Tuesday, September 23, 2014


A man had two sons. He came to the first and said, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’
Mt 21:28-32

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


Am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?
Mt 20:1-16

Click to go to << 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A) 2011 >>

Tuesday, September 09, 2014


So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.
Mt 18:21-35

Click to go to << 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A) 2011 >>



The incessant drizzle outside the Ming Yang Correctional High School makes the reception room even more cold and empty. Lin Meiyun sits and waits at one end of a long table. 

The silence in the room of the juvenile detention centre in Taiwan is amplified by the sound of her heartbeat. Lin tells herself, “Calm down. No matter what happens, don’t get angry.” At last, the door opens. A teenage boy, escorted by a counsellor, appears. His name is Yang. The scrawny little boy she saw years ago has grown into a tall, young man. The honest and bashful look on his face reminds her of her only son, Teng De.

Looking at the boy in front of her, tears well up in Lin’s eyes. This is the person who had killed her son three years ago, stabbing him in the chest with a knife. No words are exchanged as they stare at each other in silence, their emotions frozen in the frigid air.

Breaking the silence, Yang stammers, “Mrs You,” referring to Lin’s married name. With tears streaming down his face, he continues, “Can I hug you?”

Lin nods. Yang hugs her tightly as pent up emotions give way to uncontrollable sobbing. “I’m sorry. I was wrong. I am sorry,” Yang says over and over again. His words unlock the chains of hatred and misery that have bound Lin’s heart for so long. At that very moment, her shackled soul is set free.
It was difficult for Lin to give up her need for revenge. She wanted Yang and his family dead. She even started stalking his parents. That was when she saw Yang’s mother selling magnolias amidst the bustling traffic. His father, whose hand had been amputated in a car accident, was using his good arm to sell flowers, receive money and return change. In that moment, Lin felt empathy – Yang’s parents were as poor as she was. She remembered similar hardships when her husband had been bedridden for a long period of time. Back then, Lin held down two jobs washing dishes and cars to make a living. She also grew vegetables to sustain the family.

Yang’s parents were victims of circumstance, just like her. They were reduced to selling flowers by the road to pay the court-ordered compensation. Looking at them from across the street, Lin’s anger diminished.

“Even if I were to kill [Yang], it wouldn’t bring back my son. And my hatred would cause another family to suffer.” Lin thought to herself, “If my son were the one who committed the mistake, wouldn’t I also hope for forgiveness?”

Tuesday, September 02, 2014


“If your brother sins [against you]...."

This Sunday’s Gospel may be divided into two parts: (a) Steps to be taken when you are offended by a member of the Christian community; and (b) the power of the prayer of the Christian community. The first part begins with the words: ““If your brother sins against you….” The second part begins with the words: “if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray….”

To be a Christian is something between God and me. In other words, to be a Christian believer is a private matter. Agree or disagree? Many people will agree with this statement. That it is a private matter. But the gospel today disagrees. The two teachings of this Sunday assume that to be a Christian means to belong to a community. To be Christian means to belong to a church. In fact, the Greek word for church (“ekklesia”) means an assembly or a gathering. For this reason there is the church or Christian community called a parish, then a diocese, then the church in a country and finally, the universal church.

As I have said, today’s Gospel contains two teachings about life in this community or church. The first teaching is how to deal with broken relationships. When someone offends you or you offend someone, this results in a broken relationship. When someone behaves badly, especially when it gives the community a bad name, this results in a broken relationship between the individual and the community.

So what do you do? Jesus counsels a low-key approach. Go to the erring brother or sister and tell him or her his or her fault. For example, “When you gave away the chocolate I gave you, I felt offended.” You state specifically the offending behavior and then how it has affected you. Another example. “When your father saw you low grades, he felt that you did not appreciate the sacrifices he has made by working outside the country.” These are called a “you messages”.

But sometimes, the first step that we should take is to verify whether something is true or not. For example, “This morning you did not return my greeting. Were you angry with me?” Or “I heard from an office mate that you said that I was flirting with so and so. Is it true?” More often than not, “chismis” is nothing else but a made up story.

If the offending person refuses to accept his fault, then bring along one or two others in the hope that the offending person will be convinced that the fault you are pointing out to him is not just your opinion, but that it is really a fault.

The third stage is about excommunication, and it is for very serious matters only. It is to bring the fault to the attention of the community. And if the offending member still refuses to accept his fault, the community must treat him like a Gentile or tax collector. That is, treat him like an outcast. A Catholic who is excommunicated may attend Mass but cannot receive Holy Communion, for example. He cannot be buried in a Catholic cemetery.

Sometimes the excommunication is formal. Fr. Daniel of Brazilwas excommunicated by his bishop because he refused a direct order from his bishop to apologize for or retract his statement that love was possible between people of the same sex. The priest also said a married person who chose to have an affair, heterosexual or otherwise, would not be unfaithful as long as that person's spouse allowed it.

At other times the excommunication is automatic. For example, everyone involved in an abortion is automatically excommunicated.

Excommunication is meant to make it very clear to the person who is excommunicated that his behavior or his teaching is unacceptable. It is meant to wake up the person (“matauhan”) and thus, be moved to repentance. An American Sister who allowed an abortion was excommunicated but repented and was later reconciled to the Church.

Finally, the gospel for this Sunday ends with these words: “If two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

I use Facebook not only as a social media but also as a media for evangelization and promotion of Don Bosco. There have been instances when I would be updating my posts that a message would pop up asking for prayers. A few days ago I received this message: “father pa help po pa pray mom ko na makalabas na sya hospital and good health po. Tnx.” I am sure that I was not the only one he asked to pray for his mom. This alumnus of DB Mandaluyong was taking advantage of the power of prayer of many.  At the same time, let us truly say a prayer when requested. It really doesn’t take long. And it doesn’t take many words. In this particular case, I prayed like this: “Please, Lord, do take care of his mom.”

Today’s Gospel gives us two lessons to bring home with us: (1) Regarding relationships: Let us verify whether an offense was really committed. If an offense was committed, let us use “you messages”, that is, let us state the offending behavior and then how it has affected us. Having one or two to back us up may be helpful. And (2) The prayer of many is powerful. And when we are asked for prayers, let us really say a prayer.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me
Mt 16:21-27

Click to go to << 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (A) 2011 >>

Today’s Gospel is divided into two parts: (1) Jesus talks about his suffering and death. Peter reacts negatively to this proclamation. That earns Peter the rebuke of “get behind me, Satan”; and (2) Jesus faces his disciples and tells them that the way of the Cross is not only for him but for those who wish to follow him.

Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.

Take note that Jesus said he MUST go, suffer, be put to death and then be raised. That was part of his Father’s plan and so he had to do his part. Jesus was always obedient to the Father’s will. After his encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well, he told his disciples that his bread was to do the will of the Father who sent him. At his agony at the garden of Gethsemane, he prayed that if it were possible let the cup of suffering be taken away from him. But he ended his plea with the words, “Yet not my will but yours be done.” Jesus courageously met the gruesome death of the cross. That was why on the cross, he was able to tell his Father: “Consummatum est.” It is finished. Mission accomplished!

But let us not forget the complete statement of Jesus. He did not only say that he must go to Jerusalem to suffer and die. He said that after dying on the cross, he would be raised on the third day. The story of Jesus was not a tragedy. His story does not end in death. It ends with his resurrection AND ascension into heaven. That’s why he said he would be RAISED—raised from the death and raised up into heaven.

The story of Jesus ended in victory. And that is how God wants our own personal story to end. He doesn’t want our story to end in the tomb. He doesn’t want our death to be the end of our existence. There is an after-life. There is life beyond the grave. In fact, heaven is waiting for us for heaven is the place where we belong. What Jesus told his disciples, he also tells us. “In my Father’s house there are many mansions. If that were not so, would have I told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?” (Jn 14:2)

There are two other teachings for us in this statement of Jesus.

To gain the glory of his resurrection and ascension, Jesus had to suffer and die. To arrive at Easter Sunday and Ascension Day, he had to go through Good Friday. The same rule applies to us. This rule is behind the quotations: “No pain; no gain. Pag may tiyaga; may nilaga.” This rule is behind the secret formula of deferred gratification. You pass the board exams because you had to spend time to review. And review entailed self-discipline on your part.

Filipino archer Earl Benjamin Yap bagged the gold medal in the 15th Asian Archery Championships held in China on Monday. The first time ever for the Philippines. What was his secret? Not only talent but also the discipline of practice, practice, practice.

Raquel Choa was born into poverty and was forced to sell candles and sampaguita on the streets as a child. At 12 years old she was brought by her grandmother here (Laguna) from Cebu to work as a kasambahay. But she’s no longer here in Laguna. She’s now in Cebu with her husband and 8 children. She has become rich selling Ralfe Gourmet supplying chocolates to various high-end local hotels, resorts and airports throughout the country. During the interview with Karen Davila, she asked Raquel why she was crying. Her answer: “Hindi ko kasi aakalain na malalampasan ko ang buhay na mahirap." Her secret? Hard work.

There is a second teaching that we may find comforting. God the Father did not leave Jesus dead. He is so powerful that he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand. Yes, God is so powerful that he can write straight with crooked lines. God can bring good out of evil. No evil that men can do can ever frustrate the designs of God. Therefore, if we but entrust ourselves into the hands of this powerful but tender God, is there no reason why we should not be able to sleep peacefully at night? Jesus assures us: “Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” St. Teresa of Avila believed this in her heart. That’s why she was able to give this advice: “Let nothing perturb you.”

Today’s Gospel reading contains many lessons for us. There are three teachings which we can bring home with us. (1) Death is not the end of our existence. Heaven is waiting for us in the after-life. (2) Easter Sunday and Ascension Day are reached by passing through Good Friday. That is also the rule of life. Kung may tiyaga; may nilaga. And (3) Because we have a powerful and tender God, let nothing perturb you.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Mt 16:13-20

Click to go to << 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time (A) 2008 >>

Today’s gospel reading may be divided into three acts or scenes: (a) Jesus asked his disciples who people think he is; (b) Jesus asked his disciples who they think he is. Peter answers in the name of the disciples; and (c) Jesus makes a solemn pronouncement to Peter.

The solemn pronouncement made by Jesus to Peter is of great importance because it establishes the primacy of Peter and his successors. It is on this text that the position of Pope Francis and his predecessors stands.
We must consider the fact that the Gospel of St. Matthew was written for the Jewish Christians living in Galilee and Syria. The purpose of the Evangelist was to strengthen their faith because they were starting to have doubts. They were also being persecuted and so the Evangelist wanted to encourage them to be strong. How does he do this? By recalling the confession of faith that Peter had made in Caesarea Philippi: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And then by ratifying that confession of faith when Jesus responded by saying: “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.”

Now we shall focus our attention on the words of Jesus. These are the three statements: (a) Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah; (b) You are Rock and on this rock I will be build my church; and (c) I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Blessed are you, Simon son of John. Jesus tells Peter that he is blessed because God had given him the gift of faith to believe that Jesus was the Son of God. Now not everyone has been given this gift of faith. Not everyone accepts Jesus as Son of God. The Muslims, for example, accept Jesus as a prophet but not as Son of God. We should, therefore, be thankful for the gift of faith. We should value this gift. It would not be right for us to say that being a Catholic and being born again or being INC are the same thing. No. It is not the same thing. How can we say that? Because they do not believe in all the things that we believe in.

You are Rock and on this rock, I will build my church. The original name of Peter was Simon. After that confession of faith, Jesus changed his name to Cephas. Now Jesus did not speak Greek or Latin. He, like the other Jews living in the Holy Land, spoke Aramaic. Cephas comes from the Aramaic word “kepa” which means rock. The Greek form would be Petros and Petra. Petros is Peter and Petra is rock. When a person is given a new name in the Bible, it means that he is also being given a mission. His mission would be to be a witness to Jesus and on his testimony Christians can find a strong foundation for their faith. Pope Francis will come to the Philippines in January. He will, of course, comfort the victims of Yolanda. But he comes as a pastor. That is why his visit is called an apostolic visit. And the purpose of any visit of the Pope is to strengthen the faith of the Catholics there.

Jesus makes a very important pronouncement. On this rock I will build my church. Jesus will build his church on Peter. He did not say that he will build his church on Felix Manalo who founded the INC. He did not say that he will build his church on Joseph Smith who founded the Mormons. He did not say that he will build his church on Ellen White, one of the founders of the Seventh Day Adventist church. Jesus said that it was on Peter on which he will build his church.

Finally, Jesus gave to Peter the power of the keys. “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” The power to bind and to loosen is the power to permit and to forbid. But it also includes the power to reconcile and to forgive. And this power is exercised in a very special way in the Sacrament of Confession. It is not surprising then that the official name of this sacrament is the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In this sacrament the sinner (and all of us are sinners, right?) is reconciled to God through the ministry of the priest. Pope Francis gives importance to this Sacrament. For example, in the last World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Pope Francis heard confessions of the young pilgrims.

We can bring home with us three teachings from the Gospel: (1) We should be happy and grateful because we have been given the gift of the Catholic Faith. (2) We should hold fast to our Catholic faith because our faith rests on the witness of Peter, the rock on which Jesus built his church. And (3) we should value confession because it is the Sacrament through which we sinners are reconciled to God.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.
Mt 15:21-28

Click to go to << 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A) 2011 >>
Click to go to << 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A) 2008 >> 

At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.

It is outside the land of Israel. It is pagan territory (non-Jewish) inhabited by Canaanites, long-time enemies of Israel. Tyre and Sidon are found in modern-day Lebanon.

And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.”

Only Jews would be familiar with the title, “Son of David”. And they would use it only for the promised Messiah. How did a Canaanite woman who was not a Jew learn about this title? Did she know what it meant? Is this a sign of the beginning of faith in Jesus Christ?

In those days people did not know about germs and viruses. They thought that illness was caused by evil spirits. That’s why she did not say: “My daughter is sick.” Instead she said: “MY daughter is tormented by a demon.” So that her daughter would get well, she would ask Jesus to drive away the demon.

Even today some Filipinos would resort to “tawas” to find out why someone is sick. Even today some Filipinos would explain why someone is sick by saying: “Nakulam.”

But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her.

Why did he not mind the woman? Jesus explains his behavior this way: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

Jesus’ disciples came and asked him, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.”

The woman was making a scene. She was creating a scandal. And the disciples were not comfortable at all the people looking at them.

This woman would not take no for an answer. She wouldn’t give up even if Jesus was not minding her. She was persistent. Why? Because a mother would do everything to make her child get well. 

Maybe St. Matthew included this story in his gospel in order to teach us about perseverance in prayer, about praying and not getting discouraged. Maybe St. Matthew used this story of the Canaanite woman in order to explain this saying of Jesus: "Ask, and it will be given you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives. He who seeks finds. To him who knocks it will be opened.” (Mt 7:7-8)

But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord, help me.”

What does “did him homage” mean? It means to bow. Is this a sign of respect. Or is this already, as I have said, an expression of faith, that Jesus was not an ordinary man but at least, a man of God.

He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”

The Jews called pagans “dogs”. It was supposed to be an insult. Did Jesus mean to insult the woman? This would be out of character for Jesus. I would think that if Jesus were texting, he would put a smiley at the end of his text message.

She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.”

This woman was not only persistent. She was also witty. She used the very words of Jesus to get him to grant her wish for her daughter’s healing.

This reminds me of a conversation between St. Teresa of Avila and Jesus. She was on her way to visit one of the convents which she had established. But the heavy rains had swollen the river. She could not cross it. And that made her angry. Then Jesus appeared to her and said: “That is how I treat my friends.” St. Teresa, who was also a witty woman, retorted: “That explains why you have so few friends!”

Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.

Faith is the key that unlocks the blessings from heaven. Faith makes it possible for us to receive the graces that God wants to give to his children. God’s blessings are like rain that falls from the sky. If we have faith, our hands would be open to catch these blessings. But if our faith were weak, then our hands would be closed and these blessings would slide away from our grasp.

If we have a weak faith, it would not really be a big problem. Faith is gift from God. Because it is a gift, we can ask for it, we can pray for it. And we shall receive sufficient faith. For did not Jesus promise us: Ask and you shall receive.

Today’s gospel teaches us three lessons: (1) Prayer that does not give in to discouragement because it comes from a strong faith; (2) Faith is necessary for us to receive the blessings from heaven; and (3) If our faith is weak, then we can pray for a strong faith because Jesus promised: Ask and you shall receive.