“Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God, which you are is holy.” (1 Cor 3:16-17)
A story is told about two Buddhist monks who went to a river to cleanse themselves. One of the two monks noticed a drowning scorpion and so he scooped it out of the water to save it. Yet the scorpion stung his hand so that it fell again on the water. Again, the monk saved the scorpion while it repeated to sting his hand. The same pattern happened for the third time so the other monk, who was observing commented to him, “Why do you keep on saving that scorpion even if you know that it will just sting you again? Why don’t you let it drown itself?” And the monk replied, “The scorpion keeps on stinging my hand because that is its nature and it doesn’t know any better. I on the other hand must keep on saving it because it’s my nature to help. I must not let this creature which just acts its nature to prevent me from being who I am.”
Man was created in the image and likeness of God. Then, when he was disfigured by sin, Christ redeemed human nature and renewed it. Finally, by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, human nature was empowered and elevated to live bearing the image and likeness of God.
“Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.” (Lv 19:2)
The Hebrew word for holiness connotes the meaning of being ‘set apart’. God as the Holy One, exists above and fully set apart from His creation. He is the epitome of freedom. Man bearing the image and likeness of God is also set apart from the rest of creation. Moreover, he was given freedom through which in this life he can be holy or ‘set apart’ from the rest, soaring above his environment and circumstances, ultimately carving his own destiny. God’s embodiment of freedom, above all, is His freedom to love, independent of merit and sin, of reward and punishment, a love freed from all selfishness that it respects the freedom of the beloved, thus enabling the beloved creature to freely choose to love and experience the glorious freedom of a child of God. True love can only come from freedom and this freedom allows us to reach our highest potentials and deepest desires. It perfects us so that we become independent from all corruption and selfishness and elevate ourselves from the endless cycle of retribution and retaliation in this world. Such that we truly become a child of God, and another Christ in this world that needs redemption from its self-bent destruction.
“So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt 5:48)
Perfection is a process that entails pain and suffering. Jesus himself knows and understands how difficult it is to obey the precepts he laid in the gospel today (Cf. Mt 5:38-48). But he has shown that it’s possible when he stretched out his arms on the cross. In this world where vengeance is extolled as justice and violence is promoted as a solution, we are challenged by Jesus to choose the better way: to destroy our enemies by love. In this vicious cycle of retaliation and retribution leading to our self-destruction, Jesus offers a path of recreation and renewal which will lead to conversion and perfection of society.
God has created us better than the rest of visible creation. Jesus has showed that we can be better despite our weaknesses and imperfections. The Holy Spirit dwells in us as in a temple for we are not mere creatures lying helpless to our circumstances and environment. We are better than these. We are free to love despite pain and suffering. We are children of God, brothers and sisters, despite our different races, personalities and beliefs. We are greater than everything that can divide us. We are meant to live the life of God-the glorious freedom of His children to love and be perfect.
Love is the very core of Christianity. In love we can find its beginning, journey and consummation. We believe in a God whose very essence and identity is love. And in love, we can also find the highest meaning of our existence. It can be our greatest joy and deepest pain. Yet now, we can see that love has already been desecrated and devalued. Love is the most abused word in today’s world.
Thus, we must undertake the task to redeem the meaning of love. For it is only through love by which our fallen humanity can be redeemed. It is only through love by which we can know and experience God in this corrupted world. Love is the only way. It is the Lord’s sole mandate, “Love one another as I have loved you.” It is the reason why He dwelt among us, to show us the…
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I believe in love.
Because I believe in God
Whose very identity and nature
Is nothing but love
He has created me with a love so pure
And sustains me with a love so strong
That neither death, nor life,
Nor the past, present, and future
Nor any height and depth
Nor anything else in creation
Can ever separate me from this love (Rom 8:38).
Love is my sole destiny.
A love so happy,
That it is worth to fight for it
And to wait for it
Even though it hurts
Yes –even though it hurts so much
For I know
That its capacity to hurt
Creates an abyss so deep
That enlarges my heart
Only to be filled with joy
To the brim
When the right time comes.
Yes! For love can eventually conquer all
When that perfect time comes
If I choose to love
Day by day
A process that
With a fire that burns all my flaws
Transforms me with a pruning to make me grow
And perfects me
Showing me who I really am and what I am truly capable of.
Love is the only thing that can make me whole
Even though my heart is broken
Again and again
For it is the only way
To shed my old self
And bring in
A wonderful being reborn.
I will strive to know love
For in knowing love
Things that can make love
Love is real
For those who have been hurt
For those who wait
For those who sincerely seek
For those who hope against hope
For those who take risks
For those who are brave enough to fall
For those who keep faith
For those who fully forgive
For those who look forward
And move on
For those who give their all
For those who hold on
For those who reconcile
For those who pray
For those who stay.
God is love
And he who stays in love
Stays in God
Stays in him (1 Jn 4:16).
I believe in God.
I believe in love.
I believe in forever.
6th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” (Mt 5:17)
Our age has been an age of compromise, an age where moral laws and norms are discarded and sacrificed in favor of a wrong notion of individualism, freedom, and self-expression. There is nothing wrong in being yourself but we must make sure that what we pursue are our authentic selves.
The scriptural readings today which speak and extol God’s Law can surely alienate us who view laws as only necessary evils, things that just constraint our freedom so that others may enjoy theirs for a peaceful society, laws which can be broken relatively if we can justify it. What we need to remember however is that moral laws are not there to limit our freedom and self-expression, they are there for us to fully experience freedom and become our true selves. Oftentimes, because of our selfishness, we fail to see that morality is there not to limit our choices but rather to help us choose what is right and what is just.
“Before man are life and death, good and evil, whichever he chooses shall be given him.” (Sir 15:17)
We are what we choose and we are what we repeatedly do. Every act of freedom has two consequences, it will determine what we do and it will define who we will become. If we do a selfish act, we are not only doing a selfish act, we are also becoming selfish. In the Gospel, Lord Jesus has called us not only to obey but also to go beyond what is asked, bordering on what is seemingly ‘impossible’ for us. We can compare these commandments to the stars, which unreachable they may be, yet they can guide us and bring us to our destination, if we will just try to listen. Nevertheless, if our Lord Jesus has proven anything to us, it is that love is always possible. At the cross, in the face of all human dysfunction and corruption, the Lord has shown that love can always be our choice. Moreover, when asked what the greatest commandment is, the Divine Master told us to love God and one another.
The moral law was given for our self-becoming and to become our true selves is the greatest freedom. Above all laws, we have been commanded to love because love is not only the fulfillment of the law, it also empowers us to go beyond the law. That’s why the gospel today challenges us to go beyond what is asked of us by moral norms and social conventions. Empowered by love, there is no limit to what we can accomplish and to who we can become. By love alone, the world was saved, is saved and will be saved. As St. Francis de Sales eloquently puts it, “The measure of love is to love without measure.”
“Brothers and sisters: we speak a wisdom to those who are mature, not a wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age who are passing away.” (1 Cor 2:6)
We are reminded by St. Paul that this is a truth that the world may never accept and understand. It is God’s wisdom which does not belong to this world, something which we can only understand once we lived through it. The reason why God just won’t take us all to heaven with a flick of his hand is that heaven is not just a prize at the end of this life. Heaven is a way of being, a way of living. That’s why we need to prepare ourselves for it by obeying God’s commandments by true love, by choice, by the deepest act of freedom and self-expression. Heaven is chosen, not just given, for heaven is love to which we say I do. Love is both the simplification and quintessence of the moral law. As St Augustine said, “Love and do what you will.”
And so let us always choose love. For:
“…it is written: what eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Cor 2:9)
Today, I would like to dedicate a few words to two holy men who are all but forgotten by the younger generations of the Philippine Church or else not given the honor they are due.
Christianity has been around in the Philippines for almost 500 years. Nonetheless, there are only two canonized Filipino saints: Lorenzo Ruiz and Pedro Calungsod. Compare it with China, Korea, and Vietnam which have hundreds of canonized saints each. And I believe that one of the reasons of such a difference is that Filipinos are forgetful. We do not have a love and dedication to history. As such, the witness of the Filipinos eligible for canonization continues to gather dust due to indifference and ignorance. Their testimonies become lifeless records instead of becoming fountain of blessings redeeming our nation.
So here are two saints, who even though are not Filipinos, they became conduits of grace which blessed our country.
Pedro Blasquez, now known as San Pedro Bautista was born in San Esteban del Valle, Spain on June 29, 1542 and died as one of the 26 Protomartyrs of the Japanese Church. Priorly tortured and shamed, they were raised on crosses and speared to death in Nagasaki on February 5, 1967. Their feast is celebrated by the Universal Church as an Obligatory Memorial every February 6.
San Pedro Bautista was a priest from the Alcantarine branch of the Franciscan order and came as a missionary to the Philippines in 1584. He then became the Parish Priest of Lumban, Laguna. He might had labored extensively since he is credited as being the organizer of several communities and parishes in Laguna such as Longos, Paete, and Pakil (the choice of San Pedro de Alcantara as patron saint of Pakil was plausibly made by him as an Alcantarine Franciscan) and Quezon (the Parish in Candelaria was dedicated to him). His recorded act of teaching music and manufacture of musical instruments endured as a legacy and culminated in bringing forth Marcelo Q. Adonay, dubbed as the Prince of Church Music from Pakil, Laguna. His legacy is further honored contemporarily by the yearly Piedrista Festival in Quezon City. His image is enthroned in a niche in the retablo mayor of St. James the Apostle Parish in Paete.
Being the man responsible for giving Los Baños, Laguna its name after discovering its hot springs and their medicinal effects, his image is also enthroned in the retablo menor of the Immaculate Conception Parish, Los Baños. A dilapidated and neglected monument of the saint can also be found in the nearby LakeView Resort.
He became the custos or superior of the Franciscan order in the Philippines in 1590 and founded the San Francisco del Monte Church in Quezon City as a monastery which is now named as Santuario de San Pedro Bautista. As custos, he defended the basic human rights of the indigenous people of Zambales. In 1593, he became the Philippine ambassador to Japan and is credited for averting the emperor’s intended invasion of the Philippines. It was also in Japan where he built several hospitals for the poor people.
This coming February 7, 2017, the beatification of Dom Justo Takayama also known as Takayama Ukon, a Japanese samurai martyr buried in the Philippines, will be celebrated in Osaka.
Justo Takayama was Japanese lord or daimyo. He was the lord of the Takatsuki castle in Osaka under Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Justo and his father Dario pursued their lordship as Kirishitan (Christian) daimyo converting their subjects and fellow daimyos to Christianity.
When Christian persecution broke out in 1587 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Justo Takayama chose to give up his land and property rather than give up his religion. He then continued to live in Japan under the protection of his influential friends until 1614 when he was expelled under Tokugawa Ieyasu.
It was here that the Philippines comes into the picture. It was in the Philippines where Justo together with 300 Japanese Christian followers took refuge. They arrived at Manila on December 21, 1614 welcomed by Spanish Jesuits and Filipinos. They built a community in an area in Paco known as Plaza Dilao –a public park beside Quirino Avenue.
Justo Takayama died of an illness forty days after his arrival on 1615 and was given a Christian and state burial befitting a daimyo. Believed to be buried in Plaza Dilao with a black marble marker, a statue of Takayama now stands in the Plaza depicted in a samurai garb and a top knot hair. The figure carries a sheathed katana upon which hangs a crucifix.
In 2016, Ukon il Samurai, a documentary about his life was released. It was on January 21, 2016 when Pope Francis approved his beatification as a martyr.
As San Pedro Bautista said to one of his friars, “Brother, when we will be martyred for the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, then we will truly be evangelical preachers, and a dead martyr will do much more than many living preachers.” May the saintly witness of these two martyrs continue to do much for us.
San Pedro Bautista at Beato Takayama Ukon, ipanalangin niyo kami.