Tuesday, February 11, 2020

St. Bernadette and the Story of Lourdes

 The Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, February 11th, is close to my heart.  The first Saint I was ever aware of was St. Bernadette and the movie which made me keenly aware of the presence of Mary was The Song of Bernadette.  It made such an impression on me that I joined the Children of Mary with their white dresses and blue sash.  I read lots of books on Bernadette, my favorite being "Saint Bernadette Soubirous" by Abbe Fancois Trochu, and "A Holy Life" by Patricia McEachern.  Renee de Laurentis also wrote delightful books on St. Bernadette.  Among the many virtues of the Saint, it was her humility, simplicity and modesty , which spoke volumes to me.  I believe that Mary is drawn irresistibly to these virtues and is very close to those who possess them.  The story of Lourdes is closely linked to the story of suffering and February 11th is designated as World Day of Prayer for the Sick.  It is no wonder that St. Bernadette was chosen since she was the perfect model of bearing our sufferings with patience, faith and love.  Her life bears witness how God confounds the proud and lifts up the lowly.

Sunday, January 05, 2020

My Star Shines Everyday

The Feast of Epiphany is sometimes called "little Christmas."  The word "Epiphany" means "manifestation."  The liturgy readings narrate the revelation of the Christ-Child to the world of the gentiles in the form of a star.  The Christmas Season captures the two forms of one reality- God came to earth to be with His people.  The first form of this manifestation was on Christmas day when "the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us" (Prologue of St. John).  The Word assumed a human nature and became like us.  God the Father manifested Himself to us through the Son, Jesus.  This is the first manifestation.  Then on the feast of Epiphany, God manifested Himself again, not in the silence of the night in some hidden cave in Bethlehem, but to the world, through the persons of the
Magi, and in them, to the Gentiles.  This is the second manifestation.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Christmas Reflection

Christmas is my favorite liturgical season.  The joy of anticipation and the joy of fulfillment  when the Child Jesus is finally in our midst, creates a feeling of both wonder and nostalgia.  I realize the    fact that Christmas can mean different things to different people.  For our elderly residents living in the Home it is a moment of loneliness and pain.  The loss of physical independence and the loss of family and friends, both because of distance and death, could bring about feelings of depression.  For most people, Christmas can mean work, lots of head-spinning work- unavoidable circumstances entailed in one's means of livelihood  or other duties and obligations called forth  by one's state in life.  It could mean a string of customers to satisfy, employees to be thanked, and friends to show love and gratitude to.  But despite all these, when the dust finally settles and the last box of gifts is wrapped, and when the soul finally gets itself down to adore and listen to church-bells ringing, the full reality of the hustle and bustle is brought home to consciousness- it is Christmas, a Child is born, Jesus.

Then our hearts begin to quicken and our eyes open to the awesome gift given to us.  We begin to have an understanding, limited as it may be, of the wonder and miracle of love.  Love is the fuel that keeps Christmas burning.  It is the love of God from the very beginning of time, the love of the Son who came to fulfill the Father's wish, the love of Mary who accepted the call to be the vessel of the Incarnate, and the love that burns in our hearts for those we hold dear.  That is why we endure the discomforts of work and toil, that is why we forgive and forget wrongs done to us, why we patch up tattered relationships - all because we love.  The love shown us by the Father and the Love made Incarnate, is the same flame of love that burns in our sinful hearts.  Imperfect as this love may be, tainted as it may seem, we share in the Divine Sonship.

As I behold in love and muted wonder the crib in my cell, my heart expands at the thought that this Child, celebrated by Kings, Popes, Saints, and all people alike, came just for me.  Here in my cell, He and I alone, exchange intimacies of the heart, hidden from all others.  At the sight of Him lying in this crib of hay, the wonderful Pandora box of promises is opened - Peace, Surrender, Sacrifice, Joy, humility, new beginning, eternal happiness-  all promises of a New Year.  Whatever was in our life's slate this past 2019, the promise of 2020 opens wide.  Yes, the darkness has now passed, the rays of dawn had cast its full light, the Morning Star of our lives, has finally come.  Oh what joy! What gift! The whole world is grateful!  In the inner recesses of our hearts- we are speechless.  We can only accept it with loving disbelief.

Lord Jesus, as you have given us much, grant us the joy of giving you something this Christmas and all the days of our lives.  Bring to fruition all the good desires you have inspired in us.  Just as you gave yourself to us because of your inestimable love, help us to extend ourselves to others.  Just as you were Gift to us, undeserving as we are, let us be gifts for others, undeserving we may think them to be.  As the New Year opens wide its door, let us enter confidently, hopefully and joyfully with full expectations realizing that we can always begin again.  Help us to hold on to the joys and graces of these days.  Imperfect as we are, you know that we love You and desire only to follow You, all the days of our lives.  "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of everlasting life!"

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Advent's Main Characters

There are three major personalities in the season of Advent: Isaiah, John the Baptist and Mary. It is very helpful to meditate on the significance of these three personalities and to find their significance in the event of Christmas.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Third Sunday of Advent

“I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul. For he has clothed me with a robe of salvation and wrapped me in a mantle of justice...” We call this prayer the “Magnificat” almost always used in reference to Mary. But this prayer can also be applied to John the Baptist. John was certainly a man singularly blessed by God to be the precursor of the messianic age. He was God’s mouthpiece announcing the dawn of a new age. His was the message of repentance, forgiveness and justice. The Spirit of the Lord was upon him because God anointed him to send glad tidings to the prisoners under the bondage of sin, to announce the year of favor from God. Interestingly enough, this was the passage used by Jesus for his own credentials when John, from prison, asked Jesus: “Are you the one who is to come or do we wait for another?” This same message was played out by two different personalities. One with a loud voice in the desert and an unyielding reed standing by the banks of the Jordan. Another with the power of love and service, a lamb who opened not his mouth, a bruised reed.

John knew his role in the salvation drama of Israel. He himself acknowledged that he is only the voice in the desert announcing the coming of the Lord. He is fully aware of the words of the prophet Isaiah. What struck me the most with him was his deep self-knowledge and his being fully rooted in the truth about himself. The questions (more like proposals) that were addressed to him were unhesitatingly answered with what he knew to be the truth. “I am not Elijah or the prophet or the Messiah. No, I am only a voice... Someone mightier is coming after me.... I am not worthy to untie his sandals....”

Only in our knowledge of the truth can we truly deliver the message of God. Only in knowing ourselves can we fully serve God without the danger of losing our souls. The “proposals” we can encounter in the service of God can become a wine that intoxicates us. We can easily forget that the message is more important than the messenger. We can easily forget that we are not the Elijah’s, or God forbid we have the illusion that we are the Messiah, of our world with subtle agendas. We are only voices in the deserts of this world, witnessing to the reality that there is One, more powerful and more important who will accomplish the impossible which we cannot do ourselves. John was important in the plan of God, and so are we, but only to the extent that we remain in the vine, rooted in the truth of who we truly are on the chess board.

John the Baptist never witnessed the fullness of God’s revelation. He never saw the fullness of God’s intent to save his people. He never witnessed the victory of the Resurrection. And yet, God needed him to prepare the way of this ultimate victory. We may never witness the ultimate victory in our fight for justice. We may never reap the harvest of our labors but God needs us to proclaim the Good News of His Son. We may never see the end to abortion, euthanasia, social injustice, poverty and sufferings in this world. But we should be firm in our faith and hope that One who is mightier will come and will make justice and praise spring up before all the nations.

I believe that only if we truly make this our conviction that we can rejoice always and pray without ceasing as St. Paul exhorts us to do in the second reading. I believe that if we can seek out the good from the bad can we retain what is good. Only then is it possible to be thankful in all circumstances. Only then can we be found blameless until the coming of the Lord. For as St. Paul says, God is faithful and He will accomplish His plan present since the foundation of the world.