Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Walking Sticks to One Another

Gospel Sharing (Mk 6, 7-13)
1 February 2007

Walking Sticks to One Another

At first hearing, Jesus can appear to be somewhat a very hard boss in this Gospel pericope: napaka-inconsiderate naman ni Hesus. Imagine, he was sending out his disciples on the mission with the clear and explicit instruction: “take nothing on the journey…” As in! No food, no traveling bag, not a coin.” Todo na ‘to! Walang baon, walang baunan, ni walang pocket money!

But just when we think he let them out into the wilderness with absolutely nothing, we see that he did allow one very strange exception: “a walking stick.” (Of course he had to allow them to wear sandals besides, which was no more than absolutely necessary in that desert terrain and climate!) But really, what can one do with a walking stick? Let us count the ways. A wooden stick is difficult to chew when one is hungry, much less digest. A wooden stick cannot be used to pay for a room when one has no place to spend the night in. In fact, a wooden stick can even be considered an added burden—perhaps something like a little cross to drag along?

Yet perhaps, the walking stick that Jesus was referring to here is not just the wooden walking stick that we usually see but more so, a human one. The Gospel tells us: And He summoned the Twelve and sent them out in pairs. The Latin Vulgate translation I guess speaks a little more emphatically: “Et convocavit duodecim et coepit eos mittere binos.” And he called the Twelve together and afterwards, he sent them out in pairs. May huddle na! May buddy system pa!

Jesus does not send us into the mission with nothing. He gave us each other so that we can sustain one another with each other’s presence. Kung meron nga namang isang Xerox, hindi mo na kailangan ng TV o radyo. Kung merong isang Magic na bukas-palad utangan hindi mo na kailangan ng mga “Bumbay”. Kung wala kang sarili mong alarm clock, nandyan naman ang alarm clock ni Ken. Kung kailangan mo ng Swiss knife, nandyan rin si Earl V. Dagdagan mo pa ng isang Jim na multi-talented performer at all-around (hmmm...), all around.

Ganito yata ang mga walking sticks: versatile and dependable. Pwede mong maging “arnis stick” ‘pag may mababangis na hayop o masasamang-loob kang makakasalubong. Pwede mo ring maging laruan kapag nalulungkot o nababagot ka na. Pwede mo ring sandalan, yakapin at kapitan kapag hirap na hirap at pagod na pagod ka na sa iyong paglalakad.

Ngunit meron pa yatang isa pang bigay si Hesus na makikita natin sa unang pagbasa. “You have not drawn near to an untouchable mountain and a blazing fire, and gloomy darkness and storm and trumpet blast, and a voice speaking words such that those who heard begged that they be not addressed to them.” Bagkus, lumalapit tayo sa Diyos sa kanyang banal na tahanan, may background music pa ng mga anghel na umaawit, at may mga backup dancers na mga santo, kung saan naroon si Hesus upang ipaki-usap tayong palagi sa kanyang Ama. “O Lord, in your temple, we ponder your love.” Panginoon, sa inyong tahanan, napagtatanto po namin ang inyong pag-ibig!

Sapagkat hindi na nakakatakot lapitan ang Diyos, maari tayong dumulog sa kanya ng may pananampalayang ipagkakaloob niya ang lahat ng ating kailangan. O, ‘di ba? Kahit wala kang allowance, bottomless naman ang funds. Kailangan mo nga lang mag-request.

Inaanyayahan tayo ni Hesus na dumanas ng karukhaan sapagkat sa karukhaan natin masusumpungan ang ating tunay na kayamanan na matagal na pala niyang naipagkaloob sa atin: ang handog ng bawat isa, at ang kanyang sarili.

Sapat na po, Panginoon. Sapat na sapat na!

Bonus Miles Christi

The shining figure of Mons. Barlin truly stands out, not only in the history of our local Church but even in the unfolding of our identity as a nation. As a grade schooler, I was able to watch a play about him rendered by the seminarians of Holy Rosary Minor Seminary in Naga. It was way back in 1999 but I can still remember how I came out of the theatre, deeply inspired by the life of this devoted and zealous servant of God and of the Church. Happy reading!

CBCP Pastoral Letter on the Commemoration of the Centenary
Of the Episcopal Consecration of Bishop Jorge Barlin (1906)

One hundred years ago, in 1906, the grace of the Episcopacy was granted to the Filipino people in the person of a Bicolano born in Baao, Camarines Sur, Jorge Barlin, who took as his Episcopal motto: "Bonus miles Christi" -- A Good Soldier of Christ. It was the first time after three hundred years of Christianity in the Philippines that a Filipino was given such a dignity—certainly, a milestone in the Philippine Church History, an event worth remembering and celebrating.

Dear brothers and sisters, the present-day circumstances pose new and numerous challenges to our faith and ministry. The poverty and suffering many experience sometimes lead us into thinking that love of God and country are two opposite realities. However, there are to be found in our history persons who had shown us that love for God and country are not incompatible. Among these is Bishop Jorge Barlin.

This letter then is a call to our dear Faithful: clergy, religious and laity to honor the memory of Barlin.

In engaging into this task of remembering, we wish to express gratitude to God for the grace of the ministry, particularly that of the episcopacy, which consists in the service of teaching, sanctifying and governing.

By recalling the memory of Barlin, we wish to remind ourselves too of who we are as a people; of what we have accomplished; and of what we can still do.

Our country, our society, our communities, even our families, need hope. The calamities that have struck us in recent years had been terrible. Yet it is in these same difficult moments that goodness, kindheartedness and hope have also shone. Good as it were is never extinguished. And looking back in history, we find signposts of this in our journey as a people and church.

At a time, when the capability of Filipinos was doubted, especially with regard to fulfilling the task of parish priest, more so that of a bishop, there was Jorge Barlin, who showed us what the Filipino is able to accomplish.

Barlin, Filipino, early in his age showed talent which was immediately recognized by the famous Spanish Bishop Francisco Gainza, O.P. The good bishop took him under his care.

In the early years of his priesthood, Barlin showed docility and humble obedience when from being the capellan de solio and majordomo of the Cathedral of Nueva Caceres, he accepted the humble task of a missionary-curate in the remote and poor fishing village of Siruma , Camarines Sur.

Barlin's capability was once again recognized, when from being an ostracized priest in Libog, Albay, he was appointed Vicar Forane of the whole Province of Sorsogon and parish priest of its capital. It was an unprecedented appointment for he was a young upstart. For sixteen full years he labored with distinction.

During the turbulent days of the revolution, Sorsogon did not suffer a bloody September. This was due to Padre Barlin who commanded the respect and esteem of the people, and his pacification campaign. When the last Spanish Governor Señor Villamil left for safety, he entrusted to Barlin the reins of the government and peacefully surrendered his official prerogatives. Barlin figured prominently in the establishment of the revolutionary government as well as during the arrival of the American government. In all these changes, Barlin was instrumental in rallying the people in the maintenance of peace and order.

In 1902, Gregorio Aglipay, taking notice of his capability, offered him the supreme prelacy of the Philippine Independent Church . To such invitation, Barlin replied: "Prefiero ser lampazero a ser la cabeza de su jerarquia cismatica." (I prefer to be a sweeper than to be the head of your schismatic hierarchy.)

It was the same Barlin who gave the most damaging blow to the new sect from which it never recovered. Elsewhere in the archipelago, many Filipino priests had defected to the schismatic church with the support of their congregations. Because these defectees had moved into the ranks of Aglipayanism without vacating their churches, a question arose for the American authorities to order. To whom did those churches belong?

When Fr. Ramirez, Parish Priest of Lagonoy, Camarines Sur, refused to vacate his church, Barlin, then Apostolic Administrator of Nueva Caceres, struck the blow when he won the case against Ramirez in the Supreme Court, which in 1906 decided in favor of Barlin. The blow to the movement was almost irreparable. Aglipayan sectarian priests throughout the Islands were compelled to vacate their churches, in so doing began to lose hold on their congregations. Had Barlin lost the case, it is probable that many of our churches would have been occupied by the Aglipayans and many would have remained in the sect.

On December 14, 1905, he was named Bishop by a secret consistory. He was consecrated bishop on June 20, 1906. In the words of a historian: "He bore the promise of a new era for the long-suffering native clergy. In his name his countrymen saw the hope of a race." He became the first Filipino Bishop, perhaps also the first from the Malay race, and the only one during his time. His elevation to the Episcopacy proved the capability of native priests who had been regarded as inferior and unworthy of any high office. For at the time, there was a prevailing view that indigenous priests were only good to be coadjutors, let alone unworthy of the episcopacy.

As the only Filipino bishop, Barlin was given the honor to deliver the invocation at the inaugural session of Philippine Assembly on October 16, 1907. Two months later he took a prominent part in the deliberations of the first Provincial Council of Manila, which had been convened to discuss problems under the new government setup. It was reported that: "His experience and the practical knowledge which he had of church affairs in the Islands were a valuable help in the solution of not a few problems in that respectable assembly."

In all these, Jorge Barlin put above all else, service to God and people. When the temptation of power and prestige was offered him, he chose to remain faithful to his commitment. When such power was in his hands, he used the same responsibly—always for the good of those he served.

Although Barlin rose to prominence at a time of schism in the history of the Church in the Philippines , remembering him in such light actually prompts the Church to promote Christian unity all the more, and invite people of other faiths to engage in dialogue.

Our dear faithful, we need men and women whose vision is beyond themselves. Indeed at a time when suffering can impair our memory; when our sense of altruism may be covered by the need for survival; when difficult and severe conditions can make us numb to the needs of our brethren and blind to nobler things. Thus, let us look back to gain inspiration from our elders. They, whose character, integrity and vision cannot be bought. They, who are willing to stand up for the commitment they have made and their fundamental vocation.

Finally, dear brothers and sisters, in recalling the memory of Jorge Barlin we also ask you to continue to pray for us your bishops, that we may remain steadfast in living out our vocation as bishops, and like Barlin may we be, "Good soldiers of Christ.

For the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines :

Archbishop of Jaro
CBCP President
28 January 2007

More on Bishop Jorge Barlin
Archdiocese of Caceres Official Website

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

Come February 2, we shall celebrate the beautiful Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. This feast is well-beloved indeed, and used to be considered as the fitting close of the Christmas season until the 1969 reform of the calendar. The theme of the celebration is that of light: the Savior of the Lord is presented in the Temple as the true light of the nations (Lk 2, 32) witnessed by Simeon whose eyes dimming in old-age was favored to behold him.

Traditionally, the people go in procession to the Church "to meet the Lord", carrying lighted candles which are blessed on this day, hence getting its popular name "Candlemas". This day, we especially venerate our Lady also, whose ritual Purification according to the Law of Moses coincides with our Lord's Presentation. In the Cathedral of Jaro, Iloilo and elsewhere, she is fondly called "Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria" or Our Lady of Candlemas, an appropriate title for her through whom we receive Jesus, our true light.

And so let us pray to the Lord through the intercession of Our Lady, that our eyes may be eager and open to receive him as the Light of our lives, as he comes to us now in the Eucharist and in the person of the poor, and while we hope to meet him on the day when he shall reveal himself in all his glory to claim us as his true and holy Temple. By our accepting him in our hearts, may we also become light to others, especially those who still await his coming in pain and darkness.

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Monday, January 08, 2007

Kay Hesus, Aba at Dukha

Here is a translation I just made of one of my most beloved prayers: To Jesus, Poor and Humble by Blessed Charles de Foucauld. As we end this season of Christmas today with the feast of the Lord's Baptism, let us learn to imitate the solidarity of Jesus, who became poor so that we may become truly rich.

Tomorrow is also the feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, known as the Black Nazarene, venerated for four centuries now in the church of Quiapo, Manila. May this feast teach us to share in the burden of Christ by uplifting the burdens of one another, especially of the poor and suffering among us:

Kay Hesus, Aba at Dukha

Panginoong Hesus,
ang umiibig sa iyo nang buong-puso,
ay nagmamadaling maging dukha
at hindi kaya ang mabuhay
nang mas mariwasa
kaysa kanyang Iniibig.

Panginoong ko,
hindi ko mawari kung paanong
kayang tiisin ng iba
ang makita kang naghihirap
at sila naman ay manatiling mayaman.
Hindi ko mawari ang isang pag-ibig
na walang nararanasang udyok,
nagbabagang udyok,
na tularan at parisan ang Minamahal
at higit sa lahat
na makisalo sa kanyang hirap,
sa kanyang sakit,
sa lahat ng kanyang pasanin sa buhay.

Ang maging mayaman,
ang mabuhay nang tinatamasa ang lahat ng rangya
habang ikaw ay naghihikahos,
salat sa lahat ng bagay,
at hindi makagulapay sa bigat ng iyong pinapasan,
hindi ko maaatim ito.

O Diyos ko!
Hindi ko kaya ang magmahal nang ganito.

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Response to Query

In response to a query posted by Bro. Junie Tan as a comment on this blogsite on December 25, 2006, I returned to my source (Acts and Decrees of the First Plenary Council of the Philippines) and found out the exact document declaring the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady as Principal Patroness of the Philippines. The document is an Apostolic Letter by Pope Pius XII entitled Impositi Nobis, dated 12 September 1942 (Acta Apost. Sedis XXXIV, p. 336). Thanks!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Happy Christmas

As we finally come to the end of the holidays, let us remain in gratitude to the Lord who came to dwell with us.

Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming
from tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse’s lineage coming,
as men of old have sung.
It came, a flower bright,
amid the cold of winter,
When half spent was the night.

Isaiah ’twas foretold it,
the Rose I have in mind;
With Mary we behold it,
the virgin mother kind.
To show God’s love aright,
she bore to men a Savior,
When half spent was the night.

The shepherds heard the story
proclaimed by angels bright,
How Christ, the Lord of glory
was born on earth this night.
To Bethlehem they sped
and in the manger found Him,
As angel heralds said.

This Flower, whose fragrance tender
with sweetness fills the air,
Dispels with glorious splendor
the darkness everywhere;
True Man, yet very God,
from sin and death He saves us,
And lightens every load.

O Savior, Child of Mary,
Who felt our human woe,
O Savior, King of glory,
Who dost our weakness know;
Bring us at length we pray,
to the bright courts of Heaven,
And to the endless day!

O come, let us adore him!

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