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Saturday, August 29, 2015


Mark: 7:1-8.14-15.21-23

        Faith is always expressed in external signs most especially through rituals.  A  ritual is  a solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order in the liturgy.  Through this religious ceremony we are able to enter into the realm of the divine hence we become connected to God.  Eventually the rituals become part of a religious tradition.
        The Ten Commandments which express God’s Law takes centrality in the lives of the Jews.  The Pharisees with their best intentions to observe the Law extended them into 613 positive and negative commandments.  Some prescriptions on purity which were originally meant for the priests in the temple were now extended to the people, like the washing of hands before eating or the washing of cups and pots, etc.  These laws on purity were meant to remind the Israelites to be faithful to God and not be contaminated by paganism. 

       The Pharisees noticed that the disciples of Jesus were not following the Jewish rituals.  Coming to the defense of his disciples, Jesus abolished the whole Jewish system of purity and revolutionized the laws regarding food.  Some religions still prohibit specific foods and declare them unclean.   Example: the Jews and the Muslims do not eat pork. For Jesus,  no food that enters the body can make a person unclean but rather it is the heart that makes a person unclean: “Nothing that goes into someone from outside can make that person unclean; it is the things that come out from someone that make that person unclean.” For the Pharisees traditions became fossilized and rigid which hindered them from encountering God
       This gospel invites us to examine our consciousness as regards our attitude towards traditions and rituals.  In the opening of the  movie/musical “Fiddler on the Roof”, Tevye declares that everyone is a fiddler on the roof and the  reason we are able to stay on top of the roof without falling down in maintaining our balance is  tradition.  Eventually in the story, little by little those traditions were superseded by new forms of rituals by no other than Tevye’s daughters.   Traditions in themselves are good because they preserve us  from social chaos and we are able to preserve the wisdom of the past.  But they should not hinder us from welcoming the innovations and surprises of the future. This is the reason why Vatican II updated the Church (the aggiornamento) to meet the demands of the future and re-invented herself to the form that she is today.   Concrete examples of changes are the celebration of the Mass with the priest facing the people using the vernacular and  the most recent translation of the English New Roman Missal. 
       Rituals are also good because through them we are able to express the depth of our faith.  But they become only a lip service when they do not conform with the true status of the heart.  The law has two components: the spirit and letter of the law.  For the Pharisees what was more important was the letter of the law; for Jesus it was the spirit of the Law.

        Our observance of the law is the minimum requirement but it doe not make us saints because the law still  needs to be translated into concrete charity towards our neighbour.  Yes we encounter God in the religious rituals but we see him face to face and touch him when the rituals are turned into good works! 

Saturday, August 22, 2015


John 6:60-69

      After four Sundays, we have now come to the conclusion of chapter 6 in John’s Gospel which is a theological reflection on Jesus as the Bread of Life.  It started with a miracle that was witnessed by five thousand people, who after eating their fill, wanted to make Jesus their king.  Jesus offered them something greater than their earthly desires but all  they wanted was to satisfy their physical hunger. 
        The word crisis comes from the Greek word krisis which means judgment.  After hearing the very long eucharistic and theological explanations of Jesus, his disciples were in crisis.  They had to judge and make a decision either to accept or reject Jesus as the Bread of Life. Because Jesus’ teaching was too much for their hearing, they were scandalised and disappointed.  They rejected Jesus and stopped following him.
        What the Jews wanted was a political and economic messiah who would give them liberation from the Romans and food on their tables.  Jesus far from being a political and economic messiah instead offered them salvation and heavenly food.  But they rejected the gift and turned away from Jesus.  This is called the Galilean crisis.

      Two thousand years after, Christ is still on trial in the courts of disbelief like atheism, agnosticism and materialism.   People are still looking for a messiah who can satisfy the different forms of human hunger.   Other religions offer alternative ways of meeting the contemporary needs of humanity.  But a follower of Christ is confronted with the definitive call to take a stand whether to embrace his offer  or to stop following him just like the many Jews in the gospel this Sunday.

      At the present time, some people leave the faith because they find it hard to follow the precepts of the Church.  Sometimes they leave because the Church does not support or confirm their personal conviction and lifestyles which are against the Christian belief.   The Galilean crisis still continues even today.  Mostly, people will embrace a religion of convenience.  

Where do we go from here?   As disciples of Christ, we take Peter’s words as our own.“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the message of eternal life and we believe; we have come to know that you are the Holy One of God.”    But we have to remember that we are not following a political messiah who will give in to our wants and caprices.   Christ is our personal saviour who continues to feed us with his Body and Blood in our life’s journey.  We believe that he and no one else in the world can save us; not Buddha, Confucius, Mohammad or anyone else!   Jesus Christ is the only Saviour!  

If we follow him, he will make sure that he will lead us to eternal life!

In your following Jesus, are you willing to pay the price?

Saturday, August 15, 2015


John 6:51-58

      Superfood for immortality, anyone?

     Since time immemorial, humanity has been searching for the fountain of youth and the elixir of life.  With all the problems and discomforts of old age, most of us want to stay young and beautiful. There is a longing deep within us to prolong life hence the quest for immortality.

      In Roman and Greek mythology, ambrosia was the food of the gods and nectar was the drink of the gods.  This mythical food and drink assured immortality for the gods. Like the ancients, food for us is not just about nourishment and survival but empowerment for life.   Because of advances in science, nutrition is now enhanced with the development of genetically modified foods that boost more nutrients and other beneficial qualities. At the same time the market is flooded with a whole array of different superfoods that promise longevity, health and happiness.

      When Jesus told the Israelites that he could give them food from heaven, they thought it was like ambrosia or nectar, so they said “Sir, give it to us.”  But when Jesus proclaimed that he was the bread from heaven, they were so disappointed.  Because he created humanity and he himself assumed human nature, he fully understood that the most fundamental need of man is food.  He did not promise to give some magical food which had been the longing of every man but a heavenly food more real than the food and drink of the gods of old.  So he said “My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.”  Humanity’s longing was now fulfilled in their hearing.  Food that had been meant only for gods and angels was suddenly real, as real as it could be.

      Those who heard Jesus’ bold proclamation heard the words  of a fellow ordinary Jew like themselves.   In their minds they were probably thinking “How can he talk like that? How can he give his flesh for us to eat and his blood for us to drink?  He must be crazy!  Is he out of his mind?”  They were not prepared to hear such novelty; they must have thought he was talking about cannibalism.  On the contrary Jesus was offering himself as the fountain of life: “As the living Father sent me and I draw life from the Father, so whoever eats me will draw life from me.”   Humanity’s quest for the fountain of youth and the elixir of life ended when Jesus offered himself as the Bread of Life.  Humanity’s quest for immortality had been found: “Anyone who eats this bread will live forever.”

       At this very moment, thousands of scientists around the world are still busy  searching for that mythical food and drink.   Thanks to their labour our lives may become lot easier and even longer - but nothing can extend our lives beyond the definitive time of our allocated existence.  Something greater than the physical body will live on because we are actually created immortal unlike the Greek  gods who did not really live.  We are immortal because we have souls that will never die; we are also immortal because we partake the food and drink that only God can give: His Body and Blood in the Eucharist!

Friday, August 7, 2015



      The people, after witnessing the multiplication of the loaves and fish, wanted to make Jesus their king!  Jesus knew their intent so withdrew to the mountains!  Since the people were looking for food, he told them that he was the Bread of Life!  Hearing that, they started to complain to each other: "how can he say 'I have come down from heaven?' when we know his father and mother!"

 How could the five thousand men forget the
 miracle just so easily?  Very simple: they saw the 
multiplication of the loaves and the fish but did 
not understand the sign and the meaning of the event.  They ate to their hearts content but they were still hungry deep within.  Whilst their concern was filling in their hungry stomachs, Jesus wanted to give them something more than satisfying  their physical hunger.  But since their concern was just in the level of the material, they could not understand what Jesus was saying so they started to complain.

      In one way or another we have witnessed many miracles in our lives!  Some of them are spectacular like healing from cancer, surviving an accident, receiving an unexpected gift that we 
don't deserve; others are the simplest like waking 
up alive in the morning, the presence of our loved ones at home, the sunshine, the rain and many others.  Some of them are most common so we just don't mind and appreciate them; others are impossible in our eyes so we tend to give them more attention.  Either grand or simple, they are signs pointing to God!   For an agnostic, the sunshine is just coming from the sun and there's no way of knowing God through that simple fact. For an atheist, surviving an accident is no more than just a pure luck hence not worth of any belief in God!  Nothing more, nothing less!

      We have seen the Jews who after witnessing the miracle of the multiplication complained and expressed their disbelief in Jesus.  But for us believers, after witnessing the miracles in our lives, what do we have to complain for?

      When Jesus proclaims "I am the Bread of Life" he invites us to step up higher in the way we look at things!  It's not bad to be concerned with our bodily needs; we all need to survive!  But not  the way of the jungle which is the survival of the fittest.  Others may have hooked up in building their future that they have forgotten to live in the present.   Suddenly looking back they realise how much they have missed in life even if they are successful in the eyes of the world.  In as much as we are bodied beings, but we don't forget that we are also spiritual who are capable of transcending the physical idiosyncrasies of our existence.  This is what Jesus offers to us: to eat the spiritual food that endures to eternal life.  This is the living Eucharist that the Jews and the world fail to see!

      What miracles have you witnessed today?


Saturday, August 1, 2015



       Why do we seek God?  When we pray, what do we ask him?   Do we see God as a superhero who can solve all our problems and who can give an end to our misery? 

      The people, after  witnessing the multiplication of the loaves and fish, had their fill and wanted to make Jesus a king so he withdrew to the mountain on the other side of the lake. 

      The people saw in Jesus an economic messiah, a saviour who would give an end to their economic tragedy and sure food on their tables.  They never understood the sign (miracle) that Jesus performed because they were preoccupied with their pragmatic and parasitic motives.  Jesus aware of their selfishness told them to look for the food that endures to eternal life.  The Jews thought that by their obedience to the law would deserve such food so they asked “What should we do to carry out God’s work?”  “Believe in the one whom he sent” Jesus replied.  Then the Jews asked for a sign like the manna in the desert that was given by Moses.  Jesus  reminded them that it was not Moses who gave their forefathers the manna but rather his Father who will also give them the bread from heaven.  Then the Jews asked “Sir, give us that bread always.”  Jesus said “I am the bread of life….”

      Like the Jews, sometimes we see God as a “problem solver”, somebody who after we have done something good would be obliged to give us what we want.  This is true to those who say their rosaries, novenas, attend masses and go to pilgrimages because they want to ask God something.  Prayer of petition is never wrong and is highly encouraged because Jesus said “Ask and it will be given unto you….”  But if we think that God is obliged to give us what we want because we deserve it after doing something for him, we are no different from the Jews at the time of Jesus.  

      When we go to church it is good to ask ourselves: “Why am I here?”  Probably many of us will say our litany of petitions: because I want you Lord to help me find a job, find me a wife/husband, heal my friend who is suffering from cancer, inspire my spouse to stop nagging me, help me pass this job interview, help me pass this exams, etc.  There is nothing wrong to bring to God all these concerns.  But we follow Jesus not only because we want him to bring an immediate end to our misery but simply to be with him because he is the eternal reason of our existence.   God never forgets our struggles, pains, sufferings and life’s tragedies.  If we believe him as our personal Saviour and Lord, all these will be provided for. 

      We go to a restaurant to fill in our hungry stomach; we need to eat in order to survive! The reason why we come to church and gather for the Eucharist is  because we are hungry spiritually and only God can satiate that hunger.  It takes a leap of faith to see that the bread and wine we offer on the altar are transformed into the Body and Blood of Jesus!  They are not symbolic as what Protestants believe!  The Eucharist for us is Jesus in all his fullness!  What we eat is more wonderful than the manna of the Jews in the desert!  We eat the food of the Angels!