Today is a special day in my life. On March 1st 2011, I began my journey as the Spiritual Director of the Jornada Movement. What was to be a six month assignment has become an assignment that has given me and my priesthood, light, life and love.
It was most appropriate that the first reading from this morning's Mass focused on friendship. Sirach speaks of happy, healthy and holy friendships. Many gifts have to me by being spiritual director of the Jornada, but nothing I cherish more than the friendships I have gained. Today I am ever grateful of the friendship I have through this movement.
But enough about me- lets talk about what the first reading says. In each of us exists a longing for others, and a desire to find ourselves in other people. This desire drives us to encounter other people; it drives us to relationships in all its varied forms.
The experience of friendship that we made in the Jornada Movement gives us a new kind of understanding. We become reconciled with ourselves as we are accepted by another, able to love ourselves as we are loved by others, accept who we are as others accept us even with our faults and failures. And since we become more ourselves, we have more energy available for the mission of life - to love one another. Therefore, this friendship has to be with the right people. Sirach says, ‘a faithful friend is a gift from God'.
As great of a friendship I have made with you, an even deeper and greater one has been made with the Lord. This friendship is seen in our complete and total dependency on God. It is to be profoundly aware that we belong to God who is strong, caring, eternally reliable, faithful, and incapable of deceit.
Friendship with the Lord is a pattern of life and a continued experience that we experience in the Jornada Movement. Let us find in Jesus a true friend, and may he direct us to the right people that we have to enter into relations with. Amen.
Our world today is filled with this quest of self-discovery and self-dependence. There is even a constant push for isolation and belief in self-sustenance that can lead us to God, almost as if we see an end in ourselves. The psalmist puts it clearer: in vain do men labor if the Lord does not labor with them. The command of Jesus to the apostles in Luke 5:1-11 to put out into the deep is a sincere call that obedience to God makes our burdens bearable. How often are we silent enough to listen? We must be quiet and let God take control by leading us. He always leads us to greener pastures, but obedience makes the following easier and simple.
I invite us to spend sometime each day in silence.
In speaking to many of you about various topics, issues and situations in your life, I thought of these two simple words: TAKE COURAGE!" Courage is the will to move on against all odds while trusting that all will be well.
Our world, our Church and our lives today are very challenging. We feel all these disappointments, tensions, setbacks, worries and trying moments. Darkness seems to be calling on darkness. There are moments when all we see is a darkness. Amidst all these, the most striking solace is God. Courage in him is not a guarantee of no toils or pain but an assurance that following him – the way, the truth, and the life – brings an amazing hope that all can be calm. We are urged therefore to live our lives with courage and hope in him, because cut off from him we can do nothing.
St. John Bosco is known universally as the Patron Saint of youths. Therefore, in a very special way, he is our patron as Jornadistas. Personally, he is my favorite saint as I look to him or his intercession, example and friendship. So I beg you to pray for this movement and one another; that we may strive to be a saint like him. Please pray for me, I want to be another St. John Bosco. So help me God!
St. John Bosco lost his father, Francis Bosco when he was barely two years old, leaving him to the care of his poor mother, Margaret and his step-brother Anthony. From that tender age, John Bosco understood what it meant to be a father.
But he was equally gifted and was always outstanding among his peers. That also made him a very influential figure among them. With his gifts, even before aspiring to the priesthood, he had already influenced his peers, the youth, to a more positive life. It is a very big lesson for the youth and all of us: we don’t need to be priests or religious, mothers or fathers - to evangelize. We are all called to use our talents, time and treasure to bring others to Christ.
To evangelize is not so easy as we may have to endure being plagued by all sorts of oppositions, from both internal and external forces. St. John Bosco faced great opposition with his ministry among the youth. Both the government and the Church authority fought to stop him. But he held on to God with a heart full of assurance of faith.
Are we also passing through turbulent times because of our faith in Christ? Do not be afraid to keep your lamp burning brightly for all to see (see Mark 4:21-25) because the one you serve never sleeps nor slumbers; he will never desert you. May he always be by your side to lift you up when all seems to be turning against you.
And like Don Bosco, may we search for the lost and forgotten. Today, in celebration of his feast day I ask all Jornadistas to invite one person to group this week (perhaps a new J or an older one who has been forgotten about). We must never stop living our mission - Youth Evangelizing Youth.
Peace be with you.
One of the great lessons of Christianity is that no matter how bad our past has been, we can begin anew.
St. Paul was a zealous persecutor of the Christians before Jesus knocked him off his "high horse" on his way to Damascus. That kind of mission had won him a reputable status among the Jews, and he must have been gaining a lot from it. But when Jesus called, like the first four disciples he left everything to follow Jesus.
What I find fascinating is that Paul could have resisted the change, he could have rejected conversion, but he didn’t. He did not look back at the prestige and power he would lose among the Jews if he abandoned the course of leading the war against Christians.
If we are honest, many do not want to change from our sinful ways because of what we think we gain from them. We don't change simply because we don't want to. Some are reluctant to change because they feel that God cannot forgive them again.
But we must know that there is nothing that is greater than the mercy of God. Listen to the testimony of Paul himself, “… I had been a blasphemer, a persecutor and a rapid enemy. However, he took mercy on me… and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant” (1 Tim 1:13-14).
Your case shall not be different! As you make efforts to follow him, may his grace and mercy overflow in abundance for you, to guide you and protect you. But first you are going to have to want it!
Matthew was a tax collector, therefore considered a public sinner by the religion he belonged to. Yet Jesus broke protocols to call him. It is easy for us to condemn the sinner, cast aside the one who has done wrong, throw out the person living in sin.
However, that same Jesus broke the protocols for you and gave himself up on the wood of the cross just to save you, a sinner like Matthew. How did Matthew respond? He left everything to follow Jesus. More than that, he attracted people like him to also follow Jesus.
St John tells us that, having been healed, we too must also help others to become healed. Instead of condemning, casting aside, or throwing out the sinner, let us do our part to help him or her follow Jesus.
May God give us the grace to answer Jesus as he invites us daily to follow him. And may he redeem us from the sickness of condemning others who rather need our assistance to also get redemption.
As we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, I wish to focus on two themes. The first, it is a proclamation of who Jesus is - the Son of God the Messiah, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. By declaring Jesus his son, God confirms that Jesus shares the same divinity with him. Jesus is God! And Jesus reveals to us the image of God. This Jesus worked and died for that singular purpose to make us live the way God created us to live - in His image and likeness. St. Paul informs us that through him, we received the grace to reject worldly passions and embrace the life of grace which God offers us.
Secondly, in the Baptism of Jesus, we are invited to reflect on our own baptism and baptismal promises. As our baptism transforms us into another Christ, we are called also to show the image of God to others. It remains to be asked, when we encounter other people do they recognize the living presence of God in us?
We pray that the merciful love of God may abide in us at all times, and through us reach out to all the faces that desire it in our world. Amen.
Jesus is the light that shines for all to see. Jesus is the light to those who sit in darkness and the glory of the people of Israel. In Jesus, this light has no limitation nor obstruction; it does not discriminate nor does it falter.
This time between the celebration of the Epiphany and the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord - the last week of Christmas - we are given the same message given to the all those privileged to encounter the Baby Jesus in the manger - the message of salvation and joy.
Remember that the Magi were led to where Jesus was by the star. This star ; is anyone or anything that leads people to Jesus. Can you not also make a resolution today to be a star to all in this year?
Certainly a theme during this season is joy and gladness. Office parties, family gatherings, school shows, decorating all bring a certain happiness in our lives. However, there is another reason, a greater reason, why we are to be filled with joy and gladness.
In the midst of sadness and distress, anxiety and worry, pain and suffering and all of the realities of our lives, Advent helps us to realize that God is with us - He is Emmanuel; and joy in our hearts is the best sign to acknowledge His presence.
In other words, the His presence is the cause of our joy. Zephaniah urges the people to rejoice because “the Lord… is in your midst.” And Paul tells the Philippians he wants them to be happy, because “the Lord is very near.” The joy that this world cannot give is the joy that comes from believing our closeness with God and the certainty of his love for you and me. This joy, with all its laughter and smiles, can only become a reality when Christ resides in our hearts.
Now here is the really Good News - that we can still rejoice (gaudate), and shout for joy, and be glad even while fulfilling our responsibilities as Christians. Our world may say otherwise, but the message for us is that our joy will be complete when we turn away from sin and turn towards Christ especially in following His commandment of loving God and loving one another.
In general, being kind and generous, sharing our resources with others, showing concern for others and being just and merciful in all our dealings with others will in fact make us happy.
But only when those actions coincide with our faith that says God is indeed in with us. Therefore, cannot but sing and shout for joy, giving praise and declaring the greatness of God's Holy name.
Our Second Weeks of Advent invites us to look at Saint John the Baptist. Saint John fore runs the coming of Jesus. As the prophets foretold, John now reminds the people that God always keeps His promises, as the long-awaited Messiah is here. John's words always arouses the people especially as he speaks of the baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.The Baptist’s words, “prepare the way for the Lord, make his paths straight.” Saint John tells us that there is a duty and a responsibility for each and every one of us, both as a community and individually. As we await the Savior’s arrival, we must ready the pathway for the Lord; leveling the rough edges and smoothening the bumpy grounds.
Ultimately we are invites to look at our own lives and realize the way of the Lord require straightening as we strive to follow HIM.
Our lives have been not always been a straight path to God by our crookedness, malice, and vice. We have made the pathway rough by sins, selfishness and pride. Our pathways to God as not been straight with anger, bitterness, unforgivingness, intolerance and resentments. Our pathway has been made rough with our unconcerned and indifferent attitude towards the sufferings and those in need?
It is not the Lord’s way that needs straightening, but ours. If we are truly preparing for the joyful expectant coming of Jesus, then we must listen to John’s call to repent from all sins that make our hearts a bumpy and rough path for the Lord. When we do as John tells us and make straight our path to God, we shall shout joy in gladness, as the Lord works marvels for and in us by making our pathway straight.