09 January 2012

Word Clouds!

Found a new useful artform on the net: word clouds. Below are some initial creations that appeared first on the diocese's fb page Diyosesis kan Legazpi. These ones are done via tagxedo.com.

08 January 2012

The Three Gifts of Epiphany

Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord (B) – 8 January 2012

Epiphany comes from the Greek “epiphaneia” which means appearance or manifestation. In the Gospel reading today, the magi (wise men) from the East came looking for the newborn “king of the Jews” upon the guidance of a star, and found Jesus. His manifestation to the world – to the Jews and, especially, to the Gentiles – is what we celebrate today.

The story and the feast itself are replete with symbolism. I would like to use one of them as the theme of this reflection: the symbol of the “gift”. Though I'm sure others may still be added, for our purposes let me share three gifts from God that He reveals to us through this feast.

1. The Gift of Christ Himself

Jesus Christ Himself is the most important gift of all -- the reason for the Season. The angel Gabriel announced His coming. The heavenly hosts proclaimed His birth. Mary loved Him with love beyond telling. Joseph protected Him. The shepherds were drawn to Him. The magi made an effort to travel long distances to see Him. A star guided them to Him.

All our liturgies and prayers, our doctrines and preaching, our cathedrals and worship places, our sacred arts and music, indeed all of Scriptures and Tradition – count as nothing without Him.

He is the center of the universe, and He wants to be the center of our life. And yet like anyone who presents oneself to another, Jesus also exposed Himself to the risk of being rejected. And indeed He was. The psalmist sings: “The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone” (118,22). The shepherds and the magi may be drawn to Him, but when the magi spoke about their business at Herod’s court, Herod and all Jerusalem trembled. And then Herod began to set in motion the plan to get rid of a potential rival, the prophesied newborn “king of the Jews”. John the Evangelist describes Jesus' relationship with His fellow Jews this way: "He came to what was His own, but His own people did not accept Him" (Jn 1,11).

Even now, Christ’s epiphany has brought Him countless rejections. Every time we sin, we turn away from Him. It is easy to come and adore the infant Jesus, all cute and huggable. But let us also not forget His timeless and challenging message of dying to oneself, of being the least of everyone, of carrying the cross, of forgiving enemies and praying for persecutors.

It is also easy to be led into thinking it is the star that we want. God has given us stars – talents, treasure, family, good friends, good jobs, opportunities. The temptation is falling into thinking that they are the most important things in our life. But they are not. They are there to lead us to Christ. We are not fortune-centered, or opportunity-centered, or career-centered, or even family-centered, or worse self-centered. A true Christian is Christ-centered. He is the reason and the compass by which we navigate our lives, by which we make decisions for our family, for our careers, concerning opportunities that come our way.

2. The Gift of Salvation

Christ came to save all of humanity from sin and death. Accepting the gift of salvation begins with the acceptance that we need saving. Pride and denial in the midst of privilege is the gist of the story of the fall of Adam, Eve and Cain. The humility and faith of Mary and Joseph, even in the midst of uncertainty, overturned the effect of humanity's history of sinfulness and made possible the story of Christmas. That is why we prepare for Christmas, not by redecorating our homes and spending, but primarily by the call to repentance and conversion of Advent.

There is one more thing about this salvation: it is offered to all. At the time of Jesus, this was a revolutionary idea. To some extent, there are still people today who believe that salvation is only for a few, that it is accessible only to the holy, the good, the prayerful. Even Santa Claus’ gifts are reserved only for the nice kids, not the naughty ones.

Who are these people who think this way? They are not far from you and me. Many times they are us, and we apply the same faulty judgment to ourselves. How many times have we sinned and been down, and thought of ourselves as no longer worthy of God’s love, or that we are beyond redemption?

We celebrate the feast of Epiphany with the story of the wise men from the East. They were not members of the Chosen People, yet to them was revealed the correct time and place of the Savior’s birth. Most likely they were not followers of the true faith. Yet they caught a glimpse of the truth and they searched for it.

The magi are us, imperfect sinful people of God. Yet we are wise insofar as we accept God’s guidance as revealed to us in Christ. Just like them who journey to see Christ, so is salvation a journey towards getting closer to Christ. We stop becoming true Christians, when we stop searching for God and seeking His will.

3. The Gift of Mission

The gifts of the magi have been interpreted as symbolic of the three-fold mission of Christ: gold for the king, frankincense for the priest, and myrrh for the prophet. What does this mean for us? Jesus has already accomplished His mission on earth, but He has shared it to his disciples as well.

When we were baptized in Christ, we accepted the same three-fold mission from Him. To be a king is to be of humble service to others in Christ. To be a priest is to pray and lead others to Christ. To be a prophet is to be a witness in word and deed for Christ.

I would like to end this reflection with a classic end-of-Christmas poem, “The Work of Christmas”, by a wise man of his time, Dr. Howard Thurman, an American theologian and civil rights leader. It speaks as well about the gift of Mission.

“When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.”

06 January 2012

Inspired Original Derivatives

These designs are original derivative creations from photos found all over the web, and inspired by Scripture passages. They are first posted in public either here or at the facebook page of the Diocese of Legazpi.

Inspired by 1 Jn 5,14-15:
"Beloved: We have this confidence in God,
that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
And if we know that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask,
we know that what we have asked him for is ours."

Inspired by 1 Jn 5,5-13:
"Beloved: Who indeed is the victor over the world
but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
This is the one who came through water and Blood, Jesus Christ,
not by water alone, but by water and Blood.
The Spirit is the one who testifies, and the Spirit is truth.
So there are three that testify, the Spirit, the water, and the Blood,
and the three are of one accord.
If we accept human testimony, the testimony of God is surely greater.
Now the testimony of God is this, that he has testified on behalf of his Son.
Whoever believes in the Son of God has this testimony within himself.
Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar
by not believing the testimony God has given about his Son.
And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
Whoever possesses the Son has life;
whoever does not possess the Son of God does not have life.
I write these things to you so that you may know that you have eternal life, 
you who believe in the name of the Son of God."


Inspired by 1 Jn 3,16-18:
"The way we came to know love was that he laid down his life for us;
so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.
If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need
and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him?  
Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth."

01 January 2012

Pope Benedict XVI's Message to the Youth on World Day of Peace

"To all, and to young people in particular, I wish to say emphatically: “It is not ideologies that save the world, but only a return to the living God, our Creator, the guarantor of our freedom, the guarantor of what is really good and true … an unconditional return to God who is the measure of what is right and who at the same time is everlasting love. And what could ever save us apart from love?”(9) Love takes delight in truth, it is the force that enables us to make a commitment to truth, to justice, to peace, because it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (cf. 1 Cor 13:1-13)."

"Dear young people, you are a precious gift for society. Do not yield to discouragement in the face of difficulties and do not abandon yourselves to false solutions which often seem the easiest way to overcome problems. Do not be afraid to make a commitment, to face hard work and sacrifice, to choose the paths that demand fidelity and constancy, humility and dedication. Be confident in your youth and its profound desires for happiness, truth, beauty and genuine love! Live fully this time in your life so rich and so full of enthusiasm." 

"Realize that you yourselves are an example and an inspiration to adults, even more so to the extent that you seek to overcome injustice and corruption and strive to build a better future. Be aware of your potential; never become self-centred but work for a brighter future for all. You are never alone. The Church has confidence in you, follows you, encourages you and wishes to offer you the most precious gift she has: the opportunity to raise your eyes to God, to encounter Jesus Christ, who is himself justice and peace."

"All you men and women throughout the world, who take to heart the cause of peace: peace is not a blessing already attained, but rather a goal to which each and all of us must aspire. Let us look with greater hope to the future; let us encourage one another on our journey; let us work together to give our world a more humane and fraternal face; and let us feel a common responsibility towards present and future generations, especially in the task of training them to be people of peace and builders of peace. With these thoughts I offer my reflections and I appeal to everyone: let us pool our spiritual, moral and material resources for the great goal of “educating young people in justice and peace”."

Excerpts from Pope Benedict XVI's Message for World Day of Peace (1January 2012)