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Sunday, March 29, 2015


                  Painting by Salvador Dali

 Mark 14:1 - 15:47

Today is Passion Sunday.  According to Henri Nouwen passion happens when things are being done to a person over which he has no control and becomes the recipient of other people’s initiatives.  Jesus embraced his passion when starting in Gethsemane he was “handed over” by Judas, then later on by the Jewish religious leaders, by Pilate and ultimately by his Father. In the last three years of his life Jesus, he was in full control of his action in his public ministry: teaching, preaching and performing miracles.  In the last three days of his life, when he was “handed over”, he was under the initiative of the action of other people.   At the end the Son handed over his life in utter abandonment to the One he called Father and God who abandoned him: “My God, my God why have you abandoned me?”  

Today as the Church processes with Jesus into Jerusalem, he invites us once again to enter into his Paschal Mystery.  We embrace the “Boundless God” as he empties himself into the “mystery of love” that defines his divinity and our humanity as well.  We enter into the “doors of the sacred” to see the countenance of God.  Through the liturgical celebrations of this Holy Week we do not only commemorate the great events in the life of Jesus but as active participants we “make them present”  by the virtue of our paschal character.

The Paschal Mystery of Jesus can be viewed in two ways: we can either see him as he “died for our sins” and/or as he “entered his glory”.   The atonement theory is the expression of the juridical character of the salvific events that Jesus had to go through.  Because humanity sinned against God, somebody had to pay the ransom, the price of which was suffering and death by the Messiah.  The only way to expiate the debt was through a sacrifice that required the shedding of blood.  This is why Jesus had to go through all the horrendous passion: the agony in Gethsemane, scourging at the pillar, the crowning of thorns, the carrying of the cross and eventually the dying on the cross.  Most of us commemorate the Holy Week by reflecting the events more as the sacred works of Jesus that saved us.  “By his wounds we were healed” (Is. 53).

The Paschal Mystery is not only redemptive but also revelatory. Whilst the atonement theory of his passion is focused more on the juridical aspect of suffering and death, another way of seeing the Paschal Mystery is in its revelatory nature.   All that happened in the passion are the “unveiling” of the countenance of God when Jesus “entered into glory”.   We don’t normally see it that way because we are more attuned to seeing glory as a shining splendour and immaculate perfection.  Glory in the passion takes on a different twist that shakes the worldly standard of beauty and form.   We see Jesus naked, crowned with thorns, bruised, spat upon, despised, mocked and died as a criminal.  This is the “divine beauty” that continues to shakes and confronts the world. In this beauty the glory of God shines more in the Person of God who manifested himself as "Love-in-action".  

 The paschal character of Jesus’ Paschal Mystery is shared to us in every aspect of our being so that we can say that the life of every Christian is “paschal” in nature”.   It means that we always carry within us the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus that continue to transform us as God’s children unto the being of the Son.  “Though it belongs to one precise moment of our time it has an eternal actuality because never for an instant Jesus leaves the moment of redemption, the moment of death in which he is raised and glorified”  (Francois X. Durwell).   We do no only commemorate the Passion of Jesus as an event that happened as part of human history, but rather we re-live it as actors with chosen roles to play in this on-going, eternal drama of Trinitarian self-emptying. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015


John 12:20-33

“Unless a grain of wheat grain falls into the ground, it remains a single grain; but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest.”

That grain of wheat was Jesus who died and became the Living Bread for  humanity.  In becoming man (Incarnation), Jesus had to die to himself as an expression of his unwavering obedience to the Father.  His whole human existence was a continuous emptying of self (Kenosis) until there was nothing more to give but to embrace the ultimate death that would define not just his existence but our existence and destiny as well.  The "rich harvest" was salvation for humanity.

  “Whoever serves me, must follow me, and my servant will be with me wherever I am.”

Love is the continuous longing to be with a beloved.   It is the desire to be in union with the one we love that defines and shapes our consciousness.  It is because we are like an angel with one wing and we can only fly by embracing our beloved.  But to embrace is to open our heart to the sword that will eventually pierce it.   In simple terms, we cannot love unless we die unto our selves.  Our deepest joys come from loving.  But it comes with a price: to embrace many forms of dying to self moment after moment for the sake of those whom we love, knowing that they live from our heroic deaths.

In many forms of human love, our ultimate desire that will give the definitive meaning to our existence is the highest form of love which is Love himself, God!   Now we understand why in the course of time there have been countless people who left everything in following Jesus.  To those who love Jesus, there is no price so dear that they will not pay, because “Love alone is credible” (Hans Urs von Balthsar).

      Let us imagine this scene from the classic movie Fiddler on the Roof:  Tevye and his daughter are waiting for the train at the railway station:

Tevye: And he asked you to leave your father and mother and  him in that frozen wasteland Siberia? And marry him there?

Daughter: No Papa, he did not ask me to go. I want to go.

How can I hope to make you understand
Why I do, what I do
Why I must travel to a distant land
Far from the home I love.

There were my heart has settled long ago
I must go, I must go
Who could imagine I’d be wand’ring so
Far from the home I love?

Yet there with my love, I am home.

Somewhere in our journey through life, each one of us must have stood in that  railway station responding to the radicalism of love.  In one time or another, have we not left our home, said goodbye to our friends and long cherished dreams or careers and died to ourselves… all  for the sake of the one we love? It takes more than courage to let go of our comfort zones and enter into the unfamiliar and the unknown… because of the call to love. 
         St. Francis reminds us:
For it is in giving that we receive,

And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life….

Saturday, March 14, 2015



When you look at the crucifix, what do you see?  

The dialogue between Nicodemus and Jesus brought us back to that moment in the history of Israel when  God sent fiery serpents to the Israelites in the desert as a punishment for all their complaints and rebellion.  After they repented Moses was commanded by God to make a bronze serpent and set it on a pole; those who were bitten were saved by looking at the serpent.  Jesus in the same manner would also be lifted up so that anyone who believes in him may have eternal life.
    “To be lifted up” means the crucifixion of Jesus.  But for St. John, “to be lifted up” had a double meaning, namely Jesus’ exaltation on the cross and his exaltation in glory at the same time.   It is the continuous movement of  ascent by Jesus towards his Father, namely 1) his crucifixion 2) his resurrection and 3) his ascension.  For St. John these movements comprise one single event: the glorification of Jesus!  This is the reason why the crucifix has always been the icon of our redemption.   The death of Jesus was his glorification!
      Just as the serpents represented the rebellious attitude of the Israelites, at this time sin is the expression of our rebellious hearts.  Just as the serpents poisoned and killed the Israelites, sin is the present-day poison that continues to plague humanity.  Just as the bronze serpent was the antidote for the venom by just looking at it, Jesus is the only antidote for our sin, if only we believe in him.  But the cure is useless unless the poisoned victim accepts it.  Jesus’s death on the cross has no meaning to those who do not believe and refuse  redemption. 
        When we look at the crucifix, we simply don’t see the corpse of Jesus hanging lifelessly on wood but the highest drama of Trinitarian kenotic love: the Father who emptied himself of everything by abandoning his Son; the Son who, despite of being abandoned by his Father, gave up everything back to the Father in gratitude; the Holy Spirit who was the link in the eternal self-giving of the Father and the Son. 

       In this trinitarian drama, we are not mere spectators but rather as active participants in the challenge of self-emptying love.  To love is to empty one's self to the beloved no matter what it costs because this emptiness is  the only way to the fullness of life!  That is how we know God who is Love!


Friday, March 6, 2015


John 2:13-25

      The Temple of Jerusalem was built on 20 BC by Herod the Great and still unfinished after 46 years of construction during the time of Jesus.  It was constructed to simulate the heavenly sanctuary on earth and it housed the most important artifact of Judaism which was the two tables of the Ten commandments inside a gilded wooden box called the Ark of the Covenant.  The innermost chamber of the temple was the Holy of Holies which enshrined the Ark of the Covenant which was most sacred for the Jews.  For them, it was heaven on earth.

        Once a year the Jews would celebrate the Passover to commemorate their salvific event of the Exodus and they do this by offering a sacrifice.  Since the sacrifice was offered only in the temple during the Passover, it was customary for the Jews to make a pilgrimage to the temple especially those who were living within the radius of 20 miles from Jerusalem.  The offering consisted of two shekels (equivalent of two-day salary) and burnt animals.  Since the commerce was done inside the temple, the people had to change their money (with the face of the Roman Emperor) into temple shekels which was the reason of the presence of money changers in the temple.    To change the money into the temple shekel for the offering and to buy the animals in the temple was an opportunity for extortion by the temple priests against the poor.  This was the injustice that Jesus saw all happening in his Father’s house which triggered the height of his anger.  He was angry not just because of the desecration of the physical temple turned into a marketplace  but most especially the injustice committed against the poor by using the temple as a front for economic sabotage in the guise of religion and worship. 

        Jesus cleansed the temple because it failed to contain the Divine and proclaimed the new and definitive temple: his Mystical Body, the Church.  The Jerusalem Temple, made by human hands, was razed down to the ground in 70AD.  Nothing remained except the Western Wall that used to enclose the temple; it is now called the Wailing Wall because Jews would go there to pray and wail for the loss of their beloved temple.

        How do we house God who is boundless and beyond time and space? Divinity can only dwell where sacredness in relationship of self-giving is celebrated. That is why we say God is in heaven because he is a being-in-relations who empties himself eternally.  That is why the God we believe in is a trinity: the Father who gives himself eternally by begetting the Son; the Son who in turn gives himself back to the Father in gratitude; and the Holy Spirit who is the gift/love of them both.  This self-giving of God finds expression in creation which is an overflow of love celebrated by the Divine Persons.   The temple became the abode of God on earth where divinity both dwells and invites encounter with humanity. We encounter the divine through and with each other.  When the Son was made flesh (Jn. 1:14) “he pitched his tent amongst us”.  Therefore the material temple had become the Person of the Son.      Later on St. Paul says "... your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit... therefore glorify God in your body" (1 Cor. 6:19-20).  We have become the living temples of God!


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