Divine love and our addictions: A homily for the 4th Sunday of Lent


4th Sunday of Lent. March 11th 2018.

2 Chr 36:14-16,19-21; Eph 2:4-10; Jn 3:14-21


Divine love and our addictions

I was deeply moved some years ago as I watched an episode of the reality TV show Hoarders: buried alive. The show is about people struggling to overcome their compulsive hoarding of things. My first response was, “They need to pray hard to be free from this addiction.” But is prayer the only thing that they need? Prayer is necessary but a lot more is needed.

I recall the story of man who prayed to God persistently for the very same thing. His prayer went something like this, “Lord God, please help me to win the lottery. I really want to win the lottery.” He persisted in this prayer until God gave him this answer, “Why don’t you go out and buy a lottery ticket first?” How silly! He had never bought a single lottery ticket yet he expected God to help him win the lottery.

We too may be like that man, begging God constantly, “Lord, please save me. I really want to be saved from this addiction.” But what have we done to be saved in response to God’s saving grace?

Today’s readings make it clear that God alone saves us out of His love for us and there is absolutely nothing that we can do to save ourselves from sin and its devastating effects. St. Paul makes it clear in these words of today’s Second Reading, “By grace you have been saved.”

The Gospel shows God’s eternal and ultimate saving plan of love for His people and the refusal of many to accept His love for them, “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that those who believe in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.” Jesus, the Son of God, also loved us so much that He chose to be “lifted up” on the Cross so that “everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.” How did many respond to this loving act of the Triune God to save us from eternal death? We are told that “the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works are evil.” Many hardened their heart and refused the saving love being offered to them in Jesus Christ.

For us to be saved from sin and its devastating effects, we must respond to God’s love for us. But what does this response to divine love look like?

To respond to divine love, we must first personally receive this divine love as a gift from God. There is nothing that we can do or become to merit or deserve this love of God. In the words of St. Paul, “By grace you have been saved through faith. This is not your doing; it is the gift of God.” When we see God’s love as a gift to us and not based on our spiritual, emotional, or physical conditions in life, we know that this love will endure and be active in our lives even in our sinfulness, “God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love He had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ.” We cannot experience the life-giving and saving power of God’s love when we fail to see it as a pure gift to us.

To respond to divine love, we must also believe in this love as the fundamental reality of our lives. The Second Reading shows God loving plan to save His exiled people who in their infidelity have “added infidelity to infidelity, practiced all the abominations of the nations and polluted the Lord’s temple.” They suffered the loss of everything, “Their enemies burnt the house of God, tore down the walls of Jerusalem, set all its palaces afire, and destroyed all its precious objects.” Out of His love for them, God makes use of the Persian king Cyrus to free His beloved rebellious people from Babylon and help them return home to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple.

We too must likewise never doubt God’s love for us in the sufferings and trials of our lives. We experience the saving power of God when we face suffering with the conviction that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”(Rom 8:39) In His love for us, God can even make use of our struggles to draw us closer to Him and experience His saving love for us.

Lastly, we respond to God’s love by concrete action in obedience to His will for us. In the words of St. Paul, “We are His handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.” Receiving divine love as a gift and believing in this love even in the face of suffering and pain fills our hearts with a hope that moves us to act with love for God. In the words of St. Paul, “The love of Christ impels us, because we are convinced that one has died for all.”(2Cor 5:14) This love of God alone moves us to take concrete steps in our unrelenting fight against sin and its consequences.

How does this three-pronged response to God’s love play out when we face sin and our sinful addictions? Receiving God’s love as a gift, we know that we are loved just as we are and that His love for us endures even in our moral failures. Believing in God’s love for us, we know that His love for us possesses saving power even in the midst of our struggles and failures. Our struggles does not imply that His saving action is suspended in our lives. In addition, we refuse to succumb to self-condemnation because we are grounded in the truth that “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through Him.” Nothing fuels addictions more than this self-condemnation.

Responding to God’s love in action, we do not stop making use of all the necessary means to conquer the sinful addictions. We never stop praying, receiving the sacraments regularly (especially Eucharist and Confession), knowing ourselves better through self-examination, facing the difficult truths about ourselves, going for counseling, avoiding the occasions and conditions that trigger our addictive behaviors, meditating on the word of God, etc. We do all these not just because we want to be healed of our addictions but because we know that we have been loved and this is our way of responding to that love in action. We will never give up the fight if our focus is on responding to God’s love rather than on overcoming addictions.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we live in a world of numerous addictions. We seem to be losing our freedom so easily, becoming enslaved by things that God has given us to be used in His loving service. We have addictions to pornography, drugs, alcohol, gambling, masturbation, sex, internet, and whatever else may come in the future. Prayer alone is never enough to overcome and break free from these addictions. We must do something else: receive divine love as a gift, believe in it as the fundamental reality of our lives and respond to it with concrete action.

This Sunday of Lent the Church calls us to rejoice. How can we rejoice when we are experiencing the bondage of our sinful addictions? We can rejoice because we are experiencing the saving love of Jesus even as we face the struggles with sin our lives. We rejoice because we have this unmerited gift of His love, we firmly believe in it, and we are not taking it for granted but responding with loving action.

Let us beg Mary, the Mother of God and our Mother too, who received divine love so completely that the God-Man was formed in her womb, to help us do the same. Let us beg her to help us believe as she believed in God’s love for her even in the painful moments of the death of Jesus on the Cross. Let us beg her to help us respond to divine love as she responded to this divine love in complete gift of herself, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word.”

Jesus, our Savior, pursues us with His saving love in this Eucharist because He wants to save us and bring us into the joy of salvation. Let us believe in this His love, receive it as the most precious gift of our lives and respond to it in concrete action. This is how we can enter into the joy of salvation even as we declare war on our addictions.

Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!






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Christian zeal in an era of “paradigm shift”: A homily for the 3rd Sunday of Lent 2018

3rd Sunday of Lent. March 4, 2018.

Ex 20:1-17; 1Cor 1:22-25; Jn 2:13-25

Christian zeal in an era of “paradigm shift.”

One phrase that has been thrown around recently in the Church regarding her moral teaching on life, sex, and marriage is “paradigm shift.” Blaise Cardinal Cupich of Chicago used this phrase when he described the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia as a “paradigm shift in moral teaching” in the light of the new situation facing the family today. He opined that, by this document, “The core goal of formal teaching on marriage is accompaniment, not the pursuit of an abstract, isolated set of truths…This represents a major shift in our ministerial approach that is nothing short of revolutionary.”

These words left me scratching my head in confusion.  If we take paradigm shift to mean a change in a person’s fundamental perspective or framework through which everything is viewed and interpreted, is a paradigm shift really what we need today? Can we have endless and random paradigm shifts in Church teaching, sacramental discipline, and pastoral care regarding married and civilly divorced, homosexuality, etc.? Besides, who supplies the new paradigm in the first place? When does the paradigm cease to shift or does it continue to shift endlessly? Who determines the direction and duration of the shift in paradigm? What is the direction of this “accompaniment” when moral truth is considered “abstract and disjointed”? Isn’t such “accompaniment” without the guidance of objective truth the case of a blind guide leading the clueless blind into mutual destruction, something that Jesus warned us about, “If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”(Mt 15:14)

Today’s scripture readings point us to the right attitude that we should have today in a world of ever shifting perspectives – zealous love for God. In this zealous love, we are so filled with love for God that we are ready to risk anything to make Him better known and loved by others. We allow the revealed truth to sink so deeply into our minds and hearts that we cannot but express and give witness to others about that truth with a self-sacrificing love in a way that is attentive to the signs of the times.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus Christ cleanses the temple because “zeal for His Father’s house has consumed Him.” He does not cleanse the temple simply because of His personal taste but to make them see the temple the way that God has always intended it to be seen and cherished, “Stop making my Father’s house a market place.” This action will be the basis for some of the hateful speech that Jesus would hear as He hung on the cross on Calvary, “You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”(Mt 27:40)

Why didn’t Jesus buy into their own perspective of messiahship and just come down from the cross? He remained on that cross because of His desire to communicate to us that same zealous love for the Father that filled His own heart even in the time of suffering. Jesus Christ came into this world, suffered, died, rose from the dead, founded a Church and imbued it with the Holy Spirit so that He can make present to us the divine perspective in every aspect of human life and relationships and help us to live accordingly. He assured us that His words will triumph over the world’s constantly changing perspectives, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”(Lk 21:33) He has so enabled us to respond with the same zealous love for the Father before others that we would be judged by how zealous our love is: “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of man be ashamed when He come in His glory and the glory of the Father and the angels.”(LK 9:26)

How do we begin to show this zealous love for God? The first sign of our zeal is our obedience to His commandments out of love for God. In Today’s First Reading, God offers His people the commandments only after He has showed them His love for them in setting them free from the bondage of Egypt, “I, the Lord am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery.” Likewise, our obedience to all the commandments is our first and primary response to God’s love, “He has mercy…on those who love Him and keep His commandments.” To see the truths of the commandments as “abstract and isolated,” or unattainable, is a failure to grasp that the God of love cannot demand from us that which remains impossible for us with the help of His grace.

Jesus’ zealous love for the Father did not begin with His cleansing of the temple. No, His zeal began in His loving obedience to the Father, from His conception in the womb of the Virgin Mary and throughout His entire life, “He was obedient even to death on the cross.” We resist the temptation to appeal to a shift in paradigm regarding the commandments or Church teaching based on scripture and tradition when we realize that the divine law-giver has freely chosen to love us and to be one of us so that we too lovingly obey His Father’s commandments. Jesus has come not to “abolish but to fulfill the law,”(Mt 5:17) and He does so in us by the power of the Holy Spirit.

As attested to in today’s Gospel, Jesus “knows them (and us) well…He himself understood it (human nature) well.” As our Creator, He knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows our strengths and weaknesses, our courage and our cowardice, and our ability to be faithful and to be self-deceptive. And yes, He knows our ability to appeal to a paradigm shift regarding His teaching.

Jesus restored the divine perspective on marriage and divorce which the Jews had lost because of the hardness of their hearts, “For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.” (Mt 19:8) Jesus alone heals and transforms our hearts so that we can act with zealous love for the Father no matter the prevailing perspectives in our world today.

St. Paul lived in a time when people of Corinth had different perspectives on what matters most in life. The Jews endlessly longed for signs while the Greeks sought for wisdom. The Christians rather steadfastly “proclaimed Christ crucified,” because He is the “power of God and the wisdom of God.” The Christian life and worship was viewed through the lens (another word for paradigm) of the Crucified and Risen Savior. They saw in His commandments the power, wisdom, and love of God and they depended on His grace alone to live just like He intended them to live. They kept the divine perspective intact and gave witness to it without surrendering to the prevailing numerous perspectives of their time.

About four years ago, Japanese Olympian skater, Miki Ando, was at the peak of her preparation for the Sochi games. She became pregnant out of wedlock just a few weeks before the games began. She had to deal with the cultural shame of having a child outside wedlock. Her thoughts, the expectations of others, and everything else seemed to point her in the direction of having an abortion to preserve her figure skating career in a culture where figure skating is very popular. In her words, “I could not make up my mind all the way, but I hate[d] to make a decision to say goodbye to the baby.” But she chose to have the baby. She now has a 5 year old daughter and she is a two-time Olympic gold medalist today!

She felt the pressure to abort her child in our world where there were many perspectives about human life, sex, and marriage. In the midst of all those contrary and contradicting perspectives, she chose to follow the divine perspective on the inviolable sanctity of all human life, from conception to natural death as expressed in the commandment, “You shall not kill.” She narrated her final decision, “I have chosen the baby’s life over skating.” She shows us that we can respect and defend the life of others at great costs to us no matter how strong the contrary perspectives may be.

Jesus shows us in today’s Gospel that if we choose to live by the divine perspective in all things, nothing will ever destroy us. He was speaking of His body when He said to the Jews, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” Filled with a zealous love for the Father, He knew that death and the grave will not have the final say but that the Father will raise Him up.

We have received His own zealous love in our hearts in baptism along with the truth that sets us free. What we need is a divine overhauling of our hearts and its priorities and not a paradigm shift. Rather than appeal to a vague and nebulous shift in paradigm in the Church’s teaching regarding faith and morals, let us show our zeal by adhering to God’s commandments faithfully and seeking to proclaim the power and the wisdom of God behind these commandments. Even as we struggle with our own sinfulness, let our striving for loving obedience to God bear witness to the freedom that Jesus has won for us as well as the power of His grace in us today.

There is also a price to be paid too if we are zealous for the Lord too, filled with His love and striving to make Him better known and loved by others. We will be called names, ostracized, and even persecuted. We will be labelled “judgmental,” “rigid,” “bookish,” “haters,” “bigots,” “insensitive,” etc. But let us be rest assured that, like Jesus, nothing will destroy us if we maintain our zeal for the Lord in such moments.

Our Eucharist is a communion with the body of Jesus Christ, that body that cannot be destroyed, that body that is the power of God and the wisdom of God. We are brought into the divine perspective – the only perspective that matters and endures forever – by His wisdom and strengthened by His power to be zealous for God in a world of endlessly changing perspectives. There is a world out there in need of our zealous witness to God’s love for us all in Jesus Christ even if they do not realize it. Let us not disappoint or betray them by claiming a paradigm shift in how we interpret what Christ and His Church teaches today.

Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!


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Why God tests our hearts: A homily for the 2nd Sunday of Lent

2nd Sunday of Lent. February 25, 2018.

Gen 22:1-2,9,10-13,15-18; Rom 8:31-34; Mk 9:2-10

Why God tests our hearts.

Abraham had shown his love for God in so many ways. He had abandoned the comfort of his rich and fertile land so as to travel as a pilgrim to a land that God promised him. He had waited for over a hundred years for the birth of Isaac, the child of promise. Why then does God put him to the test? Hasn’t he given enough proofs of his faithful love for God?

We should also why God puts His loved ones to the test. These divine tests are to help us cultivate and manifest hearts worthy of God’s children – truly devoted hearts. Abraham manifested his own devoted heart by his readiness to sacrifice his only son Isaac, “I know now how devoted you are to God, since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son.”

Abraham showed the qualities of a truly devoted heart: a heart that gave all, always, and for God’s sake. He was willing to give all, “Take your son Isaac, your only one whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah.” He was willing to give always, letting go of his only son just as he was willing to let go of his land and property. He gave for God’s sake and not for what he would get from God, “There you shall offer him up as a holocaust on a height that I will point out to you.”

God responds to Abraham’s devotedness by offering him divine consolations that cannot be matched by earthly gains, “I will bless you abundantly and make your descendants countless as the stars of the sky and the sands on the seashore.” When we slowly cultivate and manifest truly devoted hearts through the trials and tests that God ordains in our lives, we also dispose ourselves to experience the deeper consolation of God that persons or created things cannot give.

But how can we begin to cultivate this devoted hearts through the tests and trials of this life? How can we come to the point where we hold nothing back from God, surrender all things to God always and do so for His own sake and not for our own selfish needs?

The way to a devoted heart is to grasp God’s own devoted love for each and every one of us. We can only hope to be devoted to God when we live with the conviction that indeed God is devoted to us i.e. He gives us all, always, and for our own eternal good. God is indeed devoted to us!

In today’s Second Reading, St. Paul consoles the persecuted Christians in Rome by reminding them of God’s devoted love for them in Jesus Christ, “He who did not spare His own son but handed Him over for us all, how will He not also give us everything else along with Him?” In God’s devoted love, He gave us all in giving us His own Son; He never ceases to offer us His Son Jesus Christ, and He does so not for what He can get from us but out of His devoted love for us. In Jesus Christ, we find embodied God’s own devoted love for us as well as the spiritual consolations that are ours when we too show our devoted hearts in times of testing and trials.

St. Peter in the moment of the Transfiguration in today’s Gospel is moved by love to serve Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” We all know that Peter at this point lacks that devoted heart. He who showed such enthusiasm and generosity before the Transfigured Christ would repeat later before a mere maid during the Passion of Christ, “I never knew Him (Jesus).” The Father responds to Peter’s impetuousness by asking him to first see in Jesus Christ God’s own devoted love for us and the means to respond to God with devoted hearts, “This is my beloved Son, Listen to Him.” We cannot hope to be truly devoted to God apart from our communion with Christ and our dependence on His love and grace.

Jesus, the devoted Son of the Father, gave all, always and for the sake of the Father. His momentary visible glory during the Transfiguration is a foretaste of that divine consolation that we experience when devoted hearts are formed in the crucible of the trials of life. The transfigured Christ offers us a participation in His own devoted heart as well as the divine consolations that come from living as God’s devoted children even in our trials and difficulties, “To those who accepted Him He gave power to become children of God.”(Jn 1:12)

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we neither understand nor accept the sufferings, trials, and difficulties that come our way in this life. It is not enough to say that God is testing us without grasping that these tests are the way that God trains our hearts in devotedness. They are trials that also dispose us to receive the deep and enduring consolations that created things cannot give us in this world.

There are so many personal and communal trials and difficulties today that it is so easy for us to feel as if God is unable to help us or He doesn’t just care. We can even begin to question our love for God. It is also so easy for us to settle for earthly consolations that never satisfy us. It may be riches, pleasures, achievements, relationships, pastimes, etc. We are futilely trying to numb the pains of life.

Rather than questioning God’s love for us or trying to numb the pains of life, maybe we need to ask how God is inviting us to become more devoted in these moments of testing. What are we holding back from God at this moment? What are we unwilling to surrender to God? How is our relationship with God being determined primarily by our condition in life? How are we seeking to love for God’s sake and not for our own sake? Questions like these in trying moments help us to mature in our devotedness to Christ.

No matter how close we are to God, God will never cease testing His loved ones. He tested His own Mother Mary too several times. When He was found in the temple, He asked His Mother Mary, “Why are you looking for me? Did you not know that I had to be about my Father’s business?” When Mary told Him about the wine running out at the wedding of Cana, He asked, “How does this concern of yours concern me. My hour has not yet come.” All these were tests aimed at Mary manifesting her devotion to Him. Mama Mary continued to respond, offering all of herself, always and in different situations of her life, and doing so purely for the sake of God alone.

Our Eucharist is an encounter with Jesus, our ever devoted eternal High Priest, “who is at the right hand of God to intercede for us.” He will never cease to test our hearts, making them like His own devoted heart, and making them able to receive the Father’s consolations in this world of trials. All that we need to do is to respond to His undying devotion to us by showing Him our own devoted hearts, hearts ready to give all, always, and for God’s own sake alone.

Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!


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Praying our way into God’s plan for us: A homily for the 5th Sunday in Ordinary time


5th Sunday in Ordinary Time. February 4, 2018.

Job 7:1-4, 6-7; 1Cor 9:16-19,22-23, Mk 1:29-39

Praying our way into God’s plan for us

Jesus Christ, true God and true man, lacks nothing because “all things were created through Him and for Him.”(Col 1:16) In today’s Gospel, He successfully shows His power to heal the sick and to drive out demons. He wins the esteem and admiration of the crowd who pursue Him as attested by Simon Peter, “Everyone is looking for you.”

He owns all things. He is all powerful. He is successful and yet He makes out time for prayer, “Rising very early before dawn, He left and went off to a deserted place where He prayed.” What is He praying for? What does this show us about prayer?

Prayer is not just about getting results but it is primarily about deepening our relationship with God. The more we are ready and committed to life of honest prayer, our relationship with God is strengthened and in that deepened bond with God, we begin to grasp the beauty, love, power and wisdom of God’s plan for us even when our prayers are unanswered.

The fruit of Jesus’ prayer to the Father was to keep His focus on the Father’s plan for Him to be raised from the grave after His death on Calvary. By embracing this divine plan for Him in and through His early morning moments of solitude, Jesus was not swayed by the passing enthusiasm of the crowd that was searching for Him. He was ready to leave the place where He was successful and the people who esteemed Him and to journey to the place of rejection and to people who would condemn Him to death and crucify Him, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” Through prayer, Jesus never lost contact with the beauty, power, love and wisdom of His Father’s plan.

What happens when we do not pray as we should? What happens when we give up prayer because we do not get favorable results? Then we begin to lose the sense of God’s plan for us in those difficult and painful moments just like the faithful Job did in today’s First Reading. Having lost his wealth, children and health, Job lamented how futile and meaningless life was, “Is not life’s man on earth a drudgery?… My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle; they come to an end without hope…I shall not see happiness again.” He grasped the beauty of God’s plan for Him only when he later surrendered to God’s hidden wisdom, power and love.

Today’s Second Reading shows us the zealous St. Paul maligned and accused of selfish motives in preaching the Gospel. He is not distracted but embraces the divine plan for him even in the midst of all the false accusations, “For an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it.” He remains faithful to the Father’s plan to preach the Gospel free of charge.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, it is so easy for us today to say that we do not pray because we do not have the time to pray. It is so easy for us in our secular times to grow and advance in age, status, materially, academically, technologically, etc., and still be very immature in our relationship with God simply because we are not ready to sacrifice anything to make time and space for deep and honest prayer with God.

It is also so easy for us to limit our time of prayer to communal prayer in the Sunday Eucharist or daily Mass. The Mass remains the highest prayer itself because it is the prayer of Jesus Christ and a way for us to participate in His own perfect prayer. But we must also be ready to sacrifice something for that one-on-one prayer time with our Loving Father who has given us in His Son, Jesus Christ, the Spirit to assist us in our prayer, “We do not how to pray as we ought to prayer; but the Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.”(Rom 8:26) Nothing kills personal prayer like that self-indulgence that refuses to sacrifice anything for the sake of a deeper relationship with God.

In today’s Gospel, after Jesus had left the communal prayer of the synagogue, He still sacrificed His early morning sleep just to have some quiet time with the Father. Why then should we think that communal prayer of the Mass is enough prayer for us? Unless we nurture and grow in our relationship with God through that privileged one-on-one encounter with the Lord, we will never grasp God’s loving, wise and powerful plan for us and for the world. But when we grasp His plan for us, we become beacons of hope, bringing souls to Jesus like the disciples in today’s Gospel, “They immediately told Him (Jesus) about her (Simon’s mother-in-law)…After sunset, they brought to Jesus all who were sick or ill or possessed with demons.”

I recall that my very first month in the seminary in Boston was very difficult for me. I performed poorly in my first few classroom exams. I was struggling to get used to the new culture, language, and food. I felt I would die of the cold soon enough. I was in hospital twice in that first month alone. I felt I was not fitted at all for this religious and priestly life.

I also felt a strong desire to pray more intensely and I did not know how to respond. I make a deal with Mother Mary that if she would wake me up by 4.30am every morning, that I would pray for at least an hour every day before the time for community morning prayer. I know for sure that Mama Mary took my challenge seriously because I have never been more awake at 4:30 in the morning with an intense desire to open my sinful and wounded heart to God in prayer! I would pray the Rosary and spend time meditating on the word of God. Of course, I still had my struggles in the seminary but I began to grasp more deeply and certainly the divine love, wisdom and power behind my vocation to the priesthood and religious life despite my weaknesses and failures. I don’t think that I would have persevered in my vocation without this signal grace in prayer from Mother Mary.

We may be in that position where our prayer does not seem to be bearing visible fruit. We may be tempted to make that usual excuse that we do not have time to pray. We may be falling into the temptation of limiting our prayer time to only Eucharistic worship. Let us make a serious and honest deal with Mother Mary too as I did. She is more than equal to the task. She will do anything for us to pray as we should because her greatest desire for us is that we embrace the plan of God for us just as she did and thus know the power, wisdom and love of God for us all.

In our Eucharist today, Jesus comes with both grace and a renewed invitation for us to embrace His plan for us. No matter our sins and failings, our sufferings and pains, our answered or unanswered prayers, God’s loving plan is ever intact for us. With the help of Mother Mary, let us be ready to sacrifice anything just to pray as we ought so that we will know that God has a beautiful plan for us that is filled with nothing but His power, wisdom and love.

Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!


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The language of the heaven-bound: A homily for the feast of the Santo Niño

Feast of the Santo Niño.  January 21, 2018.

Is 9:1-6; Eph 1:3-6,15-18; Mk 10:13-16

The language of the heaven-bound

Jesus confirms that the only way to heaven is to become like a little child, “Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” So it is possible for us to do all that we are doing now supposedly for the sake of the kingdom but still miss out on this kingdom because we do not have that fundamental disposition of becoming like little children.

So we must ask what it means to become like little children on our way to the Father’s kingdom. How do we know that we are doing and enduring all things with a childlike disposition as we strive for the kingdom of God?

Our language in our relationship with God and with ourselves will show how childlike we are. There are five ways that we can know if our language reflects that of God’s children bound for heaven or not.

  1. “Thank you, Lord.” To enter into the kingdom of God, we must see it as first and foremost a gift from God and not something that we can merit or earn in anyway. It is Jesus Christ alone who reveals the kingdom to us, makes it present in Himself, and affords us entry into this kingdom. We can neither believe in this kingdom nor lay claim to it apart from the merits of Christ won for us on the Cross and disposed to us in the sacraments of the Church, beginning with holy baptism. Though we are sinners with the potential to sin again, we must embrace the kingdom of God with gratitude because “Christ died for us while we were still sinners,”(Rom 5:8), His grace is “sufficient for us,”(2Cor 12:9) and He has come “not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”(Lk 5:32) The kingdom of God remains a gift no matter what we have to do or suffer to possess it.
  2. “I cannot do anything on my own.” We must humbly admit that on our own, we cannot do anything worthy of the kingdom. We need the light and strength of divine grace to enlighten us to the beauty and glory of this mysterious kingdom, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed.”(Lk 17:20) On our own, we cannot turn away from sin and all that is contrary to the divine will, love like Christ Jesus, cooperate with the His grace, and follow Him till the end of our lives. It is by the grace of God alone that we can embrace the mystery of the cross and suffering in our lives and be faithful to His divine will even at great costs. As Jesus said, “Apart from me, you can do nothing,”(Jn 15:5); in addition, “we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.”(Phil 4:13)
  3. “Jesus, I trust in you.” Lest we fall into discouragement after admitting our inability to do anything without the grace of God, we place all our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ alone and we depend on Him alone for everything. We trust in Jesus’ words to us and His promises to us and in the redemption that He has already won for us. We trust not only in the person of Jesus, but in the mysterious ways that He brings us into His kingdom. We trust that He chooses to communicate His own divine life to us through the sacramental signs of bread and wine in the Eucharist, “This is my body… this is my blood.”(Mt 26:26,28) We trust that the seed of the kingdom is growing mysteriously in this weak and sinful Catholic Church. We trust that He offers us in His kingdom communion with His own mother too, “Behold, your mother.”(Jn 19:27) We do not just trust in Jesus and His words and promises to us also, but also in the mysterious ways that He chooses to bring us into His kingdom.
  4. “Lord Jesus, please help me.” If our trust in Jesus is as it should be, then we shall approach Jesus in all our needs with confidence as He invites us to do, “Ask and you shall receive… whoever asks receives.”(Mt 7:7) We can make all our requests and needs known to Him without any shame or fear of our prayers not being granted. As God’s children, we pray with the certainty that our prayers will be answered according to God’s mysterious holy will for our good and for the good of others.
  5. “Lord, I come to do your will.” Having expressed our prayers sincerely and confidently from the heart, we will seek the will of God above all things. Filled with the sense of God’s goodness, we know that what God wills is the very best for us. We do not seek to please ourselves but to please God in all that we do. We would not be content in claiming that He is our Lord and master, but we will seek to do His will above all things, “It is not those who say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, who will enter the kingdom of God, but those who do the will of my Father in heaven.”(Mt 7:21)

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today’s Readings on the Feast of the Santo Niño fill us with this hope that is ours as God’s children. We now have access to God because “a child is born to us, a son is given us.” In this son, Jesus Christ, God has “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessings in the heavens.” In this son, God has “destined us for adoption to Himself.”

In today’s Gospel, we see this same Jesus Christ becoming indignant at His disciples who try to prevent the children from being brought to Him, “Let the children come to me, do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” In Jesus Christ, God has drawn near to us all. Yet the children in today’s Gospel cannot approach Him on their own but they depend on others to bring them to Jesus. They have a sense of their need for the blessings of Jesus as well as their need for help to approach Him.

What prevents us from approaching Jesus like the children of God that we are? Has the sins and sufferings of our lives made us take the gift of His kingdom for granted? Are we trying to enter His kingdom by our own efforts and wisdom? Can we humbly admit our need for His help? Are we trusting in Him to the point that we accept the often mysterious ways that He chooses to guide us to His kingdom? Does our prayer life show that we depend on Him alone for all our needs? Where are we placing our trust today? Are we bent on doing our own will because we think we know what is best for us?

The image of the Santo Niño reminds us that Jesus has come to us in the form of an infant born of the Virgin so that we too may approach God as His beloved children. He comes to us hidden under the form of bread and wine in today’s Eucharist because He desires to treat us like He treated the children in today’s gospel, “He embraced the children and blessed them, placing His hands on them.” We have access to the embrace, blessings, and touch of Jesus that we need in this life to remain faithful to Him and to enter into His heavenly kingdom. All we have to do is always speak from the depths of our hearts the language of the heaven-bound children of God: “Thank you, Lord… I cannot do anything on my own….I trust in you, Lord…Please help me, Lord…Lord, I come to do your will.”

Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!





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Responding to Jesus’ invitation: A homily for the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary time.

2nd Sunday in Ordinary time. January 14, 2018

1Sam 3:3-10, 19; 1Cor 6:13-15, 17-20; Jn 1:35-42

Responding to Jesus’ invitation

Two characters catch our attention in today’s Readings. There is Eli who helped the young Samuel respond to God’s calling. Then there is Andrew in the Gospel who invited his brother Simon Peter to meet Jesus. These two characters were divine instruments in the vocation of Samuel and Peter. But these two characters differed in their relationship with God.

The aged Eli had known the evil of his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, but had failed to correct them. He had condoned evil and thus incurred the wrath of God. God revealed this to Samuel in these words, “And I tell him (Eli) that I am about to punish his house for ever, for the iniquity which he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of his (Eli’s) house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever.”(1Sam 3:13-14)

It was this same Eli who helped Samuel respond to God’s mysterious voice in today’s First Reading. The inexperienced Samuel heard God’s voice several times but repeatedly presented himself to Eli. Eli eventually recognized that it was God calling Samuel. He then instructed Samuel exactly what to do and say when he heard the same voice, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for thy servant is listening.’” When Samuel did that, God revealed Himself to Samuel making him one of the greatest prophets in Israel.

Then, we have Andrew, who was privileged to hear John the Baptist’s words about Jesus, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” He followed Jesus and had an intimate encounter with Jesus for a whole day, “They stayed with Him (Jesus) that day.” Filled with love for Jesus and desiring to communicate this joy to others, Andrew “first found his own brother Simon,” and then “brought him to Jesus.” This was the beginning of the vocation of Peter, the Prince of Apostles, “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas” – which is translated Peter.”

Jesus offers each and every one of us the same invitation that He offered in today’s Gospel, “Come, and you will see.” He is inviting us daily through the people that we meet and live with, whether they are themselves faithful to Christ or not.

Why is Jesus Christ inviting us to Him through all the people that we meet irrespective of their own moral or spiritual life? We are constantly invited to draw nearer to Jesus because we belong to Him and He paid a huge price to make us His own. In the words of St. Paul, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? You are not your own. For you have been purchased at a great price.”(1Cor 6:15,19-20) Jesus, the Good Shepherd who is ready to risk the safety of ninety-nine for the sake of the lost sheep, is ready to seek for the lost sheep by all means, even if He has to use flawed messengers.

I remember an experience in my first year in the seminary. I was attending a priestly ordination liturgy at the Boston Cathedral in the early part of 2002 at the height of the clergy sexual abuse scandal. The ordaining prelate was the late Bernard Cardinal Law. There were news crews outside the cathedral. There were protesters calling for the resignation of the cardinal for his handling of the several abuse cases. The morale among the clergy was very low. There was justifiable anger and disappointment inside and outside the Church. We seminarians were trying to grasp the magnitude of the scandal and the effect it would have on the faithful for a long time to come.

The late cardinal reminded us in his homily that God continues to invite all of us through a Church that is never a stranger to weakness and failure. He asked the newly ordained not to doubt their vocations because of their weakness but to place their trust in Jesus who never ceases to invite us to Him. I would never forget his words that day in the painful history of the Church in Boston.

Off course his words did not heal the wounds of the abuse of many. It did not remove our anger or disappointment or make him more trustworthy. But I saw in his words an invitation to look beyond the weak channels of the Gospel and to focus on the power of divine grace being offered in the Gospel. It is so easy for us to lose our faith in Jesus and a sense of His loving invitation to us because of the flaws and failures of the messengers of the Gospel. By recalling the words of St. Paul, “We hold this treasure in earthen vessels,”(2Cor 4:7) we must not allow the weakness of the Gospel’s messengers blind us to the beauty and power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus’ invitation to us today is continuously being mediated through human channels who usually fall short of all expectations. The channels of this invitation may be poor or rich, faithful or faithless, sinful or holy, educated or not, wise or foolish. Jesus does not discriminate in the channels that He uses to draw us to Him and to embrace our vocations in life. The challenge is for us to look beyond the human messenger to embrace the transforming invitation from God. We cannot judge the authenticity of the invitation from Jesus by the spiritual or moral life of the messenger.

We encounter the blood of Jesus in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It is the huge price that Jesus has paid so that we belong to Him and to Him alone. This is why He would never cease to invite each of us, saying, “Come, and you will see.” Jesus is in our midst and His invitation will continue to come to us through many human messengers in our lives. We will not be disappointed if we choose to look beyond the human messengers and embrace this loving invitation with faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who has purchased us at a great price.

Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!

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Sin, Grace, and the waiting of the Advent Season: A homily for the 1st Sunday of Advent.


1st Sunday of Advent. December 3, 2017.

Is 63:16-17,19; 64:2-7; 1Cor 1:-9; Mk 13:33-37


Sin, Grace, and the waiting of the Advent Season

There are many possible reasons why many people participate in the Eucharistic liturgy today but few of them come to receive Our Lord Jesus Christ in Holy Communion. Whatever the reasons may be, it is safe to say that many of us today do not receive Holy Communion because we do not desire God as we really should. If we really believed in the Real Presence of Jesus in Holy Communion and His love for us, and if we desired Him as we really should, nothing would stop us from receiving Him sacramentally. The truth is that our hearts have found contentment in something less than God or even contrary to His will for us. That is how sin kills our desire for God and our energy for God and the things of God.

Jesus asks us in today’s Gospel to watch, “Be watchful! Be alert…What I say to you, I say to all: watch!” How can we watch for the Lord with expectation for His glorious return and labor faithfully for Him till the end when we do not desire Him above all things as we should? How can we wait for Jesus when we have found contentment in some creaturely thing? The first step to watch for Jesus is to close our hearts to sin completely without compromise because sin will surely snuff out our desire for God and we take away our strength for serving, loving and worshipping God till the end.

In the First Reading, the exiled Israelites return to their country only to find it devastated. They have a desire for God to come into their midst again, “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down.” This desire for God is fueled and accompanied by a humble acknowledgement and acceptance of their own sins and sinfulness, “Behold, you are angry and we are sinful; all of us have become like unclean men, all our good deeds are like polluted rags…our guilt carries us away like the wind.” They appeal for God’s continuing saving action in their lives as they pledge complete dependence on God henceforth, “Yet, Oh Lord, you are our father; we are the clay and you the potter; we are all the work of your hands.” Having admitted their sins and affirmed the continuous goodness of God, they show a truly humble and contrite heart that desires God and is ready to be found ever more faithful to Him and dependent on Him alone.

In the Second Reading, St. Paul reminds us of God’s response to our sins – grace won for us by Jesus Christ. This grace supplies all our need and makes our waiting for Jesus till the very end possible, “The grace bestowed on you in Christ Jesus…so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is this grace that heals our wounds, forgives our sins, sets us free as God’s children and strengthens us to be faithful till Jesus’ glorious return. Our second step to watch for Jesus’ return is to open our hearts completely to His grace.

We must make use of all the means that Jesus has given to us to overcome sin and receive His grace. The waiting of Advent points us to the Sacrament of confession where, seeing sin for what it really is according to God’s standards, we surrender our sins without any pretense, and receive the healing and liberating grace of God in sacramental absolution. The more thorough and sincere our Confessions are, the more that sacramental grace acts to enkindle ever more our hunger for God even as we struggle with sinful tendencies.

There is a tendency today to take sin lightly. We even try to “sanitize” sin by giving it more socially acceptable names. Pornography, the great sin of lust, is called Adult entertainment. The murder of the unborn infant is called abortion. Stealing is called corruption. Homosexual action is called same-sex relationships. Adultery is now referred to as irregular unions. We here in the Philippines call gossip and slander “chismis.” We also blame every other person but ourselves for our sinful choices. Even God is not spared the blame as we hear many say today, “I am this and that because I was born that way.” We sadly justify and rationalize our sins, denying personal responsibility and claiming that there is nothing that we can do to overcome sin in our lives.

The truth is that no matter what our response to sin is, no matter how we try to give it a new name or push the blame for sin away from us, sin still has the same effect on us – it kills our desire for God and takes away our energy for God and the things of God so that we cannot watch for the Lord Jesus Christ. The only way to keep our desire for God alive and growing is to close our hearts to sin and open them to divine grace.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Paul reminds us that “God is faithful, and by Him we are called to fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” There is no accidental saint in heaven. Only those who consciously live and nurture their desire for full communion with God eternally will enter heaven. This is because Jesus gives Himself and introduces into beatifying fellowship with Him only those who desire Him ardently. He will never force Himself on those who do not desire Him as they should.

This explains why Jesus gave Himself to us only through Mary, an immaculately conceived virgin who was filled with grace, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.” Mama Mary desired God more than any person that ever lived on this earth because her Immaculate Heart is forever closed to any form of sin and completely opened to receive all graces, even the Author of Grace Himself. The Second Eucharistic Preface of Advent captures the uniqueness of Mary’s desire for God in these lovely words: “For all the oracles of the prophets foretold Him (Jesus), the Virgin Mother longed for Him with love beyond all telling.” Nothing could quench or diminish Mary’s desire for Jesus; not even the anguish of her dying Son could quench her desire to receive and bury His dead body after the Crucifixion. She watched for His glorious return and was ready to receive Him at the end of her earthly life and to have Him assume her body and soul into heaven.

Mary remains the woman of Advent who helps us to watch for Christ’s coming. She is so because she is the New Eve who helps us to close our hearts to sin, and she is the Mother of divine grace who helps us to open our hearts completely to the mysterious workings of divine grace so that we desire God ever more deeply as we watch for Him.

Jesus, the Author of grace, comes to us in today’s Eucharist with all the graces that we need. He will surely come in glory on a day and time that we do not know or expect. His grace alone intensifies our hunger for God, strengthens us for the things of God and makes our watching for His glorious return possible. All we have to do is to let this desire for Jesus grow continuously by closing our hearts to all sin and opening them completely to the grace of Jesus Christ that we receive in this Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!




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