Sunday, November 28, 2010

First Sunday of Advent


The Unknown Day and Hour

[Jesus said to his disciples,] 37“For as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38In [those] days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark. 39They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away. So will it be [also] at the coming of the Son of Man. 40Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. 41Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left. 42Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. 43Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. 44So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

Alert and Watchful!

At the height of nature’s fury that was the typhoon called Milenyo, my friends and I watched helplessly as roaring winds tossed aside branches of trees, galvanized iron, billboards, and even pieces of heavy metal as if these were weightless objects. Someone shared that, although he was not a stranger to calamities and disasters, Milenyo shook him up. I remember his words as I reflect on today’s Gospel.

Bible exegetes tell us that the gospel scenarios are not predictions about the “end of the world.” Neither are they intended to instill fear—not even “holy fear”—in people’s hearts, as doomsayers contend. Rather, these are “elements” of an apocalyptic discourse common in the time of Jesus and of the early Christians. Apocalyptic imagery was frequently employed in describing the entrance of God onto the stage of history to “put things right,” especially for his persecuted people. Apocalyptics is really a “resistance literature,” intended to strengthen those who suffer because of their faith. It encourages them to hold on because the Lord is on their side and will rescue them.

As we open a new liturgical year, we are reminded that with Advent, we not only recall the past coming of Jesus in the flesh (Christmas) but also look forward to his coming in glory (Parousia). Because we no longer feel the tension of Jesus’ coming as the early Christians did, we usually pay only lip service to a fundamental element of our faith: Christ will come again to judge the living and the dead.

But even if no one can tell when the Parousia will take place (and we should not listen to those who claim they do), to have expectations or to feel tension in our lives is necessary for our spiritual growth. Jesus exhorts us today: Stay awake! Be prepared!

“In those days before the flood, they were eating and drinking” (v 38). This is the stupor of the rich and the comfortable who wallow in pleasure. They are challenged to see beyond what the eyes can. The anxieties of daily living can afflict both the poor and the rich. We are not told to forget life’s problems, but definitely there is more to life than worrying: What are we to eat, what are we to drink, what are we to wear? (see Mt 6:25). If we focus only on these things, we can easily get discouraged.

Standing before a group of persons who were feeling utterly discouraged, a motivational speaker took a large piece of white paper and made a black dot in its center with a marking pen. He held up the paper and asked, “What do you see?”

One person replied, “A black dot.”

“Do you see anything besides the dot?” the speaker asked.

The audience said in unison, “No!”

“But you have overlooked the most important thing,” he pointed out. “You disregarded the sheet of paper!”

He proceeded to share that people allow themselves to get distracted by small, dot-like failures. These monopolize their attention, drain their energy, and keep them from seeing the paper—the blessings, successes, and joys that outweigh the disappointments.

This little anecdote from God’s Little Devotional Book for Leaders reminds us of the call of Advent. We should not lose sight of the bigger picture of our faith, including spiritual realities. We should not allow the smaller view of our present concerns to blind us or make us live like “drunken” people.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

God's Great Promise to those who will Proclaim His Great Mercy

[Diary 378]
Once as I was talking with my spiritual director, I had an interior vision-quicker than lightning-of his soul in great suffering, in such agony that God touches very few souls with such fire. The suffering arises from this work. There will come a time when this work, which God is demanding so very much, will be as though utterly undone. And then God will act with great power, which will give evidence of its authenticity. It will be a new splendor for the Church, although it has been dormant in it from long ago. That God is infinitely merciful, no one can deny. He desires everyone to know this before He comes again as Judge. He wants souls to come to know Him first as King of Mercy. When this triumph comes, we shall already have entered the new life in which there is no suffering. But before this, your soul [of the spiritual director] will be surfeited with bitterness at the sight of the destruction of your efforts. However, this will only appear to be so, because what God has once decided upon, He does not change. But although this destruction will be such only in outward appearance, the suffering will be real. When will this happen? I do not know. How long will it last? I do not know.[89] But God has promised a great grace especially to you and to all those... who will proclaim My great mercy. I shall protect them Myself at the hour of death, as My own glory. And even if the sins of soul are as dark as night, when the sinner turns to My mercy he gives Me the greatest praise and is the glory of My Passion. When a soul praises My goodness, Satan trembles before it and flees to the very bottom of hell.

Source: DIARY, Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul © 1987 Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the B.V.M.  Stockbridge, MA 01263.  All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Note: If you like my post then consider buying the Book "Divine Mercy in my Soul" from the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception website. The owner of this blog have no other intention but to spread and proclaim the "Divine Mercy".

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Solemnity of Christ the King

The Sunday Gospel [November 21, 2010]

The Crucifixion

35[As Jesus hung on the cross,] the people stood by and watched; the rulers, meanwhile, sneered at him and said, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Messiah of God.” 36Even the soldiers jeered at him. As they approached to offer him wine 37they called out, “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.” 38Above him there was an inscription that read, “This is the King of the Jews.” 39Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us.” 40The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? 41And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” 42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

The King Who Would Not Save Himself

The passion accounts, though substantially faithful to history, were not written primarily to provide us with historical information. The evangelists wanted to show us who Jesus is and what he has done for us. Mark and Matthew underline Jesus’ silence and suffering to remind us perhaps of the Suffering Servant of God in Isaiah 53, who “like a lamb led to slaughter… was silent and opened not his mouth.” John, on the other hand, heightens the mystery and majesty of Jesus. The Son of God controls his own destiny. No one takes away his life from him, he gives it up willingly.

The crucifixion scene in Luke, this year’s Gospel for Christ the King, gives us another picture of Jesus. “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself,” jeer the soldiers who join the Jewish leaders in tormenting him. What kind of a king is this who agonizes in total helplessness on the cross? He is known to have saved others before, why can he not save himself? Is he after all but a pretender to the messianic title?

Luke, with a touch of artistic irony, tells us that even as Jesus is being mocked for his helplessness, he is actually saving people. He does not save himself from suffering and death precisely because he wants to give life to others—life beyond death. Even while hanging on the cross, he does not forget why he was sent on earth by the Father. He prays for his tormentors: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34). If not forgiven by God, those who have a hand in Jesus’ death will surely be meted severe punishment. He also reassures the repentant criminal with the promise of paradise: “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk 23: 43). Paradise, a symbolic word of Persian origin, literally means “garden, a place of exquisite beauty.” Jesus uses it in response to the criminal’s use of the word kingdom. In the New Testament, paradise is synonymous with the kingdom of God. “To the victor,” the glorified Jesus says in Revelation (2:7), “I will give the right to eat from the tree of life that is the garden (paradise) of God.”

At the Last Supper, Jesus tells the disciples: “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them and those in authority over them are addressed as ‘Benefactors’; but among you it shall not be so. Rather, let the greatest among you be as the youngest, and the leader as the servant” (Lk 22:25-26). On the cross, Jesus becomes an embodiment of his teaching.

Those who occupy a position of leadership among God’s people are especially challenged by Jesus’ example. Greatness in the kingdom is not a matter of having influence, prestige, or power. It is striving to serve others, to assist them to enter the kingdom. And the sacrifice of oneself makes one’s rule truly effective.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Prayer of a Humble and Loving Soul

[Diary 320]
Jesus made known to me how very pleasing to Him were prayers of atonement. He said to me, The prayer of a humble and loving soul disarms the anger of My Father and draws down an ocean of blessings. After the adoration, half way to my cell, I was surrounded by a , pack of huge black dogs who were jumping and howling and trying to tear me to pieces. I realized that they were not dogs, but demons. One of them spoke up in a rage, "Because you have snatched so many souls away from us this night, we will tear you to pieces." I answered, "If that is the will of the most merciful God, tear me to pieces, for I have justly deserved it, because I am the most miserable of all sinners, and God is ever holy, just, and infinitely merciful." To these words all the demons answered as one, "Let us flee, for she is not alone; the Almighty is with her!" And they vanished like dust, like the noise of the road, while I continued on my way to my cell undisturbed, finishing my Te Deum and pondering the infinite and unfathomable mercy of God.

Source: DIARY, Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul © 1987 Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the B.V.M.  Stockbridge, MA 01263.  All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Note: If you like my post then consider buying the Book "Divine Mercy in my Soul" from the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception website. The owner of this blog have no other intention but to spread and proclaim the "Divine Mercy".

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Signs of the End

The Sunday Gospel [Nov. 14, 2010]

Lk 21:5-19
The Signs of the End

5While some people were speaking about how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings, [Jesus] said, 6“All that you see here—the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.”

7Then they asked him, “Teacher, when will this happen? And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?” 8He answered, “See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’ Do not follow them! 9When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.” 10Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.”

12“Before the end happens, however, they will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name. 13It will lead to your giving testimony. 14Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, 15for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute. 16You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death. 17You will be hated by all because of my name, 18but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. 19By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”

Jesus: Our Way of Hope towards the Future

We cannot help but look forward to the next Sunday! It will be the last Sunday of the Church’s liturgical calendar! Aptly, the Church has set it as the solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the universe. With this celebration we are reminded: that Jesus is, indeed, the Alpha (beginning) and the Omega (end).

Today’s liturgy then reminds us that one of the great tensions of our earth’s journey is having to live through various “tenses” (the past, the present, the future). In fact in our Gospel, Jesus reminds the Jews who were overly taken by the adornments of the Jerusalem Temple: “All that you see here—the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone…” The reality of earthly life is that it is never permanent... but that it is a motion into the future… and the future of the earth is an ending. Similar to what we can find in Mt 24:1-51 and in Mk 13:1-37, Jesus’ words interconnect two future endings: the more immediate destruction of Jerusalem that was set to happen in 70 AD when Rome decided to purge the Jews, and the distant end of the world which will herald the Second Coming of Jesus.

Jesus’ way is not to feed on our human curiosity about the future or to terrorize us about the symptoms of a world that will be coming to an end. His way is to assure us that God is in control. And what matters is for us to face everything with the right dispositions. No matter what views we may have about the future and the end of the world, Jesus gives us his wonderful admonitions.

The beginning of the Gospel narrative features pious Jews who came supposedly to worship God at the Temple, but they ended up being absorbed with the imposing beauty and richness of the Temple. Jesus, therefore, had to awaken their consciousness about the temporariness of the whole experience as he said: “All that you see here—the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another…” Even among godly people, it is so easy to be taken by the legitimate goods of this life—concerns about work, family, friends, apostolates, and church affairs. Yes, our love for some ministries and church traditions may also constitute unhealthy attachments! Above all, we should remember: all things are passing, and only God is eternal. The essence of living our faith should be the continuous “surrender” of all to God.

When there is a concern about the uncertainty of the future and when present life-realities are harsh and threatening, the time is ripe for false prophets, for religious racketeers, for peddlers of false hopes. There can be a lot of hype about miracles and amazing signs. Many try to cope through religious delusions. The Christian option is always that of keeping the balance. As believers, we should hang on to faith and hope and prayer, and God’s promise. However, it is foolish to become so obsessed with Bible prophecies and with faith bordering fanaticism and naivety to the point of neglecting the practical aspects of living. In the Second Reading (2 Thes 3:7-12), the apostle Paul exhorts the early Christians “to work quietly and to eat their own food” even as they await in hope the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Saint Faustina's Vision of Purgatory

[Diary 20]
Shortly after this, I fell ill [general exhaustion]. The dear Mother Superior sent me with two other sisters for a rest to Skolimow, not far from Warsaw. It was at that time that I asked the Lord who else I should pray for. Jesus said that on the following night He would let me know for whom I should pray.

[The Next night] I saw my Guardian Angel, who ordered me to follow him. In a moment I was in a misty place full of fire in which there was a great crowd of suffering souls. They were praying fervently, but to no avail, for themselves; only we can come to their aid. The flames which were burning them did not touch me at all. My Guardian Angel did not leave me for an instant. I asked these souls what their greatest suffering was. They answered me in one voice that their greatest torment was longing for God. I saw Our Lady visiting the souls in Purgatory. The souls call her "The Star of the Sea." She brings them refreshment. I wanted to talk with them some more, but my Guardian Angel beckoned me to leave. We went out of that prison of suffering.[I heard and interior voice] which said, My mercy does not want this, but justice demands it. Since that time, I am in closer communion with the suffering souls.

Source: DIARY, Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul © 1987 Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the B.V.M.  Stockbridge, MA 01263.  All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Note: If you like my post then consider buying the Book "Divine Mercy in my Soul" from the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception website. The owner of this blog have no other intention but to spread and proclaim the "Divine Mercy".

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Resurrection of the Dead

Lk 20:27-38

The Question about the Resurrection

27Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, came forward and put this question to [Jesus], 28saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us, ‘If someone’s brother dies leaving a wife but no child, his brother must take the wife and raise up descendants for his brother.’ 29Now there were seven brothers; the first married a woman but died childless. 30Then the second 31and the third married her, and likewise all the seven died childless. 32Finally the woman also died. 33Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be? For all seven had been married to her.” 34Jesus said to them, “The children of this age marry and remarry; 35but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. 36They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise. 37That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called ‘Lord’ the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; 38and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”

Think of the Hereafter!

The Sadducees cannot imagine an afterlife (resurrection) because of the “chaos” it will incur. How will the situation of a woman who had been married to seven husbands be entangled? Whose wife will she be up there People keep on imagining: what’s heaven like?

The Bible tells us that we will be happy. We will recline at table in God’s kingdom with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets (Lk 13:28-29). There shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain (Rv 21:4). But how will we look like—young or old? What will our “world” be after the resurrection of the body?

Other people go the opposite direction. “Imagine there’s no heaven,” they say with the late John Lennon. Heaven simply distracts us from our responsibilities here below. Heaven is the religious “opium” that prevents people from destroying the shackles that condemn them to poverty, ignorance, and other situations that enslave.

As we draw close to the end of the liturgical year, we are reminded to raise our minds to what classic spirituality calls “the last things”: death, judgment, reward and punishment (purgatory, heaven, hell). These are the things that matter. What does it profit a human being, when at the end he loses his very soul?

The word of God today invites us to transcend worldly experiences and values. The Second Book of Maccabees makes explicit the Jewish belief in the resurrection. The seven brothers prefer death to displeasing God by abandoning their religious beliefs. They give up their lives with the hope in the resurrection to life—to be given only to the just. In the Gospel, Jesus sides with the Pharisees and the majority of the Jewish people who hold that there is life beyond the grave. God is the “God of the living.” Although the patriarchs, the prophets, and the just people may have died, God preserves the existence of his faithful ones so that they are truly alive in him. Human existence does not end with death—as the Sadducees hold.

The resurrection from the dead is at the heart of the Christian faith. The proof of this is Jesus’ own resurrection. St. Paul says that if there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then empty is the Christian faith (1 Cor 15:13-14). Christ’s resurrection is tied with the resurrection from the dead. And if Christ’s resurrection is but a figment of human imagination, we Christians are the most pitiable people of all. The hope to be someday with Christ is our everlasting encouragement to persevere in good deed and word (see Second Reading).

To be a Christian and not to believe in the afterlife is a contradiction. Obviously, the hope for the future life need not detract us from giving our contribution to building the kingdom of God here on earth by fighting poverty, corruption, and any situation that diminishes human dignity. And yet we cannot pretend or hope to build an earthly paradise, because paradise is destined for the next life.

“For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the one that is to come” (Heb 13:14).

Christ’s resurrection and the resultant resurrection from the dead are like directional arrows which point to us our target: the happiness of heaven. After our earthly life, eternity opens.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Two Roads

[Diary 153]
    One day, I saw two roads. One was broad, covered with sand and flowers, full of joy, music and all sorts of pleasures. People walked along it, dancing and enjoying themselves. They reached the end without realizing it. And at the end of the road there was a horrible precipice; that is, the abyss of hell. The souls fell blindly into it; as they walked, so they fell. And their number was so great that it was impossible to count them. And I saw the other road, or rather, a path, for it was narrow and strewn with thorns and rocks; and the people who walked along it had tears in their eyes, and all kinds of suffering befell them. Some fell down upon the rocks, but stood up immediately and went on. At the end of the road there was a magnificent garden filled with all sorts of happiness, and all these souls entered there. At the very first instant they forgot all their sufferings.

Source: DIARY, Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul © 1987 Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the B.V.M.  Stockbridge, MA 01263.  All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Note: If you like my post then consider buying the Book "Divine Mercy in my Soul" from the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception website. The owner of this blog have no other intention but to spread and proclaim the "Divine Mercy".