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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: 2022

  Meditations on Our Life as Catholic Christians

By Father Allan Fenix

MYOPIA vs HYPEROPIA

...foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” (Luke 9: 58).

In the past, to enter the seminary, I remember asking our grandmother for the amount of P 150 (US $3.00), telling her that I was going on a 3-day holy retreat, which was actually the 3-day seminary orientation period. After a month, I received a letter, together with all the needed requirements, saying that I was accepted for the opening school year. Thus began a very long journey.

And to another he said, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father. “...I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.” (Luke 9: 59, 61).

In our time, with all the ongoing research and development, our gadgets have become part and parcel of our lives. We allow ourselves to get distracted big time. I see motorists staring at them while on the road driving. I have had the experience of seeing communicants, when receiving the Holy Eucharist by hand, dropping the host on the floor because they were holding dearly in their hands their expensive and bulky gadgets. They let the consecrated host drop on the floor, but not their gadgets. Members of the mourning family are busy with their gadgets during the funeral masses of their dead loved ones.

Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the Kingdom of God... No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Kingdom of God.” (Luke 9: 60, 62).

Is it now more difficult to follow Jesus than in the past?

Nowadays, many still would like to follow Jesus, but they want more time to finish their Tik-Tok videos, their online games, and vlogs. There was even a gruesome incident in which a student committed suicide when he was prohibited from using his gadget due to failing grades. There are those who steal other people's gadgets due to enviousness.

We have allowed ourselves to get addicted and attached to the point that our view of life has become myopic. All we see is just what is in front of us. We have become addicted to the mundane, the earthbound and the temporary – something that perishes.

As they were proceeding on their journey someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” (Luke 9: 57).

Hyperopia” is being far sighted. Seeing the longer view, the permanent, the transcendent, and the heavenly. This is the challenging part, and it is just getting more exciting by the day.

As Peter replied:

Master, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (John 6: 68-69).

Fr. Allan S Fenix


TRUSTING AND RUSTING IN GOD

I read the following inscription on a dollar bill: “In God We Trust.” Yes, we need to trust in God and stick with him until we rust – die.

Have you heard about the smallest seedling that can grow into the biggest tree even without being exposed to the sun nor watered? How about the magic flour that with just a little amount, a few granules at best, makes bread enough to feed a hundred or even thousands?

Each of these mass productions I have related is made possible not because they were "Made in China," which has now become synonymous with anything made available at a cheap price, but because they were all "Made in Christ:" made through Him, made with Him, and made in Him.

They replied, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have, unless we ourselves go and buy food for all these people.” Now the men there numbered about five thousand. Then he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty.” They did so and made them all sit down. Then taking the five loaves and two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing over them, broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. They all ate and were satisfied. And when the leftover fragments were picked up, they filled twelve wicker baskets. (Luke 9:13-17).

Groups of about fifty... made them all sit down... Then taking the five loaves and two fish, and looking up to heaven, said the blessing over them, broke them, gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd... All ate and were satisfied.

All the rubrics of this miracle happened inside the mass. In the mass, we stand, we sit, we kneel...There is the offertory. The offering of gifts. The consecration. The distribution of communion. In the mass, there is a mass production of graces. More than enough for each and everyone including our sick loved ones left at home.

Yes, we really need to trust and rust in God, for your father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matthew 6:8).

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


SHARP AS A HARPOON

I went through some difficulties reflecting on something as abstract and formless as the Holy Spirit. However, as I persisted, the words that kept on forming in my imagination were “sharp” and “harpoon”. Yes, the Holy Spirit comes to me as sharp as a harpoon.

Remember the whale movie, Moby Dick?

Two incidents:

As soon as Jesus was baptized he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. (Matthew 3: 16).

The Holy Spirit is so sharp that it opened heaven:

Suddenly a sound like a mighty rushing wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw tongues like flames of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them . And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. (Acts 2: 2-3).

The Holy Spirit as a mighty rushing wind and flames of fire.

Every time a new school year opens, the first thing listed in the program are the masses of the Holy Spirit. Education and the Holy Spirit are very much interrelated. John 16: 12-13 says it succinctly:

Jesus said to his disciples: “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming. He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.”

Our mind, our natural power, must be sharp to pierce the darkness of ignorance. Knowledge burns through us, as we travel into the light. To make it realistic and concrete, knowledge is like a sharp harpoon, spearing the largest fish in the sea.

As I asked earlier, remember the whale movie, Moby Dick?

The Holy Spirit is sharp as a harpoon. So much so that when Jesus let out a loud cry, and breathed his last, “...the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” (Mark 15: 37-38).

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


BEDRAGGLED

Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me. (John 14:24).

When I started to reflect on this scripture, the image of a person who used to sit waiting for food to be handed to him, when our parents used to operate a convenience store, came up in my mind.

This person, in a word, looked “bedraggled” – wet, limp, soiled, as if from being dragged through mud. He might be likened to the ones we see, from time to time, on the streets we call “taong grasa” (which means “oiled person”). They do not have a bed to lay their heads on, their clothes are like rags, and their minds are loose.

Can the Word of God be considered bedraggled? The Word of God just sitting by waiting to be read, eaten, appreciated? Is it only a prop? A display gathering dust? A bygone symbolic nuptial offering?

Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. (John 14: 23).

As I continued in my reflection, the lyrics of a popular song started playing in my mind:

Talk in everlasting words.

And dedicate them all to me.

And I will give you all my life.

I'm here If you should call to me.

Words, words, words... Sometimes, they are spelled and used correctly. Sometimes, they are misspelled by the text generator and used wrongly.

In what shape does the Word of God exist?

In science, we learned that matter is anything that has weight and occupies space.

Yes, the Word of God is matter. It matters a lot. It exists in three different ways:

1. Solid. As it is found written in the sacred scriptures, it is read in the Bible and lived in our lives.

2. Liquid. When it is the content of our conversations. Or shared orally. Or is seen written on the walls and ceilings of our public transports, or on signs, streamers, billboards, or in the movies.

3. Gas. When the Word of God is broadcast on air. Live-streamed online, or use in blogs and vlogs.

The Word of God is not only matter but truly a mater, the Latin word for mother; one who gives birth. The Word of God is a mother who gives off seeds which, when they fall on fertile soil, produce a crop that is thirty, sixty and even a hundred times as much as had been planted! “He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:8).

We cannot afford to let the Word of God get bedraggled. For it has its proper home in us, in our minds, in our hearts, in our hands, and in our feet.

Jesus said to his disciples: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name – he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you. (John 14: 15, 25-26).

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


PRAY AND FLY

Then he led them out as far as Bethany, raised his hands, and blessed them. As he blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven. (Luke 24: 50-51).

There is a popular song that says: I believe I can fly. I believe I can touch the sky. I think about it every night and day. Spread my wings and fly away.

As a child, I used to watch a lot of futuristic movies about outer space, space ships, and unidentified flying objects. At one time, I dreamed of being a pilot myself, flying my own plane to the highest heights, and seeing the earth from that different perspective. However, I got discouraged when I saw a TV news report about a student pilot perishing when his plane crashed and burned up in a fireball on the tarmac while having his test flight.

Nowadays, whenever I have the opportunity to go on an international flight, I make it a point to sit by the window and, in those cottony clouds, I relive the moment when Jesus was taken up to heaven. Up, up and away!

And behold I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high. (Luke 24: 49).

Clothed with power from on high.” If we have agoraphobia, or fear of heights, why not pray? Praying is akin to being in a supersonic vehicle. Because it takes us to great new heights that we have never been to before. Using our minds and hearts, we will be one on one, face to face in an encounter with the supernatural – God.

After the utter exhilaration we experienced at the Easter resurrection of our Lord Jesus, and after the celebrations of the Solemnities of Pentecost, the Most Holy Trinity, and the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, we are now gradually touching back down to the ground in the Ordinary Season.

...and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. (Luke 24:47).

Twenty-one Sundays of the Ordinary Season lead up to Christ the King Sunday, and the end of another liturgical calendar reminds us always of two things.

Repentance. Remember the words spoken to us as the blessed ashes were imposed on our foreheads: “Repent and believe in the gospel.” This was also the Advent message: the voice of one crying in the wilderness:

Prepare the way of the Lord; Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted. And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight . And the rough places smooth.” (Isaiah 40: 30-34).

Forgiveness of sins would be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. It's the great jubilee once again. Then shall you cause the trumpet of the Jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the day of atonement shall he make the trumpet sound throughout all your land.

And yet shall shallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a juniper unto you; and he shall return every man unto his possession, and he shall return every man unto his family. (Leviticus 25: 9-10).

We don't need any platform nor scaffolding, crutches, or mind-altering drugs for take off, all we need is to pray and we will fly with Jesus to great heights!

Up, up and away!

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


BENEDICAMUS DOMINO (Let us bless the Lord)

Jesus said to his disciples: “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” (John 14:23).

I remember our grandmother, who would usually ask on a day to day basis come nighttime, if those of us already at home knew whether the other members of the household were safely home. I would often see her sitting in a chair by the main door, keeping vigil waiting for everyone. Then, when everyone was in, she would finally put on the wooden beam to lock the door.

I remember being taught to pray to my guardian angel before and upon waking up from sleep. In my innocence, I even asked how many “Our Fathers”, “Hail Marie's” and “Glory Be's” would satisfy my guardian angel. I also remember that, back in the seminary, seminarians would usually respond with a “Deo Gratias” (Thanks be to God) upon rising up, when the assigned timer would announce “Benedicamus Domino” (Let us bless the Lord).

Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me. (John 14:24).

At the start of my reflection, I related those stories, as we were being challenged to live out the 7 Spiritual Works of Mercy in a world full of sinners, ignoramuses, doubters, the sorrowful, those on the wrong side of life, offenders and the living and dead, all needing prayers. And finally, we are to bring them all home to the Father.

The Advocate, the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name, he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you. (John 14:26).

The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, being a spirit, is infused in us when we sinners remind and instruct each other. We easily forget, or take for granted, many things. Sometimes, there is the tendency in us to just keep on presuming. It is so humbling to be reminded and instructed.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. (John 14:27).

Life is full of insecurities. Along the way, we lose many precious things in our lives. Even with our faith, we are, in the same way, beset with all doubtfulness and sorrows. We need to carry each other through it all on our shoulders.

You heard me tell you, “I am going away and I will come back to you.” If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father; for the Father is greater than I. (John 14:28).

Please be patient with me. God is not yet finish with me. Imperfect as we are, we all need patience and forgiveness.

At the end of the day, as we go home and go to our rooms, we again pray to our guardian angels, to the Holy Spirit, the living and the dead, to grant us a peaceful rest so that tomorrow we can all say once again “Benedicamus Domino” (Let us bless the Lord).

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


QUANTITY VS. QUALITY

I give you a new commandment: love one another... (John 13:34).

Just as most of us have a very short attention span, we also have short memory banks. We are too preoccupied with many concerns that we easily forget. That's why we have to be constantly reminded of the many important things in our day to day lives like paying our taxes properly, voting wisely, registering our automobiles, renewing our licenses.

And this is so timely, as the national and local elections have just ended, and we are being reminded to love one another as Jesus loved us.

In our catechism, we learned that our primary mission in this life is to know, love and serve God, our creator. And so, win or lose, we are again being reminded to start getting to know, love and serve our neighbors (and constituents), and not just in terms of using and gaining from them for our own ends:

"How much? Can you please give me a good price? I'll give you a tip!"

In the world to know, to love and to serve is quantified. It comes with a price tag. We like to know rich influential persons so we can social climb. The pricier an item is, the more it represents the amount of love and serving we feel.

It is even distorted. To know, to love and to serve is equated with the pleasure of the senses. Some even abuse it to the extreme. Knowing, loving and serving is primarily motivated by ulterior motives.

Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13: 34-35).

Just a few weeks ago, on Good Friday, Jesus Christ, through the wood of his cross, showed us how he knew, loved and served us totally and without any reservation. He knows, loves and serves the people of yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Coming back to us, now that the elections are over, win or lose, the acid test for the authenticity of our knowing, loving and serving is if, like Jesus on the cross, we continue on knowing, loving and serving our neighbors and constituents unconditionally.

If we follow this divine blue print, "Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and he will glorify him at once." (John 13: 31-32).

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


OMNI

Jesus said: “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10: 27).

Our parents, who operated a small convenience store, would usually take turns eating their meals. Our father ate first and our mother followed, then the help.

On summer vacations, which provided the only lengthy span of time in which we could all be together, we siblings would also usually choose to either eat with our father or our mother. I noticed how large our family really was when I overheard our mother, who was preoccupied with the store and the kitchen, say that she did not really know whether all of her children had eaten.

Do we really know how to listen to the voice of God? Does he really know each one of us? Is it God whom we follow?

It's election time and we have posters of candidates prominently plastered in every corner of our community and, as well, on the television and online. Even on T-shirts and fans. These are ways to let voters see and know who they are.

There are many voters who really don't know who to vote for, or about the individual issues they are an advocate for. On the day of voting, face to face with a ballot to fill up, many merely rely on name and face recall. Some do a guessing game or just do whatever comes to mind. Some do it haphazardly.

So, the candidate, who has invested much on posters, banners, television, online ads and other campaign paraphernalia, has the greatest probability of gaining a lot of votes and, if fortunate enough, wins the position. It's actually just a big popularity game.

My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father's hand. The Father and I are one. (John 10: 28-29).

Is this also true of God with us, his children? With the billions of us existing on this planet, can he keep up with each one of us personally?

Is there a possibility of going unnoticed, “flying under the radar,” like when our mother says that she does not even know whether all of her children had already eaten their meals? How about those people who die unexpectedly and tragically?

My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father's hand. (John 10: 28).

God is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent. Being omnipotent (all-powerful), he is in total control of himself and his creation. Being omniscient (all-knowing), he is the ultimate determiner of truth and falsity. He is the truth. Being omnipresent, he is everywhere. His power and knowledge extend to all parts of his creation. God is our good shepherd who is powerful, knows us, and is present beside each one of us.

With God, it's a one on one – a “man to man” thing. One Master Near an Individual. “Omni.”

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


I AM GOING FISHING

So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.”

The appearance of Jesus to the seven disciples was the gospel reading on the First Week of Easter Friday, a week after Good Friday, to show how close the heart of Jesus is to this certain group of people – the fisher-folk. John the Apostle, the disciple with whom he entrusted Mary, his mother, was there.

Talking about fisher-folk: We read and hear in the news about those fisher-folk who cannot catch anything, as the places where they used to fish are now guarded by a foreign power asserting their sovereignty over it. There are also those who employ illegal means like dynamite and electronic shock to get the most possible number of fish.

Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We also will come with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. (John 21:3).

In schools and families, one does not hear anybody proudly saying that when they grow up, they would wish to be simple fisher-folk. Maybe for some, in the absence of any options to survive and help support their needy families, they instead chose fishing as a lifetime livelihood.

Small-time fishing, as a livelihood, occupies the lowest rung of the social ladder. However, Jesus chose from among them his first disciples. He chose the least to teach those who have the most financially, academically and socially.

Fishing, as a livelihood, does not have a lot of formal training. No classroom instruction is required. No standard testing certification or accreditation is needed, just a lot of hands on training. Fishing is also a lifestyle. One has to live it. Working at odd hours in all weather conditions; lacking sleep. The sea hardens and strengthens them.

Feed my lambs. Tend my sheep. Feed my sheep.

It is to these hardy and strong characters, the simple fisher-folk, with which Jesus entrusted the land based mission of feeding and tending his lambs and sheep.

When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad, and jumped into the sea.

Furthermore, fishing, as in many other forms of livelihood, does not require any uniforms so as individuals may be differentiated and recognized.

The lambs and sheep sitting in the pews, do we give respect to the sacredness of a place? Many go to church not properly dressed and playing with their mobile phones. Going to church nowadays seemed like going for a walk in the mall or park. Many are just wearing short pants and slippers, but sport high-end brand mobile phones, which are sometimes, even often times, a source of distraction for others. There were even times during communion by hand when they dropped the blessed hosts on the floor. All because their hands are holding on to their high-end brand mobile phones.

Jesus said to them, “Come have breakfast.” And none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they realized it was the Lord. Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them, and in like manner the fish. (John 21:12-13).

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


A LIFE IN HIS NAME

A Life in his name. When I read, “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, 'Peace be with you,' I remembered a similar situation we just had during the recent pandemic, wherein everyone was told to stay indoors, avoid group gatherings, and wear a mask or else incur a penalty. Death seemed to be at our doorsteps. We were also in fear like the disciples.

Now, we are in the middle of a hot summer and almost everyone wants to be outdoors. It seems as though the pandemic, all of a sudden, is over. The prices of gasoline maybe at an all-time high, nevertheless our roads are busy all throughout the day, with motorists in droves coming and going to cooler destinations.

It is also at this time of the year when a number of drowning incidents have occurred, and the question that I often hear from bereaved families is, “Father, where is now our loved one?” Feeling pressured whenever I hear that question, I also say the answer to myself, “If only I could say to your dead loved one, in Jesus name, arise.” For the bereaved families, who lose a loved one unexpectedly, they also pray how they wish that he or she was still alive.

For the disciples of Jesus, everything that transpired that Good Friday seemed but a bad dream. A snafu. And, although they were already told to be prepared for it, they didn't have the proper time to even think on what was the right thing to do. So, they just melted and run away. Their formation together with their master did not sufficiently “kick in” at the very crucial time of his passion.

When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. (John 20:20).

A Life in his name. It was a big surprise for them to see him resurrected and alive except for Thomas, who wanted to see more physical validations. Thomas is like the bereaved families who lose a loved one and who would also like to know where their loved one is in the great beyond. They want some assurances.

A Life in his name. My only answer is that all of our dead loved ones, whether they died naturally or otherwise, are now at peace in the nailed hands and pierced side of Jesus Christ.

Let our only apt response be, “My Lord and my God!” We will be blessed if we have not seen, yet believe. We believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief we may have a Life in his name.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


LIFE OVER DEATH

On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. (John 20: 1).

Are you a morning or evening person? Just as there are some who stay up, sleep in and wake up much later in the day, there are also those who are already in bed and up early in the morning just like Mary of Magdala who discovered something.

Going further on this line of reflection and following on the quote which says, “the early bird catches the worm,” there are some event organizers who prepare some items as giveaways for early registrants. The early registrants are the “early birds” who are in the place first and will get what they want. Mary of Magdala was an early bird and got what she was looking for – the resurrected Jesus .

With the great scoop she discovered, “...she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, 'They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don't know where they put him.'" (John 20: 2).

And, just like a lot of our media outfits check out this kind of breaking news, so Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. One thing about Mary of Magdala; she merely relayed what she discovered in the tomb. However, the two disciples were more into details:

They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first. He bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. (John 20: 3-8).

Thus proving the statement he made before the Jews, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” (John 2: 19).

Now, going back to being either a morning or an evening person, we have to remember this, and do this, understanding the present time! The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day has drawn near. So let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.

For Mary of Magdala, Simon Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved, with what they witnessed at the empty tomb – the triumph of life over death their lives were never the same again. They now had put on the armor of light to be witnesses of LIFE over DEATH.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


FUN MASS

If there is a Youth Mass, and a Children's Mass, is there also a Fun Mass?

Upon seeing the handwritten Mass Schedule on the bulletin board, which was written this way: “9:00 A.M. – FUN Mass,” a parishioner asked if there is a FUN Mass, is there also a SAD Mass?

To shorten the word “funeral,” the secretary would usually write the shortcut “FUN.” However, that day she missed putting a period after the word “FUN” to complete it.

To the question of the parishioner, my answer is: “No! There is neither a 'Fun' nor a 'Sad' Mass. There is only a 'Happy' Mass, because Jesus Christ is alive!

Alleluia!

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


THEY DIVIDED HIS GARMENTS BY CASTING LOTS

In the final scene of Bonnie and Clyde, after the criminal couple died when the police strafed their getaway vehicle, the people alongside the road, the bystanders who had merely heard of their criminal exploits on the news, crowded around their bloodied corpses, retrieving any personal effects they could grab, like a button, a hat, or a belt. That scene sprang into my imagination when I read:

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” They divided his garments by casting lots. (Luke 22:34).

In the same way, and featured in the news from time to time, are stories about the ordinary personal effects of long gone celebrities fetching thousands, and even millions, of dollars at auction compliments of their die-hard fans.

These are the usual images that come to me when I think of how they came up with the idea of dividing his garments by casting lots. They seemed to indicate that, though Jesus Christ could not be equated with any celebrities that came around during his time, he had already attained a certain level of notoriority among the people. He had gotten hold of their attention. So much so that they did what the modern equivalent of the die-hard fans of dead celebrities do with whatever personal effects they have left behind, for they also cast lots by bidding at auctions.

I am pretty sure that, quality and price wise, the garments that Jesus Christ had on his way to Calvary were nothing in the eyes of the fashion conscious people watching all of the events transpiring that day. So, what made them decide to do what they did? They were convinced that the person whom they crucifed between the criminals there, one on his right, the other on his left, was Someone.

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” (Luke 22:34). He has a Father who can forgive the sins of many. We all have our own fathers. But, how many of them can dispense forgiveness because we did not know what we were doing?

The people stood by and watched; the rulers, meanwhile, sneered at him and said, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.” (Luke 22:35).

He saved others. Nowadays, we often read in the news about people getting rewarded with medals or plaques for saving someone from drowning, from a vehicular accident, or a wounded comrade in war. That's the same feeling that the rulers, soldiers and the unrepentant criminal had when they said, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.” They were confident that he was able to take good care of himself.

And, finally, even the repentant criminal was rewarded when he said, “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise...” (Luke 22: 42-43).

People, whatever their religious persuasions may be, deep within their hearts, are in agreement that our lives consist not only of our presence here in this material world, but that there is the everlasting life that we all have to go to at the end of our lives. And the only person who can give it is Jesus Christ.

Now, who won and who got the pieces of his garments?

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


DEAD PROJECT

In school, I learned the idiomatic expression, “To kill two birds with one stone,” which means to complete, achieve or take care of two tasks at the same time or with a singular series of actions.

I have a dead project which I wish to share with you. In a nearby cemetery, lie our maternal grandfather, grandmother and our mother's two younger siblings – an uncle and an aunt – all in one single plot of land. Whenever I have time, I will go visit them, pray the rosary, and wipe their headstones with a rug.

One time, while I was doing the usual routine visit, an idea popped in my mind that instead of putting flowers which wither and fade anyway over their headstones, as the others around us were doing, why not use the empty wine bottles we have around the house?

In a way, I had an ulterior motive in doing it. I would wished to “bribe” the souls of my dead loved ones. So, I filled up four stray, empty wine bottles I found just laying around the house with water, and put one of them over each one of their headstones.

Unless someone removes it, these four, used-to-be empty wine bottles now filled up with water, will not wither and fade, but will endure the elements for a long time. Why fill them up with water? Jesus himself said, “But whoever drinks the water that I shall give him shall never thirst, but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4: 14).

Doing this, I killed two birds with one stone. I not only recycled those empty wine bottles sitting around the house, but also, hopefully, pleased the souls of my dead loved ones enough to grant me all my petitionary prayers. I am confident that it will come to fruition. As Philippians 4: 9 says, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or have seen in me, put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


WHERE IS GOD?

Then the scribes and Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle. They said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?”

Reading the above passage, I remembered a grisly scene which I wished I had never seen. It was while watching a 24- hour news network channel. The image stayed with me. It reverberated in my memory, bringing me sleepless nights. The clip, taken by a hidden camera, showed a packed sports stadium where a fully-shrouded woman, sitting on the ground in the middle of the field, was shot point-blank in he head with an automatic rifle by a person clad in black and showing no qualms of conscience. The scene was very strong. What had the woman done to deserve such a fate?

It was good for the woman in the gospel, caught in the very act of committing adultery, that Jesus was there to defend and free her from a similar sentence to what I saw in that grisly news clip. He did this with his remark, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7).

Jesus employed a very effective verbal assault and repulsed them. And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So he was left alone with the woman before him. (John 8: 9).

But where was Jesus when thousands, and even millions, of nameless and faceless, innocent people lost their lives for being caught in the middle of the whims of the so-called powers-that-be? Has God abandoned and forgotten them?

Again, I remembered a childhood war movie I had seen titled, Three Years without God. People caught in the middle of a seemingly never ending conflict were asking as to where God was in the middle of their sufferings and deaths experiences. Why was he so silent? Did he pull the plug on them? Can we dismiss the issue by just telling them that it was a means of purification? Go and try telling that to a bereaved family who has just lost a loved one in a very senseless manner.

So he was left alone with the woman before him.” Whether with our health or with our lives, when we have already exhausted all ways and means and yet it's the same dismal negative results over and over again. When it is as though there's no way out for us anymore, when we are at the end of our rope, when it is as though God is playing deaf and mute to all our cries and pleas, the best thing that we can do is to kneel down and pray. In prayer we will be left alone with God. It's between us and him. Let God just take over.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


A MIRACLE OR JUST A COINCIDENCE?

Recently, a parishioner approached and told me about her plan of disposing by burying old icons with missing parts like an arm, an eye, peeling paint, or damaged areas. I suggested to her that instead of doing that, why not pass them on to me? I will continue taking good care of them.

In the past, I also picked up and adopted an icon, in similar condition, of the Holy Family I found by the church premises. I cleaned it and put it in my room. My room did not have any sacramentals installed in it.

I started to regularly pray the rosary in front of it. Touched and hugged it whenever I feel any desolations in my life and, I was sure, with the consolations I received, that it was working.

On the day that the icons were brought to me in a large paper bag, they were in the condition that was earlier on described to me. Some parts were missing, the paint was peeling here and there, and the appearance was disheveled

I decided to bring one of them, the icon of the Sto. Nino (the Infant of Prague) home. Ordinarily, no one lives at our home permanently. It is just locked. So, I talked with the icon of the Sto. Nino, and asked him to look after it while all of us are away.

One of the lingering issues we have at home was that of water, as with a water pump or none, it does not climb up to the third floor.

The gospel reading for that day was from Luke 5:1-7:

There was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem at the Sheep Gate a pool called in Hebrew Bethesda, with five porticoes. In these lay large number of ill, blind, lame, and crippled. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.”

I am a person of little faith. Was it a miracle or just mere coincidence when, one early morning, I happened to pass by our house to check around, and to my great surprised, upon opening the door, I heard the loud gushing sound of water coming down from the third floor. My initial reaction was that someone had broken into our property. I do not live in our house. So, I do not know the whereabouts of everything.

I got scared and immediately biked and woke up our caretaker living a few streets away. When I related to him what I just discovered at home, he told me that he had gone there as early as four o clock, and had opened the gate valve to test the water pressure. Was it a mere coincidence that the water pressure that time was much stronger, now that we are ramping up to the hot dry season? Or really a miracle from the Sto. Nino?

Oh God, please help me strengthen my faith in you. I know you went up our house and filled our water tank with water. You stirred it and it gush forth down to shower our family with graces from your bounty.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


FOUR-GIVES

In the past, and even nowadays, to help potential customers conveniently pay for certain merchandise, enterprising persons devised the installment system, which was aptly called, “Two-gives, three-gives, four-gives.”

Just as many of us dread going to our dental and medical appointments, so also do we dread approaching the Sacrament of Reconciliation. To help lessen that feeling, the parable of the Prodigal Son is usually used in penitentiary services to prepare people for the activity. Let us go through it in small chunks: in “four-gives.”

Just like the younger son in the parable:

After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings and set off to a distant country where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation. When he had freely spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he found himself in dire need... (Luke 15: 13-14).

    We were also given a lot in life. It is a lot but limited which, most of the time, gets misused.

In the past, when I first heard this parable, I thought the younger son was lacking in economics, which is the allocation of limited resources. The younger son had poor financial management skills. So, this taught and pushed me to save money a lot. I do not want to be in dire need, going as far as eating the food meant for the pigs. However, later, I learned that the message was far-ranging. I must not waste my time, talent or treasure.

Life is one big gamble. We win some, but lose a lot. Our bounty depends on the amount we bet. The younger son definitely put up a big bet and, as often is the case, he lost big time.

Have you already experienced hunger pangs in a foreign land where you do not know anyone? How many of us have hit bottom or the hard wall? What can we do to get out of the rut?

The younger son's one great skill was praying. As children, we play a lot but as adults we learned to pray, and learned of prayer's importance in our lives. The following realizations occurred:

Coming to his senses he thought, “How many of my father's hired workers have more than enough to eat, but here am I, dying from hunger. I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.'” (Luke 15:17-19).

This was the fruit of his prayers: his prayers were answered. It was a Grace that he was able to think of it that way and not in a worse way and manner.

The younger son bet again and, thanks be to God, this time he won! He hit the big time. So he got up and went back to his father. While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him...

But his father ordered the servants, “Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Take the fattened calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.” (Luke 15: 20-24).

We should never stop showing up. Never stop betting. One day we are going to get what we have been betting on for such a long time.

Now the older son... became angry with him. He said to his father in reply, “Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends. But when your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.” He said to him, “My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.” (Luke 15: 25-32).

The Sacrament of Reconciliation is far-reaching and ranging. It reaches everyone. The final statement of the father is so touching. When we confess and get absolved, the grace we receive does not solely go to us, but also to the persons around us at the house, in school or at work. This is what the Sacrament of Reconciliation gives us.

Lesson learned. If we think in one big chunk, it is so difficult. But, if we break it down into small bits and pieces, it will be a breeze – and all so easy to be forgiven by way of the four-gives.

Fr. Allan Fenix


REPENT OR NOT

I overheard someone say, "Repent or not repent, we will all perish anyway. Remember, none of us will get out of here alive."

In light of the recent COVID-19 pandemic, when a lot of motorist checkpoints were set up within the boundaries of every area, I saw a lot of trucks with the inscription boldly painted, as if shouting, on the front of their hoods: PERISHABLE. DO NOT DELAY.

These were food trucks delivering either much-needed relief goods in quarantined places, or fresh produce to supermarkets being rapidly depleted of its supply due to the panic buying which ensued.

Reflecting further on these events happening around here, John 1: 23 came to mind: John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way for the Lord.'” In which, I also correlated it with the Archimedean and the Geometrical law of straight lines - the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.

This is the simple and obvious power of straight lines. Anything we want in life is subject to this said law. To find the shortest way to our goal, we have to know two coordinates: “Point A,” where we are currently, and “Point B,” where we want to go.

So in Luke 13, verses 3 and 5 it says: “By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will perish as they did!”

We no longer just heard: “Repent and believe the gospel,” just like we heard it on Ash Wednesday, as the blessed ashes were imposed on our foreheads. There was already the great sense of urgency- Repent or else you will perish.

It is now vitally an “either/or” choice. There is no longer a need for more delaying tactics for we might perish like the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices. Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them. (Luke 13: 1, 4).

Or, in our recent days, the numerous drug-related summary executions which happened in our country over the last several years, and the innumerable deaths that visited us with the COVID- 19 pandemic. Then, also, the war raging in Ukraine.

Now, going back to last Ash Wednesday, when blessed ashes were imposed on our foreheads, I imagined that the ashes on our foreheads formed the following inscription: PERISHABLE. DO NOT DELAY.

This is our straight line. We are the perishable, fresh produce which is delicately perishable. We must not delay or else we will be like the fig tree that the owner told the gardener, “For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. So cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?” To which the gardener suggested a simple straight line to saving it. He said to him in reply, “Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.” (Luke 13: 7-8).

Repent or not repent, we will perish anyway. But it's best to perish repenting than to perish without repenting.

Fr. Allan Fenix


HOBNOB

As I reflect on the Transfiguration of Jesus, my mind keeps getting distracted by the prefix “trans.”

In recent days, with the rise and growing assertion of the so-called LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transexual, Queer) communities, the prefix “trans” has been understood to mean “transgender,” which refers and relates to people whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with their birth sex.

The Transfiguration of Jesus has nothing to do with this at all. It happened while he was praying:

His face changed in appearance, and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem. (Luke 9:29-31).

As I continued reflecting, the word “hobnob” sprung to mind. There are some people who love to hobnob with the rich, famous and powerful. To associate familiarly with them is somewhat akin to sharing in their richness, popularity and, of course, power.

In the Transfiguration of Jesus, we find Peter, John and James hobnobbing, not only with Jesus, but with Moses and Elijah as well. They represented the long history of the law and the long line of the prophets, respectively.

The reaction of Peter summarized it all. He likes it, and wants to continue the hobnobbing. No wonder he made such a very inviting suggestion. Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep, but becoming fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here, let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Luke 9:32-33

We can hobnob with God by imitating what Jesus did:

While he was praying, his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem. Luke 9:29-30

We are at our best when we are praying. When we pray, we put our best foot forward ,which means to embark on an undertaking with as much effort and determination as possible. When we pray, we show ourselves in the best or most positive way possible. It is no wonder that we will have both external and internal transformation.

While he was still speaking, a cloud came and cast a shadow over them, and they became frightened when they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” (Luke 9:34-35).

As prayer is a two way communication, when we hobnob with God in prayer, audibly and inaudibly, he is also talking to us. God is talking to us! This is the absolute and ultimate form of hobnobbing.

When we hobnob with God in prayer, like in the Transfiguration of Jesus, we will also share in his holiness, power, glory and everything that is in Him without exception.

After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. They fell silent and did not at that time tell anyone what they had seen. (Luke 9:36)

For sure, while we will be reduced to silence, we can still afford to share it with everyone we encounter after coming down from this, our own mountain of prayer.

Fr. Allan Fenix


DUST DEVIL

I was able to watch a documentary video about human remains being found in the desert. It was found out that people coming from some third world countries, with the objective of finding a “kingdom” where they might be free from their extreme destitution, brave and risk everything by illegally crossing the desert without knowing full well what awaits them there.

We Filipinos don't have an ordinary experience of the desert. Reflecting on the passage:

Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over he was hungry. (Luke 4: 1).

I took me sometime to let it sink in. I came to understand why Jesus got hungry in that place, as the desert is a dry, often sandy region of little rainfall and sparse vegetation. I once had the opportunity to actually experience what it was to be in the desert, when we drove across two desert states. It was a long, monotonous drive, traversing a vast expanse of sand, stones, and saguaro cactus.

I was awakened from my reverie when the person I was with pointed to a tower of swirling sand called a dust devil. It was my first time hearing that term, so, at the first opportunity, I looked up what it was about.

Dust devils can produce radio noise and electrical fields greater than 10,000 volts per meter . They pick up small dirt and dust particles, and, as the particles swirl around, they become electrically charged through contact or “frictional” charging. With this formation of a dust devil occurring in the desert, I rightly concluded that the devil must really be in that place.

Jesus encountered three kinds of temptation in the desert.

    1. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread." Jesus answered him, “It is written, One does not live by bread alone.” (Luke 4: 3-4).

Jesus outwitted the devil. To eat bread in a desert setting is a dry feeding. One will get more hot and thirsty. One needs water like what he offered the woman at the well. Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him it will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4: 13-14).

2. Then he took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant. The devil said to him, “I shall give to you all this power and their glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I may give it to whomever I wish. All this will be yours, if you worship me.” Jesus said to him in reply, “It is written: You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.” (Luke 4: 5-8).

Jesus reminds us of the first commandment: “I am the Lord your God: You shall not have strange gods before me.”

Going back to the story of the documentary video I watched earlier, I cannot blame those people, who risk everything not knowing full well what awaited them in illegally crossing the desert, only to end up dry and dead on the desert floor. Their minds were “drugged” with the belief that the “kingdom” up north is the cure for their extreme destitution.

3. Then he led him to Jerusalem, made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written: He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you, and: 'With their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.'” Jesus said to him in reply, “It also says, You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”

There are many people who engage in death defying sports and stunts. One of them was this individual who decided to make his birthday a very memorable one by skydiving.

Unfortunately during the dive, both his and the guide's parachute did not deploy. That was indeed a very memorable birthday. A once in a lifetime experience. He was among the 21, or .0007 percent, fatalities that occur out of 3 million annual jumps.

Our lives are too precious to engage in such death defying activities. It is gambling with death; with the devil. God did not create us to endanger our lives. More so, we shall not put the Lord, our God, to the test.

When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time. Luke 4:13

We humans have small memory banks. These three temptations – these three “dust devils” cited above – will keep on occurring again and again in our lives until we are filled with the Holy Spirit.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


HALITOSIS

A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For people do not pick figs from thorn bushes, nor do they gather grapes from brambles. (Luke 6:43-44).

Among the vital organs of the human body, which one of them can be replaced? The eye, the teeth, the kidney, the skin, but what about the heart?

Yes, recently in the news there was a story about the successful heart of a pig transplant operation to a human. There was no mention in the article whether after the procedure the recipient started acting or speaking differently from what he used to. His family was just overjoyed and thankful that their once very sick loved one can still be with them for a much longer time.

Happy Hearts' Day/Month! Among the vital organs of the human body, it is only the heart that worldwide has a whole day and, even a month, dedicated to it. In fact, we just celebrated Valentine's Day, which directly refers to the heart, as it is the celebration of love among lovers. So, we greet each other on that day, “Happy Hearts' Day!” while putting our hands on our left chest where our heart is. On other days, do we also greet each other, "Happy Kidney, Spleen, Pancreas Liver, Intestines, or Appendix Day?"

In physiology, we learned that the heart is far reaching, as it pumps blood and oxygen to all parts of the body to bring health and life.

So,in the study of philosophy, just as the object of the will is the good. And so also, only truth and goodness is the rightful content of the heart. It is its proper fuel. Any other such as lies, hate, anger and the like, will bring havoc among our other vital organs. That's why we have the so-called liver cirrhosis, burst pancreas, colon cancer, and kidney diseases.

I even read that one of the causes of halitosis or bad breathe is not only poor dental hygiene caused by rotting teeth or dietary intake, but also it is a symptom of an internal organ illness. Something is corrupting and has gone wrong within the internal organs. The breath proves it.

A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks. (Luke 6:45).

Fr. Allan Fenix


PLIERS

It was my day off and decided to spend part of the day just looking around in a nearby Chinese-owned shopping center that sold all kinds of cheap merchandise.

While walking the aisle of the construction supply section, I happened to stop by a bunch of pliers beautifully made, and displayed with a price tag that was less than half of that of a similar pair. Looking at, and handling some of them, I recalled what had just happened recently.

We all have heard and read about work-related accidental deaths. However, this time, it hit somewhat close to home, as it was a person related to someone I know.

This person worked as a troubleshooter for the local electric cooperative. He was always in demand and sought after whenever and wherever there was an electrical issue.

One day, on what was also his day off, he was called to fix someone's electrical line. To make the long story short, everything was already up and running. However, everything ended when, without his PPE (Personal Protective Equipment – his gloves), he climbed back up the post to retrieve his old familiar pair of pliers, which he noticed still hanging intact on a live wire where he had left them. Imagine the thousands of watts of electrical voltage that entered through his body through that pair of pliers with its frayed rubber handle.

Going back to that Chinese-owned shopping center selling all kinds of cheap goods, as I held and played with that pair of pliers, I kept on thinking about whether the person in a very faraway land who helped manufacture this pair of pliers ever knew that they would bring light and better lives to thousands and even millions of people.

On the other hand, did it ever enter his mind, that the pair of pliers, in a matter of seconds, can snuff off the life of someone, the breadwinner, the father of growing family?

Now that pair of pliers involved in the accident, after they are retrieved, washed and sanitized, will be put out by the corner and, eventually, will get sold in a second hand store.

Will the next owner, the excited buyer finding a cheap bargain, ever know their grim history? That, many times, it gave light and better lives to thousands, and even millions, of people and, at another time, kilowatts of electrical voltage passed through it to snuff out the life of someone, the breadwinner, the father of a growing family.

The pair of pliers, which used to belong to the departed person, are long gone and all that the deeply bereaved family has are his memories of that day that was supposed to be his day off.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


MAYHEM

The word “mayhem,” which means the crime of willfully maiming or crippling a person or the infliction of wanton destruction, sprung to mind when I reflected on the Lucan gospel chapter 66, verses 27 through 38, regarding the love of enemies.

It is mayhem when a person strikes you on the cheek, a person takes your cloak, a person takes what is yours. Mayhem has a negative connotation. However “may hem,” a two-word simple phrase that means “may,” an auxiliary word indicating possibility or expressing a fervent wish, and “hem,” a smooth, even edge on a piece of cloth made by folding the salvage edge under and stitching it down. It is positive.

Do to others as you would have them do to you. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Jesus was may-hemming when he said to his disciples; To you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you, offer the other cheek as well, do not withhold your tunic, give to everyone who asks of you, lend expecting nothing back.

Jesus was may-hemming when he said; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.

Again, “mayhem” is negative as it causes death, division and disunity, while may hem is positive as it promotes life, love and harmony. As John 17:21 aptly said it: “...that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

Fr. Allan Fenix


WORKING OVERLY EXCESSIVE

We have a saying in our local dialect that when translated into English roughly means, “A dog which is always full tends to be often asleep.” I am not a pet person. However, someone explained to me that to keep them up on their toes, alert and on guard, normally a dog should be fed only once a day. Otherwise, it will often be on its stomach fast asleep which defeats the very purpose of having a dog to guard the life and property of its owner.

Reflecting on the Sermon on the Plain found in Luke 6: 20-26, I felt somewhat anxious and guilty:

Blessed are you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours. Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your names as evil on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold your reward will be great in heaven. For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way. But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep. Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way.

Having attended a conventional school teaching the standard curriculum system, I learned the following: Study well and finish school. Get a good, high-paying job. Earn the money to raise a future family of your own, and be able to buy the basic necessities of life – a house, food on the table, education for your children, clothes, medicines and, perhaps, a little extra for entertainment, travel and investment.

The educational system that our generation went through prepared us for all the material eventualities of life, and for when the time would come when we would be out there in society. Our parents also fully agreed to all this.

If in our own case we receive consolation, are filled up, happy and merry and are well spoken of, then our schools have achieved their objectives. And our parents are happy that they have received their money's worth – we are the return on their investment.

Who wants to be in grief? Who wants to be hungry and famished? Who wants to live a sad life? Who wants to be stigmatized? A faith that encourages these will be very unpopular. It won't prosper. Our educational system and our parents prepared us for a life where we can find comfort and convenience. No parents would wish grief, hunger, sadness, or a bad reputation to grip their children.

However, like the dog in our story, we need to live the meaning of the word “enough,” which means “...sufficient and adequate to meet a need or satisfy a desire.”

The human person by nature is “non-satisfied” – he is not satisfied. There is a very strong tendency in us to let greed reign. To exceed the normal range or dosage. It is no wonder that there are many who die early and young of this overdose, overeating, over drinking and flaunting excessive riches to the point of being targets for the bad elements of society.

We need to relearn “enough” in our lives or else we will fall in the pit called “woe:” Working Overly Excessive – which destroys and kills lives.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


THE CALL

In Kindergarten, I learned the following song: “Row, row, row your boat. Gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily. Life is but a dream.”

How many among us love to go boating? I do. When I lived at a coastal village, I would usually run, then row myself a short distance out to sea in the afternoons aboard my rubber boat, where I lie down and just enjoy the scenery. I could feel the lolling of the waves, see the sight of the mountain ranges, watch the slow flying home of birds in formation, and watch parishioners from afar: the view from the sea.

What is a boat? It is a relatively small, usually open water craft. Each of us has his own boat. This boat acts as an allegorical figure to mirror the kind of lives we are living now.

In Luke 5: 1-11, regarding the call of Simon the Fisherman, we saw four kinds of boats. Which ones are we?

A. He saw two boats there alongside the lake; the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets. (Luke 5: 2).

Our lives are a retreat in survival mode. Sidelined and on a maintenance level. Maybe our lives right now are in dry dock, and we are undergoing detailing and repair. We all have just gone through a lot. Maybe, for some, experiencing more negatives than positives. While a lot have lost their employment or are just working from home, to be alongside the lake with the fishermen disembarked and washing their nets does not mean giving up but, rather, we are just gathering steam and strength to wait on for the right opportunity to pounce upon life again. “Wait until the dust storm of this pandemic settles down and we will be on the sea again.”

B. Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. (Luke 5: 3).

This is already good. We are going and getting somewhere. We might be doing something small but significant nevertheless.

The impact of what we are doing right now is not found in the quantity of it but rather in the quality with which we are performing it.

As St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta said: “There are no great things. Only small things done with great love. And there's where one will find happiness.”

C. Keep on working and your work will teach you. This was what happened in Luke 5: 4-7. After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that they were in danger of sinking.

We often hear the phrases: “Practice makes perfect, trial and error, try and try until one dies” so often that they become merely cliches to us. However, there is a golden truth to all of them – we must never stop. Keep on sailing and lowering one's nets for the great catch.

D. When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him. (Luke 5: 11).

Same thing with Simon Peter. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, (Luke 5: 8-9).

We came face to face with our weaknesses and limitations and we feel unworthy of God's mercy and compassion for us. We have to totally empty ourselves out to let him come and occupy our lives .

Row, row, row your boat. Gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily. Life is about a CALL.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


TO PASS AND GO AWAY

In my reflection regarding Jesus' rejection experience at Nazareth, when the people in the synagogue heard what he told them, they were filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. (Luke 4: 28-30).

I admire so much what Jesus did: he passed through the midst of them and went away. As I continued to reflect on this, it occurred to me that there were three instances in the life of Jesus when I wished he had been able to, again, just pass through the midst of them and go away.

  1. Jesus' temptation in the wilderness:

    Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

    Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

    Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

    Jesus answered him,“It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

    Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “If you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

    Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

  2. The agony of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane:

    My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death... Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed. “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will , but as you will. He went away a second time and prayed. “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done. (Matthew 26: 38-39, 42).

  3. Jesus' crucifixion:

    And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” - which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15: 24).

Good for Jesus! He is God with superhuman strength and intelligence. How about us? How we wish to also do what Jesus did when we are heavily and strongly tempted; to also do as he did and pass through the midst of them and go away. But, the thing is, in our weaknesses, in our confusions, in our dilemma, in our limitations, we have the tendency to just stay put and dwell on it. To stay put is to remain where one is or is placed. In a way, to stay put is good if it is to stay put in the state of grace. To bask in God's love and mercy. To be at peace that we are under the mantle of God's protection against sickness and failures. However, what usually happens is that we stay put with the temptations until we notice too late that we have already succumbed to it. We are already staying put with the sins that brought it about.

We tend to “enjoy” and stay put where we find ourselves. The answer now to our predicament is found in Matthew 26: 41: “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”

We have to learn from Jesus how to pass through the midst and go away. Because to dwell and stay put will lead us to dwell and say, “Pooh!”*

Fr. Allan S. Fenix

* An interjection used to express disgust at a bad smell – in our case, SIN.


URN

Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. "Take away the stone," he said. (John 11:38-39).

I recently went to a cemetery to bless the cremated remains of someone before they were interred underground.

Along the way to the gravesite, passing the rows of mausoleums, niches, and tombstones, I immediately noticed how full to the brim the cemetery was already. Just a few years back, I can clearly recall that it was still spacious and empty.

Where will we bury our dead loved one's tomorrow? Or, to put it more bluntly, where will they bury us in the coming days? What if we come up with a vertical cemetery?

Nowadays, with the onset of the pandemic, cremation has suddenly become in vogue. Bereaved families would usually receive back their dead loved ones in an urn.

What is an urn? It is a tall vase, usually with a stem and a base, especially one used for holding the ashes of a cremated person.

Connected to its teaching on the resurrection from the dead in the last days, the Church used to be against cremation. However, with the recent theological developments and exigencies, it has already allowed cremation among the faithful.

The recent pandemic has greatly impacted our lifestyles. Like many who are working from home, shopping online, or taking food deliveries. What about the burial of our dead loved ones?

Without transgressing any cultures or religious beliefs, with the cremated remains of a dead loved one in an urn, we can just take it home and place beside our altar. Aside from not taking too much space, we can always remember that person whenever the whole family kneels down before the altar to pray the rosary.

An urn, in the modern language of the texting generation, means U (you) R (are) N (nearby). With the cremated remains of our dead loved ones in an urn sitting by besides our home altars, it means that in life and death we will never be far away from each other. Because U (you ) R ( are ) N ( nearby ).

"I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die, and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11: 25-26).

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


SEE THE BUS!

Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and ministers of the word have handed them down to us, I too have decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received. (Luke 1: 1-4).

We are just in the Third Sunday in the Ordinary Time and everything still smells fresh and new – still in the honeymoon stage. Even in many schools around our area, they have just started their second academic semester and usually on the first day of classes individual course instructors give out their syllabus.

What is a syllabus?

It is an outline of the subjects in a course of study or teaching. It is a course roadmap to what and which route the class will go through for the remainder of the semester, until they achieve their course objectives.

Did you remember to make your usual list of New Year's resolutions? Why do they “fizzle out” completely merely by the second or third month of the year? It is because we fail to put in black and white our specific strategies on how we will tackle and achieve our individual objectives.

The Lucan gospel for this Sunday gives us the syllabicated Galilean ministry syllabus of Jesus Christ:

    1.The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. The Beatitudes spoke much about being poor:

    Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now for you will laugh.

    The poor are those who recognized their own spiritual poverty, their need for God. The poor in spirit are those who mourn over their sin, recognizing that they have no righteousness of their own, and they can only depend upon God and his grace towards them.

    2. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives:

    The spirit of the Lord God hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, and the opening of the prison to those that are bound. (Isaiah 61: 1).

    The liberty that Jesus had in mind was neither political , nor financial, but rather spiritual. Humanity was in bondage to sin, and Jesus came to provide freedom from the constraints of sin. In philosophy, liberty involves free will. It entails the responsible use of freedom under the rule of law without depriving anyone of their freedom.

    3. ...and recovery of sight to the blind:

    Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

    Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

    Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

    So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

    What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.

    The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”

    Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. (Mark 10: 46-52).

    Being blind is to be spiritually lost. It does not mean that the blind themselves were spiritually lost, but that they were unable to see as someone who is spiritually lost is unable to see the Truth.

    4. ...to let the oppressed go free:

    He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God. (Proverbs 14: 31.)

    To be oppressed is typically under someone else's control or rule. They are taken advantage of and treated in a harsh or cruel way and so it is seen as the exercise of authority or power over another person or people, and using them for their own purpose in a burdensome, cruel, and unjust manner. The people have no control of their own lives and have no freedom, as they are living in a state of bondage.

    5. ...and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord:

    To proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord refers to the Jubilee year in the Hebrew tradition whereby debts would be remitted, lands restored to their original owners, and the liberation of slaves. A jubilee is a special anniversary celebration of God's intent that the Israelites should remain free from slavery for all time – and so with all of us.

We just went through the syllabicated Galilean ministry syllabus of Jesus Christ. The word “Syllabus" seems to rhyme with the simple phrase "See the bus! Yes, the syllabus is the bus, the mass transport, that will take us to where we should all go for the remainder of this great liturgical year – up until we reach Christ the King Sunday again. And beyond!

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


FLAVORED WATER

He shall dwell on the heights, his stronghold shall be the rocky fastness, his food and drink in steady supply. (Isaiah 3: 16).

In the Philippine countrysides, during the pre-pandemic period, one could normally witness the following scenes:

Wakes for the dead would be held as festive celebrations lasting for days on end and, even weeks sometimes, primarily sustained by a lot of card games and gambling on the side, food readily available, blaring sing-along music and, of course, the flowing free cheap liquor to lubricate the endless conversations. This would ensure that everyone would stay put until the wee hours of the night and guaranteed that most, if not everyone, would be drunk by the break of dawn – and the mission was usually accomplished! When everybody was happy, no one would ever complain that the food and drinks were wanting.

This cultural practice goes on the same way with our marriages as well, where almost the entire village is invited and seemingly all are helping themselves.

To avoid embarassment and losing face, the contracting parties and their families would go as far as taking out a big loan, or pawning or selling something very valuable to buy the food and drinks needed to fuel the days-long celebration. This would be good enough if the prepared food and drinks were in excess but what if, as most often happens, the uninvited as well as the invited show up together?

But whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life. (John 4: 14).

In many scriptural circumstances, Jesus used water to symbolize himself, the life everlasting.

Water is life. In our daily lives, specially for us living in a very temperate region, it is a very important commodity that we are often reminded to have handy to avoid dehydration and system collapse. However, there are also people who don't want to drink just plain water. For them, it is bland. Tasteless. Uninteresting. They want something for their taste buds. A favorful flavor. Water is life and if we have faith, it would be favorably favored by it.

Just like Mary said to the servers at the wedding in Cana, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told them, “Fill the jars with water. ” So they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “ Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter. ” So they took it. And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from – although the servers who had drawn the water knew – the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one: but you have kept the good wine until now.” (John 2: 5-10).

Having life as well as faith is as if we are drinking the best mixed flavored water of all. And with this, it is a mission accomplished for us and everybody is happy!

Fr. Allan Fenix


ARE YOU ALREADY THE ONE?

There was a story of a woman who dreamed of marrying the ideal and perfect man of her dreams. She rejected series of suitors, as they did not fit the ideal and perfect man of her dreams. In short, there being no ideal and perfect man of her dreams coming, she eventually became a spinster for life.

There was also the story of a man with multiple partners. Every few years, he kept on changing partners, as he was looking for the ideal and perfect woman of his dreams. In time, he grew frustrated and bitter with life. All because he could not find the ideal and perfect partner of his dreams.

Is he already the ONE? The people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah? (Luke 3: 15).

In terms of quality and even of quantity, sometimes, and most often in our impatience, there is a very strong tendency in us to just settle for what is less; the lesser and more mediocre choice.

Is he already the ONE?

The people cannot be blamed if they thought that John the Baptist was already the Messiah. It is understandable. With our very limited range of understanding of things around us, we often become too impatient. In their case, they had been also waiting for eons for the oft repeated promise of the coming of the Messiah. And, at long last, someone is already there in front of them, acting the part, just as it had been narrated to them for generations. The people were saying to John the Baptist that maybe you will do. You are good enough for us.

However in all admirable humility, John answered them all saying, “I am baptizing you with water (this is all I have!) but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (He is better than me! He has with him TWO better ones - the Holy Spirit and fire!).

And to top it all off, three very wonderful things happened. After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying:

1. Heaven was opened...

2. ...and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove.

3. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son: with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:21-22).

John the Baptist was admirably humble to accept that he was not the ONE. Instead, he pointed us to the perfect, ideal and divine ONE, who is Jesus. For him the heavens opened, the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove, and with a voice coming from heaven all heard, “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.”

And so no one had to ask him, Are you already the ONE?

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


RIGHT OVER

He said to them in reply, “Give them some food yourselves.” But they said to him, “Are we to buy two hundred days wages worth of food and give it to them to eat?” (Mark 6: 37).

There are some of us who abhor eating reheated leftover food. On my way to church, I passed by a still unopened box of cake with a ribbon on top sitting prettily on a garbage bin, while I saw many young urchins and indigenous people running around begging for food.

At this early part of the year, I am sure that, for most of us, if we try to go through our refrigerators and cabinets at home, we will find that they still contain the leftover food items we have had since Christmas and New Years.

We live in a time of abundance and, in celebration of the easing down of the pandemic restrictions, we celebrated and prepared a lot of food.

I read that globally, one in four individuals feels hunger pangs on a daily basis. Among us here attending the holy mass or reading my reflection, who among us went through hunger pangs in the last few days, weeks, months or years?

None. I am pretty sure of that.

Even psychologically, just the sight of the cornucopia of food waiting for us on the table is enough to make us feel sated or even lose our appetites.

There were even some among us, or persons we know, who were hospitalized and must remember again to reach out for their medicines, needed for hypertension or hypoglycemia from consuming the rich in sugar, salty and oily delicacies of the season.

The miracle of the multiplication of the five loaves and two fish which fed five thousand men reminds us of Luke 3: 10, When the crowds asked John the Baptist, “What should we do?” He said to them in reply, “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.”

Food will not rot, nor pass its expiration date, when it is shared. Instead, it multiplies and reaches around to everyone. And no food will be leftover because many will be right over.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


OVERJOYED AT SEEING THE STAR

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: 10-11).

As I kept on reflecting on the three gifts that the Magi had offered to the child Jesus, questions started creeping up in my mind: So what eventually happened to the gold, frankincense and myrrh?

In their haste to escape Herod, who was looking to kill the child, could it have fallen by the wayside, left somewhere, entrusted to someone. Was it used to finance his public ministry? Was the myrrh ever retrieved for his eventual burial? May I please hear from anyone who might know?

Reflecting further on, could the gold, frankincense and myrrh from the Magi have found its way to our doorsteps, our lives, to us right here and now?

Today is just the second day of a newly God-given year in our lives. It is golden to find ourselves in Church, together with our family members, not only to take selfie pictures by the manger besides the altar, but to attend and receive Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.

We also remember this day to pray for the living and dead members of our family.

As it is still a holiday and there is no need to be in a hurry to be anywhere and somewhere, as a family we go home and eat together whatever leftovers are still on our tables and as we talk, talk and talk.

Talk is cheap. There is no price on talking. In the process of our exchanges with each other, unknowingly, we are instructing the ignorant, counseling the doubtful, admonishing, bearing wrongs patiently, forgiving offenses willingly, and comforting the afflicted. These are all the “golden nuggets” that the Magi had given to the baby Jesus that have found their ways into our lives.

As an alternative activity, we can also spend the day outdoors, feeding the hungry as well as giving drink to the thirsty, sharing whatever we have with the naked and weary travelers, visiting sick relatives and those imprisoned, and, a bit out of season, visiting the cemetery of our departed loved ones.

Again, these are the bits and nuggets of the frankincense and myrrh that the Magi gifted the baby Jesus that have found their way into our lives.

As Isaiah 60: 1, 5 says it:

Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you....Then you shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow, for the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you, the wealth of nations shall be brought to you.

Father Allan S. Fenix