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Friday, August 31, 2012


Mark: 7:1-8.14-15.21-23

         Whatever religion we may be, faith is always expressed in external signs most especially through rituals.  A  ritual is  a solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order in the liturgy.  Through this religious ceremony we are able to enter into the realm of the divine hence we become connected to God.  Eventually the rituals become part of a religious tradition.
         The Ten Commandments which express God’s Law takes centrality in the lives of the Jews.  The Pharisees with their best intentions to observe the Law extended them into 613 commandments.  Some prescriptions on purity which were originally meant for the priests in the temple were now extended to the people, like the washing of hands before eating or the washing of cups and pots, etc.  These laws on purity were meant to remind the Israelites to be faithful to God and not be contaminated by paganism.  The Pharisees noticed that the disciples of Jesus were not following the Jewish rituals.  For the Pharisees traditions became fossilized and rigid which hindered them from encountering God.
         Coming to the defense of His disciples, Jesus abolished the whole Jewish system of purity, most especially regarding food.  Some non-Christian religions still prohibit specific foods and declare them unclean.  For Jesus,  no food that enters the body can make a person unclean but rather it is the heart that makes a person unclean: “Nothing that goes into someone from outside can make that person unclean; it is the things that come out from someone that make that person unclean.”
         This gospel invites us to examine our consciousness as regards our attitude towards traditions and rituals.  In the opening of the  movie/musical “Fiddler on the Roof”, Tevye declares that everyone is a fiddler on the roof and the  reason we are able to stay on the roof without falling down and maintaining our balance is  tradition.  Eventually in the story, little by little those traditions were superseded by new forms of rituals by no other than Tevye’s daughters.   So traditions in themselves are good because they preserve us  from social chaos and we are able to preserve the wisdom of the past.  But they should not hinder us from welcoming the innovations and surprises of the future. This is the reason why Vatican II updated the Church (the aggiornamento) to meet the demands of the future and re-invented herself to the form that she is today.   Concrete examples of changes are the celebration of the Mass with the priest facing the people using the vernacular and  the most recently translation of the English New Roman Missal. 
         Rituals are also good because through them we are able to express the depth of our faith.  But they become only a lip service when they do not conform with the true status of the heart.  That is why between the spirit and letter of the of the law, the former is more important.  For the Pharisees what was more important was the letter of the law; for Jesus it was the spirit of the Law.
         Something of the old and the new are within us.  What really balances us is Jesus!  Because of Him, we are able to stand on top of the roof of  our lives without falling down.  He makes us all “fiddlers on the roof.”

Friday, August 24, 2012



     After four Sundays, we have now come to the conclusion of chapter 6 in John’s Gospel which is a theological reflection on Jesus as the Bread of Life.  It started with a miracle that was witnessed by five thousand people, who after eating their fill, wanted to make Jesus their king.  Jesus offered them something greater than their earthly desires but all  they wanted was to satisfy their physical hunger. 
      The word crisis comes from the Greek word krisis which means judgment.  After hearing the very long eucharistic and theological explanations of Jesus, His disciples were in crisis.  They had to judge and make a decision either to accept or reject Jesus as the Bread of Life. Because Jesus’ teaching was too much for their hearing, they were scandalised and disappointed.  They rejected Jesus and stopped following Him.
      Many say politics is a dirty game.  During election time to be a good politician one has to be shrewd in order to win the votes of his/her constituents.  To do this, he/she has to convince the voters that he/she will give them what they want if ever he/she is elected.  In the same manner. what the Jews wanted was a political messiah who would give them liberation from the Romans and food on their tables.  Jesus far from being a political messiah instead offered them salvation and heavenly food.  But they sneered the gift and turned away from Jesus.  This is called the Galilean crisis.
      Two thousand years after, Christ is still on trial in the courts of disbelief like atheism and materialism.   People are still looking for a messiah who can satisfy the different forms of human hunger.   Other religions offer alternative ways of meeting the contemporary needs of humanity.  But a follower of Christ is confronted with the definitive call to take a stand whether to embrace the offer of their Messiah or to stop following Him just like the many Jews in the gospel this Sunday.
      At the present time, many people still leave the faith because they find it hard to follow the precepts of the Church.  Sometimes they leave because the Church does not support or confirm their personal beliefs and lifestyles.   The Galilean crisis still continues even today.  Mostly, people will embrace a religion of convenience.
Where do we go from here?  As we make our judgment whether we follow Jesus or not, we listen to the bold proclamation of Peter: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the message of eternal life and we believe; we have come to know that you are the Holy One of God.” As disciples of Christ, we take Peter’s words as our own.   But we have to remember that we are not following a political messiah who will give in to our wants and caprices.   Christ is our personal Messiah who continues to feed us with His Body and Blood in our life’s journey.  We believe that He and no one else in the world can save us; not Buddha, Confucius, Mohammad or anyone else!   Jesus Christ is the only Saviour!  If we follow Him, He will make sure that He will lead us to eternal life!
Why are you following Jesus?  Are you willing to pay the price?

Friday, August 17, 2012



   With all the problems and discomforts of old age, most of us wish to stay young.  Since time immemorial, humanity has been searching for the fountain of youth and the elixir of life.  There is a natural longing to prolong life hence the quest for immortality.
In Roman and Greek mythology, there was ambrosia, the food of the gods and nectar, the drink of the gods.  This mythical food and drink assured immortality for the gods. Like the ancients, food for us is not just about nourishment and survival but empowerment for life.   Because of advances in science, nutrition is now enhanced with the development of genetically modified foods that have extra nutrients and other beneficial qualities for example disease resistance.  At the same time the market is flooded with a whole array of different superfoods that promise longevity, health and happiness. We see slogans like “Eat this and you will live longer, or you’ll grow 3 to 4 inches taller or drink this and you will be free from stress”, etc.
When Jesus told the Israelites that he could give them food from heaven, they thought it was ambrosia or nectar, so they said “Sir, give it to us.”  But when Jesus proclaimed that He was the bread from heaven, they were so disappointed.  Because He created humanity and He Himself assumed a human nature, He fully understood that the most fundamental need of man is food.  He did not promise to give some magical food which had been the longing of every man but a heavenly food more real than the food and drink of the gods of old.  So He said “My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.”  Humanity’s longing was now fulfilled in their hearing.  Food that had been meant only for gods and angels was suddenly real, as real as it could be.
Those who heard Jesus’ bold proclamation heard the words  of a fellow ordinary Jew like themselves.   In their minds they were probably thinking “How can he talk like that? How can he give his flesh for us to eat and his blood for us to drink?  He must be crazy!  Is he out of his mind?”  That’s a very natural response for those who were not prepared to hear such novelty.  They must have thought he was talking about cannibalism.  On the contrary Jesus was offering Himself as the fountain of life: “As the living Father sent me and I draw life from the Father, so whoever eats me will draw life from me.”   Humanity’s quest for the fountain of youth and the elixir of life ended when Jesus offered Himself as the Bread of Life.  Humanity’s quest for immortality had been answered: “Anyone who eats this bread will live forever.”
At this very moment, thousands of scientists around the world are busy in their laboratories still searching for that mythical food and drink.   Thanks to their labour our lives may become lot easier  - but nothing can extend our lives beyond the definitive time of our allocated existence.  Something greater than the physical body will live on because we are actually created immortal unlike the Greek immortal gods who did not really live.  We are immortal because we have souls that will never die; we are also immortal  because we eat the food and drink the drink that only God can give us: His Body and Blood in the Eucharist!


Saturday, August 11, 2012


   John 6:41-51

         The Israelites stayed for 430 years in Egypt  as slaves (Ex. 12:40).  Three days after crossing the Red Sea, they started to complain to God because there was no water in the desert (Ex. 15:22).  A month and a half later, they complained to Moses because they were hungry (Ex. 16:2-3).  They rebelled and tested the Lord saying “Is the Lord among us or not?” (Ex. 17:7)  After the Lord provided them with manna, they still complained because they wanted to eat meat (Num. 11:13).  The height of their complain was when they wanted to go back to Egypt (Num. 14: 4).  These were the people who had just experienced the wonders of the Exodus when they crossed the Red Sea after being slaves for more than four centuries in Egypt.  How could they forget the Exodus so easily?
         What is Egypt?  It is the symbol of anything that is unholy and ungodly that takes our freedom away and makes us slaves. It also represents the many forms of addiction, old ways of life and our sinfulness.  Why did the Israelites still complain after they left Egypt?  Because during their journey in the desert, they were still carrying Egypt with them!  There was no real conversion in their hearts hence their lack of faith in God who took them out of Egypt and brought them to the desert. 
         In the same manner, the Jews who witnessed the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish complained to Jesus.   Their physical hunger was satisfied and had their fill but their hearts were never converted.  They stayed in the level of the material and the worldly so they wanted to make Jesus their king.  They saw the miracle but they never understood the sign.  When Jesus offered them something greater than the bread and fish they ate, they could not understand Him.  They murmured, they complained!  How could they forget the multiplication of the loaves and fish so easily?
         In our journey through life, what is our own Egypt? Have we been addicted to some forms of enslavement?  How did God save us?  What is our Exodus?  Unless there is a real conversion, like the Israelites during the time of Moses, like the Jews during the time of Jesus, we will also find ourselves complaining.   Sometimes our slavery becomes our comfort zone and we find it hard to get out of it.  The enslavement is even harder when it becomes part of our life just like a second skin.   Outside the confines of our own Egypt everything becomes unfamiliar and even unfriendly so we cringe in the sight of change and freedom.  Even if we get out of Egypt still it is hard for us to trust God because Egypt has never left us and we carry it through the deserts of our life.   And if we ever  meet Jesus in the desert, like the Jews we will murmur and complain because we just want to eat the bread that we are used to. 
         Who says that conversion is not hard?  But our life in Egypt is not easy either.  Jesus is our freedom!  He is our Exodus!  If He ever brings us to the desert, we just have to trust in Him.  Just as God fed Elijah with bread for forty days and forty nights until he reached Mt. Horeb and the Isrealites with manna for forty years until they reached the Promised Land, Christ will also feed us in our journey with His Body and Blood until we reach the home of our Father, the New Promised Land.  
            Can we stop complaining?


Saturday, August 4, 2012



      Last Sunday Jesus performed the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish.  The people, after  witnessing the miracle and had their fill, wanted to make Him king so Jesus withdrew to the mountain on the other side of the lake. 
      The people saw in Jesus an economic saviour, someone who would give an end to their economic tragedy and sure food on their tables.  They never understood the sign that Jesus performed because they were preoccupied with their pragmatic and parasitic motives.  Jesus aware of their selfishness told them to look for the food that endures for eternal life.  The Jews thought that by their obedience to the law would deserve such food so they asked “What should we do to carry out God’s work?”  “Believe in the one whom he sent” Jesus replied.  Then the Jews asked for a sign like the manna in the desert that was given by Moses.  Jesus  reminded them that it was not Moses who gave their forefathers the manna but rather His Father who will also give them the bread from heaven.  Then the Jews asked “Sir, give us that bread always.”  Jesus said “I am the bread of life….”
      Like the Jews, sometimes we see God as a “problem solver”, somebody who after we have done something good would be obliged to give us what we want.  This is true to those who say their rosaries, novenas, attend masses and go to pilgrimages because they want to ask God something.  Prayer of petition is never wrong and is highly encouraged because Jesus said “Ask and it will be given unto you….”  But if we think that God would be obliged to give us what we want because we deserve it after doing something for him, we are no different to the Jews at the time of Jesus.  Are we bribing God in our prayers?
      When we go to church maybe we will hear Jesus asking us “Why are you here?  Why are looking for me?”  Probably many of us will say our litany of petitions: because I want you Lord to help me find a job, find me a wife/husband, heal my friend who is suffering from cancer, inspire my spouse to stop nagging me, help me pass this job interview, help me pass this exams, etc.  There is nothing wrong to bring to God all these concerns.  We follow Jesus not because we want him to bring an immediate end to our misery but simply to be with Him because He is the eternal reason of our existence.   God never forgets our struggles, pains, sufferings and life’s tragedies.  If we believe Him as our personal Saviour and Lord, all these will be provided for. 
      The reason why we gather for the Eucharist is  because we are hungry and only God can satiate that hunger.  But God wants us to share with others what we have so that through our charity, our Eucharistic gathering will be a liberating experience.  Like the miracle two thousand years ago the Christian community now offers its own loaves and fish which are symbols of poverty. When we are able to break our bread to others, truly Jesus becomes the Bread of Life once again! Are you ready for that breaking?