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MANILA, Philippines Jesus is alive! Alleluia!

! Borrowing the words of the psalmist, we can truly acclaim that this is indeed the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad. We have prepared ourselves for this Sundays celebration for 40 days. Now, we have come to the most important celebration in the life of the Church: Easter. Easter is a celebration of the resurrection of Christ Jesus and the core of the Christian faith. The apostle Paul said to the Church in Corinth: And if Christ hath not been raised, then is our preaching vain, your faith also is vain. (1 Cor. 15:14) The resurrection of Jesus must not, however, be only regarded as a thing of the past. It must rather give us joy, hope, and the power to continue doing Christs mission on e arth. Easter should encourage us Christians, to persevere in this life amidst hardships and trials. It shows us how we can be rewarded by God by being faithful to him. Easter reminds us that suffering and death can be conquered by us just as Jesus conquered sin and death with his resurrection. This is the lesson of the Paschal Mystery of Christ. Death gives birth to new life. It is a passageway to even greater things. Like Jesus, we, too, experience suffering in our lives. There are times when our problems seem too big to handle and our crosses too heavy to carry. However, looking at Jesus, we are reminded that all these sufferings will pass if only we focus on the mission that has been entrusted to each one of us. Likewise, Jesus never missed out on the reality that God was with Him always even in pain and suffering. Therefore, God raised Him up and made Him share in His glory. The Easter celebration is also an invitation for us to share in the glory of the Father. We too will share in the glory of the resurrection if we are faithful to our loving relationship with Him. This is the beauty of our Christian faith. Our God desires to be in communion with us in the eternal glory. As we reflect on the Easter mysteries, let us have a new perspective in life. Let us not be afraid of the dark moments. Those moments are just invitations to appreciate the light of a new day. And we will never be able to appreciate the beauty and grandeur of a new day without passing through the dark night. A happy and meaningful Easter to all!

MANILA, philippines -- As we approach the culmination of the Lenten season, it is important that we continue with our own individual reflections. We may be faced with a lot of stress and difficulties that make us feel we do not have time for our own quiet time. But this Lenten season teaches us how important it is to know our own limitations and how to cope with pressures in our daily living. In todays Gospel, Jesus reveals that one will betray Him. Jesus said to his disciples, The Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born, (Matthew 26:24) Judas had been paid 30 pieces of silver to deliver Jesus to the Chief Priest. This Gospel reminds us that although we have been successful in fulfilling our duties as Christians, there is still a need to look into ourselves and contemplate on how we can still grow and how we can overcome our weaknesses. We are always tempted and sometimes we succumb to this because we tend to give in too easily. However, we only need to trust in God so that he will drive out the evil and help us win over adversaries in life. In the with a Isaiah in this first reading, Isaiah declares The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know h ow to sustain word him that is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught. (Isaiah 50: 4) reminds us that God is the one that will assist us; His presence in our lives gives us vitality, providing us more reasons to live world.

As we near the end of the Lenten season, we remember how Christ sustained His love for us until His death. Like him, may our love for another never wither and may it overwhelm all our hesitations.

MANILA, Philippines January 9 is a red-letter day not only in Metro Manila but all over the Philippines. Devotees of the Black Nazarene, more formally known as the Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno, flock to the Basilica in Quiapo, Manila, to give honor and thanksgiving as well as to present their petitions before the image of the suffering Jesus. Catholics visit the church on January 9 clad in maroon and red shirts with the image of the Jesus Nazareno. The most awaited part is the procession of the image around the Quiapo area. Men and even women strive to get near the image as a way of seeking favors from Jesus. They do this every year for this is their "panata" (vow) to Jesus. It is said that the image of the Black Nazarene was brought to our shores by the Augustinian Recollect Missionaries on May 31, 1606. It was initially enshrined in the first Recollect church in Bagumbayan (now part of Rizal Park). It was on September 10, 1606, that the church was inaugurated and placed under the patronage of St. John the Baptist. On January 9, 1787, the Archbishop of Manila, Basilio Sancho de Santas Justa y Rufina, ordered the transfer of the Black Nazarene to its present location in Quiapo. What we commemorate every January 9, is the transfer of the image from Bagumbayan to Quiapo. The image of the Jesus Nazareno reminds all of us of the suffering Jesus underwent out of his love for all of us. However, our devotion to the suffering Christ must not be limited to our homage to the image. More important than the veneration of the image is our imitation of the one represented by the image. The best honor that we can give Jesus is our faithfulness to His word and the following of His example of charity, humility, and selfless love for our fellowmen.

May the Jesus Nazareno teach us to love others as He has loved us.

Agony and ecstasy Philippine Daily Inquirer First Posted 23:24:00 04/18/2011 Filed Under: Religion & Belief, Churches (organisations) POPE Benedict XVI celebrated his 84th birthday last Saturday and is set to mark the sixth year of his pontificate today, but the real papal milestone as far as most Catholics and the rest of the world are concerned is May 1, when his late predecessor, John Paul II, is beatified. Beatification allows a limited cult to be built around a beato as a prelude to canonization, which allows a wider, more universal veneration of the canonized. But it is remote that the cult around Blessed John Paul would be limited, say, to his old diocese of Krakow or even to the wider cult of his beloved homeland Poland or the Slavic world. The highly international character of the beatification ceremony and the tens of thousands of pilgrims coming from all corners of the globe reflect the universal reverence for John Paul the Great. In short, the beatification would be mere belated declaration of whats already obtaining: John Paul is a cult figure; hes an ikon. Benedict himself would preside over the beatification ceremony. John Paul is a tough act to follow, and Benedict knows it. But he doesnt set himself against his predecessor, in whose Cabinet he had served preeminently if controversially as chief doctrinal watchdog. He would rather portray himself as continuity, even a cherisher and promoter of John Pauls legacy. He has in fact described the swift and sure papal transition as a gift. I am really a debtor, a modest figure who is trying to continue what John Paul had accomplished as a giant. Benedicts modesty is touching when contrasted with his achievements so far: the creation of more dioceses and sees to add to the 3,000 already existing worldwide covering 1.2 billion Catholics, the growing rapprochement with Orthodox Christians, the welcome extended to Anglicans worldwide turned off by their churches increasing liberalism, the firm diplomacy with Beijing over episcopal ordinations and his critique of Islam, violence and intolerance. He has restored the Latin Mass and reformed the Roman missal in what his annotator, the British Dominican theologian Aidan Nichols, has called a response to the crying need for a re -enchantment of the liturgy. Astoundingly, in just six years, this Pope has already come up with three encyclicals and several books, including the sequel to his work on Jesus of Nazareth. Most of the books collect the talks he delivers during the Wednesday general papal audiences. Which means that Benedict continues to write his addresses despite his very hectic schedule! To be sure, his pontificate has been affected by the child-abuse scandals in the US, Ireland and Germany as well as the regular tiff with the press over the Churchs stand on sexual morality. But he had consoled the victims in his US and Ireland visits, and pressed the German church to deal more firmly with the issue. Its also true that certain sectors of the news media have been reductionist in reporting the very nuanced moral theological positions of the Church on sexual morality. One German paper has characteriz ed the general press poohpoohing and misreporting of the Churchs positions on condom, HIV -AIDS and sexual morality as one of aggressive ignorance. But Benedict has been remarkably unflappable without appearing blas. He has wisely focused his energies on remaking the Church according to the plan he and his predecessor had set out to do. If John Paul had led successfully the Churchs campaign against communism and the godless aspects of modernism, Benedicts focus seems to be the consolidation of the forces of the Church against liberal intolerance and what he has famously called the dictatorship of relativism. As his Wednesday discourses indicate, his tack is to expound on the Bible and sacred tradition and the history of the Church in order to relate her teachings and age-old experience to the challenges of today. The campaign is one of renewal and consolidation. He tries to renew the Church from within, particularly the listless Church of Europe, while attracting other churches and lapsed Catholics to come back to the fold, an approach that resonates with the reference made by his favorite theologian, Saint Augustine, regarding the Church during the fourth century when Pax Romana was heading for decimation and disintegrationthat many outside seem to be inside, and many inside seem to be outside. Seen in that context, all of the problems facing Benedict seem the requisite Lenten phase to Easter, the necessary prelude to a new apotheosis for the Church.

Church, Constitution and the RH bill By Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, S.J. Philippine Daily Inquirer First Posted 02:08:00 10/13/2008 Filed Under: Legislation, Laws, Population

MANILA, Philippines - The debate on the reproductive health bill in Congress is by no means over. It should surprise no one that this is happening; after all, religion and the Constitution, both of which are involved in any evaluation of the bill, are very much at the heart of the life of our people. I am not about to critique the entire bill nor am I going to say that we should not have a law which seeks to protect the health of women. What I want to do is simply to point out some areas that need further discussion. Let me begin with the Constitution in so far as it is related to the right to life. We have in our Constitution a provision that assures protection for life. It says that the State shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception. Is this provision completely satisfied by the prohibition of abortion which the reproductive health bill reaffirms? It is true that the provision was discussed at a time when many were aware of the US Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade which liberalized abortion laws up to the sixth month of pregnancy. The prevention of the adoption of the doctrine in Roe v. Wade was certainly one of the purposes of the provision. But Commission deliberations indicate that the provision goes beyond Roe v. Wade. Abortion is usually defined as the termination of a pregnancy by the removal or expulsion of an embryo or fetus from the uterus. Pregnancy for its part is the period of reproduction during which a female carries one or more live offspring from implantation in the uterus through gestation. Pregnancy begins when a fertilized zygote implants in the females uterus and ends once it leaves the uterus. The unborns entitlement to protection begins from conception, that is, from the moment of conception. The intention is to protect life from its beginning, and the assumption is that human life begins at conception and that conception takes place at fertilization of the zygote. Although the constitutional provision does not assert with certainty when human life precisely begins, it reflects the view that, in dealing with the protection of life, it is necessary to take the safer approach. For this reason the Constitution commands that protection be given from conception, that is, from the fertilization of the zygote. This is reflected in one of the exchanges during the debate. Since the protection of the unborn was to begin from conception, Reverend Cirilo Rigos asked when the moment of conception was. Commissioner Bernardo Villegas, who was the principal sponso r of the provision, answered that the conception took place with fertilization since it is when the ovum is fertilized by the sperm that there is human life. When Commissioner Fely Aquino observed that at that point there would only be biological life, Bishop T eodoro Bacani did not contradict her but said that there would already be biolo gical human life even if there was as yet no person. From this it can be seen that the intention is to protect the life even before implantation in the uterus, that is, from th e moment biological life begins. The constitutional intent, in other words, is to play it safe lest human life be destroyed and to impose the protection even before implantation in the uterus. This brings us to the question whether the reproductive bill allows or even prescribes the use of birth control methods which have the effect of blocking a fertilized zygote from being implanted in the uterus or of expelling a fertilized zygote before implantation. This is a question which, while it has constitutional, religious and moral implications, must first be answered by medical science. Has this question been sufficiently explored in the course of the debates over the reproductive health bill? My impression is that it has not. And if the law is passed as proposed, the question will most certainly reach the Supreme Court. Another important element in the debate is the freedom of religious belief. The free exercise of religion guaranteed by the Constitution means more than just the freedom to believe. It also means the freedom to act or not to act according to what one believes. And this freedom is violated when one is compelled to act against ones belief or is prevented from acting according to ones belief. In our society, while people of good faith may find near unanimity on the matter of abortion, there clearly is a sharp division in the matter of contraception. The division is drawn along religious lines. The law as proposed will require people of good faith to act or not to act contrary to what they believe. Concessions must be made so that religious liberty will not be violated. The law must allow for the conscientious objector. I would make special mention of the requirement of sex education. Sex education is a matter closely related to religious morality. Our Constitution allows the teaching of religion to children in public schools, but it requires that it be done only with the written consent of parents. A similar respect for the desire of parents should be provided for in the law. Our Constitution says: Th e natural and primary right and duty of parents in the rearing of the youth for civic efficiency and the development of moral character shall receive the support of the Government. As for sex education in private schools, any law on this should respect academic free dom which is also protected by the Constitution. I have also scanned the penal provisions of the proposed law. My initial impression is that, if passed, they will encounter problems in implementation along lines of criminal due process.