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Saturday, June 28, 2014



Today we celebrate the two pillars of the Church and acknowledge their contribution to the gospel and historical narrative of which we are part. Two men coming from totally different backgrounds yet were called for a common mission and were drawn with the same passion towards the Church.

Let's take a look at a brief portrait of these two saints.  St. Paul, a faithful Jew, highly educated and a leading Pharisee, did not experience Jesus in the flesh but rather the resurrected Christ. In his passion to defend his former religion of Judaism, he persecuted Christians until he encountered Christ on the  way to Damascus.  After his conversion, he became the Apostle to the Gentiles and preached the Good News to the world.  He established the first early Christian communities and wrote almost a third of the New Testament books of the Bible.

Peter, formerly called Simon, was an ordinary fisherman, married and most probably not well educated.  He was appointed by Jesus the first pope of the universal church: "You are Peter, and upon this "rock" I will build my Church." He also received the divine authority and power: "I shall give you the keys of the Kingdom, whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven, whatever you bind on earth will be considered bound in heaven."   But the journey of Peter did not come easy, because as an ordinary man like many of us, he was weak, impulsive and arrogant. Let's take a look at two incidents in the life of Peter which showed his raw humanity: 1. When he saw Jesus walking on the water, he wanted to do the same.  Gazing on Jesus  he started to walk on the water, too but when he looked at the strong waves and winds, he began to sink.  Jesus held him by the hands and pulled him up and said to him "You man of little faith." 2. After Jesus was arrested, when a girl thought that Peter was a companion of Jesus, Peter denied him three times saying "I do not know the man."

This was the same Peter who saw Jesus walking on water; who said he would give his life for Jesus; who witnessed him performing many miracles; who was there when Jesus was transfigured. Peter the fisherman before his conversion was a total failure!

But after the resurrection Jesus called Peter once again and asked him the three-fold questions: "do you love me?" Why three times? Because Peter denied Jesus three times. And so he had to respond "Yes Lord, I love you." three times, too.  That was Peter's redemption.  Jesus told him to translate that love into concrete actions and said to Peter "feed my sheep."

When we say we love God, it is more than just expressing it in words.  The love of Peter and Paul to Jesus found expression in their love for the Church. Beyond all odds both of them worked zealously in laying down the foundation of the early Church. Both gave up their lives for the sake of their love for Jesus: Paul was beheaded while Peter was crucified upside down.

If Peter and Paul are the pillars of the Church of yesterday, we all are the building blocks that make up the Church of today.  As one Body of Christ, we are called to continue to pass on the legacy of Peter and Paul to the next generations.  Sharing the common bond of our love to Jesus that binds us as his disciples, we do not only respond emotionally to his question: "do you love me" but rather we translate our "yes, Lord I love you" in the way we live and even in the way we die.

Friday, June 20, 2014


John 6:51-58

      In our next meal, before we eat, let’s take a look at the food on our plates.  Maybe there will be meat, fish, rice or bread, veggies and other stuff there.  Most of them were once living creatures which become food for our nourishment.  When we eat them, they become part of the fibre of our bodies; they become part of us. 

      On the night before Jesus died, he gave us a legacy that will remind us of his undying love by giving himself in the form of food which is the Eucharist.  Now let’s take a look at the two powerful symbols used in the Eucharist: the bread and wine. The bread comes from hundred of thousands of grain of wheat which were ground into flour; in the same manner the wine comes from many grapes crushed into wine.  In a symbolic sense, the grains and grapes had to give up their individual lives to become part of a transformation that requires death and sacrifice.  Not only that, the wheat has to pass through fire and the juice has to pass fermentation, again symbolic of yet another stage of death and sacrifice. Once they become bread and wine, their highest level of sacrifice happens when they have to give up their being bread and wine to become the Flesh and Blood of the God who created them.  In a sense, their sacrificial act of dying to themselves is given the ultimate reward ever given to any created being.

      Jesus’ flesh was ground like the grains and his blood was crushed like the grapes and passed through the summit of sacrifice on the cross in order to become real food and drink.  The word sacrifice comes from two Latin words sacra ( “sacred”) and facere (“to make”).  Literally a sacrifice is an act of offering something to a deity who transforms the thing being offered which becomes sacred.  Jesus who is our High Priest did not offer anything other than his whole being on the altar of the cross.  It was the Father who accepted the offering of his Son and sanctified it.  Jesus offered his body on the cross and the Father transformed it into a transcended and transfigured body as a sign of his acceptance.   It was not just accepted by the Father but was given back to the people to be their food.

      Whenever we gather as God’s people in the Eucharistic table, we partake in the fellowship which is a foretaste of the heavenly banquet.  In a bloodless manner, we commemorate and make present the one sacrifice of Jesus on the cross Here when we break bread together, just like from many grains, we are invited to be crushed and die to ourselves just like the sacrifice we celebrate.  The Eucharist is not just a celebration where we feed our hungry souls with the bread from heaven but we celebrate our own death and resurrection with the Paschal Mystery of Jesus.  In the Eucharist, we offer the sacrifice of Jesus again to the Father in the form of bread and wine together with all our personal offerings.  Our Offering is accepted by the Father and is returned to us as spiritual food!  As members of the Body of Christ we just do not become what we eat but we are also sanctified by it because we become the sacrifice we offer.   In the Eucharist we have the foretaste of eternal life because we do not only eat the bread from heaven but we also celebrate our union with God here and now.

Friday, June 13, 2014



John 3:16-18

 “God is one and God is three” was the very first lesson I learned in my catechetical class when I was seven years old. When I studied theology I learned that that was  the shortest definition of the Trinity: one in Substance yet three in Persons. 
There are only three monotheistic religions in the world that began with Abraham: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  What distinguishes Christianity from the two monotheistic religions and the other religions in the world is the doctrine of the Trinity.  The Trinity is central in our Christian belief, that is “the one God exists in three Persons and one substance, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
In the Trinity we believe in God who is a communion and a family of love.  If God is love, the Father is the Lover, the Son is the Beloved and the Holy Spirit is shared Love.  We believe that this One God revealed Himself  in pilgrimage with His pilgrim people towards Himself.  The whole economy of salvation is nothing but the unfolding of God in a progressive and continuous revelation of His being and love to us. 
      We see in the New Testament the fuller revelation of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit through the events in the life of Jesus.  There are two biblical events when the three persons were made manifest at the same time namely the Baptism of Jesus and the Transfiguration. Mt. 28:19 mentions the Father, Son and Holy Spirit which became the basis of the formula of our Christian baptism.  The doctrine the way we understand it now was not yet defined during the time of the writing of the books of the New Testament.  St. Paul already had the implicit belief but the synopticists St. Matthew, St. Mark and St. Luke did not give us a clear understanding yet as to the doctrine.  Even St John who had the most developed Christology among the New Testament writers was still groping in defining the doctrine.
Tertullian was the one who introduced the terms trinity, substance and person to explain that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are "one in essence or substance but not one in Person.”  About a century later, in 325AD, the First Council of Nicaea established the doctrine of the Trinity confirming that Jesus is begotten and of one substance with the Father (we say in the creed: consubstantial). 
The mission of Jesus is not just to reveal to us the three persons of the Trinity but to bring us into the Trinitarian life. Our understanding of the doctrine will only be academic and philosophical unless we enter into a personal relationship with each of the persons of the Trinity: God as our Father, Jesus as our Saviour and the Holy Spirit as our Sanctifier.  Eternal life is nothing but our full communion into the divine fellowship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Our celebration today reminds us of this profound truth.
Let us ask Mary, our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity to bring us into the fullness of the Trinitarian life....

Friday, June 6, 2014

PENTECOST: New life for humankind

John 20: 19-23

         The Pentecost in the Christian tradition has always been the celebration of the birthday of the Church.   As a birthday celebration we look back to where and how it all began and appreciate its meaning in the present age.  Originally it was a Jewish harvest festival where the people would offer on the fiftieth day a new cereal offering to the Lord (Lev. 23:16).  Later on the feast was used to commemorate the Old Covenant fifty days after the Exodus from Egypt.
         The Christian Pentecost comes from two biblical traditions namely the Lukan in the Acts of the Apostles which was based from the charismatic and prophetic tradition (the First Reading) and the Johannine in the Gospel of St. John which was based from the wisdom tradition (the Gospel Reading).   Although different in their presentation of details, genre and theology, both traditions pertain to the same descent of the Holy Spirit. 
         In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit has always been depicted and understood as the breath of God (ruah in Hebrew, pneuma in Greek and spiritus in Latin).   It was the divine breath that animated the clay which became the man and woman and also vivified the rest of creation.   Sin destroyed that divine breath hence the spiritual death of humankind. 
In the New Testament, God re-created creation by breathing anew his divine breath hence the new life for humankind.   The resurrected Body of Christ has the power to regenerate in an act of self-giving therefore God the Father gave birth to the New Humanity through the gift of the Holy Spirit as the fruit of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.   That is why the Pentecost is a Trinitarian event!
So what is the Pentecost to us today?  It is the celebration of our spiritual birthday, of the day when we received the gift of the Holy Spirit in our lives during our Baptism and Confirmation.   It is the acknowledgement of our membership in the Body of Christ, the Church which was born on the day of the Pentecost.    When we were grafted into this spiritual body, we became children of God and our lives were conformed to the life of Christ.  To be a Christian is to bear the name of Christ and to live it as long as we breathe in and out the divine breath that was loaned to us.   It is in the participation in this Trinitarian life that we become being-for-others with a mission to share that divine breath by making a difference in the world we live in.  

       Prayer for the Spirit

“Pour into our hearts the sentiment of Your love, become Yourself a flowing current for us, for our own current does not carry us all the way to you.  Be rainfall upon our parchedness, be a river through our landscape, that it might find in you a defining middle and a cause of its increasing and bearing fruit.  And should Your water bring forth blossoms and fruit in us, then let us not regard these as our own sproutings and produce, for they stem from You; and let us lay them up in advance with you, adding to the store of invisible goods that You can dispose of as You wish.  They are fruits from our land, but brought forth by You, which are Yours to use for You or for us, or to reserve for another who has nothing.”

Hans Urs von Balthasar