Pope Francis, on communication and the internet

To mark the Feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron of journalists, the Vatican released today 24 January 2014  Pope Francis' statement on communication and the internet. The statement is intended for the 48th World Communications Day, which will be celebrated on 1 June 2014.


True greatness

Mk. 10: 32-45

Nowadays, we measure greatness in terms of being one above all others or first among all. Everybody wants to be on top. We want to be the best among the rest. No wonder, we call ourselves “the human race”: we tend to compete with one another, with a great desire to outrun everyone else. In the end, the process makes us so tired, restless, and empty.

In today’s Gospel, James and John had the same lofty ambition. They do not just want to be part of the Kingdom. Both want the prime seats, to be at the left and right sides of the Lord. They want to be ahead of the rest. They measure their success against the achievement of others.

But Jesus proposes a new way and new meaning of power. In His Kingdom, real greatness is not reached at the cost of others but in favor of others. Not in exalting oneself above others but exalting others with oneself. Not that we are the only one standing happy and victorious, but everybody as well.

The greatest among you must be the servant of all…Jesus here is not promoting self-pity or a losing attitude. He is not telling us to degrade our worth or belittle our dignity. Rather, he is inviting us to think of ourselves less, and to think of others more. We can only be sure to be in the Kingdom of God when we can honestly admit that we have learned to be "others-oriented."

When we think of ourselves less, there is real service, power and success.

In the eyes of God, and even in the life of the Church, the greatest is the one who serves; greatness is measured in favor of others. Greatness is shared and celebrated with others. It is not a matter of knocking everybody down. Great persons are those who help everyone get up and stand.

Do you want to be great? Then learn to be the last, learn to be humble, learn to be "others-oriented", and be ready to be a servant. Amen.

"MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN" The Handwriting on the Wall

Daniel 5:1-31

The story tells us how the Prophet Daniel interpreted some mysterious writing that came from a bodiless human wrist and hand that appeared out of nowhere, and wrote on the palace wall.

The frighteningly written words predicted doom for the King and his assembly, who had wantonly defiled the sacred vessels from the Temple in Jerusalem and who mocked the God of all creation. Instead of praising Yahweh, they praised their gods of silver, gold, brass, iron, wood and stone.

Unfortunately, my brothers and sisters, sometimes we need to be frightened or startled before we come to our senses and remember that there are grave consequences when we are sinful and unrepentant. Oftentimes, it takes some big problems and storms in life to awaken us from our stupidities and sinfulness. We delay our conversion, we waste time playing with sin.

I believe that we shouldn't need a disembodied hand and wrist to write on the wall for us. We already know what the handwriting on the wall will say if we do not stop our own brand of idolatry, i.e., loving something more than God.

Let us continue to beg the Lord for the grace of discernment and patient endurance, so that amidst the sufferings and difficulties in life, we can - through perseverance - as the Gospel says, secure our lives.  


Return of the Seventy-Two
Luke 10:17-24

In the middle of all the bustle and excitement, wonder, and triumph, Jesus became silent, overcome by a hidden power. Rejoicing in the Holy Spirit, he uttered a prayer of thanks to the Father and told his disciples that this power which they have to liberate individuals is the greatest power on earth. It's what the prophets had wished for.

Jesus praised his heavenly Father for revealing him to the lowly. The humble folk were God's kind of people; Jesus the carpenter was one of them. It must be understood, however, that the message, of a piece with older covenant tradition, didn't condemn intellectual pursuit or achievement. No, intellectual pursuit is praiseworthy, and our Community needs more of it.

What Jesus is condemning is intellectual pride. He's not connecting faith and ignorance, but faith and loveliness - this consisting of simplicity, openness, and trust: the kinds of virtues we observe in a child (and in mature adults). Jesus was saying that it's not by understanding alone that one accepts his message, but by divine revelation. That revelation isn't denied to so-called "wise and learned" people - provided they're at the same time humble, open and trusting.

Jesus then comes to the greatest claim he ever made. It's a statement that's so lofty that one would expect it in the gospel of John, whose symbol is the eagle: he says that no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son - and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him. This principle, that only God the Father fully comprehends Jesus' mission, and only Jesus fully understands God's saving plan, is at the heart of Christianity.

From "366 Days with the Lord, Liturgical Biblical Diary", St. Pauls Philippines (2008).
Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord

First Reading: Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14
Second Reading: 2 Peter 1:16-19
Gospel: Matthew 17:1-9

Some people can so easily dismiss the miracles of Jesus when they read the simple eyewitness accounts, as we have in places like our reading from Peter’s Second Letter. Some even re-write the story, or give somewhat misleading interpretations or any other dismissals of the truths of our own faith.

The Transfiguration that we are celebrating today - along with all the other miracles that our Lord performed, and still performs even today – were witnessed by “ordinary” as well as “great” people.

Peter makes it very clear in our second reading today, that these miracles are “no cleverly devised myths”. He saw the Glory of our Lord in an unmistakable way, a matter that was incomprehensible to people at that time. What Peter saw and heard, he declared openly!

We need to do the same. If we have not seen or heard clearly, we should pray fervently to be shown His truth.

Let the transfigured glory of the Lord teach us and likewise transform us.

Parables of the Kingdom

Reading: Jeremiah 15: 10, 16–21
Gospel: Matthew 13: 44–46

All of us have different sets of values in life. We may even have different priorities. Some crave for fame and fortune, others pursue respect and power/influence within the community. They are not happy unless they drive an expensive car, own a luxury home, have plenty of money in the bank. Their drive in life is the pursuit of wealth, their big push is for material/worldly goods.

Our Gospel today points us to another direction, a direct challenge to our worldly lifestyles. It reminds us to get our priorities right.

The Gospel parable tells us to set our sights on the Kingdom of God. It is so important that everybody gives it top priority. It should be our foremost concern and number one interest in life. Getting into the Kingdom entails renunciation, commitment and work. But it is worth it. It is worth looking for, in fact it is worth dying for!

Experience teaches us that there are no shortcuts in all vital matters because anything that is worthwhile and precious cannot be achieved without a lot of effort.

Let us aspire for this Kingdom of God by gladly giving all that we own so that the Kingdom may come to us. Seek ye just the Kingdom of God, and all the rest shall be added unto you.


On the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, July 16

As we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, let us meditate on the Blessed Virgin Mary’s message for all of us. The Bible speaks of the beauty of Mt. Carmel in Galilee where the prophet Elijah defended the faith of Israel in the living God. There, at the beginning of the 13th century, under the title of St. Mary of Mt. Carmel, the Carmelite Order had its formal beginning.

Today the Carmelites, numbering about 2200 religious in the Philippines, continue their tradition of “keeping the faith” through monastic life, concretely done through strict prayer regimen and penance.

The Carmelite Order is considered to be the power house of our Church for its unending offering of prayers for life and the church, in all their churches and monasteries. Every Carmelite is a prayer warrior. For them, to pray is to do the will of God, to do whatever Jesus tells us to!

Let us then be inspired by their example.

Let us be faithful and fervent in our prayers for in so doing, we are also fulfilling the request of Mama Mary to do whatever Jesus tells us to.


On attending to God's business

Reading: Jer 1:1, 4-10
Gospel: Mt 13:1-9  The Parable of the Sower

Attending to God’s business makes us worry, and it sometimes frightens us.

We give so many excuses to exempt ourselves from doing the tasks that God wants us to do. This is what determines the different kinds of soil that were mentioned in the Gospel: soil where seeds can grow and thrive, soil where seeds can grow but eventually wither, and soil where seeds cannot grow at all.

In the first reading, we saw that the prophet Jeremiah was not different from us: when called by the Lord, he cried out, “I’m too young, I don’t know what to say.”

In relation to the tasks at hand, we always have an excuse: we are always too young and the tasks are always new, we are inexperienced.

But we need to hear what God said to Jeremiah as he expressed the same feelings, “Have no fear for I am with you to deliver you.”

It’s hard to remember, but it IS true: He is with us.

May we try and give ourselves the chance to bear fruit.


On overcoming evil and demons

Reading: Am 5:14-15, 21-24
Gospel: Mt 8:28-34  The Healing of the Gadarene Demoniacs

Our Gospel points us to the reality that evil and demons exist. We need to be aware that demons are just as real today as in Jesus' time. However, the point of the story is not toe fill us with fear. Rather, it is to show us that Jesus has absolute authority over the power of evil. He overthrew Satan once and for all through His sacrifice on the Cross in Calvary.

That being said, however, we will still once in a while hear about demonic possession. It can even be possible that evil may attack us in other ways, for example when we are tempted to sin, when we are bothered by feelings of hate, condemnation and memories of past hurts. If you or your loved ones have these experiences, don't think that you are to blame. Even saints were harassed by evil in this way.

Instead, call upon Jesus through intense prayer, sacrifices and good works. Better still, don't pretend to be so brave as to defeat the devil. Never entertain the offers of the devil, but instead have the courage to run away from them!

May our Guardian Angel protect us always.