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Saturday, January 1, 2011

As Another New Year Begins...We Remember...Our Mother...

“As the world begins a new year, it is fitting that we invite Mary, the Mother of God, to pray with us and to pray for us.”

(Pope Benedict XVI, Homily at First Vespers, Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, December 31, 2006)

Because of Mary's faithfulness to God, she was able to receive the gift of God's Son and accept her role in God's plan for salvation.

Scripture tells us that the Angel Gabriel honors Mary with the greeting “Hail, full of grace” (Luke 1:29). Then, Elizabeth prophesies “blessed are you among women.”

One resolution we ought to make today is to live our life more like Mary. We must remember that nothing is impossible with God and like Mary, we must continue to live in wonder, humility and simple trust; keeping all things and reflecting on them in the quietness of your heart. Ultimately, we must resolve, my fellow travelers, to live in possibility…in hope…in simple FAITH.

This new year, be aware of your soul who knows that God exists and yearns to know more about God.

Mary’s claim to fame was that she simply said yes to God. She believed He could do as He said and would do as He said.

Most of all, Mary surrendered her plan for her own life, and yielded to God’s plan.

“Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be done with me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)

Mary’s “fiat”, as it is called (Latin for “let it be done”), was a yes to the Unknown as she accepted the impossible message of the angel. Mary's "fiat" echoes that of her Son - "Father, your will be done".

This first day of the year 2011 presents us with an opportunity to begin once more - to cherish more deeply the life we have been gifted and honoring the one God who gave life for our salvation – because of Mary…the Mother of God…our mother also.

"From the cross, Jesus also said to his disciples, “…Behold, your mother."" (John 19: 27)

The symbolic date, "1-1-11" presents us with a unique opportunity to remember, to recall, to appreciate and also to cherish the love of our own mother, the one who brought us into this world.

In the quiet of our heart, we ponder on the words of this simple poem…

"A mother is someone to shelter and guide us,
To love us, whatever we do,

With a warm understanding and infinite patience,
And wonderful gentleness, too.

How often a mother means swift reassurance
In soothing our small, childish fears,

How tenderly mothers watch over their children
And treasure them all through the years!

 The heart of a mother is full of forgiveness
For any mistake, big or small,

And generous always in helping her family
Whose needs she has placed above all.

A mother can utter a word of compassion
And make all our cares fall away,

She can brighten a home with the sound of her laughter
And make life delightful and gay.

A mother possesses incredible wisdom
And wonderful insight and skill –
In each human heart is that one special corner
Which only a mother can fill!"

- Katherine Nelson Davis

In this New Year 2011, may we, as pilgrims on this earth, come to recognized the value of the Mary’s maternal presence and know that we, her children, always have recourse to her for every kind of grace and needs,

With this confidence, we invite Mary, the Mother of God, to pray with us and to pray for us that…

"The LORD bless you and keep you!
The LORD let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!
The LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace!"

(Numbers 6: 24-26, NAB)

Hail Mary, full of grace.
the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou amongst women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.

Ave Maria, gratia plena,
Dominus tecum,
benedicta tu in mulieribus,
et benedictus fructus ventris tui Iesus.
Sancta Maria mater Dei,
ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc,
et in hora mortis nostrae.

(Luke 1:28-35, 42-48)

"May God be gracious to us and bless us" in our journey through this life, as we remember and imitate the goodness of our Mother throughout the New Year 2011!

(Psalm 67: 2, NAB)

Friday, December 31, 2010

A New Year 2011...A New Heart...A New Hope...

“...Rise thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead: and Christ shall enlighten thee.”
– Ephesians 5:14, Douay-Rheims Bible

"Waking up is unpleasant, you know. You are nice and comfortable in bed. It's irritating to be woken up. That's the reason the wise guru will not attempt to wake people up. I hope I'm going to be wise here and make no attempt whatsoever to wake you up if you are asleep. It is really none of my business, even though I say to you at times, "Wake up!" My business is to do my thing, to dance my dance. If you profit from it, fine; if you don't, too bad! As the Arabs say, "The nature of rain is the same, but it makes thorns grow in the marshes and flowers in the gardens."

- Anthony De Mello, SJ

As I take a closer step into the New Year 2011, I am reminded by a Jesuit priest that I must always stay awake of God’s presence in my journey through life. I will choose to constantly cultivate and nurture a heart that knows God and a heart that is alive with love. This realization, I pray, will lead to a more total inner transformation and more hope for the coming year. From the beautiful reflections by the Catholic priest and writer, Father Henri Nouwen, I humbly quote…

We lived in a world where people don’t know much about hope. We know about wishes. The whole Christmas period is full of wishes. I wish this, or I want that. It’s very concrete: I want a toy or a car or a new job. These are all very specific requests.

But hope is precisely to say, “I don’t know how God is going to fulfil His promises, but I know that He will, and therefore I can live in the presence with the knowledge that He is with me.” I can then know and trust that the deepest desires of my being will be fulfilled. This way keeps the future very open.

Hope has nothing to do with optimism. Many people think that hope is optimism, looking at the positive side of life. But Jesus doesn’t speak like that at all. When Jesus talks about the future or the end of the world, He describes wars, people in anguish, nation rising against nation, and earthquakes.

There’s no place where Jesus says, “One day it will all be wonderful.” He talks about enormous agony, but He says, “You, you (my beloved ones) pray unceasingly that you will keep your heart focused on Me. Stand with your head erect in the presence of the Son of Man. Don’t get distracted by it all. Remain focused.” Don’t think that things will clean up, and finally there won’t be any more pain. Jesus is saying that the world is dark, and will remain dark.

If you live with hope, you can live very much in the present because you can nurture the footprints of God in your heart and life. You already have a sense of what is to come. And the whole of the spiritual life is saying that God is right with us, right now, so that we can wait for His coming, and this waiting is a waiting in hope. But because we wait with hope we know that what we are waiting for is already here. We have to nurture that.

Here and now matters because God is a God of the present. And God is God of the present because He is God of Eternity.

Hope is to open yourself up to let God do His work in you in ways that transcend your imagination. As Jesus said, “When you are young you put your own belt on and went where you wanted to go. But when you grow spiritually old, then you stretch out your hands and let others and God lead you where you rather wouldn’t go.” That’s hope, to let yourself be led to new places.”

Hope means to keep living
amid desperation
and to keep humming
in the darkness

Hoping is knowing that there is love
it is trust in tomorrow
it is falling asleep
and waking again
when the sun rises.

In the midst of a gale at sea,
it is to discover land.

In the eyes of another
it is to see that you are understood.

As long as there is still hope
There will also be prayer

And God will be holding you
in God’s hands.”

With this assurance, I must wake up as God continues to prompt me in the quietness of my heart to simply place all my trust in Him.

To all fellow pilgrims, I bid you a Blessed New Year 2011 filled with New Consciousness, New Awareness…most of all a New Hope for a New Life.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Pater Noster...

“Imagine that there are two men standing side by side reciting the Lord’s Prayer. One of these men is a fervent Christian; the other is an atheist. Naturally speaking, they are doing exactly the same thing. They are both speaking words in a human voice in the normal human way of speaking. They are both mouthing exactly the same words. This is the natural situation of these two men.

However, supernaturally, the reality is quite different. The Christian prays. He is speaking to his loving Father. The atheist is simply uttering words. The Christian is not involved in anything miraculous, but he is performing a supernatural act – based on a natural one.”

William A Meninger – The Loving Search for God

Our Father,
Who art in heaven,
hallowed be Thy name;
Thy kingdom come;
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Pater noster, qui es in cœlis;
sanctificatur nomen tuum:
Adveniat regnum tuum;
fiat voluntas tua,
sicut in cœlo, et in terra.
Panem nostrum cotidianum da nobis hodie:
Et dimitte nobis debita nostra,
sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris:
et ne nos inducas in tentationem:
sed libera nos a malo. Amen

As we approach towards the beginning of another God gifted year, let us gently ponder in our hearts today that no matter where we are, who we are, what the language, we all pray to the same Father in Heaven....we are His creation all the same.

The greatest treasure anyone can ever be gifted, by God's merciful grace, in this earthly life is becoming aware of, and being in a relationship with, the God who loves us so much and have our names written on the palms of His hands.

"See, upon the palms of my hands I have written your name..."  - (Isaiah 49:16 - New American Bible)

"You shall be my people, and I will be your God." - (Jeremiah 30:22 - NAB)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Freedom to be...

Am I free? Am I developing the freedom God gave me?

We are “…living in a society that creates alienation. Many people do not realize this. We are offered many superficial choices, which engender the delusion that we are free. But actually we are pushed around a great deal by the media and by other people’s expectations and demands.

…(W)e are never allowed to be fully ourselves; we do not belong to ourselves. The real personal meaning of our lives is not allowed to emerge. We are dominated by someone else’s ideas, tastes, desires: speak this way, act this way, see these things, do these things, have these things.

…This is our very existence. If we would be truly free, we must choose to be our authentic self, but only for ourselves as the subject of this being. …True freedom lies in being completely open, being a complete “yes” to God and to every manifestation of His love, His life and His beauty.

If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live or what I like to eat or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I think I am living for, in detail, and ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully the thing I want to live for. Between these two answers you can determine the identity of any person. The better answer he has, the more of a person he is.

We cannot assent to the message of God if our minds and hearts are enslaved. The highest form of freedom is found in obedience to God. Christian faith frees us from the world’s myths, idolatries and confusions.”

M Basil Pennington, O.C.S.O, Thomas Merton - The Quest for True Freedom

As I was reflecting on the pages of this book, I am reminded that we are all born pure.  But along the life's paths, we get the extent that we simply forget who we truly are - gifts of God...created in the image of God...most importantly, loved by God and radiate the light of Christ...  Let us choose to share the light of Christ with all the people we meet...companions...pilgrims...let us give love freely.

Journeying Home...

"Do you realize that Jesus is there in the tabernacle expressly for you - for you alone? He burns with the desire to come into your heart...don't listen to the demon, laugh at him, and go without fear to receive the Jesus of peace and love...

"Receive Communion often, very often...there you have the sole remedy, if you want to be cured. Jesus has not put this attraction in your heart for nothing..."

"The guest of our soul knows our misery; He comes to find an empty tent within us - that is all He asks."

- St. Therese of Lisieux

Breathe in the Will of God...into the new year

"Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession.... Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate."

"Cheap grace arose out of man's desire to be saved, but to do so without becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ."

"Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: 'Ye were bought at a price', and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God."

"Who stands firm? Only the one for whom the final standard is not his reason, his principles, his conscience, his freedom, his virtue, but who is ready to sacrifice all these, when in faith and sole allegiance to God he is called to obedient and responsible action: the responsible person, whose life will be nothing but an answer to God's question and call."

"To be silent does not mean to be inactive; rather it means to breathe in the will of God, to listen attentively and be ready to obey."

— Dietrich Bonhoeffer
(a minister in the Lutheran church, stood in courageous opposition to the Fuehrer (Adolf Hitler) and his policies. He was executed by the Nazis in the Flossenbürg concentration camp in 1945)

As pilgrims on this earth, we are all called into a communion of obedience...sharing the sufferings of God in the world.  God may not give us everything we want, but He always fulfill His promises, leading us along the best and straightest paths to Himself...He is our faithful companion on this journey.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Shadow of the Christmas

“The story of every human life begins with birth and ends with death. In the Person of Christ, however, it was His death that was first and His life that was last. The scripture describes Him as "the Lamb slain as it were, from the beginning of the world." He was slain in intention by the first sin and rebellion against God. It was not so much that His birth cast a shadow on His life and thus led to His death; it was rather that the Cross was first, and cast its shadow back to His birth. His has been the only life in the world that was ever lived backward. As the flower in the crannied wall tells the poet of nature, and as the atom is the miniature of the solar system, so too, His birth tells the mystery of the gibbet. He went from the known to the known, from the reason of His coming manifested by His name "Jesus" or "Savior" to the fulfillment of His coming, namely, His death on the Cross.”
Fulton J. Sheen, Life of Christ

We hear sweet carols, we see pine trees, silvery decorations and shimmering lights, busy shopping malls and traffic congestions…it’s the festive season, its Christmas…more accurately the “commercialized Xmas” (where CHRIST is, more often than not, removed [replaced with an ‘X’] and conveniently forgotten in this season of merry making)

The unwelcomed Babe of Bethlehem; the harking of heralding angels and the simple poor shepherds watching their flock in the quiet of the night are simply forgotten; true reminders of the birth of Christ and the purpose of His coming.

The words of Bishop Fulton Sheen calls us to pause and reflect on the silhouette of the CROSS overshadowing the manger below the Bethlehem star. Where there is no room in the inn (our hearts), let us make room…

More often than not, the “noise” of the season has caused us to forget that the Savior came to fulfill the will of our Father, not to live but to die, that all mankind everywhere might gain eternal life. This is the true reason for the season. This is why the holy day of Christmas is ranked second to Easter in the Roman calendar. Lent which begins with Ash Wednesday is but a few weeks away, in early March 2011, climaxing with the celebration of Easter; new life, the resurrection, the only HOPE that sustains us in our journey.

During Christmas, we are radically reminded of the preciousness, yet fragility of life. What is life? It is like a vapor, which is dispersed by a breath of wind and is no more. We all know that we must die but many are deceived by picturing to themselves death at such a distance as if it could never come near to us.

We must be still to be aware, to be conscious, to be mindful that the life of all mankind is short. Life is like the life of a blade of grass. Death comes, the grass withers and life ends, and the flower falls of all greatness and all worldly goods and possessions. We suddenly become no more. In every step, in every breath we draw, we approach nearer to our earthly death.

How often we hear of people, while they are busy with worldly pursuits are surprised by death, which cut short of everything else. All the things of this world vanish – the possessions, the power, the title, the rank, the grandeurs, the amusements, the entertainment and most of all, the noise of the world. The most enviable fortune, the most valuable possessions, the biggest stashed away wealth, the most exalted of worldly titles loses their splendor when they are viewed from the bed of death. We will come to know which of this happiness are true and false when we are about to draw our last breath – come too late?

Like Jesus Christ, we must be aware this Christmas season, that we are all born to die. The proper time to prepare for the hour of death is during this life, during this pilgrimage back home. Time is too short so let us act on those things that will truly matter to bring about our eternal life. We must take time to be quiet, be still, to simplify our life.

At the end of the day, we are all pilgrims here on earth so we must help each other by offering our companionship to lighten the burden and brighten the path of each other’s journey back home. That way, our Christmas will become much more meaningful and like Christ, we will rise up on the last day in Paradise.