Thursday, August 14, 2014

Remembering Maximilian Mary Kolbe, Saint and Martyr

Today is the commemoration of the death of Maximilian Mary Kolbe, an Apostle of Consecration to Mary, a Saint, and a martyr.  I also named our youngest son, John Maximilian or "Max", after him; especially because of Kolbe's self-entrustment to Mary.
Saint John Paul II in his homily on the Canonization day of Maximilian Mary Kolbe said:

"From today on, the Church desires to address as "Saint" a man who was granted the grace of carrying out these words of the Redeemer in an absolutely literal manner." For towards the end of July, 1941, when the camp commander ordered the prisoners destined to die of starvation to fall in line, this man-Maximilian Mary Kolbe spontaneously came forward and declared himself ready to go to death in the place of one of them. This readiness was accepted and, after more than two weeks of torment caused by starvation, Father Maximilian's life was ended with a lethal injection on August 14, 1941."

Today, I pray for all those who have died---children and adults---in the killings caused by war; those who by virtue of being Christian were persecuted and killed. Pope Francis who expressed sentiments on the persecutions in Northern Iraq in his letter to the UN, says: "It is with a heavy and anguished heart that I have been following the dramatic events of these past few days in Northern Iraq where Christians and other religious minorities have been forced to flee from their homes and witness the destruction of their places of worship and religious patrimony (August 13, 2014).

Mary, help of Christians, pray for us.

I pray too that my son emulate the virtues of St. Maximilian Kolbe; his heroism and his holiness -- his Marian devotion.  May you grow up son, to be a man of justice, peace, and integrity.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

4 Qualities of Children That Will Make You Great

"Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven." Matthew 18:4

In one of our Sunday family bonding times in a restaurant,  my wife and I posed a question for each member: "Name five great blessings from God today." Having in mind something that the children can easily relate, I answered, "The food on my plate, the coffee I'm drinking, the money in my pocket,  your mom and you kids." When it was the turn of my 4-year old daughter Kaitlyn,  she said, "My blessings are: love, earth, food, friends, and family." My jaw dropped. I was expecting,  toys, ice cream and the like.

I was humbled by my own child.

"Jesus had a particular love for children because of 'their simplicity, their joy of life, their spontaneity, and their faith filled with wonder," said St. John Paul II. These are some child-like qualities we can ponder on and humbly adopt:

1. Simplicity

Have we the simplicity of a child? Yes, children want a lot of things; pointing to toys here and there -- but it’s about the simplicity of asking their fathers---in dependence---of they what they need. Have we simply asked God of what we need or do we complicate things with our pride and intellect? God is the source of all things great and small.

2. Joyfulness

Are we as joyful as children? When children play -- they play. Play means a lot to them, it’s the highlight of their day. I am not saying we should have a happy-go-lucky outlook amidst real life challenges -- we should deal with these problems; it’s just that many of us forget to “play” or to enjoy the beauty of life. Some of us have a negative thing to say of just about anything. Instead of being joyful, we become overly-cautious, mistrusting, and proud. Have a joyful mind-set; don’t be “nega.” For the overly busy ones, take time to rest and play -- and smile. Go ahead be joyful!

3. Spontaneity

A child is spontaneous; living in the moment! The adventurous person inside us needs to come out! I’m not talking about recklessness, but a life of adventure in the Lord. Say yes to that mission trip; climb that mountain; join that marathon; enroll in culinary; write that book. Be spontaneous! Just to put things in perspective,  Malcolm Gladwell would describe spontaneous this way: “Basketball is an intricate, high-speed game filled with split-second, spontaneous decisions. But that spontaneity is possible only when everyone first engages in hours of highly repetitive and structured practice--perfecting their shooting, dribbling, and passing and running plays over and over again--and agrees to play a carefully defined role on the court. . . . spontaneity isn't random.” There too is a discipline in spontaneity; the discipline of prayer allows us to realize the adventures that God wants us to experience.

4. Faith filled with Wonder

Often, my 7 year old son asks me tough theological questions: “Why is Jesus “yayay” (hurt)?” or “What does ‘Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world’ mean?” With much curiosity and anticipation he awaits my answers -- with wonder.  We take a cue from the faith of a child.  A child has a  “faith seeking understanding.” (St. Anselm) If we have a child-like faith, we will not stop learning about our faith. We’d be excited to go to Church and listen to the Word of God and the homily; we’d be buying books to enrich our faith-knowledge.

In the eyes of the child, “Everything is Awesome.” (The Lego Movie)  Especially for a toddler who mostly sees, smells, touches, tastes, and hears things for the first time.  We too can see all of life as an awesome gift of God; not to be overly-familiar but constantly renewed with gratefulness and wonder.

Let us be fully aware of our being God’s children; greatly loved in the Kingdom of Heaven. Let us be in the Father’s arms -- simple, joyful, spontaneous, and with a faith filled with wonder!  We are great in the eyes of God, just as how an earthly father looks at his own children, but infinitely more and in the most perfect sense. To be great is to acknowledge in all humility that we are God’s children.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Picking up Momentum

When you feel like you're losing, try winning at one small thing and from there pick up your momentum! The Mustard seed is "the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants." (Mt.13:32) Have faith!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Saturated With Grace

Like a sponge, we too, absorb. It can't be helped that in a day we are immersed in situations that seep in the negative: random people cursing and badmouthing; heavy winding traffic; sudden work pressures; family misunderstandings; and other unexpected concerns that weigh on us. Yet, we too can absorb the positive: God's Grace! At the start of the day, we have to soak in the Holy Spirit -- saturated in Grace through prayer and especially the Sacraments (daily Mass is highly recommended). Once saturated with Grace that sanctifies, all the absorbed negatives will be purified and met with faith, hope, and love. Burdens become challenges; the mundane turns exciting; hopeless cases find faith; anger trimmed to calmness; and work transforms into mission. Be a "gracious sponge" today!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

We are the Aroma of Christ

This birdbath is of the St. Pio Chapel in Libis. It's interesting to know that birds do "take-a-bath." They take the time to cleanse and refresh themselves. Since the birdbath is located within the chapel compound, I can't help but make a connection about it to our own spiritual lives. We too get a "spiritual bathing" to cleanse and refresh ourselves when we visit Church. Yes, we are able to pray anywhere and at anytime -- but within the hallowed walls of the Church, we are powerfully pointed to the God.  More so, in Church we receive God's grace through the Sacraments.

When a person literally does not take a bath for a considerably long time, he starts to reek and feels itchiness all over the body.  More so, others are repelled from him and come to highly question the person's hygiene habits. In the same way, if we don't approach Jesus through the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation for a really long time, there's a good tendency that the sinfulness in us – the stench of the evil one – will reek; through our words, actions, and especially our thoughts -- from subtle to obvious to devastating.  We need the grace of forgiveness, for our conversion, to be brought back to wearing the heavenly scent of Christ. Forgiveness cannot be earned, we need to humbly ask of it as a purifying gift; to cleanse us, heal us, and refresh us. 

"This endeavor of conversion is not just a human work. It is the movement of a "contrite heart," drawn and moved by grace to respond to the merciful love of God who loved us first (CCC 1428)."

By the act of confessing our sins and through the absolution of the priest, we are granted that undeserved grace. Like the birdbath, it's open and it's free.  One of the reasons why many of us find it hard to confess our sins is that our hearts have become calloused with pride; we justify every wrongdoing; we have the fear of the humiliation of admitting our faults and failures. In a very deceiving way of the devil, we have found comfort and "getting-used-to" in the state of "itchiness and filth." Just like the complaint of the Israelites when they were grumbling of hunger in the desert: "Would that we had died at the LORD'S hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our fleshpots and ate our fill of bread! But you had to lead us into this desert to make the whole community die of famine!" (Exodus 16:3).  Despite of them knowing the Lord's promise of a land of freedom for their own people, even "flowing with milk and honey," they looked back and would have rather suffered slavery; eating "comfortably" a slave's food ration instead of the abundant life ahead.

The devil's goal is to make us "insane with sin." In the Philippines, we have the "taong grasa" or street vagrants who are oily and dirty; mentally affected by the harshness of the experiences of their own lives or may be inborn -- may God heal and restore them. Our hearts can become "pusong grasa," emotionally feeding off from the filth of sin and mentally affected by the whispers of pride and insatiable ambition by the evil one. Yet, Romans 5:20 powerfully reveals the truth that "where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more."  There is hope for a "spiritual bathing" and a restoration of our dignity in Christ! No matter how filthy our souls have become, there is a time for cleansing! Go ahead, take a spiritual bath, and smell like Christ!

"But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ and manifests through us the odor of the knowledge of him in every place. For we are the aroma of Christ for God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to the latter an odor of death that leads to death, to the former an odor of life that leads to life..." (2 Corinthians 2: 14-16)

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