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Saturday, April 27, 2013




John 13:31-33.34-35

     LOVE is probably the most used, abused and misused word to which we attach different meanings!   Benedict XVI’s first encyclical “Deus Caritas Est” (God is Love) teaches us many things about love.  We say love to mean a lot of things.  We say: “I love my father, mother, brothers, sisters, my friends”, etc.  We also say  “I love my pet;  I love ice cream; I love my clothes and gadgets; I love my country;  I love the weather; I love my home, garden, room”, etc.   We use the word “love” when we refer to a feeling of affection towards almost anything.   In the truest sense of the word, we can only love a fellow human being because love involves a personal relationship with another person.  Maybe we still need to invent another word other than love to refer to our feeling towards other objects and things. 

In “Deus Caritas Est” there are three kinds of human love based on the Scriptures: eros (erotic love), philia (love of friendship) and agape (love of God). 

On the night before Jesus died, he left us  a new commandment: “Love one another”.  One might think that there is nothing new with it because we already love other people in different ways and in varying degrees.  It is because loving is  a natural appetite that we share in common as human beings, regardless of religion and race.  The novel thing with Jesus’ new commandment is the basis of loving:  “Just as I have loved you.”  Now that is radical and almost explosive!   Whereas before, we use ourselves as the standard of loving others “Love your neighbor as you love yourself”, this time the new standard is Jesus’ love for us. 

This new commandment of love transcends feeling, affection and affinity.  I love you not just because you are lovable, because you are attractive, because you are my family or friend or because you love me, too.  My loving now hinges on the love of Jesus to me:  I will love you the way I am loved by Jesus.  I will love you because of my love for Jesus.  This kind of love finds it expression between Mary and John on the cross.  Mary loved Jesus.  John loved Jesus.  Their love for Jesus brought them together beneath the cross.  This was the birth of the Church:  when strangers who in their common love of Jesus come together and form a communion of love.   This is also the basis of those who enter a religious order or congregation: they come together out of their love for Jesus by living a common life based on that love.  That does not mean they give up loving.  They still love but not anymore the natural the love of husband and wife but a supernatural love for others founded on Jesus.

Since this Christian love is not based on affection, feeling or affinity, then we can love another person even if we do not like him/her.  We can love other people from different faiths and cultures and even strangers.  This is the love that surpasses boundaries and transcends even time and space.

This new commandment of love is expressed in the concrete acts of good works towards others.  Charity is love in action. We cannot say we love God without expressing that love in uplifting the lives of the poor, helping the marginalized, fighting justice for the oppressed and consoling the outcast. 

Christian's love is radical. It is a call: to break our hearts for the sake of those we love and to continue loving despite our broken hearts


Friday, April 19, 2013




John 10:27-30

The fourth Sunday of Easter is the Good Shepherd Sunday.  The key to the understanding of Jesus as the Good Shepherd is found in the Old Testament.  From the very beginning, Israel lived in a pastoral civilization through their patriarchs.  This relationship between God and Israel was reflected in the metaphor of the relationship between the shepherd and his sheep: “He is our God and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides” (Ps. 95:7).  The shepherd is both a leader and companion, defending the flock from wild beasts and from robbers: “Like a shepherd he feeds his flock, he gathers the lambs in his arms, carrying them carefully in his heart, leading them home” (Ps. 40:11).   God elected leaders and entrusted his flock to them as shepherds like Moses, Aaron.  David was the best example because he was a real shepherd before he was made the ruler and king of Israel.

         But because of their weaknesses and iniquities, these shepherds have been unfaithful so God promised that he himself will take the flock in his hands and will provide a shepherd according to his heart (Jer. 3:15).  There will only be one shepherd who was the new David: “I will appoint one shepherd to pasture them, my servant David; he will pasture them and be their shepherd” (Ez. 34:23).  

Jesus is the promised good shepherd.  Jesus said; “My sheep listen to my voice and I know them.”   There is an intimate relationship between the shepherd and the sheep because of the time they spend together.  The shepherd knows his sheep and they know his voice.   If a hired shepherd or an impostor tries to call the sheep, because there is no connectedness, there is no way they will listen to him.   What an awesome reality that Jesus the Good Shepherd knows each one of us personally, as St. Augustine says: “more than we know ourselves.”   Because we belong to the fold, our task being His sheep is to listen to His voice.  This listening is not just about hearing someone’s voice but unwavering attentiveness and obedience. The word “obedience” comes from the Latin “ab audire” which means to listen to.  Christ extended the shepherding to the ordained ministers  of the Church. We see this reality in the hierarchy of the Church wherein we call our shepherds as pastors namely the Pope, the bishops and the priests. It is by following the shepherds that Christ continues to lead the sheep into the fullness of life which is eternal life.

These shepherds lead us into green pastures and enough water which we experience through the Eucharist.   When we come together most especially in the Eucharistic assembly, we manifest the reality of our relationship with Jesus as our shepherd represented by the priest.  Jesus continues to feed His flock in the green pasture of the Eucharist where we eat His body and drink His blood.  When we gather to celebrate the sacraments, the sheepfold becomes a reality once again in our fellowship and communion with each other together with our shepherd.

We are also called to shepherd each other: parents shepherding their young children; children shepherding their old parents; friends shepherding those in their circle; teachers shepherding their students, etc.  If ever we are given the authority towards others, it is not to crown ourselves with worldly power but rather a call to mission.  This mission finds expression in service to others.  
If the shepherd is ready to give up his life for his sheep, as shepherds are we ready to die for the sake of our fellow sheep?  If yes, then our fellowship finally finds its true meaning!

Saturday, April 6, 2013




John 20:19-31

After the crucifixion and death of Jesus, His disciples thought that the cause of their Master was a total failure.  They were in the state of shock and fear; they never understood yet the meaning of the events.  Like a team that experienced the loss of their greatest game, they felt so disgraced and defeated so they hid themselves behind locked doors.  It was in this most depressing situation that the Risen Christ appeared.  The first thing he said to them was “Peace be with you.”   The Lord took away their fears and gave them peace.  He had to show them the signs of His Passion: His wounded side and hands to ascertain that the Crucified Jesus was now the Glorified Christ!

The Risen Christ did not just greet them and give them peace but empowered them as well with the gift of the Mission:  “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.”  Suddenly the “losers” were now transformed into victors. With this empowerment, the apostles received the power and authority from the Holy Spirit confirming them as the first ecclesiastical leaders: the first priests and bishops of the Catholic Church.

While the other apostles were shrouded with fear, Thomas on the other hand was full of doubt.   He refused to believe in the Risen Christ and he needed some empirical proofs that can be verified by the external senses: to see is to believe.  When he stretched out his hands to feel the fresh wounds of  the side of Christ, he uttered his irrevocable profession of faith; “My Lord and my God.”  Jesus proclaimed “You believe because you see me.  Blessed are those who believe although they have not seen.”

Fear and doubt! These are the poisons that cripple those who live outside the resurrection.   Just like the apostles prior to the resurrection, our lives without our experience of the Risen Christ are surrounded by many forms of fear.   Human as we are, in our weakness we have all the reasons to be afraid of as we confront the uncertainties of life: poverty, tragedies, sickness, depression, failures, etc.   Like the apostles, we also cringe in the deepest recesses of our fears.  In moments of doubt we are not certain to believe because of the seemingly absence of God:  when life seems but a series of suffering and pain; when we have nothing to hold on to; when there is no light at the end of the tunnel and when there is almost nothing left to hope for. 

The Church is at her best when she is totally poor, naked and abandoned because she, as the bride of Christ, best resembles her groom.  Like the Church, as disciples of Jesus, we become closest to God in our absolute nothingness because it is when we best resemble our Master.   In the midst of this emptiness, Jesus gives us fullness of life.   This is what peace is all about: when our life is in perfect harmony with God, with ourselves, with others and with the world. 

 Even today, the resurrection stories continues. The Risen Christ continues to show Himself to the many doubting Tomases around us. The Risen Christ reveals Himself to us through a friend, a neighbor, a stranger.   In this way, the Easter journey continues through us….