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Monday, December 30, 2013


                             Luke 2:16-21

             Virginity and motherhood are the crowning glories of Mary.
         Being a virgin and mother at the same time, Mary is the model and icon of the Church.  The Church being the bride of Christ is and will always be a virgin: pure and undefiled. The Church is also a mother who continuously gives birth to the children of God.  Mary remained a virgin by the grace of God who at the same time became a mother to Jesus, to the New Humanity, the Church and a mother to us all.
         Mary’s motherhood started when She said her Fiat to the message of the incarnation by the angel Gabriel even without the intervention of a human father. Being the Mother of God, Mary did not just give herself to be the bearer of the Word but made it possible that the Word should become flesh.   Her motherhood continued beyond her relationship with Jesus when she became the Mother of the Mystical Body of Christ beneath the cross: “Woman behold your son… behold your mother….” (John 19:26-27).  She was there in the birthing of the Church as its icon, model and most eminent member  (Acts 1:14).  She will always give birth to the new children of God until the end of time (Revelation 12).
          When we were baptized, the Church gave birth to us that is why the She is our mother.   Because Mary is the icon of the Church, she also gave birth to us and we also call her our mother.   That made us adopted children of God and brothers and sisters with the rest of humanity.
             As children of God, we were all grafted unto the Mystery of the Incarnation of Christ.  Having received the "Seed of the Word" (semen logou), like Mary, each one of us provides a fertile womb for the  birthing of the Word in the world.  It is in our spiritual fecundity that the Word in our hearts once again speaks in the soul of humanity re-creating it once again like a new Genesis.  When this happens, we share in the dignity of Mary's motherhood as the bearers of the Word made flesh....   

Saturday, December 28, 2013


Matthew 2:13-15.19-23

Before time began, the Trinity was the primordial family in perfect love.  From the outpouring of their charity with one another the first human family was born.  Far from being perfect because of human frailty, infidelity, greed and anger the once happy family was destroyed and fell.   But God did not give up and promised to re-create a new family that would mirror the family of the Trinity once again.  God conceived this “dream family” for a long time through a people He had chosen to be His own.  This came about when the Church was born out of the pain and suffering of Jesus beneath the cross.  The Church becomes the new family of God with Jesus as our head.  It is through the Church that God continues to give birth to His children on earth in the context of the Christian family which is called the “domestic church”.  

  Like any other ordinary family, the family of Joseph, Mary and Jesus also experienced the hardships, anxieties, rejection, suffering, tragedies, and other problems that we experience within our families.  Most of the times they did not even understand why strange things were happening to them.  They were as ordinary as we are now but because of the presence of Jesus in their midst, they had a different way of looking at things.
         Under normal circumstances, each one of us was born in a family hence belonging to a household.  It is through this family that we experience love by loving and being loved.  It was through our family that we first encountered God and felt His presence through the people around us at home.          
           Because of our human weaknesses, our families are far from the ideal.   Just like the first family of Adam and Eve, our families have our own share of frailties that make us vulnerable to faults and inadequacies.   Some of us come from broken homes, others are victims of misfortunes that continue to beset our families; we also have skeletons in the closets and dark secrets of our parents and ancestors.   But in the midst of all these grim realities is the hope that out from the ashes we rise to face life with its bright promises and our eagerness to find happiness.  Our faith makes the difference, knowing that life is beautiful because of the silent presence of Jesus in our lives.  He is the beacon light of our families when tragedies strike us and everything is dark…

It is through the Church that we manifest the reality of the family of the Trinity in our world today.   One day we will all be gathered as one Family of God when we see each other together in the womb of God.

Monday, December 23, 2013


            And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, come let us adore Him… 

           Today we commemorate the birth of Jesus; today we adore him in the Eucharistic crib; today we rejoice at his birth in the heart of humanity; today we celebrate his birth in the soul of the cosmos.
         He chose to be born in Bethlehem, in a stable, laid in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes. 
          Why in Bethlehem?  Because Bethlehem means “house of bread.”  Jesus’ life from the very beginning of His earthly existence until the end was meant to be the Bread of life, nourishing the hunger of humanity.   In Bethlehem being the city of king David, Jesus would become the New David shepherding the New People of God.  This universal King did not come through a conquest but through the radical simplicity of being a tiny baby.  He chose to be born in a stable, a place fit for the humble king. Whilst the people did not recognize Him, yet the animals did: “The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib but Israel does not know, my people do not understand” (Is. 1:3).  He was laid in a manger where the animals fed because one day He would become food to feed the hungry.  That manger would serve as God’s cradle of the New Humanity.  The creator of the universe was wrapped  in swaddling clothes which represented the vulnerability of God as a newborn.  
          Who were God’s first guests? The poorest of the poor: Mary and Joseph and the shepherds.  They were the very first ones who saw the face of God because they were simple, pure and humble. 
          There was the star which represented the cosmos paying homage to its creator and leading the wise men to encounter the divine.
          These are the most powerful symbols of the first Christmas that continue to remind us of the radical meaning of God becoming a man. God’s magnificent design is both overpoweringly attractive and awe-inspiring that leads us to silence and adoration.
          In Christmas God became a human pilgrim to journey with humanity in an attempt to bring men and women back home to God.  Today God has become a child so that all of us may become children of God!

Friday, December 20, 2013


Matthew 1:18-24

In 1989 John Paul II wrote the encyclical “Redemptoris Custos” (Guardian of the Redeemer) which is a reflection on the person and mission of Joseph in the life of Christ and the Church.   For the first three Sundays of Advent we have been reflecting on the message of John the Baptist and Mary being the two pillars of Advent.  On this fourth Sunday of Advent we reflect on the message of Joseph.

While the message of the Incarnation was announced to Mary in the gospel of Luke, Matthew complimented the announcement of the Good News in his gospel through Joseph.  Luke and Matthew traced back the genealogy of Jesus in the lineage of David through Joseph.  This is a very important consideration because the true messiah should be the son of David.  Being the legal father of Jesus, Joseph provided such connection in the Davidic line otherwise Jesus would not be the Messiah; without such connection, He would be an impostor. 

In the Annunciation according to Matthew, the message was given to Joseph through a dream wherein the angel Gabriel explained to Joseph the extraordinary situation of Mary.  Without speaking a single word, Joseph accepted the message as well as his role in such an overwhelming mystery.   In accepting his role in the birth of the Messiah, Joseph would also accept Mary to be his wife.  This, too, was very important because without such marriage, Mary would be forever disgraced in the sight of their people.

Just like any other Jewish father, Joseph would have provided the following roles to Jesus, being his legal son 1) give the name to Jesus 2) circumscise Him 3) teach Him the Scriptures 4) teach Him a trade.  Although it was usually the father who would look for a wife for his son, for obvious reasons Joseph did not go this far.  After the Infancy narratives, nothing was written more on Joseph until his death, providing now the full stage to Jesus in His public ministry.

Joseph was entrusted by God a very special role in the mystery of the Incarnation and subsequently in the history of salvation.  In fulfilling such huge and important task, he faithfully accepted, reared and guarded the Son of God as if his son and Mary as his wife.   In the present time, being the patron of the Universal Church, Joseph continues to watch and protect the Mystical Body of Christ.

We, being part in the continuation of the unfolding of the mystery of the  Incarnation, have also been given our roles in the history of salvation.    We can only discover it through prayer, silence and discernment.  Each one has been entrusted, like Mary and Joseph, “the seed of the Word” who continues to speak in the silence of our hearts and in our dreams.  As stewards of the Incarnation, like Mary we try to give birth to it joyfully and like Joseph we nurture it in silence everyday in the ordinariness of our lives.   This includes all the hardships, pains and sacrifices which are all part of the gift as well as the surprises of great happiness  and joyful excitement where Jesus would lead us as we follow him unreservedly and faithfully….

Friday, December 13, 2013


Matthew 11:2-11

Today is Gaudete Sunday! Whilst the color purple of Advent symbolizes the penitential spirit of the expectant waiting for the Lord, today we use the color rose to symbolize joy and gladness because the coming of the Lord is near:  “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice” (Philippians 4:4).         
John the Baptist’s voice broke the messianic longing not just of the Jews but of all humanity who are need of a Saviour!  The question of John the Baptist: “Are you the one who is to come or should we expect someone else?” was asked not because John was unsure if Jesus was indeed the Messiah.  John wanted his disciples to believe not because he told them but because he wanted them to be convinced by Jesus himself.   The response of Jesus was not a Yes or No but rather he qualified it by pointing to his deeds: the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are made clean, the deaf hear, the dead are bought back to life and the good news is preached to the poor.  In short, it should be the disciples who would testify that Jesus was the Messiah after they had witnessed the works he had done. 
‘No man born of a woman is greater than John the Baptist” says Jesus of John, “and yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”    John’s greatness lies in the mission entrusted to him by God and he fulfilled it with such passion that eventually led him to his death.  True greatness lies in the heart of the mission entrusted to us by God, no matter how big or small it is.  As Christians, we are not just the bearers of the name of Christ.  Just like John, we are the voice announcing to the world the coming of Christ; our life is the message that he has indeed come.  That is why we just don’t endeavour to put back Christ in the word CHRISTmas but more so to put back Christ in every CHRISTian.  All of us are given the opportunity to shine before God; all of us can be great before God!
The tragedy that devastated 9 million people in the Philippines because of the super-typhoon Haiyan brought a new light in the journey not just among the Filipinos but among the peoples around the world.   After a month of suffering those who lost homes, loved ones, properties and many others are now able to smile because of their strong faith in God.  In the midst of such unspeakable destruction and distress, they are able to rejoice because of their unwavering faith in God.   Some of the moving pictures are those of children kneeling down in prayer in the midst of the rubbles inside a ruined church; women carrying the statues of Mary and the Infant Jesus in procession with the massive destruction at the background; a woman giving birth in the midst of ruins.  These are truly pictures of hope and joy!  The United Nations and the international community who sent humanitarian aid to the typhoon victims and those who continue to help re-build their lives are truly a powerful testament of humanity’s triumph in time of catastrophes.  God performs miracles through the hands of those who are willing to help especially the poorest of the poor.
The people who survived the tragedy and those of us watching from the outside may ask: “What is God doing now in this time of pain or in other moments of disasters?”  In the silence of our hearts, we will hear the voice of God saying “I have created you to make a difference.”   Happy are those who helped in one way or another and are continuing to help because they have become the hands, feet and voice of God in bringing comfort and blessings to others.  They are the modern-day John the Baptists who announce that God has indeed come even in the midst of such intense suffering.  They are not just heroes in the hearts of our people, they are the greatest in the heart of God….

Friday, December 6, 2013

2ND SUNDAY OF ADVENT: The Voice of John the Baptist

Matthew 3:1-12

 John the Baptist has always been the “Voice of Advent”.     Because Advent is a time of waiting, the Church once again calls our attention to listen to the words of John the Baptist and embrace his message with expectant joy. 

         His message was “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.”  The core of John’s prophetic cry was metanoia or conversion! The word metanoia comes from Greek words meta (beyond) and nous (mind).   Metanoia is not just the complete turnabout of one’s mind but going beyond one’s self in its desire to meet God.   It is the breaking away from the imposed self-enclosure in order to welcome new life.  True conversion is turning away from false existence to true way of living, from selfishness to selflessness, from emptiness to fullness, from separateness to communion.   It is the experience of total make-over of oneself  both in the preparation before and after encountering Christ.  We all have the tendency to draw the world to ourselves and to make the world revolve around our selfishness in celebration of egoism.   Before, during and after the world has heard the voice of John the Baptist, the messianic longing remains not just among the Jews but in the heart of humanity.  But only those who are willing to break away from the slavery of selfishness are able to encounter Christ in his many creative comings.   If we really want this to happen, then the words of St. John the Baptist pose a real challenge.  That is why if we take to heart seriously his message, it demands a dying to one’s self. It may mean breaking away from a particular addiction that continuous to enslave us or getting away from a sinful lifestyle that stifles us.   When we are able to do it, we clothe ourselves with purple during this time of waiting.  We don’t just see purple as a liturgical colour in our churches, it is something we put on to symbolise a deeper reality that is waiting to emerge.

          Beneath the repentant purple of Advent is the white Christmas awaiting to be born only if we endure the angst of separation and the pain of birthing. What we are awaiting for is not just the celebration of Christ’s birth but also our emergence into the children of God.  The voice of John the Baptist shatters that false identity towards our eternal generation together with the Son, making us adopted children of the Father.  Let his message shatter the chains of our hearts so that we might breathe again with fresh hope and celebrate life always with joyful expectancy.   

Friday, November 29, 2013



Matthew 24:37-44

       As we enter the season Advent, the Church brings us once again into the journey of our redemption which is accomplished in Jesus Christ.  In this sacred pilgrimage we are not passive spectators of past events in the life of Jesus but rather as active participants in the continuous unfolding of the Paschal Mystery of which we are part. As we turn the first page of the new liturgical calendar of the Church, there is an inner voice that reminds us about time. 

       The prophet Isaiah in the first reading prophesied about a time of peace when swords will become ploughshares, spears into pruning hooks and nation will not raise sword against nation.   Isaiah exhorts that we walk in the light of the Lord then there will be peace!  In the second reading St. Paul reminds us that our salvation is near at hand.  This is the time to choose life rather than death, light rather than darkness in the way we live our lives.  Like Isaiah, St. Paul exhorts that we should “put on the armour of light”.

             The gospel this Sunday reminds us about the coming of the Son of Man!  Jesus points to the time of Noah when people lived their lives without knowing the impending deluge.  Except for the family of Noah in the ark, they all perished.   Just like the deluge, the Lord will also come at unexpected time so He urges us to be awake at all time.  Just like a thief can break into a house anytime, we have to be on guard!
       From the moment we were born we entered into time and  we are given a timeline to spend for the rest of our lives; some short, some longer depending on the mission entrusted to us.   We say time is gold because it is up to us to turn time into something precious; time is of great value that we do not want to be wasted away.  Given as a gift, time is an opportunity not just to develop ourselves into the being that God envisages us to be but to optimize our capacity as we contribute for the full development of humanity. As a gift, we have the corresponding responsibility to re-create it through our concrete acts of selfless giving.  Since Christ entered into time He transforms history into a pilgrimage and continuous to incarnate Himself in the world He had created.  During His lifetime, He re-created creation by giving  Himself  hence transforming the world into a sacred space for humanity to live in.  “In the same way that Christ gives incarnate expression to divine self-surrender, so too must participation in Christ result in concrete acts of selfless giving” (Hans Urs von Balthasar).   In appreciation for the time entrusted to us, the best way to spend it is to give away ourself as a gift to others just like Christ who poured out totally Himself as a gift to us. 
    To be awake is to break away from self-enclosure into self-surrender as expressed by the Church in her mission to outpour itself out for the world.   Advent brings us into that readiness to face God when we share ourselves totally to others without reserve.  When that happens then we are ready to meet, not Jesus the child who already came 2,000 years ago but the Immanuel who continues to indwell in us in the here and now of our existence.  GET READY!


Friday, November 22, 2013



Luke 23:35-43

         We have now come to the last Sunday of the liturgical calendar of the Church.  As the Church brings us into the different liturgical seasons of year, now she invites us to reflect into the reality of the definitive and glorious coming of Jesus Christ at the end of time.    This Sunday, we reflect on the kingship of Christ through the crucifixion scene according to St. Luke.

         The crucifixion of Jesus may had been presented by the four evangelists with different features but all of them agreed to some details like the inscription at the top of the cross: INRI, the  Latin acronym for Iesous Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum which stands for Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews.  It was only St. John who wrote that it was written in Greek, Hebrew and Latin which were the major languages at that time.  The inscription which was made by Pilate was not just the crime charged against Jesus but rather a mockery against the Jews:  Jesus who comes from an unknown place called Nazareth is your king! When the Pharisees asked that it be changed to "This man claims to be the king of the Jews", Pilate stood his ground and said "What I have written, I have written."   Rome had spoken through Pilate and Jesus was proclaimed as King and it will stand forever.

         The crucifixion tableau according to St. Luke was presented like a drama with a number of people playing different and important roles but the main character and focus was Jesus.   As a drama like no other, St. Luke wrote; “the people stood by watching”; they were the passive onlookers.   The people who were in the living stage of Calvary had their responses: the rulers made fun of Jesus challenging him to save himself if he is the Messiah, the chosen one of God.  The soldiers also made fun of him with the challenge to free himself if he was the king of the Jews.   One of the criminals taunted him: “If you are the Messiah, save yourself and us as well!”   All of them insulted and challenged Jesus to make a spectacular show or a special magic to entertain them.  Jesus did not say a word to them.  Now our attention goes to the other criminal who claimed that his punishment was just: “We deserve the punishment, this is payment for what we have done.”  He defended Jesus as if giving a testimony of Jesus’ innocence: “But this man had done nothing wrong.”  He turned to Jesus and called him by his personal name with a request: “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  He knew that Jesus was about to die and yet he believed that Jesus was a King with a kingdom beyond this world.   Jesus replied “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” This criminal was the very first one to enter God’s Kingdom.      

         In the eyes of the world Jesus, hanging on the cross, was a complete failure: he died as a condemned criminal! Who would ever believe that he was the true King and Messiah when he could not even defend nor save himself in such a dehumanizing and humiliating situation?  No human wisdom could ever fathom the depth of “God’s foolishness” on the cross.  Only faith!

Christ’s kingship was not about himself!  It was not about authority nor power but rather of self-emptying love!   With Jesus on the cross, Calvary as a stage of shame and disgrace was now turned into a sacred and noble altar of redemption and grace. He did not only save us by his death but revealed to us on the cross that God is a Trinity: the Father who abandons; the Son who is abandoned, the Holy Spirit who is the link in this abandonment.

The challenges by those who mocked and taunted Jesus on the cross are the same challenges  we have today.   Jesus is still challenged at this time to do the spectacular:  If you are truly God, spare me from this pain; take this suffering away from me, give me this miracle, show me a sign, etc.   Let us learn the humility and unwavering faith of the “good thief” if we want to enter God’s paradise.

When we were baptized, we shared in the priestly, prophetic and kingly offices of Christ.   As we celebrate Christ's kingship  this Sunday, the Church reminds us that we belong to a Kingdom which is beyond this world, a Kingdom that will last for eternity.  This is our royal dignity!


Tuesday, November 12, 2013



To the readers of this blog around the world, 

My people in the Philippines are in great pain and suffering.  Having been hit by the super-typhoon Haiyan which is considered the strongest typhoon ever recorded in world history, the devastation is so massive that affected more than 9 million people.  

We thank the United Nations and the other countries for their very generous response by sending aid to the typhoon victims.  Left alone, the Philippine government is unable to cope with the need of its people of such magnitude.  We also thank the Philippine government and its agencies for not abandoning us.  Thank you to the nameless organizations and individual heroes who are making a difference in this time of need.

We appreciate your prayers and sympathy but they are not enough for my people to survive and rebuild their lives.   Every little help  you can  give means life for my people.  

If you are looking for an opportunity to help, please ask your local church how you can send your donations.

On behalf of the Filipino people, thank you very much!

Fr. Vlad, SOLT

Friday, November 8, 2013



Luke 20:27-38

       What makes Christianity unique from all other religions is our belief in the Trinity and the paschal mystery (the death and resurrection).   This uniqueness comes from the fact that Jesus Christ was the only religious founder who introduced God as Trinity; he is the only one who rose from the dead and offers the same fate to all his followers.   But this belief on the resurrection was put into question by the Sadducees.   To prove their point, they put forward to Jesus an unusual story of a woman who was married to seven brothers leaving her with no children.  This is called levirate (from Latin levir = husband's brother) marriage which is a unique Jewish law that obliges a man to marry the childless widow of his brother to produce a child who will carry the deceased brother’s name, so that the deceased brother’s name will not be forgotten.  The question was: whose wife would she be on the day of the resurrection when she was married to all the seven?  

       Jesus’ response gave us a fuller understanding on humanity’s status quo after death:  In the day of the resurrection, we all become like angels and cannot die anymore.  “To become like angels” means that we will acquire a new state of being which is spiritual.  In this new  spiritual existence, we become immortal, that is, we will not experience death anymore.   After death, there is no more marriage because our relationship will be centered in God when we all become His children.  Because the Sadducees made a reference to Moses in their question, now it was the turn of Jesus to also make a reference to Moses.  Jesus mentioned  the experience of the Burning Bush wherein God revealed Himself to Moses as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.  If God was the God of the living then Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are all alive.  If they are alive therefore there is a resurrection of the dead.  This is simple logic that cannot be refuted.

       There is so much debate and discussions on what happens to us after we die.  Different religions offer many perspectives of the afterlife.  Some believe in the transformation of the state of being like reincarnating into an animal depending on how one’s life is lived.  Others believe in the integration of one’s being together with the cosmos or the total annihilation of one’s existence into nothingness.  We Christians link our belief in the resurrection in the very words of Jesus: “I am the Resurrection and the life! He who believes in me will never die...” (Jn. 11:25).  The Christian hope of the resurrection is also anchored to the followers of Christ who were witnesses of the resurrection.  In his teaching on the resurrection, St. Paul reminds us: “Christ will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body, into a spiritual body” (1 Cor. 15:44).  Our dignity lies in the fact that we are part of the Mystical Body of Christ through baptism. As we participate in the death of Christ so we shall also share in His Resurrection (Rom. 6:3).

    While most of us are afraid about the uncertainties of death, our belief in the resurrection gives us hope that Jesus has conquered death and opened the possibility of salvation to all men.  Because of this, we are called "Children of the Resurrection", an "Alleluia People"!


Friday, November 1, 2013


Luke 19:1-10

What happens when the hospitality of man meets the hospitality of God?   What happens when God’s super-magnanimity is reciprocated with man’s super-generosity?  There is a genuine conversion.  There is an explosion of grace!  We see this in the encounter between Jesus and Zaccheus.

Zaccheus was not just an ordinary publican, being a chief tax collector he was in charge of collecting taxes from a group of publicans in a certain region.   Because of this he was very rich and well known in the community but still considered a public sinner.   In spite of all his great success, Zaccheus must be a very lonely and unhappy man, being a traitor against the nation, unwanted and rejected by the society.  These are all represented by his small physical stature.  He could have heard about Jesus who defended the outcast, performed miracles on behalf of those with needy background.  Knowing about Jesus, he had a growing sense of curiosity who this man was could be.  His opportune moment came when Jesus passed through Jericho.  To make up for his small stature, he climbed a sycamore tree where Jesus was passing through.  No one with his position in the society would ever do that so he could have been ridicule by the crowd.  His humiliation became the means of his salvation; the sycamore tree symbolized the humility of Zaccheus which lifted him up above all the rest.  His ridiculous but humiliating act gave him a more vantage point to see Jesus.   While the crowd mocked him, he caught the attention of Jesus.   Because of his sycamore tree, Zaccheus was almost a giant before Jesus.  While the people looked down on Zaccheus, Jesus looked up to him.   Now Jesus after finding a lost sheep in Zaccheus, offered him the extraordinary hospitality of God.  It was a moment of mercy.  A moment of grace which Zaccheus could not afford to miss.  When people would go to the temple to encounter God, now it was the living God who would go to the humble house of Zaccheus.  When Zaccheus received Jesus in his house, all the people who saw it grumbled “He has gone to the house of a sinner as a guest.”  This time it was not just the Pharisees but all were unforgiving to the man who was about to receive redemption.  Now it was Zaccheus’ turn to reciprocate Jesus’ magnanimity: “The half of my good I will give to the poor (charity) and if I have cheated anyone, I will pay him back four times as much (justice).”  Zaccheus did not just receive Jesus in his house, he had to clean up his house with his mess, that is the injustice done against his fellowmen.   A genuine conversion like that of Zaccheus’ is expressed in charity and justice to others.  Responding to the super-generosity of Zaccheus, Jesus proclaimed “Salvation has come to this house today, for this man is also a true son of Abraham.”   Jesus brought back Zaccheus’ dignity which was lost by his sinful past.  
When the super-generosity of man meets up with the super-magnanimity of God, there is an overflow of charity that leads to justice and super-abundance of grace.  When man’s hospitality responds to the hospitality of God, salvation becomes a reality here and now.   When we humble ourselves in our desire to encounter God, we do not have to look for Him somewhere else because He comes to us.   A true encounter with God does not end with us being in the presence of the Divine but rather it overflows in our acts of charity towards those who have less in life so that they will also encounter God through us…..

Encountering Jesus was indeed Zaccheus’ greatest success but his charity and justice to others was his the key to his salvation. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013



     There is a more wonderful and sublime reason in the celebration of life both here and beyond rather than death and darkness.  Let me present the two different festivals which both happened around the same time of the year today.
The Solemnity of All the Saints (November 1st) and the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed (November 2nd) are Christian celebrations to remind us of an important article of our faith which is the Communion of Saints. The Communion of Saints is the super-natural unity of all the members of the Mystical Body of Christ namely: The Church Triumphant, the Church Suffering and the Church Militant.

For us Christians, heaven is our goal!  We believe that those who had been faithful to Christ until the end are rewarded with eternal bliss in heaven.  We call them saints and they comprise the Church Triumphant.   They are triumphant  because they are given the crown of glory by God in recognition of their holiness.   Because of their extraordinary lives they have reached their heavenly home and are proclaimed by the Church as blessed.  There are those who are still expiating their sins in purgatory  and we call them the Church Suffering.  They are being purged of the impurities caused by their sins.  Purgatory is an interim state where the souls are being cleansed before they go to heaven.   We belong to the Church Militant because we still continue to fight against our sinfulness as we strive to live holy lives.

There is a wonderful exchange of spiritual goods among the members of the Church: the saints in heaven are praying for us here on earth and for the souls in purgatory; we pray for the souls in purgatory as they also pray for us.  All of us share in the “treasury of the Church” which are the inexhaustible merits of Christ and the prayers and good works of the saints.   This exchange of charity overflows to all the members of the Church so that at the end, free from sin, we are able to have our final communion with God the Father.

The word Halloween is a shortening of All Hallows' Evening also known as Hallowe'en or All Hallows' Eve.  Halloween has its origins in the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain (pronounced "sah-win") which was celebrated on the night of October 31.  It was a celebration of the end of the harvest season in Gaelic culture. Samhain was a time used by the ancient pagans to take stock of supplies and prepare for winter. The ancient Gaels believed that on October 31, the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead overlapped and the deceased would come back to life and cause havoc such as sickness or damaged crops. The festival would frequently involve bonfires. It is believed that the fires attracted insects which attracted bats to the area. These are additional attributes of the history of Halloween.  Masks and costumes were worn in an attempt to mimic the evil spirits or appease them. (

Because the original Celtic festival has evolved and has been embraced by different cultures around the world, it penetrated our subliminal consciousness.  It has become part of our psyche that completely superseded the more important spirit of the Communion of Saints.   It is sad that the generation of today, especially our children, has been devoured by Halloween consumerism and its foolish antics which do not mean anything other than to scare people.

From something SACRED our celebrations now are making us SCARED no wonder we embrace a culture of death rather than life, of fear rather than hope, of darkness rather than light…..

Friday, October 25, 2013



Luke 18:9-14

         As the Gospel of Prayer,  St. Luke’s Gospel does not just show us Jesus as a pray-er (a person who prays) but also teaches us many things about prayer.  In today’s parable we reflect on the disposition of prayer in the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican.

         For the Jews, prayer is something personal and private while worship is communal and public.    Worship was usually done in the temple at 9:00am and at 3:00pm.   The parable must be in the context of a public worship when the two characters came to the temple at the same time to pray.  The prayer of the Pharisee was a litany of his good works which gives us a glimpse of his personal life which was extraordinarily devout.  A Jew fasted only once a year during the Day of Atonement but this Pharisee fasted twice a week.  A Jew was required to pay temple tax only on certain things but this Pharisee paid a tenth of all his income.   In the eyes of Jewish law, this Pharisee was indeed very pious.   On the other hand a Publican was a public sinner and was considered a traitor to the Israelites because he was working on behalf of the Roman Empire.   Because he had to bid and pay a large sum to acquire his job, he had to exact higher taxes against his fellow Jews to get back his investment plus with staggering interest.

         Let’s take a look at the manner of their praying:  the Pharisee stood up, praised himself and lambasted the Publican.  The Publican standing far off, would not even lift his eyes to heaven, beat his breast saying “O God be merciful to me, a sinner.”  Jesus concluded the parable by saying that the Publican went home reconciled with God but not the Pharisee.   
        The parable gives us an introspection of our personal prayer and public worship.  In our personal prayer, it is not bad to offer to God our acts of piety and all the good works we have done as long as we don’t use them to boast ourselves before God.  When we pray, we praise God not ourselves otherwise we become self-centered and our prayers are abominable.  The Pharisee’s biggest fault was not only the litany of his piety but when he judged himself better and holier than the Publican.  When we pray like the Publican, we acknowledge our nothingness before God.  The theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar calls it un-selfing!  It is in our self-emptying that God is deeply moved as the first reading from Sirach reminds us: “the prayer of the humble pierces the clouds…”

         Is our public worship a display of pharisaical pomposity and arrogance?   As members of our worshiping congregation do we feel proud as if we are pious and devout? Or do we carry the humility of the publican as we un-self ourselves and be filled with the limitless mercy of God.    
        If our prayer and liturgy do not touch the heart of God, it is because we and our congregation still need the prayer of the publican….

Friday, October 18, 2013


Luke 18:1-8

           Why do we have to ask God in prayer when He already knows what we need long before we even prayed?  Does God not hear outright that we have to pray again and again for the same intentions?  The first reading and the gospel this Sunday remind us about the three aspects of prayer: communion, persistence and faith.
         The Gospel of St. Luke is also called the gospel of prayer.  It shows us Jesus as a pray-er!   After a busy day Jesus would always find a time to pray.   Prayer for Jesus was the time to re-connect Himself with the Father and re-charged Himself with the energy from His Father.   In short, prayer was about communion between the Father and Jesus!   In our present language, we call it “bonding moment” or “spending quality time with a loved one”.   We understand it better in terms of relationship.   When we love somebody, we want to spend time with him/her that is why we wish to spend the rest of our lives with our loved ones.  It is one of the longings of the human heart that differentiates us from all other animals.   We just do not belong but we become part of a communion.  The first reading tells us about the power of intercession.   Moses acted as an intercessor for the Israelites; he was a pray-er for them.  As long as his hands were lifted up in prayer, the Israelites were winning the battle against the Amalekites so that Aaron and Hur held up his arms until sunset and defeated the enemies.   This is called intercessory prayer when somebody acts as a mediator on behalf of a person who is in need.   We see this in the celebration of the Mass when the priest raises his arms in prayer lifting up the needs of the Church gathered in the Eucharist.    It is also a powerful gesture of the priest as if embracing the congregation like a father uniting his gathered children in prayer.  This is the reason why we pray for each other because in the power of communion, we are each other’s mediators!   Jesus is our mediator par excellence before God our Father.
         The second aspect of prayer is persistence as shown in the parable of the unjust judge and the widow.   If the judge who was unjust could give justice to the widow because of her annoying persistence, how much more with God who is merciful and just?    God is not deaf that we have to pray again and again for the same intention.  More often in the many times that we keep coming back to God, we are able to purify our intentions, we become closer to Him and we become more humble.  
         The third aspect of prayer is faith.  Prayer is an act of faith!   Whenever we pray, we believe that God hears us although sometimes He delays or answers us in a different way.  Parents will have to delay a gift being asked by their child knowing the best time when it should be given.  Sometimes  they do not give in to what the child wants knowing it is harmful but rather give the child what they thought is best for him!   Because God is the Father who knows the best for His children, we just have to believe that our prayers will be answered in the appropriate time or in the manner which is best for us.  
         To those who do not lose heart in prayer become winners because the prayer of the humble  melts the heart of God!