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When I was a child during the Christmas vacation, my father would accompany me and my brothers (8 of us) to certain streets in old Manila called Escolta and Rosario, in the old downtown district of Binondo. One Christmas time, I remember my father leading us to this bright-lit big store with high white ceiling. There were two big shelves on the sides full of crosman & benjamin caliber .22 air rifles, and long spring-powered .177 rifles, and B.B. guns; and in front of that wonderful store were all sorts of bicycles of different colors, sizes, and designs for kids. My eyes lit when I entered the store. It was big and it was bright.   “Anong gusto mo, Bert,” asked my father...
A little poem I wrote for Christmas is the starting point of our reflections tonight. Let our asking these questions lead us more closely to the Child in the manger.     Have we lost the wonder?   Cosmos is a word we use for the universe. It means order, world. Sometimes we use it to mean beauty. The ancient Greeks looked at the night sky and they saw order and beauty.   We look at our world, our lives. What do we see? More importantly, what do we choose to see? Do we see glimmers of cosmos? Or do we just see chaos?   We need to see everything as a sign again. Even the most prosaic and most ordinary of things are dense with...
  You must agree John the Baptist is an unlikely Christmas character. We don't make little ornaments of him for our Christmas trees. His life seems, at best, like the Star Wars prequel The Rise of Skywalker, easily swept in the grand galaxy of Jesus’ birth complete with the Star of Bethlehem. Or it could, at least, be a Netflix melodrama—barren mother, doubting dumbfounded father, and an adulthood as roving raving precursor waiting for He who is to come. Hos aura is captured, I think, by Time Magazine Person of the Year teenage Swedish activist Greta Thunberg—simple in her signature braided hair, unsparing with words, and passionate, even angry, about governments’ inaction on...
ISAIAH 7:14 “The virgin shall conceive and bear a son and shall name him Emmanuel, God with us.”   LUKE 1: “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son and you shall name him Jesus.”   In my morning prayer, I follow Pope Francis closely through the Vatican News app. I saw that his prayer intention for December is for children who suffer and have an uncertain future. I thought: “Much of my work the past years has been for our children with uncertain futures – stunted, hungry, without schooling.” So I decided that my homily will be a sharing on Pope Francis’ December 2019 Prayer Intention Video and reflections on what our Ateneo community has been doing for...
There is a Spanish video ad that I watched recently on social media, which moved me, but at the same time, disturbed me.   It says that over the last 6 years our mobile device usage has tripled. We consume more audio-visual content than ever. As a result, our contact with people who really matter to us is happening mainly on social media and devices. We are spending less face-to-face time with our loved ones and more time staring at screens. Using a simple calculation and data from the National Institute of Statistics, it is possible to determine how much time we have left to spend with the people we love the most.   In the video, six pairs of friends and family...
It helps to know that earth is, well, small. Not the stars, those little twinkling dots in the night sky, but the earth. The earth is the dot in the midst of countless beach balls floating on an immense ocean we call the universe.   We humans are, well, humus. We are of the earth as Adam is shaped from the earth (which in Hebrew is “adamah”). We humans are supposed to be familiar with smallness and being bound to the ground. In truth, we are dust. If we are rooted in soil and in layers that are soiling and soiled, we might know better than the rest of creation (including those giant stellar balls of fire) what it means to be humble and humbled.   But we do not seem to get this...
Inverse-distance-squared. This pretty much describes the interaction between two objects in our physical world. This holds for gravity, electricity, and can even be extended to romantic intimacy. The strength of the interaction between objects depends on the reciprocal of the square of the distance between them.   In English, the farther two things are from each other, the weaker the interaction. The nearer, the stronger.   The two Gospel stories today are about distance. In the first, Jesus cautions us against occupying seats of honor in parties lest someone more important, of greater stature, come in and be ushered to take our seat. That would be...
In the eyes of the world, one becomes rich by getting. In the eyes of God, one gets rich by giving.   The question then of our life’s richness depends on whose eye matters to us more: the world’s or God’s?   If God does not matter to us, we will not believe in “eternalities,” that is, in things that last, and life as we know it will be the only ride in town. That being the case, we will stuff our seat with all that we can get because when the ride is over, well, the game is over. On the other hand, if God’s sight matters to us, we will not readily repose our life in ephemera, that is, in things that are passing, and life as we know it is just the...
Boomerang is supposed to be a crazy pose of you that loops your motion on camera. It’s meant to be a fun alternative to the usual static photographs we post on social media.   Boomerang is also what happens, Jesus tells us today, when you offer peace to an unpeaceable person. Your offer boomerangs back on you. He advises his disciples, “Into whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace to this household.' If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you.”   And when your offer is rejected, you are to “go out into the streets and say, 'The dust of your town that clings to our feet, even that we shake off against you.'” In other...
At the heart of a happy Easter is the Resurrection, which is a glorious mystery. What is glorious is not always obvious or readily recognizable. Yes, the shining white of angels or the transfigured face of Jesus on the mountain can be a glorious sight to behold. For most of our time though, glory is subtle. It runs beneath the surface and under the color of our faces. It is a mystery not equal to happy or joyful.   The Resurrection account of today is a mystery story. It is not entirely glorious however. There are sorrowful and joyful mystery moments in it as well.   The story begins at night. The apostles decide to go back to fishing. They are shadowed by grief, despair, and...