“Feast of the Lord’s Baptism” by Fr. Baltazar Obico, OFM

Francesco Albani's 17th century painting

NEW LIFE WITH CHRIST
Incorporation into the Church and Sharing in the Trinitarian Life

In baptism, we are made “beloved children” of the Father.

The word padrino or ninong comes from the church-religious vocabulary to mean godparents, someone who will assist the parents of the child in order that the baptized child grows to be mature Christians. In other words, they serve as 2nd parents to their godchild that the latter should grow into Christian discipleship.

The word padrino has deteriorated into what is known as the padrino system in our culture that is contributive to our inefficient and corrupt bureaucracy. It has eroded the merit system; what is important is who your well-placed padrino is, who can facilitate favors on your behalf either through employment or government contracts.

The deterioration can be traced to the reduction of baptism becoming merely social events. Chief concern is given to the numerous ninongs and ninangs and to the lavish feasts for these invited guests. Less interest is shown in the explicit religious dimension of the sacrament itself. The obvious result is nominal Catholicism sometimes labelled as K.B.L. (Kasal, Binyag at Libing) as those are the only occasions where the baptized go to the Church.

Today, we celebrate the Lord’s Baptism. In Matthew’s account, John is reluctant to baptize Jesus due to his awe of Jesus; to the fact that he perceives in Jesus the “more powerful one.” While the Pharisees and Sadducees apparently lack remorse and a sense of sinfulness, Jesus appears to John to have no need for baptism. Jesus responds, “It is proper… to fulfill all righteousness.” The adjective “all” means that it is not simply a special requirement for the Son of Man, but one that joins Him with fellow Christians in carrying out all that God requires. It is Jesus’ solidarity with the messianic community that he allowed himself to be baptized. Secondly, the baptism of Jesus means the public recognition of His divine Sonship; the Spirit descends like a dove and a voice reveals who Jesus is, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” And lastly but not part of the Gospel proclamation, immediately after baptism, Jesus begins His public ministry.

In baptism, we are made “beloved children” of the Father. Traditionally we have associated Baptism with the cleansing of original sin. We experience a painful moral weakness in trying to do what our conscience tells us but also an inclination to evil which is traditionally called “concupiscence.” As a consequence we find ourselves in a society structured by sinful structures, injustice and moral observations. The struggle against sin must go on, but with our baptisms we are marked with Christ, indwelt by the Spirit and supported by the Christian community. Therefore baptism focuses on our having new life in Christ, not our washing away of original sin.

In baptism, we are with others as members of Christ’s body, the Church. This means our personal relation with Christ is never a private affair but always a loving relation that originates, develops and grows in union with fellow members of Christ’s body. Our baptismal life is never a solitary, isolated thing but a communal sharing with others.

Lastly baptism enables us to share in its three-fold ministry of Jesus; as Prophet, Priest and King. In baptism we are not only recipients of the privilege of being the children of the Father but we are also tasked to proclaim His message and establish His Kingdom through our words, deeds and courageous initiative. This ministry entails that we have to bring to the political arena our commitment to establish God’s Kingdom of justice and peace.

About Fr. Tasang and his reflections

Advertisements

“I was in prison and you visited me…” Matthew 25:37

This Sunday is the end of National Correctional Consciousness (NACOCO) Week a national celebration held in correctional institutions across the country. For one week, the inmates through their supporters hold activities among themselves and for their families and friends.

In our parish the Prison Ministry would like to take this opportunity to share with you the activities that it does for the inmates of Makati City Jail. The most basic need of an inmate is justice, through the prison ministry; indigent inmates are assisted with legal counsel from lawyers in the SYA community as well as through volunteers who coordinate their cases with the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO).

The majority of the inmates are poor and cannot afford bail, legal fees and money for their most basic needs. Many of the inmates have very few visitors and therefore rely on the prison system for all their needs for food, clothing and toiletries. This is the second concern that the Prison Ministry addresses. In every activity that we do, we try our best to give some food, soap, toothpaste, detergent and other small things that go along way. Even used soap from hotels is well received by the inmates. We also coordinate with the City for medical missions and emergency hospitalization for serious cases.

The third concern that the Prison Ministry addresses is the need for livelihood, skills, recreation and development. In this regard, there are several projects that the Ministry does together with the SYA community such as sports (chess, boxing, futsal, dodgeball and others), cooking contests, film showing, Adult Learning tutorials, livelihood programs (eco bags and other sewn items, handicrafts), and much more.

The final concern is that of the spirit. SYA volunteers teach catechism classes to the inmates every Monday evening, there are weekly masses on Saturday afternoons that our volunteers regularly participate in, we help with special religious celebrations such as feast days, lent, Easter, Christmas and even Santacruzans. The Prison Ministry helped build a 200 person capacity chapel inside the prison grounds that is considered one of the most beautiful chapels in any correctional institution in the Philippines.

prison min photoLast September 14, Archbishop Luis Tagle celebrated mass at the chapel and the Prison Ministry was the only group that was allowed to stay inside the chapel with the inmates. In his homily he mentions how the Church is close to prisoners because Christ was a prisoner. He also mentioned that prisoners are no longer calledinmates but as temporary residents of the institution. The mass was so beautiful because one could feel the prayers of all the residents all around the small chapel. Prayers of justice and assistance, prayers of love for their families outside the walls, and prayers of thanksgiving for giving the residents a second chance.

This week’s NACOCO will have activities such as dance and singing contest, a Bible trivia contest, a basketball and volleyball tournament, medical mission, and a Family Fun Day. All of these projects of the Prison Ministry would not be possible without the generous contributions of all parishioners through mass collections and donations during the annual Francisfest. Outside the church today is a small photo display of some activities of the Prison Ministry.

For more information on the Prison Ministry Outreach Program>>>>>

“Manifestation of God (in our Beloved Pope and in Us)” (Mt. 2:1-12), by Fr. Joel Sulse, OFM

Jesus is now the evident manifestation of the Father who wants to share His unconditional love and faithfulness with all of us.

This first Sunday of the year is designated by our Church as the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. This means the manifestation of our God to us. How did this revelation come about?

The letter of Paul to the Ephesians (3:2-3a, 5-6) tells us that God’s revelation come to us as a grace which can only be understood through faith, and in our belongingness to the body of Christ Himself. This means that all are called to a universal salvation, Jews and the Gentiles alike. This has been offered by God for all of us since we are all important in Him, and He wants us to be dignified all the more by experiencing his salvific grace.

The first reading from the prophet Isaiah 60:1-6 affirms in our memory about the coming of the Light. This Light will transform the world and will draw back the whole humanity to Yahweh, our source of life. It will help all peoples restore their identity back to God through their faith in Yahweh. Following this, we are all challenged to be the light to our world as well.

How can the salvific grace enrich us? How can we become a clear light for others? How can God be manifested in us?

Matthew brings us back to the memory of the great event that happened in Bethlehem years ago. This event opened the doors of our faith beyond the Jewish backyard. This was actually the purpose of the manifestation of God. This is part of His mission. He wanted us to realize that He is for all. He wanted us to know that He did not come for a limited community only. He wants us to experience the universality of His love. This love is manifested in our faithfulness to his will. And this results in unity, peace and respect for one another and for all.

How can the Wise Men become our guide in deepening our faith? What basically are the attitudes of these men? They are from Persia – experts in astrology with the capacity to interpret dreams. Why are they persistent in seeing the child? In other words, there is that sense of openness and sincerity in them. Why are they interested? It is because they are convinced that there is something in this baby. There is therefore that evident manifestation in their hearts coming from that enthusiasm and commitment burning deep inside them. We were told that the Star in the East guided them to Bethlehem through King Herod. Why is this so? Again, there must be a reminder for Herod.

One can notice that the divine will guided the search of the wise men for a purpose. The divine hand is present every inch of the way, orchestrating the event as it unfolds. And finally, seeing the child in a lowly, smelly manger, they brought in their gifts fit for royalty. Why do they have to accord Him with the gifts of frankincense, gold and myrrh? The gifts tell of who the child is and was, and his destiny.

We were told that King Herod was so disturbed. He was deeply trouble especially when the Magi did not send him any word and went the other way. His unease created a vacuum of fear and jealousy that resulted in his plotting to kill the children who are a threat to his kingdom. The imperial kingly attitude of “power hunger” blossomed in his greedy heart. His dubious intent overpowered him, thus, the killing of the infants and children. But the Magi and the the non-Jews paid homage and worshipped Jesus. They paved the way in Matthew’s special narrative: “make disciples of all nations.” They lived their faith, and followed its demands beyond reproach.

The whole story of the visit of the wise sages revolves on Jesus, an affirmation of His being the true King of Israel. And that salvation of Israel and the world comes through Him. The end of the story is a shift of us being invited like the Jewish disciples to go out to the world and bring the good news of salvation. Jesus is now the evident manifestation of the Father who wants to share His unconditional love and faithfulness with all of us.

The Magi are reminding us that we too can bring the same gifts to Jesus. They are telling us that we have that capacity as well to find “the Christ” if we have the diligence and the sincerity to look for Him. The light has been provided to us already. We just have to follow the light and faithfully manifest Him as well in our day to day living.

As we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany, let us pray to God that His gifts to us be manifested by the way we live, like our beloved Pope. Let us continue to manifest ourselves as FAITHFUL GIFTS for our family, for our community, for our country, for the Church, and for His Kingdom. Happy Feast Day of the Epiphany!

About Fr. Joel and his reflections

“A BLESSED New Year (2014) to all!” by Fr. Efren Jimenez, OFM

Isang makakalikasan at makatarungang Bagong Taon sa lahat! Mabuhay ang pamilyang Filipino!
When people treasure life than despise it, when people affirm and speak values to one another, when people know they are brothers and sisters, and they keep looking for reasons to have faith in God, then family life becomes a solid place for love, security and transforming agent in our world today.

The liturgy of this feast is a troublesome mixture of so many things all at once. It continues the story of Jesus from the infancy narratives as the Gospel of Matthew relates it. It also offers general words of wisdom about human existence as shaped by family life. At the same time it presents exhortations about Christian community life as distinctively redeemed and redemptive.

The lesson from the Book of Wisdom literature offers reflectionsupon patterns of human life. Each generation shapes the conditions in which life will be lived in the future. This happens in the family circle and also in larger society.

There is a note of responsibility here, in our decision and actions, not only for the making of our lives and personalities, but in large measures also for the making of the lives and personalities of others.

When we turn to the Second Reading we seem to move to the more
particular – to some extent beyond the advise in Wisdom Literature – in the emphasis on forbearance, compassion, patience, humility, bearing with one another and forgiving one another and on top of these, put on love, that is, the bond of perfection.

One must be heroic in the exercise of virtue like humility in situations which are often unjust. Our family, when strengthened by virtue of discernment and pursuing the will of God, can mirror the quality of the Holy Family as described in the Gospel.

The feast of the Holy Family is a celebration of our human bonds with Jesus of Nazareth, and therefore of our redeeming bond of grace with all the human family in the world, but particularly the poor, the distressed, the despised, the abandoned children in the streets.

When people treasure life than despise it, when people affirm and speak values to one another, when people know they are brothers and sisters, and they keep looking for reasons to have faith in God, then family life becomes a solid place for love, security and transforming agent in our world today.

PAX ET BONUM!

About Fr. EJ and his reflections

“The Birth of Jesus: An Embodiment of God’s Humility”, by Fr. Reu Galoy, OFM

Simply put, our salvation is not exclusively dependent on the divine initiative in the sense that we are completely passive recipients of this salvation. God saves humanity only through their cooperation and fidelity.

It is quite difficult to think of a God who is almighty and powerful yet humble in many ways. As human beings we tend to traverse our existence by desiring to be in control of everything. We also want to be powerful at the expense of the innocent and ordinary people. Wielding power and position seems to be what gives meaning to our lives. Or else having these is the solution that we so much need.

Our gospel this Sunday is leading us to see another perspective–how God’s plan become acceptable through his dealings that are beneficial to us as seen in the characters involved in the story of Jesus’ birth. Unlike Isaiah, John the Baptist, Mary and even the Wise Men and the Shepherds, Joseph is not a towering Advent figure. He only took the embarrassing role of taking Mary’s child that is not his. The most logical thing to do was to divorce Mary because he knew that he will not be able to publicly show the “token of virginity” (Deut 22:13-21) on his wedding night. Of course, as an honorable man, divorcing Mary quietly was an act of hope that the rightful father will seize the opportunity to claim the child and marry her.

So God through an angel had to explain to Joseph that Mary is pregnant by a spirit that is holy and made an appeal to him to take Mary as his wife and into his home. Joseph could have rejected the proposal because his human right and and his male ego have been trampled upon. But Joseph is also a servant of the Lord. He said “yes” in faith to his own annunciation of God’s will.

Prior to Joseph, God needed to deal with Mary also who even questioned God’s plan: “how can this be since I have no relation with a man? “(Lk 1:34). In the same way with Joseph, God had to explain and even convince Mary, through the angel Gabriel, before she said “yes” to God’s plan. Mary could have replied otherwise because of her situation. She was already betrothed to Joseph. She knew the immediate consequence of her decision – shameful death.

In both instances, God had to negotiate with Joseph and Mary for the birth of Jesus, the Emmanuel. This life and history-changing act of the God of love is done in the spirit of humility. God presented and submitted his plan to human freedom for cooperation and participation even when this plan was for the salvation of the human family and the rest of creation. Simply put, our salvation is not exclusively dependent on the divine initiative in the sense that we are completely passive recipients of this salvation. God saves humanity only through their cooperation and fidelity.

The birth of the Emmanuel, the “God with us” is the embodiment of a humble God in our midst. In and through humility, the love of God is made manifest.

About Fr. Reu and his reflections

“3rd Sunday of Advent: Rejoice, the God is Near”, by Fr. Baltazar Obico, OFM

Real joy is no longer linked with possession of some object. Rather it is God coming in history that is the reason for rejoicing. Nothing can tarnish this joy; not even suffering and trial.

Introduction

The latest count is around 6 thousand dead, some 1700 missing and 20,000 families still in evacuation centers. The whole nation was numb and in shock, considering Yolanda swept Leyte and Samar shortly after the Bohol earthquake and prior to that the 3- week siege of Zamboanga.

Today the 3rd Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete Sun, Sunday of rejoicing. How could we rejoice? A lot of communities, employees and groups have cancelled their Christmas revelry and forfeited their budget in favour of the victims.

Isaiah tells us that God is coming to save. The desert and parched land will exult. They will bloom with abundant flowers and rejoice with joyful song. James in the 2nd reading says make our hearts firm because the coming of the Lord is at hand. Finally in the Gospel, Jesus commands, “Go and tell John what you see and hear, the blind see, lame walk, lepers cleansed, deaf ear,
dead are raised and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.”

Jesus’ answer was in response to John the Baptist’s inquiry since his expectations of the messianic times is accompanied by force and violence. Christ fail these expectations by revealing his messianic works that are all works of peace, restoration and salvation.

John the Baptist is looking for someone. But what exactly are they looking for? What are the deepest desires of their hearts and our hearts? The fact that they went to the desert and not in palaces or places of power and wealth indicates that something more than material satisfaction will answer their deepest aspiration. Jesus probes their hearts by questioning them on why they are attracted to John the Baptist. The real longing is to get in touch with the originating mystery by connecting with a prophet, a Godgrounded man who speaks the word of God. True joy and rejoicing therefore is to be connected once more with God. We have strayed from these connections and consequently live in exile from our true selves. Hence, we limit the notion of joy to material, bodily enjoyment.

Word

1. Modern man generally seeks joy in evasions, fantasies and pleasures embracing thereby a superficial and meaningless existence. Joy is more than fun, pleasure and happiness. The world speaks of joy in the sense of sensory pleasure, like abundant food, flashy gadgets, branded products. This notion of joy is further reinforced by our consumeristic culture which has reduced our self-worth to having. You are what you have. Others experience some high in sexual pleasure, audio visual experience, fraternal meal, joy of family life, completion of a work done. No doubt joys are felt and experienced, except that they are fleeting and temporary and as one clings to it, it can become a compulsive addiction.

Real joy is no longer linked with possession of some object. Rather it is God coming in history that is the reason for rejoicing. Nothing can tarnish this joy; not even suffering and trial. And so joy can break forth in a depressed economy, in the middle of war, in an ICU, or in the midst of a devastated village. It is a realistic joy rooted in the certitude founded on the victory of Christ over death. Therefore this world is not absurd because God is in love with it and the principle of his victory has been given us once and for all in the Christ-event.

2. This joy is expressed “in the Lord,” because it is the result of his work. Nearness is not considered in the temporal sense (as in today, tomorrow or next month). It is not only the day of the Lord that is near; but the Lord himself is! He is near to all who fear him, who pray and obey. The nearness of the Lord no longer depends on events, more or less distant. It is a constant manner of presence in Christian life. The Christian who experience this
nearness is no longer subject to feverish and vain expectations. He lives calmly in prayer, peace and joy.

3. Today we are deeply touched by the overwhelming support of all people in solidarity with our typhoon victims. From unexpected people and with amazing creativity to express solidarity with us from Justin Bieber to the late Paul Walker; from Paul Gasol to Alaska Aces; from PBA stars to movie celebrities; no one is unmoved, untouched by this tragedy. Practically big business have created programs with Yolanda victims as recipients. Indeed, the Lord is near to all of us as we go out of our way to reach out to the victims.

About Fr. Tasang and his reflections