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Saturday, June 29, 2013



Luke 9:51-62

      Our human history had given births to charismatic individuals who possessed the spark of wisdom and were followed by their disciples:  Plato, Socrates, Aristotle and other Greek philosophers, Zoroaster, Buddha, Confucius, Mohammad, to name a few.  These were the persons who revolutionized the world and changed the course of world history during their lifetime and even today.  So what is the difference between following them and our following of Jesus? Obviously they were all human beings who tried to offer humanity something greater than life.  We can follow them in their teaching and learn from their wisdom.  But Jesus Christ was the only one who possessed divinity so He could say “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life  (John 14:6).  This is the reason why we are following Jesus.
      “Going up to Jerusalem” was not a simple trek just because Jerusalem was on a higher ground.  It meant a radical decision for Jesus to leave His comfort zones in Galilee in order to enter into the mysterious “project of the Father”.   Jesus being aware of Isaiah’s Suffering Servant of the Old Testament, it meant for Him embracing death and everything contained therein with all its pain and suffering.   Contrary to the tragic irony which was hidden in the eyes of those who participated in the Passion story, Jesus understood it as His glorification.  He deliberately went up to Jerusalem in order to transform it from its pharisaical piety into a heavenly city.   But it came with a price which was His precious life and there was no turning back.
      It was during this somber journey that Jesus laid down the cost of discipleship through the three prospective disciples who wanted to follow Him but with their excuses: 1) Giving up all security in life 2) Detachment from everything, without delay 3) Embracing the uncertainty of the future.
      It may sound daunting and very radical which separates boys from men and many of us from saints.   Does it mean leaving behind families and relations, giving up careers, homelands and material possessions? Many indeed have embraced radicalism in following Jesus through their heroic lives who left everything behind in response to the call.   Others live their ordinary lives in extraordinary ways and yet become catalysts of change.  I am privileged to have friends whom I believe are real saints without them knowing that they are indeed living saints.
       How much radicalism is required to follow Jesus?  What have you given up for Jesus?
       To follow Jesus is a calling for all: kings and beggars, sinners and saints, young and old!  It is a vocation that we continuously respond to as we strive to live the Gospel, each in our own ways.  Each one has to respond generously according to the mission entrusted to him/her by God.  Let us remember that the One we are following had gone up to Jerusalem and we understand what it means “to go up to Jerusalem”.   In following Jesus each step is a trek towards fullness of life only if we are willing to pay the price.   The price is not just those things we give up along the journey, but the treasures awaiting for us at the end.

Friday, June 21, 2013



Luke 9:18-24

Jesus’ question: “Who do you say that I am?” is confronting the way it was to His disciples as it is for us today.  It was not meant to gather information like the way we get for political polls or popularity surveys.   It was neither a test to measure up  cognitive knowledge the people and the disciples had about Jesus.
The people had different understanding of who Jesus was based on the way they perceived Him to be: as John the Baptist, Elijah or one of the prophets.   But when the question was addressed to the disciples in a more personal way, it was Peter who spoke on behalf of the band: The Messiah of God!”   Peter of course did not understand what he had just spoken because it was a direct revelation from God the Father to him otherwise he was completely innocent of the meaning of his words.    Although there was a very strong messianic longing during that time, the people had a different understanding of what the Christ would be.  The disciples were no different from the rest of the Israelites in longing for a political messiah who would give them freedom from the Roman rule and bring an end to their poverty.   Jesus had to dispel that wrong notion by explaining to them that the Christ and the cross are one, that the Messiah would bring about a different salvation through His death and resurrection. 
To those who were following Him, Jesus laid down the cost of discipleship: to embrace a life of self-denial and the cross.  Take it or leave it!
Fulton Sheen said that the West wants a Christ without the cross while the East wants a cross without Christ.   With the affluence of the West, who would want to embrace the suffering and pain of the cross?   With the poverty of the East, who would want to follow a poor Christ?  Where do we stand here?
It is easy to profess our faith in Christ but when we are confronted with the reality of the cross in its different forms, that is another story.    Like Peter, we may claim Jesus as our Savior, Messiah and Lord which is as easy as eating pie, but what if Jesus brings us to the cross to be crucified with Him?   Some may protest: “But why would He do that?  If God loves me why should I be in pain?”   Nobody really knows why but we continue to trust and believe in God even if we do not understand.
One is certain in the mystery of the cross: the heart of God bleeds with us when we are in pain and if we are united with Him, He will make sure that our suffering will not go to waste.   When our struggles and hardships are sanctified in the hands of God they become sacrifice!

“We are the victims offering our blood
Poured forth as a living libation
Until it flows to the sea of eternity
Surrendered lives in the pool of oblation
Where we become just one drop of sacrifice
In the grandeur of the sacred waters…..”

                         (The Friendship River, 2010)

Friday, June 14, 2013



Luke 7:36 - 8:3

How do we measure our love for God?   Can it be quantified by size, amount or degree of any instrument or standard? 

David was the greatest king Israel could ever have and yet he was a sinner, adulterous and a murderer.   His greatness lies in the immensity of his heart that could accept his utter nothingness and sinfulness before God.   In return he loved God like no other Israelite king for the rest of his life. 

The woman in the gospel this Sunday is also an epitome of greatness despite her sinfulness in the sight of a judging, unfriendly and restraining society.   Her bold actions which almost subverted the established norm of her time caught the attention of the Pharisees.   As she wept she wet Jesus’ feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.  Such boldness and fearlessness to express her enormous and overflowing gratitude!  Why would she do that in the sight of a community that condemned her sinfulness?   Where did she get such courage to express herself openly in an unforgiving male-dominated world?   She did all that because she was first loved and was forgiven by Jesus!  She was not justified by what she did but by what Jesus had done to her in a previous experience of love and forgiveness.  Now was the opportune time to give back to Jesus.  But it was not just a simple “paying off” in expressing her love and generosity.  She exposed herself openly to risk, rejection and contempt in the sight of  pretenses and righteousness of the Pharisees.   In appreciation of what she did, the four evangelists immortalized her in the four gospels although she was unknown by name.

When we come as an individual believer and as a community of Jesus’ disciples in the Eucharistic celebration,  how much do we express our generosity?  We look up to David and the woman in the gospel as models of overflowing generosity.  Like them we are all sinners in varying degrees.  And like them, we too are also beneficiaries of the mercy and forgiveness of God.

  We come to the Eucharist in order to acknowledge our need for forgiveness.  In the beginning of the mass, we are reminded of our state of unworthiness so we beat our breasts as we say we are sorry to God and to each other.  We confess that we are sinners like the rest of the congregation and ask each one present to pray for us.  We bring down our pretenses and righteousness in humility knowing that we are no better than anyone else in the community.  We open our vulnerability before the forgiven and forgiving community.

We come to the Eucharist like the woman in the gospel, everyday and especially on Sundays, as an expression of our gratitude to God like a beggar towards his/her benefactor.   Before the feet of our Master, like the woman in the gospel we boldly express our love to Jesus through our active, full and conscious participation in the liturgical actions of the mass.  

In the sight of a super-generous God, we humbly accept that everything we have and are come from Him. 

Should we not be forgiving to others just as we are forgiven?  Should we not be givers just as we are all receivers of the gifts we have?

Friday, June 7, 2013




Luke 7: 11-17

         Does God ever care when we are in pain?  Can He feel our sorrow?  What does He do when we are grieving?

         In the Gospel this Sunday, there were two movements, namely the people walking through a funeral procession and the disciples following Jesus.   One was a death march represented by the corpse, the other was a walk of life represented by Jesus.   The funeral group symbolized humanity carrying death advancing through history while the disciples of Jesus were a symbol of the New Humanity celebrating life.  In these two movements, life and death came face to face with each other with life achieving victory at the end.

         Jesus was moved with compassion, not on the dead son, but on the mother who was also a widow just like Elijah on the widow in the first reading.   For Jesus, it was not ordinary pity but a compassion that moved Him to the very depths of His being.  Without being asked of any favor, Jesus Himself took the initiative to reach out because one day He would also be a dead son to His mother.   Before attending to her dead son, Jesus first comforted the widow saying “Do not cry.”   Without minding the social taboo of incurring impurity, Jesus touched the bier.   Suddenly the death march stopped in the presence of Life!  Jesus said “Young man, I tell you, get up!”  The power of the Word commanding, re-creating life once again.   As most of the stories of St. Luke, the twist and surprise of this story was not the raising of the dead but Jesus giving back the son to his mother.    Jesus knew one day His mother would grieve over His death but at the end, He would be given back to Her alive!

         No parents would want to bury their children!  Parents who have experienced the loss of their children could easily identify themselves with the widows in the readings today.   God the Father fully understands the feeling of parents losing their children when He lost His only begotten Son!   He experienced every inch of the pain, the grieving, the sorrow and everything there is in death.

         The God who created us is not stoic and indifferent like the pagan gods who did not  feel the emotions of people. God through Jesus has entered into the very fiber of human feelings and emotions.  Jesus is the personification of the compassion of God! 

When we are walking in a “death march” because of the loss of someone very dear to us or when we are grieving over our own dying to self, God meets on the way and cries with us but most especially He comforts us and gives our life back to us.  Our “death marches” stop in the presence of Jesus and we continue to journey through life by following Him….