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The Bishops Homily – Baptism Of The Lord

Baptism Of The Lord
9 January 2017
Cycle A
Is. 42:1-7
Acts 10:34-38
Mt. 3:13-17

Introduction: “Live Christ; Share Christ” is the CBCP slogan for the ten (10) years of Evangelization since 2011 in preparation for the 500 years of Christianization in the Philippines. This Feast once again reminds every baptized Christian of our deep Communion with Christ by reason of Baptism. It is what St. Paul said to his Christians: It is no longer I that live but Christ lives in me.” As baptized Christians, can we truly say Christ, not my Ego, is manifested in my daily life? Or am I only a Catholic Christian by name?

(1) Baptism from the Greek word baptizein, means to plunge or immerse one into the divine as in the water. It focuses more on new life in union with Christ than on washing away our (orginal) sin. The core of this sacrament is new life in Christ, a share in his life, a radical change of allegiance to Christ. That is why the Catechism of the Catholic Church calls Baptism the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the spirit (vitae spiritualis janua), the door which gives access to the other sacraments.

(2) Baptism incorporates one into the Church, Christ’s own Mystical Body. The baptized are called to exercise their share in Christ’s Priesthood by offering the sacrifice of the Mass and to bear witness to Christ by proclamation or by defending their faith (apologetics). Thus Baptism confers a sharing in Christ’s very mission, particularly in his threefold function: as Priest, Prophet, and King.

(3) In the Synoptic Gospels, we hear of the Spirit who had hovered over the waters at the 1st creation, descended during Christ’s Baptism as a prelude of the new creation that the Messiah was about to undertake at the beginning of his Public Ministry. At its formal inauguration, Jesus receives his commission and blessing from the father who reveals him openly as his “Beloved Son”

Conclusion: Baptism constitutes the foundation of communion among all Christians, including those who are not yet in full communion with the Catholic Church. “For men who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in some, though imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church. Justified by Faith in Baptism, they are incorporated into Christ: they, therefore, have a right to be called Christians and with good reason are accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church.” (U.R #3) Baptism, therefore, constitutes the sacramental bond of unity existing among all Christians (U.R #22,#2)

Most Rev. Antonio R. Tobias, DD
Bishop of Novaliches

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The Bishops Homily – Epiphany

Epiphany
8 January 2017
Is. 60: 1-6
Eph. 3: 1-6
Mt. 2: 1-12

Introduction: Today’s Feasts offers us the opportunity to reflect on God’s revelation of himself as the Light of the world to guide humanity and lead it at last to the Promised Land where freedom, justice and peace reigns. More and more we see clearly that on our own we cannot foster justice and peace unless the light of a God who shows us his Face is revealed to us, a God who appears to us as a child in a manger in Bethlehem or as a man hanging for us on the Cross in Calvary.

(1) Who then are the Magi of today? Three categories of people who, in a certain sense, are portrayed in the Magi of the Gospel:

  1. The rulers of this world
  2. The men of thought and science
  3. The spiritual leaders of the great religions

These three sort of pre-figure three constitutive dimensions of modern humanism: the political, the scientific and the religious dimensions.

(2) The Epiphany Hymn “Lumen requirunt lumine” evoke the experience of the magi: following a light, they were searching for the Light. The star appearing in the sky kindled in their hearts and in their minds the great Light of Christ. The Magi followed faithfully that light which filled their hearts and they encountered the Lord.

(3) The destiny of every person is symbolized in the journey of the Magi from the East. Our life is a journey, illuminated by lights that brighten our way, to find the fullness of truth and love which we Christians recognize in Jesus, the Light of the world. Like the Magi, every person has two great “books” which provide the signs to guide this pilgrimage: the book of Creation and the book of Sacred Scripture. What is important is that we be attentive, alert, and listen to God who always speaks to us. Listening to the Gospel, reading it, meditating on it and making it our spiritual nourishment especially allows us to encounter the living Jesus, to experience him and his love.

Conclusion: Epiphany shows the Magi in a state of pilgrimage, that is in a moment of seeking, often somewhat confused, but whose point of arrival, in short, is Christ, even if the star is sometimes hidden!

Most Rev. Antonio R. Tobias, DD
Bishop of Novaliches

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The Bishops Homily – Solemnity Of Mary’s Motherhood

Solemnity Of Mary’s Motherhood
1 January 2017
Num. 6: 22-27
Gal. 4:4-7
Lk. 2: 16-21

Introduction: I invite everyone to reflect on this Solemnity of Mary’s Motherhood as one among the most important blessings Mary received from God with a formula of blessing Aaron and the priests of old would recite in blessing the people:
The Lord bless you and keep you!
The Lord let his face shine upon you and be gracious to you
The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace.

(1) The word of blessing which Elizabeth spoke to Mary “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?” Lk. 1: 42-43 is in continuity with the priestly blessing. No other creature has ever seen God’s face to the eternal word so that all of us can contemplate him.

(2) Christ and his mother are inseparable: There is a very close relationship as between every child and his mother. The flesh (caro) of Christ which, as Tertulian says, is the hinge (cardo) of our salvation – was knit together in the womb of Mary. This inseparability is also clear from the fact that Mary also shared intimately in his entire mission, remaining at her Son’s side to the end in Calvary.

(3) Likewise, inseparable is Christ and the Church. To separate Jesus from the Church would introduce an ‘absurd dichotomy’. It is not possible. “to love Christ without the Church or to listen to Christ but not the Church or to belong to Christ but outside the Church,” for the Church is herself God’s family which brings Christ to us. Without the Church, our relationship to Christ would be at the mercy of our imagination, our interpretations, and our moods.”

Conclusion: Mary, Mother of God, is also the mother of the Church and through the Church, the mother of all men and women and of every people.

Most Rev. Antonio R. Tobias, DD
Bishop of Novaliches

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The Bishops Homily – Holy Family

Holy Family
(Edited Version)
December 30, 2016
Sir. 3:2-6; 12-14
Col. 3:12-21
Mt.2:13-15;19-25

Introduction: We live in a society that threatens the stability and unity of the family. Every family at various times faces its own problem either from within or from without. In the Gospel today, the Holy Family faces the threat to life of the Infant Jesus from an insecure King so obsessed with staying in power. Like the ordinary family today parents may face serious sickness or one of the children may be stricken with a life-threatening illness. Or one of the spouses may be falling into another man or woman in a same-sex or other sex relationship. How are they to handle these trials?

(1) Family means having someone with you not only in good times but also in bad times. It is sticking together knowing that you need each other especially on the face of trials. For Joseph, it could have been easier to abandon Mary and Jesus behind. After all, Jesus is not his biological son. Or for Mary, just to leave the responsibility of protecting the child to Joseph. After all, he is the head of the family. But no, they faced the problem together. Mary and Joseph fled their child to Egypt. It was clear to both of them it was their responsibility to take care of the child and they did so together! Being together does not change the problem but it does give the assurance that one is not alone but is with the other at the darkest hour of the night.

(2) Along the way, as the family tries to solve the problem, there may be conflict among the members but it does not mean that they have to leave each other behind. The way may be troublesome but one has to remember the aim: aside from solving the problem is to keep the family together until they get through it. Unfortunately, many couples today, especially the young, just quit leaving their future, hopes, and dreams into ruins. Nothing is sweeter than a family that stayed together amidst difficulties and made it through together.

(3) Finally, to reach that height is only possible in the context of love which is the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being, but a higher kind of love called friendship and self-giving. More than mere lust which only sees objects as a means to satisfy one’s appetites. Such friendship and self-giving is capable to recognize and love persons for themselves, like the love of God, that is a love capable of generosity. One desires the good of the other because he is worthy of being loved. Although this can be a topic of a homily by itself, sex in marriage must be placed within the context of LOVE within the FAMILY, even only as an addendum here.

Conclusion: Children need the family where they can best grow and develop. They need the strength of the father and comfort of the mother when they deal with difficult life situations. Couples too need each other expressed in their mutual self-giving in love. The Holy Family leaves us an example of how a family faces difficult challenges in life: not leaving the other behind but staying in mutual self-giving in love!

Most Rev. Antonio R. Tobias, DD
Bishop of Novaliches

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The Bishops Homily – Christmas Day

Christmas Day
25 December 2016
Is. 52: 7-10
Heb. 1:1-6
John 1:1-18

Introduction: Our prayers today and all those readings show the significance of Christmas as “admirabile commercium”–an admirable exchange between the divine and the human. What does the exchange consist?

(1) Pope Francis explains the significance of Christmas in his reflection on the healing of the deaf-mute: “God is not closed in on himself but instead he opens himself and places himself in communication with humanity. In his immense mercy, he overcomes the abyss of the infinite difference between him and us and comes to meet us. To bring about this communication with man, God becomes man.”

(2) The first act of that admirable exchange comes about in Christ’s own humanity. The Word assumed our humanity and, in exchange, human nature was raised to divine dignity. The second act of the exchange consists in our real and intimate involvement in the divine nature of the Word. Thus, Christmas is the feast in which God comes so close to man as to share the very act of being born, showing man and woman their most profound dignity: that of being children of God.

(3) Christmas reveals the greatness of the humans and all of creation by the dignity bestowed on them by the “humility of God”. Our dignity flows from the greatness of God’s being from which we came. Thus, Humanity’s dream which began in the Garden of Eden – we want to be like God – is realized in an unexpected way, not through the greatness of man who cannot make himself God but through the humility of God who came down among us in his humility, raising us to the true greatness of his being.

Conclusion: The Incarnation teaches us how we truly are beloved by him and “how good” and lovely we truly are in his eyes. We need not be like him in power to be happy; we only need to accept who we are: beloved of God. This is what Christmas is all about!

Most Rev. Antonio R. Tobias, DD
Bishop of Novaliches

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The Bishops Homily – Vigil of Christmas

Vigil Of Christmas
And/or
Midnight Mass
24 December 2016
Is. 62: 1-5
Acts 13: 16-17;22-25
Mt. 1:1-25

Introduction:  Welcome Jesus into our world! This is another level of Communion: shared friendship with Jesus Christ like the shepherds who in their poverty welcomed with faith and joy, hope and courage the offer of friendship by God in the Christ-child, born in a manger.

(1)    St. John Paul II used to say: “Do not be afraid! Open wide the doors for Christ.” Benedict XVI commented on those words “Are we not all afraid in some way? If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to him, are we not afraid that he might take something away from us? No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful, and great. No! Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation… When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ… and you will find true life.”

(2)    Friendship with Jesus is an extremely important message. It is a message that helps to overcome what can be considered the great temptation of our time: the claim that after the Big Bang, God withdrew from history. Thus in his book, Jesus of Nazareth, his main purpose was “to help foster (in the reader) the growth of a living relationship with Jesus Christ.” In his first Encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, he took up this theme again and gave this summary of the Encyclical: “If friendship with God becomes for us something ever more important and decisive, then we will begin to love those whom God loves and who are in need of us. God wants us to be friends of his friends and we can be so, if we are interiorly close to them.”

(3)  Becoming a friend of Jesus,

  • we will come to know his Father, how to obey (love) Him as he obeyed (loved) him
    he will give us his mother to assist us and protect us from all dangers
  • we will come to know his friends: the poor, the widows, the children, the outcasts of society, his apostles and disciples
  • we will marvel at the beauty of nature, the arts, music, dance and movements
  • we will appreciate the developments of science, and all creative powers in his creatures
  • we will see greatness, beauty, and truth because we will see, hear, speak, think and feel with his eyes (ears, words, mind, heart)
  • we have nothing to prove but just be ourselves
  • teaches us to suffer pain with joy, to experience happiness to the fullest, and to hope even when there seems nothing to hope for
  • we encounter him in the different events of life (death, baptism, birthday, or when crushed by our own failures)
  • we experience an unconditional love, pure love for who we are

Conclusion:  The angels sing what happens when man is a friend of this Jesus: “Glory to God…and on earth peace to men.” “Papuri sa Diyos…at sa lupa’y kapayapaan sa mga tao.”

Most Rev. Antonio R. Tobias, DD
Bishop of Novaliches

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The Bishops Homily – Day 9 Misa De Gallo

Day Nine: Misa De Gallo
24 December 2016 and the night before (Simbang Gabi)
2 Sam. 7:1-16
Lk. 1:67-79

Introduction:  From every parish and BEC’s, let us on this last Dawn Mass (Misa de Gallo) and its Anticipated Simbang Gabi, raise our voices in prayer to Jesus: “Come quickly, Lord Jesus, and do not delay” and with Zachariah say: “Blessed be the Lord for he has visited and brought redemption to his people!” As we end this Novena of Dawn Masses (Misa de Gallo) and of the Anticipated Masses (Simbang Gabi) and start our celebration of Christmas, let us review how our parishes and BEC’s have been fairing.

(1)    Let us ponder on the REALITIES within and outside of the Parishes and BEC’s: What is sustaining their growth and development? What are the hindrances and obstacles? Is it the people? The priests or the Religious Community? The programs and activities? The management, the structure, the logistics?

(2)    Discovering now the realities, what can be renewed? What has to go? What has to change? What has to be maintained? What needs to be strengthened? If everything is on the go, the Parish can then arrive at a rebirth!

(3)    Going through the process of review and re-thinking, the Parishes and the BECs become a well-spring of new life where mercy can be found through the PREX (Parish Renewal Experience). As regards the BECs, call help from the BEC Office at the Chancery such people as the BEC Priest Director, Fr. Tony de la Cruz, or Bro. Karl Comiling, our BEC Animator or Bro Joe Mar Maulion, our BEC Lay Coordinator and the BEC Religious Coordinator, Sr. Cristina Pranata!

Conclusion:  May our parishes and BECs truly become oases and well-springs of renewal and mercy!

Most Rev. Antonio R. Tobias, DD
Bishop of Novaliches

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The Bishops Homily – Day 8 Misa De Gallo

Day Eight: Misa De Gallo
23 December 2016 and the night before (Simbang Gabi)
Mal. 3: 1-4; 23-24
Lk. 1: 57-66

Introduction: The 8th Day of Simbang Gabi/Misa de Gallo highlights the example of Zachary, now a converted man, silently witnessing the unfolding of God’s promise of liberation, brought to us now through the Eucharist.

(1) The Eucharist is the source of renewal for the individuals and BEC groups. The sustaining power of every group, community and every Christian movement, a force to overcome indifference and complacency, to reach out to the lost and hopeless; an inspiration to share from one’s needs, and heed with joy the cries of the helpless.

(2) The Eucharist is the poverty of Jesus disturbing the complacency of the wealthy; it is the wealthy sacrificing house, family, and fortune to lift up the poor from their poverty. It is the Word of God inviting the confused, the lonely, the bored, the suffering to the joy of the Gospel. It is God’s life humanized in his Incarnation; it is human life divinized in his suffering, death, and resurrection. It is the compassion of the Father touching the life of the sinner; the conversion of the sinner practicing the compassion of the Savior.

(3) The gratuitous love of God overflows in the Eucharist. This should inspire us to participate more frequently in the Mass. Our leaders and members should grow in this as they become more involved in the activities of the parish. One sign of the maturing process of our leaders is their increasing participation in the Eucharist and a corresponding attitude of gratefulness and thanksgiving, generosity and giving of themselves.

Conclusion: Participating in the celebration of the Eucharist is the source of communion.

Most Rev. Antonio R. Tobias, DD
Bishop of Novaliches

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The Bishops Homily – Day 7 Misa De Gallo

Day Seven: Misa De Gallo
22 December 2016 and the night before (Simbang Gabi)
I Sam. 1: 24-28 / I Sam. 2: 1-8
Lk. 1: 46-56

Introduction: Mary’s Magnificat in Luke is one magnanimous prayer from the heart. It is a prayer that is expansive enough to cover the entire history of God’s redeeming work in the past as well as in the future. The key to understanding God’s redeeming work is His mercy.

(1) Our first duty in communion is prayer. Our first mission in the world is to be a leaven to teach our society how to pray. Parishes and communities will be renewed only through personal and community prayer. The prayer of a shepherd for his sheep is always music to the ears of God. Prayer is an act of love and whether of praise or contrition or petition – is always a plea for mercy. Prayer is anchor of the parish and our cornerstone. Parishes and BEC’s will be renewed as oasis of mercy through reparation for sins, frequent confession and acts of mercy.

(2) Our communities are centers of praying and forgiving. Prayer of praise, thanksgiving, penance, and intercessions are developed among the members and leaders. Such prayers develop broadness of vision, expansion of one’s interest and develop connections with the whole of humanity. Such prayers reach-out to the ends of the earth, help those unknown people who are intensely suffering, touch even the most hardened sinner for from us; can alleviate the pain of a refugee; can seek the grace of forgiveness. We cannot underestimate the power of prayer. It is stronger than the evils of this world. (St. Therese of Lisieux)

(3) Often, our prayers are limited to one’s family and relatives or for the souls in purgatory. Why not for those being killed unjustly, or those who have nothing to eat; those innocently accused of crimes; or imprisoned without a just cause. Our prayers have become too narrow and self-serving. Prayers should expand and open our heart to the whole world leading to embrace it despite itself.

Conclusion: Check your prayers how they fair even a little to Mary’s Magnificat!

Most Rev. Antonio R. Tobias, DD
Bishop of Novaliches

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The Bishops Homily – Day 6 Misa De Gallo

Day Six: Misa De Gallo
21 December 2016 and the night before (Simbang Gabi)
Sg 2: 8-14 or Zep. 3: 14-18
Lk. 1: 39-45

Introduction: After the angel’s Annunciation to Mary of her becoming the mother of Jesus, our Savior, the first thought that came to her mind was to “set out and travel to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah” to be of help to her elderly cousin, Elizabeth, pregnant with her child. Helping someone in need or serving the various kinds of poor in our society is the best way to express our thanks, our Eucharist to God for his many benevolent blessings to us. The models and inspiration of communion on this sixth day of Simbang Gabi/Dawn Masses is Mary’s genuine care and concern to someone in need on one hand and Elizabeth’s humble welcoming acceptance of her cousin’s help on the other.

(1) One of our young priests died last week, 13 December 2016 at the age of 42 just after 5 years of Ordination last 23 September 2011. He is Fr. Joel (Jose Eliseo) B. Buenviaje, Jr., Parish Priest of Nuestra Señora de la Paz y Buenviaje in old Balara, Diliman, QC. He left with his death the following Projects: 272 Scholars from the Parish and his 11 Personal Scholars; Tutorial called Project LIFE to 32 Youth; Weekly Food Packs from Albergus with additional items like rice from the Parish for 100 persons; a promised Food Packs for Christmas to 200 Families; and a weekly Catechism for 40 Wives and 22 Husbands and a 78 years old sick man by the name of Buddy Salvador who is abandoned by his family now under the deceased Priest’s care. I thank all the people who contributed to his projects in lieu of flowers during his wake.

(2) Since this Diocese has the greatest concentration of poor people and informal settlers or urban dwellers in Metro Manila, every parish is challenged to have a few pro-poor projects; otherwise, it is at risk of appearing merely as business enterprise! I thank the Faithful of the Diocese for supporting the parishes with their Balik-Handog and other ways of helping their Church through tithing and other means of support like outright donation for their parish like for the construction of Kristong Hari Parish—the upcoming Shrine for the Youth in the Diocese. For the time is coming soon when all semblance of paying for the sacraments and other church services will not be the ordinary way of supporting your Church anymore.

(3) Today is the 51st year of my Ordination to the Priesthood. My way of thanking God for the gift of Priesthood to me is sending students from poor families to finish College as a way to draw families out of poverty. That was how I finished as a priest myself through the help of a family that adopted me. Up to now, I remember them at my Mass together with my parents and the many benefactors that helped me throughout my priestly life. Help a priest or a Religious and you will have someone praying for you.

Conclusion: May we grow in the habit of helping the poor because God has been good to us more than we deserve like Mary. And may we be humble enough to receive help when we need to like Elizabeth.

Most Rev. Antonio R. Tobias, DD
Bishop of Novaliches

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