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Saturday, July 28, 2012


John 6:1-15

      The miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish has been recorded by the four evangelists because of its preeminence in the biblical tradition among the early Christian communities.  For this year in Cycle B, we will reflect on the account written by St. John in chapter six of his gospel.  Since it is a very long theological discourse on the Eucharist, the Church divides the 71 verses to be read through five consecutive Sundays. 
There have been many interpretations on how the miracle was done but our concern is not much on the “how” but rather on the “why”.  Re-reading it in the contemporary time, what does the miracle tell us?   Is it  still relevant to us today?
Let us take a look at the socio-economic situation during the time of Jesus.  The Israelites being under the oppressive Roman rule, were in the brink of economic tragedy.  Life was very hard.  Except for the ruling and religious class, everybody was poor.  Because of this, the longing for the prophet who was foretold in the Old Testament was all the more relevant:  a prophet who will give an end to the oppressive structures, who will give them back their freedom and most especially who will provide food on their tables.  The sight of Jesus, his voice, his message, his miracles triggered this longing among the people hence the popularity of Jesus.  For them, finally the prophet has come who will save them from the shackles of their slavery and most especially their poverty.
The miracle of the multiplication did not happen from out of nothing.  Jesus, although in control of the situation, still asked His Apostles, what could be done.  He gave them the opportunity to cooperate with Him to solve what in their eyes was a huge economic problem.  Let us take a look at some of the symbolisms in the miracle. The small boy: symbol of innocence and charity; the barley loaves: being bread of the poor and dried fish, symbols of poverty.  These were given to Jesus and out of these, the five thousand men were fed with twelve baskets of left over.
Two thousand years after this miracle, the world has not changed so much as to the economic need of the people.  In the midst of the advancement of science and technology man still long for the “prophet” who can solve the crises besetting him.  We created many fictional characters like Superman, Spiderman, Batman, Captain America and other super human beings which symbolize our deep longing to go beyond ourselves.   We are entertained by their powers and generated multi-billion dollar movie industry.  But after we watch them, we are back to our emptiness and our longing for our own personal super-hero.
Like the Israelites, we find in Jesus our super-hero but more than what we expect from Him.  Yes He is concerned about the need of food for our tummies but more importantly the spiritual need of our souls.  This is why He continues to perform the same miracle of the multiplication again and again to satiate our hunger both material and spiritual.  But just like the miracle He performed, He still needs our cooperation for that miracle to happen here and now.  We need to offer our own “barely loaves and dried fish” no matter how poor and rich we are.  Jesus takes our offerings, blesses them, transforms them and gives them back to us in the form of blessings.  This why we gather as His disciples during the Eucharist and from our humble offerings, He transforms our hunger into a celebration of life.



Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Power of Prayer


      After the first mission of the Twelve they reported to Jesus all they had done and taught.  The first thing that Jesus told them was to go to a lonely place all by themselves and take rest.  While crossing to the other side of the lake for the much needed rest, the people must have heard where they were going and went there before the Twelve.  When they reached the shore, Jesus saw them, took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd.
      Psalm 63 expresses the longing of our soul to be with God:  “O God, you are my God, for you I long; for you my soul is thirsting.  My body pines for you like a dry, weary land without water.  So I gaze on you in the sanctuary to see your strength and your glory.”
After a day’s work, don’t we look forward to being at home with our family for a deserved day’s rest?   Towards the end of the week, the weekend rest with our loved ones; once a year, we take off for the much awaited holiday; and most of all the retirement after working for a number of years.  We long for rest just like any other mechanical machines to re-charge and invigorate with new energy and zest otherwise we experience burn out. This is true to the whole of creation when it rests after sunset to rise again the following morning refreshed.
      When the batteries of our laptops, cameras and mobiles are spent, we can’t use them unless we re-charge them or else they are good for nothing even if they are that expensive. In the same way when the battery of our life runs out, we can only re-charge it with prayer. 
Our soul being organic and alive also needs re-charging!  And so how do re-charge spiritually?  What else but through prayer.  But how much do we value our prayer life?  In this social networking age, the day will not be complete without spending some time in facebook, twitter and emails because we want to stay connected with friends.  Some even feel naked if they do not have their mobile phones with them.  And if our gadgets do not have the signal, we panic because we are cut off from the world; do we panic or feel naked when we are not connected with God?  Prayer connects us to God and we  do not need expensive gadgets to do that.  It does not cost us to pray.  We just have to commit our time to be with God the way we want to spend our time with our loved ones.
      In response to this Gospel let us commit a specific time to be with God everyday.  At least three minutes for a start; choose a corner in your house where nobody can disturb you; shut the TV and computer off;  no phone calls!  Just being with God and  simply bask in His presence.   Read a passage from the Bible; evaluate God’s movement in your life during the day; or just being quiet.   
A man without a prayer life is like a traveller who does not know where he is going…

Friday, July 13, 2012



      MISSION IMPOSSIBLE:  This is not about the movie by Tom Cruise.  Imagine yourself entering a monastery abandoned in the middle of the woods; a huge seminary now turned into a hotel; a magnificent gothic cathedral now converted into a museum; a church closed down after one hundred years; a convent with few nuns left who are all in their seventies….  Disheartening, isn’t it?  Why is this phenomenon happening?   Where are those men and women who once revolutionized the world by their life of witness to the faith?
      A paradigm shift in the way we view life has turned the world upside down when the spiritual becomes passé and even Jurassic.  The spirit of consumerism and materialism in a way paralyzed a great chunk of our psyche, not knowing we have already been consumed by it.  We are not advocating poverty that cripples hence canonizing the material inadequacy of the poor but rather the neglect of the spiritual aspect in giving too much emphasis on the material.  Because of this, the call to the mission even becomes a “mission impossible.”  
      How will a young man or woman who is brought up in such a materialistic atmosphere react about the gospel this Sunday: being sent out in a mission with such very hard instructions “no bread, no money, no extra clothes, etc”?  Maybe he/she would say, “I heard it, thanks, but sorry I am not a fool.”   The mandate does not appeal right away to the imagination.  Why on the first place would anyone venture into those hardships?  If I am a poor man, why would I continue to live such a poor life when I can pursue a career and live a better life?  If I am talented, why would I waste away the opportunity to conquer the world or to shun away from possibilities that would bring me fortune and fame?  
      The missionary life brings an upside down materialistic world back to the realm of the spirit.   Whilst we never deny the material, we believe in something eternal.  That is why a man or a woman who follows Jesus in the mission maybe foolish in the eyes of the world nevertheless he/she becomes a radical witness of  the Kingdom of God.   He/she turns away from the selfish concerns of life to something more noble, that is by giving away his/her life in the service of God.  When a person does this, he/she lives in the divine providence knowing that God will take care of all his/her needs.  
      The mission is not just about the difficulties but more about the joy of bringing the Good News to the world.    This reward is worth more than money could buy.
 When Jesus sent out the Twelve in pairs, the mission is both ecclesial and personal.  Being aware of the woundedness of the world in many aspects, but most especially spiritual, together with their proclamation of the Word were the works of healing.  Every missionary is sent out to heal the world, being a wounded healer himself/herself.    
It may sound crazy, but this is not something new.  In the course of history, countless men and women have lived the life which most of the time has never been without difficulties.  It is certainly a very hard life, but nevertheless very rewarding, being consoled that God is the one in charge and He will surely provide.  I say this being a missionary priest all my life!

Saturday, July 7, 2012


Mark 6:1-6

      Homer used to be a patient in a mental institution.   Everybody knew him in the ward.  One day, he got well and pursued medicine with the thought of going back to the same mental institution to help those who were with him in the ward.  After he became a doctor, he went back excited to see his friends and announce to them that there is hope and he was there to help them.  When he entered the ward, all the patients were laughing at him and said to one another “Poor Homer, unlike us, he is mentally ill and he is a hopeless case….”

     All His life, Jesus was met with rejection: from the moment he was born until he died on the cross and all those times in between, He was rejected.  Whilst many people were drawn to his very charismatic personality because of His wisdom and miracles, His superstar-status earned Him the hatred and jealousy of those who despised him which eventually cost His very life. 
      The people of Nazareth could have heard the wonders Jesus performed in the surrounding areas and we would expect that He, being a Nazarean, would receive a hero’s welcome upon His homecoming.  This is very common for a town or a city to give a tribute to a local who has given them honour by excelling in a particular field.  They do this by offering a plaque of appreciation or maybe a motorcade around the place for people to acknowledge.  But instead of excitement and acceptance, the Nazareans took offense of Him and rejected Him.  The reason?  Not because of anything bad that Jesus did but because they were scandalized by Him going beyond His being ordinary.   They knew Him too well, at least they thought. And what about Nazareth? When Jesus was introduced to Nathanael as coming from Nazareth, he asked “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”   The inscription on the cross made by Pilate “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” was meant to ridicule the Jews that their king came from Nazareth.  So the people of Nazareth must have thought “If we are doomed in our being ordinary, so you must.”  They made no exception, not even to Jesus as the saying goes “familiarity breeds contempt.”  Because of this, Jesus did not perform any miracle in Nazareth, which is very sad.     
  Are you scandalized by what is happening to the Catholic Church today with all its faults and imperfections?  Do you take offense because some of its authorities and leaders, bishops and priests, who are supposed to be role models of good living are the ones causing the scandals and scums? Of course we are discouraged and devastated and we want justice served to the aggrieved.  But if you are looking for a community of saints then you might as well be discouraged because you won’t find one, not even in the Catholic Church.  But if you are open to a community of saints and sinners both the faithful and its leaders, then welcome to the reality of the Church. 
      The people of Nazareth thought they were too ordinary and so why would Jesus who was one them should rise above their ranks?  For them, He was just too human to be divine.  Being members of the Church which is human and divine, are we willing to accept and support one another, sinners and saints together, thus bringing each one of us towards our goal: to be with God!