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Saturday, March 30, 2013


John 20:1-9

        During His Passion, Jesus offered the absolute and ultimate sacrifice.  He was the High Priest who offered Himself as the Victim on the cross.  The Resurrection is the seal of God the Father as He accepted, sanctified and transformed the sacrifice of His Beloved Son.  The sacrifice gave birth to New Life by raising His Son from the dead.   Easter is the reward of the Father for the unwavering obedience of His Son; in the future, it will  also be the gift of God to all His children so that henceforth we are called an Alleluia People living the Resurrection life!
         Through sensus fidelium (sense of faith), we believe that the Lord first appeared to His Blessed Mother after the resurrection although the Scriptures is silent  on this.  Because the Resurrection is an historical fact, the evangelists needed people to testify to the event who were not blood-related to Jesus.
         The certainty of the resurrection is not totally based on the empty tomb which was only a sign, but rather to the apparitions of the Risen Christ. These resurrection appearances enkindled in the apostles and the believers the belief in the Risen Christ.  One of the earliest traditions is the appearance to Mary Magdalene who visited the tomb early in the morning of Sunday not to greet a Risen Christ but to anoint the  corpse of Jesus.  When she saw the stone had been moved away from the tomb she went to Peter and John to report the incident; they went in to investigate the empty tomb. Because of his youth, John outrun Peter and reached the tomb first but it was Peter who first went inside the tomb for the first time being the head of the apostles and found the linens inside the tomb.  Between the two, it was John who first believed in the Resurrection.
A religion has to answer the basic ontological question: Where do you take my life after death?The resurrection is the central mystery of the Christian faith.  It gives us a reason to hope.  Unlike the founders of other religions, Christ  assures us after our death: I will raise you up and I will bring you home...
        Two thousand years after the resurrection, we celebrate it not just as a commemoration of  an historical event but rather a re-living of a memorial.  We may not be privileged to have actually encountered the Risen Christ like the early disciples but we believe that we form a “continuum of the resurrection story”.  We are the new witnesses of the resurrection in the present time through our faith in the Risen Christ. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013


  The triumphal entry is recorded in the four gospels.  Although the four evangelists have their own peculiarities, they all agreed that the people welcomed Jesus as the king of Israel. In 2 Sam 6:14-16, David, girded with linen ephod, was dancing when he brought the ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem while the people of Israel where shouting with the sound of the trumpet.  Jesus was not just the new David who entered Jerusalem this time but he was also the personification of the Covenant. Jesus did not dance like David but rode instead on a donkey that had never been ridden.  It was the fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 “Your king comes to you triumphant and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt…”
 When the people welcomed him as king, it was the only time that Jesus let himself be celebrated by the people.  In fact according to Luke (19:39-40), when the Pharisees said to Jesus to stop his disciples, Jesus replied “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”  The entrance of Jesus is not just about him being the King of Israel but also the coming of the Kingdom being himself the Kingdom-personified.  We call this in Greek as auto-basileia. The hosanna and the benedictus by the people were sung before Jesus went to the cross.
According to John, Jerusalem was filled with people not just because of the festival of the Passover but because the people who witnessed the raising of Lazarus went to meet him (Jn. 12:17-18).  Jesus’ popularity during that time made everyone wanting to see him in person.
The people although welcomed Jesus in great jubilation did not understand the meaning of the event.  Even Jesus’ disciples did not understand it either as commented by John (12:16) because the fuller understanding will be made manifest in the light of Easter.  Because of this lack of understanding, the people’s hosanna and benedictus will later be turned into angry cries that long for Jesus’ death: “Crucify him!”
The triumphal entry was like a homecoming of a hero just like in our times.  True enough, it was the homecoming of Jesus to the city which had suffered so much pain and witnessed enough blood shed.  We can see it as Jesus’ way of conquering Jerusalem which will later reject him and throw him out to be crucified outside the city walls.  The conquer was not through might and power but pain and suffering being represented by the donkey he was riding on which was a beast of burden. 
The entry to Jerusalem was Jesus’ entry to his own death as a consequence of his "yes' to the Father.  This all happened during the Passover Festival when the lambs were being offered in the temple in Jerusalem.  The irony was that Jesus as the Lamb of God will be offered not in the temple but in Golgotha, the mountain of skulls. Indeed the triumphal feeling given by the people was short lived because the true triumph is not to be found in the temple sacrifice but on the sacrifice of the cross; the true triumph is not in Jerusalem the earthly city but in the heavenly Jerusalem. That is why Jesus died outside Jerusalem.
When we say "yes" to follow Jesus, we will follow him even if it means entering Jerusalem with him. 

Friday, March 15, 2013



John 8:1-11

The opening statement of our gospel this Sunday “Jesus went to the Mount of Olives” reminds us of the prophecy of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 11:22-23) that the glory of the Lord ascended on Mount of Olives. “At daybreak Jesus appeared in the Temple again” tells us that Jesus was like a breaking dawn manifesting his glory.   When Solomon became corrupt, he built on the Mount of Olives idolatrous temples which were destroyed by Josiah.  That place was also known as the Hill of Corruption (2 Kings 23:13-14).  This becomes our background in the story of the woman caught in adultery.

The scribes and Pharisees used the woman caught in adultery to trap Jesus: if Jesus freed the woman, He would be against the law of Moses which legitimizes the stoning of a person caught in adultery.  On the other hand, if Jesus condemned the woman by stoning to death, He would be against His teaching on love and compassion.  In this dilemma, either which way Jesus would be a loser.  But He had a way of dealing with justice and mercy.

“Jesus bent down and started writing on the ground with his finger” was first the response of Jesus.  Because they insisted to ask Him, he straightened up and said to them “Let anyone of you who has no sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  For the second time, “He bent down again and continued writing on the ground.”  What did Jesus write on the ground?  There have been many speculations on the possible things that Jesus wrote on the ground but the scriptures does not tell us what they were.  Maybe the more important question to ask is “Why did Jesus write on the ground and why did He use His fingers in writing?  The answer to these questions will help us understand why the Jews went away, one by one, starting from the elders without stoning the woman to death.   The key to understand the actions of Jesus: bending and writing twice lies in the Old Testament.  Moses stayed in Mt. Horeb with God for forty days and received the two tablets of the Ten Commandments written by the finger of God.  The Israelites became weary and made a molten calf which they worshipped as their god.  In their idolatry, the people sinned against God (Ex. 32).  In anger, Moses threw the two tablets and broke them at the foot of the mountain (Ex 32: 19).  In the course of their journey, God wrote for the second time the law on the new tablets prepared by Moses (Ex. 34).   God was giving them a second chance after they sinned.

When the people saw Jesus wrote for the second time, they saw in Him the God of the Old Testament who wrote twice on the tablets of the law.  They were also reminded of the idolatry not just of their ancestors but most especially their own.   When they realized this, they left without stoning the woman because they knew that they were adulterous as well in their own ways.

When the people were gone, St. Augustine says “Two were left: misery and mercy.”  Jesus in justice acknowledged the sin of the woman: “Where are they? Has no one condemned you?” but He equally proclaimed His mercy: “Neither do I condemn you. Go and do not sin again.”

When we enter into the story and become part of it, who are we?  Are we the adulterous woman in the lowest of the low? Are we the incriminating scribes and Pharisees in our self-righteousness hidden in the pretext of religiosity?  Or are we the crowd with stones in our hands ready to throw to others whom we think are more sinful than us in the guise of justice and piety?

In one way or another, are we not all adulterous before God? Have we not all received a second chance from God?  If we only accept in humility that we are miserable before God, He will reveal His face to us which is the face of mercy. Even if we are the most miserable person in the whole world, God will still embrace us the way He embraces His beloved saints. 
God's mercy is greater than the sum of all our misery and shame.

Saturday, March 9, 2013




Luke 15: 1-32

This parable revolves around three prodigals, namely the two sons who are recklessly wasteful and the father who is extravagantly lavish.  Each of them expresses his prodigality in a very peculiar way creating the tension and the drama which are interwoven into the colourful spectrum of the story.  But it is not just about three individuals in a short soap opera that we usually watch on TV but rather a mirror where we see our relationships with each other and with God.  This is our own parable which shows us how prodigal we are and at the same time the unfathomable mercy and the forgiving love of God our Father.  This is our life’s story with God….

Many exegetes (biblical scholars) say that this parable is a gospel within a gospel because it embodies the whole message of the Good News.  By telling this parable we see Jesus as a master story teller and St. Luke as a writer par excellence.  Henri Nouwen had written a book based on the text of the parable vis-a-vis Rembrandt’s famous painting of the same parable. For Nouwen, the return of the Prodigal Son was also a story of a homecoming.  John Paul II used this parable in his encyclical Dives in Misericordia by showing that the face of God the Father is the face of mercy and that Jesus is the embodiment of God’s mercy.   

In the parable, the father lost his two sons: the younger one by squandering his inheritance through a life of sin while the older one by living a resentful and selfish life.  The father who is the central figure in the story has to contend with the idiosyncrasies of his two sons: one who is outwardly sinful and the other who is inwardly selfish.  The father holds the balance between his two sons through his unconditional love and mercy. The parable shows that both sons are outside the father’s house which means that they are lost and they do not share the father’s joy and dignity.  The father has to welcome both into his house and clothe them once more with honour and dignity.  It is only inside the father’s house that one can be called his beloved child.  Outside his house is nothing but sin and misery. In the parable the father awaits for the return of the younger son and at the same time goes out for the older son and welcomes both back to his home. 

Sin is nothing but leaving the Father’s house which is our rejection of God’s will.  It is expressed in many forms of disobedience, rebellion selfishness as shown to us by the two sons.  In our own prodigality, we squander the gifts of God.  When it happens we destroy not only our identity as God’s children but God’s fatherhood to us as well.  Like the two sons we also feel this misery when this dignity is taken away from us.  God on the other hand becomes “incomplete” because His house is empty without us.   
Jesus became the prodigal son Himself to bring all the prodigal children back to His Father’s house.  When we are lost because of a life of sin and we return back to God again who welcomes us again into His House then this parable has come to life through us.  When we are inside the Father’s house we are whole once again and God’s fatherhood is complete once more.  This is the redemption brought about by Jesus.

Friday, March 1, 2013




Luke 13:1-9


If you have a facebook account, how is your timeline?

Whenever tragedies happen, we never think that the poor victims are sinners being punished by God, nor those who survived are more loved by God than others.  The tsunamis of Japan and the Southeast Asia, the hurricane in Florida, USA, the earthquake in China, the bushfires and floods across Australia and other natural catastrophes around the world did not happen because God wanted to punish the atheists, Buddhists or sinners.  Then why did they happen?  Because they are part of natural law,  they are beyond the control of human power.  When they happen powerful nations such as USA, Japan, China, Australia, etc. become powerless in terms of the loss of lives. But as Christians we see them as God’s signs for the world and for us that life on earth is mortal, fragile and at the same time mysterious.

The parable of the fig tree in the second part of the gospel this Sunday further explains the purpose of life.  Like any other fruit bearing tree, the fig tree is expected to yield its produce otherwise it is good for nothing.   That fig tree is us and we are meant to bear good fruit.  Each one of us is given a timeline on earth.  Unlike non-believers we just do not simply exist or vegetate or else what is the point of living?  As Christians we see life in the context of a faith journey which we call pilgrimage.  From the moment of conception inside our mother’s womb until we lay in our tomb, everything in between is a preparation towards the fullness of life with God.  Because we are on a journey our timeline progresses towards that final goal which is God.


Lent is the time in our life’s journey with the Church when we stop and evaluate ourselves.  This is the moment when we look at our timeline and ask:  “How much have I given back to life in terms of my contribution as a Christian in the history of salvation of which I am part of?  As a member of humanity, how much have I done for the betterment of the world?  Have I loved enough in as much I am loved by God?

This is the fruitfulness that was being asked of the fig tree by the owner of the land it was planted on.  Otherwise if it has not borne any fruit, its uselessness will lead to its doom.  Success for the world is measured by how much power, wealth, security and fame one has gathered.  These are all the temptations of the Devil to Jesus and to us during the First Sunday of Lent.  It is all about the aggrandizement of the self and the deification of the ego.  Even if someone does not commit evil but if he/she does not do good either, his/her timeline is still empty.

Because we are talking about time, it passes by as it exists; it dies away moment after moment until we practically run out of time and before we know it our time is up.  But even if our  timeline loses itself after we pass by it, it leads us to walk towards the future full of hope. This is what Lent is all about, it makes us hope that no matter how useless and fruitless we were at the back of our timeline, there will always be an Easter awaiting ahead of us.