Wednesday, October 20, 2010
October 20, 2010
Wednesday of the Twenty-Ninth Week in Ordinary Time
Expect the unexpected:
Human life is marked with a sense of uncertainty. With all the scientific progress we have made, we cannot yet predict with certainty what lies ahead of us. When I can get sick, when fortunes in my life can change, when relationships can grow soar, when and what manner I am to bid farewell to this world—these are mysteries that humanity has come to live with from its very inception. However, we know for certain that as I entered the world, so will I pass away, not into uncertainties but into the certainty of faith in the hands of a loving and caring God. So, I need not worry as to how and when I may die, rather I need to be concerned with how I make my life so as to be “always ready and vigilant” for encountering my creator face to face. There are three things I need to keep in my mind in this journey of my life: my identity as a servant, prudence and, faithfulness.
Identity as Servant:
The perennial question “who am I” has been answered by Jesus in two complementing directions, as a “child of God”, and a “servant”. Jesus was aware of His being the Son of God yet He also knew that He is a servant of God and His people. He was more comfortable to be called a servant than a master. Indeed, He taught His disciples that one cannot claim the “sonship/daughtership” of God unless one first becomes a servant of all. He claimed of Himself as “the son of man who came not to be served but to serve and give His life as ransom for many.
We live in a time when “service” has acquired myriads of implicit meanings. The service sector of our society is going through a crisis of credibility and survival. It is not only the rampant corruption that has ravaged the service sector. Much more, it is a change of ideology, a shift of paradigm, and an alteration of culture. In the political and commercial, cultural realms, nay, even in the religious sphere, service has become a springboard of power, profit and privileges. “Service” means more of self-service than of public welfare. “Servant” assumes the position of the master. Against such a culture, Jesus cries out to follow Him, the “suffering servant”, the “servant of all” who spends His all for the sake of His people. In Jesus’ vision “servanthood” is about humility, obedience, faithfulness, loyalty, self-sacrifice and diligence. Such a servant has nothing to fear, nothing to hide, for he/she always lives a life of transparency, busying him/herself in doing the will of his/her master. The “master’s” will and happiness keeps him/her in great anticipation, readiness and alertness all the time of his/her life.
A true servant cannot be timid. Prudence is that quality by which a servant becomes aware of the options before him and is able to discern and decide on the right thing, in the right manner at the right time. Prudence is always shown in action. Prudence dictates to me that my true identity is that of a servant, and as a servant, I am supposed to serve, vigilant and active, carrying out the plan and projects of my master. There is no greater value for me than the “mind”, “will” and “orders” of my master. Seeking the will of God in all things in all times is the mark of a Christian. I am called to serve God and His people. I’m concerned only with one thing: how can I be of help to you. When I say I am a servant, I am declaring that you are my master. Being my master, I consider you as greater than I am. This makes me humble. The test of service is humility and obedience. If I feel it natural and easy for me to work under anyone, to take orders, and not to impose my will and mind on others, then I know I am growing in ‘servanthood’.
As a servant, I am expected of faithfulness in life, relationships and duty. The master has the right to expect that I am faithful to Him and His work. Faithfulness is manifested in my commitment to the master and to the task. Diligence, fairness and cheerful countenance are the marks of a faithful servant.
Friday, October 15, 2010
October 15, 2010
Friday, 28th Week in Ordinary Time
Critic with a Heart:
Criticism is an art, virtue and business. In literature criticism is an art. In religion it is a virtue. In media it is a business. We cannot live without criticism. In journalistic approach fairness and objectivity arise only in a critical view of reality. In a culture of liberty and integrity critics abound. However, criticism can do more harm than good if it is not done in proper manner and disposition. Liberty and freedom of expression does not mean that one has the absolute right of criticizing another to the point of destroying him/her. Indeed, not everyone has the right to criticize. As Abraham Lincoln has once said, “he has the right to criticize who has a heart to help”. Criticism therefore should be practiced only with a view to help and not to destroy.
Jesus was a critic. He was a critic with a heart. He criticized not individuals rather the rotting system of the Pharisees and the scribes which ran on the fuel of hypocrisy. Jesus challenged them to self-critic. The chief purpose of God becoming man was to invite us to be critics not of others but of ourselves. In His preaching, healing, performing miracles, companionship with the sinners and outcasts, sufferings, death and resurrection Jesus called for conversion. Conversion begins with an examination of conscience, a criticism of the heart. Jesus model is a critic with a heart. The intention of the critic be pure, without blemish and holy. It is totally opposite of the kind of journalistic criticism as proposed by Kushwant Sing in his adage, “with malice towards all”. Jesus’ model rather is one born in love, as a mother who would critic her baby, a lover who would critic his/her partner. In this form of criticism, the critic owns responsibility for the situation and places him/herself in the position of the criticized, and then proposes the ways to change. Correction is a noble ministry, a divine responsibility God has put in the hearts every lover. It is not a weapon placed in the hands of an enemy. Indeed, I have no right to criticize my enemies. I can only criticize my friends. If I do not criticize my friends, then I am not a true friend.
Fear the Right Thing:
Fear is a common experience I have learned to live with. What are my fears? Do I fear the right things? I may fear cockroaches, rats, insects, lizards, snakes, ghosts, and other elements in nature. I might have phobias that frozen my thoughts, feelings and numb my movements. It is funny, however, that I fear such insignificant things as the insects and un harmful things as spirits or imagined things as ghosts, yet I do not fear the real things I should. In Jesus’ words, there is only one thing I need to fear: God! If I have fear of God then I fear nothing else. If I am not God-fearing then I fear everything else. Fear of God, however is not the fear I have of things, elements, situations, and people. It is a reverential fear. It is the “owe and wonder” I experience when I realize the might, power and glory of God. As I stand before the “tremendous, fascinating mystery” that is God, I realize how little I am, yet how exalted I am because of His grace! This realization at once elevates me to the height of His grace and to the depths of my creatureliness. I fall on my knees before Him in adoration and praise!
God has been very good to me, for I never dwell upon anything wrong which a person has done, so as to remember it afterwards. If I do remember it, I always see some other virtue in that person. (Saint Teresa of Avila)
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
October 12, 2010
Tuesday of the Twenty-Eighth Week in Ordinary Time
Luke 11: 37-41
The Culture of cleanliness:
The modern society attaches premium to the virtue of cleanliness. The saying “cleanliness is next to godliness” is adopted as the gospel principle of the modern commercial enterprises and market economy. No wonder, we live in an era of cosmetic and sanitary revolution. The markets are flooded with cosmetic and sanitary products, 60 percent of the media advertisements and commercials are on cosmetic and sanitary products. The image-conscious culture of ours has a web of unwritten laws, traditions and practices regarding beautification, maintenance, sanitization and purification. The Biblical times, especially the Jewish culture was not less concerned about physical cleanliness. Jesus is confronted with such an issue, his ritual and physical impurity at the table. The irony of the episode is that the Lord who is the source of sanctifying grace is now accused of impurity by those whose hearts were shown to be unclean!
Purity—the sign of a Christian
Jesus turned the tables at an “image conscious” society by inviting them to check “what is within” even as they present a seemingly clean external. Jesus exposes the paradox of “clean periphery” and the “unclean center”. In the final analysis it becomes clear that this high culture of purity is in fact floats on the low culture of impurities. Further more, Jesus inverts the measure of purity—purity does not consists in the cleanliness of the externals, rather in the purity of the inner chamber of the heart. To be a Christian, then is to be a clean person, pure in thoughts, intentions and dealings. No wonder, Jesus has made it imperative for His disciples to wash themselves in the waters of baptism and cleansed in the sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit. This purity is achieved, aside from the power of the Word of God, on the strength of the rituals (sacraments) and charity.
Sacraments: the source of sanctifying grace
Rituals are part of any culture. Christian culture is rooted on sacramental rituals. The seven sacraments of the Church impart to the believer grace necessary for his/her life. The grace of sanctification is basic among the graces. In baptism the one is washed clean of all his/her sins and impurities accumulated in his life and shared from the original sin. This ritual of purity is represented by water and a white piece of cloth. It is a sacrament of re-birth, being born again as a child of God who is pure, holy and immaculate. The sacrament of reconciliation ritually sanctifies the sinner of all the impurities of his action and omission. Repentance is a necessary condition for the sanctifying grace. The Holy Eucharist allows the Christian to enter into the sacrificial grace of Christ, to wash His impurities in the blood of the Divine savior. In the Eucharist, what is impure is made pure and filled with the strength of grace that no more one may live in guilt, sin and impurity. The other sacraments (confirmation, marriage, holy orders, and the anointing of the sick) also impart to the recipient sanctifying grace along with the specific grace necessary for the state of life he/she enters.
Love: the source of sanctifying grace
Now, rituals, devoid of the spirit can remain just that—rituals. The sanctifying grace of the rituals are to be lived and practiced in the virtue of charity—selfless love. Love has the power to heal and cleanse. Any ritual without love is ineffective. Love impels one to put into act what he/she celebrates in the sacraments. Love teaches us that clean hands and clever minds are not substitute for a clean conscience. A clean conscience is the manifestation of a loving heart. The nursery rhyme “Clean little hands are nice to see” teaches the children of the beauty of cleanliness, but the “commandment of love” teaches us of the beauty of a life well founded purified in the sacrifice of love.
Purity lies in the middle. We need to avoid the extremities of ritualism and self-validation. Love and rituals are not contradictory. They compliment my life of purity.
How clean am I? Do I pay attention to the purity of my thoughts, words, intentions and dealings as much as I care for the cleanliness and grooming of my body? How often do I notice impurities in my thoughts, words, dealings and intentions? What steps do I take to cleanse my conscience and sanctify my life?
Sunday, October 10, 2010
October 10, 2010
Twenty-Eighth Sunday of the Year
2 Kings 5:14-17; 2 Timothy 2:8-13; Luke 17:11-19
There was a saintly man who spent most part of His days in prayer and meditation. One day, in an ecstatic vision he was taken up into heaven and stood before the majesty of God. God the Father welcomed him into the heavenly glory and asked, “what grace shall I give you today?”. The saintly man, in humility and love asked, if it will be pleasing to God to reveal to Him how the “mechanism of prayer” works in heaven. The Heavenly Father was delighted with such a request, and offered to tour him around the heavenly chambers of the department of prayer. God held his hand and there opened a door towards a large room where in so many saints and angels were engaged in hectic activity. The Holy Spirit was moving them inwardly all around. After a few moments another door was opened and the saintly man was led to a large room, much larger than the first. The room was filled with even more saints and angels all in hectic activity under the promptings of the Holy Trinity. The number of angels and saints who filled the room and the volume of tasks they were accomplishing were so immense that not even all the super computers in the world put together were able to compute them. As the saintly man was engrossed in wonder and owe, he was taken to another room, this time a much smaller one, as small as a cellar. In contrast to the first two rooms, this was very quiet and bereft of activities. There were only a dozen or so angels and saints who sat in office in this room, and they seemed to be moving slow. The saintly man then asked the Heavenly Father, why this contrast, and what these chambers represent? Then God the Father looked at the saintly man with gentleness and compassion, and said, this is the mechanism of the chambers of prayer. The first chamber is the chamber of “petition”. People on earth sent me their petitions every moment of their lives. They constantly ask me for so many things, of every need they have. They ask for healing, miracles, visions, strength, food, money, success, and what not. The chamber of petitions is where I sort these petitions in order and priority. The angels and saints are always active in this chamber, for, my children always cry out to me for help. The second chamber is that of “dispatching and delivery”. This is where I answer the cries of my children. All the prayers I receive in the “chamber of petitions” are instantly answered here. Furthermore, I answer not only what my children ask for, I grant them the grace and blessings which they cannot even identify, foresee, and name. I, being their Father knows what is best for them, and I give more than what people ask. This is why this chamber is full of activities. Now the third chamber is “the chamber of acknowledgment”. In this chamber we process all the “acknowledgment” of blessings and graces delivered. As you have noticed, this chamber is much smaller in size and is with little activity because we receive very few responses acknowledging a blessing. Oh, my children take my favors and blessings for granted, they keep on asking and demanding for more; and very few of them, very seldom acknowledge thank me for what I am and what I do for them.
The Highest form of Prayer:
Today Jesus reminds us to be grateful. The basic attitude of a Christian must be one of gratitude. Every moment of my life, every fiber of my being needs to be singing a constant hymn of gratitude because I live constantly in the immense mercy and kindness of God.
When my prayer is dominated by petitions, and I approach God only in moments of need, I assign God the role of a slot-machine who dispenses blessings and kindness. What drives me to God? What makes me to pray? What impels me to have faith? Am I driven by an urge to “receive and get”, feeling weak and helpless on my part? Or do I feel drawn to God because of His love for me, and because of my election as His child?
Gratitude is the highest form of prayer. The Eucharist, the supreme sacrament of prayer, is a sacrifice of gratitude. The very word Eucharistia in Greek means “thanksgiving” indicating an offering of gratitude for an ineffable benefit received, which can never be repaid. Such was the attitude of the Samaritan leper who, when realized that he was healed, returned to thank the Lord, fell at His feat, praised Him profusely and followed Him on His way. Similarly, Naaman, the Syrian, who was healed by Elisha also exhibits his faith in gratitude as he returned to thank the prophet. When Naaman wanted to offer a token of gratitude to prophet Elisha for the blessing he received, Elisha refused accept anything in return, for he realized that the healing grace imparted, and the gratitude therein belongs to God, and not to him. Naaman, then made a covenant with Yahweh that he will offer his life as a sacrifice of thanksgiving. How wonderful a gift the lepers received, and how wonderfully the gifts changed them that they have now become models of gratuitous faith!
Gratitude begins with remembrance. When I remember the blessings I have received, the grace I live with, the gifts I am endowed with and the benefits I constantly receive, I cannot but keep singing a litany of gratitude. One exercise worth doing and repeating is that of counting my blessings. I will never be able to count all the blessings that characterize my life for each moment in my life I keep receiving favors in ways and people I may never know. Greater are the invisible graces of my life, much more than the obvious and glaring gifts I enjoy. How can I be grateful enough for the gift of life, my physical, mental and spiritual attributes, health, family and relationships? Will I ever be able to compute and count the blessings I have cherished from the moment of my inception until this day, as to the people and resources spent in caring for me? Will this life be ever enough to repay the debt of gratitude I owe to God, to my parents, relatives, to the Church and to the society at large in contributing to what I am and what I have? Counting the blessings will help me to be on the track of a grateful life.
Counting and remembering the blessings is not all. Christian gratitude is more than remembering. Remembrance should lead me to recognizing the source of the blessings. I need to grow from seeing the gifts to seeing the giver of the gifts. The ten lepers in the gospel were all blessed with healing. They were all happy for the gifts they received. They counted the blessings. They realized how immense a gift they have received was. A new found life, they could not wait any longer, they were eager to relish and live the gift given to them. When nine of them were totally focused on the “worth of the gift”, one of them realized the “worth of the giver”. He realized that this gift was not about him, but about Jesus. This made him retrace his steps, sing His praise, fall at His feet and surrender his life to Him. He not only said “thank you” Lord, but made his life a “thanksgiving” to the Lord.
A Formula for Happiness:
Here is the formula for a happy and contented life: Be grateful. Have an attitude of gratitude and you will be happy. When I am grateful for everything in my life, the only sentiment that fills my heart is that of praise admiration, admiration, wonder and amazement. This will lead me to see the brighter side of life, to be hopeful and trusting. A grateful person is able to accept pain and gain with a composed heart for he knows everything life offers him comes from the heart of a God who loves him immensely. If God gifts me something, it can only be the best. So if in spite of all my efforts what I am given is pain and suffering, this is the best God can offer me at the moment. The acceptance of the gift and the recognition of the giver leads me to a greater appreciation of my life experiences. I have no reason to complain and to grumble. The more I grow in gratitude, the more I grow in happiness.
The Attitude of Gratitude:
It is the attitude that defines a person. It is said that there are two basic attitudes that dominates our lives—the attitude of a dog and the attitude of a cat.
Cat and dog are both domesticated animals. We love them and care for them. Yet, they look at the love and care they receive differently. This is why they respond to our love in different manners. The cat would love to sit on your sofa and the best of the chairs, it would sit on your lap and eat from your table. The dog, on the other hand would be happy to sit at your feet, eat from the scrap that falls from your table and behold your face as you are seated on the chair. If the cat would prefer to sleep with you on your bed, the dog would be happy if you allow it to sleep under your bed. Take a cat for walk—it will walk before you and find its way where it likes to go. Take a dog for walk, it will follow you… even if you wouldn’t like it to follow you, it would love to walk behind you. The cat does not care when you return home, you call its name, it might just show its face and run away. But the dog will welcome you at the door, will show its excitement when you return home, and in all its strength and ability let you feel how much it missed you when you were away. The dog feels happy all the time it sees you. Now, this different behavior of the dog and cat are based on the way they think about you and what you do to them. The dog thinks, “my master loves me so much, and show so much care for me. Truly he must be God”. The cat on the other hand thinks, “They love me and care for me. Indeed, I must be really God!”
How about me? Am I more of a cat or of a dog? What attitude is dominant in me?
Am I a complaining and grumbling person or am I a praising and grateful person? Do I feel that I deserve the best, and I am not given enough? Do I complain that my parents, children, partner in life, boss, co-workers and subordinates do not give me what I truly deserve—love, care, respect and consideration? Do I feel the world owes me so much? Do I keep nagging about people and situations? Do I feel that I am treated unfairly and I give more than what is required of me? Have I ever felt that “I have a right on them, and they should be giving me from what they have because they have more”? If I feel yes, my attitude is that of the cat. The cat is never happy, never satisfied with what it has. It is never grateful.
If I feel that “I have not done anything extra-ordinary… I am an unprofitable servant” (Luke 17:10), I have an attitude like the dog. Do I feel happy whenever I receive a gift or favor? Do I feel that I owe them much for I have received much more? Do I easily remember what I borrow from people and forget what they owe me? Do I feel that others deserve better and more of blessings than I really have? Do I feel happy about the growth and achievements of my brothers and sisters? Do I take care to acknowledge the favors and help I receive from others?
The Leprosy of Ingratitude:
The Gospel story of the healing of the ten lepers reminds me also about the healing of leprosy I am afflicted with today—that of ingratitude. Ingratitude, like a leprosy, distorts me, impairs my vision, insensitizes my relationships and rottens my attitude. Ingratitude hurts. It hurts to be ignored of your love and sacrifices. Each of us has our own hurting stories of ingratitude. This day I bring before the Lord the pain of ingratitude I have experienced along with the pain I have inflicted upon others due to my apathy, indifference and ingratitude. May I take time to find words and ways to express my gratitude to everyone to whom I owe my life and happiness, beginning with my God, my family members and those whose love make me complete. May dare to open up the sores and scars of ingratitude and cry out, “Lord, have pity on me”. Even as I cry out for help, may I also remember His mercy and recognize His love. May I offer myself, all that I am and all that I have as a living sacrifice of gratitude to the Lord my God.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
October 7, 2010
FEAST OF MARY— QUEEN OF THE HOLY ROSARY
Luke 1: 26-38
Rosary: The Tradition and Spirituality of the Church
Rosary is one of the greatest spiritual treasures of the Church. Traditionally the rosary—a garland of beads—has been part of the spiritual traditions of all major religions. For the Catholics the Rosary has found its unique role in the life of the Church. Rosary is a living prayer that grows with the Church. The use of the prayer beads and the repeated recitation of prayers to aid meditation were found in the earliest traditions of the Church and have roots in the pre-Christian era. The structure of the rosary as we have it today evolved between the 12th and 15th centuries. Tradition has it that in the early 13th century St Dominic introduced and propagated the Rosary after a vision from the Blessed Virgin Mary. Since the 15th Century AD the rosary has gained greater popularity and in the spirituality and life of the Church. The saints and the popes have extolled the efficacy and power of the rosary down through the centuries. Mary herself in many of her apparitions has invited her children to take recourse to the strength and grace of the rosary. Indeed, for many Catholics, Rosary has become the unique sign of their faith and faithfulness, spirituality and tradition. The rosary has gained such a great place in the lives of the believers of all the walks and levels of faith. As Archbishop Fulton Sheen said, "The rosary is the book of the blind, where souls see and there enact the greatest drama of love the world has ever known; it is the book of the simple, which initiates them into mysteries and knowledge more satisfying than the education of other men; it is the book of the aged, whose eyes close upon the shadow of this world, and open on the substance of the next. The power of the rosary is beyond description."
The Four Elements of the Rosary
Indeed, the Rosary as we have it today, is more than a prayer, a garland of prayers. Indeed it is a summary of the entire Christian spirituality. Basically it contains four major elements of the Christian spirituality. These elements are: 1) Biblical spirituality, 2) Christological spirituality, 3) Trinitarian spirituality, and 4) Marian Spirituality.
The rosary is primarily a meditative prayer of the Scripture. It is rooted on the major episodes of the Holy scripture, specifically the Gospels. The rosary contains a remembrance, reflection and meditation on the life and mission of Jesus in his joyous, glorious, sorrowful and luminous mysteries. One who prays the whole rosary is praying the scripture in its entirety. The scripture, when meditated upon, effects a sanctification and purification of the heart of the one who prays the rosary. The entire prayers in the rosary are either directly taken from or greatly inspired by the scripture. Therefore, the rosary is a wonderful prayer with the Bible. In earlier times, the rosary was given as a substitute of "praying the psalms", as many were illiterate and were not able to read through the daily Biblical prayer of the psalms. How beautiful is the prayer of the rosary, as we recite it, we are praying with the hosts of angels, in the hymn of the Holy spirit and entering into the core of the Divine Word!
The Rosary is a prayer of and about the Lord Jesus Christ. Apart from the meditative prayer on His life and mission, in rosary we pray with the Lord to the Father. When disciples asked Him to teach them to pray, Jesus taught them the prayer “Our Father”, and reminded them this is how they should pray. The Lord’s Prayer is a central element of the rosary. In fact, in the initial stage of the development of the rosary, the string of beads came to be known as “Paternosters”, the Latin for “Our Father”. By repeating the Lord’s Prayer more than five times in the five decades of the rosary, one is joining the Lord in praying the way He prayed, and join with Him in calling on to the heavenly Father.
The Mystery of God revealed in the scriptures as One Divinity in three persons is celebrated and lived over as the children of God pray the rosary. In this sense, the Rosary is a Trinitarian prayer, more than anything else. The rosary begins and ends with the invocation of the Holy Trinity; The Holy Trinity is invoked again in the repeated recitation of the Doxology (“Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit…”), and the role of the Holy Trinity is extolled in the history of salvation as in Mary God has become her beloved Father, cherished son and holy spouse. So profound is the rosary as a prayer and spirituality that through this mediation we enter into the core of the mystery of the Godhead and experience a mystical union with the Divine.
Rosary, being the prayer of the Church, is also a prayer with Mary the mother and model of the Church. However, rosary is not invented by Mary, or by any other individual in the Church. As we have already seen, the rosary is scriptural prayer. The “Hail Mary” repeated over fifty times is taken from and inspired by the scripture. The first part of the prayer “Hail Mary” is the salutation of the Angel at the annunciation, and the exaltation of Elizabeth at the visitation of Mary. The second part of the Hail Mary is a prayer through the intercession of Mary for forgiveness and mercy. Mary, as the mother and prototype of the church, continues to journey with the church. By invoking her intercession one is entering into the heart of Jesus, sanctity of the Holy Spirit and the presence of the Father.
Connecting the past, present and the future:
The prayer “Hail Mary” is a connecting prayer. It connects the past, present and the future of humanity in general and the individual follower in particular.
The Past: As I pray, “Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners”, I am recalling my state of being sinful, my imperfections, failures and weaknesses of my past life. This becomes a prayer of reconciliation, reparation and repentance. Repentance is made possible by the recollection of the great love and mercy of God revealed in the history of salvation. My past life, therein is surrendered to the mercy and compassion of God.
The Present: “Pray for us sinners, now”. I put my trust in the Lord not only for His forgiveness and mercy, but for His great love and compassion that draws me close to His grace this day. I feel weak in my body, mind and spirit, yet the grace of God envelops me this very moment. This is why, trusting in His word I come to name and ask my needs to the Lord. I have confidence that through the powerful intercession of Mary, God will answer my prayers today. I bring to the Lord all my sorrows (in the sorrowful mysteries), joys (in the joyful mysteries), gratitude (in the glorious mysteries), and doubts, confusions and need for enlightenment (in the luminous mysteries). This way, even as the rosary becomes a profound celebration of the life of Christ in his joys, sorrows, glory and revelations, it also becomes a sacrificial offering of my entire life experiences of joys, sorrows, glory and enlightenment.
The Future: “Pray for us… at the hour of our death”. The recitation of the rosary reminds me repeatedly (over fifty times) of my destiny with God, the fragility of my life on earth, and the need for grace and strength as I will pass from this world at the call of the Lord. What more can we ask, and what more do I need than the assurance of the Heavenly Home at the completion of my earthly sojourn? One of the promises of the Blessed Virgin Mary in her apparitions to those who pray and live the rosary is the assurance of a “blessed death”. They are also promised that they will not suffer eternal damnation. They will not, indeed, because in the rosary they keep reflecting on their past and present life, make promises of atonement and keep praying for a peaceful death and thereafter eternal life with the Lord. This is the beauty and power of the rosary: it sanctifies my past life, strengthens my present life and prepares me for my death and eternal life.
A perfect Prayer:
Rosary, therefore, is a perfect prayer. It is Biblical, Trinitarian, Christological and Marian. It connects my past, present and future life in the world and in the spirit. It encompasses all human experiences of joy, sorrow, success and enlightenment. It invites me to imitate the life of Jesus and Mary and strengthens me to obtain what they promise. So it is my privilege to adorn this garland of prayer, to take recourse to these beads of grace, and to keep praying and celebrating the rosary in the mysteries of my salvation.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
October 6, 2010
Wednesday of the Twenty-Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Inspiring to Pray:
Prayer was for Jesus more than food and drink. He gave up food for several days, but not prayer. If His day was full of work, He found night time enough to pray. The disciples noticed Him praying alone in the wilderness no matter how exhausted He was because of the work of the day. They were impressed and inspired by the way Jesus prayed. The prayer of Jesus drew His disciples to Him. And they wanted to pray like Jesus. How about me? Do I inspire others to pray? Do those who are in my household and community ask me to teach them pray the way I pray? How prayerful am I?
The Model Prayer:
The Lord’s Prayer is a model and pattern of all Christian prayers. The prayer Jesus taught His disciples is “how” we need to pray more than “what” we ought to pray. A brief analysis of the Lord’s prayer reveals three elements and two attitudes of prayer. The three elements are: praise, petition and penance. The two attitudes are: Being a child of God and being a brother/sister to the entire human race.
The Three Elements of Prayer:
The first part of the Lord’s prayer is about God and His Domain. We call on the Father, praise His name, desire His Kingdom, determine to do His will and lift our hearts to the heavens. Adoration, praise and glory are due to God. It is in this praise that we realize the descent of heaven on earth. Prayer then is an invitation to live in the heavenly abode; a deep longing to make the earth a home of God the Father where His holy will reigns.
The second part of the Lord’s prayer is petition, asking the Father in confidence of all my needs—physical, spiritual, relational and emotional. Prayer is naming my needs before God. I become aware of my nothingness, needs and imperfections. I bring them to the Lord in complete trust that He will grand them to me. If not to Him where else shall I go? He is my Father, my creator, my sustainer and my provider. I need to be clear of what I am asking for.
Prayer of petition is coupled with the acts of penance. I realize that what I pray for, I need to practice. My needs are connected with the needs of others as well. A prayer without the element of penance is not a farce. Forgiveness is a conditional grace. I forgive others and I am forgiven by the Father. In sharing the blessings I have received from God with others I receive more blessings from God. I cannot stand before God with an unforgiving and selfish heart. This is why prayer is not so much of utterances rather of actions.
The Attitudes of Prayer:
I learn the prayer of Jesus in as much as I realize my identity as a child of God and a member of the human family. Prayer then is about relationships. It is remaining in and deepening the relationship with God the Father and with my brothers and sisters. “Our Father in Heaven” is also Our Father on earth. This attitude brings me not only confidence and trust in the love of God but also a deepening intimate relationship and abiding presence. My awareness of being a child of God makes my prayer a sweet moment of entering the core of the heart of God. If God is my Father what shall I fear and what shall I lack? Yet, how can I call God my Father if I do not consider my brothers and sisters as children of God as well. This is why the Lord ’s Prayer is more of a community prayer than a personal prayer. Jesus reminds us to call God “our Father” and not “my Father”. There is no tint of selfishness or self-centeredness in prayer. It is not about me, but about us, the human family. Even when I pray for my basic needs and personal intentions, I am also praying for my brothers and sisters. No wonder, Jesus reminded us that God will treat us the way we treat our brothers and sisters. As I forgive others I will be forgiven.
Lord, teach me to pray. Help me to praise you with all my being, strength and will. Help me Lord to atone my sins and forgive others their faults. You are my Father; help me to love my brothers and sisters as you love me. Amen!
Sunday, October 3, 2010
October 3, 2010
Twenty-Seventh Sunday Of The Year
Habakuk 1:2-3;2:2-4; 2 Timothy 1:6-8,13-14; Luke 17:5-10
Roberto and Juliette were young couples in Madrid. They were both doctors of medicine and had an adorable life with a promising career. Life seemed to be so bright for them. But suddenly things changed when Juliette was diagnosed to have cancer of the colons, that too, in an advanced stage. She had to undergo an operation immediately and they set the date. That Sunday, as Juliette returned home from the Holy mass, she told Roberto that she is not going for the operation rather she would join the parish group in a pilgrimage to the Lourdes. Roberto was shocked to hear that. He said, “Oh! no… you cannot do that! You are a doctor, and you know that this operation is very urgent. We cannot take any chances at this time. And, no! you cannot travel in this situation.” But Juliette would not listen to him. She said, “I have made up my mind. I do not want to have the operation. I will go to Lourdes, however weak I may be. I know it is risky for me to travel at this time. But, I feel the Lord will see me through.” Roberto got mad at her. When he found that no argument could ever change her mind, he brought her to the Parish priest who was organizing the pilgrimage. Roberto asked the priest to dissuade Juliette from her plan of pilgrimage and help her to consent for the operation. In spite of the enlightening and persuasive words of the priest, Juliette persisted on her plan. Roberto, then said: “I cannot understand you!”. Juliette said in reply, it is true, now we fail to understand each other because we speak different languages. You are speaking the language of reason and I am speaking the language of faith”.
The Language of Faith:
As believers we speak the language of faith. Jesus’ language was one of faith which the disciples did not understand in many occasions. The Apostles found themselves wanting in faith, in understanding Jesus and in being part of His ministry. This led impelled them to come to Jesus and pray, “Lord, increase our faith”. This was one shining moment in the lives of the Apostles with Jesus when they realized how weak they are in faith, and how Jesus could help them increase in their faith. This shall be my prayer too, today: “Lord, increase my faith”. Perhaps this is the best prayer we can ever make. When I have an increase of faith I will see the world differently, I will see it through the eyes of God.
Increase of Faith:
But what did the apostles mean when they asked for an increase of faith? How do I know that I am growing in faith? The readings for our reflection today present us with three stages of growth in faith. These stages are, 1. Trust and confidence; 2. Patience and perseverance; and 3. Gratitude.
Faith as TRUST and CONFIDENCE:
Faith is power. Faith can move mountains. A man of faith can work wonders and miracles. Jesus said, “if you have faith as little as the mustard seed, tell this mulberry tree to be uprooted and go and plant itself in the sea, it will obey you”. Jesus constantly taught us about the need to have a trusting faith. Have faith in the Lord, and “ask, it shall be granted unto you.” Again, Jesus said, “Whatsoever you ask to the Father in my name, He will give you”. The scripture teaches us that nothing is impossible for God and He will grand everything to those who ask Him in faith. Faith, in this level is the unwavering confidence in the providence of God. A man of faith is one who can do miracles and wonders, for, his prayers are all powerful with the Lord. This is why we often measure the faith of a person with his/her ability to work miraculous signs. No wonder, the world is after “faith-healers” and “faith-preachers” who, because of the strength of their faith and power of their prayers are able to bring instant healing and make impossible things happen.
Have confidence in the Lord. Believe and trust that His promises are true. Live in His loving and caring presence. God will not allow His children to suffer and ruin. This is faith. Yet, this is only the first level of faith.
Faith as PATIENCE and PERSISTENCE:
As I grow in faith I realize that faith is not about “asking and receiving” and that faith does not consist in a carrot and stick approach. It is a common experience of faith that God does not grant whatever I ask. God gives me only what is best. Faith does not take me on jolly-good ride, rather it takes me on the way of the cross. My growth in faith is marked with my journey through the dark nights of the soul. Faith tells me that God is nearer than ever, that He is within me and He cares for me. At the same time I painfully realize that I am being tested and troubled. Even when I cry out to Him with all my energy and strength, many a time God seems to be so far far away. I cry out day in and day out but God does not seem to answer me. In the first reading, Prophet Habakkuk had such an experience. Habakkuk was a minister of the Word of God, a prophet who dedicated His life for the work of God. He was given the promise and vision of God’s glory. Yet, he found himself in misery, his life was in danger. What grieved him most was the fact that God seemed so silent and so distant to him. In desperation and misery He cried out to God, “Lord, why don’t you answer me? Why are you so silent? Why do you hide your face from me? Your promises all seem so dry!” Then God answers and tells him that He is close to him. Be patient. Be patient! His prayers will be answered not in his time, but in God’s time. Who said that God did not hear his prayer and answer him? God’s answer to him was to be patient and to wait! Indeed, when God seems silent to my cries for help, it is not that He does not answer my prayer. He is asking me to wait. He is preparing something better than what I have asked for.
The test of faith is patience. How patient am I with myself, with my brothers and sisters, and with God? How well do I persist in trials and dark moments of life and faith?
Faith as GRATITUDE:
The attitude of faith grows from confidence to patience and culminates in gratitude. The highest expression of faith is gratitude. To the apostles who asked for an increase of faith Jesus told the parable of a servant who having worked day and night carrying out the will of his master considered his service as a privilege and thinks of himself as an “unprofitable servant”. This parable has the historical background of Jesus’ time when unemployment was rampant to have a job was considered a blessing. The employees were demanded to do multi-tasking and were required to work round the clock. They would not murmur or complain for the demands put on them; rather, they were only grateful that they were employed. Such is the case with those who believe in the Lord. Faith is demanding. It demands the faithful to be loyal, obedient and humble before the Lord. Faith demands that I conform myself to the will of God. Faith demands that I be grateful for all that the Lord has planned for me. The foremost sentiment I have before the Lord is that of gratitude that the Lord has made me part of His grace and mission.
I believe in the Lord not because He will grand me what I ask for, nor because His promises are awaited, but because He has given me the gift of faith, and His will for me is greater than what I can hope for. This is why I will rejoice in whatever the Lord will permit in my life. Now I see not by reason but by faith.
Test of Faith
I know I have grown in faith when I am able to say “thank you Lord” for all the pains and sufferings of my life. If I am afflicted with illness and I ask for healing but if what the Lord gives me is more suffering and deterioration of health, and then if I am able to say “thank you Lord for this illness” then I know I have grown in faith. If I have a nagging headache, and I cry out to the Lord for help, and if what the Lord gives me is not comfort but more pain, then if I am able to look at my pain and offer it to the Lord and say, “thank you Lord, for this pain”, then I know I have grown in faith. If what I ask for is a happy, peaceful and adorable relationship, yet instead what I get is a hurting, difficult relationship, and then looking at this hurt if I am able to say, “thank you Lord, for this hurting relationship”, then I know I am growing in faith. Indeed, faith is accepting the will of God in my life and recognizing His loving presence in the cross of my life. Faith is growing in the awareness that whatever I receive from the hands of God—happiness or sorrow—is all for my good and that makes me feel grateful. Growing in faith is growing in the ability to offer my life as a sacrifice of gratitude to God. All that I see now may be pain, trouble, darkness and destruction… but faith helps me see the hands of God holding and leading me to the shore of light and glory. Thanks be to Him forever and ever!