In Memory of Fr. Hugh Zurat, OFM

On the occasion of Fr. Hugh’s birthday (Oct. 19) and 40th day of his death, we are publishing this special issue to give due recognition to his contributions in laying a solid foundation for our parish community.

While I know that Fr. Hugh will personally protest this idea of honoring what he has done for our parish and will simply argue that he only did what he was expected to do as a faithful servant of our Lord Jesus Christ (Lk. 17:10) and son of St. Francis of Assisi, this is also an occasion for us to reminisce and refresh our memories, reflect on our ongoing activities and programs and review our future pastoral endeavors that facilitate our community’s steady growth and development.

On a personal note, Fr. Hugh’s first mission station in the Philippines was in Sacred Heart Parish, San Isidro N. Samar. Our family used to serve this parish and my usual assignment was to bring our youth group to clean the church at least once a month until the time I entered OLAS. Of course he was there before I was born. Fr. Hugh was my college professor at Our Lady of the Angels Seminary. Looking back, his teaching pedagogy influenced my ability to be attentive in classroom discussions and form good study habits – weekly quizzes were regular. When I was taking up my graduate studies at the Catholic Theological Union and Loyola University in Chicago, IL, he helped me financially by offering mass intentions for my books and other personal needs because he knew that our provincial fraternity could not afford to support me. He laughed out loud when I told him that I applied to work as a dog walker in order to get extra financial support for my schooling. Once in a while he brought me to a Filipino restaurant for lunch. He would always open our conversation in Waray, my mother tongue.

In all of those personal encounters, Fr. Hugh exemplified the essence of relational connectivity. The next time I visit my relatives and friends in the US, I will certainly miss our fraternal luncheon get together.

“Pray for all of us always and hope to see you at home that God prepared for us. Thank you for your fraternal care. May the good Lord grant you eternal peace!”

An Imo Kablas na Bug-to,

Fr. Reu Jose C. Galoy, OFM

As published in the October 16 issue of the Parish Bulletin.

“TRUST THE GRAND DESIGN”, SUNDAY GOSPEL REFLECTION 4th Sunday of Advent by Fr. Reu Jose C. Galoy, OFM

One of the most important questions we can ever ask ourselves is, “Does life have meaning over and above our own designs?” Does life have purpose beyond our making? How we answer this question has significant ramifications for our happiness and peace of mind. Is there a divine blueprint for how life unfolds or are we just random players in a blind universe where everything happens by chance?

Micah is clearly a prophet of the grand design. He announces that God has great plans for the little town of Bethlehem that will have wondrous implications even “to the ends of the earth.” The reading from Hebrews assumes that God has great designs for the world in Jesus Christ and encourages our participation in those designs by submission to God’s will. Elizabeth, in the reading from Luke, proclaims Mary as “blessed” because of her trust in the fulfilment of God’s plans for her.

Believing in a “grand design” or trusting in “the big picture” is not always easy to do. There are times when we are in love, or when everything is going our way, and we feel that all’s well in God’s world. We may look up into the clear skies on a romantic evening and the dazzle of stars reinforces our belief that, “there must be something behind all this.” But there are other times when this belief is severely challenged. Infants die of genetic disorders; children perish in floods or from famine. Innocent bystanders are gunned down by a madman, and calamities befall the most underserving. We get sick for no reason, lose a job without cause, watch a loved one pine away and die in the prime of life. Life can become so filled up with confusion and problems that all we see is chaos.

And yet we are assured by the readings today that there is a grand design. The problem is we don’t want to accept “the big picture” in its entirety. We don’t want to believe that God’s will embraces the bad with the good, that everything that happens is part of God’s design, whether we understand how that can be or not. If we accept God’s will, however, we need to accept it wholly, without breaking it into pieces according to our particular demands and expectations. We gain great peace of mind when we embrace the belief that there is a divine blueprint for the universe that is good, loving, true, and perfect. Effective living is empowered by a belief that we are part of a “big picture,” that there is a purpose and fulfilment for each of us in the grand scheme of things. With Mary we are “blessed” in our trust of the fulfilment. Our joy is increased the more we accept God’s will in its fullness. This means that we accept both the sweet and the sour of life as part of God’s plan, that even tragedy has its purpose even when it is not presently clear to us what that purpose might be.

As Christmas approaches and we celebrate God’s grand design unfolding in the birth of Jesus, trust that God has a grand design for your life too. God willed for you to be, and your life has a special part to play in God’s plan. Pray, as did Christ, “Lo, I have come to do thy will, O God.” Embrace God’s will as fully as you can. Say to yourself often: “Everything in my life has meaning.” Everything! You are never a “victim,” and nothing happens to you purely by chance. Accept your sorrows as well as your joys, your suffering as well as your successes, as all part of God’s will. Your life continues to unfold as a magnificent with God as Director.

(Kent, Micheal, R. Bringing the Word to Life. Mystic, CT: Twenty-Third Publication.)

About Fr. Reu and his other Reflections…..

SUNDAY GOSPEL REFLECTION Second Sunday of Advent (B): John the Baptist as Advent Companion, By Fr. Baltazar Obico, OFM

Introduction: There is something in the Christmas season that the church has difficulty dealing with: the preparatory character of Advent to Christmas. The ambiguity is seen here in the church as two contrasting colors signifying contrasting moods juxtaposed here. We have the bright colors of Christmas thus effectively glossing over Advent as a necessary prelude to Christmas. The market place has dictated the dizzying tempo of the season. John the Baptist was relegated to obscurity and Santa Claus was thrust into prominence as the symbol of the season – a symbol of abundance, fecundity and generosity, someone well fed (overeaten), well clothed (overdressed) and bubbling with joy.

Gospel: Today the gospel gives us the figure of John the Baptist to help us prepare toward a meaningful, fruitful celebration of Christmas, not only joy brought about by material abundance but the joy of being reconciled with God and with one another. What Santa Claus is, John the Baptist is not. John appears eccentric when you look at his wardrobe and diet. He wears a garment of camel hair with a leather belt. His food is locust and wild honey. It is not the “eat all you can” burst of buffet meals in fashion nowadays. His ascetic dress and wild diet is associated with the wilderness. He breaks its silence with his unsettling call to repentance. His own life is his message. It is in the desert that they become God’s people. It was in the desert that they intimately experience the providence and nearness of God, something they did not realize when they were enjoying the comforts of Egyptian civilization. Gradually it dawned on them that they are one people, not 12 tribes of Jacob.

Word:
(1) Call to repentance. The Greek word for repentance is metanoia. It carries a double connotation of changing your mind and behavior. It signals a need to go beyond your mindset and allow a new mindset to drive new action. Repentance begins by entering into the desert far from the madding crowd. Desert experience would lead us to the appreciation that if people survive it is not because of their own talents and efforts but because of God’s providence. Until we enter into solitude and do some inner work, we will always be a one-sided creation of other people. It is not a question of simple remorse but positive commitment to the way shown him by God. It does not mean simply going toconfession. It is asking why I transgressed God’s commandments at all.

(2) Bear fruits of repentance. One of the dangers of equating repentance or metanoia to simple confession and admission of guilt is the absence of change behavior. The same transgressions are repeated. True repentance means new behavior and a new way of living. If Christ were to come to us in a meaningful way, if Christ is to be more than “ho ho ho and a bottle of rum” we Christians have to change our minds with a corresponding change in behavior. The inner voice says we are children of Abraham and that is enough. No need for repentance for they claim physical descent. They are part of the 56 chosen people and the fact of their birth takes precedence over inner repentance.

(3) New life in Jesus. Metanoia or repentance literally means a 180-degree turn. It is turning back to God from a life centered on self. A life centered on oneself loses its spiritual character and is reduced simply to its material dimension. Without being conscious of it, the materialistic orientation of one’s life makes us consumeristic, greedy and selfish. This is the root of our transgressions of God’s commands. In our consuming desire to satiate our material satisfaction we alienate ourselves from our true selves. No amount of material things can fully satisfy us – not the 12,000 Burberry shirt nor a hundred thousand Hermes bag nor a thirty thousand iPhone. Not even your Maserati sports car which can get you into trouble with traffic enforcers. It can only lead to compulsive addiction to branded products.

Brothers and sisters, Santa Claus as a Christmas symbol of generosity, sharing and abundance becomes meaningful only as a result of our response to John the Baptist message of repentance. It is not abundance as such that makes this season joyful. Imagine you have all you wish for in your Christmas list from small gadgets and the latest accessories to more expensive amenities but you have no one to share it with. Imagine how pathetic it would be if you are alone for Noche Buena at Solaire or Resorts World. It is abundance shared with others that make this season joyful. We cannot luxuriate in the midst of want and misery. Santa Claus is no longer in the liturgical calendar.

About Fr. Tasang and his other reflections…..

SUNDAY GOSPEL REFLECTION: Solemnity of Christ the King By Fr. Baltazar Obico, OFM

Today’s feast of Christ the King was instituted in 1925 by Pius XI when all of Europe had nightmare memories of what they called then, “the threat of war,” a time of an explosion of hatred, blindness and a torrent of blood that wiped out most of Europe at that time. The swastika, a disfigurement of the cross, was ready to lurch across Germany. Piercing the sound of these ideology hate-filled speeches, the Pope’s message of justice, peace and love was lighting a new spark. In initiating this feast, the church wanted to take our worship of Jesus from the privacy of our hearts and to proudly proclaim his public sway as well.

II. GOSPEL: The gospel may sound inappropriate; the image of Jesus being indicted by Pilate does not evoke the image of a King. Yet in the course of Pilate’s interrogation of Jesus the latter was in majestic command of the interchange. Pilate was at loss everytime Jesus responded to the nature of his kingship.

At the crucifixion, the bystanders and one of the criminals executed with Jesus, know what it means to be a king and so they taunt Jesus with the demand that He use His power to save Himself. For Jesus, however, a king is not one who saves himself, but one who saves others. It is in the mocking words of the scoffers and in the inscription put over the cross, that we are faced with the true nature of Jesus’ kingship. Save yourself and us, is another temptation for Jesus. Just as Jesus had earlier challenged his vocational identity three times and offered him a less painful option, so is Jesus is being invited to save himself. But with His lack of response to the scoffers, Jesus clearly remains steadfast in fulfilling his divine will. He is resolutely committed to God’s plan which includes death.

Only in the powerlessness of the cross can he demonstrate that authority, ultimately rescuing criminals, scoffers and religious leaders. Refusing the voices of temptation, Jesus defines for us what sort of King he really is.

This means Christian faith is not a power game that follows the rules and logic of most power plays we know – retaliation, competition, self-protectiveness and the like.

III. WORD: The Kingdom of God here on Earth.
1. Power is service, not for dominion and domination. To be a king is to serve, not to be served. Stories of DAP and PDAF, of short projects and misappropriation, point to the misuse and abuse of power. One aspect of our life that need evangelizing is in the political. We observe that many of us would like to seal off our political life from influences of faith and allegation in the guise of church and state separation. Politics relates to the exercise of power in society. It is a new world here on earth, not in heaven as understood, “in the sky above,” that is why we don’t pray, “we go to heaven,” instead we pray that “God’s Kingdom come here on earth…” Salvation did not mean escaping earth, being indifferent to politics. It is rather living a meaningful life on earth.
2. The Kingdom as an end to power relationship. Relationships based on power are oppressive…they are dehumanizing for both oppressor and the oppressed. Sometimes we hear, “Ginagamit lang tayo” when someone uses somebody, when you treat him like a thing. When the powerful imposes his will on the powerless. The latter becomes less free, less responsible, less of a creature. The oppressor, likewise demeans, lording it over. I observed this paradigm operating within our parish setting; parish leaders sowing fear among parish workers as they find their servant-leaders more to be feared than love and respected.
3. The Kingdom is offered to all, it is not only for the friars but for all believers regardless of their church affiliation, membership and religious sentiments. Our understanding of our vocation is only within the parameters of the Church and hence we are preoccupied with dogmas and doctrines, rites and rituals that separates us from other people of goodwill. We need to situate His vocation within the universal context of the Kingdom of God. Hence we are willing to set aside doctrine and ritual differences in order to work with everyone in shaping the Kingdom of God where there is justice, peace and love.

About Fr. Tasang and his other reflections…..

SUNDAY GOSPEL REFLECTION 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time by Fr. Reu Jose C. Galoy, OFM

Our Gospel reading this Sunday has two major divisions. Jesus provides warning on the first part and lessons on the second part. Let me share with you William Barclay’s thoughts and reflection as we try to collectively make the message of the Gospel alive in the midst of our community.

A warning against:

1. It warns against the desire for prominence. It is still true that a person accepts office in the church because he/she thinks he/she earns it, rather than because he/she desires to render selfless service to the house of the people of God. Many may still regard office in the church as a privilege rather than a responsibility and ministry.

2. It warns against the desire for deference. Almost everyone likes to be treated with respect. And yet a basic fact of Christianity is that it ought to make a person wish to obliterate self than to exalt it.

3. It warns against the attempt to make a traffic religion. It is possible to use religious connection for self-gain and self-advancement. But this is a warning to all who are in the church for what they can get out of it and not for what they can put into it.

A lesson to learn in giving:

1. Real giving must be sacrificial. The amount of the gift never matters so much as its cost to the giver, not the size of the gift, but the sacrifice. Real generosity gives until it hurts. For many of us it is a real question if ever our giving to God’s work is any sacrifice at all. Few people will do without their pleasures to give a little more to the work of God. It may well be a sign of the decadence of the church and the failure of our Christianity that gifts have to be coaxed out of church people, and that often they will not give at all unless they get something back in the way of entertainment or of goods. There can be few of us who read this story without shame.

2. Real Giving has a certain recklessness in it. The woman might have kept one coin. It would not have been much but it would have been something, yet she gave everything she had. There is a great symbolic truth here. It is our tragedy that there is so often some part of our lives, some part of our activities, some part of ourselves which we do not give to Christ. Somehow there is nearly always something we hold back. We rarely make the final sacrifice and the final surrender.

3. It is a strange and lovely thing that the person whom the New Testament and Jesus hand down to history as a pattern of generosity was a person who gave a gift of half a farthing or the least possible amount. We may feel that we have not much in the way of material gifts or personal gifts to Christ, but, if we put all that we have and are at his disposal, he can do things with it and with us that are beyond our imaginings.

About Fr. RJ and his other reflections…..

SUNDAY GOSPEL REFLECTION 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time by Fr. Baltazar Obico, OFM

INTRODUCTION: The African hunters have a clever way of trapping monkeys. They slice the coconut in two and in one half of the shell cut a hole just big enough for a monkey’s hand to pass through. They place an orange in the other half and then fasten together the two halves. When the unsuspecting monkey swings by and smells the orange, it slips its hand through the small hole, grasps the orange and tries to pull it through the hole. The orange is too big for the hole. The persistent monkey continues to pull and pull never realizing the danger it is in. As long as the monkey keeps its fist wrapped around the orange, the monkey is trapped. The only way the monkey can save its life is to let go of the orange and flee.

GOSPEL: The Gospel narrative tells us about a rich man enthusiastically telling Jesus, the Good Teacher, that he has observed all the commandments from his youth. Jesus, looking at him, loved him. It is more than admiration, respect or sentimentality. It is a gut-wrenching concern one has for a loved one about to take his own life. All that is important in a moment like that is to get the gun out of his hands and help him discover a reason to live. (It is as if you tell the monkey to let go of the orange if you want to be free.) “You lack one thing; go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor and you will have treasures in heaven; then come and follow me.” Wholehearted discipleship cannot take place until the ties to the man’s possessions are broken, ties so intense and so enslaving that he can only hang his head and walk away. Possessions have a peculiar and insidious way of becoming our masters. Precisely because they hold the potential for good and evil, they easily seduce us and make us their slaves.

Jesus, in speaking to the disciples, is frank about the unusual difficulty facing a rich person who wants to live faithfully under the reign of God. The statement that it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eyes than for a rich man to enter the kingdom in fact expresses a total impossibility. The disciples, no doubt thinking that riches are material signs of God’s blessing (a notion occasionally expressed in Jewish literature and certainly alive and well in Western Christianity) are thoroughly perplexed by what they hear, and ask in exasperation, “Who can be saved?” Jesus replies, “In God all things are possible.”

WORD: Today we are facing the crisis of prosperity. Compared to most humans in this planet, most of us are comfortable, secure and quite healthy, amazingly so. The worldview that formed us in the last forty years is one where there is no limit to our growth, our achievements as well as the earth’s resources. (Unlimited calls and unlimited texts.) Things which have been luxuries for kings have become commonplace. In our globalized economy, every luxury is available locally, nearby. We can shop online. Easy availability soon becomes expectation, then eventually habituation and finally entitlement. Wasn’t life always this way? Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be? We created a prosperity gospel, a religion of limousine liberals who see no conflict between the Gospel and amassing huge personal fortunes for their private lifestyles. Splurge and indulge. Savor every second of your stay in this planet. In the last forty years, it has become easy to get rich easily. Whereas before, human history has connected money with actual work, effort and sacrifice or productivity; then for the first time in history money becomes associated with money – money earning money without any effort at all. A case of financial incest. The making of money is in itself the work and even the most admired and envied work.

The reason behind why spiritual traditions in general and the Gospel in particular are against owning material possessions is that because it gives a false sense of security, alienating us from our spiritual origins. When we accumulate wealth and possessions, we relieve our basic anxiety. When the barn is full, a sense of safety replaces fear. Storing up things in the present make us feel that the future is protected. The larger the accumulation, the greater the sense of safety. It won’t be long before our false sense of security is assured. We then alienate ourselves from our neighbors whom we consider a threat to this wealth. The need for feeling safe makes the idea of sharing ludicrous. The drive to assuage insecurity can be ruthless. It pushes people into self-centered behaviors that they in turn commit injustices. Even more, they tolerate any injustice as long as it benefits them.

Possessions make us self-sufficient and forgetful of our calling to live in community, sharing and solidarity. There is in each of us a streak of greed and covetousness. Our greed is intimately linked with our lack of love. We surround ourselves with all kinds of gadgets and accessories to compensate for our lack of self-esteem. We make sure our pendants are heavier than our necks, our earrings larger than our ears. We buy the affections of our loved ones and spend a fortune for pleasure. But the more we satisfy our material cravings, the more we are starved for love; the more alienated we become in a world of relationships.

About Fr. Tasang and his reflections.