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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.