From the Servant General - "On Mary" Series

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 (On Mary - Part 4)

August 10, 2009
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Peace in the name of Jesus the Lord!
It is now two years since we as CFC-FFL were consecrated to Mary, Mediatrix of All Grace. August 10, 2007, was a momentous occasion in the life of the restored CFC. The Christ the King parish church where we gathered for our Restoration Assembly was jampacked and overflowing. Emotions ran high, as the image of Mary was paraded to the front altar. Tears of joy were shed. With great solemnity, on our knees before God, we were consecrated to Mary and entrusted to her maternal care.
Since that time, Mary our Mother has blessed us in the name of her son our Lord Jesus. Since that time, the holy remnant that is CFC-FFL has strongly moved forward in the power of God’s Spirit. Mary has shown us the way to living out our charism, that of renewing the family and defending life.
The life of Mary is all about family and life. The plan of God for the life of the world is all about family and life.
This year we took our theme of Trust in Jesus from the book of the prophet Isaiah. The first line of the verse says: “God indeed is my savior” (Is 12:2a). Our life and our mission is all about Jesus the savior, about proclaiming his salvation to the ends of the earth, about experiencing the fullness of salvation when we finally enter into our eternal reward. That Jesus is the savior is the most momentous and mysterious truth and event of all time.
But how did God unfold such a momentous event? God decided to send His own Son into the world, to become man, and to suffer and die for all humankind and thus to win for them their salvation. And how did God send His own Son? It would have been fitting for the Creator of the universe, the Almighty and Omnipotent God, to send His Son with all grandeur, amid a great theophany, with all the angels, with grand impact upon the whole world. But no. God quietly chose a lowly maiden and conceived Jesus in her womb. And the Savior of the world remained quietly in her womb for nine months.
Mary then gave birth to the Savior, and Jesus came to life through her and was born into the family of Joseph and Mary. Here was the Savior of the world, and he was born of the Virgin Mary, after having been carried in her womb. When we talk about our life and mission, that of proclaiming the Savior, we must know that God favored Mary, that God brought the Savior into the world through Mary, that in the grand and mysterious plan of salvation, Mary is preeminent.
Mary is all about life, family and evangelization. This is what makes our consecration to Mary so important and significant. When we do the work of evangelization, when we renew the family and defend life, we are carrying on the very plan of God, put into action by the yes of Mary. Mary was used by God to send us the Savior, and Mary is using us to bring the Savior to the whole world. This is what our consecration to Mary is about.
Just as our Mother Mary trusted in God, we continue to trust in Jesus. Just as Mary brought the Savior into the world, we continue to proclaim Christ and bring his salvation to the world. Just as Mary is all about life and family, we are about the task of renewing the family and defending life. Such is our great privilege, being called by God to be His evangelizers and missionaries, and being consecrated to Mary for such a task.
Let us continue to venerate our Blessed Mother Mary, as we continue our work of evangelization. And as all peoples accept Jesus as Savior and Lord, may the time also come when all generations will call Mary blessed.
May the Lord be with you all.
Your servant in Jesus and Mary,
Frank Padilla


December 8, 2008
Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Mary Immaculate

(On Mary - Part 3)

“You are all-beautiful, my beloved,
and there is no blemish in you.”
(Song of Songs 4:7)

Mary was conceived without original sin. This is the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.

But did not Paul say that “all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23)? Yes, but this is precisely what shows how special Mary is. She is the only human being after the fall who was the one exception.

Mary would bear the Son of God, and God is perfectly holy. It could not be that an imperfect vessel would bear a perfect God. So according to God’s eternal plan, God did not allow Mary to be conceived with any stain of sin.

God wants those that He intends to use to be clean and pure instruments. Such purity was to be from the time of their conception.

Manoah’s wife, who would give birth to Samson, was told “to be careful to take no wine or strong drink and to eat nothing unclean.” (Jgs 13:4). This was because Samson was “to be consecrated to God from the womb” and would “begin the deliverance of Israel from the power of the Philistines” (Jgs 13:5).

Jeremiah, one of the great prophets of Israel, was told by God: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you.” (Jer 1:5).

Zechariah was told by the angel Gabriel that his wife Elizabeth would bear a son. John the Baptist became the precursor of Christ. Zechariah was told that John would “be great in the sight of the Lord. He will drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will be filled with the holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb, and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.” (Lk 1:15-16).

Being a deliverer of Israel, a prophet to the nations, a restorer of Israel’s children to the Lord—all these were mighty works of God, for which He raised pure instruments.
But Mary was the greatest instrument of all according to God’s plan. She would be the mother of the Savior, the mother of God Himself. As such, she needed to be a perfectly pure instrument.

But others would still insist that what the Bible says is perfectly true, that “all have sinned” (Rom 3:23a). The only exception is Jesus, “who did not know sin” (2 Cor 5:21). As such, then Mary was subject to original sin as well. Let us follow this trend of thought.

All of us indeed have sinned. We are born with original sin, the sin of our first parents. But through the blood shed for us by Jesus on the cross, our sin has been expiated. We “are justified freely by his grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as an expiation, through faith, by his blood, to prove his righteousness because of the forgiveness of sins previously committed” (Rom 3:24-25). We have sinned, but in and through Jesus we are cleansed, if we accept his saving death on the cross by faith.

Now God is not governed by time and space. God transcends time and space. So what God did was to extend to Mary his grace of expiation from sin, won on the cross, but applied backward to the time of Mary’s conception. Thus Mary, like everyone else, was redeemed by the blood of Jesus, but rather than being freed from sin already incurred, she was preserved from original sin.

Can God do that? Of course He can! There is nothing impossible for God! (Lk 1:37).

Indeed notice that with her Magnificat, Mary says her spirit rejoices in God her savior (Lk 1:47). She did not say she will rejoice, but that she already rejoices. But Jesus the Savior was still to be born, and still had to go to the cross to win salvation for all. Thus for Mary, Jesus had already saved her, even before he physically went to the cross. The prophecy of Isaiah rightfully applies to her: “I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul; for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation, ….. like a bride bedecked with her jewels.” (Is 61:10).

So Mary was conceived without sin.

We also need to see the Immaculate Conception in view of salvation history. When our first parents sinned, there was the first promise of a Redeemer. The Lord God told the devil that there would be enmity between him and the woman and between their offsprings, and that the offspring of the woman would strike him a mortal blow (Gen 3:15). It is a fight between the woman and the serpent. Now the woman is Mary, and so it is a fight between Mary and the devil. If the woman had original sin, then she would be subject to the power of the devil and would not be able to defeat him. So she needed to be free from sin.

And so in the fullness of time, God brought Mary into the world, and then revealed to her His plan. The angel Gabriel addressed her with the words “Hail, favored one!” (Lk 1:28). Another way to put the greeting is “Hail, fully graced.” Mary was full of grace! One who is fully graced cannot have the stain of sin.

And of course, God intended for Mary to bear His own Son. She was to become the mother of God. As the mother of the Holy One, she had to be unstained.

Consider also that there were other humans not covered by Paul’s assertion that all had sinned. These were Adam and Eve. They were born unstained, created in the image and likeness of God Himself (Gen 1:27). When God looked at what He had created, He “found it very good” (Gen 1:31). God being Who He is, what He creates is perfect. God cannot create something in His image and likeness that is stained in some way.

So Adam and Eve started out with no sin, because there was no sin as yet in the world. Now Mary is the new Eve. If Eve was created sinless, then how much more Mary who would become the mother of God?

And so Mary was conceived without sin. It was not that she had original sin and was freed from it, but rather that God preserved her from original sin, from the very beginning. She was still redeemed by Jesus, but in God’s mysterious ways, experienced this redemption from sin even before the actual physical event of Jesus’ crucifixion and death on the cross.

For reflection

  1. We are all proud of our mothers and think they are the best moms in the world. Think about how your mom has been a blessing to you. Thank God for her.
  2. Think about your Mother Mary, who was pure and immaculate and full of grace. How proud of her are you?

(Taken from the forthcoming new book of Frank Padilla entitled “40 More Days with Mary”)

(On Mary - Part 2)
September 8, 2008
Today we celebrate the birthday of our Mother Mary. And today we commemorate the 11th death anniversary of our brothers Ben Donato and Jun Frias. Ben and Jun died in a car accident while on mission in Vanuatu. They gave their lives for the sake of the call. A definition of “martyr” is one who sacrifices something of great value and especially life itself for the sake of principle. Ben and Jun were our first martyrs on mission. To be a martyr is to be a witness. Ben and Jun truly witnessed to the love and way of Christ.
Today we look at life and death, at rejoicing and at grieving, at being amazed and being troubled. There will be many times when the two seemingly opposed aspects come together in a package. Mary was greatly troubled at what the angel Gabrieltold her, but burst out with joyful exuberant praise in her Magnificat. Mary would have been overjoyed as she and Joseph were amazed at the words of Simeon when Jesus was presented at the temple, while at the same time would have been troubled when told that she would be pierced by a sword (Lk 2:33-35). We grieve at the deaths of Ben and Jun, but we rejoice in their new life in heaven.
We look at our own lives in Christ. There are ups and downs, joys and sorrows, victories and seeming defeats. Accepting Jesus as Savior and Lord does not translate to a life of ease and comfort. On the contrary. Even as we have accepted Jesus as our Savior and Lord, or perhaps precisely because we have accepted him as such and are now serving him, we will face difficulties in life. The enemy opposes and oppresses God’s people, especially those who do mission for Him. We may even be called on to give our very lives for the cause of Christ. Though we may be troubled by such a possibility, we must rejoice at such a privilege. In speaking about himself and his love for us, Jesus says he tells us these things so that his joy might be in us and that our joy might be complete (Jn 15:11). Jesus then gives us the commandment of love, and says: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (Jn 15:13).
Today I honor our brothers Ben and Jun, who gave their lives for the cause of Christ in pursuance of his mission. They walked the way of Jesus, who himself showed the way to true love by giving his life for us all. Let us never forget the supreme sacrifice of our brothers, and let us be inspired by their total commitment to mission.
Joy and sorrow. Life and death. Whatever happens, we must never be robbed of our joy in Christ. Even as Jesus told his disciples that he would be leaving them and they themselves would be scattered, he told them that they should have peace in him. Such is possible, given the reality of Christ in our lives. “In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” (Jn 16:33).
When Ben and Jun were retrieved from their car that had plunged into a pool of water by the road, Ben was seen clutching a rosary in his hand. They had been praying the rosary. That should be the way to go being on the Father’s mission, anointed by the Spirit, praying to Mary, rejoicing in Christ.
I do not know why God allowed the lives of two good men to be taken that day. I cannot fully understand the inscrutablemind of God. But what I do know is that today we have two intercessors before the throne room of God, praying for our mission. What I do know is that our two brothers have gone on ahead of us, to the place where we ourselves all long to be. What I do know is that they are in the loving embrace of our Mother Mary. And what I do know is that now we are very much more aware that as we go on mission, we might be called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice, giving our lives for the cause of Christ.
Things may not work out according to our desires and designs. But if we remain in Christ, all things work for our good. “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.” (Jn 16:20). Grief and joy. Weeping and rejoicing. They often come together. But if we remain in him, Jesus himself assures us: “your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.” (Jn 16:22). Our hearts, like Mary, may be pierced, but our joy in Christ remains.
Our Mother Mary was born to life. Our brothers Ben and Jun died, and were born to eternal life. Mary then gave birth to Jesus, who became the Savior of the world. Our brothers Ben and Jun have given birth to greater fruit in our mission to proclaim Jesus to the world, thus bringing new life in Christ to many others. “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” (Jn 12:24). Let us honor the sacrifice of our martyrs Ben and Jun by giving even more of ourselves for our mission of evangelization.
We are greatly privileged to be missionaries, Marian, and martyrs. Let us move on with exultant joy.
God bless you all.
Frank Padilla

"Exultant Joy"

(On Mary - Part 1)

August 10, 2008
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Greetings in the love of Jesus!
It has been one year since that blessed event last August 10, 2007, when we as CFC-FFL consecrated ourselves to the Blessed Virgin Mary, more specifically, to Our Lady, Mary Mediatrix of All Grace. Since that time, we have experienced her powerful intercession, helping firm up our restoration and moving us forward in our mission.
Yesterday we had a pilgrimage to the Carmelite shrine at Lipa, Batangas. We filled the Church and had a wonderful time. Like Mary in her Magnificat, what we experienced was exultant joy. This is the joy that comes from knowing God’s mercy, His salvation, and His bountiful blessings. This is the joy that comes from experiencing God’s love (Jn 3:16), trusting in His plan for us (Jer 29:11), and responding to His particular call to us as CFC­founded in 1981, re-founded in 1993, restored in 2007.
Jesus was there from the very start in 1981. And at the very start of our restoration in 2007, there also was Mary.
The apparitions in Lipa, to a Carmelite novice named Sr. Teresing, started in August 1948. 60 years ago. Fr Melvin Castro, our Eucharistic celebrant, said that the devil was defeated in 1948, and that now, from this day on, the devil will be defeated through our work in every part of the world, where Our Lady is.
It was a powerful affirmation of the spiritual warfare that we have always been involved in, intensifying in the last few years, with its most intense period last year. With restoration, the devil’s intent to destroy CFC has been thwarted. But the enemy does not give up. And today we are still deeply involved in spiritual warfare. The devil will oppose God’s work and God’s people till the end of time.
But Jesus already won victory on the cross. And our Blessed Mother too is victorious over the devil’s works.
How do we now respond to this situation of continuing intense spiritual warfare? Let Mary show us the way.
First, Mary was not afraid. She was greatly troubled at what the angel told her (Lk 1:29) but the angel assured her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” (Lk 1:30). In the midst of troubles in life, if we place ourselves securely in God’s embrace by walking His path for us, then, knowing His great love and great plan for us, we need never be afraid. No matter what happens.
Second, Mary embraced the cross. We know that there will be problems, challenges and pain in life. We are called not only to be unafraid of these, but in fact to face them boldly and joyfully. Mary was told by Simeon that she would be pierced by a sword (Lk 2:35). This was the price of walking with Jesus. So too with us. The sage Jesus, son of Eleazar, tells us, “My son, when you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials.” (Sir 2:1). If we want to be disciples of Jesus, we must deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow him (Lk 9:23). All the way to the cross.
And do not forget (never forget) that we are into spiritual warfare. So the enemy will continue to oppress us. “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22). We can be subjected to persecution, even from our own brethren. But even this will be cause for blessings and great joy. Jesus himself pronounced the beatitude: “Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.” (Mt 5:10-12).
Just like Mary, who gave birth to Jesus and stood at the foot of the cross until his death, we too must go all the way to the cross. Pain and suffering are salvific. They purify us. They humble us. They pave the way for us to experience victory. For us, just like Jesus and Mary, the cross is the only way.
Third, Mary experienced victory in and through the Holy Spirit. We have been entrusted with God’s work. How is this possible? We are weak and sinful. Mary also asked, “How can this be” (Lk 1:34)? The angel replied, “The holy Spirit will come upon you” (Lk 1:35a). It is possible because it is God’s work, we are just instruments, and it is the Holy Spirit who anoints and empowers us. Though we are nothing, nothing is impossible with God (Lk 1:37). In fact, God delights in using nobodies like us. Mary herself was lowly, but all ages would call her blessed, for the Mighty One did great things for her (Lk 1:48-49).
We in CFC-FFL are an evangelistic and missionary community. We, as with all Christians, have been entrusted with that wonderful gift of salvation won on the cross by Jesus. We have been commissioned to bring that good news of salvation to the whole world. This is our privilege. This is our responsibility.
Is it possible for God to use us in the power of His Spirit? Can we become families in the Holy Spirit that will be God’s instruments for renewing the face of the earth? Jesus has said so, and we just need to believe and accept.
So fourth, Mary believed and so was blessed. Elizabeth told her: “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” (Lk 1:45). Faith is the key. Faith unlocks God’s power. With faith, God can move mountains through us (Mt 17:20). But we need to be faithful. To God’s call to us. To our covenant with God. To our life and mission in CFC-FFL. We need to walk in the way of Jesus and grow in holiness. And we need to be committed servants whom the Lord can use as He wills.
In the midst of spiritual warfare, we rejoice. Precisely because spiritual warfare is a consequence of our walking in the way of Christ and doing his work, all the more we rejoice.
Brothers and sisters, our joy is in Christ. But it is more than that. It is actually about the Father’s joy in us. Our theme of joy for this year comes from the book of the prophet Zephaniah. And here we see that it is our God who rejoices over us (Zep 3:17). God rejoices in our restoration. God rejoices in having His holy remnant. God renews us in His love.
And God gives us His promises through Zephaniah. “I will remove disaster from among you, so that none may recount your disgrace. Yes, at that time I will deal with all who oppress you ….. and at that time I will gather you: For I will give you renown and praise, among all the peoples of the earth, when I bring about your restoration before your very eyes, says the Lord.” (Zep 3:18-20).
Now that is great cause for rejoicing. The angel Gabriel said to Mary: “you have found favor with God.” (Lk 1:30). “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” (Lk 1:28). With our restoration, I believe we have once again found favor with God. And with our consecration, we have found favor with Mary.
Let then our response be, just like Mary: “my spirit rejoices in God my savior” (Lk 1:47).
Exultant joy. Let this be at the core of our very being, now and forever.
God bless us all.
Your servant in Jesus and Mary,
Frank Padilla

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Renewing the Family and Defending Life