Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Saint Paul, in his First Letter to the Corinthians, gives us an idea of the differing impact of God's judgement according to each person's particular circumstances. He does this using images which in some way try to express the invisible, without it being possible for us to conceptualize these images—simply because we can neither see into the world beyond death nor do we have any experience of it. Paul begins by saying that Christian life is built upon a common foundation: Jesus Christ. This foundation endures. If we have stood firm on this foundation and built our life upon it, we know that it cannot be taken away from us even in death. Then Paul continues: “Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each man's work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Cor 3:12-15). In this text, it is in any case evident that our salvation can take different forms, that some of what is built may be burned down, that in order to be saved we personally have to pass through “fire” so as to become fully open to receiving God and able to take our place at the table of the eternal marriage-feast.

47. Some recent theologians are of the opinion that the fire which both burns and saves is Christ himself, the Judge and Saviour. The encounter with him is the decisive act of judgement. Before his gaze all falsehood melts away. This encounter with him, as it burns us, transforms and frees us, allowing us to become truly ourselves. All that we build during our lives can prove to be mere straw, pure bluster, and it collapses. Yet in the pain of this encounter, when the impurity and sickness of our lives become evident to us, there lies salvation. His gaze, the touch of his heart heals us through an undeniably painful transformation “as through fire”. But it is a blessed pain, in which the holy power of his love sears through us like a flame, enabling us to become totally ourselves and thus totally of God. In this way the inter-relation between justice and grace also becomes clear: the way we live our lives is not immaterial, but our defilement does not stain us for ever if we have at least continued to reach out towards Christ, towards truth and towards love. Indeed, it has already been burned away through Christ's Passion. At the moment of judgement we experience and we absorb the overwhelming power of his love over all the evil in the world and in ourselves. The pain of love becomes our salvation and our joy. It is clear that we cannot calculate the “duration” of this transforming burning in terms of the chronological measurements of this world. The transforming “moment” of this encounter eludes earthly time-reckoning—it is the heart's time, it is the time of “passage” to communion with God in the Body of Christ[39]. The judgement of God is hope, both because it is justice and because it is grace. If it were merely grace, making all earthly things cease to matter, God would still owe us an answer to the question about justice—the crucial question that we ask of history and of God. If it were merely justice, in the end it could bring only fear to us all. The incarnation of God in Christ has so closely linked the two together—judgement and grace—that justice is firmly established: we all work out our salvation “with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12). Nevertheless grace allows us all to hope, and to go trustfully to meet the Judge whom we know as our “advocate”, orparakletos (cf. 1 Jn 2:1).
48. A further point must be mentioned here, because it is important for the practice of Christian hope. Early Jewish thought includes the idea that one can help the deceased in their intermediate state through prayer (see for example 2 Macc 12:38-45; first century BC). The equivalent practice was readily adopted by Christians and is common to the Eastern and Western Church. The East does not recognize the purifying and expiatory suffering of souls in the afterlife, but it does acknowledge various levels of beatitude and of suffering in the intermediate state. The souls of the departed can, however, receive “solace and refreshment” through the Eucharist, prayer and almsgiving. The belief that love can reach into the afterlife, that reciprocal giving and receiving is possible, in which our affection for one another continues beyond the limits of death—this has been a fundamental conviction of Christianity throughout the ages and it remains a source of comfort today. Who would not feel the need to convey to their departed loved ones a sign of kindness, a gesture of gratitude or even a request for pardon? Now a further question arises: if “Purgatory” is simply purification through fire in the encounter with the Lord, Judge and Saviour, how can a third person intervene, even if he or she is particularly close to the other? When we ask such a question, we should recall that no man is an island, entire of itself. Our lives are involved with one another, through innumerable interactions they are linked together. No one lives alone. No one sins alone. No one is saved alone. The lives of others continually spill over into mine: in what I think, say, do and achieve. And conversely, my life spills over into that of others: for better and for worse. So my prayer for another is not something extraneous to that person, something external, not even after death. In the interconnectedness of Being, my gratitude to the other—my prayer for him—can play a small part in his purification. And for that there is no need to convert earthly time into God's time: in the communion of souls simple terrestrial time is superseded. It is never too late to touch the heart of another, nor is it ever in vain. In this way we further clarify an important element of the Christian concept of hope. Our hope is always essentially also hope for others; only thus is it truly hope for me too[40]. As Christians we should never limit ourselves to asking: how can I save myself? We should also ask: what can I do in order that others may be saved and that for them too the star of hope may rise? Then I will have done my utmost for my own personal salvation as well.

Friday, October 26, 2012

30th Sunday

What is the point in being a Christian, in following Jesus as Lord?  Today many people turn their backs on the faith of their younger years.  They question, rebel, and abandon their faith for another set of beliefs.  There are many also who look for answers to their religious longings by discovering other voices they belief will lead to enlightenment and fulfillment.

Today’s gospel (Mark 10) illustrates for us the value of a relationship with Jesus the Lord, of following Him and all throughout our lives.  This is a time in history when it is not fashionable for Catholics to stand up for the teachings and the values of Jesus, so it is great to look at Jesus through the eyes of one who experienced His power to save, the blind Bartimaeus.

Bartimaeus had multiple handicaps.  He was blind and so was physically poor.  He was a beggar and so was socially an outcast.  He was truly a man of no importance.  His only hope was a possible liberation from his situation by a man who was passing by; a man whose name he knew, but one he never before met.

When Jesus was passing by, Bartimaeus tried every beggar’s trick to attract his attention.  He shouted, addressing Jesus personally and reverently:  Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!  When ordered to stop, he shouted at the top of his lungs.

In the gospel of Mark, Jesus was always a busy person, always on the go.  He was in a hurry to accomplish things.  Moreover, he was surrounded by disciples, curious onlookers and needy people. They too, vied for his attention.  There were many more who wanted to speak to him, touch him, ask his blessings.  One feeble man’s voice must have drowned in the crowd of people around the Lord.

But Jesus stopped when he noticed Bartimaeus.  He was not just a beggar asking for help, not just a blind man hoping to be healed.  This time, the blind man was the center of Jesus’ world.  As they spoke to each other, Jesus restored Bartimaeus to health and social standing for He saw his faith.  From that time on, he became a follower of Jesus, the one who fulfilled his hope.

Here, we get a glimpse of the face of God in a gesture of kindness.  In Jesus, we see the God who desires to reach us in our misery, to speak to us personally, to listen to us, to restore us and make us whole again.  The miracle of healing happened but more than that, was the miracle of the gesture.  Jesus paid attention to a man who needed him most.

This is the point of being a Christian.  We proclaim a God who gives us hope by loving us personally and with great kindness.  As we experience Jesus, we too are challenged to multiply gestures of hope for others who need our kind attention and love. To be a Christian today is not about words or teachings but about actions like those of Jesus.  


Wednesday, October 24, 2012




Wednesday, October 17, 2012

29th Sunday

What is the measure of true greatness? In the world today, there are numerous, varied responses:  Money! Control!  Skill!  Attitude!  Fame! Achievements!  Depending on who you ask and what his heart suggests, you will have an answer.

In the gospel (Mark 10), the Lord Jesus instructs his disciples to expect that the world will value greatness mainly on the basis of “who’s at the top of things”.  He is great who triumphed over the others, who beat the others, who showed the others his might.

Then He tells them to pursue another kind of greatness, one that will make people scratch their heads, shake their heads in unbelief, blow their minds off.  To be great, says Jesus, is to be the servant of all.  To be first is to be the last of all.

What better way to understand the Lord than to merely rejoice with the entire Filipino nation as we welcome our latest addition to the roster of the heroes of the faith. 

He was a mere youth, from obscure beginnings in the Visayas.  He accompanied the great St. Diego de San Vittores in his missionary forays into the jungles of Marianas, now Guam, in search of converts for Christ. He worked as a catechist while the priest performed the sacraments.  When the priest-saint was killed by enemies, he did not abandon him but instead came to his rescue.  It was this that sealed his fate and led to his own shedding of blood for his love of Christ and the Church.

Now, St. Pedro Calungsod is recognized by the universal church for the heroism of his faith and the fidelity he showed to his companion in mission.  Compared to the stature of the great missionaries, he was really just under their shadow.  But his faith proved to be so gigantic to convince the entire Church that in the arena of love, he is equal to all those who went before him in martyrdom.

Truly, greatness for God is in being a servant, priority is in being last of all.  What is the basis of this teaching of the Lord? It is none other than his very self.  “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus tells us today not to succumb to the temptation of false greatness.  He who works silently is great.  He who labors in the shadows is precious in the eyes of God.  The Overseas Filipino Worker, the laborer in the factory, the jeepney driver, the laundry woman, the sampaguita vendor, the caregiver of an invalid – these are all images of the new saint of the Philippines.  In God’s eyes, they too are great.  We too, are great even if we are not at the top.  As long as we do things out of love and fidelity to God and the people around us, we can be so united with Christ.

Today let us thank the Lord for opening wide for us the road that leads to true greatness!  Mabuhay, St. Pedro Calungsod. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

28th Sunday

Do you want to go to heaven?  Most Catholics will say “yes, of course!” - we want to go to that “place,” reach that point of being surrounded only by peace and bliss that do not end.  Even non-believers, while not calling it heaven, surely aspire to that most wonderful state of life where there are serenity and security that simply flow continuously.

The gospel today (Mark 10:17ff) must count as one of the most moving encounters in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was pursued by a man, some say a young man, whose one burning question in mind was salvation.  How do I get to heaven?  What must I do to gain eternal life?  This man hit the nail on its head.  He found the right source person.  Jesus knew so well and wanted to guide him to his destiny.

What reply did Jesus give?  First, Jesus pointed to the commandments.  He reviewed before this man what the commandments enjoin people to do.  Honor your parents, and do not wrong your neighbor by killing, adultery, lies, deceit and others.  That was easy enough for the inquirer here, for he has been following these precepts since his youth.

Just when we think that the commandments are passé and old-fashioned, we are reminded today that this is really the first step in preparing ourselves for a life with God in eternity.  Following the commandments is not a tedious observance of freedom-limiting laws, but a gateway to a life with God. This was easy for the young man.  Is it easy for us today to follow the commandments of God?

But there was a second step Jesus outlined for his guest.  The Lord said:  sell all you have and give to the poor.  This was a big blow to the man, for he was very rich.  Following the commandments was easy because all you had to do was obey the traditions handed down to you, act according to the approving gaze of the people around.  You can do these things in conformity with the norms, not as impulse of the heart.  But to give?  That will surely hurt!

How true is the sentiment of the young man even in our own situation today.  How much easier it is to do the right thing approved by society and church, by our family and friends.  If you follow the commandments, people applaud you and congratulate you and you feel accomplished.  But to give is difficult because it will make you less. It will make you miss what’s precious to you. It will mean denying yourself some pleasures.  And yes, who will know that you gave?

Is Jesus against riches?  No! Jesus is practical.  You cannot bring anything beyond the grave.  You cannot buy fulfillment and peace.  You cannot live a self-centered life and feel accomplished.  What makes you afraid to share your blessings?

These two are twin-practices that make us ready for heaven:  the commandments and generosity.  Will we go away sad like the young man?  Or will we now go away certain that we have discovered the path to real happiness?

Friday, October 12, 2012

San Pedro Calungsod: Huwaran ng mga Kabataan


Thursday, October 4, 2012

27th Sunday

I received an unusual text message from a lady:  “Dear friends, I inform you that today my husband has left me and my children for another woman.  Please pray for our family.”  I felt sad for her and her uncertain situation.  But days later, she sent another message:  Dear friends, my husband returned home today.  He missed his family and he realized that by abandoning us, he sinned against the Lord.”  This woman must really have prayed a lot and, all her friends with her.

We know it is not easy to maintain a marriage in these very trying times. How many husbands and wives, and even children, go through a lot each day just to keep the family together.

Today the Lord is gracious in reminding us about his plan for relationships, all kinds of relationships, but specially marital, between husband and wife.  In all, God demands faithfulness.  If you truly love another, you must be willing to risk everything, to lose many things, so as to prove your love.  That is why Jesus reminds us in the gospel (Mk 10):  “A man shall leave his own father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

It is not easy to be faithful.  It is easier to act sweet, inseparable, happy and starry-eyed.  As reality sets in, the trials begin.  A third party attracts man or woman to an extra affair.  Finances cause clashes.  Domestic irritants get in the way of sound communication.  You don’t have to be married to know that.  Its on television, in the internet and in stories people swap. It’s noticeable in the sad eyes of couples that breeze through the pressures of living with someone each day.

But this is the very reason why God demands faithfulness. In the midst of problems, if you are not faithful, you will forget to cherish and honor each other.  You will easily fall into temptation.  And it is not easy to be faithful!  God knows that, that’s why he made himself the standard of fidelity.  “What God has joined together, no human being must separate.” That’s Jesus declaring marriage a sacrament. Thus it is no merely natural or human institution or invention. In God’s eyes, marriage is based on his love and so becomes a source of grace for couples.

Today many people are indifferent to the sacraments, particularly, marriage.  They want unity of body, of emotions, of life, but not under God.  To refuse to invite God into your union is to refuse to be faithful like him.  It is God who will help couples achieve their goal, if they remain close to him. Many people have learned to trust God in their marriage and so reap the harvest of a happy relationship and a fruitful home. But still many must start believing again in the words of Jesus for every man and woman in love.

Let us pray for all married couples in difficult situations today.  Let us pray for children who are affected by these conflicts. Let us pray for all Christians, specially the youth to have a healthy vision of committed life in marriage, one that depends on God for its success and fruitfulness.