Bless the Lord by Giving Thanks!

Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Ateneo High School’s Thanksgiving Mass
18 February 2014

The point of the mass today is to bless the Lord, by giving thanks. Let me first tell you a story:

One afternoon a college student felt the need for a coffee break, so she went to Starbucks Katipunan.  She bought herself a little bag of cookies and put them in her bag.  She then got in line for coffee, found a place to sit at one of the crowded long tables facing the glass window, and then taking the lid off her coffee and bringing out a magazine she began to sip her coffee. Beside her a man sat reading a newspaper.

After a minute or two she reached out and took a cookie. As she did, the man beside her reached out and took one too.  This put her off, but she did not say anything.

A few moments later she took another cookie.  Once again the man did so too.  Now she was getting a bit upset, but still she did not say anything.

After having a couple of sips of coffee she once again took another cookie.  So did the man.  She was really upset by this - especially since now only one cookie was left.  Apparently the man also realized that only one cookie was left. 

Before she could say anything he took it, broke it in half, offered half to her, and proceeded to eat the other half himself.  Then he smiled at her and, putting the paper under his arm, rose and walked off.

Was she steamed! She was so angry! Her coffee break ruined, already thinking ahead of how she would tell this offense to her family, she folded her magazine, opened her bag, and there discovered her own unopened bag of cookies!

I like this story because it reminds us how well God has treated us, even if we have not treated Him well, or even if we harbor bad feelings towards Him especially when we blame Him for all the disappointments, frustrations and the problems we are undergoing, whether in the family or in school. The story also makes me think how we can be so unappreciative of him, or act as if all that we have comes from ourselves.

A passage from Deuteronomy (8:7-18) tells us about what Moses wanted to remind the Israelites before they entered the Promised Land:

Do not say to yourself, "MY power and the might of MY own hand have gotten ME this wealth!"  But remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, so that He may confirm his covenant that He swore to your ancestors, and as He is swearing to you today."

I believe this is the reason why we have a school-wide mass in thanksgiving to the Lord today. I remembered what Mr. Gabby Mallillin, our principal, said to me last school year as we prepare to calendar our school-wide masses. This is the change: Our mass for our social institutions was moved earlier to January, and February, our last school wide mass is now dedicated in thanksgiving. As the Gospel tells us today, this mass is in the spirit of the sole leper who returned to Jesus to give thanks.

Why this mass? Because we are acknowledging the Giver, the one who gifted us with what we already have, what we are having, and what we will have in the future. It is a tendency for many of us to think what Moses feared the Israelites would think: that whatever achievements, successes, and insights we acquired this year has been from OUR OWN HANDS! No, it is not from ourselves! We would like to avoid being like the 9 other lepers who were healed, but never returned to the Lord to give thanks!

How do you know that you are turning into the nine unappreciative lepers? When you think you are sufficient enough; when you think you are far better than the rest of the batch; when you think that you do not need to consult others because you are greater. But look again, you do not win all contests, you do not have all the class banners, you do not have all the talents others have, when you think the bag of cookies you have comes you.

St. Ignatius said that the deadliest sin, he said, is ingratitude. It is “the cause, beginning, and origin of all evils and sins.” The idea that we sin because we’re not sufficiently aware of God’s goodness, in ourselves and in others, probably wouldn’t occur to too many people.

If I were to ask you now: “If you could be granted one wish that will come true right now – what would that be?”

I asked this question once to a group of high school students. One of them said, “I have been envious of others, but I wish the Lord will grant me the ability to appreciate all that I have right now!” When we thank the Lord for what He was given us – in fact all of what we have, including being here in Ateneo HS – we sanctify or make holy everything we have. Just like the gift you have given to your crush or to your girlfriend on Valentines Day, you want them to remember you when they see your gift. And thus, loving you MORE! Love becomes better when we remember our beloved often, all the time! The same thing with God: when we see our gifts, we are invited to remember God who gave it to us!

David Yuhico composed our communion song today. The chorus says: “You are the one, who showed my way, who cast the shadows away, You took my hand and light flooded in; when I’m with you, I find my way.” This to me is what gratitude is: We thank the Lord for showing us the way, who casts all the shadows away, so that we may find OUR way!” (Thank you David!)

What would happen if all of us here today become more appreciative and thankful? It is beautiful to watch the faces of people when we acknowledge them. They radiate; they light up! Suddenly, we feel 100% better about them, about ourselves, and the world becomes a better place!

So let us say 'thank you' to our classmates, our teachers and parents. Greet the person next to you!

And so if you find yourself with a bag of cookies, even if the bag of cookies is truly yours, an Atenean is trained to share it: not just because of the possibility that it belongs to the person next to you, but even if you bought it, it is God’s gift – yes it is yours, and also NOT yours.

Paanong Magbigay ng Halimbawa sa mga Bata

A good story on giving examples for values to be embedded in the life of our children. Hope you like this episode.

Paano ba magpakita ng mabuting halimbawa sa ating mga kabataan – o kahit sa hindi na
kasing bata? Meron po akong kuwento. Pinagmamasdan ng Tatang Alimango si
Pedrito, isang batang alimango na naglalakad sa tabing-dagat. Naglalakad si
Pedrito nang patagilid, gamit ang kanyang mga maliliit na paa.

Pinagtawanan ni Tatang Alimango ang paglalakad na ito ni Pedrito. Wika Tatang, “Saan ka ba
pupunta?” “Doon po sa maraming bato kung saan nandoon ang aking mga kapatid,”
tugon ni Pedrito. Sabi ng matandang alimango, “Paano ka makakapunta doon kung
patagilid ang iyong paglalakad? Dapat tuwid at diretso upang makarating ka sa
iyong paroroonan!” Walang magawa si Pedrito, iyon lang ang paraan ng paglalakad
na alam niya. Kaya, hinayaan na lamang nito ang tawa ng matandang alimango.

Pagkaalis ni Pedrito, umahon si Tatang at naglakad nang patagilid! Mga kapamilya, kung nais nating maisabuhay ng mga bata ang ating mga tinuturong mabubuting asal, kailangan din
nilang makita itong ginagawa sa ating buhay. Pagdasal natin na ang namumutawi
sa ating bibig ang siya ring nakikita sa ating gawain. 

Para sa Trolls at Haters

Do you have trolls and haters? I have. A lot! Here's how to deal with them: be like the grapes. :D Please forward to your haters, and then block them. :D

Here's the script of my episode.

May mga naninirang-puri ba sa iyo? Sa social media, tinatawag natin silang trolls or haters. Ano ang maaaring gawin sa mga walang magawa kundi siraan ang buhay nang may buhay? Meron akong kuwento. May isang alamid na nagawi sa isang ubasan. Nakita niyang hitik sa hinog na bunga ang mga sanga nito.

Lumapit siya sa mga puno ng ubas at sinubukang abutin ang mga bunga. Ngunit kahit anong
gawin niya, hindi niya maabot ang matatamis na ubas. Napagod siya sa katagalan. Kaya lalung tumindi ang kanyang gutom. Wala siyang makuhang ubas. Kaya sabi niya sa mga ubas, “Bakit ko kayo paggugugulan ng panahon, ang aasim niyo naman!” Ngunit kahit anong sabihin ng alamid, nanatiling hitik at siksik sa tamis ang mga ubas.

Sa katotohanan, ang pag-uugali ng alamid ang tunay na umasim. Mga kapamilya, tandaan: Laging may kokontra sa atin anuman ang gawin natin. Kahit ang Santo Papa natin o mismong si Kristo ay hindi ligtas sa mga haters, tayo pa kaya? Huwag natin silang hayaang sirain ang
mabuti nating ginagawa. Ipagdasal nating lalung lumago at tumamis ang ating magagandang bungang nakaugat sa Diyos. 

Masarap ang Buhay, kapag Maayos ang Bahay

Panahon ng paglilinis at pag-aayos ang unang buwan ng bagong taon. Nabuksan na ang mga regalo ng nakaraang Pasko at nadagdagan na muli ang ating mga gamit. May bagong damit o sapatos. May bagong kagamitan sa bahay. Dahil dito, may mga bagay-bagay na hindi na natin kailangan at dumadagdag lamang ito sa mga nakakagulo sa ating puso’t isipan.

Sinasabi ng mga nakatatanda na ang pag-aayos ng bagay-bagay ay nakakatulong sa pag-aayos ng ating buhay. Maraming sakit ang nangagaling sa alikabok. Iwas-sakit ang tahanang maaliwalas. May epekto ang ating kapaligiran sa ating pag-iisip. Magulo ang ating isipan kapag magulo din ang ating tirahan. Masarap ang buhay kapag maayos ang bahay.

Nakakatulong sa pagpapalago ng ating buhay espirituwal ang paglilinis. Kapag nasusuri natin ang mga gamit na hindi na natin kailangan, maaari natin itong ibigay sa mga makakagamit nito. Sa gayon natututo ang ating diwa na maging mapagbigay at maging maalalahanin. Sa ating mga panalangin, magpasalamat sa Panginoon sa bagong pagkakataong ito, na maayos natin muli ang ating buhay. Magandang umaga po.

The Perspective of Zacchaeus

3 November 2013: 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Photo by Bok Pioquid, Ateneo High School
Wisdom 11:22-12:2; Psalm 145; Thess 1:11-2:2; Luke 19:1-10

For this Sunday’s reflection, may I suggest that we take the position of Zacchaeus in the Gospel today? By identifying with Zacchaeus, we will find ourselves desiring to see Jesus personally, not just hearing about Him. And if that desire grows in us, we will eventually find ourselves climbing our sycamore trees in order to see Him among the crowd.

Zacchaeus climbed the tree to gain a perspective. Sometimes when we are “in the crowd” our vision is limited: we will not be able to see where we’re going or whom we are following. In a profound way, we need to see the world in another angle. We use the phrase, “to see the bigger picture” but that phrase is not enough because it lacks an important element found in the Gospel today: Who do you want to see? Here, Zacchaeus was clear: He wanted to see by his very own eyes Jesus whom people have been talking about.

The Jesuits use a slogan: “Finding God in all Things.” This phrase is indeed an attitude of seeing things in the perspective of Zacchaeus: to encounter Jesus personally in the maddening crowd. A recent document of the Society of Jesus adds: “To find divine life at the depths of reality is a mission of hope” (General Congregation 35, Decree 2). It says that we have to “trace the footprints of God everywhere” since we believe that God is in all places, situations, activities, events, and in every nook and cranny of the world. The first reading from the Book of Wisdom affirms this: “You spare all things, O Lord and lover of souls, for your imperishable spirit is in all things!” (Wisdom 11:26-12:1) And therefore, if we are able to see God in all these, we are living out a culture of hope. We are proclaiming to the world that in the road of death, we can still see the footprints of God!

Zacchaeus would eventually make a 360-degree turn when Jesus looks up to him and calls him by name. And what would make it more personal than to invite Himself to his house? Someone who has the audacity to invite himself to another is the friend of the unsuspecting host! It is like saying, “Why don’t you treat me to lunch!” You don’t say this to your boss or to a total stranger! And that was what Jesus was declaring: I am a friend of Zacchaeus, the tax collector, the one all of you regard as a sinner!

This attitude of Jesus puts many moral police of today to shame! Pope Francis said that what the world needs today are shepherds, those who would accompany the flock in their journey home. He would also encourage all --- not just priests --- to go out to the flock and not wait for them to come!If we take the position of Jesus, we can say that it was Jesus who “heard” about Zacchaeus (that’s why He knew his name!) and thus wanted to be with Zacchaeus once He reaches Jericho! He came for Zacchaeus and recognized him right away when he climbed the tree. Both Jesus and Zacchaeus have been searching for each other! And Zacchaeus made it easier for Jesus by placing himself at His very route.

The young of today are like Zacchaeus --- just like us. They are also searchers. In the midst of the rapid change of technology, the availability of information, the many distractions that abound, they are in need of finding the ‘divine life’ in the very depths of the times. Among the piles of information, which among them is true and meaningful? In the changing world, what are the things that are forever? Among all digital friends, who among them are my real friends? When we look for meaning, purpose and direction, we are discerning Jesus among the crowd!

We are therefore missioned to accompany the young, and many others, as shepherds led by the Shepherd. To be with them in their journey means that we are physically present, caring and calling them by name! People need to encounter us, not just virtually but most importantly, face-to-face. The present generation loath to be one among the anonymous; we need to feel and taste that we belong concretely to someone and to Someone! And to do that, we should find ourselves in the sycamore trees among all the “Zacchaueses” of the world. Because, we too are one of them.

May Kapangyarihan ang Ating mga Salita

Have you been inspired by kind words? Or destroyed by malicious talk? This might be of help.

Paanong Papalakihin ang Anak sa Buhay Pananampalataya

How to Raise Faith-filled Kids. My episode of Kape't Pandasal, ABS CBN's Monday morning show. This was aired on 8 July 2013.

Respetuhin ang Karapatan ng Bawat Isa Kahit sa Internet

How do we conduct ourselves on the internet? This video is about cyberbullying, but an emphasis on the more important value of respect for people even virtually. Please RT and Share. Thank you.