Sunday, May 12, 2019

GOOD SHEPHERD SUNDAY: Jesus, the Truly Anointed One

MAY 12, 2019

Jesus, I trust in you!

Tomorrow’s elections will be an important democratic exercise in which the majority of the people will vote the nation’s leaders and bestow them power. A democratic government is a government by the people, for the people, and of the people. However, it would be a mistake to think that a government official receives a mandate from God. People usually assume the democratic vote as a Divine mandate or a manifestation of Divine choice because of the principle “Vox Populi, vox Dei.” Because it is in Latin, people think that the principle is a Biblical one and they are badly mistaken. Nowhere in the Bible will you find “Vox populi, vox Dei.” In fact, the Bible will even give us a number of examples of how “Vox populi” is opposite “Vox Dei.” The voice of the majority is prone to error because experience has already proven to us that the majority is easily swayed by surveys, good looks, and entertainment. Sensible candidates are not popular because seldom do we care to evaluate platforms of government. We simply ride the band wagon.

Good Shepherd Sunday shows us the real “Vox Dei.” Jesus is the real leader who enjoys the mandate of God. At the River Jordan, the Father made his choice very clear. He publicly announced: “This is my beloved Son in whom my favor rests.” Jesus was anointed by the Father and not voted by the people. In fact, the people demanded that he be crucified. But God anointed Jesus as Savior and King. On the mountain of the transfiguration, he declared his anointing and then commanded us: “Listen to him.”

Because Jesus received God’s mandate, he is the only one who is able to lead us to real green pastures. He is the only one who gives us repose. He is the only one who spreads a table for us so that we can eat in the sight of the enemies. He is the only one who anoints our head with oil and makes our cup overflow. As the Book of Revelation said, the Lord Jesus has called us from every nation, race, people, and tongue. His leadership transcends national boundaries. He leads us to our true homeland: heaven. There, he will give us what every politician promises but are NEVER able to deliver: “The one who sits on the throne will shelter them. They will not hunger or thirst anymore, nor will the sun or any heat strike them. For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”
The leaders we elect will lead us only from one term to another. Some of them are good while others are really bad. Jesus is the Good Shepherd because he is the real Son of God. He keeps his promises and we can always rely on him. He is worthy of our trust. We should listen to him. Si Hesus ang TUNAY na Anak ng Diyos. Jesus is the Good One.

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.

3RD SUNDAY OF EASTER: Forgiven and Trusted

May 5, 2019

Jesus, I trust in you!

Unlike the other disciples who ran away when Jesus was arrested in the garden, Simon Peter had the courage to follow Jesus until the house of the high priest. But when he saw Jesus being beaten up by the temple guards, somehow his faith faltered. Three times he was questioned by the servants of the high priest about his association of Jesus and to all of them, he had only one answer: “I do not know him.” Then the cock crowed as Jesus warned him at the last supper. I find the crowing of the cock very significant because it marked the end of the night and the coming of the day. During the supper, Judas left the room and the writer was quick to add: “It was night.” It was not simply a reference of time. Rather, it also meant that it was the hour of darkness, the hour of Satan, the prince of the world. And on that night, Jesus’s disciples fell: first was Judas, then the others who fled, then, just as the night was about to end, Peter was the last to fall. Then the cock crowed.

In today’s reading, Peter and the disciples went fishing but they did not catch any during the night. At dawn, the risen Jesus stood by the shore and commanded them to lower their nets and they caught so much fish. During the night of Holy Thursday, they ran away and abandoned the Lord. Without the Lord, they caught nothing. Their fishermen skills amounted to nothing. Away from his father, the prodigal son went hungry. Away from Jesus, the disciples caught nothing. Jesus once told them: “Without me, you can do nothing.”

They found Jesus preparing breakfast for them at the shore. Here was the Lord whom they abandoned. They could have eaten a scolding for breakfast but they did not hear any reproach from the Lord. Instead, he told them, “Bring some of the fish you just caught.” He allowed them the opportunity to make up for their cowardice. He allowed them to bring him something which in truth, he gave them. His command enabled them to catch fish. Now, they are to offer him what they caught. It was an act of reparation. Eating breakfast together became an act of reconciliation after everything that happened in the middle of the night.

Then, Jesus turned towards Peter and three times, he asked the same question: “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” As the servants of the high priest questioned Peter three times about his relation with Jesus, so now, Jesus questions Peter about his love: “Do you love me?” It was painful for Peter to be reminded of his denial. But the questions of the Lord were not meant to shame or hurt him. Jesus gave Peter the opportunity to rise from where he has fallen. As the adulterous woman met in Jesus the God of second chances, so now Peter meets the same God. All he had to do was to say “Yes, Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” That was enough. As the repentant prodigal son was welcomed, clothed and fed, so now, Peter was received, fed (with breakfast), and clothed with authority. The prodigal son was clothed with a robe and Peter was told: “Feed my lambs.” The prodigal son was given sandals to wear and Peter was told: “Tend my sheep.” A ring was placed on the prodigal son’s finger and Peter was told: “Feed my sheep.” Peter will now be catching men and his preaching will never be fruitless. His nets will always be full. He will no longer deny our Lord. Instead, he will boldly declare to the high priest: “The God of our ancestors raised Jesus, though you had killed him, hanging him on a tree.” Peter will declare what he himself received from the Lord: “repentance and forgiveness of sins.” Jesus is the Lamb who was slain and is worthy to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honor, glory, and praise. It is with this power that he accompanies the preaching of Peter and the disciples. With his power, he provides the catch for the disciples’ nets. He who was raised on the Cross now draws all people back to himself. The disciples, who were the first recipients of his forgiveness, now gather together what were scattered by sin and bring them back to the Lord. Theirs is a message of forgiveness. Our repentance, our return to him, will be our salvation.

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

Divine Mercy Sunday: Justice Served, Mercy Dispensed

April 28, 2019

Jesus, I trust in you!

When the risen Jesus appeared to his disciples on the evening of Easter Sunday, he showed them his hands and his side. He did not do this as a reproach for running away on the night of his arrest in the garden of Getsemane. He did not come to cast blame on them for these wounds. Instead, he came with a greeting of Peace: “Peace be with you.” He showed them his hands and side in order to assure them that everything is now in peace. His death on the Cross has reconciled us with the Father. He paid the debts of our sins. All things being settled with God, everything is now in peace: Peace be with you…and he showed them his hands and his side.

In fact, in order to assuage the doubt of Thomas, he even invited him to come closer and to put his finger in the wound of his hand and to probe his wounded side with his fist. He said: “Doubt no longer but believe.”

The Lord showed them his wounds and allowed them to verify their authenticity in order to assure all of us that his death was real. It was not an illusion. He really died. This proof of death is necessary to affirm that the debt of our sins has been paid. The wounds are like a receipt of payment, evidences that the eternal debt of sins is already settled. Justice has been served. The eternal debt of our sins was paid by the death of the eternal Son of God. This is why the Lord is now able to declare pardon for the world.

He breathes on his disciples and sends the Holy Spirit to them. By doing so, he gives his apostles the power to make his mercy accessible to those who wish to avail of it: “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” He sends the Holy Spirit so that our sins may be forgiven through the waters of Baptism and through the tears of compunction in confession. He desires that repentance for the forgiveness of sins be preached to all nations. Now that Divine Justice is satisfied, Divine Mercy may be dispensed to all who seek it. He desires to forgive. All we have to do is ask for it and believe in the power of his mercy.

Jesus said to St. Faustina: “From all my wounds, like from streams, mercy pours for souls, but the wound in my heart is the fountain of unfathomable mercy. From this fountain springs all graces for souls. The flames of compassion burn me. I desire greatly to pour them out upon souls. Speak to the whole world about my mercy.” (Diary, 1190)

As the world today experiences catastrophe after catastrophe, we know that we are reaping the fruits of our sins. It is time to turn to the Mercy of God. It has been an earthshaking week for the country. The tremors reminded me of the Tower of Siloah which the Lord spoke of during Lent. The tower collapsed and killed 18 people and the Lord said, “Repent or you will perish as they did.”  He told us to repent and to seek his mercy or else we will perish. 

Let not the excitement over “Avengers: The End Game” make us forget the earthquakes. Let us turn to the Lord and beg his mercy. Jesus said: “I am mercy itself for the contrite soul. A soul’s greatest wretchedness does not enkindle me with wrath; but rather, my Heart is moved towards it with great mercy.” (Diary, 1739)

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.  

Easter Sunday: The Living One is not among the Dead

APRIL 21, 2019


Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early in Easter morning. She expected to find the corpse of Jesus there and she came to anoint him. But to her surprise, she found the stone removed from the tomb and when she reported it to Peter and John, they ran to the tomb in order to investigate. They found the tomb empty. There were the burial cloths and other linen. But the body was missing. Jesus was not in the tomb.

Why was Jesus not in the tomb? It was because he is risen from the dead. A tomb is no place for a living person. It is the resting place of the dead. It is not for the living. Why look for the living among the dead?

During the Lenten season, we were confronted by the reality of sin. Sin is the cause of death. Death entered the world through sin. Jesus engaged in a battle against the devil and eventually died. The sinless One seemed to be defeated by sin itself because he was afflicted with death. He had to enter death in order to destroy it from within. (His strategy was similar to that of the Trojan horse) Obediently accepting death on the Cross, Jesus destroyed the chains of death that bound us. He had to be chained by the shackles of death so that he can break it. He broke the chains of death by destroying the cause of death: disobedience. His obedience undid the disobedience of Adam and Eve. His humiliation overturned the arrogance of Satan. Once the cause is destroyed, the effect is shattered.

Through his death on the Cross, Jesus obtained for us the grace of the forgiveness of sins. (How do you destroy sin? It is destroyed by forgiving it in the same way that disease is destroyed by curing it.) This forgiveness is given to us through the sacraments of Baptism and Confession. When we are in sin, we find ourselves enslaved to the tomb. We were dead because of sin. But now he calls us to come out of the tomb. “The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.” Resurrecting from the dead, Jesus came out of the tomb and he bids us to follow him out of the death of sin into the life of grace. St. Paul tells us: “Clear out the old yeast (of sin), so that you may become a fresh batch of dough; inasmuch as you are unleavened. For Christ, our Paschal Lamb, has been sacrificed.”

He tells us to confess our sins and renounce them. By doing so, we cast away the yeast of sin. We are freed from our slavery to sin and therefore, are released from the curse of everlasting death. It is only when we are freed from sin that we cannot be harmed by death forever. Only Christ can do this for us. We have to believe in him and reach out for the instruments he gives us to obtain mercy and forgiveness. Those who ask for forgiveness will come out of the tomb and live. Those who refuse that mercy will remain dead in the tomb. Christ is not in the tomb because he is alive. The tomb is the place of the dead because Christ is not there. Whoever lives in sin is actually dead because Christ is not in him. Whoever obtains mercy is alive and is able to say: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20) “Therefore, let us celebrate the feast, not with the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

Easter Vigil: Dying and Rising with Christ

April 20, 2019

Jesus, I trust in you!

“At daybreak on the 1st day of the week, the women who had come from Galilee with Jesus took the spices they have prepared and went to the tomb.” We accompany tonight these women for we, too, had come from Galilee with Jesus. This journey from Galilee to Jerusalem, in a sense, is what our Lenten Journey is all about. It was a 40 day journey of prayer and fasting. It was a 40 day ascent to Jerusalem where, Jesus said, he was to suffer in the hands of evil men and die in order to enter into his glory. Throughout this Lenten journey, we shared in our Lord’s battle against the devil. Jesus began it by fasting in the desert where he was tempted by Satan. He overcame the seductions of the evil one by his constant absolute and unconditional obedience to the Father’s will. He was obedient until death, death on the Cross. He accomplished everything the Father sent him to do. His obedience undid the curse of Adam’s disobedience. His humiliation destroyed the arrogant works of the devil.

He invited us to accompany him in this ascent to Jerusalem. This he did by revealing to us ugliness and danger of sin. Then, he revealed to us the Father who is the true Source of Joy and Mercy. He invited us to repent lest we “perish as they did.” As what happened to the prodigal son, he wanted us to come to our senses and return to the Father. He assures us not to fear because he will not condemn us if we return to him. Through prayer and fasting for 40 days, we have prepared ourselves for tonight’s feast.
And so, we are here with the women at the tomb. The heavy stone which the soldier used to seal the tomb was meant to keep the corpse of Jesus in it. But it was not heavy enough. The stone was rolled away. Nothing can keep Jesus in the tomb. “Death no longer has power over him.” The living One cannot be found among the dead. He is no longer in the tomb for he has risen from the dead.

And we will also rise with him to eternal life only if we accompany him in his death. We died with him when we were baptized. In the waters of baptism, the old Adam died and was buried in it. We have risen as a new creation. And this is what we are reminded of year after year. Every year, we pray and fast for 40 days so that on the Easter Vigil like the one we celebrate today, we would be worthy to renew our baptismal promises. We come to the tomb to be reminded again and again that we have already died with Christ and that we must live lives renewed in baptismal grace. Maybe time and again, we forget who were as like the prodigal son who forgot that he was his father’s son. Maybe time and again, we have become unfaithful to God, our first love, as the adulterous woman was.  But every Lent, we are given the grace to rise from where we have fallen to return to the house of the Father. Every Lent, we are given the grace to hear the loving words of the Lord: “I do not condemn you. Go and from now on, do not sin anymore.

Having been absolved of our sins through confession, we now come to the tomb. We stand rejoicing in the fact that God’s forgiveness renews all things. God’s forgiveness renews us. We stand amazed at what had happened. We are amazed at how the dead Savior can rise again. We stand amazed at how we, who were dead in sin, can be raised by the forgiveness of the Lord. We stand amazed at how we, who were condemned to die, “now live in newness of life.” “A dead person has been absolved from sin.”

To be here at the tomb during this Easter Vigil is indeed a grace which we should treasure. Let us strive not to lose this grace of new life. Let us not carelessly give it up for the fleeting pleasures of the world. Let us resolve to no longer go back to the slavery of sin. Let us “think of (ourselves) as being dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.”

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

Good Friday: The Costly Price of Justice and Mercy

April 19, 2019

JESUS, I trust in you!

Lent began with Jesus engaging in a fight with the devil as he fasted in the desert. The devil tried to dissuade him from fulfilling the Father’s will by seducing him with more convenient ways of acquiring glory and power. All Jesus had to do was to relinquish his divinity and kneel before the devil and the kingdoms of the earth will easily be given to him. But Jesus did not fall for this seduction because he knew himself and he knew who the devil was. He knows fully well that he is the Son of God sent by the Father to destroy the works of the devil his adversary.

He engaged in this spiritual battle and it was a very fierce one. In this battle, the Lord revealed to us the real ugly and deadly face of sin. Using the example of the Galileans executed by Pilate and the 18 people to perished at the collapse of the tower of Siloah, the Lord Jesus gave us a stern warning about the effects of sin: “If you do not repent, you will perish as they did.” Adam and Eve did not know better. They were easily deceived by the devil and so when they disobeyed, sin entered the world and together with sin entered death.

But in this battle, the Lord did not only warn us of the deadly effect of sin. In order to redeem us, he literally jumped into the devil’s lair. Today, the Lord allowed death to touch him. He, the sinless One, endured the wage of sin which is death. He did not sin. There was nothing in him to merit death. And yet, today, he died. He died for sins he did not commit. He died for sins which we committed. He died for the sins of the world.

It is easy to say that Jesus died in atonement for our sins. But it is only when we really meditate on his Passion…when we look at the sufferings he endured, it is only then that we will tremble at what we have done to him. That Negro spiritual song says it very well: “Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Oh, sometimes, it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” We look up to Jesus hanging on the Cross and we ask him: “Lord, who did this to you?” And when we look down, we see the hammer in our hands. And so, with hearts filled with remorse, we should rather say: “Were you there when I crucified my Lord?”

We rightly deserved to die in the very same way that the adulterous woman deserved to perish. We are guilty as charged. And yet, the Lord declares to us: “I do not judge you.” He does not point an accusing finger at us. Instead, willingly he opened his arms on the wood of the Cross to endure for us a death which is cruel and excruciatingly painful. Jesus bled to death. The medical term is “traumatic hemorrhagic shock.” We should have been on that Cross but he took it upon himself for us. He went to the very depth of death because what he did not assume, he did not redeem.

And so, after that long and difficult battle, Jesus declares his cry of victory: It is finished! Refusing the devil’s shortcut, Jesus fulfilled the Father’s will through that long and difficult suffering. He loved his own and now, he loved until the very end. It was a declaration of accomplishment. Jesus declares that he has completed the task. He did not leave any stone unturned. His humiliation undid the arrogance of Satan. His unconditional obedience atoned for the disobedience of Adam and Eve and all of us, their sons and daughters. Justice is satisfied. Now we can avail mercy and forgiveness.

And so, let us value the mercy that we receive. Never should we take for granted the forgiveness bestowed on us. Keep in mind that mercy is not cheap. Someone paid dearly for it to be given to us. After a few days of penance, many of us will surely be tempted to return to their former ways of life. Don’t! Resist the temptation! Do not treat forgiveness lightly. Remember the Lord’s suffering. Remember his sacrifice. Jesus paid dearly for it. “Remember that you were not bought at the measly sum of silver or gold, but at the price of the blood of Christ, the blood of a spotless and unblemished lamb.”

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

Holy Thursday: A Life of Serving the Lord is a Life well spent

April 18, 2019

Jesus, I trust in you!

Holy Thursday this year means a lot to me as I am currently celebrating my silver jubilee year as a priest. The anniversary of the institution of the Eucharist and the Priesthood during the Year of the Youth gives me the occasion to go back to the day of my ordination as a priest. I was 25 years old then, with more hair and with greater idealism. I remember that afternoon of November 30, 1993 in the Manila Cathedral when the deacon called my name. At that time, I answered: “Ad sum! Present!” I was called and so I answered: “Here I am, Lord! I come to do your will.” So inflamed was I with the love of God that I was willing to say “Yes” to every question Cardinal Sin asked me. Maybe, at that time, I did not know better. Maybe I did not realize the cost of these “yeses.” All I knew at that time was that I wanted to serve. I wanted to offer God my life. And true enough, I have offered the best part of my life to God. I have spent my youth in his service. I am now 50 years old and I am feeling that my body is slowing down. There are many priestly tasks that I used to do easily but now, I experience certain limitations. But whenever I look back to the day of my ordination, I smile and say to the Lord: “Lord, I offered to you the best years of my life and I want to serve you until the end.”

The Lord Jesus was 33 years old at that time. He was at the prime of his life, the prime of his youth. He must have seen himself in that 1 year old lamb that was sacrificed on the eve of the Passover. That year old lamb has experienced a life independent of its mother only for 10 months and now, it is chosen to be sacrificed to the Lord and to be eaten in the Passover meal. We pity the lamb for it was not even allowed to live a full life. But what accounts for fullness of life? Is it the number of years? The lamb of sacrifice teaches us that life is full not because it was spent for many years but because it was offered to the Lord. Although it is very young, the chosen Lamb lived a full life because it was offered in sacrifice to the Lord. We may have spent many years but if none of them were offered to God, it would have been an unfortunate wasted life.

And this is how Jesus spent his life. Last Palm Sunday, Jesus declared to his disciples: “I am among you as the one who serves.” And tonight, he shows us what he meant: he took off his garments, wrapped his waist with a towel, and began washing the feet of his disciples. It was the most menial task. It was a task assigned to the lowest of slaves. And yet, he insisted to do it…even with the protest of Simon Peter. It simply had to be done. “He took the form of a slave and was born in our human likeness.” Jesus teaches us that this is life well spent. It is spent as an offering to God. It is spent in service of others. He challenges the world which teaches us to live lives with a sense of entitlement. He says: “I did not come to be served but to serve and to give my life as a ransom for many.”

This is the mark of those who wish to follow Jesus: “the kings of the gentiles lord it over them and those in authority over them are addressed as benefactors. But among you it shall not be so. Let the greatest among you be as the youngest, and the leader as the servant…I am among you as the one who serves…” Dear brothers and sisters, let us allow Jesus to lead us to a meaningful life: a life of giving more than receiving, a life of serving more than entitlement. “I, your Lord and Master, washed your feet. You must also wash each other’s feet.”

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!