GATHERING THE SHEEP
APRIL 21, 2019
My dear parishioners,
Happy Easter to all! This is the time we have been preparing for since Ash Wednesday. We sacrificed and made penance, we fasted and ab-stained, we repented and changed, we gave and shared—all these we did so that we can be truly one with Jesus in His passion, and thus share fully in the joy of His resurrection. We wel-comed the sacrifices of Lent assured of the hap-piness that Easter will bring. So let us rejoice and be glad, the joy of Easter is with us.
My dear brothers and sisters, the Easter season is an opportunity for us to continue to grow in our Christian life. In this 50-day Easter season, let us show the world that as Christians we are an Easter people. What are the things that identify us as people of the Resurrection? I can think of three things.
First, Christian life is a life filled with joy. Joy is a heartfelt and profound glad-ness that not even the greatest of trials and sorrow can remove from us. Pope Francis says, “Christ’s Cross embraced with love never leads to sadness, but to joy, to the joy of having been saved and of doing a little of what he did on the day of his death.” From an article published by Loyola Press we also read, “The Passion and Resurrection of Jesus teach us that suffering is transformed through faith in the Risen Christ. With this faith, we are able to hold on to an enduring sense of joy even in the midst of the sadness we experience from the loss of a loved one, a failure to achieve an important goal, or a setback during recovery from an illness.”
Second, our faith in the Resurrection teaches us that we have nothing to fear be-cause God has power over everything, including death. As Christians, therefore, we are a people filled with courage; we never fear as we heed the words of the Risen Christ, “Do not be afraid!” (Mt 28:5, 10) These words assure us that God is in full control; we have no reason to fear.
Third, as Christians we are a renewed people. We are no longer people of dark-ness but children of the Light. Easter renews us and gives us a positive attitude. We see life with new eyes; we face life with newness of life. We are saved, we are renewed.
My dear parishioners, this Easter let us be filled with joy, let us live life without fear and anxiety, and let us be grateful to God for forgiving us and giving us a new life. Just as we used the 40 days of Lent to get rid of sin, vices and bad hab-its, let us use this 50 days to cultivate a life of joy, a life of courage, and a re-newed life.
A joyful, blessed and faith-filled Easter to all.
APRIL 14, 2019
My dear parishioners,
We now enter Holy Week, definitely for us Chris-tians a very sacred time of the year, for it is now that we will commemorate and remember the suffering, death and resurrection of our Lord. The focus of this sacred week is the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the events that led up to it.
We begin this week with Palm Sunday, which marks Jesus‟ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Palms are blessed at the beginning of the Mass, we sing the „Hosannah‟ as we enter the church and we listen to the reading of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ.
On Holy Wednesday, here at our Archdiocese, we gather at the cathedral to cele-brate the Chrism Mass where the Archbishop blessed the Sacred Oils used for the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Anointing of the Sick and Holy Orders. At this Mass, the priests also renew their sacred priestly vows.
The Sacred Paschal Triduum of our Lord‟s Passion and Resurrection begins evening of Holy Thursday with the Mass of the Lord‟s Last Supper. This is a very beautiful liturgy. At the Mass, the priest will wash the feet of twelve „apostles‟ chosen from among our parishioners. This is to follow the example of Jesus who washed the feet of His disciples, an act of great humility and service. During the Last Supper, Jesus also instituted the Sacrament of the Eucharist. This solemn celebration of Holy Thursday concludes with the procession of the Blessed Eucharist to the place of repose where the vigil is held.
On Good Friday, the day of the crucifixion and death of our Lord, here in our parish, at noon time, we pray the Stations of the Cross. Then we reflect on the Seven Last Words of our Lord. At three o‟clock we celebrate the Passion of our Lord with the reading of the Passion, the veneration of the Cross, and Holy Com-munion. The celebration concludes with the procession of the dead Christ (Santo Entierro).
Holy Saturday is a vigil. We keep watch for the expectant rising of Our Savior. The Easter Vigil is the highlight of the celebration of the Paschal Triduum. The Easter Vigil liturgy is so beautiful and meaningful. The blessing of the fire and the lighting of the Paschal candle, the singing of the exsultet, the readings from the Old and New Testaments, the singing of the Gloria, the blessing of the water and the celebration of Baptism—all these contribute to the solemnity and beauty of the Easter Vigil. This is one Mass that every Christian should find time to at-tend. Such a lovely yet profound liturgy.
My dear parishioners, my brothers and sisters, let us make this Holy Week truly holy. Let us find time to pray and offer sacrifices, and participate in all spiritual and liturgical activities of the parish. Let us be one with the Lord in His passion so that we can rejoice with Him in His resurrection. God bless you. Have a holy and fruitful week.
Prayers and blessing,
April 7, 2019
My dear parishioners,
A news came out last Tuesday that the Muslim country of Brunei is implementing a new law punishing adultery (and other related crimes) by stoning to death. This is sad. This kind of punishment has no more place in our modern and humane society. As Christians, we will always condemn the death penalty in whatever way it is enforced but especially when it is applied through this very cruel, barbaric and inhuman manner.
This Sunday‟s gospel is about the woman caught in adultery. Jesus was asked for his opinion as to how to apply the law of Moses regarding the punishment of stoning to death. You are now familiar with these words of our Lord Jesus, “Let the one who has no sin be the first to cast the stone.” We understand this to mean that we should not judge nor condemn others because we too are sinners. We may not have committed the same sin the other person has done but my the mere fact that we have also sinned, we have no right to judge others. Interpreting those words of Jesus has led us to conclude that only our Blessed Mother and Jesus Himself have the right to cast the first stone because they are both sinless. A story goes that a few moments after Jesus said those words, a stone from behind the crowd was thrown at the woman accused of adultery. Jesus looked up to see that it was His mother who did it.
Of course, it is a joke; the story is not true. It did not happen and will never happen. Our Blessed Mother, though sinless, will never throw a stone at sinners like us. She will never judge us no matter how sinful we are. On the contrary, our Mother Mary is our refuge, protector and defender. I can always imagine her praying for us and pleading before God on our behalf. Our Lord Jesus is very clear in admonishing us not to judge others. In Matthew 7:1-5, we are told not to judge and we will not be judged; that we will be measured by the way we measure others. St. James in his letter (4:12) tells us that “there is only one judge; who are we to judge others.” St. Paul, in his letter to the Romans (2:1-3), is emphatic in saying that we who judge others are condemning ourselves.
Despite our best efforts we always end up judging others. For some reason, we like judging other people. But this should not discourage us from trying even harder to make ourselves less judgmental. With God‟s help, and through our sincere efforts, we will overcome our biases, prejudices and our low selfesteem that make us prone to judging other people.
Let me end this with a story told by novelist Paul Coelho:
A young couple moved into a new neighbourhood. The next morning while they were eating breakfast, the young woman saw her neighbor hanging the washing outside. “That laundry is not very clean; she doesn‟t know how to wash correctly. Perhaps she needs better laundry soap.” Her husband looked on, remaining silent. Every time her neighbor hung her washing out to dry, the young woman made the same comments. A month later, the woman was surprised to see a nice clean wash on the line and said to her husband, “Look, she‟s finally learned how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her this.” The husband replied, “I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows.”
Have a good week ahead.
God bless you.
March 31, 2019
My dear parishioners,
Tempus fugit, Latin for time flies. Indeed, we are already on the fourth Sunday of Lent. Soon it will be Holy Week. This fourth Sunday is also called Laetare Sunday. Laetare is Latin for rejoice. On this day, we are to rejoice, we are to be joyful. On this day, we temporarily set aside the penitential character of the Lenten season. In church, flowers may adorn the altar, and the organ may be played fully. The priest is allowed to use rose vestments because the color rose (pink) is a sign of joy. Lent is mainly characterized by penance and sacrifices. It is the time when we are encouraged to pray more, to fast and abstain from food and other bad habits, and to give alms to the needy. We focus on our sinfulness and on our need for repentance. Thus, an atmosphere that is somber and penitential prevails during the season of Lent.
Now midway through Lent, on the fourth Sunday, we are allowed to take a breather from all our Lenten practices. Our eyes are drawn to the joy of Easter that is soon to come. We rejoice and we are joyful because, after all our penance and sacrifices, after all our sharing with the suffering of our Lord Jesus, after our repentance and conversion, we shall eventually experience the great joy that our Lord‟s resurrection has brought to the world and to our lives. Our anticipation of the Easter joy gives us hope and encouragement as we progress towards the Paschal Feast.
Let this Laetare Sunday teach us that, amidst the many trial and difficulties we encounter in life, there is always a reason to be hopeful, trustful and optimistic because we have a God who loves us so much and who will save us from all our troubles and afflictions. The parable of the prodigal son, the gospel this Sunday, gives us the image of a very happy father welcoming his son who, according to him, “...was lost, and has been found;...was dead, and has come to life again.”
The parable also shows how the father‟s forgiveness has removed the deep sorrow, shame and guilt of the son; it shows how the father‟s unconditional love brought back joy and hope to the already hopeless and despairing son. The only sad note in this otherwise beautiful and touching story is the reaction of the older son. He was so focused on himself that he failed to see and share the joy of his father and brother. His self-centeredness and selfishness made him bitter against his father and envious of his brother. How sad it is when we are unable to appreciate and share the happiness and good fortune of others. Laetare Sunday invites us to rejoice not only for ourselves and for others as well.
Now let me express some words of thanks: A big thank you to Fr. Richard Kidd, our guest lecturer at the bible class the past two Tuesdays while Fr. Val is on vacation. Also a big thank you to Fr. Ron Richards, our speaker at the XLT last Friday evening. Lastly, a huge thank you to those who have already responded to my call to REPAINT. Yes, you heard me right, repaint. Just as I asked you to REPENT this Lent, I also made the call that we REPAINT our church. We need repentance; our church needs to be repainted. Several parishioners have already made donations. As I thank them, I also anticipate my gratitude to those who are still to give. God bless you.
Prayers and blessing,
March 23, 2019
My dear parishioners,
I am sure you noticed the new prayer we recite before each Mass. This is our prayer for our parish. We composed this prayer especially for our parish because, just as we need to pray for the whole church, for our family, for others and for ourselves, we also need to pray for our parish. Through this prayer, we, as a parish, ask God to continue to bless us and help us attain our parish vision and mission.
We recall the words in Psalm 127, “If the Lord does not build the house, then in vain do the builders labor.” Thus, whatever plans or endeavors we embark on, we need to invoke God‟s help and guidance. We know fully well that without God we can do nothing.
Our dream as a parish is to become a faith-filled and life-giving community, and to be a beacon that will lead all to God’s kingdom. And to attain this vision, we have made it our mission to affirm the message and mission of Jesus Christ as we commit ourselves to doing the following:
† To nurture the bond we share as children of God
† To celebrate the Eucharist and other liturgies fully, consciously and actively
† To cultivate the spirit of compassion that leads to service
† To proclaim the Good News of the Lord (through words and actions), and
† To continue learning about the faith (and be effective teachers ourselves).
But we know prayers are not enough. Work or action is needed, too. Ora et Labora. Work and Pray. In order for us to attain our dream, we should pray and at the same time be constantly aware of what we have to do as members of Santa Barbara parish. By doing the mission and praying for it, I am confident we can become a people of faith, a people that gives life, a people that leads all to the Kingdom of God.
Now let me say some words about this Sunday‟s Gospel. Many of us think that misfortune or suffering is a form of punishment from God. When tragedy or misfortune befalls someone, we immediately say it‟s God punishing that person. This is not true. Because if we accept that as true, how can we explain when these bad things happen to good and saintly people? (We know of many saints who suffered much in this life). Is God punishing them too?
I would not pretend to know the answer as to why God allows bad things to happen to good people. God‟s ways are mysterious. But I can definitely say that our God is a merciful, compassionate and loving God. And whatever comes our way—good or bad—God will always protect us and take care of us. This much I know; this much I believe; this much I trust.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)
Prayers and blessing,
“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.