Dumadalaw ka ba?

31 Mayo 2010. Kapistahan ng Pagdalaw ng Mahal na Birheng Maria
Zeph 3, 14-18 or Rom 12, 9-16; Isaiah 12; Luke 1, 39-56

Isang pagmamalasakit sa kanyang pinsang si Elizabet ang pagdalaw ni Maria sa kanya. Sa kanyang pasasalamat at pagdadakila sa ipinakitang pagturing ng Panginoon sa kanyan, ibinabahagi din niya ang kanyang natanggap na biyaya sa kanyang pinsan na buntis na. Wika ni Maria, isinasangalang-alang ng Diyos ang isang hamak na utusang tulad niya at dinakila sa lahat ng salinlahi.

Isang mabuting-asal ang pagdalaw sa mga tinatangi natin sa ating buhay. Tulad ng Maria, isang pagpapakita at pasasalamat sa kanilang tulong at bahagi sa ating buhay. Sa anumang pagpapakita ng pag-ibig, itinataas natin ang ating minamahal kaysa sa ating buhay. Kaya isinasaalang-alang natin ang kapwa sa kanyang pangangailangan at sa pagdalaw dinadakila natin sila kaysa ating buhay tulad ng ginawa ng Diyos sa atin.

How Do You Know That You're Catholic?

30 May 2010 Trinity Sunday
Proverbs 8, 22-31, Romans 5, 1-5, John 16, 12-15

The 1st Reading and the Gospel focuses on the wisdom that our faith provides. The 2nd Reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans tells us that this wisdom is a foundation --- as an anchor to a ship --- assuring us hope in a troubled and confused world.

First, the wisdom we have acquired is carefully placed on Creeds. For example, there were short creedal statements the early Church communities affirmed, such as “Jesus is Lord!” (1 Cor 12, 3; Romans 10, 9; Ph 2, 11; Col 2, 6). These statements of belief presupposes three more others: 1) God exists; 2) God rewards the just; 3) in God, there are three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The statement, “Jesus is Lord” is a creedal statement. The word, ‘creed’ derives it from the Latin verb, credere, meaning ‘to believe’. A creed therefore is a summary of the basic tenets of belief.

Two of the most ancient elaborations of “Jesus is Lord” are the Nicene Creed and the Apostles Creed. In the Philippines, we traditionally used the Apostles Creed on Sunday; but most of the world uses the Nicene Creed. Church creeds are precious statements, each word in a creed in important; it is there a good reason. For example, the Nicene Creed profess belief in the resurrection of the flesh; thus it says, “We look for the resurrection of the dead” while the Apostles Creed say the same thing, “I believe in … the resurrection of the body.” These statements say explicitly and exactly what we mean by the resurrection of the body, a doctrine essential to our faith. Even the name, Pontius Pilate is important. Our faith tells us the Jesus suffered and died under the rule of Pontius Pilate. Therefore, this incident tells us that we were saved by the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus during the time of Pontius Pilate. Our faith then is historical --- not poetic or an imagery. It actually happened in time, in history!

Second, this faith becomes anchors in a very pluralistic and confused world. In the Philippines, there are many Christian denominations that evangelize or proselytize. They come to convince many Catholics to embrace their own religion by confusing the young. There are even television programs that are dedicated to question the Catholic faith. Thus there are people who ask the question: “How do I know that I am still Catholic?” The best and surest way is look at the creeds. All the creedal statements in the Apostles creed are our basic belief --- thus, any disbelief in one may account one’s Catholicism.

Whenever we recite the Creed sincerely like the Rosary and other devotions, we are reminded that the Creed is the most important foundation of the faith. We are saying that the Creed has been the faith of our fathers, and by this we make our strong stance; and it what we all believe. In October 22, 451 at Chalcedon in Asia Minor, the Nicene Creed was formulated, and all present recited them in unison. These creeds, say what we believe, in a very precise way, --- thus when ask by someone about what we believe as Catholics, say the Apostles Creed because the creed says it best.

Thus, when we celebrate Trinity Sunday --- or other feasts and holy days --- we are celebrating --- and re-affirming --- some words in the creed: “I believe in God the Father. I believe in Jesus Christ. I believe in the Holy Spirit: One God, three Persons.”

Paano Mo Malalaman kung Malalim na ang Pagiibigan?

30 Mayo 2010. Kapistahan ng Tatlong Persona sa Iisang Diyos
Kas 8, 22-31; Rom 5, 1-5; Jn 16, 12-15


Sa misterio ng Banal sa Santatlo, masusulyapan natin ang isang katotohanang sa larangan ng pag-ibig: nagiging isa ang umiibig. Marami na ang nagsabi, na habang lumalalim ang pag-ibigan, nagiging magkamukha ang dalawang nagmamahalan. At habang mas malalim ang samahan, nagiging isa ang kanilang puso’t isipan. May mga mag-asawa akong kilala na alam nila kung may problema ang kanilang asawa, kahit hindi sinasabi. Basta alam nila.

Nakikita sa katahimikan ang pinakamalalim na pag-iibigan ay nakikita: maaaring magsama na tahimik, walang kailangang sabihin, walang kailangang gawin. Doon iisa ang kanilang puso; iisa ang kanilang isip; iisa ang kanilang kaluluwa. Sa araw ng kasal, sinasabi ng magkatipan: “Mabuting Ama, ngayon na kami ay magkadaupang palad, biyayaan mo kami ng isang magandang ugnayan na may isang puso at isang kaluluwa.” Nagkakaisa ba ang ating puso’t isipan sa mga taong minamahal natin?

Marunong Ka Bang Pumili?

29 Mayo 2010. Sabado ng ika-8 Linggo ng Pasko ng Pagkabuhay
Jude 17, 20-25; Psalm 63; Mark 11, 27-33


Nilapitan ng mga guro ng Batas at Matatanda ng Bayan si Hesus upang tanungin kung anong karapatan ni Hesus upang gawin ang kanyang ginagawa. Hinamon muna sila ni Hesus na sagutin kung kanino galing ang pagbibinyag ni Juan. Ngunit hindi nila alam kung paanong sasagutin: kung sa Diyos, bakit hindi nila sinunod si Juan; kung sa tao, magagalit ang taong-bayan na isang propeto ang akala kay Juan. Dahil hindi nila nasagot ito, hindi rin sila sinagot ni Hesus. Sa ganang atin, alam natin na may karapatan siya dahil tahanan ng kanyang Ama ang Templo.

May mga tanong na masasagot lamang kung magdedesisyon tayong sundan ang isa sa mga pinagpipilian. Halimbawa, ano ang kalooban ng Diyos para sa akin: pagiging doktor or pagiging guro? Hindi niya matatagpuan ang sagot hangga’t hindi niya subukan ang isa. Ganito din kapag nag-iisip ng tamang bokasyon. Kailangan lamang ang lakas ng loob subukan ang isa muna sa mga pinagpipilian.

Marunong ka pa bang ituring banal ang simbahan?

28 Mayo 2010. Biyernes ng ika-8 Linggo ng Pasko ng Pagkabuhay
1 Peter 4, 7-14; Psalm 96; Mark 11, 11-26


Isang bahay-dalanginan ang simbahan. Mahalagang hindi makalimutan ng lahat na para sa pagdarasal sa Panginoon ito. Nakapaligid sa maraming simbahan ang iba’t ibang tindahan ng mga kandila at iba’t ibang magagamit sa pagdarasal tulad ng mga rosario at nobena. Ngunit kung nagiging parang palengke ang simbahan, nawawala ang tunay na layunin nito, makatarungan lang na huwag hayaang mangyari ito.

Hindi lamang sa mga pangangalakal sa paligid ng simbahan nakikita ang respetong iginagawad natin sa bahay ng Diyos. Kasama dito ang ating pag-uugali sa loob ng simbahan. Maraming magkasintahang ginagawang tagpuan ang simbahan. Maraming maiingay na nakakadistorbo sa nananalangin. Hinihingi sa loob ng simbahan (at sa labas) ang magandang asal at kaugalian. Paano ba natin tinuturing banal ang bahay-dalanginan?

*Hindi lamang Katolikong simbahan ang pinag-uusapan natin. Kasama na dito ang iba't ibang bahay-dalanginan ng iba't ibang uri ng pananampalataya. Kung Katoliko kang tunay, kahit mapunta ka sa ibang simbahan, ituturing mo pa ring banal ang lugar.

Alam Mo Ba ang Gusto Mo?

27 Mayo 2010. Huwebes ng ika-8 Linggo ng Pasko ng Pagkabuhay
1 Peter 2, 2-12; Psalm 100; Mark 10, 46-52


Pinagaling ni Hesus si Bartimeo na anak ni Timeo. Nang makakita siya, sumunod siya kay Hesus sa daan sa Jerico. Bago nakakita si Bartimeo, tinanong siya ni Hesus kung ano ang gusto niyang gawin ni Hesus sa kanya. At tugon ni Bartimeo na sana makakita siya.

Kung tutuusin, alam natin ang gusto ng bulag: makakita. O ng bingi: makarinig. Bagaman alam na ni Hesus ang hihilingin ni Bartimeo, kailangang tanungin niya ito. Importanteng magkatugma ang akala natin sa tunay na kagustuhan ng tao. May mga maysakit na ayaw nang gumaling; kahit gusto mong gumaling sila. Alam ng Diyos ang pinakamabuti para sa atin, ngunit alam ba natin ang pinakamabuti para sa atin? Sa panalangin, nagkakatugma ba ang hangad natin at ng hangarin ng Diyos?

Kaya Mo Bang Pagsubok Makamtan Lamang ang Pangarap?

26 Mayo 2010. Miyerkoles ng ika-8 Linggo ng Pagkabuhay
1 Peter 1, 18-25; Psalm 147; Mark 10, 32-45

Nang sinabi ni Hesus ang kanyang sasapitin sa Jerusalem, lumapit ang mga anak ni Zebedeo at hiniling na luwalhatiin sila. Ngunit tinanong ni Hesus kung kaya nilang sapitin ang kanyang pagpapakasakit? Sumagot ang magkapatid na kaya nila, at sinabi ni Hesus na totoong darating ang panahon na sila rin ang magbubuwis ng buhay para sa Kanya. Subalit wala sa Kanya ang pagpaparangal.

Hindi tayo iba sa dalawang anak ni Zebedeo. Mahalaga sa atin ang parangalan, ang makilala, ang maging sikat. Mahalaga sa atin ang tinitingala ng maraming tao. Ngunit mas gusto nating makamtan ang pangarap na ito sa pinakamadali at sa lalong madaling panahon. Hindi natin alam na marami ang dinaanan ng mga taong nakamtan ito. Kaya ba natin harapin ang mga pagsubok sa daan tungo sa ating pangarap?

Iniiwan Ba Talaga ang Lahat Para sa Diyos?

25 Mayo 2010. Martes ng ika-8 Linggo ng Pagkabuhay
1 Peter 1, 10-16; Psalm 98; Mark 10, 28-31


Wika ni Pedro, “Iniwan namin ang lahat para sumunod kayo.” Anong ibig sabihin ng “iiwanan” pati magulang, anak, ari-arian? Tinuturo ni Hesus, na bagaman mahalaga ang ating mga ugnayan sa ating kapamilya at kapuso, hindi ito makahadlang sa pagsunod natin kay Hesus. Halimbawa, maraming kapamilyang nagiging hadlang sa pagiging makatarungan lalo na kapag kamag-anak ang nasa kamalian. Marami ding mga magulang ang naging hadlang sa mga bokasyon ng kanilang mga anak. Mas nananaig ang kahalagahan ng negosyo o ng praktikal na pangangailangan.

Ngunit, ang “umiwan” magkakaroon ng mas maraming kapamilya at kapuso. Mas dumadami ang kanilang kaibigan at kakilala. Kahit hindi sila kadugo at hindi kapalit ng kapamilya, nagiging kasama na rin sila sa pamilya at komunidad. Dumadami ang tunay na kaibigan sa mga taong mabuti at tunay na nagsisilbi sa Diyos at bayan.

Hiningi na ba ng Diyos ang Lahat sa Iyo?

24 Mayo 2010. Lunes ng ika-8 Linggo ng Pagkabuhay
1 Peter 1, 3-9; Psalm 111; Mark 10, 17-27


Upang makamit ang Kaharian ng Diyos, hinihiling ni Hesus ang pagbibigay na taos-puso at lubusan. Walang iniiwan, binibigay ang lahat. Walang kinikimkim na kahit konti, hinihingi ang lahat kahit natirang katiting. Mahirap ibigay lahat kapag mayaman. Mas madali magbigay ng lahat, kung wala gaanong kayamanang maipagyayabang.

Ganito din ang hinihiling sa atin. Kung kasukdulan ang pag-aalay ng buhay para sa kaligtasan natin, gayon din ang pagmamahal na inaasahang ipapakita natin sa Diyos at kapwa. Dahil dito, bukal sa loob nating maghanap-buhay para sa ating pamilya. Taos-puso ang pagbibigay ng sarili sa pag-aaral para sa ating magandang kinabukasan. Ibinubuhos natin ang sarili sa lahat na responsibilidad natin sa buhay. Sa pamamagitan lamang ng walang hanggang pag-ibig nakakamtan natin ang langit.

Are You About to Risk?

23 May 2010. Pentecost Sunday
Acts 2, 1-11; Psalm 104; Corinthians 12, 3-13; John 20, 19-23


I was a young catechist to children when the topic was the Trinity. It was easy for me to draw the image of God, the Father because it was not hard to imagine a father; or God, the Son, because they knew what a son was. But the Spirit? So when I got to describing the Holy Spirit, I was at a lost, until one child said, “Sir, God, the wife?”

Understand the Spirit is quite challenging. In Scripture, they described it as ruah, as a wind. A wind cannot be seen, but can be experienced. When the leaves of the trees move and rustle, we know it is the wind. Now in the peak of the El Nino, when it is so warm, we wish for that breeze to caress us. The Spirit cannot be seen, but its manifestation can be greatly experienced and appreciated.

First, the Spirit is experienced when people become one. Pentecost celebrates community. The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles describes to us that when the time of Pentecost was fulfilled, the disciples were in one place together, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit. And thus, the coming of the Holy Spirit creates a deep bond between persons. Each member who receives the Holy Spirit naturally becomes part of one body. Each member becomes a friend of another. Each member becomes a brother or sister to all who belongs to the community.

Theology has it that Pentecost is the closure of the story of the Tower of Babel. In the Tower of Babel, people were dispersed because they spoke different languages and they did not understand each other. At Pentecost, the disciples spoke in different tongues but the witnesses understood what they were talking about. The Spirit of Understanding builds community.

Furthermore, the second reading affirms that the Holy Spirit accords each one gifts. We may have different ways of service, but we serve only ONE. We may have different ways of praying or a different spirituality (Benedictine, Opus Dei, Dominican, Augustinian, Jesuit, etc.) but we worship only ONE. We may have a variety of talents, but the source is only ONE and the purpose is towards the greater glory of the ONE Trinity. We may trace our roots to a different race and culture, but we are all here at mass because we have one common love for Christ.

Second, the Spirit is manifested when people gain courage to proclaim and live the Gospel. Pentecost celebrates the passion for life. Peter Hans Kolvenbach, the General of the Society, said that passion is timeless. It celebrates the fire of greater desires; to dream dreams and aim high. It celebrates risks and sacrifice. The Holy Spirit gives us the courage to proclaim love, to spread the Gospel without fear. It is the same Spirit that allows us take great risks throughout time. It is what fires our imagination and pushes us to stubbornly pursue our dreams.

The disciples before Pentecost were consumed by fear; they all began to disperse; they began to feel so betrayed and hopeless the way the disciples on the Road to Emmaus felt. But when the Holy Spirit filled their hearts with the fire of love, they became brave witnesses of Christ, glorifying them as Jesus promised in the Gospel today.

We know we have taken great risks and thus conquered our fears: when we have been terrified to ask permission from our parents; or asked to do things we have never imagined ourselves doing; when we have to face the pain of separation from our loved ones; or when we are in a place unfamiliar to us. The courage and strength to jump is a gift of the Holy Spirit.

Finally, Pentecost brings community and risks together. When the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles, everyone understood what they were speaking despite the variety of tongues. But more practically, I believe that the Holy Spirit gives us the courage needed for the most important risk in our lives: that of taking all the opportunities to deepen our relationships with God, with one another and with the entire creation.

Sadly, most of us, do not take risks for fear of losing the very relationship we dream to have. To form community requires great leaps of faith. To deepen friendships requires great risks.

Here are some dilemmas we face when we are at the brink of taking that leap of faith:

1. Have we ever noticed that the worst way to miss someone is when they are right beside us and yet we can never have them.....and when the moment we can't feel them under our fingertips, we miss them? Have we ever wondered which hurts the most; saying something and wishing we had not, or saying nothing and wishing we had?

2. I guess the most important things are the hardest things to say. They are the things we get ashamed of because words diminish them, words shrink things that seemed timeless when they were in our head to no more than a living size when they are brought out. Let us not be afraid to risk telling someone we love them. If we do, they might break our heart... but if we don't, we might break theirs.

3. Have you ever decided not to become a couple because you were so afraid of losing what you already had with that person such as friendship? Your heart decides who it likes and who it doesn't. You can't tell your heart what to do. It does it on its own; when you least suspect it, or even when you don't want it to. Will you risk what you already have in order to have a deeper and more meaningful relationship?

4. Have you ever wanted to love someone with everything you had, but that other person was too afraid to let you? Too many of us stay walled because we are too afraid to care too much.... for fear that the other person does not care as much, or at all.

5. Have you ever loved someone and they had absolutely no idea whatsoever? Or fell for your best-friend in the entire world, and then sat around and watched her fall for someone else?

6. Have you ever denied your feelings for someone because your fear of rejection was too hard to handle? We tell lies when we are afraid; afraid of what we don't know, afraid of what others will think, afraid of what will be found out about us. But every time we tell a lie, the thing we fear grows stronger.

At Pentecost, we learn that the Holy Spirit is experienced in unity in diversity; we feel it when community is make possible.

Moreover, the Spirit teaches us to risk, to be courageous in our mission to love. Don't be a person who has to look back and wonder what they would have, or could have had. An opportunity of a great relationship with each other is worth any risk. No one waits forever.

Should We Preserve the Santacruzan?

From As Kingfishers Catch Fire. Introducing my new blog that contains articles other than practical homilies. Will appreciate it if you add it to your blogroll or your reading list.

The growing consciousness of the important role of women in Christian faith has been brought about by many feminist Catholic theologians and their continuous writings on the subject.

But long before this consciousness came about, the Filipino community particularly the Tagalogs concocted a popular retelling of biblical and historical female personages who contributed to the faith. It culminates with Queen Helena (Reyna Elena) who embarked on a pilgrimage to find the true cross of Christ. In the religious pageant, Reyna Elena is accompanied by a young Constantine who became the first emperor to make Christianity the official religion of the Roman empire. In towns who really know the tradition, they have San Macario mounted on a carroza. St. Macarius accompanied the Queen to the Holy Land.

There is no clear history as to the Santacruzan’s origins. The Tagalog region credits the beginning of the santacruzan or the Sta. Cruz de Manila after the declaration of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception on 8 December 1854. In 1867, Mariano Sevilla translated and published the devotional Flores de Maria or the “Mariquit na Bulaclac na sa Pagninilaynilay sa Buong Buan nang Mayo ay Inihahandog nang manga Devoto cay Maria Santisima” (The Flowers of Mary or the Beautiful Flowers Prayer for the whole month of May is dedicated by the devotees to Mary, most holy).

Since the Filipinos have a great devotion to the Holy Mother, a pageantry that involves a retelling of stories of faith will gain a large following. Philippine festivals begins in the first week of May with the Flores de Mayo. In some parts of the country, May is the time of fiestas and celebrations. To certain towns whose patron is San Isidro Labrador, the patron of farmers, revelry has already began with the Pahiyas of Quezon and the Carabao festival of Pulilan, Bulacan. A few towns away, the dancers of Obando are already twirling to the fandango. While the Boholanos are homeward bound for a series of town fiestas. So, while everyone is in a celebratory mood, the Santacruzan is held as the culminating event of the Maytime festivities everywhere. No wonder it holds the title, Queen of all Philippine Festivals.

The line-up of the Santacruzan tells a story. It begins with the ceriales: a cross, two candles, and in many processions, even with the boat of incense and the censer. Altar boys carrying the ceriales lead any religious procession. It tells you that the event has spiritual and catechetical significance. It is officially recognized by the Church as a practice of piety. The event therefore begins and ends in the town’s church.

A proper Santacruzan will begin with Methuselah, the legendary man who lived a thousand years. He is usually a child with a beard riding a cariton. He fries (at least acts like stirring) rice over a wok. He is a reminder that whatever glitters does not stay forever. What matters in life are the ones that are eternal.

After that, the Philippine context is put to the fore with Reyna Banderadas, who wears a red, white and blue terno and holding, obviously, the Philippine flag. Sometimes, we have Aetas to symbolize our pre-Hispanic lives before the coming of Christianity and Reyna Mora follows to tell us about the dominant religion during the time.

The coming of Christianity is symbolized by the virtues of faith (Reyna Fe with a cross), hope (Reyna Esperanza with an anchor) and charity (Reyna Caridad with a red heart). And then follows the sagalas Abogada who defends the poor, Sentenciada who symbolizes the innocents sentenced to death by King Herod, and Justicia who carries a scale.

The Biblical characters are next. The women of the Old Testament occupy a prominent place in the event. Reina Saba is the Queen of Sheba who sought Solomon for his wisdom. Infanta Judith is the judge who killed Holofernes to save her people. And finally, a personal favorite, Reina Esther is the Jewish Queen of Persia who protected her exiled people in Babylon from persecution.

The women of the Passion and Death of Christ succeeds the Old Testament characters. Veronica with the image of Christ on a cloth walks before the Tres Marias: Mary Magdalene with a perfume bottle, Maria Jacobe with a broom, Maria Salome with an incenser or oil. To add more sagalas, some will carry objects that would remind us of the Passion of Jesus: the money bag of Judas, the rooster of Peter, the spear and nails of the crucifixion.

In santacruzans that incorporate the Flores de Mayo, the final group are the titles of Mary. Usually eight children with the letters AVE MARIA head this part of the procession. Reina de las Estrellas (Queen of Stars) carries a star attached to a wand while Reina de las Propetas has an hour glass. Reina Cielo (Queen of Heaven), Reina de la Paz (Queen of Peace), Reina de las Flores and then Rosa Mistica hold a bouquet of flowers.

Finally, Reyna Elena highlights the procession. Queen Helena carries the cross with the young Constantine with her. She walks demurely under a decorated arc, usually well-lit and carried by the most handsome boys of the town. However, in towns whose prominent families pride themselves when their daughters are given recognition, they would give anything to secure that dream. Many santacruzans extend the title: you can have as many Reyna Elenas as you want, but the star is called, the Emperatriz.

As unassuming as he was, San Macario follows quietly. In identifying the true cross, St. Macarius of Jerusalem suggested that an ill woman be touched by the three crosses. One cross healed the woman instantly. Upon Emperor Constantine’s wish, a church was built on Christ’s sepulcher; the church became a basilica in the later years.

A band and a choir sings “Dios Te Salve Maria” in Latin. When it gets tired, they shift to English and the vernacular versions of Ave Maria to add some variety to a repetitive chant.

The santacruzan then ends in the town’s church. The parish priest blesses all who participated. The people then proceeds to the dinner venue usually the town plaza or gym where the santacruzan ball will also be held. The sagalas and their escorts finally dance the night away. After all, they spent a lot on their outfits.

Does the santacruzan have a future?

Celebrations are vital elements in a culture. As much as we preserve our artifacts in a museum to remember our past, and our written heritage is bound in libraries, we should make an equal effort to study our ritual traditions. How we do things contributes to our identity as Filipinos.

And like all celebrations, the santacruzan has to be nurtured by a people who acknowledges its significance not just in faith but in terms of building communities. We can do this by incorporating the history and the role of the santacruzan as part of our lessons in classrooms or lectures about our heritage.

Or see the potential in its creative concept.

The reason many of our citizens do not have a sense of our nationhood can be attributed to a lack of a collective memory. If Christians celebrate the bible that contains a collection of stories of faith, then Filipinos are brought together by a common memory.

Now a weird and wild idea. There are many women who continued to nurture our faith even after Queen Helena. If the santacruzan is a Philippine festival and its characters are extended depending on the number of sagalas, why can’t we extend or add another santacruzan-type of procession having the women in our history that contributed in nation-building?

Think: Melchora Aquino and Gabriela Silang on the runway? Cory Aquino in yellow? Or our mothers whose sweat and blood made us who we are today. Perhaps, we can re-tell our stories every year, so that our children remembers that building a nation is a contribution of who we are, what we have and what we hope for.

Shall We Change the Flores de Mayo to Hunyo?

From As Kingfishers Catch Fire. Introducing my new blog. Articles other than homilies. Add it to your blogroll.

When the dominant color of the countryside is brown and the heat is piercing, the need for water becomes pronounced. Imagine if your bread and butter solely depends on the fruit of the soil, nothing will make your heart jump for joy than the first signs of rain.

In the past when climate change was not an issue, the rains came in May. The first drops were believed to be the tears of the Virgin whose heart had been stabbed by the cries of her children.

That is why until today, May has always been the month of religious pageants and processions. And what’s a main event without flowers? When parched lands are quenched with water, flowers soon bloom and display their magnificent colors.

The Flores de Mayo is dedicated to the Virgin whose compassion watered the earth. Tradition has it that for the whole month, children scour the countryside every afternoon for the most beautiful blooms to be offered at the altar of the Holy Mother. They are gathered by a catechist who leads them in the praying of the rosary. They will hold the beads that symbolize a “garland of roses” (latin: rosarium “rose garden”). They will recite the Our Father’s and the Hail Mary’s while glancing once in a while to the statue of the Virgin, and then stare longer for the fleeting glance of another child inviting them to play afterwards.

In traditional communities whose folks keep the Flores de Mayo untarnished by other influences, the religious procession is done at the end of the month, usually at nightfall. With a bouquet of flowers, children in their best white garment demurely walk around town. Wearing a ribbon sash with a title from the litany of the rosary, every sagala and their escort are lighted by the devotees’ candles. Since there are more titles in the litany, there could be more sagalas in the procession.

The most important title of the Flores is Rosa Mistica. It is given to the winner of a fund-raising beauty pageant or to a local’s daughter. The parent/s of the main sagala must have made a name for themselves, whether as an affluent balikbayan, a successful professional or a popular celebrity.

The statue is followed by a throng of people, singing the “Ave Maria” while holding lighted candles that create the ephemeral feel of the ritual. For the more affluent communities, the procession is enlivened by music from a brass band. In fact, the biggest day of the Flores begins with the band playing around 5:00 am. The early morning music is called, diana or aurora. It is to remind the people of the day’s significance.

At sunset, the sagalas emerge from the church under beautiful arcos held by relatives or secret admirers. At the end of the line, the statue of the Holy Mother mounted on a carroza and decked with flowers is pushed by male devotees.

To citizens who treasure the event, the Flores de Mayo culminates with a ball at the town plaza and the much awaited event is the Rigodon de Honor. (Check the Flores de Mayo of Marinduque.)

From the very beginning, the prime motivation of the Flores de Mayo has always been gratitude. But like many tried and tested traditions, people loses sight of its original value while other elements not intrinsic to it are added.

The Flores de Mayo has always been church-based. The children who pray the rosary and has given flowers are also the ones who will parade the titles of the Virgin around town. To some conscientious communities, the Rosa Mistica is given to the child who has a perfect attendance. It is meant to encourage the children; as well as to ensure that the Flores de Mayo will stay as part of our culture.

How are we going to update this tradition?

First, we should return to its original inspiration: the beginning of the rainy season and a gesture of gratitude.

With the El Nino and climate change today, the rains stood us up. The fields remain parched and dry even at the end of May. Are we foreseeing a change of title: Flores de Hunyo?

Or should we be conscious that even with God’s mercy, we are not exempted from responsibility?

The Flores de Mayo, despite its name, is church-and-community-based. Our faith is genuine, but uninformed. It has been kept by popular religious practices such as rosaries, novenas, processions, and celebrations.

That is why our faith has not been a leaven of transformation in Philippine society (The Christian Faith of Today’s Filipino, 2nd Plenary Council of the Philippines 1991).

Years ago, the Flores de Mayo has been a month-long celebration. Before the main event, the Hermano or Hermana Mayor organize other events such as medical and dental missions, fund-raising activities, or mass weddings.

Can an environmental activity be included in the Maytime festivities? The consciousness of today’s Fiipino has already been opened to understand our contribution to this heat that has not brought the rains back to our homeland.

Maytime Festivals: In Praise of the First Rains

From As Kingfishers Catch Fire. Introducing my new blog.

If you jumped for joy when the first drop of rain fell on our soil after a very long drought, then you will understand the fiestas of May. If you felt so relieved when it rained, marking the end of this terrible heat brought by the El Nino, then you know why May is celebrated with flowers and festivals. If you were so happy for the farmers so could not plant because their fields cracked and dried, then you can feel the gratitude at the heart of their celebrations. There is no civilization, primitive or present, without festivities.

The fiesta is a very important element of our culture and our history. Alejandro R. Roces tells us in his coffee table book, Fiesta, that “the fiesta played a major role in the making of the Filipino.” (Alejandro Roces, Fiesta, Vera-Perez Inc. 1980, p. 9) In the past, our ancestors were scattered among the 7,100 and more islands that comprised our nation. In the first place, there was no country to talk about. We were grouped into barangays or balanghais, small close-knit Malay communities. A barangay was a boat used by the early Malays in migrating to the Philippines. Eventually, it meant a boatload of people, or a clan. The word, barkada, originally means a ‘gang’ or a ‘barangay’ and therefore, kabarkadahan literally means shipmates.

When the Spaniards came, we were to be conquered by the sword and the cross. They wanted us to be one nation, under the banner of Spain. But what can bring everyone, every scattered barangay into one community?

Civilization was about being together; living not only as a clan, but in a community. So the Spanish friars brought out a program that would put the decentralized society ‘under the bells’ --- the extent of a community was “the hearing distance of the bell.” The answer was the fiesta, the time when everyone comes to the town church, to the table of the Lord at least three times a year: Holy Week, Corpus Christi and the feast of the patron saint.

In the past, the churches that brought Filipinos together under the bells were made of bamboo and nipa, constructed Filipino style. But it was the Jesuit, Fr. Antonio Sedeno SJ, who was credited to have introduced stone, lime and tiles into the construction of the churches, most of them, survive until today. Take for example the two oldest churches of Bohol like Baclayon and Loboc. With the construction of these churches and belfries, the bells became larger and larger directly proportional to the expansion and population of the town.

The fiesta was a reunion. It was in that celebration that the early Filipinos return to their roots, to the things that comprised their identity. They celebrated their ethnicity with the fiesta. It was like a family whose bond were strengthen when the children feasted together at the cabecera of the home.

And so, wherever they were, Bicolanos returned for the Penafrancia fluvial procession. The people of Quezon: for the Lucban Festival called the Pahiyas. The people of Pulilan, Bulacan come for a grand revelry at the Carabao Festival. Aklanons marked the day for the Ati-Atihan. By the 18th and 19th century, the clan was replaced by the community. Eventually, we would hold national holidays as a country.

But what made the fiesta more felt and palpable? It was its regularity in small doses. The introduction of the Sunday mass brought the people closer, congregating more often than before. It was a day of celebration since it was “the Lord’s Day” and thus Sundays were not just a time to worship God. It was also a time to get to know the people of the community. You only had to attend mass to know the latest gossip and the current fashion. In fact, it was the Sunday ritual that had become responsible for the evolution of the Filipino attire.

But it was in the month of May, that people of the soil found ways to celebrate. As other towns planned their revelry in other months, the towns that owed their existence and livelihood from agriculture had their calendars marked when the first sign of rain fell, signifying the time to plant. To these folks, rain was a blessing from God. And thus, we heard the old telling us to rejoice at the beginning of the rainy season. The first drops of rain, they believed, were the tears from the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. Those tears were shed out of pity for her children who were suffering from the dry spell.

No wonder, the whole month of May was dedicated to two specific themes: Mary and agriculture. In fiestas, both the spiritual and the practical intertwines and merges.

So today, when you are so happy that the rains have arrived to water the earth, our ancestors looked at the event as a heirophany, an experience of God. The flowers that bloom in profusion are brought to the altar by the children in what we call, the Flores de Mayo. Inside the church that brought people under the bells, the children would put flowers on the altar of the Virgin while praying the rosary, the beads of roses. At the end of the Flores de Mayo, whenever the community decided to end the ritual, a procession is held. Every little girl are assigned a title of Mary in the litany of the rosary. The last sagala of the Flores de Mayo ends with the Rosa Mistica, or the Mystical Rose.

Another is the Santacruzan. It celebrates the great women in the history of salvation. It is a celebration of womanhood: the great women who participated in salvation history. At the final stretch of the Santacruzan is Queen Helena and her son, Constantine who would become the first Christian emperor and the first ruler who made Christianity the official religion of the Roman empire. Thus, strictly speaking, the Reyna Elena, the queen and mother, is the highlight of the Santacruzan as distinguished from the procession of the Flores de Mayo.

However today, the Flores de Mayo and the Santacruzan are slowly merging into one religious pageantry. It is good to know that all these fiestas are celebrations of the great women in the history of the Christian faith.

Finally, the celebrations of May will not be complete without the mention of San Isidro Labrador, the patron of farmers. There are two fiestas that are worth mentioning. First, the Pahiyas of Lucban and Sariaya, Quezon. It is the most colorful of all fiestas: with the multi-colored rice leaves called the kiping to the flowers and fruits that hung as ornaments that adorn every single nook and cranny of their homes. It is indeed a festival of environmental art. Adorned are gift-laden bamboo that are lowered when the image of San Isidro passes their homes; all in homage to their patron saint who ensures a fruitful harvest.

The second is the Carabao Festival of Pulilan, Bulacan. San Isidro Labrador’s religious symbols are the plow and the oxen. The story goes that he worked for only one landowner called, Juan de Vargas. One day, Senor Vargas learned that San Isidro was always at church, and thus it hindered him from working. So he went to see for himself, but when he was about to reprimand him, he saw, not only San Isidro’s plow but two white oxen being led by invisible plowers. Juan de Vargas realized that San Isidro was getting help from the Lord.

Along the way, the people of the Pulilan took that story and made it their own. They made the plow and carabao the emblems in the fiesta. Before the festival, these beasts of burden were trained to kneel as long as possible. On the day itself, a contest was held: the longest decorated carabao wins.

Fiestas are living traditions. It is preserved because a community wills that it should be kept, enriched, and celebrated. Look closely, a fiesta is a big event that is carefully organized and carried out by a lot of people from the church, the community and the government. These relics of the past are brought to the present to remind us of who we are and the things that we have always been grateful for.

It is said that a nation is bound by the things they love. So too we are bound by the things we hold dear. And if we believe that the Philippines is a country worth dying for, then it is also a nation worth celebrating.

Think about close-knit families: the bond between each member is strengthened by a common memory of their loved ones. Every individual’s story is added to the family’s memoria, a collection of stories. It is these memories that people talk about when they celebrate.

So too with us: when we come to a fiesta, we celebrate a common memory. We come home to tell, share and relive our stories. But we come home to tell our stories over food and drink. We gather in a celebration. We become one in a fiesta.

If you think you have lost touch with who you are and the people you love, the answer is simple: find time to enjoy their company. Years of separation can be bridged by one celebration.

Sanhi Ka Ba ng Pagkakaisa o Pagkakawatak-watak?

23 Mayo 2010. Linggo ng Pentekostes
Gawa 2, 1-11. Psalm 104; Roma 8, 8-17. Juan 14, 15-16

Hindi maipagkakaila ng mga unang Kristiyano ang mga pagbabagong naidulot ng pagbaba ng Espiritu Santo sa kanila sa araw ng Pentekostes dahil sa mga biyayang nakamit nila (1 Cor 12-14). Ang mga biyayang ito ang naghubog at nagpanday ng mga komunidad na nagkakaisa sa kanilang malalim na pag-ibig kay Kristo.

Hinahamon tayong lahat na maging mapagkupkop at mapagkaibigan sa lahat ng tao kasama ang mga hindi nating kabilang tulad ng mga taong kasapi sa iba’t ibang relihiyon, kultura o pananaw sa buhay. Sa gitna ng alitan, pagtutungali at digmaan, ang Espiritu Santo ang magsisilbing lakas sa pagpapalaganap ng pagkakaisa, paguunawaan at kapayapaan. Sa pag-uunawa sa bawat isa na bunga ng pagmamahal natin kay Kristo, gagalangin natin ang ating pagkakaiba, itataguyod natin ang katarungan at pagkapantay-pantay, at ipapalaganap natin ang mga pinapahalagahan ng lahat ng tao sa buong mundo.

Sinusundan mo ba ang buhay na hindi para sa iyo?

22 Mayo 2010. Sabado sa ika-7 Linggo ng Pasko ng Pagkabuhay
Acts 28, 16-31; Psalm 11; John 21, 20-25


Iba-iba ang landas ng bawat isa. Iba-iba ang nakaukit na kapalaran sa palad ng Diyos. Hindi importante kung ano ang kapalaran ng kapwa kaysa atin. Wika ni Hesus nang tinanong siya ni Pedro ukol sa alagad na mahal ni Hesus kung ano ang sasapitin niya. Sabi ni Hesus, “kung loobin kong mamalagi siya hangga’t ako’y pumarito, ano ito sa iyo? Sumunod ka sa akin!”

Sa halip na sundan natin ang tawag ng Diyos sa atin, nauubos ang ating oras sa pagkukumpara sa kapalaran ng ibang tao. Sa halip na hanapin ang sariling landas, hindi natin ito natatagpuan dahil hinahangad natin ang hindi para sa atin. Iisa lamang ang dapat na sundin: ang kalooban ng Diyos. Kailan ba tayo napapatingin sa iba at nainggit sa halip na magsikap ayon sa sarili nating bokasyon?

Hangang Saan Kaya Mong Patunayan ang Pag-ibig?

21 Mayo 2010. Biyernes sa ika-7 Linggo ng Pasko ng Pagkabuhay
Acts 25,13-21; Psalm 103; John 21, 15-19


Pangatlong beses tinanong si Pedro kung mahal niya si Hesus, at pangatlong tinugon ni Pedro ang bawat tanong na mahal din niya si Hesus. Ayon sa mga teologo, ito raw ang kapalit sa pangatlong pagtakwil ni Pedro. Dahil dito, handa nang itagubilin ni Hesus ang kanyang mga kawan sa pamumuno ni Pedro. Ngunit isang babala ang iniwan ni Hesus kay Pedro. Sa kanyang pagsunod kay Hesus, ididipa niya ang kanyang kamay ngunit iba ang magbibigkis sa kanya na hindi niya nais. Ang tanda ng kamatayan ang siyang tanda ng pagsunod kay Hesus.

Kasama ang krus sa pagsunod kay Hesus. Mapapatunay ang ating sinumpang pagmamahal sa Diyos sa pamamamagitan ng kusang pagbubuhat ng sarili nating krus sa buhay. Halimbawa, kung hangad nating maka-ahon sa hirap, handa rin ba tayong magtiis at maghanap-buhay?

Magkakaiba at Magkapareho Tayong Lahat

20 Mayo 2010. Huwebes ng ika-7 Linggo ng Pasko ng Pagkabuhay
Acts 22:30- 23:6-11; Psalm 16; John 17, 20-26

Ang pagkakaisa nating lahat ang tanging hangarin ni Hesus sa kanyang panalangin sa Ama. Ang pagkakaisang ito nakabatay sa pagiging isa ni Hesus at ng kanyang Ama. At pag-ibig ang nagbibigkis sa kanila. Pag-ibig lamang ang tanging makakabigkis sa ating may iba’t ibang pinanggalingan, pinagkakaabalahan, at pag-uugali.

Magkakaiba tayong lahat. May kanya-kanyang pananaw at kultura ang bawat tao. Kadalasan, sanhi ito ng pagkawatak-watak at paghihiwalay. Ngunit, sa kabila ng pagkakaiba, nananatiling iisa tayong lahat sa pag-ibig ng Panginoon. At dahil dito, wika ni San Pablo, walang makakapaghihiwalay sa atin sa pag-ibig ng Diyos. Magkaroon man tayo ng iba’t ibang paraan ng pagsamba o pagsasakatuparan sa utos ng Diyos ayon sa ating personalidad at pagkakilanlan, iisa ang ating hinangad: na manatili tayo sa pagmamahal ng Maykapal.

Mauunawaan natin ang pagkakaiba at pagkakaisa nating lahat sa video na ito:


video

Bakit Kailangang Sumunod sa Utos ng Diyos?

19 Mayo 2010. Miyerkoles ng ika-7 Linggo ng Pasko ng Pagkabuhay
Acts 20, 28-38; Psalm 68; John 17, 11-19


Iningatan tayo ni Hesus nang siya’y naririto sa lupa. At tulad noon, patuloy na iniingatan tayo ng Diyos. Hindi niya gustong mapahamak tayo. At hindi nga tayo mapapahamak kapag nagiging banal tayo sa katotohanan. Halimbawa, isang katotohanan ang kahalagahan ng buhay. Kapag pinuprotektahan nating lahat ang katotohanang ito sa pamamagitan ng pagrerespeto sa kapwa, walang mangyayaring krimen.

Isang magandang basehan ang mga utos ng Diyos. Nakakatulong sa isang mapayapang buhay ang pagsunod sa mga alituntuning itinuro ni Hesus sa atin. Dahil dito maalagaan ang dignidad ng tao at kalikasan. Magiging mapayapa ang ating buhay kapag nananahan ang pag-ibig at katarungan sa ating komunidad. Sa kabilang banda, nagiging mapanganib ang buhay kapag hindi nirerespeto ng ibang tao ang mga katotohanang ito.

Ang Tunay na Langit

18 Mayo 2010. Martes ng ika-7 Linggo ng Pasko ng Pagkabuhay
Acts 20, 17-27; Psalm 68; John 17, 1-11


Ayon kay Hesus ang makilala ang tanging totoong Diyos at si Hesukristong sinugo ang tunay na buhay magpakailanman. Dahil dito hindi isang lugar ang langit, kundi isang kalagayan: kung nasaan at nakikita natin ang Diyos, nasa langit tayo. Madali itong maunawaan kung titingnan natin ang ating mga pagkakaibigan. Sinasabi ng magkasintahan, “Nasa langit ako kapag kasama ko siya!” Hindi nakabase sa lugar ang langit kundi sa taong kasama nito. Kung wala ang iniirog, wala ring langit.

Natitikman natin ang kaluwalhatian kapag nakikilala natin sa puso ang Maykapal. Habang lumalalim ang ating pananampalataya at pag-aaral sa Bibliya upang makilala si Hesus, nalalasahan na natin ang langit. Ayon sa “Ama Namin”, kapag sinusunod natin ang kalooban ng Diyos dito sa lupa para nang sa langit, nagaganap ang Kaharian ng Diyos.

Lakasan Mo ang Iyong Loob

17 Mayo 2010. Lunes ng ika-7 Linggo ng Pasko ng Pagkabuhay.
Acts 19, 1-8; Psalm 68; John 16, 29-33


Ayon kay Hesus, kagipitan ang meron tayo sa mundo, ngunit lakasan natin ang ating loob dahil napagtagumpayan Niya ang mundo. Malinaw sa atin ang salitang kagipitan dahil ramdam na ramdam natin ito sa ating buhay. Hindi natin napagkakasya ang ating suweldo sa gastusin ng bahay. Hindi natin maitawid ang ating mga pangangailangan dahil kulang ang pera sa bulsa. Hindi natin lubusang maintindihan ang nagrerebeldeng mga anak. Gipit din tayo sa pag-unawa ukol sa mga bagay-bagay na nangyayari sa bansa at sa buong mundo.

Ngunit lakasan natin ang ating loob. Makakayanan nating dalhin ang mga pasanin sa buhay. Sa masigasig na pagsisikap, nararatnan din natin ang tagumpay. Hindi katapusan ng buhay ang kamatayan. Kaluwalhatian ang dulo ng ating paglalakbay. Makakaasa tayo na sa kabila ng ating pagsisikap ang minimithing langit.

Relinquishing a Position? How to Exit Gracefully

16 May 2010 Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord
Acts 1, 1-11; Psalm 46; Ephesians 1, 17-23; Luke 24, 46-53


We celebrate in the Solemnity of the Ascension the end of the mission of Jesus on earth. Before He goes up to heaven, Jesus gathers all of His disciples who will continue His mission with the help of the Holy Spirit whom He promises to send. To these disciples whom He knows are not perfect, He entrusts the mission of the Kingdom. As He is taken up to heaven, He raises His hands and blesses them.

The picture of the Ascension is very much relevant to our lives today. As the result of the elections becomes clearer, we now know to whose hands we are newly entrusted. And at the same time, we know who has to let go and relinquish their office.

Life is full of comings and goings. There are times when we have to give up our positions to give way to another. We are promoted to a higher office that we have to leave the position we once occupied for someone else. Or, we have resigned from our work because we want another that would pay us well. For many religious, assignments to another mission comes frequently. For Jesuits in the Philippines, we know our new assignment on Easter Sunday, and it is explicit that we have to be there on the 15th of May. It is often the case that we are left with a few weeks to be able to endorse the work to another Jesuit or lay person who will take the work we’ve previously started or continued by our predecessor. In all these, the issue is proper continuity.

How do we exit properly and gracefully? We take the cue from Jesus.

First, Jesus knows when it is time to go. Though He remained a few weeks after the Resurrection and appeared to His disciples several times, the Acts of the Apostles tell us that He knows that it is time for them to take on the job. He is aware of their weaknesses. He knows that Peter is impulsive while James and John are ambitious. He deliberately choose those who are not scholars; but the sinners and lowly in society. His followers are all simple folks and therefore He is very much aware that they will fail in one way or the other. But they will never learn unless He says goodbye.

Second, Jesus puts all His trust on His disciples. He hinges on the fact that they are His witnesses. He believes that His disciples will remember what He said, did and taught. When He appeared to His disciples after the resurrection, He always reminded them of their friendship and their mission.

In Lake of Tiberias, He brought to memory the event of their specific call by appearing on the shore, instructing the disciples on the boat to cast their nets into the sea, preparing a fish-and-bread breakfast, breaking the bread and sharing their meals together. On the way to Emmaus, Jesus tells the two disciples about what was said of Him in the Scripture. When Jesus blessed and broke the bread, the two disciples recognized Jesus because blessing and breaking the bread was Jesus’ habit.

Jesus trusts that they will not forget. In the Gospel, Jesus said to his disciples:

“Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer
and rise from the dead on the third day
and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins,
would be preached in his name
to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
You are witnesses of these things.”

Third, Jesus blesses them. To give our blessing is to do these things: We ask God to look favorably on those we bless. We endow someone with what we cherish. And we express our gratitude for them. Jesus raised His hands to God and prays for them. He promised to send the Holy Spirit who will wrap them with power to preach. And then, He expresses His gratitude.

What a way to go.

So too with us. When we are to leave, we think of those who will take our place. Some of us would hold on to our past glories. Some would even keep to themselves the secret of their success, so that their successor will not achieve as much.

But if we are Christians, we have to be like Jesus. We have to see our work in the perspective of the vineyard of Christ; every laborer in the vineyard works for one sole purpose, one enterprise. No one is indispensable. If the owner of the vineyard tells us to work in another part of the field, we are to go where there is greater need. And that means, to leave gracefully as Jesus in His ascension.

So that those who will take our place will be like the disciples rejoicing on their way back to their “office” in Jerusalem. They are happy because they know that the Lord who promised to love them forever, also trusted them. That is the reason why Jesus is endearing to those who follow Him.

Ang Pag-Akyat ni Hesus ay Isang Pamamaalam

16 Mayo 2010. Dakilang Kapistahan ng Pag-akyat ni Hesus sa Langit
Gawa 1, 1-11; Psalm 46; Ef 1, 17-23; Lucas 24, 46-53


Ang Kapistahan ng Pag-akyat ng Panginoon sa Langit, o Feast of the Ascension ay tunay na hiwaga. Pilit nitong isinasalita ang hindi masasambit, at pilit nitong ilarawan ang hindi mailarawan. Ang pag-akyat ng Panginoon sa Langit ay isang pamamaalam. At tulad ng mga pamamaalam, nananatili itong isang hiwaga at isang katapusan. May isang awit na gustong-gusto ko: Ang Awit ng Pamamaalam na gawa ni Jimmy Hofileña at Achoot Cuyegkeng.

Ibigin man nating pigilin ang paglubog ng araw,
Ang marahang pagkain sa pisngi ng buwan,
May mga bagay na ‘di matanto at hindi mapigilan.

Ibigin man nating yakapin ang lawak ng dagat,
At sadyang hulihin ang pagkurap ng tala,
May mga bagay na ‘di mahuli at hindi masansala.

Ngunit kahit ako’y lumayo, huwag ka sanang malungkot
Taglay mo pa rin ang aking pag-ibig sa iyong puso.

Ibigin man nating abutin ang dulo ng langit,
At ating habulin ang talim ng kidlat
May mga bagay na di mahabol,
Laging isang hiwaga.

Sino ba sa atin ang hindi nakaranas ng pamamaalam at hindi nasaktan? Sino ba sa atin ang hindi pa naranasang naiwanan, naramdaman ang malalim na kalungkutan at naghangad na sana walang katapusan. Kung maaari lamang pigilin ang paglubog ng araw, o yakapin ang lawak ng dagat o hulihin ang pagkurap ng tala, o abutin ang dulo ng langit. Ganito ang pakiramdam ng isang namamaalam. Sabi ng isang awit, Sana’y wala nang wakas. Subalit alam natin, ang pamamaalam ay bahagi ng buhay.

Naaalala ko, noong umalis ang aking kaibigang pari para mag-aral sa ibang bansa. Alam kong higit na limang taon kaming hindi magkikita. Sabi ko sa kanya, “Tawagin mo ako kapag aalis ka na upang makapagpaalam ako.” At nang umalis siya, naiyak ako. Bago siya umalis, tinuro niya sa akin ang gagawin kong trabaho dahil ako ang pumalit sa kanya. Noong siya’y kasama ko, hindi ako natatakot na magkamali dahil may gagabay at sasalo sa akin. Panatag ang aking kalooban. Ngunit, hindi lang dahil may silbi siya sa akin. Alam ko, sa kailaliman ng aking puso, naiyak ako dahil mahal ko ang aking kaibigan. Palagay ko dito naluluklok ang hiwaga: pag-ibig sa lumilisan. Wala nang iba. Walang kailangang paliwanag. Basta nararamdaman. Palagay ko ito ang naramdaman ng mga alagad ni Hesus habang namaalam siya at umakyat sa langit.

Ang pamamaalam ay may iba’t ibang kahulugan. Sa Guam, Esta agupa (ibig sabihin, hanggang bukas, until tomorrow). Sa French, Au revoir (ibig sabihin, hanggang sa muling pagkikita, till we meet again). Sa Guatemala, Naíbuga [ibig sabihin, alis na ako, I am going.] Sa India Gujarati, Fari malshun [ibig sabihin, see you later]. Sa Mam, Q'onk chípena [ibig sabihin, strength to all of you]. Sa Syria, Turkey, Fush beshlomo [stay in peace]. Sa Ingles, Farewell [ibig sabihin, Fair you well. Swertehin ka sana]. Sa Espanol, adios [I entrust you to God]. At sa Ingles, goodbye [Ibig sabihin, God be with you]. At ang pinakamaganda ay ang Pilipino: Paalam. Ibig sabihin, may pina-aalam; may iniiwanang salita. Ano ang ipinapa-alam?

Sa paglisan, pinapaalam na kinikilala natin na ang Diyos ay kasama sa paglalakbay. God be with you o Go with God. Hindi dapat matakot o malungkot, dahil kasama mo ang Diyos. Hindi dapat isiping ika’y mag-isa, dahil kasama mo ang Panginoon. At hinding hindi ka Niya iiwanan.

Sa paglisan, pinapaalam din natin sa taong aalis na mahalaga at mahal natin siya. Sinasabi natin, “Hindi ka namin mapipigilang lumisan dahil kailangan mo sa iyong pagtubo. Kahit masakit sa amin, kailangan mong maglakbay. Ngunit kahit ika’y lumayo, huwag ka sanang malungkot. Taglay mo pa rin ang aking pag-ibig sa iyong puso.”

Sa ordinasyon ng mga pari, kinukuha nila ang taong importante sa kanila upang isuot ang kasulya at istola. Kaya, bago sumakay ng taxi ang aking kaibigan papuntang ibang bansa, ibinigay ko sa kanya ang larawan na iyon sa aking ordinasyon upang maalala niya kung gaano kahalaga siya sa aking bokasyon. At pagkatapos, umuwi akong mapayapa, umasa na kasama niya ang Diyos sa paglakbay, at umasa sa Diyos na samahan din Niya ako sa aking panibagong buhay.

Kaya, ang pamamaalam ay isang simulain. Simula ng bagong buhay---- sa naglalakbay at sa naiiwan. Taglay ng bawat isa ang pagkakaibigan at pag-iibigan. Taglay ng bawat isa ang Diyos na kasama sa lahat ng panahon.

Sabi ni San Pablo, “Sa buhay man o kamatayan, walang makapaghihiwalay sa atin, sa pag-ibig ng Diyos.” (Rom 8: 38,39)

Hindi nakapagtataka na ang mga alagad ni Hesus ay nagbalik sa Jerusalem, taglay ang malaking kagalakan. Palagi sila sa templo at doo’y nagpupuri. Sino ang hindi natutuwa kapag may nagmamahal sa atin, at mayroon tayong minamahal?

At higit sa lahat, ang pag-akyat ng Panginoon sa langit ay nagpahiwatig na ang pag-ibig natin sa Kanya at sa isa’t isa ay magpakailanman. At ang ating paglalakbay ay may patutunguhan: may langit na naghihintay sa atin; ang langit na mithi ng pinakamithiin ng puso. Sabi ni CS Lewis, “Maraming panahon na tila hindi natin hinahangad ang langit, ngunit ako’y nagtataka, sa kaila-ilaliman ng ating puso, mayroon pa ba tayong ibang tanging hangarin, maliban na lamang na maabot natin ang langit.”

Kaya ang aking panalangin at pagbasbas para sa ating lahat: samahan nawa tayo ng Diyos sa ating paglalakbay sa buhay, at nawa maabot natin ang ating langit.

Ang Pamamaalam ni Hesus

16 Mayo 2010. Pag-Akyat ng Panginoon
Acts 1, 1-11; Psalm 46; Eph 1, 17-23; Lucas 24, 46-53


Pinahihiwatig ng Panginoon sa kanyang pag-akyat sa langit ang pagtatapos ng Kanyang misyon sa lupa. Tinipon niya ang kanyang mga alagad, nagpaalam, itinaas ang kanyang kamay at binasbasan sila. Habang binabasbasan niya, humiwalay siya sa kanila at umakyat sa langit.

Hindi lamang isang katapusan ang kanyang pamamaalam, kundi isang simulain. Simula ng bagong buhay---- sa naglalakbay at sa naiiwan. Taglay ng bawat isa ang pagkakaibigan at pag-iibigan. Taglay ng bawat isa ang Diyos na kasama sa lahat ng panahon. Sabi ni San Pablo, “Sa buhay man o kamatayan, walang makapaghihiwalay sa atin, sa pag-ibig ng Diyos” (Rom 8: 38,39). Hindi nakapagtataka na ang mga alagad ni Hesus ay nagbalik sa Jerusalem, taglay ang malaking kagalakan. Palagi sila sa templo at doo’y nagpupuri. Sino ang hindi natutuwa kapag may nagmamahal sa atin, at mayroon tayong minamahal?

Sa pamamaalam, ano talaga ang sinasabi mo?

15 Mayo 2010. Sabado ng ika-6 na Linggo ng Pasko ng Pagkabuhay
Acts 18, 23-28; Psalm 47; John 16, 23-28


Galing sa Ama si Hesus, kaya iiwanan na niya ang mundo pabalik sa Ama. Namamaalam na si Hesus. May ibig sabihin ang salitang, paalam: may pina-aalam o may iniiwanang salita. Sino ba sa atin ang hindi nakaranas ng pamamaalam na hindi nasaktan o naramdaman ang kalungkutan nang iniwanan?

Sa paglisan, pinapaalam na kinikilala natin na ang Diyos kasama sa paglalakbay: God be with you – goodbye. Huwag matakot, sinasabi natin sa taong lilisan na hindi siya mag-iisa dahil kasama mo ang Panginoon. Sa paglisan, pinapaalam din natin sa taong aalis na mahalaga at mahal natin siya. Sinasabi natin na hindi natin sila mapipigilan dahil higit makakabuti ito sa kanila. Ngunit sa kanilang paglayo, pinapaalam natin na taglay nila sa kanilang puso ang ating pagmamahal.

Handa Ka Bang Ibigay ang Lahat Para sa Mahal Mo?

14 Mayo 2010. Biyernes ng ika-6 na Linggo ng Pasko ng Pagkabuhay
Acts 1, 15-26; Psalm 113; John 15, 9-17


Walang pagmamahal na hihigit pa sa pag-aalay ng sariling buhay alang-alang sa kanyang mga kaibigan, wika ni Hesus. Ibig sabihin, itinataas natin kaysa ating sarili ang mga taong tinatangi ng ating puso. Dahil dito, handa nating isantabi ang ating pansariling pangangailangan alang-alang sa kanila.

Maliban sa mga taong kilala tulad ng mga bayani at banal, maraming mga tao sa kasaysayan ng ating buhay ang nagsikap upang marating natin ang ating mga pangarap. Araw-araw na isinasaalang-alang ng mga magulang ang kapakanan ng kanilang mga anak. Madalas ipinamamalas ng isang kaibigan ang kanilang pag-aaruga sa kapwa kaibigan kung may dinadala itong problema sa buhay. Maraming mga doktor o nars ang nagkusa sa gitna ng digmaan upang alagaan ang mga nasugatan. Handa ba tayong ibuwis ang ating buhay alang-alang sa Diyos at kapwa?

Parang Circus Ba ang Iyong Damdamin?

13 Mayo 2010. Huwebes sa ika-6 na Linggo ng Pasko ng Pagkabuhay
Acts 18, 1-8; Psalm 98; John 16, 16-20


Nagbabago ang ating mga damdamin. Sabi ni Hesus sa kanyang mga alagad, iiyak kayo at tataghoy, habang magagalak ang mundo. Ngunit ang paninimdim magiging kagalakan. Alam ni Hesus na sa kanyang paglisan, masasaktan at mananaghoy ang kanyang mga alagad. Magiging masakit sa kanila ang daan ng krus ni Hesus; nawalan silang lahat ng pag-asa. Ngunit sa muling pagkabuhay, ang kanilang mga luha magiging galak.

Nagbabago din ang ating buhay. Hindi lahat ng panahon nagugulumihanan o nasasaktan tayo. Hindi lahat ng oras nakakadama tayo ng lungkot at pait. Hindi ang krus ang pinakahuling karanasan natin, kundi ang muling pagbangon at pagkakaroon uli ng pag-asa. Minsan natututok tayo sa ating mga hinagpis. Isang malaking tulong kapag naniniwala tayo na sa kahuli-hulihan, magiging maayos pa rin ang ating buhay.

May Gusto Ka Bang Kausapin?

12 Mayo 2010. Miyerkoles sa ika-6 na Linggo ng Pasko ng Pagkabuhay.
Acts 17:15, 22—18:1; Psalm 148; John 16, 12-15

Sabi ni Hesus sa kanyang mga alagad, “Marami pa sana akong sasabihin sa inyo pero hindi ninyo masasakyan ngayon.” Ibig sabihin, may mga nais pang ibahagi si Hesus ngunit hindi pa handa ang kanyang mga alagad. Ngunit maiihanda ng Espiritu ang puso’t isipan ng mga alagad upang maunawaan ang mga katotohanang itinuro ni Hesus kasama ang iba pang bagay.

Maraming mga pagkakataong nais na nating sabihin ang isang katotohanan o isang pangyayari, ngunit alam nating hindi pa handa ang taong babahaginan natin. Maaring bata pa upang maintindihan nito tulad sa inampon. Bago pa lamang ang pagkakaibigan o wala pa sa tamang lugar. May mga katotohanang kailangang ipagpaliban sa mas tamang panahon. Isang pagpapakita ito ng pag-unawa, respeto at malasakit. Hinahangad natin ang mas makakabuti ng kapwa, tutal darating ang oras kung saan maaari na itong ilahad.

Nababagabag Ka Ba? Bakit?

11 Mayo 2010. Martes sa ika-6 na Linggo ng Pasko ng Pagkabuhay
Acts 16, 22-34; Psalm 138; John 16, 5-11


Ang nakaugat sa buhay ni Hesus bilang puno ng ubas ang siyang tamang ugnayan natin sa Maykapal. Ang taong may pananalig sa ating mga sinasabi at ginagawa ang siyang may tiwala sa atin. Dahil ang lahat-lahat kay Hesus ang siyang totoo, kumakapit tayo sa kanya. Sa gayon, isang kasalanan ang hindi nananalig kay Hesus.

Nararamdaman natin bilang isang pagkukulang sa buhay kung tumiwalag tayo sa Diyos. Para bagang may kulang sa ating buhay. Kung nararatnan natin ang mga pagsubok, mas matindi ang hirap kapag wala tayong makapitan man lamang; walang mga kaibigang nakikiramay. Higit sa lahat, kapag nakagawa tayo ng karumaldumal, nararamdaman natin ang paghihiwalay sa totoong puno bilang isang lamat sa ating budhi. Kahit hindi natin gamay ang pananampalataya, alam natin na mali ang ating ginawa. Ito ang kalabit ng Espiritu sa atin.

Simulan ng Dasal ang Pagboboto

10 Mayo 2010 Eleksyon
Today's script for Kape't Pandasal, 5:15 AM ABS CBN

Magandang umaga po, kapamilya. Ito po si Fr. Jboy at tayo na po’t magkape’t pandasal. Mahalagang mahalaga ang araw na ito sa ating bayan. Ngayon ang araw ng halalan. Pipiliin natin ang mga manunungkulan sa ating pamahalaan. Nakasalalay sa kanila ang kinabukasan ng ating mga pamilya. Kung gusto nating gumanda ang ating kalagayan, kailangang iboto ang mga taong tunay ang hangaring umunlad at umangat ang moralidad o tamang pamumuhay ng mga mamamayan ng ating bansa.

Mahalagang simulan ang pagboboto ng dasal. Maaaring magdasal bago lumisan ng bahay tungo sa presinto, o kaya’y habang nakapila’t naghihintay. Bakit mahalaga ang pagdarasal? Kapag isinasa-alang-alang natin ang Diyos sa ating desisyon, mawawala o mababawasan ang mga motibasyong hindi tama sa pagpipili. Halimbawa, hindi natin pipiliin ang mga taong alam nating nangungurakot, kahit isa tayo sa mga nakinabang. Hindi natin pipiliin ang walang kaalam-alam kahit sila ay ating mga kamag-anak, kaibigan o kakilala.

Higit sa lahat, kapag isinasama natin ang Diyos sa ating mga gawain tulad ng halalan, nagiging malinis ang ating hangarin. Hindi natin iisipin ang pansamantalang ligaya kapag may magbigay ng pera para iboto natin sila. Hindi natin ipapabili ang ating karapatang makibahagi sa pamamalakad sa ating pamahalaan. Sa kabilang banda, mapapamahal sa atin ang ating buong bansa. Pagdasal natin ang isang malinis, mapayapa at walang dayang halalan. Pagpalain nawa ng Diyos ang Pilipinas.

Pagpapatunay sa Katotohanan

10 May 2010. Lunes ng ika-6 na Linggo ng Pasko ng Pagkabuhay
Acts 16, 11-15; Psalm 149; John 15, 25 – 16,4


Wika ni Hesus, magpapatunay sa Kanya ang Espiritu Santo, at sa gayon, magpapatunay din tayo sa Kanya. Sa korte, tinatanggol ng nagpapatunay o witness ang nasasakdal. Sa gayon, pinakita ng Espiritu na pawang tama at totoo ang sabi at gawa ni Hesus. Upang matamo natin ang kaganapan ng buhay, si Hesus lamang ang gabay.

Ang buhay ng maraming mga banal at bayani ang nagpapatunay sa totoong pananampalataya. Itinuro sa atin na mas higit pa sa anumang bagay sa mundo ang dangal ng tao. Ang mga bayani nating nag-alay ng buhay upang protektahan ang dangal ng Pilipino ang patunay nito. Itinuro sa atin na higit sa lahat, ang Diyos ang siyang ugat at dulo ng ating buhay. Ang mga banal na hindi kailanman tumiwalag sa pananampalataya kahit sa gitna ng pag-uusig at kamatayan ang patunay sa katotohanang ito.

What Unites and Binds Us

9 May 2010 6th Sunday of Easter
Acts 15: 1-2, 22-29; Psalm 67; Revelation 21: 10-14, 22-23; John 14, 23-29

There is only one thing that binds us all: our love for Christ. Even if we have different ways or rites of worship because of the diversity of culture and tradition, the Church recognizes this variety. For example, the Catholic Church has different ways of worship called rites. Roman Catholics use the latin or western rite which is very familiar to all of us, Filipinos. However there are other Catholics whose ways are different, such as those that belong to the Eastern Church. They use the Armenian, Alexandrian, Byzantine, Antiochian and the East Syrian rite. But they are all united or under full communion with the Holy See.

The Jews are circumcised, while the Gentiles are not. In the first reading, the first Council of Jerusalem, composed of the apostles and the elders decided that the Gentiles who converted to Christianity should not be burdened by strict Jewish practices. As we all know, we began as a small Jewish sect. With the expansion of the faith through the efforts especially of St. Paul, a question arises whether the new converts should also be circumcised. The Council of Jerusalem affirms that the Holy Spirit has also dwelt in the Gentiles, even if they are not circumcised. The disciples recognized that the Holy Spirit enabled them to see God working in the particular context of the Gentiles. Therefore they agree that what binds us all and what is necessary for salvation is our faith in the Lord.

The Gospel tells us that it is the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete which Jesus sent to us who teaches us. It is the Paraclete that guides us so that whatever we decide on viz the present issues, we will not move away from the teachings of Jesus. Jesus said, “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.”

There are things that we share as Christians. There are things that we believe as Catholics. We all fully assent to the Creed we profess every Sunday. Every single truth that the Creed includes, we do not deny and fully adhere to. All the rest flows from it.

There are many issues that have not been present during the time of Jesus. Some issues today are recent developments brought in by science. And so to know our stance on these issues, the Church reflects on how Christ will have responded to the particular issue if He is in the present world. Thus many issues need careful and informed discernment. In faith life, we believe that through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we are able to make the right decision with regards to the here and now.

The Philippine elections on 10 May 2010 should therefore be guided by the Holy Spirit. When we vote, we discern with all the information we need such as the life, platform and track record of the candidate. We invoke the Spirit to guide us in our choices, knowing that the practice of our right of suffrage is our contribution for the betterment of our nation. By voting for the candidates we believe would put the welfare of the nation above all else, we are able to participate in the work of the Lord in the world today.

The readings affirms two gifts: the Holy Spirit helps us find the things that unites us and the peace that we all dream of. Only when we include God in our decisions and act on it wisely will we be granted that which we all seek: a united and peaceful nation.

Bukas Ka Ba sa mga Taong Iba sa Atin?

9 Mayo 2010. Ika-6 na Linggo ng Pasko ng Pagkabuhay
Gawa 15, 1-2, 22-29; Pag 21, 1-14, 22-23; Jn 14, 23-29


Note: This reflection appears in Pandesal 2010, the bible diary of the Claretian Publications.

Iisa lamang ang bumibigkis sa ating lahat: ang ating pag-ibig sa Panginoon. Kaya kahit magkakaiba ang paraan ng pagsamba ayon sa kanya-kanyang kultura, nire-respeto ng Simbahan ang pagkakaibang ito. Iba-iba ang misa sa iba’t ibang dako ng Africa, punong-puno ng kantahan at sayawan ang kanilang pagsamba. May kakaiba rin kapag nasa Asya. Isang palatandaan ng Hudio ang pagtutuli; dahil dito isang Hentil o di-Hudio ang di tuli. Ngunit, napagkaisahan ng apostol at Matatanda sa Jerusalem na hindi kailangang tuli upang mapabilang sa Simbahan. Wika ni San Pablo na nananatili ang Espiritu Santo sa Hentil at tinanggap nilang buong puso ang panananampalataya kay Hesus.

May mga bagay na pinaniniwalaan nating lahat. Ito ang pinapahayag nating Pananampalataya tuwing Linggo. Dito nagkakaisa ang buong Simbahang Katoliko. Bilang pagpapakita ng pag-ibig, ayon sa kautusan ng Panginoon, bukas ba ang ating kalooban sa mga taong iba sa atin?

Inuusig Ka ba dahil sa iyong Pinaniniwalaan?

8 Mayo 2010. Sabado ng ika-5 Linggo ng Pasko ng Pagkabuhay
Acts 16, 1-10; Psalm 100; John 15, 18-21


Pinangunahan na tayo ni Hesus kung isasapuso natin ang kanyang mga utos: kapopootan tayo ng mundo. At kung naranasan nating kinamuihan ng iba, alalahanin natin na unang kinapootan si Hesus bago natin. Kapag iba ang paraan ng ating pamumuhay na hindi ayon sa sistema ng karamihan, maraming hindi makaka-unawa sa ating mga ginagawa.

Halimbawa, maraming sumasalungat sa may malalim na debosyon sa ating Mahal na Ina lalung-lalo na ngayong Mayo. Karamihan nito ang ating mga kapatid na Kristiyano din, ngunit iba ang kinabibilangan. Kahit anong paliwanag natin sa kanila, hindi nila tatanggapin ito. Hindi lamang ito, maraming mga programa sa radyo at telebisyon na walang ibang inuusig kundi ang pananampalatayang Katoliko. Tulad ng tugon ni Hesus, hindi natin ginagawa ang labanan nang ayon sa kanilang pamamaraan. Wala tayong mga programang nang-uusig sa ibang pananampalataya.

Katulong Ka Ba o Kaibigan?

7 Mayo 2010. Biyernes ng ika-5 Linggo ng Pasko ng Pagkabuhay
Acts 15, 22-31; Psalm 57; John 15, 12-17


May pagkakaiba ang katulong sa isang kaibigan. Hindi obligado ang amo na ipaalam sa lingkod ang kanyang mga gawain. Ginagawa nito ang inuutos ng kanyang amo nang hindi sa kanya ipinapaliwanag. Ngunit, ipinapaalam at ipinapaliwanag ng isang kaibigan ang kanyang mga gawain sa kapwa kaibigan. Ibinabahagi nito ang lahat sa kanyang katoto.

Ayon kay Hesus, hindi niya tayo tinuring na lingkod, kundi isang kaibigan. Ibinahagi na Niya sa atin ang lahat nang nalalaman Niya ukol sa Kanyang ama. Dahil dito, isang malalim na pagkakaibigan ang pagiging Kristiyano. Ngunit maraming mga oras na tayo mismo ang pumipiling maging isang katulong kaysa kaibigan. Gumagawa lang tayo na hindi natin alam ang dahilan. Ipinaliwanag na ng Simbahan, ngunit hindi nating binibigyan ng pansin. Upang makilala ang isang kaibigan, nais natin malaman ang dahilan ng kanilang gawain.

Mareklamo Ka Ba?

6 Mayo 2010. Huwebes ng ika-5 Linggo ng Pasko ng Pagkabuhay
Acts 15, 7-21; Psalm 96; John 15, 9-11


Note: This article appears in Pandesal 2010, the bible diary of the Claretian Publications.

Upang maging ganap ang ating kagalakan, wika ni Hesus, magmahalan tayo ayon sa pagmamahal ni Kristo sa atin, at ayon sa pagmamahal ng Ama kay Kristo. Una, ano ang magpapaligaya sa atin? Kadalasan nais nating maabot ang ating pangarap at hinahangad nating maging maayos at malalim ang ating mga ugnayan. Paano tayo magmamahalan nang ganito? Isasakatuparan natin ang utos ng Panginoon: mahalin ang Diyos nang buong puso at mahalin ang kapwa tulad ng pagmamahal natin sa ating sarili.

Kung isasakatuparan natin ito, magiging mapayapa at maunlad ang ating buhay. Walang sakim na kukurakot sa pambansang yaman. Tunay ang paglilingkod sa bayan. Magiging matiwasay ang paglalakbay dahil walang lumalabag sa traffic light. Ngunit bago tayo magturuan, mabuting tanungin natin ang ating sarili: Ano ang aking naitulong?

Nakaugat Ka Ba Kay Kristo?

5 Mayo 2010. Miyerkoles ng ika-5 Linggo ng Pasko ng Pagkabuhay
Acts 15, 1-6; Psalm 122; John 15, 1-8


Sabi ni Gat Jose Rizal, ang hindi lumingon sa pinanggalingan hindi makakapunta sa pinaroroonan. Nagsisikap abutin ang langit ang bawat sangga, ngunit hindi nito maabot ang pangarap hangga’t hindi siya naka-ugat sa puno. Sa pinanggalingan hinuguhot natin ang ating buhay at pagkakilanlan. Halimbawa, kabilang tayo sa angkan kung iisa ang pinagmulan.

Upang umunlad sa buhay at mamungga nang sagana, mamalagi at manatili tayong naka-ugat kay Hesus. Umuunlad na tunay ang mga taong may prinsipiyo sa buhay at hindi humihiwalay sa kanyang pinagmulan tulad ng kapamilya, kaibigan at Diyos. Hinuhugot niya ang inspirasyon sa mismong puno. Kung makaranas siya ng sakuna sa buhay, nanatiling malakas ang loob niya dahil sa mga taong hindi niya iniwanan. Kung sinusubukan ang kanyang prinsipiyo, hindi niya ipinagbibili ito sapagka’t mahalaga sa kanya ang kanyang dangal at pagkakilanlan bilang Anak ng Diyos.

Mapayapa Ba ang Iyong Kalooban?

4 Mayo 2010. Martes ng ika-5 Linggo ng Pasko ng Pagkabuhay.
Acts 14, 19-28; Psalm 145; John 14, 27-31


Ang kapayapaan, sabi ni San Ignacio de Loyola, ang pahiwatig ng pananahan ng Diyos sa ating buhay. Madaling maibigay ng masamang espiritu ang kaligayahan sa pamamagitan ng makamundong aliw. Ngunit kahit sa gitna ng mga kaaliwang ito, hindi mapayapa ang kalooban ng taong malayo sa Diyos. Nanatiling bagabag at nanghihina ang kalooban nila.

Hindi laging maligaya ang ating buhay. Hindi araw-araw may pagdiriwang ang ating pamilya. Maraming oras na binubuno natin ang ating mga suliranin. Sa loob ng bahay maraming nangyayaring hindi natin ginusto. Ngunit, nanatiling mapayapa tayo sa loob ng ating tahanan dahil alam nating may nauuwian tayong mga taong nagmamahal at minamahal natin. Ganito ang kapayapaan sa piling ang Diyos. Dahil malaki ang ating pagtitiwala sa kanya, napapawi ang ating pagkabagabag. Dahil kumakapit tayo sa pangakong di niya tayo iiwanan, hindi tayo nawawalan ng pag-asa.

Gaano Mo Ba Kakilala si Hesus?

3 Mayo 2010. Lunes ng ika-5 Linggo ng Pasko ng Pagkabuhay
1 Cor 15, 1-8; Psalm 19; John 14, 6-14


Nakikilala natin ang mga magulang sa kanilang mga anak. Hindi lang sa kanilang hitsura, kundi sa kanilang pag-uugali. Dahil lapat-na-lapat at iisa si Hesus at ang Ama, alam na natin kung sino ang Ama, dahil nagpakilala na ito sa kanyang Anak. Dahil dito nang humiling si Felipe kay Hesus na ipakilala nito ang Kanyang Ama, sinabi nito, “Matagal na tayong magkasama, hindi mo pa ako kilala?”

Matagal na rin tayong mga Kristiyano. Nakaikot sa mga rosario, panata at debosyon ang bawat taon na dumaan sa ating buhay. Matagal na ring naglilingkod tayo sa Panginoon. Ngunit hindi isang patunay na kilala natin si Hesus – o ang Ama. Makikilala natin siya sa pamamagitan ng pagdarasal na hango sa bibliya at pagninilay sa ating buhay.

St. Agnes Academy Homily Reunion 2010

2 May 2010
Mass Homily on the 98th Grand Alumni Homecoming 2010
St. Agnes Academy, Legazpi City


We Are Meant For Greater Things
Fr. Jessel Gerard M. Gonzales SJ

It is quite a challenge to speak to all of you who belong to different batches. My dad graduated in 1950, my mom graduated in 1954, and obviously, their world was different from mine. And to those who belong to the younger years like my youngest brother who finished high school in 1995, our gap is wider than what we think we actually have. Believe me, based on statistics and personal experience with the young, a year’s gap today is a mile away. So allow me speak about 1981 & 1985, our batch who sponsors the event today, hoping that talking about one tree, I speak to the whole forest.

Gertie Duran-Batocabe said to me yesterday, “I don’t regret coming to the reunion.”

And I answered, “Yes, me too.”

You see, we have come a long way, and we have returned. We are “volting in” like connecting the parts of Voltes V before a great battle. We’re back to reminisce; to remember as far as we can of the first day of school. Some as far as nursery; to many of us, as far as prep. To remember that we were literary forced to come to class. At a young age, we were so dependent on our parents and to relinquish that reliance, we have to cry our way to the classroom into the hands of those we feared: as that “German Shepherd” nun called Sr. Ottfrieda OSB and that feisty principal called Sr. Melanie Lumauig OSB (she’s with us today) and those teachers with a ready punishment for unruly students. We grew up fearing the principal’s office; the pruning center. But now, we look back and say, “No regrets” -- the very persons whom we feared have become the people we are so grateful for.

We have come a long way. From the time, Thaddeus Tuason and Beryl Benito graced the cover of the Junior Agnesian in Grade 1. Our first communion and confirmation at St. Gregory the Great Cathedral; we remember lining up singing, “This Little Light of Mine, I’m gonna let it shine!” Mrs. Bejo’s ukelele piece of “Four Strong Winds” and our graduation song, “Happiness Is a Dawning Golden Day” in 1981.

We look back at the choral recitations like the “The Owl and the Pussycat.” We remember the endless SRAs (Self-Reading Activity) in our English classes; and we would compete for the color Gold. The in-school Spelling Bee with winners Mayette Silerio, Ginalyn Gadia and Beryl Benito among others I can’t remember (must be the onset of Alzeimer’s). We bring into memory the play, “The Terrible Task of the Twin Angels” with Pilar Garcia and Gertrudes Duran in the title roles; though we don’t know if they still have their wings today. With the rule, “Speak English in class” and the tenet “That in all things God may be glorified” we knew that honing our English, we would glorify God.

We look back at our field trips to Rocamonte, Tiwi Hot Springs and Mayon Resthouse where we picked wild strawberries. Or played Chinese garter and jackstone; shato and marbles, matchboxes and Tomica which we bought at Happy Mall at the old La Trinidad. We played Game and Watch, the beginning of video games. But it was then that scary stories about the off-limits Clausura of the Benedictine Sisters were perpetuated. Since it was off-limits, it carried a cloud of mystery, only to be unshrouded two days ago by former high school principal, Sr. Lydia Villegas OSB when she toured the girls to the private quarters of the sisters.

While some of us would pour our attention to Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Bobbsey Twins and Enid Blyton books at the library, some would spend time at the music department with Srs. Xaviera OSB and Scholastica OSB at the piano.

And we do have a claim to fame: we did hold boxing bouts at the back of the gym with none other than Fr. Ricky Bermas, parish priest of Lidong, Polangui, the farthest area of the Diocese of Legazpi; and Mr. Vittorio Roces, now in the electoral race, as boxing precursors of Manny Pacquiao. Manny made the sport famous; but the truth is, boxing had been an old interest in St. Agnes Academy, decades before Pacman became famous.

And why do we remember? Because we were meant for greater things.**

Second, we are “volting in” not just to remember, but to reflect on how far we have reached and to see if our perspectives changed. Just like St. Paul and Barnabas who moved from one country to another, some of us have moved away from Legazpi to far physical distances. The capital cities we used to memorize in Social Studies have been visited and, like dogs who pee around a tree, an area has been owned and conquered. Some have reached the height of their careers; with a list of achievements, or a wider scope of influence. Some have even posted the proof as photo albums in Facebook. And we ask ourselves: How far have our dreams taken us?

Some sailed great emotional oceans; and they have been gashed by the fiercest waves and storms of life. What was once played “Four Strong Winds” have become the image of emotional struggles. And just as Paul and Barnabas came strengthen the spirit of their disciples when they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, we return to find strength in each other.

And still many of us have sought the elusive “happiness that’s like the dawning of a golden day.” We have dived into the deepest depths of life, grappled with questions of meaning, direction and peace of mind. We have experienced the greatest pains in our personal life, family and relationships. And in our woundedness, we have returned to see for ourselves if the friends we have left behind years ago, will continue to accompany us in the last half of our lives. So that mustering the greatest courage, we ask the question again and again: how far are we willing to suffer for the ones we love?

And why do we reflect on how far we have reached, either by distance, height or depth? Because we were meant for greater things.

Finally, we are “volting in” to know what is forever. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said that what is permanent is change. But here we are, disproving him: There are things that are constant. And why do we want to know what is permanent? Because what is eternal is what makes us great.

*Girls, remember high school? Sr. Lydia Villegas OSB, who is here with us, has introduced the value of austerity and simplicity. The girls remember that there was no prom. Sr. Lydia was ahead of her time when she introduced recycling. They remember that they used the other side of a coupon bond for another project. They remember that they were sent to immersions to make them realize the plight of the poor.

But why? Because our high school years were economically and politically turbulent. It was the time of typhoons. It was the time when Ninoy Aquino was murdered, and there was political unrest. When Michael Jackson, Madonna, Cindy Lauper, Tears for Fears, Boy George, and the first Bagets movie hit the airwaves and the cinemas, they made teenage rebeliousness cool. It was a time when everything was changing. In the midst of personal, social and national instability, we were trained to discern which values are non-negotiable. When we are stripped of the amenities in life, we hold on to what is the most important.

When we remember the past, we look back because we’ve changed. And the past have made us who we are today. But the little boys and the little girls who once inhabited this campus retained one specific thing that is important for the future: Until today, we continue to nourish our friendships.

Go from one batch to the other: literally, from one table to the other (since every batch had a table), they have stories to tell. Siisay pa man ang magpa-tinarabangan kundi kita na magkakaklase? (Who will help us but our classmates). I have seen this with my mom. My mother finds it easy to ask help from her classmates in high school.

I’ve seen it in my batch. In Manila, when we need to talk about our problems or need company, we bare our souls to our batchmates who have accompanied us through the years. In Legazpi, who do you think are the friends of our children? Of course, the children of our classmates. Spread in different states in America, classmates would call each other and find time to even organize mini-reunions.

In this regard, we also have a claim to fame: Hugh Riva had a great crush on Mayette Silerio in Grade 3 and that love, despite the ups and downs of relationships, have stood the sands of time. They are now husband and wife; and their children graduated where else, but St. Agnes Academy!

Furthermore, in his deathbed, Fermin Quinzon, who died from cancer, affirmed this to us who visited him: The greatest friendships he cherished are those from us.

From earth to eternity, nothing can separate us from our love for each other and from the love of Christ.

Our reunion today gives flesh to what Jesus exhorted us in the Gospel: to love one another. It is only when we love that people know that we are His disciples. Nothing binds relationships, but memory. What makes us different from other batches are our stories. And these stories, brought together, form one collective memory which we share today. And in addition, nothing strengthens individuals in a relationship but affection. In this gathering, we show how much we care.

Today, we just proved that the Lord was right. What matters is what is forever. And just as Voltes V becomes what it is only when the parts are together, we too can face the fiercest battle when united in love.

And this is the reason why we don’t regret coming home. Today, we just affirmed that at the end of our lives, what is most important is not how far we have gone, but how deep we have loved.

The greatest saints and heroes are those who have loved much. And in our younger years, St. Agnes taught us that what makes us great is the extent we are willing to give for the ones we truly love.

So that, when it is our time to bid the world goodbye, we can say: That in all things, God may be glorified.

*To those who are reading this but are not Agnesians: St. Agnes Academy grade school has been co-educational. High school was exclusive for girls, until 1982. Thus, my dad and I spent our elementary years in St. Agnes. Dad graduated in 1950, I graduated in 1981. My two brothers, Jayson and Jesse, continued their secondary education in St. Agnes. Jayson graduated in 1990; Jesse in 1995.

**St. Stanislaus Kostka SJ’s famous words: I was meant for greater things.

Paano ba natin pinupugay ang Panginoon

2 Mayo 2010. Ika-5 Linggo ng Pasko ng Pagkabuhay
Gawa 14, 21-27. Pag 21, 1-5. Jn 13:31 – 35


Note: This reflection appears in Pandesal 2010, the bible diary of the Claretian Publications.

Upang mabigyang luwalhati ang Panginoon, sasalamin natin ang kanyang mga katangian. Niluwalhati ang Anak ng Tao, at niluwalhati rin sa Kanya ang Diyos. Gayon din, magmahalan tayo tulad ng pagmamahal Niya sa atin. Tutulungan tayo ng Diyos sapagka’t nasa piling na natin ang Tirahan ng Diyos, ayon sa pangalawang pagbasa. Sa pamamagitan ng pagsasalamin sa buhay ng Diyos, magbabago ang lahat. Lahat ng bansa magiging bansa ng Diyos tulad ng mga bansang tinanggap ang turo ni Hesus sa pagmamagitan ni San Pablo.

Sinasalamin natin ang mga katangian ng Diyos sa mga pang-araw-araw na gawain. Sa paghahanda ng baon para sa ating mga anak, isinasalamin natin ang pag-aaruga ng Diyos. Sa pagtatrabaho, ginagaya natin ang pagsisikap ng Diyos. Sa ating lingguhang pagsamba, tinutularan natin ang kanyang pamamahinga. Sa pagtutog o pag-awit, nasusulyapan ng tao ang Kagandahan ng Diyos.

Nakikisalo ka ba sa Karangalan ng Kapamilya?

1 Mayo 2010. San Jose Manggagawa. Sabado ng ika-4 na Linggo ng Pasko ng Pagkabuhay
Matthew 13, 54-58

Note: Sa Kapistahan ni San Jose Manggagawa sa Pilipinas, ginagamit natin ang ebanghelio hango kay Mateo. Makikita itong pagninilay sa Pandesal 2010, ang bible diary ng Claretian Publication.

Nakikilala ang ating pinanggalingan sa ating mga gawain. Nang namangha ang mga Judio sa synagoga sa istilo at laman ng itinuturo ni Hesus, tinanong nila ang kanilang sarili kung saan galing ang karunungan at natatanging kapangyarihan ni Hesus. Tinanong din nila kung sino ang kanyang pamilya. Karangalan ng ating mga magulang, kapatid at kaibigan ang makita tayong matayog ang narating; tagumpay ng magulang ang tagumpay ng anak.

Hindi nakapagtataka na kapag ang isang kaibigan naging sikat, sinasabi natin sa ibang tao na may kaugnayan tayo sa kanila. Minsan, sinisiksik natin ang ating sarili sa kanila. Kung sinasabi natin na may debosyon tayo kay San Jose Manggagawa, paano ba tayo nakikisama sa kanyang kasikatan bilang mapagarugang ama ni Hesus sa kanyang pananahan dito sa lupa? Kung naaaninag ang Diyos sa ating sarili, paano natin sinasalamin ang pagkikipagkaibigan ng Diyos? Nakikita ba sa ating mga gawa ang Ama natin sa kaluwalhatian?

Nawala Ka Na Ba?

30 Abril 2010. Biyernes sa ika-4 na Linggo ng Pasko ng Pagkabuhay.
Acts 13, 26-33; Psalm 2; John 14, 1-6


Note: This article appears in Pandesal 2010, the bible diary of the Claretian Publications.

Nawala ka na ba sa isang subdivision? Dalawa ang maaari nating gawin. Maaari nating gamitin ang mapa upang makarating sa ating pupuntahan. Hanapin ang mga kalye at lansangang tungo sa hinahanap na bahay. Ngunit mas madali kung may taong may alam na sa pupuntahan. Sa pangalawang paraan, ang tao mismo ang siyang daan. Ganito si Hesus, “Ako ang daan. Walang nakakalapit sa Ama kundi sa pamamagitan ko.” Dahil alam ni Hesus kung paanong makakalapit sa Ama, kaya mas madali kung tutularan natin Siya.

Maraming paraan upang makarating sa kaluwalhatian. Iba’t ibang istilo ng pagdarasal. Iba’t ibang paraan ng kabuhayan. Iba’t ibang mga santo na maaaring nating gawing huwaran sa buhay. Isang daan tungo sa Diyos ang bawat banal na pinaparangalan natin sa simbahan. Ngunit iisa ang kanilang sinusundan at tinatangi: si Hesus na siyang daanan tungo sa Ama.