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]

Friday, September 28, 2007

Sanlibo mang Buhay...

We celebrate today the Memorial of San Lorenzo Ruiz de Manila and companions, Martyrs of the Faith in Japan. As we all know, San Lorenzo is the first ever Filipino to be beatified and then canonized a saint. We also know his story: he went to Japan with some Dominican Missionaries to propagate the Faith there. But for Lorenzo, it was tainted with the desire to flee Manila for he was accused of committing murder. But like most of the cases, God purified his intentions to serve His Divine Purpose and Plan.

San Lorenzo is very famous for his line Sanlibo man ang aking buhay, sanlibo ko ring iaalay (If I have a thousand lives, I will offer them all to God). In San Lorenzo then the Gospel of John (Ch. 12:24) becomes personified: Unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains a single grain. But if it dies, it bears much fruit. In San Lorenzo's and his companions' martyrdom, the Faith flourished in Japan.

Let us pray then that as we celebrate San Lorenzo's Memorial (and the 20th Anniversary of his canonization), we may follow his example of self-surrender. May we, like him, die to ourselves and so live for God alone. After all, San Lorenzo is our katagilungsod (fellow Filipino). He will help us.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Mater Dolorosa

We celebrate today the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows. I think the liturgists of the Church see it fitting to celebrate this Memorial a day after we celebrate the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross. But ever since I gained consciousness and was more keen in my faith, I have always wondered why we have to celebrate this Memorial. Among the many titles of Our Lady – Lady of Guadalupe, Lady of Lourdes, Lady of the Roary, etc… – this specific memorial stuns me to the core of my being. Why on earth do we have to celebrate this sad and gloomy title of Mary. Why do we have to remind ourselves of her sorrows and pains. What struck me more was when I found out that there is even one religious congregation of Sisters calling themselves the Daughters of Mary, Lady of Sorrows. What a sorrowful congregation! When I heard of their congregation, I said to myself, gosh, these nuns must be miserable for choosing to enter such a congregation. But seriously, I have never really fathomed the profundity of this Title of Mary… of this Memorial we celebrate today.

It was only during my long retreat, as I look back, that I realized the fecundity of this celebration. My spiritual director during the long retreat asked me to spend the last day of the Third Week with Mary. No formal prayer points, just linger with Mary as she keeps vigil before the tomb of Jesus. I remembered asking her to make me understand the meaning of her suffering. To be “immersed,” as it were, in her sorrow. As I prayed that, the image of my own maternal grandmother came to my mind. How I remember stories of her as shared by my other lola, her sister, of her emotional torture finding out that her husband has another family. How on one occasion she accidentally saw my grandfather with his other woman in the market. My other lola thought that susugurin niya ang dalawa, sasampalin ng todo ang kerida at mumurahin ang kanyang asawa. She was expecting something like a pagtutuos nina Mara at Clara, o di kaya’y nina Dorina Pineda at Lavinia Arguelles. My other lola was a bit apprehensive about how my lola would react to such an abhorrible stimulus. But contrary to what she expected, my lola just stopped… looked at the two walk by… and silently wept. Feeling her emotional torment, my other lola asked her if she was ok. She simply responded in a gentle and cracking voice… mananapaw… mananapaw… (in English, adulterer). They went home as if nothing happened. My lola continued to serve her husband with much love and devotion despite what happened.

This imagery of my lola came to my mind as Mary’s answer to my prayer. I have asked to have a glimpse of her sorrow, a sorrow that somehow fits my context and definition… and true enough, she made me feel and understand her anguish through my lola’s bitter experience. I think the wisdom of this Memorial lies not in the fact that Mary was indeed sorrowful, and in the words of Eddieboy a crying lady. The wisdom of this celebration lies in the very heart of Mary’s steadfastness to God despite her deepest sorrows. My lola’s wisdom of still serving my lolo with much devotion despite the hurt he has caused her. I think the wisdom of this Memorial lies in making us understand that indeed, through her own sorrows, Mary shared in the suffering of Christ and in that effect, shared in His redeeming act for humankind.

Mga kapatid, kung kayo ay nalulungkot at nalulumbay sa daloy ng buhay… kung kayo’y nag-iisa at naghihirap… Think of this Memorial and draw strenght from the wisdom it shares with us. Suffering is worthless in the eyes of the world. But for a Christian, suffering is a joy. It is a joy for we share in the suffering of Christ. As St. Paul articulated it very well in his letter to the Colossians (Ch. 1, v. 24), we complete in our flesh what is lacking in the suffering of Christ for the sake of His body the Church. For the Christian then, suffering is sanctifying, it is redeeming. Kaya… kung ikaw ay nagdurusa dahil hindi sinusuklian ang pagmamahal mo para sa iyong friend… kung ikaw ay nasasaktan dahil hindi ka pinagkakatiwalaan ng mga taong tinuturing mong mahal… kung ikaw ay naghihirap dahil kasama mo ang isang taong ayaw mo makasama… magalak ka! Magsaya ka! For in the wisdom of this celebration… in the spirit of Mary, we share in the sufferings of Christ for the sanctification of our souls… for the salvation of the world. Amen.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

It's cool to be humble!

In today's Gospel, Jesus reminds us of the importance to be humble, to maintain a certain down-to-earth disposition. Jesus in the Gospel contrasted the "ideal" disposition of His followers with that of the hypocrites.

Perhaps it is helpful if we beg the Lord for this very difficult grace to have -- HUMILITY. In this very goal-oriented and output-centered world, it's very easy (and reasonable at that!) to be proud and haughty. After all, what we achieve are the "fruits of our labor." Yet, we are continually being invited to be humble, to be always aware that whatever we achieve, whatever we produce, do not really depend on us nor on our effort. It is sheer grace; it is GIFT.

So may the Lord bless us with a humble heart for He rewards those who are humble. In the final analysis, it is cool to be humble.