Joseph the dreamer in the Gospel of Saint Matthew is symbolic of Joseph the dreamer in the book of Exodus. In the Gospel of Saint Matthew, the annunciation of the birth of Jesus is given to Joseph not to Mary; not in an apparition but through a dream. Not all of us can be blessed with an apparition but all of us know what dreams are. To become a seer of an apparition is a gift for handful few. To dream dreams is a gift for all.
Saint Joseph is like us. He was a dreamer. Later on it will again be through a dream that the angel will command him to bring to child and mother to Egypt to escape death in the hands of Herod.
There is dreamer in all of us.
How can we make our beautiful dreams come true? When you dream alone, you can make a good splash and create ripples that eventually also disappear. We can have great individual talents and good individual energies but they soon wither and fade away. We are unable to sustain and make our dreams realties. What is needed?
“What you dream alone remains a dream. What you dream with others can become a reality,” said Edward Schillebeeckx. Therefore the key to making our dreams come true is to dream together. Without a community of dreamers, no dreams can come true.
Our dreams must be fully given over to a community, for dreams to become realities. Our individual dreams are like fireworks at the beginning of new year. They are fantastic to see. We say wow looking at the spectacle but after a few minutes, we return to the living room of the house with nothing changed.
Alone we can do our Christmas bazaars, gift giving, feeding and charity. We can use these Christmas customs unfortunately as ego boosters that we are better than the others. Alone we can distribute to the poor but these acts can even spark jealousy among Church groups. Alone we can watch the depressing evening news and alone get depressed and skeptical. Alone we are in fact helpless and can even be laden with guilt. We are helpless dreamers alone. Our power is in dreaming together. We cannot be larger than ourselves but we become giants when we reach out and unite as dreamers. No single dreamer can change the world. If we unite as a community of dreamers, we can make our dreams come true.



What is faith for you? What is your experience of faith? When can you say you have faith and when can you say your faith is weak? Some of us think that when we have clear images of God and strong bubbling feelings accompany our experience of those images, our faith is strong and vibrant. Some think that when fervor is strong and feelings are aflame, faith is very strong. There is warm and solid experience of God in prayer. This is similar to the bliss and tenderness of honeymoon; but honeymoon is not a marriage.
Unfortunately, such strong fervent feelings and such vibrant and clear imaginations of God can also lead to a false certainty. It can lead to spiritual arrogance. It can make one judgmental with others whose fervor is less and who whose imagination of God is dark and dry.
At this point of absolute certainty of God and absolute fervor for Him, God who wants us to grow in faith can take away the bottom on which we stand. When we seem to fall out, we in turn become more humble, less judgmental and more empathetic.
This is the Zechariah experience.
He entered the holy presence with clear images of God in His mind and with much human fervor. The angel struck him mute. It was not a curse. It was not a punishment. It was a blessed chance to recover humility through uncertainty and handicap.
This darkness may be confusing but it is really maturing. When faith is so strong and certain, God leads us into uncertainty so that our arrogance may turn to humility. With darkness and uncertainty, our being disdainful can turn to compassion. When clouds of unknowing hover over us and helplessness takes over us, then we grow in genuine faith, hope and charity.

Thank God for the sweet experiences of dark nights. Thank God for the pains and aches of uncertainty. They keep us humble. They bring us back to purity.



What are you searching for? You are looking for happiness and peace? You are looking for prosperity and wealth? You are looking for health and success? You are looking for a best friend forever? You are looking for a job and a fulfilling career? You are looking for joy and true freedom?
What are you searching for?
Simone Weil was asked the same question and she replied “I’m searching for someone to be obedient to because without obedience we inflate and grow silly, even to ourselves.” She was wise. She knew that obedience is the key to all that we are searching for.
Mary in the Gospels is a woman of many virtues but her foremost virtue is obedience. Giving away freedom is what makes us free. Freedom is not possessed by working for freedom for freedom’s sake.
The highest form of freedom is obedience. There is a childish understanding of freedom as freedom from limits and inhibitions. Freedom is understood as the power to do what you like. Maturity of freedom is reached when we give ourselves, when we live for others, when duty and service is freely embraced without resentment as founts of joy. The antidote to sin is obedience. The devil can imitate light and attract us. The devil can fake happiness and mislead us. The devil cannot obey. If devils could obey they would be awesome angels.
The sure way to salvation and happiness is obedience. The “yes” of the annunciation is like a thread that leads to nowhere else but the “yes” at Calvary. The obedience of Jesus saves us and heals the disobedience of sinful Adam.

What are you searching for? Everything that you are searching for can be found by carrying the master key to all the locked doors. The master key is obedience. How does obedience open locked doors? Because love is obedient and obedience is love. The pandemic of unhappiness and unrest has a vaccine. It is obedience. Obedience leads to happiness. It leads to peace.



Mary and Elizabeth were cousins. Jesus and John were cousins too as the Gospels teach us. Both pregnancies were miraculous. The first pregnancy happened in virginity; the second pregnancy happened in old age beyond the childbearing years. The intervention of God is clear in both pregnancies. There is clearly something heavenly and divine in both cousins and in both pregnancies.
They were cousins by blood and family descent. They were also cousins by the divine story of their wombs.
Who are our cousins? We have cousins by family descent. We also have spiritual cousins by our divine roots. There are people who do not believe in Christ but they believe in the divine. We are cousins. There are people who do not believe in the Catholic Church but they believe in the power of love. We are cousins. There are people who carry Christ and that is us but there are also people of other religions who also carry the divine in their hearts. We are cousins.
How can we recognize our kinship with one another? When we are open and sincere enough to encounter one another; when we meet, something in our hearts will leap. Something within us will whisper a quiet message that we are cousins who carry something divine in our souls. We are all cousins by God. Before our differences in race and religion, in economics and politics, in age and sexuality, in physique or talents—we are humans who came from the divine and who carry the divine inside each of us.
We need one another to understand God. It is not enough to celebrate the love we have been given. It is necessary to see that that love has been given to others too—Christians and Moslems, Protestants and Catholics, atheists and agnostics of good will. Without the other, without recognizing the “cousins” in one another, we will not be able to happily sing our Christmas carols.

We are cousins from the same loving God. We are cousins who all carry God within us albeit unaware. Christmas is not an exclusive Catholic treasure. We have cousins who share the treasure.



The response of Mary to the greeting of Elizabeth was not a courteous thank you.
In response to the words of Elizabeth “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb”, Mary turns to the Lord and brings the praise she received to the Lord.
This song is Mary’s response to human praise. Instead of herself being praised, Mary used the occasion to proclaim the intervention of God in human existence. When God intervenes, how does God expect us to respond? When God blesses us, what does God want us to do in return?
Every intervention of God in human existence is an intervention of self-emptying.
God’s intervention is pure and selfless; so compassionate with our weaknesses, it does not make any demand. It does not demand reciprocation. It does not demand to be met and recognized. It is a patient self-dethroning intervention. This is the greatness of God that Mary proclaims.
Self-emptying love is always present and ever available but does not demand to be acknowledged. Self-emptying love is generous without seeking praise. Self-emptying love invites but does not coerce. Self-emptying love is ready to be vulnerable to the extent of being rebuked, despised, wronged and even suspected for loving. Self-emptying love is patient and allows time to take its course. Self-emptying love values the face of the loved one more than the face of the clock.
This is the love of Jesus. This is what Mary proclaims.
How can we love in the path of love that the Magnificat proclaims?

We have to let go of the wanting to be the center of attention. From the desire of being extolled, loved, honored, praised and preferred to others, we need to be delivered. From the fear of being ridiculed for loving, forgotten and even calumniated for doing good; we need not be afraid.
We have so much to work on and so much to let go, to be able to love like our self-emptying God. There is no happy Magnificat from a heart that is so full of ego.



Today our companion is John the Baptist. His conception was mi-raculous. His birth was brought much joy. He was ahead of the Lord in preaching repentance. When he was mistaken to be the messiah, he humbly declared “He must increase, I must decrease”. He knew himself. He was only a forerunner. He was only a spotlight to point to the messiah.
A few days before Christmas, we are reminded of the call for martyrdom in the footsteps of John. Martyrdom can take many different forms.
The first martyrdom that we are accustomed to is the martyrdom by persecution and death. The early Christians went through persecution for the faith that eventually led to physical death. These martyrs gave up possibilities in this earthly life to be able to enter eternal intimacy with the king of martyrs.
There is also the so called white martyrdom which Saint Jerome used to refer to “the desert hermits who aspired to the condition of martyrdom through strict asceticism”.
There is also the martyrdom of obscurity as called by Ron Rolheiser. It is real death to be prevented from expressing ourselves. There is an inborn passion in us to be know, recognized and understood by many. There is a certain restlessness and frustration in us when we feel we are not appreciated or not extolled. There is drive within us to be a famous politician, to be a popular movie star, to be a gold medalist, to be seen on the front page, to have a viral photo on Facebook, to be known.

Unfortunately, this drive for self-expression has transformed our culture into a bitter, competitive, restless and unhappy generation with suicide being considered as solution. The answer is to enter into the hidden life of Christ and the desert life of John the Baptist. In this hidden life, we embrace the martyrdom of obscurity and find the joy of the ordinary.
He must increase; I must decrease.



The last day of simbang gabi invites us to focus on the marvelous deeds of the Lord in the past. Those marvelous deeds in the past push us into the future with a mission to retell the story of God. Our faith is God’s gift. Our faith is also our mission.
Simbang gabi has a long history behind it. It is our duty to bring this tradition into the future regardless of the new normal that the pandemic has brought upon us. In the post Covid new normal, our religious acts must be considered essential for us to continue living.
The song of Zechariah invites us to revisit our understanding of religion. The root word in Latin is religare which is to bind. It is similar to our English word ligament. Ligament can mean both bondage and freedom. Without ligaments, bones will not be connected. Ligaments facilitate movement. Ligaments also restrict movement.
Our religion is very much like our ligaments. Some of us have negative experiences of religion and religious people. Some even consider religion as unhealthy and religious values as warped and harmful. I offer these lines from Carlo Carretto entitled Ode to the Church:
How much I must criticize you, my church and yet how much I love you! How you have made me suffer much and yet owe much to you. I should like to see you destroyed and yet I need your presence.
You have given me much scandal and yet you alone have made me understand holiness. Never in this world have I seen anything more obscurantist, more compromised, more false, and yet never in this world have I touched anything more pure, more generous, and more beautiful.
Many times I have felt like slamming the door of my soul in your face– and yet how often I have prayed that I might die in your sure arms!
We are members of an imperfect Church that constantly needs reform. It is a Church of sinners but it is holy because of the Lord. Our religious history is a ligament that binds us. It will also be our legacy to the next generations.
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for he has visited and brought redemption to his people. 



We have been disillusioned and scandalized. We have seen our idols crumble before our eyes and our dreams crushed too. We have seen gross imperfections among leaders in Church and government, in our places of work, in practically all areas of our lives. How can this be? We can yield to cynicism and despair. Can we be blamed if we disobey them and disregard their authority?
The genealogy of Jesus helps to see better and see human weakness from the divine perspective. God writes straight in crooked lines. The story of the incarnation unfolds with dubious shady characters in the family tree of Jesus.
Abraham’s unfair treatment of Hagar and Ismael, Jacob’s scheming and dishonesty, David’s murder and adultery are all parts of the family story. A seducer of her father-in-law, a prostitute, an adulteress, a spy were also parts of the family tree.
The family story of the messiah is the story of God using both the pure and the impure, the corrupt as well as the heroic, the worldly and the outcast, the insignificant as well as the famous—to carry our his plan of salvation.
How shall we respond to evils we see in the Church and in society?The first is compassion for the victims of sin of injustice, murder, graft, sex and all. We should not trivialize nor hide the sufferings of the innocent. The poor pay for our social sins the most.
The second is courage to face the truth. We need reform. The season of clerical entitlement is always followed by a season of clerical disdain. We must be vigilant against clerical privilege as this in a matter of time eventually leads to Church corruption and abuse.
The third is communion with both those who suffer and those who caused them. We cannot distance ourselves from our skeletons in the closet, from the adulterous and scheming, the betrayers and liars among us. We are not any different. Book of Lamentations spells it out graphically: “Put your mouth to the dust and wait!”
The Lord who had shady characters in His family died between two thieves. The company of sinners never left Him and He never left them. He did not wash his hands like Pilate. We are not an innocent breed. We are all guilty and God has written straight lines despite our crookedness.



Who has never experienced being frustrated? Who has never experi-enced putting in full will power to overcome a bad habit and then stumble in the end? Or putting in full personal strength to challenge the unjust and confront the corrupt, only to end up to be ridiculed and mocked and even be wronged instead of winning the battle? Who has never experienced setting a clear vision to start a project but instead of reaching the goal end up bankrupt and defeated unable to sustain the momentum to reach the goal? Motivational seminars taught me that if the intention is clear, the mechanism will appear but I have a contrary experience. After putting in my one hundred per-cent, I ended in half the race without reaching the finish line. John the Baptist was a courageous prophet of denunciation. He had excep-tional clarity in pointing out what is wrong. He was a feared critic of the king. But after such fiery critical preaching against evil and sin, the poet John Shea called John only half a prophet: I can denounce a king, but I cannot enthrone one. I can strip an idol of its power, but I cannot reveal the true God. I can wash the soul in sand, but I cannot dress it in white. I can devour the word of the Lord like wild honey, but I cannot lace his sandal. I can condemn sin, but I cannot bear it away. Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. Like John we see evil in society. We renounce it. We deplore it. We are angered by the callousness of the corrupt and the insensitivity of the greedy. How come we cannot dethrone evil and bring the battle for righteousness to victory?

John preached and offered a baptism of repentance. Jesus offered a baptism of grace. John had human will power. Jesus has the divine will to save. The error of our age is that we still rely too much on human will power to change a corrupt world. Will power and human courage is not enough no matter how heroic.
We need grace. It is Jesus the bringer of grace who saves. It is mission impossible without the Lord. The will power of John needs the grace of Jesus. John is not
the messiah; will power is not the key. Jesus is the savior and His grace is our missing ingredient to overcome evil. Jesus is the savior not John. We are His creation and He is the Lord.