Total Pageviews

Saturday, February 25, 2012


Mark 1: 12-15
        Shortly after His baptism, Jesus prepared to embark on His public ministry by staying in the desert for forty days.  This is the reason why we read the account of the temptation in the desert during the first Sunday of Lent: the Church has entered into a forty day journey just like Jesus; we also enter this personal journey but this time in the desert of our hearts!
         The account of St. Mark which we read this Sunday differs from the accounts of St. Luke and St. Matthew in terms of details and theology, although they are about the same event.  Mark’s account must have been the oldest among the three being the first gospel to be written and it could have been a “teaching story” that had circulated among the early Christian communities.  St. Mark presents Jesus as the New Adam who after defeating Satan inaugurated a paradise-state of the messianic era. 
         The desert has always been believed to be the domain of the devil being a harsh and unfriendly place.  Entering into a state of prayerful retreat with His Father, Jesus, led by the Holy Spirit, defeated Satan in his very own terrain. Being the embodiment of the law and the prophets of the Old Testament, he fasted for forty days the way Moses (representing the law) and Elijah (representing the prophets) fasted for forty days.  In rabbinic and apocalyptic literature, the number forty refers to a complete period of time which we see throughout the scriptures. Because Jesus was about to embark on a very important mission, that is the spread of the Kingdom of God, he was tempted by the devil not to pursue the mission.  St. Mark does not write the three temptations like St. Matthew and St. Luke.  In the wilderness, Jesus was with wild beasts which indicates peaceful and friendly coexistence and the arrival of the messianic era.   When angels ministered to him, this shows that where the first Adam fell, Jesus as the New Adam is now victorious over Satan hence the restoration of the lost Eden.
         The second part of the gospel this Sunday is the inauguration of that messianic era in Galilee. This is seen in  the very first spoken words of Jesus in the gospel of Mark: “The time is fulfilled…” This time is kairos, a divine time, as compared to chronos which is a calendar time. Then Jesus proclaimed “The Kingdom of God is close at hand.”  That is the gospel, the Good News!  It was a proclamation that Jesus Himself was the Kingdom-personified (auto-basilea).  Then the condition in the acceptance of that Kingdom is “Repent, and believe the gospel.”
         There is an inherent goodness in all of us, a pulsating energy that swells out and seeks for creative expressions which is the manifestation of the divine consciousness that was gifted to us when we were born. Yet at the same time there is also a desert deep within us trying to pull us towards the opposite direction away from goodness. We call this in theology as concupiscence.   Our heart is a battlefield between good and evil.  Humanly speaking, our nature is prone to fall because of our weakness as creatures. All of us have been tempted, and will always be tempted; left alone to ourselves, we will not survive.  That is why Jesus has entered into the desert of our lives to strengthen us in grace. We are never alone!   As long as we are faithful to Him, as He was faithful to the Father, we will also be victorious over the countless temptations that will come along our way.

Friday, February 17, 2012


Mark 2: 1-12

         Imagine the scene in the gospel this Sunday: Jesus preaching in front of the house of Simon Peter, surrounded by a crowd of thousands; suddenly a paralytic on a stretcher is being lowered from the roof by four men....  It looks like a very dramatic scene in an indie film, isn’t it?   But there is more than just the drama that we have just imagined.
         Le us look at the faith and ingenuity of the four men to find ways in the midst of a seemingly hopeless situation.  Because of a desperate need, their faith inspired them to be creative enough to be noticed by Jesus.  They, together with the paralytic, did not even say a word, but the action of their faith spoke a thousand words. Here we see the power of intercession and the power of communal faith.  Although our faith is our personal response to the revelation of God in our life, but we have to remember that this faith is always connected with the faith of the community which we call the Church.  That is why it is not enough to practice faith on our own but to celebrate it together with the Church in rituals that manifest that faith.  This is the reason why we have the seven sacraments which are celebrations of our communal faith.  It is when we gather as People of God when we become like the four men in the gospel today, we carry our brothers and sisters together and bring them to Jesus for healing.  We see this in the concrete when we pray for each other during the Eucharist or the mass.  There is no prayer more powerful than when it is said and offered during the Eucharist.  Whenever I want to pray for a friend, I say those prayers in the Eucharist, that is why I am fond of telling my friends “See you in the Eucharist.”
         Now let us go back to the scene in the gospel: Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic “Your sins are forgiven.”   Why would Jesus first forgive his sins and not cure the paralysis instead?  We have to understand that during that time, sickness was always connected with sin; any sick man was considered a sinner.  In our present understanding, when somebody is sick, his sickness is not just limited to physical ailments but rather to the whole person.   Since we are composed of body and soul, when the soul is sick because of sin, it is manifested in physical illness (science calls it psychosomatic) although we may say that not all sicknesses are because of sin.  Many of our saints died because of different illnesses.  Considering this, we still believe that when we are sick, we need healing, physical and spiritual.  That is why, we have the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick: “Are there sick among you? Call for the priests of the church and the prayer of the priests will heal the sick” (James 5:14).  Now we understand why Jesus forgave first his sins to effect interior healing before he cured the physical paralysis.  Jesus understood human nature and so after forgiving the sick of the paralytic, He healed him physically: “Get up, pick up your stretcher and walk.”
When we are physically sick, we are so engrossed with our bodily discomfort and pain which is natural and oftentimes, we always pray to get healed of these physical illnesses.  Hardly we pray for the healing of our interior wounds.  Another sacrament that does this wonder is the Sacrament of Reconciliation or Confession.
When we get sick and healed, like the man we carry in ourselves our own stretchers so that others will see the wonders of God.