Showing posts from August, 2008

seeing things differently

Today like Bartimaeus we approach Jesus and beg him “Rabonni we want to see.” We want to see. Teihlard de Chardin once said – “the whole of life lies in the verb seeing – to see.” I believe so too – the whole of life lies in the verb seeing, for most of the time what makes us happy or unhappy with life, what makes life a burden or a joy is how we see things in life. Seeing makes the difference.

flying elephants and lying friars

For this homily I would like to thank Paul for coming to my room last night and told me this little anecdote which happened in the life of St. Thomas Aquinas. The story as Paul told it to me goes this way.

One day St. Thomas Aquinas, a student just like you, was caught sleeping while his teacher, a friar, was giving a lecture. The friar upon seeing him asleep suddenly shouted pointing towards the window, “there’s an elephant flying.” Thomas suddenly woke up and in excitement run to the window to see the flying elephant pass by. His classmates and the friar laughed saying, “only a dumb fool would believe that an elephant can fly.” St. Thomas, terribly slighted and embarrassed looked at his teacher and said, “It is easier to believe that an elephant can fly than to believe that a friar can tell a lie.”

A woman can be . . .

Today on the birthday of the woman we all love and I would like to talk on a very interesting topic – women. Ok if that does not sound interesting enough to you I will change the topic to something even more interesting – we will talk about girls.

You have just heard the gospel read. It was boring – full of names – so many names, names which are difficult enough to read, much more to remember and much much more to understand. But there is something interesting about this so-called anscestry of Jesus. What is this interesting thing among these many names? All are names of men except for five, which are names of women: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba and Mary.

More interesting than these names of women finding its way in the list of ancestry in a patriarchal society where women are treated as things, are the very characteristics of these women themselves.

the first movement of the heart

The sacred congregation for doctrine in Rome declared through Cardinal Ratzinger that God the Father should always be addressed with the pronoun He; the Son should always be addressed with the pronoun He; and the Holy Spirit should always be called a He. How does he know that the Holy spirit is a he? One could only imagine, but you see its very hard to determine the sex of a dove. Now people ask, how do we address the devil – is it a she or a he. The sacred congregation does not say anything but when I see Buyong running to the telephone immediately after meals I tend to believe that that “devil” is a she.

Today let us talk about temptation. We have a very bad image of the devil. The great tempter is pictured as somebody so ugly you would not even want to get near it. But if you look at the bible closely the tempter is always somebody, something beautiful. The tempter is pictured in the book of Genesis as a snake. But snakes during those times were used as symbols, symbols of …

celebrating my 10th anniversary

Some people attend presbyteral anniversaries such as mine bringing with them that which I would like to call the perennial human interest to hear what the celebrant has to say about his priesthood, or about his life as a priest. What I call human interest is actually my way, my politically correct way of saying may pagka-maniningad kita at the very core especially when it comes to lives that are considered mysterious because they are set apart from those which we consider ordinary or because they are simply unique. The lives of priests are very interesting conversation pieces as evidenced in the way newspapers nowadays treat us, so I won’t let you leave this place without giving you that satisfaction if only to satiate your endless curiosity about us. Don’t worry about the length of this reflection. Ten years is not that long. In fact ten years is so short that I would just like to describe it in a phrase which I took from our gospel today, “those who entertained doubts fell down…


My arthritis brings with it not just pain in the joints but a corollary disease which attacks the eyes. I remember one time at the height of arthritis I found out that my eyes became swollen and red and my eyesight began to fail. I could no longer see things well. At night when there is little light I practically could not see anymore and in the dim light of the theatre I was becoming more and more like a blind person. I was so afraid. In fact I was more afraid of loosing my eyesight than loosing a leg and go limp for life. I remembered I was asking God, “Lord pianga lang ko indi lang ko pagbulaga.”

Eyes are very important. The eyesight is very important. In fact it is considered one of the higher senses with hearing. Without the eyes you loose not just an eye but the world and the beauty in it, a beauty people are risking their life diving down the water, for what – to see. Just to see.

Eyes are also the more truthful communicators. Your lips may suppress a smile, but your …

lazarus, arise!

My mind is still a bit cluttered after four days of having to go through the translation of the sacramentary. Added to this is the excitement it generated in me after knowing that we have only 40 pages left to translate before everything can be called done. This, after 3 years, 1, 340 pages of Latin plus the many other pages of supplements coming from the English Sacramentary. I know you don’t miss me that much not being here for four days. But I do miss you. I even said to myself, I think I need to stay out of my community once in a while for as the saying goes, Absence makes the heart grow fonder. I don’t know if it’s the same with you. Probably with you its more of, when the cat is away the mouse will play. But to tell you I regained some of my trust in you. For a fact, during my absence, I heard many good things happening and it made me happy, it made me quite at ease and it even made my heart grow fonder still.

Frankly, I missed the touch, the exchange of banter, the jo…


From today until Wednesday we will hear the seven woes uttered by Jesus to the scribes and Pharisees. Today we have heard the first three woes. Tomorrow we will hear another two and on Wednesday another two. All in all, seven woes.
Woe to you. In the original Greek language, which is hard to translate in English this woe is not just an expression of anger but an expression both of anger and sorrow. It is an anger that comes from a heart that has truly loved. Deep raging anger combined with deep and intense sorrow. Woe to you. I don’t know if anyone of you has experienced this.

life is too complicated

Who is to be blamed for the murder of St. John the Baptist? I would answer: “it depends on who is answering the investigation.” If I am to ask this in an Individual Colloquium (IC) my report which I would dutifully write on a piece of paper folded crosswise, would appear like this:

from a distance

Some years ago Bette Midler sung a song entitled From a Distance. I guess you are not expecting me to sing in this early hour of the morning so permit me just read a few lines from the song.
From a distance, the world looks blue and green
and the snow-capped mountains white.
From a distance the ocean meets the stream
and the eagle takes to flight.

The best picture of the earth, and a bestseller picture at that, is a picture taken from one of the Apollo missions as they were about to orbit the moon. It is from this picture that the earth was named the blue planet. It is a good picture because it was taken from a distance.

assumption alumni: a reflection on faith as taught by assumption

It took me two weeks to finally accept this appointment, not for anything, but for the obvious reason that I am replacing the grand old man of our alumni gatherings – Fr. Bernard Ybiernas. I hate being a replacement, for two reasons. First it does not help my self-esteem especially if you are following the footsteps of somebody already refined by age and experience. And more importantly because people might be expecting for weeks and even months to see the grand old man of Assumption and hear his booming voice only to end up having to bear with this fellow whose prominent features are his eyebrows and who hobbles when he walks. I just hate it when I become the cause of another person’s frustration.

Nevertheless, I accepted it, again for two v

eating and being

Let’s talk about eating. They say that Filipinos eat only once a day. We eat only once a day. But, as the saying continues, it takes us a whole day to finish. What does that mean? We eat non-stop from the time we wake up until just before we sleep. We eat not just breakfast, lunch and dinner. We eat so many things in between. There’s the mid morning snacks, the mid-afternoon snacks and the midnight snacks not counting the mani, the kamonsil, the sirguelas, the maiz, the candies, the chippy, the cheese curls, the potato chips which we eat in our offices, while watching TV, in our cars, while riding on the jeepney, and even while waiting for a jeepney. It is true, we eat once a day but it takes us a whole day to finish.

it's not about the big and the grand

This homily is partly an attempt to articulate my feelings as a seminary formator of these young boys triggered by my appointment by the administration as an investigator of a major crime committed in our seminary community, and hounded and perhaps harassed since last night by our readings today after making my recommendations which might trigger a deluge of expulsions, if not now then in the near future.
I don’t know how this reflection on the word of God will suit you. Probably God will find a way to fit them into your hearts. After all it is his word and not mine.


The gospel today is so appropriate. After a week of fighting it out with each other, trying to prove who among us is the greatest, who among us is the champion, the gospel seeks to answer the question, what is true greatness? Who is the greatest among us?
After a week of giving our best shot, of bearing pain, tiredness and hardships in order to come out first among the many teams, our gospel asks: who is first? What does it consist in being first?

it's not about sex

This morning let us talk about sex. Okay I got your attention. But don’t worry I am not fooling you just to get your attention. I will be reflecting with you partly about sex. If you are accusing me of talking to you about sex in church remember it was not me who instigated the discussion. The first reading talks about a naked man and a naked woman roaming around the garden. Now what could I do? Then here is Jesus instigated in part by the question of the Pharisees talking about adultery, about a man and a woman becoming one flesh, one body and about a man or a woman having relations with others besides their husbands or wives. Now with these readings I cannot help talking about sex at 7:15 in the morning. But come to think of it, it is providential. Talking about sex in the morning is like having good coffee. It keeps one awake and should I also include the adjective, attentive?

in a home called sweet: relearning the basics of entering heaven

Some people would imagine this place as an airport. On your right is the departure area and on your left is the pre-departure area and right in the middle of these, where we are at the moment, is probably the pre-departure lounge. I don’t know how to make of this joke – a joke which hits us quite satirically, something funny but also something true and factual. Reality bites they say and this kind of joke makes the bite quite ticklish. As for me I like the joke, not because it is too funny, which it is not, but because I like reality presented this way – we face it squarely in good humor.

the height of stupidity

A mother one day asked her son who was so in love with his girlfriend. The mother asked, “What does your girlfriend like in you?” The young man replied, “Because she thinks I’m handsome, talented, clever and a good dancer.” And the Mother asked again, “And what do you like about her?” “Because,” the young man replied, “because she thinks I’m handsome, talented, clever and a good dancer.”

loved beyond the boundaries of this world

One of the advantages of being sick, is being slowed down necessarily, - not by choice but by necessity. After having lived with sickness half my life, I have taken these days as a privilege and a grace, and, a workaholic as a I am, a much needed rest without qualms of conscience. Through this I was given the privilege of assessing my life once more, where I am, where I stand, what keeps me moving. I have come to believe that things happen for a purpose, that there are no coincidences, only providence.

growing old: learning from simeon and anna

It is said that in the past, people in the orient most especially the Chinese would lie about their age, like most of us do now. However there is one big difference. We lie about our age by lowering it as in you’re actually 40 and you say, I’m 24, as if people could not see the obvious. But in the past, it’s different. People in the orient would lie about their age by jacking it up, as in you’re actually 50 but they would insists, I am 65.
Nowadays we color our hair with whatever color we like, except gray. I attended a wedding once who had for their motif the color green. Everything is green, even the hair of one woman. Imagine a green hair, greenamo gid, I hope her mind was not as green as her hair!

dodoy can ride the horse, if the horse wants him to

In the tradition which I myself started, my first address to the college community is always in the form of a story. The first four years I always started the year with the story of the rabbi who got lost in the woods. These last two years I addressed the community with the story of the mother eagle needing to push her young so that it could finally learn to fly. These stories are programmatic for the year. It will tell us of the methods to be used and the approaches that I intend to use in my relationship with you. Every time the story changes, the approaches and methods also change. The intent does not change, however, neither do the basics of our formation program. Only my approaches change. Only the way I relate with you changes.

becoming perfect

What does it mean when we say that he or she is perfect. What comes to mind when we say somebody is perfect? In our reflection today let us first examine what we mean and therefore what we expect, when somebody is or is expected to be perfect. I believe some of us here are teachers. So when we say “John, you have a perfect score,” we mean that John never committed a single mistake in his test paper. No mistakes – therefore perfect. Some of us here will be hired by people for a certain job and so when they say “you are perfect for the job,” what they really mean is you are truly fit for the job to be done. She is fit – therefore she is perfect. Some of us here have boyfriends or girlfriends or some of us here idealize somebody and we call them the perfect boyfriend, the perfect girl, the perfect mother, the perfect priest.

Therefore when we say perfect we mean he or she is excellent, he or she could not be matched by any other. She or he is excellent and one of a kind therefore…

to the argonauts

This is to be a Seniors' Night but through some divine inspiration of which the inventor of this title prided himself we now call this the Sailors' Night. This new name was coined by no other than Dominic (Tanedo), our most frugal and unearthly comedian. His logic runs this way: since the Argonauts were legendary sailors and the word sailors rhymed with seniors, he thought it appropriate to call it Sailors' Night instead of Seniors' Night – ha ha ha what a stroke of genius! If this is ingenuity I could only imagine what stupidity is in this seminary. I hope the graduates won’t end up as Marineros in John B. Lacson.

But coming to one’s senses this can indeed be a stroke of genius. Since the Bridge Builders are gone, the Pontifex, last year, we need sailors to cross rivers and seas to get where we need to go as a community. And besides, our calling is a calling to become fishers of men, and by profession fishermen and sailors fall under the same category. A stroke…

buganhi graduation

As I stand before you today I feel I am a redundancy here if not an outright anomaly. Graduation speeches are meant to inspire and to encourage. But I have already done that to them on a daily basis since they were placed under my supervision four years ago. Ask them, for inspiration here comes in daily doses under the form of gentle coaxing and tender prodding, to my so called persuasive pushing and forceful pulling, and should worst come to worst, outright shoving. In my line of work for nine years now I have developed a wide arsenal of tools for this purpose that has earned me evaluations from seminarians as an effective formator as well as the god of lightning and thunder. In this institution you either get inspired by all means and by whatever means or you get expired. Just gazing at my face will already tell them to. And so to inspire them again today is quite redundant. Otherwise I would be perceived as one big nagger or give the impression of someone who has not done h…

1 plus 1 equals anything

Let us see if you have studied well this year. Please answer the following questions:

1. If there are three bananas and you take away two, how many do you have?

Answer: Two bananas. Why? because you took two bananas!

2. Bible quiz: How many animals of each sex did Moses take on the ark?

Answer: None. Why? Because Moses was not in the ark. It was Noah.
Last question: Do you know that there is a law that a man living in Iloilo cannot be buried in Manila? So why can’t a man living in Iloilo be buried in Manila?
Answer: Because he is still living, he is still alive.

I don’t know how your mind works but I am old enough and have experiences sufficient enough to say that things don’t turn out as expected most of the times. And things don’t turn out as planned. Irregardless of how much control I made, despite the detailed planning that was prepared, and in spite of the many and meticulous attention to details, most of the things that turned out for the better in my work in formation…

a tribute to bishop angel

This is a tribute made in 2002 to Bishop Angel’s anniversary to the priesthood celebrated with the seminarians during their Christmas Party. The title/theme of the gathering was, Angel Comes to Town.

Angels do still come to town once in a while. When they do, they enlighten the young to dream dreams, they inspire men to hope for the better, they agitate men to rise in strength and ardor; they motivate them to move beyond themselves and most of the time they disturb the peace, they upset order, they disrupt routine.

Christmas is not just a time for peace. We have romanticized Christmas many, many times. With angels hovering about gracefully in the sky. With shepherds peacefully watching their flocks. With the sweet, sweet scene of a lovely belen and those lovely Christmas carols at the background. But Christmas is a time not just of peace or of angels serenely gliding, hovering in the sky. No, it is about a virgin disturbed by the announcement of an angel that she would give bi…

true freedom

Mullah Nasruddin found a diamond by the roadside but, according to the Law, finders can only become keepers if they first announced their find in the center of the marketplace on three separate occasions.

Now Nasruddin was too religious-minded to disregard the Law and too greedy to run the risk of parting with his find. So on three consecutive nights when he was sure that everyone was fast asleep, he went to the center of the marketplace and there announced in a soft voice, “I have found a diamond on the road that leads to the town. Anyone knowing who the owner is should contact me at once.”
On the third night, however, a man happened to be standing at his window and heard Nasruddin mumble something. When he attempted to find out what it was, Nasruddin replied, “I am in no way obliged to tell you. But this much I should say: Being a religious man, I went out there at night to pronounce certain words in fulfillment of the Law.”

End of the story. Moral lesson: To be properly wicked,…

teachers' day - a tribute

Teachers’ day is not really my thing. When I celebrated my tenth anniversary in the priesthood last year, I was grilled to the max and I felt then that every inch of my person was examined right before hungry eyes not so unlike somebody intent in dissecting a specimen under a microscope. And I just can’t believe that prying eyes such as yours would even notice my socks, mannerisms, eccentricities and all. So this afternoon as I made this little reflection I just thought to myself that these things should be permitted to happen only once a year, and once a year is more than enough, and I had had my share already at the beginning of the school year.