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Friday, July 24, 2015

FROM POVERTY TO SUPER-GENEROSITY



17TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - B
John 6:1-15

        Hunger is a condition that all living organisms have to contend with in order to survive.  Since food is the most basic and fundamental need of a human being, we all get hungry whether we are  billionaires or paupers.

        The multiplication of the loaves and fish was not just a miracle that showed the power of Jesus to feed thousands out of five barley loaves and two fish but rather an event that points to something grand and will continue to happen in the future.

        The time setting is very important: "the Jewish feast of the Passover is near".  It brings us back to the Old Testament when the Israelites, after the Passover, left Egypt and they were on the way to the Promised Land.  On their journey, they got hungry and asked Moses to provide them food.  Jesus is now the New Moses who was about to feed his people with food which was different from the manna they got in the desert.

       When Jesus saw the thousands coming to him, he saw it as an opportunity rather than a problem.  And because he wanted to invite his Apostles to take part in that opportunity, he asked: "Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?"  According to Philip's statistical expertise, it was just impossible: "Two hundred days salary would not be enough for each of them to have a little."  Andrew offered a rather poor but generous suggestion yet still questioning: There is a boy here with five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?"

         Jesus asked that the people recline.  When the Israelites, who were slaves, ate the Passover in Egypt they were standing, as if ready for the journey.   Now the people, being freemen, could eat reclining.  "Now there was a great deal of grass in that place."  Why would there be plenty of grass in that desert?  Because Jesus now as the Good Shepherd is bringing his sheep to a green pasture.

       Then the miracle took place after Jesus took the loaves and the fish, gave thanks and distributed them to the people.  Everybody had their fill.  This happens when we offer to God our poverty: God takes and blesses it and by his providence multiplies it to the full. The miracle was not a magic that offered entertainment to satisfy the need for the spectacular!  It was rather an opportunity for man to experience God's super-generosity in the midst of poverty and selfishness.  No matter how small our contribution is, when it is offered to God it overflows beyond our imagining.

       When the people saw the sign that Jesus performed, they thought he was the Prophet they had been waiting for and wanted to make him king.  They must have thought that finally a messiah had come who would give them food.  Their hunger was satisfied and yet they missed the real message.   Jesus, knowing their thoughts, withdrew to the mountain by himself.

       The next three Sundays will be the discourses of Jesus about the Bread of Life......

Saturday, July 18, 2015

REST



16TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - B
Mark 6:30-34

      After their successful mission, the Twelve Apostles reported to Jesus all they had done!  The first thing Jesus did was to bring them to a lonely place to rest!

      After a day's work we long for home; after a week we look forward for the weekend to spend quality time with the family; after a year we take a holiday; after a life's work we just simply want to retire to enjoy the fruits of our labor.  It's all about rest!

      After creating the world for six days, God "rested" on the seventh day, not because he got tired but to initiate the Sabbath which is a day dedicated to himself.  And so goes the 
commandment: "Keep holy the Sabbath day."

      Resting is imbedded in nature. Even the day is designed to give way for everything in creation to rest at evening time.  Even the most powerful machines are given time to rest!

        Our bodies being the most complex machine ever created need need some time to be re-charged, rejuvenated and re-created!  That is why we all need at least eight hours of sleep everyday! We also need a healthy lifestyle by eating the right amount of the right food and avoiding those that may harm our bodies.   We also take exercise knowing that it is good for our bodies.  But our 
need is not just physical!   We are also spiritual beings which sometimes many of us have forgotten.

       Psalm 36 beautifully captures it: "O God, you are my God, for you I long! For you my soul is thirsting! My body pines for you, like a dry weary land without water. So I gaze on you in the sanctuary to see your strength and your glory."

      Even if our body is fully rested, there is a longing deep within us for something spiritual because that is the way we were created!  We were not just created for ourselves and for other people; we have a soul that longs for its creator: "You have made us for yourself and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in you"  (St. Augustine).

      We all get tired and we long for physical rest but when we find life exhausting Jesus reminds us: "Come to me, all you who are weary and I will give you rest" (Mt. 11:29).  Sometimes we have a 
wrong sense of value that we plunge on different ways to rejuvenate us; we have forgotten God who 
is the only one who can re-create!

      Why do we come to mass especially on Sunday? It's not because we will go to hell if we miss one!   The word 'restaurant' comes from the Latin word 'restaurare' which means to restore.  If we get hungry and we don't want to cook, we just go to a restaurant to eat out most especially with our loved ones.  After eating in a restaurant, aren't we restored?  We could say that the Church is our spiritual restaurant where we gather together with the Christian community in order to eat God's Word and the Body and Body of Christ.  We come to Church in order to be nourished that no other restaurant in the world could give! Then we go back to the world restored!

      Our need for spiritual nourishment is not just satiated by the Eucharist on Sunday, we also need our one on one re-charging with God.  There is a need for us to spend sometime with God, just us and God.  Our prayer life is most important, not just in saying devotional prayers or the mechanical prayers we know of but most especially to spend a regular time to be alone with God!  Often times this is the most neglected part of our spiritual journey!  We feel as if we are wasting our time to be with God and yet we don't mind wasting our time to be in front of TV for hours watching our favorite programs.

      This is what the Gospel reminds us this Sunday: to go back to the Source! To be re-charged, to be rejuvenated, to be re-created!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

"MISSIONARIES OF THE ORDINARY"




15TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - B
Mark 6:7-13

        The1986 British film  "The Mission" reminds of the gospel we proclaim this Sunday with the Jesuit missionaries bringing the Good News to South America in the 1800's.   It shows us both the difficulties and the joy, the tragedies and successes of the missionary life.

       When Jesus sent th Twelve on a missionary journey, he sent them in pairs: it means that the call is both personal and ecclesial.  It is personal because it is the response of the disciples to the call of his Master; it is ecclesial because it is also the responsibility of the community to bring the message of Jesus to the world.

        In sending the Twelve Jesus empowered them with divine authority over the evil one.  The mission was not about themselves!  Deep within, they were given the inner strength and divine force to carry out the mission.

       If may sound a little bit odd to hear Jesus summoning them with instructions that may not appeal practical at all, at least in the present context.  It sounded daunting and scary to carry on a very difficult task yet not to be equipped with even the basic necessities: no food, no money, no extra clothes!  For us, it was not only impractical but impossible as well.  But God was in charge and he will make sure that his missionaries will not go wanting.  Surely there will be difficulties and hardship but a missionary knows that God always provides.

        If ever they were ejected, they had to shake the dust off their feet:  there should no feeling of disgust nor disappointment because it was not about themselves!  

       The Twelve carried out the mission with great success! In heeding the call of the Master, the fruitfulness of tb mission doe not depend on the capacity of the missionary but rather the work of the Holy Spirit.

         The gospel we proclaim did not happen onlyto the Twelve because the mission continues even to the present time!  In the course of history, countless men and women were called and left homes and countries to bring the Good News to peoples and lands in sowing the seed of the Kingdom.

        To those of us who were not called to do missionary work in the proper context of the term, the calling is the same though in a different label.  As Christians, we share in the mission entrusted by the Father to his Son, that is to sow goodness to the world in our own capacity whether as ordained ministers or as laymen.  We may not be called to enter the seminary, the monastery or convents but the task is the same: to be witnesses of Jesus' mission in the ordinariness of our lives!  

        To be a Christian is to be a missionary! We cannot separate one from the other.  They are two sides of the coin. Should we do the task, there will always be challenges and difficulties but most of all the joy of having shared our lives to others who have less in life.  As "missionaries of the ordinary" we transform this world into a better place than we first found it! 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

REJECTION


14TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – B
Mark 6:1-6

     In one way or another, we have experienced rejection.  As a social being, we always want to belong that is why to be rejected is always painful. 

        All his life, Jesus was met with rejection: from the moment he was born until he died on the cross and all those times in between, he was rejected.  Whilst many people were drawn to his very charismatic personality because of his wisdom and miracles, his superstar-status earned him the hatred and jealousy of those who despised him which eventually cost his very life. 

      The people of Nazareth could have heard the wonders Jesus performed in the surrounding areas and we would expect that he, being a Nazarean, would receive a hero’s welcome upon his homecoming.  This is very common for a town or a city to give a tribute to a local who has given them honour by excelling in a particular field.  They do this by offering a plaque of appreciation or maybe a motorcade around the place for people to acknowledge.  But instead of excitement and acceptance, the Nazareans took offense of Jesus and rejected him.  The reason?  Not because of anything bad that Jesus did but because they were scandalized by him going beyond his being ordinary.   They knew him too well, at least they thought. And what about Nazareth? When Jesus was introduced to Nathanael as coming from Nazareth, he asked “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”   The inscription on the cross made by Pilate “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” was meant to ridicule the Jews that their king came from Nazareth.  So the people of Nazareth must have thought “If we are doomed in our being ordinary, so you must.”  They made no exception, not even to Jesus in the saying: “familiarity breeds contempt.”  They thought they were too ordinary and so why would Jesus, who was one them, should rise above their ranks?  For them, he was just too human to be divine.  

       The deepest rejection that Jesus experienced was in his abandonment by his Father on the cross: "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?"  Nothing is more painful than to be rejected by the one we love most!  This is the pain of God which he does not want any one us to experience at all.

       In moments when we feet rejected by a member of our family, kins and friends and especially by someone who is significant in our life, something deep within us dies away!  The precious bond that connects us is shattered and we become incomplete; our self-worth as a person is broken!  

        Salvation is God accepting us in our brokenness; loving us in our sinfulness and embracing us in all our filth.  For the Father, we are more than just ordinary because he sees the image of his Son in us that is why he accepts us and we are loved beyond all imagining....