The Other John M's Christmas Gifts to Me

I had just gotten up early last Christmas morning when the doorbell rang. It was John, the man who cuts my grass regularly. He greeted me with his usual big smile. On his hand were two recycled grocery plastic bags and he gave them to me, saying "Merry Christmas! I baked this banana bread for you and your wife. Eat it while it is still warm." I touched it. It was still warm. John is the other John M I talked about in a previous blog on this website who accidentally cut a vine of my clematis plant around my Mary's shrine in front of my house. He is the John to whom I had said: "Next time please take care of my plants around Mary's shrine. I love her" who replied: "Yes, she is the mother of Je

"When our Voyage is O'er . . ."*

At dinner last night, one of our family members in our group commented that she noticed the absence of Christmas decorations and Christmas carols in stores and shopping centers they visited on land. All of us agreed with the observation. One ventured the explanation that the mood was most probably brought about by the devastation caused by hurricanes Irma and Maria that visited their islands recently. Up to a few years ago the atmosphere in shops and malls was very Christmassy and festive. But whatever the explanation is for the atmosphere in these specific islands, I commented that for a long time now, there has been an aggressive campaign, not only to remove Christ from Christmas, but to

Heating up the Coffee, Refreezing the Ice Cream

When I woke up this morning, the temperature was 15 degrees F, or -9.4 C. It was freezing cold. In Florida and the Philippines, especially in the summer, the temperature could go to the high 90s. We could never retire in Florida, nor even visit the Philippines, because of the unbearable heat (to us) there. But we can manage even with this kind of weather where we are. Speaking of cold and heat, our Lord said: “I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth." Rev 3:15-16 I can relate to that. I can not drink lukewarm coffee nor eat melted ice cream. Most do

A Homily at Sea*

I did not expect to give a homily on this cruise but I thank Fr. Jack for the opportunity. I would like to offer a little reflection to you while we are at sea. Today is Friday of the 2nd week of Advent and so liturgically we are still in the period of preparation and waiting for the commemoration of the first coming of Christ. In today's Gospel Christ talks about the people of His time, comparing them to confused and disobedient children. He points out the inconsistency of their comments (the Israelites) about John the Baptist and of Christ where whatever John and Jesus did, these people talked against. Our present culture is similar, even worse. For all those centuries of the

" . . . That We May Share in His Divinity"

A Christmas Homily “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us –“ (John 1:14) Today, Christmas Day, is a day of peace, joy and hope. For today we again celebrate the greatest expression of God’s infinite love for us: God, the Creator of the Universe becoming man to dwell with us in a visible form on this earth for a time so that we can dwell with Him in glory forever in heaven. We are all familiar with the story of the first Christmas, when Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem and delivered the Baby Jesus in a humble cave or stable and put Him in a manger, a feeding trough for animals. This is a figure of the Eucharist where Christ would give Himself as food for our souls. Why

Yearning for Home . . . and to Never Leave Again

Ehrlickman (Erick) Pacheco is only one of the hundreds of Filipinos working in the dining rooms of cruise ship Holland America. I met some of them on a cruise to the Caribbean last week. I have always admired OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) who leave family and home for long periods of time to work in foreign countries just to earn a living for their families at the cost of much sacrifice. I purposely requested to interview Erick for a few minutes when he was serving my group at the ship's Lido buffet area. I learned that his family lives in Binan, Laguna, Philippines. He and his wife Seila have been married for 17 years and they have two daughters, aged 16 and 7. Sheila used to work in the

More than of Waiting ... But of Longing

At a recent Christmas party of a parish ministry, I was requested on the spot to give a “surprise talk” about the meaning of Advent and how it relates to Christmas. Briefly I said that Advent is a 4-week preparation for the commemoration of Christ’s coming on Christmas, and Christmas is a season of rejoicing for God’s love made manifest in His Son’s taking human flesh to dwell with us and to save us. When I was on my first year as a young seminarian out of high school many decades ago, Advent was the time I waited for my parents to come and take me home for my first Christmas vacation. It was an event that I not only waited for, but more importantly, longed for. But during those four weeks

When Loved Ones Go

Yesterday morning I met Anthony K again when he visited the school after a long time. He is a former fellow employee who retired two years ago. His mother had died recently. I learned that four weeks earlier one of his brothers had also died. I mentioned that I had meant to at least give him a call or attend his mother's funeral. When I said that I saw his eyes turn misty and his voice broke. Yesterday afternoon, I talked to Sister Mary F who lives in the convent by the school and expressed my condolence for the death of her brother, who lived in another state with their mother. She had just come from his funeral. But she had another sad news to tell me: Her mother, who had just celebrate

"If Only" and "Wakefulness"

(A Homily for the First Sunday of Advent) When I was driving to work the other day, I saw the license plate of the car in front of me when traffic stopped. The license plate of the car read: “IF ONLY”. I immediately wondered why the owner chose those two words for his or her special license plate and not any other two words, or the usual combination of letters and numbers. Why “IF ONLY”? He must have a reason for this. "If Only" is usually associated with a feeling of regret or remorse about a particular act, or omission of an act that produced an unwanted or undesired effect or consequence. For example: "If only I had not driven after drinking too much liquor, I would not have caused a car

“IF ONLY . . .”

Driving to work this morning, I saw the license plate of the car in front of me when traffic stopped. The license plate of the car read: “IF ONLY”. I immediately wondered why the owner chose that special tag -- 2 words instead of the usual combination of letters and numbers. Why “IF ONLY”? "If Only" is usually associated with a feeling of regret or remorse about a particular act, or omission of an act that produced an unwanted or undesired result or consequence. For example: "If only I had not driven under the influence of liquor, I would not have crashed into another's car", or "If only I had studied hard, I would have become a successful person now." The story of the rich man who ignore