Sunday, April 15, 2018

Risen in the Body


3RD SUNDAY OF EASTER B
YEAR OF CLERGY AND CONSECRATED PERSONS
APRIL 15, 2018

Jesus, I trust in you!

When the Lord appeared to his disciples on the evening of Easter Sunday, they were terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. However, the Lord quickly assured them: “Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and blood as you can see I have.” In order to prove that he was no ghost, he ate fish in front of them.
Perhaps you may ask: Why this obsession that Jesus was resurrected in the flesh? It is because the resurrection of the body is the novelty of the Christian Gospel. As we all know, the continued existence of the human soul even beyond the death of the body is something acknowledged by everybody. The body, which is subject to the corruption of the material world, dies. However, the soul continues to live on. This is why the apparition of the Risen Christ was mistaken for a ghostly apparition. A ghost is a disembodied spirit. But the Risen Jesus is no ghost. His body, which died on the Cross, has risen from the dead. The wounds on his hands, feet and side proved to them that the body which was crucified and died is the very same body standing before them. “The Author of life you put to death but God raised him from the dead.”

And this resurrection of Jesus in the flesh is important. The resurrection of the body of Jesus tells us that the death of Jesus was real. It was not an illusion as heretics wanted to suppose. The death of Jesus was real because the Incarnation was real. The 2nd Person of the Blessed Trinity, God the Son, assumed a real human nature at the Incarnation. This means that Jesus is not just a Divine Person who “appeared” to have flesh and blood so that he can impart to us the secret knowledge we need for spiritual enlightenment. This was what Gnosticism is all about. It is a heresy that appeared some 120 years after the death and resurrection of the Lord. It presupposes that the entire material universe is evil. Because it is evil, it was impossible that God should take flesh for how could a holy God cover himself with something that is evil? He simply appeared, which means Jesus was not human. He appeared like a human being but he is not human. Therefore, the crucifixion never happened. It was simply like a final act of a play that was needed so that he could resume his proper angelic mode of existence, free from any entanglement with our gross, material world. Gnostics believe that the greed and lust all around us are simply due to our material bodies. Therefore, salvation consists of the escape of the soul from the prison of the body so that it can fly back to its heavenly home.

But Jesus said: “Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.” Therefore, He rose in his flesh. The flesh is not some gross, evil matter as if it were the only one to blame for all the sins of the world. God created the material world and he made it good. Man and woman were all created good. Sin was not caused by the body. It was caused by the disobedience of the soul that dwelt in the body. Sin was a decision of the soul which was acted out in the body. Therefore, redemption was to be also a spiritual decision that also had to be acted out in the body. The Son of God decided to obey the Father, and he was obedient unto death, death on a cross. Therefore, the sacrifice of the body of Jesus on the Cross was necessary to atone for sin and renew all creation. It was not enough for the Savior to teach. He had to suffer and die. “Jesus is the expiation for our sins…and for those of the whole world.” If Christ had to die in the flesh, therefore, his resurrection was also in the flesh. God, who was pleased to accept the sacrifice of his Son, raised Jesus from the dead. “God has brought to fulfillment what he had announced through the prophets, that his Christ would suffer.”

Therefore, the “gospel of Salvation has a name and a human face: Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.” (Placuit Deo, 8.) “Christ is Savior inasmuch as He assumed the entirety of our humanity and lived a fully human life in communion with his Father and with others. Salvation, then, consists in our incorporation into his life, receiving his Spirit (cf. 1 Jn 4:13). He became, ‘in a particular way, the origin of all grace according to his humanity.’ He is at the same time Savior and Salvation.” (PD, 11)
“In as much as we are saved ‘by means of offering the body of Jesus Christ’ (Heb 10:10; cf. Col 1:22), true salvation, contrary to being a liberation from the body, also includes its sanctification (cf. Rom 12:1).” (PD, 14) And this sanctification of the entire man, both body and soul, is brought about by our Lord’s Incarnation and Paschal Mystery through the sacraments. The sacraments have visible signs because the Lord sanctifies not only the soul but also the body. Jesus showed his disciples his wounded hands and feet because they needed to see. In like manner, the Lord left us the visible signs of the sacraments because of our need to see and touch. Seeing and touching the sacraments, our bodies are sanctified as do our souls. In order to reach out to our soul, he must address the senses. “Lord, I am not worthy to have you under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” He has to enter under the roof of our human flesh, his word has to be heard by our ears, so that our soul may be healed.

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

The Priest as Custodian of the Divine Mercy


2ND SUNDAY OF EASTER B (DIVINE MERCY)
YEAR OF THE CLERGY AND CONSECRATED PERSONS
APRIL 8, 2018

Jesus, I trust in you!

The Lord Jesus said to St. Faustina: “No soul will be justified until it turns with confidence to My mercy, and this is why the first Sunday after Easter is to be the Feast of Mercy. On that day, priests are to tell everyone about My great and unfathomable mercy.” (Diary, 570) The Feast of Mercy that we celebrate today in the Year of the Clergy and Consecrated persons, gives us the opportunity to speak about priests as proclaimers of the mercy of God.

On the evening of Easter Sunday, the Lord appeared to his disciples and said to them: “As the Father sent me, so I send you.” Then he breathed on them and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whatever sins you forgive, they are forgiven.” Having offered himself upon the Cross as a sacrifice of atonement for our sins, the Lord Jesus, at his resurrection, gave priests the power to absolve sins. The Lord’s death on the cross made this possible. Having risen from the dead, he sends his disciples on a mission of mercy: In my name, repentance shall be preached from Jerusalem until the ends of the earth. The Lord sends his priests to preach repentance. This mandate comes from the Lord’s desire to forgive and to bestow mercy: “I am Love and Mercy itself. There is no misery that could be a match for my mercy, neither will misery exhaust it, because as it is granted – it increases. The soul that trusts in my mercy is most fortunate because I myself will take care of it.” (Diary 1273) If the Lord is not willing to forgive, then he would not send his disciples to preach repentance. He desires to forgive. All we have to do is to trust his mercy and never underestimate his goodness. “Oh, how much I am hurt by a soul’s distrust! Such a soul professes that I am holy and just, but does not believe that I am mercy and does not trust in my goodness. Even the devils glorify my justice but do not believe in my goodness. My heart rejoices in this title of Mercy.” (Diary, 300)

Together with the mandate to proclaim his mercy, the Lord gave his priests the power to absolve sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This sacrament makes the Lord’s mercy accessible to us. No sin is too grave that it could not be forgiven at confession. We should trust that the Lord has given priests this great power to absolve sins. “Tell souls where they are to look for solace; that is, in the Tribunal of Mercy. There the greatest miracles take place and are incessantly repeated. To avail oneself of this miracle, it is not necessary to go on a great pilgrimage or to carry out some external ceremony; it suffices to come with faith to the feet of my representative (the priest) and to reveal to him one’s misery, and the miracle of Divine Mercy will be fully demonstrated. Were a soul like a decaying corpse so that from a human standpoint, there would be no (hope of) restoration and everything would already be lost, it is not so with God. The miracle of Divine Mercy restores that soul in full. Oh, how miserable are those who do not take advantage of the miracle of God’s mercy! You will call out in vain, but it will be too late.” (Diary, 1448)

Therefore, the priest proclaims the Mercy of God by preaching about it and even more so, by absolving sins in the sacrament of Confession. As the Father sent his Son to the world so that all who believe in him might be saved, so the Risen Christ sends his priests to declare forgiveness in his name. Let us avail of Christ’s Easter gift. Let us confess our sins and trust in his mercy!

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

The Case of the Missing Body


EASTER SUNDAY B
YEAR OF THE CLERGY AND CONSECRATED PERSONS
APRIL 1, 2018

Jesus, I trust in you!

When the Magdalene told them about the missing body of Jesus, Peter and John ran to the tomb. They both saw nothing but the burial cloths and the cloth that had covered the head of the corpse rolled up in a separate place. The burial garments were neatly folded but the body was not there.
The grave clothes of Jesus were neatly folded. This tells us that the missing body of Jesus could not have been the work of grave robbers. Remember that robbers of tombs have been known to take away the clothes and leave the body. None ever took away the body and left the clothes, especially when it was fine linen and new. Anyone would rather choose to carry a dead body in its clothes than carry a naked corpse while leaving the grave clothes behind. Besides, what tomb robber would find leisure to fold up the linen?

The folded up burial cloths tell us that the Lord Jesus rose from the dead and he will never die again. Unlike ghosts who supposedly appear wearing their grave clothes or Lazarus who came out of the tomb with his grave clothes on, the Lord Jesus rose from the dead and laid the grave clothes aside. He rose to immortal life. He will never die again. He came out free of the encumbrances of the burial cloths. He set them aside because he was clothed with the robes of glory. As the prophet Elijah dropped his mantle as he ascended to heaven on a flaming chariot, so also the Lord Jesus left behind his earthly burial clothes because he will no longer need them in heaven where death is no more.

St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians said that we should clear out the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, so that we may celebrate the feast with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. When we arise from the death of sin to the life of righteousness, we must leave our grave-clothes behind us…we must put off our corruptions. We have gone through the difficult discipline of Lent. Having confessed our sins, we have made reparation for them through our acts of mortification. Holy Week has witnessed the intensity of our penance. Now that it ends with the feast of the Resurrection, it is not right to go back to our former ways. The end of Holy Week does not mean back to regular programming. Rather, we should strive to rise from where we have fallen and follow Christ more resolutely. “If you have been raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above and not of what is on earth.”

Our Lenten journey culminates with our personal and collective renunciation of Satan, his works and his empty promises. This means that we have to really leave our grave clothes behind. The renunciation will be followed by the renewal of our faith in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This entails a serious commitment from us to strive to be better disciples, more resolute followers of Jesus. Let us rise from the tomb together with Jesus today. Let us leave behind our grave clothes and put on our wedding garments for we shall attend a feast. Christ, our Paschal Lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us celebrate the feast with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. 

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

Dying and Rising with Christ


EASTER VIGIL 2018
YEAR OF THE CLERGY AND CONSECRATED PERSONS
MARCH 31, 2018

Jesus, I trust in you!

Last Palm Sunday, we heard the passion narrative of St. Mark. We saw how our Lord was left alone by his disciples who betrayed, abandoned, and denied him during that moment when darkness reigned supreme. There was one detail of the narrative that is found only in the Gospel according to Mark: it is the detail of a young man who followed Jesus in the garden. He had nothing on but a loin cloth. During the commotion at the arrest of the Lord, some men tried to catch also the young man by holding on to his loincloth. He escaped naked, leaving behind his garment.
This mysterious young man is the symbol of the catechumens who have been preparing themselves for baptism by studying the Sacred Scriptures and by learning the teachings of the Lord. Like every human being born of Adam and Eve, these catechumens are born in the misery of the human nature we have inherited from them. “All men have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God.” After their fall into sin, our first parents realized that they were naked and so they hid themselves in shame. As our first parents, stripped of sanctifying grace, were driven out of the garden of Eden, so also the young man ran away naked from the garden.

Today, when the sun had risen, the women entered the tomb and there the young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe. They saw him in the tomb because the catechumen was baptized and as St. Paul said: “we who were baptized into his death. We were indeed buried with him through baptism into his death.” As Christ was buried in the tomb, every catechumen, at his baptism, is buried together with Jesus. As Jesus was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we also live in newness of life. And so, the neophyte is no longer naked but now clothed in a white robe. The white robe is the sign of belonging to heaven. At the transfiguration, the Lord was clothed in dazzling white because he is the Son of Man who came down from heaven. The baptismal garment is white because the one who was baptized no longer belongs to the world. He now belongs to heaven where Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father. Baptism consecrates us to God. We belong no longer to this earth. We belong to heaven.

And the newly baptized man became the bearer of the Good News of the Resurrection: “Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him.” As Christ was sent to bring the Gospel to the poor, so also every baptized Christian is sent by Christ “to bring the Gospel to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” The newly baptized Christian becomes a herald of reconciliation to all of us who have fallen from our fidelity to the Lord…to all of us who have denied, abandoned, and betrayed him. He tells us: Go and tell his disciples and Peter: He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him as he told you.” He goes before us to Galilee, to where the disciples first met and were called by Jesus. He goes before us to Galilee where we first met him. Is it not true that when an intimate relationship is strained and broken, we go to the place of the first meeting in the hope that we would find our lost loved one there? There, broken relationships are mended and so is found the chance to start all over again. He goes before us to Galilee so that we may start following again.

After the baptism of our three catechumens, we shall all renew our baptismal promises. Having confessed our failures and sins, we again profess the faith of our baptism. Through baptism, our catechumens will enter the tomb and be buried together with Christ. They shall be clothed with the graces of the Holy Spirit. Clothed in white, they will tell us to go to Galilee and there meet the Risen Jesus who goes before us. He will not shame us nor reprimand us for our betrayals, abandonments, and denials. Rather, he will restore to our repentant hearts the graces of the Holy Spirit. The Lord will make us belong to him once again. He will invite us to rise from where we have fallen and invite us to follow him once more. Let us go to meet him in Galilee with the firm resolve never to betray, nor abandon, nor deny him. We must think of ourselves as being dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

Christ: Priest and Victim


GOOD FRIDAY 2018
YEAR OF THE CLERGY AND CONSECRATED PERSONS
MARCH 30, 2018

Jesus I trust in you!

Good Friday in the Year of Priests gives us the occasion to meditate on the High Priesthood of Jesus because the mystery of our Lord’s suffering and death on the Cross gives light to the reason why we always speak of the Priesthood of Christ. First of all, we should ask: Who is the Priest and what does he do? The concept of the priesthood is not exclusive to the Catholic religion. The priesthood is found in all religions because religion seeks to offer God the worship that rightfully befits him. The virtue of religion is the virtue that inclines the human heart to offer God worship that is his due. And in every religion, the highest act of worship is always the sacrifice in which an animal or a human being is killed in order to profess the dominion of the deity over life and death. Of all acts of worship, the sacrifice is the highest and the costliest because it involves the snuffing out of a victim’s life. This death is brought about by the separation of the blood from the flesh or the body of the victim. And the one who offers the victim, the one who kills the victim is called a “priest.” And so, the chief work of a priest is to offer the sacrifice to the deity in the highest act of worship of that religion.

And it is on Good Friday that we see Jesus in the very act of performing his duty as the High Priest of the New Covenant. In the Old Testament priesthood, the high priest on the Day of Atonement, kills a bull and a goat. And taking the blood of the animals, he enters the Holy of Holies and there, sprinkles the blood on the atonement cover for his own sins and for the people’s. Today, as Jesus expires, he enters into the Holy of Holies, “passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by human hands (not belonging to creation). He entered, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, and achieved eternal redemption.” Jesus is the only one who is priest and victim at the same time. All other priests have to kill a victim other than himself because if they killed themselves, that would be the end of their service to God. Jesus is the only one who could offer himself because he is the Lamb who once was slain but now he lives forever.”

Jesus offered the most perfect sacrifice which man can ever offer to God. This is because his obedience to the Father’s will is perfect. Worship can only be perfect and acceptable if it comes from an absolutely obedient heart. Thus, the blood of this perfectly obedient Son of God is even more greatly powerful than the blood of animals or of any other human being. “If the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer’s ashes can sanctify those who are defiled so that their flesh is cleansed, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God!”

“This is why Jesus is the mediator of a new covenant…Christ entered heaven itself that he might appear before God on our behalf…He has appeared at the end of the ages to take away sins once for all by his sacrifice…Christ was offered up once to take away the sins of many; he will appear a second time…to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him.”

It was on the Cross on this day when Jesus exercised his priestly ministry. The Lord Jesus was hung upon the Cross as both priest and victim. He offered the Father his obedience and in so doing, he is the priest. He died and in so doing he is the victim. This priestly ministry of Jesus is made present in every celebration of the Sacred Liturgy. In the Liturgy and through the ministry of the priest, Jesus offers to his Father the perfect worship and in doing so, he brings about the sanctification of his people. This is the highest and the only sacrifice that is acceptable to the Father. Nothing can ever rival this sacrifice in its perfection. “The price of (our) redemption was not something of fleeting value like gold or silver, but the costly shedding of the blood of Christ, the lamb without blemish…The blood of Jesus Christ washes away all our sins.”

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

He humbled himself


HOLY THURSDAY 2018
YEAR OF THE CLERGY AND CONSECRATED PERSONS
MARCH 29, 2018

Jesus, I trust in you!

This year’s celebration of Holy Thursday takes a special significance for me not only because it is the Year of the Clergy and Consecrated Persons but also because I am journeying this year towards my silver jubilee as a priest on November 30, 2018. I think added to this is the wonderful news announced at Chrism Mass this morning that I am retained to my assignment here as Parish priest for the next 3 years.

In the Holy Gospel today, we were told that “Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end…(He) was fully aware that the Father had given everything into his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God.” The Lord Jesus knew who he really is…He is God the Son, the Lord and Master: “You call me Lord and Master and rightly so for indeed I am.” He makes no pretenses about this. He does not deny his greatness in an attitude of false humility. He knew who he was: he is the one to whose power the Father had given everything. And this knowledge of his own greatness makes what he did even so remarkable: “He rose from supper and took off his outer garments. He took a towel and tied it around his waist.” To me, St. Paul gives the appropriate interpretation of what Jesus did: “Though he was in the form of God, Jesus did not deem equality with God, something that was within his grasp. But rather he emptied himself and took the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.” Do you remember the Transfiguration of Jesus? Jesus’ face shone like the sun and his garments because excessively brilliant. This brilliance, this external glory was what Jesus took off at his incarnation. The outer garments which he took off stood for the external glory of his Divinity which Jesus took off when he became man. This is what we call the Kenosis of Jesus. Jesus emptied himself and took the form of a slave, which is our human likeness. That towel which he tied around his waist was the human nature he assumed for himself. He was clad in the garments of a slave. He who is so great, so much like God his Father, humbled himself and became a slave. But the Incarnation was not the end of his humiliation. He humbled himself even further by obediently accepting death on a Cross. He poured water into a basin and washed the feet of his disciples. Feet washing is an act of courtesy shown by Jews to visitors considering the fact that the roads in Israel are either dusty or muddy. However, feet washing is a very menial task. It is an act so low…so demeaning a task that it is never assigned to a Jewish slave on account of his dignity as part of the chosen people of God. And so there he is…God the Son to whom everything has been given by the Father…he now washes the feet of his disciples. He performs the low and menial task of washing our feet. He washes us through the blood and water that will gush out of his wounded side. He gives us the bath of spiritual birth called Baptism and washes our feet with the absolution obtained from the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This is how he shows us his love. He loves us by going down so low as to wash our feet. I remember Florante of the work of Francisco Balagtas. He said: “O pag-ibig kapag ika’y pumasok sa puso nino man, hahamakin ang lahat, masunod ka lamang.” Jesus loved us and in that love, hinamak niya ang lahat, pati ang kanyang sarili.

And so he tells us: “If I, your Lord and Master, washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an model to follow so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” With this, we begin to ask ourselves: “Ano ang kaya kong gawin upang maipakita ko ang pag-ibig ko kay Hesus? Hinamak niya ang lahat, maging ang kanyang sarili, upang ipakita niya ang pagmamahal niya sa akin. Ano ang kaya kong hamakin para sa kanya?” What am I willing to do? How low am I willing to go, in order to prove my love for him? The bishop this morning reminded us priests: “that there is no assignment too poor, no task too menial, no service too low for us. We must be willing to bend so low if we are to be who we should be: ministers of Christ. Remember that no servant is greater than his master, no student is greater than his teacher. We are all servants. We go to wherever we are sent. We leave when we are dismissed.”

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

He falls alone


PALM SUNDAY B
YEAR OF THE CLERGY AND CONSECRATED PERSONS
March 25, 2018

Jesus, I trust in you!

“You will all fall away!” so Jesus told his disciples during the last supper. To this, Peter and the other disciples objected: “Even if all will fall away, I will not…Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And so it came to pass: at the garden, Peter, James and John could not stay awake and watch with Jesus even for an hour; Judas betrayed the Lord with a kiss; everybody deserted him and fled; Peter denied him. Even that mysterious young man who followed the Lord fled naked, leaving his garments behind. From the time of his arrest, Jesus was surrounded by his enemies: false witnesses testified against him, the Sanhedrin condemned him as worthy of death, the crowds demanded that he be crucified, soldiers mocked him, passersby insulted him, and even those who were crucified with him heaped insults on him. But the worst of all was that when Jesus cried out from the Cross: “Eloi, Eloi lema sabachthani?” no answer was heard from the Father…even the Father seemed to have abandoned him. In other words, Jesus died alone.
But it was when he died that the centurion who saw how Jesus died exclaimed: Truly this man was the Son of God. The women who followed him from Galilee and also from Jerusalem were seen watching from a distance. Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Sanhedrin came forward to bury Jesus. Indeed, the single grain of wheat fell to the ground and died. But when it died, it bore much fruit.

This single grain that fell to the ground is truly the King of Israel. This truth was professed by his enemies themselves. Pilate asked, “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” The soldiers who mocked him saluted him by saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” The chief priests and the scribes mocked him, “Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down cross that we may see and believe.” The inscription of the charge above his head read: “The king of the Jews.” Indeed, the Holy Spirit has put this truth on the lips of Christ’s enemies in order make it more credible. If a person’s greatness is acknowledge by his rivals and enemies, that greatness becomes more believable than when it is said by one’s own friends and relatives.

And so, this single grain that fell and died is truly the King of Israel. Single handedly, he defeated the enemy. Alone, he took up the battle and he was victorious. God greatly exalted him and gave him a name which is above all other names. This is why today, we acclaim him: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel!” Today, the Scriptures tell us: “Fear no more, O daughter Zion; see, your king comes, seated upon an ass’ colt.”  Let us welcome him with all the sincerity of our hearts. Let us “inwardly fulfill what we enact outwardly.” (Pre-1955 blessing) Christ bows down to us so that we should come back to the Father. Therefore, let us honor Christ by our sincere conversion. By submitting to his commands and teachings, let us truly profess: Truly, this man was the Son of God, the King of Israel.

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!