Fray Onz Antonio, OAR
The liturgical year ends today with the celebration of the solemnity of Christ the King. As we celebrate the solemnity of Christ the King, we acknowledge the universal kingship of Jesus Christ and our longing for the full realization of God’s kingdom.
What does it mean to believe in Christ the King?
Kung mapapansin natin, napakaraming mga hari-harian sa ating paligid: kings of great kingdoms, dictators acting as kings, king of the road, king of rock and roll, king of comedies and more. So many kings but immediately we take note that their kingship does not last forever. They are all pretenders of power for only God is powerful.
What kind of king our Lord is?
In contrast to the kingship of this world that conveys: POWER, DOMINION & HONOR, the kingship of Jesus is that of LOVE and SERVICE. He had the power but he used that power to forgive our sins so that we can receive salvation. He was a king who was crucified because of his love for us, his people. Down through history, thousands and millions of subjects have died for their kings, but Jesus is the King who dies for us.
How can we bring about the Kingdom of God?
We can never make the Kingdom of God a reality in us and in the world unless, first, it is a reality in our own lives. Jesus said: “the Kingdom of God is within you”.
We start with faith in Jesus and what he said and did. We give over to him the absolute power in our lives. We make peace, justice and love our primary values. We work at spreading the Kingdom by loving and forgiving and healing. We set aside our desire to be served in favor of serving. We drink the cup of suffering and wash a few feet along the way. After all, our King washed feet.
Put Jesus as our model—a king that reaches hearts and souls in need. Our Lord and King calls us to see the needs of the poor. God’s call is to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless and visit the sick is “24 and 7”; that is, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. And remember: The gospel reading reminds us that whatever “you did not do for one of the least of these least ones, you did not do for me.” Recognize Christ, the King, in every person you meet daily in your life, the underprivileged and the least. If we do these things, we will embrace the kingdom of God that is within each of us.
We can either acknowledge Jesus as King or try to be king ourselves. We can let Jesus heal, forgive, and lead us to love others especially the least of our brothers. Alternatively, we can despair of healing and forgiveness, turn over the kingship in our lives to money or power or other sins, and give those values the absolute dominion in our lives.
33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
The gospel readings for the last few Sundays before the end of the Church calendar are intended to keep alive the vigilance of expectation so that Christ doesn't find us indolent and unprepared, and the devil doesn't rob us of the treasures of heaven. These are Sundays when we are reminded that to have faith means to make fruitful the talents that have been placed in our hands: the parable of the wise virgins (last Sunday's gospel) and the parable of the final judgement (I was hungry, thirsty, naked … and you gave me something to eat, something to drink …. which will be next Sunday’s gospel reading), and today’s gospel reading (the parable of the talents). We consider these three Sunday readings as vital in our preparation for the final end.
This Sunday’s parable provides us with a lot of lessons:
a. The parable tells us something about how God deals with us, his disciples and servants. The parable speaks first of the Master's trust in his servants. While he goes away he leaves them with his money to use as they think best. While there were no strings attached, this was obviously a test to see if the Master's workers would be industrious and reliable in their use of the money entrusted to them. The master rewards those who are industrious and faithful and he punishes those who sit by idly and who do nothing with his money.
b. To squander them on triviality, indecency, sensuality and frivolous pursuits is something that we will answer for one day. Our Master, the Lord Jesus Christ is going to return. When He does, he will have us account for how we used or misused our gifts. How are we using our gifts? The gift of music; prophecy; healing; teaching; preaching; love; servanthood, etc.? Is it for His glory or for your own? When He comes back, He will seek an answer.
c. The parable of the talents shows that God abhors indifference and an attitude that says it's not worth trying. God honors those who use their talents and gifts for doing good. Those who are faithful with even a little are entrusted with more! But those who neglect or squander what God has entrusted to them will lose what they have.
d. The Lord entrusts the subjects of his kingdom with gifts and graces and he gives his subjects the freedom to use them as they think best. With each gift and talent, God gives sufficient means (grace and wisdom) for using them in a fitting way. Here is an important lesson for us—no one can stand still, indifferent, unmoved for long in the Christian life. We either get more or we lose what we have. We either advance towards God or we slip back. Do you seek to serve God with the gifts, talents, and graces he has given to you?
e. The servant who buried the master's money was irresponsible. Unfortunately, sometimes we are like the third servant, the one who did not nurture his talent. We remain closed in our own comfort zones. We care too much about our peace of mind and of our routine, our own security. New challenges frighten us. Christ calls us to be his confident disciples that are not afraid of him and his challenges.
May the Lord help us to make good use of the gifts, talents, time, and resources He gave us for His glory and His kingdom.
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A religious wrote a letter to the Major Superior: “For a week I have been unable to sleep knowing that I have cheated on my vow of poverty. I did not turn over the stipends that I received and here I am enclosing a check of P2, 000.00. If I still can’t sleep, I will turn over the rest next week.”
* * * * * * *
“A religious community is a group of wonderful persons who live together spatially in the same domicile and in the same time frame. They share many things in common. They share common meals, participate in common prayers and even may view the same T.V programs. They draw their disbursement money from a common fund. They discuss community affairs at house meetings. As needed, they drive cars provided for common use. They talk pleasantly to one another at the table and in the common rooms. A good education is provided for them. They are well provided for with housing, clothes, recreational facilities, and travel money. Their medical costs are completely taken care of. In short, the religious and community life appears to fulfill the scriptural promise of a hundredfold now, plus an eternal treasure in heaven.”
Who would ask for more? God has been so good that giving thanks to Him should not even be a question.
Augustinian Recollect Family “concludes” Year of Holiness
Activities for the closing of the Year of Holiness began Sunday, November 12, with a concelebrated mass at the Our Lady of Consolation Parish church. The main celebrant, Fr. Lauro V. Larlar, OAR, Prior of Recoletos Formation Center, gave a brilliant homily using the notion of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI as the springboard for his sharing: “Holiness does not consist in not making mistakes or never sinning. Holiness grows with the capacity for conversion, repentance, willingness to begin again, and above all with the capacity for reconciliation and forgiveness.” Moreover, in consonance with the Prior General’s intent, the main celebrant exhorted all the religious and the faithful “to aspire for holiness and offer them the example of those brothers of ours who are recognized by the Church as saints or venerable for martyrdom or for their virtue in the surrender of their lives.” The Apostolic Penitentiary granted the plenary indulgence for this feast.
On Monday, November 13, Feast of the Saints of the Order, the Augustinian Recollect Family once again gathered at the Bulwagang Rekoleto for the talks given by Fray Manny Bolilia, OAR, (Year of Holiness and Beyond: An Assessment) and Fray Hubert Decena, OAR (A Witness to the Life of Fray Mariano Gazpio on the Road to Holiness). A compilation of devotional prayer materials was also presented to the audience by Fray Leander Barrot, OAR, Director of the RST Research Department. The program ended with a message from Fray Dionisio Q. Selma, OAR, prior provincial.
This was followed by a Eucharistic celebration presided by Fray Dionision Q. Selma, OAR, Prior Provincial. In his homily, he reiterated the intent of the celebration of The Year of Holiness: “to revive the call to holiness and to open ourselves to the action of the Spirit, who renews our hearts without ceasing . . .” A plenary indulgence was granted by the Apostolic Penitentiary for this feast.
The day’s activities ended with a dinner. While partaking of the common meal, participants had the opportunity to share concerns and ideas on a) discipline needed for growth in the Life of Prayer of the Augustinian Recollects, b) on the theme: “Let us be One Heart in Solidarity with and for the Poor.” Shared ideas will be presented as “ponencias” for the 7th Provincial Chapter.
While there were talks and activities throughout the closing of the Year of Holiness, those who attended would agree that the highlight was the opportunity to renew our commitment to "reaffirm our charismatic identity, spirituality, and service to the Church."
First, we take note of some important details: The oil in this parable is not just oil. It stands for the sum of good deeds each virgin has accumulated during her lifetime. And the wedding party is not just a wedding party. It is the parable’s way of describing the banquet of the blessed in heaven.
One obvious lesson is that each of us is accountable for our own conduct. Our task in life is to make sure that when the Lord comes to fetch us, we are well stocked with the oil of good deeds. After our death, there will be no second chance. The parable expresses this in 5 simple words: “Then the door was locked.” Jesus concludes his parable with the familiar truth: “You know neither the day nor the hour.”
Here we are reminded clearly that we can never be sure when that end will be. In another gospel passage, Jesus says: “as to the day and the hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, but only my father (Mt 24:36).
Wisdom consists not in knowing WHEN will our end be. The more important thing to ask is HOW are we using the present and WHAT do we hope to accomplish in the days and years that lie ahead.
Could we await the end with confidence, knowing that we have done all we could? Or would we rather feel that there was so much we have left undone, so many faults to atone for, so many omissions to make up for and we would crave for a little more time to put things right?
Our whole eternity depends on our decision to prepare for eternity. We cannot afford to gamble our eternal happiness by ignoring the word of Jesus as he admonishes us today—here and now—to prepare for the day of reckoning.
29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s”
“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s… and to God what is God’s.” This verse is most often quoted by some politicians, rulers and opinion makers as they accuse the Church of interfering in politics. When, for example, the Bishops’ Conference issues fearless statements against some abuses of the government, some politicians, rulers and even opinion makers often reply by quoting this passage. Did not the bible say to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s—meaning the whole sphere of civil, economic and social affairs. And to God what belongs to God—meaning the sphere of spiritual affairs? So don't meddle in politics!
The Pharisees who asked Jesus a question about taxes were interested in one thing: getting Jesus in trouble with the authorities. They wanted to trap Jesus. "Is it lawful to pay tax to the Romans or not?" If he said "yes," they could have declared him a collaborator and a Roman sympathizer. He would be a Jew telling people to be in the side of their oppressors. If he said "No," then they would have run to the Romans telling them that he was preaching sedition. Jesus resolved the question with a simple, but profound answer: "Render to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's."
Jesus saw their ploy, but instead of ignoring or humiliating them, he taught them a lesson. And that lesson is as valid today as it was twenty centuries ago: Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God. This leads us to reflect on how we carry out our responsibilities to our country and to our God.
Jesus’ answer to the entrapment of the Pharisees expresses a very profound principle, namely, that we are citizens of two worlds:
- 1) the world we see (body and matter);
- 2) the unseen world of the spirit… and we have duties to both worlds—to the state and to God.
- - In so far as possible, be loyal to earthly governments, be responsible, participative and honest citizens.
- - But when the government becomes corrupt; when it threatens the family and freedom; when it becomes the source of injustice and corruption; when it condones prostitution, gambling, drugs, violence, criminality, immorality… then we have the duty to correct the government. Not to condemn the government but to be part of the healing process. We could not simply remain silent and indifferent… we have to pronounce our stand on moral issues.
Over and above everything and everyone is the priority that should be given to GOD and the SOUL.
God does not need our taxes. He does not need our votes either. But God deserves our SOUL… for our souls were made for Him. And so our souls should never be given to any human institution.
If the government, your job, your loyalty to a politician or any human relationships demand your soul, say NO. Your soul belongs to God alone. In the end, our earthly citizenship will end, while our heavenly citizenship will last forever.
Even if they crucify you for that answer, as did our Lord, you will never regret that choice. Jesus was a man of controversy. He argued with public authorities. He publicly badmouthed a king. He picked up a whip to expel greedy bankers from His Temple. He was concerned not merely with the souls of people but their bodies as well. He performed miracles to feed them when hungry and cure them when sick.
When it comes to things that are God’s, there are no compromises.
Total and absolute loyalty and service is a debt that we owe to God and to God alone.
That is how we can render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's.
Counting our Blessings
Robert Heilbroner, who has written dozens of books on the subject of the economy and material wealth, suggests that we go through a little mental exercise that will help us count our blessings. Imagine doing the following, and you will see how our daily life is far more comfortable than a billion people in the world.
- Take out all the furniture in your house except for one table and a couple
of chairs. Use blanket and pads for beds.
- Take away all of your clothing except for your oldest dress or
shirt and one habit. Leave only one pair of shoes.
- Empty the pantry and the refrigerator except for a small bag of dilis,
some sugar and salt, a few potatoes, some onions, and a dish of dried beans.
- Dismantle the bathroom, shut off the running water, and remove all the
electrical wiring in your house.
- Take away the house itself and move the community into the tool shed.
- Place your house in a shantytown.
- Cancel all subscriptions to newspapers, magazines, and book and internet connections.
- Leave only one transistor radio for the whole community.
- Move the nearest hospital or clinic ten kilometers away and put a nurse -in-charge instead of a doctor.
- Throw away your bankbooks, stock certificates, pension plans, and insurance policies. Leave the community a cash hoard of five thousand pesos. .
- Give the community a few hectares to cultivate on which they can raise a few hundred pesos of cash crops, of which one third will go to the common fund and one tenth to charity.
- Lop off twenty-five or more years in life expectancy.
By comparison how blessed we are! But with our blessings come responsibility. We should use our blessings wisely, not be wasteful, and help others.
Readings: Is 25:6-10 / Ps 23:1-3, 3-4, 5.6 / Phil 4:12-14; 119-20/
For the past three Sundays, we have been reading and reflecting on several parables about the kingdom. This Sunday another parable is presented to us as our point for reflection—the parable of the wedding banquet.
The wedding banquet is symbolic of the heavenly banquet of God’s kingdom. The Lord has invited all nations to an eternal banquet. First he invited his chosen people Israel. But since they turned down the invitation, all people down the highway—meaning the pagans—were invited.
The parable shows us 3 kinds of guests. There were the absentee guests who initially accepted the invitation, but when the time came to honor the invitation, they drew back. There were the guests without wedding garments, who attended the feast but did not take the trouble to prepare adequately for it, as the occasion deserves. And there were the guests with the wedding garments who made the necessary preparations to present themselves fit for the banquet.
Everything was ready, but when the time came for the feast to begin, none of the invited guests were present. It’s not that those invited refused to come. They merely had more important things to do and would come later. The banquet was not high in their priority list. In their view, the king’s wedding banquet could wait a while; whereas, in the king’s view, this was a party that could not wait. In other words, Jesus is telling us that the kingdom of God is a matter of urgency and top priority; it demands our response here and now, and not at some other time and place. The banquet of God’s kingdom is ready, the invitations courtesy of Jesus are sent. The Lord is waiting for your answer, NOW!
The scary thing about the absentee guests is that they were not sinners. They were not generally engaging in sinful activities. One went to his farm, another to his business. These are noble occupations. Sometimes what keep us away from the joy of the kingdom is not sin but our preoccupations with worldly affairs. To be serious with our job is a good thing, but when your job keeps you away from the banquet of God’s kingdom, job becomes a danger.
People could be so busy setting up their own banquets where they are the hosts—not God. A lot of people believe that happiness can very well be found not so much at the banquet of God but in their own banquets. They forget that they are made for God and apart from God, the most lavish human banquet always has a taste of ashes.
On the guests without wedding garments, the point of the parable is: the invitation is to all. The party is free for all. Yet, anyone who decides to attend has the responsibility to present himself/herself fit for the king’s company. Those of us on the way to the kingdom must acquire the moral and spiritual character consonant with life in the kingdom.
The readings invite us once again to come to the Lord’s banquet. We are all welcome as his beloved guests. But at the same time the parable warns us to take God’s grace and invitation for granted but to clean ourselves up and become the most beautiful guest that we can be in God’s sight.
Remember that the Lord continues to send out invitations. Do come and be the most beautiful guest in His sight!
OAR Province of St. Ezekiel Moreno pays tribute to Golden Jubilarians
The months of September and October are special for Fr. Emeterio Buňao, OAR and Fr. Hubert Decena, OAR, as they celebrate the 50th anniversary of their priestly ordination.
At some stage of their Augustinian Recollect lives, Frs. Bunao and Decena have been teachers, formators, and school/seminary administrators. And joyfully, still they continue to offer many wonderful and diverse gifts to the Order and the Church. The long labor and love of Frs. Buňao and Decena produced about 86% of the Recollect priests, not counting the thousands of friends, families and many others whose lives they blessed and in some ways shaped through their ministry.
On October 7, Saturday, at the Our Lady of Consolation Parish Church in Quezon City, a thanksgiving mass was offered for the two jubilarians, and to remember as well their friends, their families and the many who, in some ways, have shaped and blessed them.
Fr Provincial, Fr. Dionisio Q. Selma, OAR, gave the homily at the Eucharistic celebration. He humorously remarked on how Fr. Buňao and Fr. Decena have in many different ways shared their lives meaningfully with people—in the schools and in parish communities, and in the seminaries. But the preacher remembers most the jubilarians for their work in the area of formation. He noted that he had learned (and surely, the rest of the priests who once were under their care) a great deal from these two Recollect confreres/jubilarians about generosity, love for work, discipline tempered with affection and search for God. Both are men for friendship and this is so because their deepest relationship in this world is based on their friendship with Jesus. They remain to be authentic models of religious life.
Right after the thanksgiving mass was a fellowship at Bulwagang Recoletos where visitors and well-wishers were entertained by numbers depicting the life and significant events in the life of the golden jubilarians. It was an afternoon of laughter and joy which climaxed with the thanksgiving messages by the golden jubilarians.
Fr. Buňao and Fr. Decena: made to last forever in the lives and hearts of people they touched as priests and religious . . . congratulations!
Isaiah, in the first reading, compares the people God to a vineyard that has produced bad grapes. After all the labors—the soil carefully prepared, the location well-chosen, the selected vine stock planted, the boundary set up to keep out the wild animals, the tower and the wine-press—all lovingly prepared by the owner but the vineyard produced only bad grapes. God has lovingly protected his people and they have rendered only sour grapes, violence and oppression. So, Isaiah prophesies: God will destroy this vineyard.
The vineyard was not for God and yet he cared for it out of his love. He had chosen a people for himself. But they were unfaithful and they will be destroyed. But later on, Isaiah would tell us of the hope that God will save a remnant and they will rebuild God's chosen people after the destruction.
The same imagery is used by Jesus in the Gospel with a different emphasis. For Jesus, the problem is not with the vineyard but with the tenant farmers. The vineyard produces grapes and from them wine for drinking. However, the tenants will not give the land owner his due. Such share-cropping arrangements, with the landowner and the tenants divide the produce was a normal agricultural business practice in Jesus’ time. Such arrangements, now as then, are frequently exploitative and unjust. But when the tenants beat up and kill the master’s agents, they don’t complain that they cannot afford the rent and buy clothes for their children. This is not, therefore, a peasant rebellion against the unjust landlord. The tenants’ motive is pure greed. They want the vineyard for themselves. They even kill the owner’s son and heir. Perhaps they think that in the future they can legally claim the vineyard as their own property on the ground that the legitimate owner has abandoned it.
Many tenants who have received so much kindness personally from God want to monopolize the joy they could give to God and others; and as a result, deprived themselves of any joy they could have. They denied something fundamental, something so important: the owner and the heir who make their life possible. And eventually, the second, the third, the fourth and so on and so forth, chances are exhausted and mercy had to give way to justice.
The parable of the wicked tenants in today’s Gospel is a way to teach the Pharisees (and US), that they (and US) have fallen into a twisted sense of right and privilege that did not belong the them.
So when the Son comes on behalf of the “true owner” of the People of God, they are going to reject and kill him, thinking that they can have the property and that somehow everything will return to normal.
Our Lord today, through the parable, is prophesying the outcome of their greed and envy: everything they thought was theirs will be given to those who will be worthy stewards of God’s gifts!