S e n t i r e C u m E c c l e s i a

"To keep ourselves right in all things, we ought to hold fast to this principle: What seems to me to be white, I will believe to be black if the hierarchical Church thus determines it. For we believe that between Christ our Lord, the Bridegroom, and the Church, His Spouse, there is the one same Spirit who governs and guides us for the salvation of our souls..." - Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius [365]

Saturday, March 25, 2006

When I am lifted up, I will draw all men to Myself

The crucifix above is what we Jesuits call as the "Vow cross" (compliments from www.jesuits.ph). Each Jesuit who professes his perpetual first Vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience in the Society of Jesus receives this cross as a reminder of his lifelong commitment to God and to His Church.

My vow cross was the first picture that came into my mind when I read the Gospel passage of today, the Fourth Sunday of Lent. My attention was drawn to the crucified Christ when I encountered the line "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him might have life eternal" (John 3: 14-15). This reflection brought me further to the scripture passage where Jesus said that "when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to Myself." This, I believe, is the essence of today's Liturgy.

We are reminded by the Church in this season of Lent of our many sins -- both of commision and omission -- and we are drawn towards contrition. We are faced with the reality that we are doomed to damnation because of our many failings. But God, in His generoisty and mercy, did not allow this to happen. He sent His only begotten Son, that whoever may believe in Him will not die, but will gain life eternal. And I am convinced this is the message for us today.

So as we continue with our discipline of Lent, let us beg the Lord to grant us the grace of deep love and appreciation for the great Gift of Jesus, and for the salvation he brings in our lives. It is only in Jesus that we find life and redemption.

a very simple tip and food for thought:
If you have the chance, gaze at the crucified body of Jesus hanging on the cross. In the sincereity of your hearts, whisper to Him your gratitude and love. HE LOVES YOU -- it took Him his whole self, His whole life to prove this to you...

Friday, March 24, 2006

Salvation is at hand!

Today is the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord's Birth (March 25th). We recall today the moment when the angel Gabriel was sent by God to the Virgin Mary to announce to her that she will become the Mother of Jesus. And the readings of today speak so well about the importance of this Solemnity in our lives as Christians. We are being reminded by the Church that although sin entered the world through a man (Adam), salvation also came into the world through one Man -- Christ Jesus -- both human and divine.

And Jesus was brought forth into the world through Mary. It was through Mary that Jesus took the human form of flesh and blood, the flesh that he will offer to the Father and the blood that he will pour out on the Cross for the salvation of humanity. It is important then to appreciate the role of our Lady in the economy of salvation -- the Virgin that brought God forth into the world.

So as we celebrate this wonderful solemnity, it might be helful if we ask ourselves "who are the 'Maries' (Mary) of our lives who bring forth good news and life to us?" And let us thank the Lord for sending such wonderful persons in our lives.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

The Saintly Gentleman

Today, the Universal Church celebrates the Solemnity of St. Joseph, the Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary. St. Joseph had many titles:
- Most Chaste Spouse of Mary
- Patron of the Universal Church
- Patron of a Happy Death
- Guardian & Protector of Virgins
Throughout the history of Catholicism, the devotion to St. Joseph had been very much alive. Though we know very little of St. Joseph if we base it on Sacred Scriptures (he was indeed a very silent man!), but he remains an important figure in the life of Christ. It was he who reared Jesus to become a good and devout Jew (with Mary, of course), he taught Jesus the skillful trade of carpentry, and he formed Jesus to become a true gentleman.
I personally have a touching experience of St. Joseph when I did my 30 days of Spiritual Exercises as a Jesuit Novice. It was during the Second Week of the Exercises, the part wherein our attention is focused on the hidden life and public ministry of Jesus that I got to appreciate the role of St. Joseph in Jesus' life, and ultimately, in my life as a Christian as well. I realized that if there was any man in this world who got so close, so intimate to the person of Jesus, if there was any man who was able to press his chest to that of Christ, if there was any man who spent a lot of time with Jesus, it must be St. Joseph. Being the foster father of the Lord and the protector of the holy family, St. Joseph knew Christ so well.
So as we celebrate this great Solemnity, let us ask St. Joseph to bring us closer to the person of Jesus. That in the final analysis, as we honor him, may we aquire his attributes -- poverty, simplicity, and chastity.
I found a very nice prayer to st. Joseph and I wish to share it with you...

Oh, St. Joseph,
whose protection is so great, so prompt, so strong,
before the throne of God,
I place in you all my interests and desires.
Oh, St. Joseph,
do assist me by your powerful intercession,
and obtain for me from your Divine Son
all spiritual blessings, through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
So that, having engaged here below your heavenly power,
I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most Loving of Fathers.
Oh, St. Joseph,
I never weary contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms;
I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart.
Press Him in my name and kiss His fine Head for me and
Ask Him to return the Kiss when I draw my dying breath.
St. Joseph, Patron of departed souls - pray for me.

St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church,
pray for us.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

How Lovely is Your Dwelling Place...

This Third Sunday of Lent, the Church presents to us the Gospel passage of Jesus cleansing the temple. In all of the Gospels, Jesus was only portrayed as furious in this account. Perhaps we can ask ourselves what could have driven Jesus to such fury. Jesus was furious simply because the people made His Father's house a den of thieves; they have turned it into a marketplace (John 2:16). The temple, a sacred place, has now become a place of vipers. Respect and love are no longer shown and extended to the temple.

Bringing it into our context, Jesus will have the same reaction if he were here this very moment. He will be furious no longer for the physical temple, but for the spiritual temple -- our very selves. Many a times we have allowed ourselves to become a "place of vipers;" many times we have enslaved our very sacred bodies to sin. The Church teaches us that our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit, God's lovely dwelling place. But have we really exerted all effort to preserve the sanctity of our bodies? Or do we easily give in to the sins of the flesh?

So as we enter more deeply into the season of Lent, we can ask ourselves whether we do sanctify or desecrate our bodies, the temples of Jesus' Spirit. Lent is the right time for us to look back, reflect, and repent. If there is one invitation that Jesus would wish to extend to us, it is repentance -- contrite and sincere. Perhaps you are invited to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation (confession) and receive the forgiveness of God...

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Saint with a Clover Leaf

Today, The Universal Church celebrates the memory of St. Patrick, the Patron of Ireland. Legend has it that while he was preaching about God and about the Catholic faith, he was asked to explain in a very concise way his God, the Triune God, can be possible. It was then that St. Patrick exuded his wisdom and brotherly affection. Very gently, he stopped down and picked a clover leaf. Showing the clover, he then asked those who questioned him how many leaves are there and they responded three. Subtly he continued by saying that there are indeed three leaves but... he asked further, how many cloversa am i holding? They then simply replied only one. It was then that St. Patrick explained in a very simle yet powerful way the mystery of the Trinity. He said, "In the same manner that there are three leaves but one clover... there are three persons -- Father, Son, and Spirit -- in One God.

So as we remember St. Patrick, let us thank the Lord for the gift of faith. The faith shared, explained, and defended by St. Patrick.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

The most famous Prayer of St. Patrick

“Christ shield me this day: Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every person who thinks of me, Christ in the eye that sees me, Christ in the ear that hears me.”

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Make Us More like Yourself...

We listen to the account of Jesus' transfiguration at Mt. Tabor as witnessed by the apostles Peter, James, and John. And in the Gospel account, our focus is directed towards the transfigured Christ -- glistening and shining, as it were. Christ was in a way glorified by His heavenly Father.

I think it is no accident that the Church directs our attention to that in this Second Sunday of Lent. The Church, I believe, is inviting us to follow what the apostles did at Mt. Tabor -- to gaze at the transfigured Jesus. In a way, the Church invites us during this season of Lent to contemplate on the very person of Christ.

It is indeed very difficult and very challenging to contemplate Christ's person because once we do that, we are illumined to accept the fact that we are very different from Him. We become more aware of the hatred, violence, malice, and impurity that are deeply rooted in our persons. We begin to see how wounded, how fragile, how frail we all are. But I guess this is the challenge of Lent. To focus on the person of Jesus, His attributes, His attitudes vis-a-vis our attitudes and disposition in life.

So as we enter more deeply into this holy season, Let us beg the Lord for the grace of transformation. That like Jesus, we may be transfigured too, into persons very much like Him. That we may truly reflect Him to every person we meet. That in the final analysis, we become alter Christus in the world, true to our Christian identity.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Harvest is Plenty but... the Laborers are few... Beg then the Master to send more Laborers to the Harvest

The Jesuit Vocations Promotions Office wishes to invite young men -- graduating higschool students, college students, and young professionals -- to a day of discernment and prayer.

If you feel that something is seemingly lacking in your life right now...
If you feel that you are called towards something "bigger than the world"...
If you feel you are invited to live a life of true service...
If you feel that your happiness is somehow incomplete...
If you feel that you have a lot of questions in your life about your future...

Then, we invite you to come for a Vocation and Discernment Seminar on March 12, 2006, from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM at The Garage Bldg., Jesuit Communications Foundation, Ateneo de Manila University Campus. This seminar is absolutely free! (gratis et amorem)

Join us in seeking the Lord's Will in our lives. Hear the Stories of men who, like you, had many questions and uncertainties in life, yet found the ultimate answer.

For more information about Vocation and Discernment, you may contact the Jesuit Vocations Promoters at Tel. No. (02)426-6101 or e-mail us at heswita@jesuits.net or rjorbeta@jesuits.net

God bless you and we hope to see you.

Know that the Jesuits are praying for you...
and for countless other young men like you...

Monday, March 06, 2006

Congratulations... Msgr. Ledesma, S.J.

The Society of Jesus in the Philippines rejoices with the Philippine Church as the Holy Father Benedict XVI appointed the Most Reverend Antonio J. Ledesma, S.J. as the new Metropolitan Archbishop of Cagayan de Oro. The appointment was made known by the outgoing Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines, Archbishop Antonio Franco on March 4, 2006.

Archbishop Ledesma, before this appointment, was the Bishop Prelate of the Prelature of Ipil.

Our felicitations to the Church of Cagayan de Oro as they receive their new Shepherd.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Put us not into the test...

In this first Sunday of Advent, the Church presents to us the Gospel passage that speaks about the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. Jesus, before formally beginning his public ministry, went to the desert to pray. And it was in the desert that Satan tempted Jesus.

This scripture passage speaks very well of our times. If we just open our eyes to the "world" that we belong to, temptation is everywhere. This prompted the late Pope Paul VI to say that "The greatest temptation in the world now is not to call sin, SIN." The experience of Jesus is very much our experience.

  • Turn this stone into bread. We are beset with a lot of temptations that has to do with the senses, with satisfying the senses. The world teaches us to indulge to give in to our unsatiable hungers -- the cravings of the stomach and the body's cravings for sexual pleasures.
  • Worship me and I will entrust to you the kingdoms of this world. We are lured by the world, in all its sense of materialism and secularism, that what really matters in life is power -- material, physical, economic, and social. And given our despicable situation of poverty, most of us give in to this temptation.
  • Drop yourself and allow God to save you. I guess that the greatest temptation that beset us is the tendency to leave to God everything and not doing our part. The false spirituality of entrusting to God everything while we wallow in hopelessness and despair. Unfortunately, many of our Catholic brethren fall into this trap of the devil.
The Church reminds us of these temptations and encourage us to go against them. That's why in this holy season of Lent, the Church has asked us to counter these temptations through three "gems:"
  1. Prayer -- to go against the temptations of the spirit
  2. Sacrifice to counter the temptations of the flesh
  3. Good Works -- to remind us that we should not only think of ourselves, but think of others as well
let us ask our Lord, that as we enter more deeply into this holy season, he may deliver us from all temptations... and live holy lives.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

"Good Samaritans" Among Us...

This morning I went to the City of Manila to do Vocations Promotions work for the Jesuits in the universities in the area as well as in the parishes in the vicinity. I must admit that I was apprehensive in going there alone since I'm not from Manila and it was basically my first time to go there...alone!

But my work was made a lot easier by the total strangers who helped me find my way to go to one place to the next. I believe they deserve to be mentioned. two middle-aged men helped me find my way to the St. Lorenzo Ruiz Catholic Center from the train station. Two female college students gave me directions on how to go to the De La Salle University from the Philippine General Hospital. A middle-aged lady helped me find my way to go to the Manila Cathedral from Taft Ave. And a student of Lyceum of the Philippines, Risa, generously brought me to the jeepney station on my way to the train station.

I must admit that the day was a great blessing from the Lord. It made me see the reality that by myself I can do nothing. I can only do things with God's grace... being manifested in and through people... and in my case, through total strangers.

And I believe this is the message of the season of Lent for me, and perhaps, to the rest of us. An invitation to allow God to be God in our lives. The challenge to permit our very selves to be "wowed" by the God of wonder!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

From Dust... Unto Dust

"Remember, Man, you are dust, and unto dust you shall return."

This is one of the formula that the minister may choose to use upon imposing ashes on the faithful's forehead. This tradition of putting ashes on one's forehead dates back to the tenth century. Ash Wednesday, as it is commonly called, starts the Catholic Church's Season of Lent.

It is quite interesting that a Jesuit priest I had breakfast with this morning shared that during his homily, he stressed this phrase: from "abu" (Filipino for ash) to "Abu" (connotes Father). I was struck by that phrase. For me that line sums up the whole significance of the season of Lent; the phrase perfectly summarizes the Christian Life. Indeed, we are "dust", we are nothing for we came from nothing. Yet, in our belief in the God who loves us, even if we are nothing, no matter how sinful and frail we are, WE ARE LOVED. I believe this is the deeper meaning of the ashes that we bear on our foreheads this very day. That God, in his immense love and concern for us, sent us Jesus, His very Son, to dwell with us, to save us, to give us the status of being "adopted sons and daughters" of our Father in Heaven.

So as we enter into this solemn season of Lent, as we try to recall and relive the paschal mystery of Christ's suffering, death, and resurrection, may we be filled with the Holy Spirit to really thank God the father for Jesus. In Jesus, I, a person who is from "dust" -- worthless, ordinary, banal, am made holy and acceptable to God. As we continue with the routines of our day, may the ashes on our foreheads remind us that we are a CHRISTIAN people -- without Christ, I Am Nothing. Only in Christ can I find solace and salvation. Amen.