Total Pageviews

Friday, August 26, 2011



          Last Sunday Peter was called by Jesus as “the rock” and was given the keys in the Kingdom of heaven.  This Sunday, Jesus called the same Peter “Satan”, a stumbling block.
          Peter might have professed that Jesus was the Christ but he never understood the meaning of his confession.  When Jesus explained that his messiahship involves pain and suffering which will lead to his death, Peter rebuked him.  He could not believe that his Christ will suffer such horrible death on the cross. Jesus “Get behind me, Satan.”  Remember that before Jesus embarked on his public ministry, the devil tempted him with what we may call as “three shortcuts to glory.”  Jesus called devil “Satan” precisely because he tempted Jesus to achieve glory without the cross.  When his public ministry was about to end, Jesus started to prepare his disciples of his impending death and Peter tempted him just like the devil did not to go to the cross.  The name “Satan” comes the Greek word ‘satanas” which means a tempter.
          In our present time, the cross is an icon for many things used in churches, houses, jewelry, etc but during the time of Jesus it was worst humiliating punishment for criminals.  For us, it is the symbol of our salvation.  It is also used to denote our internal suffering hence not made of wood, silver nor gold but something that pierces the very depth of our being.  It is something we are all afraid of.  Staurophobia is the fear of the cross. 
Normally our body takes what is pleasurable and shuns away from what is painful.   We take care of our body and gives it the best shot: good and healthy food, clean and decent clothes, and comfortable shelter.  When we feel physical pain, we usually take pills to relieve us. When we are sick, we consult our doctors, take our medicines and we rest.  So why is there a need to suffer?  Why the cross?  Are we not created to live and enjoy the most of life?
Pain is inevitable to life.  Our mothers have experienced the most unimaginable physical pain when they gave birth to us. Why could they not give birth without experiencing pain?  Because pain is the antecedent to the birthing of life.  In fact pain is a sign of growth.  Since we needed a spiritual rebirth, God like a mother would experience the worst pangs of birth ever through the sufferings of Jesus.  That is the imperative of the cross.  As disciples of Jesus, we are all following a naked and suffering Christ.  Is God being a masochist who is happy to see us suffering?  Of course not! 
We are like a piece of marble enduring every blow of the chisel in in the hands of the Master sculptor.  He chisels away what is not necessary until the masterpiece in us comes into life.  Each blow entails pain but it is needed to bring out the best in us.  We are reborn in every moment of our life until we come to the full stature that God has envisioned for us.
Our pain is passing, even if it seems eternity for some.  It is not the end of everything but a channel to something greater than all our sufferings.  Our mothers can tell us the unexplainable joy after the pain of giving birth.  
What is your cross at the moment?  A lady once told me “Father, my husband is my cross.”   She did not know that she was also the cross of her husband, so I just advised her “Love you your husband because he is your glorious cross.”   Each one of us has our crosses to bear, for some longer, heavier, for some lighter, others have thorns. 
We may not appreciate our crosses now, the way Peter did, but they are our way leading us to the fullness of our being.   Maybe we cannot understand how.
Like a mother, God is also in pain with us because He is the one giving birth to us continuously until we are born to eternal life.

Friday, August 19, 2011



To listen to the recorded homily at the Australian Catholic Radio Online, pls click:

          Since time immemorial humanity has been longing for messiahs in different genre in an attempt to save man from many forms of unfreedoms.  The Greek poet Homer in Odyssey introduced legendary heroes who battled against gods in quest of immortality.  The world has witnessed the rise of many sages, prophets and founders of religions who offer the world answers to the questions that belonged to the spiritual realm.  There is only one Saviour who offered fullness of life and eternal life: Jesus Christ! But in a world full of superheroes like Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Catwoman, Captain America, etc. who would need a saviour like Jesus Christ?
          Caesarea Philippi was a highly paganistic territory being dedicated to the god Pan and it was there that that Jesus put the question “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”  The title Son of Man was usually used by Jesus when speaking about himself in reference to the Book of Daniel because it is free from political overtones in the concept of “Messiah”.  When Jesus asked the question, it was not meant to check on the polls or a scientific survey but rather he was concerned whether his message was understood by his disciples.  The responses were generic, as perceived by the people: as John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.  It means that the Jews were uncertain about the nature of his person, hence the confusion about his true mission.  This led to the question of Jesus which was directed to the disciples themselves: “But who do you say that I am?”  Peter who used to be the spokesperson of the band said “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”  We understand from Jesus that it was his Father who revealed such truth to Peter.  Being confirmed by his Father in heaven, Jesus proclaimed the supremacy of Peter: “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church.”  Peter was also empowered with heavenly powers when Jesus gave him the keys of the Kingdom of heaven. 
          But why Peter when the gospels relate how weak he was, compulsive, coward and a traitor?  Precisely because the power entrusted to him being the first pope of the Church and consequently to all the popes who followed after him was not based on human wisdom.   If ever Peter takes a psychological exams today, he will definitely not get flying colors, in fact in all his weaknesses he can never be a CEO of a company in the 21st century.  Yet the power of the spiritual leaders in the Church is not about of this world.  They are not even supermen but weak human beings empowered by God to do the task of continuing the work of Christ.
          With the new faces of paganism besetting the world, the same question is being asked of today: Is Christ still relevant in a world which continues to experience slaveries of different forms?  If  He is, what does He offer to a world in desperate need of salvation?   How does the Catholic Church differ from other agencies or religions that offer salvation?  The task of the Church is so immense most especially in the field of evangelization.  Yet she continues to be the voice in a world that longs for peace, justice and love.
          As disciples of Jesus, we hear him questioning us: “Who do you say that I am?”  Yes we believe in Him as the Christ, the Messiah, the anointed one.  Yet, if he asks us to carry our cross and leads us to be crucified in Him, can we still follow Him?  Or are we like Peter who wanted to believe in a Christ without suffering, without the cross?  It is so easy to profess our faith in a God who gives us the best of everything but not to a Christ who will crucify us in own cross.  In moments when we are hanging in the darkness of pain and suffering, our faith is tested: would we still believe in Christ?

Friday, August 12, 2011



          We have to understand that during his lifetime, Jesus limited his missionary activity to Israel and imposed the same limitation to his disciples.  It was only after Christ’s ascension that the Gospel was preached outside Israel hence the Church became universal most especially during the missionary journey of St. Paul.
          The drama between the woman and Jesus may sound odd to the present readers most especially if we do not understand the unusual actuations of Jesus.  The woman was from Canaan, in other words for the Jews she was a foreigner.  When Jesus was passing by that pagan territory the woman must have heard about him and shouted “Lord, Son of David, have pity on me; my daughter is tormented by a devil.”  The woman acknowledged Jesus as a Jew by referring to him as the Son of David.  She was pleading for her daughter who was sick.  It was very unusual of Jesus who did not say a word in response to the woman.  Because the woman was becoming an annoyance, the disciples pleaded with Jesus who expressed the limitation of his earthly mission, that he was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.  Now the woman bowing low before Jesus pleaded “Lord, help me.”  But Jesus’s reply might have hurt not just the woman but also those who were non-Jews:  “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to little dogs.”  It is hard to believe that those words came from the very mouth of Jesus.  Jesus may have sounded arrogant, discriminatory and dehumanizing when he likened the woman to a little dog.  But as a mother the woman could take anything just to save her daughter.  In all her humility, she did not only accept her like being a dog before Jesus and said “I am just asking for scraps that fall from the master’s table.”
          For three times, the responses of Jesus to the plea of the woman might sound very negative because he was giving the woman opportunities to shine.  Each time, the woman was rising above her limited self until she passed with flying colors the test of faith.  Like all our mothers, she was willing to accept any humiliation for the sake of her daughter.  It was the greatness of a mother’s heart that persevered throughout the difficult test.  It was also because of her humble heart that the woman won this very difficult argument with Jesus.
          How do we behave before God when we are praying for something?  Aren’t we all beggars pleading for scraps that may fall from his table?  Are we ready to accept humiliation even to the point of breaking away from our comfort zones? Maybe when we are in desperate need like the woman, status quo becomes irrelevant.
 To save a person we love most, we can do the impossible even to the point of breaking our hearts.     That’s what Jesus did when he died for us: his heart was broken so that all of us may eat not just the scraps that fall from the master’s table but that we as children may eat to our heart’s content.  This invitation to dine in the heavenly banquet is not just for the Jews, for Christians but for all peoples because salvation is for all who trust.

Friday, August 5, 2011



We encounter God in so many different ways.  In the first reading, Elijah encountered God not in the hurricane, earthquake nor fire but through a gentle breeze.  Jesus would always encounter his Father on the mountain during his prayer.  The disciples encountered Jesus walking on the sea and they thought he was a ghost.  Peter encountered Jesus in the middle of the storm. 
Typical of a very impulsive Peter, he challenged Jesus to bid him to come across the water. When Jesus said “Come,” Peter jumped out of the boat and started to walk across the water.  How did Peter do it? It could have been that Peter was looking at Jesus so he started walking  towards Jesus across the water.  But when Peter noticed the strong winds, he took fright and started to sink.  In desperation, he cried for help “Lord, save me!” Jesus put out his hand at once and held him.
The Archimedes Principle states “Any object, wholly or partially immersed in a fluid, is buoyed up by a force equal to the weight of the fluid displaced by the object”.   Because of this principle, we understand that if the density of the object is greater than that of the fluid, the object will sink.  This is the reason why under normal circumstances, our tendency is to sink in the water.  By showing that Jesus walked on the water is not only a defiance of the law of nature.  The evangelist wants to show to his readers that Jesus is the Lord of Nature.  The drama of Peter added more flavor and color to make the story more interesting and appealing to the readers.
Jesus manifests himself to us in various and very creative ways and most often incognito.  Because we do not recognize him, we miss a lot of opportunities of encounter.   As Fulton Sheen once said “Divinity is found in the least expected places.”  Because of the strong wind and waves, the apostles did not have a clear vision of Jesus so they thought he was a ghost. Mary Magdalene did not recognize the Risen Christ because of the tears in her eyes and she thought he was the gardener. Just like the apostles, our visions are also impaired by the many fears that engulf us so we do not recognize Jesus, too.
In the many storms of our lives sometimes we think that God has abandoned us.  In the middle of the storm, the most comforting words of Jesus are: “It is I, do not be afraid.”   
Peter represents us so the story becomes our own story.  There is no doubt, we have faith and as long as our gaze is fixed on Jesus, we can brave the storms of our lives.  But once we are besieged by our fears, our focus is turned to the strong wind and waves.  Just like Peter we begin to sink.  And unless we humble ourselves and cry for help from God, the weight of our unbelief will pull us down to the abyss of emptiness.  Peter who was a master fisherman cannot save himself from drowning; in all our self-sufficiencies, there comes a time when we have to cry for help because we cannot save ourselves.
What do the storms bring us?  They bring out our vulnerability hence we come face to face with our fears and inadequacies.  They also bring out the best in us because in the eyes of every storm we know that God is there loving and re-creating us.  We just have to believe!