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Archive for April, 2011


Today, the  world witnessed the royal and sacred wedding of   Prince William of Wales and Miss Catherine Middleton.  It was a happy moment for the couple and for those who were glued on their televisions to watch the royal wedding. The wedding of the century was religious, restrained, and sensitive to the needs of the times.

In this day of secularism, it was heartening to see a royal couple exchange their marriage vows in front of God and the community in holy matrimony.  Christians believe in the sacredness of marriage, which God himself instituted.  Billions of people from different religious backgrounds and nationalities were honored to be part of their solemn marriage vows.

In the wedding prayer the couple composed, the key message of  self-giving and generosity to the poor is a Christian example. ‎”God, our Father, we thank you for our family, the love we share and the joy of our marriage… keep our eyes fixed on what is real and important in life…strengthened by our union, help us to serve and comfort those who suffer.”

We also heard  the Right Reverend  Honourable Dr. Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London,  urging  us “to set the world on fire by being who God meant us to be”  as exemplified by St. Catherine of Siena whose feast both theCatholic and Anglican Churches commemorate today.

Rev. Chartres pointed out that every wedding is a royal wedding and that every bride and groom are kings and queens in their own right in creating new life on earth.  He added that in marriage we are to make our spouse our ‘work of art’ while at the same time not placing on them a burden of expectation that only relationship with God can carry.

The Reverend reminded William and Catherine that they have chosen to be married in the sight of a generous God who  gave Himself through the person of Jesus Christ as a testament of love. In the same spirit of t God,  Rev. Chartres said that “husband and wife are to give themselves to each another”.

Read the full sermon:

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” So said St Catherine of Siena whose festival day it is today. Marriage is intended to be a way in which man and woman help each other to become what God meant each one to be, their deepest and truest selves.

‘Many are full of fear for the future of the prospects of our world but the message of the celebrations in this country and far beyond its shores is the right one – this is a joyful day! It is good that people in every continent are able to share in these celebrations because this is, as every wedding day should be, a day of hope.

In a sense every wedding is a royal wedding with the bride and the groom as king and queen of creation, making a new life together so that life can flow through them into the future.‘William and Catherine, you have chosen to be married in the sight of a generous God who so loved the world that he gave himself to us in the person of Jesus Christ. And in the Spirit of this generous God, husband and wife are to give themselves to each another.’

‘A spiritual life grows as love finds its centre beyond ourselves. Faithful and committed relationships offer a door into the mystery of spiritual life in which we discover this; the more we give of self, the richer we become in soul; the more we go beyond ourselves in love, the more we become our true selves and our spiritual beauty is more fully revealed. In marriage we are seeking to bring one another into fuller life.

‘It is of course very hard to wean ourselves away from self-centredness. And people can dream of doing such a thing but the hope should be fulfilled it is necessary a solemn decision that, whatever the difficulties, we are committed to the way of generous love.

‘You have both made your decision today – “I will” – and by making this new relationship, you have aligned yourselves with what we believe is the way in which life is spiritually evolving, and which will lead to a creative future for the human race.

‘We stand looking forward to a century which is full of promise and full of peril. Human beings are confronting the question of how to use wisely a power that has been given to us through the discoveries of the last century. We shall not be converted to the promise of the future by more knowledge, but rather by an increase of loving wisdom and reverence, for life, for the earth and for one another.

‘Marriage should transform, as husband and wife make one another their work of art. It is possible to transform as long as we do not harbour ambitions to reform our partner. There must be no coercion if the Spirit is to flow; each must give the other space and freedom.

Chaucer, the London poet, sums it up in a pithy phrase:

‘“Whan maistrie [mastery] comth, the God of Love anon,
Beteth his wynges, and farewell, he is gon.”

‘As the reality of God has faded from so many lives in the West, there has been a corresponding inflation of expectations that personal relations alone will supply meaning and happiness in life. This is to load our partner with too great a burden. We are all incomplete: we all need the love which is secure, rather than oppressive, we need mutual forgiveness, to thrive.

‘As we move towards our partner in love, following the example of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit is quickened within us and can increasingly fill our lives with light. This leads to a family life which offers the best conditions in which the next generation can practise and exchange those gifts which can overcome fear and division and incubate the coming world of the Spirit, whose fruits are love and joy and peace.

‘I pray that all of us present and the many millions watching this ceremony and sharing in your joy today, will do everything in our power to support and uphold you in your new life. And I pray that God will bless you in the way of life that you have chosen, that way which is expressed in the prayer that you have composed together in preparation for this day:

‘God our Father, we thank you for our families; for the love that we share and for the joy of our marriage.

‘In the busyness of each day keep our eyes fixed on what is real and important in life and help us to be generous with our time and love and energy.

‘Strengthened by our union help us to serve and comfort those who suffer. We ask this in the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Amen.    


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Resurrection of Christ

Resurrection of Christ

Redemption

To begin again in Christ  is an apropos  message of Easter.  For Christians,  the season of Lent culminates on Easter Sunday which marks the resurrection of Christ after suffering and death from the cross.  Our Lord‘s passion  and resurrection has freed us from the bondage of sin.  Christ’s death extricated us by paying a huge price.   God’s love was immense that he paid the ransom price for us  to reunite us in  friendship with God.

Jesus Christ has won freedom for us (Gal 4,31).

When Christ said that “I came so that they may have life, and have it more abundantly,” (Jn. 10,10) he did not promise that life will be a bed of roses on earth. He was referring to eternal life. When he liberated us from sin by rising from the dead, he showed us the way.  He also made it  possible for us to defeat  or at least bear cheerfully other consequences of sin  in the world. The pain and suffering brought about by injustice and social ills were caused by sin.

Christ resurrected from the dead and conquered the world.  His rising from the dead was an evidence that love was stronger than hate and to follow Christ’s example, we should promote love. Pope Benedict said that we should  “start again from Christ and work together with him for a world founded on peace, justice and love”.

Jesus said that “my kingdom is not of this world” (Jn.18.36) .

Christ lived in poverty, humiliation, suffering, and pain. Though his life, he showed that the physical and emotional pain are only means to an end  and that these physical evils are not the worst of evil.  Through our redemption from sin, we can partially overcome physical evils on earth until we go to heaven.  Christ showed us that by suffering and bearing our crosses, we can gain merits in heaven.

There is a painting that depicts Christ’s descent into the underworld  from Good Friday till Easter Sunday.  It  shows Christ  redeeming the holy fathers detained in hell solely on account of original sin and shed light of glory.  The opening of the  gates of heaven was only made possible through  Christ’s death  and resurrection. Christ’s death was a fulfilment of the scripture so that man can obtain eternal happiness in heaven.  Christ’s  passion resulted in the   grace that brings us to our friendship with  God and the promise of eternal life.

Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven

Christ’s passion and death were enough to save us from our sin. However, our salvation

Chora Church in Instanbul. Fresco in the parec...

Chora Church in Instanbul. Fresco in the parec...

is not automatic.  We have to earn it by applying Christ’s teachings in our lives and share them with others. Christ’s suffering and death on the cross would be meaningless if he did not win over death.

On the third day after his death, which he repeatedly foretold, Jesus rose from the dead.  His resurrection was the most significant evidence of his divinity.   Historical testimony  proves that he rose from the dead and that it was not just a tale  invented by the apostles.  Our Lord left numerous proofs of this episode for those who are willing to accept the truth and those who have the will to believe.  Some of the evidences of his resurrection during the forty days after his death include his appearance to the apostles and his followers. At one time, he appeared to more than five hundred of his disciples giving them the mission to teach his doctrine to the whole world and instituted the sacraments including naming Peter as the head of the Church.

A reading of the scriptures tell us that, “what good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?”  Can that faith save him? If a brother or a sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2, 14-17).

We also receive grace through the sacraments. Christians are not just holding through a doctrine because when our Lord ascended into heaven, he remains alive body and soul.  We are following a living person who is in heaven and who is present in the Eucharist, concealed in the form of bread and wine. Christ is not a historical figure but a living being.  As St. Paul says, “Jesus Christus heri et hoddie, ipse et in saecula” or  “Jesus is the same yesterday and today”.  As our Lord said before he went up to heaven, “I am with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world” (Matt. 28, 20).

Meaning of Suffering and Pain in  Our Lives

Suffering and pain has special meaning for Christians because of Christ’s example.  St. Augustine said that “the passion of Our Lord is enough to mould our lives completely”.   If we are to become authentic Christians,  how can we make a life o comfort bereft from suffering as our main concern?  In the book ‘the Way’ by Saint Josemaria Escriva, he said that “I am going to tell you which are man’s treasures on earth so you won’t slight them: hunger, thirst, heat, cold, pain, dishonor, poverty, loneliness, betrayal, slander, prison”(no. 194).

We cannot really escape from suffering. Sometimes it appears in our lives when we least expect it such as a death in the family or an illness.  God allows these things to happen to us but for a special reason. If we accept it cheerfully and offer it to God, we can offer it for the remission of our sins.  Though our own suffering and pain, we can redeem our lives and the world with Christ. As Our Lady was co-redeemer when she offered her suffering at the foot of the cross, so can we.

We learn from scriptures that  “he who loses his life for my sake will find it. For what does it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, but suffer the loss if his own soul?”  (Matt. 16, 25).  Since Christ died for us, what should we do for Him? (The Way, 299). Our response must be our complete surrender. It may be that what God wants from us is complete generosity to Him following the example of the apostles who completely gave themselves to the service of God (see Matt. 4, 20-22).   We can be assured, however, that God has rewarded them a hundredfold in heaven (see Matt. 19, 29).

As we enter the month of May, let us remember how Our Lord was dying on the cross, he saw his mother and St. John and said to his disciples, “Behold your mother” ( John 19, 26-27). It  was a momentous event and holds a special meaning for us Christians. Our Lord gave us his own mother to be our own.  Our Lady is our spiritual mother who will intercede for us.

Reflection:

St. Paul reminds us that “you have been bought at a great price” and as a result we must “glorify God and bear him in your body” (1 Cor. 6,20).  This is also in a sense a called to holy life of becoming a saint.

Let us gaze on the crucified Jesus, and let us ask in prayer: Enlighten our hearts, Lord, that we may follow you along the way of the cross. Put to death in us the “old man” bound by selfishness, evil and sin. Make us “new men”, men and women of holiness, transformed and enlivened by your love. -Pope Benedict (April 22, Way of the Cross)

Fatima Hymn:

http://www.myspace.com/andywilliams/music/songs/our-lady-of-fatima-48890456 (Andy Williams)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9YW0MJQXvRE&feature=related  (Aiza Seguerra)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8NDvCChCFY&feature=related

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Embracing the Cross

Embracing the  Cross

The  cross is the symbol of Christianity .  From the Latin word “crux”,  the cross was used in Roman times to inflict pain and suffering to criminals. The same device was used to torture and execute our Lord Jesus Christ.  It is paradoxical that the emblem of shame and suffering is now the crest of our salvation. The cross signifies  God’s love and redemption of mankind.

Today  we see that suffering and pain or “embracing one’s cross”are to be avoided at all cost.  Individuals go through great lengths to find happiness by eliminating pain and sorrow. Business thrives in promoting aspirational products. Marketing and  advertisements play on human desire for pleasure and comfort. For example, car companies promote their products  to people who want to be considered sexy and powerful.  Beer companies sell  to men suggesting that  drinking that type of beverage will attract women.   Cosmetics and botox are sold to women promising youthful glow despite their age. Travel operators lure tourists to have that great escape in a secluded tropical island  if only for a fleeting moment. Nowadays, even toilet paper and vacuum cleaner use sex to market their products.  Unfortunately, people buy their marketing tricks for the wrong reasons.

Christ showed us a different path by dying on the cross.  He said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me  must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Matt 16,24).  It is a contradiction that  when we feel  the burden of our sins,  it is in that particular moment when God calls us lovingly. He comforts us and guide us to find a solution to our pain and suffering. Despite what people think, no amount of material and physical pleasure can replace the true joy that one feels with God’s loving embrace.

Lent is a time of self-denial, spiritual reflection, renewed commitment, self- examination, sacrifice and a time of intentional consideration of the things Jesus taught (gracerules.wordpress.com)

In Christ’s teaching, the path to salvation is through the cross.  As the St. Francis prayer for peace goes: “it is in dying that we are born to eternal life”.  The practice of mortification, or dying to oneself,  entails self-sacrifice and the right intention.

Some forms of mortification include ordinary practice of  delayed gratification  in food and drink as well as temperance in giving in to  bodily pleasure.  We could also mortify by helping those around us at work and in our home  by doing our duties and chores.  We can live the spirit of sacrifice by  getting up early in the morning,  doing our most difficult task first, working well, being punctual , smiling to person who annoy us, and generally going through the contradictions of life cheerfully.

The message of Christ is love and redemption.  He came down from heaven and  became man to die for our sins.  When we deny ourselves we embrace the cross and imitate Jesus Christ. Embracing the cross simply means that we willingly suffer for God or   we accept difficulties that come our way to atone our sins. Through self-denial, our life of sacrifice and penance becomes our path to holiness.

The forty days  of Lent which  culminates on  Easter Sunday, representing resurrection,  is a great opportunity for  us to practice mortification.    When we deny ourselves, we go against our inclinations and predominant passions in a physical or spiritual way. Voluntary enduring and accepting  pain and suffering can become a form of prayer  which is essential to live an authentic Christian life.

Reflection:

Do I willingly practice self-denial  by getting up on time, being punctual, and doing my duties  and my work well to help those around me?

Do I accept difficulties in life cheerfully to atone for my sins and to imitate Christ who suffered and died on the cross for the remission of my sins?

OLD RUGGED CROSS
George Bennard, 1873-1958
1.	On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
	the emblem of suffering and shame;
	and I love that old cross where the dearest and best
	for a world of lost sinners was slain.
Refrain:
	So I'll cherish the old rugged cross,
	till my trophies at last I lay down;
	I will cling to the old rugged cross,
	and exchange it some day for a crown.

2.	O that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
	has a wondrous attraction for me;
	for the dear Lamb of God left his glory above
	to bear it to dark Calvary.
	(Refrain)

3.	In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
	a wondrous beauty I see,
	for 'twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
	to pardon and sanctify me.
	(Refrain)

4.	To that old rugged cross I will ever be true,
	its shame and reproach gladly bear;
	then he'll call me some day to my home far away,
	where his glory forever I'll share.
	(Refrain)


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Za1-e9zuGV0


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Jesus working as a carpenter

Seeking Holiness through Work

In the story of creation, God created man in the garden of Eden to “till it and to keep it” (Gen 2, 15).  Reflecting on God’s plan for us, he gave man the role of a worker and a custodian. God meant man to work as a source of happiness. Work only became difficult as a result of original sin: “In the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread” (Gen. 3, 19)

Work therefore has a significant meaning for Christians. Have you asked yourself what Christ did before he began his ministry in his 30s? His  foster father St. Joseph was a carpenter or an artisan and so we could imagine that Christ himself worked as an  artisan for the greater part of his life.   Christ, as perfect man and perfect God, must have worked diligently and took care of the smallest details of woodwork to make it perfect.

As a custodian, work is good for man and a  way to cooperate with God by transforming new things out of God’s creation.  Let’s think of inventions that humans have made in recorded history: architecture, art,  explorations in science and  technology.

Higher Purpose of Work

We have an obligation to work.  As St. Paul said: “if any man will not work, neither let him eat”. (2 Thess. 3, 10)  We usually work as a means to acquire material wealth, well-being, and to have a sense of purpose.  We are known as individuals for the profession or labour we do.

The nobility of work depends on its purpose. The more noble the purpose, the more noble work becomes. One makes work more noble if its aims are not only for self-interest but  for the benefit of others. For instance, work  that is good for  society or for the service of humanity.

A more significant purpose of work is when we do it for the glory of God. We can look at the purpose of work as a means to our holiness. We have to realize that our God-given talents ought to be used for His greater glory. We use our work, our profession, our daily toil to become holy.

To become holy or to strive to be a Saint does not mean that we have to be living in a monastery or convent away from the rough and tumble of life.  We can become saints by leading our  life exactly where God has placed us.  We can be students, carpenters, professors, doctors, lawyers and still lead holy lives by sanctifying our work.

Work as Prayer

The motto of the Benedictines is “ora et labora” or prayer and work. St. Benedict, the father of western monasticism lived outside of the world. However, such life differs from what we live in today’s world. We as lay Christian work in the world.

In the 20th century, St. Josemaria Escriva, the saint of ordinary work, tried to put work to its proper worth by suggesting that work could be a form of prayer. He said  that:  “your work too must become a personal prayer, that it must become a real conversation with Our Father in heaven. If you seek sanctity in and through your work, you will necessarily have to strive to turn it into personal prayer. You cannot allow your cares and concerns to become impersonal and routine, because if you were to do so, the divine incentive that inspires your daily tasks will straightaway wither and die.”(Friends of God, 64)

Men and women from all walks of life could  aspire for holiness in the midst of the world.   An ordinary citizen  could lead a full Christian life without changing  his normal day to day life, his work and profession, his hopes  and dreams.

St. Josemaria added that:  “In God’s service there are no unimportant posts: all are of great importance. The importance of the post depends on the spiritual level reached by the person filling it.”(The Forge, 618).

Study as a Form of Prayer

“An hour of study, for a modern apostle, is an hour of prayer”. (The Way, 335)

“One has to study — to gain the world and conquer it for God. Then we can raise the level of our efforts: we can try to turn the work we do into an encounter with the Lord and the foundation to support those who will follow our way in the future. In this way, study will become prayer”.(Furrow, 526)

Reflection:

Have I offered my work and study to God, however ordinary they may be by doing it well, with simplicity and love?

Have I used my God given talents for the good of others?

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Prayer: Conversation with God

Jesus prays in the garden

Just like human friendship, our relationship and love of God can be developed and nurtured through communication.  When we converse with other individuals or  with our family and  friends, we get to know and understand them better. Soon, we will feel affection and love for them.

Conversation with God is the same.  We get to know  God better and have a stronger connection with Him. Thankfully, God has given us the facility to speak with him directly.  Such gift of personal dialogue with God, speaking and listening to Him, is unique to humans.

Intimate Conversation with God

In order for us to have an intimate conversation with God, we have to know Him. Constant reading of scriptures, particularly the Gospel, provides us knowledge of God through Christ. By reading the bible, we become close to Christ. We can even put ourselves as one of the characters in the Bible as we read and meditate the holy  scriptures.

We must also  realise  that God is close to us and that He loves us. He is present in our lives and sustains us.  God is interested in the what we think, what we say, in what we do.   God lovingly listens to us.

As a human father  watches over and takes care  of his children, God our Father watches over us.  As children, when we show our love for our parents, they like it.  In the same manner that God appreciates it when we show our affection to Him.

Continuous Dialogue with God through Prayer

Humans have a natural predisposition to communicate. If we are not talking with another person, we tend to talk to ourselves.  Even in our   dreams,  we go over our troubles and our memories.

Through prayer, Christians have the great opportunity to dialogue with God continuously.   If we  fervently pray habitually to God,  we will have a life which is centred on God and not on ourselves.  The effect of the habit of prayer is immense. Prayer and conversation with  God  strengthens our friendship with Him, our love of God deepens, and our intentions become purer.  Through prayer, our impulse to do good increases and our tendency to do evil decreases.

Mental Prayer

We have to give priority to our prayer life because it is our life-line to God.  Even when we are busy we have to decide to pray and “make time for the Lord, with the firm determination not to give up.” (CCC 2710)

At first, the habit of prayer requires effort but with perseverance and love of God, it becomes second nature to us.   We can consider committing a few minutes each day  in mental prayer apart from vocal prayers.

According to Blessed Mother Theresa, “holiness is impossible without mental prayer”.  St. Alphonus Ligouri,   doctor of the church on moral theology, said that “all saints have become saints by mental prayer”.

Mental prayer  is a chat with God similar to the way we talk with our friends.  We tell God our joys, sorrows, challenges, failures, our weaknesses and our needs.  We are not afraid of disclosure and removing our masks. because we know God loves us.   Our prayer and conversation with God  is our response to His love that allows God to enter and take control of our lives.

The Angelus (1857–59) by Jean-François Millet ...

The Angelus (1857–59) by Jean-François Millet

‘Lord, teach us to pray!” (Lk 11:1)

We ask God to help us to pray. We tell Him if we don’t know how to pray and He will guide us. Many times, we are distracted in our prayer. However, be assured that involuntary distraction does not lessen the value of our prayer in the eyes of God.  Our Lord Jesus Christ taught us how to pray in “Our Lord’s Prayer”. It is a beautiful prayer which  provides a model of prayer through adoration, thanksgiving,  asking forgiveness, and petition. Such prayer is also present in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.

Prayer of Petition

Our Lord  has said,  “Ask, and it shall be given to you, seek and you shall find; knock and and it shall be open to you”(Mt7.7).  At times, we may feel that God is not listening to us despite our fervent prayers. Perhaps, it is in those moments that God is answering our prayers through the ordinary events of our lives.  We just need to listen. If it is good for us, God will surely give it to us.

Meditation:

Do  I try to form the habit of  mental prayer?

Do I try to listen to God’s  holy will   through spiritual reading, mental prayer and in the ordinary  and events of my life?


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