July 12, 2020 – Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In today’s first reading, Isaiah says that God’s word cannot return to him without achieving the end for which it is sent.  Every time we hear the word of God, we have two options before us:  acceptance or rejection.  That is what we saw in the Gospel where some seed fell on the path and were eaten up by the birds, others on rocky ground and were scorched by the sun, others on thorns and were choked, and finally, some on rich soil.

Dearest sisters and brothers, the question before us today is:  to which of these groups do I belong?  When we accept God’s word and act on it, we are blessed and when we reject it, we are condemned.  Today, we are all called to pay attention to our relationship to God’s word that we receive every minute of life, including the one the Lord is communicating to us even now at this Mass.

At every action we take in life, we are making a choice for God’s word.  We are either accepting or rejecting it.  There is never a neutral action in life.  Each of our action is an expression of a choice for or against God.  Every positive response to God’s word always bears fruit as Jesus said about the seed that fell on rich soil producing fruit, hundred-, sixty-, and thirty-fold.

That the reception of God’s word is expected to bear fruit in our lives means that it is never something private.  We are not to keep it in our private spaces but rather to allow it shine out on others as we put it into action, giving direction and guidance to others.  Allowing God’s word to bear fruit in our lives is sometimes painful.  A lot of times, the demand that God’s word makes on us entails suffering on our part.  It is like the natural seed that is torn asunder by the new growth when the seed is germinating.

But remember, as we suffer on account of God’s word, St. Paul reminds us that our sufferings can never be in vain since they cannot be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  God’s word is God Himself as John tells us.  It is only in Him that we can have peace both now and hereafter!

July 5, 2020 – Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the gospel, Jesus reminded us that we can only know God the father through him.  To know God, we need to follow Jesus’ example of life.  In the first reading from the Prophet Zacharia, we saw what is generally a reference to the coming of the Messiah when the prophet said: “See, your King shall come to you; … riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass”.  This prophecy was fulfilled in Jesus’ life while on earth when in obedience to his father, he rode on an ass to Jerusalem.  Among other things, Jesus’ riding on an ass signified his humility in obedience to his father.

Dearest sisters and brothers, today or (this weekend) we celebrate our nations independence.  It is a day to reflect together as a people on God’s love for us and on how we have responded to God.  It will be obvious to any sane person looking at our nation that we have been extra-ordinarily blessed.  When we think of all the blessings the Lord has bestowed on us as a people, we cannot but always be grateful to him.

To be grateful to God means that we have to humbly follow his way as Jesus taught us.  Perhaps, in the words of Ronald Reagan in the 1988 Republican Convention in the New Orleans, I will ask us once more:  “when our children turn the pages of our lives” did we  pass on to them “a nation as nearly perfect as we could, where there’s decency, tolerance, generosity, honesty, courage, common sense, fairness, and piety” and the like?

It will never be possible for us to pass on any of these virtues unless we take into heart Paul’s admonition in the second reading:  “you are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you.  If you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live”.  It is only a life led under the guidance of the Spirit rather than the flesh that will live these virtues of decency, tolerance, generosity, honesty, courage, common sense, fairness, and piety”.  Christ in his humility has given us the example.  Let us imitate him so that we can live fully in the grace of God’s Spirit.


June 14, 2020 – Corpus Christi

Dearest sisters and brothers, today, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ.  In the first reading, we read that God fed the Israelites with manna and sustained them with it for forty years in the desert.

Today, the Lord tells us that his Body and Blood is the new manna from heaven as he declared earlier in the gospel of John 6:32-33 before the passage we read today.  Like the manna in the Old Testament, the bread of the Eucharist is our means of sustenance in both earthly life and the eternal life to come.

One primary way the Eucharistic Lord sustains us is that it creates a bond of unity between us as brothers and sisters as Paul tells us in the second reading.  In the breaking of the bread, we all, as brothers and sisters, are united as one with him.  As one knows very well, together in the Lord we stand, and divided we fall. In his reflection on this union with Christ through the bread of the Eucharist, Clement of Alexandria compared it to two pieces of wax being fused together.

My dearest brothers and sisters, through the Eucharistic communion, “we become blood relatives” of Christ and he becomes our next of kin.  It is therefore obligatory for each of us who receive him “to recognize each other as relatives, family with Jesus.”  It is always a great scandal and terrible tragedy when we, who participate and receive the Body and Blood of the Lord, are divided and in disharmony.

From the Responsorial Psalm and the Gospel, we read that the Eucharistic Lord, who came down from heaven, brings us eternal life.  I have often wondered how earthly life would have been meaningful if there is no eternal life after this one.  I do not know about you, but for me, earthly life has come with many challenges.  Many a time, it has been a life of drudgery and pain.  One minute we are happy, the next one we are sad.  One minute we are relaxed, the next one we are stressed.  Nothing in earthly life is permanent.  Everything is fleeting and all its moments are punctuated with various life’s problems.

It is the Eucharistic bread that gives life meaning and without its nourishment, “God’s life in us drains away.”  Our earthly life can only be meaningful when lived with and for God. It is the Eucharist that connects us with God and crowns our life with eternity at the end. Today, I invite each of you, to renew your devotion and love to the Eucharistic Lord so that your life can be meaningful now and in eternity.

June 7, 2020 – Most Holy Trinity

Today, we celebrate the Most Blessed Trinity—three persons in one God.  It is a day we reflect a little on our image of God.  Who is God for you?  This question is important since our conception of God determines how we relate to him.  Often, people’s conception of God does not tally with how God reveals Himself.  While some see him as a mean tyrant waiting to pounce on our mistakes, others see him as a liberal slack sanctioning whatever transgression one decides to engage in.

God in revealing himself in three readings of today, shows himself as “a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity”.  A God who so loved the world that he gave his only Son.  A God who is love and peace itself.  A God always on the lookout for us, his children.

Dearest ones, God’s love as St. Paul tells us in the second reading, demands a response from us.  Love is what defines the Trinitarian relationship and that is what we are celebrating today.  On how to respond, Paul tells us that we should all mend our ways; meaning, living our lives to conform closely with that of the Trinity.  In the Gospel, we are warned that whoever does not believe has already been condemned.

One practical way to mend our lives is living and searching for peace; agreeing with one another as Paul demands.  Each of us is to be a messenger of peace in our today’s broken society through our personal actions that brings peace and joy to our immediate neighbors and friends.  We are, like the Trinity, to put common good above our personal preferences.  Today, each of us needs to make St. Francis prayer his or her personal life’s mantra:

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.  O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love; for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”  Amen.

May 31, 2020 – Pentecost Sunday

Today we celebrate Pentecost—the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles, the birth of the Church.  The readings of today are all referring to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

In the Acts of the Apostles, the Holy Spirit filled the hearts of the apostles and made them speak a universal language understood by all.  They spoke the language of unity.  Unity, as one major gift of the Holy Spirit, is what we saw in the second reading.  As St. Paul says, there are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit.

From one of the ancient Christian authors, we heard these words, “whoever had received the Spirit spoke in every kind of tongue… since it is the same Holy Spirit by whom love is poured out in our hearts”.

Dearest ones, can we pause at this statement?  What is happening in our country America, today?  Why has simple political affiliation of blue and red, for example, turned into instruments of hate and animosity?  Why is the color of skin sometimes  abadge for life or death? Why are we divided into extreme worldly ideologies of conservatives and liberals and so on and so forth?

It is obvious that any right discerning mind sees today that there is so much division and hate in our American society.  Dearest ones, the Holy Spirit is a Spirit of unification.  Saint Cyril of Jerusalem says that he brought new life to humanity in Christ.

Can we allow the Spirit’s new life to possess us today?  Can we allow the Holy Spirit to renew, sanctify and make us one in Christ?  Our differences are supposed to be our gifts to each other.  God in his infinite wisdom gifted each of us differently and wants us to use them to build both his Church and his world.

Jesus in the gospel breathed his Spirit upon his apostles entrusting them with the power to forgive sins. The work of the Holy Spirit is to sanctify us and protect us from sin.  He wants to guide us away from being a prey to the devil.

As Irenaeus says, while the devil is our accuser, the Holy Spirit is our advocate.  Today, the Holy Spirit made the apostles to become “eloquent, courageous, dedicated mouthpieces and instruments of God.” The Holy Spirit wants to do the same with us.  He wants to be our advocate.  Can we allow him to guide us by walking  in his shadow in all we do?


May 24, 2020 – Ascension of the Lord

Today, we celebrate the ascension of Our Lord into heaven.  In the first reading, Jesus was “lifted up, and a cloud took him” while the apostles were looking.

Dearest sisters and brothers, the ascension of Christ into heaven brings closer to us the hope of being with God in eternity.  According to our Catechism, “God made us for Himself” and it is in eternity that we will enjoy him in his fullness.  Jesus, who became one of us in the flesh, in ascending to heaven today, reveals to us the glory to which each of us is called.

Our present earth, while being the place we live out God’s love in its fullness, enjoying his fatherly love and sustenance, is also a preparation for our eternity.  Christ’s ascension today into heaven does not signify Jesus’ inactive or disinterested presence on earth.  It is rather that he has begun to be with us through his Spirit rather than in his flesh.

Today’s celebration is a call for us to unite and work with the Holy Spirit to sanctify the earth.  As the angels asked the apostles, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing here looking at the sky”?  Dearest sisters and brothers, this question summarizes our present mission which is not the time to be looking up to the sky but rather of active service in the vineyard of the Lord—a time to turn our attention downward to see how to make our world a better place.  It is a time to look around to see those who need our help.  It is a time of active witnessing.

In the Gospel, Jesus said, “I am with you always, until the end of age”.  Jesus is always with us through his Holy Spirit.  It is the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, as Paul tells us in the second reading.  The Holy Spirit is to reveal to us how God is at work in our midst.  Our witnessing is to cooperate with God’s Spirit, patterning our lives on that of the risen Christ.

Remember, it is only when we have finished our earthly life that one can be ready to look up to the sky where our ascended Lord is.  In my usual experience, I always observe that our dead sisters and brothers have always had their eyes fixed permanently to the sky.  Is that not a reminder for us that until death, we are to concentrate our attention on our neighbors, helping them to make our society a better place.

May 17, 2020 – Sixth Sunday of Easter

Today, I welcome you back to our beloved St. James after these weeks in the wilderness.  In the first reading, Philip, one of the deacons, proclaimed the risen Christ to the Samaritans with miracles.  In the second reading, Peter asks us to be ready to give explanations for our faith and to be ready to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God for us.

In the Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples, “if you love me, you will keep my commandments”. Dearest sisters and brothers, Jesus’ word to his apostles and to us today, touches the heart of our relationship with him. The basis of our relationship with him is love and nothing more.  It is the foundation and the only basis that can sustain that relationship.

Our adherence to God’s commandment can only flow from our love for Jesus rather than just fear or legalism. As our Catechism tells us, a perfect contrition for sins, for example, should arise from “a love by which God is loved above all else” rather than just fear for punishment.  We should therefore always strive to love God in such a way that everything we do stem from our love for Him.

Today, we all that are gathered here despite the present fear that has taken flesh in our society.  We are here because of our love for Jesus.  It is this love for the risen Christ also that pushed Philip, Peter and John to evangelize and lay hands on the Samaritans today despite the enmity that had existed between the Jews and them.

Dearest ones, what things, other than bringing us back to the Church, is this love for Jesus asking us to do now?  Just like the Samaritans, our world today has lost hope.  It is at its wits end.  Can we step up and bring to it God’s love as Philip brought to the Samaritans today?  Can we demonstrate to the world this new love that is coming from the risen Christ by our faithfulness and obedience to God’s commandment?

Jesus has promised us the Holy Spirit.  Let us welcome him into our hearts so that through him, we can be instruments of God’s healing and hope for our troubled world today.  Amen!

May 10, 2020 – Fifth Sunday of Easter

Dearest sisters and brothers, in today’s gospel, Jesus said to his disciples, “I am the way, the truth and the life… let not your hearts be troubled.  St. Thomas Aquinas tells us that when Jesus says he is the way, we think about his “human nature” where he showed us example of how to live our individual lives.  Jesus’ earthly life’s example is the direction each of us is to follow to get to the father.  As truth and life, Jesus is our God.  He is our end to which each of us is called.  He is our lives’ destination since we are to love him in order to be with him at the end.

In our lives, Jesus is the only way by which we come to know the truth and anyone seeking life is called to take the way of Christ, which is the truth.  Aquinas admonishes us further that “it is better to limp along the right way than stride along the wrong one.  For a man who limps along the way, even if he only makes slow progress, comes to the end of the way; but one who is off the way, the more quickly he runs, the further away is he from his goal”.  To be safe, we must hold fast to Christ.

In the first reading, the apostles chose seven men to be deacons at the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  In their action, they followed the way of Jesus, their master.  It is important to remind ourselves that anyone who remains with Christ does not wander off on the wrong path.  He guides such a person through the work of his Holy Spirit.

In today’s first reading, the apostles were to concentrate on prayer and preaching of the Word while the chosen deacons are to dedicate themselves to the ministry of service.  Today, each of us is being called to live as the apostles and the seven deacons did.  We are to preach the word by our life examples.  We are to be prayerful people interceding always for all.  We are to be at the service of our sisters and brothers.  There are many ways to serve people today including soliciting for the welfare of our neighbor.  It is only when we are doing that that we are living the life of resurrection.

May 3, 2020 – Fourth Sunday of Easter

In the first reading, when Peter finished speaking, the people asked, “What are we to do, my brothers?”  Peter answered them, “Repent and be baptized…in the name of Jesus Christ…and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”.  In the second reading, the same Peter in his Letter says, “Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps”.

Dearest sisters and brothers, during our earthly life, we need examples to imitate.  Today, Our Lord is presented to us in his humanity as the supreme example to imitate to live a holy life and please God.  In the gospel, he declared himself as the gate for the sheepfold…and whoever enters through him will be saved.

As Peter says, Our Lord in his earthly life lived a sinless life and no deceit was found in his mouth.  He never insulted anyone even when insulted and he bore no grudges in his suffering.  These are the things we are to imitate.  In the world today, there are many fake voices and models presenting themselves to us for imitation.

There are those voices coming from our daily life:  preoccupations, material, economic and health needs.  Even the present pandemic with all that come with it is a voice demanding our attention.  It is important to remind ourselves that when we concentrate solely on attending to these voices, without recognizing that our lives ultimately depend on God, they lead us away from Him.

It is only in Jesus that we find that voice that will lead us to safety.  In his presence, we are always safe like a sheep in the presence of its shepherd.  The present pandemic, for example, has shown us the futility of life when it follows only the voice of material stuff. It has shown us the fragility of our lives.

As someone rightly noted, in these three short months, many things people worship has shown their temporality.  For those who worship athletes, today stadiums are shut down.  For those who worship musicians, Civic centers are shut down.  For those whose lives are only defined by monetary acquisition, the economy and the stock market are in crisis.

Therefore, dearest ones, while we pray to God to restore our lives to normalcy and help our health and economy to recover, it is important to take a lesson from our experience that it is only God at the end of the day that matters.  We are to imitate and follow him.

April 26, 2020 – Third Sunday of Easter

Dearest sisters and brothers, today is the Third Sunday of Easter.  While we continue to share in the joy of our Risen Christ, St. Peter, in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, reminds us that we all, like his listeners, are witnesses of Christ’s resurrection.  In his Letter in the second reading, the same Peter challenges us to conduct ourselves with reverence during this time of our earthly life since each of us has been ransomed with the precious blood of Christ.

Elain Parks writing about this reverence that Peter exhorts us to show noted:  “it is not (simply) an artificial piety or adherence to ritual, but an enduring sense of awe at God’s majesty and sovereignty”. Thus, more than just an external ritual, it is the homage we pay to God in our hearts.  We are to interiorly accept Him as our all and all.  We are called to a loving obedience and fidelity to Him in the midst of our human trials, like the present pandemic we are passing through.

The Gospel shows us the transforming power of the Risen Christ in his two disciples on their way to Emmaus.  They, who could not bear to see their unknown companion proceed further because of fear, could not contain themselves with joy when they discovered who he was at the breaking of bread.  Their contact with Him dissipated their prior fear that they had to go back to Jerusalem in the middle of the night.  Dearest ones, the question for each of us today is:  What has our contact with the Risen Christ done in our lives?

Is the Risen Christ’s presence in our midst still hidden from us in spite of all His efforts to reveal Himself to us?  Do we see Him in the events that are taking place now in our lives?  Are the present health crises that we are going through revealing His power to us?  Are we seeing the Risen Christ’s presence in the various sacrifices being made by our health workers on the front line, our grocery deliverers, Post office mail men and women, our police men that bear the brunt of the present disease, the truck drivers that deliver our food, other volunteers and people sacrificing themselves for our good in this present pandemic?

Finally, in our individual lives, has the presence of the Risen Christ dissipated those fears lurking in our hearts while enflaming them with God’s love and assurance?  Are we now ready now to take a leap of faith into the dark night of our hurting world like the two disciples who encountered Christ today?  The Risen Christ has conquered death and everything connected with it.  Now He wants to reign in your hearts.  Can we give him a chance?