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Friday, March 25, 2011


Listen to Australian Catholic Radio Online, pls click:

In a desert country like Palestine water is a symbol of life. Jesus in our gospel this third Sunday of Lent will be the source of the living water.
Let us take a look at some of the background in understanding the meaning of the symbols in the story of the Samaritan woman and Jesus.  The setting is Samaria which belonged to the Northern Kingdom of Israel.  The Samaritans were impure and considered second class Jews because they inter-married with pagans besides they also built their own temple on Mt. Gerizim and recognized only the five books of the Moses as their scriptures.  This caused hostility between the Samaritans and the Jews of Judea. Rabbis did not speak with women in public.
The well is also very important in our story which was the well Jacob gave to his son Joseph.  Jacob would later be called Israel and from his twelve sons would come the twelve tribes of Israel.  The well was usually a place where women would gather to chat while fetching water early in the morning.  In Genesis, it was in well where Jacob met his future wife Rachel so the well here is also used as a setting for courtship. The time of the story, about twelve noon, is very crucial.  Let us go now to the conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman.
Jesus tired by the journey sat by the well; Jacob was also tired on his journey and came to the well.  Jesus was a type of Jacob. The water from Jacob’s well gave the Samaritans water but the water that Jesus would give “will become a spring of water within, welling up for eternal life.”  This means that Jesus is greater than Jacob. Jesus did not directly say that he was the living water.  The water that he was referring to in our gospel and in Jn 7:37-39 is the Holy Spirit.
 The Samaritan woman came during a very unholy hour precisely because she was avoiding other women.  Jesus broke a religious and social taboo by starting a conversation in public with a woman, Samaritan at that.  The conversation was like a courtship between Jesus and the woman.  When Jesus asked for a drink, the woman must have been shocked.
In the account of the conversation, we could see the woman constricted to her religious and cultural beliefs and wrapped in fear because she was hiding her sinful situation being adulterous.  Jesus let her express her beliefs but he offered her a new viewpoint hence a new way of living.  When she misunderstood Jesus as somebody who could give her a spring of water, he invited her to see what could prevent her from getting it, that is her being adulterous.  Whenever we come closer to Jesus, he will let us see our true selves and any hindrances to possess him.  In the conversation, there was both the unfolding of the personality of the woman and the gradual opening of her understanding of who Jesus was: an ordinary Jew, a man greater than Jacob, a prophet, the Messiah and the Saviour of the World.  As a kerygma, Jesus proclaimed a new way of worship in the future, that is not bound by any geographical constriction, neither in Jerusalem nor in Samaria.
At the end of the conversation, when the woman had reached a fuller understanding of the man in front of her, Jesus proclaimed the great I AM.  Then the woman put down her water jar and hurried back to the town to tell the people about her experience. There was no need of the water from the well which represented her old beliefs, there was no need of the water jar which represented her old self.  Then the whole town believed in her so Jesus and his disciples stayed two more days with them and they believed that he was the Saviour of the world.  This is what evangelization is: that after we encounter Jesus, we have to tell everyone about our experience with him.
Like the woman, we may be carrying our own “skeletons in the closet”.  But the Lord is not interested in our dark secrets nor our sins, nor our old selves, he is only interested in our new beginning and how we could be instruments of changing the world to be a better place than we first found it.

Friday, March 18, 2011


Recorded on Australian Catholic Radio Online:
     Last Sunday Jesus was tempted by the devil not to go to the cross by offering him three shortcuts to glory.  Jesus did not succumb to the temptations as he would embrace the cross in obedience to his Father.  For a number of times, Jesus predicted his passion to his disciples who were scandalized by the thought that their Master, the Messiah would undergo such suffering and death.  This second Sunday of Lent, Jesus tried to dispel that scandal by showing his glory as the reward for his impending death.
      Let us go back to the Old Testament as a key in understanding the meaning of the Transfiguration.  In the book of Genesis, God made man in his own image and likeness.  After sin, that image has been tarnished and man did not look like God anymore.  The Messiah had been promised who would bring that image back to its original form.  And what is that form?  It is the 'christic" mold by which all of us were created.  Jesus would be that "mold" through which all of his followers would be re-created.
    Let's go to the experience of the Transfiguration.  If you go to the Holy Land and climb Mt. Thabor, you will find a beautiful Franciscan church at the top of that mountain.  Inside the church are three chapels dedicated to Jesus, Moses (who represented the Law) and Elijah (who represented the Prophets).  When Peter saw the vision, he wanted to build three tents just to contain and lengthen the experience as most of us wanted to prolong a religious experience.  Suddenly from the cloud (which represented the Shekinah glory, that is the Holy Spirit), the Father's voice was heard "Here is my son, the Beloved, listen to him."  This is the second and the last trinitarian theophany wherein the three persons of the Trinity are made visible in a human experience.  The first one was during Jesus' baptism wherein the Holy Spirit came down as a dove and the same voice was heard proclaiming Jesus as his Son.  Some of us may ask why would the Trinity manifest himself at the Transfiguration?  It is because the Passion was a trinitarian experience, although it was centered on Jesus. This means that the Father and the Holy Spirit also experienced the Passion of Jesus.  Let us not forget that during the most difficult moments of our lives, the Father is there for us, reminding us that we are his child, his beloved and that he is suffering with us.
          This week the world has been stunned by the massive destruction of the tsunami, earthquake and the nuclear radiation that hit Japan.  We see the face of suffering of once a very powerful nation brought to its knees, humiliated by nature.  We also see the pains of the peoples of Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen and other Arab nations as they long for a more humane life better than their governments are offering them.  We see in these experiences the longing of humanity in the transformation of society towards the fullness of life.  In the very heart of reality, there will always be a longing for the Transfiguration of man.
    Maybe some of us will also ask why are we reading the life of Abraham in the first reading?  What is the connection of Abraham to the Transfiguration?  Abraham was called by God to leave Ur to go to the Promised Land.  Why would God ask Abraham to leave Ur?  Because Ur represented Abraham's old self where he was worshipping other pagan gods.  Unless we leave behind our old selves together with the idols and gods we have been worshipping in our lives, we will never experience our own transfiguration.  It was a very difficult journey for Abraham because he did not know where the Promised Land was.  Our own journey will not be easy either, like Abraham's.  Along the way, we will carry own crosses, we will be tested, we will fail, we will cry, we will ask questions.  But we do not walk only by sight because this is a pilgrimage of faith wherein God is walking with us all the way.  At the end of the pilgrimage is our very own Mt. Thabor wherein our true selves are awaiting to be transformed just like Jesus. 
          Whenever we come to the Eucharist, we come to our spiritual Mt. Thabor wherein we experience the transfiguration of Jesus on the altar as well as our own personal and ecclesial transfiguration together with Jesus.  

Saturday, March 12, 2011



To listen to homily on the Australian Catholic Radio Online, please click:

After his baptism, Jesus prepared himself before embarking on his public ministry through a 40-day retreat in a desert.  Nobody was there to witness what really happened during that time, Jesus himself must have told the experience to his disciples hence became part of the oral tradition of the early Church and eventually recorded by the evangelists.  We may never know what Jesus did during those forty days and forty nights, but one thing is certain, he spent all that time in communion with his Father.  Because Jesus was preparing himself for his work of redemption, the devil came and tried to stop him: there is no need for the cross!This is what the three temptations are all about: they are shortcuts to glory. 
The first temptation is ECONOMIC. How would you feel not to eat even for a day? Of course hungry! Jesus did not eat for forty days, he must be really starving to death.  For a hungry man, the most important thing is food.  We cling to anything that will make us survive, no matter what the cost is.  If the means are scarce, we even set aside religion and morality just to fill up an empty stomach.  Yes food is one of our basic needs, but there is more than the craving for physical satisfaction: “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” is the reply of Jesus to those who would justify unlawful means for the sake of survival.  Remember that it was the Word of God that created us and it is the same Word that will sustain and continue to re-create us.
The second temptation is SOCIAL.  We will do everything to belong, to be accepted and we even crave to be noticed, be applauded, be the center of attention.  The devil’s temptation appeals to the spectacular.  If Jesus jumped unharmed, what a wonder to behold! He will be an instant superstar! A universal idol!  There is no need to shed blood, away from the shame of the cross.  Wow!  What an offer!  Yes we need acceptance, we need affirmation but not through arrogance that feeds the ego.  The devil’s temptation appeals to pragmatism and to make religion worldly.  There are those who presume that God will catch themif they fall, only to prove that they have faith.
The third temptation is POLITICAL.  Here the devil who is the father of all lies showed the apex of his arrogance when he claimed all the kingdoms and riches of the world and would offer them if Jesus worships him. Politics is about power, authority and control.  Oftentimes it is a dirty game not just in the government but in the many strata of our society.   The offer of the devil to Jesus is as real as it is now to those who want the easy way towards glory.  Why would I study or make sacrifices when the world offers these things in my feet without the sweat of my brow.  Sometimes, we never know, we are already entangled in the web of our idolatry because we have been addicted in worshipping our worldly idols.  We are not sorry because we enjoy it!
As we enter into the season of Lent, the Church and each of us enter into a spiritual desert wherein we encounter God through the disciplines of prayer, penance and works of charity.  These are the “Lenten tripod” through which we prepare ourselves to accept more fully the challenge of our discipleship.  As Jesus’ disciples, we are and we will be tempted the way Jesus did.  But if we are faithful, we will not succumb to the temptations but rather we become stronger and better persons every time we are able to pass over them. 
After staying in our own deserts for forty days with God during this Lent, we are ready again renewed and re-charged to face the world wherein temptations never end.

Saturday, March 5, 2011



To listen to Fr. Vlad's homily on Australian Catholic Radio Online, please click:

Word is one of the powerful media for communication.  It was gifted to man as part of his rationality; it is a product of his cognition which is absent from the other animals.  Because of this cognitive process, language was born which aims at producing and understanding linguistic communication.  Language is expressed either through a written script we call text or through a spoken sound we call speech.
          Divine Revelation is the unfolding of God’s presence in the history of man in which both God and man enter into a relationship we call the Covenant.  Since man cannot understand the language of God, it was God who condescended and made use of man’s language to communicate with him.  It would be preposterous for man to use the language of God so it was God who spoke our language.
The Sacred Scriptures contain the Word of God using the words of man.  In this way, we are able to understand God.  But the Word of God is more than the language of man in its written and spoken forms.  When we speak a word which either comes from our mind or from something being read, it produces a sound which travels through sound waves that reach the hearer.  But it is different with God’s Word. 
In the first part of the Mass which is the Liturgy of the Word, we listen to three readings and psalm: one from the Old Testament, one from the New Testament (usually from St. Paul or the Acts of the Apostles) and the Gospel.  When the Word of God is proclaimed in the assembly, we do not just listen to the spoken words, the words we hear become alive as if God is speaking to the congregation and to us personally.  That is why, through the proclamation of God’s Word during the Mass, God becomes concretely present in our midst.  It is very hard to comprehend how the Word incarnates Himself once again when the biblical texts are being proclaimed to us.  They do not just reach our ears for hearing nor our mind for understanding but the very core of our being transforming us again and again.
How did God create the world and everything on it?  Isn’t it through His Word?  When He spoke everything came into being and it is through this Word that creation is still unfolding because the Word is continuously being spoken.  At the appointed time, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn1 :14).  The Word now is a Person who came to re-create us back to His own image which had been destroyed by sin. 
After listening to the Sermon on the Mount by Jesus for the past four Sundays, we now come to the conclusion.  It is not enough that we have listened to the Word being proclaimed to us.   The Word is not just read, it speaks to us a Person.  We come into a dialogue with God who speaks to our hearts.  That is why Moses in the first reading reminds us about the choice of a blessing or a curse.
The challenge for us is: what do we do with the Word?  First, how much of the Word that we heard stay with us after the mass?  Do we ever care what was the first or the second reading?  How do we further incarnate the Word after we leave the church?  How do we make the Word concrete in our daily living and transform it through acts that bring out the divine in us and those people we come in  contact with.
The concrete acts of our faith become our firm foundation when we face the uncertainties of life.  We do not just cry “Lord, Lord” when we are in the midst of a difficult storm because if we are able to live the Word in our lives, He will be with us long before we call on him.