Gathering the Sheep
FEBRUARY 17, 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,
FEBRUARY 10, 2019
My Dear Parishioners,
Beautiful words we read in this Sunday‟s readings. From the Book of the prophet Isaiah, 6:8: “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, „Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?‟ I said, „Here I am, send me!” From the first letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians, 15-11: “Therefore,… we preach and so you believed.” And from the gospel of St. Luke, 5:4-5: “Jesus said to Simon Peter, „Put out into deep water and lower your nets...Master, we have worked all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” Different quotations from three different books of the Bible, yet expressing one theme: Discipleship and Mission.
The call to discipleship and to the mission is universal. Every baptized Christian is called to follow Jesus and to preach the Good News, be it through word or action. How have you responded to God‟s call? With enthusiasm and vigor, or with reluctance and fear? With joy and hope, or with fear and trepidation? After having been purified by the Lord, Isaiah—with his “Here I am, send me!” - showed his great willingness to serve as the Lord‟s prophet to the people of Israel. Our past sins and iniquities, once forgiven, should not hinder us from becoming present day witnesses to God‟s teachings of truth, love and forgiveness.
St. Paul‟s past life as an ardent persecutor of Christians did not exclude him from the call. And when the call did come, Saul (Paul‟s old name) responded, through his radical conversion, with deep faith and commitment. St. Paul did not keep to himself the Good News he has received from the other Apostles. In fact, he became an apostle himself, preaching especially to the Gentiles, so that, he says, by his “preaching we may hear and believe.” Thus, we should not remain only as hearers of the Word of God but preachers of it as well. The reason why we believed is because we heard; and the reason we heard is because they preached. The Word of God is alive. The prophet Isaiah describes the Word of God like the “rain and snow that come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish…” We, as members of the Catholic Church, are called to be disciples. And disciples are called to be missionaries. That is why Pope Francis, since the start of his papacy, has been saying, “Let‟s go back to being missionary church and bring the Church to the people.”
Two weeks ago, Pope Francis was in Panama to celebrate World Youth Day. Incidentally, the theme of that gathering—Our Blessed Mother‟s Fiat, “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” - echoes the message of this Sunday‟s readings: The readiness and willingness to be God‟s disciples. Pope Francis was also in Abu Dhabi a few days ago for a historic papal visit. True to his admonition to bring the church to all peoples, our Holy Father reached out not only to the Catholics living in that Arab country but to those who do not share our Catholic Faith.
St. Peter and the other disciples fished all night but caught nothing. But they did not hesitate to follow Jesus‟ command to once again lower the nets. We should imitate their kind of response because discipleship demands willingness, hope, optimism, courage, patience and persistence in sharing with others the Good News of Jesus. May God fill us with courage and joy as we “lower our nets” and say “here I am Lord, send me!” God bless you.
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.
JANUARY 13, 2019
My dear parishioners,
Our parish Bible Study class began last Tuesday. I was so happy with the number of parishioners who showed up. Honestly, I did not expect that many attendees. In fact, we prepared the lower parish hall for around fifty people but almost a hundred came.
This enthusiastic response shows how much we thirst for God and His Word. It shows how much we desire to know Him better. It shows how much we long to love Him. My deep gratitude to Fr. Val Rodriguez for offering to our parishioners his time and his expertise on the Sacred Scrip-tures. Let us show our gratitude to him by always keeping him in our prayers.
As much as I delight at the number of people who showed up, I was also at the same time a bit disappointed that I didn’t se the people I was expecting to see in the class. I tried to comfort myself with the thought that perhaps they were just busy that day and that they will show up next week. I hope I will not be proven wrong.
For those who did not show up because they thought they already possess sufficient knowledge about God, about the Faith and the Bible, and that they no longer need additional instructions or knowledge, I pray that God may send them the Holy Spirit to soften their hearts and mind, and say YES to God’s loving invitation.
This Sunday we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of our Lord. We are reminded of the Baptism. We are made to recall the spiritual effects of the Sacrament. We are reminded of the dignity given us as children of God. We are pleased by the thought that we now belong to the Catholic Church, One, Holy and Apostolic.
Likewise, we are grateful for the sanctifying grace given us by God through the ac-tion of the priest pouring the baptismal water on our head while saying, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
We also feel so proud and privileged that we now carry the mark of a Christian, a character embossed on our soul, nay, on our being, through the anointing of the oil of Chrism. This character, because indelible, we will carry for the rest of our exist-ence. Whether we give witness to it or not, we are Christians and we will be Chris-tians for the rest of our earthly lives and for the rest of eternity.
One of our obligations as baptized Christians and disciples of Jesus is to continue to grow in our knowledge of God. We should keep educating ourselves in the Catholic Faith. Let us humbly admit that we are still very much ignorant when it comes to matters of our Faith.
Reading the Bible is one way of enriching our hearts and minds. But reading the Bible without proper guidance can be dangerous. We might end up more confused and conflicted. This Bible Class held every Tuesday at 6:40PM in the upper parish hall will help us learn how to read and interpret the Bible properly. Also in this issue of the parish bulletin you will find an article on how to read the Bible. Hopefully, these will help and guide us in our quest for a deeper knowledge of God and our Faith.
Prayers and blessings,
JANUARY 6, 2019
My dear parishioners,
As we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany of our Lord, allow me to share with you this message I shared with you a year ago:
There are three big events we celebrate during the season of Christmas: the birth of Jesus and the motherhood of Mary, the visit of the Magi, and the baptism of our Lord. These three events manifest three truths about our Faith.
First, the Birth of Jesus and Mary’s motherhood reveals that God, through Christ, visited the earth and became human like us in all things but sin— ”God making His Divinity shine through our hu-manity.”
Second, the visit of the Magi manifests that Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God, is the Savior not only of Israel but of all nations on earth— “a light to reveal God to the nations, and the glory of Israel (Lk 2:32).”
And third, the baptism of Jesus proves that He is truly the Son of God— “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Mt. 3:16-17)
Some people would describe “epiphany” as a moment of an illuminating or inspir-ing discovery. Thus, an “epiphany moment” is defined as a “moment of sudden and great but unexpected discovery” that usually changes one’s life.
Are you aware that God manifests Himself to us everyday through the Spirit, the Sacraments, the people we meet, the events that happen around us? Indeed, God does, with the hope that these revelations will change us for the better.
Let us then pray that this time we will be more sensitive to God and His Spirit, and that we allow ourselves to be amazed and mesmerized by God’s love and goodness, and so lead us to a closer relationship with God and with one another.
A new year brings new hope and another opportunity to change for the better. We should never stop trying to improve ourselves and to grow in every aspect of our Christian life. Set goals or resolutions for this year. Here are some suggestions:
† Get rid of bad habits and begin new, healthier ones in their place. This is diffi-cult but if there is a desire to change, it is not impossible. You will succeed.
† Get rid of material things you don’t need. Determine what you really need and what are truly important to you. Material possessions do not assure us true hap-piness. Do not be like that person who “buys things he does not need in order to impress people he does not like.”
† Get rid of old hurts and baggages. It never pays to hold grudges against people who wrong us. Forgive and move on. Life is too short to spend on anyone who gives us less love and joy than we deserve.
† Finally, get rid of evil and always do good. And, “whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of Jesus… (Colossians 3:17).
Prayers and blessings,
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.