Fifth Sunday of Lent (Year B)

OTHER HOMILY SOURCES:

Homily for 5th Sunday of Lent – on the Gospel

By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp

Unless a Grain of Wheat Dies

Jeremiah 31:31-34

Hebrews 5:7-9

John 12:20-33

The Greek philosopher Socrates is regarded as one of the wisest men of all time. This man who lived between 470 and 399 BC devoted his life to exposing ignorance, hypocrisy and conceit among his fellow Athenians and calling them to a radical re-examination of life. “The unexamined life,” he said, “is not worth living.” He challenged popular opinions regarding religion and politics as he sought to bring people to a better understanding of virtue, justice, piety and right conduct. He attracted many followers, especially among the youth. But those in power arrested him, tried him and sentenced him to death. He was charged with false teaching regarding the gods of the state, propagating revolutionary ideas and corrupting the youth of Athens. His family and friends wanted to intervene to overturn the sentence but he would not let them. He had the option to go into exile from Athens but he would not take it. Instead he accepted to drink the poison hemlock and die. Subsequent generations of Greeks came to regard Socrates as a martyr for truth. They resolved never again to persecute anyone on account of their beliefs.

By the time of Jesus the Greeks had become among the most broad-minded people in the world. Various religious and philosophical traditions flourished among them and vied for popularity. We see in today’s gospel that among the huge crowds that had come to Jerusalem for the Passover feast were some Greeks. It did not take these Greeks long to see that all was not well in Jerusalem. So they came to see Jesus. Why did they come to see Jesus? Although John has somewhat spiritualised the story, thereby giving the impression that they came to seek admission into the “body” of Christ (John 12:32), it is more probable that they came to alert Jesus to the seriousness of the danger surrounding him and to suggest to him to flee with them to Greece, the land of freedom. The response that Jesus gives to their request shows that it has to do with his impending death and that he has chosen to stay and face it rather than seek a way to escape it.

Many people see death as an interruption in their life and mission. But Jesus saw death as a fulfilment of his life and mission. Many times in the past the people had planned to entrap him but Jesus always escaped from their hands because “his hour had not yet come” (John 7:30; 8:20). But now his hour has come. “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified…. And what should I say — ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour” (John 12:23, 27). Jesus uses the parable of the grain of wheat to explain that by shying away from death when the hour has come, one only reduces one’s life and mission (“remains just a single grain”) whereas by giving oneself up to death when the hour has come, one enhances it (“bears much fruit”). In this way Jesus flatly refuses to seek any help, human or divine, to prolong his earthly life beyond his Father’s will. The voice from heaven confirms that this decision is indeed God’s will and that for Jesus, the faithful servant of God, death and glory are indeed two sides of the same coin.

This must have been a powerful story of encouragement in the faith for the persecuted early Christians to whom John wrote. It shows that it is only through Jesus’ submission to an undeserved death that they now have the benefit of faith and salvation. But then it goes on to remind them of the words of Jesus that his followers must follow in his steps even unto death. “Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.” (John 12:25-26). Where is Jesus? Jesus is in glory. But to get there he had to pass through the gates of death in faithfulness to God’s will. That is his story. That also should be our story.

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Homily for 5th Sunday of Lent – on the Epistle

By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp

The Priesthood of Jesus and Our Priesthood

Jeremiah 31:31-34

Hebrews 5:7-9

John 12:20-33

There is a story about a little bird that was trying to fly to warmer climate in order to escape the winter cold. On the way the bird encountered a snow storm. It grew so cold that the bird fell to the ground in a farm. The bird was about to freeze to death when a cow passed by and dropped cow manure on him. The cow manure was warm on the bird and prevented the bird from freezing to death. Soon the bird felt so comfortable in the warm manure that he began to sing. The farm cat heard the bird singing in the manure, dug the little bird out of the manure and ate him. The moral of the story is: Not everyone who drops manure on you is your enemy, and not everyone who digs you out of the manure is your friend.

Suffering can bring salvation to the sufferer as well as to others. Today’s 2nd reading from Hebrews tells us that “although he was a Son, Jesus learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him” (Hebrews 5:8-9). In other words, Jesus’ suffering was beneficial both to him personally (he learned obedience) and to others (he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him). Suffering and privations, when accepted as Jesus did, can become one of the best things that can happen in the lives of believers.

Among the books of the New Testament it is Hebrews which best develops the doctrine of Jesus Christ as the eternal high priest who stands for humanity in our dealings with God. He gives two main reasons why Jesus and Jesus alone fulfils the conditions for this priesthood. One is that it was God Himself who chose him for the office. “For no one can become a high priest simply because he wants such an honour. He has to be called by God for this work, just as Aaron was” (Hebrews 5:4). Jesus was specifically chosen for the office when at his baptism a voice was heard from heaven which said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).

The second qualification that Jesus has for the priestly office is that he has experienced the bitter realities of the human condition, including suffering and death. Hebrews alludes to Jesus’ experience in the Garden of Gethsemane where the man Jesus “offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission” (Hebrews 5:7). To understand what Hebrews says here regarding the reverent submission of Jesus and that he was heard by the Father, we need to look again at Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Jesus’ prayer in the Garden was made up of two petitions. One of the petitions is conditional: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me;” the other is absolute and without conditions: “yet not what I want but what you want” (Matthew 26:39). The second petition overrides the first. One can, therefore, say that in Gethsemane Jesus made only one prayer, a prayer of total submission to the will of God. This is his one prayer that was heard: God’s will was done in his suffering and death. Ultimately even his prayer to be saved from death was heard when God raised him from the dead to live and reign with Him in glory for ever.

Why is it necessary for the priest to pass through the school of pain and suffering? It is so that he will be “able to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is subject to weakness” (Hebrews 5:2). There is no trial or suffering that we are going through that Jesus cannot understand. He understands our struggles and deals gently with us because he himself had to go through similar trials and temptations.

As we stand at the threshold of Holy Week, the church reminds us that we are called to be not only beneficiaries of the priestly life and death of Jesus, we are called also to be priests with Jesus after his example. There is a theological saying that “All are priests, some are priests, only one is a priest.” Reflection on the unique priesthood of Jesus should lead us to reflect on the ministerial priesthood to which some are called by ordination as well as the universal priesthood to which all the faithful are called in baptism. As we step into Holy Week, may our prayer to God be “Your will be done in our lives,” just as Jesus prayed in Gethsemane.

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5th Sunday of Lent – Cycle B

 Homily # 1

Do you know what it is to push someone’s “hot button”? You might hear it said, “The way he reacted, I must have hit his hot button.” It is kind of like a sore spot, but not necessarily sore. It just gets an unexpected reaction. For example, you’re talking with your wife and you casually mention some fact or topic and she has instant anger. You say to yourself (or maybe to her also) “What did I say?” Or, a wife is speaking of some serious topic to her husband, and he starts to laugh. “What’s so funny?” she wonders. Anyway, to hit the hot button can be disconcerting either to the speaker or to the one spoken to. In any case, to the speaker, the reaction seems to be out of proportion to the stimulus. So you must have hit a “hot button.”

It might seem like that here in today’s Gospel. It has something to do with Greeks. Some Greeks came to worship at the feast of the Passover. “Greeks” here means the same as it does in the letter of St. Paul. It refers to any gentiles, people who are not descendants of Abraham. But these gentiles had obviously become converts to Judaism. They had seen the superior quality of the Jewish religion, and they joined it. They, along with many other good Jews, had come to Jerusalem for the Passover Feast. They came and addressed Philip, who was probably another Greek convert to Judaism, as his is a Greek name (Philip means horse-lover). And here is Philip going over to Andrew (another Greek name, a name which means manly). No wonder they wanted to approach Jesus through the mediating of these two men. They also were Greek converts to Judaism. So what happens? Philip and Andrew go to Jesus and say: “Hey, there are some Greeks here who would like to see you.”

Talk about a hot button! Jesus virtually explodes! “Now is the hour,” He says. (The hour for what?)! “Now is the hour for the Son of Man to be glorified!” And Jesus adds two more words before he continues speaking, words meant to convey excited emphasis: “Amen, Amen.” This word “Amen,” spoken like this, is equivalent to the ship’s captain blowing his whistle, getting everyone’s attention, and saying, “Now hear this!” In other words, here is something very, very important. Listen up. “Amen, amen I say to you, “Unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat. But if it dies, it brings forth much fruit.” Jesus is talking here about nothing less than the Climax of His existence on earth. His death. And what triggered this? Some Greeks asking to see Jesus. But what does this have to do with Greeks?

It is this: Jesus is aware that He is not only the promised Messiah, not only the savior of the Jews. Jesus knows that when the other nations begin to come to Him, that is the sign that His mission on earth draws rapidly to completion. Now all the nations are coming to Him. The whole world must come to Jesus, and thus the eternal plan of His Father is coming to a head. The “Hour” is at hand. His saving Death is imminent. His death is for the entire human race. “What shall I say?” said Jesus, “Father, save me from this hour? But it for this purpose that I came to this hour.” Obedient to His Father’s will, Jesus goes right ahead. He is obedient unto death. And with this Death, the New Covenant (referred to in the first reading today) is established.

Jeremiah put it this way in that first reading: “All, from the least to the greatest, shall know me, says the Lord, for I will forgive their evildoing, and remember their sins no more.”

This refers to you and me. To all of us. Gentiles and outsiders from every place and every race. You and I are the Greeks, the outsiders invited in to a special position to profit from the Passover Feast and to rejoice in it. And we are one week away from Passion Sunday and the holiest week of the year. Sinners that we are, we’ve been baptized into the New Covenant of which the Lord spoke through Jeremiah. Baptized into God’s eternal plan.

Preparing for the big celebration, we approach the Sacraments with special care and fervor. You have perhaps heard about a Communal Penance Liturgy taking place in our church and in neighboring churches. You’ve perhaps attended or plan to attend one. Or you will approach the Sacrament of Reconciliation here on Saturday afternoon. It is the thing to do. As we do, we do well to remember what God said in that beautiful first reading about “remembering your sins no more.” God happily forgets our past sins as He prepares us for the Passover Feast.

This “remembering no more” reminds me of the story of Saint Mary Margaret Alacoque. When she was telling of her visions of Jesus, and Jesus was asking her to spread devotion to His Sacred Heart, A priest, to see whether she really was talking with Jesus, told her that the next time she saw Jesus, to ask Him a question: “What was the last sin I told in Confession?” And she did ask Jesus. And Jesus gave her the answer: “Tell her I don’t remember any of his sins.” That’s what God was saying through the prophet Jeremiah today: “I will remember their sins no more.”

So our sins are forgiven. We, despite ourselves, are firmly set in the New Covenant, that covenant where He has written His Law on our hearts. Where you and I are joined to the saving Death of. How blessed we are. Now we are in a position to rejoice in that “Hour” of Jesus which has its eternal effect. This means being united with Jesus on the Cross, in His Resurrection, and at His place at the Father’s right hand.

It means we can celebrate the Passover, or the Pascal Mystery, right here in this Eucharist, and celebrate it ever more perfectly every time we come to this sacred time of the year. For us, in the New and eternal Covenant, with His Law and His Love in our hearts, we become a permanent part of his “Hour.”

And it is obvious that what Jesus said about the grain of wheat falling into the ground and dying applies not just to Jesus, but to you and me. In the Sacrament of Baptism, in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, in the Sacrament of this Eucharist, we are meant to let go of many things, and especially to let go of sin, to die to these things, and to cling to Jesus. In this we begin to bear much fruit, as the grain of wheat that was dropped into the ground.

As in the springtime the growing process begins to speed up, so it is springtime in our lives when we grow and begin to bear much fruit in Christ. We die with Him so as to rise with Him. Amen, Amen.  Now is the Hour for each of us to rejoice in the Hour of the Triumph of Jesus, and with Him to enter soon into the Pascal Season and celebrate our triumph with Him.


Homily # 2

It is rare to encounter words in a homily which profoundly challenge our thinking and shifts our perspective on reality.  The homilist of the Hebrews offers us just such a collection of words: “Son though He was, He learned obedience from what He suffered; and when perfected, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him.”

The very idea of obedience , suffering and perfection troubles the modern mind.  The only obedience we are called to is the obedience to do our own thing, (a being true to oneself approach) and suffering  must be avoided at all cost in a society whose categorized imperative holds that life is to enjoy; and perfection is not possible in a culture of diminished expectations.

These words contained in Hebrews invite us to rethink our notions of obedience, suffering, perfection and relationship to God.  For all four of these ideas are united in the common experience of love.  Without love each of these becomes a burden too much to bear or and ideal which only frustrates and produces guilt.  By contrast, love opens our minds and hearts to the ways of God and His care for us.

Obedience is not a mindless following of rules and regulations.  It is not a denial of our freedom and intellect.  Mature obedience is the ability to listen and respond (response-able).  Mature obedience is found in the person who is truly liberated from the childish cravings of the ego and passions.   To hear and respond to God’s call in our daily lives means we possess the ability to forget ourselves and serve others.  Only love makes such a risk possible.

Suffering is never to be sought as a good in itself.  To to so would be sever pathology.  However, we need to recognize that life is not trouble free and without the cross.  Suffering comes to all of us.  The question is: how do we respond to the suffering which comes our way?  Love transforms suffering into an opportunity for growing closer to Jesus and those in need.

Suffering accepted with love becomes a grace which allows us to move beyond ourselves into the realm of God.  The words of Jesus in our gospel are the very heart of the Christian story: “unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat.  But if it dies it produces much fruit.” It is only in suffering a death to self that we really experience what it means to be a fully human being.

Perfectionism produces performance anxiety or refusal to perform at all.  Yet to be perfected through obedience and a suffering love is not accomplished in a single day.  The whole of one’s life, and beyond, is about being perfected into the loving likeness of the Father.

The work of being perfected is not a compulsive set of objectives which we must attain by ourselves.  Rather, to be perfected is to daily allow God’s loving grace to change our hearts of stone to flesh.  It is a willingness to let God do in us so much more that we can ever do by ourselves.

Finally, in our moments of real suffering; the Cross; it is important to remember that God’s own Son was not spared.  The new covenant written on our hearts does not excuse us from life, service and the Cross.  The Christian will have his or her own cross to carry.  However, it is in carrying our cross with an obedient, suffering love that we come to be perfected in God’s unbounded love.


Homily # 3

In 16th century England, Thomas More and John Fisher, a chancellor and a bishop, died for their faith.  They were martyrs who were grains of wheat, willing to die for their principles and for the love of Christ.  The odd think about their martyrdom in England is that so few others followed their example.

Moreover, in less than 20 years, a Catholic country became a Protestant one. No one seemed to mind.  Why were so few Catholics willing to be martyrs?  That is a question similar to, “Why were so many Germans willing to let the Nazis gain power?”  Or today, “Why do so many Americans allow TV to be so dreadful?”  Not just the shoddy programming.  But also the emphasis on sex, vulgarity and violence.

One possible answer is: most people act like sheep.  You can get them to swallow anything for violence, bluff, good humor or entertainment or paying them for it.  The saving grace is that in every country there are a few people who won’t be pushed around.  There are people who will not be deceived by soft soap.  They won’t be bribed and will not allow themselves to be lied to.  The only think you can finally do with such people is martyr them.  That is what the English king did to More and Fisher.  What were these “two grains of wheat like”?

1. They were lively forward looking men.  Both men we fun to be with.  They were not stuffy.  They were cultural leaders of their times.  Fisher build libraries and facilities for expanding Cambridge University.  More fostered the learning of classical languages and fresh new ways to teaching and learning.  That was part of their problem –namely their prominence.  Had they been nobodies, the king would have ignored them.  But here were two charming men, improvers of the common good, who disapproved of Henry VIII’s divorce and his decision to split the Church because of his personal problems.

2.  They were lonely men.  They were not always lonely.  AS friendly, social men they had been surrounded by housefuls of admirers.  But once they took a strong moral stand, they found that their associates shied away from them.  Moor’s second wife and his best beloved daughter went to the Tower of London to change his mind.  Not too man y people sympathized with the moral standards of these men. Coretta King had to face that when her husband Martin Luther King was in the Birmingham jail.  We might advise our husband or father to cave in.  Would we cheer him on to stick to his guns?  Mrs. King did.  Mrs. did not.  That puts the moral man in a very lonely position.

3.  They were men of principle.  The king asked them to take and oath of allegiance to the heirs of his marriage with Anne Boleyn.  They might have done that except it also meant they had to agree to the preamble of the oath that said Henry VIII was the head of the Church, legitimate successor of St. Peter.  More and Fisher saw this as heresy and betrayal of the will of Christ who gave the keys to Peter and his successors, who became the popes of Rome.

The common people did not see More’s and Fisher’s point.  They did not like Anne Boyeyn.  In fact, they felt like stoning her.  But the common people figured this would all pass in a few years and life would return as usual.  They were wrong. The martyrs were right.  Twenty years later Catholicism was suppressed and the Church was split.  People without principles can be lulled into anything. How does this fit us today?

We face the decision to be sheep or grains of wheat.  As sheep we will have not moral principles or strength.  We will do what political, media and not-believing intellectuals tell us.  They will determine the future of the sheep, not Christ and the Church.  As grains of wheat we would be so devoted to our moral convictions that we would be willing to die for what we believe.

Sheep-like people let the unscrupulous take over.  Grain of wheat-people resist the advance of the barbarians.  Our ethic of Christian commitment asks us to be grains of wheat.  Christ did it. More and Fisher did it.  Martin Luther King did it.  It is not that unthinkable a choice.


Homily # 4

The readings of the Holy Mass today remind us that we have finally reached the Fifth Sunday of Lent.  Holy Week is not too far away.  During these Lenten days, all Christians have been doing penance and fasting.  We would consider it to be normal for a good Christian during this season to try to live as Christ asks us to live in today’s Gospel.  The norm to follow is of the grain of wheat that is transformed and gives much fruit.  It would be a pity if we allowed these days of Lent to pass without trying to live out a more spirit filled life.  Yet, at the same time, we should remember that if the grain of wheat does not die first, it remains just a grain of wheat; it is not transformed into something new.

In the Gospel Reading, Saint John tells us that Jesus already knows that he will die and that he is preparing himself for that eventuality.  But he also knows that with his death a new people will be born, what today we call the universal Church.  Many people talk about Our Lord as if he were radically different from us.  They say that he could stand the pain of the crucifixion because he was God.  But Jesus was not like that.  In his human nature, Jesus had all of the problems and pains that we have.  He was like us in everything but sin.  That is why he probably feared death, just as much as we do.  The Greeks who came to talk to Jesus during the feast of the Passover in Jerusalem got to hear the very human words of Our Lord.  Jesus did not believe that the Cross signified failure.  But that does not mean that he was not afraid of it, just as we would be.  This is understandable.  Crucifixion meant unimaginable suffering.  We also have to suffer in this life, but in reality the crosses we are called to carry are much smaller than Jesus’ cross.  Yet we are called to bear our crosses with the same patience and courage.  We should understand that it is better to accept suffering joyfully, as it comes, because we all have to carry our cross for better or for worse.

Many Christians refuse to accept any sacrifice that they are asked to make.  Their motto seems to be: “As long as I’m living, I want to live well.”  With that idea in mind they completely separate themselves from God, try to take advantage of others, and try to make as much money as possible without worrying about where it comes from.  They seem to have an incredible need to live life as they wish without taking into consideration the consequences of what they do for themselves or for others.  But this way of living is not exactly what Holy Scripture asks of us.  In our First Reading, the prophet Jeremiah announces to the people of Israel what is his most famous prophecy.  He talks about the new covenant, the New Testament, if you will, that God wants to make with his people. Jeremiah made this announcement as the Jewish people were going through the lowest point in their history, their exile in Babylon.  This prophecy was of great significance in the history of humanity.  In these few words, Jeremiah announces the inauguration of a new covenant based on reconciliation between God and his people and the love that should exist between them.  God promises to forgive our evildoing and remember our sin no more.  In return, all that we have to do is be loyal to God and obey his commandments.

Saint Paul, in the Second Reading, tells us that even though Christ was God, he lived in this world and took on a human nature, and because of this he learned about the suffering that is part of life.  This is what we do.  We learn to live because of the suffering we go through.  We learn that if we want to follow Jesus, we have to take up our cross, just as he did

My sisters and brothers, our faith should show us that if we want to dedicate ourselves totally to Christ, we have to make a firm commitment to follow him.  Only in this way will the grain of wheat that is our spiritual life give fruit.  We heard in the Gospel reading what we need to do to allow this to happen in our life.  Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.

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Word Alive

Parable of dying & rising

By FR. BEL R. SAN LUIS, SVD

March 27, 2009, 6:20pm

A husband came home from church and suddenly carried his wife. The startled wife said: “What did you do that for? Did the priest tell you to be romantic?”

“No,” the husband replied.

“He told us ‘if you want to be My disciple, carry your cross.’” (Well, the cross could be the husband, too).

As Jesus’ impending death was approaching, like that wife, His close followers could not understand that He would carry His cross and die.

* * *

In order to help them understand, Jesus related a simple little parable in the gospel of this 5th Sunday of Lent: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit” (Jn 20:24).

Jesus was telling them that His death was absolutely necessary if there was to be a new life. It is a law of sacrifice, that one can come to a greater life only by dying to a lesser one.

* * *

He was telling them that God works through a process of suffering-dying-rising-from-death. Jesus was like a seed. He had to die and be buried in the earth for three days, then on Easter Sunday rise glorious.

This law of sacrifice is shown by the “fruitful” deaths of martyrs and heroes.

* * *

Think, for instance, of the martyrdom of Dr. Jose Rizal, our national hero. His blood spilled in Bagumbayan planted the seeds of the revolution which won the Philippine independence from Spanish colonial rule.

Think, too, of the brutal slaying of Ninoy Aquino. It became the rallying point, the “last straw,” which united us, swept away the dictatorship and won for us a new freedom.

* * *

Obviously, the opportunity to die heroic deaths is not always possible for ordinary mortals. Heroes are a rare breed.

However, we can “die” non-violent, “mystical” (religious) deaths by dying, for instance, to our pride, our selfishness, our “crab mentality” and other negative traits.

* * *

I know of a young married man, for instance, who was given to drinking. His drinking partners took more of his time than his family.

As he sank deeper to his vice, his wife warned him that if he didn’t stop drinking, she would leave him. His bantering answer was: “Let’s drink to that!”

Since she couldn’t bear the burden of supporting the family and still cared for a problematic husband, she called it quits.

* * *

The loss of the wife and children proved to be a traumatic experience for the husband. He started trying to get reconciled but to no avail.

He had to swallow his pride and began to take the long, arduous road of rehabilitating himself. With lots of encouragement from friends and joining a weekend Marriage Encounter, he got reconciled with his wife and children. Now they’ve become an exemplary family.

* * *

It was the husband’s DYING to his pride and vice that made him rise to a new and fruitful life.

What are those vices and weaknesses we must die to? Is it excessive drinking, the inclination to gossip, uncontrolled anger, pride, selfishness?

Like that repentant husband, by dying to ourselves, we experience a joyful resurrection, a new and more meaningful life.

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Jesus’ Hour of Glory – God’s thinking vs. our thinking

Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Lent Year B

by Fr. Tommy Lane

Who are the important people in our world? Who are the great people in our country? It depends on what you mean by ‘important.’ These are some of the people in our world who receive glory and renown and fame and publicity: – pop stars, sport stars, successful business people, company directors, billionaires. Are they the really important people in our world? There are other people who are not famous; they are people caring for sick relatives, people suffering crosses without grumbling, those giving encouragement to others, those who bring the love of God to others, those who witness to Jesus in small ways. Are they the really great people in our world? I think they are. Think of a pop song or a great goal scored during a championship or a successful business deal. It will not last into eternity. Think of an act of kindness to someone who is ill; that will last into eternity. Even if there is a truckload of flowers at a funeral, they will wither, they will not last. But if you say even just one Hail Mary for the deceased, even though you will never see it, that Hail Mary will last into eternity.

What about Jesus? At the wedding in Cana Jesus said his hour had not yet come but in today’s Gospel he says his hour has come,

“Now the hour has come
for the Son of Man to be glorified.” (John 12:23)

What is this hour of glory for Jesus? It is his passion and death! That is the hour of glory for Jesus in John’s Gospel, his passion and death! Why? Because if a grain falls on the ground and dies it yields a rich harvest (John 12:24). The hour of glory for Jesus is his passion and death because through his passion and death he will draw all people to himself. Jesus’ glory is not what the world thinks glorious because the world does not see as God sees. Who would have thought that Jesus, son of the Father, the Messiah, would have to suffer? Yet that is precisely how he was “perfected” as the second reading reminds us today:

Although he was Son, he learnt to obey through suffering; but having been made perfect, he became for all who obey him the source of eternal salvation. (Heb 5:8-9)

Through Isaiah God says,

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts
and your ways are not my ways,
declares Yahweh.
For the heavens are as high above earth
as my ways are above your ways,
my thoughts above your thoughts.” (Isa 55:8-9)

In Psalm 147:10 we read,

“God’s delight is not in horses
nor his pleasure in warrior’s strength.
The Lord delights in those who revere him,
in those who wait for his love.”

Sometimes we give the glory to what is strong and powerful, but God delights in those who revere him and wait for his love. In one of the accounts of the call of David (1 Sam 16) God said to Samuel to go to Jesse of Bethlehem and anoint one of his sons as king of Israel. When Samuel saw Eliab, Samuel thought this must be the one but God said to Samuel,

“Take no notice of his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him; God does not see as humans beings see; they look at appearances but Yahweh looks at the heart.” (1 Sam 16:7)

When Samuel saw Abinadab God said it was not he, when Samuel saw Shamah God said it was not he. When Jesse had shown all his sons to Samuel, Samuel had to ask Jesse if he had any more sons because he knew none of these was the one God had chosen. Oh yes, there was one more, the youngest looking after the sheep, David. David’s own father, Jesse, had forgotten about him, but that forgotten son David was the one God asked Samuel to anoint. God does not look at appearances, God looks at the heart. Do we give glory to what appears great or do we give glory to what is great?

In his first letter to the Corinthians Paul wrote, “God chose those who by human standards are fools to shame the wise; he chose those who by human standards are weak to shame the strong…” (1 Cor 1:27) Do we hold successful people up on high while God delights in those who do his will? In Matt 6:33 Jesus says, “Seek the kingdom of God first.” Some in the world look down on those who stay at home to rear their families but the greatest work any mother could do is to rear her family. Pope John Paul II has said mothers who stay at home to rear their families should be given an income.

Who does Jesus consider to be great? He says,

“Unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies,
It remains only a single grain;
But if it dies,
It yields a rich harvest.
Anyone who loves his life loses it;
Anyone who hates his life in this world
Will keep it for the eternal life.” (John 12:24-25)

Who are the really great people in our world? Who are the really great people in our country? In Psalm 147:10 we read,

“God’s delight is not in horses
nor his pleasure in warrior’s strength.
The Lord delights in those who revere him,
in those who wait for his love.”

What is the hour of glory for Jesus in John’s Gospel? It is his passion and death because through his passion and death he will draw all people to himself. As we continue our journey through Lent and draw near Holy Week, let us ponder on Jesus, the grain of wheat who fell on the ground and died but yielded a rich harvest. As we die to ourselves during Lent through our penance, may we produce a rich harvest and celebrate that harvest during the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night.

“Unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies,
It remains only a single grain;
But if it dies,
It yields a rich harvest.
Anyone who loves his life loses it;
Anyone who hates his life in this world
Will keep it for the eternal life.” (John 12:24-25)

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Moments
Hour watch

By Fr. Jerry Orbos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 04:15:00 03/29/2009

Did you hear about a new church collection box that’s being thought of these days? It is said that the box has special effects depending on the amount dropped into it: drop a P0.25 coin, no sound; drop P1, little bell rings; drop P20, siren sounds; drop P50, applause; drop P100, choir sings; drop P500, the whole congregation stands up; drop P1,000, you will have your picture taken, complete with all the special effects mentioned above.

* * *

In today’s Gospel (Jn. 12, 20-33) Jesus does not mention any earthly rewards for those who follow Him. Instead, He talks about death and dying to oneself: “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” He promises something though—for eternal life: “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.” So there. Life all boils down to a choice between glory now or glory in the hereafter.

* * *

What precisely did Jesus mean when He said “Father, save me from this hour?” Perhaps the Filipino saying “oras mo na” [your time has come] can help us understand this “hour” that Jesus was talking about. It points in the direction that life has a limit and has an end; and that there is something that has yet to be met or accomplished up ahead. It could mean a mission, or one shining moment or, for that matter, one dark moment. But whatever, as Jesus had to face His “hour,” we too have to face our “hour”; and as Jesus had to go through suffering, death and glory, we too who follow Him must be prepared to do the same. There is no escaping from that “hour.” Some people may deny it, avoid it or elude it, but no one will be spared from it. Listen, you who think you can hold on to earthly glory and wealth and pleasures forever!

* * *

Someone once said: “Prolong the glory, and you only prolong the agony.” For that matter, prolong the desire for glory, and you also prolong your misery and anxiety. Greed can make life very comfortable, but also very disturbing. Unbridled desires can lead one to untold pleasures, but also to dark and deep self-made prisons. It’s really a choice between good and evil, between light and darkness. Listen, you who are having such a good life now, or basking in the limelight. Your “hour” will come, inevitably. (“Darating din and oras ‘nyo!”)

* * *

To those who refuse the cross: Remember, sooner or later, you will meet it along the way. You won’t, you can’t escape from it. To those who pass on the cross to other people: Be warned. God does not sleep. Injustice is not forever. Sin sows its own seeds of destruction.

* * *

Talking about “hour,” we congratulate those who conceptualized, organized and participated in Saturday night’s Earth Hour, during which lights were turned off from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. for the sake of Mother Earth. That one hour did a lot to raise our consciousness of the universal challenge of global warming, and in fact did save 560 megawatts of electricity which is equivalent to cutting down roughly 330 tons of carbon dioxide emission, this according to sources from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. See what a difference an hour can do?

* * *

How about declaring a corruption-free day in the Philippines? Can you imagine how much money will go to the citizens and taxpayers of our country if our government leaders and officials and their cohorts would keep their hands off from our people’s pockets even just for 24 hours? And since we’re good at it, perhaps the Philippines can lead the other countries to do the same. Now, that would really be a lot of savings for people all over the world, even for just a day or even for just an hour.

* * *

In this season of Lent, why don’t we cut down on “happy hour” and put in more “holy hour” instead? A lot of things fall into place, and a lot of things can be done in an hour spent on prayer. We really have to listen to God speaking to us not only in the events happening around us but more so in the silence of the Presence within us. Especially people with big plans and big responsibilities, they need to listen well and listen much in prayer.

* * *

Philippine SVD centennial moment: One SVD brother who spent so much time in “holy hour” was Brother Boniface Calucci, SVD. He was such a devout and a prayerful brother that he spent many hours of the day praying in the chapel. This World War I veteran from America did the genuflection before the Blessed Sacrament in such a slow, pious way. There was even a story that when he was brought to a movie house, he absentmindedly genuflected in the aisle before he took his seat. By worldly standards, Brother Boniface did not accomplish great things in his lifetime. He was not a big-time player, but he was such a committed “pray-er.”

* * *

A moment with the Lord:

Lord, help me not to count the hours, but to make the hours count in my life. Amen.

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Word Alive

Necessity Of Suffering And Dying

By FR. BEL R. SAN LUIS, SVD

March 23, 2012, 10:55pm

MANILA, Philippines — As Jesus’ impending death was approaching, His close followers could not understand why He would suffer terribly and die.

In order to help them understand, Jesus related a simple little parable: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (Jn 20:24 on this 5th Sunday of Lent)

* * *

Jesus was telling them that His death was absolutely necessary if there was to be a new life. It is a law of sacrifice that one can come to a greater life only by dying to a lesser one.

He was telling them that God works through a process of suffering-dying-rising-from-death. Jesus compares Himself to a seed. He had to die and be buried in the earth for three days, then on Easter Sunday, rise glorious.

* * *

This law of sacrifice is exemplified by the fruitful deaths of martyrs and heroes. Think, for instance, of the martyrdom of Dr. Jose Rizal, our national hero. His blood spilled in Bagumbayan planted the seeds of the revolution which won the Philippine independence from Spanish colonial rule.

Think, too, of the assassination of Ninoy Aquino when he arrived from the USA. It became a spark and rallying point, which united Filipinos and, like a tidal wave, swept away the dictatorship.

* * *

In our personal growth, there has to be a non-violent, “mystical,” or religious dying to our pride, selfishness, laziness, and other bad traits in order to attain a better life. For instance, unless a leader dies to his selfishness and greed, he cannot produce the fruits of economic progress for his constituency.

* * *

Then there was a young married man who was given to drinking. His drinking buddies took more of his time than his family.

As he sank deeper, his wife couldn’t bear the burden of supporting the family and still care for a problematic husband. She decided to go home to her parents in the province, taking the kids.

* * *

The loss of the wife and children proved to be a traumatic experience for the husband. He took the long, arduous road of rehabilitating himself, and with lots of support from friends, he got reunited with his wife and children. They have now become an exemplary family.

It was the husband’s DYING to his pride and vice that made him rise to a new and better life. There has to be a dying to our old traits and negative forms of behavior before we can rise to a better life.

* * *

What are those vices and weaknesses we must die to? Is it excessive drinking, the inclination to gossip, uncontrolled anger, pride, selfishness?

Like that repentant husband, if we die to ourselves, no doubt we will experience a joyful resurrection, a new and more meaningful life.

mb.com.ph/articles/355197/necessity-of-suffering-and-dying

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Thursday, February 7, 2008

Dying to Yourself

Text: Matthew 16:24-27

Dying to yourself is something that we Christians may find hard to do. In this world where there is pressure on all sides to replace the love of God for something lesser, to die to oneself is something that most, if not all of us, may be averse to doing. In the world of instant gratification, getting things on credit, and getting what you want right here, right now, dying to oneself is a concept that is anathema to most. And yet this is one thing that Jesus had always been teaching us to do.

As Jesus said,

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25)

Warm-up Questions:

What is the one thing that you would find hard to give away?
Is there anyone or anything in your life that you would find hard to let go of?

Dying to Yourself

Reasons Why We Need to Die to Ourselves

We, as humans, have the unavoidable tendency to seek our will above anyone else’s. We always want our way, and whether we realize it or not, there is a tendency for us to see things from our point of view, and to define the world by how we see it. Though most people would deny their own self-centeredness, man is by nature self-centered and self-interested. We are, by no means, born good. Our fall had stemmed by joining Satan in striving to be like God (Genesis 3:5), and thus, a lot of the aspects of pride, that which felled him, is in us, in the following forms:

1) Self-centeredness.
2) Self-interest.
3) Self-absorption.
4) Vanity.
5) False humility.

Pride, which is wholly abhorrent to God, is what keeps us from receiving His love. When we are too full of ourselves, we start to think that we no longer need God. We would then chase after other lovers, in an effort to please ourselves, which is actually idolatry, without the overt idols.

What are our modern-day idols?

1) A relationship that is abhorrent to God because we love that person more than we love God.
2) A striving for material wealth that supersedes our love for God because we no longer trust Him as Lord, Savior, and Provider.
3) The need to please people.
4) The need to take care of, give help to, or provide charity to people for selfish motives.
5) Anything else in our “universe” that dethrones God from our hearts.

We need to die to ourselves, because in our sinful human frailty, there is only one tendency for man: to glorify himself over God.

But what if you have no self-esteem to speak of, and you actually hate your life?

It is also a form of pride, to be honest with you. Anything that makes you self-absorbed, whether it is a bloated ego, or the reverse of it: a self-worth black hole, anything that exalts itself over God is idolatrous; anything inside yourself that makes you focus only on yourself: whether achievements or inadequacies, is a form of pride and is absolutely abhorrent to God.

On the other hand, when you are focused on another object of your heart’s affections, when your eyes not wholly focused on God for a reason outside yourself, it is a form of idolatry.

Again, the two things that keep us from God and the two main reasons why we need to die to ourselves are:

1) Pride.
2) Idolatry.

How to die to ourselves.

When we choose to die to ourselves, we choose to crucify our old selves with Jesus, for Him to increase within us and increasingly show Himself through our lives. (John 3:30)

When we choose to die to ourselves, to set aside our pride in order for Jesus to work more thoroughly in us and to allow the Holy Spirit to show His fruit in our lives, we get the added benefit of gaining more peace, an increasing freedom, and that unearthly calm that radiates even through the storms of life.

1) Dying to oneself does not entail sacrifice. Though it may seem like it, it actually entails more of seeking then obeying God’s will, over our own. (Psalm 40:6,8, Isaiah 1:18-20, Hosea 6:6)

2) Dying to oneself entails being motivated by love, above all. You can obey God out of fear and though you obeyed, if you are not motivated by love for Him, it will not have life-giving and lasting results. Instead, strive to obey God because you love Him and do not want to hurt Him. He actually feels the pain when He allows you to reap the consequences of your sin. Choose to obey Him because you love Him, and not because you want to avoid the pain.

3) Dying to yourself entails choosing mercy. Even when that taxi driver cut you off and left you steaming in anger, choose to be merciful. Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but also so that you won’t keep yourself stuck in a wormhole of anger and bitterness. Choose to forgive, choose to give mercy, as you were also pardoned on the Cross. (Leviticus 19:18, Leviticus 19:34, Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:27-36)

It is not an easy walk, this dying to self business. Rather, since you would be embracing ethics that are not your own (Jesus’), you would be in for a fight at times, when you would choose your will over God’s. But do try to make things easier for both of you, but more for you than Him: surrender to His will, surrender to His call for you to die to yourself, it is as easy as, “Yes, Lord, I will follow.”

He will make you able to follow Him, for His grace is sufficient for you. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Questions for Discussion:
What areas of your life do you feel you should submit more to God?
Are you willing to give these up for Jesus?

Assignment:

In your quiet moments, talk to God, and tell Him to show you areas in your life which you need to submit. If you feel like you are “not ready yet,” banish the thought from your mind, and even if it pains you to admit to God, ask Him to make you able to surrender to Him. He will deliver, and He will surely deliver you from your grasping at your pride and your pet idols.

Take the example of the father, whose child was afflicted with demons. When Jesus pointed out that he did not believe that Jesus could heal his son, he exclaimed, in desperation, for Jesus to help him believe. In like manner, since we know we can never, and won’t ever want to give up our own idols if left to our own devices, thus we should cry out to God to help our unbelief, or in this case, to help us surrender. He will surely deliver. Deliver us from ourselves. (Mark 9:24)

References:


Pride, God’s abhorrence of:
Isaiah 13:11, Jeremiah 13:9, Jeremiah 13:17, Proverbs 16:18
Heart, Deceitful: Jeremiah 17:9, Matthew 12:34
Mercy: Matthew 9:13, Matthew 12:7, Luke 1: 5,8, Ephesians 2:4, 1 Peter.1:3, Luke 6:36

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DYING TO ONESELF (Part 3)

It is never easy to leave our comforts behind. It only becomes rewarding when we have the conviction that leaving is in response to the Lord’s greater call. What tremendous and perfect joy it becomes!

Along the way, we get bewildered. The perplexity has nothing to do with the work from our perfect God, nor with our relationship with Him. Rather, it comes from circumstances and events which we feel are not of God’s anymore. We feel it deeply in our hearts.

There comes the call once more to die to oneself. The pain is intense, yet joy abounds, knowing that we are heeding the same voice which beckoned us to serve. Here are more thoughts from our brethren who made the sacrifice for the sake of truth.

It is never easy to leave our comforts behind. It only becomes rewarding when we have the conviction that leaving is in response to the Lord’s greater call. What tremendous and perfect joy it becomes!

Along the way, we get bewildered. The perplexity has nothing to do with the work from our perfect God, nor with our relationship with Him. Rather, it comes from circumstances and events which we feel are not of God’s anymore. We feel it deeply in our hearts.

There comes the call once more to die to oneself. The pain is intense, yet joy abounds, knowing that we are heeding the same voice which beckoned us to serve. Here are more thoughts from brethren who made the sacrifice for the sake of truth.

PANCHO LOPEZ – TAN

“Marilyn and I completed our CLP in November 1990. Just a few months after attending MER 1 in 1991, we were tapped to serve as facilitators of a CLP in Baliwag, Bulacan. We were a young couple then – Marilyn was only 28 years old, and I was 29. Since the time we graduated from the CLP, we never missed a single household meeting. We were raising our young family then, with three small children — all babies at the time — yet God gave us the grace to be committed and obedient from the very start. We became Household Heads the following year, then in 1993, we were tapped to handle the YFC program which was just being launched at the time. After two years serving the youth in our area, we opted to head the next CLP Team and became Unit Leaders in 1995. Eventually, we served as Chapter Head, Cluster Head, Sector Governance Team member, and then I became a Sector Head in 2002. I got elected to the Board of Elders (BOE) in 2003 where I served faithfully and obediently until July 31, 2007. By then, I had begun to realize that the BOE was no longer the body of elders who were supposed to safeguard the life and mission of Couples for Christ.

“I clearly saw how the string of events unfolded after the resignations in February. I saw how the issues being raised by our brother Frank (Padilla) turned into a biased and personal issue against him. In the beginning, we in the BOE were all in the same mind and heart. But as the weeks went on and our leaders, the Council, were not addressing the problems, elders started to take sides and were no longer focusing on the real issues, but merely on personalities. As part of the BOE Ad Hoc Committee which reviewed CFC’s conflict with Gawad Kalinga, I saw how GK was indeed veering away from the charism of the community which gave birth to it. Objectively, I saw what was happening. Gradually, I saw how our top leaders – people I had looked up to and respected for so long – were no longer behaving as Christian brothers and sisters, as the disagreements and personal biases started to surface.

“On July 31, 2007, I decided to let go of all my services — as Sector Head, as member of the BOE, and as KFC International Council member. What led me to this decision? While I was on a mission trip to Leyte on July 13, Marilyn had a strong leading to attend the 1st Restoration Prayer Assembly that evening. She called me and shared how uplifting the whole assembly was, as she also recalled how Spirit-filled and meaningful the worship turned out to be. What I witnessed in Leyte was the exact opposite. I saw how an elder, a former Council Member, mercilessly attacked Frank Padilla verbally in front of CFC members and leaders of that province. His behavior was very unbecoming of a Christian elder and totally unacceptable to me. That incident was indeed an eye opener. I wondered why the Lord allowed me to see and hear this unfortunate incident with my own eyes and ears. He was obviously allowed me to see things clearly, to discern without a doubt, and lead me to make a strong and hard decision to go against the easy and more acceptable path. After that, I recalled several other circumstances and situations I had been in (which happened even before Leyte) that made me realize where the Lord’s Spirit was really leading me. All these made me more prayerful because I had always been an obedient follower to all my leaders, yet the Lord was leading me in a different direction. Though it was a very difficult decision for me, I realized my obedience is to my God and not to men.

“The Lord has given me strength and a strong conviction. I am at peace with my decision to be in CFC-FFL. I believe this is God’s call for me and He has great things in store for this community and for all of us. He will pour His abundant blessings on us because we have all risked much for love of Him. God is good!”

PEGGY BURGOYNE

“On the 10th year of my being a part of CFC (1997) I received a message from God while attending a recollection for school supervisors of St. Paul College of Pasig. He said, ‘Detach from the school that you love most and attach to Me. I need you in Couples for Christ where we have much work to do. Be with them (St. Paul College of Pasig) at a distance. I will take care of this school you love. Have no fear. Detach from them and attach to Me, and go where I need you.’ Our Directress gave me her blessings, since she and the other nuns were aware of what CFC service was all about. As a fulltime pastoral worker, I was asked to be a part of CFC Educational Foundation, Inc., Teodora, Kids for Christ, Handmaids of the Lord, support my husband, Jack, in his mission areas, and do whatever task was assigned to me. When the SPCP Directress learned about my “assignments”, she remarked that I might lose balance, but I told her that probably, that was the nature of the work. Eventually, I ended up focusing on my work with Teodora, where I experienced so many things. Aside from my specific responsibilities, I learned to do all kinds of tasks: secretarial work, general services, counseling service. Of course, I really served as a support for Jack.

“My being a Paulinian and being in Couples for Christ complemented each other in my spirituality. When I responded to God’s call, He gave me “Friends of St. Paul’s”, a lay associate of St. Paul’s of Chartres, which allowed me to be still connected with them particularly in spiritual formation. Our Lord also gave me CFC heads who were all loving, caring, prayerful, passionate, supportive, and inspiring (Mimi David, Maribel Descallar, Linda Tayag, among others). I drew my strength and grew spiritually and emotionally from the people I worked with: Annie Faustino, Cristy Balilo, Regie Cajulis, Liezel Rodriguez, as well as those I worked with in Metro Manila, the provinces, and abroad. Truly, the atmosphere at the CFC Home Office was warm, welcoming, loving, and trusting. Anyone can just come, sit and debrief, and leave the area feeling good.

“Sadly, early this year, I somehow saw our trial coming. We were all in Lamentation for God’s purpose. Somehow, I felt the Lord was pruning our community as we were no longer how we used to be. It brought me restlessness. My prayer life had become so disruptive as I questioned God. I thought, ‘If my prayer life was in disorder, something must be terribly wrong, and disorder in all aspects of my life will follow.’ The atmosphere, then, became stormy. My health was likewise affected. In all these, I clearly heard the Lord say, ‘Have no fear, for I am with you. Step out in faith and listen to Me.’

“As I told our Lord that I cannot take this any longer, He gave me another message. During a retreat for the “Friends of St. Paul” in preparation for our yearly renewal of vows, I read something from our book of life entitled, ‘Walking in the Truth’ (on Maturing in SPC spirituality). How can I stay as a FTPW when what I see, hear, and feel in CFC is in conflict with SPC Spirituality? I saw in the top leaders how Paul was before his conversion. The nun who gave us the retreat was used by our Lord for me to make my decision to retire as FTPW. After my retreat, this was the message I got from the Lord: ‘In 1997, I asked you to detach from the school that you love most and attach to Me. I need you in Couples for Christ where we have much work to do. This time, I want you to detach yourself where you are now and attach to Me again where I will bring you where your desire to walk in truth will flourish and bear much fruit for Me.’

“On July 30, 2007, I gave my letter requesting for normal retirement effective August 31, 2007. Where is the Lord leading me? Where else but to the truth!”

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Moments

Your finest hour

By: Fr. Jerry M. Orbos
Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:08 am | Sunday, March 25th, 2012

The story is told about a couple who decided to use only biblical passages in their conversations during the Holy Week. When the wife woke the husband, she quoted Jesus’ words at the Garden of Gethsemane: “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not undergo the test.” (Luke 22, 45) Whereupon the husband, quoting Jesus’ words at Cana, responded: “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” (John 2, 4)

In today’s gospel (John 12, 20-33), we hear Jesus say: “The hour has come for the son of man to be glorified.” Further on, He says: “But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.” There is an appointed hour for everything, and everything happens in His time, according to His will and plan. As it were, God has perfect timing. Let us be in tune with His timetable, and let us be constantly on the lookout, and be open to His schedule and call in our lives.

We are living on borrowed time in this world. We are accountable to God for what we do in our lifetime. And there is an appointed hour when we will come face to face with our God. Jesus tells us today how to truly live: “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.” Our finest hour is when we can come before God and be able to say: Mission accomplished, Lord. I have served and I have loved!

We do not know when God will take us. Death came unexpectedly and fast for my brother-in-law Butch del Rosario, who died in his sleep last March 18. He was 59. As I blessed his lifeless body at the hospital emergency room where he was taken to be revived, I couldn’t help but cry and be reminded of the shortness of life, the reality of death that literally can come “like a thief in the night.” His hour had come … could mine be far behind?

There isn’t much we can say when a loved one dies for words will never be enough. We take comfort in what Jesus says today about a grain of wheat that falls to the ground and dies, and produces much fruit. We can never know what is in a man’s heart, nor can we judge. We can never fathom the love God has for each of us. When our final hour comes, may we too become recipients of His mercy and unimaginable love!

In one of my pilgrimages, a prayer leader prayed the “Hail Mary,” saying “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hours of our death. Amen.” I corrected her then, but come to think of it, there are many hours of death before we come to that final hour. We die a thousand deaths before we finally die. Let us not die before our time comes. Let us not die by our sinning, or giving up on people, our goodness, or life itself.

Speaking of pilgrimages, in a sharing session one of our pilgrims came to his finest hour when he publicly acknowledged his unfaithfulness and misdeeds, and sought forgiveness from his wife. He finally faced the light, and went past the shadows in front of him. The truth has set him free. Because of his humility and honesty, he opened the floodgates of grace upon the whole group, especially to his loving and forgiving wife. Indeed, a grain of wheat falls and dies, and produces much fruit!

Has something died in your life? Has something gone wrong? Is there no more fire or not even a glow between you and your loved ones? It is time to invite the Lord into your heart, into your home, into your relationships. He wants to come in, but many times we shut him out, and that is when troubles and problems come up. One of our finest hours is when we realize our helplessness, and in humility acknowledge our need for God. Unless and until we do that, we will continue on the road of selfishness and self-fulfillment that does not bring us to the road of true life and, ultimately, to eternal life.

Couples, please remember that at the wedding in Cana, the Blessed Mother was there, and Jesus was there as well. On your wedding day, you invited Jesus to be with you. But that is not enough. What is important is that you invite Him to be in your marriage. Your finest hour comes when you finally focus not so much on each other as on the same direction together. Come, Lord! We need you. Stay with us, Lord!

Please don’t wait for the “last two minutes” before you come out with your finest moments and your finest hour. Don’t wait to be fined! Do not postpone your conversion, and do not postpone your loving. Yes, capture the moment and seize the day. And live in such a way that you will have no regrets in any way.

Mama Mary teaches us to take the road of humility, obedience, and self-denial. When we take that road, we may become the “Biggest Losers” in the eyes of this world. But in the end, we turn out to be the biggest gainers, after all. Remember, what matters most is not what we hold in our hands but what we carry in our hearts. If you think this is a losing proposition, think again when your final hour comes, in that hour when all your money, power and influence are useless. Unaided and alone, what will matter then is the love in your hearts and the mercy of God.

Inviting you to our Palm Sunday family recollection at the Meralco Theatre, 8 a.m.-1 p.m., on April 1. Please come early as we have limited seats. One with you in preparing to commemorate the passion, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, the finest hour of our Christian faith.

Bantay Matanda invites you to a lay forum on March 31, 9 a.m.-12 p.m., at the Janssen Hall, Christ the King Seminary, E. Rodriguez Blvd. Extension, Quezon City (near St. Luke’s Medical Center). Topic: Do’s and Don’ts in Taking Medication by Dr. Deana Santos-Ringor. For inquiries, call 373-2262, 998-2548, or 09174167849

A moment with the Lord: Lord, help me to live in such a way that when my final hour comes, I will be ready to face You. Amen.

opinion.inquirer.net/25561/your-finest-hour

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PAGPATAY NA BUMUBUHAY: Reflection for 5th Sundau of Lent Year B – March 25, 2012

Sabi ng isang text: “Babala sa mga friends ko na di kumakain ng taba, di nagpupuyat, di nagkakape, di umiinom ng alak, di naninigarilyo. Mabubuhay kang malungkot ! Patay na kaming lahat… buhay ka pa!” hehehe… Hindi ito panghihikayat upang tayo ay malulon sa bisyo. Kung sa bagay may mga tao naman kasi na sobra ang pag-iingat sa buhay. May mga iba na napakarami ang pagbabawal sa buhay… bawal ang pork, hipon, karne, itlog…Nag-eenjoy pa kaya sila sa buhay nila? Ang motto nga ng isang kaibigan kong maraming dinadalang sakit sa katawan ay: “If you eat you’ll die. If you don’t eat you’ll die. You will die just the same… so why not eat and die!” May pagkapilosopo ang aking kaibigan ngunit kung iisiping mabuti ay may butil ng katotohanan ang nais niyang ipahiwatig. Hindi masama ang magmahal sa buhay at mag-alaga ng ating katawan. Ngunit ang labis na pagmamahal ay hindi na natatama. May babala si Jesus tungkol dito: “Ang taong labis na nagpapahalaga sa kanyang buhay ay siyang mawawalan nito…” Markahan ninyo ang salitang… LABIS! Ibig sabihin wala sa lugar, sobra, di na nakakatulong! “Ngunit ang napopoot sa kanyang buhay ay siyang magkakaroon nito hanggang sa buhay na walang hanggan.” Hindi ibig sabihin na dapat nating kamuhian ang ating buhay. Ang pagkapoot na sinasabi dito ay ang “paglimot sa sarili upang magbigay buhay sa iba!” Hinalintulad ni Jesus ang kanyang sarili sa isang butil ng trigo na kinaikailangang mamatay upang magkamit ng bagong buhay. At iyon ay ginawa niya sa pag-aalay ng kanyang buhay sa krus upang tayo ay magkamit ng buhay na walang hanggan. Ang kuwaresma ay naayong panahon upang magpraktis tayo ng “self-dying”. Hindi “suicide” o pagkitil ng sariling buhay ang pakahulugan nito. Ang “self-dying” ay may kaugnayan sa “self-denial” na nagtuturo sa ating katawan upang maging disiplinado at mapalakas ang ating “will power”. Sa self-denial ay itinatanggi natin sa ating katawan ang maraming bagay na hindi naman talagang masama. Ito ay pagtanggi sa mga bagay na nagbibigay ng kasarapan sa ating buhay. Labis na pagkain, panood ng TV, shopping (para sa mga may pera), computer games, labis na pagtetext, etc… Patayin natin ang masasamang hilig upang mabuhay tayo na disiplinado at makatulong sa iba. Patayin ang labis na pagmamahal sa sarili upang makapaglingkod sa kapwa… Hindi lahat pala ng pagpatay ay masama… may pagpatay na buhay ang ibinibigay.

kiliti-ng-diyos.blogspot.com/2012/03/pagpatay-na-bumubuhay-reflection-for.html

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5th SUNDAY OF LENT: THE COMING OF THE HOUR OF JESUS

Jn 12:20-33

HEROES AND MARTYRS have things in common. On the one hand, national heroes are respected for how they offered their life for the country. They sacrificed their life for the country’s welfare and good. Martyrs, on the other hand, are revered by the Church for they are models for believers on how to live out their faith. They sacrificed their life for their faith.

In the gospel today, we have heard of the coming of the hour of Jesus. His impending death is an act of self-donation or self-offering. In a way, the gospel reading explains the paschal mystery of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection. Let us try to reflect on the important points found in the gospel passage.

First, Jesus gives us the image of the “grain of wheat” to describe his coming death.  If we are familiar with farm life, we can easily understand what Jesus meant. There is a contradiction here: a grain has to fall or die in order to produce fruits. A grain, when it falls to the ground, ends its being a grain and is transformed into a new life. Jesus now foresees that his impending death would mean life for his followers. His death is an act of self-offering par excellence. It can never be a useless and meaningless death because it brings salvation and eternal life to believers. Thus, he has to die so that we may live. His death means our life.

Second, he gives another contradiction: hate one’s life in order to preserve it. He says, “Whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life”.  We can think of some people who were able to live this out. St Francis Xavier, for one, left or abandoned a glamorous life in the university, and instead, became a missionary. Likewise, we heard about the life of Albert Schweitzer, who abandoned a lucrative career in music and instead, he works as a missionary doctor in Africa. There are many more inspiring stories of people on how they fought against the values of the world, and instead embrace the values of the kingdom. By doing so, they are able to preserve themselves “for eternal life”.

Third, Jesus emphasizes the need for discipleship or following him. He says, “Whoever serves me must follow me”. We hear of stories about servants who have followed their masters. Wherever their masters go, they follow them. When their masters transfer to another country, they are brought by their masters to that place. Loyalty and fidelity have become the characteristic of this relationship. Indeed, we are servants of the Lord. But Christ expects more than that. It is necessary for us to follow him. Following him would mean following in his self-offering.

Let us reflect further on the self-offering of Jesus which is a mark of suffering. In the first part of the gospel passage, we heard that some Greeks came to Philip and asked him that they would like to see Jesus. It is also about time for us to see Jesus, especially in his suffering.  His is a redemptive suffering. He suffered for our sake; he offered his life for our salvation.

Suffering is not alien to us. Almost every day we can experience suffering. We suffer from relationships, and we also suffer from illness. But suffering without Christ is senseless and meaningless. It is good that we take the opportunity to find the meaning of our own suffering. It can be a graced moment if we see it as our participation in the suffering of Christ on the cross.

msp.org.ph/homilies.do?id=20037

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5TH SUNDAY OF LENT (YEAR B)

Jer 31:31-34; Heb 5:7-9; Jn 12:20-33

Ang ebanghelyo naghatag kanato og timailhan nga nagkaduol na ang Semana Santa – ang panahon kanus-a saulogon nato ang pagpasakit, pagkamatay ug pagkabanhaw sa atong Ginoo. Nganong magsaulog man kita? Di ba angay untang magmagul-anon kita atubangan sa kasakit ug kamatayon? Para sa kadaghanan, ang kamatayon mao ang katapusan sa kinabuhi, panahon sa kasub-anan. Apan para kang Kristo, ang kamatayon mao ang adlaw sa iyang kahimayaan, panahon sa kalipay ug kadaogan. Siya mismo miingon: “Karon miabut na ang panahon nga pasidunggan pag-ayo ang Anak sa Tawo.” Ang Dios Amahan nagpasidungog kaniya tungod kay gihalad man niya ang iyang kinabuhi para sa katawhan, usa ka pagpakita sa tinuod nga gugma nga dili malabwan. Kita usab makabaton sa susamang himaya kon magmatinud-anon kita sa atong pagsunod kang Kristo – ilabina sa Iyang pagpangalagad ug pagsakripisyo para sa uban.

Ang panahon sa Kwaresma magpahinumdum kanato nga makahatag lamang kita og kalipay ug kabulahanan sa uban kon andam kitang malimot sa kaugalingon ug magsakripisyo. Si Kristo naghulagway ning maong kamatuoran pinaagi sa pag-ingon: “Ang usa ka trigo dili modaghan gawas kon kini mahagbong sa yuta ug mamatay. Kon mamatay kini, motubo ug mamunga kini og daghan.” Sa susamang paagi, kitang mga tawo magmabungahon lamang kon kita makamaong magsakripisyo ug maghalad sa kaugalingon para sa kaayohan sa laing tawo. Pananglitan, ang usa ka ginikanan dili gayod makahatag og maayong kaugmaon sa iyang anak kon siya maghunahuna lamang sa iyang kaugalingong kalipay. Ang usa ka magtutudlo dili usab makahatag og maayong pagtulun-an sa mga estudyante kon siya dili makamaong maghago sa iyang kaugalingon diha sa pagtudlo.

Ang paghikalimot sa kaugalingong kailibgon ug ang matinud-anong pagpangalagad maoy magdala kanato sa kahimayaan ug sa kinabuhing dayon. Si Kristo mismo ang nag-ingon: “Ang mahigugma sa iyang kinabuhi mawad-an hinuon niini. Apan ang magsalikway sa iyang kinabuhi niining kalibutana, makabaton sa kinabuhi nga walay katapusan.” Midugang pa gayod Siya: “…kon hain ako, atua usab ang akong sulugoon. Ang akong Amahan magpasidungog kaniya nga mag-alagad Kanako.”

Pamalandongan nato kini:

  1. Sa unsa mang mga paagiha kita midumili sa atong kaugalingong kagustohan aron lang makahatag og kaayohan sa uban?
  1. Naningkamot ba kita sa pagsunod kang Kristo kada adlaw aron mahiusa Kaniya sa pag-abot sa panahon?

abetuy.blogspot.com/2015/03/5th-sunday-of-lent-year-b_21.html

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MAGANDANG BUHAY! : Reflection for the 5th Sunday of Lent Year B – March 22, 2015 – YEAR OF THE POOR

“Magandang buhay!”  Ito ang pagbating maririnig mo sa mga paaralan sa halip na magandang araw o magandang hapon.  Mas maganda nga naman talaga ang pagbating ito sapagkat ang buhay ang pinakamahalagang kaloob sa atin ng Diyos at kapag ito ay ating ibinabahagi sa iba para na ring ibinibigay natin ang Kanyang pagpapala sa mga taong ating nakakasalubong at nakakatagpo.  Tunay naman talagang “maganda ang buhay!”  At kapag nabubuhay tayo ng mabuti ang Diyos na nagkaloob sa atin nito ay ating niluluwalhati.  “The glory of God is man ( or woman) who is fully alive!” sabi ni San Ireneo.  Kaya dapat lang nating pahalagahan ito.  Yun lang nga huwag namang labis ang pagpapahalaga sapagkat ang lahat ng kalabisan ay masama.  Baka sa ating pag-iingat o pag-aalaga ay ikapahamak natin ito. Sabi nga ng isang text: “Babala sa mga friends ko na di kumakain ng taba, di nagpupuyat, di nagkakape, di umiinom ng alak, di naninigarilyo. Mabubuhay kang malungkot ! Patay na kaming lahat… buhay ka pa!” hehehe… Hindi ito panghihikayat upang tayo ay malulon sa bisyo. Kung sa bagay may mga tao naman kasi na sobra ang pag-iingat sa buhay. May mga iba na napakarami ang pagbabawal sa buhay, bawal ang pork, hipon, karne, itlog, etc.  Nag-eenjoy pa kaya sila sa buhay nila? Ang motto nga ng isang kaibigan kong maraming dinadalang sakit sa katawan ay: “If you eat you’ll die. If you don’t eat you’ll die. You will die just the same… so why not eat and die!” May pagkapilosopo ang aking kaibigan ngunit kung iisiping mabuti ay may butil ng katotohanan ang nais niyang ipahiwatig. Hindi masama ang magmahal sa buhay at mag-alaga ng ating katawan. Ngunit ang labis na pagmamahal ay hindi na natatama. May babala si Jesus tungkol dito: “Ang taong labis na nagpapahalaga sa kanyang buhay ay siyang mawawalan nito…” Markahan ninyo ang salitang… LABIS! Ibig sabihin wala sa lugar, sobra, di na nakakatulong! “Ngunit ang napopoot sa kanyang buhay ay siyang magkakaroon nito hanggang sa buhay na walang hanggan.” Hindi ibig sabihin na dapat nating kamuhian ang ating buhay. Ang pagkapoot na sinasabi dito ay ang “paglimot sa sarili upang magbigay buhay sa iba!” Hinalintulad ni Jesus ang kanyang sarili sa isang butil ng trigo na kinaikailangang mamatay upang magkamit ng bagong buhay. At iyon ay ginawa niya sa pag-aalay ng kanyang buhay sa krus upang tayo ay magkamit ng buhay na walang hanggan. Ang kuwaresma ay naayong panahon upang magpraktis tayo ng “self-dying”. Hindi “suicide” o pagkitil ng sariling buhay ang pakahulugan nito. Ang “self-dying” ay may kaugnayan sa “self-denial” na nagtuturo sa ating katawan upang maging disiplinado at mapalakas ang ating “will power“. Sa self-denial ay itinatanggi natin sa ating katawan ang maraming bagay na hindi naman talagang masama. Ito ay pagtanggi sa mga bagay na nagbibigay ng kasarapan sa ating buhay. Labis na pagkain, panood ng TV, shopping (para sa mga may pera), computer games, labis na pagtetext, etc… Patayin natin ang masasamang hilig upang mabuhay tayo na disiplinado at makatulong sa iba. Patayin ang labis na pagmamahal sa sarili upang makapaglingkod sa kapwa… Hindi lahat pala ng pagpatay ay masama… may pagpatay na buhay ang ibinibigay! MAGANDANG BUHAY SA INYONG LAHAT!  

Ipinaskil ni kalakbay ng kabataan

kiliti-ng-diyos.blogspot.com/2015/03/magandang-buhay-reflection-for-5th.html

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Parable of dying and rising

by Fr. Bel R. San Luis, SVD
March 20, 2015

A husband came home from church and suddenly carried his wife. The startled wife said: “What did you do that for? Did the priest tell you to be romantic?”

“No,” the husband replied, “he told us ‘if you want to be my disciple, carry your cross.’” The cross could be the husband, too, but he would be a heavier cross.

* * *

As Jesus’ impending death was approaching, his close followers could not accept that he, the Messiah, would carry his cross and die.

In order to help them understand, Jesus related a simple little parable: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit” (Jn 20,24, 5th Sunday of Lent).

* * *

Jesus was telling them that his suffering and death were necessary if there was to be a new life. It is the Law of Sacrifice, that one can come to a greater life only by dying to a lesser one.

* * *

Jesus was like a seed. He had to die and be buried in the earth for three days, then on Easter Sunday rise glorious.

This Law of Sacrifice is exemplified by the “fruitful” deaths of martyrs and heroes.

* * *

Think, for instance, of the martyrdom of Dr. Jose Rizal, our national hero. His blood spilled in Bagumbayan planted the seeds of the revolution which won the Philippine independence from the Spanish colonial rule.

Consider, too, the brutal slaying of Ninoy Aquino. That became the rallying point, the “last straw” that united Filipinos and, like a tidal wave, swept away the dictatorship.

* * *

Obviously, the opportunity to die heroic deaths is not always possible for ordinary mortals. Heroes are a rare breed.

However, we can die non-violent, mystical or spiritual deaths by dying to our pride, our selfishness, our greed, and other negative traits.

* * *

I know of a young married man, for instance, who was given to drinking. His drinking partners took more of his time than his family.

As he sank deeper, his wife warned him that if he didn’t stop drinking, she would leave him. That didn’t move him on inch.

Because of that and unable to bear the burden of supporting the family and still caring for a problematic husband, she decided to call it quits.

* * *

The loss of the wife and children proved to be a devastating experience. He started trying to get reconciled but to no avail.

He had to swallow his pride and began to take the long, arduous road of rehabilitating himself.

* * *

With lots of support from well-meaning friends, he got reunited with his wife and children. They went through a marriage renewal seminar and became an exemplary family. On certain weekends, they give talks to communities as team couple in Marriage Encounter.

* * *

It was the husband’s DYING to his pride and vice that made him rise to a new and more fulfilling life.

ASK YOURSELF: What are those vices and weaknesses we must die to? Is it excessive drinking, the inclination to gossip, uncontrolled anger, pride, selfishness?

Like that repentant husband, if we die to ourselves and to our vices, the Lord assures us that we will rise in glory, as he did.

mb.com.ph/parable-of-dying-and-rising/

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MOMENTS

Graduation

Fr. Jerry M. Orbos

@inquirerdotnet

Philippine Daily Inquirer

2:30 AM | Sunday, March 22nd, 2015

The story is told about a man and a donkey who walked to school together every day for eight years. One day, the man was seen walking to school alone. Why? The donkey had graduated.

* * *

In today’s Gospel (Jn. 12, 20-33), Jesus challenges us to graduate from loving one’s life to losing one’s life, from being masters to becoming servants. Sad to say, some people never graduate from their selfish and vain mindsets, and, although they are successful in the eyes of the world, they are failures in the eyes of God.

* * *

“Unless a grain of wheat falls and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat, but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” We all still have a lot of “dying” to do—dying to our pride, our selfishness, our ambitions, our impositions, our need to control, and our expectations. The truth of the matter is that we are still so full of ourselves that there is hardly space for God in our lives.

* * *

Do you know why people never graduate to the next level? That’s because they don’t want to leave their comfort zone, or refuse to widen their field of vision. Jesus always challenges us to leave our familiar shores, and dares us to broaden our horizons. It is not easy to be open, to be vulnerable, to be uncomfortable, to be unsure and uncertain, but it is precisely in such moments that something qualitatively new, something truly valuable, can happen in our lives. As somebody once beautifully put it, the better never comes because we cannot let go of that which we think is good enough.

* * *

It’s graduation time again—that time of the year when students are given recognition for their hard work and efforts. It is also that time of the year when some students are confronted with the fact that they did not work hard enough. So it will be, too, at the final graduation in heaven. Some of us will pass, and some of us will fail. There is a final reckoning, a final accounting. If life on earth is often unjust and unfair, we are assured that it will not be so in the final judgment. Having accepted that, we should also not forget that God is just, but He is also merciful and compassionate, and His love is more than what we can imagine and grasp.

* * *

One with you parents, guardians, teachers and all others who helped our batch 2015 graduates. Through your prayers, hard work, patience and assistance, you have helped “produce much fruit.” We can never imagine how much love you have given and how much sacrifice you have done. We join you in thanking God, and we are one with you in your hopes, dreams, aspirations and plans.

* * *

As a country and as a nation, will we ever graduate from corruption, or at least be freed from selfish personalities and politicians? Will we someday soon be freed of the “commissioning mentality” that besets so many of our government services and transactions? Well, elections will be held next year. But let us not count so much on the elections. We have long hoped that something or someone better will come. There must be a better way to politics and government. Beyond personalities, let us open ourselves to change and new ways of doing things. Let us continue to pray for guidance and strength. Yes, may we all graduate from our selfishness and become obedient and hopeful servants.

* * *

I am writing this column in the Holy Land. I find that no trip to the Holy Land is the same as preceding trips. But there is one thing constant: the lesson of the Lake of Galilee and the Dead Sea. Why is the Lake of Galilee alive, and why is the Dead Sea dead? The simple explanation is that the Lake of Galilee takes in water and gives out water, while the Dead Sea takes in water and does not give out water. Sooner or later, we, too, will “die” if we only take and take and do not, or hardly, give.

* * *

Next Sunday is Palm Sunday already. Inviting you to our annual Family Palm Sunday Recollection at the Meralco Theater (8 a.m. to 1 p.m.), sponsored by the Mission Angels.

Admission is free. Let us start the Holy Week right. Let us start to graduate from our comfort zone and give time to really listen to what God is saying to us. “Mercy and Compassion” is our theme for this year’s Palm Sunday recollection.

* * *

Think about this, dear graduates:

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” (e. e. cummings)

“I must work for God’s eyes only, seeking to be a blessing rather than to gain a blessing for myself.”

* * *

A moment with the Lord:

Lord, please help me to graduate from a selfish life to a life that is meaningful and free. Amen.

opinion.inquirer.net/83511/graduation-2

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See Today’s Readings: Cycle B

Back to: Fifth Sunday of Lent (Year B)

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