30 May 2010

A Personal God

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity - C - 30 May 2010

Readings: Prov 8:22-31; Ps 8:4-9; Rom 5:1-5; Jn 16:12-15

First, let me tell you what the doctrine of the Trinity is not.

It is not about numbers. 1+1+1=1 really doesn’t make sense because it is not what it is about. It is not a mathematical conundrum.

It is not an abstract theological doctrine. It is not how we came to naturally know about God. Rather, it is the other way around: it is how God revealed Himself to us.

It is not a later Christian invention. Dan Brown, the Iglesia ni Cristo, the Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t get it. It didn’t start in Nicea, or God forbid, with Constantine. A little less than a century before the Council of Nicea (325 AD) – which officially articulated what was already held by sensus fidelium as the right doctrine – the Church Father Tertullian (c. 210 AD) first used the word “Trinity” in describing how the Scriptures refer to God. Even earlier, around 110 AD, the bishop St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote seven letters to the Christian churches wherein he called Jesus "God" 16 times.

It is not an incomprehensible mystery, a knowledge inaccessible to us humans. The doctrine is called a mystery not so much because we cannot deign to understand it, but because the fullness of the knowledge of God cannot be contained in our puny limited minds. Thus, even when we cannot understand God in His entirety, we can understand enough to love Him and be saved. Throughout human history, and even now, we are discovering more and more about our God.

First, God revealed Himself to us as Father: creator of everything, provider of our needs, liberator from oppression. Then He revealed Himself to us as Son: Son of Man, the Word made flesh, Redeemer. Then the Holy Spirit “came down” to us: our advocate, guide, consoler, sanctifier, revealer of truths.

Tertullian writes of the Trinity: “God the Father is a deep root, the Son is the shoot that breaks forth into the world, and the Spirit is that which spreads beauty and fragrance.”

That God is a Trinity is a revelation not immediately grasped even by the first disciples, thus, the lack of direct articulation on this doctrine in the New Testament. However, there are numerous biblical references to the Trinity:

Mt 3,16-17 details the baptism of Jesus where the Spirit of God was seen descending, and a voice was heard saying; “This is my beloved Son.”

Mt 28,19: "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

2 Cor 13,14: "…the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all"

Jn 1,1: “…the Word was God”

2 Cor 3,17: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

Now, let us answer the question: How does believing in a Triune God impact my life?

True, people can live decent lives, filled with humanitarian concerns and various achievements, even without believing in the Trinity or in any concept of God at all.

However, Christianity is more than just being good or doing a service to society or not harming anybody. It is a belief in a personal God. It is a personal relationship with God.

The great Protestant theologian Karl Barth says: “The central claim of the faith is that God has spoken to us.” He explains that from this we can derive the doctrine of the Trinity. It means that there is a speaker who is God, a word spoken who is God, and an interpreter who is God.

God has spoken to us. God has taken the initiative time and again to reach out to us, especially in our darkest hours. And the message is the invitation to share in His divine life. Thus, it is important to know that God is a relation of Persons, a community of love. From all eternity, the Father generates (not creates) the Word, through which all things were made and humanity is saved. The Word is all-powerful and perfect that He must be a Person. Their love for each other is so perfect that He has to be a Person as well: the Holy Spirit.

If there is a human analogy that comes closest to the Trinity, I would say it is the family. A family is first of all a community. At the very least it is composed of a father, a mother and a child. There is also generation in a family as the couple’s love for each other produces children. But most of all, there is love. A healthy loving family is a person’s best chance towards becoming a mature, healthy, loving individual as well, in other words, towards achieving fullness of life.

And so, when we reach out to a friend or neighbor in need, we are following the example of our personal God. When we consciously stand in solidarity with the poor, the lonely, the ostracized, we are participating in the redemptive mission of Christ. When we are lovingly present in the lives of our family and friends, we are doing the work of the Spirit who is Love.

Here’s the catch: when we do the work of the Trinity, we become what we do. We share in the life of the Triune God, which is what revelation and salvation is all about.

24 May 2010

Receive the Holy Spirit!

Pentecost Sunday (C) 23 May 2010

Readings: Acts 2:1-11; Ps 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34; Romans 8:8-17; John 14, 15-16; 23b-26 (John 20, 19-23)

Today is Pentecost Sunday! While the Gospel passage recounts the event of the evening of Easter when Jesus “breathed” on the disciples the Holy Spirit, the First Reading from Acts narrates the actual Pentecost story.

Pentecost simply means the 50th day. The account from Acts tells that Jerusalem is overflowing with Jews from all over for the harvest festival of Pentecost or Shavuot. The feast commemorates God giving the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai to the Chosen People 50 days after the Passover and Exodus.

Christians celebrate Pentecost for a different reason. It is the commemoration of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples. The event is also described as the birthday of the Church. Gradually, the community of believers will find themselves growing apart from Judaism and establishing an identity all their own. Years later in Antioch, they will be called “Christians” for the first time. But it is in Jerusalem at Pentecost that year that Christians recognize the birth of the Church.

It is not that prior to Pentecost the Spirit is not present in the world. But that at Pentecost, the Spirit awakens in the disciples His Presence that is already within them. At His coming, the Church is born and the face of the earth is renewed.

So much can be said about the Holy Spirit, for our reflection I would just like to focus on three descriptions:

16 May 2010

Act of Entrustment and Consecration of Priests and Religious to Our Lady of Fatima

On 12 May 2010, shortly after arriving in Fatima, during his pastoral visit to Portugal and within the Year for Priests, Pope Benedict XVI consecrated and entrusted the global presbyterate to the protection of the Madonna of the Cova.

Immaculate Mother,
in this place of grace,
called together by the love of your Son Jesus
the Eternal High Priest, we,
sons in the Son and his priests,
consecrate ourselves to your maternal Heart,
in order to carry out faithfully the Father’s Will.

We are mindful that, without Jesus,
we can do nothing good (cf. Jn 15:5)
and that only through him, with him and in him,
will we be instruments of salvation
for the world.

Bride of the Holy Spirit,
obtain for us the inestimable gift
of transformation in Christ.
Through the same power of the Spirit that
overshadowed you,
making you the Mother of the Saviour,
help us to bring Christ your Son
to birth in ourselves too.
May the Church
be thus renewed by priests who are holy,
priests transfigured by the grace of him
who makes all things new.

Mother of Mercy,
it was your Son Jesus who called us
to become like him:
light of the world and salt of the earth
(cf. Mt 5:13-14).

Help us,
through your powerful intercession,
never to fall short of this sublime vocation,
nor to give way to our selfishness,
to the allurements of the world
and to the wiles of the Evil One.

Preserve us with your purity,
guard us with your humility
and enfold us with your maternal love
that is reflected in so many souls
consecrated to you,
who have become for us
true spiritual mothers.

Mother of the Church,
we priests want to be pastors
who do not feed themselves
but rather give themselves to God for their brethren,
finding their happiness in this.
Not only with words, but with our lives,
we want to repeat humbly,
day after day,
Our “here I am”.

Guided by you,
we want to be Apostles
of Divine Mercy,
glad to celebrate every day
the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar
and to offer to those who request it
the sacrament of Reconciliation.

Advocate and Mediatrix of grace,
you who are fully immersed
in the one universal mediation of Christ,
invoke upon us, from God,
a heart completely renewed
that loves God with all its strength
and serves mankind as you did.

Repeat to the Lord
your efficacious word:
“They have no wine” (Jn 2:3),
so that the Father and the Son will send upon us
a new outpouring of
the Holy Spirit.
Full of wonder and gratitude
at your continuing presence in our midst,
in the name of all priests
I too want to cry out:
“Why is this granted me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Lk 1:43).

Our Mother for all time,
do not tire of “visiting us”,
consoling us, sustaining us.
Come to our aid
and deliver us from every danger
that threatens us.
With this act of entrustment and consecration,
we wish to welcome you
more deeply, more radically,
for ever and totally
into our human and priestly lives.

Let your presence cause new blooms to burst forth
in the desert of our loneliness,
let it cause the sun to shine on our darkness,
let it restore calm after the tempest,
so that all mankind shall see the salvation
of the Lord,
who has the name and the face of Jesus,
who is reflected in our hearts,
for ever united to yours!

original article found here:

Ascension and Communication

Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord

Readings: Acts 1:1-11; Ps 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9; Eph 1:17-23; Lk 24:46-53

Both the First and Gospel Readings narrate the Ascension event. Jesus ascended to heaven not to become “once more” a distant God. For that is how the people in His time thought of God, a concept shared by some world religions, and, at times, even by individual Christians then and now. God is almighty and all-loving but He is far from us. He lives in unreachable light.

The history of salvation tells a different story. It is in fact the story of how the Father gradually dispels the notion of a distant God. He not only intervenes in history but sent His Son to be one of us. Jesus is the Word made flesh who dwells among us; God with us. St. Paul in Col 1,15 exclaims: “He is the image of the invisible God!”.

And Jesus is not about to change that. Rather, by His ascension, He reveals further that He is not just the long-awaited Messiah of the Jews, He is the savior of all humanity. He makes known the universal nature of His mission.

Eph 1,22-23 (from the Second Reading) says: “(The Father) put all things beneath His feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.”

In order to make known to all His universal lordship and spread His saving message to all the nations, He sends His disciples as witnesses.

Acts 1,8 (from the First Reading) says: “You will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." Lk 24,48 (from the Gospel Reading) says: “You are witnesses of these things.”

What doe is it mean to be a witness? For a Christian a witness is
1. one who has a profound experience of God; and
2. one who provides testimony about the Faith.

1. A profound experience of God. The first disciples are witnesses of how Christ lived. They experience the privilege of having Jesus share meals, wisdom, and presence with them. Yet even those who are not able to “see as they see, and hear as they hear” are not at all bereft of experiences of God. For God reveals Himself to us in so many ways.

A profound experience of God is an overwhelming realization of God’s love for us. Or it may be a quiet sense of peace in the midst of a crisis or period of sorrow. Or an inspired insight on how everything works for the good to those who trust in His faithfulness.

It is important that we experience firsthand God’s love. Otherwise, how would we testify to it? The seeming lack of evangelistic fervor among many Christians, especially Catholics, may be indicative of a lack of an experience of God’s love as well.

2. Providing testimony about one’s faith. The ascension event is always associated with the “great commission”. God’s love is not something meant to be kept by individual Christians or guarded like some esoteric secret by Christian communities, it is meant to be shared to everyone.

a. Media

It is thus no coincidence that the World Communications Day is celebrated on Ascension Sunday. The Good News is spread through the various media of communication. Through centuries the Church has employed every means available to spread the faith: missionary preaching, writing the gospels and epistles, copying manuscripts, the printing press, radio, TV, the internet etc.

In his message for the 44th World Communications Day, Pope Benedict recognizes the need of the Church, the clergy in particular, to do pastoral ministry in the digital media.

To illustrate the power of digital media: do you know how long it took for radio to reach 50 million users? 38 years. It took TV 13 years to reach that audience. The internet, a mere 4 years. And the Ipod, 3 years.

That is why our diocese maintains a radio station (Veritas Legazpi), a printing press (Ave Maria Press), and a publication (An Bangraw). Our neighboring Diocese of Sorsogon has a TV station. We are also currently putting up again our website. We even have a page on Facebook. And there are still so much more that can be done using the digital media for evangelization.

b. Message

However, more important than the media is the message. It is called the Good News not so much because it reports of a happy event, but because it is about a saving event, a life-changing event, an epochal event.

Lk 24,47 (from the Gospel Reading) describes the Good News as a call to “repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, (to) be preached in His name to all the nations”.

During his visit to Fatima in Portugal this May 13, Pope Benedict delivered a message in his audience with the Portuguese bishops. I would like to share a brief quote from his message:

“In truth, the times in which we live demand a new missionary vigor on the part of Christians, who are called to form a mature laity, identified with the Church and sensitive to the complex transformations taking place in our world. Authentic witnesses to Jesus Christ are needed, above all in those human situations where the silence of the faith is most widely and deeply felt: among politicians, intellectuals, communications professionals who profess and who promote a monocultural ideal, with disdain for the religious and contemplative dimension of life.”

It is a great challenge to preach to a world that does not want to be reminded of its sins, that selectively chooses the conveniences of freedom while attempting to shut out its inescapable consequences. Yet there is no other way for the Gospel to be preached but to talk about repentance and conversion, for without them there is no forgiveness of sins. And it is only through the remission of sins that Grace may enter and take hold of our lives.

c. and the Messenger

We are messengers of the Good News to the world, tasked to witness to the love of God working in our lives. How are we in terms of becoming, what Pope Benedict XVI calls, “authentic witnesses to Jesus Christ”? How is our witnessing during the recent elections?

For most of us here who voted, some of our candidates won, others didn’t. What about God: Did God win in the elections? Or have we also lost our witnessing at the sight of a few hundred peso bribe from candidates?

As Filipinos we dream of building a better country. However, as Christians, we dream bigger, we dream of building the Kingdom of God. The campaign period is over for the candidates. Our campaign to win people for Christ continues. This is the mission of Ascension Sunday.

09 May 2010

Sermon manungod sa Eleksyon

Ika-6 na Domingo sa Panahon kan Pagkabuhay-Liwat – 9 Mayo 2010

Mga Pagbasa: Gibo 15:1-2, 22-29; Ps 67:2-3,5,6,8; Kap 21:10-14, 22-23; Jn 14:23-29

Pagbasa kan Binikol na Surat-Pastoral kan CBCP manungod sa Eleksyon

Kan 2004, sa pag-aadal kan SAC na “Albay Pulse”, 72.8% kan mga hinapot an nagsabing tinangro sinda nin lagay o sample ballot na may paipit. Sa mga tinangro, 4 sa 5 an uminako kan kwarta, asin labi sa kabanga an buminoto man nanggad sa kandidatong nagtao sainda nin kwarta.

Sabi kan sarong para-tricycle, “Maski siisay an manggana, para-tricycle man giraray ako, kaya maboto ako sa pinakahalangkaw magtao.” Pano ta daw ini masisimbagan? O baka ngani kumbinsido pa kita kaini.

Dagdagan ta pa. Pira sato an nakadangog na kan linyang ini para ipaliwanag kun nata nangyayari an barakalan nin boto sa eleksyon? Baka ngani nagamit ta na man an saro o nagkapira sa mga ini:

1. Akoon mo na ta an kwarta sa bulsa, an boto sa balota.
2. Maski iboto ko su maray, su makwarta magana man giraray.
3. Su kwartang nakua, binakal ko ki para sa pamilya.
4. Dai man ki mangyayari sa prinsipyo pag-tios an tawo.
5. Kun dai ko kuahon, kanogon sana ta su lider an mabulsa.
6. Para saro-saroe man sana an boto ko.
7. Parte na iyan kan satong eleksyon, pabayae na.
8. Ano man kun tawan ako ki kwarta, iboboto ko man sya talaga.
9. Dipisil magsayuma ta tibaad makulgan an boot kan iba.
10. An dai minaako sa grasya, nabubuta.

Sabi kan satong Ebanghelyo ngonyan na Domingo: “An siisay man na namomoot sako, minaotob kan sakong tataramon, asin an sakong Ama kamomotan siya, asin kami mapasiring saiya asin mag-eerok kaiba niya” (Jn 14,23).

Siring man: “An parasurog, an Espiritu Santo, na ipapadara kan Ama sa ngaran ko, magtotokdo saindo kan gabos asin mapagirumdom saindo kan gabos na sinabi ko” (Jn 14,26).

Sa hiling nindo tugot daw an tataramon asin an Espiritu kan barakalan nin boto? Kun dai, nata ta ginigibo ta pa ini? Garo baga ka-na├»ve man na kahapotan. Garo baga dai na ini mawawara. Mga tugang, kun nagtutubod ka kan kapangyarihan kan Dios na nagpatalingkas sa mga Israelitas sa kaoripnan sa Ehipto, na nagbanga kan dagat tanganing makaagi sinda, na nagtao nin paghiling sa mga mata, pagbulong sa mga may helang, buhay sa mga gadan – kun nagtutubod ka kan gabos na ini – dai nin dahilan para magduda na pwede pang mabago an sitwasyon. Alagad boot kan Dios na kaiba kita sa pagbago kan satong kamugtakan.

May sinasabi an Espiritu satuya ngonyan na aldaw. Gusto nindong madangog? Boot niyang ipasabot kun nata an “sadit” na bagay na ini asin nagpapaogma sato sa presenteng aldaw, may dakulang epekto sa satong futuro.

1. Ano sa hiling nindo an natatangadan kan satong kaakian manungod sa eleksyon asin demokrasya? Magdadarakula sinda na an halaga kan eleksyon mapresyohan an boto ninda. Anong klaseng paghiling sa demokrasya asin pagiging ciudadano an makukua kan maabot na henerasyon? Anong klaseng demokrasya asin pagka-Pilipino an isasabuhay ninda pagsinda naman an nagpapadalagan kan satong nasyon.

2. Cade vez minaako kita, o mas maraot minahagad, nin kwarta sa kandidato pigpapadisganar ta an sarong grupo nin mga tawo na mag-entra sa serbisyo publiko. Siisay an mga ini? An mga may marhay na kamawotan, mga may kakayahan na mamayo, may pagmakulog sa banwaan asin may pagpahalaga sa prinsipyo. In short, the best of us. Alagad an mga ini dai na malaog sa pulitika ta daing kwartang pantao. Kun presyohan pa an pagboto ta, siisay na sana an matatada na boot maglingkod sa banwaan ta?

Kan sarong aldaw naka-recibe ako nin text, quote daa hale sa kolumnistang si Alejandro Roces, boot kong ihiras: “Elections are a must in a democracy. But they must be meaningful. They must not only be a change of men, but a change in men.”

An Espiritu kan Dios haloy nang naghahalat na akoon kan banwaan, siring na an dalan sa tunay na progreso asin marhay na pagkabuhay haloy nang naghahalat na satong paglakawan. Ngonyan na eleksyon, apesar sa pagpili kun sairisay na mga kandidato an satong bobotohan, igwa pa nin duwang pagpili na kaipuhan tang gibohon: kun maotob kan tataramon kan Dios o dai; kun madangog sa Espiritu Santo o dai; kun malakaw sa tamang dalan o dai. Yaon sato an desisyon.

Vote wisely.

To Love as Jesus Loves

5th Sunday of Easter – 2 May 2010

Readings: Acts 14:21b-27; Ps 145:8-9,10-11,12-13; Rev 21:1-5a; Jn 13:31-33a, 34-35

A. The Gospel passage this Sunday has Jesus giving us a "new" commandment: love one another.

Though the original scene may have happened more than 2,000 years ago the command is still new. Everyday presents new opportunities, new dimensions and new challenges in loving one another.

The other point of the passage is that Jesus showed us the way to love.

In the book "A 2nd Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul", a contributor Dan Clark recalled a valuable lesson on loving he learned from his father when he was a teenager.

They went on a father and son bonding to watch a circus. At the line for the ticket sellers booth, before them was a large happy family: a father and mother standing proud as could be, and their eight kids, all of them no more than 12 years old. When it was their turn at the booth and the ticket lady quoted the price for their tickets, the man realized he didn't have enough money. His lip began to quiver. It was a desperate, heartbreaking, embarrassing situation. How was he supposed to turn and tell his eight kids that he didn't have enough to take them to the circus?

Seeing what was going on, Dan's dad put his hand into his pocket, pulled a $20 bill and dropped it on the ground. He then said to the desperate father: "Excuse me, sir,, this fell out of your pocket." The man knew what was going on. He wasn't begging for a handout but certainly appreciated the help. He took the money, teary eyed, and replied: “Thank you, thank you, sir, this really means a lot to me and my family.”

Dan Clark concluded his story: "My father and I went back to our car and drove home. We didn't go to the circus that night, but we didn't go without."

William Wordsworth says in a poem:
“The best portion of a good man's life
His little, nameless, unremembered acts
Of kindness and of love”

Jesus shows us the way to love

1. His love is all encompassing and unconditional.

It is so unlike our transactional loves, e.g., I love you... if you love me back, ...as long as you hold a good job, ...if you maintain your figure. Even our love for our country is transactional. many of us tell our candidates, I'll vote for you but what will you give me for my vote?

Christ's love includes everyone and doesn't sets conditions before He loves us. Rom 5,8 says: "God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us."

2. He gives everything, even his very life to his beloved.

Jn 15,11 says: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends”. And Jesus went on to prove how much He was true to His words. Are you willing to die for your loved ones? What about people you don't know? We still have much to grow in our loving.

3. He prefers the least, the last and the lost.

He associates with sinners and lowly people, those who could not repay him for favors in return, those who could not add to His social capital, and those who needed Him most. Jesus once retorted to His self-righteous critics in Mk 2,17: "Those who are well do not need a physician, 11 but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners."

Who are the ones that we prefer to love? It is easy to love the "loveables". But what about the difficult ones, the ones whose company is an experience to endure, or the ones whose presence raises suspicions?

4. He is not afraid to forgive and to tell His loved ones they are wrong.

The problem at times with the way we love is that we don't make provisions when things go wrong, or more particularly, when our loved ones do wrong. Forgiveness should not come too quickly but it should happen eventually. The problem with many of us when it comes to dispensing forgiveness is not so much because the very act is difficult to do -- in fact, it is quite liberating -- but that we are afraid to trust again, to invest emotionally again and thus run the risk of being betrayed again. And so we choose not to forgive and carry the burden of anger and stress for a long time.

Jesus showed us that we need not be afraid to forgive. A couple of Sundays ago, the Gospel was about the scene when Christ ask Peter three times if he loves Him. That is Christ's way of forgiving Peter and redeeming himself from the three times that he betrayed Him on the night of His passion.

Also, some of us who do forgive, may also find ourselves inadequate at another end: that of telling a friend or loved one that what he or she is doing isn't right anymore. It is in fact an a work of mercy to gently tell someone the error of his or her ways.

When Christ was presented with the dilemma of the woman caught in adultery, towards the end of their encounter, He tells her: "Neither do I condemn you. Now go and sin no more."

5. He is faithful. He keeps his promises.

The greatest witness of Jesus to love is his faithfulness. He is faithful to His Father, accomplishing His will to the end. He is faithful to His friends. Even when they abandoned Him, He came back to them. And He will be true to His promises. In Rev 21,5, John writes of God's promise that in the end "(He will) make all things new”.

B. “When Judas had left them…”

I would like to end with a short reflection on the very first line of the Gospel passage this Sunday. It says that Jesus began this particular discourse with the disciples "when Judas had left them".

We all know what happened to Judas after this scene. He went on to betray Jesus, and days later after being overcome with remorse, he hanged himself to death.

Now Judas wasn’t able to hear of Jesus’ command of love because he chose to leave, be apart from their community, and follow his own wisdom. It is arguable that even were he physically present during the whole Last Supper, he wouldn't have listened anyway, because he had already made up his mind, and follow his own wisdom.

Somebody says that there are only two sets of people in the world:
1. Those that say “Lord, thy will be done.”
2. Those to whom God says: “Okay then, let’s have it your way.”

Which way leads to true happiness: God's or ours. There is no other way, but to love. Then again there people who, because of some hurtful or tragic experience in the past, chooses instead to drift apart from their community of friends and follow their own loveless yet safe logic. To them C.S. Lewis has this to say:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless -- it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

May God grant us all the wisdom and the courage to love as Jesus loves.

Our Good Shepherd

4th Sunday of Easter – 25 April 2010

Readings: Acts 13:14, 43-52; Ps 100:1-2,3,5; Rev 7:9, 14b-17; Jn 10:27-30

This Sunday is called Good Shepherd Sunday. Today we pray for our leaders and reflect on the nature of leadership. Christ has left us an example of what it means to be a leader by showing us the way of the Good Shepherd.

1. The Good Shepherd is also the Lamb of God.

Rev 7,17 (in the Second Reading) says: "the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them".

The lamb in Jewish tradition is an animal used for sacrifice. It is in this context that Jesus is called the Lamb of God, the one sacrifice that takes away the sins of humanity. The traditional Jewish Passover feast has a lamb at the table. At the Last Supper scene there was no mention of the lamb. The Church Fathers point at this seeming gaffe as a symbolism for Jesus both as the paschal lamb of the new and everlasting covenant and the head of the table, i.e., the priest at the altar.

The Good Shepherd as Lamb of God means He is willing to sacrifice Himself in behalf of His sheep. There is a big lesson here for all contemporary shepherd, those who hold positions of leadership -- public servants, parents, priests, etc. Public office and leadership is not about ambition, destiny, inheritance or achievement. It is, a first of all, a vocation to be the least so that others may have and be more.

Jesus says in Mk 9,35: ""If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all."

2. The Good Shepherd is one with the Father.

Jesus' unity with the Father is expressed in His faithfulness to the source of His calling and strength. He was effective in bringing about His mission for he was never separated from His Father. As it is with Him, so it is with us.

Jesus says in Jn 15,9: "As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love."

A leader who has made so much moral compromises, so much concession to corrupt practices, makes himself estranged from his original calling: to serve the people. Tony Blair once quipped in a talk during his visit to the Philippines last year that "Public service is a noble profession in a not-so-noble pursuit".

Similarly, a people who chooses moral compromise and the convenience of corruption, chooses not to heed the voice of the Shepherd.

A political advertisement of a presidential front-runner (no endorsement here) wants us to choose between two paths: one dark and meandering, the other straight and clear. Nice concept.

On second thought, maybe what matters more than choosing which path to take is choosing which companion to have on the journey. Jesus as Shepherd is our trusted companion and guide on our journey towards fullness of life. As He is one with the Father, so must we be united with Him, if we don't want to get lost.

How have you let Jesus be your shepherd you lately?

The Mission of Easter

3rd Sunday of Easter - 18 April 2010

Readings: Acts 5:27b-32, 40b-41; Ps 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11-12, 13; Rev 5:11-14; Jn 21:1-19

This passage from the Gospel of John is the third resurrection appearance of Jesus to His disciples. The setting this time is the Sea of Tiberias where Peter and several disciples just spent a night of fruitless fishing, until Jesus came. Once again the story illustrates the significance of the resurrection and the implication of our Easter faith.

1. The resurrection of Christ affects everything, changes everything: "It is the Lord!”

Because He is the Lord and He is risen, everything changes. There’s a new way of looking at things, of interpreting prophecies, of looking forward to the future. When John sees the figure by the shore, immediately he knows: "It is the Lord!" What the beloved disciple said is more than just a statement, it is a profession of faith.

Peter's response too is a profession faith. He leaves what he is doing simply because it is the Lord. His action represents all our longings for that something more that will give meaning to our lives.

The catch of fish is not only proof of Christ's power and providence. It also symbolizes what happens when we follow Christ. He will bless our efforts and give us the grace to accomplish our task. It is the same grace that emboldened Peter and the rest of the disciples, as recounted in the Second Reading from Acts, to preach the good news to the Jews and bravely answer the high priests: “We must obey God rather than men.”

Phil 4,13 says: “I can do everything because of him who strengthens me.” Such is the power of our Easter faith.

2. The resurrection of Christ reveals the very heart of Christian faith, which is our relationship with Jesus: “Do you love me?”

Jesus asks Peter three times: "Simon, Son of John, do you love me?". In order to understand the meaning of this interrogation, one need only to remember the night Jesus was arrested and how Peter survived the night himself. Peter's response to Jesus' three questions has the effect of canceling out his thrice denial of Jesus.

This is Jesus: He reaches out to the ones He loves in the most personal way, even when they turn away, especially when they turn away. He appears to individuals and to groups during walks, meals, at work, during meetings.

This resurrection appearances exemplify what Christianity is about foremost: friendship what Jesus. He puts premium on relationships, love and loyalty. This main character of our faith is especially contrasted during this election season when we see so many switching of loyalties by politicians.

- 3x cancels Peter’s 3 denials
- breakfast, appearances to individuals and groups, personal touches
- it is about loyalty, love, relationship, friendship (election season: time of switching loyalties)
- our love of Christ is the measure by which we judge our actions:
1 Cor 13,1-3: “If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

3. The resurrection leads to mission: "Feed my lambs… tend my sheep… feed my sheep"

When Peter answered Jesus that he does love Him, He responds by entrusting him a mission: take care of his lambs and sheep. Caritas Christi urget nos, our love for Jesus urges us to love of neighbor and to mission for the Kingdom.

This means that our faith is not static, nor is it confined to acts of piety (pagsa-Dios). Nor is it compartmentalized but rather permeates our whole life. Here's a question: are you a stone or a sponge?

A stone when soaked in liquid is pretty much unaffected by its surrounding. It is hard and impenetrable. A sponge, on the other hand, given the same situation, absorbs in as much of the liquid as it can take. So it is when receiving the grace of the Easter, we can either be a stone (Easter has not much effect on us) or a sponge (we let Christ's resurrection permeate and transform our lives).

The Gospel scene tells of the disciples going back to their former way of life: on a lake or sea, fishing. In some translation Peter's line is: "I am a fisherman". I was as if the resurrection didn't happen or that they failed to grasp what their relationship to Jesus was about. Jesus was not about to let that pass. He was there to remind them.

This particular passage contains two powerful symbols -- that of a fisher and a shepherd -- which speak of mission for the Kingdom and in the name of Christ.

So what does it mean when we answer our "Yes Lord, You know that I love You"?

To love the Lord means
... to defend the poor and the powerless;
... to uphold the truth, and work for justice and peace;
... to admit your sins and do penance for them;
... to love your enemies, and forgive those who hurt you;
... to take care of the environment (this coming April 22 is Earth Day);
... to love your country;
... to defend life in all its stages;
... to vote wisely and responsibly;
... to live the faith, and be the change.