Sunday, March 29, 2009

5th Sunday of Lent (B)

Jer 31:31-34; Heb 5:7-9; Jn 12:20-33

Unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.”

Jesus said these words after entering Jerusalem where a lot of people, who mistook Him as a political Messiah, welcomed Him. During this time, many Jewish political and religious leaders already were determined to kill Jesus because He was a threat to the status quo. The chief priests and the Pharisees had convinced the Sanhedrin Council that if they allow Jesus to continue doing marvelous signs, people will believe in Him and, as a result, the Romans will come and destroy their holy place and their nation (Jn 11:48). Caiaphas, the high priest had recommended that “it is better to have one man die for the people than to let the whole nation be destroyed” (Jn 11:50).

Jesus was aware that many were out to kill Him (Jn 7:1). Though He was deeply troubled, He also was convinced that the proper time had come: “I have come to this hour to face all this” (Jn 12:27). The Lord understood that His whole life was geared towards this moment when He will make the supreme sacrifice. His coming death will be an act of love, an act of self-oblation. The Book of Hebrews says that Jesus made His offering with tears and cries. “This is how God proclaimed him Priest in the order of Melchisedek” (5:10).

The Lord compared the course of His whole earthly life to that of a grain of wheat, which only by dying can bear much fruit. He lived everyday of His life for others and His death on the cross was the fullness or summit of His self-giving. He loved us until the very end and up to the highest level possible (Jn 13:1). Through His passion, death and resurrection, Jesus brought life to humanity.

During the Lenten Season, the Church reechoes Jesus’ invitation for us to follow Him by taking the way of the cross. “Whoever wants to serve me, let him follow me” (Jn 12:26); “If anyone wants to follow me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me” (Mt 16:24). Pope Benedict XVI explains that the way of the cross is “the path of losing ourselves, the path of true love.” Every one of us is called to practice self-denial and to be ready to lose life for the good of others.

Ordinarily, we are self-centered people. We only think of our selves and our own good. Self-denial is a big challenge because it is always difficult to abandon ourselves for others. We are afraid that when we start sharing ourselves, our treasures, our time and our talent, we will end up with nothing. Jesus, however, assures us that “Whoever loves his life destroys it, and whoever despises his life in this world keeps it for everlasting life” (Jn 12:25).

Pope Benedict XVI invited us to say this prayer:

Lord Jesus Christ, in your burial you have taken on the death of the grain of wheat. You have become the lifeless grain of wheat which produces abundant fruit for every age and for all eternity. From the tomb shines forth in every generation the promise of the grain of wheat which gives rise to the true manna, the Bread of Life, in which you offer us your very self. . . . Help us grow in love and veneration for your Eucharistic mystery – to make you, the Bread of Heaven, the source of our life. Help us to become your “fragrance”, and to make known in this world the mysterious traces of your life. Amen.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Ika-5 nga Domingo sa Kwaresma (B)

Jer 31:31-34; Heb 5:7-9; Jn 12:20-33

Naandan sa managtiayong Tikyo ug Tikya nga mag-ampo sa estasyon sa krus sulod sa Simhanan matag Biernes. Human sa ikalima ka poste, si Tikya miingon: "Tikyo, wala ka ba mahibulong nga mura man og nagkabaskog ang Ginoo?" Ug si Tikyo mitubag: "Natingala bitaw pud ko day." Unya nadunggan na lang nilang duha ang padre kora diha sa ilang luyo nga miingon: "Hoy, naunsa bang gasugod man mo sa katapusang estasyon! Tua ra ang una sa atbang ay?"

Ang ebanghelyo naghatag kanato og timailhan nga nagkaduol na ang Semana Santa – ang panahon kanus-a saulogon nato ang pagpasakit, pagkamatay ug pagkabanhaw sa atong Ginoo. Nganong magsaulog man ta? Di ba angay unta nga magmagul-anon ta atubangan sa kasakit ug kamatayon? Para sa kadaghanan, ang kamatayon mao ang katapusan sa kinabuhi, panahon sa kasub-anan. Apan para kang Kristo, ang kamatayon mao ang adlaw sa iyang kahimayaan, panahon sa kalipay ug kadaogan. Siya mismo miingon: "Karon miabut na ang panahon nga pasidunggan pag-ayo ang Anak sa Tawo." Ang Dios Amahan nagpasidungog kaniya tungod kay gihalad man niya ang iyang kinabuhi para sa katawhan, usa ka pagpakita sa gugma nga dili malabwan. Kita usab makabaton sa susamang himaya kon matinud-anon ang atong pagsunod kang Kristo -- sa iyang kinabuhi sa pag-alagad ug pagsakripisyo para sa uban.

Ang panahon sa kwaresma nagpahinumdum kanato nga kita makahatag lamang sa kinabuhi kon kita andam nga malimot sa kaugalingon ug magsakripisyo para sa uban. Si Kristo naghulagway niining maong kamatuoran pinaagi sa pag-ingon: “Ang usa ka trigo dili modaghan gawas kon kini mahagbong sa yuta ug mamatay. Kon mamatay kini, mutubo ug mamunga kini og daghan.” Sa susamang paagi, kitang mga tawo magmabungahon lamang kon kita makamao mopatay sa atong tawhanong kalaog, modawat sa kasakitan, ug maghalad sa kaugalingon para sa kaayohan sa uban. Ang usa ka ginikanan, pananglitan, dili gayud makahatag og maayong kaugmaon sa iyang anak kon siya maghunahuna lamang sa iyang kaugalingong kalipay. Ang usa ka matutudlo usab dili makahatag og maayong pagtulun-an sa mga estudyante kon siya dili makamao maghago sa iyang kaugalingon diha sa pagtudlo.

Ang paghikalimot sa kaugalingong kailibgon ug ang matinud-anong pagpangalagad maoy magdala kanato sa kahimayaan ug sa kinabuhing dayon. Si Kristo mismo ang nag-ingon: “Ang mahigugma sa iyang kinabuhi mawad-an hinuon niini. Apan ang magsalikway sa iyang kinabuhi niining kalibutana, makabaton sa kinabuhi nga walay katapusan."

Saturday, March 21, 2009

4th Sunday of Lent (B)

2 Chr 36:14-16, 19-23; Eph 2:4-10; Jn 3:14-21

Traditionally, the fourth Sunday of Lent is called Laetare Sunday, named after the first word of the opening antiphon of the Mass. The Latin word Laetare (“Rejoice”) is from the book of Isaiah 66:10-11 and is used to set a tone of joyful anticipation of the Easter mystery. During the celebration of the Mass, rose-colored vestments are used, instruments may be played, and flowers may be decorated at the altar.

The readings point to one great theological truth: Only by the grace of God are we all saved! Like the people of Judah, often we choose to do wrong, refuse to listen to God’s messengers and ignore His words (2 Chr 36:16). We also tend to love darkness and do what is not pleasing to God (Jn 3:19). Saint Paul is right: “By nature, we were worthy of punishment like the rest of humankind. But God, who is rich in mercy, revealed His immense love and gave us life with Christ after being dead through our sins” (Eph 2:3).

Saint Paul makes it very clear that salvation is not our own doing. By our own human capacity, we cannot save ourselves. Though quite humbling, it remains a wonderful truth that salvation is something that we receive. It is pure gift! One may forget everything in the Bible except this beautiful part from John’s gospel: “For God so loved the world that he gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him may not be lost, but may have eternal life. God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world; instead, through Him, the world is to be saved” (Jn 3:16).

A man dies and goes to heaven. Of course, St. Peter meets him at the pearly gates. St. Peter says, “Here’s how it works. You need 100 points to make it into heaven. You tell me all the good things you’ve done, and I give you a certain number of points for each item, depending on how good it was. When you reach 100 points, you get in.”

Okay,” the man says, “I was married to the same woman for 50 years and never cheated on her, even in my heart.”

That’s wonderful,” says St. Peter, “that's worth three points!”

Three points?” he says. “Well, I attended church all my life and supported its ministry with my tithe and service.”

Terrific!” says St. Peter, “that’s certainly worth a point.”

One point? Golly. How about this: I started a soup kitchen in my city and worked in a shelter for homeless veterans.”

Fantastic, that’s good for two more points,” he says.

Two points!” the man cries. “At this rate the only way I get into heaven is by the grace of God.”

And St. Peter smiles and says, “Come on in!”

(The story is from an unknown author)

As we continue our Lenten pilgrimage, the Church invites us to reflect more deeply on God’s unconditional love and to cherish it. May we also learn to share such kind of love with others in our community!

Monday, March 16, 2009

3rd Sunday of Lent (B)

Ex 20:1-17; 1 Cor 1:22-25; Jn 2:13-25

A rabbi, a protestant minister, and a Catholic priest were having a discussion as to how they divided up the collection plate. The rabbi explained that he drew a circle on the ground, tossed the collection in the air, and that all the money that landed in the circle was for God and all that landed outside was for himself and the parish. The protestant pastor said that his system was quite similar: He just drew a straight line, tossed the money up, and that what landed on one side was for God and on the other for himself and the church. The Catholic priest admitted that his system worked along somewhat the same lines. “I just toss the plate up in the air,” he explained, “and anything God can catch he can keep.”

(The story is from an unknown author)

The Jews believed that the temple of Jerusalem is the house of God. People may read the Bible and sing the psalms in the synagogues of their towns, but only in the temple were the sacred offerings can be made. Jews from different places came to Jerusalem to worship and honor their God. They felt secured that as long as they have the temple, they will have God to protect and sanctify the city of Jerusalem and the Jewish people.

However, during the time of Jesus, the temple of Jerusalem became a place of corruption and lust for power. Religious authorities and their cohorts disposed selfishly the offerings and gifts brought by the worshippers. They also received a large share of the taxes paid by the temple sellers and money-changers. The Jews believed that some animals or things were more acceptable offerings than others, which explains the presence of money-changers and sellers in the temple court. Devout worshippers, especially the poor who had to deal with sellers and money-changers, were often manipulated. Such was the background of Jesus’ anger and action in the gospel. “Take all this away and stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!”

During the penitential season of Lent, Church ministers are reminded to remain righteous and generous in serving the people of God. People believe that God is present in Churches and other houses of prayer. Privately and communally, they would come to these sacred places to praise and honor God, to thank and make offerings, to seek for forgiveness, and to pray for their needs. Church ministers should welcome and assist them as they find their way to God. Ministers must be prudent enough to avoid any forms of bargaining and selling. The sacraments are not for sale because God’s grace cannot be bought. Any form of offering to the Church must be fully voluntary and must be done heartily. Importantly, ministers must not deny people a sacrament or any Church service simply because of their inability to give financial or material offerings.

Furthermore, the season of Lent reminds all of us that God, primarily, resides not in a building but in the person of Jesus. By saying “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up,” Jesus was referring to the temple of his body. We, therefore, need to worship a personal God, not a thing or a place. We become holy by following the person of Jesus, not simply by touching holy objects or by visiting holy places.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Ika-3 nga Domingo sa Kwaresma (B)

Ex 20:1-17; 1 Cor 1:22-25; Jn 2:13-25

Ang ebanghelyo naghulagway unsa kadako ang kasuko ni Jesus sa dihang iyang nakita ang gipanghimo sa mga tawo didto sa templo: “Naglubid si Jesus og lapdos ug giabog sa hawanan sa Templo ang tanan lakip ang mga karnero ug nating baka. Gilimbuwad niya ang lamesa sa nangilis og kwarta ug gilabay ng mga sinsiyo. Giingnan niya ang namaligyag pati, 'Kuhaa ni ug dad-a sa gawas! Ayaw'g himoang merkado ang balay sa akong Amahan.'”

Ang mga Hudeyo nagtoo nga adunay mga mananap ug butang nga mas angayan ihalad sa Dios. Tungod niini, adunay mga mamaligya og mananap ug mangingilis sa kwarta, nga kadaghanan mga kapamilya sa mga kadagkoan sa templo. Ang mga manimbahay sa Dios, ilabi na ang mga kabos, kanunay nga mapahimuslan aning mga negosyante sa templo. Dinhi nato masabtan ang kasuko nga gipakita ni Kristo. Ang balay sa Dios nahugaw dili lang tungod sa mga mananap ug mga sensiyo nga gipamaligya kondili tungod usab sa daotang mga buhat nga nagakahitabo didto sa hawanan sa templo niadtong panahona. Ang mga pangulo sa templo nga angay unta mag-alagad sa katawhan sa Dios nagpadato ug nagpahimulos naman hinoon sa mga halad ug mga buhis nga gikan sa mga tawo.

Ang paglimpiyo sa templo nahimong simbolo sa paghugas ni Kristo sa kasingkasing sa matag tawo, nga mao usab ang templo sa Espiritu Santo. Ang kasuko ni Kristo dili sama sa atong tawhanong kapungot tungod kay kini nagtumong man sa kaluwasan sa tawo ug dili sa iyang kaalaotan. Kondenahon sa Dios ang sala, apan iya nga luwason ang makasasala.

Kanus-a man ang tawo makasala? Kanus-a man mahimong hugaw ang atong kasingkasing? Diha sa unang pagbasa, nadungog nato ang Napulo ka Sugo sa Dios. Atong sayran nga kining mga Sugo gihatag sa Dios ngadto sa mga Israelita aron mahimo nilang gabayan sa pagpuyo isip piniling katawhan ni Yahweh. Gabayan kini, dili babag, alang sa tinuod nga kalipay sa tawo. Isipon nga makasasala o hugaw ang tawo nga mosupak sa bisan usa niining Napulo ka Sugo tungod kay sa pagbuhat sa ingon naghimo siya og kadaot sa iyang isigkatawo ug sa iyang kaugalingon.

Niining panahon sa kwaresma, giagni kita sa Simbahan nga moduol sa sakramento sa kumpisal aron nga malimpiyohan ni Kristo ang atong mga sala. Sa atong pagpangandam, susihon ta nga mapaubsanon ang atong kaugalingon pinaagi sa pagpangutana:

Nagbaton ba kita og laing dios gawas kang Yahweh?

Nagpasipala ba kita sa ngalan sa Dios?

Gibalaan ba nato ang adlaw nga Domingo o Igpapahulay?

Gitahod ba nato ang atong ginikanan?

Wala ba kita magpatay?

Wala ba kita manapaw?

Wala ba kita mangawat?

Wala ba kita mamakak sa atong isigkatawo?

Wala ba kita maninguha sa kabtangan sa atong isigkaingon?

Wala ba kita maninguha sa kapikas sa atong isigkatawo?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

2nd Sunday of Lent (B)

Gen 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18; Rom 8:31-34; Mk 9:2-10

The Transfiguration Event happened after Jesus had predicted his coming passion, death and resurrection.

The disciples found it very difficult to understand Jesus' prophecy: “The Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the teachers of the Law. He will be put to death, but three days later he will rise to life.” They got more confused because Jesus told them: “If any of you want to come with me, you must forget yourself, carry your cross, and follow me.”

The naturally outspoken Peter did not hide his disgust: “God forbid it Lord! That must never happen to you!” Surely in his heart Peter also said, “That should not happen to us either!”

Peter's reaction was so human and understandable. Who would like to think of suffering and death? Human nature would always desire comfort, security and wellbeing. People would normally run from danger and harm, from trials and difficulties. And yet, God's ways are different. “Get away from me, Satan!” Jesus said. “These thoughts of yours don't come from God, but from human nature.”

In response to the misgivings of the disciples, Jesus took Peter, James and John up to a high mountain in order to pray. There he was transfigured before them, “his clothes became shining white – whiter than anyone in the world could wash them.” The sight was simply too much to behold that it made Peter suggest without thinking: “Teacher, how good it is that we are here! We will make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Subconsciously, Peter desired to perpetuate the glory that was unfolding right before his eyes.

The three privileged disciples watched with wonder and awe the glory that was encompassing Jesus. They began to realize that the man they were following was no ordinary teacher or prophet. The voice from the clouds convinced them: “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him!” Jesus is the Son of God whose glory they will also inherit.

Listen to him.” We understand now that this command was given not only to the three disciples but to all who wish to follow Jesus. Heaven is waiting for us, but we can only find the way to everlasting glory if we listen to Jesus.

During the season of Lent, the Church urges us to start being more attentive to the words of Jesus and to follow his will in our lives. Abraham is our model of a good listener and follower of God's word. In the first reading, Abraham shows his willingness to do everything that God would ask him to do, even to sacrifice the life of his beloved son Isaac. Abraham remained faithful and obedient because he truly loved God and he was also convinced of God's great love for him.

While crossing the Atlantic on a ship many years ago, Bible teacher and author F. B. Mayer was asked to speak to the passengers. An agnostic listened to Meyer’s message about answered prayer and told a friend, “I didn’t believe a word of it.”

Later that same day, the agnostic went to hear Meyer speak to another group of passengers. But before he went to the meeting, he put two oranges in his pocket. On his way, he passed an elderly woman who was fast asleep in her deck chair. Her arms were outstretched and her hands were wide open, so as a joke he put the two oranges in her palms. After the meeting, he saw the woman happily eating one of the pieces of fruit.

You seem to be enjoying that orange,” he remarked with a smile. “Yes, sir,” she replied, “My Father is very good to me.” “What do you mean?” pressed the agnostic. She explained, “I have been seasick for days. I was asking God somehow to send me an orange. I fell asleep while I was praying. When I awoke, I found He had sent me not only one but two oranges!” The agnostic was amazed by the unexpected confirmation of Meyer’s talk on answered prayer. Later, he put his trust in Christ.

(The story is From Daily Bread, The Philippine Star, April 5, 2001)

Ika-2 nga Domingo sa Kwaresma (B)

Gen 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18; Rom 8:31-34; Mk 9:2-10

Ang milagro sa pagkausab sa panagway o pamayhon ni Kristo nahitabo human niya ipanagna ang iyang umaabut nga pagpasakit, kamatayon ug pagkabanhaw.

Dili sayon sabton sa mga tinun-an ang gipanulti ni Kristo. “Ang Anak sa Tawo kinahanglan mag-antos sa daghang butang. Isalikway siya sa mga edaran, mga pangulong pari ug magtutudlo sa Balaod. Patyon siya, apan human sa tulo ka adlaw mabanhaw.” Misamot ang ilang kahigwaos sa dihang sila giingnan: “Kon buot mong mosunod nako, isalikway ang inyong kaugalingon, pas-ana ang krus ug sunod nako”.

Si Pedro maoy nakaako og padayag sa iyang pagtutol: “Dili, Ginoo. Dili ni mahitabo kanimo!.” Sa iyang pag-ingon niini, tabla ra usab nga miingon si Pedro, “Dili sab kini angay nga mahitabo kanamo.”

Tawhanon kaayo ang reaksyon ni Pedro ug dali nato nga masabtan. Kinsa man nato dinhi ang ganahan maghunahuna og pag-antos? Labaw na gyud kita nga lainan kon kamatayon na ang storyahan. Kon kita lang ang pabut-on, gusto ta og kaharuhay ug maayong kaugmaon. Dili ta ganahan nga daugdaugon ug paantoson. Apan lahi ang pamaagi sa Dios. “Pahawa satanas!” matud pa ni Hesus. “Ang imong hunahuna iya sa tawo ug dili gikan sa Dios.”

Agi og tubag sa kalibog ug kahadlok sa mga tinun-an, gidala ni Hesus si Pedro, Santiago ug Juan sa usa ka bukid aron mag-ampo. Didto nasaksihan sa tulo ka tinun-an ang pagkausab sa pamayhon ni Kristo. Walay pulong nga sarang makahulagway sa maong misteryo, apan masabtan nato nga usa kadto ka talagsaon ug nindot nga talan-awon tungod kay si Pedro mismo nakasitar sa pag-ingon: “Ginoo, maayo nga ania kita dinhi. Maghimo tag tolda. Usa alang kanimo, usa kang Moises ug usa kang Elias.” Tungod sa kanindot sa panan-awon, gusto ni Pedro nga ipabilin kini hangtud sa kahangturan.

Ang tulo ka tinun-an nahingangha sa nagpalibut nga kahimayaan ni Hesus. Nasuta nila nga kining tawo nga ilang gisunod dili sama sa ordinaryo nga magtutudlo o propeta. Ang tingog nga ilang nadungog gikan sa panganod naghatag kanila og katin-awan: “Kini ang hinigugma kong Anak. Pamati kamo kaniya.” Si Hesus mao ang Anak sa Dios kang kinsang himaya ila unyang maambitan.

Pamati kamo kaniya.” Atong masabtan karon nga kining maong sugo dili lamang para sa tulo ka mga tinun-an kondili para kanatong tanan nga mitoo kang Kristo. Ang kahimayaan sa langit giaandam para kanato, apan ato lamang kining makaplagan kon kita andam maminaw sa mga pulong ni Kristo.

Niining panahon sa kwaresma, giagni kita sa Simbahan nga magsugud sa pagpaminaw og maayo sa mga pulong ni Kristo ug sa pagsunod sa iyang kabubut-on para sa atong kinabuhi. Si Abraham mao ang modelo sa usa ka tawo nga maminaw ug masinugtanon sa kabubut-on sa Dios. Diha sa unang pagbasa, gipakita ni Abraham nga siya andam mosunod sa mga sugo sa Ginoo, bisan gani sa paghalad sa kinabuhi sa iyang anak. Nahimo kini ni Abraham tungod kay siya adunay dakong gugma sa Ginoo ug dakong pagsalig nga ang Dios labaw pa nga nahigugma kaniya.

Haloyo sa atong mga kabalaka ug kahadlok sa mga hadla sa kinabuhi, angay usab kita nga magpabilin nga masaligon sa gugma ug panalipud sa Ginoo. Diha sa bunyag, kita nahimong mga pinalanggang anak sa Dios. Ug sama kang Kristo, kita unya makaangkon sa kahimayaan nga iya sa mga anak sa Ginoo.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

1st Sunday of Lent (B)

Gn 9:8-15; 1 Pt 3:18-22; Mk 1:12-15

A small boy had the habit of coming home late from school. One day his parents warned him to be home on time, but he still came back late as usual. So they decided to teach him a lesson.

At dinner that night, the boy was served only a slice of bread and a glass of water while his father had a full plate of food before him. The poor boy looked with hungry eyes at his father’s full plate and with pleading eyes at his father. The father waited for the full impact to sink in, then quietly took the boy’s plate and placed it in front of himself. He took his own plate of meat and potatoes, put it in front of the boy, and smiled at his son.

When that boy grew to be a man, he said, “All my life I’ve known what God is like by what my father did that night.” What his father did was take on himself the punishment and suffering that rightly belonged to his son.

(The story is told by Fr. Munachi E. Ezeogu)

The reading from the first letter of Peter explains what Jesus did for sinners like us. He took upon himself the punishment that really belonged to us. “He the just one, died for the unjust in order to lead us to God” (3:18). Substitutive suffering is an act which only is possible for someone who really loves.

After the great flood that cleansed the earth, God made a covenant with Noah and his sons. “Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth” (Gn 9:11). Humankind continued sinning but God remained faithful to his promise. God loved humankind so much that he could not send another flood to purify the earth. Instead of a great flood, God sent his Son to suffer on our behalf. This time, a small amount of water and blood which flowed from the side of Jesus was enough to wipe away the sin of the world.

During this Lenten season, the Church invites us to appreciate more deeply what God in Jesus did for us. The Good News of Jesus is about the faithfulness of Yahweh whose unfailing love should inspire us to reform our lives (Mk 1:15).

A religion teacher asked a group of grade two pupils what sin is. A little boy raised his hand and said, “Sin is when we turn our back to God.” The teacher was impressed with the answer. Too wise for an eight-year old kid.

The teacher was more surprised when the boy continued to explain. “When we turn our back to God, we will see Him no more. But God remains there, standing at our back. And when we decide to turn around, we will see God standing there still.”