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Homily for 18th Sunday in Ordinary time (year B 2018)

First Reading: Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15

Psalm: Psalm 77 (78): 3-4, 23-25, 54

Second Reading:  Ephesians 4:17, 20-24

Gospel: John 6:24-35

As a seminarian, and even now as priest, one of the questions, people would ask me at first meeting is why did I decide to become a priest.

Early in my formation I would immediately say: ‘Because I wanted to serve God and God’s people.’

But then I thought, I don’t have to be a priest to serve God and his people. So now I would say: ‘I don’t know, or I am not really sure why I wanted to become a priest.’ Only God knows I’m sure.

But there is a couple of things that really draw me to the priesthood.

First, I just loved to be able to celebrate Holy Mass, and second, I just wanted to hold the most precious body and blood of our Lord at Consecration.

However, now that I am a priest and celebrated the Holy Eucharist many times, I realized that what drew me to the priesthood is more than just celebrating Holy Mass. I still loved celebrating the mass. It’s always special for me.

But I realized now, why I wanted to be a priest is because of my hunger to get closer to Jesus and because Jesus wants to get closer to us.

And we all have this hunger. St Augustine is one testimony on this in his famous acclamation: ‘My heart is restless until it rests in thee my God’.

In our lives, we experience this hunger in our longings for things we think can give us satisfaction, but then once we’ve obtained them, or experienced them, we feel something still is lacking, we feel a deeper longing that no thing in this world can satisfy. This is spiritual hunger and spiritual thirst.

Friends, brothers and sisters, spiritual hunger and thirst can never be satisfied and quenched with material things.

First, to satisfy our spiritual hunger and thirst, we need to get closer to Jesus and let him get closer to us.

Why? Because as he told us in the gospel ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never thirst.’

It is always a challenge when we get closer to Jesus because the closer we are to him, or the closer he is to us, the more real the cross in our life, the heavier the cross becomes.

When we get closer to Jesus we realized that he does not only comfort the afflicted, he also afflicts the comfortable.

Say for example in that scene in the gospel today when he bluntly said to the crowd: “You are not looking for me because you have seen the signs but because you had all the bread you wanted to eat.” That’s a bit harsh of Jesus isn’t it? It’s just like saying: ‘You only think with your stomach.

But in saying that, Jesus is actually challenging them to go beyond the food/bread that he provided them and look up to the one who gave them the food in the first place. He is challenging them to focus not so much on the bread that is given, but on the giver of the bread (ie personal relationship with Jesus, with God).

Second: to satisfy our spiritual hunger and thirst, we need to regularly examine our lives if we live according to what God wills for us. Our deeper longing oftentimes is an expression of what St Paul in the second reading calls as the ‘spiritual revolution’ in us, that is our conscious effort, willingness and regular resolve to fight against our ‘old way of life [in sin] our old self, which gets corrupted by following illusory desires.

At times though, we may feel frustrated in our efforts because we tend to go back to our old ways (in sin). But let us never despair and never lose hope, because even if at times, we tend to abandon God, God never abandons us.

The story of the Israelites in our first reading today is a great example.

The Israelites were freed from the slavery of Egypt by God.  They were taken to the desert. But unfortunately, when they felt hungry and thirsty, they wished they were still slaves in Egypt when they ‘can sit down to pans of meat and could eat bread to [their] heart’s content.’

But God never gives up on us. He gave the Israelites manna from heaven. He gave them meat from quails. In doing this, God now served them, tended their wounds, and caring for their immediate and most basic need.

Third, to satisfy our spiritual hunger and thirst, let us live as one Eucharistic community—Eucharistic people means we act as gifts to one another, a blessing to each other, broken and shared. The Eucharist is our community- our common unity. So let us take our every celebration as a family celebration, people who care for one another.

Let us begin it now by spending a minute talking to the person next to us today. You might be sitting on the same spot every time you come to mass, and the person next to you is also sitting in the same spot but you might have not have introduced yourselves, introduce yourself. Try to remember the name. Ask: ‘Can we be friends?’ And keep in touch.

Friend, brothers and sisters, this gesture might be uncomfortable or not our “cuppa tea’’ so to speak, but as Christians, we are called to be Eucharistic community, that is, we get out of our comfort zones, being the gift to one another, a blessing to one another, to be broken and vulnerable even if need be and be shared.

Christ is the answer to our spiritual hunger and thirst. As Christians, let us be instruments of Christ to help satisfy the spiritual thirst and hunger of others. Amen.


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 St Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556)

Founder of the Society of Jesus

JF: Happy feast day St Ignatius. Thank you for your presence in and legacy for the Church. Your legacy still lives on and your life still inspired many people in the Church to live their true Christian calling. As we speak there are already tens of thousands of Jesuit priests and religious all over the world out of the 7 or 10 men whom you started as the ‘Company of Jesus.’ You really have formed an army for the Lord. In fact, we now have a Pope who is one of your sons in the Order, Pope Francis.

Ignatius: It’s all because of God’s grace and for his glory.

JF: For the sake of all who are celebrating this day in your honour, could you please tell us about yourself?

Ignatius: I was born in Loyola, in the Basque region of Spain in 1491. My father’s name was Don Beltran, Lord of Oñaz and Loyola and my mother’s name was Marina Saenz de Licona y Balda.  My father’s family bore the name of being one of the nobles in the region descending from the ancient Basque family.  

JF: So you had a promising future ahead of you so to speak?

Ignatius: Somehow.  But looking back, I never thought, I never even dreamt to be a saint, let alone with such widespread influence.

JF: As a child, or as a young man, have you ever thought of serving God?

Ignatius: No, not really. Being one of the youngest of a many children, I had a choice between religious or military life.

JF: And you thought early on what would life be for you?

Ignatius: Well, obviously I chose to be a soldier. A military. At the age of 24, I became a full-fledged soldier, dressed extravagantly, dreaming of romance, fighting and duelling and you name it.

JF: Wow! So you thought that really was life for you?

Ignatius: Sort of. You know living the dream if you will. However, after 6 years serving in the military, in 1521, something happened that opened up another door for me.

JF: Why? What happened?

Ignatius: I was in a defence position in the Spanish Citadel of Pamplona against the French forces, when a cannon ball hit my leg. The wound was never to heal properly. I had this limp for the rest of my life.

JF: Oh, I’m very sorry to hear that. That would have shattered your dreams as a promising young man.

Ignatius: Absolutely! Or so I thought! But little did I know God has called me to a greater service.

JF: What makes you say that?

Ignatius: I was still recuperating when I had this convalescence. Confined in bed, I need something to ease up the boredom, so I asked for some books to read. I was expecting book of romances, but all they got for me was the  book of the life of Christ and a Spanish version of the pious tales of the Golden Legend.  So, I took them nonetheless and started reading them. But then, I began to relish these books and spent my days reading them. Reading them made me my mind wavered between the world and the spirit. I felt being called to imitate the saints and their ways of prayer and penance.

JF: You felt God was calling you on to something?

Ignatius: Certainly. Upon recovery, I went  to the shrine of Our Lady of Montserrat.  There I made a general confession, left my sword and dagger before our Lady’s altar, and gave away all my earthly goods and started living a life of penance.

JF: Wow! That was a great moment of grace, a moment of conversion! So how did you exactly live a life of penance?

Ignatius: I  spent a year living on alms in the town of Manresa, during which time I received many divine illuminations on matters of doctrine.  It was during this time that I began to note down materials for what would later on become the book of Spiritual Exercises.

JF: Seems like you were really convinced that that was what our Lord asked of you. Were you really sure then of your decision?

Ignatius: I thought so. In February 1523, I set on my way to Holy Land. I took the ship from Barcelona. I spent Easter in Rome. From there, I left for Cyprus via Venice and then went on to Jaffa. From Jaffa I went to Jerusalem, with the intent to remain in the city.

JF: And did you get to remain in Jerusalem?

Ignatius: No. The Franciscan guardians of the Holy Sites asked me to leave for fear I would be captured and held for ransom.

JF: So what did you do  then?

Ignatius: I went back to Spain in 1524. As  soon as I realized that without education I would have little success in winning souls to Christ, I entered school, at 31 years old.  I was  in the lowest class, and among the youngest students.  For eleven years I devoted my time to studies, living in the utmost poverty and begging food at Barcelona, Alcala, Salamanca, and Paris I was relying on the help and care by many generous people around.

JF: And how did you go with your studies?

Ignatius: While studying, I catechised the children, held assemblies of devotion and drew some people to Christ.  It wasn’t easy for me though because I was treated by some in the Church with suspicion.

JF: Did that atmosphere of suspicion enforced your decision to leave Spain?

Ignatius: In a way. But also because I just wanted to further my studies. It was in the middle of winter, I travelled on foot to Paris. While there I tried to improve in Latin and Philosophy while at the same encouraged my fellow students to spend the Sundays and holy days in prayer and doing good works.

JF: That’s amazing of you. And did that have an impact to other students?

Ignatius: Yes.   When I received the degree of Master of Arts from the University of Paris in 1534, a handful of men, including Francis Xavier, Peter Favre and four others came to associate with my spiritual exercises.

JF: How did this association work?

Ignatius: Together we made a vow to observe poverty, chastity and to go and preach the gospel in the Holy Land or wherever the Holy Father would send us. We made this vow at the chapel on Montmartre after receiving Holy Communion from Fr Peter Favre. This was on the Feast of Assumption in 1534. Then I went back to Spain living in poverty to keep up my vow.

JF: And what happened to the others?

Ignatius: Two years later we all met in Venice, with the intent to set sail for Palestine, but there was no ship available. The proposed trip proved impossible because of war. Instead we decided to go to Rome and present ourselves to the Pope, then it was Pope Paul III.

JF: Did you get to see the Pope and what was your reason of meeting the Pope? Ignatius: We wanted to see the pope to confirm our group as soldiers of Christ or ‘the Company of Jesus’ fighting against falsehood and vice and standing under the standard of Christ.

JF: I understood the Pope received you well. Did the Holy Father give you your wishes?

Ignatius: Indeed! The Holy Father granted indult that those of us who were not priests could now be ordained, which we joyfully received soon after.

JF: Getting that blessing from the highest authority of the Church on earth would really have been amazing.

Ignatius: Absolutely. In 1540, the Society of Jesus became a reality, and I was chosen the first superior general.  The rule I established seemed, at the time, revolutionary.  My disciples were to be ascetics in the world, not in the cloister.  We were to be teachers and preachers, trained scholars able to meet argument with better argument.  We were to renounce all rank, temporal or ecclesiastical.  We were to live under the intense discipline and perfect obedience which has always been their distinctive characteristic. With our vow on poverty, chastity and obedience, we added on a fourth vow, of going wherever the pope would send us for the salvation of souls.

JF: That indeed was kind of a revolutionary sort of work for the mission.

Ignatius: After the foundation of the society, I never left Rome.  I’ve  directed many activities of the order as well as carrying out our mission as the ‘Company of Jesus’.

JF: One of your great works is the Book of Spiritual Exercises, how did you come up with that?

Ignatius: It all   begun in Manresa. Those materials came out as fruits of my prayers and penance. With the approval of the Holy Father, it was first published in Rome in 1548.

JF: You should be very happy now, that on your death  in 1556, your ‘Company of Jesus’ expanded so rapidly that it makes up sixty-seven Jesuit houses, and over a thousand members.  You have left a legacy not only on Education on the Faith by your teachers in the Order, but also  on the spiritual life in your Spiritual Exercises. But even without all this, you would still be among the great saints, for your heroic virtue, your absolute dedication to Christ and the Church and to the faith in general. Thank you for the gift that you are for the Church, for the Society of Jesus you established at the service of God and for the faith.  

Ignatius: All for the Greater GLORY of GOD….

Note: St Ignatius died in the morning of 31 July, 1556. He was canonized in 1622. Later on he was declared the heavenly patron of spiritual exercises and retreats.

St Ignatius, Pray for us.

Source: Butler’s Lives of the Saints

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Homily for 17th Sunday year B 2018

Tabgha Holy Land

In one of my holidays back in the Philippines few years ago, this was when some parts of the Philippines was hit by Typhoon Haiyan, I went with a couple of friends from Bendigo and some nurses from St John of God Hospital to an island north of Cebu. This island was badly hit by the typhoon and we, the Filipino community and Australian friends in Bendigo decided to form a  foundation to help the people in this particular island.

Aside from helping them with housing materials to rebuild their houses, one other thing we did was distributing rice to the families. A big part of the money used to purchase the rice was out of the 5 cents money the parishioners gave me.

We’ve re-packed the rice into bags of 5 kilograms so that we could give them to about 200 families. That’s how much rice we could only afford to give.

So we made up a list of some 200 prospective family recipients, those who were really in desperate need.

However, when the people started arriving there were more people than what we were expecting. They were also hoping they would receive something even if they were not on the list.

That got me worried, because there more than 200 families who came. In fact, there were more than 400 families there.

 But I couldn’t also bear the thought of sending them with nothing. So I decided with the team to re-pack the bags of rice into 3 kilograms each, of course without knowing how many we could come up  with.

But an amazing thing happened. No, unlike the gospel we heard today, there were no leftovers. However, what was amazing was that the last bag of rice we handed out was received by the last person in the queue. In total there were about 491 families received the handout that day.

Friends,  brothers and sisters, you may call it coincidence but I call it divine providence. As Albert Einstein is attributed to have said: ‘Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.’

And God’s divine providence is one strong message for us in the gospel today. Divine providence, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:  is “the dispositions by which God guides his creation toward [our ultimate] perfection yet to be attained, to which God has destined it. [CCC  302].

The clue here is that God always provides us and helping us achieve our ultimate goal: Holiness, happiness and at home forever in the presence of the Father.

But we can’t just sit down and wait for God to do something.

To experience God’s divine providence, we need to complement our trust and dependence with God with our cooperation and participation in God’s work.

In the gospel today Jesus would show us how we can cooperate and participated in God’s work.

First: we must do the best that we can and let God do the rest that we can’t.

As we heard in the gospel, Jesus did not just make bread out of anything around him. He could have easily done that.

No, in fact, even if as the gospel says, he already knew what to do exactly, he still asked Philip, one of his disciples: ‘Where can we buy some bread for these people?’

Andrew must have done the best that he could do for the situation because among the crowd he was able to find a small boy with few loaves and fishes and introduced him to Jesus. It must have taken a lot of persuasion from Andrew for the boy to show what he’s got to Jesus.

He also asked the disciples to ask the people to be seated on the grass. God likes a sit down meal, not come and go, not drive-thru.

Then he also asked his disciples to give the bread for the people to eat. He could have just told the people to queue in. But no, he wants his disciples to be personally involved. Later on he asked them to collect the leftovers. This means God considers that our cooperation in his work is significant and valuable.
Second: to cooperate in God’s work is to give our all selflessly to God even the little that we have, and He will make us  see the wonderful things he can do with us, for us and even through us. This is what the small boy did. He only had 5 barley loaves and 2 fish.

The boy was from a poor family because in Jesus’ time, the bread for the people who are well-off  is made of wheat. The poor generally would have cheaper kind of bread made of barley. So that bread and fish might have been only the food for the family of this boy for a day or two.

Besides, the boy could have made a fortune out of his loaves. People were hungry of course, and if you are hungry you just eat anything, no matter how much it cost. The boy could have sold his loaves into $10 each.

But instead, he gave it all to Jesus and he had seen for himself how little things offered with love and such selflessness can become great things in the eyes of God and of others. For the boy, his 5 loaves and two fish fed thousands of people.

This assures us that when we offer our all, our everything to Jesus, we can see many wonderful things, we can see how much he can make a lot out of a little. We can see how much more he can make out of a meagre.

Third: to cooperate in God’s work is to follow Jesus faithfully and trustingly.  

The gospels assures us that when we follow Jesus, when we give some of our precious time with him, when we listen to his voice, he always has abundance of grace to meet our needs. He never sees us needing something without doing something about it.

Let us see for example the Wedding at Cana. He was there. He saw the need. He did something wonderful- his first miracle- making the best wine out of water. Also when Peter and the other disciples went fishing all night but caught nothing. When Jesus arrived and when they did what He told them to do, they caught plenty. And today’s gospel tells us: Jesus saw the need. He did something about it. Many were filled and there were plenty of leftovers.

Friends, God has done so much for us. Our lifetime is not enough for us to give him proper remuneration for all the good things he has done for us.

The least that we could do to return God’s blessings is THANK GOD always and to have a grateful heart. This is the purpose of our Eucharistic celebration.

Eucharist means thanksgiving.

We thank God for his generosity. We give back to God an hour out of the 168 hours he has given us each week.

There is no amount of praying in gratitude at home can supply for the thanksgiving we give to God by attending the Mass. We can’t see its real value now, but we’ll see how valuable it really is, when we get to heaven.

The meaning of Christmas

Christmas is here once again… We are invited that we keep our focus more closely and more especially  on the coming of Christ. Christ is the real reason for this season. It is because of Christ in the first place that this season makes sense. We endeavour to celebrate this season with joy, of giving, loving, caring, and celebrating our faith surrounded by family and friends because of the many gifts we receive from God in the first place including those gifts given to us even us without asking. 

When we walk about, drive around or just strolling by, we can sense that Christmas is indeed in the air. But let us not just focus on how we celebrate Christmas or who are we celebrating it with, but more so on why do we celebrate Christmas.

Christmas is called so because of Christ- the child lying in the manger- the real reason for the season. Yes there are people who would suggest (for the sake of inclusiveness they’d argue) that this time is a special holiday.
But there is no denying that when we take on this holiday season, it is because it’s Christmas.
Let me share with you once again, a definition of Christmas by an Irish priest, Fr Flor McCarthy (SDB).

C for Christmas ‘stands for Christ. If we leave him out of Christmas, it is like celebrating a wedding without the
H stands for the hope he gives us- the hope of a life without end.
R stands for the revolution he began: turning hate to love, war to peace, and everyone into everyone’s neighbour.
I stands for Israel, the land where he was born. But it also stands for me. For Christ could be born a thousand times
            in Bethlehem, but it would all be in vain unless he is born in me.
S stands for the salvation he brought: those who lived in darkness saw a great light.
T stands for thanks- [giving] thanks to God the Father for the gift of his Son. The best way to say thanks is to make
           room for him in our hearts.
M stands for Mary who (through her amazing Yes and trust in God’s will) brought Jesus to birth.
A stands for the angels who at his birth sang: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth.’ It
         was the sweetest music ever heard on earth.
S stands for the star that led the wise men to Bethlehem. Now Christ is the star we follow. His light will guide us
          through the night until the sun of eternal day dawns upon us.

Hope you all have a very Happy Christmas and a grace-filled new year. 

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Trusting Jesus: Inviting him on board our life’s boat

Homily 19th Sunday year A 2017

In our gospel today, we find the disciples on the boat in the middle of the lake being caught up in the storm. Even though some of them are seasoned fishermen we can still imagine how terrifying it must have been for them. They were battling against the strong wind far out on the lake.

But this narrative is not just about the disciples on the boat in the midst of a storm, it is as Pope Francis would say: ‘an effective image of the Church:  a boat which must brave the storms and sometimes seems on the point of capsizing. What saves her is not the skill and courage of her crew members, but faith which allows her to walk, even in the dark, amid hardships. Faith gives us the certainty of Jesus’ presence always beside us, of his hand which grasps us to pull us back from danger. We are all on this boat, and we feel secure here despite our limitations and our weaknesses. We are safe especially when we are ready to kneel and worship Jesus, the only Lord of our life.” (Pope Francis Angelus Message 10 August 2014)

Remember in another part of the gospel Jesus assured to Peter that even the gates of hell will not prevail over his Church. Also in another part of the gospel, he promised to the disciples: ‘I will be with you till the end of time.’

In other words, if Jesus is with us, no storm is powerful enough to topple us over. If Jesus is the anchor of our life, no wind strong enough to uproot us. With Jesus on our side, there is nothing to be afraid even those who can kill our body, but can’t do anything on our souls.

In this gospel, Jesus assured us of two certain things: In life, HE is our LIFEGUARD and in our life of faith, he is as our HELPING HAND.

This calls us therefore to put our TRUST in Jesus rather than on any other form of god or gods we may have in our lives and in our society in general.

Just reflect on this:

How many Australian factory workers sacrificed and lost their jobs for the god called ‘PROFIT?’

How many trees, rivers, lands exploited for the god called ‘PROGRESS?’

How many poor people, communities and culture suffered and neglected for the god called ‘GREED?’

How many people, children included, sacrificed, denied of basic rights for the god called ‘SELF-GRATIFICATION?’

How many innocent men & women, voiceless & vulnerable, denied of due process & right to live, sacrificed for the god called ‘SELF- PRESERVATION or NATIONAL SECURITY?’

How many people of goodwill, important social services, institutions, agencies and people of faith who  are to bear persecutions, at risk of being alienated and denied of fundamental freedom for the god called ‘MARRIAGE EQUALITY?’

How many vulnerable adults and elderly people and their families at risk of having their  fundamental rights and basic freedom, being abused and denied for the god called ‘ASSISTED SUICIDE?’

How many people, families torn apart, friends becoming worst enemies, relationships broken and sacrificed for the god called ‘MONEY?’

Brothers and sisters, to win over these kind of storms in our lives we need to put our trust in Jesus.

How many holy men and women, adults and children, who willingly took the risk of trusting Jesus, laying their own lives even, for the faith, showing us that faith in Jesus is worth dying for, assuring us that Jesus, indeed is the Son of God?

There are thousands of them, putting their trust in Jesus, keeping the faith no matter what storm they might be into, because for them Jesus is worth all that they have. In Jesus alone they could find the answer to all their questions, the realisation of their dreams and aspirations and the fulfilment of their lives.

It is my prayer that we all follow their example of amazing trust in Jesus and thus to be added on to the list of the saints in glory. 

Trusting in Jesus means that we allow ourselves to be guided by Jesus himself, by his word and by his example.

Trusting Jesus as members of his Church means acknowledging in humility that there are things in our life that only Jesus can make it happen, that there are teachings in our Church and in our faith that only Jesus has the power to change, and that there are things we would like done that only Jesus has the the power to  do.

We can only reflect on what happened to Peter. For a moment, he believed he could walk on the water too, unaided by Jesus. But we know, when he tried to go through the storm without the help of Jesus, he started to sink. When Peter tried to do things only Jesus has the power to do, he didn’t succeed. But when he called on Jesus, he was saved. It is just as simple as saying: ‘Lord, save me!’ But it also means humility and trust in Jesus, not on our own.

Only Jesus has the power to calm the storm in our lives. We just have to be strong in our faith in him, humble ourselves, call on him to save us, reach out for his hand, and let him into our life’s boat. With him in our boat, we may still have to be shaken or threatened by trials and challenges but, we know, he can’t allow us to perish.  

Remember, the boat the disciples were in was a  hundred times smaller than the Titanic and built by some ordinary boat-builder using ordinary piece of wood, while the Titanic was built by professionals and is made using the best kind of materials.

It is not on how big our boat or how beautiful it is therefore, that can save us from sinking but on how much faith and trust we have in Jesus. It is not WHAT can save us but WHO can save us—Jesus, the Christ. Amen.

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Homily feast of the Epiphany 2017

ephipany-clipart-epiphanyc3goclIn the year 614 AD,  Jerusalem was captured by the Persians (a predominant ethnic group from Modern-day Iran). Many Churches in the Holy Sites, were destroyed. One site spared from destruction though was the Church of the Nativity for the reason that the invaders found a mosaic on the inside walls depicting the three wise men in Persian clothing.

For me it is an interesting snippet of history not only because today we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany which celebrates the story of the manifestation of God to all the world as symbolized by the ‘wise men from the east’ visiting the child Jesus, but also because, the story of the Church being spared from the invaders somehow echoes the story of the child Jesus being spared from Herod’s mandate to kill all the children in Jerusalem.

There is indeed a Divine plan at work in here. God is with us indeed! When it is God’s plan and divine design, no human being, nor human institution can ever block it. God will always find his way and if we look through the eyes of our faith, we can see the beauty of God’s presence and how God reveals himself to us even now.

We celebrate today the feast of the Epiphany- the manifestation of Jesus as Messiah of Israel, Son of God and Saviour of the world.” (CCC 528). Again a Divine plan.

Matthew in the gospel tells us of this manifestation of Jesus to all the world as represented by ‘some wise men from the east.’

St Paul would go even further, in his letter to the Ephesians, by sharing his understanding of the mystery of God’s revelation as an assurance that ‘pagans now share the same inheritance‘, that is, the Jews and Gentiles are all included in God’s plan of salvation.

So indeed, with the Psalmist we can rightly pray and say: ‘Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.’

So now let us reflect on what happened on the Epiphany or how do the wise men experience the manifestation of God in their lives?

First: The wise men found Jesus because they allowed themselves to be guided by a star that brings them to Jesus. This is a call to humility—willingness to learn and listen, as well as a call to be wise and reflective in our lives.

In our lives, we are following stars in some ways. People whom we are looking up to, people whom we believe are shining. But like the wise men, we have to be wise. We need to pray for wisdom and ask ourselves:

(1) Are our stars leading us to the right way of living? (2) Are they serving as the light of our way?

(3) And lastly, are they leading us to Jesus?

Let us remember this: A true STAR is

– Someone who would

-Take us/teach us to

-Achieve the

-Realization of our true dreams and true selves.

Second, they brought him gifts, gifts that are of great significance to the recipient—to the child Jesus. They gave him Gold, frankincense and myrrh.

In biblical interpretation and tradition, the gifts of the wise men, signify the humanity, the divinity and the kingship of Jesus. According to a Jesuit priest, Mark Link, the “three gifts of the magi reveal three truths about Jesus. First, the myrrh symbolizes the humanity of Jesus [for Myrrh later on would be used for his burial]. Second, the frankincense symbolizes the divinity of Jesus [for incense is usually used in the temple rituals, worship and adoration to God]. Third, the gold symbolizes the kingship of Jesus. Jesus came among us to lead us, to inspire us, to invite us to join him in bringing about God’s Kingdom on earth- a kingdom of love, and kingdom of peace, a kingdom of hope.”

For us now, there are at least three gifts we could gift to Jesus (3H’s): Head that is wise yet humble, Heart that is repentant and loving, and Hands that are welcoming and generous. In other words, let us  be people of integrity, one whose thoughts, words and deeds, whose beliefs and actions are in sync not contradicting each other.

Third, the wise men went back to their own countries by a different way. They didn’t go back to Herod. This means they prefer loyalty to the true king of heaven rather than the earthly king. This also means change of hearts- conversion of our lives.

Today Jesus invites us to experience his presence and manifestation in our lives and in our world.

Like the wise men, let us look up to and follow the star or stars in our lives that lead us to Jesus.

Let us also endeavour to offer God the rights gifts we could offer  to him: to be a person who thinks wisely, loves heartily and unconditionally, and gives generously.

Lastly, let us respond to God’s call to conversion (i.e. repentance of our sins and resolve to do good and avoid evil) for it is or it is our insurance for eternal life.

If we take this to heart, like the wise men, we can also experience the beauty of the presence of God among us and even encounter God at work in our lives. Amen.

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Homily for New Year’s 2017


Church in Shepherd’s Field near Bethlehem

After my New years Eve Mass and dinner with Filipinos in one of my parishes, I went home at around 11 pm. Upon arriving home I decided I would just wait for the fireworks display to be broadcast live on TV. While waiting I turned on the TV, and of course, one of the things people were talking about while waiting for the countdown is about New Year’s resolutions.

To join in the trend, I tried to re-visit my new year’s resolution I made in January this year. I made a resolve to lose weight. And as you could see: ‘I lost 12 months’. I made a resolve to lose my belly fat. ‘I lost my belly button.’ (pun intended).

So this new year I made another resolution, something more realistic and doable. Today the 31st of December I have decided, is going to be my last day on Facebook (for the year 2016). I will come back sometimes on the 1st of January 2017. Again pun intended. It’s good to start the New Year with humour.

New Year’s resolution is pretty commonplace this time, but more often, it just remains a thought, not an action, it just remains a plan not implementation. In short, it doesn’t happen. We can only laugh at it at the end of each year.

Perhaps we need to go deeper in our new year’s resolution though. We need to go further than just looking physically well and healthy. We need to go  deeper than how we live this new year. We need to go deeper into how we can live for eternity. We need to have a spiritual resolution that would benefit us not just in this life, but forever.

To realize this, we need to know Jesus more personally and we need to follow him more closely.  Because only Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life. The bible also reminds us this: “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved,” but Jesus. Acts 4:12.

Each New year’s day, the Church celebrates the Feast of Mary as the Mother of God. Through our reflection on this feast, we can get to know Jesus more personally and follow him more intimately.

But first let us try to understand how can Mary be the Mother of God, when she is just one of God’s creatures.

There is a logic about this that goes: ‘Mary is the mother of Jesus. Jesus is God. Therefore, Mary is the Mother of God.‘ This has always been a belief in the Church even from the earliest centuries. One  of the Fathers of the Church for example, Irenaeus, said: “The Virgin Mary, being obedient to his word, received from an angel the glad tidings that she would bear God” (Against Heresies, 5:19:1 [A.D. 189]). Also Hippolytus, Gregory the Wonderworker, Peter of Alexandria, Methodius, Cyril of Jerusalem, Ephraim the Syrian, Athanasius, Epiphanius of Salamis, Ambrose of Milan, Gregory of Nazianzus (“If anyone does not agree that holy Mary is Mother of God, he is at odds with the Godhead” (Letter to Cledonius the Priest 101 [A.D. 382]). Jerome, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Cyril of Alexandria, John Cassian, Council of Ephesus [A.D. 431]), Vincent of Lerins, these Fathers of the Church all taught that Mary is the Mother of God. (source: Catholic Answers)

Mary as the Mother of God though doesn’t mean that Mary is older than God or that she is the source of Jesus’ divinity. No. “She is the Mother of God in the sense that she carried in her womb a divine person—Jesus Christ, God “in the flesh” (2 John 7, cf. John 1:14)—and in the sense that she contributed the genetic matter to the human form God took in Jesus Christ.” (Source: http://www.catholic.com/tracts/mary-mother-of-god). There is no denying Mary is the Mother of Jesus Christ.

For us followers and believers of Christ, we can then go to Christ through Mary’s help. Mary is the help of Christians.  

As the mother of Jesus, Mary brings Jesus to us. As our mother too, she brings us to Jesus.
Through Mary we can know Jesus more personally and follow him more closely. 

Three things we can learn from Mary as the Mother of Jesus/Mother of God.

First, her faithfulness to God and to her specific mission in life is worth imitating. Even if at times things are hard to understand for her, or don’t make any sense, she nevertheless, remained faithful and obedient to God’s will.

Second, her availability to God and to others is selfless. What Mary showed us in terms of our relationship with God is that devoting most if not all of our time to God and to others, are not lost times for us, they are not times gone to waste, they are times of grace and blessings for us. And because her of her amazing availability to God,  we have encountered our Lord Jesus who let his face shine on us and who is  gracious to us. And it is through Mary, that God has sent his Son, to be born a subject of the law according to St Paul, to redeem us as the subjects of the law and to enable us adopted sons of and daughters of God.

Third, her humility, prayerfulness and openness to life and all that it brings is worth reflecting and worth learning. In humility she accepted who she is before God, no pretence. In her constant prayers she is sustained in her faith. In her openness to life she is an ideal mother, who would do everything, take all the risks just for her son to live.

As our spiritual resolution therefore for the new year, let us ask Mary to pray for us that like her we may be faithful to what God is calling us especially in life, to make ourselves available for God and for others, and to grow in humility, prayerfulness and openness to life.

So I pray: May the Lord bless you and keep you.

May the Lord let his face shine on you and be gracious to you.

May the Lord uncover his face and bring you peace. Amen.

Hail Mary…