June 4. Remembering the Words of a Friend Bidding Farewell.

To Pray on and Ponder:  Acts 20-28-38; John 17, 11b-19

Id quod volo (that which we desire most deeply): The gift of remembering, to call to mind and draw fruit from the memory of the parting words of Jesus, our friend who bid farewell before his ascending–to catch his Word, be drawn to the Truth he offers, to be with him as his Father adopts us as his children.

I’ve heard time and again, that we Filipinos are fond of long farewells. After the first bid of goodbye, guests and hosts stand as though to commence the ritual of taking leave but people just keep on introducing yet new topics to converse about, hosts bid some more time by offering to prepare some take aways from the great amount of food still left on the table; children momentarily pause from their games, but seeing their elders continuing to linger, resume their play. And this ritual goes on and on until, so people say, the seventh goodbye has been expressed.

I don’t know if Jesus knew any Filipino sensibility at all, most probably not at that time, but his farewell discourse was not short either. This discourse spans several chapters in the Gospel of John and would have taken most of Thursday evening, long after the sabbath meal and foot washings have finished. We know that the part featured today was one of the most solemn parts as Jesus was already addressing his Father here (I wonder if the disciples were still awake by this time), and Jesus was praying to the Father in a tone that seems to have already begun his negotiations with Abba at the famed garden of Gethsemani.

Jesus was praying to his Father for some gifts to be bequeathed to his disciple-friends upon his parting.  Jesus knew that the time of his physical presence with his friends was running out and that after he their shepherd is struck dead, they will scatter. Which is why at this most crucial time before all things regarding his passion and death come to pass, he would now ask his Father for the most important gifts he wants given to his friends. These are sort of his final wishes before he offers himself as a libation.

First, that the Father give his disciples his name and protect them by this name. Everytime words such as these are mentioned in the New Testament, I am brought back to that dialogue between Moses and Yahweh, where Moses seemed to have wanted to trick God into naming himself  to him “who will I tell Pharaoh, sent me?” But God brushed aside Moses’ pretensions at domination (the dominant one names the subordinate!) and simply told the prophet, “Tell Pharaoh, ‘I am who I am’” sent you.” And by this “I am” name, Yahweh, simply assures his creatures that he is one who abides forever, one who was, who is and who will be present forever.” But God’s lovingkindness and presence is only perpetually offered to us as an offer of love and companionship–never an imposition. We creatures have to offer ourselves back to God who is Creator, but ironically who awaits our permission to receive his offer of lovingkindness and presence.

We have to forego of any other name by which we may have lived our lives; any other idols or attachments or addictions with which we have betrayed ourselves and pretended to live independently of our Provident God. Only in God will our souls find rest. Only in God will we find our salvation, our strength, and our life.  With God’s name, we find protection. David the shepherd-king knew this well, as he said “with your rod and staff you defend me.” And David knew that a shepherd’s rod and staff have the seal of ownership inscribed on it which names the sheep after the identity of the shepherd. Jesus, the Good Shepherd knew this well too, that’s why the beginning of his prayer is, protect them by your Name Father, so that not even the Evil One will have power over them.

Second, Jesus declared, I have given them you Word and because of this, the world hated them. When we come to live by God’s Word, the prospect of the world hating us becomes simply logical, because as Jesus had forewarned, no servant is greater than his master, and if Jesus himself incurred the world’s hate, how much more us, his servants, when we stand by our Master’s Word. But Jesus asks his Father, “consecrate them in Truth, for your word is Truth,” especially as I send them all to the world that hates them. Jesus knows that in the thick of battle for allegiance when the disciples carry out their mission in the world the twin powers of the lures of this world and the threat of its punishments may weaken the disciples’ resolve, but perhaps a lot less so, if they are consecrated in God’s Truth. The power from on high will strengthen the hearts of disciples and make of them evangelizers of others in the world, fired as it were by the very strength of God’s Truth.

A third gift is yet a promise at least at that point. For Jesus assured his disciples that he would leave them orphan but would send them an Advocate who will recall to them everything that he had ever taught them and unleash from within them enormous gifts that will empower them to make disciples of other nations and gather all people into one body and one spirit in Christ.

The Lord who lingered in his farewell concludes his discourse with a prayer that entrusts all of us to his Father and to the Spirit who is yet to come. Jesus asked from three valuable gifts: the Father’s name in whose adoption and protection we will remain above the evil one’s grasp; the Word of Truth in which we are consecrated and made holy and finally the Spirit who will complete everything that Jesus left unfinished and would remind us of all that he has taught us. We ask that we keep our hearts open in receiving these gifts constantly and with open minds and hearts.

Perhaps some questions for reflection may be helpful: How have we kept faithful in living as adoptive children of God. How have we lived the grace of creaturehood (being creature) and of filiation (being child) before God? How have we kept humble and faithful, simple and surrendering, trusting before a God who will always provide for us and love us without condition and without limit? How have we dwelt constantly in God’s truth? How have we resisted temptations to embrace lies or half-truths for convenience or security? How have we succumbed to temptations to deceive, to pretend, to lie, to manipulate, to distort or deny the truth about ourselves or about others or about God? How have we kept our hearts open to the many gifts of the Spirit? As we inch our way closer to the Solemn Feast of Pentecost, we ask the Lord to prepare our hearts as we begin praying, “Veni, Sancte Spiritu.” Come Holy Spirit, and fill the hearts of your faith, enkindling in them the fire of your love!” God Bless!

June 4, 2014  Leave a comment

May 29. “It Bulaga!” (Peek-a-boo!). Three Consequences of our Lord’s Ascension.

To Pray on and Ponder:  John 16, 16-20

Id quod volo:  To recognize in the Mystery of the Lord’s Ascension another expression of the Lord’s loving providence for us in the further deepening of God’s love for us from a limited earth-bound, culture-bound and in-the-flesh communication of love to love that knows no bounds, no limits, no conditions, a love beyond any of our known horizon and depth.

When Jesus ascended to the heavens, there were immediately three consequences for our life of faith:

First, his capacity to give love was intensified and elevated. No longer was his loving limited to his mortal body, no longer limited by his own time, and people, and religion and culture. His love was now accessible to all times and peoples and cultures.

Second, but Jesus has not lost his humanity. Even as he sits at the right hand of the Father, he is completely and still human through and through—and in fact human in an infinitely glorious way. Hindi na nga natin puwede sabihing, pasensya ka, sapagkat kami’y tao lamang, marupok at nagkakasala. No Jesus as a human person has penetrated our human experience to the very core and now he can be big enough so he can be present to millions at the same time that he can be so small as to be fully present to each of us in the intimacy of our unique personal experiences and struggles.

Finally Jesus is now for us a mysterious Spirit—a presence that will be at times most visible and distinct to us, yet many times invisible, darkly mysterious whom we see as if in a dark mirror, says St. Paul. Or as St. John recounts Jesus saying to his disciples—sometimes you see, sometimes you don’t.

I was reflecting on this third quality and what it could mean for us.  What I came to recall was a game we normally play with children. You know psychologists say, small kids believe as real only the things that they see. That is why if you play with a kid and hide yourself from him, he or she will lose interest in a bit and think that the hidden you is no longer real anymore. “Concrete operational” the psychologists call this stage.

That’s why perhaps we Filipinos have invented the game “It-bulaga” a rough equivalent of the American “peek a boo!” What does this game have to do with the Ascended Jesus?  Well we say to the kid who is still training to see: “It-bulaga!” and then alternately show and hide ourselves from the child’s view. In due time he would learn that we are really still there, even if he does not see us.

In the same way I think, our Risen Lord is training us to sense his presence whether or not we see him, feel him, or sense his most subtle motions. Hopefully we develop a deep familiarity with Jesus’ ways so that his slightest signs move us and excite us.

We can also learn from the fox and little prince, recalling what the fox taught the prince. Taming means that we see each other alternately from a distance then closer and closer, and in every sighting, we foster greater anticipation and expectancy, we feel greater love for the one we had missed. And in due time we see our beloved not only from the eyes but from the heart and this makes all the difference for the more essential things in life are really invisible to the eye. Only with the heart can we see these things in full light. God bless!

May 29, 2014  Leave a comment

May 21. Deepening Signs of Communion with Jesus

To Pray on and Ponder:  Acts 15, 1-6; John 15, 1-8

Id quod volo (That which we most deeply desire):  To see in Jesus, our True Vine, the true source of life and growth, that we may constantly root and ground ourselves into the mystery of his love and prune away from ourselves all the dead branches of barrenness and vice, the better to bear abundant fruit that will last.

Fr. Walter Ysaac, S.J., one of our professors of theology at the Loyola School of Theology once taught us to see how biblical images give us a glimpse of how our early Christian communities may have grown in their awareness and appreciation for the radical closeness and identification to which they say Jesus Christ, Lord and Saviour as communing intimately with them who are members of His body.

He said one just had to notice the operative images that illustrated the grace of baptism for the Christians. Initially the gift of baptism was likened to a white dress that we put on the baptized after the baptism has been performed. The gift of the faith received by the baptized was like some external thing that one puts on (and because it is external, such dress can be removed as fast as it can be worn!).

And then came other images which highlighted more inclusion into a community–images like, sheep that becomes part of a flock cared for by the Good Shepherd who knows his flock intimately and who is willing to give his life for his sheep; living stones that build into a Temple of the Spirit, as they build on Christ, the corner stone; or even perhaps, the different parts of the One Body of Christ.

But Fr. Wally said, it is St. John’s image of the vine and branches that give us a compelling image of communion. Christ is the True Vine, and we

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are the branches, taken from other vines and grafted onto Jesus, the one true Vine.

The use of the image of “grafting” helps us appreciate the closeness of communion illustrated here. A branch that is grafted into a good tree or vine begins to draw life from the mother stump. After the graft is performed, the grafted branch begins to live on the food that the mother tree takes from the sun and from the ground. The finest attributes of the mother tree begins to seep into the branch and improve it. Further on, the image of pruning helps us visualize how after we insert ourselves into the Christian community, we begin to draw life and fruitfulness by our connection to Christ who is the Source and Author of Life.

We contrast this with the meanings attendant to the first major debate in the post-resurrection early Christian community: should a Christian become  Jewish convert first before he is baptized into the Christian faith? Some Judaizers wanted adherence to the Jewish religion (circumcision) to become a prerequisite for entry into the Christian community (baptism). Ultimately, the Church ruled that she would not require new members to be baptized first into Judaism. After this issue was resolved in the First Council of Jerusalem, many of these differing views were muted and let go.

Apart from the taking in of bread that is the symbol of Christ’s body, this vine and branches image makes manifest to us the real and profound communion that our God desires to forge between himself and ourselves. And this ought to be a genuine sign of  God’s love and providence for his people. God Bless!

May 21, 2014  Leave a comment

May 11. An Examen for Leaders in Ministry

To Pray on and Ponder: John 10, 1-10

Id quod volo:  To fix our gaze on Jesus, our Good Shepherd, loving him and imitating him closely as we try to exercise leadership in our respective ministries, giving personal care to people we work with and showing genuine concern and compassion for dreams and desires that are important to them as we work as a community towards God’s Kingdom.

Today’s Good Shepherd Sunday readings can very well be a guide for an examen of leaders in ministry. The Good Shepherd after all is our icon for Christian leadership. I propose four questions for our Examen: First, is our shepherding first and foremost, grounded on and oriented towards the Father, as Jesus’ shepherding was? Second, do we try to develop a special bond with the sheep who belong to the flock entrusted to our care? Third, are we like the hired ones or thieves or like the Good Shepherd in the way we wait on our flock? Finally Do we use and abuse the sheep of our flock rather than serve them humbly and generously and even makes ourselves prepared to offer our life so they may have life in abundance?

The first is like Ignatius’ principle and foundation. When we exercise leadership in our flock do we recall how God himself was Shepherd to us? Are we able to ground our own ways of shepherding to Jesus Christ’s brand of Shepherding–one that emulates Psalm 23 through and through. In a sense all the succeeding examen questions elaborate this grounding and horizon for the good shepherd: one who knows his flock intimately, one who leads them to the Father who is the one who draws them and entrusts them to the shepherd in the first place, and one whose one goal is to bring all the sheep home providing his own life as a doorway to coming home to the Father. Jesus Christ knows that his flock is a Sacred Trust from his Father and he is ready to give up his life so they may also receive life in full and life in abundance as they dwell in the House of the Lord all the days of their lives.

We highlight three qualities in Jesus’ brand of shepherding that we ought to emulate and imitate.

First, Jesus knows his sheep, his sheep knows his voice and follows him, because they trust this voice that they know will only give them good care and provision. Jesus knows what lies deep in our hearts even before we ask or pray for it. Jesus knows the kind of wounds that have hurt us, the healing that we need, the yeses and no’s we need to hear so we may grow in life and love that God wills for us.

Second, Jesus as Good Shepherd is not like the hired ones or the thieves who have the capacity to abuse the sheep and use them only for their needs. The hired ones work for pay, and when they perceive that caring for the sheep does not pay enough anymore they will be more concerned for their entitlements rather than the wellbeing of the sheep. The thieves all the more do not have the benefit of the sheep in mind. His one intention is to make a killing from what he can steal from the sheepfold. His deception and machination will even lead him to not use the proper gate into the sheepfold so the real shepherd will not see him in action. The Good Shepherd on the other hand lays down his life for his sheep and will do everything to provide for them abundant pastures, still waters for drink, a life without stress or worries, without sickness or death, only goodness and kindness.

Third,  the final destiny that awaits the sheep under the care of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is life forever with the Father in abundance and love, in peace and joy, because the Father, after all is the wellspring of all peace and joy and love and abundance, and Jesus, the Son, is our doorway, our bridge, the Way of Truth and Life, that is our sole passage towards our destiny in the bosom of the Father.

We ask that our own shepherding, itself but a part of Jesus’ bigger Shepherding will always look after the sheep, knowing them intimately and by heart, giving our all to them as Christ did, and desiring only life in peace and abundance to all people entrusted in our care. God Bless!

 

 

May 11, 2014  Leave a comment

May 7. Wednesday of the 3rd Easter Week. God as Food

To Pray on and Ponder:  John 6, 35-40

Id quod volo (That which I desire most):  To see in bread a sign of a God who wants to be a part of us so we can ultimately be a part of him. Like bread that we eat and share, God wants to be taken in, chewed on, swallowed, ingested and made a real part of our persons so that with God becoming us, we become parts of God’s very body as well and as Body of Christ, we also come to feed others with God’s love.

“I am the Bread of Life. Whoever comes to me will never hunger, whoever believes in me will never thirst!” The Gospel episode continues John’s series of “I am” discourses. “I am” as you know is the phrase that God used to name Godself before Moses. In a sense it was both a positive affirmation of eternal presence of God at the same time that it is a kind of refusal by God to give Moses or whoever dominion over God. Remember that naming creatures was one way Adam exercised dominion and stewardship over creation. In this part of the Gospel, Jesus reveals God’s presence among us in the form of bread, of some ordinary daily food which are quite familiar to people, quite commonplace. When Jesus does this he emphasizes to us that we do not need extraordinary signs or mind-boggling, hard-to-explain experiences to encounter the Divine. The most ordinary human experience of eating and eating a common food like bread can have the power to become a sacrament, a sign that signifies and embodies God, a thing that can communicate to us the very presence of God. As we break the bread of the Eucharist, let us break this Word about eating bread as a sacrament.

First, the very act of eating can be sacramental. That God has made Godself food means that God wants us to take him in, to chew on him, swallow him, digest him so that his dreams and desires become a part of our own dreams and desires and all of us who take him in will become one in pursuing Jesus’ dream for God’s reign. That’s why we all receive Jesus’ body and blood, consume them and make them a part of ourselves so that we all become one body and one Spirit in Christ. Eating as sacrament points to the reality that God in his largesse, has made Godself so small that he can now come into our interiority, into our depth and fill us with his dreams, desires, loves and longings, and from within God will stretch us so that our minds can contain his very dreams and our hearts can love his very loves.

Second, that God chooses to be present in the sign of bread indicates that God does not want want to be some special treat reserved for special occasions. God wants to be a staple, something we take in everyday as part of our notion of survival. Something we consider as part of daily living, and thus some essential element without which we cannot live, and live well. We know when God has ceased to be essential in our lives when we begin looking at things, ideas, plans, relationships and commitments and read EGO everywhere, instead of what Ignatius describes as “finding God in all things.” But where we are able to honor God in the most ordinary things of the day-to-day, God in turn sets us apart, and consecrates us, shaping and purifying us so he may also present us to others to feed them and nourish them as well. Many spiritual writers have seen in the movement of the priestly prayer of consecrating bread at mass as the same action that God takes when he calls a person to mission. The priest takes an ordinary piece of bread. God calls this or that ordinary person for some mission, perhaps for no reason at all except that he loves us and trusts us enough to mission us. Then the priest blesses the bread much like God consecrates us and forms us to give the graces proper to the missions he gives. And then the priest breaks the bread, and so too, God breaks us, purifies us, stretches us so the human can contain the Divine. This phase of breaking is not very easy to take for it involvews pain and suffering. But all Christian love involves this purifying moment. Fourth, the priest gives, he distribute the bread blessed and broken, much like God gives us away to become food for others, to become carriers of the God others will take in and make part of themselves too.

Finally, that God chose to become food for us signals that God wants to be shared and celebrated in community. That is why our bread is a communion, a commmunion that is both sacrifice and thanksgiving. It is quite difficult to share a meal with someone with whom we feel estranged or conflicted. This is why perhaps Jesus advises us to leave our offering on the altar and reconcile with an enemy before completing our celebration. For a genuine sacrament ought not only to signify something, it also ought to communicate it, to make the bigger thing real, genuine, palpable. If the bread we partake contain profound community in the Trinity’s presence, then that communion ought to show itself in our lives and in the life of our communities. We pray that the depth of meaning that the Eucharist communicates become ultimately embodied meaning for us, that really, we become bread, blessed, broken, shared so that Jesus becomes really eternally present, the I am, who comes to nourish God’s people day by day. God bless.

May 7, 2014  Leave a comment

May 5. Monday of the 3rd Easter Week. Food for Eternity.

To Pray on and Ponder. John 6, 22-29.

Id quod volo (That which we desire most): To be so drawn by God’ that we only love things of and relationships in this world within the dynamic of our love for God. 

Our Lord’s injunction to his disciples sounded like it was personally addressed to me–a certified foodie: “Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life which the Son of Man will give you. For on him, the Father has set his seal.”  The context in which these words were spoken was of course the aftermath of the feeding of the five thousand via the multiplication of the loaves. After the miraculous feeding, Jesus sensed that the people wanted to acclaim him Messiah and King. He dismissed his apostles to board a boat ahead of him while he tried to put a closure to the important miracle event. After Jesus had gone, the people continued to seek him out and pursue him and when they did find him, Jesus warned them that they seem to be looking for him, not because they saw the signs in Jesus with eyes of faith, but rather because they were fixed on the worldly benefits of making Jesus king.

Jesus’ warning to the crowd is one that will profit us much to remember. The spiritual life will always be filled with temptations to reduce God’s gifts into things that serve ego, rather than point to the deeper reality of God’s signs of love. Our Jesuit poet-friend, Albert Alejo, S.J. has a short tanaga that speaks profoundly about the sacramentality of things. (A tanaga as you know pretty much like the Japanese haiku–a short poetic form. But this Filipino verse is a quatrain, i.e., has four lines in a stanza and the words in every line are of seven syllables with final syllables normally following rhyme patterns of  aaaa, abab or aabb, though some freestyle forms also exist: aaab, abbb, abcd).

Bahaghari kong mundo
ay isang tabernakulo
buksan at titigan mo,
lahat at sakramento.

Allow me a very rough translation of Fr. Albert’s verse for our English readers:

My rainbow-coloured world
is a tabernacle.
Open it, contemplate it,
Everything is sacrament.

Looks like we begin to see the deeper reality of God’s presence in things only when our eyes are opened with faith. When we are so full of ourselves, we tend to impose our meanings to things and relationships. We see things from our deep-seated prejudices of which many are self-serving, narcissistic and self-justifying, and because of this, relationships go haywire. Think of all the things we have done that hurt nature and its capacity to replenish itself, all because we have tended to see in nature an inexhaustible source of things we need to survive. Think of times when we tend to mark out a relationship because of the benefits we accrue from it, rather than valuing the relationship because of the value we put in our friends or family. Think of the times when we tend to instrumentalize God in our prayer.

With eyes of faith, we begin to see things and relationships from the eyes of God’s love, and where love shapes our vision, we learn to distinguish what is truly essential and what draws us into genuine love and care. When the love of God fires our hearts, we cannot but find God in all things and we are able to love things out of our love for God.  God Bless!

May 5, 2014  Leave a comment

May 4. Third Sunday of Easter. When Sacred Story Irrupts and Our Hearts Burn

To Pray on and Ponder:  Luke 24, 13-35

Id quod volo (That which we desire most): To notice and savour moments in our lives when God’s story irrupts into ours and with his presence palpably felt, we feel our hurts burning.

Even the most committed and loving Christians, Church leaders and ministers, included, can live months and years of their lives doing the routine, workaday, ordinary stuff without the consoling visits from God. Life goes on and on with its usual alternative highs and lows, peaks and ebbs. We even read of someone like Mother Teresa of Calcutta who would spend most of her days serving the poorest of the poor when interiorly she’d feel herself wrestling or enduring what she perceived as the darkness of God’s absence and so she simply prayed over and over, “Come be my Light.”

In these darker moments, our better selves continue to engage the “absent God.” We find ourselves at times reporting, at times complaining, often times asking and begging for our own needs and those of others who ask us to intercede. At other times we quarrel with him whom we know entrusted some work to us and then had since left us fending for ourselves. We lament, we negotiate for what we think are our entitlements, we vent frustration at silence. Like shadow boxers we throw punches into the air. And we do all these until we get too tired to continue crying. We find ourselves stopping our shrieks and sobs. And then when silence begins to settle again, when strong emotions fade away from within our hearts, and when our minds seem to have cleared, with the tears having washed away the webs of thoughts that had crowded the mind, then some real prayer begins. We get a glimpse of wisdom from somewhere that somehow allows the light to dawn. We get to discern some order and light from all the chaos that we’ve been through. Even when we have yet to recognize the Lord, somehow we sense we are not alone anymore and there just might be another way of telling our story so with hearts burning, we listen more to this mystery unfolding.

And then slowly, we remember parts of our lives that had been kept in the dark before. For a long time I have perhaps needed to keep to a sad, self-sacrificing story, so many joyful experiences remained cut off from my memory. For a long time I have probably needed to keep to my humorous, light hearted, comic persona before my publics and so nobody knew how sad or angry I was deep inside, and so each time sadness and anger visited me, I’d quickly sweep it under the rug so to speak, lest others or I myself begin to pay attention to these unwanted feelings and then chaos would follow. Or perhaps I have many conflicting desires in my heart that I’m afraid others would find offensive and so I keep them to myself, showing one face of myself to one of my publics and another face to another. I am perhaps the goody-goody character before my family and workmates and then become this wild and uncontrollable character to friends before whom I can let my hair down. When God begins to draw us out of ourselves, God’s grace attracts our better selves and draws our hidden darker selves out as well, giving assurances that love receives the whole of our person. Love honours the better desires that made us frantically seeking and unfortunately led us to more superficial deals with the shady characters of our story. Love invites us to trust in His care and providence so that we may heal and find our way home to the one who can really put our pieces together again. Who was it who said, the reason why they couldn’t put Humpty-Dumpty together again was because they only called all the King’s horses and all the King’s men and never bothered to call the King himself?

Then we sense, the more we allow the Lord to enter into our shadows, the more light he would bring to us. And with God’s light and assurance of unconditional love, we make choices that are more appropriate, that express genuine love for ourselves and others. And in due time, we find our stories retold to us with less gaps, less inconsistencies, less of the shame or fear or anger or guilt. And our stories would be something we can better embrace to be mirrors of who we are and who God is for us. Yes, God becomes a visible character as well. For knowing ourselves more clearly, we begin to get a glimpse of this loving God as another beautiful character in our story who had been long hidden behind the scenes. This time God comes to the foreground and before God we can begin to face ourselves not only as whole, but also as beautiful, a character to whom God looks with great delight. We see God more clearly now and recognize him. And see God with his loving gaze fixed on us, creating us even more with his delight and love.

So that was why our hearts were burning back then. So that was why that new relationship felt right, it may have stirred fear because of past wounds, but it did feel right–a gift received at the right time. So that was why that trip seemed right. It promised new experiences, new sights, new places to explore and a new self with newfound openness and wonder. So that’s why the call to forgive that person who wounded me, felt right. Humbling, daring perhaps, maybe stupid in the mind of others but the time the call came, I know it was the right thing to do. So that’s why recovering the art that I’ve seen flourish in my younger days felt right. Returning to drawing and painting seems to draw out a lot of creative passion in me and helps me to see so many aspects of myself I never imagined were inside me in the first place. As I draw or paint, the Great artist up there seems to be drawing my self as well, and yes, I like what I am seeing.

Seeing my genuine self unfolding also makes me begin to see and recognize God for who God is, not how I thought he was on account of all the past I have endured and I thought God had caused. And ironically, while I was limiting God to whom I thought God was to justify my painful story, the real God was right there walking with me, loving me, constantly knocking at any door in my guarded self where he could enter to bring more light and love, offering me precious wisdom with which to see and recognize my more complete story which is God’s story as well. And henceforth, I know I must be mindful of when my heart burns, when I sense some inner movement in my heart, those moments when my God calls my attention. For I know that if I only stay and ask the Lord to stay with us, what we previously felt as faint and subtle signs of God’s presence would begin to unfold and irrupt as God’s Sacred Story elaborates in my own.

And so we pause and reflect:  What 2-3 moments in your life did you sense God’s presence and activity?  When did you sense God’s wisdom slowly helping you make sense of your life’s experiences–especially those you found too painful to hold, or for which you felt anger, fear or shame? How did you sense God helping you complete your story, gifting you with a sense of self that you can better receive with reverence and love, in all its ambivalent facts–joys and pains, sweetness and bitterness, lights and shadows, with its dyings and risings to new life?  God bless!

 

May 4, 2014  Leave a comment

May 3. Philip and James, Apostles. Not only by our Achievement, but by God’s Grace.

To Pray on and Ponder: John 14, 6-14.

Id quod volo: To receive the gift of Jesus Christ, our way, truth and life so that by our loving response to him we become little lights, persons of truth so that others who seek the Lord may find in our words and deeds, a way to receiving new life from God. 

Little is known of the these two men except that they have been listed among the Twelve. Philip at least we know come from Bethsaida and his appearances in the Gospels are episodes which portray him as a gatekeeper, one who connects people with Jesus. His few pieces of discourse also unwittingly make Jesus reveal something significant about his identity as being One with the Father and as the Way, the Truth and the Life. Philip’s prayer makes a good prayer of faith for all of us: “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus response may sound tired and exasperated “Philip, I have been with you all this time and you still do not know me? I and the Father are one,” but Philip’s statement was no more unknowing than “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” I guess for many of us it takes a while to understand and it takes even a longer while to believe. For people like us, Ignatius’ counsel is to always touch base with our deep desires and if our deep desire be that of Philip’s “show us the Father” that should really be enough to get us through. Of James, usually referred to as “James the Lesser” to distinguish him from “James the Greater” who is also an apostle, the son of Zebedee, brother of John. James the Greater is part of the innermost circle of Peter, James and John. James the Lesser is the son of Alphaeus. While some commentators say that his pairing with Philip in the celebration of apostles’ feasts are an attempt to extol to virtues of faith and works, faith being attributed to Philip and works to James, alluding to the Epistle of James. But other scholars would not identify James the Less with James the author of the epistle who was most probably the Bishop James or James the Just. Biblical characters are not often as clear as we want them for a big part of their history is unknown to us. For now it is good to note that for Philip and James, the dignity of becoming apostles did not lie on any human achievement or stature of theirs but to gratuitous providence of God, the inner power of love from all apostolic calls to service derives. Ultimately it is not as important to project who they were in the early Church although we know they became shepherds of their communities, but that they served to proclaim Jesus, the Way of Truth and Life and so allow Jesus to gather all back to the Father. God Bless!

May 3, 2014  Leave a comment

April 27. Second Sunday of Easter. Touching Jesus’ Wounds, We are Healed!

 

To Pray on and Ponder: John 20, 19-31.

Id quod volo:  The graced opportunity to be able to bring our wounded selves before the Risen Lord still carrying his wounded body, so we may experience the deep love that brings us healing and mercy and receive the unique blessing our Risen Lord pronounced before Thomas: “Blessed are those who believe though they have not seen.

There is something about the sense of touch with connotes a more committed stance, than say, the sense of sight. Because while we can steal glances and even stares (as wily peeping toms would try to do), what we touch, always touches us back. There is immediacy in our contact with another person, and immediately we know, instinctively by a person’s touch if that person means us harm or good, if that person wanted to communicate caring or violence or neediness or even a plot to abuse.

Our language for deep emotion even carries the language of touch. Especially among Filipinos we express being deeply moved as “I was touched!” We’d use such a phrase in describing for instance having been affected by a dramatic tearjerker telenovela scene, or a moving testimony by a friend or even a stranger, o a deeply religious experience.

The apostle Thomas, ever the doubter, had received word from his companions that the Lord Jesus had indeed risen and had appeared to all of them. Unfortunately he was out of the house the first time the Risen Lord visited. Despite the testimony of all his friends however, Thomas persisted in his doubt and even declared he would not believe until he himself touched the Lord, probed his hands and side to feel the Lord’s wounds. He just needed this touch to prove to himself that it was really Jesus before him, the Jesus who was crucified and died and was buried.

I was thinking, Thomas was holding not only a difficult enough stance of the empiricist’s “I have to see for myself to believe.” No, his proof was founded on touch. “I have to touch the Lord’s wounds to believe.” I was trying hard to fathom this stance and the only way I could find meaning in it is to think of the woundedness the fueled Thomas’ doubt. Thomas was deeply hurt by the violent death of a hero and friend. He was also grieving for lost dreams and lost friendship. And worse he was probably self-loathing for failing to be by his Lord’s side when Jesus most needed him, all for fear of backlash from the Jews.

How else can such a deep woundedness and doubt be healed except by the experience of profound forgiveness and unconditional love. The moment Jesus appears again, he calls on Thomas and gives in to Thomas’ challenge. “Come Thomas, put your finger into the holes on my hands and my side. Do not persist in your unbelief but believe.” Thomas did touch Jesus’ wounds and the only words he could exclaim were “My Lord and My God!,” a confession of faith which was probably the most advanced so far at that time–acknowledging Jesus’ Lordship and Jesus’ divinity. Yet Jesus in response still confronts Thomas, and then blesses the rest of us next. Jesus affirms Thomas faith, though rebukes him gently that he believes only because he has seen and touched. And so Jesus blesses the rest of us: “Blessed are those who have not seen yet believe.” I’d like to think all of us in this generation are included in that blessing, even though I also believe that the riches of Ignatian prayer have given us the privilege of “seeing” and “touching” Jesus in very real and moving ways, with the eyes of faith in prayer helping us to fathom mystery.

But notice this great truth: Even though at the surface it was Thomas, touching Jesus’ wounds, the opposite was quite true as well, Jesus’ unconditional love and mercy touched Thomas wounds and doubt and those gestures were enough to hush away other doubts and make Thomas believe. I think many of us know that truth from experience, in moments of doubt it is the loving touch of friends and family the hushes our questions, perhaps not so much because our questions had been answered, but because the love we feel is enough to help us bear the questions even if they remained unanswered. God Bless!

April 27, 2014  Leave a comment

April 21. Monday of the Easter Octave. Meeting Jesus Our Consoler.

To Pray on and Ponder:  Acts 2, 14-33; Psalm 16, 1-2a.5-11; Matthew 28, 8-15

Id quod volo:  To encounter Jesus, our Risen Lord, the very source and wellspring of our deep consolations, as he brings to healing the wounds that hurt us deep within, makes us feel his joy in new life and fresh gush of love and compassion, and makes present to us again all the joyful memories that make up our core identity as children of God.

Towards the end of the retreat, to invite retreatants to consider communion with the risen Lord, he suggests that the retreatant consider contemplating Jesus in the resurrection narratives and notice two things–first, that Jesus performs for his disciples and others, the unique role of the consoler. Jesus goes about consoling people, calming their fears, healing their wounds, quickening their hearts with fire and zeal for mission. Second, Ignatius also suggests that retreatants see in Jesus, divinity manifesting itself fully, revealing light and love and life–three sure signs of God’s abiding presence among us.

In our liturgy for today, Monday of the Easter Octave, we encounter Jesus as he meets up with the women who came from the tomb. He sends the women to tell the good news that he has risen, and this while the Pharisees bribe the guards to make up a false story to prevent any news that threatens to resurrect what they believe to be the Jesus myth. That we are here today among millions of other believers in Jesus Christ bears witness to the strength of the testimony of those women, and the strength of their message too. “Tell them to go to Galilee and there I will see them.”

Right there in the first sending of the women to become apostles to the disciples of Jesus, we already see, tell tale signs of something mysterious and big happening. How can the testimony of women find force in a community that holds women in second place–and with this the contrary rumours spread by religious authorities and Roman guards.

The disciples did as Jesus told them (believing in the women’s words of course!). They went to Galilee and waited for Jesus there. Galilee for sure meant a lot to the disciples. Galilee was a place of much joy and fruitfulness in ministry. It represented for the disciples almost three years of intimate companions, of getting to know Jesus closely, of doing fruitful ministry with the Master, of seeing him do lots of signs up close, of seeing crowds thicken and increase by the day, and perhaps building their expectation about the real power their master and teacher possessed.

And in many ways, the Jerusalem events put a halt to their consoling Galilee experience, and so Jerusalem came to represent–horror, and frustration and much fear. Jerusalem was where their dreams were dampened and broken. In Jerusalem, they were paralyzed with a lot of fear for their lives and for sure, guilt and shame for the way they had abandoned, even denied their master.

But now, Jesus was bidding them all to go to Galilee. Jesus was making them go where their consolations were alive, where the joy of companionship and service was planted, and grew and bloomed and bore fruit. Jesus was asking them to embrace love and life and light anew. The days of Jerusalem darkness are over, and now it’s time for them to regroup and rebuild their ministry.

Jesus consoles them. He makes them remember their past joys and experience these joys well up again like a spring. Jesus heals them of their wounds of betrayal and abandonment, and tells them to fear not and forgive, to build communion again. Jesus gifts them anew with the gift of truth and love. Truth that will make them take responsibility for their sins and surrender all their weakness to God’s healing love again.

In due time, these same men would be seen again in the streets of Jerusalem, preaching boldly with the fire of the Spirit, penetrating even cultures beyond their familiar world by their word and work, most ordinary though these are, when now said and done in the name of Jesus, their Risen Lord and Master, assumes in their flesh the very power and wisdom of God.

We ask in this easter octave, that we also receive the deep consolations Jesus our Risen Lord comes to offer us: that we may see him more clearly, love him more ardently and follow him more closely, with his consolations helping us to fly again in his friendship and service. God Bless and still Happy Easter!

 

April 21, 2014  Leave a comment

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