Thursday, March 30, 2017

Miracles for our tough times

WE cannot deny that we are in very tough times. I am
referring more to the spiritual side of our life than to anything
else. Yes, there are a lot of difficulties in the other aspects, but
it’s in the spiritual and in the field of religion where the toughest
of conditions are met.

            There’s a lot of religious indifference around, affecting
the youth especially, caught in the web of pornography, drugs, etc.
Doctrinal errors, confusion and ignorance are increasing. Immoral
practices proliferate and seem to be the new normal. There’s even a
palpable drift toward hostility to anything that has to do with

            We know that it’s in the spiritual aspect where the very
core beliefs and attitudes of the people can be found. Once that is in
some kind of crisis, all the other dimensions of life would also be in

            And yet in spite of all these, there is still hope. It’s
precisely in these conditions that the greater power of God can be
shown. Yes, it’s the time for miracles. But we have to do our part.

            Like those episodes of the miracles in the gospel, we have
to be as determined as those characters in the gospel who found
themselves in some miserable and helpless state. We have to exert
utmost effort to go to God as soon as we can, without delay. If we
cannot do it ourselves, let us ask others to bring us to him.

            Remember the story of the woman sick for many years with a
haemorrhage. In spite of what she had to go through just to touch the
hem of Christ’s vestment, she just went ahead and got her cure.

            The lame, the paralytic, the blind also did their begging
in spite of unfavourable conditions just to get the attention of
Christ. And yes, they received their cure.

            When they cannot go to Christ himself, their friends
brought them to him. That was the case of the paralytic who was
brought to Christ in a pallet by his friends and even had to bore a
hole on roof for that. The same with Jairus, the synagogue ruler, who
begged for his daughter’s cure. The same with the Syrophoenician woman
who begged for her daughter’s cure.

            We need to do our part also before a miracle can happen.
Of course, Christ can also perform his miracles without being asked.
That was the case of the dead son of a widow. He just let the son rise
to life again when he saw the body carried away for burial. But
normally, we have to do our part, and in fact, to insist on it.

            “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you,” Christ clearly said.
Nothing is impossible with God. And he is always around and, in fact,
is always solicitous of our needs and actually intervening in our

            We should never lose hope. Let’s implore for miracles for
our very tough times.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Listening to the homily

PRIESTS, of course, should try their best to prepare and
deliver their homilies well, seeing to it that the word of God is
effectively transmitted and the loving encounter between Christ and
the people is facilitated. But the people themselves also have to know
how to listen because without the proper dispositions, they will miss
the point no matter how well the homily has been given.

            Christ himself must have referred to this concern when a
number of times, during the course of his preaching, he would conclude
by saying, “Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mt 11,15; Mk
4,9) I suppose he was asking the people to have faith in him, because
without it, his words would never sink in them.

            Christ himself, who is already the fullness of divine
revelation, had been misunderstood by many people and continues up to
now to suffer the same predicament.

            There were those who, lacking in faith in him,
consistently tried to find fault in his preaching. Even the apostles,
already very close to him, sometimes could not figure out what he
meant. That’s why they often asked him, “Explain the parable to us.”
(Mt 15,15)

            Obviously, part of the problem is that much of Christ’s
preaching, and therefore, a good part of our faith, contains mysteries
which are truths that go beyond the capacity of our senses and
intellect. Just the same, if one has faith, these mysteries offer no
problem in being accepted and believed.

            When we attend the Holy Mass and listen to the homily, we
have to make sure that our proper dispositions are in place. We are
not there to see or hear some theatrical or oratorical performance. We
are there to join in the sacrifice of Christ.

            At Mass, we step into another kind of reality, the reality
of the liturgy where through human ministers and natural things like
words, prayers and some materials like bread and wine, the presence of
Christ, his sacrifice of his life for our own sake, the whole
redemptive work of Christ take place.

            We certainly have to make adjustments in terms of attitude
and dispositions when we attend Mass and listen to the homily. That’s
why it’s highly recommended that we, the people, have to make due
preparation before attending Mass. We just do not go there as if the
Mass is one more event to attend during the day.

            We have to enliven our faith and piety, stir up our
consciousness to the fact that at Mass we will have a direct contact
with Christ, we become contemporaries of his especially as he offers
his life on the Cross in Calvary, and we are invited to make our own
sacrifice, uniting it with his.

            In this way, we can recognize the voice of Christ and the
proper spirit behind his words during the homily, regardless of how
the priests would mangle his words because of lack of preparation and
bad delivery. We would be moved to act on his words, to be doers also
and not just hearers of Christ’s word.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Study and prayer

“AN hour of study, for a modern apostle, is an hour of
prayer.” That’s what one saint, Opus Dei founder St. Josemaria
Escriva, said in one of his books. We have to acknowledge the divine
wisdom of these words and exert the effort to live by them.

            We should always be studying and learning, because our
human and Christian formation is actually an endless and lifelong
affair. In fact, it is a duty, because it is always a necessity for
us. There is always something to know, to understand better, etc.

            And we have to understand that our effort to study is
always an encounter with Christ, an offering to God, an act of faith,
hope and love. In this way, study is actually prayer. It should not
just be a technical exercise, with purely intellectual and practical
purposes only.

            The duty to take care of formation is coterminous with
life itself, which will always give us lessons. And that’s because the
basics and essentials, the absolute, old and the permanent truths,
which we may already know, will always have to cope and somehow need
to get enriched by the incidentals in life, by the relative,
innovative and changing things.

            This will always be the case in our earthly life. There
are things that will always remain the same and permanent, and things
that are changing in the course of time. And we need to adapt
ourselves to these new developments.

            Somehow we are reminded of this point in the second letter
of St. Peter where he urged us to go on with our formation: “Strive
diligently to supply your faith with virtue, your virtue with
knowledge, your knowledge with self-control, your self-control with
patience, your patience with piety, your piety with fraternal love,
your fraternal love with charity.” (1,5-7)

            And as we all know, charity is a never-ending affair, ever
making new demands on us, and introducing us to more aspects,
dimensions and challenges in life. It will always push us to do more,
to give more, to be more.

            Besides, given the rapid pace of developments in the world
today, can we think that we can afford to sit pretty and rely simply
on what we have learned so far? Not only that. If we realize more
deeply that our ultimate goal is communion with God and with others,
can we ever think that we already have enough formation to reach that

            We have to be wary of our tendency to be complacent and to
think that as far as our knowledge is concerned, we already know
enough. There’s nothing more to know. This tendency is usually more
pronounced in the elder ones and the more gifted people.

            Without noticing it, they can fall into playing the role
of the hare in that fable of the race between the hare and the
tortoise. The hare’s sense of superiority and overconfidence turned
out to be his own undoing, his own downfall.

            We should deepen our sense of humility such that we
understand that the more we know, we immediately realize that there
are more things that we still need to know.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Making a good homily

RIGHTLY or wrongly, people often gauge the value of the
Holy Mass by the quality of the homily they hear during that
celebration. Of course, this is a very subjective way of valuing the
Mass, and therefore should somehow be taken with a grain of salt. But
it should be reason enough for all priests to prepare and deliver
their homilies as best as they can.

            I have heard of people saying that they were willing to
make long trips just to hear the Mass of Fr. So-and-So who, to them,
gives good homilies. They consider the effort all worthwhile.

            There are many things that can go into what can be
considered a good homily. One is that it has to be short. It should
not be longer than the attention span of the people. A priest-friend
of mine mischievously told me once that he makes sure he would already
be done with his homily before the people start to sleep.

            A homily is not a speech, a lecture or a class. It should
have a friendly and serene tone that fosters the encounter between the
people and Christ. It is not showtime, with some sing-and-dance
sequence, or drama time with crying moments. But it should somehow be
something that feeds the mind and heart of the people. In short, their

            For this, they have to make sure that the homily is
immediately relevant to people’s lives. This will require a lot of
study and meditation of God’s word whose relevance never fades. This
will also require that we learn how to relate God’s word to our lives.
We really have to know as much as we can the lives and concerns of the

            With regard to this point, let’s remember what the Letter
to the Hebrews said: “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper
than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and
spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the
heart.” (4,12)

            In other words, God’s word will always be relevant and
effective in our needs. It is the most important word that we need to
be familiar with and, in fact, to make also as our own. It is
definitely much more important than what our philosophies, ideologies,
sciences and technologies can offer us.

            We should know how to make it alive in the homilies. This
is where the true mettle of the priests is truly tested. This is where
it can be shown whether the priest is truly close to both God and to
the people.

            The other thing that help priests make a good homily is
for them to get regular feedback from different kinds of people—the
young and the old, the classes A & B and the C and D, the
professionals, intellectuals and manual workers. Priests should
encourage people to make feedback.

            The feedback can be on the content of the homily, its
relevance, the manner and tone of the delivery, etc. Priests should be
humble enough to consider the feedback seriously.