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Prologue

 
By Sr. Rowena B. Naag, MSHFJ
General Secretary
Missionary Sisters of the Holy Face
Diocese of San Pablo


A blessed Lenten Season to all of you who are instruments and administrators of this website www.anluwage.com.  Thank you for giving me an opportunity to be part of this year’s reflection on the Seven Last Words of Jesus.

These WORDS uttered by JESUS on the cross are STRONG TEACHINGS that must CHANGE our lives. Remembering the words of Pope Francis, to many, the Passion of Jesus Christ is a lesson in history where we sympathize with Christ for the sufferings He went through before He died.  We find it hard to believe how the people can be so cruel as to inflict the most severe form of pain on a man who we know was innocent.  For Christians the PASSION should be more than a lesson in history. It should become a LESSON in LIFE teaching us how to STAND UP for the TRUTH and JUSTICE.

In line with the celebration of the year of the Clergy and Consecrated Persons, may we FAITHFULLY and DEVOTEDLY reflect on CHRIST’s  PASSION and LIVE the MESSAGE of His POWERFUL WORDS of FORGIVENESS, SALVATION, LOVE, ATONEMENT, SUFFERING, VICTORY AND SECURITY so that eventually we may all become RENEWED SERVANT – LEADERS for the NEW EVANGELIZATION.

Together with Mary our Mother, let us pray for one another as we continue our journey towards HOLINESS and may the HOLY FACE of JESUS shine brightly upon us all.

First Word

"Forgive them, Father, they don't know what they are doing."


By Sr. Mechelle Cabrera, DCPB

(Sr. Mechelle hails from Santa Fe, Cebu, Philippines. She is member of the Congregation of the Daughters of Charity of the Most Precious Blood, a congregation devoted to the care of orphans founded by Blessed Tommaso Maria Fusco in 1873.)



Minsan may mga pagkakataong hindi madaling maghilom ang sugat. Sa bawat nuot ng sakit nito ay naaalala mo ang taong sanhi ng iyong sugat...sariwa at malinaw na naaalala mo ang bawat salita at mga nagawa ng taong sumugat sa iyo. Kaya naman kahit maghilom ang mga pisikal na sugat, alam mong sariwa pa rin ang hapdi ng sugat na idinulot sa iyong kalooban. Ang katanungan ngayon ay kaya mo bang iwaksi ang sakit na nararamdaman para lang magpatawad? Kaya mo bang kalimutan ang poot at pait upang magpatawad? Hindi ito madali…Hindi!

Sa pagunita natin sa araw ng padurusa at kamatayan ng ating Panginoong Jesus, nag-iwan Siya ng mga habilin sa Kanyang mga minamahal bago Siya malagutan ng hininga at ang isa sa mga ito ay ang katagang “patawarin o magpatawad.”

Hindi ko lubos maisip ang Diyos na nagkatawang tao at hinubad ang pagka-Diyos upang inumin lamang ang kalis na puno ng mapait na alak. Sa pagdurusang Kanyang dinanas simula pa lamang sa Kanyang pagtangis sa hardin ng Gethsemane, sa pagdurusa sa bawat hagupit at sa pagputong sa Kanya ng koronang tinik... lahat ng iyon ay Kanyang tinanggap na walang pag-aatubili. Niyakap at binuhat Niya ang Kanyang krus paakyat sa bundok ng Kalbaryo.  Sa sobrang sakit na dinanas Niya ay wala man lang narinig na hinaing galing sa Kanya. Tinanggap Niya iyon nang buong puso. 

Noong makarating Siya sa Kalbaryo, maliban sa mga pisikal na sakit na Kanyang naranasan, malinaw na narinig Niya ang mga pag-aalipusta sa Kanya. Maaring nakatitig lang Siya sa mga taong kumukutya sa Kanya sa mga oras na iyon. Kung pagmamasdan mo ang mga mapupungay Niyang mata ay wala kang makikitang bahid na poot at galit... bagkus kakikitaan ito ng matang puno ng awa at pagmamahal. Ito marahil ang dahilan kung bakit nausal niya ang “Ama patawarin mo sila sapagakat hindi nila alam ang kanilang ginagawa”. Hindi lamang simpleng salita iyun na namutawi sa Kanyang bibig, iyon ay panalangin na puno ng awa sa mga taong Kanyang sinisinta sa kabila ng pananakit nila sa Kanya. Sa oras na iyon, may kapangyarihan Siya at maaari Niyang gamitin upang parusahan ang lahat ng nananakit sa Kanya ngunit hindi Niya ginawa. Sa halip na galit ay sinuklian Niya ng mga katagang may habag at puno ng pagmamahal.  

May mga pagkakataon na naitatanong ko sa aking sarili kung bakit napakadaling magpatawad ni Jesus sa kabila ng pasakit at pighati na Kanyang naranasan sa mga kamay ng mga malulupit na tao.  Aking napagtanto na madali Siyang nagpatawad sapagkat mahal Niya ang mga ito. Pagmamahal ang naging susi ng pagpapatawad!

Photo Courtesy: Ben White
Sa aking pagninilaynilay, naitanong ko ang aking sarili: kaya ko rin bang patawarin agad-agad ang mga tao na nagpahirap o nanakit sa akin? Kaya ko bang ibigin ang taong nagpaluha at nanira sa akin? Kaya ko bang limutin ang sakit na dulot ng mga tao na nanakit sa akin at kailan man ay hindi humingi ng tawad?

Bilang Kanyang alagad ay hindi rin ako ligtas sa patibong ng mundo, naranasan ko rin masaktan at saktan ang ibang tao. Kahit siguro ang taong ito ay hindi kami parehas ng buhay na tinatahak ay nakaapekto pa rin ito sa akin sapagkat magkasama kami sa eskwelahan na aming pinagsisilbihan.


Samakatuwid nasa proseso ako ngayon ng pagpapatawad. Nasasabi kong nasa proseso sapagkat hindi ganun kadali magpatawad sa taong araw-araw kong nakikita, nakakasalamuha at halos araw-araw din akong nasasaktan sa mga salitang parang lason na nagpapatamlay at dahan-dahan na pumapatay sa akin. Masakit lang kasi isipin na ang taong itinuturing kong kapatid at kaibigan ay siya pang maninira sa akin. Pakiramdam ko ay para akong taong naglalakad na walang ulo. Hindi ko lubos maisip kung anong krimen ang ginawa ko at ganoon na lang ang ginawa niya sa akin. Bilang isang tao hindi ko maiwasan ang kasuklaman siya. Habang nagkakasalubong kami at nasisilayan ko ang kanyang mukha ay parang dumidilim ang paligid ko at lumiliit ang mundo ko. Sumasakit ang dibdib ko at nahihirapan akong huminga, at para bang wala na kong rason upang ngumiti at tumawa. Sa totoo lang ay ayaw ko na siyang makita. Ito marahil ang epekto ng pagtatanim ko ng galit sa kanya. Subalit habang nangyayari ito sa akin napagtanto ko na ako rin pala ang kawawa, ako rin pala ang talo sa huli. Ako lang pala ang nagpapaliit sa sarili kong mundo at nagpapaikli ng aking buhay.

Ano ba ang maaari kong gawin? Babalewalain ko na lang ba ang mga sinsabi niya laban sa akin? Tatakpan ko na lang kaya ang aking tainga para hindi ko siya marinig at tatakpan ang aking mata para di ko siya makita? O di kaya tuluyan ka na siyang iwasan? Ito yung mga tanong ko sa aking sarili.

Photo courtesy: Aaron Burden
Ngunit habang nakakatitig ako sa krus at pinagmamasdan ang itsura ni Jesus, habang sinasariwa ko ang paglalakbay Niya sa kalbaryo, kailan man ay walang kaganapan na tinakpan Niya ang Kanyang mata kahit na natutuluan ng dugo mula sa  Kanyang noo at ulo dulot ng koronang tinik. Kailan man ay hindi Niya tinakpan ang Kanyang mga tainga sa kabila ng mga sigaw ng pag-aalipusta sa Kanya., bagkus pinagmasdan Niya lang sila. Isang hamon na bilang isang alagad ni Kristo, hindi ko maaaring takpan ang aking tainga at mga mata sapagkat para na rin akong umiiwas sa reyalidad ng aking buhay. Sa unang huling-habilin ni Jesus, tinuturuan Niya akong magpatawad at buksan muli ang aking puso upang matutunang mahalin ang mga taong para sa akin ay napakahirap mahalin.

Hindi maaaring habang-buhay na lang ako na namumuhay sa madilim kong mundo. Nais ko ring mamuhay na mapayapa at may saya. Napagtanto ko na napakasarap mamuhay ng walang kaaway, walang samaan ng loob at wala kang nasasaktang ibang tao. Lumalawak at lumiliwanag ang mundo mo. Nakakahinga ka nang malalim at hindi mo mapapansing napapangiti ka na lang. Lubos akong nagpapasalamat sa ating Panginoong Jesus sa pagpapakita sa atin ng magandang halimbawa ng pagpapatawad.

Sa kabilang banda, normal sa ating mga tao na kapag ikaw ay nasaktan, pakiramdam mo ikaw na agad ang biktima, ikaw ang kawawa,  at ikaw na agad ang api. Sa madaling salita nagiging makasarili tayo. Subalit pagmasdan natin si Jesus sa kabila ng Kanyang paghihirap; hindi Niya inisip ang Kanyang sariling kapakanan bagkus inisip pa Niya ang maaaring masamang mangyari sa mga taong nang-alipusta sa Kanya. Kaya nga hiniling Niya sa Ama sa patawarin sila. Naisip ko kung ilan na rin kaya ang nasaktan ko nang hindi ko namamalayan. Nawa ay patawarin din ako ng Panginoon.




Prayer 


Amang mapagmahal at mapagpatawad, lubos kaming nagpapasalamat sa pagsugo Mo sa Iyong Bugtong na Anak upang iligtas ang sanlibutan, iangat ang aming pagkatao at maipakita sa amin kung paano mamuhay nang tama at ayon sa Iyong kagustuhan. Humuhingi po kami ng tawad sa panahon na nakalilimot kaming mahalin ang aming kapwa at nagiging makasarili. Paghilumin Mo po ang sugat ng galit at poot ng bawat isa upang kami ay maging bukas sa pagpapatawad  at mamuhay nang may malasakit at pagmamahal sa aming kapwa. Amen.


Second Word

"I promise you that today you will be in Paradise with me."


By Fr. Jeffrey S. Segovia

(Fr. Jeffrey is a priest in the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan. Ordained in 2015, he is currently Spiritual Director of the Mary Help of Christians Theology Seminary, Archdiocesan Director of the Social Communications Ministry, Director of SaNLUPa [Convergence of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan Social Communications Directors], and Founder, Kabataang Katoliko, an online Catholic Community for Youth Advocacies.)


We often think of Paradise as a distant place, a dreamed dwelling, a desired destination. When we speak of Paradise, we oftentimes think of a state wherein everything is pure and perfect, without any tension, without any struggles and without any experiences of pains and sufferings. Everybody desires to enter and live in Paradise; everybody wants to enter Heaven and dwell in the presence of God. But most of the time, it makes us wonder how true this line is: “Everybody wants to enter Heaven, but nobody wants to go first!

Jesus said the second word. His body now is exhausted, He must be thirsty and drained, and the sun was scorching His wounds and naked flesh. But He spoke of Paradise. He promised Paradise. He promised a perfect life. He promised a better life. He promised a shared life with Him. He promised all of these to a criminal – a thief – a sinner who admitted his need of God’s forgiveness. And he was welcomed by Jesus. He was the very first to enter Paradise with Jesus. A repentant thief is the first to be welcomed in Heaven with Jesus! 


Jesus talked about Paradise while He was hanging in agony on the cross. He was wounded and in pain but He was speaking of Paradise. He has suffered so much but He was speaking of Paradise. He was ridiculed, mocked and hurt a number of times but He was speaking of Paradise. His trusted friends ran away and left Him but He was speaking of Paradise. He was surrounded by ungrateful people who have forgotten all the many good works He did for them but He was speaking of Paradise. He is crucified but He was speaking of Paradise. He is about to die but He is speaking of Paradise! He is focused on Paradise.


In my life as a seminarian, I always see priesthood as a perfect life. I looked at the priestly ministry as something that will always make me happy as how I imagine my life in Paradise would be. And it is indeed true but not without any struggles, difficulties and sufferings! When I embraced priesthood, I never fully understood the bigger package I said yes to receive. Priesthood is not easy; it is, at times, very tiresome; people are expecting so much from us; we have to multi-task; we skip meals, we sleep late and wake up early; and there is but so much in our hands to attend to. It is the reality of priesthood. We no longer own our time. We do not have the right to complain and be tired. We have to be listening and discerning always. We must carry Christ wherever we will go. And it is an everyday crucifixion!

Just like the mocking criminal on the cross, I tend to complain, I tend to demand from God. I want explanations. I want that my desires will be given to me at once. I want to be treated higher than the rest and to be entitled with all the good things. I would seek comfort and run after material possessions. I want to do things my way and say things just the way I want them said without thinking of other people. And these moments occur, when I fail to recognize Jesus as He is. I am ashamed that I am all of these especially when I am only looking at myself and not realizing that Jesus is also crucified with me – that I am never alone and I just have to recognize my need of Him in my life.

Jesus hanging on the cross and speaking of Paradise is a reminder: where am I focused? Jesus opened Heaven to a repentant sinner who accepted his cross and admitted his need of God’s help. I am being invited to do the same. Sinful and shameful as I am, the Lord offered me an opportunity to carry my crosses after Him. He desires that I do not only carry them but accept them and embrace them. He wants me not to carry my own crosses only but also of those He has entrusted to my care as a priest. 

He also desires that I will carry those crosses side-by-side with Him. I must carry my cross with Him because He will show me the way to Paradise. He wants me to carry my crosses with Him that I may know His ways of service, of humility, of love. He wants me to carry my crosses with Him because He wants to share the load. He wants me to carry my crosses with Him on our way to Paradise.

On the cross, Jesus tells me: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Jesus is tapping my shoulder; my wounded shoulder, He gently taps to assure me that it is not all sufferings, it is not all pain, and it is not all without any meaning. Most of the time, I just have to exert a little effort, admit my own infidelities and sinfulness and tell Him: “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom". 




Prayer 

Father in Heaven, grateful we are for Your call.
It is undeserved and yet You opened for us Paradise.
In our infidelities, You are faithful.
In our weaknesses, You are strong.
In our failures, You are our hope.
And in our darkness, You are our light.
As we continue our journey towards Paradise,
help us to realize our need of You,
help us to choose You, and to stay with You.
Make us depart from our sinful ways
to  accept You in our lives and make You known in our ways.
May we embrace our crosses with resignation
and submit our wills to Yours.
And with the thief, pray to Your Son:
“Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom"
Amen.





Third Word

"He is your son… She is your mother." 

By Sr. Rose Agtarap, FSP

(Sr. Rose is a member of the Congregation of the Daughters of St. Paul whose mission is to proclaim the Good News through the means of social communications. She earned her AB English degree from St. Scholastica’s College and is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Theology at the Don Bosco Center of Studies. Sr. Rose reviews films for CBCP CINEMA,writes for Paulines Radio and uses social media for evangelization.)


Bente anyos lang po ako noong pumasok sa kumbento.  At noong unang gabi, hindi ako makatulog kasi na-miss ko ang Mamang ko. Nasanay kasi ako na mag-goodnight kiss bago matulog, at hinahanap-hanap ko iyon. Tumayo ako sa higaan at dumungaw sa bintana – sa tapat nito ay may larawan ng Mahal na Birhen. Hawak-hawak ko ang rosaryo habang nakatingin sa larawan, at nagsabi: “Mama Mary, wala na akong bibigyan ng goodnight kiss dito. Malayo na si Mamang. Hindi ko alam kung makakayanan ko ito – ang maging madre. Pero tinawag ako ni Jesus eh. Mula ngayon, ang rosaryo mo ang hahalikan ko. Huwag mo akong pababayaan ha? Kasi mula ngayon, ikaw na lang ang nanay ko. Ikaw na rin ang bahala sa Mamang at sa aking pamilya.”

Babae, narito ang iyong anak. Anak, narito ang iyong ina.

Sa Huling Hapunan, iniwan ni Jesus ang Kanyang katawan at dugo sa tinapay at alak upang manatiling kasama natin sa Sakramento ng Eukaristiya. Pero habang nakabayubay Siya sa krus, inihabilin Niya kung ano ang pinakamahalaga niyang kayamanan: ang Kanyang ina at ang Kanyang alagad. Ipinaampon Niya sila sa isa’t isa. Ipinagkatiwala Niya sa pangangalaga ng minamahal na alagad ang Kanyang ina. At isang bagong tahanan naman ang ibinigay sa alagad – kung saan may isang inang mangangalaga, mag-aasikaso at kakalinga sa kanya.

Babae, narito ang iyong anak. 

Hindi Niya tinawag sa pangalan si Maria, ni sa taguring ina, kundi babae. Gayon din Niya tinawag ang ina noong sabihan siyang naubusan na ng alak ang bagong kasal sa Cana ng Galilea. “Babae, ano ito sa akin at sa iyo? Hindi pa dumarating ang oras.” Babae -  hindi Nanay, Ina, Mama, Ima, Mader! 

Sa Cana ginawa ni Jesus ang unang tanda, ang unang himala ng kaharian ng Diyos. Sinimulan niyang buoin ang isang bagong pamilya, ang pamilya ng Diyos – at nagsimula rin ang bagong papel ni Maria. Hindi lamang siya ina ni Jesus – nagsimula rin siyang maging ina ng mga alagad ni Jesus.

Sinikap ni Jesus na bumuo ng isang komunidad mula sa simula – pero parang naging bigo siya. Sa Huling Hapunan nagsimulang magkahiwa-hiwalay ang mga alagad. Ipinagkanulo siya ni Judas. Itinakwil siya ni Pedro. Kumaripas ng takbo at nagtago ang ibang mga apostol. Sa labindalawang pinili Niyang magpatuloy ng Kanyang misyon, isa lang ang nanatili kasama ng Kanyang ina sa paanan ng krus. 

Sa Kalbaryo, dumating na ang oras ni Jesus. At muli, tinawag Niya si Maria na Babae. Sa kadiliman ng paghihirap at pighati, ibinigay Niya sila sa isa’t isa. Mabubuo ang isang bagong komunidad - mula sa krus ay iluluwal ang isang bagong sangkatauhan. Sa Kalbaryo, tinawag Niya ang Kanyang ina upang maging patuloy na ina ng mga disipulong iiwan Niya, ang komunidad ng mga mananampalataya.

Anak, narito ang iyong ina. 

Tapos na ang buhay ni Kristo bilang Jesus, pero mananatili Siyang buhay sa bawat isang taong sumusunod sa Kanya. Kay Juan, ang minamahal na alagad, ipinagkatiwala Niya ang Kanyang ina upang kupkupin at alagaan ito, at ang Simbahang iniluluwal Niya, ang sambayanan ng Diyos.

Noong 2011, naintindihan ko kung ano ang ibig sabihin nito. Siyam na taon na akong nasa misyon sa ibang bansa nang magkasakit si Mamang. Sinunod nila lahat ang sabi ng duktor at ininom ang mga gamot na inireseta pero unti-unti siyang nanghina, hindi na makakain hanggang maging bed-ridden ng limang buwan. Humingi ako ng permiso na umuwi sa Pilipinas para alagaan siya pero bago ako makauwi, biglang namatay ang Papang ko. 

Nagalit ako sa Diyos: “Lord, ano ba ito? Di ba may usapan tayo? Susunod ako sa iyo pero ang hiling ko lang ay huwag mong pababayaan ang pamilya ko? Ganito ka ba magmahal?”

Photo Courtesy: Tim Mossholder
Dumating ako sa burol na puno ng dalamhati at noong araw ng libing natakot kaming magkakapatid. Nanghina si Mamang na parang agaw-buhay na rin. Pinaligiran namin siya at nanalangin sa Panginoon at Mahal na Birhen. “Please lang, Lord, huwag muna ngayon. Baka hindi na namin makayanan kung sabay mo silang kukunin!” Habang nagdadasal kami ay biglang nabuhayan si Mamang. Humingi siya ng pagkain at nakapagtatakang nakaupo siyang bigla. Nagpilit siyang sumama sa Misa at sa libing ni Papang na naka-wheelchair.

Pagkatapos, tinanong ko siya kung gusto ba niyang lumabas muna ako ng kumbento, mag-leave of absence, para maalagaan ko siya. Ang sagot niya sa akin: “Noong ibinigay ka namin ng Papang sa Panginoon, ibinigay ka namin nang buong-buo. Hindi ko babawiin yon. Huwag kang mag-alala; gawin mo ang misyon mo. Hindi kami pababayaan ng Diyos!”

Dinala namin siya sa Maynila at saka namin nalaman na misdiagnosis pala at iba’t ibang side effects ng gamot ang nagpahina sa kanya. Ngayon po, 85 na si Mamang at malakas na siya. Abala siya sa Block Rosary, sa pagtuturo ng katesismo sa mga bata, sa Cenacle at Legion of Mary, sa paggantsilyo ng rosary purse, at paminsan-minsan sumasali din siya sa Zumba sa plaza ng Sto. Tomas pagkatapos ng Misa.

 Anak, narito ang iyong ina.

Oo, mahirap ang buhay. Maraming problema at dalamhati. Sa krus, isang bagong sangkatauhan ang iniluwal ni Jesus. Isang sangkatauhang malayang magmahal, mag-alay ng sarili, magtuturo at magpapalaganap ng dakilang katotohanan na anak tayo ng Diyos at magkakapatid tayo.

Pinapaalala niya sa atin: “Ang ina ko na nagmahal at nangalaga sa akin ay kasama mo. Hindi ka niya pababayaan. Lumapit ka sa kanya... Inihahabilin ko sa iyo, maging ina ka rin. Gaya ng pagtangkilik niya sa iyo, buksan mo ang iyong puso, ang iyong mga kamay, ang iyong buhay sa iyong kapatid – mga kapatid na nangangailangan ng iyong pagmamahal. Patunayan mo na tunay kitang alagad!

“Huwag kang manahimik kung inaapi, pinahihirapan, sinasaktan o pinapatay ang iyong kapatid.

“Huwag kang magbulag-bulagan sa katiwaliang nakikita mo dahil nabibiyayaan ka nito.

“Huwag kang maging ingrata – walang utang-na-loob – sa pagtalikod, pagpapabaya, at hindi pag-aasikaso sa mga matatanda – magulang, kamag-anak, o kahit na hindi mo kakilala.

“Isang pamilya lang tayo – huwag mong ipagkait ang pagpapatawad, pagkalinga at pagmamahal na ibinibigay ko sa iyo araw-araw.”

Totoo po ang sabi ni Mamang. Tapat ang Diyos at hindi Niya kami pinabayaan. Katulad ni Maria at  Juan, tinatawag Niya tayong sumunod sa kalooban ng Ama kahit na magdala ito sa krus. At doon matatagpuan natin ang mga banal at makasalanan, at maririnig ang tinig Niyang nagsasabing: “Narito ang iyong ina. Narito ang iyong anak. Narito Ako, masdan mo ang mukha Ko sa kanila.”



Prayer 

Panginoon, salamat sa Iyong katapatan at pagmamahal sa aming lahat.  Sa kabila ng Iyong sakit, buong-puso Mong inialay ang Iyong sarili sa krus upang iligtas kami. Buhat sa krus inihabilin Mo sa aming ang Iyong ina at inihabilin Mo rin kami sa kanya. Pasakop nawa kami sa pag-aaruga ni Maria. Higit sa lahat, ituring namin ang isa't isa bilang kapatid. Amen.




Fourth Word

"My God, my God, why did you abandon me?"


By Rev. Fr. Neil G. Tenefrancia

(Fr. Neil holds a Masters degree in Theology from the St John the Evangelist School of Theology in Palo, Leyte. He also finished Master of Arts in Philosophy from the University of San Carlos and is now finishing his PhD in Philosophy. He is currently serving as Chancellor of the Diocese of Borongan and the Private Secretary of the Bishop.)


When Jesus uttered from the Cross the words “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?,” His hearers were not able to understand Him. And each year, during the traditional Siete Palabras, there is again the possibility of misunderstanding the words of Jesus- what He really meant and in what way His remarks are significant to His hearers.

As the opening words of Psalm 22, one of the Psalms of Lament, the words “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” bring to mind to every Jew a common personal experience. Psalm 22 portrays the inner struggle of a person who is persecuted due to his/her utmost faithfulness to God but who, at the end of his/her trials, finds vindication and reason to praise and thank the Lord for His protection and deliverance.

Faithfulness in the midst of adversity. Perseverance in the faith in the face of rejection and even violent oppression. These are the challenges that also present themselves before modern-day Christians and especially to those who hold offices in the Church. Sometimes they do not come in clear-cut or spectacular fashion. Opposition to the Faith usually comes in the guise of misrepresentation, marginalization, and subtle propaganda against the institutional Church and her ministers. This is effectively done through the medium of technology and the expertise of professional social-media spin masters.


Photo Courtesy: Ian Espinosa
In the midst of all these adversities and social opposition, those in the Church usually find themselves alone in their battles and with no one to understand them except those who share their plight. They feel themselves at a constant and precarious tension: while they understand the mission to be relevant to society so that they can effectively be the “salt of the earth and light of the world” they also at the same time perceive the presence of active resistance from a society that has become more and more allergic to the message of the Gospel.

Thus, it appears that either the pastor or the religious will have to water down his or her person and his/her message so that the Gospel can be more palatable to the audience or else it will become out-of-place and ineffective. Worse, those in the Church can feel that their very own identity are attacked and that there is the pressure to compromise their own self-understanding, including significant aspects of their ministry, for the sake of relevance and social acceptability.

This is profound and dramatic in the case of clerics. With their very identity appearing like a “social anomaly” in the midst of postmodern conventions and their preaching being considered either a relic from a prehistoric past or an alien artifact whose demands are impossible to realize by the modern man, the cleric can feel under siege from without and from within.

In the face of various challenges, one possible solution is to rid oneself of the mystery where his identity and ministry are necessarily anchored on in favor of a more socially acceptable image or mode of being. From being a priest, a cleric becomes a philanthropist; from being a man of spirituality and contemplation, he becomes an activist jack-of-all-trades able to transform oneself as necessity arise. He becomes more of a civic functionary than a minister of Jesus Christ and a pastor of the Church.

This cleavage at the depth of his being produces an irreparable rift in his ministry and to the lives of those around him. His lifestyle becomes an accommodation to the glamour of the latest gadgets, fashion, and trends, while his prayer life becomes a burden in view of his hectic social functions; his liturgical celebrations become more like a social experiment lacking depth and authenticity; and his preaching, especially in the field of sexual morality, becomes more a justification of secular attitudes than an exposition and defence of Gospel values.

For the sake of relevance, a cleric can find himself unfaithful; for fear of opposition, the cleric can find himself betraying Christ himself; for lack of self-confidence in his peculiar identity and mission, he becomes a compromiser. In this situation, how can Psalm 22 as a song of the servant ever-faithful in the midst of trials be applicable to him? How can he confidently cry out “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” when it is he who has first forsaken the Lord?

As Victor Hugo in Les Miserables wrote “A wealthy priest is a contradiction in terms” so also is a worldly cleric a counter-witness to his eschatological identity and mission. When the cleric transforms himself to a mere social welfare advocate rather than a minister of Christ and a voluntary laborer in His Kingdom, the cleric’s public vows of simplicity, chastity, and obedience become hollow and a curse to his present existence.

Photo Courtesy: Jack Sharp
Thus, an authentic renewal on this Year of the Clergy and Consecrated Persons will come not from instituting more innovative pastoral programs or acquiring ground-breaking or spectacular spiritual insights. Real change for the better will result from going back to the ‘originals’—to the basics, to that which makes us “cleri” (singular: clerus): that unique status in the Christian community whereby God alone becomes our “portion and our inheritance,” no more, no less.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” is Jesus’ call to His chosen and ordained ministers—to His closest associates, to persevere in His love in the midst of misunderstandings, rejection, and persecution; in the midst of the allurements to be unfaithful. It is the hatred of the enemies of the Gospel that will attest to our fidelity to the message of Jesus Christ. 

In fact, it should be a cause of alarm to us when we have become comfortably at peace with worldly ways rather than in Jesus’ thinking and doing. 

In being other than what we are, clergy and consecrated, we have unwittingly betrayed the cry of Jesus from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”.




Prayer 

Faithful and merciful Father, forgive us for the many times we have abandoned You. By the precious Blood of Jesus Your Son, help us rid ourselves of any obstacles that prevent us from answering Your call. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.



Fifth Word

"I am thirsty!"

By Sr. Jennifer R. Cuerdo, OP 

(Sr. Jennifer is a religious sister of the Congregation of the Religious Missionaries of St. Dominic. She is on her 10th year as a professed religious. An AB Theology graduate from UST Ecclesiastical Faculties, she is currently taking up her Masters in Guidance and Counseling at the UST Graduate School and is teaching Christian Living for Junior High School students in Dominican School-Manila. She has a personal Facebook Page called “Mundane Things, Life-Changing Lessons” which contains reflections about ordinary things, in line with her relationship with God, with her community and with her family.)


Thirst is a sign that there is something wanting to be filled… that there is a need… that there is something lacking.  This need may be something physical… arising from our humanity.  But it could also tell us of something more… much deeper than pertaining to the flesh. Even our Lord Jesus Christ, in His excruciating agony on the cross, cried out, “I Am thirsty!” (John 19:28)

Most Filipinos’ natural tendency is to fill-in that thirst, especially when the perceived need can easily be met.  Moreover, our kind hearts are also driven to answer the need when the one asking seems to be helpless and looks devastated by poverty.  That was what the soldiers did for Jesus, they tried to quench His thirst with what was available.  “A jar full of sour wine stood there, so putting a sponge soaked in the wine on a hyssop stick, they held it up to His mouth.” (John 19:29)

So they have satisfied Jesus’ thirst… or have they?

The clergy and consecrated persons, like a religious sister as I am, are generally in the helping ministry – be it in schools, residencies, hospitals, orphanages, mission areas or wherever we are assigned to do our apostolates - we are expected to be of service to the people under our care… we are expected to satisfy those peoples’ thirsts.

I have learned that in preparing lessons, recollection/preaching talks and conferences, one of the things that the speaker should consider is the audience or the would-be listeners.  In order not to bore them and eventually put them to sleep, the content of the sharing should be appealing to them in a way that they can relate, as if the speaker is talking to them directly.  They should find themselves in the speakers’ words and the speaker should connect with the hearts of his/her listeners!

Sometimes, I forget this important aspect in my ministry.  I am so overwhelmed with work that I tend to approach everything at face value – missing the core of the real “thirst” that the person has.  

When I was the Prefect of Discipline in one of our schools, I would always put on a steel mask whenever I enter the campus in order to remind students of the rules and regulations of the institution. In my first few months in office, I have issued quite a number of written warnings and disciplinary actions to many students.  My usual line was “You have done this, so this is your corresponding punishment”.  But the problems in discipline were not lessened and so I realized my approach was not effective. 

Photo Courtesy: Jon Tyson
I started to ask not only the “what” but also the “why” for their actions.  It was only then that I understood where the students are coming from.  It was only then that I saw their real need - that they were actually longing for “honey” when I was trying to quench their thirst with “bitter soup”!  When I began to address the root of their misbehavior, disciplinary cases eventually went down.  The students happily abide by the school rules and willingly accepted disciplinary corrections – simply because their thirsts were satisfied!

In most cases we tend to think that we quench others’ “thirst” whenever we give them “water to drink”. But we often fail to ask, “Is it really water that they are thirsting for?”

Parents, whenever your children “thirst”, you give them toys, additional allowance, gadgets and other gifts.  Can those things quench their thirst for your time and affection?

Young Professionals, whenever your elderly parents “thirst”, you feel irritated and shout at them; or pay caregivers to attend to them; or even put them in a nursing home so as not to disturb you permanently.  Can those decisions quench their thirst for your respect and understanding?

Spouses, whenever your husband/wife “thirsts”, you give him a nagging response; or escape from him/her by having a drinking spree with your friends.  Can those attitudes quench his/her thirst for communication and acceptance?

Buddies/Besties, whenever your friend “thirsts”, you bring him to the computer cafĂ© to play video games or invite her to go to the mall for shopping.  Can those activities quench his/her thirst for a listening ear and a shoulder to lean on?

Photo Courtesy: Geetanjal Khanna
And you… yes, You! Whenever you see beggars or homeless persons on the street and you give them your extra coins or left-over food, you feel elated having been able to help.  You think that is just enough, anyway, they are already used to that condition in their life… that their thirst is easy to quench.  But are they the ones who are used to that condition, or are you the one who is already used to always seeing them in that situation? Have you really paid attention to what they are really thirsting for?  They thirst not just for your food and money… but more so, they thirst for your mercy and compassion.

Indeed, oftentimes we think that we have helped them because we have attended to their needs as we perceived them to be, and we feel contented.  But when we see them “thirsty” again, we get impatient, judging them to be ungrateful and insatiable.   When actually, we have not really filled what was lacking, because we do not know what the “thirst” was for in the first place.

So have the soldiers really satisfied Jesus’ thirst when they gave Him sour wine or vinegar to drink?  I don’t think so.  Because Jesus was not thirsty for a drink, He was actually thirsty for our faith… for our love!  He was thirsty then and He is still thirsting until now – in the person of our fellow human beings - “JESUS STILL THIRSTS”!




Prayer 

Lord Jesus Christ, as we continue to be busy with our daily tasks, aiming to be of service to You, make us recognize the real “thirst” that is set before our eyes.  Help us to realize that anything done without faith and love of You cannot really satisfy.  And as we attend to the needs of our brothers and sisters, remind us always that quenching their thirsts means quenching Your own thirst as well… the same thirst You have felt on the cross.  Amen.



Sixth Word

"It's Finished!"
By Bro. Weldann A. Panganiban

(Bro. Weldann or Weldz is a second year postulant in the Order of Saint Augustine – Vicariate of the Orient. He is currently studying for an Associate in Philosophy at St. Vincent School of Theology, Quezon City. He helps manage the social media accounts of the seminary [fb.com/OSA.intramuros] and leads the community in music. Prior to this, he was a high school teacher at Immaculate Conception Parochial School, Malabon City, and Tangos National High School, Navotas City.)
We are just a few minutes away from the ninth hour. The environment’s getting darker. As Jesus sips the wine, He remarks, IT IS FINISHED.

Whenever we finish a task, we can’t help but sigh in relief, then say, Ay salamat! Natapos rin! Isn’t it a blessing to get a task done? It serves as an achievement if we finish something we have worked for quite some time. Imagine, days and months spent on thinking, conceptualizing and actualizing your craft. Or if you’re a student, perhaps, you endure sleepless nights and lots of stress just to pass that exam or thesis defense. The feeling of accomplishment leaves you tired yet fulfilled. However, a worker’s accomplishment is followed by another, even challenging task, which would further test his capacity to endure tough situations. Once a student graduates from college, he is faced with the struggle of finding a job. The achievements one has is not the end per se; it is yet the key to the start of another chapter in his life. 

When I was still studying in college, I was having second thoughts on landing a job and having a professional license. These motivated me to study hard and graduate despite the flunks I had.  Later on, through God’s grace, I was able to finish studying, land a job and pass the licensure exams. I was already at the prime of life: gaining a good salary while doing what I love to do. There were sidelines too, with the opportunity to travel and go on adventure at times. I was still active at church, but at the most, I was just enjoying the brighter side of life.

Just when I thought I had finished my goals, there was yet more to come. At this prime of life, I heard God’s call, a disturbing one because I thought I already had it all. Deep inside, however, there was a yearning to do more and take a step further, to be of service to God and His Church in a very special way. By then, I decided to enter the Augustinians. I am now at the second year of postulancy, and I realize that my journey has not ended yet; there’s more to come.

Photo Courtesy: Joshua Earle
Jesus said “Tetelestai; It is finished,” in fulfillment of all the prophecies that referred to Himself. On His crucifixion, He fulfilled every letter, every word that was said of Him in the past. Bearing in Himself the pains of a sinful people, He reconciled with God those who had gone astray. Offering Himself, He became the paschal lamb for the redemption of the world. He had done what was said of Him; everything is fulfilled. As He sips the wine at His final moments, He knew everything is done. It is finished.

But did it really finish there? Not so. For the darkness of death gave way to the light of Easter, the glory of the Risen Lord overshadowing all the gloom of sin and death. It paved open a new chapter, a new horizon for mankind, one that is not bound in the shackles of evil, but brilliant in the light of Christ risen from the dead.

Sadness will be turned to joy. The pangs of childbirth will be replaced with the joy of the newborn. Lent precedes Easter.

Some of you may ask, Brother, why is it that we feel that God has abandoned us? Why am I suffering for a long time? Am I destined for this kind of life? 

I may not be the right person to answer these questions. But this I know: God has never abandoned those who trust in Him. Whenever troubles baffle me, I am aware that somewhere along this pain is hope that everything will be fine, and that the pain I endure will be replaced with joy. I just need to trust in God and in His providence, like the Lord Jesus who never lost confidence in His Father, knowing that what is fulfilled in the cross will be vivified in the glory of Easter.

As we ponder on his sixth final word on the cross, Jesus invites us to cast our eyes on Him, to see Him fulfill all that was said of Him, and to reflect on how He helps us fulfill His will in our lives, despite the worries we bear. He assures us that after the sorrow we bear, there will be joy. There will be fulfillment, and yet there will be another start. Let us put our trust in His love. Let us believe in His grace. We hope that when the time comes that we depart from this world and say, “It is finished,” we enter the fulfillment of all our desires: the happiness in the presence of God.




Prayer 


Jesus, whenever we feel troubled with trials of life, remain by our side. Teach us how to persevere in a life of service to You that we may understand what Your will is for us. May we imitate Your example: entrusting our lives to the Father, fulfilling what must be fulfilled, that we may be able to reach the glory of the Kingdom where You live and reign forever and ever. Amen.



Seventh Word

"Father! Into your hands I place my spirit!"

By Rev. Fr. Joel De Leon Rescober, CM

(Fr Joel is a member of the Congregation of the Mission [well known as Vincentian Fathers and Brothers] which has been in the Philippines for the past 160 years. He is currently serving as Parish Priest of San Vicente de Paul Parish, San Marcelino Ermita, Manila.)



Who are we in times of difficulties and struggles? What have we become because of them? How do we cope with the unpleasant realities of life? Did they bring us to the state of doubt, anger, pain, fear or insecurity, perhaps? 

The experiences of discomforts in life usually serve as the defining moments of ‘who we are’ and ‘what we have become’ along the process. They mold and elucidate our ‘being’, ‘acting’ and ‘becoming’. They also manifest the values or vices that we continue to choose and live. In a positive note, even confronted with obnoxious realities, we always have a lot of possible options to choose from that may develop us into better persons or otherwise.

The context of the words that we are trying to reflect upon is the moment when Jesus was dying on the cross. The emotions of pain and anguish must have been very blatant. The last uttered sentence in Jesus’ life may assist us in defining and re-defining ourselves as well as the values and options that we usually choose every time we are bombarded by difficult situations in our everyday life.

Photo Courtesy: Jeremy Perkins
First, the values of trust and confidence. It is good to note here the phrases before and after the last words of Jesus while hanging on the cross in Luke 23:46, “Jesus cried out in a loud voice” and “…when he had said this he breathed his last”. They express the intensity of trust and confidence that Jesus had in the Father. Jesus used His last strength and last breath in commending His spirit to the Father. His dying moment became a moment to trust and confidence. His pain, fear and doubt were transformed into trust and confidence to the Father’s love and mercy. This, I think, is very relevant to all of us due to our common tendency to give up and lose heart in times of trials and difficulties. Jesus’ example challenges us to let go of all our doubts and fears and to remain trusting and confident in God’s goodness during difficult situations.

Second, the recognition of God as both the beginning and end of our everyday life. The commendation of Jesus’ spirit to the Father before His last breath manifests a humble surrendering and returning of what was given from the very beginning. Jesus offered everything that He had to the Father, both His body and spirit. God is the ultimate source and summit of everything that we have and do. This is something that is evident in the whole public life of Jesus. He remained connected and one with the Father, the source. He remained united with the Father in prayer and obedient to His will. Jesus’ love and mercy for the poor and marginalized were reflections of the Father’s goodness and care. He did everything not just for personal gain and glory but for the Father who sent Him. This point encourages us to remain humble and acknowledge the fact that God is the main source and owner of everything that we have in life. They are not just products of our knowledge, efforts and skills. Behind all our successes and achievements in life is God’s kindness and generosity. Like Jesus we must be willing surrender our whole being to Him and use it for His greater glory.

Photo Courtesy: Zac Durant
Third, the reality that God remains with us even in times of difficulties. Let us remember that many turned their backs from Jesus when His suffering, hanging on the cross and death happened. Undoubtedly, that was a very lonely experience. The very last sentence uttered by Jesus however refreshes us of the abiding presence of the Father. The Father remained with Jesus in the most difficult part of His public life. No wonder why He cried to Him in a loud voice. The experience of Jesus reminds us of the truth that God continues to journey with us not just in times of happiness and prosperity but also in moments of struggles and discomforts. We are never alone. He remains with us even if others may reject and forget about us especially during our down moments. This only requires openness and willingness on our part to allow Him to journey with us until the end.

In summary, the last sentence uttered by Jesus on the cross invites us to continue growing with: 1) our trust and confidence in the Father; 2) our humility in recognizing Him as the source and end of everything including our life; and 3) the assurance of his abiding presence especially during our daily struggles and difficulties.




Prayer 
Our loving and merciful Father,
we continue to put our trust and confidence in You.
Teach us to be humble to recognize You as the source and goal of our being and becoming.
Remain with us especially during the difficult situations of our everyday life.

We ask these through Christ, who lives and loves with You, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.





Epilogue

By Anabelle Payod - Balla
Faith Section Editor, Anluwage.Com


Jesus came to bring us all back to the Father. At the onset of His public life, He called men and women to help Him proclaim the Good News to all. Until now, His call is relevant. His call is still being heeded. Accepting His call, though, is not easy. It requires sacrifice, commitment, and full trust in God's providence and people's kindness. Responding to Jesus' call has been highlighted by our guest writers coming from various dioceses and religious communities. Thank you, Fathers, Sisters, and Brother for being part of our online devotion this year, your special year!

Thank you, dear readers, for joining us in recollecting the Seven Last Words of Jesus. The journey does not end here. We have an Easter to celebrate! A new beginning to pursue opportunities to respond to the call to action of the Seven Last Words- to wear the heart of Jesus. To forgive with love and compassion, to encourage and lead others to the promised paradise, to look after each other like a family, to openly cry out to the Father for help, to satisfy the true thirst of others, to persevere until the end, and to completely trust the Father and surrender ourselves to His plans.

May we all look forward to the journey that God prepared for each one of us.

Let Jesus be our way!



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