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Friday, March 30, 2012



Mk 14:1 – 15:47
         As the Church enters the holiest days of the year, She does not only commemorate the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem but also enters with Jesus into His Passion.  This year St. Mark is our guide in our reflection as we ponder on the earliest and shortest account of the passion narrative.  Jesus’ passion according to the account of St. Mark was an expression of ABANDONMENT.
         After the arrest of Jesus, all His apostles “abandoned him and fled” (14:50.) They who had been with their Master for the past three years witnessing all the miracles, having heard all His teachings suddenly fled because of fear. Two of His most trusted apostles Peter and Judas betrayed Him.
         All the players in the passion narrative: the religious leaders and the Jews all gave false testimony until “all of them condemned Him as deserving death” (14:64).  Then they started to spit on Him, to blindfold Him and to strike on Him and the guards took Him over and beat Him” (v. 65).  Pilate being weak gave in to the pressure of the mob and handed Him over to be flogged and be crucified.  No one helped Jesus except Simon of Cyrene, a stranger who was forced to carry the cross.  Being the time of the Passover when the streets of Jerusalem were filled with people, Jesus became a huge spectacle of shame carrying the cross.  All those who had seen and the recipients of the miracles of Jesus, those who ate at the multiplication of loaves and fishes, those who shouted Hosanna when He entered Jerusalem few days earlier, all abandoned Him.
         “When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon” (15: 33).  Jesus the creator of the cosmos was also abandoned by nature when the sun refused to shine in shame.  The Light of the world for a time was abandoned by the light He had created.
         When everyone had abandoned Him, He knew His Father will be there for Him.  But when everything became total pitch black He could not see nor feel the presence of His Father then He knew that even His Father abandoned Him.  In this total experience of utter abandonment, He cried out “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani”.  Preserved in its original form, it is believed to be the very exact words (ipsissima verbi) of Jesus which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (v. 34).  It may sound a questioning desperation for the bystanders but the Christian readers and believers know it was the height of Jesus’ profession of faith, clinging to His Father who seemed to have abandoned Him.
         This is the height of the Passion of Jesus when nothing is left of Him to hope for: His family, apostles, friends, the people, nature and His very own Father!  The paradox is that the Father never abandoned His Beloved Son most especially during that moment when He needed Him the most.  And yet the best that the Father could do was to let His Son experience the maximum emptiness, loneliness and abandonment there is.  The Passion gives a us a glimpse of the inconsolable pain of the Father and Son who were caught up in the web of man’s slaughter of God.  
         The tragedy of man's sin consumed the very being of God to the point of annihilation.
        Jesus, the joy of the Father, is now His inconsolable sorrow.  Yet the Father's greatest pain would be the overture of His deepest joy.  The Passion did not end in vain because in the great silence of the “Eternal sob” the Father accepts the sacrifice of His Son.  Easter would be the divine vindication and the final justice of God in the foolishness of man. 
          Since then there is no pain in man that is never felt by God.  Having experienced total abandonment Himself, God will never ever abandon us. 
As we journey with Jesus through His passion, let us pray for that abandoning faith to our God who will never abandon us when this same God brings us to our personal Passion.

Friday, March 23, 2012



Let us imagine this scene from the classic movie Fiddler on the Roof:  Tevye and his daughter are waiting for the train at the railway station:

Tevye: And he asked you to leave your father and mother and join him in that frozen wasteland Siberia? And marry him there?

Daughter: No Papa, he did not ask me to go. I want to go.

How can I hope to make you understand
Why I do, what I do
Why I must travel to a distant land
Far from the home I love?

There were my heart has settled long ago
I must go, I must go
Who could imagine I’d be wand’ring so
Far from the home I love?

Yet there with my love, I am home.

Somewhere in our journey through life, each one of us must have stood in that railway station responding to the radicalism of love.  In one time or another, have we not left our home, said goodbye to our friends and long cherished dreams or careers?  Have we not died to ourselves… all  for the sake of the one we love? It takes more than courage to let go of our comfort zones and enter into the unfamiliar and the unknown… because of the call to love.  When we love another person, we take the risk of exposing not just our goodness but our vulnerability as well.  We lay down our cards and surrender ourselves to the other person in the hope that in giving ourselves, we will find happiness.  Although some end with broken hearts, others continue to love in spite of pain while many are rewarded with the joy of being loved in return.        
         When the Greeks came to Jesus, He reminded  them of this paradox: “Unless a grain falls into the earth and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies it yields a rich harvest.”  That grain was Jesus who died and became the Living Bread for humanity.  “Whoever serves me, must follow me, and my servant will be with me wherever I am.”  Now we understand why in the course of time there have been countless people who left everything in following Jesus.   Only known to God, once they leave their homes, many would never see them again.  Like Tevye’s daughter, we are ready to go to any place like Siberia because we want to be with our beloved.  Can we not do the same for Jesus?
 To some, they give up their lives for a worthy cause like Mother Teresa of Calcutta who served the poorest of the poor in India and now her Missionary Sisters doing the same ministry around the world.  Some even ended up their lives in tragedy like Martin Luther King and Ninoy Aquino who fought till the end for the liberation of a nation.
         Our deepest joys come from loving.  But it comes with a price: to embrace many forms of dying to self moment after moment for the sake of those whom we love, knowing that they live from our heroic deaths.
         St. Francis reminds us:
For it is in giving that we receive
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life….

Friday, March 16, 2012



      Have you ever wondered why the snake has been a symbol for medicine?  How can a poisonous animal like a snake be a symbol for healing?  In the ancient time, snakes had been part of the temple worship among the Canaanites most especially in fertility cults. Snakes were being worshiped as gods. The monotheistic belief of Israel destroyed this idolatry and turned it into a remedy. 
      In our gospel this Sunday, the dialogue between Nicodemus and Jesus brought us back to that moment in the history of Israel when they were on their way to the Promised Land.  God sent fiery serpents to the Israelites in the desert as a punishment for all their complaints and rebellion.  After they repented Moses was commanded by God to make a bronze serpent and set it on a pole; those who were bitten were saved by looking at the serpent.  Just like the serpent, Jesus in the same manner will also be lifted up so that anyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.
      “To be lifted up” was the crucifixion of Jesus.  But for St. John, “to be lifted up” had a double meaning, namely his exaltation on the cross and his exaltation in glory at the same time.   In biblical exegesis (interpretation), it is the continuous movement of  ascent by Jesus towards His Father, namely 1) his crucifixion 2) his resurrection and 3) his ascension.   For St. John these movements comprise one single event: the glorification of Jesus!  This is the reason why the crucifix has always been the icon of our redemption.  It is not just about the death of Jesus but most especially his glorification which is different in the understanding of other Christian denominations.  That is the reason why we have the crucifix in our churches while the other Christian denominations have only the cross.
      Just as the serpents represented the rebellious attitude of the Israelites, this time sin is the expression of our rebellious hearts.  Just as the serpents poisoned and killed the Israelites, sin is the present-day poison that continues to plague humanity.  Just as the bronze serpent was the antidote for the venom by just looking at it, Jesus is the only antidote for our sin, if only we believe in Him.  But the cure is useless unless the poisoned victim accepts it.  Jesus’s death on the cross has no meaning for those who do not believe. 
      Next time we look at the crucifix, we simply don’t see a dead body hanging lifelessly fixed on wood but the love of the Father giving up His only Son so that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life. 
       What are the serpents in our lives that continue to poison us?  Are we ready to accept the antidote to get the venom out of our system? Do we let the cure be  wasted away?

Friday, March 9, 2012



Humanity since the beginning of time has been worshiping God in many ways and many forms.  Worship gave birth to rituals as expressions of man to communicate with the Divine mostly in the form of sacrifice.  Man’s longing to divinize himself gave birth to world religions.  In most of these religions, both ancient and contemporary, offering of blood is the highest form of worship, usually done in temples.  Judaism is no exception to this and so with Christianity today, although in a different manner.
The Temple of Jerusalem was built on 20 BC by Herod the Great and still unfinished after 46 years of construction during the time of Jesus. Being the third temple to be constructed, it was one of the wonders of the ancient world, in fact considered an architectural feat during that time.  It was constructed to simulate the heavenly sanctuary on earth and it houses the most important artifact of Judaism which was the two tables of the Ten commandments inside a gilded wooden box called the Ark of the Covenant.  The innermost chamber of the temple was the Holy of Holies which enshrined the Ark of the Covenant considered  the most sacred for the Jews.  For them, it was heaven on earth.
Once a year the Jews would celebrate the Passover to commemorate their salvific event of the Exodus and they do this by offering a sacrifice.  Since the sacrifice was offered only in the temple during the Passover, it was customary for the Jews to make a pilgrimage to the temple especially those who were living within the radius of 20 miles from Jerusalem.  The offering consisted of two shekels (equivalent of two-day salary) and burnt animals.  Since the commerce was done inside the temple, the people had to change their money into temple shekels which was the reason of the presence of money changers in the temple.  It was also customary for those who live far to buy the animals at the temple.  To change the money into the temple shekel for the offering and to buy the animals in the temple was an opportunity for extortion by the temple priests most especially against the poor.  This is the injustice that we need to see in the story aside from turning the temple into an oriental bazaar with all the noise, stinking animals and all the rubbish.
When Jesus saw all these happening in His Father’s house, he was at the height of his anger.  He was angry not just because of the desecration of the physical temple turned into a marketplace  but most especially the injustice committed against the poor by using the temple as a front for economic sabotage in the guise of religion and worship. 
This incident was not just “the cleansing of the temple” but rather the replacement of the temple.  Jesus proclaimed the new and definitive temple:  His body.  It would be destroyed through death but would be raised up on the third day to give rise to the new temple which is His Mystical Body, the Church.  The Jerusalem Temple, made by human hands, was razed down to the ground in 70AD.  Nothing remained except the western wall that used to enclose the temple; it is now called the Wailing Wall because Jews would go there to pray and wail for the loss of their beloved temple.
St. Paul reminds us “… your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you… therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).   Being members of the Mystical Body of Christ, each one of us is a living temple of God, as St. Paul said “bought with a price.”  Therefore any injustice we do against our body and against our brothers and sisters is desecrating the “holy of holies” in us and every time we do this, the Spirit groans in pain with us.  In a sense, our body is a tabernacle of the “holy of holies” that contains the most sacred and precious thing on earth: the Divine within us!

Please visit my poetography blog for a visual commentary:

Saturday, March 3, 2012


Mark 9:2-10
       Six days after Jesus made the prediction of His passion, He was transfigured on Mt. Thabor in the sight of Peter, James and John.  The Transfiguration marks the second “Trinitarian theophany” wherein the three persons of the Trinity  were made manifest at the same time, the first being at the baptism of Jesus.  Here the Holy Spirit was in the form of a cloud which represented the Shekinah glory or the indwelling presence of God in the Old Testament.  The Father’s voice was heard for the second and last time confirming that Jesus is His beloved Son and addressing Himself to the apostles “Listen to Him.”   Jesus standing on a mountain, is between the past [represented by Moses (the law) and Elijah (the prophets)] and the future represented by the three apostles.  The Father’s voice ushered in a new way of “listening”, this time not anymore from the Decalogue (The Torah) of old but the to the Living Word.
       The event should have been a preparation for the three apostles who will also witness the agony of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane.  It was a foretaste of the glory of Jesus which could only be understood in the light of the Resurrection.  During and after the event before Easter, they never understood what it meant.
       If we look around, everything is always on the move because science teaches us that molecules are in constant motion.  From the first moment of our conception, we never stop growing and transforming.  But our personal transfiguration has already begun at the moment of our baptism.  When we were baptized, we were con-figured to the image of Christ and are constantly being transfigured moment after moment until we reach the fullness of our being.  St. Paul reminds us of this beautiful movement: “We all grow brighter and brighter as we are transfigured into the image that we reflect; this is the work of God who is Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18).
       But our transfiguration, although God’s gift to us, has a price.  Just like Abraham, in the first reading today, was willing to give up and sacrifice Isaac, we, too have our own share of our own sacrifice if we want to be transfigured the way Abraham was transfigured as the Father of all nations.    Jesus paid off his glorification through His sacrifice on the cross.
Every now and then, we experience what we call “Aha moments” when we can almost touch God and we feel a piece of heaven.  Those defining moments of mystical experiences become a reservoir of strength and faith for us as we go back to the ordinariness of our daily lives. Then we carry them through when we are down in life, in darkness, in pain, in tragedy.
God is like a sculptor who does not just see us as a piece of marble but rather He sees the masterpiece in becoming, only if we let Him chisel away the unnecessary in us so that He can transform us into His very own image: His own masterpiece!