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Saturday, February 26, 2011


To Listen to Australian Catholic Radio Online:

Food, shelter and clothing are the basic needs of man.  It is but normal to be reasonably concerned how to procure them to live a comfortable and dignified life.  Whether we like it or not, we need money to have them.
Jesus reminds us in our gospel today that we cannot serve both God and mammon.  The term mammon in the context of Jesus’s milieu means material possessions.  When does a thing become a mammon that competes with God?  When does it become a god in its own right? Who among us do not want to eat good and healthy food?  Who does not want to wear good and decent clothes?  Who does not want to live in a comfortable house?   Justice demands that we should provide ourselves with at least the basic needs.
A thing becomes a mammon when it starts to possess us rather than us possessing it.  When we become possessed by a thing or a person, we become its slave and it becomes our god.  This happens in a very subtle manner, in fact we never acknowledge it because oftentimes we are not aware of it.   We make a precious possession or a person our god without us knowing it.  This happens when our life totally depends on that person or possession, the absence of which brings us death.  They become our idols and we sinned against idolatry.
Most of us have judged Imelda Marcos owning 3,000 pairs of shoes.  We say it is outrageous, coming from a very poor country wherein more than half of the population live below the poverty line.  3,000 gods being worshipped by her two feet.  Yet if we take a look at our selves, maybe we will find more or less than 3,000 gods lurking in the deep recesses of our souls, without us knowing we have been worshipping them.  Sometimes just like Imelda we justify ourselves why we have them.
The brightest faces of evil in the modern world today are consumerism and materialism.  The world entices us to get material more than what we can take and satisfy our ego that longs for more; to take more than what we need and consume them as much as we want.  When I first went to the USA, I was scandalized by what they call the fruits of the American dream: huge houses being occupied only by two people; wardrobes with unused clothes still kept in plastic bags; toilets as huge as car park and many more.  But we never call them evil because they look good to the eyes and we want to have them, too.
A thing becomes a mammon when our security depends on it and we do not need God anymore.  This is the evil that the affluent nations are facing when spirituality becomes passé and religion is a thing of the past and they do not have a space for the sense of the sacred.  When everything becomes secular and secured, who will need God?
The first reading today from the prophet Isaiah is one of the finest in the Old Testament. “Can a mother forget her baby yet even if she does forget, I will never forget you.  I have carved you in the palm of my hands” says God.  What a lovely thought that God is likened to a mother loving us unconditionally. 
While all our created gods and idols will someday become stale and sooner will leave us, God will be faithful to us, forever and always…

Friday, February 18, 2011


7th Sunday in Ordinary Time – A
To listen, please click:

          We always listen to our teachers because we know they have the wisdom that we need.  The people of Athens flocked to hear the wisdom of Plato and Socrates; we are delighted to hear the wisdom of Solomon; the Jews would always go to the Rabbi who have wise answers to every question.  What is the difference of Jesus to the wisest teachers who roamed this planet?  Jesus was not just wise, he was Wisdom personified! 
          For the past three Sundays, we have been listening to the Sermon on the Mount by this greatest teacher.  But every time we listen to him, there is always a sense of novelty; he always brings his hearers to a  higher level of understanding.  In fact human history has never heard such teachings.  No one has ever upset the norms of reciprocity and the standard of the world.  Whenever we listen to Jesus, we listen not just to a wise teacher, we listen to Wisdom speaking to us.  Take it or leave it.
          Because of our sense of justice, we always demand retribution and compensation.  This is what law is all about: to bring that justice for all.  Have you ever heard of lex talionis?  It is the Latin for the law of retributive justice wherein we exact equitable retribution to an offended party or punishment identical to the offence.  We call it in simple terms as “eye for an eye” or “tooth for a tooth”.  Gandhi who was a champion of non-violence said “eye for an eye ends up making the whole world blind”. Or maybe we could say “tooth for a tooth will make Colgate bankrupt.”   What the devil teaches us is not to get angry, but to get even. Sometimes we appear all right at the outside but deep inside us is a longing to get revenge.
Jesus’ teachings in our gospel today really upsets our human sense of retributive justice: offer no resistance to the wicked; offer the other cheek when somebody hits us; if someone asks for our shirt, give him our pants as well; give to anyone who asks or borrows; go an extra kilometer.  If a teacher or a friend advises us to do those things, we might say “Are you crazy?”  Are we condoning injustice or exploitation?  When we are unjustly wronged, do we not want justice served to us? 
This is where Jesus makes a difference from the teachings of the world:  to go beyond the self who is capable of transcending the worldly standards of justice.  As the Father loves his children who are either good or bad, it may be very difficult for us but we  are asked to do the same.  Isn’t it so very easy to love  those who love us?  To do good to others who have done good to us? But that does not make us exceptional, isn’t it? We are capable of doing what the ordinary demands.  In fact the unsung or unseen heroes among us are those who are able to give themselves to the world who was cruel to them.
There is an unfathomable mystery when Jesus was unjustly condemned and unjustly killed.  No amount of human wisdom could ever explain the foolishness of Jesus; no amount of human retribution could ever compensate for his suffering and pain.
When Jesus asked his disciples to be perfect, he gave us the Father as the standard of perfection.  We are all in the process of becoming.  Each time we transcend ourselves to be better persons in the midst of all our imperfections, vulnerability and sinfulness, we are on our way towards perfection.  Every time we go beyond what our ego demands, we get closer to heaven.  Every time we do this our Father smiles on us.

Friday, February 11, 2011


The difference of man from the rest of creation is our rationality and freedom.  This means that we were given the gifts of intellect, reason and the capacity to choose.
          Because animals, plants and inanimate objects do not have those gifts, they follow the dictates of nature we call natural law.  Even if we say that some animals have intelligence, they are only guided by instinct.  Because of our rationality, we are guided by a higher law called the moral natural law.  With this power given to us, we are the only ones who exercise responsibility over our actions.
          Early on, two Sundays ago, we heard about the Beatitudes which is part of the Sermon on the Mount by Jesus. Our gospel today is the start of the main part of the Sermon on the Mount.  It is basically about the extended explanation of the 5th and the 6th Commandments, ‘Thou shall not kill” and “Thou shall not commit adultery”.  But since they are discussed in the context of the Sermon on the Mount after the beatitudes, they revolve around the Matthean theme of perfection; “Be perfect as your Father is perfect.”
          The Scribes and the Pharisees were the masters of the Law of Moses which was the foundation of the Jewish belief in God.  When Jesus started his preaching, he had to take a stand, that is he did not come to abolish the law and the prophets which stand for the Old Testament but rather to fulfill them. When Jesus came, he gave us a new understanding of the law in contrast to the teaching of the Pharisees.  The Pharisees distinguished between small and big commandments; for Jesus there was no such classification since laws are the expressions of God’s will.  Out of the 10 Commandments, the Pharisees made 613 positive and negative laws; Jesus summarized them into two commandments: love of God and love of neighbor.  The Pharisees were concerned about the letter of the law while Jesus was on the spirit of the law.
          That is why we are reminded by our gospel today to surpass the pharisaical way of understanding the law: “Unless your justice surpasses that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of God.”
          Maybe none of us are murderers.  But if we listen to the spirit of the law, how many among us are harboring hatred against a friend or a family member.  Yes, we may not have murdered them physically but long time ago, we already murdered them in our hearts.  Sometimes we are not at peace because that splinter thrusts through our heart that causes tremendous pain on us.  That is why, the offertory procession during the mass always reminds us that if we are not at peace with someone else, our sacrifice is futile, it is empty.  It is useless unless we reconcile first to the person whom we have murdered in our hearts.
          Maybe none of us have committed adultery.  We hate to see rapists in the news or in TV.  We are scandalized in the many sexual abuses in the wide spectrum of our society.  Most of the times, we are outsiders looking inside.  Our gospel today reminds us that the evil intention in our hearts against somebody is tantamount of committing adultery.  A lustful thought or an unbecoming desire can breed the adulterers among us.
          When we hear these things maybe most of us are guilty in one way or another.  If we are not, there is no point of making ourselves proud because anytime our hearts can betray us.
          When we listen to the Sermon on the Mount by Jesus, he is just saying this to us: “Be perfect as your Father is perfect.”  Being children of our Father, we will strive to be like him because that’s who we are.                                       

Friday, February 4, 2011


5TH SUNDAY in Ordinary Time – A
On Australian Catholic Radio Online (Pls click):

          What would the world be without salt? What would have become of human civilization if fire was not discovered?  What would the world be without us?
          After listening last Sunday to the Beatitudes which set the true standard of our happiness, we Christians, being disciples of Jesus, are being reminded of our significance:  we are the salt of the earth, the light of the world.
          Seemingly insignificant, salt and fire are actually indispensable.  Salt is used as flavouring, antiseptic, preservative, medicine and catalyst.  As a simile, Christians are all of the above: we give ‘flavour’ to life; we preserve human values to protect them from decay; we are wounded healers; as catalyzers, we influence others’ lives.
          Light opens our vision, gives direction and warning, purifies, provides warmth and delights the senses.  In Jn 9:5 Jesus proclaims “I am the light of the world.”  It is a tremendous compliment that a Christian is called also to be the light of the world like Jesus.  As such we are called to enlighten others’ lives; we give guidance and protection; we fight against evil influence; we provide joy to other people.
          If we live as disciples of Jesus in the truest sense of the word, that’s who we are.  He did not say “you are the salt and light of your family, friends or church” but “the salt of the earth and the light of the world.”  It may seem true that our lives revolve around the people close to us like our families and friends but the ripples of our Christian witnessing go beyond the limited world that we know of.  Who am I and how am I related to the other billions of peoples in the world today?  We might not understand how, but a Christian can make a difference not just in the place where one lives but in the whole world as well.  The third simile in our gospel today is the city built on a hilltop.  Our Christian life is like that city, it cannot be hidden.  Like all the saints, our lives shine through in our goodness that manifests itself spontaneously. 
          What would be the life of my family without me?  What would my life be without my friends?  Sometimes I ask God why did he bring me to this place, to the lives of other people, to this point of history.  For sure, there is a reason why.  The answer to that question slowly unfolds as I live my life day after day.  I cannot be a guilty bystander watching other people in indifference.  In my nothingness, I give them my blessing when I watch them suffering and crying on TV; I bless an elderly or the sick when I enter a hospital; I bless a pregnant woman and her baby when I walk in the city; I offer the Eucharist to other parts of the world hit by a hurricane or in war.  Do I know these people?  No!  I don’t even know their names nor will I ever meet or see them again, but in the silence of my heart, I wish I have made a difference in their lives without them knowing it.
          At the end of the day, before going to bed, as we review the day that was entrusted to us, it is good to ask ourselves: What good did I do today?  What is my contribution to life today?  Did I make a difference today to at least one person in the world?  If not, I will pray to God that if he gives me another day tomorrow, I will not miss my chance again.