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     Father Allan Fenix
Father Allan Fenix is an American Catholic diocesan priest currently serving in his native land, the Philippines.  His work first appeared on RNJ in 2007, and we're delighted to welcome him back after a 5 year hiatus. In 2012, he published his first book, a collection of some of his best reflections appearing on RNJ and also titled, A Few Minutes with Father. Father Allan has a global following and a down to earth perspective on the challenges we all face as Catholic Christians.  He is a veteran SWL and an avid DX'er.



 A Few Minutes with Father: 2020

  Meditations on Our Life as Catholic Christians

By Father Allan Fenix

THE GOOD AS GOLD GOD

There was once a gold speculator who approached and told a landowner that he was sitting on a pot of gold. The landowner, not having the proper know-how to successfully mine these pots and pots of gold, entered into a business agreement with the gold speculator. They both agreed that if he really got hold of that gold, they would amicably divide it 50-50.

So after the gold speculator invested in pieces of equipment, materials, laborers and after some digging around, he finally struck the pots and pots of gold. Faithful to the agreement that he entered into with the landowner, he honestly reported the total amount of gold yielded, and split all of it 50-50 between the two of them. This is a story about “Everybody being Happy.”

On the other hand, we also have a story about “Everybody not being Happy .’’ It was about the visit of the Magi.

The Magi personified the gold speculator in the above story – “When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 'Where is the newborn king of the Jew? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.'‘’ (Matthew 2: 1-2.)

King Herod personified the landowner: “Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, 'Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word that I too may go and do him homage.'” (Matthew 2: 7-8).

Following the development of the above story: the gold speculator invested in pieces of equipment, materials, laborers and after some digging activities: “After their audience with the king they set out and behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” (Matthew 2: 9-11).

And here is where the story line diverges: “And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.” (Matthew 2: 12.) While the Magi had seen the Light, king Herod was left in the darkness of ignorance.

Even the chief priests and the scribes of the people, of whom he inquired where the Messiah was to be born, were much better off than he was. At least, they knew… “They said to him, 'In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it had been written through the prophet: And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.'” (Matthew 2: 5-6).

We, too, like king Herod, can also be left in the darkness of ignorance if we don’t even have the initiative to go looking for the…

Gold. The word Gold is just a letter more than the word God. The letter “L” carries the meaning “Lord” or “God.” Indeed, God is Gold, as it is even used nowadays to measure the world standard for richness.

Frankincense – Pray. In the church, we use incense most specially during high masses or in major feast celebrations.

Myrrh. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15: 13). We have to learn how to leave our comfort zones. Be discomforted. Die to ourselves. However, in the process of losing our life, we will gain it back. “Whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10: 39).

If we know our God to whom we can pray, we will not be afraid to offer our lives for others that they might also live. In this way, like in the above story about the gold speculator and the landowner, everybody will be happy.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


4200?!

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel. (Luke 2: 25-32).

I am not a mathematician. Everything here is just mere guesstimates – conjectures.

In the book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the son of Abraham, there were FOURTEEN generations from Abraham to David – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah brothers, Perez and Zerah, Hezron, Ram, Amminadab, Nahshon, Salmon, Boaz, Obed, Jesse, and David.

Then, another FOURTEEN generations from David to the Babylonian exile – Solomon, Rehoboam, Abijah, Asaph, Jehoshaphat, Joram, Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh, Amos, Josiah, and the Jechoniah brothers.

And lastly, FOURTEEN more generations from the Babylonian exile to the Messiah – Shealtiel, Zerubbabel, Abiud, Eliakim, Azor, Zadok, Achim, Eliud, Eleazar, Matthan, Jacob, Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Messiah. (Matthew 1: 1-17).

In total, there were 42 generations ( 14 x 3 = 42 ), and one generation runs for about 100 years – a century. So, 42 x 100 = 4,200 years.

At present, we are now in the year 2020 going on 2021. So, if we are going to use the pattern handed down to us in the sacred scriptures, our generation is about still a bit far away from being half way to the year 4200. We still need around 2, 180 years – 2 millennia and 180 more years.

It means that our generation and the next several will still be in for a long, long wait. We will not see the second coming of the Messiah in the flesh. But, is this a reason for us to be complacent and relax? We might say, “Anyway…”

The answer is a big NO! Jesus Christ, the Messiah, comes to us every day through the sacraments, most especially in the Holy Eucharist. Please ask yourself when did you last receive him worthily?

The Messiah also comes to us through the Word of God. Where are your Bibles? It is the all time number one bestseller. However, how many of us really read and live it seriously?

And, the Messiah also comes to us through every person we encounter in our daily lives, in their actions and words. Created in the image and likeness of God, do we give the respect due to them?

At this point, Romans 13: 11-14 starkly reminds us:

And do this because you know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep.  For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and licentiousness, not in rivalry and jealousy.  But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix

HATE AND HEAT

And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one. (John 17: 22).

One day, a parishioner wished to offer a mass intention, but was adamant that she would just stay by the church gate, even though our personnel kept on trying to persuade her to enter the compound and go to our parish office. Instead, the parishioner just sent in a piece of paper, with the arranged for money, through someone else.

Upon hearing about it, I approached and talked with the parishioner, and learned that she already had converted to the “Born-Again” Christian faith, and was merely there to offer a mass intention for the death anniversaries of her Catholic parents.

In our interaction, I heard the all too familiar narrative that comes from our brothers and sisters of the different religions and sects out there – that Jesus Christ is soon coming and will bring fire, and will burn all the icons of the saints, and of the Blessed Virgin Mary, displayed inside our church.

The constant question in my mind is: “What does their faith teach its believers and followers?” It is now the year 2020 and we are celebrating the Year of the Inter-religious Dialogue.

For us, here is what we teach. The next day, the funeral mass of our parishioner named Ameila de los Santos – which means the love of the saints – sums up the message that our church stands on.

1. The Word of God – the Sacred Scriptures.

    2. Tradition – the Veneration of the Saints. The Church gives them to us as role models.  November 1 is the Solemnity of All Saints.

3. Love – the Holy Eucharist. “No greater love than this: than to lay one’s life down for one’s friends.

There we have it. We should love and respect the Word of God and the traditions of others rather than teach fire and brimstone. The first one will bring us all surely to heaven, while the second one will just increase hate and heat, and turn us all into fine fire fodder for hell.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


VITA*

Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1: 30-34).

There was a man who, upon discovering that he had accidentally impregnated his girlfriend, and fearing the great responsibility and commitment that is entailed in raising a family, he ran away and completely vanished from his girlfriend’s life. Then, his girlfriend, upon realizing that her boyfriend had abandoned her, and seeing that her pregnancy was a block to her own personal happiness and freedom, she decided to either abort, or just leave the child on the sidewalk for anyone who wants it.

On the other hand, there was also a couple who had been unsuccessfully waiting for years to have a child of their own...

The above mentioned instances are very common to us. Perhaps, we have heard about such things in the news, or on a true-to life TV drama, or maybe from someone we personally knew. Or perhaps it was you, yourself.

And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you. And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. (Luke 1: 28, 35).

Every now and then, I would see joyful parents and their families bringing their child – another life – to church for baptism. This very act is a presentation of the child by the parents to God, Who gave, and entrusted, that life to them. Parents, who have personally brought into and raised a child in this world, could explicitly say that life indeed is a miracle. It is a participation in God’s act of creation. Who could imagine that from the veins, muscles, organs of our body could come another life, with its own set of strengths and weaknesses, personalities and character? An individual who is a part and parcel of them; even a carbon copy. I have even heard the parents of grown children worrying about their male child getting stabbed, or their female child getting impregnated out of wedlock.

Indeed, it is a great thing to be a parent, divinely entrusted to bring forth another life, and to raise it up to be good a citizen and faithful to our society and church.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix

*Latin word for Life.


LIFE ENTREPRENEURSHIP

To know how to ride a bicycle, and also how to swim, are some of the basic life skills that everyone of us are expected to learn in our lifetime.

There was a person who grew up not knowing how to do either. The parents were too protective. They did not want their child to get hurt, nor meet with an accident. So, they forbade their child from having a bicycle, nor would they let him go near a pool to learn how to swim. Furthermore, fearing that banks eventually close shop, the parents did not teach their child how to handle one’s finances well. The child was not taught how to spend wisely, or to save, or to trust the banking institution by opening an account and depositing into it any money earned.

In short, the person concerned lived a very unmotivated lifestyle by being so dependent on the parents. Very passive. No one likes a mama’s boy, do they? This individual also abhorred any form of challenge. He was often on the sidelines, just observing his playmates, as they happily rode their bicycles and frolicked by the pool.

This person was like the third servant in the Parable of the Talents, to whom one talent was entrusted when a man went on a journey.

But the man who received the one went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money. After a long time when the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said, “Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not scatter, so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. Here it is back.” His master said to him in reply, “You wicked lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter?Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return? Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten. And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.” (Matthew 25: 14-15, 18-19, 24-27, 30)

We cannot blame, nor judge, this particular person for being that way. We all came from somewhere.

On the other hand, there are those who are more proactive growing up, and so are more motivated in life. A lot of challenges, difficulties and hardships came their way, but they eventually broke through it. They did not let all the discouragements derail their life’s goals.

These people are like the servant that was given five talents, or the one given two, both of whom immediately went and traded them and doubled the amount. So when the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them, the one who had received five talents came forward bringing the additional five.

He said, “Master, you gave me five talents. See, I have made five more.”

His master said to him, “Well done my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.”

Then the one who had received two talents also came forward and said, “Master, you gave me two talents. See I have made two more.

His master said to him, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.”

For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.

Which, among the three we have just talked about above, rightly describe who you are?

It does not matter how many or how much we receive in life. What is important is what we do with the one talent, two talents or the five we have right now.

May God bless us all!

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


EVACUATIONS

In the card game called “Lucky 9”, when the “one” card is considered “good,” one would contentedly hold on to it.

Due to the series of typhoons that have just passed through our region, and having received our fair share of the great destruction that has been wrought in their paths, the word “evacuation” is now a catchphrase in almost everyone’s mouth.

Through the media, we have seen the various situations that evacuees have gone through. So, with the word “evacuation” defined as, “to remove from a place of danger to a safer place,” another term follows – “relief goods.” Goods that give relief.

A plastic bagful of relief goods might just contain three kilos of rice and some canned goods, to tide evacuees over for a few meals. However, it actually encompasses what Jesus said in Matthew 25: 31-41:

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right. Come you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcome me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me… Then the righteous will answer him and say, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill…” And the king will say to them in reply, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brethren of mine, you did for me.”

As it is said, “No one is so rich as not to need anything. And, in the same way, no one is so poor as to not have anything to give. The season of Christmas is a time of giving what is good.

In what way can we be good? In what ways can we give to others? It is by being:

1. “God.” Have we been like God to anyone? Being like Him could be by being of “Good Order amidst Destruction.” After the typhoons, everything is in disarray and disorder. We can be like God by trying to arrange everything back in its proper place.

2. “Offer.” Be online and not offline. Be available to our family, community, and church. To be like God is not just to live for our own selves inside. God needs more of our availability than our abilities.

3. “Oldies” but goodies. We too often think that the new ones are the best ones. That’s why we keep on upgrading our gadgets and toys. Of course, the old ones are good too! They have already survived time and the elements. Material goods will be gone in a moment, as it happened during the great flood. But memories last more than a lifetime.

4. “Do.” Be an actor and not just a speculator. If it is something beneficial for your family, the community, or the environment, why not do it?

Do the four things above; be like God, Offer yourself, appreciate the Oldies, and be a Doer. And when our time comes, we will really be going on a heavenly evacuation, as the righteous will go off to eternal life. (Matthew 25: 46).

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


ARINA

He spoke to them in another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened.” (Matthew 13: 33).

How many of you love to eat bread, instead of rice, for breakfast? As I perennially see long lines of people in the early morning hours in front of bakery stores buying bread, I think, a lot. In our supermarkets, I also see shoppers buying boxed flours for personal use, such as baking cakes as a hobby, or as a side job.

Arina” is the Spanish equivalent of the English word “flour.” In our dialect, it rhymes with “Arin na,” Which means to ask a person for their specific choice.

In restaurants and fast food joints, after looking at the menu for sometime, the waitstaff is going to ask the customer, “Arin na ang order mo?” (Which food do you wish to order?) One needs to make a choice or else hold up the long line of equally hungry customers, wishing to put in their own orders.

In the season of Advent, a period of devout and expectant delight, and a time of preparation and remembrance of the First Coming of the Son of God to humanity, we are again at a crossroads where we are being asked to make a definitive choice in our lives – “Arin na?” (Which is your choice?)

We ought not hold up the line; we should choose one of these four, symbolizing the four candles in our Advent wreath –

    1. The Good, which is the absence of evil.

2. The Positive, which is symbolized by a cross (+), means to carry our crosses and follow Jesus.

3. The Peaceful, signified by the color white means sweet surrender. Let go. Let live. Let God.

4. Love, as symbolized by a bleeding heart, is the Holy Eucharist – the center and message of our faith.

Arina na? These four – the Good, the Positive, the Peaceful and Love – are of God and they are our best choices.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


SANDALS

Whenever I encounter the scriptural passage, “A voice of one crying out in the desert: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths...' I usually picture in my mind the scenic mountain ranges surrounding the parish I am in, and, while taking a rest from biking around it, I imagine a person – a John the Baptist, clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, feeding on locust and wild honey, appearing to walk out from nowhere proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (Mark 1: 3-4,6).

And this is what he proclaimed: “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.” (Mark 1: 7).

Who wears sandals? A sandal is a type of light shoe worn especially in warm weather. Its upper part is either partly open, or consists of bands or cords that attach the sole to the foot. Nowadays, with all the flooding, mud flows and the mounds of garbage left by the typhoon that we have just been through, it is more practical to be in boots than in sandals. Being in boots would cover and protect one’s foot, ankle and often the leg below the knee. It is even a good protection against leptospirosis.

However, being in sandals means being directly connected to the ground – to the sand, to the dust… in the murk… to be underwater in the flood and in the mud. It denotes being active, on the go, on one’s feet. It is also cheaper than being in boots.

Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” (Mark 1: 3).

For our families, and both the religious and civic groups out there, especially during this time of the pandemic wherein carolling, Christmas parties, and any merrymaking are prohibited, being in sandals means coming out to our parish church and helping in its cleaning, in its upkeep, in the liturgical preparations, and in praying the rosary. We make it a family and group date opportunity!

What I say to you, I say to all. “Watch!” Being in sandals, as it was said during the First Sunday of Advent, is being watchful. Being alert. Watch, therefore, for you do not know when the lord of the home is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cock crow, or in the morning. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. (Mark 13: 33, 37).

Be in sandals! Be awake and ready to go!

Father Allan S. Fenix


THE VOICE

I miss the Sesame Street television program. As a child, with its loud, clear and slow manner of speaking, I learned how to count and read simple words. Have you tried watching the cartoon channel on cable lately? Aside from the fact that no subtitles are provided, the characters speak too fast. The speed at which the characters speak their lines is too much for a learning child!

On the other hand, especially on weekends, I love to watch documentary videos. With the voiceover speaking in a clear and audible manner, I can understand more about that certain topic. That also goes the same for some foreign films being shown on our television lately, which were dubbed in the local language so that viewers could better understand the dialogue.

So it is with John the Baptist, who said: “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, “Make straight the way of the Lord.” (John 1: 23). John the Baptist is the voice over – the narrator. He dubbed God’s message in the local language for us to better grasp it. A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light. (John 1: 6-8).

Mathematics, in saying that the shortest route between two points is a straight line, is quoting John the Baptist: “Make straight the way of the Lord.” Even express highways around the world were modeled around this concept – they all go straight across the land so that one can go on cruise control mode while driving through it.

In our lives, instead of going in a straight line – home to school, school to home; home to work, work to home; home to church, church to home; home to market, market to home… We make a lot of detours, don’t we? We make our own destination points. In our being adventurous, curious and risk-takers, we put our spiritual well-being in dangerous situations. I, for one, am guilty of it.

We still have John the Baptist, with his all-too relevant message for us today, “I am ‘the voice of one crying out in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord.”

I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”

He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light. (John 1: 23, 26-27, 7-8).

If even mathematics and engineering principles follow the message of John the Baptist, may he also be the voice of our own conscience. And may we go straight to the Light.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


EMOJI *

Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind... Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22: 37, 39).

In our country, absentee parents and absentee spouses are a stark reality.  There are millions of children who, due to various social and economic reasons, grow up in different households without seeing their own blood parents for long stretches of time.  This also goes the same way with spouses who are virtual widows and widowers, as they get to see their spouses only once in a few years.  Thanks to modern technology, encountering their absentee parents and spouses on screens provides a little bit of consolation. However, it is not enough. People need people. We need each other's physical presence and not the virtual substitutes.  We learn to love with our senses - sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. Can we love someone with technology?  Maybe, yes. If we force and push ourselves to.

In our church, we practice infant baptism. I am so happy seeing parents and godparents bringing their infant children to church for baptism. I also love seeing primary school students falling in line for their first confession and Holy Communion, and also parents with their children at Sunday masses.  I liken this scenario to the fourth Joyful mystery - the presentation of Jesus in the temple by his parents. As I picture it, it is the offering of the best and first fruits of the harvest to our God.

For the innocent children, this is a sense experience of the blessed and the divine, as our God, through the bread and wine, becomes a reality during the consecration. This is an "Emmanuel" experience for all of us, for God is present.  It is not an emoji experience.  He is really and truly with us.  He never abandons us.  One has to be there and present to live it.

After all this, we and our children are set for a life of faith. We need the constant repetitions, even though it might sometimes get tedious, to inculcate and form the strong sense of devotion and conviction necessary to be able to shout out, “I love the Lord my God with all my heart and with all my mind and with all my soul, and I love my neighbor as myself!”

As I say it to myself, "Practice is the best medicine!"

Fr. Allan S. Fenix

*A small digital image or icon used to express an idea or emotion.


MARGARET

In these days, who still gives their female children the name "Margaret"? Most modern names, given by parents to their children, can barely be spelled or pronounced!

When I was in the United States, working in an assisted living facility, there were two residents named “Margaret,” who were of the same generation, and were best friends. In the elementary grades, I had a classmate named Margaret.

I was into the topic of the name “Margaret,” as my long held life question had already been answered: “Where did my family get its unwavering devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus?” We celebrated the memorial of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Virgin, on Friday, October the 16th. It was from St. Margaret Mary Alacoque! The day was so significant for me, as it is directly connected to her legacy.

According to the Liturgy of the Hours:

Saint Margaret Mary was born in 1647, in the diocese of Autun in France. She joined the Sisters of the Visitation at Paray-le-Monial where she advanced in the life of perfection, and was favored with mystical revelations. She was especially devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and was responsible for spreading that devotion throughout the Church. She died on October 17, 1690.

We pray the Holy Rosary before the Sacred Heart of Jesus altar on Fridays. Speaking of Fridays, as I have said, I grew up in a household with a deep devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. We grew up in its shadow. It was our silent witness.

As a student, I loved Fridays, as it meant I could now watch television programs after coming home from school. However, before that, the entire family had to kneel down on the hard wooden floors of our grandmother's house to pray the Holy Rosary in front of the Sacred Heart of Jesus altar. At that time, I was not yet familiar with praying the rosary. So, when they began to recite the Creed, I felt tired and sleepy. After a while, when I woke up, they were already praying the Glory Be. Then, the Hail Holy Queen...

So,” I thought to myself, “praying the Holy Rosary is just a brief and short experience.”

The next Friday, I was already on full alert to watch television as, in my mind, our praying the rosary wouldn't be that long. However, as we all know, after the recitation of the Creed there comes the Our Father, the Hail Marys, and the Glory Be. Then follows the five decades. So I finally realized to myself that it was going to be rather lengthy.

From where did my Chinese family get this tradition? I knew that we had a Sacred Heart of Jesus altar in our hometown. There was one in our grandmother's house in the city, and another one in our townhouse in the metropolitan area. And, in the United States, where my mother and siblings are now living, it is the household centerpiece. Even in the houses of our aunts and uncles, they also have the Sacred Heart of Jesus altar. It's almost as if we all grew up in the same house!

All throughout my seminary formation, we had the first Friday devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus before the start of our morning classes.

And all of these are attributed to the legacy of St. Mary Margaret Alacoque!

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


TAX CUT

Then he said to them, "So give back to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." (Matthew 22: 21).

I am not familiar with taxes. When I was then in the United States, as a member of the clergy here in our country, I did not pay income taxes. The church, being a public institution, is tax free. However, from what I know, every time I buy something in the store with a receipt, pay bills, or ride public transportation with a ticket, I am indirectly paying taxes.

Tax is primarily defined as a sum of money demanded by a government for its support, or for specific facilities or services, levied upon incomes, property, sales, and so on.

Secondarily, it is a burdensome charge, obligation, duty or demand. Nobody wants to be pressured. It is no wonder, based on the second meaning, there are so many who try to underpay, or totally evade, paying taxes.

While on the topic of taxes, perhaps we can also draw some parallels to the 5 Church Precepts:

1. To attend mass on Sundays and holy days while resting from servile labor. This is spot on referring to the third of the Ten Commandments - To keep holy the Sabbath day.

2. To receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation at least once a year. Once is the least minimum requirement, as this sacrament can be repeatedly availed of according to the needs of the penitent.

Now that we are in the midst of a pandemic, face to face confession has been temporarily suspended, and we are still awaiting further church rulings on this particular sacrament. However, though the confessional box might go the same way as the pulpit, the sacrament will not. It will stay the same as ever.

3. To receive the Eucharist at least once a year, during the Easter Season. Again similar to the above mentioned sacrament, we can receive Holy Communion repeatedly according to the needs of each of the faithful. Many make it a devotion to attend mass and receive the Eucharist on a daily, or regular, basis.

4. To observe the days of fasting and abstinence. Compared to other major religions, the Catholic Church has perhaps the most lenient requirements in terms of fasting and abstinence. Do Catholics still practice that hour of abstinence before receiving Holy Communion? Our catechesis also teaches us to abstain from meat all Fridays of the year, and requires fasting and abstinence on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

5. To help provide for the needs of the church according to one's ability. Again, compared to other major religions and sects, the Catholic Church has the most lenient alms-giving discipline. It is still, and has always been, voluntary.  Our church does not levy nor ask a tariff of its faithful.  And with our vow of poverty, we priests try to live within our means.  We survive according to the generosity of our parishioners.

Again:

Then he said to them, "So give back to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


THREE SAINTS

In our country, there are many families who share the same surnames but are not, in anyway, related to each other.

One October day, the first parishioner who came to the parish office, came to offer a thanksgiving mass for her birthday. She was a “De Los Santos,” which is translated, “Of The Saints”.

After a while, another parishioner came over requesting a copy of her baptismal certificate to be used as a voter registration reference. When we asked for her surname, the response we heard was again, “De Los Santos.”

Later that morning, our laundry woman came to report for work. She was also a “De Los Santos!”

That evening as I was reflecting, I replayed the events of the day in my mind, and went back to the three “De Los Santos” who had visited us earlier. Then I realized that in just a few more days, we would be celebrating the Feast of All Saints’ Day, which comes on November 1.

Three “Of The Saints” explicitly means that they are in the service of intervening on our behalf before the Holy Trinity – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

The first “De Los Santos” parishioner offered a thanksgiving mass for her birthday, to mean that our mortal lives came from God. And so, the need to be always grateful for the gift of life.

The second came for her baptismal record, to be used as a voter registration reference, to mean that we are citizens of heaven, and we have to solely vote for what is of God.

The third came to wash our dirty laundry, to mean that in our journey here on earth we are broken by the sins and allures of this world. We can only be healed and made whole again through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, founded by none other than God himself.

The three “De Los Santos” parishioners who came were all women, to point us to our Mother Mary, the Queen of the Rosary, to whom we are dedicating the entire month of October by praying the mysteries of her Holy Rosary.

Three “De Los Santos” women!  All in a day’s work!

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


MANY ARE CALLED. MANY ARE CHOSEN.

"Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner; My oxen and fattened calf have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet." (Matthew 22: 4).

Reading about the “Parable of the Wedding Banquet,” I cannot help but relate it to an experience I have had.

I am not used to dining out.  However, the last time I was out of the country, someone, who owns a number of banquet halls in that area, treated me, together with some kin, to a big dinner.  Viands were being served at the table, not altogether in one setting, but in one serving after another, and with some time gaps in between.  By the time the last courses were being dished out, I was already bored and full. We were not yet even talking about the desserts we were going to enjoy much later!

Looking around the large dining hall we were in, I noticed that it was brightly lighted, crowded, and noisy due to the loud conversations, the clink of the drinking glasses, and the sounds of the cutlery hitting the plates.

The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. (Matthew 22: 2-3).

Nowadays, with all the psychological explanations out there about different kinds of personality types, temperaments, character, range of options, choices, priorities and individual differences, I cannot blame, nor judge, those who have been invited to the banquet but refused to come.  No one wants to be pressured.  We are free to make whatever we like out of our day.  We can recommend and suggest, but no one can force anyone against their will.  On the other hand, there are also those who apply fear and bribery.

But they paid no attention and went off - one to his field, another to his business. (Matthew 22: 5).

So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find:

'So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. (Matthew 22: 9-11).

It is free food.  Many love to eat.  So, what should we expect?  All of us are invited to the heavenly banquet – the Holy Eucharist.  But it is only we, according to our own made up standards, and all the pseudo-psychological explanations we have in hand, who decide to “un-invite” ourselves and make exceptions.  It is we who persistently disrobe ourselves, and make ourselves unreachable and unavailable to the boundless gifts and graces coming from the bountiful cellar of our Heavenly Father.

Come one!  Come all!  Let us include ourselves in the dinner banquet – the Holy Eucharist.  For many are called and, in the same way, many are chosen.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


ENTITLEMENTS

Our national hero said, “He who does not know how to look back at where he came from will never get to his destination.”

Once, while going through the cable TV channels, I happened to upon a documentary about a group of people who left their country due to severe political strife, and found a very hospitable host country. They were graciously settled in a peaceful area where they could develop and grow as a people. However, there was a twist. The story did not have the fairy tale ending, “... and they live happily ever after.”

The sad thing was that they felt entitled. The older generations failed to teach the succeeding generations about their sense of gratefulness, especially to their host country. So, when the host country started to require them to contribute by paying taxes and doing compulsory military service, they turned belligerent. They formed violent gangs to fight the system.

This is similar to what happened in Matthew 21: 34-36 and 38-39:

When the harvest time approached he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruits. The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way... But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, “This is the heir. Come, let's kill him and take his inheritance.” So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

In the same way, like in the documentary I mentioned above, we, as a pilgrim people, are likened to what Acts 7: 51 refers to: “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit.”

Isn't it true? We feel overly entitled. We are ungrateful. What have we done for God for all the good things he has graciously given to us? We do not even have the time to follow the third commandment, “Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day.”

However, don't worry. Be calm and relaxed. Our God is not vengeful. Rather, he is loving and merciful. He will not be like what we saw in Matthew 21: 41 and 43:

He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will send the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”

Therefore I tell you that the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will provide its fruits.

God will be to us like the father in the parable of the prodigal son: “So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him. He ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15: 20).

Things might not be so harsh after all. It seems like just a slap on the wrist, doesn't it? May we never abuse God's loving kindness, but instead continue being adoring, contrite, and thankful, as we ask him for his graces in our lives.

May we reach our ultimate destination and live happily ever after.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


ARMANDO

God speaks to us through others. Each one of us carries a great message to everyone else.

One day, as I was about to officiate at the funeral mass of a person who died unexpectedly, I was reflecting on what consoling message I could extend to the grieving family. A homily idea immediately popped up in my mind when I saw the name of the deceased – Armando Nocedal.

From the surname itself, the simple message is “No Ced-ing” (to cede means to give up one's rights to, or possession of, often unwillingly). This is because we are courageous “army men” or soldiers (“Armando” is a Spanish word meaning “army man” or “soldier”).

Words can either make or unmake us; break or “un-break” us.  From this experience, I am convinced that every parent must really choose well the names that they wish to give their children.  As with our own, individual name, a name carries a significant, and often life changing message, to the people we encounter.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


CLICKS AND LIKES

We are akin to the two sons in the scripture passage of Matthew 21: 28-30:

...the man went to the first and said, “Son, go and work in the vineyard. 'I will not', he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, 'I will sir,' but he did not go.

Nowadays, in our own daily lives, we are distracted by a hundred and one things around us, so that it is extra challenging not to get sidetracked by what we are about to do on a particular day. A lot of stimuli around us are vying for our precious attention – the clicks – the likes and dislikes, the subscribe and unsubscribe.

Jesus said to them, "Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of God ahead of you." (Matthew 21: 32).

What is our priority? Every day, no more no less, each of us is given the same 24 hours by God to freely do whatever we like with it. However, why are there those who are either successful or unsuccessful, healthy or unhealthy, passers-by or non-passers by, rich or poor? What do I do to keep myself sharp and in tiptop shape to meet the challenging day? I do strongly subscribe to the Benjamin Franklin proverb that, "Early to bed and early to rise makes a person healthy, wealthy and wise."

Usually, after waking up in the early morning hours, when everything is still and silent, I will immediately grab hold of my Liturgy of the Hours and Morning Prayer, and do a power set of exercises while watching the news of the day. With this, I am telling the day that I am now present and showing up. I am all powered up and predisposed for whatever might come throughout the day. This by itself is already a 90% success.

For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him. (Matthew 21: 32).

Of course, success is not guaranteed in doing all of these things. However, I believe everything is not an overnight success. What I believe in is that the regular small victories in doing all of it will all add up to me finally being healthy, wealthy and wise one of these days.

How about you? What do you do with the God-given 24 hours in our lives? Do you spend it clicking, liking, disliking, subscribing, and unsubscribing to everything that comes to our attention all throughout the day?

Father Allan S. Fenix


SHOW ME THE WAY

  Show me the way, show me the way.
  Give me the strength and the courage.
  To believe that I'll get there someday.
  And please show me the way.

"Show Me the Way" by Styx.

In the parish where I am assigned, each Sunday, there are 8 all-filled up, scheduled masses throughout the day.

In this scenario, it seems that there is no longer a problem with our church attendance. No pew space is ever wasted. The value of every church real estate space is being maximized by willing worshipers.

However, one day, as I was going about the area, I asked a child, who I noticed lived nearby the church, and was sitting by his front door staring at passersby, if he had already been to church. The child answered that no one was around to take him there.

In our country, many children live an abnormal home life. With many of their parents working somewhere far away from home, many children are merely entrusted to the care of their grandparents, other extended family members, or caregivers who are willing to take them in during these long-haul absences.

For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard... About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, “You also go and work in my vineyard...” He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, “Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing? 'Because no one has hired us, they answered.' He said to them, “You also go and work in my vineyard.” (Matthew 20: 1, 3-7).

Many of us, now sitting in the pews, were once like that child I saw sitting by their front door just staring at passersby. Or like the laborers standing by in the market place, who one day were approached and invited to come to the sacred feast.

It happened like that up until the Church habit was inculcated deep within, and we were set up for life to be believers: to be worshipers sharing the beauty and grandeur of the Kingdom of God.

Right now, externally, everything seems to be alright with our church attendance. All the masses are filled up...

However, don't we feel now is the right time to get up from those comfortable pews, go out there, and invite someone to church?

As Pope Francis said, “The world needs Catholics who actively go out in announcing the faith of Jesus Christ to the world.”  Furthermore, he said, “The world needs Christians who let themselves be moved, who never tire of walking the streets of life, to bring everyone the consoling word of Jesus.”

As baptized Catholics, we have the evangelizing mission to proclaim Jesus. As I've said earlier on, many of our youngsters nowadays are living in an absentee-parents situations. Many of them need a guide; a mentor to give them the strength, and the courage, to show them the way to church – to the Kingdom of God, our Father in heaven.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


REACTIONS AND RESPONSES

As I went through the scriptures, I came upon four kinds of reactions and responses from those who have encountered our Lord Jesus Christ in their lives.

Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown.” (Luke 4: 24).

The first was when he went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up:

And on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue as was his custom. He stood up to read... All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn't this Joseph's son?” they asked. (Luke 4: 16, 22A).

All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. (Luke 4: 28-29).

Sometimes, we are afflicted with a head-level faith in which we tend to over analyze everything so that our experience of awe and admiration of the divine surprisingly turns into disbelief. The gift becomes garbage when we try to throw God off of the brow of our doubts and unbelief.

The second was about Jesus driving out an impure spirit:

In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an impure spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, “Go away! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God!” (Luke 4: 33-34).

The devil, an impure spirit, recognized Jesus.  In fact, it acknowledged him at the top of his voice as the “Holy One of God!.”

The demon was even obedient:

Be quiet!” Jesus said sternly. “Come out of him!” Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him. (Luke 4: 35).

However, it was it's pride which continually hindered it from eventually going back to the Lord, our God.

The third was when Jesus healed Simon's mother in law: “So he bent over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up at once and began to wait on them.” (Luke 4: 39).

Normally, as is usually the case, due to a fear of a relapse, a newly recovered person is not allowed to work for some time, but is instructed to just take a rest. However, the response of Simon's mother in law to her healing was physical service. From her burning fever, she was now burning with zeal for service. Perhaps we see this same kind of physical manifestation among our many church and community volunteers, who give so much of their time, talent and treasure in the service of others, even without any expectation of compensation.

The fourth was the best; when Jesus called his first disciples:

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

Simon answered, Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” “When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord, I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken,... So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. (Luke 5: 4, 5, 8-9, 11).

We saw this kind of response from among our “heroes and heroines” – the saints – the holy men and women, and all the unsung people, who have fully dedicated their lives, one hundred percent, to their mission in life.

For us, which one of the above is our usual reaction or response whenever we encounter God in the Word and the sacraments?

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


A COMMUNITY – NOT A CROWD

It is in our culture to be so friendly. We would like to expand our status in life – our relationships and influence. So much so, that during the reception of the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Matrimony by our family members, we would wish to gather the greatest number of sponsors, until it looks as though we are having a grand fundraising campaign.

The church only requires two witnesses, as this is also the number of available slots in the canonical books. Even contracts are made legitimate by merely having two witnesses sign it.

Along this line, it is not surprising that politicians exploit this by being the primary sponsors of children receiving the said sacraments, as this could eventually be translated into a form of support, and votes, come the election season. This is called “crowdsourcing.”

Nowadays, with the COVID-19 upon us, crowding is very politically incorrect. It is highly discouraged.

So, one is FAIR. It is even stated in the scriptures. If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.” (Matthew 18: 15).

Two is SUPERB. Again, truly I tell you, that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. (Matthew 18:19).

Three is EXCELLENT. “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18: 20).

There we have it. The community and not the crowd of the Holy Trinity – the Father, the Son and the ESPIRITU – the Holy Spirit who binds all into ONE.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


FOOL FOR CHRIST

When I read about the wise who brought flasks of oil with their lamps in the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25: 4), I likened them to people nowadays who can afford to provide for themselves extra battery packs, or power banks, for their mobile phones. Good for them!

For me, personally, I identify more with the foolish ones, who, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them. (Matthew 25: 3).

I fully bank on Jesus, who called the twelve disciples together and sent them two by two: “Don't take anything with you on the trip except a walking stick – no bread, no beggar's bag, no money in your pockets, wear sandals, but don't carry an extra shirt.” (Mark 67-9).

God provides everything we need. He is compassionate and merciful. As Jesus said it in Matthew, chapter 7, verses 7, 8 and 11, “Ask, and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks will receive, and anyone who seeks will find, and the door will be opened to those who knock... As bad as you are, you know how to give good things to your children. How much more, then, will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

During the daytime, we should do whatever we can. At night, we should sleep like babies. We need it to boost our immune systems! However, we should always remember that it is God, the Father, Who ultimately has our backs.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


GENERIC

As for you, do not be called “Rabbi.” You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers. Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven. Do not be called “Master;” you have but one master, the Christ.
Matthew 23: 8-10

One time, when we were about to board a plane, priority was given to those who were serving in the armed forces, especially those in wheelchairs and with disabilities. While the former had to wait for their turn, the latter had their boarding numbers called out.

In our country, whether for fundraising purposes, tourism, or as a really genuine “battle of beauties,” beauty contests of all sorts, and their titles, are a part of our culture. To give consolations to participants who didn't win, various titles are printed on sashes and are awarded according to the unique talents each has manifested.

Recently, the biggest issue trending worldwide is about the removal and toppling of monuments connected to a sad part of world history – racism. Nothing has been spared. Even some church icons were defaced!

Racism is “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against a person or people on the basis of their membership to a particular race or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalized.”

A few years back, as medicines were getting too expensive and became unavailable to many, generic drugs were introduced. Generic medicine is a pharmaceutical drug that contains the same chemical substance as a drug that was originally protected by chemical patents. It is as good as the original.

And, that is how our very limited mind works. To comprehend something right in front of us, we have to distinguish, differentiate, compare and contrast down to its smallest detail. In the process, there is a great tendency to alienate and isolate ourselves from one another.

In the eyes of God, we are all His creations. We are all generic before Him.

According to John 14: 1-3:

Do not be worried and upset,” Jesus told them. “Believe in God and believe also in me. There are many rooms in my Father's house, and I am going to prepare a place for you. I would not tell you this if it were not so. And after I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to myself, so that you will be where I am.”

Jesus did not use any titles for others like “rabbi,” “teacher,” “father,” or “master.” As the second person in the Holy Trinity, Jesus also used the second person pronoun “you”.

And he is referring to all of us, without any exceptions.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


"MARISTAZA”

As we were a Spanish colony for centuries, a majority of our everyday words and family names were in Spanish also.

When I was still in the seminary, there was a seminarian ahead of me surnamed “Maristela.”

As we were also studying the Spanish language, I easily understood this as the contraction between the two english words “Marian” and “star” (stela): “Marian Star!” With the 12 stars surrounding her crown, we are very familiar with associating the Blessed Virgin Mary with stars. However, when I encountered the name “Maristaza,” I was not able to easily connect it with the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In our colloquial usage, the word taza means a bowl. For me, it seemed faraway from the Blessed Virgin Mary. However, upon further research, I found out that taza really means a cup, while the Spanish for bowl was cuenco, which I thought before was a Romanized version of a Chinese name.

"Maristaza" literally means “Marian Cup.” The image that immediately came to my mind was that of a trophy: an award given like the Mayor's Cup, the English Cup, the Golf Cup, and so on.

Going a bit further, “Maristaza” is sacredotal. In Matthew 26: 27-28 we read:

Then he took a cup, gave thanks to God, and gave it to them. “Drink it, all of you,” he said; this is my blood, which seals God's covenant, my blood poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

The cup is now the modern chalice. It is from the Latin word calix, which means “a mug or a goblet.” It is a large footed cup used in the liturgical eucharistic celebration for holding wine.

Maristaza!” The Blessed Virgin Mary is the cup! The chalice! Her womb held the Son of God, Jesus Christ! It was so clearly said in Luke 1: 31, “You will become pregnant and give birth to a Son, and you will name him Jesus.”

The word “Maristaza” is now so significant to me, as I daily celebrate the Holy Eucharist, using the chalice to consecrate the wine into the Blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

What was once a bit strange to me has now become close and familiar, as it directly defines me as a priest.

For without the chalice, my priesthood is just a title.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


THE BEST DRINK REWARD

Being in a very humid place, doing my regular nature trek makes me perspire a lot.  However, whenever I go by farmers in their field, with their bare hands and feet, they would climb a coconut tree to offer me some fresh coconut juice.

I thanked them and assured them of a great reward.  According to Matthew 10:42: “You can be sure that whoever gives even a drink of cold water to one of the least of these my follower because he is my follower, will certainly receive a reward.”

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


COINCIDENCE OR DIVINE PROVIDENCE

I hear my lover's voice. He comes running over the mountains, racing across the hills to me. (Song of Songs 2: 8).

One day, I happened to encounter a parishioner who was pulling a carabao along the same path I was also treading on. His job was to bring sold livestock to their buyers in nearby villages on foot.

Upon learning from him that he was on his way to a neighboring coastal village, which I had not yet reached on foot, I expressed my interest in walking with him.

Except to transport livestock on foot, the path leading to that village was seldom used. It was too steep and had sharp stones.

Upon reaching the village, the residents were surprised to see me there, as we only go there to celebrate the Holy Eucharistic sacrifice. More so, it turned out that the buyer of the carabao was a Christian family. Over some refreshments, I was able to talk with them.

The year 2020 is the Year of the Inter-religious Dialogue and of the Indigenous People. On that day, I killed two birds with one stone – I had my exercise and interacted with a Christian family.

Was it just another coincidence or Divine Providence?

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


OF FARMERS... AND ANTS

By the seventh day God finished what he had been doing and stopped working.  He blessed the seventh day and set it apart as a special day, because by that day he had completed his creation and stopped working.  (Genesis 2: 2-3).

Let us learn from our farmers... and ants.

I am assigned in the deep countryside of our Archdiocese where most parishioners were hard-scrabbled agricultural workers.

One Sunday, as I was doing my backwoods nature trek, I happened by some parishioners on their way to their farms. As a greeting, I asked them if they were going to plant anything that day, to which they responded that, in deference to the Sabbath day, farmers, in general, were doing some other activities around their farms but not planting.

As I continued on with my walk, I also noticed that the usual colony of ants going back and forth with their business on those foot paths was absent.

Perhaps,” I said to myself, “It is a Sunday, and they are also taking a rest and doing some other things besides gathering their food stuffs.”

Let us also make our Sundays according to the third commandment, “Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day...”

Let us make it holy by ceasing from our usual activities to let the creator of the sunshine shine through all the aspects of our lives. Let him bless this day so that by Monday our world will be filled up with energized men and women prepared to successfully tackle a week full of challenges.

Let us learn from our farmers... and ants.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS

I have the entire church to myself the entire time during the COVID-19 quarantine period, as everybody has been ordered to stay home, and the public celebration of the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist is suspended. I surmised that I had observed the greatest and the first commandment – “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22: 38, 37).

The quarantine period was a journey of spiritual solitude for me. To fight off boredom, aside from privately celebrating the Holy Eucharist, I filled up my time by repeatedly praying the rosary, my devotional novenas and the Liturgy of the Hours. I spent the rest of the time just staring at and trying to meditate before the Blessed Sacrament.

As I was going through all of these activities, there came a point when I asked myself if there is really someone listening to me at the other end of the line, or am I just talking with myself and to the cold concrete wall? As there was also a 24-hour curfew, I couldn't anymore do my habitual uphill walk to make me feel good for the whole day. However, while figuring out how to do my usual exercise, I discovered a several kilometer long, uneven nature trail which was situated far away from the general residential areas, and located at the back of the church property.

Putting on my walking shoes, morning and afternoon , I blazed my way through the nature trail and, while doing so on different days, I passed by parishioners of all age groups along the way. Some were planting, weeding, harvesting, gathering firewood, or tending livestock, and every time they would see me pass by, they would call out to me and offer some of the fresh coconuts that they had just harvested by climbing bare hands and feet up a nearby coconut tree.

Once, while sitting by on the grass perspiring and resting, I was surprised when a parishioner, who had observed me without my knowing it, said I appeared to be in deep thought – something I had time for, as I don't have a family of my own to feed and support. I was awakened from my reverie and was so glad for all the appreciation and love I felt coming from him and the others.

Despite their very toilsome labor on the land, our parishioners, in their own small, simple way, were following the second greatest commandment – “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39)

The quarantine period was spiritually enriching for me, as I vividly encountered the two greatest commandments – “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” – where is hinged the whole law and the prophets.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


THE DEBIT CARD

What has your debit card been up to lately?

On several occasions, while scrolling through the news headlines, I would often read about these very generous and philanthropic restaurant diners who would leave a substantial tip to serving staffers, who usually earn just below the minimum wage.  Sometimes this happened with such frequency that I would ask myself, “How newsworthy is it that this even gained the attention of these big news networks?” Do we need to broadcast being generous?

Talking about being generous, I also remember a memorable instance while living in another country.

At church, due to the limited parking spaces, private cars were usually all parked straight up in front of each other in a nearby cul de sac. After mass, as everyone were hurrying to leave, and the van I was driving was located at the tip of that cul de sac, I asked for the parishioners' car keys and volunteered to back out each of their cars from the drive away.

The van I was driving was the last one to leave, and, while doing so, a parishioner I didn't personally know appeared and gave me a long, white envelope, which I later discovered contained the equivalent amount of U.S. $300. Suspecting a counterfeit prank, I immediately took the bills to the bank the next day and was surprised that my deposit was processed and accepted.

In the present digital age, when everything is going online, and, more so, with the new normal caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, everything is going cashless. Everyone is paying by plastic – the debit card. I am pretty sure anyone transacting with a bank nowadays was issued one.

What is a debit card? It is a 2” x 4” hard plastic card linked to a bank account, which enables the holder to transfer money electronically from their bank account, while performing a transaction like withdrawing via an ATM, or making a purchase via a point of sale terminal.

There is a saying; Don't spend it all in one place! (But don't sit on it either).

Reflecting on the word DEBIT, it teaches us a very important lesson regarding wise living. It also teaches us about the CROSS.

The word is a contraction of the prefix DE which means to remove and BIT which means a small piece or amount of.

In a word, it reminds us to just live within, or even just below our means, by merely spending a bit from our debit cards. That way, we will still have some small amount for our neighbors who are in need, and for the church we belong to. As Matthew 22: 21 aptly said it, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

We might have worked hard for the money contained on our debit cards. However, in everything, there is a social and religious dimension. This is the CROSS. After providing for our own needs, we are also obliged to extend help to our neighbors in need and to the church to which we owe our faith.

So what has your debit card been up to lately?

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


ABS NORMAL

The coronavirus: as millions are already infected, more than a million are also recovering, and several thousands more are dying each day. With the endless barrage of depressing news about the recent pandemic, I came to feel a deep concern.

I found great relief when I communicated with my family, living as they do as nearby neighbors to the New York epicenter. So far, as of this writing, my three siblings, and a sister in law who is a frontline nurse, are all well and still going to work. Our aged mother is still avidly into her treadmill and stationery bike, doing whatever it was she learned at the senior center she went to during the normal times.

With the times we are in, home gyms now are the in-thing. Who still needs to go to those highly-branded and stylish gyms out there when one can just do it within the ease and comfort of one's abode? I, for one, have 25 pound weights beside my bed, where I can conveniently do hundreds of repetitions and sets to maintain my muscle mass in order to have that “abs normal” look.

Talking about normal: will we still go back to normal times?

The Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come. A second time he sent other servants, saying, “Tell those invited: 'Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast.'” (Matthew 22: 2-4).

That's the one sole question which formed in my mind when I read about the parable of the wedding feast – like the usual wedding feasts happening all around during the normal times.

With this pandemic, no public gatherings are allowed anymore. Therefore, all church activities are suspended. Churches are closed, and no eucharistic celebrations allowed, not even wedding rites. More so, no festive banquets are allowed and the restaurants are closed. At the most, only drive-through and home deliveries are available.

Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business.” (Matthew 22: 5).

With this pandemic, everyone is on home quarantine. Although there are some who turned to backyard gardening, many people are now working, learning and entertaining from home online. Worldwide unemployment is unprecedented. Many businesses might not survive to be around when normal times come back.

The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them...” (Matthew 22: 6).

As hospitals and grocery stores are now the domestic epicenters of the pandemic, many front-liners are being avoided and ignored. Imagine the biblical lepers of yore. Many expressed being bullied, harassed, or mistreated.

The king was enraged and sent his troops... and burned their city.” (Matthew 22: 7).

Without even giving loved ones the chance to view, much less bid good bye to those who died, victims of the Covid-19 virus are immediately wrapped and cremated.

But when the king came in to meet the guests he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. He said to him; 'My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?'” (Matthew 22:11-12).

Working from home and attending only virtual conferences, who still needs to dress to the nines? In fact, businesses are reporting far fewer sales for pants and down wear!

Many are invited, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22: 14).

As millions are already infected, more than a million are also recovering, and several thousands more are dying each day. Will we still go back to what we usually did before this pandemic?

Working, and working out, from home will give us those abs we all long for. Abs will, then, be normal. In a word or two, “abs normal.”

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


FLORITA

Along with the traditional Santa Cruzan, town and village patronal feast days for the Filipino Catholics, the month of May also brings with it the long-awaited and refreshing Agua de Mayo, the “Water of May” showers. And, after the searing heat of the summer months, it also brings Flores de Mayo, the “Flowers of May” the children pluck and offer freshly bloomed at the feet of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons. In the village parish where I am assigned, there is no practice of the Flores de Mayo. Flowers are just left to wilt under the sun.

To develop the love and devotion to our Blessed Virgin Mary early among the children, I, together with some parents, coordinated, organized and prepared for the practice of Flores de Mayo to begin in the month of May the next year.

The year 2020 took off fine and good. However, mid-March came, and with the COVID-19 pandemic looming over our lives, everything turned upside down. During the Enhanced Community Quarantine, where everyone was ordered to stay home 24/7, public liturgical celebrations were suspended. Our plan for the month of May would definitely not be pushed through.

So, was it a coincidence that in that month, the first funeral mass was held for a parishioner named Florita?*

Due to the quarantine, travel between towns was curtailed, and we had already ran out of hosts and mass wine. I even requested a nearby bakery to make for us some unleavened bread as a substitute. However, for the mass, the bereaved family offered just what we needed – hosts and a bottle of mass wine. They said that to be happy is to be grateful over simple and small things, and so we were.

In the midst of our darkness and depression brought about by the COVID-19 virus, I was joyful that Florita came home to the church as a symbolic offering to the Blessed Virgin Mary. She also brought us what we badly needed at that time – the host and wine for consecration that becomes the Holy Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

In death, Florita was still able to do her mission. Thanks and praise to God!

Fr. Allan S. Fenix

* Flor means flower. The suffix “ ita ” denotes smallness. “Florita” means small flower.


"I DEAL LAMELY WITH EVIL"

It's spring and summer time all over the world. But, thanks to COVID19, almost every area is on “Enhanced Community Quarantine,” and we're ordered to stay indoors and we cannot enjoy the beautiful weather outdoors. Children cannot go run at their usual playgrounds.

Speaking of which, it is said that idleness is the playground of the devil. That's why I see a certain convergence between the story of the man who had two sons and the parable of the lost son.

He came to the first and said, “Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.” He said in reply, “I will not,” but afterwards he changed his mind and went.

The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, “Yes sir,” but did not go. (Matthew 21:28-30).

The first son whom the man approached in the above scriptural passage was the older son who was out in the field. Take note of his customary reactions:

On his way back, when he came close to the house, he heard the music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him, “What is going on?”

Your brother has come back home,” the servant answered, “And your father has killed the prize calf, because he got him back safe and sound.”

The older brother was so angry that he would not go into the house; so his father came out and begged him to come in.

But he spoke back to his father, “Look, all these years I have worked for you like a slave, and I have never disobeyed your orders. What have you given me? Not even a goat for me to have a feast with my friends.” (Luke 15: 25-29).

A Turkish proverb says that the devil tempts all other men, but that idle men tempt the devil. The second son, whom the man approached, stayed home and remained idle. The devil entered his heart and mind and took advantage of his situation.

The younger one said to him, “Father, give me my share of the property now.”

So the man divided his property between his two sons. After a few days the younger son sold his part of the property and left home with the money. He went to a country far away, where he wasted his money in reckless living. He spent everything he had. (Luke 15:12-14).

While staying home 24/7 during the COVID19 Enhanced Community Quarantine, what good have we done around the house? Have we learned a new skill? Did we get caught up with our loved ones? Did we pray and strengthen our spirituality? Have we re-organized our closets and stockrooms?

Avoid being idle, as it is the ever expanding and widening playground of the devil. The word “idle” means nothing but, “I Deal Lamely with Evil."

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


STONES

According to the Peter Parker principle, "With great power comes great responsibility." *

When I first read this part in the parable of the tenants:

But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, "This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance."  They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. (Matthew 21:38-39).

What immediately came to my mind were the numerous instances of siblings fighting and killing each other over a piece of family estate left behind by their parents. I am certain most of us have known, or have heard of, similar cases. Greed. It eats us all up. When will it end?

Further on in the parable, when vintage time drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce. But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat, another they killed, and a third they stoned. Again, he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones, but they treated them in the same way. (Matthew 21:34-36).

In the bigger picture, this particular parable also brings to my mind the long raging territorial issue between our country, which is made up of several thousands islands, and our giant neighbor feverishly setting up shop in our sparsely inhabited atolls and islets, rich in precious minerals and natural resources, and thinly spread out in the West Philippine Sea.

Due to their superior military might, our country's sea assets cannot sufficiently cover the entire expanse of the area, so much so that fisher folks, out in their rickety boats trying to make an honest living, are constantly being harassed and driven out of the place.

Again, with great power comes great responsibility. The said issue with those sparsely inhabited atolls and islets, with protruding stones around them, might seem so political as to be out of our reach and concern. However, if we don't make a firm stand now, don't be surprised to wake up one day and clearly see the following scene happening in broad daylight:

"Therefore, I say to you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit." (Matthew 21:43).

It might be too painful to consider but all too true.

And what will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?

They answered him, “He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times.”

"The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes." (Matthew 21:40-41, 42).

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


* A proverb popularized by the Spider Man comic books written by Stan Lee.


ENVY-LOP

Mahatma Ghandi was rightly following in the same vein as Jesus in Matthew 20:16, “Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last,” when he said, “A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.”

In the time of the COVID19 pandemic, and the subsequent imposition of the “Enhanced Community Quarantine,” neither the people from the formal or informal sectors can anymore conveniently go to work, except those who can work from home. The president addressed the country and promised to extend financial assistance to the last and the of the poorest of our society, and this resulted in an uproar from the others belonging to the middle class, as they considered everyone, themselves included, to be in the same boat.

Listening to the president over the radio, I considered that he was rightly applying economics, as it is the study of how societies allocate scarce resources to produce valuable commodities, and then distribute them among different peoples.

Whenever I go to the bank to handle my transactions, I am fond of taking one of the complimentary envelopes that they have lying around. Looking at it, I asked myself, “If everything else is already online, from our social communications down to bill payments, who is still using an envelope?” When was the last time you bought or used one

At this point, I remember the parable of the landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, “Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.” When those who had started about five o'clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it grumbled against the landowner, saying, “These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day's burden and the heat.” (Matthew 20:1, 8-12).

The ruckus created by those workers, who worked much longer than those who merely worked for an hour, could have been avoided with the use of the humble envelope. For sure, everyone would have been happy to receive whatever was contained in his envelope. And so an envelope is not only a flat, paper container that can be sealed, and in which letters are sent, it is, as well, an “envy-lop” which crudely means to cut enviousness.

Like I said, with an with an envelope, everybody is happy. Whether we earn more or less, everybody is a winner. We might be last in the pay scale, but we will be first in the Kingdom of Heaven. For only happy persons go to heaven. In heaven, there are no sad individuals.

Only happy ones.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


VITAMIN C's

Nowadays, to describe the beauty or intensity of something, we are fond of using the scale of 1 to 10. In the past, in much more olden times, they used the scale of 1 to 7, but was the same idea.

There are two instances of this in the sacred scriptures:

1. “If our God, whom we serve, can save us from the white-hot furnace and from your hands, O king, may he save us! But even if he will not, know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the golden statue that you set up.” King Nebuchadnezzar's face became livid with utter rage against Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace to be heated SEVEN TIMES hotter than usual... (Daniel 3: 17-18,19)

2. Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as SEVEN times?” (Matthew 18:21).

In this age of the Coronavirus, when social distancing among individuals of a meter or two is enforced, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, or Confession has been totally suspended. Instead, the Pope gave a worldwide general absolution; a global blanket absolution, whereby everyone now can worthily receive communion even without going to confession, as long as they have contrition in their hearts. And whenever the enhanced community quarantine is lifted, and we are declared Covid 19 free, we are to go immediately and remit our sins in the said sacrament.

In our parish, only a few regularly come to mass, and fewer still line up to receive communion. When I went around talking and asking them why, I heard a mixture of alibis and excuses, ranging from their living in an unmarried state, taking artificial birth control, and undergoing abortion. However, with this new general absolution from the Pope, everyone felt an amnesty of sort. The generally monotonous atmosphere in our parish was changed into a jubilant one. There was life once again.

The general absolution of the Pope was Jesus' response to Peter. Jesus answered, “I say to you, not SEVEN times but seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18: 22).

The mercy and forgiveness of God is indeed boundless and out of this world.

During this time of the Covid 19, the World Health Organization encourages us to be healthy and have a strong immune system by taking a lot of Vitamin C. Our church has already the answer to our need in the true Vitamin C that comes to us from a long, long time ago: the Sacraments of Communion and Confession.

Come oneCome allThere are 53 Sundays in a year, plus all of the Holy Days of Obligation, and all of our other devotional and patronal feast days. Let us receive communion not only seven times, but SEVENTY-SEVEN times!

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


CHRIST CHICKEN PORRIDGE

Again, amen, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.” (Matthew 18:19)

With the subsequent imposition of the enhanced community quarantine due to the Coronavirus pandemic, communities around here quickly came to look like virtual ghost towns, even in the daytime. Everyone is ordered confined in their own houses. No one can get out to work, play, or just enjoy the onset of the nice summer weather. Masses were even suspended.

As most of our parishioners are day laborers, this is a hardship for them. And, for the past several days, the village council has merely distributed 2 kilos of rice to each family. After a few days of this kind of monotonous existence, some good-willed parishioners pooled what little resources they had, and expressed their plan of going around the village parish to hand out rice porridge with thinly sliced chicken meat mixed in.

One afternoon, as some of the parishioners were slowly pushing a two-wheeled wooden cart with the still steaming cauldron full of the rice porridge atop it, everyone was startled by the ringing of bells, and the sound of my voice over a bullhorn, calling every household in each zone to come out with a bowl and wait by the side of the street for a ration of porridge.

I cannot forget the image of a parishioner who, upon receiving her small share of porridge, immediately poured it into a plastic container, and slid it into a plastic bag and zipped it shut. When I asked why she was doing this, she responded that it was for her hungry family living in an area farther away, who were waiting for her. Hearing that, I just swallowed my pride. I was humbled.

The activity that day was not my idea. It was that of a few good-willed parishioners, and I saw that in the middle of their own scarcity and hunger, God was present. What happened was the Holy Eucharist, the Body of Christ as found in our blessed tabernacles, was being distributed around the hungry village, the Church, as the Body of Christ in the form of porridge.

As it is written, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20).

What our parishioners handed out that afternoon was not merely rice chicken porridge, but Christ Chicken Porridge.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


TRUE-TO-LIFE DRAMAS

Nowadays, as everything is found either online, on TV, or on mobile phones, who still listens to the AM (Amplitude Modulation) band of the radio

Call me a late-bloomer, but I am drawn to dramas.   Not to the soap operas, but the true-to-life ones similar to what transpired between Jesus and the Canaanite woman, when Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. (Matthew 15:21).

Being a public service by nature, I would often hear the following lines of pleas and responses:

And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “ Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.”... But the woman came and did him homage, saying, “Lord, help me.”... Please, Lord, even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” (Matthew 15: 22, 25, 27).

Tuning on the radio, one would often hear either a parent, a guardian, a sibling or even a child, who would usually ask, on behalf of their child, a relative, another sibling, or for their own parent, financial hand outs for their medical needs. Needs like buying medicines, undergoing an operation, a blood donation, or transportation fare to enable them to go home.

Then, for those who are incapacitated, there are those who advocate for them. They lawyer for those who cannot speak for themselves. His disciples came and asked him, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.” Matthew 15: 23).

The twist and climax of the drama is when the concerned good Samaritans – the “Jesuses”, start calling, offering both their small and big assistance, either as referrals, advice, financial help or in-kind donations.

It is a series, and the said drama ends after some time, when some of them come back to the radio station to thank or update everyone who extended a hand to them. Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And the woman's daughter was healed from that hour. (Matthew 15:28).

With no commercially-made up scripts, but purely in the raw, coming from the innermost hearts of our brothers and sisters, I make it a habit to listen to very interesting true-to-life dramas through your ever reliable A.M. Radio.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


TO GOD AND ONLY GOD

In the past, there was a teaching that outside the church there is no salvation, as Jesus Christ only founded one true church. No wonder then, in our old parish church, we had the remains of departed Catholics from well-to do families reburied on the premises.

When Jesus went into the region of Caesaria Philippi he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” (Matthew 16:13-14).

In a catechism class, a catechist asked a basic question: “How many persons are there in One God?”

A pupil, referring to the other icons standing by the altar, inquired, “Does it include the smaller ones?”

2020 was declared by the church as the Year of Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue and the Indigenous People.

In this celebration, we were being taught that the church does not have the sole monopoly of the truth and salvation. We need to have a dialogue, as good things necessary for salvation can also be found in other churches and beliefs.

With all the confusions happening within our church, in the past, when I first heard about the resurgence of the Born-Again Christians, what I initially appreciated about them was that they only believed in the Holy Bible and in God, period.

In our church, we have the great tradition of the veneration of the saints. All throughout the year, we celebrate a lot of feasts – too many to be counted.

In the Roman Curia, there is the Congregation for the Causes of Saints that oversees the complex process that leads to the canonization of saints.

Due to the exemplary examples they set when they were still alive, the canonized saints were given to us by the church as models to be imitated. They are our intermediaries who point us to the One God, Our Father!

We Catholics are very familiar with devotions. Whatever our spiritual or physical needs might be, a lot of us have a special place for a particular saint or saints in our hearts.

However, in everything, there is always the abuse. The legion of saints, instead of pointing us directly to Him, act as a cordon sanitaire.

There were a lot of times when so-called superstar saints, those who created for themselves a deep, homegrown following, eclipsed the proper place solely reserved for God, Our Father, in the expression of the faith.

Our faith should be solely to God and only God. All the others are merely extras that should never be a cordon sanitaire that might prevent us from only believing in God and only God.

Simon Peter hit the nail on the head. When he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” It was Simon Peter who said in reply, “ You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father."  (Matthew 16:15-17).

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


IN A NUTSHELL

Do they still require elementary school students to make book reports nowadays? In one of my elementary english classes, we were assigned a half-page book report weekly, and in reading Matthew 16: 21-27, I may have finally found the “how-to make a good book report” lesson that I was always looking for!

As I tend to be verbose, I always overwrote it, and we were not allowed to use the back portion of the paper. Our teacher reminded us that a book report is merely telling a story in just a few sentences. It is a summary. Only enough details are needed to convey the author's conclusions and moral lessons.

In one complex sentence, Jesus was able to summarize what the four evangelists wrote in their individual gospels. Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised. (Matthew 16:21).

In conclusion, Jesus then said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25).

And, as a moral lesson, he tasks us, “What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? (Matthew 16:26)

Likewise, the initial reaction of Jesus to Peter's response was very human:

Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.  He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are talking not as God does, but as human beings do.” (Matthew 16:22-23).

Many of us are fond of watching very suspenseful movies. I, for one, like to read everything on the subtitles to fully get the gist of the story. However, we do not want someone going ahead telling us about the twists and turns, climax and developments of the story we are watching.

In a nutshell, we just learned something wonderful today! How to do a good book report and how to relax and watch a movie.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


ON WATER

During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them, walking on the sea.” (Matthew 14: 25).

Am I watching another superhero movie? I remember that in one of the Superman films, one of his extraterrestrial antagonists, without any struggle, crossed a lake without getting wet, as he did it above the water.

During the winter time, on the east coast of the United States, though it is not allowed, I saw how both adults and children shouted with glee, as they went about running, and playing, on the frozen, artificial lakes dotting the area.

However, as the season warmed up, there were a lot of cases where the ice eventually cracked, submerging them in the still freezing cold water, and giving them hypothermia. Some nearly drowned.

The disciples, when they were still with Jesus, were still under formation. Everything was new to them. They were amateurs, not fully comprehending, and just figuring out everything that was going on around them.

Two scriptural incidents proved it:

  1. The apostles returned and met with Jesus, and told him all they had done and taught. There were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his disciples didn't even have time to eat. So he said to them, “Let us go off by ourselves to some place where we will be alone and you can rest a while.” So they started out in a boat by themselves to a lonely place. (Mark 6: 30-32).

In the passage where Jesus heals a boy with an evil spirit:

  1. After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn't we drive the spirit out?”

    Only prayer can drive this kind out,” answered Jesus, “nothing else can.” (Mark 9: 28-29).

At this point, what comes to mind is our fondness for printing and reading messages on T-Shirts, and one that I liked the most, that stayed with me the most, was the following: “Seven days without prayer makes One weak!”

Indeed, without a sufficient amount of prayer in our lives, we will be under the weather: unfit, unwell, and indisposed. Like the disciples, we need to accept and receive Jesus Christ into our lives!

When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear. At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” (Mark 14: 26-27).

Or like Peter:

Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.”

Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14: 28-31).

Talking further about walking on water, and messages printed on T-Shirts, let us continually pray and not be weak and under the weather.

As Luke 10: 17, 19-20 says:

The seventy-two men came back in great joy. 'Lord,' they said, 'even the demons obeyed us when we gave them a command in your name!'”

Listen! I have given you authority, so that you can WALK on snakes and scorpions and overcome all the power of the Enemy, and nothing will hurt you. But don't be glad because the evil spirits obey you; rather be glad because your names are WRITTEN in heaven.”

To top it off, after they got into the boat, the wind died down:

Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14: 32-33).

Seven days with PRAYER makes one Christ-like and always above and atop of everything. It is a FUN WALK with Jesus Christ.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


FUN RUNS/WALKS

To make my day more upbeat, after celebrating the mass in the morning, it is my habit to go and walk up hill to experience the endorphin showers in my brain.

So, reading Matthew 14:13, “When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns.  A program that used to air on cable TV titled, “The Start of Something Big” came to mind.

For me, this was an apt inspiration for the feverish activity that I just used to read about, but which now has caught fire all over the world, even in our churches. Fun Runs and Fun Walks!

A Fun Run, or Fun Walk, is a friendly race that involves either road running or cross country running, with participants taking part for their own enjoyment rather than competition.

It is usually held to raise funds for a charity with sponsors providing the revenue to cover organizational costs.

If it takes a village to raise a child, it is also the same way in burying the dead. With the death of John the Baptist, Jesus and his disciples certainly need some funds to come up with a decent burial for him.

So, here came the crowds to give their condolences and resources to help defray John the Baptist's burial needs. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick. (Matthew 14:14).

While the crowds were enjoying their time in the company of Jesus, as the concept was a novelty to the disciples, they didn't have any idea how to organize or manage the crowds.

When it was evening the disciples approached him and said, “This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.”

Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.” (Matthew 14: 15,17).

In our church activities, everything starts with the celebration of the Holy Eucharist and success is more than half way:

He said to them, “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves... Bring them here to me,” and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. (Matthew 14: 16, 18-19).

Indeed, there is no lack of it. In fact, there is even an excess:

They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over – twelve wicker baskets full. Those who ate were about five thousand men, not counting women and children. (Matthew 14: 20-21).

Fun Runs and Fun Walks with Jesus. The giving of our time, talents and treasures results in more and more, and not less and less.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


GOD'S WHEEL

At that time Jesus exclaimed: “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones.” (Matthew 11: 25).

I cannot sleep well lately. Something is bothering me a lot.

Is there really such a thing as God's will? In destiny? Is the phrase, “It is God's will,” just a euphemism for want of more right words to say?

I started asking these questions when one day, while trying to take a nap on the long bus ride home. It abruptly slowed down, and passengers started to crowd on the running boards.

Out of curiosity, I also turned my head and saw, right before my own eyes, the kind of stuff that I used to see in action movies, on the evening news, or would read about in the tabloids and cheap novels. It was happening right here in the quiet city where I grew up! It was a wild car chase and shooting, that ended up with a person in a white shirt dead on the ground!

For the rest of the trip, I don't about other passengers, but as for me, I was transfixed watching the videos being shown onboard. The gory images of what I witnessed earlier keept going through my mind.

I thought of the dead person lying flat on the ground...

Someone's grandchild, child, or sibling perhaps,” I thought. “Maybe a spouse or parent. A relative, friend or neighbor who was gone forever. What words will they put on the person's headstone?” I wondered. “Will they hang a picture of that person on their wall?” I asked myself further, “What kind of environment did he come from? What early influences, books, movies, and t.v. programs gave this person the idea to involve himself in such an activity that would end up in this horrendous manner?”

Can we tell the family of the dead person that it was God's will? Was that person really destined to end up that way, similar to what happened to one of our peacefully retired seniors, who was stabbed multiple times by a house companion? How about the other “riding in tandem” murders transpiring all over our country?

So far, I cannot put my finger on any reasons why all of these things are happening. Were they merely in the wrong place at the wrong time?

Lately, I am really losing a lot of sleep. I spend a lot of time before the Blessed Sacrament asking all of these questions. Are these the works of a loving God or a vengeful devil

Is life like a wheel that just keeps on turning, and turning, and turning... until, one day, it just happens to be your turn?

To achieve peace within, I now rest my case. I raised up everything to God, and I look forward to a good restful sleep for now and from hereon.

Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.” (Matthew 11: 26-27).

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


BOBBING

But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirty fold.” (Matthew 13: 8)

Now I understand why many of our parishioners are so relaxed. And always come to our activities late!

For many of them, who are farmers, their sense of time is not measured in terms of minutes, hours, days, or even weeks, but months. Some times, there are consequences. There was the El Nino phenomenon in our area one year, and we hardly saw any root crops available in the market – or prepared on our tables!

However, later, when the rains started to fall, I was happy to see village parishioners, offering a basket full of their bountiful harvest during one of our scheduled masses. As they did, I also immediately boiled and enjoyed some upon arriving home!

While consuming the boiled root crop, I reflected on how the consistent rainfall in the last few months had brought back the richness of the soil, enabling it to give us the root crops we all sorely missed on our tables. And I thought about how it had taken 6 long months from planting, to harvesting, and up until the time it reached our plates.

This is really a test of endurance and patience for us earth people! In science, we learn that on the other known existing planets in our galaxy, there is no other earth-like atmosphere to support and sustain life. Not just human life, but as well the flora and fauna.

I remember a time here, when cruising aboard a motorized boat, I saw the head of turtle bobbing on the sea.

Wow!” I thought. “This creature was here long, long before all of us! And also the natural alarm clock that wakes me up very early morning – the incessant chirpings of the birds by my window! Indeed, this earth we live on is so rich! Anything we plant on it grows in abundance! It bobs and just keeps on bobbing on the sea of life!”

As Genesis 1: 25 says, “So God made them all, and he was pleased with what he saw.”

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


BY WORD OF MOUTH

.... Whoever has ears ought to hear. ” (Matthew 13: 43)

To come to know more our parishioners, I decided to distribute, by myself, the weekly tithe zip pouches to every household.

As I was doing this in one of the zones, and talking with them about their concerns, I heard about the pig pen of one of our main benefactors, who lives in another zone. In the area where they lived, it was a great headache. For a long time now, they had smelled its stench from the moment they woke up until they went to sleep.

Most people living in these villages come from the “same womb.” They are mostly related. So to smooth mutual relationships, they just ignored trivial issues cropping up among them every now and then. However, as the smell from the pig pen was getting out of hand, they tried to bring the matter to the village head, who was also a relative to the family concerned. So, no action was taken. The issue was swept under the rug.

At first, upon knowing the issue bothering them, I was reluctant to inform our friend benefactor for fear of losing his financial support. Nevertheless, I gathered up all my courage and told him anyway, thinking that I could come up with a way to recoup the regular financial support that we would lose if he didn't receive well what I was telling him.

Thanks be to God! When I talked with our friend benefactor about it, he listened to me and did something positive about it!

As it happened, that was during the ASF- African Swine Fever epidemic, which was spreading through our region then. The family decided to stop raising, and discontinue keeping, pigs in the center of that thriving neighborhood.

All is well that ends well.

Father Allan S. Fenix


CHURCH OF THE RICH

Jesus said to his disciples:“The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells ALL that he has and buys that field. Again, the Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells ALL that he has and buys it.” (Matthew 13: 44-46).

While our church is often characterized as the “Church of the Poor,” for me, it is, rather, the Church of the Rich. Why is that so?

Many fast-food joints, to beat the stiff market competition, go the way of the “all you can eat” buffet concept. They appear as though offering a great value for the money. They offer unlimited rice, or bottomless soda.

This is an example of reverse psychology, which is the principle or practice of subtly encouraging a behavior or belief by advocating its opposite.

In truth and in fact, however famished or thirsty we feel, how many cups of rice or glasses of soda can we consume? We are humans with very limited capacity for food and drink. We are that poor.

On the other hand, the Church is for the rich, as it is for those who can afford to offer the whole of themselves, without reserve, to gain eternal life.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you want to come with me, you must forget yourself, carry your cross, and follow me. For if you want to save your own life, you will lose it; but if you lose your life for my sake, you will find it. (Matthew 16: 24-25).

Who can take this offer? Are you rich enough or poor?

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


HYBRID CROSS

I found the right hobby. After living as one for several years now, I guess the radio was invented with an eye towards celibates like me.

The experience is so intimate and personal. It is the best talking bed-mate. It trains one to be a good listener.

Jesus said to his apostles: “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me...” (Matthew 10: 37).

I will be honest. I am not ashamed to admit it that I am guilty of this statement.

Right now, I am assigned at the farthest out point of the world, with a radio as my sole companion. Whenever I wake up in the middle of the night with the radio on besides me, I still pine for our long dead father, our aging mother living somewhere else, and my dearly beloved siblings. I love them and miss them in my heart, of course.

Isn't it he himself who said it? If we say we love God, but hate others, we are liars. For we cannot love God, whom we have not seen, if we do not love others, whom we have seen. (1 John 4: 20)

...and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10: 38).

As a celibate, the presbyterium and the community we are in might be considered a family. However, in the end, it, too, is artificial and impersonal, and I find myself all alone, with the carnal family I came from the only thing I really have with me in my heart.

I heard that in the west, people reaching a certain age, are being taught independence by living out separate from their own family. They have to start working hard to fend for themselves. However, as Pacific Islanders, our tendency is to live in multi-generational households, where we depend upon and find support in each other.

With this kind of culture we find ourselves in, living alone is uncalled for. Someone, a sacristan, a helper, a cook or a groundskeeper is always around living with us in the rectory.

Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10: 39).

Looking at it front and center, this is really the full package of life we accepted during our ordination.

Amen and so be it. Whether finding or losing it, we will eventually lose it all. With open arms, let me accept my cross and follow Christ with, of course, a radio thrown in.

That's the hybrid cross.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


MARY II

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior...

And it happened again!

In my past reflection titled “Mary,” I related how our Blessed Virgin Mary, in her own simple way, revealed herself to me and our parishioners. Was it merely just a coincidence or a miracle?

As I've shared before, every afternoon in our parish, we bring around the icon of our patroness virgin to two households.

There was one household wherein lives an old bachelor who, lately, has been coming up with all kinds of alibis and excuses on why he cannot host her at his home. He was so macho. He would rather be seen tending to his fighting cocks or doing something in his backyard, than be seen joining us in praying the rosary before the patroness virgin. One day, as we already visited all the households in the area, I pressured him to accept and receive our patroness for a night.

The next day, I was called to help hear confessions at a mega-classified high school with thousands of students. So, I was away the whole day and got home when it was late and dark.

The next day, when I invited the old man to go with us in transferring our patroness virgin, I was surprised when he readily acquiesced. He even stayed over to pray the rosary with us. After praying the rosary, as we were on our way out the door, I thanked him wholeheartedly for coming with us.

As I was walking on the street and stopped by the corner to converse with some parishioners congregating there, they told me that the person who just went with us and prayed the rosary was celebrating his birthday on that day.

Really? This was the third time that it happened that our patroness virgin stayed behind for another night just to wait for the birthday of one of her children.

A mere coincidence or a miracle?

...for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed.” (Luke 1: 46-48).

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


BREAD AND BOOK

With money in my pocket, I went to the Bread and Pastry section of our local grocery store and viewed breads and cakes of all kinds, varieties, shapes, sizes and prices, displayed in a wide array in enclosed glass cabinets.

While looking at them, I got confused as to what to choose and buy.

Confronted with all kinds of bread in that grocery store, I applied what Francis Bacon said in his essay “Of Studies,” whereby he makes a distinction among books:

Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested. That is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few are to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.

It is the same way with breads. Some are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and only the Body of Christ, the Bread of Life, is to be chewed and digested.

Why, for what reasons?

Jesus, himself, explained it to us in 6 ways

1. “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” (John 6: 51).

2. “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” (John 6: 53).

3. “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.” (John 6: 54).

4. “For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.” (John 6: 55).

5. “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” (John 6: 56).

6. “Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.” (John 6: 57).

If we become what we read, we will also be whatever we eat. Eat the spiritually healthy food. Let us continually eat and drink the living Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, Our Lord.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


MOVE IT! MOVE IT!

Jesus said to the Twelve: “Fear no one. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.” (Matthew 10: 26-27).

In our parish, except for one or two, not a lot have a devotion to weekday masses. It is the same way with our practice of bringing the icon of our virgin patroness to households every afternoon. And, also, with programs and activities we put on for our parishioners.

Heeding what Jesus said to the Twelve, with or without anyone present or with or without any mass intention, as a personal devotion, I celebrate the Holy Eucharist by myself.

Though households seem not to be interested in accepting her, or respond with lukewarmness to our proposed programs and activities, in my heart, hoping for the best that these devotions might come to mean something for our parishioners, I nevertheless motivate and push myself to pray the rosary devoutly and push through with the programs and activities so as to not be affected by the environment of apathy we find ourselves in.

That also goes the same way with whatever we do in the other aspects of our lives, whether exercising up and down a hill, eating healthy, sleeping well, reading, studying, cleaning the surroundings, or planting seeds and hoping for something good to eventually come out of it. We go on, push through and move it, move it!

Remember what Jesus said: “Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.”

And, what is there to be afraid of? Here is some health advice: “And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” (Matthew 10: 32,28).

Then, brothers and sisters, move it, move it!

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


THE TREE OF THE THREE

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. (John 3:16).

Whenever I meditate, I always start with the sign of the cross. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen

In the first few minutes, there is a traffic jam crowding my imagination.

So, when I start reflecting on the Father, the spontaneous reactions of most of the fathers in our parish whenever we come approaching their house bearing the icon of our Virgin patroness come to mind.  They usually go out of the house to attend to their fighting cocks, feed their domestic animals, smoke, drink with their buddies...  It is as if they are sending the message that they are too good to pray the rosary with us.

In reflecting upon the Son, I pity the children who are clearly witnessing all of this from their dear parents, and are starting to form a certain future culture and lifestyle based on it.

And when I ponder the Holy Spirit, I see the bottles of cheap liquor bought from the corner store, and which wreak havoc financially, emotionally, spiritually and physically to many of our families. We have many alcohol related deaths here in our place.

However, after a few more minutes pass, and when I get peacefully settled down, everything changes in my meditation.

The figure of a very large tree emerges in my mind.

The root is the Father. He represents the self-sacrificing parents who forget all else, and work themselves to the bone, just to put something on the table and provide for their family's needs.

The trunk is the Son.  He is the children who go to school and study hard to make their parents proud of them.

And the Holy Spirit is the branches: the life force that moves us to go on working well no matter what will be the outcome. It pushes us to do our best, and trust that God will do the rest.

The Holy Spirit is the one percent inspiration and the ninety nine percent perspiration equation in our lives.

There. I just had a very nice meditation experience with the Holy Spirit.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix

DIVORCE

So they are no longer two, but one. No human being must separate, then, what God has joined together.” (Matthew 19: 6).

Most recently, with the legalization of divorce in our country, much has been said and heard on air, on paper and online.

In a nutshell, anyone considering going through it would first do well to look and meditate on the word itself, as it expresses a very sinister message.

Divorce is nothing but the...

Devil's

Initiatives to

Void marriage vows,

Orphan, and

Rip-off

Children's

Egos.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


BREATH OF PEACE

As I walk by street corners, I pass a number of strong looking youngsters smoking and puffing away their precious health.

On the other hand, in worried and full hospital wards, I see many patients using oxygen cylinders, and other life-sustaining machines, fighting and running after their next breath; their lives.

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you,” and when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20: 21-22).

Everyone of us, not only the heavy smokers or respiratory patients in intensive care units, need badly the breath of the Holy Spirit. Otherwise, there would be no peace in our lives.

Without it, we fill our lives with all matter of things not conducive to our fragile mental, emotional, spiritual and physical well-being like negatives, sarcasm, worries, and other toxic stuff inimical to its created constitutions.

We really need the peace that the breath of the Holy Spirit brings us. In our real lives, it is the oxygen that should be constant in the human brain.

Remember the so-called cerebral hypoxia, where the human brain can suffer permanent damage after only 4 minutes without oxygen supply, and death will ensue as soon as 4 to 6 minutes later.

Have you ever experienced running on a flat tire? In our mobile lives, we need the peace brought by the breath of the Holy Spirit; the air to keep our tires inflated to help us reach our intended destinations. Otherwise, we will be like those respiratory patients running for their next breath, or as a vehicle running on a flat tire, which is only able to support the weight of the vehicle for a short distance, while hoping to find a repair shop.

We need the peace brought by the breath of the Holy Spirit. It enables us to sleep soundly, eat heartily, work effectively, and go about our daily lives free from the unobtrusive influence of the evil forces in our surroundings. It keeps these evil forces from trying to get hold of our peaceful mental, emotional, spiritual and physical states.

With the peace brought by the breath of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we will not be fearful as the disciples were on the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, for fear of the Jews. But, like them, we will rejoice when we see the Lord showing us his hands and his side. (John 20: 19-20).

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 20: 22).

We cannot give what we do not have. If we have the peace brought about by the breath of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, we will be able to successfully bring it and plant it also in the hearts of others. With this, definitely, there would be our long sought after world peace.

So, now, we all pray...

Come, Holy Spirit, I need you

Come, sweet Spirit, I pray.

Come in your strength and your power

Come in your own gentle way.

Come as a rest to the weary

Come as a balm to the sore

Come, Lord, as strength to my weakness

Fill me with joy evermore.

Come like a spring in the desert

Come to the withered of soul

Lord, let your sweet healing power

Touch me and make me whole.

Amen.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


MIND AND BODY

Lately, I heard on the news that a number of seminarians have been found dead in their rooms. This was something unheard of during our time inside the seminary.

With that news, a Latin phrase came to mind: Mens sana in corpore sano, which means “a healthy mind in a healthy body.”

The phrase is widely used in sporting and educational contexts to express the theory that physical exercise is an important and essential part of mental and psychological well-being.

During the 3-day seminary orientation program, I can still clearly remember well the words of the rector, as he told us applicants that a priest serving God in his vineyard should be healthy and strong. Therefore, according to him, he would throw out sickly and weak seminarians. For this reason, during our formation years, we were provided both indoor and outdoor sporting equipment.

With all these things in mind, and while reading the Bible, a question popped up inside my head. Aside from being a favorite go-to place, what could be the other reasons why Jesus was, on several occasions, either found with his disciples up atop a mountain, or he was referring to it in his teachings?

Here are some instances of what I am referring to:

1. When he saw the crowds, Jesus went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. (Matthew 5: 1).

2. Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain... (Matthew 4: 8).

3. Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. (Matthew 17: 1).

4. Jesus said to her, “Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.” (John 4: 21).

5. There was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. (John 5: 1).

6. But when his brothers had gone up to the feast, he himself also went up, not openly but as it were in secret. (John 7: 10).

7. Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. (John 8: 1).


8. When the soldiers of the governor came to a place called Golgotha – which means Place of the Skull – ...they gave Jesus wine to drink mixed with gall... (Matthew 27: 33-34).

9. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. (John 6: 3).

10. The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. (Matthew 28: 16).

From my own reflections, calling to mind the words we heard from our former minor seminary rector during our 3-day orientation program, the mission of the disciples was in no way easy. It was not for the fainthearted.

The mission was:

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28: 19-20).

And, if that is not hard enough...

Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way... Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you...Do not move about from one house to another. Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you cure the sick in it and say to them, “The Kingdom of God is at hand for you.” (Luke 10: 3-4, 7-8)

Jesus would like his disciples to be a hardy lot. He wants them to be strong in mind and body.

The best way to strengthen and improve one's stamina and endurance is the climb uphill to atop a mountain. The mountain was a natural gym for Jesus and his disciples.

Nowadays, either through their own fault or no fault of their own; maybe due to our modern lifestyles, a lot of people are dying younger and younger.

God does not will it. As the second century St. Irenaeus said it: “The glory of God is a person fully alive.”

Get up now! Strap on those sneakers! WalkClimb that hill! Be on top of your game

Remember, Mens sana in corpore sano – a healthy mind in a healthy body.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


THE FREE HOUSING PLAN

Having a physical body to care for makes it the one “big ticket” item that every person has, and each one has to decide how and where to house it.

If one does not have the entire amount of money saved to purchase a new house, with all the extra charges and high interest rates, it is a lifetime of bank payments, with even the risk of repossession if one ever defaults on the contract.

During the temptation in the desert, the devil was so clueless in using it as a lure to bait Jesus. He was merely wasting time, as he is wont to do when... “Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.” (Matthew 4: 8-9).

Jesus, human and divine as he was, did not need a bit of it. As Jesus said to his disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself so that where I am you also may be.” (John 14: 1-3).

Just as Jesus is offered it to his disciples, so he also does to us: The Free Housing Plan.

This is the working address of the Free housing plan: “Where I am going you know the way... I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14: 4,6).

The Jesus Highway. To be more specific regarding its location, Jesus further said, “You belong to this world here below, but I come from above. You are from this world, but I am not from this world.” (John 8: 23).

The TRUTH housing plan. If Jesus is the Way to the Free Housing Plan, the owner is God: the Truth. “I have much to say about you, much to condemn you for. The one who sent me, however, is TRUTHFUL and I tell the world only what I have heard from him.” (John 8: 26).

Moreover, the Free Housing Plan is free in the fullest sense of the word, as the Truth sets us free. So Jesus said to those who believed in him, “If you obey my teaching, you are really my disciples; you will know the TRUTH, and the TRUTH will set you FREE.” (John 8: 31-32).

Now, all the right divine infrastructures are in place. There is the Jesus Highway. The free TRUTH housing plan. At last, to fill it all up, there is LIFE – the Holy Spirit.

When the day of Pentecost came, all the believers were gathered together in ONE PLACE. Suddenly there was a noise from the sky which sounded like a strong wind blowing, and it FILLED the WHOLE HOUSE where they were SITTING. Then they saw what looked like tongues of fire which spread out and touched each person there. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to talk in other languages, as the Spirit enabled them to speak. (Acts 2: 2-4).

Thats it. Our heavenly residence is totally complete. There is the good working Jesus Highway. The free TRUTH housing plan. And, most of all, there is the LIFE to fill it all up.

And, we can find it all just in ONE: in Jesus who said, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. (John 14: 6).

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


BALIKBAYAN BOX*

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, (John 14: 16).

In our country, we are so creative. We find ways to go through our difficulties and hardships with dignity, at least psychologically.

Whenever the “ber” months – September, October, November, December begin, radio stations and malls start playing Christmas songs, and in houses Christmas decors are hung, and we start a countdown to Christmas Day – December 25.

No wonder, internationally, we earned the title as having one with the longest Christmas celebrations.

Christmas Day is the happiest day for us Catholics, as it is not only the birth of our Savior, Jesus, but also we know that loved ones from afar will be coming home on that day for a visit, with some bearing our longed-for promised gifts. Another day. Another reason to live longer.

It was the same feelings we siblings experienced whenever a sibling living and working overseas would send us a balikbayan box. The very day it was picked up from their side we would start counting down to its arrival and delivery.

We were all excited to see the promised contents in the box. Another day. Another reason to live longer.

I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. (John 14: 18).

Back then, coming from a large family and all of us still of school age, we had to stretch out everything to last a little bit longer; the money and anything that our parents sent to us from the province.

The coming and arrival of the box full of food and other household necessities was a great addition. A big help. A boost to our dwindling pantry supplies.

In this small and little way, though we lived faraway from our parents, to attend school in the city, we never felt like orphans, nor abandoned.

Jesus promised us a different “ balikbayan box” – an Advocate, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But, you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you. (John 14: 17).

And, finally, on the day of its delivery, the contracted trucking company would usually make a call to the addressee to be assured someone is around home to receive it, as they take pictures as evidence of receipt to the sender.

The Advocate that Jesus is telling his disciples of is he, himself – the Holy Spirit; God the creator, and Jesus the Savior, in whom we believe in as One. He is in us.

On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.” (John 14: 20-21).

In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. (John 14: 19).

Another day. Another reason to live longer.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix

*Balikbayan Box- literally, “ repatriate box” is a corrugated box containing items sent by overseas Filipinos known as “balikbayans”.


TO SHEEP HEROD

I read that, whenever we feel sad and find ourselves in our low moments, we need to start recalling happy events In our lives and, sooner than later, we are going to feel light, fresh and happy.

But whoever enters the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice.

So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep...I am the gate, whoever enters through me will be saved, and he will come in and go out and find pasture...I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly. (John 10: 2-4, 7, 9-10).

For me, every time I read the scriptural narrative on the Good Shepherd, Jesus is but taking us back to the happiest moment in the world – the first Christmas, when the people whom he first encountered aside from his parents, Joseph and Mary, were the shepherds. The image of the shepherds was forever embedded and imprinted in his memory.

When the angels went away from them back into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Lets go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and saw the baby lying in the manger. When the shepherds saw him, they told them what the angel had said about the child. All who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said. (Luke 2:15-20).

If the shepherds in the narrative were the protagonists, King Herod, from the very start, was the antagonist. And everything was so glaring in all that he thought and did.

A. He does not want to go through the hard way. But, instead, the easy way.

When King Herod heard about this, he was very upset, and so was everyone else in Jerusalem... So Herod called the visitors from the East to a secret meeting and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, with the instructions; “Go and make a careful search for the child; and when you find him, let me know, so that I too may go and worship him.” (Matthew 2: 3, 7-8).

Regarding that, Jesus said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber.” (John 10:1).

B. But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them... (John 10: 5, 8).

Then they returned to their country by another road, since God had warned them in a dream not to go back to Herod. (Matthew 2: 12).

C. When Herod realized that the visitors from the East had tricked him, he was furious. He gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its neighborhood who were two years old and younger... (Matthew 2: 16).

Finally, Jesus said; A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy... (John 10: 10).

So that you may become the children of your Father in heaven. For he makes his sun to shine on bad and good people alike, and gives rain to those who do good and to those who do evil. (Matthew 5: 45).

Jesus, the good shepherd, loves everyone without exception. He offers his salvation to everyone, including Herod.

The title itself that he calls himself, SHEPHERD, means to SHEEP HEROD.

Despite everything, Herod is a child of God. He wants to save him, too.

All of us are also Herods, in our small and big ways, who need Jesus, the Good Shepherd.

How many countless times have we exchanged our precious souls to the devil for a pittance of power and material wealth – the passing pleasures of the world.

The devil has blindfolded, tied and bound us that we could not anymore recognize and make distinctions as to who is our father, mother, siblings, spouse, children, neighbors, or friends. Everyone of them has became a subject of our lust for power and material wealth. And it also goes the same way with our use of words, days and time.

We are all Herods, and we need a shepherd who enters through the gate, calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out. He walks ahead of us, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice.

Jesus is the gate for the sheep. Whoever enters through him will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. He came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.

With him, as our Good Shepherd, what more do we want?

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


PEACE and GLORY

From the books of the New Testament, I found two sets of people who encountered God in different ways.

First, there were the shepherds who were in the right place at the right time in the crossroads of history:

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and saw the baby lying in the manger. (Luke 2: 16).

It also went the same way with the woman at the well:

Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well. It was about noon. A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (John 4: 6-7).

The second group was composed of the man born blind:

As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth. He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes... (John 9: 1,6)

Then, there is Mary Magdalene:

After Jesus rose from death, early on Sunday, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had driven out seven demons. (Mark 16: 9).

Then, they all responded in the same manner:

When the shepherds saw him, they told them what the angel had said about the child. (Luke 2: 17).

Then the woman left her water jar, went back to the town, and said to the people there. “Come and see the man who told me everything I have ever done. Could he be the Messiah?” (John 4: 28-29).

So they said to the blind man again, “What do you have to say about him, since he opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.” John 9: 17

She [Mary Magdalene] went and told his companions. They were mourning and crying. (Mark 16: 10)

At the concluding rite of the mass, the celebrant says, “Go in peace, glorify the Lord by your life.”

Like the shepherds, who were raised as Jews, so many of us are cradle Catholics. We were born into the Catholic family. We received the faith. It was handed on to us in full. Going to mass on a Sunday is a must. Praying the rosary before the Sacred Heart on Fridays was another practice. Some even attended Catholic schools.

Or, some others, like the woman at the well, received their faith through a friend's invitation, Today, she would join a pilgrimage or a faith seminar...

Or like the man born blind and Mary Magdalene, in gratefulness for a physical and spiritual healing, there are those who become ardent devotees, daily mass-goers, Perpetual Eucharistic adorers, catechists, or preachers.

God is not a material thing to be owned personally. He would go stale and bad. Rather, God is a perpetually fresh God, meant to be shared with others. Only then will there be a genuine encounter between God and we, his creatures.

Of these two sets of people, with whom do we identify ourselves, and why?

Please start sharing. Only then will we be truly in peace and glorify the Lord with our life.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


ETCHINGS

So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (John 20: 25).

The human body holds the history of our lives. Through the scars, scrapes, cuts, bone deformations – the etchings, it shows what the person has been through.

In our parish, it is only I who own a skateboard. So, whenever I use it on a nearby slope, parishioners would usually watch me. However, there are some parents who discouraged their children from expressing an interest in learning how to use it, as they don't want to see them slide, fall or get hurt. For the same reason, there are even those who don't encourage their children to learn how to ride a bicycle. I tell them that getting scraped from the pavement while learning how to skateboard, or ride a bicycle, is part of life – a part of growing up. It only means one has really lived.

In academia, research papers bearing a number of footnotes on their pages reveal that the work was thoroughly studied and consulted primary, secondary and tertiary sources. It is the same way with books with written side notes on their pages. It shows how thoroughly it was critically read.

They put a purple robe on Jesus, made a crown out of thorny branches, and put it on his head.” (Mark 15: 17).

They beat him over the head with a stick...” (Mark 15: 19).

They crucified him...” (Matthew 27: 35)

One of the soldiers, however, plunged his spear into Jesus' side, and at once blood and water poured out.” (John 19: 34).

Jesus gave us his body for our salvation. He was not reluctant to do so. It simply meant that, at 33 years of age, he had lived a full life. He was whipped and wounded. Crucified and died. However, in the end, rose again from the dead.

May we never be afraid and selfish in sharing our bodies for the salvation of others. In doing so, for sure, we are going to experience a lot of both physical and spiritual scars, cuts, wounds, deformities and, in the extreme, even die in the process – either as a hero or a martyr – the making of the so-called etchings.

Don't doubt anymore. Jesus has assured us... “I am the resurrection and the life, whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11: 25-26).

... if you believe you will see the glory of God.” (John 11: 40).

So far, how have we lived our livesDid we just live selfishly for ourselves, playing it safe in life? Did we ever venture out to go through the etchings – scrapes, cuts, wounds, deformities and, may God forbid it, even death at the altar of heroism and martyrdom.

Are you now convinced?” Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” (John 20: 29).

Father Allan S. Fenix


BROKEN

That very day, the first day of the week, two of Jesus' disciples were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus... (Luke 24: 13).

What was the farthest distance that you have walked in your life

For sure, as schoolchildren still of playing age, a lot of us, perhaps even all, walked everywhere. However, as we grew up, with all the conveniences of public transport available all around us, and present just about everywhere, we walked much less.  Now, many of us have their own automobiles, and we seldom use our strong feet and legs anymore.

According to fitness experts, walking is the best and cheapest form of exercise. However, many see it differently. Some see it as a part of their economic hardships. A punishment. It's a pitiful situation. There are even those who don't really want to exercise at all by walking, as they don't want to break a sweat – yet to perspire and to get sticky is to feel fully alive.

"And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him. He asked them, 'What are you discussing as you walk along?' They stopped, looking downcast.  One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply, 'Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?'” (Luke 24: 15-18).

The disciples of Jesus might have failed to recognize him as he walked along with them. However, it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them.

"With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight." (Luke 24: 30-31).

From the governor Pilate's palace to Golgotha, the body of Jesus was broken for our salvation.

"They put a purple robe on Jesus, made a crown out of thorny branches, and put it on his head." (Mark 15: 17).

"They beat him over the head with a stick." (Mark 15:14).

"They crucified him..." (Matthew 27: 25)

"One of the soldiers, however, plunged his spear into Jesus' side, and at once blood and water poured out." (John 19: 34).

"Then they said to each other, 'Were not our hearts BURNING within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?'” (Luke 24: 32).

At this point, a simple phrase, which might not be so apt here, but simply brings the message home, comes to mind – breaking a horse.

The term “broke” refers to a horse that is considered safe to ride and has all the basic manners. So, breaking a horse is the practice of training it to be ridden. The process is also referred to as saddle breaking.

Lord Jesus, please burn and break us to tame us, that we may be very obedient to all of your commandments, avoid and walk away from temptations, and be faithful to the sacraments, especially reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist.

Like the disciples, may we walk to proclaim you. “So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the Eleven and those with them who were saying, 'The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon.'” (Luke 24: 33).

Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.” (Luke 24: 35).

Lord Jesus, please break us. In the same way that we come to know more about God in the Holy Eucharist, we will also only be able to radiate him within us when we start breaking ourselves for the good and salvation of others.

Walk far. It is not only good physically but also spiritually.

Walk farther. It is a way to break us for others and for Jesus.

Walk much farther away to be fully alive.

Walk. Walk. Walk. Its free. And freeing.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


CANDELARIA

Through both my father's and mother's sides of my family, we are of Chinese lineage. In our grandparents day, in an effort to avoid future complications, they deemed it wise to adopt Filipino-sounding names for their descendants. Our maternal grandmother, though married to a Chinese (our grandfather), continually used the name, “Candelaria” - her maiden name - which to me, sounds so nice to the ears.

Hearing her name, it continually reminds me of the two bestselling items we sold in our father's convenience store: Esperma* (white candle) and a Kandila (candle), which many customers bought on their way to the nearby church. From helping our father in the store, I learned the distinction between the two: the former is much smaller and cheaper than the latter kind. A candle, therefore, lasts and gives more light than an esperma.

On the Feast of the Candelaria, or Presentation of the Lord, it reminds me that Jesus Christ is the candle of our lives, who as God is the biggest among us: among everything. His light will last the longest and be brightest in us. And, as the Filipino word “kandila” it rightly rhymes with our Bicol dialect; Kan Dila – “of the tongue.”

Rightly, Jesus is the Word of God who from the beginning of the Galilean ministry began to preach, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4: 17).

Jesus, the Word of God, our light and our life.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix

*Esperma (white candle) - a wax , liquid at body temperature, obtained from the head of a sperm whale or bottleneck whale. It was used in cheap ointments, cosmetic creams, fine wax candles, pomades...


GOLGOTHAN TRAGI-COMEDY

WarningMature audience only. Read at your own risk.

No words can describe that happiest moment in the history of the world when the news of the birth of the most awaited Savior was first broken to a group of shepherds:

There were some shepherds in that part of the country who were spending the night in the fields, taking care of their flocks. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone over them.

They were terribly afraid, but the angel said to them, “Don't be afraid! I am here with good news for you, which will bring great joy to all the people. This very day in David's town, your Savior was born – Christ the LordAnd this is what will prove it to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great army of heaven's angels appeared with the angel, singing praises to God:

Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom he is pleased!”

When the angels went away from them back into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us.”

So, they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and saw the baby lying in the manger. When the shepherds saw him, they told them what the angel had said about them. The shepherds went back, singing praises to God for all they had heard and seen; it had been just as the angel had told them. (Luke 2: 8-20).

After this event transpired in their lives, their status changed overnight. They became a sensation; a curiosity. They became hometown celebrities. They gained a new identity as the shepherds who witnessed the birth of the most awaited Savior.

For a while, they basked in the glow of their newfound celebrity status. They now had a name, and many sought them out to shepherd their flocks.

However, after a couple of years of this, everything in their lives went askew, and their world was turned upside down. Their lives were forever altered. When Herod realized that the visitors from the East had tricked him, he was furious. He gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem, and its neighboring areas, who were two years old and younger – this was done in accordance with what he learned from the visitors about the time when the star had appeared.

In this way what the prophet Jeremiah had said came true:

A sound is heard in Ramah, the sound of bitter weeping. Rachel is crying for her children; she refuses to be comforted, for they are dead.” (Matthew 2: 16-18).

Their special celebrity status did not spare their own infant children, youngest brothers, cousins... family members and loved ones. They were even turned in as persons of interest. They were inhumanely treated; tortured, raped and sodomized by the soldiers who came into their areas, and forced them to confess against their will, whatever they might know about that infant child they saw born in the manger just a few years before.

Again, no words can describe the hurt and excruciating pain that they themselves went through. And, in addition to that, the pain of losing a dear child, an innocent defenseless brother, a cousin and other family members and loved ones.

They gnashed their teeth and became indescribably irate. The concept of revenge overtook their ever-so-gentle consciousness. “We have to look for the person responsible for all this mess in our lives!”

Several years later, as many of them were gradually finding closure, and coming to a healing point with what had happened to the youngest branches cut from their family trees, a Roman soldier again came riding into town.

The Romans had found that most of their urban-born recruits were too soft. Many easily gave up, quit and walked away from the arduous bootcamp training that they were subjected to in order to stamp them into newly minted Roman soldiers. So, the Roman generals agreed together that they would round up, and turn into soldiers, all these hardened countryside types who were used to a more rugged lifestyle.

Moreover, they possessed a special craft suited to the specific mission for which they were being recruited: their experience and adept skill in slaughtering and butchering livestock. This would come in very handy in their future mission.

This time, the recruiter was more gracious to them. He promised them handsome pay, health and retirement benefits, lifetime insurance, and an allowance – all the perks – if they decided to enlist.

Due to the hardship they were going through living in the countryside, many of them enlisted. They were trained, and specially indoctrinated, for the sole mission for which they were recruited: the cold-blooded execution of common criminals.

During their training program, two of them deserted and subsisted in the city by stealing.

Now comes the saddest part of the story.

The happiest event that transpired in the manger more than three decades ago was transformed into a dark reunion. Most of the persons involved in it met up again atop a place called Golgotha – which means “Place of the Skull.” (Matthew 27: 33).

The recruiter was a liar. Everything he promised them was all written in water. They were all duped. The promised compensations were all a veneer of benefits promised to entice them to enlist in their force. They played on their gentle nature and spirit. They re-traumatized them by abusing them once again. They were not trained to be professional gladiators, but unpaid savage torturers, killing in cold-blood. They emerged from the dungeons with blood-shot eyes, with only revenge programmed into their minds.

Their descent into dementedness can be seen in the following things they did to Jesus

(A). ....they gave Jesus wine to drink mixed with gall. But when he tasted it, he refused to drink. After they had crucified him, they divided his garments by casting lots; then they sat down and kept watch over him there.

And they placed over his head the written charge against him: This is Jesus, the King of the Jews. (Matthew 27: 34-37).

(B). And about three o 'clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Some of the bystanders who heard it said, “This one is calling Elijah.” Immediately one of them ran to get a sponge; he soaked it in wine, and putting it on a reed, gave it to him to drink. But the rest said, “Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to save him.” (Matthew 27: 46-49).

In the midst of all these, there were two remaining bits of good news:

One of the deserter-shepherds, who turned into a thief, still was able to recall about him from memory and so saved himself.

One of the criminals hanging there hurled insults at him: “Aren't you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

The first one, however, rebuked him, saying, “Don't you fear God? You received the same sentence he did. Ours, however, is only right, because we are getting what we deserve for what we did; but he has done no wrong.”

And he said to Jesus, “Remember me, Jesus, when you come as King!”

Jesus said to him, “I promise you that today you will be in Paradise with me.” (Luke 23:39-43).

And, finally, the second was when the centurion and the men with him who were keeping watch over Jesus feared greatly when they saw the earthquake and all that was happening, and they said, “Truly, this was the Son if God!” (Matthew 27:54).

At last, amidst the cloud of confusion they all found themselves in, they were able to recall the event a long, long time ago when they were still shepherds in the countryside.

After this unforgettable mountain top event in their lives, they deserted the force, left the city and went back to their former simple way of life – shepherds in the fields keeping the night watch over their flock.

It was, indeed, a tragi-comedy. There was the death of our Lord, Jesus Christ, on the cross. But, on the other hand, the shepherds, turned monstrous savage gladiators, were redeemed by going back to their former pastoral way of life.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


DITS AND DAHS*

The raising of Lazarus by Jesus was not just about the latter bringing back to life the former, but was about communication as well.

Long before the American Indians came up with their smoke signals, and before telegraphy also, with the dits and dahs of Morse Code, the most original form of communication was by word of mouth.

This can be clearly seen in John 11:3-4: “The sisters of Lazarus sent word to Jesus, saying, 'Master, the one you love is ill.' When Jesus heard this...”

Striking while the iron was still hot, Jesus, upon receiving the 7-word message from Martha and Mary, saw an opportunity to also plug into how All Powerful God is: “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” (John 11: 4).

From here on, the sense of excitement in Jesus was palpable in two ways:

The first was when he cut short his current, ongoing activities and, secondly, in his 6-word missive to his disciples. Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that he was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was. Then after this he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

In one way or another, all of us are grieving for the lose of a loved one. No one is spared by the cruelty of death around us. We are all wounded by its sharpened fangs, writhing in its biting pain.

Now, here comes Jesus who is God's concrete communication to all of us in the world. He comes bearing something which we all would like to possess, for it is ultimate TRUTH.

When Jesus arrived, “When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him,... Martha said to Jesus, 'Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.'”

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.”

Martha said to.him, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.”

Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who dies and believe in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

She said to him, “ Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.” (John 11: 17, 20-27).

Now, fast forward to the scene where Jesus is in front of the tomb of Lazarus. Without any sputter, Jesus directly talked with the heavenly Father and, in turn, automatically received a response:

So, they took away the stone. And Jesus raised his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you for hearing me. I know that you always hear me.” And when he had said this, he cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”

The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.” (John 11: 41-44).

The foray of Jesus into raising Lazarus back to life was so successful that, “Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and had seen what he had done began to believe in him. (John 11:45).

Where else should we go? Indeed, Jesus is the WAY to LIFE that we so awesomely desire. He is the uttermost message of God to the world.

J- dit dah dah dah

E- dit

S- dit dit dit

U- dit dit dah

S- dit dit dit

Fr. Allan S. Fenix

* Morse Code is a method used in telecommunication to encode text characters as a standardized sequence of two different signal durations, called “dits and dahs.”


TEACHER-WITNESS

I once worked in an assisted living institution and saw how very sick residents who no longer have the facility to put food into their mouths are spoon-fed by nursing aides. I've also seen infant babies being painstakingly spoon-fed by their doting parents.

Do you wish to be spoon-fed? The All-Powerful God could have done just that to the man he saw blind from birth.

Instead, Jesus first showed his creativeness and resourcefulness by using the abundant resources found around the environment to cure him of his blindness. He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes. (John 9: 6).

Then, giving due respect to his dignity and the richness within, he asked him to do his part and said to him, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” – which means “sent.” So he went and washed, and came back able to see. (John 9: 7).

From then on, he was empowered. He gained self-confidence. He moved on from being a panhandler begging for handouts by the sidewalks to someone who had something to contribute.

He also exhibited self confidence when He said, “I am he” to his neighbors and those who had seen him as a beggar – “Isn't this the one who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is,” but others said, “No, he just looks like him.” (John 9: 8 -9).

He is a prophet,” he said of Jesus. “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see.” He was able to move on from his former, sorry state, and became a teacher-witness to his neighbors and those around him. This included the Pharisees, who were supposed to fill this role.

This, in fact, was what they did. When they brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees who, among themselves, were at odds about their opinion of Jesus, they said, “This man is not from God, because he does not keep the Sabbath... How can a sinful man do such signs?” And there was a division among them. (John 9: 13-17).

What do you have to say about him?

The Pharisees, in their high chair, felt insulted about the message of the new teacher-witness in their midst. They answered and said to him, “You were born totally in sin, and are you trying to teach us?” Then they threw him out. (John 9: 34).

Meanwhile, the new teacher-witness kept on progressing in station. Indeed, philosophy is the handmaid of theology. Reason is a tool to grasp higher divine truths:

Once again, Jesus found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered and said, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “ You have seen and the one speaking with you is he. ” He said, “ I do believe, Lord ” and he worshiped him. (John 9: 35-38).

The best thing that happened to the man blind from birth was not only that he was able to see, but also to rise up to become a teacher-witness, which led him to worship the most high God.

The All Perfect God does not need our worship . Our worship does not add anything more to Him. When we worship God, it is to us that all the benefits redound, as God created human beings, making them to be like himself. “He created them male and female.” (Genesis 127).

Seeing how the man blind from birth progressed from his too humble station to that of a teacher-witness, do you still want to be spoon-fed

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


MOTHER MARY, ARE YOU THERE?

For the past few months and weeks, as I have been praying over and over again to Our Blessed Virgin Mary for a personal petition, but without any indication of a concrete response. I was coming to a point where my sense of persistence was also getting exhausted and waning by the day.

I was wondering if Our Mother is really listening to me? Or am I merely talking to myself and the wall?

In some of my previous reflections, I have mentioned the practice in our parish where we bring the icon of Our Blessed Virgin Mary to two households daily. As we have been doing it for sometime now, in time, the practice has also became a bit of a routine for me: especially when I see the lukewarm appreciation of many of our parishioners.

I have observed that, as we were approaching a household to pray the rosary, family members would usually excuse themselves and leave the house for different reasons, like attending to their domestic animals, doing the laundry, running some errands...

So I was in a kind of condition of losing my belief and hope in Our Blessed Mother, when one day she saved the day for me.

Usually, after praying the rosary before the icon of Our Mother, she would stay for a night in that household. Then, the next day, we would go back to that household, pray a farewell departure prayer and transfer her to another household in that particular cluster.

One time, I failed to go back to the households where the icons of Our Mother were staying. I was away in our coastal villages the whole day for first Holy Communion activities there. So, Our Mother stayed for an extra night in those said households instead of just one as the usual practice was.

The following day I was available early to transfer the first icon. We prayed the farewell departure prayer and transferred her to another household. Then, we prayed the rosary in that household, and left for the other household where the other icon of Our Mother was.

When I got to the second house to transfer the icon of Our Mother to another household, I was surprised to learn that the child in that household was celebrating his birthday. So, spontaneously, I told the family that Our Mother delayed and waited for the birthday of their child before leaving. What a miracle!

Then, as I was exiting the second household to which we had just transferred the icon of Our Mother, I met the child from the first household on the street. I let him carry my skateboard, as we were walking in the same direction.

As we were walking, I asked where he was going, to which he replied, he was on his way to the nearby bakery to buy something for his birthday. Upon hearing his words, I stopped in my tracks and thought about the dual coincidence. Today, this day, two households from separate clusters where Our Mother has just departed were, at the same time, celebrating the simultaneous birthdays of their two grade school family members.

Was this just another coincidence, or a strong message from Our Mother to me

Our Mother Mary, in faith, I can say that you are really there listening to me.!

Thank you!

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


ONE WATER

I cannot remember when they started to bottle drinking water and sell it under different names, labels, and brands. It used to be that we just went to the faucet, turned it open, and drank from it.

It is the same way with the food we eat at the table. It used to be that our mother, or her helpers, would go to the wet market in the morning, with baskets in hand to buy us some food for lunch, snacks and dinner.

As children, we just ate anything palatable we found on the table. I cannot remember the time when we started having canned good foods around with their own distinct names, labels, and brands.

It also used to be that we just went outside and played with anyone from our neighborhood and nearby areas. Until someone started to tell us about where our playmates were coming from -- their family backgrounds, specific hometowns, provinces...

Scripturally, does it have something to do with what happened to our first parents, Adam and EveWhen, “As soon as they had eaten it, they were given understanding and realized that they were naked: so they sewed fig leaves together and covered themselves. (Genesis 3: 7).

Were the fig leaves which were sewed together, and which cover us, furnished by the community around us in the beginning of the naming, the labeling, and the branding that we are now using in our daily lives

In history, this little bit of spark caused a global-wide conflagration that cost billions of lives and, up to now, still continually claims more lives everywhere. Indeed, there is a truth in the saying: “It takes a village to raise a child.”

Going now to the scriptures, particularly regarding the encounter of Jesus Christ and the Samaritan woman at the well, we read the following statements

How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans. (John 4: 9)

Following this line of thought, I would like to ask the following questionAs the society where Jesus found himself in was not that diverse, were there physical features that distinguished a Jew from a Samaritan? In the kind of clothes or instruments that they used, perhaps?

In my own opinion, none! People in the times of Jesus Christ looked similar, wore and used the same kinds of generic clothing, and the instruments in their everyday lives were the same. And, most of all, they ate the same kind of food, and drank water from wells.

So, what was the difference among them? Again, Genesis 3: 7 comes to mind. “As soon as they had eaten it, they were given understanding and realized that they were naked: so they sewed fig leaves together and covered themselves.”

Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again: but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst: the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “ Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water...” (John 4: 13-15)

Jesus came bearing a different kind of water – LIVING WATER.

This living water he offered to the Samaritan woman, which is a spring of water welling up to eternal life, in our modern parlance, can be likened to a vehicle which needs no more refuelling once its tank is filled up with the LIVING gasoline. Or a refrigerator that does not run low on food items for a hungry family, or a utility bill that need not be paid anymore as it is the LIVING electricity, charging none – given for free!

And finally, the woman said to him, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christwhen he comes, he will tell us everything.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking with you.” John (4: 25-26).

Nowadays, in our time of inter-religious dialogue, we are taught that there are also good things to be found in other religions and, thus, salvation can also be obtained through them. We say that all of them come from the ONE, the ONE called Christ, and when he comes, he will tell us everything. And he was already present at the well, talking with the Samaritan woman, and offering her living water which will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

Salvation is a monopoly of the ONE, God, the Father, Jesus, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The salvation God offers us is color-blind. It is salvation for everyone willing to accept and respond to it.

It is the salvation of the LIVING – a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


TEMPORARY STATION

Once, there were two groups of people, robbers and gold speculators, who were so fired up to turn stones to loaves of bread, that they started to dig and hammer their way into the vaults of banks and pawnshops. Since they were able acquire and post a permit to operate, they kept on tunneling around for World War II hidden treasures, even to the detriment of the natural environment.

The robbers were caught when the miners met with a cave-in. Some were hospitalized, and some even perished. The following passage shouted loudly at them inside their jail cells and hospital rooms: “It is written: 'One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.'” (Matthew 4:4).

In time, when things became better in their lives, they changed for the better by applying their abilities and skills to wholesome activities beneficial not only to themselves, but also to the communities they found themselves in.

They went back to dealing with stones, but this time it was to pave irregular rough roads, build seawalls, and put up flood control dikes to protect their communities from sudden sea surges and landslides, especially during the heavy rains, as the mountains surrounding them were already denuded.

They also chipped in their labor to rebuild the village chapel, which was destroyed by the recent typhoon.

Seeing how this group of people really transformed themselves for the better and helped the community, the people accepted them back and they all lived happily ever after.

From time to time, I keep on hearing about very young, popular people dying of unusual causes. Just recently, in the news, there was a story about a very young, bemedaled motocross racer, who fell to his death when he tried a daring stunt with his motorbike while on a practice ride.

The parent of the person who died said, “He died doing what he loves most.” Is this what they call living fast and dying young

The person who came up with the activity called bungee-jumping* got his idea from Matthew 4: 5-7

Then the devil took him to the holy city, and made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: He will command his angels concerning you and with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” Jesus answered him, “Again it is written, you shall not put the Lord, your God to the test.”

There are people who get bored easily, and so involve themselves in extreme activities to the point of putting their own lives at risk: putting the Lord, our God, the giver of life, to the test – just to gain a passing trivial title. They bask in it to the detriment of their precious lives. It is a befriending the devil. Is it worth all the efforts

There was a father of a family who brought a still warm television set to his creditor. Apparently, he made a bet without any money in his pocket. When he lost, he was pressured to immediately pay up.

When he went home, the only thing of value he saw around was the T.V. set his children were watching favorite animated program on. He turned it off, unplugged it, and brought it to his creditor as a payment for losing the bet.

Life might be one big gamble. We like to “chase the dragon,” but we have to do it in a proper manner.

As our brain is instantly flared up by the promise of quick money, and other bodily gratifications, we have to be aware of the searing fire of addictions that it might unwittingly bring us. And so pull down all of our loved ones, altogether into the cesspool with us: “Then the devil left him and, behold, angels came and ministered to him. (Matthew 4: 11). Temptations are of the devil. All of us are subject to them.

So, we might say, “Good for Jesus!” He is God, and has the power to deal with our temptations. What does he expect of us, ordinary weak mortals

1Peter 5:8-9a has something for us: “Stay sober and alert. Your opponent the devil is prowling like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, solid in your faith.”

It is only with our our faith in God that we are going to find consolations amidst temptations besetting our lives.

And lastly, remember that a temptation is merely a temporary urge. If we will it, we can successfully fight it, and do away with it.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix

*Bungee-jumping: an activity that involves a person jumping from a great height while connected to a large elastic cord. The launching pad is usually a tall structure, such as a building or crane, a bridge across a deep ravine, or a natural geographic feature, such as a cliff. The thrill comes from the free-falling and the rebound.


PETER, THE ENTREPRENEUR

Nowadays, with all the drastic changes happening in the job market, the so-called “9 to 5” jobs are becoming passe.

Graduating senior high school students are being strongly encouraged to take a new university course that is being offered: Entrepreneurship. Be an Entrepreneur!

An entrepreneur is a person who takes greater than normal financial risks by organizing and operating a business or businesses. Many now are their own employers. They are working for themselves. Many just work from home using their computers.

The Call of Peter:

As he was waking by the Lake of Galilee he saw two brothers, Simon, who was called Peter, and his brother Andrew: they were making a cast into the lake with their nets for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Come after me and I will make you fishers of people”. And at once they left their nets and followed him. (Matthew 4: 18-20).

His Transformation:

Like Paul, Aquila and his wife Priscilla, who were tent makers (Acts 182-3), Peter also took up tentmaking as a trade:

Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before themhis face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. (Matthew 17: 4).

In our ultramodern understanding, Peter, from a plain fisherman to a fisher of people, was able to adapt to his new found situation by transforming himself into an entrepreneur.

He exudes some of the characteristics of a successful entrepreneur, like self-motivation, understanding what he is offering, taking risks, knowing how to network, flexibility, passion...

In the eyes of Peter, there is a big commercial opportunity regarding what happened atop the high mountain – the transfiguration of their Master and the appearance of two biblical “celebrities:” Moses and Elijah.

However, the initially proposed start-up business of Peter was overshadowed when...

While he was still speaking, behold a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased: listen to him.” (Matthew 17:5).

Like Peter, who had a very good business idea atop the high mountain, we also have our own good start-up plans. When we push hard for their realization, however, we find God has the best plan for all of us.

We have to humbly bring all of our start-up plans to the foot of the cross and see no one else but Jesus alone. Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.” And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone.” (Matthew 17: 7-8).

What are you, an entrepreneur? or a Theo-centric entrepreneur?

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


HOW TO BE PERFECT

We are fond of coming up with New Year's resolutions. What was yours earlier, during this past new yearIf you don't have one, perhaps, I can suggest a good one for you. It's found here, below.

As you anticipate what it might be, I will tell you that from constantly listening to people talk about their own New Year's resolutions, I gathered that there is one thing all have in common: the wish to learn, or do, something new in one's life.

We all love to learn and do new things in our lives. That is why we love to buy “How-To” books. In fact, according to a worldwide study, it is the perennial second bestselling kind of books after the Holy Bible.

Today, in addition to the thousands of “How-To” books already out there in the marketplace, we faithfuls have another distinct interest. We would seriously like to attempt to be perfect just as our heavenly Father is Perfect.

For the utmost admirable thing He has done for us, we would like to earn being called children of our heavenly Father. Even so, He makes his sun rise on the bad and on the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. (Matthew 5: 45).

As we proceed, hoping not to be a wet blanket at this point, I would also like to offer an additional fatherly or brotherly reminder:

What we are about to do is something dangerous - Don't try to do it at home by yourself. You need to do it together with someone, with another, the community, the society...

Our ultimate goal is to be perfect, just as our heavenly Father is perfect. There are only two ways to achieve it:

1. Offer no resistance to one who is evil.  To breakdown this very broad statement into details, Matthew 5: 39-42 gives us the following concrete illustrations:

A. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.

B. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well.

C. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles.

D. Give to one who ask of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.

  1. Love your enemies and Pray for those who persecute you. Examples:

A. Love those who persecute you.

B. Be gracious to everyone.

In a nutshell, the process that we have just been through is telling us to leave mediocrity behind. Stop doing just the minimum required, but go the extra mile. Like St. Therese of Lisieux said, “Doing ordinary things in an extraordinary way.”

Now, do you still feel our goal is impossible to achieve? Our adopted goal might be too difficult. A great challenge. An insurmountable mountain. Too ambitious.

Nevertheless, brothers and sisters, shoot for the stars. We might miss, but at least there is the possibility of landing on one of the planets or the moon.

In the same way, even if we don't achieve our loftiest goal, we will still be somewhere better than where we started.

We might even hit one of the angels or saints.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


MY MONEY

Do not worry about tomorrow: tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil. (Matthew 6: 34).

English is our second language and, whenever I am not doing anything, it is my habit to play with words.

For example, I imagine the word "MY," which means of or belonging to the speaker or writer, as a closed wallet. And when open, it has the word "ONE" between the letters "M" and "Y" to compose the word "MONEY."

The word "ONE," in between the letters "M" and "Y" to compose the word "MONEY," carries with it a very significant meaning.

"ONE" is the starting point for an infinite amount of money. As there is no end to numbers, there is also no end to the amount of money that an individual can possess, and no end to the desire and greed for it.

I remember one day when I and my siblings went out for an excursion, and one of them asked me for money to buy something at an outdoor food stand. Instead of asking how much she wanted, I gave her my entire wallet to let her decide how much she needed. Upon opening and seeing inside my wallet, she asked, “Why does it merely contain singles?” (US $ 1 bill).

When I was living in the United States, I really made it a point to always have lots of singles in my wallet. I walked the streets a lot. There were persons I met, some who knew me, and some who did not, who often asked me for a dollar. “Allan, can I have a dollar to buy coffee?”, “....Can I have a dollar to buy a cigarette?”, “...Allan, can I have a dollar to buy soda?”, “...candy?” Handing them a dollar helped solve the problem.  And they stopped bothering me.

Talking about my money, for a few days, the bank branch manager where I keep my money, left voice messages asking for an appointment with me.

In his office, he offered a higher interest rate for the money I had with them, provided that I don't withdraw it for a certain period of time.

Do you mean a Time Deposit?” I asked, as this was what as we commonly called it in our country.

No, its a CD!” he said, "A Certificate of Deposit!"

I grew up collecting the Greatest Hits albums of my favorite musical bands in cassette tape format. So, when I heard the letters “CD,” I remembered the time when the first CD (Compact Disc) came out. It was so pricey! It was more than triple the price of a cassette tape. It was a novelty back then. It offered crystal clear sound, and it was cool to own one.

When I stepped out of the bank, I had in my hands a piece of stationery with the bank's letterhead at the top, my name printed on it, the entire amount of my money, and the offered interest rate. I kept on staring at the paper. All of my money was reduced to just one single piece of stationery paper with a few words printed on it.

This is what they call a CD (Certificate of Deposit). I grew up with the understanding that a CD contains music.

MUSIC...MUSE...MUSING...USING...

Yes, money, no matter the amount, is really just reduced to a single stationery paper or document. However, it can only have meaning when it is USED.

USED to feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to give shelter to strangers, to visit the sick, to visit the imprisoned, to bury the dead.

And furthermore, USED to instruct the ignorant, to counsel the doubtful, to admonish the sinners, to bear patiently those who wrong us, to forgive offenses, to comfort the afflicted, and to pray for the living and the dead.

As Matthew 6:33 says: “But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.”

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


THE FEW, THE PROUD, THE CHRISTIANS

This teaching does not apply to everyone, but only to those whom God has given it... Let him who can accept this teaching do so. (Matthew 19: 11-12).

Here is one thing: Not one of us will come out alive!” After carefully going through the Sermon on the Mount, that might be how we would react, at least I heard it from a participant in a discussion about our life here on earth.

Perhaps, I might also negatively quip: “None of us will come out alive and with our limbs intact!

For anyone who has undergone military training, or who has been to school and read the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is coming on like a marine drill instructor, or a so-called “terror teacher” who is so demanding, rigid, strict, and accepts no excuses.

Many try to avoid and runaway from him, as they set the bar of their standards very. Maybe many of us would say, “What a mountain!” As a consequence, many fail rather than pass their courses. Studying and training with them is as if passing through the eye of a needle – only the finest and the best make it.

The Sermon on the Mount is the Special Operations (Spec Ops) level equivalent of Christian living formation. For anyone considering how to successfully climb the high mountain, here are the following hurdles that one needs to conquer:

1. About Righteousness: “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5: 20).

Required actions: Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5: 18-19).

2. About anger: “But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, ' Raqa ', will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ' You fool,' will be liable to fiery Gehenna. (Matthew 5: 22).

Required actions: “Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar; go first and be reconciled with your brother; and then come and offer your gift. Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.” (Matthew 5: 22-26).

3. About adultery: "But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart." (Matthew 5: 28).

Required actions: “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.” (Matthew 5: 29-34.)

4. About divorce: “But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce.” (Matthew 5: 31).

Required actions: “But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage was unlawful) causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” Matthew 5: 32.

5. About oaths: But I say to you, do not swear at all; not by heaven, for it is God's throne; nor by the earth, for it is his footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Do not swear by your head, for you cannot make a single hair white or black. (Matthew 5: 34-36).

Required actions: “Let your 'Yes' mean 'Yes' and your 'No' mean 'No'. Anything more is from the evil one.” (Matthew 5: 37).

In our church, we do not impose any strict attendance requirement on our Sunday mass services. We know that our church's teachings, as we have seen above, are extremely hard and difficult. Nevertheless, this does not mean that we should never attempt to try to conquer all the hurdles that the Sermon on the Mount has set before us.

Jesus gave us a hint and a key: “Jesus answered, 'Have faith in God. In truth I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Be pulled up and thrown into the sea,' with no doubt in his heart, but believing that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. I tell you, therefore, everything you ask and pray for, believe that you have it already, and it will be yours. And when you stand in prayer, forgive whatever you have against anybody, so that your Father in heaven may forgive your failings too.'” (Mark 11: 22-25).

Are you a go-getter or a quitter? With a strong faith in God, we will be the Few, the Proud, the Christians.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


SALT

I remember overhearing someone who used to be in the United States Navy saying that whenever their ships set sail on a mission, they always have aboard with them up to six months worth of refrigerated provisions. Though their sea duty might be long and arduous, they are assured of not being in want, or going hungry.

Many of us have heard the saying, “Worth one's salt,” which means to be effective and efficient.

Indeed, it has something to do with Jesus saying to his disciples, “You are the salt of the earth...” (Matthew 5: 13).

In using the imagery of this chemical element, Jesus conveyed two things that are interconnected with it.

First, the salt represents something close, near and intimate to his heart: the sea. This is the workplace of not only his first, but almost all of his apostles.

Secondly, he was being farsighted and practical. He was giving them the primary ingredient in fulfilling their coming worldwide mission:

Jesus drew near and said to them, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you always to the end of the age. (Matthew 28: 18-20).

Centuries later, the faith was not brought by way of land bridges, like those that existed before the so-called continental drift, but by sturdy missionaries who crossed the oceans on long, hard voyages aboard galleons.

They had to be strong and sturdy to survive these long, extended voyages. However, no one has a steel stomach, and everyone gets hungry. Everyone needs solid food. In the pre-refrigeration and pre-canning days, what system existed for preserving the food in ships' holds? SALT.

Nowadays, with the dawn of the health buff generations, salt is seen as bad for health maintenance. It is inimical to one's life.

Salt can also lose its taste. Then it is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. (Matthew 5: 13).

However, in all things, Christians all over the world should be grateful to the humble salt, as it provided the way in which we were able to successfully receive the faith.

May salt be the light to enable us to see clearly the essential role that our received faith plays in our lives.

Our faith came to our shores through the blood, sweat, tears and salt of our past missionaries.

Hurrah, long