Gathering the sheep
June 16, 2019
My Dear Parishioners,
A peaceful and happy Sunday to all of you! Last Saturday’s celebration of Fr. Fran’s 50th ordination anniversary was simply beautiful. To all the priests, deacons, parishioners and friends of Fr. Fran who attended the Mass and the reception after, my deep thanks to you all on behalf of Fr. Fran. To all those who helped make the Mass more meaningful, and the reception more lively and warm, your help was invaluable, thank you. To all those who sold and bought tickets for the lunch-fundraiser (and to the raffle draw prize donors), I say thank you on behalf of Santa Barbara parish-Astumbo Catholic Family Mission. Your donation will greatly help us complete the construction of the Divine Mercy-John Paul II chapel in Astumbo.
Last year we heaved a sigh of relief upon learning that the last doctor performing abortion here on Guam has retired and left the island. We rejoiced at the thought that no medical practitioner on Guam was willing to do this horrible crime of killing the unborn. Officially, Guam was abortion-free for more than year.
But our joy was short-lived. A few days ago, we heard that our government is recruiting doctors to perform abortion here on Guam. That news jolted us Catholics from our stupor. Indeed, the Lord is right, we should always remain vigilant. We are reminded of the word of St. Peter: “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) Any apparent victory against evil is usually temporary.
The devil would sometimes lull us into complacency. But the moment we let our guards down, the Evil One attacks again, and this time more forceful than the previous assault. Caught off guard, we are often defeated and conquered. We should never let this happen. Life is sacred. Let us protect an defend life from conception until natural death. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has this to say: “Given the scientific fact that a human life begins at conception, the only moral norm needed to understand the Church’s opposition to abortion is the principle that each and every human life has inherent dignity, and thus must be treated with the respect due to a human person. This is the foundation for the Church’s social doctrine, including its teachings on war, the use of capital punishment, euthanasia, health care, poverty and immigration. Conversely, to claim that some live human beings do not deserve respect or should not be treated as “persons” (based on changeable factors such as age, condition, location, or lack of mental or physical abilities) is to deny the very idea of inherent human rights.”
This Sunday, as we celebrate the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, I ask you to join me and the whole parish, together with the whole Archdiocese, in expressing our objection, nay, our indignation against our government’s plan to recruit a doctor to perform abortion here on Guam. At the entrances of the church you will find signature forms expressing our objection to abortion. As your pastor, I am asking you to take time to sign your name. Stand up against abortion. Give witness to Christ. Give witness to our faith.
Through the intercession of the Blessed Mother, may the Holy Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, bless you and give you courage now and forever. Amen.
Prayers and Blessing,
June 9, 2019
My Dear Parishioners,
Today is Pentecost Sunday. The word Pentecost comes from the Greek “Pentekoste” which means fiftieth (day). Fifty days after the Resurrection of Jesus, and a few days after He has ascended to heaven, the Holy Spirit was sent by the Father to the Apostles, to Mary and to the early followers of Jesus. Thus, the Church was born, with the mission to spread the Good News to the whole world. On Pentecost, we focus on the third person of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit. What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of the Holy Spirit? A dove? Tongues of fire? These are images given us by the Bible: the Holy Spirit appeared in the form of a dove after Jesus was baptized in the river Jordan, and as tongues of fire as it descended upon the Apostles and our Blessed Mother on the day of Pentecost.
Aside from these two images, how would you describe the Holy Spirit? Or are you even aware of the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit in your life? Since the time we were baptized the Holy Spirit has already made His dwelling in us. And He has never abandoned us since then, not even for a second did the Spirit leave us. The Spirit resides in us now. In fact, our body is now the temple of the Holy Spirit. Sadly, we either ignore or are totally oblivious to His presence. Pope Benedict XVI, in 2008, said, “The Holy Spirit has been in some ways the neglected person of the Blessed Trinity.” Indeed, this is true. We take for granted or have totally forgotten the presence and the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives. For example, do you still remember the gifts of the Holy Spirit? These gifts are those which help us live for God and spread His message of love. The seven gifts are wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, fortitude, piety and fear (awe) of the Lord. We still have these gifts within us. They may be unused but they are still within us waiting to be tapped for good use. Aside from the gifts, we were also given the fruits of the Holy Spirit. This means that if we allow the Holy Spirit to guide and inspire our words and actions, these fruits will be in full display in our lives. These fruits are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)
The Holy Spirit is with us always. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to perfect these gifts so that our lives may bear its fruits. “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fires of your love.”
May this Pentecost rekindle the fire of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. God bless you.
Prayers and Blessing,
Gathering the Sheep
JUNE 2, 2019
My Dear Parishioners,
If you recall my message last Sunday, I placed emphasis on the importance of faith formation in our Catholic life. Learning about the faith is es-sential to our growth and maturity as Catholics. We are called to give witness to our faith. We cannot do that unless we have grown and matured in it.
The confirmation of our 54 young men and wom-en this Sunday is a step towards maturity in faith. The faith received in Baptism is confirmed and strengthened by the Holy Spirit, these young members of our parish are now ready and equipped to live the Catholic faith and give witness to it.
This Sunday’s Solemnity of the Ascension marks the end of our Lord’s physi-cal presence here on earth. For thirty-three years, from the Incarnation to the Ascension, God physically dwelt among us here on earth. Today we recall that time when Jesus ascended into heaven to sit at the Father’s right hand.
It must have been hard for the Apostles to see their Lord and Master leave them. Parting with friends and loved ones is never easy. It brings pain and sadness. But sometimes parting is necessary. When necessary separation comes we just bear and try to overcome the pain and loneliness that it brings. But separation should not result in forgetting and abandonment. Rather, it should make us exert efforts to keep the relationship and the memory alive.
These days keeping the relationship alive and current among ourselves has never been that easy. Instant messaging, video call, social media, etc. provide us with the facility and ease of keeping in touch with each other no matter the distance. The world has become much smaller; everyone is never too far; just a message or a phone call away.
Ascension is not an abandonment on the part of Jesus. Rather, it is a neces-sary phase in God’s plan of salvation. Jesus had repeatedly told His disciples that it is necessary for Him to leave so that the Father can send the Holy Spir-it.
Through the Holy Spirit our relationship with God is continuously kept alive and responsive. In our relationship with God, the presence is made constant and meaningful by the Holy Spirit and the Sacraments we receive. We never really miss Jesus. He is always with us through the Holy Spirit and the Eucha-rist.
The month of June this year is filled with solemnities. After the Ascension comes Pentecost Sunday, then the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, and then the solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Chris-ti). These sacred events, celebrated one after the other, help us better contem-plate the great mystery of God and His deep love for us. Let us look forward to a meaningful celebration of these Solemnities. God bless you all.
Prayers and Blessing,
May 12, 2019
My Dear Parishioners,
To all the mothers reading this, Happy Mother’s Day! On this special day we pray for you:
“All-loving God, we give you thanks and praise for mothers young and old. We pray for young mothers, who give life and tend to our every need; May they be blessed with patience and tenderness to care for their families and themselves with great joy.
We pray for our own mothers who have nurtured and cared for us; May they continue to guide us in strong and gentle ways.
We remember mothers who are separated from their children because of war, poverty, or conflict; May they feel the loving embrace of our God who wipes every tear away.
We pray for women who are not mothers but still love and shape us with motherly care and compassion.
We remember mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers who are no longer with us but who live forever in our memory and nourish us with their love. Amen.”
In this Sunday’s gospel, our Lord Jesus compares Himself to a good shepherd who leads His sheep to green pasture and fresh water; a shepherd who is willing to sacrifice everything, including his life, for the sheep.
A mother brings forth life; she nourishes it and sustains it. A mother protects life and is willing to sacrifice everything for it. In this sense, a mother is like a shepherdess, a good shepherdess. And so to all mothers, including my Mama who is now 85 years old, let me express my deep gratitude for all the love and sacrifices you have shown us, your children. You may not be the perfect mother you wanted to be—although God knows how much you tried—but for us your children, you will always be the best one. I am sure God will bless and reward you abundantly.
Thus, I am entrusting you, dear mothers, to the maternal care and protection of the greatest mother of all—the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of God and of us all:
“Mary, Mother of God and our Mother, pray for all mothers, so that they will be able to fulfill their maternal responsibilities. Help them to be lovers and nurturers of all human life from the moment of conception until natural death, all the while being examples for their own children. Pray for us their children, so that we, too, will be faithful followers of Your Son.
On this Mothers day, Mother of the Word Incarnate, pray for us who have recourse to you...Amen.”
Prayer and blessings,
NOTIFICATION: I will be on vacation from May 13 to May 27.
May 5, 2019
My Dear Parishioners,
A beautiful and solemn rite we did last Easter Sunday (and Vigil) was the renewal of baptismal promises. Instead of reciting the Creed, which is the norm in every Sunday Eucharist, we renewed the promises we made—or by our parents and godparents in our behalf— when we were baptized.
The rite of renewal went this way: The priest asked us, not once but thrice, if we renounce Satan, his evil ways, and his temptations. We replied I DO to each question. Three times also we were asked if we believe in the Catholic faith; and thrice we replied I DO. Then the priest sprinkled us with the newly blessed water, reminding us of the water of baptism that cleanses us of our sin and brought us salvation.
You may have wondered why we were asked to renounce Satan three times and to profess our Faith three times. Does the number three have a significant meaning in our religion? Well, some biblical scholars say that three is a symbol of completion: the beginning, the middle, and the end. For us Christians, the number three takes a significant and deeper meaning. Here are some examples: God is one but has three Divine persons—Father, Son and Holy Spirit; Jesus was in the tomb for three days; Jonah was in the belly of the whale for the same amount of time; Jesus was tempted by Satan three times; Jesus’ ministry lasted three years; Peter denied Him three times; Jesus died at three o’clock in the afternoon, etc.
The quantity of three is also used to highlight something or to emphasize the importance of a thing. In this Sunday’s gospel our Lord Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” “Yes, Lord, I love you,” replied Peter. Jesus asked him the same question three times. Peter felt sad that Jesus had to ask him the third time. But scholars say that Jesus was just giving Peter the chance to redeem himself from that unfortunate episode in his relationship with Jesus so that he can be better prepared to take the role and responsibility that Jesus was about to give him. Peter will lead the Church that our Lord Jesus will found.
The baptismal promise plays an essential part in our Christian life. It defines the choice we made—that we want to be children of God. It is a promise we need to constantly renew and remind ourselves of so that we remain God’s children. Thus, we will never get tired repeating, not only three times, but over and over again: “We renounce Satan. We believe in God.” May God bless you always. Have a blessed and happy week.
Prayer and blessings,
april 28, 2019
My dear parishioners,
Easter is a season of joy. Through His death and resurrection Jesus removed our sadness and filled us with everlasting joy. This joy we have now can never be taken away.
Easter is a season of hope. Through His death and resurrection Jesus opened the doors of heaven for us. And it is our certain hope that where he is, there we shall be.
Easter is a season of love. Through His death and resurrection Jesus showed that there is no love greater than God‟s love for us. We are to love one another with that kind of love.
Easter is also a time of gratitude. We thank God for saving us. We thank God for forgiving us. We thank God for giving us reason to be joyful and hopeful again. Easter is a season of mercy. Through His death and resurrection, God‟s merciful and forgiving love flowed out towards mankind. This same kind of mercy and forgiveness must also flow from one‟s heart to those in need of it.
Today is Divine Mercy Sunday. To emphasize the great love and mercy of God, the Church, through then Pope John Paul II (now St. John Paul) decreed on May 5, 2000 the second Sunday of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday. Following is an excerpt from that decree:
“The Gospel of the Second Sunday of Easter narrates the wonderful things Christ the Lord accomplished on the day of the Resurrection during his first public appearance: „On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, „Peace be with you.‟ When he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad to see the Lord. Jesus said to them again, „Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.‟ And then he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (Jn 20, 19-23).
On this particular Sunday, a plenary indulgence, which is the remission of all temporal punishments due to sin, is given to all those who go to Confession, receive Holy Communion and pray for the intentions of the Holy Father on this day. Total detachment any sins, even venial ones, is also necessary to gain this kind of indulgence.
Aside from the conditions mentioned above, on Divine Mercy Sunday one is also required to take part in the prayers and devotions held in honour of Divine Mercy, or who, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed or reserved in the tabernacle, recite the Our Father and the Creed, adding a devout prayer to the merciful Lord Jesus (e.g. Merciful Jesus, I trust in you!”).
May God grant us mercy and forgiveness so that the joy of Easter may ever reign in your hearts.
Prayers and blessing,