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Friday, February 28, 2014



Matthew 6:24-34

Because we were born into an anxiety-driven world, we have to grapple with the attacks of stress every moment of our lives.   We worry about almost everything including the fact that we worry about our worrying.  How do we stop then from worrying and start living?  In an attempt to cope with anxiety, many have set up multi-billion dollar empires and businesses offering us medicines and ways  towards a stress-free world.  Some turn to meditation hoping to control one’s consciousness through techniques that lead to quiet and tranquility.  Those who are not able to cope enter into depression and not finding light at the end of tunnel many commit suicide as the last recourse.

Jesus in our gospel gives us the Christian perspective in coping with anxiety. He brings us back to our true identity, being children of God.  If God can provide the needs of other living things, how much more of His children?  Plants and animals follow their instincts in the rule of the jungle which is survival of the fittest.    In the modern jungles of humanity, we are beset with anxiety for our own survival.   If our parents know how to provide the needs of our families, how much more of Our Father who will provide the needs of His children.  Jesus reminds us that we are worth more than the sparrows and the lilies in the field.

Relying on the providence of God does not mean passivity or being unconcerned because we might be tempted to think “I don’t have to do anything, anyway God is there and He will provide”.  The other extreme would be to do everything on our own as if we don’t need God’s help.  This has been the belief of those who do not embrace any religion because of self-sufficiency.  The deification of the self has always been the aim of those who think they can keep up with life even without any relationship with God.

The extraordinary story of Dr. Richard Teo, a cosmetic surgeon from Singapore stunned the world. He was very anxious about his life so he strived to be better than the rest until he achieved fortune and fame.   Truly a remarkable example of a man who built up his personal empire without God. At the age of 40 he was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer.   His famous words: “I cannot embrace my Ferrari”  were a testimony that no luxury nor wealth can add a bit to one’s life towards the end.  Before he died, he realized that he needed only one thing in life: God!

As Christians, there is only one thing we should worry about:  to lose God!  With God, we can do everything.  With God we can have everything more than we can ever imagine.

A nice book by Dale Carnegie "How to Stop Worrying and Start Living" is a good read but let this beautiful poem of St. Theresa of Avila be our prayer when we start worrying:


       Let nothing disturb you;
             All thing pass;
             God never changes.

             Patience attains
             All that it strives for.
             He who has God
             Finds he lacks nothing:
             God alone suffices.

Friday, February 21, 2014


Matthew 5:38-48

       In his autobiography (now a major motion picture) “Long Walk to Freedom”, Nelson Mandela wrote:  I know that my country was not made to be a land of hatred.  No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin.  People learn to hate.  They can be taught to love for love comes more natural to the human heart.”  It came from the heart of a man who was imprisoned for 21 years fighting for freedom for South Africa.
       In his speech “I Have a Dream” Martin Luther King Jr says “There will be no permanent solution to the race problem until oppressed men develop the capacity to love their enemies.   The darkness of racial injustice will be dispelled only by the light of forgiving love…”
When an evil thing is done against us, our natural tendency is to feel angry and if anger is not handled well, it is turned into hatred which spirals into thoughts of revenge and retaliation.  When our hearts become bitter, it is obsessed with vindication and we want to get even if we are wronged.  But there is the Christian way out of the vicious cycle of evil that continue to beset us and that is the way of love. The message of Jesus is quite radical and revolutionary because it challenges the deep seated nature of humanity and brings it back to that state it was created for.   Gandhi, another champion of non-violence once said that if the world follow the rule of eye for an eye, then everyone will be blind; to follow the rule of tooth for a tooth, then everyone will be toothless. 
       Why do we have to love our enemies and pray for those who do evil things to us? Because there is nothing extraordinary in loving those who love us and in doing good to those who are good to us.  We love our enemies because we used to be God’s enemies and yet He still loves us; we also do good things to those who are bad to us because God still gives us His blessings even if we were bad to Him.  When we love our enemies and do good to bad people, we return the favour to God for loving us in spite of our sinfulness.
In the same manner to forgive those who have wronged us is not easy as eating pie.  Many people choose not to forgive for some reasons only known to them.   They continue to harbor grudges and nurse hatreds for a long time; some even carried them to the graves. Only those who have experienced forgiveness from God are able to translate the same forgiveness to others.  The arteries of an unforgiving heart are blocked by hatred hence unable to breathe life and is susceptible to cardiac arrest.   To forgive is like having an open heart surgery, giving the heart another chance to live and love. 
To walk another mile, to turn the other cheek, to give our cloak: these are examples of transforming our nature from human to divine.  Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr and Gandhi showed the world that it is possible to follow the way of Christ because it is only love that can give birth to love.    The Filipino people during the EDSA Revolution in 1986 proved to the world that peaceful revolution is possible in breaking the vicious cycle of violence and oppression. 
To be perfect just like our Father in heaven is not about ontological perfection which is being without defects; it is not sinlessness which are impossible ideals for us to achieve.  To be perfect is rather becoming whole and undivided in spite of our imperfection, woundedness and brokenness.  What distinguishes us from the other animals is our capacity to go beyond our nature because we just don’t simply live.  What distinguishes the Christians from the rest of humanity is our ability to love and forgive in a culture of hatred and violence.

Friday, February 14, 2014



Matthew 5:17-37

There is not a country, religion, organization or agencies without laws.   Law does not only give order to keep the stability of the institution but also the right direction in bringing that institution to its vision.

In the beginning of Judaism, the Jews received the laws from God through the hands of the prophets.   The core of the Judaic Law called the Torah was laid down throughout the first five books of the Old Testament called The Pentateuch.  But the compendium of all these laws is the Ten Commandment which is most sacred not just to the Jews but to Christians as well.   Although these laws came from God they were written down and interpreted by men.  During the first stage of their development, God made allowances for the rough morality of the Jews hence their unpolished mentality as regards the law.   It was like a teething period, a breaking in as the laws were being introduced to them therefore God conceded to some practices such as divorce and many others.

Along the years, the Jews followed the law but only through a legalistic approach.   One’s piety was measured according to the fulfillment of the legal prescription of the law.  You are okay with God as long as you don’t break the laws.

Jesus in in our gospel this Sunday, announced  revolutionary statements which did not just disturb the status quo of Judaism but a new way of looking or interpreting the Mosaic Law: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them.”   Before Jesus, no one had ever said such radical proclamation in putting himself above the law.   Jesus proclaimed that He was the completion and the perfection of the Mosaic Law.  

Maybe some of us will ask the relevance of this gospel who may not even know the details of the Mosaic Law other than the Ten Commandments.   As the new People of God, we continue the journey of the Israelites  in the context of our being members of the Church.  And since the Church follows the laws which had been handed down to us from the Jews to the Apostles, we follow the spirit of the law as we see in the person of Jesus.  Christian life is more than just the fulfillment of the prescription of the law but the love of God and justice to others.  Our relationship with God is not based in fear but rather in love.  Of course we try as much as possible not to offend God in our actions but true piety does not depend only in our avoidance in doing evil.   This was the pitfall of the Jews: they followed the law out of fear by avoiding evil.   The law is the voice of God who loves us so we follow the law because it is our expression of loving God in return.  In loving God we likewise avoid anything that would displease Him but more so in our acts of justice and charity towards others.

If we go to Sunday mass only to fulfill an obligation otherwise we commit a grave sin, we do it only in getting by with the law.  We are no different with the Jews who wanted only to follow the law out of fear.   We go to Sunday mass because it is an expression of  our love for God together with the Christian community through the acts of the liturgy.   After encountering God in the liturgy, then we are empowered to do justice to others and “to break bread” with those in need through our acts of charity.

When we are able to do this, following the commandments of God will not be a burden but a happy expression of our love for God.

Friday, February 7, 2014



Matthew 5:13-16

         There is a story of a salt man who set on a journey in wanting to understand who he was.  After a long search at last he saw the beach.  The sea shouted at him: “You will understand yourself only if you embrace me.”  Following such familiar voice, the salt man hurried excitingly towards the beach and embraced the sea. Before he totally melted, he cried out “I am.”  

         The matchsticks were talking with each other in the darkness of the matchbox.  They wanted to understand who they were and at the same time very eager to know the world outside the matchbox.  Once in a while somebody would open up the box and would get one of them out.  Until one day, one burnt stick was returned back to the box and announced to everyone the reality outside the box and what had happened to it.  Because of that, the matchsticks became so eager to experience the same.

You are the salt of the earth; you are the light of the world!”  This was a proclamation of our identity and mission as disciples of Jesus.

         Salt and light! Two seemingly insignificant things yet undoubtedly they play very important roles in the lives of peoples.  When these two metaphors were accorded to us as disciples of Jesus, they became symbolic declaration of our place in the history of salvation.  Each one of us, no matter how humble our status in life is, has a great significance with such profound influence in the world we live in.   Often times we are unnoticed and yet our presence becomes a catalyst of change amongst those whom we come in contact with.   As light we are challenged to shine and to even spark revolutions in overthrowing the status quo of darkness that threatens the very dignity of life.   As salt, we are meant to share our lives in opposing the culture of death.

         In order for salt and light to dispense their mission, they have to lose themselves in the process.  When Jesus declared Himself as the light of the world, He knew that He had to give up his life in the process of sharing His light.   The oil in a lamp had to give up itself as it transforms into a beautiful light; the wax in a candle had to melt in order to shine.   The Christian life is a constant giving of self to others which is a faithful witnessing of how Jesus gave up His life to humanity.  When the secular world teaches us to be takers and sometimes even as hoarders for the sake of our survival, Jesus urges us to be givers for the survival of others.   While others concentrate in the pain of letting go of someone/something precious in one’s life, we embrace the joy of having shared a part of ourselves and extended our lives to others.   We are not afraid to share because everything we have is just being shared to us from the providence of others and God.

The salt and the lamp are useless unless they melt and shine.   And when our light is shining, it is not to glorify ourselves as if the world is indebted to us that it should give us back the accolade and praises.  The ultimate honor belongs to God; we can only be grateful to Him for giving us our wax and oil to share and shine….

Saturday, February 1, 2014


Luke 2:22-40

The Christian tradition of the feast of the presentation is synonymous with the Festival of Light. Rightly so because when Jesus was brought to the temple, He was presented as the Light to the nations through the lips of the prophet Simeon.

As faithful Jewish parents, Joseph and Mary presented Jesus in the temple in obedience to what was prescribed in the Mosaic law, that the firstborn sons belong to the Lord: “Consecrate to me every firstborn that opens the womb among the Israelites” (Ex. 13:2).  Just like any other ordinary firstborn sons, Jesus was bought back by His parents through a simple offering, although Jesus as the Son of God did not need to be redeemed.  The presentation of Jesus also coincided with the purification of Mary since a Jewish mother who had just given birth was considered ritually impure and needed purification in the temple. Even if Mary was undefiled being the Immaculate Conception, she still underwent the ritual purification as prescribed by the Mosaic law. With Mary presenting herself and Jesus in the temple, She is also considered in Christian tradition as "Our Lady of Light".  With this understanding, we bring candles in the church today to be blessed by the priest.

The prophecy of Simeon in our gospel this Sunday is called "Nunc Dimittis" which literally means "I can die now".  It completes the four canticles in the Infancy Narrative by St. Luke the others being the Magnificat of Mary, Benedictus of Zechariah and Gloria in Excelsis Deo of the angels.  Simeon in his song became the spokesperson of those who had been waiting for the Messiah especially in the Old Testament. He spoke about the fulfillment of all the prophecies which he himself had seen in the person of the little child being offered by the parents.  He described  Jesus as the long awaited the Savior and the Light who will reveal the hearts of people.  

Simeon prophesied the destiny and mission of Jesus, that He would be a sign to be contradicted and that Mary would share in the destiny of her Son through a sword that would pierce her heart.  Henceforth this spiritual sword would never leave Mary, always looming to pierce her heart like the sword of Damocles hanging by a single hair over his head.

Mary and Joseph never considered themselves different as compared to ordinary Jews; they never demanded any special treatment.  Mary knew right away that her motherhood was not just a privilege but a mission with the cross.

When our parents brought us to Church for our baptism, they offered us to God to be consecrated.  Although it may be different with the Jewish law, we were also “bought back” not with any other offering but by the sacrifice of Jesus.  The day we were presented to the temple for our baptism, henceforth we belong to God.  With our baptism, we were also given a mission and destiny to fulfill.   Our parents do not only have the responsibility to raise us as good Christians but should help us in the fulfillment of our destiny and mission in life.