The goal of Biblical exegesis is to explore the meaning of the text which then leads to discovering its significance or relevance. Applying exegesis should make our reflection on the readings of the Sunday Liturgy more fruitful and helpful.
John was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.”
This was how John the Baptist
publicly identified Jesus as the Messiah which was why his two disciples went
over to Jesus to become his new disciples.
·There are two instances in the
Mass where we call on Jesus as the Lamb of God. The first is at the breaking of
the bread. We call on Jesus three times as Lamb of God who takes away the sins of
the world. The second immediately follows. The priest says: “Behold the Lamb of
God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are they who are
called to the Supper of the Lamb.”
·There is another important event
in the Gospel of John that is tied to the title of Jesus as the Lamb of God.
Jesus was crucified and died on Calvary on a Friday at 3 o’clock in the
afternoon. Now it is precisely at the time that the lambs are sacrificed in the
Temple during the Passover feast. This is how St. John the Evangelist points to
Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
The two disciples heard what he said and
followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, “What
are you looking for?”
It seems that the more natural
question that Jesus would ask the two erstwhile disciples or John would be: “What
do you want?” or “Why are you following me?”
·This reminds me of Diogenes of
Sinope. He was a philosopher. One day in broad daylight he went to the town
square carrying a lighted lamp. People were intrigued. And they asked him, “Why
are you carrying a lighted lamp in broad daylight?” And he answered them: “I am
looking for an honest man and it’s so hard to find one.”
·At one time in our life, we
might be in search of something important: what course to take in college; a
soul mate; the meaning of life; the reason why you were born in this world; why
do bad things happen to good people; why did someone die young; why is there so
much evil in the world and so on. If Jesus were to ask you, “what are you in
search of at this time in your life?”, what would you say to him? If he were to
ask you, “what do you want so badly in your life today?”, what would you tell him?
Then he (Andrew) brought him to Jesus. Jesus
looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called
Cephas” — which is translated Peter.
·The giving of the name is a
serious matter in the bible. In the Jewish culture a male child is circumcised
on the 8th day. He now becomes an official member of the Jewish
nation. On this occasion the father gives the child its name. By this action
the father officially acknowledges that this child is his. Although Joseph was
not the biological father of Jesus, yet he (Joseph) acknowledges Mary’s baby as
his own son by giving him his name, Jesus.·In the bible, giving of a name
signifies the giving of a mission or a special role. Simon’s name was changed
to Cephas in Aramaic or Peter in Greek because he was to be the rock on which
Jesus would build his Church. The son of Elizabeth and Zechariah was given the
name John which means God is gracious. His birth was an act of graciousness on
the part of God to Elizabeth and Zechariah for by giving them a child, God took
away their shame at being childless. Jesus means “Yahweh saves”. Thus this was the
name given to Mary’s child because he would save the people from their sins.·When a new Pope is elected, he
is first asked if he accepts the election. If he accepts, the next question
that he is asked is what name does he wish to take. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio
took the name Francis, the first Pope to do so. He is the 266th
successor of St. Peter, the first Pope. At first they thought that Cardinal
Bergoglio had Francis Xavier in mind because Cardinal Bergoglio was a Jesuit
and Francis Xavier was also a Jesuit. But it turned out that he was thinking of
Francis of Assisi. Why? Because he wanted to follow the simplicity of St.
Francis of Assisi. Also he wanted to show his special concern for the poor, the
suffering and the marginalized.
oCardinal Ratzinger took the
name of Benedict because he wanted to work for the return of Europe to its
Christian roots. Europe now is secularized. It no longer considers faith and
religion as part of its identity. Thus, it is considered post-Christian. St.
Benedict founded the order of monks who was responsible for keeping the
Christian identity of Europe during the barbarian invasions. In fact, they were
responsible for the Christianization of the barbarians.
oBoth Cardinal Albino Luciani and
Cardinal Karol Wojtyla took the name of John Paul because they wanted to
continue the reform of Vatican II. Now Pope John the XXIII opened Vatican II while
Pope Paul VI brought it to conclusion. It is interesting to note that John Paul
II visited the Philippines twice and his visits resulted in many boys being
called John Paul.
·Cardinal Sin, God bless his
soul, often cracked jokes during his homilies. He shared the following story.
He was baptizing three children. The first was the child of a soldier. He asked
for the name of the child. And the father with a smile replied, “Baby. Baby
Armalite.” The next baby was the son of a scientist. He asked the father what
the name of the child was. “Skylab,” came the answer. Skylab at that time was
the orbiting space laboratory of the Americans. And finally , he came to the last baby. He asked the father what was
the name of the baby girl. The father replied, “Iluminada.” “Oh, finally!”
thought the Cardinal, “a more sensible name.” And the Cardinal asked the
father, “And what is the family name?” And the father with a naught smile
replied, “Bombilya. Iluminada Bombilya.”
oThe traditional practice is to
give a child the name of a Saint. The reason is that the Saint becomes the
patron and the model of the child. Patron means protector and intercessor of
the child. Model means someone the child could imitiate.
oWhat is your name? How did you
get that name? What is the meaning of your name? If your name is that of a
Saint, have you ever read the life of that Saint? Have you ever approached him
to pray for you?
·Finally, I remember many years
ago a rivalry between the Noranians and the Vilmanians. They were the fans of
Nora Aunor and Vilma Santos. Some of the fans of Nora went so far as to put a
mole on their face similar to the mole or Nora.
oNo one here today would perhaps
identify herself or himself as a Noranian or a Vilmanian. But I am sure that
all of us here would call himself a Christian, a follower of Christ. We should
not take that name lightly. For Christians living in Syria and Iraq, it may
mean beheading at the hands of Muslim extremists. It is not dangerous to be a
Christian in the Philippines. And for that reason, it is easy to take our
Christianity for granted. May the Pope’s visit re-enkindle our enthusiasm for
our Christian faith.
We have in one of our schools a facility
called “Joy Center”. It used to be the place where the students go during break
time to play table games and board games such as ping pong, table football,
pool, Games of the Generals and chess. It’s aptly called the “Joy Center”
because the boys go there to have fun, to enjoy themselves.
In the same way the Third Sunday of Advent
is called “Gaudete Sunday” or “Joy Sunday” because with Christmas getting
closer, we feel happy. And to highlight the joyful spirit of this Sunday, the color
of the candle of the Advent wreath and of the vestment of the priest is pink. An
alternative color for the vestment is rose.
Of course, this Sunday is not the only
Sunday that is joyful. The whole mood of Advent is joyful. And it is because the
spirit of Christmas itself is one of joy.
The joyful spirit of Christmas is expressed
in the holiday character of the season. Schools, offices, buildings, parishes
and streets are adorned with Christmas lights, Christmas trees, lanterns, and
Santa Claus. Christmas songs are heard over the radio. We hold Christmas
parties in schools, and in offices. We give and receive gifts and Christmas
cards. We wear new clothes. The 13th month pay and Christmas bonus are
awaited with eagerness.
All of these are good. But they are not
enough to express the joy of Christmas. The joy of Christmas comes from giving.
And this giving is to celebrate the giving that happened on that first
Christmas: “God so loved the world that he GAVE his only Son that those who believe
in him may not perish but have everlasting life.”
A Grade Six pupil experienced for himself the
joy that comes from giving. It is a practice to hold a Christmas party in
schools. Following the suggestion of their teacher, the class decided that they
will share the joy of Christmas with other kids. And so they invited some
children from an orphanage to attend their Christmas party in school. It was
after this party that I met this Grade Six pupil. He couldn’t contain his pride
and happiness. He said, “Father, I never thought I would feel this happy.” I
asked him why. And he replied, “Because I saw the orphaned children very happy.
That made me very happy.”
What I am suggesting is that you make your
Christmas joyful by giving. Just like that Grade Six pupil, make your Christmas
joyful by making others happy. Let’s see the ways.
1. Why don’t you share some of your Noche
Buena or Media Noche with your neighbors?
2. I have seen street children who cannot
go to school because they have to make a living by rummaging through garbage.
Why not prepare sandwiches for them? Or buy some hamburger, for example, and
give it to them.
3. You can also go to an orphanage or an
old people’s home or the jail and give them gift packs or food, like spaghetti
and ice cream.