Sunday, January 31, 2016

What I learned from the IEC

YOU think that as a priest I already know everything about
the Eucharist? The answer is a big, flat No. Even if I must confess
that I know quite a bit about it, and already have an extensive
experience related to this most sublime sacrament, I realize that what
the Catechism says about the “inexhaustible richness” of the Eucharist
cannot be any truer.

            I found myself feeling like one with a zero-knowledge
everytime I attended a session during the Congress. I was like a
desert experiencing for the first time the refreshing blessing of a

            I had the clear impression that the Holy Eucharist would
engage me in a lifelong process of getting to know, appreciate and
live it better and better everyday. During the Congress, I was aware
of many new insights coming in, like seeds just sown. Hopefully in
time, these would grow and bear much fruit.

            It started right at the opening Mass celebrated by no less
than the Papal Legate, the Burmese Cardinal Maung Bo. He set the tone
for the weeklong event. It was about having a greater sensitivity to
the social dimension of the Eucharist, something that many people fail
to realize

            That was the theme or the spirit that was consistently
built up in every talk, session or workshop. To be sure, it was a
theme that had as its proper roots in the deep realization that the
Eucharist is the most central part of a Christian’s life, and its
celebration has to be as best as possible humanly, liturgically,
culturally speaking, etc.

            In other words, the social dimension should be the organic
outgrowth of our faith in the centrality of the Eucharist in our life
and its most solemn celebration. As the Papal Legate put it, the
celebration has to turn into a commitment.

            The Eucharistic celebration should not just be an
hour-long ceremony. It has to be an abiding, lifelong celebration. The
celebration should not be understood solely as something purely
liturgical, done in some church, sanctuary or holy place.

            We need to understand that the Eucharistic celebration has
to extend to all parts of the day and to all aspects of our life,
whether spiritual or material, sacred or mundane. In other words,
there’s nothing in our life that cannot and should not be related to
the Eucharist.

            The whole day, our whole life should be some kind of a
Mass that, of course, should be rooted on its liturgical celebration.
But the liturgical celebration would somehow be nullified, its
tremendous effects practically wasted, if we fail to take advantage of
its power to purify and transform us individually and socially,
spiritually and materially, etc.

            With the Eucharist, we are already given everything by our
Creator, Savior and Sanctifier to be what we ought to be, again
individually and socially, spiritually and materially, etc.

            We need to draw the endless implications of that reality
about the Eucharist. For example, how should the Eucharist affect our
life of prayer, of sacrifice, of continuing formation? What should it
do with regard to our family life, our work, our business and
politics, our culture?

            How should it shape and develop our relations with others?
Does it lead us to involve ourselves increasingly in the big issues of
the world, or does it only restrict us to certain issues without
relating them to the other burning issues of the day, like climate
change, technological challenges, terrorism and the ever present
problems of poverty, inequality and injustice, terrorism, etc.?

            The IEC has given me a richer appreciation of the
intricacies of evangelizing the secular world today. I believe I saw
glimpses of the nuances of the art of proclaiming the gospel while
engaging in a continuing dialogue with all kinds of people in
different human situations and predicaments.

            The IEC somehow has given me a deeper impulse to be most
discerning of the different spirits behind all kinds of developments
in our life. There are true spirits and deceptive ones, the spirit of
God that is always shown with humility, and the spirit of devil that
tries to seduce us with giving us appearances of truth and goodness
packaged beautifully with sound bites, hype and other worldly allure
and charm.

            The latter spirit seems to be getting rampant nowadays as
a good number of spiritual leaders today have the tremendous capacity
to mesmerize people with their speaking skills and other talents,
while their actual life is a mess.

            Just the same, the IEC has clearly convinced me that while
sin may abound, God’s grace abounds much more. There’s always hope, my

The imperative to love everyone first

IN our relation with others, we need to remember that the
first initiative should come from us, and that initiative should be
that of love. We have to love everyone first before we can expect
others to love us in return. Or even when we are not loved in return,
the imperative remains to take the initiative to love everyone first.

            We don’t have to wait for others to prove that they
deserve to be loved before loving them. The fact that they are around,
that they exist is reason enough for us to love them. All other
considerations are secondary. Otherwise, that love is a bogus kind of

            This has been the example of God as well as the
commandment Christ himself gave us. In the first letter of St. John,
there is a beautiful passage that confirms this point clearly. “We
love, because he (God) first loved us.” (4,19)

            That’s true. Our capacity to love others springs from
God’s love for us. And the way God loves us should also be the same
way we love everybody else. If God loves us first, we ought to love
others first also.

            God loves us first because he created us even if there
absolutely was no need for him to do that. God loves us first because
even if we sinned and continue to abuse his goodness, he took the
initiative to redeem us, even going all the way to send us his Son who
assumed our human nature with all its weaknesses and sinfulness
without committing sin.

            St. Paul expresses this point very beautifully. “God shows
his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”
(Rom 5,8) And even more vividly, St. Paul describes how Christ loves
us. “He (God) made Him (Christ) who knew no sin to be sin on our
behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2
Cor 5,21)

            This is the kind of love we have to give to one another,
rid of any ulterior motive, fully and freely given without condition.
It’s a love that fits us for the dignity God has given us, that of
being his image and likeness, that of being his children in his Son
who became man, Jesus Christ.

            Difficult? You bet. Impossible? That’s another story. With
God, and always with him, the impossible becomes possible. It is even
commanded. We just have to do the little part that falls on us in this
kind of relationship we ought to have with God and with everybody

            We have to learn how to rein in our emotions and passions,
and more importantly, our spiritual faculties of intelligence and
will, so they follow the impulses of God’s grace that goes together
with his gifts of faith, hope and charity.

            If we are simple and humble enough to accept and live out
this tremendous truth of our faith, then it should not be difficult to
love others first even if we are not loved in return.

            While it’s true that we will always be conditioned by
various human factors, giving rise to different and even conflicting
preferences, etc., we will always be able, with God’s grace, to
transcend them so we can love others the way God loves us.

            Christ himself said so: “A new commandment I give you,
that you love one another. As I have loved you, that you also love one
another.” (Jn 13,34)

            We have to learn how to be detached from our preferences
even if we continue to have them, which is unavoidable. In fact, those
preferences also serve a good purpose in one’s personal life but also
in the life of society. Thus, it’s good to develop and keep a vibrant
sporting spirit in life.

            This detachment would not compromise our capacity to see
things objectively. On the contrary, it enhances all our faculties and
powers. And all our human concerns would be better pursued.

            It does not compromise, for example, our concern for
justice nor for prudence, etc.  In fact, it would put all our human
faculties and powers in their right places, their functions
facilitated, not impaired.

            There would be more integrity in our own personal and
individual lives, as well as more unity and harmony in our social
life. We would know how to rise above our differences and work
together for the common good.

            We need to train ourselves to take the initiative to love
others first, first of all by closely following Christ, and
disciplining ourselves accordingly.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Eucharist, catholicity, universality

ANOTHER lesson made clear to me during the IEC is that the
Eucharist can well be the very test and proof of our catholicity and
universality. It’s in that sacrament where the universal mind and
heart is required as well as developed.

            And that’s simply because the Eucharist represents the
very mind and heart of Christ who gave us the new commandment that
summarizes and perfects all the previous commandments: “You love one
another as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (Jn

            It’s a love that covers everyone, including our enemies,
the unlovable, the sinners, offenders, those who are wrong in a human
issue and all others who are so different from us that for one reason
or another we may not be able to love or like.

            These can include those who persecute us, who terrorize
us, who kill us. These can include those who attack the Church and its
teaching. We have to learn to love them the way Christ loves them, all
the way to offering our life for them, for as Christ himself said, “No
greater love has one than he who offers his life for his friend.”

            In fact, one sure sign our loving is authentic is when we
are willing to adapt ourselves to them without compromising our
Christian identity. Otherwise, our love is fake, no matter how
fervently we profess it. Our love gets spoiled and deteriorates into

            Remember what our Lord said about this point. “If you love
them that love you, what reward shall you have? Do not even the
publicans do this?” (Mt 5,46)

            Thus, our Lord explicitly said that we have to love our
enemies, to do good to them that hate us and pray for those who
persecute and calumniate us. This is how we are going to be identified
as children of God who makes his sun to rise upon the good and bad,
the rain on the just and the unjust.

            Love, whose seat today is the Eucharist, involves by
definition all we have and is given without measure or calculation.
This essence of love is what breaks us loose from our limited human
condition to make our world universal, not entangled in some
parochial, partisan or isolationist grip.

            Eucharistic love matures and perfects us. It checks on our
tendency to be self-seeking and self-absorbed so as to be “all things
to all men.” (1 Cor 9,22) It brings us not only to others, but rather
to God himself, identifying us with him, for “God is love.”

            This love is what properly measures out our true dignity
and value as persons and children of God. It’s not just some wisdom or
knowledge or talents and any human power, though all these are
instruments and tools of love.

            It’s high time that we understand the need for true love,
the love of Christ in the Eucharist, to give ourselves a universal
heart. It’s not the sciences, the philosophies and the ideologies, no
matter how good and useful they are, that can accomplish this. These
can only be at best love’s tools.

            We have to disabuse ourselves from this mentality that,
sadly, is constantly nourished and reinforced by some pagan thinking
that’s dominating our world today.

            We have to go beyond them. That’s why there’s a need to
develop the appropriate attitudes and virtues, all done in the context
of God’s grace, for nothing succeeds without God’s grace.

            We have to learn to be patient, and to be “rich in mercy
and slow to anger.” We have to know how to take on different and even
conflicting positions in human issues without undermining our love for
one another.

            This surely means we have to learn how to discipline our
feelings and passions, knowing when to talk and when not. We have to
learn how to convert difficult, humiliating moments into moments of
graciousness and magnanimity.

            We have to avoid bearing grudges or worse, nurturing
animosities. Let’s remember that whatever happens, we are all men and
women, children of God, who are obliged to love one another.

            We have to learn how to be positive, encouraging and
optimistic in our tack to problems instead of sinking into pessimism
and hostility. We can never overdo in our efforts to learn the finer
details of tact and diplomacy. We should try our best to understand
others well, to put ourselves in their feet, to know where they are
coming from, etc.

            Given the present world’s rush to specialized knowledge
that inevitably generates divisions, we have to double up our efforts
to cultivate this universal Eucharistic heart.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Through us the Eucharist dialogues with the world

 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten
Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have
everlasting life.” (Jn 3,16)

            With these words, we are given an idea of how God feels
about the world, estranged from him because of our sin. He is not
definitively mad at it. Rather because of its sinfulness, He sends his
Son to save it, and so the Son cannot help but engage the world in a
constant dialogue, an abiding relationship.

            This relationship has to be an ongoing affair, since the
world continues to evolve, though in a manner that is within the
nature God himself gave it. The obvious purpose is to infuse the
redemptive Christian spirit to it. What takes place is therefore a
dialogue that helps the world to evolve in a homogeneous manner, not

            And since Christ remains with us alive and active in the
most excellent way in the Holy Eucharist, we have to understand that
this Christian dialogue with the world has to revolve around the Holy
Eucharist. It cannot and should not be done outside of the Eucharist
that is also described as the “sum and summary of our faith.”

            But we also need to realize that this dialogue involves
all of us, the believers and disciples of Christ, because this time
the continuing interventions of Christ in world affairs are done
together with his mystical Body, the Church, and that is us.

            Here we can already detect the need for us to be truly
Eucharistic souls, firm believers not only in the real presence of
Christ in the Holy Eucharist, but also of his continuing involvement
in world affairs.

            It’s this spirituality of the Eucharist that will help us
have a true concern for the world, knowing what is really important
and necessary in orienting the world to its proper end, without
getting lost in its many peripheral albeit instrumental issues.

            It’s this spirituality of the Eucharist that will make us
more sensitive and attentive to Christ’s words of commissioning his
apostles: “Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every
creature.” (Mk 16,15)

            It’s this spirituality of the Eucharist that will give us
an idea of how to enter into dialogue with the world, what and how to
preach and engage the world in a meaningful conversation, and how to
be open-minded, tolerant, versatile but not confused and lost.

            It’s this spirituality of the Eucharist that will impart
in us that proper sense of prudence and discretion, which has nothing
to do with cowardice and human respect, and is very much compatible
with the need for boldness to speak the word of God in season and out
of season.

            It’s this spirituality of the Eucharist that will endow us
with the “gift of tongue,” giving us that proper sense of what to say
at what time and place and with due consideration of many other
relevant circumstances. It’s what makes the dialogue cordial and
respectful even in the midst of some conflicting views.

            Are we aware, at least, of these responsibilities? Are we
making ourselves ready for this duty? Do we know what exactly are
involved in preparing ourselves for this continuing Christian dialogue
with the world?

            There’s obvious need to raise the awareness of everyone
about this dimension of our Christian life. What programs and
strategies are crafted for this purpose? What means are used to
measure in some way any progress or development in this regard?

            Do we have clear ideas and guidelines as to what attitudes
and skills are relevant to be inculcated among the different sectors
of society? Are we providing occasions and opportunities for people to
develop these proper attitudes and skills?

            Do we have an effective way of keeping a running account
and inventory of the relevant issues to be tackled? Are there
appropriate offices and structures with proper authority and
competence to handle these issues?

            We need to remember that Christ in the Eucharist, and that
means us also, wants to get involved in every human issue, situation,
challenge, etc., giving them their proper perspective and meaning.
There is nothing in our life where Christ is irrelevant.

            We need to bring Christ to all spheres and aspects of the
world—business, politics, culture and social life, the sciences and
the arts, the technologies, the world of economics and finance,
religions, ideologies and philosophies.

            Christ wants to reach out to everyone, including those who
prefer to be outliers, detached from any human system, or are forced
by circumstance to be marginalized.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Eucharist should sharpen our apostolic sense

IF we truly have faith and love in the Holy Eucharist, if
we are truly Eucharistic souls, then we cannot help but be intensely
and abidingly apostolic souls as well.

            In fact, we need to be most zealous in our apostolate,
since it actually is a duty incumbent on all Christian believers to
have and to keep burning all throughout their lives, making use of all
the situations and circumstances we may find themselves in.

            Everytime we hear Mass, receive Holy Communion or visit
the Blessed Sacrament, we should remember those final and most
heart-felt words of Christ to his apostles: “Go into all the world and
preach the gospel to the whole creation…” (Mk 16,15)

            These words clearly indicate how Christ wants his work of
redemption to continue. This time it will be carried out as a joint
effort between him and us. While we are first of all the object of his
redemptive work, we also become the subject of such work with him.

            That’s because Christ looks and treats us as he treats
himself, since we are the image and likeness of God, children of his.
His concerns and work become ours too.

            But let’s always remember that this duty to do apostolate
can be done only if we are vitally united with Christ with a unity
that has its best form or highest degree here on earth in the Holy

            Without that unity that is akin to that of the branches to
the vine, we would just be on our own, alive and vibrant for a while,
propped by some highly perishable things, but sooner or later will
just collapse.

            This commissioning of the apostles that is also applicable
to us reflects Christ’s burning desire that his work of redemption has
to go on till the end of time. His salvific work just cannot be made a
part of the past. It has to continue, for that in fact comprises the
ultimate goal for all of us, believers. We are not meant only to have
an earthly goal, but one that transcends time and space.

            This is what the IEC is trying to show in stressing the
social dimensions of the Eucharist. It is about doing apostolate which
should come as an organic outgrowth of our spiritual life, our
Eucharistic life. If we don’t feel this impulse to do apostolate, we
can suspect that all our apparently fervent profession of faith and
love for the Eucharist is largely a sentimental affair, or just some
hot air.

            Doing apostolate is the very concrete expression of how to
tackle the social dimensions of the Eucharist. It involves many
things. We need to be rooted in Christ through prayer, sacrifice,
development of virtues, recourse to the sacraments, study of the
doctrine, etc.

            We need to come up with some daily personal apostolic plan
that should cover all the possibilities of doing apostolate, first of
all in our immediate environment and then radiating to farther and
wider circles. Of course, this has to consider our personal conditions
and circumstances.

            Basically, the personal apostolate has to be grounded on
the spirit of true friendship and confidence. So, a lot of time has to
be spent getting directly in touch with friends, as well as developing
true social virtues to keep that friendship going—like affability,
openness, warmth, loyalty, etc. In other words, we should try to be
“all things to all men,” as St. Paul once said.

            We have to be well versed with the doctrine of our faith,
going all the way to mastering the Church’s social doctrine, so
relevant in tackling the big issues of the day, so that our apostolate
is substantive and effective.

            In our apostolic plan, we have to follow a certain order
and hierarchy of priorities, given the different considerations that
we have to make. While we have to make sure that our apostolate has a
universal orientation, we need to give due attention to the different
distinctions in human life—the spiritual and material, the eternal and
temporal, the sacred and mundane, the mainstream and marginalized.

            It would be good that some continuing program of apostolic
formation be developed, sustained and improved by appropriate
entities. This is actually an urgent matter that has been taken for
granted for a long time already. It now demands immediate attention
and action.

            Again, we should not forget that all the impulses we need
to pursue these objectives spring from our intimate contact with
Christ, especially in the Holy Eucharist. May the Eucharist inflame us
with apostolic zeal! We should feel deeply responsible for one

Monday, January 25, 2016

The mystery of the Eucharist

WE have to learn how to live with mysteries in life. They
are unavoidable. Even in the natural sphere, there are things that we
can already regard as mysteries. Much more so when we consider the
spiritual and supernatural spheres of our life.

            A mystery is, first of all, a truth, a real thing, and not
a fiction, a figment of our imagination. But it’s a truth that is so
rich that the human mind finds it hard if not impossible to fully
understand. Just the same, it has elements that would make it
recognizable and believable by us.

            It’s like the sun whose light is so bright that we cannot
look directly at it without destroying our eyes. But we never doubt
about its existence. In fact, we are most thankful for the many
benefits it gives us.

            The Eucharist is one such mystery. There we are told that
Christ is present, not in a merely symbolic way but in a real way. We
believe this because of the gift of faith that God himself gives us in

            If we are at least receptive to this gift of faith, we can
readily acknowledge the truth of the mystery of the Holy Eucharist.
But our appreciation of this mystery grows to the extent that we
exercise our faith that in turn also relies on the exercise of trust
in God’s word which is the gift of hope, and the fervor of our
charity, another God-given gift and the most important.

            The mystery of the Eucharist should elicit in us
sentiments of awe and amazement, not indifference and
over-familiarity. Our sins and unworthiness should be no problem,
since the law of magnetism applies here—unlike poles attract each

            We should never forget what Christ himself said: “They
that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick:
I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Mk

            Thus, we have to be most careful when we think we are
already good or saintly enough. If we are truly pursuing sanctity, we
should feel all the more humble and in need of God the more progress
we achieve in our sanctification.

            In the Eucharist, we have Christ both hidden and revealed
in his fullness, a most paradoxical phenomenon that is typical of God
and of all mysteries. It’s up to us which aspect of the mystery we
prefer to give more attention to—his hiddenness or his revelatory

            Or we can try to consider both aspects more or less at the
same time in some dynamics where these two aspects are mutually
interacting and perpetually developing.

            His hiddenness will arouse more faith and trust in God and
will help us to purify our intentions and attitude toward Christ.
Remember that Christ, though aware of his mission for the whole world,
was not all too eager to be known by all in just any manner,
especially when he would be viewed as some kind of earthly king, hero
or celebrity.

            He escaped from that possibility with all his might. He
did not like to be known merely as a miracle-worker. He wanted to be
known as God our savior, and that could only be achieved through his
passion, death and resurrection, made into the sacrament of the Holy
Eucharist. Before this took place, he knew how to be discreet in his
utterances and behavior even as he presented himself as the Son of
God, the Son of Man.

            The revelatory aspect of the Eucharist should fill us with
joy, praises and thanksgiving. We cannot have anything better than the
Eucharist in this life. In the Eucharist we have all that we need.

            The Eucharist is the sum and summary of our faith. As the
Catechism tells us, “Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist,
and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking." (1327) We
ought to have a Eucharistic mind and heart.

            Yes, the Eucharist is the greatest treasure we can have
since with it we have no one less than Christ himself, God himself who
became man to save us, and who wants to be with us in our earthly

            Our marvel should know no end as we consider God who
appears to us like a simple bread, God who is willing to take on all
our human weaknesses and sins just to save us. This is the divine
madness of love that should take our breath away. We should be moved
most deeply by this realization. Its celebration should strengthen our
commitment of love.