Archive | December, 2006

Simbang Gabi Day One

16 Dec

Ama Namin (The Lord’s Prayer)

Ama Namin
Sumasalangit Ka
Sambahin ang Ngalan Mo
Mapasaamin ang Kaharian Mo
Dito sa lupa at para nang sa langit
Bigyan mo kami ngayon ng aming kakanin sa araw araw
At patawarin Mo kami sa aming mga sala
Para nang pagpapatawad namin sa nagkakasala sa amin
At huwag Mo kaming ipahintulot sa tukso
At iadya Mo ka sa lahat ng masama.
Sapagkat sa Iyo nagmumula ang kaharian, kapangyarihan at kaluwalhatian,
Ngayon at magpakailanman. Amen.

Last night was the beginning of the Filipino preparation for Christmas, the Simbang-Gabi novena, in the Archdiocese of Edmonton. Simbang-Gabi literally means “Mass at night”. Mass will be held for nine consecutive nights to commemorate the nine months that the Blessed Virgin Mary was pregnant with the child Jesus. This is the first time in the roughly forty-year history of the Filipino community in Edmonton that a Simbang-Gabi celebration has been organized, thanks in large part to the Knights of Columbus. Filipinos in Edmonton are understandably very proud.

It was even more beautiful to see many Catholics of other cultures join in the Simbang-Gabi novena. I recommend to any Catholic wanting to be exposed to another culture to attend Mass in another language. Last night, many of the hymns were in Filipino, as were parts of the introductory rite, the homily, and the Eucharistic prayer. It reminded me of the preparation for World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany, in 2005. A few weeks before going on the pilgrimage, youth in Edmonton attended Mass in German at St. Boniface parish. Most of us could only follow the order of the Mass, not knowing it word by word, yet most still participated joyfully and attentively. I felt the same last night, especially when the priest opened the homily with a long discourse in Filipino. There was laughter after a joke that some didn’t understand. The priest then assured us that an English translation of the joke existed. The joke went something like this:

A family had gone out for a beautiful dinner the night before at a restaurant called “The Rose”. The husband had bought his wife a large bouquet of flowers for the occasion. The next morning, he couldn’t remember the name of the restaurant, so he asked his son. The son replied that the name of the restaurant was the same as the kind of flowers that his father had bought his mother the night before. Still confused, the husband found his wife and asked her, “Rose, what was the restaurant that we visited last night called?”

Similarly, we often forget the Lord, especially during the busy preparations for the worldly aspects of Christmas. The Gospel of Matthew, read last night, shows how the disciples had forgotten the Lord and the reason for which He came. They, like the scribes, were pre-occupied with the status-quo and with the letter of the law. Christ is something more than that:

Then the disciples asked him, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” He said in reply, “Elijah will indeed come and restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased. So also will the Son of Man suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist. (Matthew 17:10-13)

John the Baptist was sent to prepare the Lord’s way, but at this point he was about to be put to death by Herod, and many people had still not remembered God. But God will never forget His people. He has carved us on the palm of His hand, says the prophet Isaiah. (cf. Is. 49:15) This Christmas as always, the Father sends His forgetful people the gift of a Messiah, born of the Immaculate Mary, Mother of God. May the Spirit help us to remember God, this Advent and forever, just as our names are indelible in the mind of the Lord.

There’s a bit less than two hours left until the second Mass of the Simbang-Gabi novena starts, so I’m off…I’ll reflect more on Simbang-Gabi later. Pray that we may stand in solidarity with the Filipino community and people of faith all over the world this Christmas season. Also, we pray for the Archbishop of Edmonton, Thomas Collins, who has been assigned to replace the retiring Aloysius Cardinal Ambrozic, Archbishop of Toronto. I wish His Grace Thomas Collins all the best and will miss such a fine Archbishop. One may speculate on whether he will receive a red hat at a future Consistory…We pray for Archbishop Collins, one who has ably brought the light of Christ to many so that we may always remember Him as He remembers us and calls us by name. Amen.



Intentions and Thoughts on Love

15 Dec

“We love because he first loved us. Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.” (1 John 4:19-21)

A group I met with last night was given this passage to reflect upon. It, as well as several related verses, have special meaning for me for a number of reasons. Firstly, these verses conclude the Apostle John’s discourse on God defined as Love. John opens this section with the words: “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God”. (1 John 4:7-8 ) Another part of John’s letter was used by Pope Benedict XVI to open his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est (God Is Love): “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them”. (1 John 4:16) This last verse is especially significant because of its use of the rarely-employed verb “to abide”. Definitions of this verb that I found include “to remain in one place”, “to dwell or sojourn”, or “to continue to be sure or firm”.

These definitions could all apply to the relationship between God and humankind. God is always with us. We are able to choose God because He first chose us by name as His own. He remains in one place, calling us into loving communion with Him. The call is firm yet patient. Also, if we surrender to God’s call, He will come to dwell within us.

Through prayer, we come to proper discernment of the sure, constant, and patient beckoning of the Lord. We come to know the will of God and to accept it with humility and with joy. Many people, including myself, find prayer difficult many times. It doesn’t help that Advent and Christmas, the time of commemoration of, preparation for, and anticipation of the Lord’s coming, are so busy, but it’s important to take time to pray. Then we will come to realize the depth of the loving essence of God, who gives us the gift of His only Son.

Lately, I’ve been reading a book entitled “Sensing Your Hidden Presence: Toward Intimacy with God” by Ignacio Larrañaga, a Chilean Catholic writer. Larrañaga offers many helpful tips on different ways to pray. In one section, he writes about vocal prayer, meditation on the psalms, spiritual reading, group meditation, community prayer, liturgical prayer, and charismatic prayer. I would need another post (or more than one) to adequately reflect on all these types of prayer. However, I would like to share some quotations from the book that I find particularly profound:

“There may be a time when silence takes over for the words, and there remains only silence and Presence. In that case, remain silent in the Presence. Conclude with some resolution for your life.”

“Let yourself be invaded by the living presence of God, enveloped by the feelings of dread, exaltation, praise, contrition, intimacy, sweetness, or other feelings that fill these words”.

Ignacio Larrañaga implies here that for prayer to have its effect of allowing God who is Love to abide in us, words must be filled out, otherwise they mean nothing. Prayer replaces the need for words. It becomes an act of simply listening to God’s call and then responding to it. This is in line with the instruction of St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary use words”. When words are not used, it is sufficient just to stand in awe of the Lord and to act in accordance with His supreme benevolence.

This move to discover God’s benevolence and to spread it by our own words and deeds can be found in the Church and her mandate. The early Church was described as a community, by the Greek word “koinonia”. The reading of and reflection on the Word of God would foster this community spirit. Furthermore, the New Testament was written in “koine”- common- Greek.

During last night’s reflection, four ways were listed by which the Church continues to bring about a sense of “koinonia”.

The first is preaching by word. The Greek term for this is “kerygma”. This kind of sharing of faith is done in speech, such as in a group discussion, or in writing, such as in a book on prayer or on a blog…Lord, help us to communicate your Word clearly, using words if necessary but then increasingly yielding to your power and love to fill out and then to replace our words. St. Gabriel the Archangel, Patron Saint of communication, pray for us…

The second is profession by blood, “martyria”. We pray for those who continue to give up their lives for you, O Lord, and for your instrument of faith, hope, and charity on earth, the Church. St. Stephen, first martyr, pray for us…

The third way of advancing the goal of a loving community is by service, “diakonia”. Let us pray for those who serve God in the manifold ways, especially the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI and all those who minister as priests, deacons, bishops, men and women religious, married persons, and single and consecrated single people. Lord, may you bring more people into your service who model Jesus who washed the disciples’ feet. For “the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Mt. 9:37-38 ) St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, Patron Saint of vocations, pray for us…

Lastly, the fourth way of bringing about loving community is “leiturgia”, common or liturgical prayer. We pray that those who attend Mass or other services may sense the urgency and joy of God’s mission for all. We pray for those who do not believe or do not regularly participate in sacramental observance. May these people come to sense God’s embrace through the insistent and patient welcoming of His Church and all her members. St. Pius X, Servant of the Servants of God, liturgical reformer, and propagator of the Church’s sacramental message, pray for us…

All holy men and women, pray for us…Amen


Genealogy- Luke 3:23-38

12 Dec

“You are my son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:22)I ended the last reflection from Luke’s Gospel on this blog with that passage. As I typed it, I noticed the footnote related to it at the bottom of the page in the Bible. The footnote read: “Other ancient authorities read ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’”. The verb “to beget” is remarkable in that it can mean to reproduce biologically, or it can mean to bring about one’s own self in an act of supreme love, as God the Father did in eternally begetting God the Son, in the non-biological sense. From this love between the Father and the Son there proceeds the Holy Spirit, according to what Catholics profess in the Nicene Creed. Thus, God’s perfect love unites three persons in one God- in the mystery that is the Trinity.

God the Father is “well pleased” with God the Son as He begins His mission to unite all people to Himself. The Father is pleased, then, with the obedient unity of the Trinity. We are also called in Jesus’ name to the same unity within ourselves, with each other, and with God. No matter what is written here, though, this unity and love remains a mystery. We don’t understand it, and all the books of the world contain only a fraction of the knowledge of what this true love is about. (cf. John 21:25)

As Jesus begins His earthly mission, it becomes increasingly clear that the Son of God is begotten for the salvation of all people. However, despite the misunderstanding of even some of His closest followers, the biological lineage of Jesus is subordinate to His loving relationship with the Father. But the accounts of Jesus’ genealogy in the Gospels of Luke and of Matthew appear at first to be descriptions of Jesus’ biological family tree. One then realizes that the Matthean and Lucan Gospels seem contradictory. Luke, for example, mentions more generations (77) than does Matthew (42). A closer look reveals that the Gospel genealogies are more than simple biological sketches. Luke’s Gospel reads:

“Jesus was about thirty years old when he began his work”. (Luke 3:23)

Luke rarely mentions Jesus’ age. So far Jesus’ age has been referred to only twice: He was eight days old when He was presented in the Temple (cf. Luke 2:22-32), and twelve years old when He became lost in Jerusalem. (cf. Luke 2:41-51) People’s ages are written in the Gospel of Luke only at particularly momentous occasions. At this turning point, as Jesus begins His ministry, He is on the way to redeem us from our sins, to rise from death, and to return to the Father.

After the brief but important mention of Jesus’ age, Luke continues by relating Jesus through the family ancestry of Joseph, who was Jesus’ father, “as was thought”. (Luke 3:23) Joseph is Jesus’ legal guardian. Naturally, people would associate Jesus with the humble carpenter. Those who heard Jesus and who were amazed, as well as those trying to deride Him, would proclaim, “Is not this Joseph’s son”? (Luke 4:22, cf. John 6:42) Joseph himself didn’t fully understand his relation to Jesus, especially how Mary was able to conceive a child though still a virgin, but he was comforted in a dream by the angel. (cf. Matthew 1:20) When their child stayed behind in Jerusalem, Joseph and Mary looked frantically for Jesus, not understanding how this episode related to God’s plan.

Yet Joseph was always faithful to the law, to his family, and to God. He registered the family as required, settled in Nazareth, and cared for his wife and son. Although it is not recorded in any of the Gospels, Joseph likely taught Jesus many things about carpentry. In any case Jesus was fully human, in all ways except sin, as well as fully divine. He was completely in this world, so it is conceivable that He not only knew Joseph’s earthly trade, but that He was totally obedient to Joseph and to Mary, just as He obeyed God fully in order to sacrifice Himself and thus to accomplish His salvific mission.

In relation to the Lord’s mission, ours is much simpler. Our daily vocation and commandment is to love each other as ourselves and to love God. By His death and resurrection, Jesus has already taken care of the rest. Within this broadly-defined mission of love, we have many smaller missions. We are mothers, fathers, children, godparents, and relatives to one another. We share this familial bond. We work to earn a living. We reflect on spiritual matters. Some of us are married, or are priests or religious, or are consecrated single people. No matter, we all have little missions. We also sometimes take on selfish missions that unfortunately distract us from the mission of love. For these times we ask the Lord’s forgiveness.

As I thought about what to write about Luke’s account of Jesus’ genealogy, I remembered how much time and energy my mother, and I to a lesser extent, invested in finding out our family’s history. We started by looking for records from my maternal grandmother’s side of the family. Grandma grew up in a small Francophone Catholic town called Lafontaine, Ontario, on the south shore of Georgian Bay. Lafontaine was settled by tradesmen, fishermen, and farmers from many communities in Ontario and Quebec. Those who came to Lafontaine often mistrusted each other. This mistrust reached a near-boiling point with the appearance of the legendary wolf of Lafontaine. In the legend, the wolf terrorized the townspeople, killing their livestock. One farmer who lost about forty sheep, Colbert Tessier, blamed a fisherman, François Labatt, for his loss. Tessier assumed that Labatt’s two dogs were responsible, and set out to destroy them. Despite the wolf’s destruction of livestock, the wolf loved children. One night, a two-year-old child went missing. The townspeople, having realized that a wolf, not a dog, was ravaging their livestock, feared the worst. Later, the child was found near a stream. Skid marks and wolf tracks on the bank suggested that the wolf had saved the child’s life, pulling the boy from the water. Nonetheless, it was too late to save the wolf, as the townspeople were determined to kill it. A blind man eventually succeeded in destroying the wolf. A high mass was sung over the pelt of the wolf. This united a community. Colbert Tessier agreed to replace Labatt’s dogs. A child was saved. This boy would go on to become a priest and possibly the writer of the legend.

I translated the text of the legend of the Lafontaine wolf from French to English so that my Anglophone family members could understand it*. In so doing I came to a deeper understanding of a piece of my family’s history. Genealogy has a unifying effect- people who love each other work together toward a common goal: an increase in knowledge of family ancestry. This was fun and also a wonderful opportunity.

Similarly, reading the Biblical genealogies of Jesus unifies us with Christ’s mission. According to Luke, Jesus is “the son, as was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai, the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda, the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri, the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er, the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim, the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David, the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Sala, the son of Nahshon, the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Arni, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah, the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan, the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God”. (Luke 3:23-38 )

As I said earlier, Luke mentions 77 generations in relating Jesus to God. Remember, Lamech, father of Noah, lived to be 777 (not literal) years old. (cf. Genesis 5:31) Also, Jesus says to forgive endlessly, not seven times but seventy times seven, or 77 times, depending upon the translation. (cf. Matthew 18:21)

Matthew’s Gospel mentions only 42 generations from Abraham to Jesus. The order of the Matthean account is the reverse of that of Luke. Many items seem contradictory between the Gospels of Matthew and of Luke. But this needs not be so if one avoids reading too literally. There are, of course, interesting parallels as well as pertinent differences. In Luke, there are 42 generations from David to Jesus. In Matthew, there are 42 generations in total, which are organized into three sets of 14 (Abraham to David, David to the Babylonian exile, and from the exile to Christ)- two times seven, and Matthew mentions five women that Luke does not.



I can see how genealogy can be interesting. I worked with Mom on her genealogical project. Many people have done the same with their families’ record. The Mormons keep a very thorough genealogical record. People gravitate toward genealogies, albeit false ones, like that found in the da Vinci Code. In the case of the Gospels, genealogy brings us back to God, though not necessarily through a biological or legal line, but through love. God does not think strictly according to human thoughts, but transcends them.Lord, bring us to the unity with Yourself that you desire. Help us no longer to be slaves, but friends. Make us your own sons and daughters. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, God with us, Emmanuel. Amen.







*The French version of the Lafontaine wolf legend, as well as a partial English translation of it, can be found at