September 8, 2019 – 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

In today’s gospel reading, Jesus challenges us on what we set our life’s priority. He wants each of us, to ask oneself: who is most important and what is the most essential in my life? Is it God or persons other than God and things? This question is extremely important since upon its answer lies our eternal salvation or damnation. In the gospel, Jesus says “if anyone does not prefer me to relations or even hate one’s own life for my sake, renounce possessions and take up one’s cross to follow me, he or she cannot be my disciples.

Dearest sisters and brothers, it is important that Jesus’ statement today helps us once again to re-evaluate our priorities in life.  We live in a world where many values, especially mundane ones, are competing for our loyalty.  If one is not careful, he or she will spend his or her entire life being enslaved to them—from the desires of the body, to quest for honor and prestige, to accumulation of wealth, and so forth.

St. John of the Cross reminds us that “the soul that remains with her affections attached to things, however small, will never arrive at Divine union; for it signifies little whether the bird be tied by a slight thread or a thick one:  since, however slight it may be, provided she does not break it, she remains always bound, and unable to fly”.

Today, Christ demands absolute loyalty to God from us.  St. Paul in the second reading did exactly that.  He was a prisoner for Christ.  For him, Christ was all in all that he considered it an honor to be a prisoner for him.  St. Paul’s example challenges us on how ready we are to sacrifice all for God?  To what extent are we ready to take inconveniences for our faith?  Today, if we cannot even come to Mass on time or sacrifice even 30 mins a day to prayer, how can we sacrifice something more for God?  If attending daily Sunday Mass is asking too much or standing up for truth is hard, can we live faithfully to Christ’s demand?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a book called, Cost of Discipleship.  There he states, “spiritual life is not that which shuns suffering and pain and keeps clear of destruction, but the one that endures death and is sustained by it”.  Like Solomon in the first reading, may we ask God to give us wisdom to choose Him above other values.  Amen!

September 1, 2019 – 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s theme is all about humility.  Sirach admonishes us “my child, conduct your affairs with humility” while Jesus, to the invited guests, said, “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted”.  Dearest sisters and brothers, humility, one would say, is the queen of all virtues.  Its opposite, pride, is the first of the seven deadly sins and it is the father of all sins.  It destroyed our first parents in their seeking to be like God.

Jesus, in coming into the world, took the way of humility.  As Paul tells us in Philippians, that even though he was God, he became man to save us.  Christ’s whole life is an incarnation of humility.  In following Christ’s example, anyone who wants to be a true Christian must imitate Christ’s humility.  The word humility coming from humus means that all of us as creatures are from the dust.  It means “recalling always our origin from dust, our duty of submission to our creator, and our total dependence on Him and on one another”.

One simple way to test our humility is to examine how we regard the gifts given to others.  Are we jealous of them or do we wish that they were not given those gifts or talents?  In the gospel, those invited were not humble enough to receive their position from the host, they wanted to take it themselves.  This is exactly what happens when we wish that the gifts of others were ours rather than theirs.

Humility also means recognizing the grace of God working in us.  It is not the false pretense of being comfortable in one’s weakness thinking that one cannot change for the better.  It is also, on the other hand, accepting the truth that we are all sinners.  If we are all sinners, to be humble means that we cannot be judging or criticizing others since none of us is better than the other.  If there is any good we think we do, they are all done by God’s grace.

To be humble is to think about others first since pride is self-centeredness.  It is to live out the prayer of St. Francis, “seeking not so much to be consoled as go console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love”.  It means not always having it our own way.  A priest once told a story of a Sacristan in one parish who is called Sergeant Major.  She is called that not because she had retired from the army but because everything had to be done her way.

May we never be a sergeant major in relationship with others.  Remember as Dante says, Pride is “the love of self perverted to hatred and contempt for one’s neighbor.”

August 25, 2019 – 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the second reading from Hebrews, the Lord admonishes us to “endure your trials as discipline” while in the gospel, he says “try to enter heaven through the narrow gate”.

Dearest sisters and brothers, the Lord’s admonition brings home the truth that the trials and difficulties of life, many times, are for our spiritual benefit.  They unite us with the cross of Christ.  When the Lord says, “try your best to enter through the narrow gate”, he is simply acknowledging that good works are important for our salvation.

Though salvation, objectively speaking, is a gift from God, subjectively, it “depends somewhat upon us, our personal decisions, our cooperation and the intensity of our efforts”.  It is important to note that our good works will never be forgotten by the Lord as he says in the first reading from the Prophet Isaiah.

In responding to those that will remind him on the last day that he taught in their streets, the Lord would say, “I don’t know where you come from.  Away from me, you evildoers.”  Is Jesus really denying that he taught these people?  Of course not, but rather that they did not listen.  If they “did hear, they disagreed with what they heard, or if they agreed, they didn’t live by what they heard”.  Simply put, their lives were never guided by the Lord’s admonitions.

Today, as he admonishes us to enter through the narrow gate, it is obvious that “narrow gate” is a metaphor that expresses the difficulties that fill our Christian calling.  It is never going to be an easy one. That is why the world would rather us to abandon them to dance to its tune.  An example is where the Lord says that people will remind him that they ate and drank with him and yet they will be cast out.

The above reference is especially true with regard to the Eucharist that many partake in today without living true to its meaning.  Some even take it while being in the state of mortal sin without making use of the sacrament of reconciliation.  This observation is very important today:  Many people are no longer conscious of any personal sin.

Some shout “freedom of conscience” as if it is a declaration of independence from the teaching authority of the Church.  As Christians, we are still bound by God’s laws made available to us through the moral teachings of the Church.  Though many a time, they are difficult to follow, yet that is precisely what the Lord is asking us to do—to abide by them in order to be saved.

May we ask him the grace and strength to always live faithful to them!

August 18, 2019 – 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the first reading, we read about the punishment given to the prophet Jeremiah for speaking out God’s truth to his people.  In the Gospel, Jesus says: “There is a baptism with which I must be baptized and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!

Today, Jesus and Jeremiah’s stories remind us that pain and suffering are part and parcel of our lives as followers of Christ.  In the gospel, Jesus’ reference to his baptism is all about his impending suffering on the cross.  Jesus and Jeremiah suffered much during their earthly lives because of their faithfulness to the truth.

Dearest sisters and brothers, it is exactly the same situation for us if we want to be faithful to God.  God never promised anyone a journey without pain.  Rather, he promised a safe arrival to the heavenly destination if one remains faithful.  Today, the Book of Hebrews presents our ancestors to us who also passed through the same trials and temptations having their eyes fixed on Jesus Christ.  If they won the battle, why shouldn’t we?

It is important to remind ourselves that nobody became a saint by having an easy life.  They all became saints because of their faithfulness in carrying their cross for the sake of Christ.  Just like them, we are all called to be ready to stand up for the truth of Christ, disagreeing with others when necessary and not compromising with the devil as Christ warned us in the gospel.

As Christians, “dissent for us means conscientious objection to evil.”  We must have the courage to speak up and speak out against evil in our society today.  As someone rightly said, “whatever division dissent may cause, it can’t be worse than a false peace, peace at the price of evil or injustice.  Dissent against evil cost Jesus his life because he found it impossible to call a cease-fire if it meant negotiating with evil.”  As Jesus’ disciples, we shouldn’t expect anything better than the fire of the cross and that is why we can’t compromise with sin as the Book of Hebrews urges us. We are called to cast off its burden and rid ourselves of its weight.

The presence of sin weighs us down from making a lot of progress in our heavenly journey.  Just like our usual journey is cumbersome when we have heavy loads, so is also our heavenly journey.  In fact, making life’s travel under the weight of sin is like filling one’s luggage with useless stones while climbing the mountain like the Greek Sisyphus.  Endeavor to rid yourself of sin so that your life’s journey will be lighter.  God has assured us of his protection.

August 15, 2019 – The Assumption

The Assumption


Today, we celebrate the solemnity of Assumption.  The Book of Revelation narrates the great sign and battle that happened before the birth of Christ.  In the Responsorial Psalm, Mary’s beauty was exalted.  In the second reading, Christ defeated death through His resurrection, while in the Gospel, Mary sang the Magnificat.

Today’s celebration is part of the mystery of our salvation showing that Mary was preserved from original sin and assumed into heaven.  Mary’s singing of the Magnificat in the gospel is a reminder to us that as children of God, we are all called to praise God and the greatest way to do that is through our lives.  To praise God means to do His will at every moment of our lives as Mary did.  Her life was marked always with a response “behold the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your will”.

We are called to imitate her in all circumstances of life as the best example in our effort to do God’s will. Today, as the Church presents Mary to us, as an example, we may need to ask ourselves, to what extent do I imitate her?  Do I run to her for help, especially in moments of temptation and difficulties?  To imitate Mary means to lead a life of prayer as she did from the moment we wake till we go to bed.  It means that we are to be a sign of God’s presence for others just as Mary was for Elizabeth.  To be sign of God’s presence means that we need to fill our lives with His presence.

Another important aspect of today’s celebration is that Mary’s Assumption brings to focus the importance of our human body that is cherished by God.  Mary’s body that was assumed into heaven looked like ours.  Thus, our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit that should be cared for through avoidance sins, especially sins of impurities.

August 11, 2019 – 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

In today’s second reading, the book of Hebrews reminds us of the true meaning of faith:  “the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen”.  From the above description, faith is synonymous with trust and confidence.  In fact, confidence (hypostasis) is another Greek word for faith.  Faith is not being sure where one is going but still going because one relies on God who can neither deceive nor be deceived.

Faith as a gift calls us to put our trust in the goodness of the future since God is in control of it.  Presently, our faith in the beauty of God’s creation is being tested.  The back to back shooting fueled by hate and distrust in human goodness that happened last week, and so many other evils happening in our society, are all challenging our faith both in ourselves and God.  At this moment, I just think about the little 2 month-old baby that was orphaned by the bullet of the shooter in El Paso that killed her parents while they were trying to protect her.

It is in the midst of these evils that Abraham’s faith is calling us today to know that God is still alive and in control.  The world still belongs to him in spite all the evil that are found in it.  Faith is calling each of us to try our best to make the world a better place.  Abraham allowed God to fashion his future when he obeyed and moved when he was told to do so.

Faith therefore means the acceptance that God’s plan will work itself out in our lives no matter how difficult it may seem.  As someone rightly said, “faith is making a journey without a map”.  I remember being in a country with neither street mapping nor GPS.  Every time I made a journey, I was totally dependent on people’s guidance.  That is what faith is like.  Though sometime people may mislead us, God does not and can never mislead us.  His promise is always good news for us.

Brothers and sisters, faith therefore is a call for us to let go of the control we have over our lives in order to allow God to take control.  That is what it means to be ready like the servants waiting for the return of their master.  Jesus told us in the gospel “do not be afraid”.  Like the Israelites in the first reading, let us wait for our salvation that is already near since God has promised us that if we remain faithful.

August 4, 2019 – 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

In today’s gospel, Jesus said, “take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions”. In the above statement, we are reminded that the most important truth about life does not consist in what we possess.  In the gospel, the center of the rich man’s life was simply his wealth.  His only concern was how to store his harvest, build bigger barns, and hoard the extra grain only for himself without any consideration for others.

Last Sunday, Jesus taught us in the prayer of Our Father to ask God, “give us this day our daily bread”, and not the bread for the next year, meaning that we are to be totally dependent on God and not on our possessions.  That is what the rich man failed to understand.  In the second reading, St. Paul asks us to seek what is above since as Ecclesiastes tells us, all earthly riches are vanities.  Can we pause for a moment and think about the great and rich men of the last hundred years, where are they and what use is their wealth to them today?

Dearest brothers and sisters, the reality of death makes all our earthly accomplishments seem useless.  What is useful to us with regard to our wealth is not how much we leave behind but how much help we rendered to others with it.  At the judgment day, the thousands or millions you left in your account will not account for much but, how much of them you used yourself to help others while you are alive or how much of them you dedicate to charity at death will.

The temptation facing many people today is turning material goods into idols and elevating them to the rank of gods.  In other words, making them ends instead of means.  In the scale of values, the material must give way to the human and then to the divine.  Man isn’t the measure of all things. God is.  St. Theresa of Avila once said, “all things pass; God only endures”.

A first step, learn the difference between needs and wants.  A priest owned two pairs of trousers.  When asked, why? He said, one for washing and the other for wearing.  Two pairs, all he needed. How many closets in our houses are stuffed full with clothes we seldom wear for example?  The question for us always should never be, how can I store what I have?  But how shall I share what I have?