HOMILIES AND REFLECTIONS
...allow God to change us [it] involves “a little bit of remembering and a whole lot of forgetting.
Remember and Forget
Many of you probably feel the same way. And when we begin losing our memories, I guess, because the accumulation of years, it can be heartbreaking. We dread the day when we look at an old photograph and can’t figure out who the people in the picture are or can’t remember the circumstances under which it was taken. We dread the day when we can’t recall a name or a date or a place or an experience that were few years back so easy to remember.
Now, who among us would think that forgetting sometimes is a good thing?
From today’s Scripture readings it would seem so. In the First Reading, the Lord (through Isaiah, the prophet) tells us to, “Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new!”
The passage from Isaiah, God seems to be encouraging the Jewish people to forget and to not dwell on their hardships, to not carry hatred or bitterness in their hearts for what they have suffered at the hands of others throughout their history. God is telling them and promising that there are better days ahead. Their story is not complete instead tells them to be ready for something wonderful. God wants them to hold on to hope.
And then in the Gospel story from John we have the woman who had been caught in adultery and had almost been put to death for it. This story is a powerful one. I especially like to think about what happened AFTER this story, after she returned home. Did her life change? Did SHE change? Did the people around her change? Did she take the words of Jesus to heart? I would like to believe so. Yet, for her to truly become a “new person,” and be transformed, she would have needed to be good at “forgetting.”
First, she would need to forgive herself. She would need to not continue to define herself by what she had done in the past, and to allow the words of Jesus to take root in her heart. Secondly, she would need to be able to forgive those who had accused her, those who judged her and condemned her. She needs to forget.
And yet, she also needs to remember. “Remembering” have a central role in the story. You see, I don’t think the woman was the only one changed. I like to think that the scribes and Pharisees and others present that day left changed too. But first, Jesus had to get them to “remember” and to look upon their own failings, faults and sins. Some Scripture commentators argue that Jesus confronted those self-confident Jews with the record of their own sins by writing them on the ground before the whole crowd to witness. Upon seeing their own sins written on the ground, they became ashamed of themselves. And one by one they left, each walking away contemplating on his/her own individual needs for forgiveness, mercy and compassion. It seems that everyone in the story needed a second chance.
Lent is almost over. Hopefully, it has been a fruitful one for all. If not, it’s not too late. No, we continue our Lenten journey --- in the hope that, come Easter morning, we will be changed, transformed, get a fresh start --- and be made new, because it is about all about second chance.
But to make that possible and to allow God to change us it involves “a little bit of remembering and a whole lot of forgetting.”
We remember our sins so that we can be honest with ourselves. We remember our failings so that we can make better choices.
We remember the countless ways we have hurt ourselves or others by our selfishness so that God can wash the ugliness away and help us be the beautiful, loving, generous people he created us to be.
But then we also need to forget.
Forget the ways we have been hurt by others.
Forget the things we regret and the things of which we are ashamed of.
Forget the ways our lives have not gone exactly as planned.
Forget the grudges and the slights and the insults.
Forget the times others have suffered because of our actions. Forget the sins in us and the sins of others.
“Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you.’”
May we take these words to heart . . . . and then offer them to others.
Let’s allow this holy season to speak to us, to be a kind sign to us - allowing the journey of these forty days to reassure us that we are on the right path, that our lives have meaning and purpose and that we have a destination beyond our wildest imagination, a place prepared for us by our God who loves us more than we can imagine.
Transfiguration: Reassurances of Faith
Fr. Joselito C. Ramos, AM
A missionary told this story. Some African Christians were sitting about at a retreat. The subject was: what’s the best way to spread the Gospel message. Various methods were suggested running from literature to videos to radio announcements. Finally a young woman arose. She said, “When we judge a pagan village is ready for the Lord Jesus, the first people we send in is a Christian family. It is their lives that will inspire the villagers to think seriously about becoming Christian. They are better than a hundred books or videos or radio announcements. They will be the keyhole through which others will see the Lord Christ. To spread the Church Christians must not so much promote as attract.” The woman’s views carried the day. As Albert Schweitzer, who was a superb keyhole in his own life, testified, “Example is not the main thing. It is the only thing.”
The gospel passage today from St. Luke talks about the Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus. Peter, James, and John had been following this man, Jesus, for a while, had been listening to his stories and his wise words, and had witnessed some pretty unexplainable things. And yet, they probably still wondered if they were on the right path, if continuing to follow this Jesus was still the right thing to do and the faithful thing to do and they needed a little reassurance. If they were wavering with their faith at all before that day, the experience of the transfigured Jesus helped strengthen their commitment. They got the sign they needed. When they left the mountain that day their lives were changed forever.
We all need reassurances. Kids need hug and kiss after they have been scolded. Employees need to be told by their bosses that they are doing a good job and valued. Students need some positive comments on their papers and not just a bunch of stuff crossed out in red ink. People need to hear the words, “I forgive you,” so that they don’t have to wonder if they are forgiven or not. Men and women on the margins need to be heard and embraced and cared for, not treated as being invisible. And many couples feel compelled to renew their vows, feel the need to simply re-say the words and recommit to each other.
What these things have to do with Lent? Well,
the reason the Church has different seasons throughout the year, the reason we
revisit the same stories and participate in the same devotions over and over
again is because, like Abram and Peter and James and John and countless others
--- we need that reminder and reassurance; we need to feel
that we are on the right path and to refocus from time to time on what is
most important, and where we are headed. We need signs along the way. Our
Lenten journey, our Lenten practices and devotions help us to do that.
They help to open our hearts and minds to a profound a
truth. St. Paul beautifully stated in our Second Reading from his Letter to
the Philippians that, “But our citizenship is in heaven.” That’s where we belong.
That’s our home. That’s why we were created - to dwell with God forever.
My friends, let’s do Lent well. Let’s allow this holy season to speak to us, to be a kind sign to us - allowing the journey of these forty days to reassure us that we are on the right path, that our lives have meaning and purpose and that we have a destination beyond our wildest imagination, a place prepared for us by our God who loves us more than we can imagine.
And when these forty days are over and
wake up that Easter morning, may we come down the mountain changed, not
simply for a day, but forever - just as Peter, James, and John
were - ready to say whatever God wants us to say, to do whatever
He asks us to do, and to go wherever He invites us to go.
5th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
God is calling us back to see and acknowledge that beauty in us to proclaim the gospel, the good news of salvation.
Turning Something Bad into Something Beautiful
Fr. Aaron Niño P. Galvizo, AM
In Nov. 11, 1843, a Danish Poet published a fairy tale that has become famous all over the world.
The story begins when a mother duck's eggs hatch. One of the little birds is perceived by the other birds and animals on the farm as a homely little creature and suffers much verbal and physical abuse from them. He wanders sadly from the barnyard and lives with wild ducks and geese until hunters slaughter the flocks. He finds a home with an old woman, but her cat and hen tease and taunt him mercilessly and once again he sets off alone.
The duckling sees a flock of migrating wild swans. He is delighted and excited, but he cannot join them, for he is too young and cannot fly. Winter arrives. A farmer finds and carries the freezing little duckling home, but the foundling is frightened by the farmer’s noisy children and flees the house. He spends a miserable winter alone in the outdoors, mostly hiding in a cave on the lake that partly freezes over. When spring arrives, a flock of swans descends on the lake.
The ugly duckling, now having fully grown and matured, is unable to endure a life of solitude and hardship any more and decides to throw himself at the flock of swans deciding that it is better to be killed by such beautiful birds than to live a life of ugliness and misery. He is shocked when the swans welcome and accept him, only to realize by looking at his reflection in the water that he has grown into one of them. The flock takes to the air, and the now beautiful swan spreads his gorgeous large wings and takes flight with the rest of his new kind family. (taken from wikipedia)
The title of the Story is… The Ugly Duckling.
Why has this become so popular? Because it speaks more than just a fairy tale. It speaks about the life of Hans Christian Andersen himself, and to which many people can relate to.
Like the ugly duckling, we too may sometimes feel that we are “ugly”, “puny”, “unworthy” or “sinful” because of some people or experiences that made us think that we are indeed as such. That is why Isaiah said “Woe is me, I am doomed! I am a man of unclean lips.” when he heard God’s call. And also Simon Peter after realizing who Jesus was, he exclaimed “Depart from me Lord, I am a sinful man.” Why this reaction? Because the world made us think that we are ugly. But we are not.
We may have flaws, yes. We may have committed some mistakes, yes. We may have done something awful, yes. But that does not take away our inner beauty, the one that God has created in his own image and likeness —the good. God is calling us back to see and acknowledge that beauty in us to proclaim the gospel, the good news of salvation. That is why God said to Isaiah, “your wickedness is removed, your sins purged.” and to Peter “Do not be afraid, from now on, you will be catching men.”
My dear brothers and sisters, we are more than just ugly ducklings. We are sons and daughters of God. And God is calling us to proclaim the good news of salvation. And who would be the best evangelizers, teachers and guides to our fellow men than us? We and our weaknesses, that flaws, imperfections, sins, is what makes us beautiful. Because our journey to the unfolding of God’s beauty is manifested through it. And by way of telling our stories, our faith to people through communities like this, like ours, is witnessing to God’s glory. Share your stories. See your beauty and know that you are too are called to become fishers of men.