Christianity is radical otherwise it is not Christianity at all! The height of its radicalism is the person of Jesus Christ!
Friday, September 25, 2015
26TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – B
To do good is not exclusive to Christians nor holiness is exclusive to Christianity! Heaven is for everyone who loves the way God loves; saints are not the sole properties of the Catholic Church. Although we believe that ours is the true Church but we also acknowledge the “Seed of the Word”, that is the presence of God in other religions hence our respect to their own ways of life.
A little act of kindness done to the least of our fellowmen will be forever written in the heart of God and will not go unrewarded. On the other hand, any act of injustice done against the poorest of the poor will not go unpunished. God has a face: it is the face of the person next to us regardless of color, race or religion.
The second part of the gospel this Sunday sounds explosive: “If your hand, foot or eye is causing you to sin cut it off or pluck it out!” Certainly Jesus was not teaching his disciples about self-mutilation hence should not be taken literally. This height of radicalism reminds us of our true goal in life which is heaven. There is nothing that should stand in the way in realizing that goal, no matter how precious it is, be it as precious as our hand, foot or eye. A person who has a gangrenous foot will have to sacrifice that foot in order to save his whole body. Failure in cutting it off will result in obstructed blood circulation and bacterial infection which eventually lead to death. It is the same in our spiritual life when we have something gangrenous that obstructs us from living our Christian life to the fullest: be it a relationship, a place, a possession. It might be someone or something that is very precious that is causing us to sin. A starfish is ready to let go of an arm by breaking it off just to be free from a predator because it knows that it can later grow an entirely new arm. From this autonomy comes regeneration. Just like the starfish, our life is compensated if we are able to break off from the grip of our sin through painful sacrifice. Resurrection is our own way of total regeneration.
Christianity is a radical religion! There is no room for the mediocre most especially if one takes seriously his end-goal in life. We will do everything and give up anything to realize that goal. At the end of our life’s journey, we will realize that the many things we have given up are nothing compared to the reward that awaits for us. If all the things we have given up become gold in heaven, perhaps we may even say “How I wish I could have given up more….”
Friday, September 18, 2015
25TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – B
Every now and then we see publications of the “greatest persons in the world” in different categories: Forbes Magazine’s 100 richest people; Time Magazine’s Ten Most Successful Men of the Year; Idols of the Century; fashion magazines’ best dressed; The list is unending.
Some of them are praiseworthy most especially athletes winning their medals in the Olympics or the achievements in appreciation of the persons’ contribution to the world like the Nobel Prize or the Ramon Magsaysay Awards in Asia. But what is the real standard of greatness? A person may be the richest in the world or a great thinker but a domineering monster and makes others unhappy and miserable. A person may be in the pinnacle of fame and success but is engrossed in his/her self-centered living and does not even contribute to charity.
Jesus gives His disciples the true standard of success: Humility in service! While the world teaches us to be the first and at the top, Jesus teaches us to be the last; while the world teaches us to take and consume as much as we can for ourselves, Jesus teaches us to give and serve others. When the world glorifies the mighty, the rich and the famous, Jesus admonishes us his disciples to un-self and break away from self-constriction in order to be of service to the poor!
Jesus' disciples did not understand his impending passion and death because they were arguing who was the greatest among themselves. Jesus took a little child and said: “Anyone who welcomes a little child such as this in my name, welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me, welcomes not me but the one who sent me.” To be great in the eyes of God is to be like a little child: A child is a true symbol of poverty and total dependence which represents the weak, underprivileged, the oppressed and neglected who are the anawim of God. An act of kindness to the poorest of the poor pierces heaven and touches the very heart of God: “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren you do unto me” says Jesus.
We do not have to possess much money to feed the poor in Africa and the third world countries; we may not have the resources to alleviate the poverty of the world but if we have the heart to help a single neighbour who is in deep need, then we are already making a difference in the world. One act of charity is all we need to change the world of another person for the better. One act of kindness can make a difference in the world. If we are able to do this then we are virtually changing the history of humanity. In doing so, we may not even be appreciated nor receive recognition from the people around us nor awards from the world but such acts of kindness should be the great moments in our lives. In these moments of greatness, God shines in us! These great moments are all written in the heart to God.
Friday, September 11, 2015
24TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – B
How much do we know Christ? Up to what extent is our following of him?
In the midst of the highly paganized territory of Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asked the disciples who they thought he was. During the course of the public ministry of Jesus, the people must have had different perceptions of him. But more importantly he was interested in the perception of who his disciples thought he was. Peter who was the spokesperson of the apostles proclaimed “You are the Christ.”
Israel since time immemorial had been longing for the coming of their messiah. But they were not just waiting for a messiah but for a strong political messiah who would bring an end to their poverty and freedom from their slavery from Roman rule. Although Peter professed that Jesus was the Christ nonetheless his understanding was the same as the rest of the Jews. Because of that Jesus called him “Satan”.
Before Jesus embarked on his public ministry, he had his “40-day retreat” in the desert. The devil, who was aware of the mission of Jesus to inaugurate the Kingdom of God through the cross, tried to stop him through the three temptations which were a shortcut to glory without any suffering and pain. Jesus rebuked the devil: “Get away, Satan.” Anyone who tempts us away from God is a satan.
Like the Jews who needed a messiah, we also need our own messiah. Like Peter, we also want to profess that Jesus is the Christ but if our perception of the messiah is like that of Peter’s, then eventually we will also be scandalized. In the first place, who among us would want pain and suffering? In the secularized world, who would ever want self-renunciation, sacrifice, fasting, abstinence, much less the cross? They seem not to appeal to the senses or to right reason. And what do we want? the political messiah of the Jews, a super-God who will free us from pain, heal our sickness, put an end to our poverty and solve all our problems. We want to follow Christ but not with the cross. This is how the devil has been tempting us all the time; this is the maxim of the secularized world: “take up the shortcut to glory and fame without sacrifice. The cross is an abomination!”
Because we are following a crucified Christ, our life will not be free of suffering. But we do not just embrace suffering as such because suffering without the salvific action of Christ is empty. Our following of Christ demands that we are able to translate our profession of faith in him into concrete works just like the reminder of St. James in the second reading today: Faith without works is dead. If we only pray for the poor or victims of calamities but without giving something to them, our prayer is empty. If we are faithful in going to Sunday mass but without contributing for the upliftment of the poor and the needy, our worship is incomplete.
In this highly secularized world, the same is being asked of us: Who is Jesus for you? Are you willing to follow him to the cross?
Friday, September 4, 2015
23RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – B
Music is the language of the soul! The world is beautiful not just of the grandeur that we see but more so with the wonderful sound that we hear.Under normal circumstances, most of us are able to hear and talk. Although animals can hear and can communicate like us but they are not able to express themselves through language like we are. Our being rational makes us unique, that is why we are able to speak and write, we can sing, write poetry, create and listen to music, etc. God has given us these gifts so that we are able to communicate with him and with each other. Through them we are able to reflect and celebrate the creativity of God.
How do we understand the world of Hellen Keller when she became blind, deaf and mute at the age of six? How do we understand Beethoven when he became deaf later on in his life? How would we cope with being cut off entirely from the whole world of sound? This is the predicament of the deaf-mute in our gospel today.
The miracle is presented with some very interesting details especially about the actions of Jesus: 1) He took the deaf mute aside by himself away from the crowd: Like Elijah who brought the widow’s son back to life (1 Kings 17:19) and Elisha who raised a dead man (2 Kings 4:33), Jesus also performed the cure in private. This is connected with the theme of the messianic secret. The man did not just belong to the crowd but rather an individual who was singled out by Jesus. 2) He put his fingers into the ears of the deaf mute and touched his tongue with saliva: although it may look to us as superstitious and paganistic it was nevertheless done routinely among healers of that time. The fingers here represented the creative touch of Jesus; through the spittle Jesus re-created the man. 3) looking up to heaven he sighed: Jesus always invoked his Father in moments like this then he breathed his creative Spirit. 4) and said to him “Ephphatha”: Jesus is here manifesting himself as the powerful Word of God. As a result, the man’s ears were opened and he spoke clearly.
In the first reading this Sunday, the prophet Isaiah prophesies the coming of the messianic time when everything will be restored. The healing of the deaf-mute by Jesus is the fulfillment of this prophecy hence the messianic time has indeed come and still continues even today.
A beautiful part of the ritual of baptism is when the priest touches the ears and the lips of the baby while saying “The Lord Jesus made the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak, may he soon touch your ears to receive his word, and your mouth to proclaim his faith, to the praise and glory of God the Father.”
The acts of Jesus in the gospel are repeated every time we celebrate baptism. Faith opens our ears spiritually. From hearing, we are able to listen and obey the voice of God through the Church, through our parents and through each other.
The miracle of the deaf-mute in our gospel is our own story. It happens to us everyday; we just have to be aware and never stop thanking and praising God. Let us be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit who whispers and talks to us in the silence of our hearts.....