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Friday, September 30, 2011


27th Sunday Ordinary Time A

To listen to the Australian Catholic Radio Online, please click.
         The economy of salvation is not just the revelation of God in the history of humanity but it is also the manifestation of God’s great love by entering into a covenant relationship with man.  From among the nations, God chose Israel as his Chosen People over Egypt, Rome and Mesopotamia who were super-powers during that time. 
In the book of Isaiah in our first reading today, God is depicted as the vinedresser and Israel as the vineyard in this covenant-relationship. Because of his great love, God gave the best of everything to Israel.  On the other hand Israel had always been unfaithful, stubborn and ungrateful.  Yet God remained faithful, loving and merciful.
Jesus in the parable of the tenants reminded the Jews about their stewardship in the vineyard and predicted their obstinacy and the evil intention of their hearts.   The Jews did not want to give the produce of the harvest because they wanted to take by force the vineyard to themselves.  They could only do it by killing the son of the owner.  At the end, the parable of Jesus became his own living story.
Like the Israelites, we have our own shares of rebellion against God.  The rejection of Jesus did not end with the Jews.  It goes on and on, not just with the atheists who refuse to believe in God but most especially to believers who continue to idolize little gods in many different forms.  Self-sufficiency and egoism are the new altars by which man elevates himself without the need of God.  The deification of man is the temptation of the secular world when religion is passé and God is only an illusion of the mind. 
“Where has God gone? I shall tell you. We have killed him - you and I. We are his murderers… God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us?  What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it”? — Nietzsche
Deicide which is the killing of God has always been attributed to the Jews; history will always remember that their leaders killed Jesus Christ! Yet even after they murdered Jesus, the world has seen the rise of Nietzsche and those who want to kill God again and again.  It is because they want to be in control of their lives hence putting aside God being a hindrance to their quest of a new mode of being as Overman or Superman. 
The truth is our arms are too short to reach God if ever we want to kill him and even if we believe that we did kill him, he will live again to give us life.  Nothing can stop God from loving us even if we don’t stop killing him.

Friday, September 23, 2011



In the beginning God spoke his Word; it was called Dabar Yahweh.  In the New Testament, the spoken Word became flesh (Jn 1:14).   The Word who was now a human being spoke the words of man. His words were creative just like at the beginning when God spoke his Word to create everything.
          Our gospel this Sunday is about obedience.  The word obedience comes from the Latin words ab audire which means to listen.  Obedience comes from listening.  How do we listen to the Word of God now that he has become human like us?  The parable of the two sons answers this question.  When the father summoned the first son to the vineyard, he refused and yet later on he went.  The response of the second son was positive but later on did not go.  When asked who between the two sons obeyed the father, Jesus’ hearers replied “the first son”.
          The Scribes and the Pharisees to whom the parable was addressed to, were the masters of the Law and the Prophets.  They believed that because they knew the Mosaic Law they were obeying the commandments.  Because of that, they always thought that they were righteous more than the rest.  But when they came face to face with the Living Word, they refused to hear his message.  They represented the second son who said yes but did not go to the vineyard.
          The Gentiles and sinners were considered outcasts.  At first, their response was negative which was represented by their sinful ways but when they met Jesus they amended their lives and obeyed him.  By reversal of fortune they are now considered the first son in the parable. 
          Christianity is not a religion of the book but a religion of the Word of God, of the Incarnate and living Word.  This is how we Catholics differ from the other Christian sects whose belief is in the centrality of the written Word which they call “Sola Scriptura”.   Before the books of the New Testament were written there was already the Church alive in her oral tradition.  We believe in the Word Incarnate who speaks when the scriptures is proclaimed in the assembly through our liturgy.
          It is in the liturgy when we hear the Word speaks to us and as speaks he re-creates us as an individual person and as a community.  We listen to the Word and in the liturgy we say AMEN which is our way of saying YES. 
          Our yes is challenged when we go out into the world, in our workplace, in our homes, etc. This is where we incarnate the Word that we heard in the concrete manifestations of our faith.   It is not the yes that we say in our prayers that we will be saved but how we are able make that yes concrete in our daily lives.
          Actually none of the two sons in the parable are models of obedience.   Our perfect model is Jesus who, in obedience to the will of his father, “emptied himself… accepting death, death on the cross,” as St. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Philippians in the second reading today.
          As Kahlil Gibran says “When love beckons to you follow him, though his ways are hard and steep. And when his wings enfold you yield to him, though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.  And when he speaks to you believe in him, though his voice may shatter your dreams…. (The Prophet)

Friday, September 16, 2011



Recorded at the Australian Catholic Radio Online:

          The parable this Sunday seems to defy not just reason but most especially social justice if we do not understand it in its context.  The Kingdom of heaven is likened to a landowner who looks weird and unjust.  Why would he hire workers four more times?  Something was wrong in the mode of payment: those who came last got their pay first and those who had been working the whole day were given the last.  And the mind blowing of all was that everybody got the same pay.  The prophet Isaiah in the first reading holds the key in understanding the parable: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways,” declare Yahweh.  So how do we understand the parable in the context of our faith journey?
          The first workers hired by God were the Israelites and they were promised a “wage” which is salvation.  The consequent workers, the wastrels, were the Gentiles, the prostitutes, the sinners and the outcast.  They have also been called by the landowner at a later time in fact in different hours of the day to work in the vineyard.   Social justice demands that the first workers will have more because they worked longer hours than those who worked later in the day.  Simple justice will also demand that they should be paid first.  This is the way we think; this is the way we expect justice should be served.  But God’s justice is beyond our expectation and his generosity is unbelievable!
          The Jews expected that they would be favored more than anybody else simply because they were the People of God.  But because they rejected the gift of salvation, it was offered to the Gentiles and sinners who accepted it, thus: the first will be last and the last will be first.
          As the new People of God, we can never demand from God to reward us because we think we are good, holy and deserving.   This becomes more real when bad things happen to good people: “Why did God allow this tragedy to happen to me when I am good and faithful to him?”  In the midst of pain and suffering, some would say “God is unfair! I do not deserve this.” 
          In our own workplace justice demands that we should fight for our right, that we should be rewarded with the right compensation commensurate to our work done.  But this is not so with the first workers who agreed on a day’s wage which was given by the landowner.  They were not happy because they expected more and they became embittered when they looked at others who were given the same pay with them. 
One of the cardinal sins is ENVY; it poisons the heart.  When we are envious of others, we are not happy and contented with what we have and we feel sad when others possess what we do not have or they possess more than what we have. When it happens, our life becomes miserable!
On one occasion I told Most Rev. Chito Tagle, a very gifted, holy and intelligent bishop in the Philippines: “Bishop Chito, God is so unfair, he has given you all the talents in the world, what about us?”  His response consoled me: “Vlad, that is not true; look unto yourself because you will discover many gifts that were not given to me.”  After that I realized that I am swimming in an ocean of personal blessings.
Let us rejoice in our own giftedness and equally rejoice in the giftedness of others.  Our giftedness is the manifestation of God’s super-generosity.   We can never thank God enough.


Thursday, September 8, 2011



Recorded at the Australian Catholic Radio Online (to listen, please click):

Have you ever been betrayed by someone close to you, maybe by your best friend or spouse?  Have you missed an opportunity of a lifetime because of somebody’s negligence?  Experienced a crime committed against you?  Lost a loved one because of someone’s violence or carelessness? Have you ever been insulted and publicly humiliated by a friend?  These are just but human experiences that evoke in us anger, rage and fury wanting to vent out through vengeance, vendetta and sometimes by shedding blood for the sake of justice and compensation.
Our gospel this Sunday offers us a rationale for repairing damaged relationships through mercy and forgiveness.  Something has to stop the culture of violence and hatred or else we will find ourselves in the vicious cycle of evil that continues to devour relationships making both parties as predators.
When we look at the merciless servant in the parable, most of us dislike him because he is ungrateful, heartless and unjust.   Why? Because he should have not acted the way he did!  When the king has forgiven all his debts which he could not pay in a lifetime, he ought to forgive his fellow servant who owes him very little.   Reading the parable at close range, it tells us about our relationship with God and with our fellowmen.  The central character in the parable is God with his unfathomable mercy and the merciless servant is no other than ourselves.
When we sin against God, our offence is infinite and we could never make up an infinite offence simply because we are finite beings.  Yet God, just like the king in the parable, cancelled all our debts through the merits of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Not only that, as we continue to offend God, he continues to offer us the gift of his mercy through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. For the many and countless times that we have asked God’s forgiveness and we were forgiven, he does not say to us “Okay, I will forgive you but only this time”  Every time we come back and we say sorry, we don’t hear him say “Why did you do it again?”  In fact, after the priest absolves us of our sins, we are like a brand new computer with all the corrupted files of our sins deleted and all the viruses junked to the recycle bin.  God does not keep a file of our sins because when he forgives, he also forgets.  Maybe some of us will say, “Well, he is God and I am human,” that is why it is not easy for us to forget so we cuddle grudges and other ill feelings for a long time.  Some of us have been victims of our own unforgiveness which is even be more fatal than the wrongdoings done to us by others.  When we do this, we will not fly like an eagle because deep inside us is a vulture ready to strike anytime against an enemy using the claws of old hurts and wounds.  Others have never enjoyed the beauty of life because they opt to live in the dark recesses of hatred in their hearts which manifest in many forms of illnesses, body pains, irritability, etc.  Life is too short; here now, gone tomorrow so let’s give life a chance because we only live but once.
It is not a weakness to forgive but something noble which is a triumph of the human spirit in a world of hatred that leads to self-destruct.
          Only those who have experienced the mercy of God will be able to forgive first and foremost themselves, then they will reciprocate this goodness to others.

Friday, September 2, 2011


23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time A


Recorded at the Australian Catholic Radio Online, pls click:

The gathering of the Israelites in the Old Testament is called Qahal Yahweh; in the New Testament this was translated into ekklesia, a Greek term which means “church”.   The gospel of St. Matthew has always been called “the gospel of the Church” wherein most of the parables pertain to the essence of the Church.
In the gospel this Sunday, we have 1) a glimpse on the role of the primitive Church in terms of fraternal correction; 2) it tells us about the authority and responsibility bestowed on the Church; and 3) the power of fellowship and prayer of its members.
The primitive Christian Church certainly has evolved from its humble Jewish beginnings to one of the most powerful institutions in human history.   Nonetheless, in all its wealth, glory and grandeur its essence remains the same: as the community of the disciples of Jesus Christ.  And because it is composed of sinful members like us, it continues to struggle to transcend herself to rise above human limitations and weaknesses through the mercy of God.
The once powerful European presence of the Church is now represented by massive but empty cathedrals in Europe; the once sprawling huge seminaries are now empty if not abandoned.  Dioceses most especially in the first world countries do not have vocation to the priesthood and their presbyteriums are old and dying.  Even in the Christian countries, the attendance in Sunday liturgies is alarmingly low.  On the other hand, there is a ray of hope in Africa and Asia where the Church is experiencing a “renaissance”, a rebirth among the poorest of the poor. Seminaries and convents in these very poor countries are thriving and they are exporting priests and religious to Europe and other parts of the world.  During the medieval times, there were only white missionaries bringing the faith to Africa and Asia; this time Africans and Asians are the missionaries giving back the favor.
So where do we find ourselves in this complex reality of the Church?  Let us evaluate the family as the domestic church: How do we witness our faith inside our homes?  Do we pray as a family in the same way that we eat together?  Let us see how we participate in the local church which is our diocese and our parish.  Do we ever participate in the programs of our parish?  Whenever we gather as a parish community, we become the One Body of Jesus Christ even if we do not know each other’s name.  The ekklesia in the gospel today becomes alive when the community is 1) forgiven and forgiving  2) nourished through the care of our faithful and dedicated shepherds and 3) strengthened  by each other’s prayer and empowered as God’s People.
There are those who believe that their faith is between them and God; it is partially true.  But we need to celebrate that faith with the Christian community because our relationship with God has an ecclesial dimension and this is where fellowship becomes imperative.  We have to gather together as a Church because it is where we form a communion with each other and we become catalysts of change in the world we live in.  When we do this, the Church becomes alive once again and is relevant to the present time.