PREX

The Parish Renewal Experience (PREX) is actually not an organization but a spiritual formation that is considered as a new way of life in seeing Christ in others.

It’s a revival of one’s commitment as he strengthens his sense of belongingness to his parish and his Catholic faith.

I attended the PREX back in the late 90s at Parish of the Holy Cross in Makati.

This weekend, Ate Rea Rosales invited me to attend the PREX in St. Martha Parish, which is one of the young parishes in the Diocese of Imus.

Prex

The PREX is a three-day seminar consisting of talks on life experiences that will aid the participants to improve their relationships with their family, neighbours, peers, and to embrace God’s graces and love. It also aims to boost the attendees to share their 3Ts (Treasure, Time and Talent) in serving God and ultimately to evangelize their dearly brothers and sisters who are poor in spirit and bring them back to the Lord.

Fr. Mel Sandoval, our parish priest led the talk about renewal and being an active part of the Catholic church.

PREX is a rediscovery and a strong recall into belonging to our church. This is one way of learning that the parish is not a “We and They” relationship, but a family living and loving one another.

It started in 1970s and spread like wildfire allover the globe.

PREX enabled the lay servants to have a better understanding of the Word of God and allowed them to be of service to Him and His people.

I am looking forward this weekend for a PREX refresher experience.

We pray that all the participants will have a deeper encounter with the Lord this weekend.

Bukid

Some of them are farmer’s children in the Kanluran (Western) part of Malagasang, Imus here in Cavite. They are caring and loving to each other.

I witnessed their kind and gentle demeanor during the parish’s outreach program held today.

Fr. Mel Sandoval, our parish priest initiated the activity. He shared the gospel today about being a child in God’s kingdom.

He emphasized to them that they are always loved by God and that the free school supplies were gifts from Jesus.

Bukid

Children represent for Jesus the weak and the powerless in our society. Only when we give importance to such as these we can be signs of the Kingdom of God. It is in becoming powerless that we become capable of belonging to the Kingdom of God and of serving those who are powerless. “To remain small means to acknowledge one’s own nothingness, to expect all from the Good Lord as a small child expects all from his father, not to be worried about anything” (St. Therese).

In the gospel today (Mark 10:13-16), people were bringing little children to Jesus in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

The Gospel urges us to love. The disciples were protective of Jesus believing that they should decide who was worthy of his attention and objected to Jesus blessing the children.

Jesus intervened, invited the children closer, and laid his hands on them. He gave them two precious things that cost no money: time and affection.

In this time of prayer let us offer all our concerns before God, being careful not to let through only the ones that we think presentable.

Jesus asks us to take a lesson from the way in which a child receives. What can we learn from these people ‘to whom the kingdom of God belongs’?

It is the child in us who can most truly live in a state of becoming, always open to growth and change.

It is the child in us who can sense the perfection and stability of eternity, where there is neither time nor space, neither before nor after but, in Meister Eckhart’s words, “everything present in one new, fresh-springing now where millenniums last no longer than the twinkling of an eye.”

Our treatment of children and of the vulnerable, of outcasts and those with disabilities can fall far short of what Jesus demands.

The courage to reflect gently on past failings can give us wisdom and freedom to do better in the future.

Do I take the time to nourish and connect with my childlike qualities?

This will help me retain a sense of wonder, awe, gratitude and excitement in the small things of creation.

Easter Vigil

Fr. Mel Sandoval celebrated the Easter Vigil Mass last night with tons of love. He served with passion for the Lord! Led the parishioners of St. Martha to the ultimate worship.

The children and the youth of the parish served gladly together with their families.

Fr. Mel sang the Exultet and the prayer to the Saints straight from the heart.

Easter Vigil Mass

Fr. Mel during the ceremonial blessing of light.

Easter Vigil Mass Sta Marta

Crossing from darkness to light. Little angels praising the risen Christ.

Know more about the Easter Vigil Mass from ACatholic.org:

The Easter Vigil Mass is the most important Mass in the Catholic Church. Catholics throughout the entire world will celebrate this most holiest of nights, in union with Jesus Christ and with all of their brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world. We welcome our new members into the Catholic church during this Mass and feel a great spiritual solidarity with them. We pray for them, and with them, as they consecrate their lives to Jesus Christ. It is a very holy and unifying experience to attend the Easter Vigil Mass.

The Easter Vigil Mass always takes place after nightfall. Our church lies in darkness and waiting. The light of Christ has gone out of the world and darkness will have covered the earth where ever the Easter Vigil Mass takes place. A match will be struck in the darkness and the Easter fires will be lit outside of the church, representing Christ’s return from the tomb. Jesus Christ is the light that dispels the darkness of our world.

The people of different parishes throughout the world will gather around a brand new fire that has begun to burn, and a new paschal candle will be lit for the first time. The priest will act in the place of Jesus Christ, as he leads the people who are gathered there with him to the darkened, empty church. A new Easter candle will burn brightly, leading the procession of the people of God. The priest acts “in persona of Christ,” carrying the newly lit paschal candle into the church that awaits his return in total darkness. He brings the light of Christ into the church for the first time since Good Friday. It is Jesus Christ alone who dispels the darkness of our lives. All that we do, and all that we are, is nothing without him. He is the source of all the love, light and goodness in our lives.

There are many local traditions that will take place throughout the world during the Easter Vigil Mass. Often times though, each person that enters the church for Mass that night will light their own candle from the new Easter candle at the doors of the church. Their individual candles will collectively fill the entire church with light, representing the light of Christ that burns within each one of us. The new paschal candle will later be dipped into the baptismal waters three times when the waters are blessed, calling down the Holy Spirit to descend upon the waters.

It is fitting that the first words of the holy scriptures for Mass that night will be:

“In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light” and there was light. God then separated the light from the darkness…”

Then the creation story will be retold to all the people.

The psalm that follows will repeat “Lord, send out your Spirit and renew the face of the earth.” This is fitting, because the new parishioners who are baptized that night will also renew the face of the earth and the very church itself, with the newly ignited fire of the Holy Spirit dwelling within them.

The next reading from the old testament will recount the story of how God tested Abraham by telling him to light a fire and offer his only beloved son to God as a human sacrifice. This is because God wanted to test Abraham to see if he loved his son more than Him. When it came right down to it, Abraham did not love his son more than God, because he made the decision to obey what God commanded him to do. Because he obeyed God, the angel stopped him from sacrificing his son, and Abraham was greatly blessed because of this. This is why Abraham became the father of many nations. This is also something the new catechumens and candidates will do upon their entry into the Catholic church during the Easter Vigil Mass. They will choose God above everything else in their life and we should make a decision along with them, to do the same.

The next reading tells us how God parted the red sea and led His people out of the bondage of slavery and sin in Egypt, into a new life to be lived in holiness and unity with Him. This is true for all of us who have been baptized and the ones who also will be baptized on this night as well. Jesus led all of us out of sin, through the waters of baptism, into our new life in him.

The next reading begins by saying that the one who has become your husband is your Maker, his name is the Lord of Hosts. This reflects the decision that Abraham made to choose God above everyone else, including his own son. We are called to love God and the Lord Jesus Christ more than any other person in our lives as well. This does not mean that our marriages and family are not important though. It simply means that our love for God should always come first in our lives.

The next reading says “Thus says the Lord: All you who are thirsty, come to the water”. It recognizes the deep hunger that every human person has for God. Psalm 42 describes this thirst for God very well when it says “like a deer thirsts for water, so I thirst for you, my God”. The new catechumens have recognized this thirst for God and His living waters, yet we too, continue to thirst for God through out our lives.

The next reading tells us how God calls his people and when they answer with understanding “Here we are!”, they will shine with joy for their Maker. This describes how the catechumens and candidates have answered God’s call and have come forward to acknowledge Him. If you have ever been brought into the Catholic church at the Easter Vigil, or have witnessed others who have, then you may have noticed that our new Catholics do seem to glow with the light of the Holy Spirit the whole night. So do we though. We will be shinning with joy at the Easter mass as well, especially if we went to confession and set things right before the Lord during the season of Lent.

The next reading says that God “will sprinkle clean water upon you to cleanse you from all your impurities.” And that “I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you.” We will be His people and He will be our God. What an absolutely beautiful reading this is. It gives us all much hope for the future. The things of the past are no more. We have been created anew. This is true for every person who is brought into the Catholic church, whether that is at Easter this year, or many years ago. Every Easter we are made new again, through the power of Jesus Christ.

The next reading says:

“Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life. For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his we shall also be united with him in the resurrection.”

Every single one of us who have been baptized in the name of Jesus Christ can trust these words as the truth, and the gospel reading tells why. The gospel says the women from Galilee went to the tomb at daybreak. They saw that the stone sealing Jesus’s tomb, had been rolled away, and then they saw an angel who said to them:

“Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here for he has been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, “He has been raised from the dead, and he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. Behold, I have told you.”

Then, Jesus met the women on their way and greeted them. They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee and there they will see me.”

The birth, life and death of Jesus Christ has no meaning without his resurrection from the dead. Jesus would have been considered an imposture, a fake, a liar, or at best a prophet, but He would not have been recognized as the Son of the living God if it were not for his resurrection from the dead. Jesus physically died, passed through the gates of hell, defeated death itself and was raised to eternal life. There were many people who personally saw Jesus Christ, resurrected from the dead. It is the most talked about event in human history, both in the time of Christ, and over two thousand years later in our modern times as well.

Every single human being that has ever lived is afraid to die. There are some people who are absolutely terrified of dying. We often ask ourselves what is the point of life? But, death is actually our biggest concern. Everyone of us wants to know what happens when we die? Do we just cease to exist? Is heaven and hell real? Is God real?

It is a beautiful thing that Jesus Christ not only died for the forgiveness of our lives, but he also did his best to shatter our fear of death. It isn’t so much what we say in life that matters, but what we actually do. Jesus knew that his words would only go so far in helping us to believe in him. He rose from the dead to physically prove to all of us, that there really is life after death. We were also created for eternal life.

Jesus Christ broke through the barriers of our doubts and our fear of death, when he was raised from the dead on Easter morning. The stone that sealed the tomb of our Lord was merely a door through which He passed into eternal life. Death is but a door that we too shall pass through. There really is no such thing as death. Death does not the final say. Jesus Christ does.

As long as we believe that Jesus Christ died for the forgiveness of our sins, that he rose from the dead to eternal life, so that we too, might live forever, then we will. We need not fear what death has in store for us, because Jesus Christ went ahead of us, to light the way to our Father’s kingdom. This is why He is the Light of the World, the Light of the entire human race. And this is our Easter joy!