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Friday, August 30, 2013



Luke 14:1.7-14

When we are invited to a party or a special event, don’t we put on our best?   We wear our finest jewelry, the dress we like best, the latest hair style simply because we want to rise to the occasion.  There is nothing wrong in being our best most especially when there is a good reason that calls for it. Under normal circumstance, our place in an event is determined by economic status or affinity to the host.   Those who have more in life are normally secured with the best seats in the gathering most especially when the seating involves a price.    To the world, they are reserved to those who can pay the price and to the VIP’s.     

During a meal with a leading Pharisee, Jesus noticed how everyone wanted to take the places of honour.  He used this particular event to teach His disciples a new ethos of the Kingdom of God in the context of an heavenly banquet.  By telling them a parable, the lesson He wanted to teach them was far from proper social etiquette or table manners.   It was about true humility as the proper disposition of the disciples.

Before God, no one can claim any entitlement simply because everything that we have and are come from Him.   St. Paul reminds us: “What do you have that did no come from God? If you then received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?” (1 Cor. 4:7).   Our very existence and everything therein is God’s gift that we have to acknowledge for to deny the giver of the gift is the rejection of the inherent goodness of life. 

Being followers of Jesus, we are to remain humble in the true sense of the word.   We have to be careful because sometimes our humility is with a hook.  I cannot claim any merit because I have given up my family, my personal dream and a lot of more.  Nor I should not expect that God will reward me just because I practice acts of piety more than other people.  It would be false humility if I chose the least, the last and lowest knowing that God will eventually give me a better lot.  If I have given anything to the Church, I should not use it as a subtle bribe to ask God to reward me.  When I offer mass, pray the rosary or do a novena, it is not because I am asking God something in return.   We may have good intentions but they should not be used to persuade God to give in to what we want after all we have given Him something.  

In the heavenly banquet, the best seats are reserved not only to the great saints but to the least of God’s Kingdom.  It will be given to us not because we merited it but because it is given as the ultimate gift to those who faithfully follow Christ.

The second part of the gospel is not about who to invite in our meals but another Christian ethos in our social relationships which is conditioned by our own biases.   Normally we just limit our acquaintance to our favorite circles like family and friends which is legitimate.   But as followers of Jesus we also have to be open and accessible most especially to the least, marginalized and the unwanted in our society. This might be a difficult thing to do unless we are ready to bring down our biases against others without considering the colour of their skin, the language they speak or other affiliations.   When we celebrate the Eucharist which is the foretaste of the heavenly banquet, there are no more distinctions among us.    In this banquet, all the best seats are reserved to sinners and saints amongst us as if we are members of the royalty.  It is our joy to know that to God we are all VIP’s!

Friday, August 23, 2013



Luke 13:22-30

         Each one of us has goals to achieve, dreams to reach, ambitions to attain, destiny to fulfill.  They shape our consciousness and define our personalities.  The object of our longing becomes the reason of our existence which gives us the drive towards a purpose-driven life.

         Because we are a composite of body and soul, we have material and spiritual longings.   As finite beings we are mortals whose physical existence ends in death and yet at the same time we are also infinite beings because of the immortality of our souls. In Homer’s Iliad, Achilles motivated the Spartans to fight against the Trojans: “Behind the Trojan walls is immortality.”  Like those unknown Spartan soldiers many of us go through the many walls of life in order to achieve immortality in  different forms.  Oftentimes, the price we have to pay is never cheap: sacrifice, discipline, a code of behavior, lifetime training and sometimes even death.

         Salvation is our ultimate goal!   It is the deliverance brought about by Jesus Christ from our sinful existence  towards fullness of life.  The Jews always thought that being the Chosen People of God they would be the only ones to be saved hence the question: “Lord, is it true that only a few people will be saved?”  The answer of Jesus was not about number but the manner of being saved: “Do your best to enter through the narrow door…” Through Baptism we all became members of the Church which is the new People of God.   Like the Jews or members of other religions who believe that membership in their system of belief or cult are assured of redemption, we are also tempted to think that being a Catholic is a sure ticket to heaven.   True enough, we have the Sacraments which are aids to live as good Christians.  But if we keep the grace of the Sacraments only to ourselves and we are not able to channel them for the good of others, they remain empty rituals and without meaning.   We are only sacramentalized but never evangelized!          

         Heaven is not only meant for Catholics; Jesus did not die only for Christians; paradise is not just for martyrs and virgins.  Salvation is universal:  “I am about to come and gather people of every nation and language…” (First Reading: Is. 66:18)  Jesus stretched out His arms on the cross to offer the infinitude of God’s love to all His creatures and to embrace the prostitutes, criminals, adulterers, the unloved sinners and even atheists.   Among the many surprises in heaven is to see people we least expect to be there, including ourselves.

         If our final goal is to be with the ones we love most for the rest of our lives, then this desire is also true to the One who has loved us first.   God has no other longing than for us to be Him  in eternity for the rest of our lives.   But the only way to enter into this timeless existence is through the narrow door!  The narrow door which is the way of the cross is not at all appealing because it entails sacrifice and pain. Many choose the easy way because of the mundane pleasures that continue to allure us.

 Heaven is awaiting for those who enter the narrow door!


Friday, August 16, 2013



Luke 12:49-53

“I have come to bring fire and division!”  Quite unlikely statement from Jesus, the Prince of Peace! It even sounded radical and revolutionary!

A devout Jew, Muslim or Buddhist takes his religion seriously as if it is his life; there is no discrepancy in his way of life and the practice of religion.  It is one!   Sometimes we Christians have the tendency to switch from our religious mode to our daily living.   Some of those who go to mass on Sundays put on their religious hat by entering into a “mass mode” during the liturgy, which is not wrong.  True enough, they feel good during mass when they encounter God in the liturgy.  But after mass as if they take off their religious hat and “go back to the salt mines” to continue living their secular lives.  Worse are those who do not even care to practice their faith and continue living the “vegetating mode”.  

There are numerous symbolisms of fire in the Old Testament, either gentle (such as the pillar of fire that lead the Israelites in the desert by night) or destructive (the fire that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah).   The fire that Jesus wanted to enkindle was more than just a symbol.  It is the inner force which is the presence of the Holy Spirit in the light of the Resurrection.   The death of Jesus left His followers lonely and abandoned; life was bereft of meaning.   During Easter, the resurrected body of Christ shone forth an inner light which signaled the New Creation.  In Genesis light was the first one to be created as an overture of life.  In re-creating creation, Christ was the “new light”, the “new fire” burning the darkness of sin and death to give way to New Life!

Today we are reminded that as followers of Christ, our life should be on fire, not just during “mass mode”, nor during religious moments but in the ordinariness of our lives.   This is the fire of the Holy Spirit… the fire that was burning in the hearts of the two disciples when they met the Risen Christ on the way to Emmaus!  …. the tongues of fire that lodged on the heads of the apostles on Pentecost… the same fire that was given to us when we were baptized.   This burning fire divides those who follow Jesus and those who follow the world! Those who follow Jesus will always have peace in their hearts even in the midst of pain, suffering, persecution and distress.

I was privileged to have joined a group of youth and young professionals from Manila during the recent World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro.   In their “Live Pure Movement” they advocate their fellow youth and other people to live chaste lives.   At the Copacabana Beach during the Vigil with the Pope, I saw these young people responding to the challenge of the Pope “Are you ready to go for a revolution”?  They were in tears as they responded “Yes”!   I was indeed inspired by these radical and revolutionary youth in their love for Jesus.  They are truly on fire! 

When people ask me how am I after I came back from the World Youth, I always say “I am back to earth but I am still in cloud nine.  I am on fire!”

Saturday, August 10, 2013


Luke 12:32-48

         Life is a continuum of waiting!  From the first moment of our existence in our mother’s womb until our last breath, we experience waiting in different forms.   In our everyday life, we spend a lot of waiting: for the right partner to come, for the baby to grow up, for the career-opportunity to arrive, for good weather, the arrival of a friend, etc.   When we wait, there is a time involved and an object of our waiting.   Usually the object of waiting, either someone or a thing, in its absence creates a void in us the arrival of which brings in completion, satisfaction and joy.  On the other hand, failure of the object’s arrival  creates disappointment, disgust and anger.
         In the context of Jesus’ culture, servants perform their duties in the service of their master without any entitlement or remuneration.  In worst scenario, slaves were considered a commodity which can be dispensed, sold and even killed at the discretion of the master.   In other words they live not for themselves but for their master. 
Jesus’ association with His disciples has always been that of Master-servant relationship.   But the difference in our relationship with Jesus is that it hinges on love and communion.  Because of this, as servants we are assured of entitlement not because we deserve it but rather we are loved by Jesus the way He is loved by His Father.    And as His beloved, He calls us His friends.
In the parable the master in his absence had given his servants time and tasks.   Each one is given a timeline, some are short, others long depending on the mission attached therein.  In this timeline, each tick of a second is a gift.  Each one is also given different gifts or resources to be used in fulfillment of the entrusted tasks.   Some are gifted more, some less.  At the end of the parable, it is said that much more will be demanded from the one to whom a great deal has been entrusted.   Then each one has to wait for the master’s return.  This waiting is like no other because the object of the waiting is a “Master of surprises” not only in the sense of the unexpected and unknown time of his arrival but of his astonishing extravagance in reward to the faithful servants who are ready to meet him on his return.  There is a reversal of the social order wherein the master becomes a servant and the servants are served by their master.  
This parable became a reality when Jesus after the Last Supper washed the feet of His disciples.  It was the shock of their lives most especially to Peter to see their Master acting as a servant.
We really do not know how much more time is left in our timeline; it is beyond our control simply because our borrowed time totally depends on God!  One thing is certain though, we do not have the luxury of time to waste away for nothing.   This is also true to all the gifts entrusted to our stewardship.  Everything is given unto us for the purpose to which they are destined, that is for the service of others.
At the end, after having been faithful as servants, we will be rewarded beyond imagining not because we deserve it but because our extravagant Master is also the God of unending surprises!

Friday, August 2, 2013



Luke 12:13-21

To be wise is not just about having the experience and knowledge but to have the right judgment in life.   The rich man in the parable this Sunday might be very practical hence can be called wise in the eyes of the world but in the eyes of God, he was a fool.

One of the deepest longings of each one of us is the desire for security.  It is one of the forces of a purpose-driven life.  It is about our future!   Jesus having assumed human nature fully understands this yearning but He wanted to put it in the right perspective through the Parable of the Rich Fool.

The parable is not just a warning to the materially rich because the man in the parable could be anyone of us.   Just like any ordinary worker who wanted to secure his future through honest work, the man must have worked so hard and thought he deserved to enjoy the fruit of his labor.  There was nothing wrong about it most especially if he did not cheat nor defraud anyone.  What had gone wrong was his motivation wherein need became greed.

The man thought only of himself.  As if his huge success depended only on his efforts, there was no acknowledgment of God.   The first thought that comes into our mind is that the man was a practical atheist.  But this is not just about atheism because there are those who are religious but think the pinnacle of their success depends on themselves.  This forgetfulness of God leads to selfishness as if one’s security relies on the self and everything revolves around it.   Because of this self-aggrandizement, the ego becomes almost an insatiable monster that devours anything to fill up the void of greed.   When somebody withdraws to his own secured shell, one becomes oblivious of the presence of other people who are in need; he also becomes suspicious that others are a threat to his security.   When this happens, a person may be too much secured  and yet feels lonely and terribly unhappy.  There are also those who believe that as long as they don’t harm anybody, they can enjoy their wealth which they deserve; after all they worked hard for it.  Never mind if others are in need; never mind if this is greed! 

Again this is not only about material possessions.  A person may be materially poor and still forgetful of God as if he could improve his lot by totally depending on his own efforts.

So who is truly wise before God?  He is somebody who knows that everything comes from God and sees everything as a blessing.  And because everything is a blessing, it is meant for sharing.  He also makes the right judgment that he is not the one who is in charge of his life no matter how rich or poor he is.  A wise man believes that God is his only security.  He also acknowledges that he is utterly poor before God who owns everything and disposes everything to those whose lives totally depend on Him.

Let us pray:

“Un-self me, O Lord and fill up my nothingness with Your Indwelling.

          Spare me from the folly of believing in my self alone.  

 Strip me of my self-created securities so that in my utter

 nakedness You may clothe me with Your glory.

 Help me understand that in life and in death, I am for

 others and I am totally yours.