ in prisons. No matter how dirty and foul-smelling — the Emmanuel — the God with us was there. So, I realized, I did not bring Christ in prisons. He was already there with the inmates waiting for a visit, waiting to be fed and to be consoled.