Saturday, April 17, 2010

3rd Sunday of Easter (C)

Acts 5:27-32, 40-41; Rev 5:11-14; Jn 21:1-19

A husband read an article to his wife about how many words women use a day 30,000 to a man’s 15,000. The wife replied, “The reason has to be because we have to repeat everything to men. The husband turned to his wife and asked, “What?”

(The story is from an unknown author)

The risen Lord asked Simon Peter “Do you love me more than these?” Peter replied, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” When Jesus repeated the question two more times, the disciple was hurt but continued to say, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Ordinarily, commentators would say that Jesus asked Peter the same question three times in order to give the latter a chance to redeem himself. Peter was challenged to commit himself again to the Lord the same number of times he denied him.

Some scholars, however, have another way of explaining why the risen Lord had to repeat the question “Do you love me” to Peter. They explain that in Greek, there are various words for the English word “love”. One is philia, which is a devotional kind of love. An example of philia is the admiration that we have for deserving individuals such as our parents, siblings, friends, teachers and idols. Another Greek word for love is agape, which is a self-sacrificing and unconditional type of love. We have agape when we love a person without conditions or selfish interests. Likewise, our love is agapaic when we show readiness to lose one’s life for the sake of the beloved. The question “Do you love me” was asked three times because Peter did not respond fully well. In the original text, the risen Lord asked Peter, “Agapas me?” or “Do you have agape love for me?” He wanted to know whether or not Peter would love him without reservation or would be willing to sacrifice his life for him. But Peter simply answered, “Philo se” or “Yes, Lord, I have philia love for you.” He was declaring great devotion or admiration for the Lord, but he couldn’t promise him heroic love. After his notorious denial of Jesus during the trial in Jerusalem, Peter could no longer say, “Lord, I will die for you.”

The risen Lord was hoping that Peter would change his mind and so he asked him a second time, “Agapas me?” But again the disciple said he only have philia love for the Lord. Not wanting to humiliate Peter, Jesus finally asked him, “Do you have philia love for me?” And Peter replied, “Yes, I have philia love for you.” In the end, the risen Lord went down to the level of Peter and accepted what he can commit at the moment. Nonetheless, he prophesied that the disciple would develop an agapaic love and would one day give his life for him.

We know that the prophecy concerning Peter was proven true. The first reading narrates how Peter and the other apostles faced courageously the persecutions directed to them by the Jewish authorities. Repeatedly, they were strictly forbidden to preach about the risen Christ and to teach in his name. But Peter and company were determined to obey God, not any human authority (Acts 5:29). They were imprisoned and fiercely whipped, but “they rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of Jesus” (Acts 5:41). Tradition holds that all apostles of Jesus, except John the beloved, suffered and died as martyrs. Peter himself was crucified upside down. He did not only feed Jesus’ flock; he gave his life for them.

During the season of Easter, the question of Jesus “Do you have agape love for me?” is directed personally to each one of us. The Lord would like to know whether or not we love him selflessly and unceasingly. It is nice to be with Jesus when everything is going fine, when life is comfortable, or when fortunes and blessings keep coming. But what happens when our faith is tested, when our Christian life is becoming rough, or when persecutions come our way? Like Peter, we might find it difficult to promise the Lord agape love. Even so, Jesus remains confident that sooner or later we would develop the same kind of love that finally led the apostles to give their life totally for the service God.

It was a Sunday morning in South America, in a little chapel on the border of Venezuela and Colombia. As Mass was beginning, not uncommon occurrence took place: a band of guerillas armed with machine guns came out of the jungle and crashed and banged their way into the chapel. The priest and the congregation were totally horrified and afraid. The men dragged the priest outside to be executed. Then the leader of the guerillas came back into the chapel and demanded, “Anyone else who believes in this God stuff, come forward!” Everyone was petrified. They stood frozen. There was a long silence.

Finally, one man came forward and stood in front of the guerilla chief and said simply, “I love Jesus.” And he was roughly tossed to the soldiers and also taken out to be executed. And several other Christians came forward saying the same thing; they, too, were driven outside. Then the sound of machine gun fire. When there were no more people left willing to identify themselves as Christians, the guerilla chief returned inside and told the remaining congregation to get out. “You have no right to be here!” And with that he herded them out of the chapel, where they were astonished to see their pastor and the others standing there.

The priest and those people were ordered to go back into the chapel to continue the service while the others were angrily warned to stay out “Until,” said the guerilla chief, “You have the courage to stand up for your beliefs!” and with that the guerillas disappeared into the jungle.

(The story is by William J. Bausch in A World of Stories for Preachers and Teachers)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter Sunday (C)

Acts 10:34, 37-43; Col 3:1-4; Jn 20:1-9

A woman and his bad-tempered husband went on vacation to Jerusalem. While they were there, the husband suffered a heart attack and died. The undertaker told the wife, “You can have him shipped home for $5,000, or you can bury him here, in the Holy Land, for $150.”

The woman thought about it and told him she would just have him shipped home. The undertaker asked, “Why would you spend $5,000 to ship your husband home, when it would be wonderful to be buried here and you would spend only $150?”

The woman replied, “Long ago a man died here, was buried here, and three days later he rose from the dead. I just can’t take that chance.”

(The story is from an unknown author)

Today the whole Christendom commemorates with great joy the day of the Lord’s resurrection. The fact that Jesus rose from the dead is something that we proclaim in every celebration of the Eucharist. And yet, we also assign a special day to tell the world that our Lord conquered death once and for all, that the tomb could not hold on to Him who is the very source of life.

We rejoice in the Lord’s resurrection because it is a powerful reminder that Jesus triumphed in the end, not the power of darkness and sin. For a while, it seemed that evil had the final say and darkness had overshadowed light. Evil succeeded to falsely accuse Jesus and to condemn Him to death. The power of darkness also managed to cast doubts and fears in the hearts of Jesus’ disciples which led them to desert Him. But not until the time of the resurrection when Jesus showed the world that he is the sovereign Lord of life.

The good news of the resurrection is important because sometimes we are tempted to think that evil is more powerful than the good and that the wicked are more fortunate than the righteous. We are made to think this way whenever we see bad people living in affluence and good people suffering from poverty. We need to remind ourselves that things aren’t always what they seem. What appears to be a good life may not really be good; and what seems to be a bad situation may not in fact be bad. As believers of the resurrection, we need to trust that the righteous will always be at peace in their hearts, but not so the wicked. God is happy with the upright and He will grant them the reward of eternal joy in heaven.

The Lord’s resurrection reminds that we will not end up in the grave but in everlasting life. The sacrificial death of Christ on the cross is followed by his sitting at the right hand of the Father (Heb 1:3) and in him, we gain a mediator per excellence who will intercede eternally on our behalf (Heb 2:18). We are now hopeful of walking and passing thru the same gate that leads to the Father’s home (Heb 6:20). As St. Paul says: “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died” (1 Thes 4:13). Now, we can face physical death with full confidence that the Risen Christ has swallowed up death in victory and will awaken those who have died at his coming (1 Cor 15:51-56). Like Paul, we now have the courage to say, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Cor 15:55). Therefore, a believer’s death should never be seen as a tragedy because “the Christian who unites his own death to that of Jesus views it as a step towards him and an entrance into everlasting life” (CCC, 1020).

If we really believe in the resurrection, then we have to live our life in preparation for the life to come. This is the clear invitation of Saint Paul in our second reading: “If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col 3:1-3).

What a powerful reminder this is for all of us! How many of us live lives as if there is no tomorrow? We work and work as if there is no tomorrow. How much money is enough? How much possession can satisfy us? Sometimes, we also eat and drink as if there is no tomorrow. We don’t care about our health as long as we enjoy life now or as long as we get much money today. Obviously, this is the attitude of people who do not truly believe in another life to come.

What are things that are above? They are nothing but the values of the kingdom of God that Jesus would like us to keep. Some of them are described by Saint Paul: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body” (Col 3:12-15).

Friday, April 2, 2010

Biernes Santo (C)

Ang krus nagpasabut og kasakit. Adunay krus nga magagikan sa kinaiyahan sama sa mga sakit ug “natural calamities”. Aduna usay krus diha sa atong pagtuman sa mga katungdanan. Pipila sa atong krus mao ang atong isigkatawo (anak, silingan, higala, ug kaaway). Ug naa puy krus nga bunga sa atong pagpakasala ug daotang binuhatan.

Ang krus nga gipas-an ni Kristo mao ang atong mga kahuyang ug sala. Gipas-an niya kining krus ngadto sa kalbaryo aron nga kita mamaayo ug mahimong matarong atubangan sa Ginoo (1 Pedro 2:24). Gipanagna na kining daan ni propeta Isaias: “Atua ang kasakit nga Iyang pagasination; atua ang kagul-anan nga Iyang pagapas-anon... Sa Iya ihatag ang silot nga maoy maghatag og kalinaw. Sa Iyang mga samad kita makadawat og kaayohan.”

Ang krus ni Kristo mao ang matang sa krus nga makaluwas ug makasantos. Gipas-an niya kini gumikan sa Iyang dakong gugma sa mga tawo. Wala nay gugma nga makalabaw pa sa gugma sa usa nga mohatag sa iyang kinabuhi alang sa isigka-ingon. Ug kini mao ang gibuhat ni Kristo para kanato diha sa krus. Tungod kang Kristo, ang krus nahimong larawan sa mahigugmaong Dios.

Niniing Biernes Santo, mangutana kita sa atong kaugalingon kon unsa o kinsa man ang krus nga atong gipas-an karon. Managlahi ang matang ug gidak-on sa krus sa matag tawo. Kon ato kining pas-anon para sa kinabuhi ug kaayohan sa uban, makahatag usab kini og kaluwasan sa atong kaugalingon. Kon mabug-atan kita sa atong krus, tan-awon lamang nato ang krus sa uban, ilabi na ang gipas-ang krus sa mga “terminal patients” ug sa mga biktima sa katalagman. Labing siguro, atong maamgohan nga ang krus sa ubang mga tawo mas bug-at pa kaysa atoa.

Ngano nga angay man natong pas-anon ang atong krus? Ang pagpas-an sa krus bililhong kabahin sa pagsunod ni Kristo. Ang Ginoo mismo ang miingon: “Ang buot musunod kanako kinahanglan makamao nga malimot sa kaugalingon, mopas-an sa iyang krus, ug mosunod kanako.” Pinaagi sa pagpas-an sa krus, atong masunod si Kristo nga mihalad sa Iyang kinabuhi para sa kapasayloan sa mga sala. Diha sa atong pagpas-an sa krus, ihalad nato ang atong pag-antos para sa atong mga sala ug sa mga sala sa atong mga minahal sa kinabuhi.

Unsaon man nato pagpas-an ang atong krus? Dili makatabang nga magpas-an kita sa krus uban sa pagmahay, pagbagolbol ug kasuko. Magkuha kita og inspirasyon sa usa ka ginikanan nga mahigugmaong mag-alima sa iyang masakitong anak o sa usa ka amahan nga puno sa kadasig nga magtikad sa uma aron adunay ipakaon sa pamilya. Sama kang Kristo, makat-on unta kita sa pagpas-an sa atong krus samtang magtabang sa uban nga naglisod sa pagdala sa ilang mga krus sa kinabuhi.