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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Feast of the Holy Family


Today, a day after we celebrated Christmas is the Feast of the Holy Family.

We all know that before the beginning of time, the Most Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, was the “primordial family”.  They were a perfect family where love was the bond in a fellowship of charity.  This charity overflowed through the creation of the human family.  Adam and Eve were the first family of God.  Everything was just so perfect until the devil came into the scene.  The devil who was alone and will never have a family of his own because of the absence of love and charity, did everything to destroy the first family of God.  Yet God made a promise to create the new family of God through the Messiah.
When Jesus was born, he did not just become a member of the human family but a member of a particular family of Joseph and Mary.  We call them the Holy Family.  They were holy not just because Mary and Joseph were holy people, their family was holy because of the presence of Jesus.  Jesus was the center of their family.  The family of Jesus, Joseph and Mary becomes the icon of every human family because it mirrores the family of the Most Holy Trinity where there is love and an overflow of charity.
But like any other human family, the family of Jesus, Joseph and Mary experienced the lights and shadows of life: joys, pains, sufferings, temptations, hunger and other struggles just like anyone else’s.  In fact in our gospel today, we see the Holy Family besieged by evil through King Herod who wanted to kill the child.  Joseph was told by an angel in a dream to flee to Egypt to save the child.  This is not just an historical event but a symbolical reality of the devil wanting to destroy the sense of the sacred in the human family.  The devil will do everything to destroy our families.  Why? Because the family is the “domestic church”.  It is the microcosm of the Church, of the Mystical Body of Christ.  It is through the Church that the blessing of God will overflow into the world.  And since the devil cannot destroy the Church as a whole, his “modus operandi” is the destruction of the Church by destroying the families.
Let us take a look at our families.  Let us ask ourselves if Jesus is really the center of our families?  Let us see how the devil makes use of “modus operandi” in destroying our families.  The many forms of addictions are the new labels of tools being used by the devil to cut through and divide our families.  Addiction of drugs, alcohol, prostitution, pornography, the use of the contraceptive methods and many others: when any of these addictions enter into our families, we see the destruction of our values and little by little our families are destroyed.
I have seen many families who became vulnerable, being eaten up by the fire they have made which is beyond their control.  Every single family that is destroyed is a trophy for the devil.
We have to admit that our families are susceptible to all the evil influences of the world.  That is why there is a need for us to protect our families from everything that harm us.  We need to strengthen our family value system through good education , evangelization and good witnessing.  We need to frequent the reception of the sacraments to strengthen us in our weakness and vulnerability.  We need to gather always in the celebration of the Eucharist where our families are nourished by the Word of God and the Flesh and Blood of Jesus.
We say that that there is no perfect family.  Each of our families have skeletons in the closet and secrets we keep from the public.  Yet we continue to hope that despite the darkness and shadows of our homes, we have Jesus as the center of our families; Jesus is our light and life.

Saturday, December 18, 2010



 (Please click)

We all know that Mary was the recipient of the Good News of the Incarnation. In the account of St. Luke, Mary took the center stage in the Infancy Narratives.  But in today’s gospel of St. Matthew the Good News of the Incarnation was also shared to someone else who would be playing a pivotal role in the salvific event.  His name was Joseph.
WE know that there was a boy in the Old Testament named Joseph the dreamer.  He was the one responsible for the Israelites to go to Egypt and from there the People of God would be born.  Now another Joseph in the New Testament who was also a dreamer would be responsible for the birthing of the new People of God.
In the Jewish customs, when a man and a woman are betrothed, they are practically and legally husband and wife.  After bethrothal Joseph found out that Mary was already with child.  To save Mary from stoning to death because of an impending scandal, he contemplated to divorce her.  It was in this point that the angel appeared to him in a dream and explained to him the mystery that was happening.
Most of us call Joseph as the foster father of Jesus.  Yes that is true but there is something more to Joseph than just being a foster father .  Let us now reflect on the role of this great man in the history of salvation.  Joseph was the one who gave the name Jesus.  How do we understand this?  When we hear the genealogy of Jesus, we traced the lineage of Jesus to three fourteen generations back to Abraham and David.  At the end of many names, we hear the name of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Because Joseph was the husband of Mary, her son is legally the son of Joseph. It was because of Joseph that Jesus was connected to the lineage of David hence is called the Son of David.  And what is so important with this?  We all know that the Messiah will come from the stump of Jesse who was the father of David as prophecied by Isaiah in the first reading.  If this is not true of Jesus, then he would be an impostor.  That’s the greatest contribution  of Joseph in the life of Jesus and in the history of salvation.
Secondly, the gospel relates that Joseph took Mary his wife into his home.  He did it because of his obedience to the angel.   By this, we understand that he became the “Guardian of the Incarnation”, husband to Mary and the legal father of Jesus.  Pope John Paul II wrote a beautiful encyclical letter “Redemptoris Custos” or the “Guardian of the Redeemer”.  Here lies the greatness of this man who has never spoken any single word in the gospels.  Here is the power of silence and contemplation!  Joseph stayed behind the “limelight” of the Mystery of the Incarnation, he stood at the background in obedience and in silence. What an inspiration for us who like to be looked upon, be applauded, be at the center of attention.
          Most of the pictures of St. Joseph depict him as an old man. This was  because the artists wanted to guard the virginal conception of Mary but in fact he must be a young husband to Mary.
In 1889 Pope Leo the XIII declared him the patron of the Universal Church. Indeed if God has entrusted to St. Joseph the legal fatherhood and guardianship of the Incarnation, then it is but fitting that we entrust our Church under the care of this great man.  St. Joseph, pray for us.

Saturday, December 4, 2010




 Starting the Second Sunday of Advent, we will be guided by John the Baptist in our preparation for the coming of Jesus.   As we enter into this season, as if we enter into a 40-day retreat and our retreat director or master is John the Baptist.  Rightly so because he was the one who prepared the people of Israel for the coming of the Messiah.
          St. Matthew introduced to us the locus of his preaching and that is the desert of Judea.  This was a glimpse of the state of life John had.  John wore a clothing made of camel’s hair and had a leather belt around his waist.  His clothing tells us not just about his garments but the sacrifice he took as part of his prophetic role.   It was most uncomfortable to wear.  The leather around his belt must have caused him pain tremendously.  His food was locust and honey which were all taken from the desert.  I once visited the summer palace of the parents of John the Baptist in Ain Karim and it gave me an impression that they were a very wealthy family. When most of the people were living in caves during the time of Jesus, John the Baptist aside from his house had a summer palace.    We know that John came from an aristocratic priestly family and yet he left everything and lived in the desert in preparation for his role.   
 His message was “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.”  This is the core of John’s prophetic cry: for the people to repent and reform their lives for the sake of the kingdom.    It is amazing to know the charismatic power of John when all of Judea were going out to him to be baptized by him.  People from all walks of life including the Pharisees and Sadducees were listening to his message.   For the people, there was something more than the message.  They knew that John was more than an ordinary man.  In fact St. Matthew said that John the Baptist was the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah that we hear from the first reading today.  The coming of the Messiah will usher in the Kingdom of God where the justice and peace will reign.   The visitation of God will not be through the instrumentality of his prophets like the ones in the Old Testament but through the Messiah.
 That is why we say that John the Baptist was the greatest of all the prophets not just because of his message but because of the way he lived his life.  Later on he will be giving up his life for the message and for Jesus.  But in all this greatness, he tells us about his spirituality of humility “I am not worthy to unfasten his sandals.”   Jesus in the later part of the gospels will say that no one born of a woman is greater than John the Baptist.  Maybe next to Our Lady and St. Joseph, we could even say that John the Baptist was the greatest man ever born.  And yet, in all this, he knew himself so well : “The one coming after me is mightier than me”.  
When we reflect John’s life, we embrace his message with joyful expectancy.  This is what Advent is all about.   Jesus is coming not just in the world and the Church once again but most especially in our personal lives.  His coming is a visitation which will bring peace and blessing to us.   We need to hear the “voice crying out” in the wilderness and dryness of our hearts.  And the message is repentance or metanoia.  The word metanoia comes from the Greek words meta and nous which mean beyond the mind and literally it means a complete turnabout from our former lives to something new because we are meeting our Messiah.
My brothers and sisters, we will be hearing more of John the Baptist in the coming Sundays.

Saturday, November 27, 2010



(Recorded in Australian Catholic Radio Online)

The first Sunday of Advent  opens the new liturgical calendar of the Church.   We could even say that today is the new year in the Church.  The word Advent comes from the Latin word adventus which means the coming of an important person or an event.  In the Christian world, Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of Jesus.
There are three ways of Jesus’ coming namely: the first Christmas which happened 2,000 years ago, secondly the Parousia which is the end of time and thirdly the coming of Jesus in between the first Christmas and the Parousia which happens in the Church, in the Sacraments and in our daily encounter with Him.
We also have three kinds of time that corresponds to the three comings of Jesus:  the cosmic time which corresponds to the repetition of events like day and night or the four seasons of fall, winter, spring and summer which come back every year.  That is why we celebrate Christmas year after year. Next is the historical or chronological time which is  measured by years, months, days, hours, seconds which are unrepeatable.  Lastly the kairos which is a blessed time or a time of grace.
If we understand this background on time, what do we prepare then during Advent?   Some are preparing for Christmas, that is why we decorate our homes with Christmas trees, lanterns and other stuff that remind us of the joy of the season.  But the season of Advent is more than preparing for December 25th which is a cosmic time.  More than all our preparations for Christmas, the Church reminds us to prepare for the Parousia.  This is the reason why these past three Sundays we have been reading the Apocalyptic readings most especially in our gospels. 
Last Sunday we read the apocalyptic gospel of St. Luke about the end of the world.  In our gospel today, we read the apocalyptic account by St. Matthew.   Apocalyptic literature has lots of imageries which were used both by the Old Testament and New Testament writers to strengthen the hearts of believers during a very difficult time, most especially during persecution where they suffered because of their faith.  As a “resistance literature” it encouraged believers to hold on to their faith because that was the time of God renewing history through His powerful presence.  Oftentimes, this event is preceded by suffering and pain by most believers. 
Our gospel today relates the flood during the time of Noah which was a way of renewing the earth; it was God’s way of cleansing the world in preparation for the beginning of a new humanity.   No one was prepared except Noah and his family.  Parousia is likened to that event.  The Church is like Noah’s ark.  She gives us opportunities to prepare for the coming of the New Beginning.  During the time of Noah, the people did not care and they might be laughing at Noah and his family for  building such huge ark, until the flood came and wipe them away.
Let us take a look at Kairos which is a blessed time or a time of grace.   When God enters into our time and we into the time of God, that moment of our encounter with God is a Kairos.  This happens when we gather together as a Church and celebrate our faith together as a people.  When we hear God’s Word.  It is Kairos.  When we participate in the celebration of Jesus’ death and resurrection in the Holy Communion.  It is Kairos!  When after the Eucharist, we become witnesses of our faith to the world.  It is Kairos!
St. Matthew reminds his community and all of us to be always ALERT and WATCHFUL!  This is not to instill fear but a sense of vigilance and preparedness.  The Kairos we are experiencing now is just but a preparation for the historical time when everything will have to pass away to give way for the birthing of the New Heaven and New Earth where the justice of God will reign.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Homily: Christ the King


In the liturgical calendar of the Church, there are 34 Sundays in the ordinary time and the last Sunday which is today is the Solemnity of Christ the King.
Although our gospel today is taken from St. Luke, we might as well consider some of the accounts in the others gospels to give us a bigger perspective on the concept of the kingship of Jesus.  In our reflections, let us consider the inscription above the head of Jesus which was normally the charge or the crime of the criminal being crucified.  I think most of us are familiar with it which is INRI.   They are actually Greek words  for Iesous Nazarenus Rex Iedaeorum which is translated as Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.  In the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, the inscription reads “ This is Jesus, the King of the Jews”.   So the NRI that we know of is actually that of St. John’s account which gives us a more theological understanding.
According to St. John, it was Pilate who wrote the inscription and we need to understand this.  Remember that it was the Jews who brought Jesus to Pilate.  When Pilate asked Jesus:  “Are you the King of the Jews?”  Jesus replied “Do you ask this on your own, or others have told you about me?..  My kingdom is not from this world… Pilate asked him “So you are a king?”  Jesus answered “You say that I am a king.  For this I was born, and for this I came to this world, to testify to the truth…”  During the trial, Pilate believed that Jesus was innocent and tried everything to release him and yet the chief priests and the Jews cried out “If you release him, you are no friend of Caesar.  Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor.”  When Pilate heard this, he said to the Jews “Here is your King”. When the chief priests asked that it should be changed to “This man said, I am King of the Jews”, Pilate answered “What I have written, I have written”.  What is so important about this account?  Remember that Pilate represented Rome and when Rome has spoken, that was it!  It was only St. John who made mention that the inscription was written in the three major languages during that time: Hebrew, Latin and Greek.  This means that the truth on the kingship of Jesus is not limited only to the Jews but to the whole world as well.  Jesus’ kingship is universal. 
 The inclusion of the words “Jesus of Nazareth” in the inscription was also meant to be a mockery by Pilate?  The king of the Jews is from Nazareth, it’s baloney and absurd.  But that’s the reality.  The Jews had been  waiting for a king to save them. Mighty and strong.  And here, we see Jesus as depicted by St. Luke mocked and jeered upon “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the Messiah”.  If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.”  Here is the King who would not save himself because he was not thinking of himself.  In fact, the first one he saved from the cross was a fellow criminal “Amen I say to you, today  you will be with me in paradise.”
What is the kingship of Jesus to us at present?  The world is watching on the monarchy of England.  Will Prince Charles be a king? Will Camilla be a queen?   People around the world are excited over the engagement of Prince William and Kate.  Remember that the kingship of Jesus is not of this world as he proclaimed before Pilate.  We do not consider ourselves as subjects of Jesus.  When we were baptized, we were initiated to participate in the three offices of Jesus being priest, prophet and king.  And that’s who we are.  We could even say, in a spiritual sense, there is a royal blood that is running in our veins.  The second reading from the Letter of Paul to the Colossians reminds us of this: Jesus is our head, the firstborn from the dead.  And we are all his members. We belong to the Kingdom of God.
As we end the liturgical calendar this Sunday, the Church reminds us that Jesus at the end of time will reign.  I f we want to be part of his kingship, we just have to be faithful to him.