God's Word and Daily Life

500th anniversary of the First Catholic Baptism in the Philippines:  Philippines, what did you do with your baptism?

500th anniversary of the First Catholic Baptism in the Philippines: Philippines, what did you do with your baptism?

By Fr. Bernard Holzer, aa

 

On April 14, we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the first Catholic Baptism in the Philippines that took place in Cebu.

 

It is an opportunity to thank the Lord for the gift of faith, the gift of the Good News. It is also a commitment for us to announce and live this Good News today!

 

Philippines, what did you do with your baptism?

 

Let us listen and meditate again on the encouragement of Pope Francis in his video message on April 4 for the Jubilee celebration of the 500 Years of Christianity in the Philippines:

 

“During this jubilee year, let the words of Jesus guide you: “Without cost you received; without cost you are to give” (Mt 10:8). These words are an invitation to thank God for all those who handed on the faith to you. […] Be grateful for the gift of faith. Thank God for the people who gave you the faith and for all those to whom you will pass it on in turn. Renew your enthusiasm for evangelization. Reach out to others and bring them the hope and joy of the Gospel.

Do not be afraid; you are not alone in this mission. Two great saints of your land accompany you: Saint Pedro Calungsod and Saint Lorenzo Ruiz. Two holy catechists who knew how to give without cost what they had received without cost: life and faith in Jesus.”

 

Let us remember our own baptism, God's love for us, the gift of the Holy Spirit that gives us to be disciples of Jesus, all the blessings.

 

Let us pray:

“Renew in us the grace of your Spirit

That impels us to be witnesses of Jesus your Son,

To a world broken by greed, violence, injustice, sickness and suffering.

May our faith bring us to unity as your children

To care for and love one another.

May the Holy Spirit empower us

To be proclaimers of the Good News

To our brothers and sisters in Asia and to all nations.” - Amen

(Mission Prayer for the 500 Years of Christianity in the Philippines)

Pope Francis encourages Catholics in time of pandemic

Pope Francis encourages Catholics in time of pandemic

By Father Bernard Holzer, aa

 

Last Easter Sunday, Pope Francis sent us a Video Message for the 500th  anniversary of the Evangelization of the Philippines.

 

You could watch it on http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/pont-messages/2021/documents/papa-francesco_2021

 

Pope Francis is encouraging us to be with the Lord and to give what was given to us: the Gospel, the Good news for our time! Let’s listen to him.

 

“Dear friends: I recall my visit to your country with great fondness. I cannot forget our final meeting, with almost seven million people present. You are generous and you know how to celebrate the feast of faith. Never lose those qualities, even in the midst of difficulties. In those massive gatherings, those who spoke about receiving the gift of faith said they wanted to continue sharing it and proclaiming it to everyone.

 

Do not be afraid; you are not alone in this mission. Two great saints of your land accompany you: Saint Pedro Calungsod and Saint Lorenzo Ruiz. Two holy catechists who knew how to give without cost what they had received without cost: life and faith in Jesus.

 

Keep moving forward; the Pope is always at your side. May Jesus bless you and bless all the Filipino people. May the Holy Virgin watch over you and the Santo Niño be always with you. I ask you, please, to remember to pray for me. Thank you very much.”

 

Hosanna, Son of David!

Hosanna, Son of David!

By Mel Jasmin

 

 Picture from Father Treb Futol of the Diocese of Sorsogon.

 

“And when he entered Jerusalem the whole city was shaken and asked, ‘Who is this?’  And the crowds replied, “This is Jesus the prophet, from Nazareth in Galilee.” 

 

As Jesus entered Jerusalem, just four short days before He would be arrested, He was received with great joy.  As He entered, riding a donkey, the crowds spread their cloaks, strewed palm branches before Him and cried out, “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest” (MT 21:9).  Jesus was the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and He was given a Kingly welcome.

 

Jerusalem itself was the place of the Temple where so many of the ancient kings of Israel offered sacrifice to God.  Year after year, decade after decade, and century after century, the high priest entered the Holy of Holies within the Temple to offer sacrifice to God.  However, little did anyone know that as Jesus entered Jerusalem, the entire city became the new Temple and Jesus became the final and definitive Priest. He entered this new Holy of Holies as a King and Priest, and He died as the Sacrificial Lamb.  He was greeted with shouts of “Hosanna” only to soon hear “Crucify Him, crucify Him!”

 

What a turn of emotions.  What a contrast of experiences.  What a shock to the minds and hearts of all of His first followers.  How could this be? How could something so glorious become so painful in such a short amount of time?  From an earthly perspective, what would soon follow made no sense, but from a divine perspective, it was the beginning of the most glorious act ever known.

 

The evil one certainly watched in hatred and jealousy as Jesus, the Eternal Son of the Father, was given this glorious reception by these sons and daughters of God.  The envy of the evil one was so great that it became alive and manifest in the souls of some of the religious leaders, in the betrayal of one of the Apostles, in the actions of the civil authorities and in the confused emotions of the crowds.  The vile, frightful, forceful and definitive attack on our Lord would soon begin now that He was welcomed into the city of Jerusalem to begin the Feast of Passover. Who could have known that on that Passover the Lamb of Sacrifice would be our Lord Himself.

Announcing our salvation

Announcing our salvation

By Mel Jasmin

 

On March 25, the universal Church, celebrates the Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord.

 

The feast of the Annunciation, now recognized as a solemnity, was first celebrated in the fourth or fifth century. Its central focus is the Incarnation: God has become one of us. From all eternity God had decided that the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity should become human. Now, as Luke 1:26-38 tells us, the decision is being realized. The God-Man embraces all humanity, indeed all creation, to bring it to God in one great act of love. Because human beings have rejected God, Jesus will accept a life of suffering and an agonizing death: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).

 

Mary has an important role to play in God’s plan. From all eternity, God destined her to be the mother of Jesus and closely related to him in the creation and redemption of the world. We could say that God’s decrees of creation and redemption are joined in the decree of Incarnation. Because Mary is God’s instrument in the Incarnation, she has a role to play with Jesus in creation and redemption. It is a God-given role. It is God’s grace from beginning to end. Mary becomes the eminent figure she is only by God’s grace. She is the empty space where God could act. Everything she is she owes to the Trinity.

 

Mary is the virgin-mother who fulfills Isaiah 7:14 in a way that Isaiah could not have imagined. She is united with her son in carrying out the will of God (Psalm 40:8-9; Hebrews 10:7-9; Luke 1:38).

 

Do we announce the Good News to our neighbors through our actions?

Saint Joseph: our strength and shield

Saint Joseph: our strength and shield

By Mel Jasmin

 

This week, we will celebrate the Solemnity of Saint Joseph as Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

 

Joseph’s example and patronage come at the perfect time. At a time when a global pandemic has forced millions to live hidden away, isolated and alone, we can see Joseph as a model of the hidden life. We know, too, that Joseph died before Jesus’ public ministry ; Mary’s husband was undoubtedly familiar with suffering. So, we can see him as our patron, too, praying for us as he understands our struggles with illness.

Like many saints whose lineage can be traced back to the earliest days of the church, very little is known of St. Joseph, besides what we learn from the few lines written about him in the Gospels. He was of King David’s line and engaged to a young woman from Nazareth. Mary was found, quite unexpectedly, to be pregnant. But Joseph, “being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace,” as the Gospel of Matthew tells it, planned to dissolve his betrothal quietly. Even before Jesus was born, then, Joseph’s tender compassion and forgiving heart were on full display.

 

But God had other plans. As with another troubled Joseph—a patriarch in the book of Genesis—God used a dream to reveal his redemptive plans for the carpenter from Nazareth. In the dream, an angel let Joseph in on Mary’s secret: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” That same angel, after the birth of Mary’s son, advised Joseph to take the child and his mother to Egypt to flee the murderous King Herod. And Joseph listened.

 

Like Saint Joseph, may we also listen to the will of God.

 

Praying with Pope Francis for peace

Praying with Pope Francis for peace

By Father Bernard Holzer, aa

With Pope Francis, let us pray for peace: with the “Prayer of the Children of Abraham” said during the Interreligious Meeting in the Plain of Ur (Iraq) on Saturday, 6 March 2021

We ask you, the God of our father Abraham and our God, to grant us a strong faith, a faith that abounds in good works, a faith that opens our hearts to you and to all our brothers and sisters; and a boundless hope capable of discerning in every situation your fidelity to your promises.

Make each of us a witness of your loving care for all, particularly refugees and the displaced, widows and orphans, the poor and the infirm.

Open our hearts to mutual forgiveness and in this way, make us instruments of reconciliation, builders of a more just and fraternal society.

Welcome into your abode of peace and light all those who have died, particularly the victims of violence and war.

Assist the authorities in the effort to seek and find the victims of kidnapping and in a special way to protect women and children.

Help us to care for the earth, our common home, which in your goodness and generosity you have given to all of us.

Guide our hands in the work of rebuilding this country, and grant us the strength needed to help those forced to leave behind their homes and lands, enabling them to return in security and dignity, and to embark upon a new, serene and prosperous life. Amen.

 

Lent is also community commitment

Lent is also community commitment

By Father Bernard, AA

 

We are familiar with the three pillars of Lent: prayer, fasting and sharing. These means of conversion not only concern our personal life but also involve our living together in society.

 

The prophet Isaiah, speaking in the name of God, reminds us during the first days of the Lent:
“The fast that I choose: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking off every yoke.
It is sharing your bread with the hungry, bringing the afflicted and the homeless into your house; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own flesh.” (58: 6-7)

 

How am I going to get out of our comfort zone to open our prayer, fasting and sharing to those who are hungry, afflicted and oppressed?

 

The Chair of Saint Peter

The Chair of Saint Peter

By Mel Jasmin

 

 We just celebrated the feast of the Chair of Saint Peter yesterday.

 

It’s kind of funny to have a feast day for a chair. When we think of a chair, perhaps we think of a soft recliner into which our body lowers itself as if into a warm bath. Or our mind turns to a classroom chair, a chair in a waiting room, or one at a restaurant. But the chair the Church commemorates today is more like the heroic-sized marble chair which holds the giant body of President Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial. We commemorate today a chair like the judge’s in a courtroom or that unique high-backed chair called a throne. These are not ordinary chairs. They are seats of authority and judgment. They hold power more than people. We stand before them while their occupants sit. Judges and kings retire or die, but chairs and thrones remain to hold their successors. The Nicene Creed even describes Jesus as “seated” at God’s right hand. The fuller, symbolic meaning of the word “chair” is what today’s feast commemorates.
 
Like Saint Peter, may we trust in God's grace in giving us an obligation in the Catholic Church.

 

Saint Peter, our first pope. Prayer for us!

Remembering that we are from nothing

Remembering that we are from nothing

By Mel Jasmin

 

Ash Wednesday marks the first day of the 40 days of Lent, a six-week period (excluding Sundays) dedicated to prayer, fasting, and reflection in preparation for the great celebration of Christ’s Paschal Mystery in the Easter Triduum.  Lent is a time to re-focus and to re-enter a place of truth. It is here where we find our true identity.

Ash Wednesday is the best way to begin a season which calls us into self-examination as well as self-denial, into deeper contemplation about the mystery and grace of God's mercy, and towards more radical giving towards those most in need of comfort, sustenance, and hope.

 

The ancient practice of Ash Wednesday reminds us that we are mortal. It causes us to pause and look at our lives– remember what we are made of, remember where we are going- and encourages us to fully immerse ourselves in the Lenten season.

 

During this Wednesday, let us remember what the priest says while sprinkling ashes on our forehead – “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

Meditation for the Lunar New Year

Meditation for the Lunar New Year

By Father Bernard Holzer, aa

 

At the end of this week, in communion with millions in Asians, we celebrate the Lunar New Year. During this special week, the liturgical texts invite us to meditate on the first chapters of Genesis, the first book of the Bible, to meditate « the story of the heavens and the earth at their creation ».

 

They tell us God’s visions for humanity, God’s vision for a new year:

 

“God created mankind in his image;

in the image of God he created them;

male and female* he created them.

God blessed them and God said to them:

Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.

Have dominion over the fish of the sea,

the birds of the air, and all the living things

that crawl on the earth.”

 

Let us find time to reread quietly Chapter 1 of the Book of Genesis, and to ask God to inspire us for the beginning of this Lunar New Year. What can I do to save the creation, the environment and mankind?

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