from Bulletins of 2018

From OLD Bulletins of: 2015 2016 2017

From Bulletin of May 27, 2018

Year “B”

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Belief in the Trinity is the most profound and comprehensive belief of the church. This doctrine which from time immemorial has enriched our knowledge of God has remained a controversial dogma. It was said that one philosopher argued long and hard with the Fathers of the Council, trying to prove logically that Jesus as the Son cannot be consubstantial with God the Father.

In a tense moment of long debates and as some people were eager to leave, the Fathers were suddenly confronted by a simple elderly shepherd (often identified as St. Spyridon, a saint of the Orthodox Church), who announced that he was prepared to argue with the philosopher and disprove his arguments.

Turning to the philosopher, St. Spyridon looked into the eye of his mind, and said: “Listen, O philosopher, God is one, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has created all things through the power of the Son and the operation of the Holy Spirit. This Son of God became incarnate, lived among people, died for us and rose again. Do not labor in vain to seek evidence for that which is comprehended by faith alone, but answer me: do you believe in the Son of God?” Deeply struck by these words, the philosopher could only say, 'I do'.

St. Spyridon goes on to say: “If you believe, then, let us go to the church and there I will bring you into communion with this true faith.”

The philosopher immediately stood up and went with the saint. On his way out, he admonished those present, thus: “When people tried to convince me with words, I countered words with words; but when a divine power came forth from the mouth of this old man, then, words were no match for this power, as man cannot contend against God.”

The Trinity is a truth of faith and not of facts. There is no way the human mind can comprehend it that there are three persons in one God.
It is like the colors, because the human mind may not be able to define the color blue, red or green so that a blind man can understand it, does not mean that the color blue, red, green, etc. does not exist. All it goes to show is the limited power of human words to grasp the inner workings of certain reality.

The Trinity is a truth faith and not of logic. This is not to say that belief in the Trinity is unreasonable. It means that it is a truth that is beyond reason. Logical reasoning provides human beings with basis of operations in the world but this is not to say that all of reality could be limited to logical reasoning. If the human mind cannot define the colors which are physical realities, how much more is the human mind capable of defining the Trinity which is a transcendental reality?

The Trinity is a truth that is given and it is expected to be received in faith. Oftentimes we think all our actions are guided by reason, yet, we do know that most of what we are and most of what we do are based on facts that are given. There may not be an infallible logical reasoning to believe that there will be tomorrow or that I am still alive now and not simply dreaming. There have been times I have won the super lotto in my dreams and it looked so real, only to wake up and it is but a dream.

We may not know everything there is in the world; yet, we do know that the much we know is good enough for us to live a meaningful life in the world. The operational principle of things in our world for the most part is based on a mixture of faith and reason. Our ability to hold both truths in a healthy balance is an authentic sign of Christian maturity in holiness.

Belief in the Trinity in Unity becomes an invitation to be humble. Humility does not consist in thinking less of yourself but in thinking of yourself less. To appreciate the truth of the Trinity does not demand that we ignore the truth of science and reason. Reason remains a good guide for life of holiness in the world. However, our life will be miserable should we insist on limiting the truth of all we have and all we are to a logical conclusion. We are fundamentally spiritual beings.

The Trinity is love in action – to live in love is to live in God. The love journey is not a logical one. There is no single formula that exhausts the meaning of love. Love may be guided by reason, yet, love is superior to reason. True love demands a leap of faith. Love is a movement to the unknown. It is a selfless giving of oneself, whole and entire. It is the denial of the self and an acceptance of the “other.” It is a sacrifice and a dying to oneself.

The final destination of love may be unknown to human beings but it is very well known to God. If human beings are to refuse to live in love because of its unknown character, how miserable our world would be.
This is true because there is no credible alternative to love.

The Trinity is love par excellence – our relationship with God is governed by love. From the beginning, it was out of love that God created human beings. For God said, “Let us make man in our own image and likeness ….” Even when human beings sinned and inflicted on God an injury that God could not metaphysically condone. For authentic reparation that could bring about divine justice, it was out of love that God redeemed and reconciled the world to Himself – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him, might not perish but may have eternal life (Jn 3:16). Finally, it was out of the love between God the Father and God the Son that the Holy Spirit was given to us, to sustain us in the truth of God.

In the Trinity we live, move and have our being. No wonder we are baptized “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Whenever the baptized gather in prayer, we gather “in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Whenever we want to glorify God for His goodness to us, we say “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.” As we honor the Trinity in our prayers today, we are reminded (by the philosopher of our story) that our belief in the Trinity comes alive only when the children of God worship God in honesty and live in unity in the world.

From Bulletin of May 20, 2018

Year “B”


Pentecost marks the end of the Easter season.
This is the one feast of the Church’s year when we focus on the third person of the Trinity, God the Holy Spirit. This is a good day to recall what Jesus said about himself, quoting the prophet Isaiah (61:1):

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;

He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly,
to heal the brokenhearted,

To proclaim liberty to the captives
and release to the prisoners,

To announce a year of favor from the LORD
and a day of vindication by our God.

The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus at his baptism.
This same Spirit, who also came upon the disciples at Pentecost, the birthday of the church, is the Spirit who hovered over the waters of our baptism, as we were anointed with the holy oil of salvation. The Spirit came upon us with renewed strength in confirmation, as we were anointed as followers of Christ.

It is the Holy Spirit who calls us anew to the challenges of each day, inspiring and strengthening us to live as disciples and friends of Jesus. That does not mean the path is made easy, or that we will always be understood, accepted, and successful. It does mean that if we trust the Spirit and its promptings deep within us, we will always speak and act with faith and truth. It is not up to us to worry about whether people receive what we offer. Our words or deeds may be just one small seed sown in someone’s soul; our job is to sow it and to entrust to the Holy Spirit the nurturing and nourishing of that seed. The Spirit of the Lord God is upon us, so share the glad tidings!

The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are as follows: wisdom, understanding, counsel (meaning right judgment), fortitude (meaning courage), knowledge, piety (meaning reverence), fear of the Lord (meaning wonder and awe in God’s presence). Without these we cannot be true followers of Christ. Pray for an increase of whichever you need most.

Copyright © 2011, World Library Publications. All rights reserved

From Bulletin of May 13, 2018

Year “B”

Ascension of the Lord

“It is not for you to know the times or seasons,” Jesus tells the disciples in the first reading (Acts 1:7). After Jesus had left them, many wondered when He would return. Some thought it would be a very short time. This could have paralyzed them and the mission of the church. After all, why plan ahead if the end of the world could come any day, at any moment? So the angels immediately rebuke the loitering disciples: Why are you just standing around staring after Him?
He’s gone now; get to work.

The size and scope of the work He’s left is awesome.
They are asked to proclaim the Gospel, baptize the believers, give witness, prophesy, evangelize, pastor, teach. And all of this they are to do throughout the whole world, to the ends of the earth. But this work was not to be completed only for those disciples who lived at the same time as Jesus. It is to be completed by all disciples throughout all time. So it is also our mission today to do these things as well.

But we are not called to do all this on our own.
The Holy Spirit, Whom Jesus breathed on the apostles, Who comes to us in Baptism, Whose arrival we celebrate on Pentecost Sunday, is with us. “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you,” Jesus said (Acts 1:8).

When the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles, they were able to speak in tongues and be understood by people all over the world. May the words we speak today have the power to comfort, to challenge, and to heal, the power to continue Christ’s mission.

Reflection Question:
How often do I just stand around looking when there is work to be done?

From Bulletin of May 6, 2018

6th Sunday of Easter, Year “B”

In the Name of Jesus

One of the theological controversies that erupted in the church during the medieval ages is whether those who saw Jesus in the flesh have any advantage over those of us who did not see him in the flesh?
Thomas believed when he saw and touched the risen Jesus. The woman with the issue of blood was healed after touching the mantle of Jesus clothing. Mary of Magdala believed when she heard the voice of Jesus call her name. People who heard the word of God from the mouth of Jesus experience God’s mercy and love. Seeing Lazarus brought back to life from death made many people to believe in God.
People who dined with Jesus experienced the healing power of God.

No one can underestimate the power of presence. The sense of smell, taste, touch, sight, hearing and feeling are among the wonders of creation.
The sense of touch could have a more lasting effect than only words. This notwithstanding, the unanimous position of the church on this medieval question is that those who saw Jesus in the flesh have no advantage over those who did not see Him in the flesh.

Jesus lives on in the world in His words and sacraments. It is by preaching the Word and celebrating the Sacraments that God’s power remains effective in our lives. In any generation, place or time, anyone who with profound faith call on the name of Jesus will receive the same response as those who approached Him while He was physically present in the world.

There is power in the name of Jesus. Peter demonstrated this truth while in the house of Cornelius. Speaking in the name of Jesus, Cornelius and his household received the same Spirit which Jesus bestowed on His disciple. Peter said “can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit even as we have? He ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.”

We are called Christians because we are a people who believe, live and act in the name of Jesus. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, the prophets, the apostles, etc. played an important role in the history of human salvation, yet, we do not act in their names. Believers live and act in the name of Jesus Christ. He is the stone rejected by the builders which has become the cornerstone. There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved (Acts 4:11-12).

At the name of Jesus every knee must bow and every tongue must confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Phil 2:10). In Jesus believers see the perfect revelation of the love of God.
Jesus supreme commandment to believers is to love one another.
There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command you.

The world may make a sing-song of love – millions of books may be written on love, musicians may sing about love, Hollywood may make millions of dollars from movies on love, people may claim to be in love, do things in the name of love, gain favors in the name of love, etc. yet, the best expression of love is not based on these but in the life, teachings and sacrifice of Jesus

In Jesus, our worldly love for power is transformed into the power of love. Jesus kingdom becomes a reflection of a transversal of values where the poor, not the rich are blessed, the oppressed and not the oppressor is exalted, kings and princesses are not humiliated but humbled to embrace the power of love. This is a kingdom where the lion and the lamb are at peace, the dog and the cat sleep on the same bed, bridges are built and not walls, etc.

The power of love is the greatest power sentient beings possess. As St. Paul puts it, this love is patient, love is kind. Love is not jealous.
Love is not pompous. It is not inflated, it is not rude. It does not seek its own interests, it is not quick tempered. It does not brood over injury; it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. (1 Cor 13:4-4).

It is the greatest power given to human beings because Love never fails. Other things may disappoint but true love does not disappoint because it is rooted in God who is love par excellence. To live in love is to live in God which is the greatest desire of the human heart.

In its true essence, love is a lifestyle not a commandment. One may not break any of the commandments, yet, fail to love. Not hating our neighbor does not mean that we love our neighbor. Love consists in doing, not in avoiding. Love is what gives value and meaning to human acts. Without love no human act has value and purpose.

Care must be taken not to construe tolerance for love. True love becomes manifest whenever we are willing to go out of our ways to reach out to others in need, whenever we stand up for justice, bury the dead, feed the hungry and protect human life from conception to death.

Love is our vocation, love is our mission. Living in love makes us the children of God and the citizens of heaven. It makes us members of a believing community on the path of eternal life. No one who lives in love lives alone. Love makes the believer part of the trinity in unity. In love, temporal existence assumes an ontological dimension and elevates reality to a level that exponentially transcends the ontic level of being.

Living in love makes one a universal being and catapults the believer unto a level that transcends all structural barriers which human beings often create knowingly or unknowingly to protect their selfish interests.
In love the power of what unites us takes precedence over what divides us. In love, grace builds on nature. Believers no longer conceive their self being in the context of one against many or many against one.

In love, we all become partners in progress, working together for the realization of a just and violent-free world.

From Bulletin of April 29, 2018

5th Sunday of Easter, Year “B”

I am the Vine and You are the Branches

It is much easier to sustain the spirit of Lent than to sustain the spirit of Easter. Our church decorations may show a glimmer of the Easter joy but the glory of Easter is blurred by all the violence and hatred that are taking place in the world. A mere look at the world reveals a picture of an unredeemed rather than a redeemed world. This is because of the dominant effect of sin in our lives. It is much easier to identify with the fallen nature of the human person than to glory in the grace of Easter. However, a critical look at the human heart reveals that we are the Easter people and as St. Augustine said “Alleluia is ‘still’ our song.”

The parable of the vine and its branches comes at an opportune time to help us make sense of all the happenings in our world and to reinforce the sense of unity among believers. We often hear some people ask “why should I go to church? Why can’t I just worship God in my own way, after all, religion is all about my personal relationship with God – church is in the heart since our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who lives in us?
This manner of thinking does not agree with God’s divine plan for the salvation of the world. From the earliest times, the following of Jesus Christ has never been a private affair. Christians gathered together to live in community, to profess their faith, to witness to the resurrection, and to serve the poor. The reason for doing this is given by Jesus when he said “I am the vine and you are the branches ….” The vine and the branches are one, but not the same. This imagery becomes a simple but profound illustration of the unity and the depth of the interdependence of the creature with the Creator.

We need God – God needs us – We need one another. It is only in this atmosphere of inter-dependence and interpersonal relationship with members of a believing and worshiping community that Christian life is exercised.

However, it is still a no brainer that in spite of the millions of people that live inhabit our planet, there is still so much loneliness in the world today. People are still crying for recognition, crying to be noticed and wishing to be loved. But oftentimes we pass one another by without the slightest sign of appreciation of our humanness. People come to church and leave without saying Hi to others. This attitude falls short of the truth revealed by the parable of the Vine and its branches.

The cross, which is the main symbol of Christianity, has both vertical and horizontal dimensions meaning that the church has both spiritual and social functions in the world. The vertical dimension refers to our relationship with God, while the horizontal dimension refers to our relationship with others. We need to hold both dimensions in a healthy balance because at the meeting point between the vertical and the horizontal dimensions of the cross is Jesus with open hands inviting us to embrace one another with love and mercy.

Jesus recognizes the power of communal worship when He said “I am the vine and you are the branches. Jesus also said “where two or three of you gather in my name. I am there with you” (Mtt 18:20). Hence, we cannot underestimate the honor given to God whenever we gather as branches of the vine to praise the Vine from whom life is given to us.

Another message of this parable is that we are called to bear fruit. The emphasis is not on being successful but on being faithful and fruitful. Each of us has some gift. It is by developing, using and sharing those gifts with others that we become fruitful. The world is waiting for our fruit and the best fruit we bear is to remain faithful in love. It is God who makes our love fruitful, whether we are aware of it or not.

The final point I want to make is to consider the circumstances that led to this parable. Jesus narrated this parable after the last supper and probably on the road to Gethsemane i.e. shortly before his crucifixion and death.

This was a night when everything seemed to be breaking up, falling apart, the end was near; a night when his disciples had abandoned him. Peter denied him publicly, Judas betrayed him yet this was the night Jesus spoke about unity and togetherness.
In the first reading Paul was rejected because of his past history of being a persecutor of Christians. But just like Jesus, Paul did not allow rejection to prevent him from spreading the good news.

How about you? Are the present circumstances or your past weighing you down, haunting you or preventing you from enjoying the happiness of the present? Remember that the past does not exist. Our past has power over us only to the extent we empower it. In the actual fact since the past no longer exists, it is also powerless. That’s why call it past.

We are the Easter people. We live in the present. Even now we are still part of the Vine. We draw life from the risen and glorified Lord. Neither our life nor our society may be perfect as we see it today, yet, greater is He that is in us than He that is in the world (1Jn 4:4). It takes the eye of faith to see that the hand of God is still at work in our lives even now.

As branches of the vine, no matter how good or bad our past may be, what ultimately empowers us to bear fruit is our decision to remain an integral part of the vine. Being part of a worshiping community that keeps the faith alive becomes the best concrete expression of the message of today’s parable.

Our past is part of a pruning process that helps us to make healthy choices in the present because there is more depth in a relationship that has weathered some storm. It is by making a sincere effort to face life’s struggles, failures, challenges and sacrifices that personal and communal unity grows and deepens.
Like the crucified and risen Jesus, we are transformed and empowered to become wounded healers in a broken world.

From Bulletin of April 22, 2018

4th Sunday of Easter, Year “B”

Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd

The two Holy Pictures that influenced my spiritual life as a child are the pictures of Jesus the Good Shepherd and the Guardian Angel. These two holy pictures go a long way to inform and shape my understanding of Jesus and the blessed assurance we have in being anchored to Jesus as our shepherd and our guide. In these holy pictures I see the gentle touch of a loving, caring and compassionate Jesus healing and protecting those who trust in Him and the unimaginable great transformation that takes place in people who are in a trustworthy and reliable relationship.

Relationship is power. Relationship is happiness. Relationship is life and a healthy relationship has a powerful healing effect. There is no limit to the good that people can do when they are convinced that someone reliable and trustworthy cares about them. This awareness of an intimate relationship reaches its climax with the realization that we are the children of a God who loves and cares for us.

There is no shortage of historical facts that reveal how much God loves us (Jn 3:16). After looking at the cross, we may not have any genuine reason to doubt God’s love for us. The fundamental question to ask today is “How deep is my relationship with God?”

It is due to the strong relationship that exists between Jesus and His apostles that Peter, even in the absence of Jesus was bold enough to defend the true faith in the risen and glorified Jesus, not minding the cruelty and threats of the Jews and their religious authorities.

It is due to a strong relationship with God that the beloved apostle John was able to state categorically and without the fear of persecution that we are children of God.

It is due to the strong relationship with God that Jesus not minding our sinful nature accepted to die on the cross to prove that He is the good shepherd who lays down his life for His sheep.

Jesus, thus, lays an immortal foundation for us to emulate - Becoming a good shepherd should be the greatest ambition of every child of God. It is not a task reserved for priests and religious. Husband and wife become good shepherds by stopping at nothing in demonstrating their love and devotion for each other; parents, by making countless sacrifices for the good of their children; teachers, by being deeply concerned for the well-being of their students, especially the weak ones among them; doctors and nurses, by exercising care and compassion in their treatment of their patients; parishioners, who generously support their parish community by donating their time, wealth and talent for the good of others.

Becoming a good shepherd to others demands that we develop a good relationship with God. Poor relationship with God expresses itself in a poor relationship with self, family and society, while a good relationship with God helps us to build our self-esteem, making us to become happy with self and others. It takes strength and character to be in a lasting good relationship.

We do not come about it by mere stroke of chance. It is born out of strong character and utter determination to do the will of God.

On this ‘Good Shepherd Sunday’ otherwise known as VOCATION SUNDAY or World Day of Prayer for Vocations, the Mother Church reminds us that no matter our status in this world, life on earth is a vocation. We are all called to a mission. And the ultimate vocation to which we are called, like that of Jesus the Good Shepherd is the vocation to LOVE and to lay down our lives for the good of others.

There are two different ways we can respond to this call, either with
• The mentality of the good shepherd, or
The mentality of the hireling (paid laborer).

Whichever way we decide to go about it, life is all about caring or not caring. Caring for others is a conscious and deliberate decision. The hireling neither knows nor cares about the sheep. The good shepherd knows His sheep and cares about them to the point of giving His life to defend them from the Enemy. Caring may be costly and risky, yet, people who care are always blessed.

Our readings especially the Gospel warns us about the danger of going through life with the mentality of the hireling – an uncommitted lifestyle. We do this whenever we live a lukewarm lifestyle that makes a chosen child to become a frozen child. In the frozen state of mind we find it much easier to blame others and to complain in spite of all the blessings that abound.

Some years ago an American journalist named Studs Terkel did a survey to find out how people felt about their work. He discovered that the overwhelming majority of people are unhappy with their work.
Think about this for a while….. are you happy with your life, family, friends, work etc.? We may not always be blessed with a dream job, yet, people who go through life with the mentality of a hireling (paid laborer) never find job satisfaction in life, making work to become a mere labor that dehumanizes rather than humanize creation.

The busyness of life and family responsibilities may make it difficult for all to serve in the ministerial priesthood but we do have a moral obligation to pray for vocations, and as children of God we are called to follow the footsteps of Jesus the Good Shepherd. Teachers, politicians, police, nurses, doctors, parents, etc. do difficult works but if they do them with love it becomes a vocation that humanizes us and makes the world a better place for all.

The world may not be a perfect place, yet, Jesus demands perfection from us. Perfection here is more about doing our best in everything we do. It is more about living our life with passion for justice, truth and beauty. Being a good shepherd may not be an easy task, yet, all it takes is to do small things with great love.

People, who do small things with great love, are a treasure to cherish and behold. They know who they are – they are the children of God.
And knowing who they are is only possible through the grace that comes from a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ – the Good Shepherd.

From Bulletin of April 15, 2018

3rd Sunday of Easter, Year “B”

You are Witnesses of these Things

The empty tomb is not an indisputable proof of the resurrection of Jesus. It is rather the transformation we see in the lives of the apostles, Mary Magdalene, Veronica, Salome, etc. that provide a definitive proof that something of great importance must have happened to effect such a radical change we see in their lives. Imagine Peter who even denied any knowledge of Jesus is now strong enough to render a powerful message that made three thousand people to become Christians.
Peter is also courageous enough to publicly accuse the Jewish people of being responsible for the death of Jesus without being afraid of the consequences of such a claim.

During the time of Jesus, those who decided to become his disciples did so at the cost of their lives. The disciples were ostracized and betrayed even by family members. Many disciples of Jesus lost their family inheritance for following someone who was regarded by the Jewish religious and civil authorities - Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes as unpatriotic and a law breaker who neither kept the Sabbath nor observed the temple rules.

Disciples of Jesus would lose their business partners because no one liked to do business with them. Those in civil service faced the possibility of being demoted or not promoted to higher ranks. It was purely a radical choice and a sacrifice to become a disciple of Jesus.

The situation was made worse by the wrong idea of the Messiah that some disciples had nourished. Like other Jews, the disciples had a notion of a conquering messiah who will restore the kingdom of Israel like it was during the time of King David when Israel was the superpower of the world. The idea of a suffering messiah was not only unthinkable but also unacceptable.

As Jesus entered Jerusalem, the disciples thought that Jesus was about to restore the kingdom to Israel. It never crossed their mind that the One who made the deaf to hear, the blind to see, fed the 5000,
raised the child of the widow of Nain, raised Lazarus from death, etc. could easily die on the cross alongside two other criminals.

Being disappointed that Jesus accepted to die on the cross, the two disciples decided to return to their native homes to face humiliation and to accept the mockery of people for having followed a “fake” prophet from Nazareth. It was at this lowest ebb of their life that Jesus appeared to them on the road to Emmaus and preached to them.

The words from the mouth of the risen Lord is one with a difference – “Were not our hearts burning within us while He spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?” (Lk 24:32). When the two disciples on the road to Emmaus experienced the transforming power of the resurrection in the sharing of the word and the breaking of bread (the Eucharist), they made a radical turnaround from Emmaus to Jerusalem to join the believing community to sing the praises of God’s marvelous deed.

The resurrection of Jesus evokes a radical transformation. People who believe in the risen Lord do not return to the old Roman ways of doing things. Belief in the resurrection empowered them to establish a new kingdom and a new lifestyle centered on the power of love rather than on the love of power. This is a kingdom where enemies are loved, not destroyed; the poor are cared for, not marginalized; the strong serve the weak and not oppress them; the prodigal children receive the courage to return home to experience true love in a believing community.

Easter is not simply a celebration of a single event that happened in Jerusalem about 2000 years ago but rather a celebration of the purpose of creation. In the resurrection, we see our vocation as a priestly, kingly and God’s chosen people. It is our vocation to love.

Any attempt to limit the resurrection of Jesus to a single historical event does a great disservice to the message of the Gospel. It makes the resurrection of Jesus a thing of the past and not an ongoing event.
The resurrection of Jesus is a timeless event. It is non temporal. It may be situated in time, yet, it goes beyond time. It is not a single event among other events. It is the center and meaning of history.

Without faith in the resurrection of Jesus, the Christian faith will become a mere phantasm (1 Cor 15:14). Belief in the resurrection of Jesus is a timeless truth of faith which the children of God are called to always behold and cherish. It is not a scientific fact to be studied, examined and critically evaluated but a principle of life which empowers believers to become witnesses in the world.

The resurrection of Jesus becomes the point that defines and gives direction to what we think and how we should live our lives in every age, time and season. To be an Easter person is to resolve to continue the work of Jesus in the world. Unlike the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, we cannot return to a place of sorrow, shame and regret because we believe.

The risen Lord continues to appear today to believers in the breaking of bread (the Eucharist). It is by gathering together to celebrate the Eucharist that we keep faith in the resurrection alive. We are invigorated and renewed to do greater things for God.

The Easter celebration becomes a mandate for Christians to work for the renewal of the face of the earth. In the face of injustice, sickness and despair, we are called to light the candle instead of cursing darkness.
We are called to work for the civilization of love, the reign of justice, peace and the integrity of all sentient beings. No stone should be left unturned and no one should say that he or she has nothing to contribute.

This call to become witnesses assumes a radical urgency because the kingdom of God which is the greatest desire of the human heart shall not become a reality until you and I contribute our quota to the building of a just world where the poor and the rich, the old and the young, will find a home to live the peace, joy and happiness of the Easter season.

From Bulletin of April 8, 2018

2nd Sunday of Easter ‘B’ - Divine Mercy Sunday -  (St. Faustina)

Doubt not but Believe

The resurrection of Jesus is both a foundational event and a defining moment in the history of creation. Easter is not a celebration of an event but a celebration of the purpose of creation. The Mesopotamian epics which were the first attempt by humans to explain the purpose of the world, painted a picture of a world in a perpetual state of flux, lacking purpose and meaning. In the resurrection of Jesus, creation is epistemologically and radically transformed from a purposeless to a purposeful end.

The resurrection of Jesus shows that the true meaning of creation cannot be found in creation itself but in God. Creation is not by accident. Things exist in this world for a reason greater than the human eyes can see. And God reveals this meaning in His self-sacrificial love on the cross. It is this love that has become the foundational experience of all God’s children.

The first reading gives us an idea of how the early Christians, renewed and reinvigorated by the experience of the resurrection, lived their lives – with one mind and one heart (OHOM). Theirs was a community that shared both their faith and possessions in common.

Their lifestyle is a reminder that PEACE IS POSSIBLE in the world; that there is an abundance of wealth/goodness in the world. Thanks to the resurrection of Jesus. If there is justice in the distribution of earthly resources, all the inequality, imbalance and wars on earth would become a thing of the past. And the key to all these is strong faith in the risen Lord as professed by Thomas in the gospel – ‘My Lord and My God.’

The gospel reveals two faces of Thomas

- As a man of doubt, which we are called to abhor and
- As a man of faith, which we are called to embrace

Thomas becomes a microcosm of Christian life in the world. In each of us exists the doubt and the faith that could mar or mend us. It is easy to dismiss Thomas as the “doubting Thomas” but come to think of it, he was indeed a man of profound faith who had no illusion about reality.

Look at it this way; while the apostles were still in the Upper Room for fear of the Jews, lo and behold, Thomas was already in the world going about his business such that he was not with the other apostles when the risen Lord appeared to them where they were hiding in the
Upper Room.

Thomas was not ready to sit there to mourn the crucified Jesus. He decided to move on with his life. When he returned, the other disciples told him that Jesus had appeared to them. He could not believe them because if Jesus is alive why are the apostles still hiding in the comfort of the Upper Room?

Thomas doubted not the power of God to raise Jesus from death but the credibility of the testimony of the apostles. People who have witnessed the risen Lord should not be found locked up in the Upper Room. They ought to go out to the world to spread the good news to all.

How about us? Where am I in the story of the resurrection? We say that we are Christians (the Easter people) for whom Jesus died and rose again. What impact does the resurrection make in our lives? Do we live as a priestly, kingly and God’s chosen people or do we still lock ourselves up with the secure bias in our minds, still nursing hatred, envy, jealousy etc. in our hearts?

Are we a people who believe in God and yet continue to participate in sorcery, horoscope, soothsaying and other fetish beliefs? How likely is our faith to sound convincing to others or to an unbeliever when we are still locked up in our old ways of life?

Jesus did not hide His wounds from Thomas and Thomas did not shy away from touching the wounds of Jesus. Jesus becomes the wounded healer and as soon as Thomas touched the wound, he believed. As Thomas believed, so did he profess Jesus as Lord and God. Thomas thus challenges us to believe what we say and to say what we believe.

We see the greatness of Thomas not in his doubt but in his willingness to profess his faith in God when the risen Lord appeared to him. In Thomas we see a revelation of the truth which lies hidden in Scripture – that Jesus is God (My Lord and my God). Thomas reminds us today that it is only by living out the conviction of our faith that our belief will become credible.

Our world today is full of doubting thomases because of our failure to put our faith into action. We often shy away from the wounds resulting from sin. We pretend it’s not there. Jesus did not shy away from His wounds. He showed them to Thomas and the other disciples. It is by showing our wounds, by touching and being touched that we are healed. The human heart is healed only by the presence of another human being who understands and shares our pain and sorrow.

Jesus has seen it all and He invites us today just as he invited Thomas to come and touch his wounds. It is from His wounded heart that mercy flows to us in abundance (Divine Mercy Sunday). St. Faustina reminds us of the merciful nature of God, which He is ever ready to share with all who ask for it. We are also challenged to reflect mercy and compassion to all in the world for mercy/compassion is the public face of love and faith. It is God’s mercy that sustains us and we need to take advantage of it daily. It is by so doing that we can be healed and set free to live in the freedom of the children of God as the Easter people that we truly are.

From Bulletin of April 1, 2018

Year "B" Easter Sunday

Jesus is Alive forever, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia

The Christian story is a love story. Since love is a mystery which the human mind cannot fully comprehend, we celebrate and re-tell this story in many and varied ways. How strange it will sound for me to sing “Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer” on Easter Sunday! It will sound
strange, not so? Yet, the Easter story is nothing but a re-creation of the Christmas story.

Unlike Christmas which is celebrated with pomp and pageantry, there may neither be any big time shopping nor exchange of gifts on Easter Sunday. There are no Easter carol on the radio and television. There are no shinning and twinkling lights to welcome the risen Lord, yet, like the birth of Jesus, we are “born again” today to a new life of glory, goodness and truth.

The unmistakable similarity which Easter shares with Christmas is that as the Good News of the birth of Jesus was given to Three Wise Men, today the Good News of the resurrection is given to Three Wise Women – Mary Magdalene, the Mother of James and Salome. Neither the shepherds nor the women were highly respected people of their time, yet, with the good news of salvation they were able to transform the world for the greater glory of God.

Hearing the good news and being led by the star, the shepherds went to where they imagined the King might be born – at the house of Herod. Little did they know that the revelation of Scripture has it that “in Bethlehem of Judea shall come forth a savior to shepherd God’s people. Like the shepherds, the Women, knowing where Jesus was buried, go to look for Jesus in the tomb. Upon entering the tomb, the Angel said to them, “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised. He is not here.”

We see the radical and transformational value of the resurrection in the fact that the risen and glorified Jesus goes not to Jerusalem the Holy City but to Galilee the “sinful city.” – “Go to Galilee and you will see Jesus there” to liberate those whose souls were broken, forlorn and forsaken.

Jesus goes to Galilee because He died to save sinners and to restore a fallen humanity to the glory of God.

In Jesus, we see the Santa and we are the Rudolf. Like Rudolf the red nosed reindeer, our sins disfigure us and make us ugly, not appealing to look at. No one likes to play the reindeer game with us (Rudolf) because sin has disfigured us. Jesus, the divine Santa makes the ultimate sacrifice with His life to restore a wounded and fallen humanity to the glory of God.

Easter becomes our celebration of a new life in God. This new life is exponential in character because our former sinful life cannot explain the new glorious life we now enjoy in Jesus. How joyful, how happy, how blessed indeed is the life of the one who is restored to the glory of God!

Like the Shepherds and the Women, we often seek for Jesus in the wrong places. We spend so much of our precious time and energy looking for Jesus in places and persons where we imagine Him to be.
How often have we looked for Jesus in our successes, good times, among the so called good people and people of influence, but miss seeing Jesus in our failures, bad times like poor health, disappointment, or among the unwanted and lonely people around us?

We spend thousands of dollars in search of the risen Lord at some shrines in Europe, churches in the Holy Land and other places we consider sacred, and miss seeing Jesus who is always present at the secular and sinful places, work places, and shopping places around us.

Where is the risen Lord? To know where the risen Lord is necessitates that we should know what the message of the resurrection is. That single message is “God is love.” Anyone who lives in love, lives in God and God lives in Him. God’s love is not to be found in Jerusalem. Jesus is found in the Galilees of our world today – Jesus is among the poor, the homeless, the sick, the lonely, the prisoners in jail, the oppressed and the forgotten.

Look around you, there is Jesus in the beauty of nature - the mountains proclaim the glory of God, the flowers, the songs, the setting of the sun reveal the presence of God, etc.

Our celebration of the Eucharist becomes both a concrete expression of our belief in the resurrection of Jesus and our willingness to go beyond our own expectations of where the risen Lord is found. It is an invitation to see God in all things here and now.

Jesus is not dead. Jesus is alive …forever. Alleluia is our song. We do not worship a dead God. We worship a living God who is always present in us, in others and in the world.

The great news of Easter is that the quest for holiness remains a fundamental human project but with the resurrection of Jesus from death, we no longer have any need to go to Jerusalem or Rome to see and touch Jesus. Jesus is here with us as we gather in His name. Look at your right and you will see Jesus, and at your left and you will see Jesus.

Make no mistake about it; “Rudolf the red nosed reindeer” is not a thing of the past. There are many Rudolfs around us who are ignored and neglected and are still in dire need of our help. The Easter joy thus challenges us to go out to the Galilees of our world today to proclaim the good news of salvation by working for the civilization of love on earth.

We shall truly become an Easter people when we can see and hear the voice of the risen Lord in the voice of the baby who is crying during this liturgical celebration, on the face of the handicapped who are struggling to push their wheelchair and on the face of the beggar on the street who may not even be asking for our help. It is by so doing that we unite with the faithful of all ages to sing here and now, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.

From Bulletin of MARCH 25, 2018

Palm Sunday, Year “B”

Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem

Holy Week begins today with the celebration of the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem to sacrifice His life for the salvation of the world. An ancient tradition that predates Vatican II recommended that no homily may be given on this day. The antiphon – ‘This is the gospel of the Lord’ was not said at the end of the Passion. It was all silence all over because it is SILENCE that best explains the mystery we are celebrating now. It was after Vatican II that the tradition of giving a brief homily on this day was highly encouraged.

Every believer knows that even with a homily, no amount of words could explain the mystery that is unfolding before our eyes at this time in the life of the church. It is what the human mind cannot comprehend that the children of God are now celebrating in worship.

Jesus was used to visiting Jerusalem without much ado. Jesus often preached in the synagogues, healed the sick, and participated in a couple of temple sacrifices, but today’s triumphal entry is one with a difference. It marks a unique point in the fulfillment of scripture "Say to the daughter of Sion, 'Look, your King is coming to you. He is humble, riding on a donkey- riding on a donkey's colt.'"

On this day, Jesus brings to fulfillment the desire of the ages – the human desire to be liberated from the bondage of sin. In the events that unfold, we see the faithfulness of God and the unfaithfulness of the people. It is the same mouth that shouted "Hosanna" as Jesus was entering Jerusalem that now shouts “ecce homo” "crucify Him, crucify Him" as Jesus entered Jerusalem.

However, we are not here today to condemn the crowd but to question the credibility of our faith. It is much easier to join the crowd to sing “Hosanna” or to shout “crucify Him” than to stand for the truth. Are we courageous enough to shout "Jesus Christ is Lord" when the crowd is chanting “Ecce Homo?”

This is why I have always admired the courage of Veronica who wiped the face of Jesus and Mary Magdalene who stood up for Jesus even when everyone was against Him. In every generation God is still looking for those who are willing to stand for the truth.

It is because of our sins that Jesus goes to Jerusalem to die on the cross; the righteous dies for the unrighteous so that we may not seek salvation from the works of our hands.

From the moment Jesus was betrayed by one of His own, Jesus was no longer in control of what happened to Him. “Things were now done to Him rather than by Him.” Where do we stand in this scenario?

On Good Friday the Passion narrative will again reveal to us how those events will ultimately lead to our salvation. Like Jesus, much of our lives are determined by what is done to us than by what we do. But it is how we respond to what is done to us that shows the quality of our faith. Are we still a people who truly believe that God is faithful to His promise and are willing to stand up for the justice?

We celebrate the Passion of Jesus every year because the Passion is not a thing of the past. In Jesus’ passion we see our own passion. As we go through life there is betrayal, bad luck, illness of one kind or another, loss of friendship, death of loved ones, disappointments, crisis in the family, war, conflict at places of work, etc.
Of course, there are also moments of peace and moments of joy. But the reality is that there are many things that happen to us in life which are outside of our control – like things that bring us pain and disappointment.

The simple truth is that no matter your size, weight, color, race or status in life, no one likes to experience pain. Painful moments can make or break us, yet, it does not define who we are. We are greater than the pain and suffering we experience in life.

It is important for the children of God to understand that the value of suffering does not lie in the pain of it, but, in what the sufferer makes of the experience of pain. Painful experiences may be devastating; yet, suffering can purify one’s soul and transform one’s character. Pain can bear fruit because unless the seed dies, it cannot produce fruit but if it dies, it produces fruit in abundance.

Pain is an indispensable aspect of becoming truly human. Painful experiences can mold us into a people of compassion, maturity and holiness. It is by uniting our suffering with that of Jesus on the cross that it becomes salvific. It is no longer you who suffer but Christ who suffers in you and brings to completion that which is
incomplete in us.

The passion story, therefore, is no longer a story of pain, hatred and suffering. It is a story of LOVE. It shows how Jesus responded in love to what was done to Him because of our sins. He accepted it all, transformed it and returned it as love and forgiveness.

The Passion is the victory of love over the powers of pain, suffering and destruction that the children of God continue to experience in the world today. Jesus saw it all, yet, there is nothing but love in Him. Even when they nailed His hands and feet, He remained loving.

Like Jesus, the greatness of our Christian faith will become manifest if we can be bold enough to sing Hosanna when others are chanting “crucify Him, crucify Him” and when in spite of the hard times we go through in this life, we could still remain a loving, caring and compassionate people who are willing to die with Jesus so that we may rise with Him on Easter Sunday.

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 beings.

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 image.

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 love.

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 Sunday.

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 abstinence.

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 disease.

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 Jew.

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 hope.

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 death.

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 imagination.

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 3:11).

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 life.

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 situation.

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 beings.

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 God).

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 more.

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.