New Year’s Resolution: To be FAT


new-year-resolutionIt’s new year,  another year for us, another milestone in our pilgrimage in life. Only God knows what He has in store for us in this year. Certainly, it would be a year of many blessings, of opportunities, of challenges and ways to overcome them. Times like this, ‘making new year’s resolutions’ is a common desire.  

New year’s resolutions grabbed my curiosity yesterday. It’s not that I haven’t done this before. I think I had made one like this before when I was still in grade school, as part of our assignments on the holiday. I didn’t know what I’ve resolved to do or be then, and I can’t remember also if I had kept my resolutions. I might have because at the end of the year, I got the honour’s award. Anyhow, out of curiosity I browsed through the Internet yesterday to see what is the most common new year’s resolution. I found out that ‘losing weight’ is one of the most popular ones. This made me chuckle because it kept me thinking if many of the people who have this resolve, have really kept this and made this happen. I don’t know and I can’t tell.

However, it helped me to make one resolution for the new year- and that is ‘I will resolve to be FAT.’ I’m not talking here of physical aspect as in putting on much weight, but FAT as in Faithful, Available, and Teachable.

I resolve to be FAITHFUL to God, to my calling as a priest, to what God has called me to be and to do.

I also resolve to be AVAILABLE for God to work in me, to work through me and for God to be really alive and real in my life. Part of this resolve for availability is to make myself available for others by way of helping those who are in need, listening to those who are needing a listening ear, be a friend to those who are isolated from the community for any reasons, and be a companion to those who felt like they are left on their own in this journey called pilgrimage of life.

I also resolve to be TEACHABLE, that is I must be humble and open to new ways of understanding things, as well as widening my horizon to see things from different perspectives.

To be FAT is indeed my resolve. And I hope and pray this will come to fruition. This is also my New Year’s wish for you all that you stay FAT (faithful, available and teachable). I realize though that I can keep up on this if I contemplate and learn from the ways of Mary, the Mother of God, whose solemnity we celebrate today. Despite all odds, difficulties, challenges, threats of life, even reputation at stake, as a mother she stayed close by her Son Jesus. She remained in Jesus’ company from her womb to the tomb. She remained faithful to her noble vocation as the Mother of God. She made herself available for God always. And she remained open to the ways of the Holy Spirit by allowing to be taught by God himself of the things that matter, of the things necessary, and of the things worth doing and worth keeping.

As we enter this new year, let us also recall the blessings we have received from the past year. As Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic letter Novo Millenio Ineunte (at the close of the Millenium) in the year 2000 would say: ‘Let us remember the past with gratitude, live the present with enthusiasm and look forward to the future with confidence.’

For us this calls to remember the past year with gratitude to God for all the blessings He has given us, for the opportunities He has offered us, for his continuing help and support for us throughout the year, and for helping us overcome the many trials and challenges we had to face last year. Let us also remember the past year with gratitude for the people, the friendship, the companionship we have formed and enjoyed during the year.

To live the present with enthusiasm calls us to just be ourselves, to be true and be honest to ourselves, before God and before others. This means we don’t pretend to be someone we are not. Most of all, let’s keep up the faith and continue to live in hope. Faith and hope together keep us optimistic and keep us on track.

To look forward to the future with confidence means that we are to stay in confidence that trust that  we have God, and that we have each other as we continue our journey towards the future. This means we must go beyond doing the ‘selfies’ all the time, keeping our focus not mainly and solely on ourselves but also to others especially those in need. Let us  be a sign of hope to those who are despairing, a peacemakers in the midst of trouble, a living witness for Christ in the world where people think God doesn’t matter anymore. We are just on a journey through this earth, our eternal home is in heaven. This is our future yet we must look forward to it with confidence and trust that with God’s help and grace, we’ll get there and enjoy eternal life with him.

I leave you with a blessing from the Book of Numbers (Num 6:22-27)

“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 to you and bring you peace.”

I wish you all a happy, prosperous and grace-filled year ahead. Happy New Year.

The Holy Family: A school for Christian Living

Homily for the feast of the Holy Family year A 2013

For some of you who may have come from a big family, you might agree with me when I say that  the expression: ‘The more the merrier’ is not always true.  I would even say, based on my personal experience, ‘the more girls there are, the noisier’. I hope I don’t intend to sound like anti-girls or anti-women here but  I’m just sharing with you how it is to be one of 11 children, how it is to be the sixth in the family, and how it is to be the eldest son with 5 older sisters before me. When I was growing up my sisters also had their own ‘girlish’ way of teasing me or ‘bullying’ me so to speak. However,  the good thing about many girls in the family is that the girls were doing most of the household tasks like doing the laundry,  washing the dishes, cooking, while I would just go with my father to the farm. It was a big family and still is by the grace of God. We’re not a perfect family as no family is. We’re not rich like many other families, yet we have each other, and there is no amount of money that can compensate this. And this makes me proud of my family.

I’m sharing with you a bit of my personal background because today we are celebrating the feast of the Holy Family- the example, the model, the ‘ideal’ of a Christian family or for any family for that matter. If at Christmas we focused only on the child in the manger, this time we broaden our perspective, we widen our horizon by looking at the parents of the child Jesus too: Mary and Joseph. But we are not only to gaze at  them but to learn something from them. We are to learn from this simple, humble yet Holy family in Nazareth, how to live truly live out a Christian family life. We need this to help sustain our society. We need to look once again the status of our individual families. It is said that the family is the building block, the basic cell of the society, so as  a family or as a member of any family we have the task to help uphold the values that our family holds. Let us contemplate and learn from the Holy family of Joseph and Mary and Jesus.

First, the Holy family is bonded by love. This love moved Joseph to take the extraordinary leap of faith by taking Mary home as his wife despite the extraordinary things and events surrounding Mary’s pregnancy. This love also moved Mary to trust Joseph even if she didn’t really understand what’s going on in her. Because of love, they welcomed the God-child into the world as part of their human family. Because of love for their child, Mary and Joseph had to seek asylum in Egypt to save the baby Jesus from imminent death by the hands of Herod. Their love together helped them to raise Jesus as part of the human society, introduced him to their obligations to the Jewish laws and traditions. It is love that motivated Mary and Joseph to search him  when he was lost in the temple in Jerusalem. Love is the very important bond in the life of the Holy family. Looking at the many families around us, we find many families wherein love has  slowly diminished or even worst gone. This leads to breakdown in the family, and if a family is broken down, any society would eventually collapse too. To stop this from happening, let us help one another especially if we know any families in the verge of breaking down. Let us help the people concerned to rekindle in them the power of love that binds them in the first place. It is a big challenge because we couldn’t really make this happen. God is the only one that can draw them back in love. What we can do however is to pray for these people that God may re-ignite in them the love that he shared with them in the beginning. We can also help these people by just being a leaning shoulder, a source of support and encouragement and by our lives showing them the dignity, the meaning and the value of love in the family.

Second, the Holy Family always had a space for God in their family. Mary and Joseph didn’t take for granted the fact that the arrival of Jesus as Emmanuel, God-with-us, in their lives would inevitably and certainly bring many blessings for them. Rather they keep the doors of their hearts  always open for God. They always turned to God in prayers. We heard in the gospel that Joseph had a dream and it was in his dream that he heard God speaking to him about the things he should do. It doesn’t mean that when troubles came or when need arose, Joseph just slept on it hoping that God would tell him what to do through his dreams. It means that Joseph and Mary prayed about it. They put their trust in God. Their faith helped them see and understand that whatever happened to them and to the child is all part of God’s plan for salvation. What happened to Joseph and Mary, about the angel coming to  them either in dream or in apparition, didn’t just happen out of the blue. It happened in the context of prayer. It happened because they allowed God to work in and through them. Thus, through prayers they were able to see God at work in every situation and circumstance they were in. So we can imitate the Holy Family in terms of their living and real relationship with God, in prayers and in contemplating the works of God for us. This is one secret to keep the family intact- prayer. And this is still true in our time, as Fr Patrick Peyton would say: ‘The family that prays (i.e. keeping God as part of their family) together, stays together.’

Third thing we can learn from the Holy Family is that despite all the trials, challenges, difficulties, threats, pressures, they remained together. They faced all those challenges in family life side by side. They stood firm on their commitment and in their faith even if things were not easily understood for them. They might be a Holy Family but they’ve got their own share of trials and challenges too. When Mary was in labor, they couldn’t find a room for her to deliver her child. Thankfully they found an inn for animals. When the child was born, Herod was after him to kill him. So the Holy family had to seek asylum in Egypt to save the child’s life. When Jesus was 12 years old and being introduced into the obligations of the law, Mary and Joseph lost him in the temple. When Jesus was doing his ministry of preaching, healing and  service to the poor and the  needy, he was in conflict with the religious leaders and the authorities. This might have caused so much stress for Mary being the mother. When Jesus was carrying his cross, a symbol of humiliating punishment then, Mary was walking with him all through till he breathed his last.

The life of the Holy family wasn’t the perfect one in the eyes of the world, but in the eyes of faith, it is the ideal one in that, despite all hardships, trials and difficulties, they kept up in love, in trust, in hope, in loyalty, in dedication and in service to one another, and in their amazing way of making God a strong part and giving Him a prominent place in their family life.

As we contemplate on this Feast of the Holy Family, let us pray for the many families and many children who have to suffer the loss of love, the loss of respect, the loss of dedication, commitment and trust between their mothers and their fathers. Let us also pray for those families who have set God aside, or have never allowed God to be part of their family that like the Holy Family they may welcome God with open hearts and soul. It is an urgent call and an important task that we have to attend to because it is happening around us today. We don’t have to go far. It is so true today that Catherine de Hueck Doherty laments: ‘I cry for parents so engrossed in giving their children all the material benefits of our affluent society that they neglect the give the only thing that matters- God.’ Amen.


We are on special: not as discounted but as PRICELESS

Homily for Christmas Mass  year A 2013
belen nativity pinoyI went to the supermarket today to buy some chocolates for the children in this mass, and I could see there are many things on special. In fact the ones I was looking for were quickly selling because they are on special too. It made me think, that actually one reason we have Christmas or celebrating Christmas is because we are special too, not ON SPECIAL as discounted but SPECIAL as in PRICELESS.
If we realize this, then our Christmas celebration must be really a meaningful one. We are special, not in the eyes of the World but because God makes us to be so. The world would say to us, we can only be special if we have this thing, or live in this kind of house, or have this pretty face, or drive this very expensive car. But God looks through our hearts. We are special for him not because we are rich, or have the things that we wanted to have, but because our true value is in our hearts not on the externals. For God, we are worth every penny, we are worth risking for and we are worth dying for.
If we were not special, he wouldn’t bother to be born like one of us so that we would become like him- a resident of his heavenly kingdom. If we were not special for him, he wouldn’t take the risk of stripping himself of his glory and majesty and chose to be born in a very humble condition, from a poor and simple family of Nazareth. If we were not special for him, he would have just left us completely groping in the dark of our sins and sinful human condition.
Yet, he loves so, that he sent his only Son, Jesus– the one who would save us from our sins. We are that special, that St Paul could say in our Second reading tonight: ‘God’s grace has been revealed, and it has made salvation possible for the whole human race and taught us…to give up everything that does not lead us to God.’ This means that because we are special, God even didn’t withhold for us the source of his graces and the fountain of his riches.
If we were not that special to him, we wouldn’t have heard the ‘news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole world: THAT GOD is born for us, that God has come in the flesh to show us that there is more to life than our sinful nature.
If we are special and if God gives us a special gift of himself as we have remembered and re-lived tonight, then this calls for a celebration and rejoicing. We are to celebrate our value, we are to be rejoicing as we received the gift that the God has given us- Jesus our Lord.
To appreciate this gift all the more too, calls us for a careful reflection and gaze at the child in the manger. As we have seen, he was not wrapped in a fancy wrapping. He was not born from a rich family. He was not born in the Children’s hospital wherein he could get all the comfort he needs. He was born in a poor, simple family, and wrapped only with a swaddling clothes. But, in the new-born child in the manger, we could see that the value of the gift is not on the fancy wrapping, or the size of the gift, but on what’s inside and what does it mean for us. Jesus has come, though in poverty, as God who saves us from our sins, and this is one good reason why we celebrate Christmas.
To receive the gift of God for us is to acknowledge our sins of poverty too. This means that we accept the fact that we need God, that we need one another, that we need a saviour, that we are weak, vulnerable, that we can’t whatever we want, and that not everything is beyond our control.
Another way to receive Christ this Christmas is to open our hearts to the other Christs in the streets, in the homes, in our workplaces, everywhere- i.e. the people who like the child in the manger are weak, helpless, vulnerable, simple, and hungry for our love, our care, our support, our time and our compassion. I’m thinking particularly this time the many children in the world who are caught up in the socio-political conflict, and for those families and lives perished due to the many disasters (natural or man-made) that had happened around the world this year. This Christmas is an opportunity for us to realize that Christ is born for everyone, so we also have the task to look for him in everyone, and to let everyone know that God cares for them, that God is Emmanuel, He is with all of us, among us.
Finally to make Christ alive and born in our hearts, we must always remember the child in the manger in our Christmas celebrations and parties. Let us always bear this in mind that Christ is the one who helped us realize again that we are special in the eyes of God, and that we are sons and daughters of God. If we forgot him the Christmas, we are missing the point of this celebration, and we are just like lost in the middle of the desert, in the oasis with no water at all.
With peace and the blessings from the Most High, I wish you all a blessed and a solemn Christmas celebration.
Merry Christmas everyone.