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Saturday, May 28, 2011



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          When Jesus announced to his disciples that he was leaving them, their hearts were stricken with grief and anxiety.  It was during that painful moment when the name of the Holy Spirit was revealed by Jesus for the first time: the Paraclete, the Spirit of Truth!  It is always during the height of our pains that God manifests himself to us.
          The condition of the reception of the Paraclete is our love for Jesus and keeping his commandments.  Two Sundays from now we will be celebrating the Pentecost, the descent of the Holy Spirit.  Now, who is the Paraclete and why did Jesus reveal his name as such?  The name Paraclete is totally Johannine which means that it is only found in the gospel of St. John.  Since the book of John was composed after the other three gospels were already written, it represents a higher form of Christology.  The word Paraclete coming from two Greek words para and kalein means somebody we call to our side.  There are five paraclete sayings taken from five passages in the Last Discourse of Jesus (Jn chapters 14-17) which explains to us who he is and what he does.
          The Holy Spirit as the Paraclete first and foremost is the third person of the Most Holy Trinity which is the gift of the Father and Jesus to us after the resurrection.  The death of Jesus was a prerequisite for the coming of the Paraclete.  His coming opened a new era in salvation history when mankind entered into the eschatological times which is the milieu of the Church.
          Because the Paraclete is a Johannine concept, it could have been part of a more developed and advanced pneumatology or the study of the Holy Spirit.  Because of this, St. John helps us to understand better the Holy Spirit.  There are four paraclete figures that paint to us the personality of the Holy Spirit:
1.      Comforter – the Holy Spirit gives us the comfort when we need it the most.  During our most painful moments , he is one giving us the solace and peace.
2.     Counsel for the Defense – like an attorney, the Holy Spirit defends us in the great trials of our lives.  He will guide us as a lawyer admonishes his client in court so that nothing will ever harm us.
3.     Successor to Jesus -  Because Jesus is our first Paraclete, the Holy Spirit as another Paraclete will continue the work and ministry of Jesus in the Church through us.  The coming of the Parclete is making present Jesus in a new and fuller way.
4.     Teacher and Interpreter – the Paraclete will teach us the truth that is why he is also called the Spirit of Truth.  He will interpret the fuller meaning of the Jesus-experience and making it present and relevant according to the needs of the disciples.

This is the Paraclete and he is not just a concept.  He is alive and he lives deep within us.  He was given to us when we were baptized and fortified us when we received the sacrament of Confirmation.  As St. Augustine says, he is the God who is nearer to us than we to ourselves.  We just have to call him because he will come to our side as our Paraclete.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The WAY, the TRUTH and the LIFE


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For the next three Sundays, we will be reading chapters 14 to 17 of John’s Gospel.  These four chapters are called The Last Discourse of Jesus.  We may say that in these chapters we find the Last Will and Testament of Jesus because they contain the words of a dying man.  The words are sad, heartbreaking and may even sound tragic because they were spoken by Jesus who was about to the die the following day.  But we if read carefully, they are really words of hope, joy and encouragement. 
          The first reading today gives us the historical background of the institution of the diaconate ministry in the early Church.  It was because of the increase of the number of disciples that the Greek widows were overlooked so the Twelve Apostles decided to ordain seven men of good reputation as deacons.  Today diaconate is either permanent (married deacons) or transitional (leading to priesthood).  The second reading reminds us that like Jesus we are living stones in a spiritual house that is why we are so precious in the eyes of God.  We are also called to share in the one priesthood of Jesus, called out of the darkness into God’s wonderful light.
          In our gospel today, Jesus opened his Last Discourse with words of encouragement “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”  For the first time in the gospel, Jesus announces that there are many rooms in his Father’s house.  He was going away to prepare a place for his disciples, then would come back to take them with him.  When Thomas said that they did not know the way, Jesus proclaimed “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.”  What do these big words mean?  Life is a journey and there are many roads leading to many destinations.   Sometimes people think that all religions are one and the same and Buddha, Mohammad, Jesus, Confucius, etc are the same.   Life’s journey becomes a pilgrimage when the road is sanctified because of the presence of Jesus.  Every step is holy because we are treading on a holy ground, that is, if we live a life of truth based on the Gospel values.  While walking on this pilgrimage, we are able to see life differently because we do not just walk by sight but we walk by faith.  If we do this, then we are able to find life along the way and the fullness of it at the end of the pilgrimage.  It is only Jesus who makes the difference.
          When Philip asked Jesus to show them the Father, Jesus proclaimed that whoever sees him sees the Father also.  Of course, no one has seen the Father but if we are able to see Jesus, then we are able to see the Father because they are present in each other.
          What are we afraid of?  What are the things that trouble us?  Much more than the present, the future troubles us so much.  Of course, there are so many reasons to be afraid but there is only one reason to be at peace.  When we feel the whole world is on our shoulders, we feel overburdened, weary and down.  And yet, if we just believe that the world is in the hands of Jesus, we know that we can live a life better than the sum of all our fears.  That is why Jesus said that if we just believe in him, we can even perform miracles.  Just like the songs in the movie “The Prince of Egypt”, there can be miracles when we believe... because we see things through heaven’s eyes!

Sunday, May 15, 2011


4th Sunday of Easter

          The fourth Sunday of Easter is the Good Shepherd Sunday.  The key to the understanding of Jesus as the Good Shepherd is found in the Old Testament.  From the very beginning, Israel lived in a pastoral civilization through their patriarchs.  This relationship between God and Israel was reflected in the metaphor of the relationship between the shepherd and his sheep: “He is our God and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides” (Ps. 95:7).  The shepherd is both a leader and companion, defending the flock from wild beasts and from robbers: Like a shepherd he feeds his flock, he gathers the lambs in his arms, carrying them carefully in his heart, leading them home” (Ps. 40:11).   God elected leaders and entrusted his flock to them as shepherds like Moses, Aaron.  David was the best example because he was a real shepherd before he was made the ruler and king of Israel.
          But because of their weaknesses and iniquities, these shepherds have been unfaithful so God promised that he himself will take the flock in his hands and will provide a shepherd according to his heart (Jer. 3:15).  There will only be one shepherd who was the new David: “I will appoint one shepherd to pasture them, my servant David; he will pasture them and be their shepherd” (Ez. 34:23). 
Jesus is the promised good shepherd.  There are many allegories of Jesus being a shepherd in the New Testament but it was St. John who compiled them together and composed Chapter 10 in his gospel dedicated to the Good Shepherd.  The Church divides this chapter through the three liturgical cycles and in this year, we focus on Jesus as the sheep gate.  Oftentimes it was group shepherding wherein shepherds would group themselves together most especially if the fold was huge enough for one shepherd.  At night time, during rest, they would form a square marked off by stone walls but there was only one gate for all the sheep to enter and to go out.  There was a gate keeper and the shepherds would take turns  during the nightwatch.  Because of this, the fold was protected from thieves and wild animals.
In John 10:7 Jesus proclaims “I am the sheepgate.”  Only true shepherds will be allowed to enter and nobody can enter except through the gate.  The fold is the Church and the People of God are all the sheep inside the fold.  Jesus continues to guide and protect his people by appointing shepherds to take care of his flock.  Jesus is the gate for the sheep who calls and authorizes shepherds to ensure that the sheep are safe from wild animals because outside the fold the sheep are helpless.  These shepherds lead the sheep to green pastures and enough water.  We see this reality in the hierarchy of the Church wherein we call our shepherds as pastors led by the Pope, the bishops and the priests.  Since the bishops are the heads of the local church which we call the diocese, they have the fullness of the priesthood of Jesus.  They are shepherds of the diocese that is why they use a staff to symbolize the fullness of their office as pastors.  The parish priests share the shepherding of God’s people in the parishes.
When we come together most especially in the Eucharistic assembly, we manifest the reality of our relationship with God as our shepherd represented by the bishop or the priest.  Jesus continues to feed us his flock in the green pasture of the Eucharist where we eat his body and drink his blood.  When we gather to celebrate the sacraments, the sheepfold becomes a reality once again in fellowship.
We are free to stay outside the fold but we become vulnerable to the attack of the wolves of the world and be allured to the enticements of false shepherds who will only devour us for their own interests.  But staying inside the fold, we know we are safe, we are well fed and we feel the joy in the company of the other sheep and in the leadership of our modern shepherds.

Saturday, May 7, 2011




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Why did Jesus appear to the two disciples in Emmaus?  There were no witnesses in the strictest sense to the resurrection so Jesus had to appear to his disciples after he rose from the dead.  These appearances are called the resurrection stories which started as oral tradition and eventually became the starting point of the written scriptures of the New Testament.
Jerusalem was the peak of the ministry of Jesus.  After Jesus died, it had no more meaning to the disciples who were represented by the two disciples that is why they were leaving Jerusalem.  The story is historical in a sense that Cleopas was mentioned as the name of one of the two disciples.  The other one is not named because St. Luke wants the reader identify himself as the other disciple hence the story is both ancient and contemporary.  The setting of the story is very important because it sets the tone of their feelings.  It was nearly twilight and the setting sun cast a gloomy shadow on the two disciples while they were walking away from the place of their hopes and dreams.  While they were walking away from Jerusalem, Jesus joined them and started the dialogue, as if he did not know anything.  Actually it was the disciples who did not know anything so he started to explain to them the passages pertaining to the messiah.  Breaking open the Word then was the first part of the journey.  While their mind was shrouded with the darkness of disappointment and their heart clouded with loss of hope which was represented by their faces downcast, Jesus became their light, burning brightly.
          When they reached Emmaus and they were at table, there came a twist in the story: Jesus now became the host.  Here we come to the second part of the story which is the Breaking of the Bread. Jesus took the bread, blessed and broke it. When the two disciples saw Jesus breaking the bread, everything became clear to them.  They were brought back to the experience that defined them as disciples which is the Eucharist.  After the experience of enlightenment Jesus vanished from their sight.  Then they recalled the journey and said “Are not our hearts burning while he was explaining to us the scriptures?”  The Word of God was a burning light that set their hearts on fire!  Jesus had to vanish because there was no more need of his physical presence; he was already in their hearts.  Because of joy, they hurried back to Jerusalem to tell the apostles about the encounter.  Going back to Jerusalem is a powerful symbol of sharing the experience of the resurrection to others; Jesus evangelized them so they in turn became evangelizers.
          The journey of the two disciples did not end in Emmaus nor in Jerusalem, it continues to the present.  In our journey with each other, we always come together to break the Word and the Bread whenever we celebrate the Eucharist.  It is in the Eucharist that we fully encounter the Risen Lord and we experience the joy of being his disciples.  But the encounter does not end in the Eucharist, just like the two disciples, we have to go back to our own Jerusalem namely our homes, our workplace, the world and share to others our experience with Jesus.  Then we become evangelizers by our lives of witness because through our faith we are the new witnesses of the resurrection.
          After we encounter Jesus in the Eucharist, we continue our pilgrimage of faith until we are finally met with Jesus at the end of the road in a never ending banquet which we call heaven.