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Friday, January 30, 2015


4th Sunday in Ordinary Time - B

       After the calling of the first apostles, now St. Mark presents Jesus’ first preaching and the first miracle in his gospel.  This all happened in the synagogue in Capernaum.  The temple in Jerusalem was the only temple where the high priest would offer worship, sacrifice and atonement while the synagogues were used to proclaim the Torah or the Old Testament scriptures by the people.  Since there was no permanent teacher in the synagogue, the reading and exposition of the scriptures can be done by any competent Jew just like what Jesus did in our gospel today.

       Jesus preached with authority!  This is how Jesus differed with the other prophets before Him and the Pharisees and scribes.  While the others were quoting the scriptures from which they got their authority to teach, Jesus was the Dabar Yahweh, the Word personified.  The Word spoken by God to create everything in Genesis is now the living Word re-creating creation.  This was manifested by the first miracle ever recorded in the gospel of St. Mark in the exorcism of the man with an unclean spirit.  By saying the name of Jesus, the evil spirit thought he had control over Him, but the word of Jesus proved to be more powerful.  This is more than just exorcism!  Here we can see the power of the Word Incarnate: “Be quiet!  Come out of him!”  That is why those who saw the miracle were amazed about the unusual authority of Jesus.

       The Devil is as real as it was in the time of Adam and Eve, the time of Jesus and in our own time as well.  It continues to pester humanity in the many disguised forms of injustice, genocides, wars, poverty, oppression, etc.  It creeps its tentacles in the very fiber of our personal existence which manifest in our sin expressed in  addictions, hatred, indifference and our refusal to follow the way of righteousness.  We have to be always alert because “the devil prowls like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).   

      The Evil One continues to triumph not just when bad people sow bad deeds but most especially when good people stop doing good.  God empowers us in defeating the devil through the inherent goodness in us.  Every time we do something good, God shines through us and the devil shrinks deep within his dark realm.

        Certainly the devil is more powerful than us but the good news is that we have our God who is more powerful than the devil.

Saturday, January 24, 2015


BBC: An aerial view of Rizal Park shows the millions attending Mass

In front of 6 million people gathered in the recent historic mass gathered in Manila, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, asked Pope Francis:  “Here in Luneta, the Quirino Grandstand, where heroes are revered, where newly elected presidents take office, and popes meet the Filipino people, here in this place of new beginnings, please, Holy Father, send us as your missionaries of light. Send us.  

Before you go, Holy Father, send us, your beloved Filipinos, to spread the light of Jesus, and wherever you see the light of Jesus shining, even in Rome, even in Santa Marta, remember: the Filipino people are with you in spreading the light of Jesus."

As an opening salvo to His public ministry, Jesus proclaimed the good news of God.  In the olden times, good news meant an enthronement of a new king but when Jesus announced His good news, His message was not just about a king but the coming of the kingdom of God.  His very first spoken words in the gospel of St. Mark were “The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is close at hand.”   Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom marked the fulfillment not just of the longings of the Old Testament but the whole world as well.  When He did this, He also proclaimed that He Himself is the personification of that kingdom, He is the auto-basilea

After the proclamation, came the invitation to repent and believe in the good news.  To concretise this, St. Mark presents the calling of the first disciples.  The first disciples who were called were two sets of brothers: Simon and Andrew, James and John.  They were fishermen who later on will be called fishers of men.  There was an urgency both in the call and the response; immediately they abandoned their boats and their fathers. Nothing was written about their verbal response, their feelings, no questions were asked but one thing was certain: they left everything and followed Jesus. Jesus’ call demands immediate and complete obedience.

The call of Jesus this time is not just about young men becoming priests, missionaries being sent to missions, young ladies entering the convents or monasteries.  He meets us in the different shores of our lives, where we live, where we work, in all our goodness and sinfulness.  There is a universal call to holiness addressed to everyone: Catholics, Muslims, Jews, even those who have and will never hear the name of Jesus. But wherever we come from, we have to “break off” (metanoeite) from the old self to welcome the Kingdom of God in our hearts. Yet this conversion is not a one-time-off experience, it continues through life.   To some this means leaving homes and families, parting away from loved ones, giving up dreams and life’s securities.  Although the responses of some are more radical than others, our following of Jesus takes a lifetime to fulfill.  Our big YES is lived out in the little yeses of the ordinariness of our lives.  Jesus does not expect of us to do the impossible as long as we continue to follow him.  That’s what discipleship is: To follow Jesus where he would send us.

Cardinal Tagle assured Pope Francis:  Every Filipino wants to go with you – not to Rome – but to the peripheries. We want to go with you to the shanties, to the prison cells, to hospitals, to the world of politics, finance, arts, the sciences, culture, education, and social communication. We will go to those worlds with you to bring the light of Christ.

Thursday, January 15, 2015



       The Epiphany was the manifestation of the baby Jesus to the nations represented by the magi through the star as the Saviour of the world. This Sunday is the manifestation of the adult Jesus to his first disciples through John the Baptist as the “Lamb of God.”

         As we go back to the Ordinary Time in the calendar of the Church, we are reminded by our gospel today of the ontological question in life which Jesus asked “What do you want?”  The response of the first two disciples was also a question: “Teacher, where do you live?”  The classic answer of Jesus was “Come and see.”

         What do we really want in life? A happy family, security in the future, good health, a wonderful career, etc.? These are all essentials to live a better and fuller life which can only be achieved through our personal relationship with God.  To “come and see” is to respond to the invitation of Jesus to follow Him and be with Him, to know Him better and to love Him more.  The disciples followed Jesus and stayed with him that night.  Our relationship with God entails “following” and “staying” with Jesus.  Just as in any human relationships, if we want to grow our relationship with God, we have to invest our time, effort and our very selves. During this Ordinary Time of the Church calendar, may we embrace and follow Jesus in the “scandal of the ordinary”.

         Andrew, after staying with Jesus, looked for his brother Simon and shared with him his experience.  Our relationship with God does not end in ourselves; as it grows it overflows and seeks out to be channeled to others.  As we respond to the invitation of God to “come and see”, we cannot afford to just contain the joy unto ourselves that is why we share our faith experience to others.  It was Andrew who brought Peter to Jesus; he also brought the boy with the loaves (Jn. 6:8) and some Greeks  to Jesus (Jn. 12:22).  Andrew’s role was an intermediary, that is to bring people to Jesus; how many have we brought to God?   After bringing his brother Simon to Jesus who named him as the Rock, being the first pope of the Church, Andrew went into the background.  There was no sibling rivalry, no feeling of animosity nor jealousy.  Like Andrew, we should be happy to let others shine and be the best of themselves even if this means for us to stay at the backstage or away from the limelight.

         Jesus’ calling of the first disciples reflect our own personal calling.  Because He knows us, He calls us by our personal name and when He looks into our eyes He knows who we are and what we can become which is far better than we can ever imagine.  We just have to “stay” with Him always and let Him surprise us beyond our imagining…

Thursday, January 8, 2015



      During the Epiphany last Sunday, we reflected on the manifestation of the Lord to the nations represented by the magi and the shepherds.  Before ending the joyful celebration of the Christmas season, we are given a glimpse of another divine manifestation: In this Sunday of the Lord’s baptism, we see the “Trinitarian theophany” or the manifestation of the three persons of the Trinity in one single event: Jesus who was being baptized, the Father uttering His voice and the Holy Spirit descending in the form of a dove.  The Lord’s baptism happened before He embarked on His public ministry. The same “Trinitarian theophany” would occur again towards the end of the public ministry of Jesus in the Transfiguration.  Between these two theophanies was Jesus’ proclamation of God’s Kingdom through His words and works.

         After we have opened all our Christmas gifts, the Church reminds us that the greatest gift next to our life is our faith which is given to us in baptism.  In the liturgical calendar, after the Lord’s Baptism the Church enters the Ordinary Time.  After all the festivities of Christmas and New Year, we embrace once again the ordinariness of life in witnessing our faith.  During His baptism before His public ministry, Jesus was reminded by His Father of His identity: “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.”  As we enter into the simplicity of this season, we are also reminded of that profound reality namely our true identity  given to us when we were baptized as if the Father was saying to us personally “You are my beloved child, with you I am well pleased.”  

It was important to Jesus to accept His identity which would be the reservoir of His strength during His public ministry.  During His intimate moments with His Father in prayer, Jesus would go back again and again to that special moment when He heard His Father’s voice.  In fact He needed to hear the same voice again during the Transfiguration before He could carry on the most painful days of His earthly life.

During this ordinary season, like Jesus we carry in our hearts the Father’s voice so that whatever happens to us this year, we believe that the Father will always be there for us the way He was with Jesus all the time.  It means that we are ready to accept the different theophanies of God in our life.  We welcome Him as He manifests Himself to us in life or in death, in pain or in joy, in the sunshine or in the rain, in light or in darkness, in good times and in bad.  These are the many facets of life which reveal to us the many faces of God.   We just have to be ready to accept  His creative surprises in our life.

Our baptism is both a gift and a responsibility.  As a gift, we became children of God, we call Him our Father and we are heirs of the Kingdom; as a responsibility, we live a Christian life, a life which is patterned after His Son. 

I am God's beloved, that's who I am.  I live it, that's what I become!  It is my greatest identity!

Saturday, January 3, 2015



Since time immemorial humanity had already been searching for the meaning and purpose of life and encounter God.  
          The word Epiphany comes from a Greek word which means “divine manifestation” or in simple terms we say “revelation”. For the first time, man was able to see the face of God.   Jesus made himself manifest first to two groups of people namely the shepherds and the magi.  They were the first recipients of the divine manifestation: the shepherds who knew nothing and the magi who did not know everything.  Both were the first ones who saw the face of God made man.
More than just historical personages, the three magi represented humanity searching for the fullness of life.   Each of them carried the longing of man to see the face of God and to encounter the Divine.  That was the goal of their journey: to encounter God!  In that journey, it was not just about the effort of man in the search but also the guidance of God in the symbolism of the star.   In the darkness of our own search, God always provides us with stars in many different forms that will eventually lead us to encounter Him.  The star may be a friend, spouse, parents or even a stranger, and sometimes an experience.  Have you ever considered that sometimes we are that star to other people so that through us, they are able to meet and encounter God?

 In the search of the three kings, they encountered King Herod who was the epitome of evil wanting to kill goodness.  As there are stars in our journey, there will always be people who will hinder us to encounter God.  If we look closer at the story in the gospel today, Herod was even making a ploy that he also wanted to encounter the Divine but his motive was to kill God.  That is why we have to be very careful how to handle the many Herods in our life.
          It is in obedience to the guidance of the star that the wise men were able to find the child.  If we only have to obey the many ways of God, He will lead us to find Him. When they found the child, they were overjoyed.  The joy of finding the child with Mary was a symbol of the reward of man’s search for meaning.  Jesus is the joy of our hearts.
          After they prostrated themselves and paid the child homage, they opened their gifts of gold for the king, frankincense for the priest and myrrh for the prophet who was about to die.  Why do we search for God?  Simply because we want something from Him.  Why do we pray to God?  Because we need Him.  With the three kings, it was different.  They searched God not because they needed something from Him but because they had something to give.  When we encounter God, we do not need anything from Him; we just have to give ourselves to Him without reserve.  When we encounter God we have everything and that was the experience of the joy of the three kings.
After the encounter, they did not go back to Herod, instead they took a different route back home.  A true divine encounter ushers in a complete turn about from the old way of life to a life of truth and goodness.  We have to make a different route away from the evil one who wants to kill the God within us.  
And why did the three wise men have to go back home?  Because their journey did not end in finding Jesus, but rather their journey continues in a life of witnessing to others who might be able to go to Bethlehem.  It is through us that other people will be able to see Jesus and encounter God when we share to them our experience of meeting Jesus in our own Bethlehem.