Kargador at Dawn

Kargador at Dawn
Work in the Vineyard

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Martyrdom of Fr. Benjamin Inocencio, OMI

Fr. Benjamin Inocencio, OMI - MARTYR

Today we celebrate the martyrdom of Fr. Benjamin Inocencio, OMI. He was shot on the day of the Holy innocents (his name sake) at the back of the Jolo Cathedral in 2000. Once again posting here what I have written two years year ago... on the need to re-think our idea of martyrdom...
Fr. Jun

Rethinking martyrdom…
Fr. Jun Mercado, OMIJanuary 26, 2011 8:09pm

During the months of December, January and February, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculateremember three of their four martyrs who were brutally killed in the Provinces of Sulu and Tawi Tawi.

On December 28th, the Feast of the 
Holy Innocents, we trooped to Barangay Ugong in Pasig to celebrate with the family, friends and the people of the barangay, the 10th anniversary of the martyrdom of Fr. Benjamin Inocencio, OMI. On the same day in 1990, Fr. Benjie as he was fondly known was shot just behind the Jolo Cathedral.

He was new to Jolo after spending about ten years of missionary life as teacher and a ‘factotum’ in aremote island somewhere in the Sulu Sea called Cagayan Mapum.

To many, Fr. Benjie was the least likely victim of 
violence. He was one of the kindest and one of the most peaceful creatures on earth. As a scholastic and a missionary, he would prefer to do house chores to street demonstrations. Yet, in the end, the lamb-like Fr. Benjie ended in the altar of sacrifice –victim of wanton violence and fanaticism in the name of God!

Then in January 15th, in our small 
chapel of the OMI Provincial House in Cotabato City, we remembered the third anniversary of yet another Oblate martyr, Fr. Jesus Reynaldo Roda, OMI. In the evening of the same day in 2008, Fr. Rey’s house was attacked by several armed men. The murderers tried to kidnap him. He was bludgeoned by rifles, hacked and later shot in another remote island called Tabawan somewhere near the Celebes Sea.

Fr. Rey was a man full of passion for the islanders. He worked for 
quality education in the said God-forsaken island to give the young people opportunity to pursue higher education. He invited NGO’s and some benefactors to journey with his people as they eke a livelihood in an island forsaken by the powers that be.

In the month of February, the OMI’
s will be remembering the 14th anniversary of the martyrdom of Bishop Benjamin de Jesus, OMI. Bishop Ben was brutally shot in front of the Jolo Cathedral on February 4th, 1997.

Bishop Ben and Fr. Benjie were made of the same stuff. They were kindness personified. Bishop Ben would go around Jolo and the whole Vicariate always with a smile and a greeting of peace on 
his lips. He would listen endlessly to the cry of his people, Muslims and Christians alike.

The fourth martyr was a bit controversial, because of his passionate commitment to clean and credible elections in the Municipality of Ampatuan during the 
local election of 1971. Fr. Nelson Javellana, OMI, then Director of Notre Dame of Ampatuan, and a group of CNEA volunteers believed that clean and credible elections were possible in Ampatuan. Riding back home in a mini bus after a seminar on the conduct of elections in Cotabato City, they were ambushed somewhere in Tambunan on November 3rd, 1971.

The brutal ambuscade just days before the 1971 local elections, many claimed, galvanized the Christian votes that marked the shift of leadership in the Cotabato Province and the City from the Muslim hands to the Christians. Carlos Cajelo became the first elected Christian Governor of North Cotabato that included then the Province of Sultan Kudarat. Teodolo Juliano became the first elected Christian City Mayor of Cotabato.

As we remember our martyred confrères, in many ways, we are forced to re-think the meaning of ‘martyrdom’. This does not mean that everything in our world has changed, but the actual situation provides new examples and trends of martyrdom.

In the re-thinking of martyrdom, two prominent theologians, Johann-Baptist Metz and Edward Schillebeeckx, have offered three points by way of appreciating this phenomenon.

The first is labeled as responsive mercy in a cruel world. The situation of injustice and poverty produces people albeit few in number who respond with mercy to defend the victims of the economic order, and for this reason they are violently and unjustly 
killed without being able to mount any defense. And there are also those who, in the midst of ethnic conflicts, work and struggle to overcome differences and to defend the human rights of the most oppressed.

Not everything in these conflicts can be lumped as ‘terrorism’, as some would lead us to believe. Many people go to the length of giving up their own lives for the weakest. All the deaths mentioned are, above all, an expression of love for the poor and the victims, and their exceptional nature stems from this love. Even if we do not give such people a particular title, they are responsively merciful to the end.

The second point is called as Suicide and terrorism. With the outbreak of terrorism and fanaticism, religions, which claim to be bearers of something good and absolute, can come to defend this something absolutely, which involve violence. They can also induce their members to be prepared, and even willing, to give their lives in defense of this absolute. This carries with it the double danger of generating the fanaticism of suicide (often undertaken from a belief in a reward after death) and of using suicide to bring about the death of innocent people.

The third point is to give a name to the crucified peoples. Here we speak of the deaths of millions of people, especially of children, in what used to be called Third World countries, in the form of poverty, exclusion, wars, massacres, in the everyday form of hunger in sub-Saharan countries (Somalia, Darfur, Eritrea, and others) and in some regions of Asia, of deaths from AIDS, particularly those of children, who are in no way to blame. What is happening is undeniable, but society and government do not even give these victims a name, let alone grant any sort of dignity to these deaths.

These nameless masses of people share with the ‘
martyrs’ the fact that they suffer death, indefensibly and unjustly, sometimes slowly through hunger and oppression, sometimes violently in wars and massacres imposed on them. The term used to designate these millions of human beings can be debated, but what cannot be done is to leave them without a name in a distant and everlasting anonymity.

The martyrdom of our four confreres in the Southern Philippines can only be understood within the three points outlined above. In many ways, the brutal killings of Bishop Ben, Frs. Nelson, Benjie and Rey give platforms to these nameless deaths, in society, a sort of giving one’s 
life to bring these crucified peoples down from the cross.

The martyrs teach us a great lesson that living is learning to suffer with grace, with elegance; to struggle, certainly, but at the same accepting suffering and tragedy without hatred or loss of hope.

In a similar vein, a liberation theologian, Bishop Pedro Casaldáliga, tells us that re-thinking martyrdom communicates, in our contemporary times, what he has seen, thought, and experienced over the course of many years. ‘Martyrs die with no trace of masochism or ‘sacrificialism’. They die with the joy of giving life to all, even to one’s enemies, and not taking it from anyone, with commitment, gratitude, and hope.’

 Bapa Jun

The Feast of the Holy Family (A)

Text: “…behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him." (Matthew 2: 13)
 Meditation:  Like the Holy Family, there are times that we need simply “to flee” until the “tempest” is gone else we are destroyed…  The important thing is to discern God’s voice within us. God's message leads to a new understanding not only of ourselves but of the reality out there...
 1st step: Write the text or Dhikr (the Arabic word for REMEMBRANCE) in your heart.
2nd step: Let the text remain always in on your lips and mind - RECITING the text silently as often as possible...
3rd step:  Be attentive to the disclosure of the meaning/s of the text in your life.
Bapa Jun Mercado, OMI

Friday, December 20, 2013

4th Sunday of Advent (A)

4th Sunday of Advent (A): Readings: Isaiah 7: 10-15; Romans 1: 1-7; Matthew 1: 18-24

The short reflection is taken from the Gospel reading: “The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.  She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins’."  (Matthew 1: 20-21)

In facing life’s challenges, we are, often, afraid.  The message to us is similar to Joseph… ‘DO NOT BE AFRAID’. Trust in God… He is with us!

I considered some of the awful things my parents and grandparents had seen in their lifetimes: two world wars, Nuclear Explosions in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killer flu, polio and small fox. But they saw other things, too, better things: the end of two world wars, the polio vaccine, and the post War Reconstruction and the space travels.

I believe that my generation will see better things, too -- that we will witness the time when AIDS is cured and cancer is defeated; when the Middle East will find peace and Southern Philippines will find the peace formula. Ever since I was a little kid, whenever I've had a bad day, my mom would put his arm around me and promise me that "tomorrow will be a better day." I challenged my mother once, "How do you know that?" she said, "I just do." I believed him. My grandparents did, and so do I.

What the future holds for the next generation, when I hear them speak ‘tomorrow’. I, too, want to put my arm around them, and tell them what the Angel Gabriel told Joseph:  “DO NOT BE AFRAID” Trust in God… He is with us!  Don't worry, tomorrow will be a better day. This, I believe.

Bapa Jun Mercado, OM

Monday, December 16, 2013

Reasons to Celebrate Christmas


Our Christmas celebrations, admittedly, do start too early, are too-commercially driven, do focus too little on anything religious, and do not take the poor sufficiently into account.  Too often too they serve to obliterate religious awareness rather than highlight it. And so it is easy to be cynical about the Christmas. It contains too many excesses.
There are seasons in life that are meant precisely for enjoyment, for family, for friends, for color, for tinsel, and for good food and good drink. There is even the occasional time for some prudent excess. Jesus gave voice to this when his disciples were scandalized by a woman’s excess in anointing his feet with perfume and kisses.
There is a God-given pressure inside of us that pushes us to celebrate. The celebration of festival and carnival, even with their excesses, help teach us that.  Christmas is such a festival. In the end, its celebration is a lesson in faith and hope, even when it isn’t as strong a lesson in prudence.
To make a festival of Christmas, to surround Jesus’ birthday with all the joy, light, music, gift giving, energy, and warmth we can muster is, strange as this may sound, a prophetic act. It is, or at least it can be, an expression of faith and hope. It’s not the person who says: “It’s rotten, let’s cancel it!” who radiates hope. That can easily be despair masquerading as faith.
It is the man or woman who, despite the world’s misuse and abuse of these, still strings up the Christmas lights, trims the tree and the turkey, turns up the carols, passes gifts to loved ones, sits down at table with family and friends, and flashes a grin to the world, who is radiating faith, who is saying that we are meant for more than gloom, who is celebrating Jesus’ birth.
(Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

3rd Sunday of Advent (A)

The Highway of Holiness Passes through the Desert
December 9, 2013 by Fr. Thomas Rosica Leave a Comment

The Third Sunday of Advent, Year A – December 15th, 2013
In his moving homily for the Inauguration of his Petrine Ministry as Bishop of Rome on April 24, 2005, Pope Benedict XVI spoke these words:

The pastor must be inspired by Christ’s holy zeal: for him it is not a matter of indifference that so many people are living in the desert.  And there are so many kinds of desert.  There is the desert of poverty, the desert of hunger and thirst, the desert of abandonment, of loneliness, of destroyed love.  There is the desert of God’s darkness, the emptiness of souls no longer aware of their dignity or the goal of human life. The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast. Therefore the earth’s treasures no longer serve to build God’s garden for all to live in, but they have been made to serve the powers of exploitation and destruction.  …The Church as a whole and all her Pastors, like Christ, must set out to lead people out of the desert, towards the place of life, towards friendship with the Son of God, towards the One who gives us life, and life in abundance.

The deserts of our lives
There is no better starting point to understand the Scripture readings for the third Sunday of Advent, especially today’s first reading from the prophet Isaiah [35:1-10], than by reflecting on Pope Benedict’s words.  The themes of geography and desert in both the Pope’s inaugural homily and Isaiah’s stirring reading invite us to reflect on the deserts of our own lives. How do we live in the midst of our own deserts?  How often have we become deserts of loneliness, desolation and emptiness, rather than flourishing gardens of community, joy and light for others?  How have we resisted transforming our own deserts into places of abundant life?  We may have to go into that wilderness where we realize we are lost, and alone, unfruitful and without resources – and only when we reach that point are we ready to meet God. 

The geography of salvation
We encounter the geography of salvation at many places in the Bible.  This geography forms the background for Isaiah’s portrayal of the coming of the Lord in chapter 35.  Whereas judgment of the nations is described in Isaiah 34, chapter 35 stands in stark contrast to the bleak picture of devastation and desolation in the preceding chapter as the Lord judges the land of Edom. Defeated in battle and driven from their homeland, the people of Israel were without hope.

Isaiah 35:1-10 announces the end of the Babylonian captivity, presenting a stirring vision of deliverance, freedom, and salvation.  The prophet recalls the joyous memories of the exodus from Egypt. A second exodus is in store, symbolized by the healing granted to the blind, the dead, the lame, and the mute. Israel’s singer of hope captured the paradox of barrenness and rejoicing – the paradox of Advent – as no other poet has.  Scanning the southern Negev desert’s gnarled surface he saw a vision of God’s new creation:  “The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing…”  [35:1].

A new exodus
Delivered and saved by God, all peoples shall return to their own land by way of the desert, in a new exodus. Salvation bursts onto the world scene through geography: highways, valleys, mountains, deserts, and plains!  The road, the desert, water, and joy are more than mere coincidence. Isaiah prophesies that there shall be one pure road and it will be called the way of holiness upon which the redeemed shall walk.  From desert to streams to the highway of holiness, Isaiah’s atlas of the geography of salvation leads us into the mountain of the presence of the Lord: The ransomed of the Lord will return and enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads.  Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away [35:10].

The desert as metaphor
The desert has become a metaphor to describe the sense of alienation and despair that are the effects of human sinfulness. How many times have we used the expression: “I’m living through a real desert experience” or “I feel so alienated from God and from other people” to describe what we are feeling because of our sinfulness.  If we are complacent and self-satisfied, we’ll never begin to long for the coming of the Lord, or make ready to meet him.  The ways of the desert were deep within the heart of Jesus, and it must be the same for all who would follow him.  In the midst of the desert we hear what God will do if we open our hearts to him and allow God to make our own deserts bloom.

The geography of salvation… today
God has revealed himself to us not only in specific periods of time, but also in very particular places in creation.  For many Christians, these very places conjure up images of shepherds and olive trees, high walls and enclosed, ancient cities and towns as they existed in the age of King David or Bethlehem at the time of Jesus.  The Holy Land is a land without history, its people and places frozen in a biblical time frame, or locked in an unending political battle.  As Catholics, we have a double obligation to thaw out the frozen biblical time frame and make it accessible and inviting for Christians.
A visit to the Holy Land reminds us that we are caught up not only in the History of Salvation but also in the Geography of Salvation.  Both the story of our own lives, coupled with the biblical stories, show us how God can write straight with our crooked lines.  The best-selling Holy Land Guides do not bear witness.  They merely indicate.  Only people, not stones and marbles can bear the most authentic and eloquent witness that at one shining moment in history, the Word became flesh and pitched his tent among us.  And we continue in our day to behold his glory.

Were the Holy Places turned into museums or archaeological curiosities as they have been in other countries, tangible historical links would be severed.  Without the presence of local churches and communities of Christians, the witness of Holy Land would be terribly diminished and even non-existent.

The word of God and the Holy Land
As we journey through this season of Advent, I encourage you to read Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Exhortation “Verbum Domini,” and especially the following section that speaks eloquently aboutthe word of God and the Holy Land:

89.  As we call to mind the Word of God who became flesh in the womb of Mary of Nazareth, our heart now turns to the land where the mystery of our salvation was accomplished, and from which the word of God spread to the ends of the earth. By the power of the Holy Spirit, the Word became flesh in a specific time and place, in a strip of land on the edges of the Roman Empire. The more we appreciate the universality and the uniqueness of Christ’s person, the more we look with gratitude to that land where Jesus was born, where he lived and where he gave his life for us.

The stones on which our Redeemer walked are still charged with his memory and continue to “cry out” the Good News. For this reason, the Synod Fathers recalled the felicitous phrase that speaks of the Holy Land as “the Fifth Gospel”.  How important it is that in those places there be Christian communities, notwithstanding any number of hardships! The Synod of Bishops expressed profound closeness to all those Christians who dwell in the land of Jesus and bear witness to their faith in the Risen One. Christians there are called to serve not only as “a beacon of faith for the universal Church, but also as a leaven of harmony, wisdom, and equilibrium in the life of a society which traditionally has been, and continues to be, pluralistic, multi-ethnic and multi-religious”.

The Holy Land today remains a goal of pilgrimage for the Christian people, a place of prayer and penance, as was testified to in antiquity by authors like Saint Jerome.  The more we turn our eyes and our hearts to the earthly Jerusalem, the more will our yearning be kindled for the heavenly Jerusalem, the true goal of every pilgrimage, along with our eager desire that the name of Jesus, the one name which brings salvation, may be acknowledged by all (cf. Acts 4:12). 

The Sunday of rejoicing
The way of Israel in the desert is the way for all of us.  As we celebrate the third Sunday of Advent,Gaudete Sunday or the day of rejoicing, we join with the exiles of Israel and the disciples of John the Baptist as we yearn for salvation, and long for new life to blossom. This week let us carve out some spiritual space in our lives where we can strip away the false things that cling to us and breathe new life into our dreams and begin again. In the midst of the desert we hear what God will do if we open our hearts to him and allow him to make our own deserts bloom.  What God does to the southern desert of Israel, God will do for us: transform our barrenness into life, and trace a highway and a holy way in places we believed to be lifeless and hopeless. 
Are we on the Highway of Holiness?  Are we making progress on it?  Are we enjoying the travel?  Are we inviting others to join us on the way?

Come, Lord Jesus!
We need you now more than ever.
Make our deserts bloom.
Quench our thirst with your living water.
Give us strength to follow you on the Highway of Holiness.
Fill our hearts and minds with rejoicing!

[The readings for the Third Sunday of Advent are: Isaiah 35.1-6a, 10; Psalm 146; James 5.7-10; and Matthew 11.2-11.]

Saturday, December 07, 2013

2nd Sunday of Advent (A)

Readings: Isaiah 11: 1-10; Romans 15: 4-9; Matthew 3: 1-12

Text: In those days John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea (and) saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" (Matthew 3: 1-2)

Meditation:  The reign of God is at hand… it finds home only in a repentant heart.  Change our old ways and bad habits!  After receiving the Baptism of Repentance,  we make visible our commitment to new life.   This takes courage…!

1st step: Write the text or Dhikr (the Arabic word for REMEMBRANCE) in your heart.
2nd step: Let the text remain always in on your lips and mind - RECITING the text silently as often as possible...
3rd step:  Be attentive to the disclosure of the meaning/s of the text in your life.