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!