Saturday, January 06, 2018

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.

Sunday, December 31, 2017


January 1st is the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Of all the titles of Mary, her motherhood is the title I like best. I love to collect photos of Mary showing her with the Child Jesus. There is something in that mystery that draws me. Of course, it gives me much delight to know that I was also born on the feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome - August 5th. The Basilica is the largest basilica in the West dedicated to the Mother of God. It was erected, as the story goes, at the site where Our Lady of the Snows appeared.

A great heresy in the Church, promulgated by Bishop Nestorius, claimed that Mary was not the Mother of God, but the mother of the man, Jesus. He proposed that Mary could not have borne God since he is God, but bore only the man. In saying this, he was actually denying the divinity of Jesus. This heresy was put to rest in 431 at the Council of Ephesus when the Greek Fathers of the Church, headed by St. Cyril of Alexandria, defined the maternity of Mary. It was on this Council that the title of "Theotokos" or "God-Bearer",was first used.

It is interesting to note that Mary's motherhood is presented to us by the Church calendar at the beginning of the year. This maternal role actually began at the Annunciation when Mary agreed to be the Mother of the Son of God. But because the Church wants to put the spotlight on the person of Jesus, the Emmanuel, Mary sort of faded into the background. Now that the climax of Christmas is somewhat over, Mary is again brought back on stage. It is also fitting to celebrate this feast at the opening of a new year because it brings to mind the reality that Mary is the dawn and Christ the Rising Sun. She is the one that leads us to God. She opens the way so that we can follow the path of true discipleship. The document "Lumen Gentium" says that Mary is the first of Christ's faithful disciples.

It is unfortunate that this motherhood of Mary is rejected by many, Protestants and Catholics alike. By Protestants, because of a misunderstanding and fear that she will take away from Jesus the honor and worship that he solely deserves. By Catholics, because they have reduced Mary solely as an object of empty and silly devotions, the heroine of mythic proportion. Saint Therese of Lisieux one day complained about the manner in which priests of her days talked about Mary in their homilies. "They talk of her imagined life, not her real life. Why can't they talk about how she doubted like us, that she suffered like us."

Of all the insights about Mary, one I ponder the most, is our late Pope John Paul II's words in his encyclical Redemptoris Mater that Mary is blessed BECAUSE SHE BELIEVED. It was her faith alone that we can all strive to imitate. Her other attributes of the Immaculate Conception and Divine Motherhood are attributes that will never be ours. But her faith, her trust and surrender, are virtues we can all imitate. Woman of Faith.. Mother of God... Mother of Mine.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas Reflection

Christmas is my favorite liturgical season.  The joy of anticipation and the joy of realization, 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 2017, the promise of 2018 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!"

Advent, Mary and Woman

Advent is a time of expectant longing. The prophet Isaiah expresses it beautifully when he says: “ Return for the sake of your servants!” or “ No ear has ever heard, no eye has ever seen, any God but you, doing such deeds for those who wait for him.” One senses an air of impatience, of calling out with insistence that God would come back. During Advent, we find expression of this longing in the way we celebrate this season. We remember those we love, we buy and give gifts, mend broken relationships and ponder the state of our inner life. God has planted that longing in our heart. He created it in us so that like Isaiah, we may cry out in a loud voice the desire for a deeper kind of fulfillment.

The mystery of the Incarnation of Jesus is God’s response to this cry. It is as if leaving heaven, God assumed a body and entered the realm of time to satisfy this longing. It was an act inspired by love for the sake of those He loves. This was the greatest manifestation of God’s power, but more so, His greatest manifestation of Love.

Our longings are about to be fulfilled in the coming days as we await the great day of Christmas. But before we bask in the glory of the coming of the Lord, let us focus our attention on Mary, the woman of the hour. The story of Christmas is intimately linked to Mary. Her presence dominates the scene. The spotlight is on her as the drama of the Annunciation unfolds. What vigilance she practiced! What vigilant expectation! What anticipation she manifested as she waited for the realization of the words of the angel. What deep faith she had as she allowed the light of the event to illumine her response and her actions following her consent. She was focused to go beyond the trappings of this great event of revelation: the vision of the Angel, the words proclaiming her greatness, and focused on the reality of a life offered to her. As the story of the Incarnation progresses, we shall see how Mary recedes into the background to give way to the presence of the Child- her Child- the Emmanuel. In this instance, I seem to hear the echo of a voice- that of the Baptist- who said “He must increase, I must decrease.”

Isn’t this the story of every woman? And in particular of a woman with child? Isn’t this the ethos of woman, to conceive within her the reality of God and in due time, according to the degree of our cooperation, give birth to the Son of God in the realm of grace? Aren’t the qualities inherent in woman- her nurturing instinct, her maternal solicitude, her intuition, her self-sacrificing ability for the sake of others- present precisely because of this reality? These qualities are never effaced whether one chooses a life of natural motherhood or single state of life as a lay person or as a consecrated woman.
The reality of spiritual motherhood is as real and deeper. A woman with child is reliving the mystery of God made Man. If we believe that we are temples of God, then we must agree that a woman pregnant with her child is pregnant “with God.” Can she like Mary, be vigilant so that the mystery does not pass her by? Can she look beyond the trappings of physical inconvenience, added responsibilities, added expense, added burden, and focus herself on the mystery being unfolded within her? Can she, like Mary, be joyful in the faith that tells her “she is blessed among women because she believes?” Believes in the power of LIFE? Believes in her dignity as a woman, a vessel of life? Can she, like Mary, sing in refrain the Baptist’s cry “He must increase” because the life within her is of God? And that she must decrease because she must forget herself with all her supposed needs?

The Season of Advent is a time of conceiving and giving birth. To conceive in faith desires that transcend ourselves and giving birth to them by the help of God’s grace thus transforming ourselves, our lives and those of others. We wait... Wait for what? For the Good News promised to us that God will come to be with us. As the Psalmist exclaims “God delights in his people!”