Archive for December, 2017

December 23, 2017: Thoughts on the 8th Day of Simbang Gabi 2017!

Human beings have natural admiration for people who are so real, so true and so faithful to their words, promises, convictions and beliefs. On the other hand, we have that natural aversion against people who are pretentious, dishonest, and insincere. Why? Because deep within us we value truthfulness, sincerity, and faithfulness. In addition, experience teaches us that any form of hypocrisy, untruthfulness, and dishonesty can turn a person’s whole life into a “living lie”.

Truth as uprightness in human action and speech is called truthfulness, sincerity or candor. Truth or truthfulness is the virtue which consists in showing oneself true in deeds and truthful in words, and in guarding against duplicity, dissimulation and hypocrisy” (CCC 2468).

As a people of God and followers of Jesus, we have the moral obligation to seek the truth. Once we come to the knowledge of truth we are bound to adhere to the truth and “to live in the truth” (Rm 3:4; cf. Ps 119:30) and speak the truth. For God is a God of truth and calls us to the fullness of truth. God is a God who will never deceive us nor can be deceived by us.  Once God has given his word or promises, God will fulfill that word, God will fulfill His promise in His own time, in His own ways even in ways seems to be unthinkable, scandalous and impossible to human beings!

Remember the story of the birth of Isaac.  When an angel announced to Abraham that her wife Sarah  who is barren and in her old age already that she will conceive and bear a son and name him Isaac, Abraham bowed down to the ground and laughed to himself in disbelief and said: “Can a child be born to a man who a hundred years old? Can Sarah give birth at ninety?

Sarah when she learned also that she would conceive in her womb and bear a son,  Sarah laughed to herself and said, “Now that I am worn out and my husband is old, am I still to have sexual pleasure? But the Lord said to Abraham: “Why did Sarah laugh and say, “Will I really bear a child, old as I am?”” “Is that thing too difficult for the Lord to do so? At the appointed time, about this time next year, I will return to you, and Sarah will have a son.” Sarah lied, saying, “I did not laugh,” because she was afraid. But God said, “Yes, you did.” As the Lord God has promised, the prophecy was fulfilled.

When angel Gabriel [Lk. 1:19] had appeared to Zachariah and told him that his wife would bear a son who must be named John. [Lk. 1:13] Zachariah, being of old age, did not believe Gabriel, he became mute and was to remain so until the fulfillment of this prophecy. [Lk. 1:20] When Zachariah wrote on the table that the name of the child must be John, three things became obvious: The prophecy that Elizabeth would bear a child was fulfilled. The prophecy that the child would be called John was fulfilled. And the prophecy that Zachariah would be able to speak again was fulfilled at that moment.

In view of all this, it is no wonder that “fear came over all the neighbors and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea.” [Lk. 1:65] Those who heard of these things, they asked themselves in their heart, “What then will this child become?” [Lk. 1:66]

Like God let us strive to be sincere, truthful and faithful in every moment and every aspect of our lives.  Let us always guard ourselves against the evil and the danger of hypocrisy, duplicity, and dissimulation. Let us not allow lies, deceits, and pretentions ruin our lives and other people. Let our lives be credible and trustworthy because of our consistency and our ”palabra de honor.”  One we have given our word, once we have given our promises, we have to fulfill them wholeheartedly, freely and generously! Say what you mean! Mean what you say!

“This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man” (William Shakespeare, Hamlet)

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December 22, 2017: Thoughts on the Seventh Day of Simbang Gabi

“Then Mary said: ‘My being proclaims the greatness of the Lord.’ ” —Luke 1:46

“The Magnificat is the crown of the Old Testament singing, the last canticle of the Old and the first of the New Testament. It was uttered (or, not improbably, chanted) by the Blessed Virgin, when she visited her cousin Elizabeth under the circumstances narrated by St. Luke in the first chapter of his Gospel. It is an ecstasy of praise for the inestimable favour bestowed by God on the Virgin, for the mercies shown to Israel, and for the fulfillment of the promises made to Abraham and to the patriarchs.” [The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume IX, Copyright (C) 1910 by Robert Appleton Company]

Biblical scholars theorize that The Magnificat or Canticle of Mary was not a pure Lucan composition; he probably got it from the Jewish Christian Anawim, the “poor ones” who relied on the Lord for their salvation. These recognized that in Jesus God has raised them up and saved them according to His promise. Luke sees Mary as their representative and spokesperson and so lets her vocalize their sentiments, retouching the original song to suit Mary’s condition.

As it stands, the Magnificat echoes Old Testament traditions in which men and women sang praise to God for His mighty deeds in behalf of His people Israel. In style and in thematic parallels, it is similar to the Song of Hannah in 1 Sm 2:1-10. Both Mary and Hannah are called “handmaids of the Lord” and both acknowledge that God’s purpose will be achieved through the birth of their respective children. Other comparable songs are the Song of Moses (Ex 15:1-18), the Song of Asaph (1 Chr 16:7-36), and the songs of praise in the book of Psalms (Pss 33, 47, 136).

Structurally, the Magnificat has three parts: The introduction in which Mary proclaims the Lord’s greatness and recognizes Him as her Savior, the body which gives the motives of praise (God’s saving deeds), and the conclusion which recapitulates some of the motives and rehearses the availability of God’s mercy in every generation (see “365 Days with the Lord 2010,” ST PAULS).

With the Magnificat of Mary we are, once again, reminded of our Vocation of Praise. Praising God is a God-appointed calling. Indeed, God has formed for himself a people “that they may proclaim my [God’s] praise” ( Isa 43:21 ; cf. Jer 13:11 ). God’s actions, such as Israel’s restoration from the exile, are to result in God’s “righteousness and praise spring [ing] up before all nations” ( Isa 61:11 ). God has also predestined the church “to the praise of his [God’s] glorious grace” ( Eph 1:6 ; cf. Matt 5:16 ; Eph 1:14 ; Php 1:11 ; 1 Peter 2:9 ). The future vocation of the redeemed in glory is to sing praise to God and the Lamb ( Rev 4:11 ; 5:12-14 ; 7:12 ). Doxologies are fitting because they capture what God intends for people ( Psalm 33:1 ; 147:1 ).

Reasons for Praising God. In addition to being the fulfillment of a calling, praise is prompted by other considerations, chief of which is the unique nature of God ( 1 Chron 29:10-13 ). One genre of the psalms, the hymns, is characterized by an initial summons, such as “Praise the Lord, ” which is followed by a declaration of praise, introduced by the word “for, ” which lists the grounds for offering praise, often God’s majesty and mercy. The shortest psalm ( 117 ), a hymn, offers a double reason for praise: God’s merciful kindness (loyal love) is great, and his truth endures forever. Other hymns point out that God is good ( Ezra 3:10-11 ;Psalm 100:5 ; 135:3 ), or that his ordinances are just ( Psalm 119:164 ), that he remembers his covenant ( Psalm 105:7-8 ), that his love is enduring (Ps. 136), or that he is incomparable ( Psalm 71:19 ). A basic understanding in the hymns, if not in all the psalms, is captured in the theme “The Lord reigns.” God’s kingship is pronounced both in his majestic power displayed through the creation of the world ( Psalm 29 , 104 ) and in his royal rule, often as deliverer, over his people ( Psalm 47 , 68 , 98 , 114 ). As king, God is judge, warrior, and shepherd. Often too, praise is to the name of God ( Psalm 138:2 ; 145:2 ; Isa 25:1 ). That name, Yahweh, conveys the notion that God is present to act in salvation ( Exod 6:1-8 ).

The biblical examples of praise to God, apart from citing his attributes and role, point to God’s favors, usually those on a large scale in behalf of Israel. A hymn in the Isaiah collection exhorts, “Sing praise to the Lord for his glorious achievement” ( Isa 12:5 ; nab ). Exhortations to praise are sometimes followed by a catalogue of God’s actions in Israel’s behalf ( Neh 9:5 ; Psalm 68:4-14 ). God’s most spectacular action involves the incarnation of Jesus, an event heralded in praises by angels in the heavens and shepherds returning to their fields: “Glory to God in the highest” ( Luke 2:14 Luke 2:20 ). Praise is the legitimate response to God’s self-revelation. Personal experiences of God’s deliverance and favor also elicit praise ( Psalm 34 ; 102:18 ; 107 ; cf. Dan 2:20-23 ; Rom 7:25 ; the healed paralytic, Luke 5:25 ; Zechariah, Luke 1:68 ; the response at Nain, Luke 7:16 ; and Jesus himself, Matt 11:25 and her mother Mary Lk 1:46). An intimate relationship of a person or a people with God is sufficient reason for praise. A psalmist, captivated by the reality of God’s choice of Jacob, exhorts, “Sing praise” ( Psalm 135 ; cf. Rev 19:5 ).

Praise means “to commend, to applaud or magnify.” For the Christian, praise to God is an expression of worship, lifting-up and glorifying the Lord. It is an expression of humbling ourselves and centering our attention upon the Lord with heart-felt expressions of love, adoration and thanksgiving. High praises bring our spirit into a pinnacle of fellowship and intimacy between ourselves and God — it magnifies our awareness of our spiritual union with the most high God. Praise transports us into the realm of the supernatural and into the power of God. “Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O LORD, in the light of thy countenance” (Psalms 89:15).

There are many actions involved with praise to God — verbal expressions of adoration and thanksgiving, singing, playing instruments, shouting, dancing, lifting or clapping our hands. But true praise is not “merely” going through these motions. Jesus spoke about the hypocrisy of the pharisees, whose worship was only an outward show and not from the heart. “This people worship me with their mouth, and honor me with their lips; but their heart is far from me” (Matthew 15:8). Genuine praise to God is a matter of humility and sincere devotion to the Lord from within. Unpretentious praise and worship pleases the Lord. The true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeks such to worship him” (John 4:23).

Inspirational story about PRAISE.

An elderly lady was well-known for her faith and for her boldness in talking about it. She would stand on her front porch and shout “PRAISE THE LORD!”

Next door to her lived an atheist who would get so angry at her proclamations he would shout, “There ain’t no Lord!!”

Hard times set in on the elderly lady, and she prayed for GOD to send her some assistance. She stood on her porch and shouted “PRAISE THE LORD. GOD I NEED FOOD!! I AM HAVING A HARD TIME. PLEASE LORD, SEND ME SOME GROCERIES!!”

The next morning the lady went out on her porch and noted a large bag of groceries and shouted, “PRAISE THE LORD.”

The neighbor jumped from behind a bush and said, “Aha! I told you there was no Lord. I bought those groceries, God didn’t.”

The lady started jumping up and down and clapping her hands and said, “PRAISE THE LORD. He not only sent me groceries, but He made the devil pay for them. Praise the Lord!”

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy.” Ps. 103:2-4

 

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December 22, 2017: Insights on the SEVENTH DAY OF SIMBANG GABI

 

Mary, who, by her complete obedience and self-offering, pleased God all the days of her life, praised and thanked God for all the great things He has done for her and and because of this as she herself prophesied: “All generations will call me blessed.”

Mary gave flesh to God–
flesh to be visible to human eyes,
flesh to touch the leper’s sores.

Mary gave hands to God–
hands to bless the little children,
hands to break bread for the
hungry millions

Mary gave feet to God–
feet to walk among the sick,
feet to seek out the sinner.

Mary gave eyes to God–
eyes to weep at a friend’s grave,
eyes to look into the depths
of the human heart.

Jesus no longer walks in flesh
today; and if he to heal the sick,
and feed the hungry, it must be
through my hands and my feet.

What is one way I can give flesh
to God in our day?As Mary gave flesh to Jesus
in her day, so we must give flesh
to Jesus in our day.

And if we do as Mary did,
Jesus will walk our world once
more and make it new again.

 

Be Christ incarnate! Be bearers and reflections of Christ in the world! Be “another Christ” in the world! Be the light of Christ, who enlightens the whole world, as the light of the moon that reflects the light of the sun!

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December 21, 2017: Insights on the SIXTH DAY OF SIMBANG GABI

There’s more to Christmas than merry-making, that is, drinking, eating and having fun. There is more to Christmas than giving and receiving of gifts. Christmas is recognizing the coming, the visit, and our encounter with Jesus in every event, place, and people that come our way! Christmas is welcoming Jesus and what He stands for into our heart, into our lives. Christmas is giving a special place, a HOME for JESUS in our HEART and to the One who carries Jesus into our lives! This is what Elizabeth and John the Baptist who was still in her womb did when Mary, the “bearer of God” visits her cousin Elizabeth! “Carry the “HEART OF GOD” and the “GOD OF YOUR HEART” everywhere!”

God is waiting eternally to be born in each one of us – Meister Eckhart

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December 20, 2017: Reflection on the FIFTH DAY OF SIMBANG GABI

“God wills all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the fullness of truth” (1 Tim 2:3-4) – Jesus who is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). To fulfill this plan of salvation, God begins by giving his people a sign: “The Virgin is with child and bears a son and calls his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). This was fulfilled through the virginal conception and birth of Jesus as announced by angel Gabriel in today’s gospel that Mary will conceive and bear a son and name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins (see Lk 1:26-38). This messianic prophecy was fulfilled when Mary gave her YES TO GOD to become the mother of Jesus, who is the Immanuel which means “the God-with-us,” “God made man (John 1:14),” Lord and God (John 20:28)“in him the fullness of divinity dwells (Col 1:19),” “the Way, the Truth and the life(John 14:6),” our model and teacher of holiness.

“Jesus Christ is the central figure of the world’s history. The world cannot forget Him while it remembers history, for history is His story. To leave Him out would be like astronomy without stars, or like botany with the flowers forgotten. Horace Bushnell said, “It would be easier to untwist all the beams of light in the sky and to separate and erase one of the primary colors, than to get the character of Jesus out of the world.” The history of the race since it’s inception has been the history of the preparation for His coming. The Old Testament foretells His coming in type, symbol, and direct prophesy. The history of His people Israel is a story of expectation, of yearning, of preparation. The fact of Jesus Christ is not only firmly imbedded in human history and written upon the open page of Scripture, but is also experientially embodied in the lives of millions of believers and interwoven in the fabric of all civilization worthy of the name. …. You may have Confucianism without Confucius; Buddhism without Buddha; Islam without Muhammad; Mormonism without Joseph Smith; and Christian Science without Mary Baker Eddy. But you cannot have Christianity without Christ, for strictly speaking, Christianity is Christ, and Christ is Christianity. It is not primarily a religion, but a life; and the life is His life made living in men. “Christ in you, the hope of glory”.

Indeed, angel Gabriel was right when he, through his greeting, beautifully describes Mary “full of grace”, “the Lord is with you,” who with her “FIAT” or YES TO GOD became the “Theotokos” meaning the “Bearer of God,” the “Mother of God.”

“The way to salvation is the divine will: a royal way, entirely straight and sure, which leads to God. The one who follows it cannot be led astray. Hence, seek the will of God, nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else. Sanctity properly so-called consists in simple conformity to the Divine will expressed in the exact and constant fulfillment of the duties of one’s proper state. Seek, therefore, the will of God: nothing more, nothing less, nothing else” (Pope Benedict XV).

“Complete” obedience does not mean that we have never sinned by disobeying but that we have committed ourselves to obeying the Lord “in every aspect of (our) conduct” (see 1 Pt 1:15). We have decided on “complete coverage” in our obedience. We obey the Lord speaking through the Church, in the Bible, through the Pope, bishops, authorities, husbands, parents, and leaders. To do this, we have learned what the Bible says and what the Church and Pope teach. We obey the Lord in our relationships, sexuality, money, possessions, time, work, speaking, eating, sleeping, recreation, etc. There are no areas of our lives where we haven’t tried to know God’s will or where we don’t even think of obeying God. We are living lives of complete obedience (see 1 Pt 1:2). We’re not trapped into the selfish emptiness of doing our own thing. We live a life of love, for obedience is an essential way of expressing our love (see Jn 15:10; 1 Jn 5:3).

Like Mary’s FIAT, let us give our YES TO GOD who calls us to sanctification and salvation, who calls us to the life and mission of the church!

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Insight on December 17, 2017: Second Day of Simbang Gabi

 

The genealogy of Jesus teaches us that family tree will help us trace our roots and will give us interconnections with others in such a way that family and human relations are sustained, strengthened and enhanced.

Someone once said that three things remain in life: One is God. Two is family. Three is a friend. Human experience will tell us that God, family, and friends are always there with us in times of sorrow, pain, loneliness and emptiness. They always stay with us even when the world rejects and abandons us. When we have nothing to hold on when we have nothing to lean on, when we have no one to go to they are always there for us to lift us up, to help us and to welcome us.

Magic Johnson, the most popular NBA player, in the peak of his career, got infected with HIV virus. When the whole world knew about it, AIDS still carries in itself the moral stigma. It was not surprising, therefore, if he was, indeed, judged and condemned by the world because of it. When one reporter approached and asked him what he was planning to do then, he simply said, “I’ll go home and stay with my family. They will always take me in.”

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Insight on December 17, 2016: Second Day of Simbang Gabi

The genealogy of Jesus teaches us that family tree will help us trace our roots and will give us interconnections with others in such a way that family and human relations are sustained, strengthened and enhanced.

Someone once said that three things remain in life: One is God. Two is family. Three is a friend. Human experience will tell us that God, family, and friends are always there with us in times of sorrow, pain, loneliness and emptiness. They always stay with us even when the world rejects and abandons us. When we have nothing to hold on, when we have nothing to lean on, when we have no one to go to they are always there for us to lift us up, to help us and to welcome us.

Magic Johnson, the most popular NBA player, in the peak of his career, got infected with HIV virus. When the whole world knew about it, AIDS still carries in itself the moral stigma. It was not surprising, therefore, if he was, indeed, judged and condemned by the world because of it. When one reporter approached and asked him what he was planning to do then, he simply said, “I’ll go home and stay with my family. They will always take me in.”

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