Letter to my Future Bride

To my future Bride,

I long for the day when I’ll finally be able to hold your hand and be with you for the rest of my life. Yet, I would be lying if I said there is not a day that I don’t think about you. Human love is a very fragile thing. One day it lives through the spark and fiery passion, longing to be enslaved by the lover. But the following day it loses the spark and demands to be free from the shackles of the other and fly on its own.

There was a conference some time ago, and the speaker drove a point that hit me home. He talked about first love, the love that sustains the desire to pursue and be with the one we love the most. The context was that there are tendencies when grow tired and fall out of love. The commitment ceases to be a sign of love and begins to be a burden. In relationships, lovers grow tired. Even more so in marriage, the enemy is not necessarily the irreconcilable differences or the infidelity, although they are part of it. Rather, it is falling out of love.

There will be times, my love, when I’ll grow tired of loving you, dedicating my life wholeheartedly for you. Time breeds tiresome spirit eventually, and lethargy, and complacency stir into the heart. I have to admit, this is what I have been feeling lately for you.

The dryness of the spirit makes me uncomfortable. It is during these dryness, however, when the speaker from that conference calls us to keep in mind the love that brought me to you.There is a love that brought me here, but I can never keep the freshness of that love that brought me to you on my own. Only the grace of God can. Only God can sustain my love for you, to love you as you are when I am called to preach the Good News, to comfort the sorrow and sick, to cast out evil spirits in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, to restore sight to the blind in spirit, to forgive sins, confess my love for you at the Holy altar and nourish you.

I have no capacity within my own to love you. The heart is willing and yearns for a love that lasts and transforms, but the flesh is weak, constantly being put to temptation. Only by the grace of the One who loves us best can I be able to love you, my dear.

I can never be worthy to love you with all my heart, but only the Father can make me worthy to be your groom – and therefore another Christ through the ministerial priesthood – in this world, my future Bride.

Pray for me that I may persevere through my love and, God-willing, my fidelity to you.

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The Rectory Experience

I was invited to have dinner by one of the parishioners after the 7pm Mass last Sunday while I was staying at my home parish. There were 15 of us at the dinner, a pretty crowded dinner indeed. With such a big crowd, we decided to order a party selection, which included about five entrees. We didn’t get to finish it, so one of the ladies told me to bring the to-go boxes to rectory for the priests. I took them and went home. I saw there were lots of food in the fridge when I opened it, and had to make some space for the to-go boxes I brought.

When I was organizing all the foods inside, maximizing space, I thought to myself “Wow, these priests would never go hungry here. People do actually care for them.”

And that thought led me to reflect more about the life I am trying to pursue.

One of the things I sensed when I was staying at my home parish was that the people love the priests there. They do actually care for them.

It brought me to realize that the kindness and sacrifice these priests make definitely go a long way. So much so that they won’t have to worry about the things people seem to think priests typically worry about.

It definitely begins with the kindness and selflessness the priests commit themselves to.

People think priests worry about loneliness as they go about the life they have chosen. On the contrary, priests can never be deprived of companionship and affection from the people they serve as long as they are receptive to them with a pure heart.

As I have been discerning the priesthood for quite a while, I am coming to realize that the priesthood is a beautiful life. There are many graces that come with it, and anyone discerning such life would be compelled to live in constant gratitude as a response.

They say it takes time to fall in love with someone special. I think it’s safe for me to say that I am falling in love with the Bride whom Christ still loves, and I have no plans on keeping my eyes off of Her.

Please continue to pray for me, that the fruits of love and fidelity may grow in me for the One whom the Lord loves.

A Seminarian’s reflection on Celibacy

Seminarians, like myself, don’t cease to be human beings once they enter the seminary. Before I started seriously discerning the priesthood, I wanted to get married. I wanted to know what it’s like to be with the most beautiful woman for the rest of my life. I wanted to give my wife stolen kisses, take her to places she wants to go, hold her hand on the way there, make fun of her, tease her, raise our children together into the faith, and most of all, help her grow closer to God and be happy together.

I wanted all those things. And to a slim degree, I still do.

One of the most relevant things to discern when it comes to priesthood is a life of celibacy. I have been praying about it since I joined the seminary, begging God for the grace to understand celibacy in my heart and reveal to me His will for me.

I assure you, no prayer is left unanswered, as my understanding of celibacy – through prayer – has changed for the better.

I came to realize, over my time here in discernment, that celibacy is more of a YES than a NO.

Celibacy is a discipline that has its roots in human relationships. No human relationship in this world is easy by all means. Beauty can go so far as the delight of the human sight, but it doesn’t fully satisfy the human heart by itself alone, and our happiness lies in the fulfillment of the human heart.

Human relationships are often met with challenges and burdens which can be overwhelming. Some people let go of the relationship, either by divorce or the bitter decision of letting go. Our struggles with human relationships have a lot to do with our brokenness. When we are broken, we struggle to love and feel loved.

Celibacy is more than just mere discipline, it is a way of life marked by a witness to the kingdom of God, where human relationships are restored, healed, and the person is made whole again. The pilgrimage to happiness is not journeyed alone but together.

Celibacy, as I have grown to understand it, is more about opening one’s self up for the healing of others, forming friendships worthy of the kingdom, and fostering of human relationships – between a husband and wife; mother and son; father and daughter; friends, brothers and sisters, etc. It is less of not being able to experience sexual and physical intimacy and more of letting God work in you for the healing of human relationships, bringing about the kingdom of God to this world marred by brokenness. Sex is an integral part of a relationship – between a husband and wife in order to beget Life, but it is not the entire thing that makes up relationships. Sex is good for marriage, but it doesn’t sustain it. The presence of divorce in society is enough to prove that point.

I am at a certain point in my discernment where I am still astounded by the lavish and stunning beauty of some women. But I tell myself- “the most beautiful part about them is not their looks, but their deepest yearnings of their hearts to be satisfied, which is happiness. And nothing in this world can ever satisfy the human heart.

Only the love of God can.

What is Mercy?

©: thedivinemercy.org

The Catholic Church celebrates, every 2nd Sunday of Easter, the Divine Mercy of our Lord. And it’s within a fitting season, as we still observe the redemption of our Lord for us through His Body and Blood. We keep in mind, in a special way, Sr. Faustina through whom the Lord spoke to us to celebrate His Divine Mercy. Her diary has been read, discussed, and meditated upon; the chaplet prayed; people with this devotion are gathered. Nevertheless, it may also well be fruitful to step back and meditate what is Divine Mercy. Why Divine Mercy? What is Mercy?

Our faith is a pilgrimage to our True Home, which is to be with God. When we are with God, we find our True Selves, and our greatest happiness lies in that pilgrimage with God. Yet, there wouldn’t be mercy if there’s no offense to be given mercy upon.

Άμαρτία (“hamartia”) – it is a Greek word that means to miss the mark. It is the same meaning as well for sin.

When we sin, we miss the mark. To say that we are sinners, we are saying that we have been missing the mark, the mark which point out to where God leads us to: our true selves. We miss the mark by failing to follow God. We follow our own ways and put up false selves and when we do, frustrations and restlessness come in. And much worse, we fail to feel loved. And when we don’t feel loved, we do things that harm others: we give in to pride, infidelity, destructive anger, any form of addictions, etc. When we fall into these things, we suffer the consequences of them. One of those consequences is the fear of the penalty for the wrongdoings we have done, so we turn away from the pilgrimage with the Lord. Another consequence is experiencing unhappiness. To describe what our world has been like is to say that it has suffered from these consequences. The worst of it all is that we have failed to faithfully and genuinely turn back to God and ask for pardon. We have been blinded by our own sin, believing that because of all the offenses we have done – whatever it may be – we feel undeserving of the Love of God anymore. Such is a natural human tendency; when we offend someone, it is hard to go up to that person and apologize, thinking that the person will never accept our apologies. And even if we have been forgiven, it is also hard to ask for pardon thinking that we will commit the same offense again and again. Love can feel great with hugs and affections, but it can never be real unless there is a test which gives room for mercy.

When our Lord rose from the Dead, we have been given redemption, a redemption that we didn’t really ask for. The Lord, through His Resurrection, tells us: “You have fallen far from your own ways, my child, and I see the despair in your heart, a despair that hinders you from coming back to me. You don’t have to linger in that despair, my child, for my Blood will wash it away, just come back to me and I will lead where your heart yearns to be.

Mercy is when you offend the one you love the most, you feel the pain of that relational bond breaking down because of what you did so you feel undeserving to be forgiven, but the one you love forgives you anyways and reaches his or her hand to you saying “My love, let’s build this relationship back up again”. In a broken world like the one we live today, no other thing is needed more than mercy. The Lord did not come down to demand people to worship Him, but to restore that relationship we had with Him, broken by sin. Even when we may realize that we deserve great punishment for our sins, the Lord generously offers us His Divine Mercy.

Divine Mercy shows us that we have a God who remains faithful to us even during the times we have not been faithful to Him, when we have missed the mark.

St. Paul: an Apostle in love

One of the classes I’m taking this semester, and compellingly my favorite class, is New Testament. The course is organized in a way such that we have focused more on St. Paul’s letters. After reading through his epistles, I find myself drawn to St. Paul and learning more about him. As a result, I decided to buy a supplemental book to satisfy my intellectual cravings. Fittingly enough, I found out that Pope Benedict XVI has a book on the apostle and so I went for it. One of the reasons I was drawn to him is that I find his words harmonious to the spiritual currents of my heart.

Learning about his significant contributions to building up the Church, in light of his personal story of faith, one thing has stood out to me about St. Paul.

He is an apostle in love. And here are the ways he displayed that love:

1. St. Paul was full of passion in giving the best for the Church
St. Paul did not hesitate to give words of passion to the churches, both of out of concern and appreciation. When things went wrong in Corinth and Galatia, he expressed his passion, almost obsessive somehow to get those churches back in favor to the Lord. To the Corinthians he said “when reviled, we bless; when persecuted we endure; when slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become, and are now, as the refuse of the world, the dregs of all things” (1 Corinthians 4:12-13). Love is often tested with difficulties and many of us give in to the difficulties and turn away from the one we love and hurt them in the process. This is what happened to the Church in Corinth; its members gave into sexual immorality, dissension, corruption, false worship. They gave up on the faith. And out of love, St. Paul scolded with the words saying that they were wrong. Only a man in love can be driven by passion, a passion that does not lead to internal decay, but one that drives to will the best of the other.

2. His desire for the Church is selfless 
As mentioned above, St. Paul was not afraid to see himself as the dreg of all things. For him, if loving the Church means being the dreg of all things, he willed himself to be. Yet, the desire was out of love, for it wasn’t, he knew he would be useless, gaining nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). And even if he gained something, he “counted it as loss” out of his love for Christ and his Bride. As a call, he imitated the love of Christ for His Bride, a totally selfless kind of love. It is not necessarily the pain that makes love selfless, but the choice to will the best of the beloved, and all throughout his apostolic life, St. Paul exhibited that love. No other way was he able to do it, but by losing himself to the love of God for him.

3. His love for the Church was so strong he gave his life for it.
He was aware of the death that could possibly come his way with that love, but he embraced it with a deeper sense of joy. There were the Jews who violently dragged him out of Ico’nium (Acts 14:19), he was beaten by the owners of a slave girl in Philip’pi (Acts 16:16-19) and many more. All because of his desire to proclaim his love for the Church and share it with others. Ultimately, his love took him to the farthest corner of his world, Rome where his love was eventually perfected through his death.

St. Paul lived his life as an apostle who did not reserve his love to those God called to be His own. Love can never last if one is not lost into it. St. Paul lost himself into it. And so he was in love. It is a love, as I realized, that is needed for one to make one’s priesthood fruitful, perhaps not as fruitful as that of Paul.

My Vocation Story: “Perfect Love”

It came to me that there is a particular language in which my vocation story would be perfectly told. Even more so, the personal details would not suffice in bringing light that deserving of the story. There is no better way I can think of sharing my story other than through a spiritually reflective light. So here it is.

I cannot talk about my journey of responding to the call of priesthood unless I talk about love, relationships and, ultimately, God.

As a kid, I witnessed firsthand what was it like to go through a relationship that was shattering into pieces, and went through the unfortunate effects of it growing up. Looking back, that relationship allowed me to imagine that life must be better than broken relationships that some people unfortunately go through. It affirms a gem of truth that there is an opposite to everything: if there is something is broken, there must be something whole; if there is something imperfect, if there is something that ends, there must be something forever; there must be something perfect. We have all gone through the imperfections of life one way or another. I, myself, have a share of those imperfections. Since I was young, I’ve always believed, deep in my heart, that there a perfect love.

Basically, for most of my years, I searched for that perfect love in places where I thought I’d find it. With eagerness I pursued it, in different places, yet eventually rendering me with no one but myself. Someone did come to my life who I thought would fill me with that perfect love I had been longing for. Eventually, I did end up inflicting pain hurt upon her even if it wasn’t my intention, leading her to make a decision that broke my heart, shattering it into pieces. That patch of my journey to perfect love made me realize that I was already broken even before my heart was broken. I had my share of time with despair and discouragement, but it was that longing for perfect love that kept me going.

Over the years, I have grown in my understanding of what perfect love is, which is being able to love wholeheartedly and knowing you are loved wholeheartedly. As I reflect on my life all throughout, there was actually no time when I ceased from practicing the faith. Yet, I had it worse, for my whole life has been a struggle with being affirmed that I can be loved. All of us desire to love and be loved wholeheartedly. To an extent, all of our struggles with any kinds of vices, addictions, etc. stem from our very fundamental struggle of recognizing that we can love and be loved wholeheartedly. There was a point when I drifted away from any form of relationships, convinced that I can never get anything good from anyone, due to the disappointments and failures I went through with anyone I got closer to. It took a lot of grace for me to turn away from that grim attitude and embraced vulnerability.

When God came down to this world, He yearned for a forever with each and every one of us. And the price of that Forever was the Cross. Yet, the Cross was not the end of His yearning for a love affair with us. The end was Perfect Love, encapsulated in the belief of the Resurrection. In other words, embracing vulnerability and weathering through storms are essential to the journey to that perfect love. What I used to deem as ugly beasts that must be avoided actually turn out to be escorts who offer their hands in leading me to perfect love.

Simply put, my current pursuit of the priesthood is nothing but a response from God directing me on my journey to perfect love. With all of the things I have done, I deserve worse. Yet, God is so loving. I know he wants to be invited for a walk in our personal journeys to that perfect love. With all that goodness, there is no better response I can think of than the one I am making right now. Relationships in this world may be bound with a moment of turning away from one another. But with God, there is forever.

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

Today’s readings reflect on our LORD’s approach to violence and its role to our faith. We hear in the first reading the unfortunate fate of the prophet Jeremiah under King Zedekiah, wherein he was thrown “into the cistern of Prince Malchiah” and drowned into the “mud”. Why was Jeremiah thrown out and led into such terror? Because he was “demoralizing the soldiers” in his city and “is not interested in the welfare of our people”. Or so the princes thought.

Throughout the book of Jeremiah, the prophet has been preaching repentance in response to the wrath of God to His people, for they have turned away from His “covenant”. And the people did not listen. Even more so, they thought he is causing strife among many because of his words, words that were unpleasant to hear. How common is it for us to be uncomfortable hearing the words we need to but do not like to hear? When we hear things we do not like to hear, we shut the person down. It affirms the adage, “the Truth hurts”. Yet, it also affirms another, “the Truth shall set you free”.

Freedom is not free. Historically, we view it as something that is earned. The Israelites earned it after their bondage from Egypt; African-Americans earned it, legally, after the 1865; nations have earned it through blood and swords and discrimination of the pen against imperial control. But very too often, freedom is earned through violence—violence incurred against ourselves. Our ego. True freedom is experienced not by just being free from something but being free to live for something.

This is the freedom that Jeremiah preaches to his people, a freedom that the LORD wants us to experience. But the people during Jeremiah’s time resisted it. By choosing to take down the life of the prophet, the people and princes of his time chose to keep the spiritual shackles that keep them enslaved from sin. Instead, Jeremiah took upon the pain himself, the pain involved in turning our hearts from ego to the will of the LORD. A degree of pain is too often an inherent part of our growth: the body has to go through the stress of workout in order to be healthy; the mind has to go through the stress of discipline in order to be healthy; and, likewise, the spirit has to go through the stress of repentance to be healthy. All of these process are a lifetime pursuit.

The reality is that pain is part of our human life and, therefore, we can never escape from it. We are only to realize that we have a great reason to embrace it. That reason is that our LORD has gone through a similar that has plagued our humanity for thousands of years. He “endured the cross”, despised its “shame” – embraced, in other words – and earned the right of the throne of God, as St. Paul proclaims.

The Militant Atheist movement has argued about the violence of the LORD as a reason to justify disbelief in Him. It is true that our LORD is violent, but His violence ought to console us in believing in Him. We are only to gaze and meditate upon the crucifix to see the LORD’s approach to violence.

For our LORD, violence is meant not to inflict to others but to our ego. Only by inflicting violence to our sinful ego can we be charitable to others. Because of our limitations as a result of our sinful nature, however, we can never bend ourselves to do such a thing out of our own will. We need someone to drive us it, a kind of fire to set us against the turn of our own currents.

And so here we come to the Gospel. The Creator of the World, upon coming into His own and witnessing it ruined by sin, declares, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” He sets the world on fire, not to destroy, but to have his creation be consumed by His desire to change the world. In order to do that, it has to start within – within our hearts. As the narrative of Jeremiah that we hear in the first reading points out, change comes with a price. The prophet called for a change within the hearts of the people. And what did he get out of it? Violence. When we call for authentic change, we disrupt the status quo of human affairs shaped by Sin. Our Blessed LORD knew very well how difficult this message is, and that is why He was the first to admit that His saving message will cause division rather than peace. Oh, how beautifully paradoxical our Christian faith is! Authentic violence is the way to true peace, for when we go against our selfishness, we express love at its best to others. Experiencing the most awful shame of the cross is the way to an encounter with the glorious moment of our humanity: redemption.

And so let us pray, that the LORD may continue to shower us with that fire required of us to make a genuine change in our lives and the grace of wisdom and humility to understand and accept this challenge from our LORD.

My Top 10 John Mayer Songs (Part I)

I have never shied away from letting the world know that I am huge John Mayer fan. His music is one that, whenever you listen to it, you just feel like you have a friend who perfectly knows what you feel at any moment. His songs never get old to me, as pretty much all of them are pertinent to every aspect of my life one way or another. With that said, I have listed down 10 of my favorite songs from him. The reasons why they are my favorite are many, which is why I have sketched an explanation to the significance of each of them. I have divided it into two parts, with this one – the first part – covers 10 through 6 of my list:

10. “Gravity”

This song just has a lyrics so natural, that I can sing along with it at any time. When I feel down, this is the perfect song. When I feel grateful, this is the perfect song. When I feel reflective, this is the perfect song. One of the lines that is so striking in this song is “Twice as much ain’t twice as good”, which simply means that having a lot in your possession doesn’t mean you are happy. Possessions of any kind, whether it be money, friends, material things, status, sex, popularity do not bring genuine contentment to a person’s heart. These things are not impregnable enough for “gravity” to fail to overcome. “Gravity” is the way John personifies life, i.e. that life can always put you down as if there is a great burden you carry on your back. “Gravity is working against me” as John opens up the song. Saying this line is as natural as it gets, a line that almost all humanity can say sing with genuine convictions in their heart. Most of us respond to the “gravity” of life, which often brings us down, in various ways. John’s response to it is a petition to “keep” him “where the light” which I relate to very well. My interpretation of it may be more religious than that of others. I take this “light” to refer to the Light itself: Christ (John 1:5). In other words, it is not any earthly things that can help us endure that hardships of life, but the Light Himself.

9. “If I Get Around to Living” 

I like this because of a couple of lines that strike so well to me. The first one is “If I ever get around to living, I’d take the end of every day, tie it up to every morning and sail way”. The “end” of the “day” is a way of John describing night. Night is usually a time when we hibernate and retire from our daily activities which keep us busy, as well as stress us out every so often. And, of course, morning is the time of the day when there is really not much for us to do but to get ready for our daily activities. These times are meant to be spent relaxing. When John states that he is going to tie these times up, he is saying that he’ll escape from the business of life by sailing away into his own ways. I relate to this meaning significantly because I, too, share the same sentiments every once in a while. Life can stress us out to the point that we just want to get away from it. This song is essentially about the desire to get away from stresses of life which intimidate us more often than not. Yet, towards the end, John expresses a significant realization. He realizes that he cannot escape the harshness of life, as he sings “You are hiding in your mind, working all the time, trying to make it better than you got it”. The song is a 180 degree turn from fear and anxiety to maturity and gratefulness. The second line seems to be a message he tells to his younger self, that his younger self has wasted a lot of time worrying about how difficult life is when he should’ve just looked at things the way they are. Things actually look better than the way he saw them, causing him to spend his entire energy getting away and forcing his own way. Thus, he tells himself “when are you gonna wise boy?” Perspective changes as we grow old and learn more about life.

8. “Waiting on the Day” 

This song is one that I would dedicate whole-heartedly to my future wife, if ever I am called to married life. It has a backdrop of tone, expressing a willingness to settle down and hope out of finding that woman you are certain you want to spend the rest of your life. John is hoping for many things as he expresses in this song. First, the hope that his life will reach “out in the sun” and “show” his “age”. As much as he has been famous for the last two decades of his life, he yearns for that moment when he’d start to feel human again – someone who can have life on his own and share it however he wants to. Then there is also the hope – perhaps his greatest hope – that he will find a woman who he’ll spend the rest of his life with, “dancing” with him, who will “hang” all the things of her life to be with, who “can love him all the way”, and who can “tie” him “tight in little strands of paradise”. These words of hope towards the end come off to me as words that echo a vow in a marriage ceremony, when a man and a woman are asked about their commitment and affirm their love for one another. Oh, my dear love, I will sing this song to you on the day of our wedding. I’m “waiting on the day”.

7. “Perfectly Lonely”

This song voices out a disposition that is contrary to what most single folks out there feel. While most single folks constantly look forward to the time they will find that person who will deliver them from loneliness of being single, John affirms that he is fine as he is single (or a time when he was…). There is a way of handling one’s being single, and the proper way to do so will make that person “perfectly lonely”. That way is perfectly mentioned in the bridge as John describes the “day” he’ll take his chance to “start again”, and when he looks “behind” on all his “younger times”, he’ll “thank the wrongs” that led him to “a love so strong”. Being perfectly lonely doesn’t mean not taking chances with love down the road. Nevertheless, when we take our chances, we have to acknowledge the fact that our mistakes in the past have led us to take that chance again. In other words, taking a chance is the mark of acknowledging one’s past and looking forward to a more authentic relationship when it finds you.

6. “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room”

Unlike the rest of the songs, this captures my attention not because of any intriguing lyrics which I relate to – although I still relate to it to an extent – but because the image the title depicts. “Slow dancing in a burning room” depicts that two people, most likely a couple, slow dances in the middle of a room that is burning. That the couple slow dances suggests that they are into each other and enjoy one another’s company. The “burning room” suggests a place that they are not supposed to stay for so long. Therefore, this song is about two lovers who are not bound to be with each other for so long. Their love is limited by a time bomb. The meaning of the title is just mesmerizing it suffices for how good the song is. Probably one of the most underrated songs in the album “Continuum”.

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

Two weeks ago, Our Lord taught us how to live our faith. Last week, He taught us the significance of being in His midst. In today’s gospel, He taught us how to pray. We are given words of prayer from the Word Himself. Fittingly enough, this prayer is petitioned millions of times by nearly all the faithful in a single day. And so we are proud to recite the words that Our Redeemer Himself has taught. The latter part of the gospel reading is when Our Lord urges us to be bold in prayer. He may be suggesting that we recite the prayer He taught us boldly, assuring us that we shall receive whenever we ask, find whenever we seek, and the door shall be opened to us whenever we knock. However, this seems repugnant to the theologically sound belief that we ought not to ask God for things, for that is when we step our foot on to our own spiritual disaster. “Lord, please give me financial security and happiness all the time.” “Lord, please give me a good grade on this upcoming test”. “Lord, please give me a spouse. I’m 37 years old.” There is nothing wrong with these petitions, indeed. But when our faith depends on clinging to what we desire, that is when we fail to be loyal to the One who created our inmost being. What, then, is the difference between the petitions “Give us this day our daily bread” and “Give us financial security and personal prosperity”? The difference has to do with faith. When we say, “Give us this day our daily bread” in the Lord’s Prayer, we set God at the center of our lives. When we say, “give us financial security and personal prosperity”, we set ourselves where God is supposed to be. The truth is, the Lord is always communicating with us. When we do not receive that which we desire, He tells us something. When we do not get the promotion we’ve been longing for, He teaches us humility. When we fail despite our tireless petition to succeed, He teaches us that the way to true success is through failure, just as the way to the Resurrection is through to pain of the Cross. When something does not happen the way we desire to, He teaches us not to depend our happiness on external things. In all circumstances, God teaches us something pertinent to our faith. He teaches us to pray as if everything depends on Him. He loves those who pray to Him with the boldness of faith, with the indifference of faith. What is the indifference of faith? It is an expression that in sickness, in health, in failure, in humiliation, and even death, God remains at the center of our lives and nothing less. This is the faith He looks for in this world, the same faith which the city of Sodom and Gomorrah depend on when Abraham asks God as we hear in the first reading. This is the faith Our Lord urges us have when we pray. In its original Greek text, the word “father” as we hear in scripture today comes from the Hebrew word “Abba”, which means “Daddy”, “Dad”, an endearment a loving child calls his father. Think of that for a moment: Our Lord wants us to call the One who created the universe, the skies, the mountains, all the breathtaking sceneries we see, our Father. Our Dad. He wants us to know that we have a loving Father who can make us into more than our own desires. Mountains are not made in a day. Mountains are formed and deformed by the heat. Valleys and hills are not made in an instant. They come to be after years and years of being formed by fire. If we are going through a seemingly perpetual trial of heat, it is only because God is forming us into more than the captivating mountains and sceneries in this world. If God created the world so beautifully, how more beautiful can He make us, those who are close to His heart, the reason He came down to this world? There is no reason for despair, despite all the injustices, terrors, and difficulties we witness in our world. The LORD is here with us, just as He stands before Abraham. He never grows tired of us. It is us who grow tired of Him. So let us pray for the graces that will allow us to live with a child-like faith to our LORD who will never fail us. Amen.

The ever so Pure Romance of Mary Magdalene and her LORD

Today, the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of Mary Magdalene, a day that has been a celebrated as a Memorial for years past. The promotion of this day into a Feast seems to be an appropriately theological move, given how the image of the woman has evolved over the church’s 2,000 year history. We have taken hold of the view of Mary Magdalene as the same woman whom the crowd, along with the Pharisees attempted to stone. According to this interpretation, therefore, it has been understood that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute before she had conversion moment with Our Lord. Despite growing out to become a popular belief, this interpretation does not actually have any strict scriptural basis. In 2006, the movie Da Vinci Code came out, primarily a novel, taking the characterial interpretation of Mary Magdalene into extreme. In the movie, Mary Magdalene was purported to have a sexual relationship with Our Blessed Lord which, undoubtedly, provoked controversy.

There is a subtle, yet striking similarity between the popular belief about Mary Magdalene and the Resurrection, with all due respect and reverence to the latter which I profess deep-heartedly. The similarity is that both provoke heated sentiments, an either-or situation. There is a clear distinction with the attitude towards both, a black and white conceptual picture. Such is the case when both are interpreted merely by the eyes. Yet, when one sees the Resurrection and the person of Mary Magdalene through the eyes of faith, one begins to enjoy the colorful and, even more so, redeeming value of the two. In fact, the two are closely intimate with each other and the Gospels themselves justify this assertion, as Mary Magdalene was the first person to witness the Resurrection. Just as the Resurrection bears the redemptive value—in that whoever believes in it will have Life beyond Death, so does the person of Mary Magdalene bears a transformative message—in that it teaches us something divine about human relationships.

The popular belief about Mary Magdalene implies a yearning for something holy and perfect. Our society has grown obsessed with scandals, scandals that relegate the value of a person. This obsession implies that there is also a thirst for finding a divine quality in the midst of humanity. Crying over a broken object implies a desire for that object to be whole. The belief that Mary Magdalene Our Blessed Lord had a sexual relationship implies a yearning to witness a relationship so pure and transcendental. If there is anything that the Gospels are trying to assert about Mary Magdalene by recording her in their Good News, it is that the relationship between the Lord and the so-called “whore” is, in fact, pure and transcendental.

What does this mean to us?

One of the qualities of the true disciple of Jesus Christ is being able to form transcendental relationships with others. Every human relationship has a potentially divine element to it, which makes God the necessity between two persons. It follows, therefore, that the center of every human relationship, specifically between a man and woman, is not sex (it is just the means to perpetuate human life). It is not money; mutual relationship does not rest on the “scratch-my-back-and-I will-scratch yours” philosophy (in fact it is the least stable basis for relationships). It is not anything else but God. Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene had a pure relationship, which isn’t any different from His relationship with the other disciples. Even if some do not believe so, there is more human merit to believing so than otherwise. Perhaps the only special thing about the relationship between Our Lord and Mary Magdalene is that our society is so fond of a man-woman relationship, given how sexually charged our culture has been.

There are many broken relationships in our world, and it is what tears our world apart. May the pure and transcendental relationship of Our Lord and Mary Magdalene be our aspiration in our relational journey to the world!

Mary Magdalene, pray for us!