Holiness and the Religious Life

by Father Jesus Galindo

Everyone in the Church is called to a life of holiness, and it is no different for a religious person. After all, becoming a religious does not alter human nature. God’s (and men’s) enemies are the same for all, religious and lay, namely, the devil, the world, and the flesh.

Often, people tend to idealize the religious life and think of them as being extraordinarily holy. That may be because we are seen performing or taking part in sacred functions, where an aura of holiness prevails, and we become identified with the sacred. But if the lay people mingle with the religious while the latter engage in more “mundane” endeavor (say, partying, playing sports, and the like) they might be less prone to idealizing them.

In a sense, the religious and the laity need to cooperate to help each other become holy. I think it is important to be interacting, whether at group meetings or in private conversations; doing things together, and yes, even eating together.

By and large, religious and priests are seen as “teachers,” due perhaps to the long years of study. Lay people expect to get enlightened answers from them. There was a time, hopefully, gone forever, when the priest was the factotum in the parish while the laity was left to “obey, pray and pay.”

Vatican II made it clear that we are all partners in the Church, sharing, through baptism, the same dignity, and the same mission. This important statement poses a significant challenge to us religious and priests who may still tend to consider the lay people as “assistants” rather than as partners. It likewise challenges the lay people to discover, to treasure, and to assert their role in the Church.

While we priests and religious do help the laity to grow in holiness by our ministry, we, in turn, receive inspiration and encouragement from the lay people’s dedication, perseverance in the midst of struggles, boundless generosity (with time and treasure), as well as their high regard and expectation from us.

With that, I hope that I can continue serving the Lord and his people in whatever way I can. As religious, our imperfections must not be obstacles that prevent us from pursuing the path of holiness. Rather they must be challenges which spur us to double our efforts to love God in cooperation with everyone in the Church.

As published in the November 06 issue of the Parish Bulletin.

Meeting the God of Mercy with Fr. Jesus Galindo

_S360222We sat down with Fr. Jesus Galindo to talk about the Year of Mercy and its place in the lives of the parish of San Antonio. He shared with us his thoughts and hopes for the year and how we can all encounter God’s mercy throughout Lent and the rest of the year.

Fr. Jesus began by talking about the timeliness of this Year of Mercy. “The Church has always been seen as a powerful institution,” he says. “There’s a saying, utos ng pari, hindi mababale. That kind of mentality has been problematic. What we need now is a Church devoted to being a Church of the poor. That means being a place where God’s mercy can be encountered by all, especially the marginalized.”

“The tone of the parable is not anger and condemnation but
mercy, love, and joy. That is the God we would like to encounter”

When I asked what the parish can do during this Year, Fr. Jesus pointed to himself. “It has to begin with us priests,” he said. “We acknowledge that we are human and in need of God’s mercy ourselves. Only then can we show mercy to others.”

“A special place where this can happen is in the sacrament of reconciliation,” he continues. Fr. Jesus emphasizes that he prefers the idea of reconciliation and repentance over calling the sacrament ‘confession.’ The name ‘confession’ evokes too much of a trial or courtroom, which was the old context of the sacrament. The sacrament is still the same, but we can emphasize today an encounter with a merciful God who wants to reconcile with us so deeply.

When I asked him about his hopes for the rest of the Year of Mercy, Fr. Jesus highlighted two things. One would be for mercy to start at home. Many parishioners have helpers in their houses. “It is as basic as treating them with respect and dignity,” Fr. Jesus says. That already is a simple act of mercy. The second would be to participate in communal celebrations of the sacrament of reconciliation. This would be a good way to understand how the sacrament is really one of healing and mercy. “Consider the father in the parable of the prodigal son,” Fr. Jesus suggests. “The tone of the parable is not anger and condemnation but mercy, love, and joy. That is the God we would like to encounter”

Fr. Jesus has personally devoted himself to the confessional these days. It is where his life and ministry has led to at this point in his life.

“Why were you looking for me?”, Sunday Reflection, FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY by Fr. Jesús Galindo, OFM

The Christmas season is above all a family celebration. Overseas relatives and contract workers make it a point to come home at this time of the year to celebrate Christmas with the family. The most joyous moment of the season is definitely the Christmas midnight’s nochebuena, when all the family members gather at table. The Church has wisely placed the feast of the Holy Family in the context of the Christmas season in order to highlight the importance of the family. So important is the family that God himself entrusted his only Son, not to a monastery or to a seminary, but to a family.

The family was created by God to be the mirror of God himself and the expression of the Trinitarian life–unity and love despite differences: “God created man in his image… male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27). The family provides all our basic needs: food, clothing, education, etc. In the bosom of the family we get our first experience God’s love through the love and care of our parents.

Indeed, we are the product of our family. If we experience love and affection in our childhood, we grow up to be loving individuals; but if we experience rejection, violence and abuse at home, we grow up to be violent and abusive ourselves. It is statistically proven that most cases of juvenile delinquency can be traced to an unhealthy family life.

Today, the Holy Family is presented to us as our model. Being a “holy” family and having God’s only Son among its members, we might think that the Holy Family of Joseph, Mary and Jesus enjoyed a peaceful and blissful kind of life. Not at all. What we see is a family beset by problems and trials, bigger perhaps than those experienced by ordinary families. Being close to God and to God’s Son doesn’t mean being exempt from trials. On the contrary, the closer we are to the Lord, the greater our share in his sufferings.

Many families today are going through painful crises and broken relationships. Each family, of course, has a story of its own to tell. However, there are certain factors which are frequently observed in most broken marriages. For instance, many among the young no longer believe in life-long relationships. The expression “until death do us part” scares them. They rather make their commitment “until further notice.” That’s hardly the way to build a strong family life.

Economic or financial factors play also an important role in the deterioration of the family. Parents are forced to look for greener pastures abroad; but in the process they find, very often, greener partners. Besides, leaving small children to be raised by the lola or the yaya hardly contributes to the strengthening of family life. Material wellbeing is a legitimate pursuit for married couples, of course. However, it is no guarantee of happiness. Children need, and want, more than money. They look for care, affection and quality time from their parents.

Little or no communication is another weakening factor in the family. The intrusion of communication gadgets into our homes has paradoxically weakened or lessened communication among the family members; each member has his/her own TV set, laptop, tablet, cellphone, i-pad, etc., and is busy talking to somebody from outside the family.

Most importantly, there is no time for prayer in common. Gone are the days when the family members gathered around the altar in the evening to pray the rosary. Now, leaving God out of family affairs can only result in loss of family values. Parents should learn from Mary and Joseph to lead their children to the Lord.

In this year of the Family and the Holy Eucharist, let’s commend to the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph all our families, in particular those that are going through difficulties and trials, that they may draw strength and inspiration from the Holy Family of Nazareth and from Jesus, the living bread.

About Fr. Jesus and his reflections……

“Be Vigilant At All Times,” First Sunday of Advent C by Fr. Jesús Galindo, OFM

Today, the first Sunday of Advent, marks the beginning of a new liturgical year–Year C, during which the Gospel of St. Luke will be mostly read. Luke’s gospel is the gospel of prayer, the gospel of joy, the gospel of the poor, the gospel of the Holy Spirit, the gospel of mercy, the gospel of women… a beautiful gospel indeed. It is New Year’s Day today in the Church.

* * *

It feels a little bit awkward to announce today the beginning of Advent, in preparation for Christmas, since the flavor of Christmas has been with us for several months now. Since the start of the “-ber” months, Christmas carols have been on the air; Christmas trees and décor are all over the place. For all practical purposes, the Advent season does not exist. It is our task to re-discover the meaning and the importance of Advent as the time to prepare for a fruitful and meaningful celebration of Christmas. We must not allow ourselves to be dazzled by the glitter of the Christmas lights or by the perks and trappings thrust upon us by the department stores.

Lest we forget, it is not Santa Claus, loaded with goodies that we are waiting for. It is the poor, little Baby laid on a manger that we are waiting for. He, not Santa, is the reason for the season.

The liturgy of Advent is divided into two parts: The first, from today up to December 16, focuses on the second coming of Christ at the end of time. The second, from December 17 to 24, draws our attention to his coming as man in Bethlehem. This structure is clearly expressed in the two Prefaces of the Advent season.

In today’s gospel we heard the announcement of Christ’s coming amid cosmic upheavals: Signs in the sun, the moon and the stars, the roaring of the sea, etc. To those unfamiliar with apocalyptic writings (and that includes most of us) this gospel may sound scary. In fact, through the centuries, this gospel has been used as the basis to predict the end of the world. But then, deadlines (such as 12-12-12) came and went… and here we are still, alive and kicking.

As a matter of fact, the message of today’s gospel is not one of fear and trembling, but rather one of joy and hope—as are all apocalyptic writings: “When these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your head because your redemption is at hand.” We are not told to run and hide, but to stand erect… Your redemption is at hand! Being redeemed means being ransomed, being set free. Advent’s favorite song is: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel.”

It is not only Israel that is captive. We are all captive in one way or another. O yes, we are free to move around. But if we carry within us anger, or hatred, or envy, or pride… we are captives. Then, we are all captive of fear—fear of bombings, of terrorists attacks a la-Paris, of drug addicts, of hold-uppers, of kidnappers… Captive of political and economic uncertainty; captive of the hopelessness and helplessness which envelop much of our society.

Rightly then, today’s gospel invites us to be vigilant and to pray constantly. Let us not spend these days of Advent in endless shopping and partying. Saving a little cash in order to feed some empty stomachs is much more meaningful and Christmassy. Also, let us spend some extra time in prayer with the Lord—who is the reason for the season. We will discover the true meaning of Christmas, not in the noise of the shopping malls or restaurants but in the silence of the adoration chapel; in the silence of prayer.

About Fr. Jesus and his reflections…..

“He has done all things well!” 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time B SUNDAY GOSPEL REFLECTION By Fr. Jesús Galindo, OFM

Today’s gospel is unique for several reasons: 1) It is proper to Mark, i.e., not found in any other gospel; 2) The cure took place in pagan territory; 3) It was the people who brought the sick man to Jesus (stress on the role of the Christian community); and 4) Jesus performed an unusually elaborate ritual: “He took him apart; put his finger into his ears; spat; touched his tongue; looked up to heaven; groaned, and said ‘ephphatha’ (be opened).” Usually, Jesus performed cures and expulsions of demons by a word of command: “Be cured.” “Go out of him.” Why this elaborate ritual in today’s gospel? Several explanations are given: One: The man could not hear, so this was for him some sort of sign language. Two: That’s what faith healers at the time of Jesus used to do. Jesus wanted to act like one of them in order to conceal his divine power.

In today’s first reading, prophet Isaiah foretells the coming of the Messiah in terms of healing and abundance of water — healing of persons and healing of the land. Health is our most precious possession (health is wealth, we say). We give anything in exchange for it, and spend any amount of money in order to regain it. Hence healing is the greatest sign of God’s presence. By healing the sick, Jesus made God’s presence felt among the people, hence their remark: “He has done all things well” (Cf. Gen 1:31). When John the Baptist’s disciples asked Jesus: “Are you the one who is to come or shall we wait for someone else?” Jesus simply said: “Go and tell John what you see. The blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk,” (Mt. 11:3-5). In other words, the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled by Jesus: The Lord is here!

The Church carries on the healing ministry of Jesus. Wherever it is established, the first thing the Church does is to set up clinics, hospitals and leprosaria (in the Philippines, San Lazaro and San Juan de Dios were put up by the early Franciscan missionaries). It is not true that the Church’s mission is just to “save souls.” It cares for the bodies as well. We must remember that Jesus left to us the sacrament of healing for us to carry on his healing ministry. Too bad this sacrament has been known as the Extreme Unction and is (wrongly) believed by many to be reserved for the dying.

Today’s readings remind us that we are all in need of healing, both physical and spiritual. In the second reading, St. James warns us against practicing selective behavior and discrimination. And that is precisely a sickness most of us suffer from: selective hearing, selective seeing and selective speaking. We hear what we want to hear. Once a parish priest heard the confession of his sacristan. When the latter had mentioned his sins the priest told him: “You forgot to mention that you made kupit from the collection and drank Mass wine in the sacristy.” Complete silence. The priest went out of the confessional and said, “You are not answering; can’t you not hear me?” “Not a word, Father,” replied the sacristan. “How about exchanging places?” said the priest, “you do the talking and I will listen.” The sacristan, in a solemn voice, said, “Father, why are you not giving me my sick leave benefit, SSS, living allowance…?” “You are right,” said the priest, “I cannot hear anything from this side.” (Bel San Luis, Word Alive, Year B, p. 104). Selective hearing!

We gladly listen to news, music, gossip, etc., but we are deaf to God’s voice and to the cry of the poor, the sick and the aged. We talk no end about money, about politics, and about other people, but we are mute when it comes to talking about God, about religion, and about Christian values. That is our illness: selective hearing, seeing and talking.

As we approach the table of the Eucharist, may the Lord touch our eyes, our ears and our lips so that we may see, hear and speak only what is pleasing to him.

About Fr. Jesus and his other reflections…..

“Feeding the Crowds by Sharing”, 17th Sunday on Ordinary Time (B) by Fr. Jesus Galindo

For five consecutive Sundays, starting today, we will read chapter 6 of the gospel of John—the longest chapter of said gospel (71 verses) – about the Eucharist. This insertion of John’s gospel is due to the fact that Mark’s gospel is too short to cover all the Sundays of Year B.

The multiplication of the loaves is the only miracle of Jesus recorded by all four gospels. This shows how important this event was and how deep an impression it made on the early Christian communities. In the gospel of John, the multiplication of the loaves is related to the holy Eucharist. After feeding the crowd with material bread, Jesus, as we will see, goes on to explain to the people about the bread of life that came down from heaven—his own body. Perhaps this is the reason why John has omitted the account of the institution of the holy Eucharist during the Last Supper and has replaced it with this lengthy discourse.

To begin with, Jesus shows compassion for the people, even though they follow him for the wrong reason — not for the love of Jesus or his word, but for the love of themselves: “because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick.” Just the same, Jesus has pity on them and takes responsibility for them.

Even though Jesus could solve the problem all by himself, nevertheless he sought help from his disciples: “Where can we buy enough food for them?” Obviously, the disciples were overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem staring at them: “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little bit.” Then a young boy offered his five barley loaves and two fish. Utterly insufficient, of course. But that is all that Jesus wanted: a gesture of solidarity, to let us know that all he needs is a gesture of good will, and then he will do the rest. Jesus seems to be telling us: When confronted with a problem or crisis situation, don’t pass it all on to me; do whatever you can — no matter how little or how inadequate. Then I will come in. I am here, not to work miracles for you, but to work miracles with you.

Hunger is still one of the plagues of our time. We are confronted, not with five thousand but with hundreds of millions of hungry people. Over 800 million people across the world suffer from hunger. More than 16,000 children die of hunger or under-nutrition every day — one child every five seconds. Hunger is a man-made problem. According to the Food Aid Organization (FAO), the earth can feed 36 billion people—six or seven times the present world population.

Developed countries blame the plague of hunger on the fast growth of the world population — which needs to be curbed. And so, instead of giving aid to increase food production, to create jobs, to improve the infrastructures, they send to the poor countries birth control gadgets and contraceptive programs. Meantime, rich countries spend huge amounts of money in arms production (used to kill), and throw away or destroy large amounts of surplus food in order to maintain high prices. Hunger is indeed a man-made problem, brought about, not so much by lack of food as by lack of solidarity.

Pope Francis has something to say in this regard: “Instead of resolving the problems of the poor and thinking of how the world can be different, some can only propose a reduction in the birth rate. At times, developing countries face forms of international pressure which make economic assistance contingent on certain policies of “reproductive health”… To blame population growth instead of extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the issues. Besides, we know that approximately a third of all food produced is discarded, and whenever food is thrown out it is as if it were stolen from the table of the poor.” (Encyclical letter Laudato si’, n. 50). You can say it more loudly, but you can’t say it more clearly.

Like the disciples of Jesus in today’s gospel, we feel sorely inadequate to tackle this enormous problem of hunger; however, let us resolve to do our little something. Let us share our five loaves and our two fish. Only then have we the right to ask the Lord to do the rest.

About Fr. Jesus and his other reflections…..