Monday, June 13, 2005


LUKE 12:1-7

One only has to take a casual look at the headlines of our daily newspapers to get a dose of fear and anxiety. The same words surface in seemingly endless repetition – rape, murder, corruption scandals, cronyism, gambling lords, drug smuggling, kidnapping… What does the future hold in store for our children and grandchildren, many of who are still too young to understand these words, much less comprehend the gravity of the present situation? Even in our own private worlds, we have our daily crosses to bear … sadness of separation from dear friends and relatives, loneliness of a new challenge in far away lands, false accusations from an ungrateful friend or employee, illnesses, or unexpected death in the family. Wherever we turn, we get the impression that the forces of evil appear to be getting the upper hand. How do we cope with all these forces? Why does God seem to allow evil to happen?

The words which Jesus spoke to his disciples, and which He is now addressing to us, should provide strength and consolation. "…do not be afraid of those who kill the body but after that can do no more. Be afraid of the one who, after killing, has the power to cast into Gehenna." The disciples knew that they would also share the fate of Jesus. But their love and their faith in Him, gave them the strength and encouragement to persevering until the end.

Our daily lives provide testimony to the inescapable truth that pain, suffering and death are a part of life. But by remaining faithful to the Lord and following Him even in the face of adversities, we make sense of suffering and have the strength to transform it to sacrifices. We become participants in the redemptive work of Jesus. There is no salvation without the cross, no Easter Sunday without Good Friday. The promise of our Lord, as mentioned in today's first reading, gives us the encouragement to face the daily adversities that we may meet. "He is the pledge of our inheritance, the first payment against the full redemption of a people God has made his own, to praise his glory."

Let us not be afraid!


LUKE 11:47-54

If we felt that we have hurt or offended others, we do our best to redeem ourselves from the mistakes we have committed against them and ourselves. We may seek atonement as the only way to take away the guilt in our hearts. Or, we may contribute time and money to charitable projects to atone for the sins committed against others.

We often forget that God had sent His only Son to atone for our sins. We have sinned and instead, it was Jesus who died to atone for our wrong doings. The grace of God is with us through the redemption in Christ Jesus. Do we always remember to be grateful for this grace?

Today's gospel is a powerfully admonishes not only the people who killed the prophets that God sent but also the people who condoned the killing and built their tombs. God's messengers and servants served in the best of their ability. But still, there are those who, with the slightest provocation, chose to criticize them, find faults and continue to persecute them. Its no wonder that the "Pharisees began to oppose Jesus fiercely and tried to find fault in the things that he said".

Let us reflect on our lives, in our actions, thoughts and deeds. Can we do more than be true to the teachings of Jesus, help those who are dedicated in serving the Church, especially the priests, bishops, nuns, religious … those of whom whose task is to serve the true Shepherd?


LUKE 11:37-41

In today's Gospel, it is clear that God is referring to the state of the hearts of the Pharisees when he says that the inside of the cup and dish are filled with plunder and evil. When we reflect on the state of our hearts, how often do we ask ourselves whether it is free from ill-intent, falsehood and insincerity? When we stop to reflect, we realize that it is important to know and understand the state of our own hearts lest we steer away from the path of love, truth and honesty.

Sometimes we conclude and judge others by what we see from their actions. We inadvertently or are too hasty in passing judgement on another's action - considering it good or bad depending on our relationship with that person.

The Gospel today reminds us - that inasmuch as we use our senses to make judgements about others, we also need to be cautious and recognize that perhaps the actions we observe may not always be reflective of the intentions of the individual. In matters of the heart, only the person and his God knows.


LUKE 11:29-32

It's common enough among Christians to search for signs, assurances for us that our decisions have God's approval. For some of us, one method used to attain this end is to open the Bible at a random page and to read the first verses our eyes fall on. Hopefully the verses we read will give us some insight into whether or not God approves of a decision we have come to. Another method is to look at the experiences we have in daily life to determine whether in them God is saying anything to us about a particular problem we're trying to solve or a change we're thinking of instituting in our way of life.

The crowd about Jesus in today's gospel apparently has been pushing him to give them a sign. They wanted God, at Jesus' behest, to intervene somehow, to assure them that God approves of Jesus' words and works.

We read the gospels with the eyes of faith. To us the crowd's request seems utterly foolish. I mean, Jesus' extraordinary goodness and the startling miracles he worked are signs enough. There's no need to "cut the Bible," that is to open the Bible at random and read the first verses our eyes fall on, to assure us that God approves of him. Jesus and his words and works are self-authenticating.

Sometimes we think that it would be a great thing if Jesus were to appear among us today. You know, feeling him physically present to us, hearing with our own ears his voice as he preaches, and witnessing his works . . . it would so easy to embrace the transformation he offers. Much easier than it is today. Today we have only the gospel account of his life. We don't have the living person.

We're asking for a sign, aren't we? Jesus says to us, no sign will be given except the sign of Jonah. Jonah preached to the Ninevites, and they were converted. Jesus preaches to us today through the gospel and through the Church. We have a greater than Jonah among us. We today have Jesus Christ who with his words and works God approved when he raised him from the dead. We have a greater than Jonah among us today.


LUKE 17:11-19

I heard a story of a woman with a package standing in a crowded bus. After a while, a young man stood up and offered his seat. The woman was so shocked that she fainted. When she recovered, she said "Thank you." And the young man fainted! Courtesy and gratitude are two of the "endangered species" in our individualistic culture today.

Fr. Mark Link tells the story of a man who was fishing one night in a small boat out in a bay. It was late and everything was quiet except for a man on the deck of a yacht anchored in the bay.

The man had been drinking and occasionally he let out some incoherent sentence, disturbing the stillness of the night. The fisherman ignored him and concentrated on his fishing. Suddenly the fisherman heard a big splash. He turned and, in the moonlight, saw that the man on the yacht had toppled into the water. After an incredible effort, he managed to get the man back on his yacht. It was then that the fisherman saw that the man was barely breathing. Frantically, he gave the man artificial respiration. When the man seemed to be all right, the fisherman put him to bed on the yacht and swam back to his tiny rowboat.

The next morning the fisherman returned to the yacht to see if the man needed any help. The man was rude and abusive. At this point, the fisherman reminded him that he had risked his life the night before to pull him from the water and save him. Instead of thanking the fisherman, the man shouted at him and ordered him off his yacht.

As the fisherman rowed away in his tiny boat, he could not believe what had just happened. Looking up to heaven, he prayed in words like these:

"Lord, now I know how you feel. You gave your life to save us. But like the man on the yacht, instead of thanking you, we treated you like an enemy and ordered you to leave us along. Now I know how you must feel, Lord! Now I know! And it breaks my heart!"

As we think of the story, two passages from the Scripture come to mind. The first is a well-known passage from the prophet Isaiah. It is often applied to Jesus to describe how the world has responded to his suffering and death. Isaiah writes:

"He was spurned and avoided … and we held him in no esteem. Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our suffering that he endured." (Isaiah 53:3-4)

The second Scripture passage that comes to mind is today's Gospel, where Jesus heals ten lepers and only one - a Samaritan returns to thank him. And it is this passage, perhaps, that most of us can best relate to. Just as Jesus did so much for the ten lepers, so he has done for us and our world. And our response - for the most part, is a lot like the response of the ten lepers. Only one out of ten of us take the time to give thanks to Jesus.

And here, it is only fair to say that the reason we don't take time to thank Jesus is not because we are evil, or mean, or defensive like the man on the yacht. Rather, it is simply because we get so involved in our everyday hustle and bustle that we forget all about Jesus and how much he does for us every day.

There's a striking story of an old tyrannical king - an all-powerful king. He was able to impose his will on his subjects in all things. All things except one - He was unable to destroy their belief in God. So he summoned his three wisest advisers. "Tell me," he said, "Where can I hide this people's God so that they will not be able to find him?"

Said the first wise man, "Hide their God beyond the farthest star; there they will not find Him."

"Not so," said the second wise man, "One day these people will discover how to fly beyond the stars, that day they will find their God. Rather, hide Him on the floor of the ocean."

"No," said the third wise man, "One day these people may learn how to swim to the bottom of the ocean; that day they will find their God. Rather, hide Him in the everyday lives of the people; there no one will ever find Him."

And this brings us to an important point. How does all this apply in a practical way to our lives? What message do the stories of the ungrateful man on the yacht and the ungrateful lepers in the Gospel, and the tyrannical king hold for us?

The issue is - is your life a constant Eucharist? A Biblical thanksgiving - a response: a response to God's self-revealing, His mighty deeds in history, His gifts to His people, His kindness to each man and woman. This presence of God, this action of God never stops. He is always here. He is always active - in the world - in the Church - in us. And so our response - discovery, awareness, wonder, expression - must itself be a continual thanksgiving. Otherwise God will indeed be a hidden God, hidden in the routine and in the rat race of daily life, in the insensitivity and unawareness, of our daily lives.

At the very least, our stories invite us to take an inventory of our lives to see if we may be treating people around us the way the man on the yacht treated the fisherman.

At the very least, these three stories invite us to ask ourselves if we might be forgetting God in our daily activities, and are we treating Jesus with the same ingratitude of the lepers in today's Gospel.

At the very least these stories make us realize that gratitude to God and all that God has given us - should not be shut up and confined to one day a year - on Thanksgiving Day.

At the very least, these stories invite us to pray this prayer -
paraphrased from George Herbert:

"You, who have given us so much,
Mercifully grant us one thing more -
A grateful heart."

Today's readings leaves us with a challenging questions - If a man or woman were searching for God, would that man or woman find Him in your everyday life?

Let's close with this passage from the prophet Isaiah:

"Give thanks to the Lord …
Among the nations make known his deeds,
Proclaim how exalted is his name.

Sing praise to the Lord
For his glorious achievement." (Isaiah 12:4-5)

In that spirit, let's now return to the Table of the Lord to
celebrate the Eucharist of the Lord.


LUKE 11:27-28

Paul makes an absolutely startling statement in today's first reading. The statement rejects basic tenets of the Jewish faith and announces a new way of looking at people and the relationships among them. It's a statement which, if we were to embrace it wholeheartedly, would be a recognition of the equality of all human beings and would enable us to build a world endowed permanently with justice and peace.

Paul says, "Each one of you is a child of God because of your faith in Christ Jesus. All of you who have been baptized into Christ, have clothed yourselves with him. There does not exist among you Jew or Greek, slave or freeman, male or female."

The fact that Paul should make such a statement indicates the impact faith in Christ has had on him. During all the years that preceded his conversion, he began each day with a prayer with which all Jewish men began each day, "I thank you, God, for not having made me a Gentile, a slave or a woman."

It's a volte-face, a u-turn, a 180 degree change in direction for Paul. Faith in Jesus makes us his brothers and sisters and therefore children to his Father. Baptism publicly ratifies and proclaims our faith in Jesus. We who believe in Jesus are made one in him for all the world to see.


LUKE 11:15-26

There's a very deep mystery at work in today's gospel. Not the mystery of Jesus or of his miraculous exorcism. The mystery is situated in the Pharisees. The Pharisees were men of deep religious conviction. The mystery is this: how could these deeply religious men look at Christ and see Satan? How could they witness Jesus' godly works and see them as the works of the devil?

The background to today's gospel selection is a man possessed by an evil spirit. The spirit had bound his tongue, he was mute. Jesus expelled the demon from the man and the man spoke. The Pharisees watched this stupendous miracle as it happened. They saw Jesus drive the demon out of the man; they saw the man who had been mute, speaking. And they said, "Jesus expels demons because he is a devil himself; his power is from the Prince of Devils."

How could they have missed the spiritual reality that unfolded before their very eyes? It wasn't hidden. It was clear as day. They should have recognized it. I think the problem was that their faculty of spiritual perception had atrophied because they often abused it, and more often failed to use it. They saw what they wanted to see, not what was actually there. They saw Jesus opposed to them, a threat to their power and privileges. So they saw him as evil. They literally looked at God and saw Satan. And these were religious men!

Spiritual blindness is a self-inflicted disease. It develops because we intentionally distort spiritual reality. We do not want to recognize spiritual reality as it is. Maybe it's too burdensome for us, maybe we see it as demanding too much of us. And so we shift our gaze from the spiritual reality to the comfort, the ease, the pleasure, the power or whatever else it is that we want and that we will lose if we admit spiritual reality's existence.

Let us pray for ourselves that we will not allow the faculty of spiritual discernment God has given us, to atrophy and to waste away. That we will rather make use of it, hone it, exercise it, so that we will always recognize God's reality when he steps into our lives.


LUKE 10:38-42

People frequently interpret today's gospel story as giving us an insight into Jesus' attitude toward two states of life, the contemplative and the active. Martha they see as embodying the active type of person, and Mary the contemplative. And, of course, Jesus tells Martha that her sister, Mary, has chosen the better part. And so they conclude Jesus therefore clearly thinks the contemplative way of life is superior to the active. Well, maybe Jesus does think this way. But you can't establish it from today's gospel story.

Jesus was not suggesting that Martha's activity-filled life was a less worthy type of service or was morally or spiritually less acceptable than Mary's contemplative way. Martha's service to Jesus was very much in line with the activity of the Good Samaritan in yesterday's gospel, showing kindness to, being concerned about people . . . and we saw how Jesus praised the Samaritan.

It's not a matter of measuring Martha against Mary or activity against contemplation. Both were needed in the early days of the Church, and both are necessary today. And both should be part of the life of every individual Christian.

On one occasion Jesus' lifestyle was so active that his family thought he might be going out of his mind. On another occasion we see him so weary that he was sleeping in a boat, undisturbed by a fierce storm that had his companions, experienced fishermen, crying out in terror. So weary, the storm did not wake him up. Luke also notes, however, that Jesus was always going off to a quiet place to spent time listening to his Father.

Why did Jesus chide Martha? Not, surely, because Martha was activity- prone. You could say this about Jesus himself. Rather because Martha criticized Mary, who took time to sit and listen to Jesus, to be contemplative.

If the gospel scene were relived in our day, I suspect Jesus would behave no differently than he did in the home of Martha and Mary. Active people tend today to loose themselves in activity as did Martha then. We need also to incorporate into our active lives a bit of the contemplative.


LUKE 10:25-37

Paul's letters normally open on a very upbeat note. He'll praise the addressees for the goodness of their lives and he'll thank God for the spiritual blessings he has bestowed on them. It seems that throughout the Roman Empire in Paul's day, this sort of an upbeat opening was common in letters.

So the Galatians when they first heard Paul's letter to them read in a church, must have been startled: "I am amazed," Paul wrote. "that you are so soon deserting him who called you . . . and [that you] are going over to another gospel."

It seems a group of believers, probably from Jerusalem and perhaps claiming the authority of the Jerusalem Church, were preaching in Galatia a gospel contrary to the one Paul had taught there. They were teaching that Gentile Christians must keep the Law of Moses, as it's found in the first five books of Hebrew scripture.

These "trouble makers," as Paul calls them, must have been quite persuasive. The Galatians apparently were being easily won over from the gospel Paul himself had preached to them.

Paul defends his gospel fiercely. It was not given to him by any man nor did he learn it through study. It was directly revealed to him by God. Should anyone, Paul exclaims, teach a gospel contrary to the one he preached to the Galatians, even if the preacher be Paul himself or an angel from heaven, "let him be accursed!"

Quarrels and disagreements among Catholics on matters of religion and theology are quite common today. Many are deeply disturbed by this phenomenon. Perhaps we should feel comforted somewhat if we reflect that this situation existed from the earliest days of the Church.

These people were sincere but they were also human. Being human, they had their biases due to cultural, educational and experiential factors. From the very beginning, however, God's spirit was with the Church, enabling her to separate truth and falsehood. So will it be until the end of time.


LUKE 17:5-10

Late one afternoon, archeologist Gene Savoy and a companion became lost in a jungle in Peru. A feeling of panic came over them. They knew that if they did not reach camp by sundown, they would never reach it alive. They began to run about feverishly, searching for the trail that brought them into the jungle. Suddenly they realized that this feverish running was only making matters worse. Then they stopped and stood perfectly still. As they did, a thought flashed through Savoy's mind.

God is in the jungle. It is God's house. Gene had been introduced to the beauties of nature when he was a boy. His parents had taught him that God created the universe, sustains it, and dwells in it. Why had he closed his eyes to God's presence in the jungles of Peru? Did not God create them, also? Does God not sustain them also? Does God not dwell in them also?

Immediately, Gene relaxed and put all his faith in God, in whose house he was. He said later, "I looked up into the beautiful emerald world of wild orchids, the fragrant blossoms, where hummingbirds hovered. Yes, God was there too. My heart quieted." Then something within Gene seemed to say, "Walk a few paces to the left." He did. And there was a tiny trail!

Gene said later, "I am proud of my archeological discoveries. But my greatest discovery, I believe, was in recognizing God's presence everywhere."

That story fits in with today's Scripture readings. First, it illustrates Habakkuk's words in the first reading, when he says, "The just man, because of his faith, shall live."

And second, it illustrates Jesus' words in the Gospel reading, when he says, "If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to [this] mulberry tree, `Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you,"

This brings us to an important point about faith. It's a point we tend to forget – Even the strongest faith in Jesus and God tends to go in and out of focus. What is clear to us one day becomes cloudy the next day. Like the sun, our faith sometimes goes behind a cloud and disappears for a while. We have all experienced this in our lives. How do we explain it?

These times of darkness are usually caused by one of the three things: human nature, ourselves, or God.

First, they may be caused by our human nature, which has "highs" and lows." – "ups" and "downs." In other words, our faith simply reflects the natural highs and lows, or the changing mood of everyday human life. Commenting on these mood changes, one writer says: "On one day, life is beautiful …. We appreciate everything and everyone. On such a day it is difficult imagine why we ever thought life was difficult. On another day, however, nothing is right. It is a time, when we number more enemies than we have, and find fault with every friend. On such a day, it is difficult to know why we ever thought life was easy."

Our faith is like that. It is subject to mood swings. These mood changes are simply part of being human.

Second, the periods of faith darkness may be caused by ourselves. We can bring them on by neglecting our faith. That is, we can let our faith grow weak from sin or from lack of spiritual nourishment. In other words, just as our body grows weak from abuse or lack of physical nourishment, so our soul grows weak from sin and lack of spiritual nourishment.

Third and finally, these periods of darkness may be caused by God. God allows them to happen in order to strengthen and deepen our faith. In other words, God uses them to help us mature in our faith, just as God helped Abraham mature in his faith. Abraham was thrown into darkness when God asked him to sacrifice his son Isaac.

Regardless of the cause of these periods of darkness, the agony they can produce is great. Our response to these periods of darkness, therefore, should be to accept them and use them in whatever way God seems to be indicating to us.

In our Gospel reading, the twelve apostles beg their Master, "Increase our faith." Jesus does not respond directly to their request. What he does, as so often, is to put the apostles on the spot. The important thing, he says, is not how much faith you have, its size, and amount. What is important is the kind of faith you have: It has to be authentic and genuine. If it were no bigger than a mustard seed, but were genuine, real, its power would be enormous. With such faith "you would say to this mulberry tree, `Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you." With genuine faith you can do things utterly unexpected, things impossible to naked nature. "Nothing will be impossible to you."

The problem is, what is authentic faith? Building on Scripture and tradition, Catholicism put together in compact form the Act of Faith with which we grew up, "O my God, I firmly believe that you are one God in three divine Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I believe that your divine Son became man and died for our sins. I believe these and all the truths, which the holy Catholic Church teaches, because You have revealed them, Who can neither deceive nor be deceived."

This is indeed genuine faith. I submit my intellect to a revealing God. With my mind I accept as true certain propositions that come from the word the Church speaks in Christ's name. This is genuine faith, but it is not the whole of genuine faith. By itself, it is not the faith that saves.

The Letter of James puts it bluntly: "You believe that God is one. You do well. [But] even the demons believe – and shudder."

The faith that saves, the faith that moves mountain and mulberry trees, is not simply a matter of propositions – precious as propositions are within a faith that is Catholic. My act of faith must be love-bringing, a yes in the first instance not to some specific proposition, not to a determinate set of truths, but to a person: to our Lord himself, to God in Christ.

More than that, it is a yes that engages my whole person – not only understanding but heart and will as well. It is a total self- giving: "I myself, I in my entirety, surrender myself to you." The peak of saving faith is the sort of selfless love that once inspired a famous piece of poetry long attributed to St. Francis Xavier:

It is not your promised heaven
That moves me, Lord, to love you.
It is not the fear of hell
That forces me to fear you.

What moves me, Lord, is you, Lord,
Fixed to a cross and mocked.
What moves me is your wounded body,
The insults and your death.

What moves me really is your love, so that
Were there no heaven, I would love you still.
Were there no hell, I would fear you still.
For me to love you, you need nothing to give,
For even if I did not hope as indeed I hope,
Even so I would love you as indeed I love.

Such is the loving faith a loving God holds out to us. It is a gift of God, and it is expected to grow, from small beginning to the height of Xavier's faith, from intellectual acceptance of truths to surrender of the complete person to God in Christ.

Faith, like a child, matures best within a community of love. Like it or not, I am part of you and you are part of me. St. Paul says - No Christian can say to another Christian, "I have no need of you." With any failure to love, I am diminished. We are incredibly one, all of us who receive the same Body of Christ.


JOHN 19:25-27

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son." Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother."

For many of us, which is more difficult to endure … physical pain and discomfort, or the psychological stress when seeing our loved ones in anguish? Surely many of us may have in some way or another gone through such experiences in our lives.

The description of the passion and death of Jesus as recorded in the two verses of the Gospel of John, still speaks to us powerfully even after 2,000 years.

When we read today's gospel, we imagine Jesus, our shepherd, teacher, friend, even an elder brother, in great pain, suffering as he hangs on the cross. His body suffers pain and is covered by the bloody wounds inflicted by the scourging of the roman soldiers. He suffers not only because of the physical wounds inflicted on him but also because of the many difficulties associated with this kind of punishment. He also suffers intense emotion wounds because his fellow men, whom he had loved, condemned him to this terrible death on the cross. His closest friends and disciples, like Peter, had denied and abandoned and perhaps disappointed him.

Even while he was suffering on the cross, Jesus feels the confusion and grief of his beloved disciple. He also feels the quiet and tender faith of his mother, even in her great anguish and sorrow. His mother has always supported him in his work and mission on earth, even if she did not always understand where they would lead to.

Amid all his suffering, Jesus said to his mother, "Woman, behold your son". Perhaps he meant "Mama, look at me, your beloved son. Even in my pain and anguish, I love you so much. Look at him beside you, my "beloved brother", he also feels confusion and grief. Please take care of him and his friends and take them as your own children". Then, he said to his beloved disciple, "Behold your mother". "Look at my mother; she will now be a mother to you as she was to me. Respect and honor her in the same way I respected and honored her. She will care for you in the same way she cared for me. She will be your consolation. She will hold you in her heart as she holds me in her heart".

How does today's Gospel relate to our personal lives?


MATTHEW 18:1-5, 10

There are many books and stories about angels. There are also many people who believe in their existence and power in our lives. In today's first reading, God specifically tells about the angels that He sent to help the Israelites in their return to the Promised Land.

Guardian angels not only execute the will of God in our lives, but they are here to support, protect us and lead us, if we choose, to the Kingdom of God. They stand in between God and us. They work through our intellect, imagination, senses and will.

My experience with my guardian angel is a personal one. My family was involved in numerous car accidents or home-based accidents but always escaped with only minor cuts, bruises and injuries. After these events, we reflected on what might have happened otherwise, and what could have resulted in more serious injury or loss of life. But each time, we experienced the protection of the guardian angel, ever watching over our welfare. Perhaps some would say, "It's just luck". But perhaps these are times when we most need to give thanks to the Lord and the guardian angels for their love and support, and perhaps these situations where we need to reflect on what we still need to do for the Lord.

Today, how aware are we of the angels around us? What are their roles in our lives? Have they been guardians, messengers, or perhaps the path that leads us to the Kingdom of God?

It is easy for children to trust. They are wholly dependent on adults. They possess innocence and have a child-like attitude to different situations. Perhaps the Gospel today reminds us that we too need to have the same childlike faith, innocence and trust towards the Lord. The angels may lead us to the Kingdom of God, but when we have fully realized these childlike qualities are we ready to truly accept His Kingdom.


LUKE 10:13-16

People think of Job as the perfect model for anyone who aspires to be a patiently-enduring servant of God. In fact, Job was just the opposite. He complained insistently against God because of what he perceived to be God's utter injustice in dealing with him. In the biblical account he's portrayed as an embittered, pessimistic old man who can see no good in life, who is angry with an unfair and unjust God. He's adamant in insisting that his sufferings are not punishment for sin but clear proof that God has dealt with him unjustly.

In today's reading God, having listened patiently to Job's persistent criticism, responds to him from the midst of a tempest. His words are full of irony and sarcasm. He overwhelms Job, presenting himself to him as a terrifying storm. God's voice thunders a devastating contrast between his eternal majesty and limitless might, his all- embracing intelligence and all-penetrating wisdom on the one hand, and, on the other, Job's limited physical and mental faculties.

"Have you," he demands of Job, "have you commanded the morning . . . have you entered into the sources of the sea or have you walked about in the depths of the abyss . . . have you comprehended the breadth of the earth . . . [do you know] the way to the dwelling place of light . . . [to] the abode of darkness . . . ?"

In effect, God asks Job whether he has any right at all to criticize his management of the world, his dealings with Job? God is telling Job that neither he nor any other human being is capable of discerning completely the mystery of life.

This is a truth we must continue to affirm today. Indeed we have far greater reason than did Job to make this affirmation. Job's experience of God was of an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-wise deity who asserted his mighty infinitude with withering sarcasm against any creature that dared to question it.

The God we know today is God who is love, who is vulnerable, who suffers in and with the creature his love has made.


LUKE 10:1-12

As we hear the story of Jesus sending out the seventy-two disciples, we cannot help but ask ourselves, "What is missionary work and evangelism, and why must we do it?" Jesus gives us the framework for missionary work and evangelism right here in his instructions to these seventy-two newly commissioned evangelists. He first tells them to bring the gift of peace to those they visit. He then tells them to heal the sick. And finally he tells them to preach the Good News that the Kingdom of God is near them. They were to teach, preach and heal, just like Jesus did when he entered a village.

Jesus' ministry included both physical and spiritual healing because the concerns of the ordinary people of Jesus' day were demons and sickness, and the two were very closely related. If we stop and think about it for a minute, things are not much different today. Demons are still present today. They just have different names.

Today we have the demons of alcoholism and drug abuse among us. We have the demon of domestic violence and abuse that we see paraded on TV and the Internet. We have the demon of addiction and oppression. We all have our own personal demons that we struggle with and we have just as many people who are spiritually sick today as were back then.

We are left with the question, what do we do about it ? How do we overcome evil in the world? Do you sit in the pews and listen to the preacher talk about it and walk out of the church or chapel shaking your heads and saying, "How awful !" and then go on with life as usual? Or, do you try and do something about it to make a difference. As Christians, we are all called to do something about the ills of society. Positive changes in our society will not come about until there are more people in this world who know God, and are willing to share God with those who don't know God.

That was the job of the original seventy-two missionaries, and that is our job as the church. The seventy-two missionaries were God's underground network of faithful followers who spread the Good News. We need to keep that underground active today spreading the Good News to those who have not heard it yet.

I think that what immobilizes us from spreading the Good News and overcoming evil in the world is the notion that there is just too much work to do in God's mission field and I am only one person. There is no way my efforts can make a difference. That notion is false. Every little good thing that you do, does make a difference at least to the person whom you have tried to lead closer to God. I think the most effective form of evangelism that we can offer is the way in which we live our lives, and by the example we set as Christians. I also believe some of the best forms of evangelism come very often in small ways with random acts of kindness. That is how we can defeat the evil in the world, one kind act at a time.

In the Gospel reading today, Jesus said to the seventy-two upon their return, "I saw Satan falling from Heaven like lightning." Jesus was saying that the seventy-two were participating in the defeat of evil in the world. We too can participate in the defeat of evil in our world.

We see Satan fall like lightning when, for instance, we forgive the one who has wronged us. Let us not be tricked into thinking that we cannot make a difference, because we can make a difference one small act at a time. May we go out into the world knowing that there is a great need out there. There is a world full of hurt and people are just looking for a ray of hope to get them through. May we be that ray of hope. May we belong to the group of seventy-two disciples that make a difference in the life of at least just one person.


JOHN 1:47-51

Nathanael was amazed at how Jesus had read his innermost thoughts. When Nathanael asked how Jesus knew him, Jesus told him that he had seen him under the fig tree. According to Jewish tradition, "to sit under the fig tree" was another way of expressing "to meditate on the scriptures." Jesus must have seen in Nathanael's heart, when he was deep in meditation, the peace of soul of one who lives in God's love. And so the first question that comes to mind as we reflect on today's reading: How does Jesus see the way of life I am leading? Does He see in me someone "in whom there is nothing false"?

Today, we are also reminded of the big role our angels play in our daily struggle to ascend the ladder to heaven. While we usually think of angels as "messengers of God" – like Gabriel and Michael – they are also instruments through whom God manifests His great love and caring for each one of us, watching and protecting us from evil. During these times when our children (and grandchildren) have to contend with so many temptations from peer pressure and the media, let us lift up our minds and hearts daily with this prayer taken from the Prayer to Our Holy Guardian Angels:


LUKE 9:51-56

Today's readings are heavy, depressing. Job, a just man, has suffered dreadful evil, loss of wealth and family. So intense is his suffering that he curses the day he was born. Far better to have been stillborn than to live and bear this crushing weight of tragedy! He sees death as release from unbearable anguish.

In the gospel today, Jesus sets out on his final journey to Jerusalem. The journey will terminate in his betrayal, denial and abandonment by his closest friends, and in the unspeakable agony of his death on a criminal's cross.

Doesn't it seem strange that we can think about these tragic events in the lives of Job and Jesus and yet not be overwhelmed by their pain? Perhaps it's because we already know that in both these tragedies God remained with Job and Jesus and that he continued to love these two men - ultimately leading both of them to new life.

Thoughts such as these are comforting and they can bring us comfort when we are in the midst of tragedy ourselves.


LUKE 9:46-50

I was watching a program on natural disasters recently on the National Geographic channel. It showed scenes from different disasters that occurred all over the world. Common to all these scenes were people dazed, no longer in control of their lives, overwhelmed by senseless tragedy. It also shows a sense of helplessness and even hopelessness among these people.

Job suffered one catastrophe after another. His property was destroyed; his animals, his servants and all his children were killed. If anyone had good reason to be outraged at God and to damn him, Job certainly did. Yet he neither lost his temper nor did he give vent to his outrage. Quietly he expressed his faith in the Lord God,

Naked I came forth from my mother's womb,
And naked I shall go back again.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
Blessed be the name of the Lord!

Job's faith in the Lord is greater by far than all the pain and suffering he has undergone.

We hope that we shall never experience the terrible sufferings and tragedies that Job underwent; and, hopefully not many of us will ever have had to bear the pain of living through any catastrophic devastation. But being human, many of us may have been confronted by other kinds of unspeakable tragedies in our lives. How do we react to these horrifying tragedies and calamities?

Job did not curse God. Rather he blessed him because he realized that all of life is a gift from God. He did not dare to think that he was entitled to more than God had given him. He knew that all that was given to him was a blessing from the Lord. We have much to learn from Job.


LUKE 16:19-31

At first glance, today's first reading from Amos and the Gospel tell us that this is not a good day for the parishioners of Mary the Queen, the capitalists, the men and women of substance. Amos tells the Jews of his time in words like "Those who lie upon beds of ivory … eat lamb chops and steaks… drink Dom Perignon by the bottles, and get regular massage at the health spa will be the first to be exiled."

And if you listen to Luke's Jesus, the Gucci Christians, and those who drive around in Mercedes Benz, BMW, Pajero, and sports cars, who lives in Greenhills and Wack-Wack, Valle Verde, and Corinthians, and those, who frequent the 5-star hotels and casinos will end up in the hot seat, thirstily watching Lazarus and the bakya crowd making merry on the golf course of paradise.

Now before you despair and give all your surplus to the Jesuits, it is important to dig into the deeper meaning of this "word of God" then and now. To save time, let's focus on Luke's Gospel. First, a word on the rich man and Lazarus. Second, the problem the parable poses to the powerful. Third, the Lord's solution to the power problem.

First, the rich man and Lazarus. Note one thing well: This story does not attack the rich man's riches. The problem is not that he is rich. The problem is – he doesn't care. We see two contrasting life- styles. The rich man is regularly dressed in royal purple, feasting each day with high cholesterol meals as if there's no tomorrow.

And here is a beggar lying before his door, a beggar full of boils and sores, too weak to ward off the dogs from licking his sores, so hungry that he wants only the scraps that fall from the rich man's table, only what the dogs might get.

The point is, the rich man simply does not care about Lazarus. And Lazarus is lying not somewhere in Africa or India, or the Smokey Mountain, but right at the gate of his mansion. He doesn't have to go looking for Lazarus. Lazarus is here.

The story ends with a remarkable reversal in death. The rich man is in Hades. Here no feasting, - only tormenting thirst, no rustling silk, - only painful flames. And Lazarus? In "Abraham's bosom," in a place of honor, a place of intimacy. And a chasm separates the two, so broad that no one could cross over from either side to the other.

Now move to the problem the parable poses for the powerful. Why is the rich man condemned? Not primarily because he is wealthy. He is condemned because he never actually noticed Lazarus at his gate. The first time he sees Lazarus is from Hades – "He lifted up his eyes and saw …"

One of the most unrecognized dangers of wealth is that it can blind us. We do not see what we ought to see – whom we ought to see. We put up whitewashed fences to cover the eyesore of the human slums from the sight of tourists and foreign dignitaries.

Now that danger threatens not simply from riches. It hangs over all possessions. It is not only the plundering tyrant and his shopping addicted wife, who never really see the crucified other, the three families living in a tiny barong-barong.

The judge, who connives with goons and criminals to extort the helpless; the top-flight scientist, whose prime principle is "We can do it, therefore we should;" a scholar, who locks himself in books that people don't matter; a priest, who prefers rules and regulations to mercy; drug dealers, who refuse to look beyond profit to the devastation of the addicts; the businessman, who denudes the forest, who sees only dollars, but are blind to the droughts and floods that kill thousands of people every year; the rulers of rich nations, who insists on exploding nuclear bombs at the expense of the people in the poorer countries; these and a host of others are not so much evil as blind. And what has blinded them is the possession they cling on to.

Luke tells us: "He lifted up his eyes and saw…." Only if we lift up our eyes, lift them above our small selves, beyond what we own, will we really see the other, actually see the deprived and degraded, the drug-abased and sexually abused, see the disaster to people in any domination. Only if we lift up our eyes will we be concerned for community.

This leads us to the third point: The Lord's solution to the power problem, to the peril of power. The consoling thing is: You are not damned because you have more than you need to survive. Private property is not a no-no; a fat bankbook is not mortal sin; Shangrila and Boracay are not unchristian. Gucci or Calvin Klein on your skin is not a damnable offence.

The crux of the matter is the gripping dialogue between the rich man and Abraham. What the rich man realizes – far too late is that in neglecting poor Lazarus he was neglecting the law and the prophets.

Follow the dialogue. "Father Abraham, send Lazarus to my father's house, for I have five brothers, that he may warn them, lest they too come into this place of torment." Abraham's response? "They have Moses and the prophets; let them listen to them." Let them listen to Leviticus: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself;" to Isaiah: "Defend the fatherless, plead for the widow;" to Micah: "What does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love kindness?", to Yahweh's thundering threat that without love and justice your sacrifice are an abomination to heaven.

"No," says the rich man. "Like me, my brothers will not listen to God's word in Scripture. Even if Lazarus appears in a vision or a dream and delivers a brilliant lecture on the Bible and Social Justice, they won't change their life-style. There's only one way to get through to them: if Lazarus alive, raised from the dead, drops in on my brothers as a living witness, not only to life after death, but to the flames that awaits the unjust, the bliss that envelops the despised on earth. I promise you, that will shake them up."

>From Abraham, an equally emphatic "No." "If they do not listen to God's word in God's Book, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead." We might add more than 20 centuries of experience testifying that even a resurrected Jesus, suggested in the closing passage, may not convert a well-entrenched human, who is blind to the grinding poverty that accuses our wealth, who does not see that it is Jesus who lies in rags at his gate.

My brothers and sisters, this weekend confronts us with a critical issue: empowerment in the Church. As the years go on, the optimist in me says, more and more of you will share Church power, will be empowered to determine decisions that shape Catholic existence – yours and others'.

History tells us the sobering truth: Power corrupts, - not always, not everyone. But all too often – and not infrequently those whose motives are of the purest, who's very concern for the rights of God blinds them to the needs of God's people. All God's people – not only those whose needs we share.

May I be so daring as to suggest today's parable to you for taping to your refrigerator door? Two thoughts therefore in particular: 1) Whenever you must exercise power, cast your eye up and down: up to the God, who alone is Power, the Power in whom you participate, the Power identical with Love; down to the Lazarus who should not have to beg for crumbs, whose servant you are. 2) Let your handbook of power be the Book of which St. Jerome wrote: When your head droops at night, let a page of Scripture pillow it. Not only "Moses and the prophets" but the Christ, who in his own words "came not to be served but to serve."


LUKE 9:43B-45

About eight days earlier Jesus had warned the apostles that "the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised." Earlier this day, Peter, James and John witnessed Jesus' transfiguration on the mountain. Jesus came down the mountain and startled everyone by using a simple command to free a young boy of a demon the disciples had been unable to exorcise. Jesus then repeated his warning about his own future.

You'd think after the earlier warning, and after the Transfiguration and the overwhelming manifestation of his power with the boy possessed, the disciples would have gotten some small inkling that Jesus was serious and not talking nonsense. You'd think that they would have asked him a question or two and they would have tried to come to some sort of understanding of what he was talking about.

They asked no questions because they didn't want to know what he was talking about. His words, while somewhat vague, were nonetheless fearfully threatening. Perhaps for them, it was better to remain ignorant.

Sound familiar? Do we really want to know God's will for us?


LUKE 9:18-22

Apparently the apostles, particularly Peter, did give serious thought to the question Herod asked but didn't pursue, "Who is this man?" Jesus asked the apostles, "who do you say I am?" "The Messiah of God," Peter blurted out with no hesitation. Obviously Peter and the others must have been having conversations and getting into discussions about Jesus and who he was.

Intellectual adherence to a statement about who Jesus is, however, falls short of the answer Jesus is seeking. Faith in the person of Jesus rather than in a statement about who he is, demands a personal commitment to him.

The question, "Who do you say I am?" is really asking Peter and the apostles, "Who am I to you . . ." "Who am I in your lives?" The real question is, "Are you committed to me?"

And so Luke brings up the question of Jesus' Passion. Note that here Luke has Jesus talking not only to the Apostles, but to all the crowd, to all his disciples down through the ages. Belief and commitment to Jesus means taking up the cross daily and following him. It means therefore total obedience to the Father, total commitment to the Father's will. We may not understand the reason why suffering and death are necessary for salvation, but our commitment to Jesus and his Father's will does not ask such a question, it simply says, "Amen."


LUKE 9:7-9

Imagine that you are King Herod. You killed John the Baptist some time ago and now you are hearing stories of a certain man who is a wonder-worker. You hear rumors that John the Baptist has come back from the dead. How would you feel? I am sure you would feel very uncomfortable but at the same time eager to meet the person. This is what really happened to Herod. He had John the Baptist killed because John had told him the truth and he was not willing to accept it.

As followers of Jesus, we are called to live our lives according to Gospel values. If we were to really follow Jesus' teaching in our lives, it would make some people uncomfortable. I am reminded of a teacher friend who died some years ago. When he was first transferred to a small barrio school, he began to devote all his talents and abilities to improving the students and the school. He gave tuition to students who were weak in certain subjects and helped to coach them in games. Very soon, other teachers in the school told him not to work overtime and to take things easy. The other teachers were very complacent doing little for the students or for the school. So when this new teacher came along, what he did began to prick their conscience and they reacted by asking him to slow down and not to work too hard. However, this new teacher was not a person to take things lying down and was daring enough to continue doing what he really believed in. Eventually, the other not so hardworking teachers started doing more in order not be criticized or outdone by this new teacher.

If this can happen to a teacher trying to live out his ideals, so can it happen to us Christians when we come in contact with the people whom we meet day in and day out. Our very lives can challenge them and remind them of what they should or should not be doing. This is one way of proclaiming the Kingdom of God. The challenge for you today is to ask yourself: What do you do when you are asked to change your behavior by your business partners in matters like cutting corners in business deals or having recourse to underhand dealings?

Very often, we do not realize how our example can influence or challenge the lives of others especially when our lives prick the conscience of those with whom we come in contact. It is not that you go out of your way to prick their conscience but by living your life according to the values of the Gospel, you can be doing that to some people and help them gradually to change for the better.

Are you just acting as a Christian or are you really living your life as a Christian. The Gospel reading today challenges us to make the values of the Gospel part of our life so that we will not seem just to be acting like a Christian in our daily lives but really living it.


LUKE 9:1-6

The prayer in today's first reading is the only prayer in the Book of Proverbs. It's a prayer that's quite appropriate for all of us who live in bondage to materialistic and consumerist values. For some of us, maybe we find it difficult to even imagine a world devoid of these spurious benefits.

The author of Proverbs prays that God will give him neither poverty nor riches. If we enjoy abundance, it's easy enough to relegate God to the periphery of our consciousness. If we suffer dire need, the pursuit of daily sustenance leaves little time and energy for the pursuit of spiritual values. In neither case can we maintain our life-focus on God, on his life within us, or on his identification with the marginalized, the oppressed and the poor.

Fr. Mark Link narrates a happening organized by some 175 syndicated cartoonists in the United States on Thanksgiving Day in 1985. These cartoonists presented to 90 million readers of about 2,000 newspapers an identical message: while we feast on plenty, many go hungry.

Fr. Link recalls the Peanuts' contribution. Linus asks Charlie Brown if he's going to have a big Thanksgiving dinner. Charlie replies, "I guess so, but I don't really think that much about food." Snoopy is listening in on the conversation. He looks down at his empty dish and remarks to himself, "You think about food a lot when there's nothing in your dish."

This, of course, is true. And Jesus was quite aware of the people's material needs when he sent his apostles out on their first missionary journey. Even though he instructed them to travel unencumbered, taking with them not even a change of clothes, he also instructed them to proclaim the reign of God (thus feeding the soul) and to heal the afflicted (thus recognizing that the body too has its needs).

We have to reach constantly for a balance. As missionaries the Lord obviously wants us to live a simple lifestyle and to mediate to others health of body and spirit.


MATTHEW 9:9-13

Decisions that will influence the course of one's life are not easy to make. These refers to life-determining decisions, for instance decisions regarding career, marriage, jobs, the children's education, etc. To come to any of these decisions one needs time, to weigh the pros and cons, to consider advantages and disadvantages; then too one needs time for prayer, to determine in which direction God is leading us. The decision-making process can be long, emotionally wearing, exhausting.

"As Jesus moved on, he saw a man named Matthew at his post where taxes were collected. He said to him, `Follow me.' Matthew got up and followed him." That's all! Nothing more! No anguished weighing of pros and cons; no long hours of prayer begging God for light and courage. Just a couple of seconds, "`Matthew, follow me' . . . Matthew followed him."

How come Matthew made his decision to follow Christ with such ease? Had he been getting tired of living on the periphery of Jewish society? Had the attraction of wealth been wearing thin and not worth the price he had to pay: being an outcast, despised, rejected?

It's doubtful this was the reason for his reaction to Jesus' invitation. He certainly could see that Jesus himself was having the same trouble with the Pharisees and scribes, as did the tax collectors. It would be more of the same type of life: being an outcast, despised, rejected.

Perhaps the reason why Matthew said `yes' to Jesus' invitation was because of the qualities of character and spirit that Jesus manifested. And there can be no doubt about it: Jesus was a remarkable person. He had new ideas about the essential realities of life, about forgiveness of sins, about loving and serving God and others, about embracing simplicity of lifestyle and even about loving enemies. Jesus was a very intriguing man even for one whose main preoccupation in life had been the accumulation of money.

All the reasons Matthew had for embracing Jesus' lifestyle are also the reasons offered to us to embrace his lifestyle.

And for us? Everything that Matthew found intriguing in Jesus during his day and worthy of a positive response to the offer of discipleship, remains true for us today.


LUKE 8:16-18

What is this lamp which, Jesus tells us in today's gospel, we are to put on a lamp stand? We, we are that lamp that is to be put on a lamp stand, radiating the light that is Christ to all people.

To radiate Christ and his values can be a perilous enterprise. Jesus himself learned this from his own personal experience. Wealth, power, well-being, status, respect: these were the powerful forces that compelled the Pharisees to deny the truth and to press Pilate for Jesus' death. These were the powerful forces that compelled Pilate to deny justice to Jesus.

Jesus once said he did not enter this world to judge it but to save it. Though he did not judge the world, many saw his way of life as a judgment on their own weakness and malice. Therefore, shamed by his strength and goodness, they attempted to destroy the light that Jesus was.

"If they persecute me they will also persecute you," Jesus told his disciples. He was speaking to us too. Persecution may fall far short of the martyrdom that Jesus suffered, and still be true persecution. It may make us the object of anger, ridicule, snide patronizing laughter, exclusion from companionship. There are many forms that persecution can take. It need not always be physically violent. Find a woman or a man who can remain faithful to Christ and his values in the face of withering laughter or painful rejection, or excommunication from the barkada and we find a person as brave as a martyr, as strong as Christ.


LUKE 16:1-13

Today's Gospel probably puzzled you. An employee, who cheats on his employer, a manager, who manipulates his master's money to make friends upon losing his job. And a master, with Jesus' approval, praising the dishonest manager "because he had acted shrewdly!" Is this the morality with which the Vatican II sent the laity into the world "to penetrate and perfect the temporal sphere with the spirit of the Gospel?" Clever operators?

This is one of the most challenging parables even for a Jesuit to explain. And still, it comes from the mouth of God's Son, and it says something terribly important for your life and mine. But to understand that, we must address three issues:

1. What did the parable mean in Jesus' own mind?
2. What application did the early Christians derive from the parables?
3. What might the parable say to you and me today?

First then, what did the parable mean in Jesus' own mind? Let's paraphrase the parable. There is a rich man, who owns quite a large estate. This landowner has a manager. What is the manager's job? - To handle the finances of the estate. He has a wide range of power, much leeway for discretion, equivalent to an accountant and loan shark. He keeps his master's accounts, can contract loans in the owner's name. He may even liquidate debts.

But one day our manager gets his summons. He is accused of dishonesty. Who accuses him? We don't know. What is the charge? Squandering his master's property. How exactly? We are not told. Is it neglect, swindling, poor judgment? At any rate, the owner summons him, that's it! No discussion; the case is closed. "You're fired. But before you pack up, prepare an inventory, tell me who owes me and how much."

The manager goes out. Outside the office he sits down in deep thought. "What shall I do? I'm not macho enough for physical labor. My hands are far too soft. I won't do unskilled labor, that's beneath my dignity…. Aha! I've got it! A super idea! If this works out, I've got it made. People will welcome me, when I leave here, because of utang na loob. They owe me.

Quickly he summons his master's debtors, all those with whom he had made deals. "You. Your IOU reads a thousand gallons of olive oil, correct? Write a new IOU. Cut your debt to half. Put down on 500 gallons. Take out my interest, the 500 gallons I charge you." "You. Your IOU reads a thousand bushels of wheat, correct? Write a new IOU. Forget my 20% interest. Simply write 800 bushels, exactly what you owe my master."

No dishonesty here. This is not the squandering for which the owner fired him. The manager is playing within the economic rules; he is giving up not his master's rightful return, only the interest he himself charged, his interest.

Somehow the master hears about the deals. His reaction? Anger? No, sir! He shakes his head in admiration: "Clever guy! I fired him and he trades on disaster to ensure his future."

And Jesus: What precisely is he approving? And what has this parable to do with the kingdom of God? Simply this. The dishonest manager, at a critical moment in his life, when his entire future was at stake, acted decisively to cope with the crisis, planned shrewdly to secure his future. Similarly for Christians, Jesus' preaching of the kingdom brings a crisis into their lives. We have to act decisively, plan shrewdly, to ensure a place in God's kingdom. That is where the parable proper ends: "And the master praised that dishonest manager, because he had acted shrewdly."

If this sounds terribly abstract to you, for your consolation, the early Christians seemed to feel the same way. After the death of Jesus, the parable was told and retold, at times and places where Christians were puzzled about its meaning – and didn't have a Jesuit to explain it! The result? Much moralizing over a cup of coffee. That's how you have the last part of today's Gospel: three applications, three concrete directives for living, which the generation after Jesus concluded from a puzzling parable.

Application 1: Make wise use of material possessions – what Luke calls "the mammon of dishonesty," dishonesty not because material things are evil in themselves, but because they can seduce you, lead you to dishonesty. Here we are faced with a gem of wisdom that should trouble any follower of Christ: "The children of this world are shrewder in dealing with their own generation than are the children of the light." Meaning what? Meaning this: Men and women, whose outlook on life is totally conditioned, solely shaped, by this world; men and women, who have no interest whatever in the godly aspects of human existence, are shrewder in dealing with their own kind that are the disciples of Christ in making their way to the goal that is God. Unbelievers put us to shame. Imitate their shrewdness!

Application 2 focuses on day-to-day fidelity. If you cannot be trusted with my lunch money, why should I trust you with my financial investment? If you are reckless in driving a broken down jeep, I'm not at all sure that you'll do better with my BMW.

Application 3 is a general attitude toward wealth: "You cannot serve both God and mammon." Not that you cannot have both; simply you cannot make both your master. Which of the two will you serve? If gold is your god, the God of Jesus Christ is not. Choose!

So much for the parable Jesus intended it, so much for what the early Christians drew from it. Now what of you and me? What might it say to you and me? What is Christ saying to you through the same parable today? For that you have to listen, not so much to me as to him. You have to say with the boy Samuel in the temple: "Speak Lord, for your servant is listening."

The basic link between the first century and the Third Millennium is what Jesus hinted at the close of the parable. Each of us has been put in a crisis situation. Not from kidnappers, hold-uppers, bank robbers, not from terrorists or nuclear bombs, or the coming semestral exams, not because a boss had given a termination notice, each Christian, rich or poor, insecure or happy-go-lucky, has to face up to a crisis - perhaps once, perhaps often, because the kingdom of God has been preached not only to the first century Jews, but to each of us.

The Kingdom of God is not a place, like America, or Canada, or the Middle East or Europe. The Kingdom of God, the heart of Jesus' preaching, is the rule of Christ over the human heart. Not political power, he is King of hearts, of our heart. "You are not your own," St. Paul insists to the Christians of Corinth, "you were bought with a price." What price? "The precious blood of Christ."

If we ask the young people of today what are the important goals of their lives, the answer would most likely be money, power, and fame. To the Christian eyes there is great danger in aspiring for these. Why dangerous? Because they tend to lead us to evil: to dishonesty, injustice, selfishness, and the destruction of the human spirit. When? Whenever goal number one is not God; whenever our primary purpose is not the age-old catechism response, "God made me to praise, reverence, and serve Him."; whenever to be alive does not mean, in the first place, life in Christ; whenever money, power, and reputation become gods, your masters instead of your servants.

The parable of the Dishonest Manager is a challenge to every Christian, more especially if we are gifted with the good things of earth, or hold in our hands the living or dying of others.

So then, look into your heart this Sunday of crisis. Discover what towers on top of your list of goals. See where God stands on the list, where money, power, fame, whatever. Then, like our manager friend but even more shrewdly, take the IOU you have with God, rip it up, write a new one – this time not less, but more, this time in tune with the command of Old Testament and New: "I shall love the Lord my God with all my heart, all my soul, and all my mind, all my strength." And while you're at it, you might as well add: "And I shall love others, all others as I love myself."


LUKE 8:4-15

The early Church found great comfort in this parable. Our first Christians were hard put to understand why their preaching of the gospel was not universally accepted. And why did some people who enthusiastically embraced the word when they first heard it, later drop away from the word and the community? All this puzzled the early church. They thought perhaps that they themselves were at fault, that they were not preaching the word with sufficient conviction.

Luke reported this parable of the Lord for the sake of these discouraged early Christians. Jesus' own words put them at ease. The word, like the seed, was thrown broadcast over the land. Whether it would issue in a fruitful plant depended to a great extent on the ground on which the seed fell. Growth of the word, therefore, depended on the dispositions of the person who received it. Was the recipient open to the word, had he sufficient maturity and depth, was he sufficiently sincere?

So also today: we can't expect our preaching, whether we preach by homilies and sermons or by our lives, to produce always a hundredfold. Much will depend on the disposition of the recipients. So the parable is presented to us by Luke to encourage us today to preach and/or to live our faith enthusiastically even though we don't see a hundredfold harvest.

The parable, therefore, is meant to be a source of comfort for us. However, if we read it honestly, it should cause at least a bit of anxiety within us. Because it's also true that the word's growth within us will depend to a great extent on the dispositions with which we receive it.


LUKE 8:1-3

Today's gospel pictures Jesus traveling through the towns and villages of Palestine, preaching the good news of the kingdom of God. He was, of course, accompanied by the twelve, his apostles, and by his disciples.

The gospel tells us that apart from the men, however, there was also a group of women who accompanied Jesus and his disciples. Apparently Jesus had freed some of these women of the grip of evil spirits. This does not necessarily mean that they had been possessed by demons or that they had been great sinners. It may simply mean that they suffered from a disease and Jesus freed them of it. It was these women who provided part of the money needed to support the missionary activities of Jesus and his apostles.

These women did not, of course, preach or teach. The Jews were an intensely patriarchal society, in which women were without any civil rights and had no public or civic stature. Obviously in such a culture men would never accept a woman as a teacher. But it's simply extraordinary that Jesus, in this society which did not even allow a man to speak with a women other than his wife in public, should have had women in his entourage, traveling with him up and down the length and breadth of Palestine. Apparently the women put Jesus and his ministry ahead of their own families, as did the male disciples. It certainly does indicate that Jesus had little or no concern about public reaction to what he felt was right and proper.

Women have come a long way since then. Universal suffrage is in, women serve in elective and appointive offices in many countries. Many women occupy high positions in private companies. In our church, women direct retreats, lectures and serve as guides in small study groups. Women also contribute their efforts in social action projects.

Let us pray that the talents and experiences of women will continue to be shared with the community and the enrichment of the Church.


LUKE 7:36-50

It would have been great to also be invited by Simon the Pharisee when Jesus was there. From the beginning, the whole situation smelled of dynamite, of possible explosions. Why did the Pharisees invite Jesus? Was the Pharisee Jesus' friend because he gave him the title "Rabbi"? Surely not. He neglected the basic etiquette and so offended Jesus publicly. Surely he was out to trap Jesus, as other Pharisees liked to do.

Then the woman a prostitute, dared to enter where a company of men was engaged in dinner and conversation. In at least three serious violations, she was guilty of entering the hall, touching Jesus and letting her hair down. For a woman to let her hair down was a shameless act. Only a prostitute would do that.

What about Jesus? He was so relaxed. We can imagine him reclining on a couch, observing the people, smiling and waiting for the moment when he would detonate the dynamite.

No mention is made about the way Jesus was treated. He allowed the woman to do what she was doing and seemed to enjoy it. And finally the bombshell. He forgives her sins, something which only God can do.

It is a dramatic story. But we could miss the point if we concentrated on the drama only. This story gives us much food for thought.

Simon, the Pharisee, was not conscious of any wrongdoing. He felt no love and so closed the door to God's mercy and grace. He thought of himself as a good person. But self-righteousness and self-sufficiency shuts us off from God and his grace. One of the greatest sins is being convinced to have no sin at all.

The woman is to be admired for her courage. She realized that she had sinned, but she was not discouraged. She did not shrug her shoulders saying: "I am a hopeless case. It is too late for me to change." She believed that God would be willing to forgive her. There was real love and trust in her. She felt the need for God's intervention and was ready to go through even a shameful scene like the one she created in the Pharisee's house.

Admitting one's sins alone is not enough because it can lead to spiritual pessimism. And to believe that God is willing to forgive can lead to automatic confession and cheap grace. Both attitudes must come together, carried by love for God and trust in his mercy. Only then does the miracle of true repentance take place. Life takes a different direction and a major step is made towards perfection and holiness.


JOHN 3:13-17

The Cross of Jesus has many different meanings. It signifies the inhumanity of men and the humanity of God. It symbolizes the meaning and value of suffering. It manifests divine forgiveness. It reveals the power of sacrificial love and the victory of life over death.

Today's gospel focuses on the cross as symbol of God's forgiving love for this evil world. "God so loved the world," John says, "that he gave his only Son . . . " in order that sinful men and women might find life. It's startling, isn't it, that God should love this world which is marked indelibly, often brutally, by sin, that God should love this world in which too often evil dominates and prevails over good?

God and Jesus, however, accepted this world it was, sinful. God gave his son to this world, and, Jesus says, "The son has to be lifted up", as the bronze serpent was lifted up in the desert. We know from the first reading that those Jews who were made deathly sick in the desert at the bite of a seraph serpent, needed only to look on the bronze serpent to be saved from death. So also anyone in this evil world who looks on Jesus, lifted up on the cross, and believes in him, will have eternal life. God indeed loved the sinful world.

This means, clearly, that evil though the world is, we too are to love it. It does not mean, of course, that we are to embrace the world's values or exalt its idols, but simply - that we ourselves are to make present in the world, Christ's compassionate, life-giving, universal love.


LUKE 7:1-10

We can learn a great deal about values and value-based behavior from "pagans," even though some of us may sometimes pray for them with a great deal of condescension. A given pagan culture may proclaim values which we, in a Christian setting, judge inhuman. Yet the individual pagan in his behavior may reject the inhuman values and show himself to be deeply human. On the other hand, Christianity proclaims many values which stress the dignity of the human person— yet how often Christians in their behavior deny and negate human dignity.

The Roman centurion in today's gospel belonged to a culture that looked on a slave as a tool - his life depended on his master's whim. The slave had no human rights, no human dignity. The efficient Roman farmer, for instance, was advised to examine his farm instruments and his slaves, once a year and throw away those that were no longer useful.

Yet the Roman centurion in the gospel "holds his slave in high regard." Because of his regard for his slave, the centurion is willing to humble himself before Jesus and the Jews in order to win a cure for him.

Let us ask ourselves today: do we, as a nation, give expression to our Christian commitment to the value of the human person when we continue to tolerate widespread poverty and its consequences, subhuman shelters, untended illnesses, mental and physical retardation, untimely deaths? Do we Christians in any way approach the Christian mentality that Jesus found in the Centurion?



JUNE 14, 2005

We want you to know, brothers and sisters, of the grace of God that
has been given to the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of
affliction, the abundance of their joy and their profound poverty
overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For according to
their means, I can testify, and beyond their means, spontaneously,
they begged us insistently for the favor of taking part in the
service to the holy ones, and this, not as we expected, but they
gave themselves first to the Lord and to us through the will of God,
so that we urged Titus that, as he had already begun, he should also
complete for you this gracious act also. Now as you excel in every
respect, in faith, discourse, knowledge, all earnestness, and in the
love we have for you, may you excel in this gracious act also. I
say this not by way of command, but to test the genuineness of your
love by your concern for others. For you know the gracious act of
our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sake he became poor although he
was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich.

MATTHEW 5:43-48
Jesus said to his disciples: "You have heard that it was said, you
shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love
your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be
children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the
bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the
unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you
have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your
brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the
same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect."

The City of Corinth was a very wealthy trade center. The church
Paul had established there was much better off financially than
churches he had founded elsewhere. Paul turned to the Corinthians,
therefore, requesting them to give generously to the fund he was
gathering for the Church in Jerusalem. Two reasons motivated him in
the pursuit of this project, which was very close to his heart. The
Christians in Jerusalem were poor. Making a donation would be an
act of charity for the Gentile Church. Secondly, a donation would
affirm that Jews and Gentiles were members of but one Church. There
was one gospel, one faith . . . one Church.

The motivation Paul proposes to the Corinthians is the love and
generosity that Jesus manifested in the Incarnation when "for your
sake he became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you
might become rich."

Paul also suggests that the Corinthians might look to the Macedonian
Church as an exemplar of generosity. The Macedonians were poor,
particularly if compared to the wealthy Corinthians, and furthermore
they were undergoing the trials of persecution. Yet they insisted
that they be allowed to share in this service to the needy in
Jerusalem. Such generosity Paul sees as inspired by God and as a
sign that the Macedonians gave much more than a simple financial
gift to the Jerusalem community; the donation signified the gift of
their love.

The primary motivation every Christian has for donating gifts to the
poor is Jesus' generosity to him- or herself when "for your sake he
became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might
become rich." When a Christian gives generously Christ is always
his model and his inspiration.

"Lord, your love brings freedom and pardon. Fill me with your Holy
Spirit and set my heart ablaze with your love that nothing may make
me lose my temper, ruffle my peace, take away my joy, nor make me
bitter towards anyone."

We pray ...
- for a deep and profound respect for life, especially for the
- for the speedy recovery of Milagros Doria.
- for the speedy recovery of Jocy Leron.
- for the personal intentions of Veronica Yap.
- for the personal intentions of Mary Wong and Lawrence.
- for thanksgiving and special intentions of Ma. Eufrocenri Navarro.
- Birthday: Edna E. Olmedo
- for all the prayer intentions in the MTQ Dailyprayer Diary.
- Wedding Anniversary: Luis & Josie Ong
- In Memoriam: Ramon Lee Ngo
- In Memoriam: Antonio Cabrera
- for world peace and reconciliation.

Finally, we pray for one another, for those who have asked our
prayers and for those who need our prayers the most.

Have a good day!

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