from Bulletin of 2018

From OLD Bulletins of: 2015 2016 2017

From Bulletin of MARCH 18, 2018

5th Sunday of Lent

“The Hour Has Come for the Son of Man to be glorified”

On April 3, 1968, with great urgency in his voice Martin Luther King
said that “something is happening in Memphis; something is happening
in our world. And you know, if I were standing at the beginning of
time, with the possibility of taking a kind of general and panoramic
view of the whole of human history up to now, and the Almighty said to
me, "Martin Luther King, which age would you like to live in?" I would
take my mental flight by Egypt and I would watch God's children in
their magnificent trek from the dark dungeons of Egypt through, or
rather across the Red Sea, through the wilderness on toward the
Promised Land. And in spite of its magnificence, I wouldn't stop there.
I would move on by Greece and take my mind to Mount Olympus. And
I would see Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Euripides and Aristophanes
assembled around the Parthenon. And I would watch them around the
Parthenon as they discussed the great and eternal issues of reality.
But I wouldn't stop there.

I would go on, even to the great heyday of the Roman Empire. And I
would see developments around there, through various emperors and
leaders. But I wouldn't stop there.”

Greater than the urgency in the voice of Luther is the voice of Jesus
today telling us that “the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”
This is the hour when time will cease to exist and creation will
once again become a formless void making it possible for it to be recreated
in God’s own image and likeness.

There is the temptation of being carried away by the sober tone of the
message of Jesus in today’s Gospel. We should not lose sight of the
fact that behind this sober tone lies a story with a happy ending “And
when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.”

From this day forward our Lenten journey assumes a more dramatic
and radical character, inviting us to stand up for what we believe in.
The voice of Jesus re-echoes in our world today “Unless a grain of
wheat falls and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat, but if it dies, it
produces much fruit.”

How can we best understand and appreciate the paradox of death
leading to life which Jesus presents to us today?

Human history may not be lacking in records of great people who gave
their lives for the good of others – from Joan of Arc to Mahatma Gandhi
to Martin Luther King. This is a call for a radical transformation of
values. People of character and virtue should never be silent in the
face of injustice and oppression. My identity may not change for I am
who I am but there is a sense of urgency in the call of Jesus inviting us
to change the values we live by. Yes, our values can change for good.

Everything is changing. Change is the only constant in life. Our means
of transportation, communication, medical technology, music, dressing,
etc. are fast changing and giving birth to better and easier ways of
doing things.

The culture of circumcision died, likewise the most cherished Latin liturgy
had to die for a new and a more vibrant liturgy to emerge.
There is an urgent need for human beings to reform, renew and transform
the values that form and inform our lives. This necessitates the
death of unjust structures that will give birth to a more humane and
just culture that promotes love, justice and the integrity of all sentient

Our readiness to celebrate the death of Jesus on the cross should not
be construed as an attempt to renew old wounds but a mandate to die
to sin and to destroy the unjust structures that dehumanize the person
for whom Jesus laid down His life.

Like Jesus, every Christian should be troubled by the amount of unfair
political and economic injustice that often gives birth to violence in the
world. It is no longer enough for us to stand at the periphery and complain.
Like Jesus, we need to get involved to the extent of giving our
lives as a ransom for many.

In this life, we must die in some ways for a better self to emerge. We
must die in our self-seeking ways in order to bring life to others by the
joy we spread and the hope we inspire. We must die to the selfish and
sadistic happiness we derive from seeing others suffer. These destructive
habits and structures have to die in order to create a new
world order where everyone will have equal and unimpeded access to
all the good things of life.

Our Lenten fast, prayer and abstinence would have been in vain if we
are not willing to die to anger, selfishness, mediocrity, pride, avarice,
sloth, envy, jealousy, etc. creating a space where the grace of God
could recreate and transfigure our fallen nature into His own divine

Jesus has died on the cross and will die no more. Even if we would be
happy and willing to kill Jesus again, the good news is that we can’t.
But Jesus continues to invite us even now to embrace the transformational
value of His suffering on the cross in order to overcome our
selfish ways and begin to live for God. And the “One who raised Christ
from the dead will give life our mortal bodies also, through His spirit
dwelling in us.”

The human desire for personal transformation, the renewal of the
church and the building of a more just world will only be possible if you
and I are willing today to harken to the radical urgency in the voice of
Jesus inviting us to take up our cross and follow Him.

The cross of Jesus remains a sign of judgment on the world. Take it or
leave it, the cross will continue to haunt human conscience until we
are willing to die with Jesus in order to rise with Him on Easter Sunday.

From Bulletin of MARCH 11, 2018

4th Sunday of Lent

“For God so Loved the World …”

There were two main exiles in the life of the Jewish people, which are
exile in Egypt and exile in Babylon. Of these two exiles, the exile in
Babylon was the most painful and disgraceful. We could recall that the
children of Jacob’s envy of their brother Joseph and the subsequent
famine that followed led to the exile of the Israelites in Egypt. Life in
Egypt was good until a Pharaoh who did not know Joseph came to
power. After their liberation from the hands of Pharaoh and before
their entry into the Promised Land, the Israelites promised to serve the
Lord by remaining faithful to the Covenant. However, not long after
they began to enjoy the fruit of the land did they begin to forget the
Lord their God by abandoning the ways of justice and the appropriate
lifestyle befitting of a chosen people.

This is clearly recorded in the Book of Chronicles (First Reading), “In
those days, all the princes of Judah, the priests and the people added
infidelity to infidelity, practicing all the abominations of the nations and
polluting the Lord’s temple which He had consecrated in Jerusalem.”

These Israelites neither listened to the voice of God nor to the message
of the prophets inviting them to change from their evil ways and
return to the Lord. It is not just that the people were unfaithful, but also
the priests and the government. Their infidelity to the covenant resulted
in the second exile in Babylon.

The naked reality of having fallen from grace and the consequences of
their actions dawned on them. This is clearly captured in the responsorial
Psalm 137 of today. “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat and
wept, remembering Sion ….

In the life experiences of the Israelites we see the inevitable consequences
of infidelity. Be it infidelity to the covenant, law, marriage,
vows, etc; it ultimately leads to slavery (loss of genuine freedom).

The central message of this reading is not to condemn the Israelites
but to highlight the rich depth of God’s love. – It was because of their
sins that God allowed them to be exiled in Babylon but the merciful
hand of God is seen in their homecoming.

God used Cyrus, the pagan king of Persia to free the Israelites from
bondage in Babylon so that they could return to the Promised Land
where they will be free to give fitting worship and praise to God. Hence
God’s promises were not nullified by the sins of His people. God remained
faithful despite the infidelity of His chosen people.

Paul, in the Second Reading hammers this point home when he said
“God might show the innumerable riches of His grace in His kindness
to us in Jesus Christ. For by grace you have been saved through faith
and this is not from you, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no
one may boast.” It is God’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes.

The beloved apostle John further re-echoes this sentiment in this
beautiful passage which could be said to be the best summary of the
Gospels – “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten
son …” Jn.3:16.

John reminds us that our relationship with God is governed by love.
God rules the world with love not with power and He wants our relationship
with one another to be deeply rooted in faith and governed by

But unfortunately, love has become one of the most misused and
misunderstood words/concepts in the world today. The Greek had 3
words for love namely;

Eros: romantic love between a man and a woman.

Philia: brotherly and fellowship love due to interests e.g. in sports,
cars, movies, celebrities, colleagues, pets, etc.

Agape: Sacrificial love – like a mother’s love for her unborn baby such
that she could risk her life to save the life of her unborn baby.
God’s love for us is agape or sacrificial love. It is a unique kind of love
because it is God who took the initiative to love us and to save us.
Sacrifice becomes an essential part of true love in the world.

So, in the second reading St. Paul reminds us that we did not do anything
special to merit God’s sacrificial love. It is not based on our good
works but on faith or active response to this unique initiative of God to
love us. Faith becomes our best response to God’s love.

God is love and s/he who abides in love abides in God. Agape love is
the love God has for us and it is the same kind of love He wishes that
we have for one another. Heaven is where love reigns and hell is
where selfishness reigns.

God’s love is all-inclusive. It is not directed at one nation alone, nor is
it only for those who are good. It is for all – like the sun, rain… for both
the good and bad alike.

Today’s gospel message also talks about judgment and condemnation.
One may ask, if God’s approach is by way of love, how does it
include judgment and condemnation? How can we reconcile judgment
and condemnation with love?

Condemnation here does not follow from God’s action but from peoples’
choices. God condemns no one. People condemn themselves by
the choices they make. God sent us the light (Jesus). If people get
lost, it is not due to an absence of the light but because they refuse to
accept the light. The fault is ours not God’s.

God is love. Love is at its best when the beloved lives in freedom. Our
love of God obliges us not to call darkness light. When we do that we
get trapped by it. But when we call it darkness, we learn to live so that
darkness does not overcome us. Whenever everything is permissible
we have failed to distinguish between light and dark, hence the fate of
the Israelites – slavery, await us. But even now, God’s love is still
there for us inviting us to die to sin so as to rise with Jesus on Easter

From Bulletin of MARCH 4, 2018

3rd Sunday of Lent

“Destroy this Temple … In 3 days I will rebuild it”

The Sunday Gospel readings in lent gradually expose the mystery of our
salvation to the faithful. On the first Sunday, we read the story of the temptation
of the Lord. On the second Sunday, we read about the transfiguration
of the Lord. Today, it is about the cleansing of the temple. Now, we
begin to see a gradual transition from the DESERT to the MOUNTAIN and
back to the TEMPLE (House) of God.

Today is one of those days when most people would not like to go to
church – the cleansing of the Temple. Ours is a generation that shies
away from confronting or talking about the big socio-moral and religious
issues of our time. It is much easier to talk about Russia, ISIS, Earth
warming, etc. than to talk about abortion, divorce, the questionable and
heartbreaking killings of/by our law enforcement agents, etc. This is not to
say that the problems presented by ISIS, etc. are not serious moral issues,
but to talk about some while ignoring others speaks about the mindset
and the moral consciousness of the time in which we live.

Today we see Jesus confronting head on the moral and spiritual crisis of
his time. Though unpopular it may look in human eyes that the perfect
Jesus – the merciful Jesus would hurt some people’s feelings; the moral
teacher could show some signs of anger; Jesus did not hesitate to do the
right thing at the right time because it is for the glory of God and the liberation
of the people (justice).

To better understand and appreciate why Jesus did what he did in the
temple today, we need to have some background knowledge of Jewish
life, culture and religious practices.

The Jewish people had a very good understanding of the law which is
different from the present day approach to the law. We often make laws to
check abuses or to protect special interests. This was not the case with
the Jewish people. The Jews saw the law given through Moses as a concrete
expression of God’s loving relationship with His people.

This happens in human relationship. As we begin to love some people, we
begin to make sincere effort to know them better. We begin to know their
do’s and don’ts so that we could do what they like and avoid what they
detest. “If you love me, keep my commandments” Jn 14:15.

In the Ten Commandments, the Jews saw what they ought to do to please
God – to remain the friends of God, hence they prided themselves as a
law abiding nation (a people who know and do the will of God).

The first three of the commandments reveal what people should do to
remain the friends of God while the last seven commandments reveal
what people should do to live in a loving relationship with one another,
which ultimately aims at remaining in a loving relationship with God.

The true essence of the law is good but this essence was lost when the
Jews began to live by the letters of the law. In their honest desire to protect
the Ten Commandments, the Rabbis began to institute another 613
laws. In the end it became extremely difficult for an ordinary person to
observe all the commandments (i.e. to remain a friend of God).

Being good or bad, holy or unholy was determined by one’s observance or
neglect of the law. This world view became problematic as those people
who considered themselves law abiding began to look down on those
whom they regarded as not law abiding (gentiles/sinners).

This disregard for gentiles extended to temple observances. The temple
was both a place of prayer and business. It was customary to exchange
local currencies into the temple shekel in order to buy sheep for the sacrifice.
The Temple, indeed, was divided into 4 sections – the Holy of Holies,
the Court of the Jews, the Court of the Gentiles and the Court of Women.
As business boomed, the court of the Gentiles was converted to a place
for money changers and sheep sellers, thereby making it impossible for
gentiles to worship God in the temple.

Jesus accused the Jewish authorities of making a house of prayer to look
like a market place. Jesus decided to drive out the money changers and
sheep sellers so that the temple of God would be restored as a house of
prayer for all – Jews and gentiles alike.

Jesus, by cleansing the temple reminds the Jews that it is not good
enough to know that the temple is a house of prayer for all and yet due to
economic reasons some people are excluded from worshipping in it.

By cleansing the temple, Jesus fights against the religion-based structural
injustice that excludes some people from the commonwealth of Israel. It is
ungodly to use religion to oppress and divide the family of God - My temple
shall be a house of prayer for all.

Is this not similar to our attitude towards the moral issues of our time? We
know the implications of our actions, yet, we live like the problems do not
really exist?

Is Jesus not likely to cleanse our churches today like He did more than
two thousand years ago? (I remember a mad man who threatened some
worshippers during Mass. Many ran away. Few remained. The mad man
said… “Fr. these are the true believers … continue with the mass).”

More than the temple is the human body, which is the dwelling place of
God. St. Paul says “Don’t you know that your bodies is the dwelling place
of the Holy Spirit who is in you?” (1 Cor 6:19). Like the Jews, we abuse
the temple of God whenever we degrade our body or use others for commercial
purposes or political reasons while overlooking the moral issues of
our time. As we work hard to earn a living, our body and the body of others
must be revered as the dwelling place of God in the Holy Spirit.

Jesus comes to reclaim the human body as the dwelling place of God. In
this first announcement of His death on the cross, Jesus says “destroy
this temple .…” This phrase, at first sight, may sound violent; yet, in it we
see a radical display of the mercy and love of God for the world.

The human being remains the dwelling place of God, hence the mandate
to stand for peace and justice while fighting against unjust structures that
dehumanize the person for whom Jesus gave His life on the cross.

Our God is not a sadist. God does not derive any pleasure in the death of
Jesus on the cross. However, in the death of Jesus we see the transformational
power of suffering. Think about it this way – a mother who gives
her life for the child in her womb does not in any way like to die. She gives
her life to show that there is nothing she would not do to save the life of
her baby.

By dying on the cross, God in Jesus gives us all He’s got. Suffering
with Jesus during lent is by no means an attempt to renew the wounds
of Jesus but a sign of appreciation for the salvation Jesus won for us
by dying on the cross.

From Bulletin of FEBRUARY 25, 2018

2nd Sunday of Lent, Year “B”

The Transfiguration of the Lord

It was on April 3, 1968 that one of the greatest preachers of our time -
Martin Luther King, jr. while in Memphis Tennessee delivered his prophetic
Mountaintop Message to the world. In this message MLK said
“Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult
days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to
the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a
long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that
now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the
mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land....”

Just a few hours after this prophetic message, the assassin’s bullet
struck and MLK breathed his last and died. Little did we know that it
will not be the end of the liberation movement for which he died. His
victory is marching on ….

The mountain as a place of encounter with God has a very strong
biblical foundation. The Ten Commandments was given to Moses on
Mount Sinai and many other encounters between God and the prophets
took place on such mountains like Horeb and Nebo. In his time of
distress, Elijah went to the mountain hoping to hear the voice of God.
Today on the Mountain we hear the story of the transfiguration – the
divine encounter between Jesus and God the Father during which His
glory was revealed to the world.

Last Sunday, Jesus, after fasting and praying in the desert for 40 days
and 40 nights on the Mountain (The Mountain of Temptation) encountered
Satan in the wilderness. On that mountain Jesus declares to the
world that only God is worthy of our praise and worship.

Today Abraham is challenged to sacrifice his only son Isaac on the
mountain at Moriah “There you shall offer him up as a holocaust on a
height that I will point out to you.” It was on that mountain that the faith
of Abraham shined forth.

Again on the mountain, Jesus was transfigured. His glory was revealed
to the world and the voice of the Father was heard from heaven
saying “This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him.”

Being surrounded by mountains here in the Valley we know how difficult
the journey to the mountaintop could be. We know how dry and
how quite removed from civilization is the mountaintop. It takes a lot of
courage to get to the mountaintop. Though void of luxury, getting to
the mountaintop could be an enriching and empowering experience.

The mountaintop experience becomes for both the followers of Martin
Luther and the disciples of Jesus a place of encounter with God to
prepare them for the martyrdom of Luther and the scandal of the
Cross (the Crucifixion).

The sudden and shameful death of Jesus on the cross, Moses on
Mount Nebo, Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac, the assassination of MLK in
Harlem, etc. become not the end of the fight for human liberation but
an integral part of God’s plan for the salvation of the world.

Goodness does not die hence suffering for a good cause is something
noble and praiseworthy.

The mountaintop becomes a place of empowerment for the courage to
fight for the emancipation and liberation of human beings from the
bondage of sin and ignorance.

During the Lenten season, the church invites us to go to the mountaintop
– to leave the comfort of our homes and go to a place of nothingness.

It is in this state of nothingness that Moses and Elijah appeared to
Jesus. Moses brought the Ten Commandments but Jesus brings it to
completion with the commandment to love God and neighbor. Elijah
was the greatest prophet in Israel but Jesus is the fulfillment of all
prophecies. Jesus is neither Moses nor Elijah but as the voice from
heaven declares, Jesus is the beloved Son of God and all God’s children
must listen to Him.

As Peter beholds the glory of God, he could not but desire to remain
on the mountain but Jesus brings the apostles back to the world because
the battle for human liberation is not to be fought on the mountaintop
but in the world.

In a short while as bread and wine are transformed into the body and
blood of Jesus Christ, you and I will behold the glory of God. We will
be transfigured into true and living images of God hence our call to go
into the world with love and courage to renew the face of the earth.

As we behold the glory of God, like Peter, James and John, we know
and believe that God is faithful to His promise, hence the courage to
face the daily problems of life. Death is no longer the ultimate story of
our lives for even death on Calvary will be transformed into life and
Jesus will be all in all. And that is our story.

Our deliverance from bondage may still be incomplete and imperfect
but it has already begun. In the sacraments, we have a sure basis for
hope that even here and now God is at work in our lives and in the
world transforming us from glory to glory.

The children of God may be tested like Abraham, disappointed like
Moses, suffer death like Jesus and MLK, yet, is our hope that the God
who began the good work in us will bring it to completion on the day of
our Lord Jesus Christ.

Every season of lent becomes not a repetition of past events but a
recreation of a salvific event. Lent is no longer a time of suffering but
an opportune time when through prayer, fasting and works of charity
we allow God to use us to recreate and renew the face of the earth.
And the good news is that even while we struggle now “His glory,
(truth and beauty) is marching on ...” in us and through us.

We are blessed to be part of a story that will ultimately have a happy
ending when Jesus will rise again from the tomb on Easter Sunday.
God will take us into the arms of Jesus and perfectly transfigure our
wretched and sinful bodies into copies of His own in glory. Death will
no longer be the end; eternal life will become our glorious portion.

From Bulletin of FEBRUARY 18, 2018

First Sunday of Lent, Year “B”

The Temptations of the Lord

LENT – (L)let’s (E)eliminate (N)negative (T)thinking is a holy season
of grace when the children of God embark on a 40-day austere
journey that culminates with the celebration of Easter; A time when
Christians make a sincere effort to eliminate all forms of negative
thoughts and negative energies so that we could tap, renew and
embrace all the positive energies that abound in each and every
one of us.

On Ash Wednesday we were given the tool of trade with which to
embark on this journey of self-renewal and growth in grace. It is
through prayer, fasting and almsgiving that we enter into the spirit
of the Lenten season. Since all have fallen short of the glory of
God, this season becomes a time of penance, self-discipline and

True life begins by having a genuine relationship with God. He is
dead who has no relationship with God. It is through prayer that we
anchor ourselves to God. Prayer opens the gate of communication
between a fallen humanity with the divine Being whose goodness
is like the sun that shines for all and the rain that falls for all.

Through prayer we acknowledge God as our father from whom all
good things come and to whom all our praise and honor is due.
Through fasting we learn to discipline the body to obey the Spirit.
We know that the Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Through
fasting, the flesh weak though it may be, begins to embrace the
anointing of the spirit. It is the Spirit that empowers the body to
make the leap of faith which this season calls for.

Every world religion – Christianity, Islam, Hindu, Buddhism, African
traditional religion, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, Sikhism, etc. see almsgiving
and works of charity as the best and easiest medium of encounter
with the divine. Through almsgiving we see and touch God
in the flesh. And the good news is that the hand that gives is always
on top.

During the Lenten season we make the lifestyle of Jesus our own.
Jesus, who during His boot camp experience in the desert, was
tempted by the devil. In every generation, the Devil uses the power
of the present to incite the children of God to choose the glory of
the now against the glory of the future - To choose bread over
stone, instant success over hard work, immediate glory over the
eternal glory which Jesus will realize by His suffering and death on
the cross.

If Jesus could be tempted, then no one is immune to temptation.
We consider it criminal to send soldiers to war without equipment
and adequate training or to send a doctor to the operating room
without proper training. In the same manner no one should deceive
himself into thinking that without prayer and fasting he
could stand strong before Satan during temptation.

Temptation is not always a challenge to choose between good and
bad, truth and falsehood, real and unreal; temptation could come
by way of a subtle challenge to merely love and appreciate the
higher good while choosing and settling for the lesser good. This
enticement to choose the lesser good over the higher good remains
a problem for the imperfect children of God who live in an
imperfect world.

The desire to choose the immediate glory has a powerful and dominant
presence in our lives. It takes the will power, by way of personal
responsibility to go beyond the dominant effect of the present
in order to see the value of mediate and future glory.

Traditional Jewish belief has it that the wilderness is the dwelling
place of evil spirits. By going into the wilderness, Jesus signals that
the final and climatic battle between God and Satan has begun.
We are all in this battle together (Eph 6:12). Being ministered to by
angels gives us the assurance that Jesus will emerge victorious in
His battle with Satan. This battle which begins in the wilderness will
reach its climax on the cross of Calvary and in a more decisive
way; Jesus will win the ultimate victory by rising from the dead.

We see in Jesus, one who maintains a zero tolerance in his dealings
with Satan. When it comes to a confrontation with the Devil, a
compromised solution is not good enough. Politicians could
emerge victorious through comprised solutions to the problems in
the world, but in the matter of faith and morals, nothing but standing
for the truth is good enough for God.

Jesus struggle with Satan is by no means a thing of the past. It still
goes on. The battleground may shift from the desert to the luxury
of our homes; yet, the temptation remains the same for all who are
making a sincere effort to do the will of God on earth.

You and I are supposed to die on the cross for our sins but Jesus
died for us. The death of Jesus will be in vain unless we make it
our own, for it is by sharing in His death that His victory becomes
our victory and His resurrection becomes our liberation from the
bondage of sin and ignorance.

The church, therefore, invites us to enter into the mystery of our
salvation through prayer, fasting and almsgiving. No one is too old
or too young to fast. For medical reasons one may not fast from
food but we certainly could grow in grace by fasting from lies, jealousy,
anger, envy, bias, gossip, backbiting, etc. which destroy the
power of love in our lives and diminish joy in the heart of others.
Our Lenten fast need not be simply a self-denial of the luxuries of
life, it could also be positive in the sense of reaching out in love to
others who may need our time, talent and treasure.

Temptation should not be construed as an excuse to deny the truth
but as a challenge to stand for that Truth which heals, liberates and
saves. Standing for the Truth may make one unpopular, but ultimately
what matters is not what people think of you but what God
thinks of you. It is those who stand for love, truth, justice and peace
that have what it takes to rise with Jesus on Easter Sunday.

From Bulletin of FEBRUARY 11, 2018

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “B”

“I do Will it, Be made Clean”

The season of Lent is around the corner. Today, we make a commitment
to Together-In-Mission 2018 whose theme is “Let us Love.” On
Wednesday we shall celebrate the Ash Wednesday, which marks the
beginning of our 40-day Lenten journey. People who embark on this
journey are called great, in the spiritual sense of being bold enough to
take the leap of faith that leads to a radical and profound repentance.

It takes a lot of courage to do something positive . Though created in
the image and likeness of God, our divine nature is often divided and
distorted by sin, hence the constant need for renewal and repentance
through prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

The Gospel reading today uses the imagery of leprosy to remind us the devastating
effect of sin in our lives. During the time of Jesus, leprosy was the most
dreaded disease. It was considered a highly contagious and incurable disease.
Worse still is that a leper was regarded as a sinner, unworthy of membership
in the commonwealth of Israel. The term "leper" was simply applied to
anyone with an unknown skin condition. Such a person was brought to the
temple priests twice for examination, six months apart. If the skin condition
continued to get worse, the person was then labeled a leper.

(Leviticus 13 & 14 describes the detailed list of regulations that the Jewish
priests followed when examining people with skin diseases and determining
whether or not they were to be considered clean).

To avoid further contamination of others lepers were mandated to live outside
the city gate in their own camps from where they could go out to beg for food.
Unfortunately, if a person wasn't actually a leper at the time of the priestlymedical
examination, once relegated to the camps they would become infected.

Since there were no standard refugee camps, lepers often lived in caves with
other lepers. If family members are kind enough to bring them food and
clothes, they set it down a few feet from the lepers, then run away so lepers
will not contaminate them. Should a leper venture to leave his cave in search
of food, lepers had to ring a bell and shout "unclean, unclean" so that
healthy people could avoid any contact them.

Lepers were not allowed to drink from the same fountain or wells as nonlepers.
They lived on the mercy and benevolence of the community. As
they go around shouting “unclean, unclean” those who hear them would
leave outside the door of their houses food and clothes for the lepers to
pick up. Since people did not always donate much food, water and
clothes, lepers often lived on the edge of starvation.

Leprosy is a disease that causes multiple gross sores all over the
body. A leper’s body has deep and extensive scarring. The nerves are
affected and there is nerve damage. It begins with tingling and numbness,
then paralysis. Leprosy can invade the skin, the nerves, the
bones, the eyeballs, and cartilage. This awful disease leads to blindness
and disfigurement, if not treated.

The fundamental Jewish belief is that health and wealth are blessings
from God while sickness and poverty are signs of a curse from God.
Since leprosy, like blindness, barrenness, poverty, etc. at the time
were considered signs of God's vengeance (Jn 9:1-3) for some horrible
mistake made in the past, all the more reason for people to stay
away as far as they could from a leper.

Obviously sympathy for lepers was quite limited since people believed
that lepers were paying the price for the sins they had committed.
Lepers were not allowed to talk to anyone including their own family
members. People would throw stones at any leper who dares to go
near healthy people. Being rejected by their loved ones, lepers had to
keep everything to themselves. Nobody cared for them.

Imagine what it is like living in a world where no one cares. These
people who really need our care are the ones who for religious reasons
were highly neglected and treated with scorn and great abandon.
Lepers shuffled along the edges of darkness until Jesus came along to
break the social and religious barriers that made life miserable for
them. In John 10:10, Jesus says “I have come that they may have life
and have it in abundance.” It is by reaching out to lepers that effort
was made to take a second look at lepers and all who live on the edges
of society – “outside the city gate.”

Jesus extends his hands to the leper to cure him. He asks the one
with leprosy to visit the priests so he could be officially pronounced
cured and fully integrated back into society. In such a theocratic society,
Jewish priests were the ones who had the authority to declare
someone either clean or unclean.

It may sound surprising that Jesus who has the power to cure a leper
would ask him not to talk about what God has done in his life. Could
this be a subtle way of inviting the man to become a disciple? No wonder
the man did not keep quiet (how could one remain silent about
such a thing?). Instead, he told everyone he could about the miraculous
healing that he experienced with Jesus.

Like the man, we are called to announce the good deeds of God to
others. Thanks to the healing power of God’s mercy made visible in
and through Jesus, doors were opened to further care and search for
the cure of leprosy. Today, leprosy is no longer considered an incurable

Sin is like leprosy. Sin distorts the image and likeness of God in us.
Sin separates us from the Christian community and keeps us outside
the city gate. In sin we lose our freedom and become beggars in need
of God’s mercy and healing.

Beyond healing the sick, Jesus often forgives the sins of the healed,
reminding us that sin is a greater disease than leprosy. Lepers were
treated with scorn because the effect of their sickness is visible to the
eyes. However, the effect of sin though not always visible to the eyes,
is more devastating to the soul than leprosy is to the body.

The person who should be sent to live in the caves is not the physically
sick who need our help and care but the physically healthy who
usurp God’s graces for their selfish purposes. It is no longer enough
for us today to sympathize with the situation of lepers during the time
of Jesus. There are modern day lepers who are still in need of our love
and care – the sick, the poor, the elderly, etc. Our commitment on this
25th anniversary of Together-In-Mission becomes a practical way we
could reach out in love to all who due to unjust social, political and
economic factors are kept at the margins of society.

From Bulletin of FEBRUARY 04, 2018

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “B”

The Redemptive Power of Suffering

Once upon a time, a sixth grade religion teacher asked his students
“why did Peter deny Jesus three times?” Little Sarah who hardly
speaks in class raised her hand and said “Because Jesus healed his
mother-in-law.” …Mother-in-law is no doubt a force for good in the
family especially with the upbringing of children. It is wonderful to have
a good relationship with your mother-in-law. But, that’s not always the
case. Sometimes relationship with mother-in-laws could go so sour
that our dislike for them would make us to think that they are suffering
from demonic possession or even prefer to see them dead.

The suffering of Job and the sickness of Peter’s mother-in-law invite
us to reflect on the reality of pain and suffering in the world. And if you
have ever wondered why good people suffer, then, the voice of Job
will ring a familiar tone in your heart and mind.

The traditional Jewish belief that God is a good God who rewards
good people and punishes bad people was greatly challenged by the
sickness of Job. Job was a good man. He was a law abiding friend of
God who worked hard to earn his wealth. He did not usurp anyone and
the best of it all is that Job loved God. He always desired to do the will
of God and walk in the path of righteousness.

Rather than being rewarded for his faithfulness, Job was mysteriously
bedeviled with sickness. It worries every sane mind seeing that a good
man like Job could suffer bodily ailment and the loss of his wealth, and
even the loss of his family. The question in the mind of Job and his
friends was – Where is God when good people suffer?

The friends of Job who are strongly rooted in the traditional belief that
God punishes bad people and blesses good people, rather than help
Job to endure his suffering, made matters worse for him. To them, if
Job is suffering, then, he must have sinned against God in some way.

In their effort to justify Job’s suffering, Eliphaz and the other two
friends of Job ask Job to curse God and die. To them, it makes no
sense for a good person to suffer. Job might as well become bad by
cursing God so that his suffering may appear reasonable to a faithful

And remember, these Jews had no notion of heaven and hell. They
believe that God rewards and punishes people here on earth.
Human beings like to make sense of everything but suffering is sometimes
non-rational. There may not always be a good reason to suffer.
If only bad people were to suffer, justice will be served. Nothing justifies
human suffering especially when a good person like Job is suffering.

Deep within Job’s mind, there is neither a good reason for his suffering
nor a good reason to curse God. However, Job’s faith in God did begin
to waver. Job begins to think that human life makes no sense if even
after one’s good deeds suffering remains the lot marked out for him. At
this low ebb of Job’s life he decided to release his frustration by cursing
the day he was born. Job describes his days as drudgery and his
nights as dragging on, and he envisions his life as ending soon without

In his 4 noble truths, the Buddha said that “Life is suffering; Suffering
is caused by desire; It is possible to eliminate suffering; There are 8 –
fold path to the cessation of suffering in the world.” Interesting though
this may sound, the Buddha did end up dying of stomach ache.

No matter how hard we try to explain it, human suffering remains a
mystery that eludes human comprehension. Suffering does not make
any sense especially to the one who suffers. Just look at it this way,
children do not know why their parents punish them for eating too
much candy, stop them from playing in the street, ask them to stop
watching television and go to sleep, force them to leave the comfort of
the home and go to school, etc. All these cause suffering in the lives of
children but their parents who force them to do all these things know
that it is for their own good.

One fundamental truth is certain and worthy of belief - Our God is not
a sadist. God finds no pleasure in the suffering of His children. God
sent His only begotten Son to show us the way and to die for us so
that human beings might be freed from the bondage of suffering and

To be a Christian is to be like Jesus - In today’s Gospel, when Jesus
was face to face with the sick mother-in-law of Peter, Jesus did not
ask why she was sick or what was the cause of her sickness? In the
moments of pain and suffering in the world, what is important is not
making sense of the meaning of suffering but making effort to alleviate
the plight of the one who suffers.

The fundamental question to ask today is what we are doing to alleviate
the pain and suffering of those around us? What are we doing to
make this world a better place for the sick, the homeless and the poor
in our society?

In spite of our advancement in the science of medicine, suffering remains
a mystery. Suffering is an indispensable part of life in the world.
Our faith in God does not make us immune to suffering. Christians still
have to experience the vicissitudes of life on earth. However, when we
run through life alone, it is called a race but when we run with God, it
becomes grace. It is by uniting our sufferings with the suffering of
Jesus that human suffering becomes redemptive.

It remains a daunting task for Christians to fight to eliminate unjust
structures that bring about suffering in the world without losing sight of
the fact that human suffering can form and inform us. Even when we
find ourselves in the situation of Job or Peter’s mother-in-law, one
thing is certain - we are greater than our sufferings because Jesus has
paid the full price of our sins on the cross of Calvary (when He cried in
a loud voice tetelesthai – paid to the full).

Doing the will of God even in the face of suffering becomes an indelible
mark of a true child of God and a sure sign that even now, the
grace of God is at work in our lives and in the world.

From Bulletin of JANUARY 28 2018

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “B”

Does Evil Exist?

When it comes to the reality of the existence of evil spirit and demonic
possession, there is hardly any agreement among Catholic scripture
scholars. While some consider evil as a phantom of our imagination,
others consider the existence of evil as real. No matter where one
stands on this issue, one thing is clear, if the Gospels do testify that
Jesus drove out demon from people and even commanded unclean
spirits and they obeyed Him, then, there is enough reason to believe
that evil and demonic possession is more than a phantom of human

However, the problem is what we mean by the existence of evil. The
common belief among the Jews during the time of Jesus is that sickness
is caused by evil spirits. To suffer from demonic possession
means that there is something in the person that prevents one from
experiencing wholeness of being. Evil is a disorder or anything that
deprives the human person the joy of experiencing the freedom of the
children of God in the world.

Evil is a deprivation of the good in the human person. It could be a
moral, spiritual, physical, psychological, or emotional deprivation of
wellness. Evil distorts the beauty of the human being created in the
image and likeness of God. Hence, the blind, the lame, lepers, the
sick, the poor, an angry person, murderers, etc. were believed to suffer
from demonic possession.

In this world view, evil does not possess a substantial nature. It enjoys
only an accidental character. It is the absence of the good. Evil may
enjoy continuity but lacks an identity. Evil has no being of its own but
prevails in the absence of the moral, spiritual, physical or psychological
good in a person. To be morally, physically, emotionally or spiritually
depraved of what is good and noble is to suffer from evil spirit.

Evil is a parasite. It lacks an independent existence. In its proper essence,
evil does not possess a being like a human person. It is a deprivation
of the good. Evil is something that destroys the beauty and
complete nature of a person. Since evil is accidental in character, it
can be destroyed, changed or removed without destroying the substantial
quality of a person. This is similar to changing the color of your
car from white to red without changing the nature of your car.

In its true essence the Jewish tradition aims at the well-being of the
human person, but, the institutional nature of these Jewish traditions,
which is built around the Sabbath, rather than destroy evil, seems to
protect it. Acts of mercy and forgiveness were sacrificed on the altar of
the sacredness of the law. Hence, the law was exalted high above
human well-being. The human person destroyed by evil cannot find
salvation from these Jewish institutions and the laws as it was interpreted
by the Scribes and Pharisees. Hence, the people that listened
to the teachings of the Scribes remained in the bondage of sin, ignorance
and death.

Jesus comes with a new power and authority. Power and authority
were exercised by Jesus in a manner which has never been seen
before. The power of Jesus word does not lie in the perfect interpretation
of the law but on its appeal to the human heart. The teachings of
the scribes were unable liberate people because the Scribes did not
have an intimate communion with God which Jesus enjoys in abundance.
Jesus preaching evolves from His Being. It is a personal testimony
of His intimate relationship and communion with God. By being
one with God, Jesus message becomes the message of God (Jn

It is like the phrase “I love You.” People can make a singsong of it,
write books on it, use it in poetry, movies, etc. and it will not make any
difference in your life. However, whenever the same phrase “I love
You” comes from a sincere heart, it makes a great difference in the life
of the one that hears it.

Jesus’ word not only appealed to the human heart, He focused His
message on the spirit of the law, unlike the Scribes who focused on
the letter of the law. The ultimate aim of the Gospel message is not
simply to explain the world but to change human life for the greater
glory of God. The original intent of the Sabbath is for the good of the
human person and not for the protection of unjust structures that promote
evil, injustice and human bondage.

Doing good is not seasonal. It is a lifelong project of every baptized
child of God. The Sabbath is meant for the good of the human being;
hence it is not against the mind of God to do good on the Sabbath.
The Sabbath is the day we stay away from manual work in order to
serve God and do God’s work which consists of a radical and preferential
option for the poor and needy (Jn 5:17).

The change of heart which Jesus calls for in the Gospel today is not
simply the feeling of guilt or regret for our sins but a radical commitment
to the removal of those evil forces and unjust structures that
deprive human beings from experiencing wholeness, peace and joy in
the world.

Rather than wasting our time arguing about the existence of evil in the
world or trying to identify the nature of evil and demonic possession,
we should aim at destroying all dehumanizing habits and unjust structures
that keep our fellow human being in bondage. The existence of
pain and suffering in the world means that we have work to do. And
like Jesus, we shall keep working even on the Sabbath until the civilization
of love in the world becomes a reality experienced by all and
not just a privileged enjoyed by the few who are protected by unjust
structures imposed by the agents of the devil in the world.

Therefore, the time we spend arguing about the existence of evil is a
wasted time. The evil that destroys us is not the evil with two horns,
which comes from the sky but the hatred in our hearts. Like St. Francis
of Assisi, let us pray that God may make us an instrument of his
peace, so that where there is hatred we may sow the seed of love ....

From Bulletin of JANUARY 21 2018

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “B”

The right time to change is now

There is a story of a certain teacher, well versed in science who told
his 6th graders that the story of Jonah in the Bible is a fairy tale because
it is scientifically impossible for Jonah to survive in the belly of a
fish for three days. After thinking about it for a minute, one of the students
told the teacher “ok, since there is no way we can know if it is
true or not, when I get to heaven I will ask Jonah.” The teacher immediately
retorted “what if Jonah went to hell?” The student said “then
you ask him.”

Faith is a mystery. It may not be reduced to words. Yet, our inability to
prove a fact does not make it false. It is like the color blue – our inability
to explain the color blue so that a blind person may understand it
does not mean that blue color does not exist. The essence of the story
of Jonah lies not in the ability of Jonah to survive for three days in the
belly of a whale but in the promptness of the people of Nineveh upon
hearing the word of God preached by Jonah. The Ninevites changed
from their evil ways and began to live a life pleasing to God.

It goes to show that change is possible – Change is the only constant in

Jonah was a good and honest man. Being a Jew, Jonah probably did not
like the people of Nineveh because they allowed the Babylonians to pass
through their territory in order to conquer Israel from the North.

Jonah loved God but cared less about the salvation of the people of Nineveh,
hence his refusal to go to preach to them. It was common then for
good people like Jonah to think that God’s favor should be for the good
people while the bad people like the Ninevites should perish in their sins.

Jonah did not want to go to preach to the people of Nineveh. Even when
Jonah was practically forced to go to preach to the people of Nineveh, his
message was simple, only “forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed.”
Did Jonah expect the people of Nineveh to change? No. But did the
people of Nineveh change? Yes. And this will be to Jonah’s greatest
surprise. Jonah comes to understand that God derives no pleasure in
the death of the wicked but would rather have them change their evil
ways and live.

Like the Jonah, what is my attitude towards people I do not like? People
I consider wicked? Do I want them to perish or to change from their
wicked ways and live?

The radical nature of the Ninevites change of heart becomes a model
of what Jesus demands from us in the gospel message of the today.
Jesus says “this is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at
hand. Repent and believe in the gospel.”

Change is possible. Change is good. Positive change brings peace
and joy to the human heart. The main problem in life is not change but
the same thing all the time. Doing the same thing and expecting a
different result is nothing but the definition of insanity.

History is not wanting in the number of people who underwent a radical
change in order to regain their freedom. If not Abraham, Moses,
David, Mary, Mary Magdalene, Thomas, Peter, Paul, etc. we do know
about people like Dennis Wholey “The Courage to Change: Personal
Conversation about Alcoholism with Dennis Wholey” how he confronted
his own problem with alcohol and later went on a mission to help
other victims of what is sometimes called “the most treatable untreated
disease in the world.”

You and I may not have problem with alcohol, but we certainly do
have many other weaknesses we are struggling with. Jesus call to
conversion excludes no one “for all have sinned and fallen short of the
glory of the God.”

Who among us can say that he or she has no sin to repent from? We
all stand in need of turning more and more away from selfishness and
laziness, from pride and stubbornness, from greed and possessiveness,
from doubt and arrogance, negativity and negligence, etc. to
embrace the goodness of the Lord.

The reality of change, though hard it may be, is still one part of the
story. Jesus calls us to turn towards something more radical. And that
something is God’s love – to bring ourselves closer to God’s love and
to believe in the Goodnews.

The easiest way to root out a bad habit is to reinforce it with virtue –
take developing discipline to replace laziness, sharing more to overcome
selfishness, making out time to pray to replace our addiction to
television, speaking good words to replace our use of vulgar words,
bless rather than curse, getting involved in noble causes like fighting
for justice to replace the prejudice and bias we have in our hearts, etc.
The radical nature of Jesus message becomes a reminder that the
right time to effect change is now. By virtue of our baptism and confirmation,
we have been called, chosen and anointed like the apostles to
bring glad tidings to all irrespective of their religious affiliation or sociopolitical

Jesus chose fishermen to become his apostles. Fishermen, shepherds
and tax collectors were not known for their ritual purity because the
nature of their work makes it difficult for them to observe the law like
the Pharisees. But being open to the truth preached by Jesus is what
transformed the lives of such lowly men and made them revolutionaries
of the new age.

It is the truth that makes people great. Truth is not great because it is
spoken by people in power. People become great whenever they embrace
and speak the truth. True greatness, therefore, comes from
knowing and living by the truth because it is the truth that sets us free.
And if the Son of God has set you free, you are free indeed.

The issue may not be whether Jonah was in the belly of a fish for
three days or not. There is no way we can know, but we do know that
the need for change both in the world and in our individual lives continues
to hunt the human heart. Our hearts, like that of Jonah and the
apostles, will remain restless until we confront our fear of change and
do whatever we need to do to contribute our quota in the civilization of
divine love in the world.

From Bulletin of JANUARY 14, 2018

2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “B”

“Speak Lord, your servant is listening”

I wish you and your loved ones a blessed and prosperous New Year. I
may not promise to get you to realize whatever your ambitions or prospective
long term goals for this year may be. I am pretty sure that reading this
reflection may not get you there but it certainly will help to challenge and
re-orient your life to a higher purpose. Like Jesus, my invitation to you is to
“Come and See” …, and like Samuel I’d certainly expect your answer will
be “Here I am Lord … Speak Lord for your servant is listening.”

If like me you have struggled to live the Christian life, you would agree
with me that following Jesus is not an easy project to embark upon. Christian
life as I have come to see it is more about the formation of human
conscience. A well-formed conscience is not immune from the ups and
downs of life, but it does empower the human mind to go beyond the ordinary
– to establish a profound relationship with divine and transcendental
values. The evidence of a well-formed conscience is seen in one’s ability
to make the right choices - Choices that reflect the will of God in one’s life
and in the life of others.

The key to a successful year is letting our conscience be our guide - A
well-formed conscience is a beauty to behold. In moments of confusion a
well-formed conscience is guided by the principle of “If Jesus were here
what will He do?” Such a conscience that endeavors to do the will of God
at all times is pleasing both to God and to others. In moments of uncertainty,
a well-formed conscience will always make a profound effort to
make the choices that enhance and promote the Good, Beauty, Truth,
Love, Justice, Care, Compassion, Excellence and the integrity of all sentient

In this quest for excellence, we see what Christian life is all about. Christian
life is not an exercise of momentary goodness – “Lord, I have been
good for 9 days, now you have to reward me” or “Lord, I have completed
the 2000 Hail Marys, now I have to win the super lotto.” Christian life is a
culture. It is a way of life that is lived out of love and not out of coercion.
Like Samuel, Andrew and Simon Peter, Christian life is a call to see, love
and behold the goodness of God in Jesus, the Christ (the incarnation of

The Christian culture transcends space and time. Christians worship divine
and eternal values, and embarking on such a project demands an
openness of the human mind to the realm of the boundless good that is
immanent in everything that exists. It challenges the human mind in its
limited nature to open up to the sphere of the unknown, the other, the
realm of nothingness where all reality unites as one.

To arrive at this level of mental and spiritual development, our readings
emphasize on the need for spiritual guidance - The hand of God was upon
Samuel right from the moment of his conception in the womb of Hannah
his mother. Samuel literally grew up in the presence of God, serving the
priest Eli at the Lord’s sanctuary in Shiloh. Having been raised by a priest
and having been well educated in the Sacred Scriptures, he still needed
the guidance of a man of God in order to recognize the voice of God, an
experience that would change his life forever.

Embarking on the journey of emancipation and spiritual liberation, the first
apostles – Andrew, Simon, James and John needed the guidance of John
the Baptist in order to recognize Jesus as the “Lamb of God.”

It is significant to note that John was the son of a priest, Zachariah,
who participated in the daily sacrifice of a lamb in the temple for the
sins of the people (Exodus 29).

John understands well the power of the blood of the Passover Lamb
(Exodus 12) which delivered the Israelites in Egypt from sin and death.
By calling Jesus the Lamb of God, John sees in the blood of Jesus,
the true Passover Lamb (1 Cor. 5:7), the ultimate sacrifice that will
deliver the world from everlasting sin, death and eternal destruction.

The apostles were not completely ignorant of this idea but their expectation
of the fulfillment of prophecy was not enough to lead them to this
truth. It was not until the man of God – John the Baptist made this prophetic
pronouncement that the apostles were able to know the truth that
will forever give a sense of meaning and direction to their lives.

Human beings are instinctively curious in nature. When it comes to the
realization of our vocations in life (ambitions and long-term goals), we would
like God to speak to us in voices that are distinct and clear – voices that are
unmistakable and could easily be recognized; yet, our experience of God’s
interaction with human beings in history reveals that God normally works
through ordinary things of life thus reminding us that nothing should be neglected
or taken for granted in our effort to realize our vocation in life.

Like Samuel and the apostles, we have all been given a divine assignment by
God and just like Samuel and the apostles who could not recognize what
divine providence has in store for them until their spiritual masters pointed it
out to them, we do need spiritual directors and spiritual masters in our spiritual
journeys to help us discern what God is saying to us in our lives as individuals,
family, group or the church.

The practice of spiritual direction should never be considered a thing of the
past. We may live in a world which emphasizes on the power of the individual
to discern his/her own life, yet, we do know that seeking for spiritual guidance
does not in any way diminish the value of personal choice and personal responsibility
because ultimately coming to develop a relationship with God is a
choice that no one can make for you. It is a choice you must make for yourself.

Jesus echoes this fact in His question to the apostles “What are you looking
for?” John the Baptist may point out the Lamb of God to the apostles; yet,
getting to know and to follow Jesus remains a fundamental option the apostles
must make for themselves, hence the apostles’ question “Master, … where
are you staying?”

Jesus, where do you live so that we can see for ourselves? Jesus said to
them “come and see.” Jesus neither gave the apostles an address for their
GPS nor did He describe the direction to His residence to the apostles. He
took them with Him to have a personal experience which will change their
lives forever.

Christian life is a day by day journey with Jesus. It is a journey of selfdiscovery.
Since no one can see his or her back without the help of a mirror or
the testimony of another, we need all the spiritual support we can get in order
to discern the plan of God for our lives. When it comes to the development of
spiritual life and the formation of human conscience, we ought to understand
that Christian life is not a Do-it-Yourself enterprise. We all need the support
and assistance of people who are in sync with the Spirit of God to help us
discern our mission on earth.

May it be well with us as we embark on our spiritual journey of self-discovery
in this New Year.

From Bulletin of JANUARY 7, 2018

Epiphany - The Manifestation of Jesus to the World

Jesus is the Way, Truth and Life; Year B

It was Saint Augustine who once said that our heart is restless until it
rests in God. Today we are presented with the story of three restless
hearts who set out in search of the Truth – not the small truth but the
ultimate Truth. These shepherds whom we also call the Magi or the
Three Wise Men were used to worshiping nature – the sun, moon and
star. They know a lot about the operations of the natural cycle. On this
unique day something different happened. The light of this star shined
not only in their eyes but in their hearts and made the shepherds to
realize that their knowledge of nature was not good enough to satisfy
the greatest desire of their hearts. Hence, they kept searching for

We often abhor the stranger because the stranger is different from
what we are used to. Not so with the shepherds. We see the greatness
of these shepherds in the fact that when they realized that something
different had happened in the course of nature. They did not
reject or attack it. They embraced it and with an open heart and mind
they set out in search of the truth that lies behind what they have
heard and seen.

As a reward for their openness to the truth, they were able to discover
not only the secret behind the star, but more so the secret of the whole
universe – the secret of God’s incredible love for the world that is revealed
in the child Jesus (the incarnation of God). In the child Jesus
they see the meeting point between God and humanity – the point at
which divinity and humanity integrate as one. They behold a truth that
is seen and yet unseen – a mystery.

Having beheld the truth they worshiped and offered the precious gifts
of gold, frankincense and myrrh. These gifts reveal the true identity of
Jesus as King (gold), Divine (incense is offered only to God) and Savior
(myrrh – born to die for the salvation of the world.

The shepherds had all these gifts in abundance but did not know their
true significance. It was not until it was presented to Jesus that their
true meaning became manifest.

Having given it all (emptied their treasures, which is the main source of
their sustenance), the shepherds return to their homeland neither with
material wealth nor scientific formulae to conquer the world). They
came back with the faith and the joy which only God can give.

In the three shepherds we see the true essence of life. Life is not
simply a search for knowledge but a search for a genuine relationship
with God.

Every New Year presents us with new blessings, new opportunities
and new responsibilities. Like the shepherds, we already have the
treasures that could lead us to the discovery of the ultimate truth.

The fundamental question today is – how do we respond to things that
are not familiar? The shepherds did not respond with trepidation or
fear but with open heart and mind they went in search of the truth that
lies behind the extraordinary star that appeared to them.

At moments like this, it is common for people to seek to know what the
New Year has in stock for them. Some do so by reading the horoscope,
palm reading, consulting soothsayers, seers, prophets, diviners,
etc. Some argue that the rationale for doing this is because it was
the star that led the shepherds to the truth.

It is important to note that the star was only a guide because the shepherds,
like their fellow country men and women, worshiped nature.
The truth of nature was all they had to work with. The star did not lead
them to the truth. It was only when Herod consulted the chief priests
who in turn consulted the Sacred Scripture that they were able to
know the truth.

“And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among
the rulers of Judah, since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd
my people Israel.”

Regardless of what we pursue in life – fame, fortune, political power,
beauty, health, success, etc. ultimately the greatest desire of the human
heart is happiness. How we go about it is what marks the difference
between a person of faith and a worldly person.

The good news today is that true happiness is realizable. In the epiphany
we celebrate the manifestation of Jesus to the world. The Magi
(shepherds) found the truth in Christ Jesus and so can we. We may
not know everything there is to know in the world, but the truth we
have found in Christ Jesus is good enough to lead us to the true happiness
which can satisfy the greatest desire of the human heart.

Having found the truth, the shepherds returned to their home by a
different route because people who encounter God experience a profound
change that makes it impossible for them to return by the way of
Herod which is the way of envy, hatred, violence and greed.

Doing the same thing all over again and expecting a different result is
the definition of insanity. We need sometimes to take the risk of following
our star with open mind and heart to see where it will lead us. We
need to be daring enough to take the leap of faith in order to discover
the Truth. We need to be courageous to explore the unknown in order
to liberate our mind from the bondage of ignorance and fear. Only then
shall we come to behold the truth and beauty that surrounds us.

There is no shortage of truth, beauty and goodness in the world but
there is a shortage of people with open hearts and minds who are
willing to explore the unknown, to welcome the stranger, fight for love,
justice, peace and the integrity of all sentient beings.

Today, we have a choice to make – either to be like Herod who wants
to destroy the unknown (baby Jesus) or to be like the shepherds who
are willing to do big things.

Yes, wise men and women still seek Him. Are you one of them?


Rev. Patrick was born on February 16, 1965. He is the youngest of the eight children of John and Mercy Mbazuigwe. He was ordained a priest in Nigeria on July 3, 1993, and has since served as a Claretian missionary in Cameroon and as a lecturer at the Claretian Institute of Philosophy, Maryland Nekede. He did his postgraduate studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and University of the West in Rosemead, California, where he obtained a Master’s degree in Philosophy and a PhD in Philosophy of Religion, respectively. Here in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Fr. Patrick has served at the following parishes – St. Genevieve in Panorama City, St. Anthony in San Gabriel, and St. Peter Claver in Simi Valley, California. On July 1, 2015, he was appointed by Archbishop Jose Gomez as the Administrator of All Souls, Alhambra. He loves soccer, music, tennis, and art.