Saturday, September 24, 2011

26th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME: Conversion means turning towards God and towards others.

O Lord, you had just cause to judge men as you did: because we had sinned against you and disobeyed your will. But now show us your greatness of heart, and treat us with your unbounded kindness.

The words of the Entrance Antiphon of the Mass this Sunday opens us once again to the consideration of the reality of a God who not only is holy, God who by definition is utterly separate from the world and yet rules it with His loving providence, but a God whose name is also Love. This love of God is made manifest to us especially in the mercy that he has for us, in the forgiveness that he continually bestows upon us. Such is the greatness of His Heart: that it does not keep record of our sins; that while deeply offended and hurt by our sins, He has had nothing but love and forgiveness for each of us, and calls each to conversion. This is something that is most pleasing to Him, recalling the words of St. Maximus the Confessor, who said that there is nothing more pleasing to God than that man may return to Him with sincere repentance.

The readings of today’s liturgy help us to consider how important it is for us to respond to this call to conversion, which is an integral part of our Christian vocation, a call to which we must respond time and again in our life of discipleship. The First Reading, taken from the Book of Ezra, not only does show us the justice of God, which is far above that of man’s, nor of the holiness of God, but also reveals to us once again how much man’s conversion means to Him. It means much to our Lord that man lives, for it is in here that he is most glorified, remembering the words of St. Ireneaus of Lyon, who said that the glory of God is man fully alive. Man can only live fully as he was made to do being with God, and being with God means sharing his very life, that intimate life of union and love of the Blessed Trinity. In opposition to this is death, which is the fruit of sin, which is nothing else than the rejection of that very love which the Lord continually offers us. But if he returns from the wickedness he has committed, he does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life; since he has turned away from all the sins that he has committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die: in depth we have received the invitation to live fully the life promised to us by God in Christ; conscious of our own weakness and sinfulness, we are led to realize once again that in order to share this life we have to answer the call to conversion, to turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel, to fulfill the will of God in our lives.

This turning away from sin and doing the will of God in the particular circumstances of our daily life brings us to consider the experience of the two sons in the parable told by the Lord to His disciples. Here we could distinguish the obedience of one and the disobedience of the other. The attitude however of the obedient son (who was reluctant at first but in the end was precisely the one who fulfilled what his father wanted) move us further consider the example of Jesus himself: in the life and person of the only Son of God, who was obedient unto death, and death on the Cross, we are able to learn what loving God truly means. Allowing this same filial obedience and love of Jesus in our life means responding to the call of conversion and walking along this path, which leads us to face God, to contemplate that loving face that is revealed in the human face of Jesus.

But this path of conversion would not be complete if we are not converted for others as well. It is not enough to be converted to God; Christian conversion has a social dimension in the sense that the life of communion with God brings us to live this communion with the people around us, those whom we live with, those whom we share our daily life with. It is to this effect that St. Paul in his letter to the Philippians, which we have heard in the Second Reading, admonished the Christian community to be in the same mind, with the same love, thinking of one thing…regarding others as more important than oneself, not looking out for one’s interests, but that of others, in effect, having the same sentiments of Christ. This was precisely how the Christian community in Jerusalem, soon after the descent of the Holy Spirit during Pentecost, lived: multitudinis autem credentium errant cor unum et anima una (Acts 4:32), the company of those who believed were of one heart and mind. This is an important consideration that we have to make, since we cannot love God hidden within our shell. It is impossible to love God all alone: this love needs to manifested and shared, a love which is actualized in a life in community, in communion with others as well. The conversion that is required of us by Christ is one that takes us away from our selfishness, from individualism, from egoism, which is a common temptation and is a reality in our life today.

Let us ask for this grace to be converted to Christ, so that, transformed by His love and forgiveness, we may be able to share with others, and thus live this very life of communion with God in the communities we are asked to build. Amen.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


In public discussion concerning religion we may sometimes be directed to ask ourselves as to why there are many religions. Some may be led to think by the plurality of religions that all of them are equal and the same, for as long as they all lead to God. Concerning this I would always succinctly point out that the search to the answer to this question would eventually lead us to man himself. Despite of the many times in the history of mankind that man himself has tried to destroy or take away religion from his life, nevertheless he could never run away from the fact that deep within he remains a religious being, deeply conscious of the fact that he is not sufficient unto himself, that he would have to realize and confess that he could never be able to ascribe the reason of his own existence to himself or to his own desire to exist and to live. That man is religious by nature would explain why he has tried for as long as he has walked in history to search the divine, to search the other-wordly, to look for God. This search for God has lead him through many paths, some bringing him into a relationship with Him, others not so. Religion is basically this movement springing from the depths of the human heart to the encounter with God.

This imperative to seek God is what we hear in the first reading that we have for today. In the book of the prophet Isaiah Israel is told to seek the Lord where he may be found, to call on him while he is near. It is clear in the faith of the People of God that He whom they call their God and savior cannot be found in caves or in springs; nor does he live in temples or in dwellings made by men: the Lord is the Holy One, totally different from the world he had created and by whose loving providence he sustains. The Lord is to be sought by drawing nearer to Him with repentant hearts, hearts that are converted from wrongdoing and purified by God’s mercy. This is further expressed in the Scripture when we hear expressed in varied ways that only the pure of heart are those who are capable of seeing God. Despite of the fact that he is totally the Other, he is never distant to those who search for Him with outstretched arms and a contrite heart, as the Responsorial Psalm would express: The Lord is near to those who call upon him!
However, the good news does not only consist in the tangible reality that our hearts are capable of encountering God, as St. Augustine would suggest, in whom our heart would find the rest that it seeks, but above all in the fact that God Himself has gone out in search for us. The fact of a God who goes out in search for man to enter into a living relationship with him is found from the very first episode in the Bible up to its last page, from the time that he calls out to man very soon after the fall “Adam, where are you?”(Gen. 3:9), up until in the fullness of time Christ in glory calls out “Behold, I come quickly!” (Rev. 22:12). This thirst for the encounter is expressed in a vivid way in the parable of a landowner who goes out in search of people whom he eventually sends to labor in his fields. In the Old Testament the vineyard is an image of the People of God; the Lord seeks us out in order to enter into a covenant with us. This encounter between God and Man reaches its fullness in the person of Jesus Christ, True God and true Man. In him we are able to embrace the God who has sought us out, and in whose loving embrace our hearts are able to find their rest.
Embracing the God who seeks us out through the humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ brings us back to the message of the first reading, which is all about personal conversion, turning away from our sinful ways and going back to a life in God: this is the challenge that we encounter in the letter of Paul to the Philippians. For Paul the fullness of the Christian life is found in a life that is transformed in Christ, one that is open to his grace, in which the struggle against sin and death is supported by the loving mercy of the Crucified, allowing one to cry out: “for me life is Christ!”

Inspired by the life and aided by the intercession of Mary our Mother, full of grace, let our struggle to be Christified by Christ’s grace and mercy lead us to be  always be aware of God’s embrace that comes to us in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

University Life

I just came back from a morning in the campus. For today i planned to go to the University central library in order to peruse and to find the texts for the readings that I would have to make. One thing that's sure is that a lot of things have changed since I was here in the University, either that or I'm saying this also because I'm in a situation that's vastly different that I had when I was a simple university student studying for a Bachelor's degree in one of the faculties of the . I first headed to one of the buildings--the Faculty of Humanities building--in order to buy me a card with which to be able to do photocopies of texts that I would need. You know everything is done by plastic right here: you don't need to pay in metallic  currency just to get a ride in the urban bus, or even to make purchases in the supermarket, as long as you have the appropriate card. This card of the OCÉ allows you use of the photocopiers in many of the buildings within the copies. You have to reload it of course. 

Anyway, after having done the necessary transactions I went straight to the Library. This was the first time I was really able to enter it, since entrance is reserved only to professors and workers, researchers and investigators working on their licentiate and doctoral theses (like me, well, I still won,t have to focus on that yet). One needs to get past the guards and the librarians in the ground floor, who are as vigilant as the gnomes in Gringots, mind you. The Theology and Canon Law section is located on the fifth floor, and when I entered it...boom! Again I felt like a kid trapped in a candy store. Thousands upon thousands of volumes where arranged on the shelves, and there were desks for investigators along the sides of the large room. some of the shelves were still empty, ready to recieve new books to the collection which would have veritably surpassed the legendary Library of Alexandria. Well, to be truthful, it WAS an alexandrian library...I found a lot of rare publications, huge tomes, and within the library, within easy access (I suppose of any studious investigator) are even rare books and manuscripts that are meant to be read in a special sala. I've set my eyes on a collection of archives of chronicles of a province of a religious order in the Philippines during the 18th century. I'm planning to see and peruse it one day. I borrowed a book about history of the Church in the Philippines in Spanish, and it's really very good, and as I read on I began to think of writing about the beneficial humanitarian work which the religious friars did in the Philippines during the colonial period. All this was flashing in my mind against visions of placards shouting "Damaso" people decrying the obscurantism of the colonial period in the Philippines. Yes, that would be an interesting idea, not unless someone would beat me to it. La Obra Humanitaria Desempeñada Por Los Frailes Religiosos Durante La Epoca Colonial en Filipinas, Mark Ivo Velásquez Acebedo, Tesis de Licenciatura dirigida por la Prof. Dr. Carmen Alejos Grau... sounds grand, doesn't it?

Saturday, September 10, 2011


In Victor Hugo’s classic novel Les Miserables we see the figure of Jean Valjean, a man whose struggle to live and to feed his family during hard times turns him into an enemy of the law and a veritable outcast in society. Living as a common thief, a criminal, in one of his forays he comes upon the elderly Bishop Myriel of Digne, who invites him to spend the night in his home. Despite of the generous gesture, Valjean helps himself to the cleric’s silverware at the first possible chance given him, in the dead of night. He flees from his patron’s home with the booty, but is caught (like other times) and is brought back by the police to the Bishop so that the latter may be able to identify Valjean as the thief who did away with his silver. Imagine the surprise of all when the bishop declares that indeed it was his silver that Valjean had brought along with him, and that it had been given to him by the bishop as a gift, and as such, no charges ought to be leveled against the man.

Valjean had lived through this many times in his long career as a thief; his heart had been hardened against the condemnation hurled against him by other people; he expected nothing new for him after his capture. But the bishop’s attitude catches him by surprise, and the warmth of the prelate’s forgiveness thaws the icy indifference that had hardened the criminal’s heart for so long. So far nobody had shown him any compassion and forgiveness. His experience with the Bishop changes and transforms him into a repentant, dignified, and honorable man. He becomes kind to all he encounters. Though on the wrong side of the law, in the novel he comes to represent the best traits of humanity., all because of this experience of the goodness of a man of God.

 In the consciousness of Israel, most especially as a people called particularly to be God’s own portion, lies the experience of God’s holiness. God is holy, and this sanctity the Lord ahs manifested to them time and again throughout the course of history. This experience of the holiness of the Lord is such that it marks them as a people: they have to be holy after the Lord who called them to peculiarly his own. Being holy after the Lord means that they would have to avoid that would be offensive to the holiness of God; this would entail also that time and again they would have to ask for His pardon and mercy, not only for their own failings, but also for the whole people. But then even the experience of their own sinfulness led them ultimately to confess his holiness, as we could hear in the Responsorial psalm: The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger and rich in compassion!!! But then, at the same time, as we would hear in the first reading, taken from the book of Sirach, walking on the path of holiness also means learning to forgive the sins that my neighbor would commit against me,  just as the Lord himself had forgiven me my lack of justice.

In the New Testament, this experience of holiness becomes even more diaphanous, made more manifest, in the person of Jesus Christ, perfect image of the invisible God. From him, the Word of the Father made Flesh, we hear explicitly the command to forgive as well. “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? Seven times?” To this question of Peter the Lord answers with the parable of the evil servant who, after being forgiven of his a debt of incalculable value of which he was unable to pay by his powerful Master, showed himself incapable of offering the same pardon to a fellow who owed him for a lot less.

The parable shows us two things, which would be helpful to us as we live our life as Christians faithful to the Lord’s call. First, it shows us that we must have an experience of God’s holiness in our day to day life. The Christian life is none other than living this experience, in the heart of the Chruch. Ordinarily, to live this experience of God who is holy is to experience his mercy and his pardon, ALWAYS. This is heightened most especially when we go to Mass, which is the sacrifice which won forgiveness for us, since it is none other than the unrepeatable event of Calvary; this is experience whenever we ask for God’s pardon in the sacrament of confession. Unless we live this experience of the holiness of the Lord in our lives, wherever He has placed us, we can never be holy.

Secondly, we must share this experience with others, which is an experience of mercy. This means that as Christians we must be ready to forgive, ALWAYS, especially when it is hardest. Perhaps that which makes it hard to forgive is the fact that we haven’t really experience what it means to be loved and pardoned by the Lord. Only the Christian who has experience the ignominy of his sins, of how offensive they are to the love of God, but above all, the power of God’s forgiveness and love for the sinner, can he forgive, and thus fulfill the Lord’s command—and not just His desire for us—to pardon as we ourselves are pardoned. and it is then that we--like the character Jean Valjean--would be able to be transformed to be better, more holy, more into sons and daughters of God.

Today marks ten years since the ignominious event of the terrorist attacks against humanity, that 11th of September, 2001. Let us remember those who lost have lost their loved ones in this tragic event, for the nations and peoples, that never again would crimes be perpetrated against humanity in the name of God. Together let us pray for God’s forgiveness, deeply conscious of the fact that the healing that we deeply need and seek comes precisely from this experience of God, a God whose holiness is manifested in his mercy and love, both of which are made flesh in the embrace of Jesus Christ, true God and true Man. Amen.



P. Mark Ivo Velásquez Acebedo

Desde que el Papa Juan Pablo II, que meses atrás se había elevado a los altares como beato por su successor en el solio petrino, nos dejó para la casa del Padre, ademas del grito de “santo súbito” por parte de muchos, no cabía duda en la mente de todos de que éste se marcará para la historia con el apelativo “Grande” puesto despues de su nombre. Como todos de nosotros sabemos, eso no solamente es debido a la santidad que le caracterizaba (una que tiene como corona dorada el calvario de la enfermidad que vivía durante los últimos meses de su vida) sino también se le debe a causa del volumen impresionante del magisterio de este hombre cuyo pontificado había llevado la Iglesia por los umbrales del tercer milenio cristiano. Este magisterio, que se apoya en lo de los pontífices anteriores y de la riqueza doctrinal de la fe de la Iglesia Católica, abarcó practicamente todos los sectores y ámbitos de aquella realidad tan compleja y extensa que es la Iglesia. No le da a nadie sorpresa ninguna a que muchas ya le llaman Juan Pablo el Grande, poniéndolo en par con los demás pontífices con el mismo apelativo como Gregorio VII y León I, papas que habían enriquecido a la Iglesia con su paso por el tiempo, dejandola un legado rico en enseñanza y santidad. A nadie le sorpresa tampoco que, pocos semanas después de la noticia de la proclamación de un nuevo Doctor de la Iglesia—en la persona de san Juan de Avila, nada menos el santo patron del clero español—que se opine que llega el día en que se le dará la misma designacíon y honor a este hijo de Polonia. Juan Pablo II, doctor de la Iglesia: así reza el titulo de un articulo que tengo delante mientras hago este primer trabajo para esta materia dentro del curso de Teología Dogmática que es Razón, Religion y Fe Cristiana. Es uno que lleva un reciente número de la revista Ecclesia, escrita por el Cardenal Carlos Amigo Vallejo, arzobispo-emérito de Sevilla. Dice la misma cosa que había dicho arriba, al comenzar este humilde trabajo de la clase. El beato Papa ha escrito de las cosas que importaban a la vida de la Iglesia en su caminar terrena, y una de esas era la búsqueda del hombre hacia el pleno conocimiento de la Verdad, una que solo se logra sirviéndose de las dos alas de fe y razón, con las cuales el espíritu humano se eleva hacia la contemplación de la verdad[1]. Es así como comienza una de sus encíclicas más destacadas, la Fides et Ratio, publicada el 14 de septiembre 1998, su decimatercera, que viene a ser entre otras cosas como una reflexión no solamente la relación enriquecedora que tiene estas dos cosas entre sí en lo que refiere a la búsqueda de sentido del hombre, al menos a primera vista, que ultimamente es la búsqueda por la verdad. En la carta a menudo se habla de los logros del pensamiento humano, de aquel afán de filosofar del hombre con que había estado ocupado desde que comenzó a pensar somber el porque de las cosas, el sentido de su existencia, y la verdad de su ser e identidad a la luz de todo lo de arriba; pero también habla del descuido—a veces hecho a propósito—de su orientación hacia una verdad trascendiente[2]. Es uno que ha llevado a corrientes de pensamiento—y últimamente, de vivir práctica—que se deja en contemplar los límites del conocimiento humano, a entrar en agnosticismo y de relativismo. Es un giro que le lleva al pensador humano desde tener la legítima pluralidad de posiciones hasta llegar a un pluralismo indiferenciado, cuyo lema es que todas las posiciones son igualmente validas. Esto llega hasta tal punto que, de alguna manera y utilizando las mismas palabras del Papa, “han surgido en el hombre contemporaneo…actitudes de difusa desconfianza respecto de los grandes recursos cognoscitivos del ser humano”[3].

Mientras iba leyendo el texto de la encíclica, me viene a la mente lo que está pasando en mi pais, en Filipinas. Entre las muchas cosas que llegan a ser noticia en los periodicos y en el telediario es el debate en torno al proyecto de ley de la Salud Reproductiva (Reproductive Health Bill), que propone poner legalmente al alcance de cada uno—especialmente a los más pobres—el alternativo de usar preservatives para regular los nacimientos y calificarla como “medicina esencial” al par con el paracetamol y otros medicamentos que esta a la alcance de todos. Incluido en ese proyecto es la inclusion de la educación sexual mandatoria que se daría a los niños empezando a los once años y a los jovenes de nivel de bachiller. La discusion y el debate es muy candente y divisivo, no solamente entre los miembros de la Cámara de Representantes o en el Senado, donde ya ha llegado, sino incluso entre los distintos sectores fuera de los pasillos legislativos del gobierno, entre los intellectuales, entre la juventud, el clero. Es un tema en que casi cada uno puede decir algo. Es un tema que ha dividido al la sociedad Filipino entre dos campos: por un lado estan los que estan a favor y por otro estan los que van en contra, naturalmente.  Pero segun se puede ver lo que parece una batalla legislativa en el fondo se transforma en una guerra sobre el lugar de la fe en discurso publico. Teniendo en cuenta que la gran mayoría de los que han puesto su apoyo a esa legislación va en contra a la Iglesia Católica, en cual ha tenido su oponente mas feroz, no faltaba gente que, queriendo hablar desde el punto de vista filosófica e indudablemente racional (on oposición a los fiducial) desea mostrar que los argumentos en los que se apoyaba la Iglesia y sus aliados en este debate, habiéndose basado en argumentos arraigados en lo tenido por la fe de la Iglesia sobre la verdad de la vida y la dignidad del hombre, no son racionales, porque se basan en la fe. Esta gente—entre los cuales se encuentran ateístas y agnósticos declarados—han igualado la fe con el oscurantismo medieval, que es uno de los slogans que tira a la Iglesia, a quién han tachado como enemigo del progreso.

Lejos de eso es lo que había expresado el Papa en esta encíclica. Al decir que la fe y la razón deberían estar juntas en la búsqueda de la verdad, expone el hecho de que la fe como algo vivido y luz esclarecedora de la razón humana tiene un papel que no es ajena ni en la plaza del discurso public ni en la búsqueda común para lo que realmente va a contribuir al bien del hombre.

[1] Cfr. Fides et Ratio, Encíclica de S.S. Juan Pablo II sobre la fe y razón, 14 septiembre 1998, 1.
[2] Cfr. Ibid., 5.
[3] Ibid., 

Friday, September 9, 2011


No, I won't be giving a weekly update of whatever happens here in my life as a second-time foreign university student but I would be sharing certain things every now and then. Now deep into my second week as a student, as I may have mentioned in an earlier post, I have soon found myself up to my neck in readings and paperwork. If having to do a reaction paper or two per subject per month is crazy, in reality that doesn't even come close to the readings that I would have to make for each subject that I have. I think each of the seven subjects that I have would require in the least three papers that I would have to make of the readings that are required by every subject. In addition to this would be the three books that i would have to read this first semester and of the commentary that I would have to make of these. From these would come the material for a final oral exam which would be scheduled before the final exams of the subjects that I have. I was thinking after a harrowing hour of study recently that for me there would only be three options: one, go crazy; two, throw down the towel, give and return home; three, brace myself, have more faith in God and plunge into the sea of paper waiting for me. 

No, I'm not whining nor complaining. Things may be difficult here (hey, this is higher university quality education, and European at that), but when I first saw the subjects that I was going to have, I felt like a kid trapped in a toy store or locked up in a candy store. Let me enumerate some of them:

1. Magisterio Pontificio Contemporario: or in English, Contemporary Papal Magisterium. Taught by one of my former formators in Bidasoa, it provides an in-depth study of key documents of the popes of the Twentieth century. I've always wanted to study some of those documents.

2. Teología Patrística Latina: you don't need to know much Spanish to know that it's about patristic theology from the latin Church fathers. It's fast becoming one of my favorites, especially since we D. Juan Antonio Gil Tamayo as our professor. The subject is largely about the teachings, theological contributions and writings of the Church fathers from the West, especially St. Augustine of Hippo. I never considered St. Augustine as interesting, rather I thought of him as a bore, especially considering the amount of writings that he had produced. I think my views are about to change.

Well, those are just two of the several subjects that I have and I find really interesting. But they are also because of the professors who teach them to us. Not only are these people well-equipped and most qualified to handle these subjects, these being their specializations, but humanly speaking I find them really humble and with a really good sense of humor. These people teach with passion, but nobody with more passion than Juan Antonio Gil Tamayo. I can almost see S. Augustine sitting down with us in class by the way he describes him. Carmen Alejos Grau, who teaches History of Latin America, explains things with a lot of humor, common sense and wit. Old-timers from Bidasoa would not forget the unforgettable César Izquierdo Urbina, who gives us classes on Reason, Religion and the Christian Faith in Dogmatic Theology, with the same passion, wit and brilliance which is characteristic of him.

Another thing that I have to pass the time as I began to size up my professors was to liken them to Hollywood actors. Alejos Grau has a passing resemblance to Meryl Streep, Izquierdo reminds me of Robert De Niro (just a quaint resemblance. I'm guessing that D. César would need to strangle me upon hearing about this), and Gil Tamayo looks like an older version of the late Christopher Reeve.

Anyway, I guess one slogan of the University would sum up that which I precisely would like to express: ¿Dónde mejor?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


It's been fully a week now since I've set foot once again in Pamplona after an absence of four eventful years that have passed me by so quickly. I find myself ensconced once again in the whirl of university life and this early I'm beginning to see that it's going to be one helluva spin. Due to the Bologna Process, which is some kind of a higher education plan agreed upon by many member-countries of the European Union, while at the same time aiming at a higher and more quality higher education in Europe, it also includes all of the necessary sufferings and challenges it entails. Many are the features of the Bologna process and its effect in university education, but I think the most salient is this, that there's going to be a lot more paperwork to be had than in earlier years. Mountains of paperwork, mind you. At this early stage of my studies (I hope to survive the two years that I'm here), I already have a truckload of books and material to devour plus the correpsonding paperwork that they entail. I'll fill in later with more details, but as of the moment, I have to attend to a more pressing need: sustenance, or in other words, LUNCH!!!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

My Brother's Keeper: 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the Old Testament, specifically in Genesis, when Cain is asked by the Lord about the whereabouts of his brother Abel, the first man guilty of homicide disparagingly replied in words now known to us all: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen.4:9). This question finds its answer in the consideration that the Lord wants us to make today in the readings of the Sunday liturgy, the twenty-third in ordinary time. One realization that we have to make is that we do not and cannot live by ourselves and for ourselves alone; we touch each other’s lives and are touched in return. We may be ultimately responsible and accountable for everything that we willfully and consciously do, and yet these things that we do in a way affect the lives of those whom we meet and whose lives we touch everyday, an we are affected by that which takes place in their lives. This fact of solidarity with each other opens our eyes to the fact that we have to help each other rise, because we could be the cause of our neighbor’s downfall as well.

The lesson to which the readings would like us to turn our attention to this Sunday is about one important thing that should be present in the life of the Christian community. There was a time when any Catholic could enumerate with aplomb the seven spiritual works of mercy. Among these are to instruct the ignorant and to admonish sinners. Another name for these would be what we may call fraternal correction, and this is at the core of the message that we have listened to in the Liturgy of the Word.

The First Reading taken from the book of the prophet Ezequiel we are made to discern that we have the responsibility to bring an erring brother or sister from their ways and bring them back to the Lord. Though they are responsible for their ways, nevertheless the Spirit of God also discloses to us through the prophet that we too have a responsibility before God on their behalf.

Certainly to practice fraternal correction in no way shows that we are far better than the others; nor does it mean that we need to be superior to them in any way. Fraternal correction is done best in humility, which allows us to acknowledge the fact that all of us without exception are capable of going astray from the path that leads us to Christ, and thus are needful of the help of our brothers and sisters in the faith. Fraternal correction must be done humbly because it is first and foremost an exercise of Christian charity, as the Apostle Paul would point out in his letter to the Church in Rome, when he mentions that we ought to owe nothing but love to our brethren. We have to take care and examine ourselves whenever the opportunity to correct others presents itself to us, whether we correct out of love or just in order to nurse our wounded egos, most especially if our brother has sinned against us. Taking our lead from the admonition of the Savior, let us remember that we correct not in order to destroy or to punish, but we do so in order to build and to save, and we struggle in order to be impartial, firm, just and most of all, loving in our fraternal correction. And when in turn we are to stand corrected, let us remind ourselves, enlightened with the supernatural vision that comes as a grace from Christ, that if we are corrected, it is for our own good.

To exercise this correction is not only for superiors and administrators or pastors of souls; it is asked for of every Christian if he or she is to love as Christ loves. Let us ask therefore for this love which should inform our relations with other people, a love that does not allow others to be lost or be kept far from the love of our Lord, knowing that we are responsible for each other because the Lord loves each of us individually as His own.

I am my brother's keeper...