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!

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Palm Sunday 2019: The Homage of Unconditional Obedience

April 14, 2019

Jesus, I trust in you!

Our Lenten journey for this year began with the story of how the Spirit led Jesus to the desert to be tempted by the devil. There, the intention of the Incarnation was made clear: “That the Son of God appeared to destroy the works of the devil.” He engaged in a spiritual battle with Satan who sought to destroy man by seducing him to sin. Sin, which entered into the world through the disobedience of one man, must be destroyed through the obedience of the Son of God. Christ humbled himself by coming in human likeness and by his obedience until death, death on a Cross.

In the desert, the devil showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the earth which he would easily give Jesus if only he knelt to worship him. The Lord could have easily received power and glory from the devil but he refused to receive it from him. instead, in the garden, even though he was in so much agony that his sweat became like drops of blood, the Lord knelt and prayed to his Father: “Not my will but yours be done.” In the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve refused God the homage of their unconditional obedience. They wanted to be like God by following their own will. They ate the forbidden fruit and through their disobedience, sin entered the world and together with sin entered death. Jesus offered to God what Adam and Eve refused to offer: the homage of unconditional obedience. He, who is God, emptied himself. He took upon himself the opposite direction which Adam and Eve aspired to take. Our parents aspired to be as great as God. Jesus went down to be a slave: “I am among you as one who serves.”

It is in the humiliation of the Cross that the Lord conquered the arrogance of Satan. By the depth of his suffering and humiliation, Jesus ended the reign of sin by invoking upon us the forgiveness of God: “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” By enduring the agony of the Cross, Jesus satisfied the demands of justice He atoned for our sins. Thus, he is able to obtain the freedom of Barabbas. The Son of God liberated the criminal by dying in his stead. Rightfully did the thief say: “We have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” Because Jesus is without sin, he is able to atone for us. By atoning for our sins, he is able to give the repentant thief the promise: ‘Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

As Jesus was told by Satan to jump from the parapet of the temple, so now, he was dared: “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.” But as he refused to jump from the top of the temple, so now he refused to come down from the Cross. He stayed on the Cross until he commended to the Father his spirit. He stayed on the Cross until he breathed his last. And so he glorified God. In doing so, he destroyed the work of the devil. The people who saw the spectacle returned home beating their breasts. By their repentance, they obtained mercy and forgiveness. Jesus brought back to God his prodigal children.

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

5th Sunday of Lent C: I Do Not Condemn You

APRIL 7, 2019

Jesus, I trust in you!

The woman really deserved to die because she was caught in the act of adultery which was punishable with death by stoning. She was brought by the scribes and Pharisees to Jesus to test him. Jesus said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And in response, they went away one by one, leaving her alone standing before Jesus. She could have taken that opportunity to run away and escape death but she stood still before him. After all, the one who was left behind had all the right to execute her because he is the sinless One. Jesus, the Son of God, received from his Father the right to judge: “The Father judges no one, but he has given all judgement to the Son so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father.” (John 5:22-23) She did not escape because she was guilty and deserved the punishment. She stood there and waited for execution.

But Jesus asked her: “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she replied. Jesus said: “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on, do not sin anymore.” Jesus had the authority to judge but for that moment, he did not use that authority. The sinless One refused to condemn the sinner. “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world through him might be saved.” (John 3:17)

The Lord refused to condemn the woman even though she deserved to be condemned. In like manner, he refuses to condemn us who are all as guilty as the woman. Instead, he allowed himself to be condemned to death. He, the sinless One, took upon himself the condemnation we deserved. He let go of the stone which he could have used against us. He let free his hand of the rock of condemnation so that he may embrace the Cross and be crucified on it to atone for our sins. He took upon himself the heavy price of death which our sins deserved. This he did to satisfy the demands of Divine Justice so that he can be merciful to us. Forgiving our sins, the Lord puts them behind us. He remembers not our past, the things of long ago. Instead, he makes all things new. He makes a path in the desert. He tells us to “forget what lies behind but strain forward to what lies ahead.” On the Cross, the Lord makes all things new.

Thus, he tells us what he told the adulterous woman: “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.” He reminds us of the executed Galileans and the 18 people who perished at the collapse of the tower of Siloam and reminds us: “If you do not repent, you will perish as they did.” He rejoices at our return to him as the Father rejoiced at the return of his prodigal son. He rejoices to have us back safe and sound.

But from now on, do not sin anymore because one day, he will come to judge the living and the dead. “(The Father) gave him the power of judgment because he is the Son of Man…The hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and will come out, those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked deeds to the resurrection of condemnation.” Let us repent while we can. He will not condemn us. Let us not wait for our sins to accuse us. Let us turn to him for the Lord says: “Even now, return to me with your whole heart; for I am gracious and merciful.” (Joel 2: 2-3)

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

4th Sunday of Lent C: Joy comes from the Father

March 31, 2019

Jesus, I trust in you!

The parable of the Prodigal Son was originally addressed by the Lord to the scribes and Pharisees who found difficulty in rejoicing over the return of tax collectors and sinners to Jesus. Instead of being happy over the fact that these public sinners are repenting and are changing their lives, the scribes and Pharisees found fault in the way the Lord ate with tax collectors and sinners.

They were like the elder brother in the parable. He could not understand why his father ordered the fattened calf slaughtered when the son who dissipated his property on loose women returned. Why give him a welcome party? Should he not have received a scolding instead? Should he not have been punished for his misdeeds? Should he not have been reproached (sinumbatan): “O anong napala mo sa ginawa mo? Matapos mo akong layasan, babalik ka ngayon kasi kailangan mo ako uli?” Why eat with him? In other words, why does the Lord eat with tax collectors and sinners?

The way the father rejoiced over the safe return of his way ward son shows how the mercy of God is indeed beyond our comprehension. In the Old Testament, the Prophet Jonah could not understand why God did not pursue the destruction of the Ninevites when they repented and converted from their evil ways. The Lord explained his mercy through a plant that sprouted and brought temporary relief to the prophet from the heat of the sun but was destroyed rapidly by a worm. The Lord said to Jonah: “You cared about the plant which you neither tended nor grew. It sprang up in a night and perished in a night. So should I not care for the great city of Nineveh, which has more than 120,000 people who cannot tell their right hand from their left?” ( Jonah 4: 10-11)

Sometimes, like the Pharisees and scribes, we think that sinners should be punished. Why was the repentant son not punished? Why was he welcomed instead? The answer is: the son was already “punished.” After dissipating his inheritance, he went hungry. He experienced the humiliation of having to tend swine for a living. The misery was not sent by the father. He merely reaped the consequences of living away and apart from his father. He understood that he got what he deserved. That is why he was even prepared to say: “I do not deserve to be called your son. Treat me as one of your servants.” It was his misery that awakened him to his senses and made him decide to return to his father.

Misery cannot come from the father, only joy. When the son returned home, he did not encounter reproach but a welcoming embrace. The father restored his lost dignity (the robe, sandals, and ring). He was humiliated enough by his sins. Why humiliate him further? “Let us celebrate a feast, because this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.” “In heaven, there is rejoicing over the repentance of one sinner.” The boy may have forgotten for a time was he was his father’s son but never did the father forget this. He constantly waited for his son to return and so rejoiced when he came.

And he wanted his elder son to share in his fatherly joy. He gently reminded his faithful son that the repentant boy was also his brother: “But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because YOUR BROTHER was dead and has come to life again, he was lost and has been found.” The sacrament of Reconciliation does not only reconcile the sinner with God. It also reconciles the sinner to the Church. The repentant sinner is not only God’s son. He is also our brother.

The Father rejoiced because he is a prodigal father. He lavishly spends his love upon us his children. Some may find it wasteful especially if that love is lavished on ingrates. But the Father loves anyway. He does not rejoice over the death of a sinner. He wants that sinner to return to him and live. He wants us to do the same. He wants us to share in his joy over the return of a sinner, the return of a brother. While the world clamors for the death of the sinner, the father gently waits for his conversion. “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you in behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God!”

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

Wednesday, March 27, 2019


MARCH 24, 2019

Jesus, I trust in you!

Tragedies, whether they be natural or man-made, are usually deemed as punishments from God. I remember when “Yolanda” struck Samar, an insensitive post came out in the social media. It said that tragedy befell them because the people living there were all sinners. I suppose that the Lord was referring to this same mentality when he referred to the Galileans executed by Pontius Pilate and those 18 persons who perished at the collapse of the tower of Siloam. He asked: “Were they more guilty than anyone else in Jerusalem?” Were the victims of calamities more sinful than all of us? And the answer of the Lord was: “By no means!” And indeed, he is right. They cannot be regarded as greater sinners because all of us are sinners. All of us are guilty. That is why “if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”

In the 2nd reading, St. Paul gives us a clear explanation. He spoke of the Israelites who perished in the desert. He said: “These things happened as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil things as they did…These things happened to them as an example, and they have been written down as a warning to us, upon whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall.”

The Lord teaches us of the deadly effects of sin. Many of us take sin lightly because they are ignorant of what it can do to us. Sin is deadly. When sin entered the world, together with it came death. What happened to the executed Galileans and to the victims of the fallen tower of Siloam were the natural consequences of sin. If we were spared of such catastrophe, it was simply because our time has not yet come and we should not wait for it to happen. We must repent as soon as possible.

Sin is deadly and all of us are enslaved by it. Our afflictions are caused by sin. They do not come from God. They are the effects of sin. When we sin, we turn away from the Lord who is Life, Love, and Good. That is why we are afflicted by death, violence, and evil. Evil cannot come from God because He is holy. From the burning bush, God told Moses to come no nearer and to take off his sandals because the place where he stood was holy ground. “I have witnessed the affliction of my people and have heard their cry of complaint against their slave drivers, so I know well that they are suffering. Therefore, I have come down to rescue them…and lead them out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.”

The venerable Senyor of Pakil, Laguna
As we saw last time, God does not delight in our affliction. He does not delight in the death of the sinner. He is kind and merciful. That is why he came to save us. “He pardons all (our) iniquities, heals all (our) ills. He redeems (our) life from destruction, crowns (us) with kindness and compassion. He desires nothing but our salvation. Thus, he descended from heaven and took flesh from the Virgin’s womb. He took upon himself our affliction. Like the Galileans executed by Pilate as they offered sacrifice, he suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. And in dying, Christ offered God the most perfect sacrifice. His Blood did not mingle with his sacrifice. His Blood was The Sacrifice itself. Like all men who were afflicted by death’s serious blow, he descended into hell. The sinless One shared the lot (kapalaran) of sinners. And he did this to take us out of hell. He resurrected from the dead and “when He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive. And he bestowed gifts to men.” (Ephesians 4:8) Now, we eat the same spiritual food and drink from the spiritual rock who is Christ himself.

Therefore, let us repent while we can. Let us not wait for disaster to fall on us. He gives us a chance to bear fruits. He cultivates the ground around us and fertilizes us with the Eucharist, our spiritual food and drink. Let us turn from our evil ways and turn to Him who is kind and merciful. “For if (we) do not repent, (we) will all perish as they did!”

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

2nd Sunday of Lent C: Our Sins and His Curse

March 17, 2019

Jesus, I trust in you!

Walking between animal carcasses at the sealing of a covenant was supposed to be a curse and a warning. The gesture was supposed to warn both parties that the misfortune that befell these dead animals would be the lot of anyone of them who would violate the stipulations of the covenant. And so both God and Abraham passed between the carcasses. In this way, they signed the covenant in the way of the ancients.

And yet we know who violated the covenant. The people of Israel were not faithful to God. Like a harlot wife, Israel committed adultery against God. She worshiped other gods. She violated her marriage with God.

However, the tragedy of the slaughtered animals did not fall on her nor on us. Instead, it was God who suffered the animals’ fate. He was born amidst animals in Bethlehem. As he fasted in the desert, he lived amidst wild beasts. Like sheep led to the slaughter, the incarnate Son of God was slain at the very hour the sheep were sacrificed in the temple.

We will not appreciate what Christ has done if we do not consider the Transfiguration. The Lord Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him to the mountain where he was transfigured before them: his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. He allowed them to see his glory as God’s only begotten Son. So beautiful was that sight that Peter exclaimed: “Master, it is good that we are here…” Jesus showed them the beauty of his glory in order to prepare them for his “exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.” In that exodus, Jesus will be seen treated like an animal: scourged, beaten up, and crucified. That glorified beauty of his Divine Face will be marred by the cruelty of men. His face shall be defiled by our sin…in the very way the Divine likeness in Adam was destroyed by original sin. Yes, God made man in his image and likeness, patterned after the beauty of the face of God’s only begotten Son. But at his crucifixion, Christ’s face will be marred, patterned after the hideous face of sin. God gave us his beauty when he created us but when we crucified him, we gave him the ugliness of our sinful nature.  “There is no beauty in him nor comeliness, and we have seen him, and there was no sightliness, that we should be desirous of him.” (Is. 53: 2)  

It is in this way that he shall restore to us the beauty of the Divine likeness which was destroyed by sin. The exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem will be our exodus as well. That deformed face of the Crucified One will be glorified at the Resurrection. Through the discipline of self-restraint, the saints have rejected the luxury and the comforts of this world in order to join Christ in his exodus from this world. By restraining their bodies, they were nourished inwardly by God’s Word and their spiritual sight was purified. This enabled them to keep their eyes fixed on the glory of Jesus. They have died to the world and now they rest and live in the light of the Lord. If we listen to him as the Father commanded us to do, then we will also follow him in his exodus from this world to the Father. Heaven shall be our home and “he will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body.”

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

1st Sunday of Lent C: Christ's Battle

March 10, 2019

Jesus, I trust in you!

Whenever we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we beg the Father: “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” Today, we hear the exact opposite in our Gospel reading. After his baptism at the River Jordan, the Lord Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the desert “to be tempted by the devil.” The Holy Spirit did not lead Jesus away from temptation but led him into it. It was as if the Holy Spirit fortified Jesus for a battle – a battle that the Lord decided to engage in because the Lord “heard our cry and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression” brought about by his enemy, the devil. As the Egyptians maltreated the Israelites, so did the devil maltreat and oppressed by imposing the hard labor of suffering, illness, and death upon us.  The Lord knew that we were powerless against this oppression that is why he himself came down to this earthly desert of our exile in order to engage the devil in a fight so that he can bring us out of our Egypt “with his strong hand and outstretched arm, with terrifying power, with signs and wonders.” In leading us out of this enslaving world, he intends to bring us to heaven, the land overflowing with milk and honey.

The weapon the devil used against Jesus was the same weapon he used against Adam and Eve: temptation. He used temptation to seduce our first parents away from the path of holiness which the Lord intended for them. The devil has his way of doing it. In a temptation, the devil could make something so horrible look attractive. The devil made the forbidden fruit look delicious to eat. Adam and Eve were so enticed by the assurance that eating the forbidden fruit would not kill them. Rather, it would make them like God. Our first parents fell into this trap. They ate the forbidden fruit. They disobeyed the Lord and so sin entered the world and together with sin came suffering, illness, and death.

The devil tried using the same temptation on Jesus. Capitalizing on our Lord’s hunger from fasting, the devil attempted to make the stones look like bread: “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”  It is as if the devil was saying: “You are the Son of God. You do not even have to go hungry because you have the power to do the impossible. Change stone to bread and help yourself. Use your power to indulge yourself.”

The devil seduced Adam and Eve with an empty promise: they will become gods if they disobeyed the Lord. He now seduced Jesus with the promise of earthly power and glory in exchange for a renunciation of his Divinity. He must have thought the Jesus was no different from Esau who sold away his birthright in exchange for a bowl of soup to satisfy his hunger. It was as if the devil told Jesus: “You do not have to suffer and die in order to receive power and glory. Simply relinquish your Divinity and worship me and then, power and glory will be yours with the least effort.”

The devil tried to instill in Christ doubt in the Father’s love for him: “Go and jump from the parapet of the temple and test the Father’s love for you. If he loves you, he will send his angels to catch you and keep you from harming yourself.” After 3 years, the devil will reiterate this temptation on Calvary. The devil would speak to Jesus as he hanged on the Cross: “Where is your Father now? Where are your angels now? Did they not defend you from this cruelty? Why are you all alone now?” The devil would speak through the jeering crowd: “If you are the Son of God, come down from the Cross and we will believe in you.”

But Jesus would not jump. He will not test the Father. He will not come down from the Cross. He will stay on the side of his Father. He will be obedient until death. He will stay on the Cross because the Cross will be his weapon against the devil. The outstretched arm he will use to lead us out of the slavery of sin will be that arm which he will stretch out upon the wood of the Cross. The terrifying power of Christ will be that of his unconditional obedience to the Father. His signs and wonders will be his Cross and his Resurrection. Indeed, the Lord will win this battle by his fasting, by his suffering, by his unwavering obedience, by his Cross, and by his Resurrection.

And he empowers us with the same weapons in our spiritual battle against the devil. This Lenten season, he invites us to join him in his fast. Strengthen your soul by the weakness of your body. Fast and pray. Arm yourself with the Word of God. Obey his word. Restrain yourself. Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow him. Let us arm ourselves with the weapon of self-restraint as we take up battle against spiritual evils (Collect of Ash Wednesday). Do not be afraid. Christ has gone before us in this battle. He has engaged the enemy in a battle. He fought and he won. He has conquered the world.

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

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Ash Wednesday: Let the Priests weep before the Altar

March 6, 2019

Jesus, I trust in you!

“Between the porch and the altar, let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep and say: ‘Spare, O Lord, your people, and make not your heritage a reproach…’”

The prophet Joel wrote at a time when the southern kingdom of Judah was devastated by a plague of locusts. The land was laid barren and the people suffered heavy losses. And so, the prophet calls for a time of penance: a time of fasting and sacred assembly: “Blow the trumpet in Zion! Proclaim a fast, call an assembly…” This call to penance was done because the Lord said to the people: “Even now, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning…Return to the Lord. For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment.” The time of penance was necessitated by the plague. But such an occasion can only be called because of the mercy of God. The people can return to the Lord because the Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and rich in kindness. He is relenting in punishment. If the Lord were not so, then penance would have been useless. If the Lord is unmoved by acts of mortification, then why engage in penance?
Ash Wednesday this year finds the Church in a difficult situation. The crisis of clerical sins has brought about a severe beating for the Church. The scandal has risen to the highest offices of the Church. We have been brought low in the sight of people on account of the sins of our spiritual fathers.

In such crisis, the Lord tells us to return to him. And he seeks genuine conversion: Rend your hearts and not your garments. Tearing one’s garment looks dramatic enough but it would amount to putting up a show. But the Lord does not want a show. He wants conversion to be sincere. He wants this conversion to come from the heart. To rend one’s heart means to radically cut off ourselves from the roots of our sins. Repentance cannot be sincere if there is no desire to reform. Repentance involves a severing of ties and attachment to sin.

Our sorrow for sins must come from the heart. We are sorry that we have offended God. We are sorry for hurting others. In this crisis of clerical abuse, people kept talking about how victims were traumatized and rightly should we say so. But we will miss the point if we do not realize how such sins have offended the Lord. We will miss the point if we do not realize how such sins have defiled consecrations to the Lord. The sins of clerical abuse are so offensive because they violate the clergy’s consecration to God. That is why priests have to weep before the altar, before the altar where they must stand undefiled in order to worthily offer sacrifice. Priests have to weep before the altar because the altar makes the offering sacred. Priests have to weep before the altar because they place on the altar the spotless Victim who is Christ and therefore, by their lives of self-abnegation, they must lay down their lives together with Christ.

Dearly beloved, as we enter into this time of penance, may I humbly ask you to remember us, your priests, in your prayers. Many of us have fallen. We have fallen to sin. We have defiled our consecration. We have become unworthy ministers of the Lord. Like the public sinners of old who stand at the doorsteps of the Church to beg for the prayers of the faithful, we priests beg you to pray for us. Pray that we may acknowledge our sins and take responsibility for them. Pray that we may sincerely be sorrowful for our sins. Pray that we may make amends for them. Pray that we may rise and return to the Lord. “For I acknowledge my offense, and my sin is before me always: ‘Against you alone have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight.’”

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

Sunday, March 3, 2019


March 3, 2019

Jesus, I trust in you!

“Sa bibig nahuhuli ang isda,” so our elders tell us. There is truth in this saying and the Word of God teaches us about it. “When a sieve (panala) is shaken, the husks appear, so do one’s faults when one speaks…The fruit of a tree shows the care it has had, so too does one’s speech disclose the bent of one’s mind. Praise no one before he speaks, for it is then how people are tested.”

The Lord uses the same image in today’s Gospel reading: “A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit…A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.”

Lord, your words reveal the secrets of your Heart. You have the words of eternal life!
Ex abundantia cordis – “From the abundance of the heart” – so we are told. The heart is considered to be the center of hidden emotional-intellectual-moral activity. Because of the inaccessibility of the physical heart, it has been considered as the symbol of anything remote or inaccessible in man. The heart of a person is inaccessible to others but it is searched by God: “Man looks at outward appearances but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Sam 16:7)

The Lord Jesus tells us today that the secrets of the human heart are betrayed by the mouth. As the fruit reveals the upbringing of the tree, so also a man’s words reveal who he is. The mouth expresses the contents of the heart. It reveals the obsessions, preoccupations, concerns, desires of the person. The mouth confesses what the heart trusts.

And this is the reason why the Lord cautions us about our pronouncements. A man who sees the splinter in another person’s eye would most probably reveal the wooden beam in his eye. It is easy for him to see the splinter because he has a store of wooden beams in his heart. He is not aware of it because he is blind to his own faults but that blindness is betrayed by the pronouncements he makes about others.

This is why we constantly need to examine our own hearts. And one easy way of doing this is by asking ourselves: What are the words that I usually say? Ano ba ang bukambibig ko? Remember the saying: Buka ng bibig, kabig ng dibdib. Being aware of what we usually say, we will see the signs of the condition of our hearts. And keeping in mind what we spontaneously say, we become aware of our desires. We become aware of our trusts. Our words will show where we put our trust.

The mouth reveals what the heart contains and the ear determines what goes into it. The heart will contain what the ear chooses to listen to. This is why we should educate the heart by listening to the right voice. “Come children and hear me and I will teach you the ways of the Lord.” (Ps. 34:11) The heart needs to be educated by filling it with God’s word. “Pay attention and turn your ear to the sayings of the wise; apply your heart to what I teach, for it is pleasing when you keep them in your heart and have all of them ready on your lips.” (Proverbs 22:17-18) The reason why so much evil comes from our heart is because we deprive it of the wisdom the God’s words. As we care for the physical heart by eating healthy food, so must we care for our moral hearts by feeding it with God’s word.

St. Paul tells us that we will clothe the corruptible with incorruptibility. He spoke of the human flesh as being clothed by Divine glory at the resurrection. But we should start preparing for this by weeding out the corruption of the heart through listening to the word of God. Be careful of what you listen to. If you listen to garbage, your mouth will emit garbage. If you listen to what is sublime, your mouth will speak of what is sublime. The mouth speaks from the abundance of the heart.

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