Sunday, March 31, 2013
The Lord is, truly, RISEN! Allelulia!
'Let the risen Jesus enter your life, welcome him as a friend, with trust: he is life! If up till now you have kept him at a distance, step forward. He will receive you with open arms. If you have been indifferent, take a risk: you won’t be disappointed. If following him seems difficult, don’t be afraid, trust him, be confident that he is close to you, he is with you and he will give you the peace you are looking for and the strength to live as he would have you do.'
'There is one last little element that I would like to emphasize in the Gospel for this Easter Vigil. The women encounter the newness of God. Jesus has risen, he is alive! But faced with empty tomb and the two men in brilliant clothes, their first reaction is one of fear: “they were terrified and bowed their faced to the ground”, Saint Luke tells us – they didn’t even have courage to look. But when they hear the message of the Resurrection, they accept it in faith. And the two men in dazzling clothes tell them something of crucial importance: “Remember what he told you when he was still in Galilee… And they remembered his words” (Lk 24:6,8). They are asked to remember their encounter with Jesus, to remember his words, his actions, his life; and it is precisely this loving remembrance of their experience with the Master that enables the women to master their fear and to bring the message of the Resurrection to the Apostles and all the others (cf. Lk 24:9). To remember what God has done and continues to do for me, for us, to remember the road we have travelled; this is what opens our hearts to hope for the future. May we learn to remember everything that God has done in our lives.' (Pope Francis - Easter Homily)
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Short Meditation on the Seven Last Words
By Fr. Jun Mercado, OMI
First Meditation: “Father Forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”
Jesus experienced abandonment in his moments of trials and difficulties. His own friends abandoned him and fled for safety. One of his chosen ones betrayed him for 30 pieces of silver. His own people disowned him. And they hailed him to foreign power to be tried and condemned to die.
In all his pains and sufferings, he lovingly looked at them and even as he heard their jeering, he said: "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing."
When we feel betrayed and abandoned... may we remember Jesus' words... and learn to forgive.
Second Meditation: “Today, you will be with me in paradise…”
One of the thieves nailed to the cross with Jesus, exclaimed: "Lord, remember me when you enter into your kingdom." And Jesus replied: "Amen I say to you, today, you will be with me in paradise."
We are all sinners... Paradise is NOT a reward of our hard work or strivings. No, we do NOT merit the kingdom of God!
Paradise is NOT earned...! It is a GIFT! We pray for that gift... and like the thief on his side, we cry to God: "Lord, remember me..."
Yes, God remembers us always... and God remembers us with loving compassion.
Likewise, we are invited to remember God always... May God's name and compassion be always in our lips and hearts.
Third Meditation: To his mother, Jesus said: “woman, here is your son”. And to his disciple: “here is your mother.”
In his agony, Jesus saw the pain of his mother… he looked at her with love and entrusted her to his disciple: “woman, here is your son”. And to his disciple standing by the cross, Jesus said: “here is your mother.”
Tradition has it that Jesus, on his way to Golgotha where he would be crucified, met his mother. There are three important scenes depicted in the traditional Stations of the Cross. The first was the meeting of mother and son on the way to Calvary. Second was the scene where Mary, the women and his beloved disciple were standing at the foot of the cross. And third was the scene when Jesus was taken from the cross and laid on his mother’s lap. This last scene had inspired great artists and the most prominent was the great Michelangelo that gave us the famous Pieta.
Yes, Mary was always there in the life and work of her son… In this meditation Jesus is speaking to us and gives us his mother… to be our mother, too! He speaks to her mother and tells her… that we, now, are her sons and daughters! And today, Mary – our mother is always there, too, in our life…
Fourth Meditation: “I am thirsty.”
Nailed on the cross, Jesus felt thirst… and he cried out: “I am thirsty.” This cry of anguish echoes the cry of the poor. In many places in the world – in urban and rural settings, we find the poor who cry out, as well, in their loud voice: “I am thirsty.” Often this is a cry of the real physical thirst – no drinking water, no washing water, no toilet facilities. At times, this is a cry of anguish, because they find “no exit” from the “hole” of poverty that is akin to a quicksand that drowns them. At other times, this is a cry that seeks solidarity from people – looking for a helping hand… an extra shirt or a walk of an extra mile.
Jesus in his thirst expresses his solidarity with us… it is the thirst that invites us, also, to be in solidarity with our neighbor… But who is our neighbor? Is this not the very question that the doctor of the law asked Jesus in the parable of the Good Samaritan?
Fifth Meditation: “Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabbactani” My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me.”
Towards the end, Jesus experienced a near despair! He was abandoned; He was in extreme pain; and He could not understand the tragedy that was unfolding… He cried out to his father: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me…”
This cry reminds of the song, Foot Prints in the Sand. It was the same experience of being abandoned in times of great pain and difficulty… Speaking to Lord, the person asked: “Lord, why have you abandoned me… for I see only a set of foot prints?” The Lord answered, “no my child, when you see only a set of foot prints… those where the times that I carried you in my arm…”
God is there… God carries us in his arms… when we, too, see only a set of foot prints… they are God’s and not ours…!
Sixth Meditation: “Father, into your hand, I commend my spirit…”
The end has come and Jesus, totally trusting his Father, cried out: “Father, into your hand, I commend my spirit.”
There are things we do not understand… The tragedy and grandeur of life, often, escape us. In fact, to understand life… we need to bend our knees… and like Jesus in the cross, we, too, need to completely put our trust in God.
When everything is said and done… it is only God’s mercy and love that endure… Yes, we need to make that leap of faith… “Father, into thy hand, I commend my whole life!”
Seventh Meditation: “It is finished.”
Before breathing his last, Jesus said: “it is finished.” Yes, he completed his mission to the last…! He paid the full price for our freedom to become God’s sons and daughters. He was the “ransom” for our freedom!
Romans 8: 31- 39, beautifully, expresses that new dignity purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ:
“What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies; who is to condemn? Is it Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
As it is written, “for thy sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure 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.
Friday, March 22, 2013
They too Mourned for Him
By: Father Roberto C. Layson OMI
Fr Jesus Reynaldo A. Roda OMI, ‘Father Rey’, expected it all along. But not the people of Tabawan, whom he had served for ten years before his brutal murder on 15 January at the hands of his abductors. One of Father Rey’s Muslim scholars described the immediate reaction of the local people: ‘It was as if a big bomb was dropped in our midst and we got the shock of our lives. The whole island mourned. Some lost their appetite. Some kids don’t want to go to school anymore’.
Desecration of Sacred Grounds
Tabawan is one of the beautiful islands of Tawi-Tawi, the southernmost province of the Philippine archipelago. It is inhabited by peace-loving Samals and prides itself on being a peaceful and tolerant society. That is why the brutal murder of a missionary priest in this island is hard for the local inhabitants to accept. Ultimately, they saw it as a desecration of their sacred ground.
The Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a missionary congregation, started to establish mission stations in the Muslim-dominated provinces of Cotabato, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi in 1939. Since then, they have been living with Muslims while serving the minority Christian population of the islands.
After World War II, the Oblates put up Notre Dame Schools in the islands to respond to the increasing demand for education in the region. These were welcomed by the local Muslims. Not only that. Over the years, the local people also started to develop strong affection for the missionaries. This was especially true in the case of Fr Leopold Gregoire OMI, a Canadian.
Fr Gregoire was the director of Notre Dame School in Tabawan for 20 years until his death. He died many years ago but until now, not only the Notre Dame community celebrates his birthday every year but the entire island. The celebration is called ‘Father Gregoire Day’ and goes on for three days with a lot of fanfare. The town has a population of more or less 20,000, with only thirty Christians.
For Love of Others
It was around 7:30 in the evening. Father Rey was praying inside the chapel, as he used to do after supper, when he was taken forcibly by his captors. When he refused to go with them, they shot him dead. The Oblates in the Vicariate have agreed among themselves not to go with the attackers in the event of a kidnapping attempt. The reason is that in many kidnapping incidents in
There were some students at the campus at the time of the killing. They were taking a computer class. The class is held in the evening because it’s the only time that the school generator is running. There is no electricity on the island. When the armed men left, they took Mr Taup, a Muslim teacher, with them.
Losing one of their own
Ordained on 10 May 1980, Father Rey had deep compassion for the poor. He was in the forefront of justice and peace work in the Diocese of Kidapawan during the Martial Law days. Prior to his assignment in Tabawan, he was a missionary in
The death of Father Rey brought back in our memory that fateful day, 4 February 1997, when Bishop Benjamin de Jesus OMI was murdered in front of Mt Carmel Cathedral in Jolo. This was followed nearly four years later by another tragedy when Fr Benjamin Inocencio OMI was murdered at the back of the same cathedral on 28 December 2000.
Just like what happened after the deaths of Bishop Ben and Father Benjie, the Muslims mourned. At Father Rey’s death, they also mourned, especially the people of Tabawan whom he had learned to love. They literally had lost one of themselves.
One in Sorrow
Samud, a Muslim who have been serving the Oblates in Tabawan for many years as a convento boy, was interviewed by Ces Drilon on ABS-CBN TV. The day after the killing, Fr Raul M. Biasbas OMI, a classmate of Father Rey on another island in Tawi-Tawi, called Samud by cellphone to ask what had really happened. ‘I’m very sorry, Father, I was not able to protect Father Rey,’ he answered in tears.
Wija, also a Muslim, was one of Father Rey’s scholars. She called him ‘Tatay’, ‘Dad’. During the commotion at the convento with the armed men, she rushed to help him but he shouted at her, ‘Anak, tumakbo ka na!’, ‘Run, daughter!’ She accompanied the body of Father Rey from Tabawan to Cotabato on board a military helicopter provided by the Philippine Air Force. She brought with her an album containing pictures of Father Rey and herself, which she keeps with fondness.
In Bongao island where Father Rey was waked for two days, Muslims and Christians filled
This was very consoling. While we grieved for the death of Father Rey, we found solace not only in the support of fellow Christians but also in the support given by Muslims, including the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and several NGOs, through their personal condolences and public condemnations of the murder.
To me, this outpouring of support reveals that human goodness transcends even religious boundaries. Indeed, it is possible for Muslims and Christians to work together to create a peaceful society if only we learn to shed our human biases and focus on doing God’s will for his people.
We do not exactly know what Father Rey was telling God when he was praying inside the chapel. Perhaps, he was telling Him about his many dreams for the people of Tabawan. Now that he is gone, only the memory of Father Rey remains in the hearts of the Muslim and Christian inhabitants of this island.
The Badaliyya Tradition…
By Dorothy C. Buck
In 1934 a renowned French Catholic Islamic scholar and an Egyptian Christian woman also prayed together before the altar of a
Church in .
In a passionate plea to the God of Abraham, father of Jews, Christians, and
Muslims, they made a vow to dedicate their lives to pray for the Muslim people,
to stand before God for them. Damietta, Egypt
As a young man, Louis Massignon had lost interest in his Christian heritage. After an unusual conversion experience while on an archeological mission in
he became a devout
Roman Catholic believer. Through years of research in the Arab world he came to
love his Muslim friends and colleagues. Baghdad
Mary Kahil was a Melkite Christian who grew up in
where she became active in the Muslim women's political and social causes. Cairo, Egypt
Louis discovered the roots of his spirituality and his faith life in his belief that to be a follower of Christ we must substitute our own lives for the salvation of others as Jesus did.
Thus the vow that Louis and Mary made in
on February 9th, 1934 was grounded in a deep conviction of the heart, a call to
what Louis named the Badaliyya, an Arabic word meaning substitution. Damietta
In 1947 Louis Massignon and Mary Kahil received official approval from
for the statutes of
the Badaliyya. They attracted many members in Rome as well as those joining in solidarity
with them, like Cardinal Montini, the future Pope Paul Vl, and many others in
monasteries and church communities around the world. Cairo
In the statutes they agreed to pray for the Muslims, to treat them with respect, affection and kindness, and to personally live the gospel message of love in their daily lives. Like Mary they devoted themselves to the Muslim community by volunteering in organizations where they could live out the spirit intended by the Badaliyya.
They met once a week for an hour. Guided by his relationship with Charles de Foucauld, Massignon invited them to begin their gatherings with a prayer in solitude before the altar called adoration. Then they read the spiritual writings of Foucauld or others, and ended by praying together.
Louis Massignon's understanding of what he called mystical substitution traced back to earlier church traditions. The many saints who were often martyrs for their faith were said to unite their sufferings and death with the passion and death of Christ. In the medieval church some extraordinary mystics felt called to pray to take onto themselves the physical and emotional afflictions of those who came to them for healing.
These examples seem far from our contemporary experience of faith and appear exaggerated and foreign. Yet, Louis Massignon's vision of such immense love of
God, even at the expense of one's own life or health, evolved into a profound and intense spirituality of compassion for others.
In a letter written on January 16, 1955 to Mary Kahil he described the spirit of the
Badaliyya: (All Massignon references are from L'Hospitalité Sacrée, Ed. Jacques Keryell, 1987. Author's translation.)
"...They say that the Badaliyya is an illusion because we cannot put ourselves in the place of another, and that it is a lover's dream. It is necessary to respond that this is not a dream but rather a suffering that one receives without choosing it, and through which we conceive grace. It is the visitation [by the spirit of God], hidden in the depth of the anguish of compassion, which seizes us as an entrance into the reign of God. It certainly appears powerless, yet it requires everything, and the One on the cross who shares it with us transfigures it on the last day. It is suffering the pains of humanity together with those who have no other pitiful companion than us."