Archive for March 2011
Meditation for Palm Sunday
April 17, 2011
The first day of Holy Week is called Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion. We recall the triumphant entry of the Lord to Jerusalem hence the blessing of palm branches. Beyond this majestic welcome will be the mockery and scourging, the crucifixion and death of the same Lord. In calling this day Passion Sunday, we recall the pains the Lord endured in the hands of men; we remember the death he valiantly faced. We remember the love that he poured into his sufferings.
There is a second meaning to the words “passion of Christ”. It could also refer to the zest that comes from within him—a great commitment to somebody or to something. Passion could also mean a powerful or compelling feeling within us that drives us to think and talk and act in a consonant fashion.
The passion of Christ is love. The passion of Christ is the will of the Father. The passion of Christ is our salvation. What is your passion?
When I ask you “What is your passion?” I mean to ask “What animates you?” What excites you? What sets you on fire? What do you believe in? Are you still a Christian with firm convictions or have we become so deeply compromised that we are no longer sure on which we stand? Analysis kills our passion and fire. Grain once ground to flour, springs and germinates no more (Henri Amiel). What is it in your life that you are willing to die for? What is it in your life that you are willing to suffer for?
The color of this day is red because red is the color of fire. It is also the color of blood. Indifference must be cured with fire. The uncaring attitude must give way to a passion for love. Christ’s sufferings must urge us to be more involved and be more passionate. Apathy must give way to involvement for the transformation of society.
Let us allow the fire and blood of Holy Week to set our hearts on fire with a passion for stewardship. May the Lord ignite our hearts and inspire our souls for stewardship as we move closer to Easter. This is our Credo of Stewardship:I believe in the God of love, the owner of everything who possesses everyone. I believe in the God of mercies who has chosen me to be a steward of Mother Nature and Mother Church, in spite of who I am and what I have done, and in spite of the infidelities He knows I will still commit. I believe in the power of giving and in the power of loving like Jesus; because love is the only way to holiness; giving is the best proof of loving; and perfect renunciation leads to unlimited fruitfulness. I believe that in freely giving my time, in humbly sharing my talents, and in generously sacrificing my treasures, the Lord will always provide. He will take care of all my needs, and bless me with infinite reward on earth and in heaven. I will be the first to give. I will not wait for the others. I will keep on giving even if others do not give. I will not be afraid to have none. I believe that the best time to share is now, not tomorrow, for tomorrow is an excuse of the greedy. I will keep my needs and wants simple and few, for I believe that in reducing my selfishness, I will grow in happiness and holiness. I am a steward of the Lord. I will return all these to Him with abundant yield! Much is asked of me because much has been given to me I praise the Lord for His kindness to me Now and forever. Amen.
From the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist, Dagupan City, April 17, 2011+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
Lenten Meditation of Stewardship for March-April 2011
The gospel stories of the dialogue of the Lord with the woman by the well, the cure of the blind man and the raising of Lazarus all spell out the main message of the Lenten season—conversion.
The Samaritan woman could not understand the request of Jesus for water. Neither could she understand the offer of Jesus for life giving water. The woman’s admission of guilt and history of sin was the beginning of her new life. Jesus drew out from her that confession of sin.
The blind man was able to see only when he recognized that Christ was the source of his sight. Whoever thinks he is able to see because of his own effort is already blind and will ultimately be blind.
In commanding Lazarus to come out, Jesus teaches us that damnation and death will no longer be the destiny of the children of God. Whoever believes in Jesus shall come to life. Through his obedient love, we have received resurrection and new life.
The spirituality of stewardship is not new. It is based on many biblical traditions but we want to inject a new perspective to our stewardship in the Archdiocese of Lingayen Dagupan—primarily, that we are all stewards of the earth because we are all created by God; secondly, that we are all stewards of spiritual gifts on account of our Christian baptism and lastly; that generous, cheerful and humble stewardship can make us holy.
Stewardship calls us to conversion. We are not owners. We are tenants and stewards. Stewardship calls on us to out to share our blessings, our lives and our resources at the service of the mission of Christ. Through our stewardship of time, talent and treasure, may others be led to spiritual maturity and abiding loyalty to the Church.
In the next months, we shall see in our archdiocese the phasing out of the fixed offerings for the celebration of the sacraments and sacramentals.
We cannot reach our stated goal without a process of conversion and a change of pastoral paradigms. The phase out of the arancel is not a money issue. It is a deeply spiritual matter. We need to change our understanding of the Church from being a stone building or a service agency to a community of disciples called by Jesus, formed by Jesus and sent by Jesus. The Church is communio. We must liberate our religious experiences from individualism and narrow mindedness. We are saved not by justice but by the immeasurable mercy of God.
If we are to live out this communio, we must make love the over-all guiding principle of our daily lives. Love is best shown by an attitude of sharing. The greatest act of love is the giving up of life for the loved one. We must imbibe the attitude of giving without expecting anything in return. Giving must be like breathing or eating. We die if we stop giving. The pastors must freely administer the mysteries of God and the flock must give and share unmindful of any reward.
Let us recall the words of Saint Paul to the Corinthians “Do not forget. Thin sowing means thin reaping. Each one should give what he decided in his own mind, not grudgingly or because he is made to, because God loves a cheerful giver. And there is no limit to the blessings God can send you –he will make sure that you will always have all you need for yourselves in every possible circumstance and still have something to spare for all sorts of good works. (II Cor. 9:8-8).
As we enter Holy Week, let us open our hearts for the call of conversion. At Easter time, may be new men and women with a fresh understanding of the Church and a new attitude of happy, generous and humble stewardship.
From the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist, Dagupan City, April 10, 2011
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
Meditation for the Fourth Sunday of Lent
April 3, 2011
Sight is a gift. We owe our sight from God. God gave us our sight freely ad without pay. We do not pay God for the gift of seeing a beautiful sunset or an awesome rainbow. There is no service charge for the joy of seeing the face of your loved one or even seeing His presence under the appearance of Bread. All that our eyes can see is a gift. All our sight is a gift. Ultimately, we do not only see with our eyes. The real sense for seeing is faith. Faith, like sight, is a great gift from God.
Christianity is a gift. This gift made us children of God and brothers and sisters of one another. God knew that as His children, we would be unfaithful later on. God knew from the moment He chose us that we would have repeated occasions of treachery and infidelity and repeat over and over the vicious cycle of sin. In spite of that, he still chose us. Why? Not as man sees does God see, we heard from the First Book of Samuel.
Because of faith and baptism, we have become children of the light, says Saint Paul, and we must live as children of the light. The light that we have received must not only illumine us. The light of Jesus must also transform us so we ourselves may become lights for others alongside the light of Jesus for the world.
We are stewards of light. The light of faith is not ours to keep. We must share the light of faith so that through us many more may see the light of Christ. The world needs teachers of the faith—teachers of light. All of us have lights within in. We must talk about the story of Jesus in the bible and the story of Jesus in our lives. What is the Gospel according to you? Not just according to John, Mark, Matthew or Luke? How has Jesus touched you? Share your faith. You are not your faith’s owner. You are stewards of the faith.
Jesus is the center of catechesis. The catechized, catechizing person is he or she who has encountered Christ, now knows him, loves him and loves him through others. This is our faith. Catechesis is the lamp and Jesus is the light–he light of faith. He draws all to him. Talk about Jesus! Be the echo of Jesus!
For whom must catechesis and faith stewardship be directed? The Lord showed a very special fondness for the children and for the poor. Therefore, the children and the poor must have a very special place in all our parish programs and apostolates. We must become a reaching out church, not just a status quo church that simply maintains the present state of affairs. We dream of a church that does not just move with the world but rather a church that moves the world, shaking up the world so that all things may be restored in Christ.
The stewards of the faith must necessarily be stewards of the children and the poor. Indeed the children are our ticket to the kingdom of God and the poor are the true treasures of the Church.
If we do not share our light and faith we would be doomed. If we play blind to the cry of the poor and play deaf to the pleading of the children for Jesus, we would be judged as useless stewards.
From the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist, Dagupan City, April 3, 2011
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
Meditation for the Third Sunday of Lent
March 27, 2011
Water is life. Water is a great teacher. Decades ago, Bruce Lee said: Be flexible. Be formless. Be fluid. Be shapeless like water. You put water unto a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. Water can flow or it can crash or creep. Be water my friend. Water has the continuity of movement. You must free your ambitious mind and learn the art of dying. The cup realizes itself only by being empty. Be yourself.
The Lord reached out to the Samaritan woman with a humble request for something to drink. We do not know if He got what He asked for. We only know that this request came from a humble Jew who took the form of a slave and did not deem the honor due to God something to cling to. He asked for water while He Himself was like water—formless, fluid, flowing, free.
St Augustine was asked “What are the ways to God? First is humility. Second is humility. Third is humility.” Humility is seeing yourself as God sees you. God loves humility because God loves Truth. Humility is truth but not only truth; it is truth in love.
It was with that sense of truth in love that Jesus confronted the woman by the well about the history of her sin. She did not take offense. She found it liberating and called Jesus a Prophet. Indeed that is what truth in love does—it sets us all free. Humility does not play deaf and blind to sin. Humility calls sin by its name and invites hope and new life. When truth confronts evil with love, it makes conversion bloom.
The humility that is asked of a steward is not about self deprecation or suppression of our talents. Humility is rather the acknowledgment of the greatness that God has done through us. And the fruit of true humility is a merciful and forgiving heart. Seeing something divine in others, the truly humble person becomes incredibly, endlessly and foolishly merciful. The proof of humility is compassion.
The humble person sees the greatness of others not as threat but as reason to thank the Giver of all these gifts. Jesus saw through the woman by the well. She was not a second class creature. She was not a disdained member of an abominable social class. She was not an adulterous sinful person. Jesus saw her greatness—she is a daughter of God created in His image. Seeing greatness in everybody, the humble steward is not jealous but grateful; he is not threatened but consoled.
A proud steward is a contradiction. Real stewardship spirituality is humble. In summary, the humble steward is loving and merciful; the humble steward is grateful and joyful; the humble steward invites conversion and gives hope.
Indeed the first duty of a steward is not just to give and share although sharing is a very important duty of his. The first duty of the steward is to be meek and gentle and humble of heart so that people may see him and see the humble Lord shining through him. Let us pray for humility.
O Jesus! Meek and humble of heart, Hear me! From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus!
From the desire of being loved… From the desire of being extolled … From the desire of being honored … From the desire of being praised … From the desire of being preferred to others… From the desire of being consulted … From the desire of being approved … From the fear of being humiliated … From the fear of being despised… From the fear of suffering rebukes … From the fear of being calumniated … From the fear of being forgotten … From the fear of being ridiculed … From the fear of being wronged … From the fear of being suspected …
That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it!
That others may be esteemed more than I … That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease … That others may be chosen and I set aside … That others may be praised and I unnoticed … That others may be preferred to me in everything… That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…
From the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist, Dagupan City, March 27, 2011
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
Meditation for the Second Sunday of Lent
March 20, 2011
The transfiguration is a promise of glory to Him who was and has always been obedient and faithful to the will of the Father. The disciples were overcome with fear but the fear did not prevent them from seeing through the mystery. They will only see the full meaning of the event after the resurrection of the Master.
The obedience of Jesus leads to glory. The obedience of Abraham to leave family and homeland leads to the reward of a universal blessing. “In perfect renunciation lies unrestricted fruitfulness”. (Von Balthasar). No Promised Land without obedience. No transfiguration without discipleship. No Easter without Good Friday. No blessing without the cross.
Stewardship is renunciation of greed and selfishness. Stewardship recognizes that God owns everything and God owns every Christian. The psalmist rightly sang “The earth and its fullness belong to the Lord, the world and all that dwell in it”. (Ps 24:1). St Paul wrote “Do you not know that you body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, given by God”. (I Cor. 6:19).
An attitude of absolute ownership over self and over things, leads to decay and death. It is only when we act as faithful and generous stewards that we can find abundant fruitfulness. In perfect renunciation of self serving ownership, we live as responsible stewards. In responsible stewardship, there is the promise of unlimited fruitfulness and infinite abundance.
How do we show our stewardship? Where in our lives do we show that God owns everything and God owns us?
Time. God showed us His love by giving us His time. He who lived in timelessness entered our space and time and became a man like all of us. The Little Prince rightly said “It is the time that you send with your rose what makes your rose so important.” To give time is to give a treasure. To give time is to give love because we cannot not love the one to whom our time is given.
Talents. Talents can be natural gifts given to us at physical birth or developed through training and education. Talents can also be spiritual gifts bestowed by the Holy Spirit for so that Christ can serve others through us.
Treasure. We have no exclusive ownership of money. God is the owner and source of all we possess. In managing our money as stewards, we must show that God is first in our lives. God is not honored by the offering of our leftovers. When you look at what God gave us when he died on the cross, how can you be contented with giving him your leftover?
In renouncing exclusive ownership of your time, talents and treasures, we receive the promise of unlimited fruitfulness. In managing our time, talents and treasures with contentment, generosity and humility, you invest in eternity. “Do not store up treasure for yourself here on earth where moth and rust destroy it ad where thieves can steal. Store up treasure for yourself with God where no moth or rust can destroy nor thief come and steal it.” (Mt 6:19-20).
From the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist, Dagupan City, March 20, 2011
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan