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Friday, April 29, 2011



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This second Sunday of Easter is a great historical event when the Church and the world will witness the beatification of one of the greatest popes in history, John Paul II.  He will be beatified this Sunday which is the Divine Mercy Sunday.  From his death bed came his last written words that he had prepared to be read on Divine Mercy Sunday, the day after his passing. They were read, as follows:
“As a gift to humanity, which sometimes seems bewildered and overwhelmed by the power of evil, selfishness, and fear, the Risen Lord offers His love that pardons, reconciles, and reopens hearts to love. It is love that converts hearts and gives peace. How much the world needs to understand and accept Divine Mercy! Lord, who reveal the Father’s love by Your Death and Resurrection, we believe in You and confidently repeat to You… Jesus, I trust in You, have mercy upon us and upon the whole world. Amen.”
About the feast day of the  “Divine Mercy Sunday”, Jesus said to St. Faustina “… tell the whole world about My inconceivable mercy.  I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially poor sinners.  On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open.  I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon the souls who approach the Fount of My Mercy.  On that day all the divine floodgates through which graces flow are opened.  Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet....  Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy”.  (Diary 699)
The Church offers PLENARY INDULGENCE during this day after fulfilling the requirements of Confession, attending the Holy Mass and Holy Communion and praying one Our Father and the Creed for the intention of the Holy Father. 
          Nobody has ever seen the face of God. When Jesus incarnated himself as man, for the first time, the face of God had been revealed and he looked just like us.  The Incarnation is God’s act of mercy and Jesus is the personification of that mercy.  It is through this mercy that man is able to experience the compassion of God.  It is a gratuitous gift given to us not because we deserve it but because it is the fruit of God’s justice and love for us.  It was on the cross when the soldier pierced Jesus’ breast when the floodgates of Divine Mercy opened up for humanity represented by water and blood that flowed from his side.  This has been represented by the icon of the Divine Mercy given to St. Faustina. It was on Easter that the fullness of God’s mercy was given to us.
          “O Blood and Water that gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fountain of mercy for us, we trust in you.”

Friday, April 22, 2011



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THE LORD IS RISEN! HE IS ALIVE! ALLELUIA! The resurrection as the core of our Christian belief is the final triumph of good over evil.
 The suffering and death of Jesus is vindicated.  His sacrifice on the cross became perfect when the Father accepted it and stamped it with his final glorification. When Jesus poured out everything of himself as an offering in an experience of total emptiness (Kenosis), the Father transformed it into life overflowing with grandeur and fullness (Pleroma).
As an historical event, there were no eyewitnesses in the strict sense who saw Christ coming out from the tomb.  The irony was that the disciples of Jesus did not even expect that he would rise again although he predicted it for a number of times.  In fact, the four evangelists relate that Mary Magdalene together with the other women went to the tomb not to greet a risen Christ but brought spices to anoint Jesus’ dead body.  After they met the risen Lord and reported it to the disciples, the latter did not believe because for them it seemed to be an idle tale (Lk. 24:11).   The empty tomb was not a proof of the resurrection, it was a sign pointing to the glorified Christ, as the angel announced “He is not here…” (Lk 24: 5). 
The rolled stone is a powerful symbol for us to ponder on if we want to experience our own resurrection, here and now. Unless we are able to roll that burial stone of our sinfulness away from the tomb of our old selves, we will be like the disciples lurking in the deep darkness of our consciousness.  Unless we are ready to unbind others of their burial clothes and we let go of our hatred, biases and hurts, we will be like the soldiers guarding the tomb of other people.
We are an Alleluia people! Like Jesus, we may experience Good Fridays and feel abandoned by others and God yet our life is meant for something greater than our pains and sufferings.  We may cry our hearts out and be brought to our own experience of passion either by our own faults or by the other people yet God will never abandon us even if it seems he is so far away.  We just have to learn to abandon ourselves  and let go of our fears that shackle us until we are able to come into terms in surrendering our life at the end to our God who at times may bring us to our own cross which is for our own good.
Jesus had to appear to his disciples to cast away their doubts and give them peace, thus they became the witnesses of the resurrection.  The risen Lord continues to appear to us so that we are able to witness our faith to the world.  He appears to us in our workplace, in the kitchen, the hospitals, the courtrooms and most especially when people are marginalized and oppressed. 
We celebrate today this greatest feast and on every Sunday which we call a mini-Easter as we look forward to our own personal resurrection.

Friday, April 15, 2011


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There are two themes in our liturgy this Sunday namely Jesus’ triumphal entry to Jerusalem (hence Palm Sunday) and the Passion which opens the holiest days of the year we call the Holy Week (hence Passion Sunday).  This year we read the Passion narrative according to Matthew. Our reflection will focus on the entry to Jerusalem.
          The triumphal entry is recorded in the four gospels.  Although the four evangelists have their own peculiarities, they all agreed that the people welcomed Jesus as the king of Israel. In 2Sam 6:14-16, David, girded with linen ephod, was dancing when he brought the ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem while the people of Israel where shouting with the sound of the trumpet.  Jesus was not just the new David who entered Jerusalem this time but he was also the personification of the Covenant. Jesus did not dance like David but rode instead on a donkey that had never been ridden. It is only Matthew who describes the two animals used which are not mentioned by the other evangelists: Jesus riding on a donkey while the disciples laid their cloaks on a colt following Jesus. It was the fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 “Your king comes to you triumphant and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt…”
 When the people welcomed him as king, it was the only time that Jesus let himself be celebrated by the people.  In fact according to Luke (19:39-40), when the Pharisees said to Jesus to stop his disciples, Jesus replied “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”  The entrance of Jesus is not just about him being the King of Israel but also the coming of the Kingdom being himself the Kingdom-personified.  We call this in Greek as auto-basileia. The hosanna and the benedictus by the people were sung before Jesus went to the cross.
According to John, Jerusalem was filled with people not just because of the festival of the Passover but because the people who witnessed the raising of Lazarus went to meet him (Jn. 12:17-18).  Jesus’ popularity during that time made everyone wanting to see him in person.
The people although welcomed Jesus in great jubilation did not understand the meaning of the event.  Even Jesus’ disciples did not understand it either as commented by John (12:16) because the fuller understanding will be made manifest in the light of Easter.  Because of this lack of understanding, the people’s hosanna and benedictus will later be turned into angry cries that long for Jesus’ death: “Crucify him!”
The triumphal entry was like a homecoming of a hero just like in our times.  True enough, it was the homecoming of Jesus to the city chosen by God who had suffered so much pain and witnessed enough blood shed.  We can see it as Jesus’ way of conquering Jerusalem which will later reject him and throw him out to be crucified outside the city walls.  The conquest was not through might and power but pain and suffering being represented by the donkey he was riding on which was a beast of burden. 
The entry to Jerusalem was Jesus’ entry to his own death in obedience to his Father.  Remember that this all happened during the Passover Festival when the lambs were being offered in the temple in Jerusalem.  The irony was that Jesus as the Lamb of God will be offered not in the temple but in Golgotha, the mountain of skulls. Indeed the triumphal feeling given by the people was short lived because the true triumph is not to be found in the temple sacrifice but on the sacrifice of the cross; the true triumph is not in Jerusalem the earthly city but in the heavenly Jerusalem. That is why Jesus died outside Jerusalem.
As we enter into the Holy Week, let us enter our own personal Jerusalem wherein Jesus is awaiting for us.

Friday, April 8, 2011


The gospel of John is divided into two books namely the Book of Signs (Chapters 1-12) and the Book of Glory (Chapters 13-22). The Book of Signs contain the seven miracles of Jesus namely the wine of Cana, the healing of the royal official, the curing of the invalid, multiplication of loaves, the walking on the lake, curing the blind and the raising of Lazarus.  The miracles are called signs because they point to the divinity of Jesus.  The story of the raising of Lazarus for the fifth Sunday of Lent is the greatest of the seven signs because it prefigures  the Resurrection of Jesus.
Bethany, two miles from Jerusalem, was the hometown of Martha, Mary and Lazarus who were siblings.  It must be a favorite retreat place for Jesus whenever he travelled to Jerusalem from Galilee where he enjoyed the hospitality of the two sisters and the company of Lazarus whom Jesus loved very dearly.
When Lazarus fell ill, Martha and Mary sent a word to Jesus but the Jesus answered that the illness would not end in death.  Instead he stayed where he was for two more days before they went back to Judaea. By the time they arrived, Lazarus was already four days in the tomb.  Jesus knew that Lazarus was dying but why did he not go right away and heal him?  Because Jesus was in charge and he controlled the situation.  Sometimes when we pray, we feel the urgency for God to respond right away and we forget that God is in charge, not us.  If Jesus went right away, he could have healed Lazarus which would be just an ordinary miracle or sign.  But because he was in charge, Jesus now could perform the greater miracle: raising a dead man to life!
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him while Mary remained in the house: the typical attitudes of Martha as active and Mary as contemplative (Lk. 10:38-42).  Now comes the beautiful dialogue between Jesus and Martha.  As most of us who are in the same situation, Martha reproached Jesus: “Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (this will be repeated by Mary when she met Jesus). But Jesus assured her “Your brother will rise again”.  Martha misinterpreted Jesus when she thought of the resurrection of the dead at the end of time since general resurrection was a common belief during that time. At this point, Jesus made the most profound proclamation “I am the resurrection and the life…!  When asked whether she believed this, Martha said “Yes. Lord!” Then she added the profession of the three Christological affirmations: “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming to the world.”  When Jesus saw Mary weeping together with the Jews, he was deeply troubled. Then Jesus asked where they laid Lazarus and they said “Sir, come and see.”  But why would Jesus asked? Because he needed the cooperation of the community in performing this greatest sign. Then Jesus wept (which is one of the two rare instances of weeping, the first was when he saw Jerusalem at a distance).  Jesus, needed again the help of the community, said “Take away the stone.”  Here Martha showed her fear by referring to the foul odor of Lazarus being dead for four days. After the stone was rolled, Jesus prayed to the Father and cried out “Lazarus, come out” which was the dramatization of Jn. 5:28 (“the hour is coming and is now here when the dead will hear  the voice of the Son of God and those who will hear will live”).  Our resurrection already starts here and now, when we follow the voice of Jesus to come out of the caves of our selfishness and sinfulness.  When Jesus said “untie him and let him go” it was the turn of the community to unbind Lazarus and welcomed him as a new creation.  Eternal life starts here and now when our families, friends and community are able to unbind us of the many un-freedom of prejudices, biases and false judgments. 
The paradox of this story is that when Jesus gave life back to Lazarus, it led him to his own death.  As disciples of  Jesus are we ready to do the same?

Friday, April 1, 2011


There are a number of blind people who changed the world because they refused to allow their lack of external light perception to quench or stifle their inner light. They illumined the world while groping in the midst of their physical darkness.  Let us name a few: Homer, the Greek writer who gave us the Iliad and the  Trojan War; Hellen Keller, the American author, activist and lecturer, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles and Andrea Bocelli who gave the world their beautiful music; Louis Braille the inventor and designer of Braille writing which enables blind people to read; Erik Weihenmayer the blind man who climbed the  Mt. Everest.
In this fourth Sunday of Lent we have a blind man to guide us in professing that Jesus is the Light of the World.  Like many of the stories in the gospel of St. John, the story itself is a beautiful masterpiece.  Let us now enter into the story and take part in the journey of the blind man.  It was believed that he was born blind either because of his sins or the sins of his parents, but Jesus changed this belief and declared that the blindness would show the wonder of God. It is interesting to note that he spat on the ground and made a clay of spittle which he used in anointing the man’s eyes.  In the book of Sirach chapter 38, it was said that such a mixture was a medicine.  But in this story, we see Jesus re-creating the blind man in reference to the creation of man in the book of Genesis when God formed man out of clay and blew his divine breath.  The water of the pool of Siloam would wash that blindness away; because Siloam means “sent”, Jesus is the one sent by God to take away the blindness of humanity.  Then came the detailed interrogations carefully laid down by St. John in a stroke of a genius being a storyteller.  The neighbour could not agree if he was the blind man they knew and could not explain how he was able to see so the man admitted and explained to them what happened to him.  When asked where the healer was, the man said “I do not know”.  When he was brought to the Pharisees for interrogation, he related again his story but the Pharisees would not believe because the healer could not be from God because he did the healing on a Sabbath.  On the other hand a sinner could not do such a miracle either.  They were divided so they asked the man what he could say about him.  He said “he is a prophet’.  They would not believe the man so they called the parents.  Because of the fear of excommunication by the Jews, they were afraid to profess Jesus as the Christ so they said “He is of age, ask him”.  During the second interrogation, the blind man gave a lecture to the Pharisees who in turn cast him out.  This is the paradox of the story: the man born blind, uneducated and had no faith in juxtaposition with the Pharisees who could see, masters of the law and self-righteous.  The blind man now could see while the Pharisees were in darkness.
Knowing that the man has been cast out by the Jews, Jesus found him and the man professed his faith “Lord, I believe!” and he worshipped Jesus.  This story was written when the Christians were being cast out from the synagogues because they professed that Jesus was the Christ. It was to encourage the Christians that even the whole world cast them out, Jesus would be there to find them.  At the end of the story the Pharisees remained in their blindness.
Without light, even if we open our eyes, we will not perceive anything.  Without the Light of faith, even if we are not physically blind, we will never perceive spiritual realities.  If at this moment, we lose our sight and we become blind, what do we do?  What do we do when we see nothing but pitch black? 
The Pharisees were spiritually blind because of their arrogance to accept Jesus as the Light.  Bereft by the light of faith, they were blinded by their refusal to the accept to see the Beauty that can only be seen by the third eye.  The Pharisees have been long gone in history but their disciples are still roaming the world, aimlessly…