Sunday, July 29, 2018

The First Fruits of the Resurrection

JULY 29, 2018

Jesus, I trust in you!

A man offered to Elisha 20 barley (sebada) loaves made from the first fruits which the prophet ordered to be given to feed 100 people. Elisha was the successor of Elijah, the greatest of the prophets, who multiplied the flour and made it enough to sustain a woman and her child until the end of the famine. Jesus was offered 5 barley loaves and 2 fish which he multiplied to feed 5,000 men. Both the offerings given to Elisha and Jesus were held when the feast of the Passover was near. The Feast of the Unleavened Bread was the time when Barley was offered as first fruits of spring.
Clearly, the story of the multiplication of the loaves is a Eucharistic story. Here we see Jesus who is greater than the prophets Elijah and Elisha because he fed more people with less number of loaves than the 2 prophets previously did. Thus, the people who were fed by the Lord would acclaim him: “This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.” Greater than the prophets, Jesus is The Prophet, the one who comes to fulfill all the prophets of all said.

In this miracle, Jesus is also shown as the Good Shepherd who brings and feeds his flock in verdant pastures. He lets the people recline on the grass in order to feed them. They ate as much as they wanted with leftovers to be gathered into 12 baskets. “You have prepared a table for me in the sight of my foes. My head you have anointed with oil and my cup is overflowing.”

A man brought to Elisha 20 barley loaves. A boy offered to Jesus 5 barley loaves. The barley is the first grain to be harvested in spring. It is the first fruit offered to God in the Feast of the Unleavened Bread. The Feast of the Unleavened Bread is a 7 day feast immediately after the Passover. As the barley is the first fruit offered to God on the Feast of the Unleavened Bread, so is Christ the first fruits of the Resurrection (1 Cor 15:23). Christ offered himself on the Cross at the very hour when the lambs were offered in the temple in preparation for the Passover. Christ resurrected from the dead on the Feast of the Unleavened Bread. He is the first fruits of the Resurrection. On the Feast of the unleavened bread, all yeast (which is the symbol of sin) is cast away. Therefore, Jesus who is the first fruits of the Resurrection offers us himself, the Unleavened Bread so that we might partake of his new life. However, we are also to cast away the leaven of sin so as to share most fully in the eternal life which he offers us at our own resurrection from the dead. “Just as in Adam, all die, so in Christ all will come to life. But each in his own turn: Christ the first fruits, and at his coming, all those who belong to him. And then will come the end when Christ will hand over his kingdom to God the Father.” “Therefore, let us cast out the old leaven, that you may be a new unleavened batch as you really are. For Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore, let us keep the festival not with the old leaven of malice and wickedness but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” (1 Cor 5:7-8) It is only by renouncing the leaven of sin that we can repose in the verdant pastures of the Good Shepherd where he will prepare a table for us, anoint us with oil, and make our cup overflow.

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

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Anak, ba't ka nagkaganyan?

JULY 8, 2018

Jesus, I trust in you.

The Selfie of God
“Rebels who rebelled against me,” so did God speak about the Israelites when he sent the prophet Ezekiel to them. From the beginning, the Lord never kept the difficulty of the challenge a secret to the prophet: “Hard of face and obstinate of heart (matigas ang ulo at walang pitagan) are they to whom I am sending you.” Even Jesus was amazed at their lack of faith. They always have a reason to refuse to believe in what the prophet has to say. Instead of listening intently to the Word of God, they are on the look-out for some flaw in argument or in the person of the prophet. In the case of Jesus, they complained: Is he not the carpenter, the Son of Mary? They could not find fault in what the Lord said: What kind of wisdom has been given him? They could not deny the greatness of his work: What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands! They could not even find fault in his person so that they found fault in the fact that they knew his family and his origins. They simply had to find fault in something in order to justify their unbelief. (The president who called God “stupid” is now asking for a selfie as proof that God exists.) There can only be one reason for their unbelief and that would be their hardness of face and obstinacy of heart. Knowing the number and gravity of their sins, they would rather choose not to believe than choose to repent and change their ways. (Even if we produce that selfie, still he will not believe.) “For the believer, no proof is necessary. For the unbeliever, no proof will be sufficient.” So said St. Thomas Aquinas.

If this were so, then why does God still insist on sending prophets to a rebellious house? If Jesus knew that no prophet is accepted in his own native place, then why did he still insist to go there? The stubbornness of God’s love can be the only answer. The stubbornness of God’s love is his response to the stubbornness of the human heart. While God’s love remains constant, man’s obstinacy of heart may change. That is why again and again he sends prophets to that rebellious house. “Whether they heed or resist – for they are a rebellious house – they shall know that a prophet has been among them.” (Sa making sila o hindi – dahil matigas nga ang kanilang ulo – malalaman nilang may isang propeta sa gitna nila.)

Hindi siya nagkulang ng paalala. Isn’t this so typical of a loving father? The parent does not tire of advising his children because he wants to keep them from danger. But if his child is obstinate, no amount of parental advice can protect him from danger. Whatever happens to him is not the fault of his parents but it is the result of his own doing. I remember Freddie Aguilar’s song. He sang of how parents love their child so much: “Minamasdan pati pagtulog mo.” But in spite of such love and care, the child goes wayward: “Nagdaan pa ang mga araw at ang landas mo’y naligaw. Ikaw ay nalulong sa masamang bisyo.” And the parents could do nothing but ask: “Anak, ba’t ka nagkaganyan?”

God keeps sending prophets because he does not tire of warning his children of the dire consequences of their wayward ways. Remember the Book of Wisdom from last Sunday’s Mass? The Word of God said: “God does not rejoice in the destruction of the living.” Therefore, let us heed the prophets whom God sends us. Let us not detest what they say.  If ever we discover that our lives are not in accordance to the ways of the Lord, let us not hesitate to repent and change our ways. Instead of calling God “stupid,” let us abandon our own stupidity. Let us not wait for God to ask us, “Anak, ba’t ka nagkaganyan.” “For out of compassion for the waywardness that is ours, he humbled himself…by the passion of the Cross, he freed us from unending death, and by rising from the dead, he gave us eternal life.” Let us not be obstinate of heart. If today, you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

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

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Answering the President's Blasphemy

JULY 1, 2018

Jesus, I trust in you!

The President blasphemed the Lord by calling God “stupid.” He gave this statement when he tried to show the “absurdity” of the biblical story of creation. According to him, God created a perfect world and placed Adam and Eve in it. Then, he sent a serpent to test Eve and therefore he destroyed the perfect creation that he made. This absurdity made him remark that the God we worship is stupid.

I think it is my obligation to preach about this in order to correct false notions that the president was trying to insinuate. First of all, God did not desire to destroy what he created. The Book of Wisdom today tells us: “God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. For he fashioned all things that they might have being, and the creatures of the world are WHOLESOME…God formed man to be imperishable, the image of his own nature he made him.” Death did not have a place in the original plan of God for creation. Man was meant to be imperishable.

If this were so, then why is there death? Did death come from God? Is it true that God desired to destroy what he created? The Book of Wisdom tells us that death did not come from God. Rather, “by the envy of the devil, death entered the world and they who belong to his company experience it.” God created all the angels but some of them chose to rebel against God. These fallen angels refused to serve God and therefore, they appointed themselves as enemies of God. Because man was made in the image of God, the devil envied him. The devil hated the fact that God created man in his image and likeness and therefore, he sought to destroy man by seducing him to sin. Contrary to the claim of the president, God did not send the serpent to destroy man. But rather, the devil took the form of a serpent and on his own accord, he went to Adam and Eve in order to tempt them. Temptation is a seduction to sin. By successfully seducing them to disobey God, the devil destroyed man by bringing death into the world. The author of sin is the devil. The same devil is the author of death.

In fact, sickness and death are all the effects of sin. Man, whom God intended to be imperishable, became vulnerable to sickness and death because he fell into the devil’s trap. “Death entered the world and they who belong to (the devil’s) company experience it. God did not bring sickness and death to man. It was the devil who authored these.

Look at the Gospel. Jairus went to the Lord to ask him to heal his daughter. The woman who was afflicted with hemorrhage for 12 years sought to touch the cloak of Jesus in order to be healed. Jesus raised up the dead daughter of Jairus. Before Jesus came, both Jairus’ daughter and woman were sick. The Lord did not bring them illness. People went to him to have themselves delivered from sickness and from death. God is not the destroyer but the healer. Death did not come from God. It came from the envy of the devil. God raises us from illness. He rescues us from death. Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. He did this by dying on the Cross. Indeed, he defeated the devil in his own game. He defeated the devil in his own home court. Death was the devil’s domain. Jesus entered it to defeat the devil in his own domain.

And so, God is not stupid because he does not destroy what he created. Instead, he saves those who call on him. He rescues us from death that came from the envy of the devil. It is the devil who is stupid because he dares to challenge the One whom he cannot defeat. The devil fighting God is like a fool who rams his head against a concrete wall. The devil destroys himself by rejecting the God who gives life. Those who chose to belong to the devil’s company will also experience the devil’s self-destruction. The self-exclusion from the communion of the saints with God is what we call hell. Hell is the ultimate self-destruction.

This is why it is wiser to hold on to this God whom they consider stupid. The seeming foolishness of God is even greater than the wisdom of men. “Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain?  The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed… The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. He rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath.” (Psalm 2: 1-5) Have confidence: ‘Our Savior Jesus Christ destroyed death and brought life to light through the Gospel.” (2 Tim 1: 10)

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