Sunday, March 12, 2017

worship at the cathedral 3

My take on abstinence...
Abstinence is an act of doing without, a giving up of something good.  It is done in the spirit of sacrifice. As Catholics we are required to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all the Fridays of Lent. 
First, this abstinence from meat works on the presumption that meat is good.  Precisely it is a sacrifice because it is good.  We don't sacrifice something we don't like in the first place. 
Second, abstinence from meat works also on the presumption that meat is always associated with fiestas and celebrations.  Thus, even today, we often overhear people say in celebrations, "baw, grabe nga fiesta lima gid ka lechon," or "nag-ihaw gid sila duha ka baboy ka isa ka baka," which can only mean that the celebration is grander.

psalm 34: remembering - tuesday 1st week lent

Our psalm today has two parts.  First there is the exhortation to remember together the good that the Lord did for us.  Last week if you can still remember, I invited you to make and fulfill your panaad to the Lord as a reflection on Psalm 50 which exhorts us to fulfill our vows to the Lord. A panaad is a vow made to God when you were in trouble.  It is not to bribe God.  It is not to pay God his salary for doing his work on us.  Rather, a panaad is simply fulfilling your word to God.  It is going back to the time when God helped you when you were in deep trouble.  It is remembering.

psalm 51: shame and a broken spirit - 1st sunday lent

I would like to continue where we left off in our reflection last Ash Wednesday as we reflected on psalm 51, our responsorial psalm.  Let me recall first that this psalm is David's prayer after he was confronted by the prophet Nathan when he committed the sin of adultery with a married woman by the name of Bathsheba, and this adultery led him to tell lies, and these lying led him to commit murder.  So it's a sinfulness that spiraled out of control.  And David wanted to hide it.
Two things about sin.

worship at the cathedral 2

The first noticeable sign that lent is here, aside from the ashes on our foreheads, is the conspicuous absence of the "alleluia" in the mass and in the breviary (that is, if you are praying the breviary).  Alleluia is a Hebrew word which means "praise the Lord."  Aside from the trisagion or the sanctus of the mass (holy, holy, holy, Lord, God of host...), the alleluia, the bible says, is the song sung by the choir of angels praising God before His holy throne in the kingdom of heaven.  Singing this song is eschatological, that is, we are already looking forward to the day when we shall join our voices with the angels in heaven.  (That is why I always advise people in the mass that if they plan to go to heaven, they better sing these songs while they are still here on earth, so that when they reach heaven the songs are already familiar.  And by the way, those who do not sing have no plans going there!)
So why suppress the alleluia? 

psalm 51: a misplaced heart - ash wednesday

Today we reflect on psalm 51, our responsorial psalm.  This is the psalm we pray every Friday morning.  This psalm is entitled "A Psalm of David, when the prophet Nathan came to him after he had gone in to Bathsheba."  That’s the title.  I believe you know the story – David had an affair with a married woman Bathsheba which produced a child.  To cover up the sin, he persuaded the husband Uriah to sleep with his wife.  But after several failed attempts to convince Uriah to do so David panicked and had him sent to battle where the fighting is fiercest so that he would surely get killed.  With the husband dead, he married Bathsheba.  This is the trademark of sin – it leads one deeper and deeper into the abyss.  Adultery led to lying and cover-up which eventually led to murder. David’s conscience however bothered and haunted him.  And because God loved David so much, God did not want him to be destroyed by this hidden sin.  And so one day the prophet Nathan confronted David of his sin and in great remorse psalm 51, the great psalm of mercy, was composed.

psalm 50: attitudes for worhip tuesday 8th week

We continue our reflection on our responsorial psalm, psalm 50.  In this psalm God gathers all the people of Israel to indict them.  In Psalm 50 God is the accuser, he is the judge and he is even the witness.  And what was Israel's fault?  What was God's accusation?
This is Israel's fault – It is not for making and offering sacrifices but the mindset that accompany their sacrifices to God.  And what was the mindset – that God needs the sacrifices that I offer him.  Israel then was offering animal sacrifices and so they thought that God needs these sacrifices because he was hungry, because he needed to drink the blood of these animals and to eat their flesh.  The point is, to offer worship to God because they thought that God needed this worship.  This was the wrong mindset in their prayer, the wrong mindset in their worship.  Ang ginahimo naton amo nga daw ang Dios ang ginapa-utang naton agod to kon may kinahanglanon kita sa iya dapat niya sabton.  Amo ni kon kaisa ang danger sang mga novena.  I will complete my aguinaldo masses so that in effect I can put God into my debt, I can oblige God to listen to my prayers.  Psalm 50 is against this mentality.  Instead it offers us the right attitudes for worship.  And what are these.  I will just cite two.

worship at the cathedral 1

With this issue I start this column on the prayer and worship activities of the parish.  I was told that this is part of my work as the Special Assistant for Liturgical Affairs.  I have still to clarify whether this column is something that I have to do weekly or every other week or whatever.  Suffice to say, to begin this column at the beginning of Lent means this will be an added penance on my part.  How opportune indeed!
Filipinos are known for our many lenten practices, practices that are unique, colorful, and frankly, quite off-the-wall at times.  We don't put long faces on lent.  I suspect, we even enjoy it.  Our foreheads may be prominently marked with ashes but just the same we eat our burgers with gusto unmindful (or perhaps forgetful) that these activities don't mix.  Our visita iglesia can also become a question of who cooks the better bibingka as rows of makeshift ovens lineup the facade of every church we visit.  On Good Friday, our saints are dressed in glittering livery, richly embroidered, some with gold threads as they soberly and solemnly accompany our almost naked Lord hanging on the cross.  And quite frankly, on a personal note, I like the food better during days of fasting.  And I believe seminarians would agree with me too.  Special food is always looked forward to during lent.

psalm 1: whom do you allow to influence you - thursday 7th week

There is something curious in our responsorial psalm, psalm number 1.  Instead of simply saying do not be wicked it says instead, Blessed be the man who follows not the counsel of the wicked.  Instead of simply saying do not sin, it says Blessed be the man who does not walk in the way of sinners.  Instead of simply saying do not act like the insolent, do not mock God, it says instead do not sit in the company of the insolent.  Why not just say it directly, why not say it plainly? 
Well, it can't and this psalm chooses not to, because this psalm is not talking about committing sin, it is not about being a sinner.  Instead it asks the question whom do you allow to influence you?  Whom or what do you allow to shape your life?  To whom do you give your attention to?  If you notice the contrast in the psalm is not wicked versus righteous, sinner versus saint, ungodly versus godly.  Instead the contrast centers on listening to the counsel of the wicked, walking in the way of sinner, sitting in the company of the insolent versus delighting in the way of the Lord, meditating on is law, day and night.  It is about whom do you allow to influence your words, thoughts and actions; whom do you listen to when you make decisions; whom do you consult when you make judgments?

sikomoro thesis defense

Once again we have (for many) completed this two-day thesis defense, a partial but crucial requirement for graduation.  For the class sikomoro, they can finally breathe a sigh of relief now that the tension filled weeks are over.  It is however my hope that it will not simply end as an academic exercise we are too happy and too eager to get over with.  It is my hope that discussions like this continue.  It is only through exercises like this that we can promote a new kind of politics, a new way of doing things. 

psalm 37: greatness is service - tuesday 7th week

I would like to continue reflecting on our responsorial psalm today - psalm 37.  This psalm addresses a problem that bothers us even to this day.  And what is this problem – why is it that those who do evil seem to prosper while those who do good suffer?  This is a question we encounter from time to time, isn’t it?  In this psalm this questioning is condemned because it is accompanied by resentment and envy -  how is it that the wicked seem to prosper, how is it that evil people seem to get the good things in life, while I who go to mass every day, while I who observe his commandments, suffer or at the very least have to do with less?  Isn’t God unjust?

buncag lalaw: nanay is

Today we are gathered in the Chapel of the retirement home of the clergy which for some reason has been called through the years as home sweet home.  Now it is given a more formal name of St John Marie Vianney Center or Vianney for short.  But some people still call this place Home Sweet Home.   Aptly but more clandestinely we call it our departure area for just like the upper floor of an airport this is where we wait before we fly out.  The archdiocese has enough lands more beautiful and conducive for a retirement home but this is the place they chose because it is just a stone's throw away from the place where our journey in the priesthood began.  It is always good to end where you started.  We all started there when we were 12 years old.  We come back here when the journey is about to end.

psalm 29: the voice of the lord - tuesday 6th week

Today we reflect on psalm 29, our responsorial psalm today.  When something is repeated several times in succession it is because the author wants us to focus our attention on what he believes matters most.  And in this psalm our attention is directed to "the voice of the Lord."   In the responsorial psalm in this mass in which only part of the psalm is read, it is repeated thrice.  If we read the whole psalm, the word the voice of the Lord is repeated six times in a short eleven verses.
What does the psalm say about the voice of the Lord?  What does the psalm say about the owner of the voice?

psalm 32: double joy - friday 5th week

This is one psalm which begins with so many blessed - Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Blessed is he whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputes not guilt.  In Hebrew the word Blessed is in plural form, which we cannot translate of course to English  unless we say blessednesses.  So the blessedness here is not just single but a double joy, a bundle of happiness, a very happy condition.  Why, because the Lord forgives.
How does one attain this very happy condition?  Only one thing but stated both in the negative and positive.  First it would be such a happy condition when you do not conceal or hide your sins from God.  Second, stated positively, one can experience double joy when we acknowledge our sins and confess these to God.  So how does one attain happiness says the psalm – when we do not hide our sins and when we confess and acknowledge these before God.  This is the joy of confession, the joy of the sacrament of reconciliation.

psalm 104: god will take care of us - wednesday 5th week

Today we celebrate the memorial of St. Josephine Bakhita.  She was originally from Sudan in Africa and her uncle was a tribal chieftain, born around the year 1869.  She was from a relatively well-off and prosperous family.  However, when she was just a child she was kidnapped by slave traders and was sold off as a slave.  You know what a slave is, do you?  You are treated as a thing, something people buy and used according to their purpose, the very opposite of the dignity that we talked about yesterday in our responsorial psalm. 

psalm 8: the work of your fingers - tuesday 5th week

Psalm 8, our responsorial psalm today continues the thought narrated by our first reading, that God made everything and man and woman as the peak of his creation.  However, in this psalm the manner in which God created us is emphasized.  And how is this?
Creation according to psalm 8 was not just arbitrary or random or haphazard. Rather it was careful and meticulous and even painstaking.  In the psalm, instead of calling created things the work of your hands, the psalmist instead said, the work of your fingers.  God designed everything meticulously.  God deliberately created every detail there is, as if he was drawing something or as if God is doing some embroidery work, arranging, organizing, placing things where he wants them to be.  We were not mass produced in an assembly line.  We were not haphazardly and hurriedly done.  There was a very serious effort of going into the details, handcrafting, individually designing so as to fit God's purpose.  That is how valuable we are according to the psalm.  This is the value of every human life.  We cannot kill.  We cannot even take our own lives.  Why?  Because each one of us is valuable to God who made us.  Each one of us was wonderfully created.  Each one of us was even more wonderfully saved by Jesus.  It is wrong to take away life whatever the reason except for self-defense.

ted and chloe

I accepted this appointment many years ago thinking that this day would never come anyway.  But here it is, finally, after a very long wait.  I always tell the seminarians, you never look for a girlfriend.  Precisely they call it falling in love because it is never sought after like some lost thing.  In love you will find each other.  It will come if it was meant to be.
Today this sermon does not have to be long.  Not that we are in a hurry nor are we making up for lost time.  The wait may have been long but remember patience is always rewarded.  But this should be short because there is nothing more that needs to be said in a lot of words.  Ted is not new to this, after all.  And Chloe may already have an earful after attending a great deal of weddings and after seeing a good deal of marriages succeeding and failing in her entire life before coming here today for her very own wedding day.
Today I will just have one message from our gospel. 

st blaise: being careful with what we say - friday 4th week

Today also as we celebrate the feast of St. Blaise, we will bless your throat through the intercession of Blaise.  I don’t know if you know this person but he is is the patron of all those with ailments and diseases in the throat.  This is so because it was said that he healed a young boy who was dying because a fish bone got stuck up on his throat.  For this he was invoked whenever a person has some ailments in the throat. 
Today, after the feast of the Candelaria, it has been a practice in the church to bless people who have ailments in the throat with a crossed candle, with two perdon blessed during the feast of the Candelaria.  We will do that after this homily.  So why do we give importance to the blessing of the throats?  Because our vocation is primarily a vocation that makes extensive use of the throat.  We talk, we teach, we proclaim God’s word, we admonish, we reprove, we compliment, we exhort.  Our throats are important in our vocation as future priests. 

psalm 24: when god enters our space - candelaria fiesta

Our responsorial psalm today is psalm 24 and it is often read in the liturgy of the church whenever we commemorate Jesus coming into or entering a place.
"Lift up, O gates, your lintels; reach up, you ancient portals, that the king of glory may come in!" This is sung by the church on Palm Sunday when Jesus rode on an ass to enter Jerusalem not just to receive the acclamation of the people shouting Hosanna but also to eventually fulfill the Father's will by accepting death on the cross.
In the Ascension into heaven 4o days after the resurrection, when Jesus, having finished the mission, ascended to heaven to be seated on the right side of God the Father and thus the church once more lifts its voice of praise "Lift up, O gates, your lintels; reach up, you ancient portals, that the king of glory may come in!"

psalm 22: learning from the passion - tuesday 4th week

Today we get our reflection from our responsorial psalm, Psalm 22.  This psalm is a psalm that speaks of the passion of Jesus.  That is why this is read during Good Friday.  Two lines from the psalm has been quoted by Jesus himself when he was dying on the cross:  My God, my God, why have you forsaken me, which is from the first line of the psalm; and the words, It is finished, which is the last words of the psalm. And the gospels show so many similarities as they narrate the passion of Jesus and quote also directly from this psalm, two of which are, "they pierced my hands and my feet" and  "they divide my garments, and for my clothing they cast lots."  One author says that the details between psalm 22 and the passion of Jesus has astounding similarities and to think that the psalm was written by David a thousand years before Christ.  It is as if David, by composing this psalm, prefigures already a future event.

psalm 22: all shall worship god - tuesday 4th week

Psalm 22 is a psalm that speaks of the passion of Jesus.  Two lines from the psalm has been quoted by Jesus himself when he was dying on the cross:  My God why have you forsaken me, (the first line of the psalm) and It is finished (the last words of the psalm). And the gospels show so many similarities as they narrate the passion of Jesus:  they pierced my hands and my feet; they divide my garments, and for my clothing they cast lots.  One author says that the details between psalm 22 and the passion of Jesus has astounding similarities and to think that the psalm was written by David a thousand years before Christ.  It is as if David, by composing this psalm, prefigures already a future event.