Gathering the Sheep
March 17, 2019
My dear parishioners,
We are now on the second Sunday of Lent. How is your Lenten preparation so far? What have you given up for Lent? Have you been faithful in observing fasting and abstinence? Are you more generous and kind, and less selfish and proud? How is your prayer life— do you pray more often now? Do you find joy and consolation while praying? What bad habits and sinful ways have you removed from your life? What are the good habits and deeds you have acquired?
Last Sunday at Mass, I asked the people to pray not only for themselves, but also for others, especially those who are sincerely trying their best to change their lives for the better. Come to think of it, why don’t we make praying for others our good deed for Lent? Think of one particular person, perhaps a friend or a relative, or even an enemy, and pray daily for that person. As you pray for your own conversion, include that person in your prayers. You may also offer for that person the sacrifices, the fasting and other acts of willful deprivation you make this Lent. Would it not be wonderful that as we change ourselves, we are helping others change themselves, too?
The other day, after the morning Mass, a man approached me and asked me to help him pray for his teenage son. He worries because his son—nice, respectful and obedient one—is hanging out with the wrong kind of people. I could feel his deep concern; he doesn't want his good son to turn bad. I promised the man that I will pray for his son and his son’s friends. They, too, I thought, need my prayers. Who are you praying for this Lent? This Sunday we reflect on the Transfiguration of our Lord. The apostles Peter, James and John witnessed this glorious event in the life of Jesus. While the apostles stare amazingly at the sight of Jesus, resplendent in His divine glory, a voice was heard from the cloud, “This is my beloved Son, listen to Him.” Do you listen to Him? Or would you rather listen to yourself and follow your own selfish and evil desires? Pray that your mind and heart be always open and ready to follow God’s will.
For the past two weeks, Archbishop Michael J. Byrnes was the guest lecturer in our parish bible class which is held every Tuesday at the upper parish hall from 6:40 to 7:40 in the evening. Archbishop Mike covered for Fr. Val Rodriguez, our regular teacher, who is on vacation. It was very kind of Archbishop Mike to share his time and his expertise on the bible with us. May God continue to bless our Head Shepherd.
Lastly, on November 4 to 17 this year, I will be leading a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, including Egypt and Jordan. I have been there before and I can say that, given the opportunity and means, this is one trip that you should make. To see the place where Jesus was born, the river where He was baptized, the towns where He taught and performed miracles, the garden where He agonized, the place where He suffered and died, the tomb where He was buried and many other significant places, is an experience of a lifetime. The pyramids in Egypt and Petra in Jordan are just bonuses.
So,, let me know at once if you are interested because I need to make a reservation for you. I will be looking forward to making this trip with you. Please pray that I can gather many parishioners to join this pilgrimage. God bless you.
Prayers and blessing,
Gathering the Sheep
MARCH 3, 2019
My Dear Parishioners,
This coming Wednesday we begin the season of Lent with the celebration of Ash Wednesday. The ashes that will be imposed on our forehead will remind us of our own mortality and of our need for repentance. As the priest, deacon or minister trace the sign of the cross on our forehead with the ashes, we will be re-minded that “we are dust and to dust we shall return” or we will be admonished to “repent and believe in the Gospel.”
The Lenten season prepares us for the celebration of the Paschal Mystery, that is, the suffering, death and resurrection of our Lord. Lent leads us to Easter. The Passion leads to the Resurrection. Lent, therefore, invites us to enter into a more penitential and sorrowful spirit, and it encourages us to accept our sins and make amends.
During this season we are once again reminded of the three pillars of Lent: praying, fasting and almsgiving. These disciplines will help us observe Lent more faithfully and prepare us more fully for a meaningful celebration of the paschal mystery. Pray more, fast more and give more—this is our call.
Most of us observe Lent by giving up something, usually food. This is good. In fact, the Church encourages this by designating days of fasting and absti-nence. Those 14 years old onwards are obliged to avoid meat (which includes chicken) all Fridays of Lent. This is abstinence. Those between the ages of 18 and 59 years, aside from observing abstinence on Fridays of Lent, are also obliged to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Fasting is having one full meal only.
Aside from making sacrifice by giving up something, Lent also encourages us to do something good. Remember, it is not enough to avoid evil. We need to do good. Avoidance of evil and sin is good, but doing good things for our-selves and for others is better.
What are the things we can do for Lent? We can pray more and come to Mass more often. We can visit the Blessed Sacrament and spend more time in pray-er. We can give up our vices and bad habits. We can stop wasting money on unnecessary and unhealthy things. We can donate the things we no longer need or use to charity. We can use our time, talent and treasure to help others and our church. The list of good things we can do is endless. I am sure you can think of more other ways. What is important is we use this season of Lent to help us grow more in our relationship with God and with one another.
Lastly, I ask you to join me in praying for ourselves and for our parish. Let us ask God to make this Lenten season be fruitful for all of us. Let us ask God to bless us and our parish that we may be faithful to our mission and so attain our vision.
Prayers and blessing,
FEBRUARY 24, 2019
My Dear Parishioners,
Many of us consider ourselves blessed for various rea-sons. Good health, abundance of materials posses-sions, a happy family, a well-paying job, a circle of true friends—these are some of things that make us feel blessed. Anything that makes us happy, anything that makes us feel satisfied, anything that frees us from our misery—we call them blessings.
Many of us believe that a blessing is a favor from God, something we do not deserve, but given us by God nonetheless because God is pleased with us. Therefore, to be blessed is to be happy; and to be hap-py is to be blessed.
But our Lord Jesus tells us differently in this Sunday’s Gospel. Considered the best sermon ever given, the Beatitudes give us a totally radical idea on how it is to be blessed. Our Lord Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor...the hun-gry...those who are weeping...blessed are you when people hate and insult you…”
We ask, how can I be happy when I am poor and when I am hungry? How can I be happy when in fact, I am weeping? How can I rejoice when people hurt me and insult me?
Perhaps we can find enlightenment from this reflection of Mark Brumley of Ignatius Press published on IgnatiusInsight.com:
“Thirty years ago, the Jerusalem Bible created a stir by rendering the tradi-tional “blessed” of the Beatitudes as “happy”: “Happy the man…” Happy? But the Beatitudes are about blessedness, not happiness, right? Isn’t happi-ness an emotional state; blessedness, a spiritual one?
The objection is half-right. People today often associate happiness with “having a good time”- with pleasure and comfort, the antithesis of suffering and want. But contemporary usage is flawed. True happiness is spiritual and moral, not merely emotional or pleasurable. The saints in heaven are su-premely happy, because they’re with God, the source of all happiness. We call their happiness beatitude, and we speak of the beatific vision of God, which the saints enjoy.
Saints-in-the making on earth can be only relatively happy. Even so, whatever helps them grow closer to God, they consider “blessed.” Poverty, hunger, sor-row and human rejection can, in a sense, bring happiness or beatitude, be-cause such things can bring us closer to God. Hence Jesus calls those who experience such things “blessed” or “happy.”
Similarly, wealth, full stomachs, contentment and human respect, though good in themselves, can be spiritual dangers. They can lead us to forget God and His Kingdom. In that sense, they can be curses. More so, if we have acquired them by unjust means—to which our sinful hearts incline us.”
God bless you all may you have a happy week ahead.
Prayers and blessing,
GATHERING THE SHEEP
JANUARY 20, 2019
My dear parishioners,
For this Sunday I want to give you a parish up-date:
Parish Vision and Mission: We now have a new parish vision and mission. Kudos to all those who participated in the parish assembly last July 2018. Special thanks to the members of our Parish Pas-toral Council for working hard in facilitating the assembly and for working even harder to formu-late our vision and mission. Our goal this year is to disseminate and explain the vision and mission to all parishioners especially to those involved in different ministries.
Kindly check the front page of this bulletin for the complete text of our parish vision and mis-sion.
Bible Study: Last January 8, we started the Bible Study Class. The response of our parishioners was wonderful and simply encouraging. More than a hundred people attended last Tuesday’s class. May God, I pray, sustain this “awakened and enthusi-astic spirit” in all of us. My profound gratitude to our teacher, Fr. Val Rodriguez. God bless him for sharing with us his time and talent.
This class is being held every Tuesday at 6:40in the evening in the upper parish hall. I invite you to “Come and see (Jn 1:39-41)” and learn.
Divine Mercy-John Paul II Chapel in Astumbo: The construction of the chapel of the Divine Mercy-John Paul II in Astumbo is now at its last stage. Through the un-tiring efforts of the officers of the Astumbo Catholic Family Mission—with the gen-erous support of the community and the devotees of the Divine Mercy—the dream to build a house of God in Astumbo is now almost a reality. I look forward to cele-brating the first Mass in that chapel soon.
We are still looking for donors to help us finish the chapel. Any help, no matter how small, will be greatly appreciated.
Parish Loan: As of December 31, 2018, our Bank of Guam loan balance is $367,644.20. Through your support and generosity, our parish was able to reduce our loan balance to almost half since I took over the parish administration in July 2013. It is my personal goal for the parish to pay off this loan before I finish my term as pastor.
On Bankruptcy: The Archdiocese has filed for bankruptcy last Wednesday. De-spite this, our parish will continue to function as usual although with some con-straints as far as expenditure is concerned. We can spend for the regular parish oper-ations but not for non-essential expenses. Capital improvements, like church re-painting, will have to wait. But we will welcome parishioners who are willing to donate the paint and the labor.
Church Air-conditioners: Last year, through your generosity, we were able to re-place the remaining six units this year. But because we cannot use the parish funds for this purpose due to the bankruptcy restrictions, I am praying that some of our generous parishioners will come up and offer to shoulder the expenses.
May God fill you with His love and blessings. Have a lovely weekend.
LIKE THE HOLY FAMILY
DECEMBER 30, 2018
My dear parishioners,
As the year ends, I look back at 2018 with gratitude. This year that is about to end has given me plenty of reasons to be happy and grateful. It has brought me, thanks to God’s goodness and munificence, countless blessings, great and small.
God has always been so good. The abundance of God’s blessing and love obscured the experiences of pain and dis-appointments. God’s mercy and compassion soothed the frustrations and softened the impact of failures. His forgiveness erased the guilt of sin and in its place courage was given enabling me to rise again and move on, more confident than before although ever chastised and repentant.
Of course, the year has also brought unfavorable and unpleasant experiences. That is the nature of our imperfect life. This imperfection was the sad result of the evil’s intrusion into what was supposed to be a perfect life created by God for us. Alt-hough this gift of life from God had lost its perfection due to sin. God still provides us, year in and year out, with abundant blessings to ensure that we live a better and happier life here on earth. Always the devil and his minions will try to spoil God’s plan and initiative. And always they will fail. Thanks to God’s guidance and inspira-tion and grace, the destructive machinations of the evil one are always brought to naught. With God’s help and strength, obstacles are hurdled, challenges are faced and overcome, failures and disappointments are humbly accepted, and life goes on.
Today, the Sunday immediately following Christmas, we are celebrating the feast of the Holy Family. We are given as a model to emulate the family of Jesus, Joseph and Mary. All of us belong to a family. All of us want a happy and holy family. What can we learn and imitate from the Holy Family?
First, love reigns in the Holy Family. Love of God and of each other ruled their lives and guided their daily existence. The atmosphere of affection pervaded their home. Jealousy, envy or resentment found no place in their relationships. Faithfulness to God’s command to “love one another as God loves them” was religiously observed.
Second, respect for authority and respect for each other. Jesus, as He was growing up, was obedient and respectful to His parents. Jesus “grew up in age and wisdom before God and men” with the loving care and guidance from Mary and Joseph.
Lastly, the Holy Family lived a life of labor. The privilege of being parents of the Son of God did not include freedom from work and from other daily concerns. No free food delivery from heaven, no cleaning services from the angels. Mary and Jo-seph had to work to provide for themselves and their Son. Mary did household chores while Joseph did carpentry work. When He was old enough, Jesus had to help Joseph in the carpenter shop. The Holy Family took pride in what they do and they gave dignity to labor.
The Holy Family is teaching us that a happy, holy family life does not depend on the size of the house, the amount of money in the bank, the number of cars in the garage or the expensive clothes and jewelries. It depends on the intensity of love and sacrifice, the respect and affection for each other, and the positive attitude and dedication to work.
I pray that your family be like the Holy Family. God bless you.
Prayers and blessings,
“Praying as a Family”
In ways large and small, parents seek what is best for their children. This desire is expressed in a variety of practical ways every day, such as preparing healthy foods, ensuring adequate opportunity for sleep, teaching good manners, and sharing enriching activities as a family. Incorporating prayers of blessing into your family’s daily routine is another way to express this desire for the very best for your children. When we pray for God’s blessing, we acknowledge that God is the source of all that is good. In prayer, we ask God to bless us, to bless others, and to bless our activities. We do so with confidence and trust in God, who also seeks what is best for each of us. To pray in blessing for our children is to join our desires for them with God’s own desire for them. Daily life provides parents with many opportunities to offer prayers of blessing with and for their children.
Bedtime Blessings—As part of bedtime prayers, invite your child to name the people he or she would like to pray for. This can take the form of a simple litany, praying, “god bless…” as your child names family and friends. As your child grows older, you might offer a simple prayer intention for each person as you pray. For example, if a sibling is sick, you might ask for God’s healing presence, praying, “God bless (name) and help her/him to feel better soon.” Later, you might suggest that your child offer the prayer intention. Conclude by praying your own prayer of blessing for your child as you trace the Sign of the Cross on your child’s forehead.
Morning Blessings—Even in the most organized households, mornings can become a frenzy of activity as family members prepare to leave for work, day care, school, and daily errands. Establishing a morning routine that includes a prayer of blessing for family members as they leave the home can help to strengthen and encourage each person to live faithfully as a follower of Jesus. Ask each family member to name par-ticular challenges or activities he or she may face during the day, and pray together, asking God to bless each person and his/her activities. Parents can trace the Sign of the Cross on each child’s forehead in blessing before leaving the house each day.
Mealtime Blessings—The importance of gathering for family meals cannot be over-stated. Not only are meals important for providing daily nourishment, but they are also occasions for strengthening our spirits by connecting with the people who are most central to our lives.
Meals are natural occasions for prayers of blessings. We pray in thanks to God for his goodness to us. We ask God to bless our food and make our lives a blessing to others. Pray together Grace Before Meals and Grace After Meals. Mealtime can also be an opportunity to ask family members to name the good things that God has shared with them throughout the day and to pray together in thanksgiving.
Blessings in Times of Transition and Difficulty—God walks with us through the challenges and difficulties of life. Prayers of blessing call forth God’s protection and remind us of God’s faithfulness. We can ask for God’s blessing when we make deci-sions, large and small, and pray for family members and friends who are discerning life choices about new jobs, college choice, vocation to marriage, or religious life. We can pray for God’s blessings when we move to a new home. We can ask God to bless those who are sick and offer prayers of blessing together when family members are sick. And we pray for God to bless those who are near death and those who have died.
Incorporating Items Blessed for Prayer—The Church has a rich sacramental tradi-tion. Holy water and blessed candles can be brought into the home and used for fami-ly prayer. Crosses, crucifixes, rosaries, statues, and icons can be blessed by a priest, making them holy reminders of God’s power and presence in our lives. Display these sacred objects in your home and make them focal points for your family prayer.