God's Word and Daily Life

Let us rediscover and prepare for a different Christmas!

Let us rediscover and prepare for a different Christmas!

By Fr. Bernard Holzer, aa 

 

Since September, we can hear Christmas’ songs on the radio, TV, the internet, in the jeepneys, in the malls and in the banks… But let us prepare our hearts to welcome the Good News of Christmas: it’s about the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God!

As Pope Francis explained last Saturday, during the blessing of a nativity scene handmade by 30 artisan craftsmen in Guatemala: “the nativity scene tells of the birth of the Son of God who became man to be close to each of us. In its genuine poverty, the nativity scene helps us to rediscover the true richness of Christmas.”

“Simple and familiar, the nativity scene recalls a different Christmas from the consumerist and commercial one. … It reminds us how good it is for us to cherish moments of silence and prayer in our days, which are often overwhelmed by frenzy.”

Pope Francis, thus, recommended silent prayer and contemplation of the Christ Child in a nativity scene as an intimate experience of God’s humility and tenderness.

“And if we really want to celebrate Christmas, let us rediscover through the nativity scene the surprise and wonder of littleness, the littleness of God, who made himself small, who was not born in the splendor of appearance, but in the poverty of a stable.”

Let’s us rediscover and prepare for this real Christmas! There will be joy and happiness!

Metanoia

Metanoia

By Tony Morales

The Gospel for the incoming Second Sunday of Advent is about John the Baptist, repentance, and preparing the way for the coming King. John’s baptism was for repentance. Repentance is from the Greek word metanoia which literally means to change one’s mind, to change one’s direction.

This repentance literally means to be open minded, and not to be close minded to what God is going to do. He is doing a new thing beyond the ordinary, and outside our expectations. John’s purpose is to prepare the way of the Messiah, and get the people ready for his coming so they don’t miss it.

God would at last come back, bringing comfort and rescue. Yes, John is saying; that’s what’s happening now. It’s time to get ready! The king, God himself, is coming back! Get ready for God’s kingdom! And John’s striking message made everyone sit up and take notice. In today’s language, they saw the blue flashing lights, and stopped what they were doing to get ready…Real repentance meant a complete and lasting change of heart and life. That was the only way to get the road ready for the coming king. 

So, during Advent, we wait for God’s coming, we need to be awake, and prepared. The King is coming. John’s words were prophetic since he brought words of correction. No one likes being called out, yet if we don’t wake up, we will miss God’s appearance and what he has for us.

Staying awake

Staying awake

By Tony Morales

This Sunday we begin a new season in the liturgical calendar of the Church. Today, we begin the great Season of Advent. There are two messages that we will hear over the next four weeks. One message and set of values will come to us from the media and the shops. We will be told that we will have to move faster, stay busy, queue longer in the shops and spend more money on those ‘must have’ presents so that we will have the ‘perfect’ Christmas, as if such a thing exists.  We will be told and sold the idea that unless we buy more and more and surround ourselves with all the trappings of Christmas, we won’t be happy. This most definitely is ‘fake news.’ However, there is a very different message and set of values that will be offered to us through the gospels, the prayers and the liturgy of Advent. We are being asked to prepare a way for the Lord, to stay awake, to make a straight a path for the Lord and to get ourselves ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus. This is most definitely is ‘Good News! 

The message of Advent is an invitation and it also a challenge to us. We are called to be looking forward, to be ready, to be prepared and we are asked to wait in joyful hope. Let us, therefore, stay awake this Advent season and wait for the Lord with hope and gladness!

Viva, Cristo Rey!

Viva, Cristo Rey!

By Tony Morales

On November 20, the universal Church celebrates the Solemnity of Christ the King. We remember that Jesus alone is King of the universe.

Jesus is King. There is no doubt about it. In His lifetime and especially concentrated in His ministry, Jesus preaches about the Kingdom of God His Father. Moreover, in His parable He indicated His kingship by His parables referring to Himself as the Son of Man coming in glory and seated in His throne. Today’s gospel reading, the eschatological parable of judgment, Jesus refers to himself as the one sitting in the judgment throne over the lambs and goats.

The Kingship of Jesus is an enduring mystery that pervades the very fabric of salvation history. Having the idea of a “king” especially in the newer contexts of leadership, is not that appealing much less a next-to-skin experience. For most of us who lives in the present setup of democracy ruled by a “president” rather than a “king”, we cannot readily settle in to the concept. We may only have a “historical” or “ideal” concept which cuts away from us the “contextual feeling” of having a King in our midst. This proves a real challenge to us in understanding the kingship of Jesus as a mystery of our faith. Sometimes, we loosely shout with no sentimental proximity to the acclamation “Viva, Cristo Rey!” We do not know what we really shouting about. Why Christ is King? It deepens therefore the mystery to us.

Build peace!

Build peace!

By Father Bernard Holzer, aa

 

In his closing address in the “Bahrain Forum for Dialogue: East and West for Human Coexistence" (November 4, 2022) in the Kingdom of Bahrain, Pope Francis gave us some orientations on how to build peace in our daily life pursuing a single path of fraternity, dialogue and peace.

Let us open your hearts to your brothers and sisters.

Let us press forward on the journey towards greater knowledge and understanding of one another.

Let us strengthen the bonds between us, without duplicity or fear, in the name of the Creator who has put us together in this world as guardians of our brothers and sisters.

Let us show that another path of encounter is possible, not based on interests, money and power plays.

Let us encounter one another for the sake of humanity and in the name of the One who loves humanity, the One whose name is peace.

Let us promote concrete initiatives to ensure that the journey of the great religions will be ever more effective and ongoing, a conscience of peace for our world!

Let us oppose the race to rearmament, to the commerce of war, to the market of death. Do not support “alliances against some”, but means of encounter with all.

The call is clear: what can I do to be peacemakers?

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

On Becoming Martyrs for Christ

On Becoming Martyrs for Christ

By Tony Morales

The Feast Day for Saint Jude and Saint Simon, the Apostles is October 28th.

Saint Jude, known as Thaddaeus, was a brother of Saint James the Less, and a relative of Our Saviour. He was one of the 12 Apostles of Jesus and his attribute is a club. Images of Saint Jude often include a flame around his head, which represent his presence at Pentecost, when he accepted the Holy Spirit alongside the other apostles. Another attribute is Saint Jude holding an image of Christ, in the Image of Edessa. Saint Jude is not the same person as Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Our Lord and despaired because of his great sin and lack of trust in God's mercy.

Jude was the one who asked Jesus at the Last Supper why He would not manifest Himself to the whole world after His resurrection. Little else is known of his life. Legend claims that he visited Beirut and Edessa and could have been martyred with Saint Simon in Persia.

Following his death, Saint Jude's body was brought to Rome and left in a crypt in St. Peter's Basilica. Today his bones can be found in the left transept of St. Peter's Basilica under the main altar of St. Joseph in a tomb he shares with the remains of the apostle Simon the Zealot.

Pilgrims came to Saint Jude's grave to pray and many reported a powerful intercession, leading to the title, "The Saint for the Hopeless and the Despaired." Two Saints, St. Bridget of Sweden and St. Bernard, had visions from God asking them to accept St. Jude as "The Patron Saint of the Impossible."

What petitions do we pray for to Saint Jude today, things that we see “impossible”? Let us pray to Saint Jude for this. Saint Jude, pray for us!

To be Christian in Asia

To be Christian in Asia

By Fr. Bernard Holzer, aa

Since last Wednesday, October 12, more than 150 bishops from different Asian episcopal conferences have gathered with lay and consecrated persons to mark the 50th anniversary of FABC or the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences in Bangkok, Thailand. The Federation was founded during the visit of Pope Paul VI to Manila in 1970.

The conference’s presentations and discussions reflect on the theme, “Journeying Together as Peoples of Asia, and the bishops added a theme”, which aims to reflect on the “re-emerging and emerging realities and challenges of the Church in Asia.”

Pope Francis in a video message told the participants that the Church in Asia is being called “to be more authentically the Church of the poor, the Church of the young, and a Church in dialogue with fellow Asians of other denominations”. For him, the fundamental question is: “What is the Spirit saying to the Churches in Asia?”

As members of the Church in Asia, Pope Francis’ call and question is for us too.

What will be our concrete answer? It’s another way to participate in the Synod on Synodality!

60 years ago, the Second Vatican Council began

60 years ago, the Second Vatican Council began

by Father Bernard Holzer, aa

We celebrate the 60th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council by Pope John XIII, whose feast is also celebrated today! I was 14 years old during this event!

I remember this assembly of nearly 2,400 bishops from 136 countries.

They had been summoned to allow the Church to make her “aggiornamento” – her conversion -in order to proclaim the Gospel in the modern world that was changing so rapidly.

The Council would take place over three years, in four sessions of three to four months. The first was held on October 11, 1962.

John XXIII died a few months before the opening of the second session, in June 1963. Paul VI succeeded him. The 21st Council in the history of the Church will end on December 8, 1965. It produced 16 texts, including four "constitutions", namely:

  • “Dei Verbum” on the importance of the Bible in the Church and in our lives;
  • Lumen Gentium”, on the Church People of God, where all are concerned;
  • “Sacrosanctum Concilium” on Liturgy, Mass and Prayer;
  • “Gaudium et Spes” on the Church in the world by paying attention to the "signs of the times"

In the coming days, let us reread and meditate on one of these texts that can be found on the website of the Holy See.

Our poor Saint Francis

Our poor Saint Francis

 By Tony Morales

Is there any other saint who enjoys as much popularity as Francis of Assisi? Google his name and over 7 million results become accessible. Likenesses of him stand in gardens, parks, and churches, usually with birds and animals clustered around him. Such devotion must surely be due to nature – both his love of God’s creation as well as his own gentle demeanor.

Who could fail to be drawn to the tender love he showed to impoverished beggars and diseased outcasts? The mythology around him includes encounters with ravenous wolves and birds spellbound by his preaching. His faith was integrated into everyone and everything around him. As such, no wonder he continues to attract so many admirers and followers.

My favorite statue of him stands in front of Saint Francis Basilica in Santa Fe, New Mexico. His figure pirouettes on one toe. Wings take the place of arms and the words of his Canticle of Creation are sketched across his robes. It is the embodiment of the saint’s delight in God’s creative love. One can’t help but be inspired by it.

His real-life story, however, is not one of frolicking and ease. After taking family money to rebuild the church at San Damiano, he hid in a cave for a month to escape his father’s wrath. Although he freely embraced a life of poverty, he experienced first-hand it’s exacting toll on mind and body. At the end of his life, he became ill and suffered greatly. Despite these hardships, Francis found joy in life and delight in the gifts of God’s creation. This is the legacy that has been handed down through the ages to those of us struggling to keep a foothold in the midst of stress, sorrow and difficulties. Although “The Prayer of St. Francis” is more widely known, I prefer his “Prayer Before the Crucifix” in which he asks for “…correct faith, a certain hope, [and] a perfect charity...” It speaks reams about this beloved saint’s humble and gentle heart.

Lorenzo, the martyr

Lorenzo, the martyr

By Tony Morales

On September 28, the Catholic Church in the Philippines will celebrate the Feast of the first Filipino saint and martyr, Saint Lorenzo Ruiz de Manila.

On an auspicious day, some thirty-four years ago, Lorenzo Ruiz and companion martyrs were beatified by Pope John Paul II in February 1982 at Luneta Park, Manila. Five and a half years later, Lorenzo was canonized at the Vatican by the same pope as the first Filipino saint and named "Patron Saint of the Laity".

Lorenzo's life was full of lessons for us, the faithful, which are relevant during his time and up to now. He was a good husband, family man and provider. He was a devoted member of his church, a conscientious church worker, a prayerful person and devout follower of the Blessed Mother.

Just as the heroic quality is inherent in us, Filipinos, the virtue of holiness is likewise not found wanting in us. We have many holy, even saintly, Filipinos in our midst. They are those who serve with utmost charity without fanfare. Hidden from the lenses of cameras, but not from our clear sight, many of them are simple lay people. We must admit that many of them are the ones who serve us, rather the ones we serve. Like Lorenzo Ruiz, they make us examine the veracity of our claim, perhaps not vocal but nonetheless actual, to holiness.

We are capable of holiness not because of our ecclesiastical titles and positions. We can be holy, and many of us are indeed holy, because that is what we are called to be. Filipinos – whether priests or laypersons – can be saints. Canonized by the Church or simply known to God alone, we are a saintly people. Let us be saints together. Saint Lorenzo Ruiz, pray for us!

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