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Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Mystery of the Annunciation

I wonder if Evangelicals would sometimes consider the significance of the episode of the angel Gabriel's annunciation to Mary. When I was praying the Rosary earlier, in contemplating the mystery of that event, I was struck as I often was: this annunciation is now to me! I am not kecharitomene or full of grace as Mary was, but I am given grace. Unearned, undeserved grace, given in baptism, a free gift of justification and sanctification begun. Graced in every sacrament and Eucharist, every And the announcement is simply unbelievable, that I should somehow bring Christ to the world. I shall have to ask with Mary: how can this be? For I am a sinful man! But Gabriel provides the answer: it is the Holy Spirit's work, for what is my body if not, as St. Paul says, a temple of the Holy Spirit. And as St. John says, if I have love, then God lives in me and I in Him. And, again, St. Paul declares, that I am a member of the body of Christ. Whatever else I may bemoan of my unworthiness, I must never forget: this is the work of the God who raised the dead, brought inexplicable healing, gave men the power to cast out demons and change hearts and minds. We're talking about the God who became man, after all. What have I to fear and fret about? I cannot fathom it, but the Word does not return to the Father in vain. I have but one logical answer to give to the God who loved me first: fiat -- "be it done to me according to thy word."

And it only makes sense to ask our Lady who especially lived through this mystery, and knew our Lord best through those years, to walk with me and teach me the ways of her son, our Lord. And may he be made flesh in me.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Feast of the Annunciation

I shall always miss my days in De La Salle University, Manila, where the chime tolls twice a day for the Angelus (noon and 6 pm), and most everyone stops and at the very least listens to the prayer. It is the threefold celebration of God's mercy and love towards man:

  First, it is he who loves us first, and promises salvation for mankind. And his graciousness means he does not override our Lady's will, but permits her to respond freely.

  Second, she responds for all mankind with the only response we should rightly give: fiat -- let it be done. We must respond with docility to God's will, with faith, even if we do not fully comprehend.

  Finally, as God promises, his Word does not return in vain, but accomplishes as it proceeds. The Word is made flesh, and that is also his promise to all who respond to His grace.

Each time we pray the Angelus, we go back to the mystery of the Incarnation, and renew its fulfillment in ourselves -- we who are called see and love Christ in the least of our brethren, and for them to receive Christ's love through our love, which we give for His sake.

Did Pilate invent irony?

Jesus answered, “.. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”
Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” (John 18:37-38)

Someone listening in might have said “Exactly.”

'or something worse may happen to you'

In the gospel reading from last Tuesday, Jesus heals a man who was apparently unable to walk for many years (John 5:1-3,5-16). Afterward, Christ warns him:

 ‘Now you are well again, be sure not to sin any more, or something worse may happen to you.’

I'd read in some commentary someplace (can't remember by whom) that sin and sickness were commonly associated in ancient times. But it would not be a very Christian attitude to allude irrational superstition to the Son of God. There is, in fact, a lot of empirical evidence for the association.

I can think of a few sins that involve behavior that risks one's health. Violence has its own risks, and a violent life, and certainly when unwarranted (not in war or law enforcement), carries unwarranted extra risks. Substance abuse? Sexual promiscuity certainly comes to mind, too. It is now considered conventional medical wisdom (for example) that there is a strong correlation between promiscuity with multiple partners and STD contraction. If environmentalists can cite violations against the ecosystem, why can't we cite destructive human behavior, too? It doesn't even take being a Catholic to understand that. Perhaps all you need are facts.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


My household has been somewhat plagued with bird mites for the last 3 weeks. I am ever so thankful to God that my wife and kids have been spared the worst of the little critters, but found it almost unbearable to be their human host (the birds were gone, their holes around the house boarded up) of choice. Lack of sleep, paranoia, and overall general discomfort. It was at this time (of Lent, too!) that I realized how weak my trust in God was.

Thank God for two people: my wife, and my doctor. First, my wife was incredibly patient through the tons of laundry she had to do at overdrive right after the house was sprayed with insecticide. She was also much less worried about the mites than I was, and was a source of strength. My doctor, while not an expert in bird mites, did give me good general advice in dealing with the discomforts, but moreso with the weakening faith. He shared the exegesis of his pastor (Evangelical) about Job's plight that had at its origin neither God nor Satan, but in fear. Job exclaimed somewhere in his soliloquy that his worst fears were realized in his trials.

Ecclesiastes 10:8 speaks of a hole in the hedge, whereby a serpent shall come through. Well Satan challenges Job's faithfulness by remarking to God and the hedge that He built around Job, explaining the latter's faithfulness. What hole then did Job make through the hedge? His fear of misfortune, taking away all his riches and happiness. In my case, it was already dawning on me that my confidence in God's protection was too easily shaken, whereas my wife's was rock solid. The anxiety was certainly taking its toll on me in many ways. And while the infestation is not yet over, it has died down without any help from my anxiety. Instead, it was just a matter of time. Meanwhile, I just needed to relax, sleep better, cope, and foster some hope. Not one thing about my problems would be helped by my worrying.

Why are you cast down, my soul, Why groan within me? Hope in God; I will praise him still, My savior and my God. (Psalm 42)