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John 13:1-15 The washing of the disciples’ feet

“With the celebration of Mass on the evening of Holy Thursday, “the Church begins the Easter Triduum and recalls the Last Supper in which the Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, showing his love for those who were his own in the world, he gave his body and blood under the species of bread and wine offering to his Father and giving them to the Apostles so that they might partake of them, and he commanded them and their successors in the priesthood to perpetuate this offering” [Circular Letter Concerning the Preparation and Celebration of the Easter Feasts (Prot. 0) January 16, 1988, Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship)

Christ whole life expresses his mission: “to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (cf. CCC 608).

By embracing in his human heart the Father’s love for men, Jesus “loved them to the end,” for greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 13:1; 15:13). In suffering and death his humanity became the free and perfect instrument of his divine love which desires the salvation of men. Indeed, out of love for his Father and for men whom the Father wants to save, Jesus freely accepted his passion and death (cf. CCC 609).

Jesus gave the supreme expression of his free offering of himself at the meal shared with the twelve apostles “on the night he was betrayed” (Roman Missal, EP III; cf. Mt 26:20; 1 Cor 11:23). On the eve of his passion, while still free, Jesus transformed this last supper with the apostles into a memorial of his voluntary offering to the Father for the salvation of men: “This is my body which is given for you.” This is my blood of the covenant,which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Lk 22:19; Mt 26:28; cf. 1 Cor 5:7).

The Eucharist that Christ institutes at the moment will be a memorial of his sacrifice (1 Cor 11:25). Jesus includes the apostles in his own offering and bids them to perpetuate it. By doing so, the Lord institutes his apostles as priests of the New Covenant (cf. CCC 611).

For the twelve apostles and all the believers alike there is only one perfect model of humility, service and love, of which others are simply a reflection: Jesus Christ. Paul himself must only be imitated because he imitates Christ (1 Co 4, 16; 11,1). This is the fundamental novelty: thanks to Jesus, Son of God made man, man is able to imitate God himself (E 5,1), Henceforth, man can imitate the example of the Lord and follow him doing the path of the humble love that made him offer up his own life (Jn 13,15; E5,2; 1 P2,21; 1 Jn 2, 16; 3,16 ); he can love his brethren as Jesus loved them (Jn 13,34; 15,12; Xavier Leon-Dufour Ed., Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Upd. Second ed., Example).

Jesus makes the mission of the (Suffering) Servant his own: a master meek and humble of heart (Mt 11,29), who announces salvation to the poor (Lk 4,18f), he is in the midst of his disciples “as one who served” (Lk 22,27), he, who is their Lord and their master (Jn 13,12-15); and he goes to the very limits of the demands of the love which inspires this service (Jn 13,11; 12-15) by giving his life for the redemption of the multitude of sinners (Mk 10,43ff; Mt 20,26ff). It is for this that, treated like a criminal (Lk 22,37), he dies on the cross (Mk 14,24; Mt 26,28), knowing that he will rise again, as it is written of the Son of Man (Mk 8,3 p; 9,31 p; Lk 18,3ff p; 24,44; cf. 53,10ff). If then he is the expected Messiah, the Son of Man does not come to re-establish a temporal kingdom, but to enter into his glory and to lead his people there by passing through the death of the Servant (Xavier Leon-Dufour Ed., Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Upd. Second ed., Servant).

In today’s Gospel, Jesus who is teacher and lord at the meal shared with his twelve apostles on the night he was betrayed scandalizes his disciples when he washes their feet. The task is reserved for the lowliest of slaves in the Jewish master households. This is how low Jesus sinks in obedience to his Father who wishes that men and women be saved (see 1 Tim 2:3-4).The washing of feet is really an anticipation of Jesus giving all on Calvary the next day at the same time his legacy, model and living example to follow: “Do you realize what I have done. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one’s another feet: I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do” (cf Jn 13: 12-15).

History has shown us that person in power and authority is always tempted by pride, arrogance, honor, fame, wealth and corruption. Conscious of all these, St. Gregory the Great, who was pope from 590 to 640, adopted a title which has been applied to all Peter’s successors, a relevant reminded of Jesus’ teaching. The title is: “servos servorom” which means “the servant of servants of God” or “the least of all servants.”

Concerning the title, there is a story told written by Fr. Gerry Orbos about the lovable good old Pope John XXIII. On his way to Vatican, he made a surprise visit to a convent where nuns of the Holy Spirit Congregation resided.

The whole community led by their superior came out to meet the Pope. “And who are you?”  asked the Pope to the religious nun who was the first to greet him. The sister who was excited and nervous, blurted our, “Your Holiness, I am the mother superior of the Holy Spirit!”

“Mother Superior of the Holy Spirit?” said the Pope amused. “Lucky are you sister, I am only the servant of all servants of God.

This story reminds us all especially those who are persons in authority and power that authority  do not consists in dominion

 

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John 13:21-33, 36-38: JUDAS BETRAYAL ANNOUNCED; PETER DENIAL PREDICTED

Today’s Gospel narrative speaks about Judas’ betrayal and prediction of Peter’s denial. Betrayal, simply means, to hand over. “In the gospels many people “hand over” Jesus: the Sanhedrin hands him over to Pilate (Mk 15:1, 10; Mt 27:2, 18; Lk 24:20; Jn 18:30,35), Pilate hands him over to the will of the people (Lk 23:25; Jn 19:16) or to the soldiers for execution (Mk 15:15; Mt 27:26). However, the one who is par excellence the person who hands over Jesus is Judas Iscariot. He is branded in all four gospels with this characteristics, as if were his special trademark: 11 times in Mt, 6 times in Mk, 5 times in Lk, and 10 times in Jn. In all, Judas is 32 times presented as ‘the one who handed Jesus over’”  (365 Days with the Lord 2003, Liturgical Biblical Diary, On Passion Sunday, St Pauls).  

“Judas, ‘the man of Kerioth,’ one of the Twelve, waited on the high priests, probably while Jesus was engaged with the Greeks (Jn 12:20-50), and offered for sufficient remuneration to betray him into their hands. Judas was a disappointed man. He had attached himself to Jesus, believing him to be Messiah, and expecting, in accordance with the current conception of the Messianic Kingdom, a rich recompense when the Master should ascend the throne of his father David, and confer offices and honors upon his faithful followers.  

The period of his discipleship had been a process of disillusionment, and latterly, when he perceived the inevitable issue, he has determined to abandon he deemed a sinking cause, and save what he might from the wreck. It may be also that he desired to be avenged an the Master who, as he deemed, had fooled him with a false hope. He therefore went to the high priests and asked what he would give him to betray Jesus into their hands. They leaped at the proposal and offered him thirty shekel. It was the price of a slave (cf. Ex 21:32). Impervious to contempt, he accepted their offer; and as though in haste to get rid of him, they paid him money on the spot”  (Hastings J., DD, Ed., Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels, Edinburg: T. & T. Clark). 

Jesus, aware of Judas’ design and anxious to eat the Passover with his disciples (Lk 22:15), “reclining with his disciples, made a startling revelation: ‘One of you shall betray me’ (Jn 13:2). Amid the consternation which ensued, Jesus secretly gave Judas his dismissal. The traitor left the room, and hastening to the high priests, summoned them to action. 

Soon after, Jesus was “rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes,” who handed him to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified” (Mk 8:31; Mt 20:11; see cf. CCC 572). 

Certainly, Judas’ betrayal contributes to the crucifixion and death of Jesus. But Judas is not the only the person responsible for his death. Pontius Pilate, the Sanhedrin, the Jews had their own share too. Behind the scene, all sinners were authors of  Christ’ passion.   

In her Magisterial teaching of the faith and in the witness of her saints, the Church has never forgotten that “sinners were the authors and the ministers of all the sufferings that the divine Redeemer endured” (Roman Catechism 1, 5, 11; cf. Heb 12:3). Taking into account the fact that our sins affect Christ himself (cf. Mt 25:45; Acts 9:4-5) the Church does not hesitate to impute to Christians the gravest responsibility for the torments inflicted upon Jesus, a responsibility with which they have all too often burdened the Jews alone: 

We must regard as guilty all those who continue to relapse into their sins. Since our sins made the Lord Christ suffer the torment of the cross, those who plunge themselves into disorders and crimes crucify the Son of God anew in their hearts (for he is in them) and hold him up to contempt. And it can be seen that our crimes in this case is greater in us than in the Jews. As for them, according to the witness of the Apostle, “None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” We, however, profess to know him. And when we deny him by our deeds, we in some way seem to lay violent hands on him (Roman Catechism 1, 5, 11; cf. Heb 6:6; 1 Cor 2:8).

 

Nor did demons crucify him; it is you who have crucified him and crucify him still, when you delight in your vices and sins (St. Francis of Assisi, Admon. 5, 3. ; CCC 598).

 

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John 12:1-17 The anointing at Bethany

As Jesus made His way towards Jerusalem where death awaits him, He stopped in the village of Bethany where He was invited to dinner party by a wealthy friend named Simon. In the course of the gathering, a woman interrupted the meal which shocked all those who were present.

What scandalized them? First, they were shocked because the woman who came to Jesus   loosened her hair in public. During that time, to loosen one’s hair in public even for a married woman, was a sign of grave immodesty. Second, they were shocked because the woman wasted lot of money when she anointed Jesus’ feet with precious ointment. When Mary anointed Jesus with an oil worth a whole year’s wages, Judas protested that the perfume could have been sold. It would have brought three hundred silver pieces (he’ll betray Jesus for just thirty), and then the money could have been given to the poor. Jesus, however, fully aware that he is a traitor, unconcerned about the poor,  and a thief.

The contrast between Judas and Mary of Bethany is powerful. Mary spent what she had on “very costly ointment” in a gesture of love, affection, and respect. While Judas complained for losing the money that does not belong to him in the guise of being concern for the poor.

How did Jesus react to that given situation? Jesus defended what the woman did for him out of gratitude and thanksgiving and then used that occasion to teach them about the virtue of hospitality and his imminent passion and death in the hands of the scribes and the pharisees who will deliver him to the pagans to be mocked, crucified and be killed.

For Jesus hospitality is more than just welcoming a guest into one’s house. It is more than just serving a guest with food and drink. For Jesus, hospitality is, above all, welcoming someone what he stands for or represents. This is the reason why he praised what Mary did to him than Martha who prepared everything for their meal when he visited their home once. On that ocassion Mary both as a friend and a disciple welcomed Jesus and what he stands for and represents.

Today is Monday of the Holy Week. On this day,  let us reflect on the prophetic anointing of Jesus by a woman named Mary (the sister of Martha and Lazarus who were close friends of Jesus), which foreshadowed Jesus’ imminent death, honored Him as God’s anointed, and poured out to Him love and devotion too deep for words. Her action reminds us that our journey through Holy Week is a matter of the heart.

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Luke 23:33-43 Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord

Passion Sunday or popularly known as the Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week. During Holy Week, the Church celebrates the mysteries of salvation accomplished by Christ in the last days of his life on earth, beginning with his messianic entrance into Jerusalem and followed by his suffering and death on the cross.

Jesus entered the gates of Jerusalem to the sound of great rejoicing and triumphal acclamation. Crowds greet him with palm branches and shouts of “Hosanna,” the battle cry of nationalistic Zealots, which means”save us, we pray” from the dominion and oppression of the Roman empire.  Five days after, however, Jesus was crucified on the cross.

At the beginning of his last week, Jesus was greeted in Jerusalem as a heroic savior, someone to free the Jews from Roman authority. By the end of the week, Jesus was no longer seen as a hero. He was even betrayed by Judas, the treasurer of the apostles, for thirty shekels of silver which is the monetary worth of a slave. Denied thrice by Peter, whom he has chosen to be the head of the apostles. Abandoned by the other apostles except John. Demanded to be crucified by the same people who shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” [Mt. 21:9]. Lastly, “rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes,” who handed him to the Gentiles to be mocked, scourged and crucified (see Lk 24:26-27. 44-45; Mk 8:31; Mt 20:19.) as he prophesied earlier.

Jesus’ violent death was not the result of chance in an unfortunate coincidence of circumstances, but is part of the mystery of God’s plan, as St. Peter explains to the Jews of Jerusalem in his first sermon on Pentecost: “This Jesus [was] delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Act 2:23). This biblical language does not mean that those who handed him over were passive players in a scenario written in advance by God (cf. Acts 3:13, CCC 599).

For the sake of accomplishing his plan of salvation, God permitted the acts that flowed from their blindness (cf. Mt 26:54; Jn 18:36; 19:11; Acts 3:17-18). The Scriptures had foretold this divine plan of salvation through putting to death of “the righteous one, my Servant” as a mystery of universal redemption, that is, as the ransom that would free men from the slavery of sin (Is 53:11; cf. 53:12; Jn 8:34-36; Acts 3:14). Hence, Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.

The story of the passion of Christ is the story of God’s faithfulness to His people and their salvation and man’s unfaithfulness, sinfulness and wickedness to God and to one another. God remains faithful and true to his promise of salvation in Christ despite of our unfaithfulness, sinfulness, and wickedness. Instead of condemning us to death and hell he continues to call us to repentance, conversion, reconciliation and offering for “Yahweh is a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity, …forgiving wickedness, crime and sin” (Ex 34:6-7). Our Lord does not seek the sinner’s death but his conversion, and his life (cf. Ezekiel 33:11).

Faithful to the saving mission he received from God the Father, Jesus “humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” [Phil. 2:8] In His Divine incarnation, He humbled Himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.  Jesus did not empty Himself of His Divinity but He voluntarily gave up the Divine glory to which He was entitled, a glory that would be restored at His exaltation. [Jn. 17:5; Mt. 17:1-8] Having humbled Himself, even unto death, God exalted Jesus, giving Him the Name that is above every name. [Phil. 2:9; Eph. 1:21; Heb. 1:4; 1 Pet. 3:22] That at the Name of Jesus, in an act of religious adoration, every knee should bend, in Heaven and on earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. [Phil. 2:10-11; 1 Cor. 12:3; Rom. 10:9; Col. 2:6]

What, then, should be our response  to God’s faithful and saving love for us? Our response should be:

First, we must have faith in Jesus Christ and to the One who sent him for us and for our salvation. As John says, “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (Jn 17:3). Besides, “Without faith it is impossible to please [God]” (Hebrews 11:6).

Second, we must be faithful to the ever faithful God. Let us be truly sorry and turn away from sins and, be reconciled with God and with one another and be faithful to Jesus and his Gospel. I do not know if you still remember that on the first day of Lent, that is, Ash Wednesday, the priest ,while putting ashes on our foreheads, said to us: “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.”

What does faithfulness to God mean? What are the dimension of this faithfulness?

The first dimension is called search. To seek God and His saving will or plan for us and for the world. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else.

The second dimension of faithfulness is called reception, acceptance. Let it be done, I am ready, I accept: this is the crucial moment of faithfulness, the moment in which man perceives that he will never completely understand the “how”; that there are in God’s plan more areas of mystery than of clarity; that, however he may try, he will never succeed in understanding it completely. It is then that man accepts the mystery, gives it a place in his heart, just as “Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Lk 2:19; cf. Lk 3:15). It is the moment when man abandons himself to the mystery, not with the resignation of one who capitulates before an enigma or an absurdity, but rather with the availability of one who opens up to be inhabited by something – by Someone! – greater than his own heart. This acceptance takes place, in short, through faith, which is the adherence of the whole being to the mystery that is revealed.

The third dimension of faithfulness is consistency, To live in accordance with what-one believes. To adapt one’s own life to the object of one’s adherence. To accept misunderstandings, persecutions, rather than a break between what one practices and what one believes: this is consistency. Here is, perhaps, the deepest core of faithfulness.

But all faithfulness must pass the most exacting test: that of duration. Therefore the fourth dimension of faithfulness is constancy. It is easy to be consistent for a day or two. It is difficult and important to be consistent for one’s whole life. It is easy to be consistent in the hour of enthusiasm, it is difficult to be so in the hour of tribulation. And only a consistency that lasts through out the whole of life, can be called faithfulness.  Mary’s “fiat” in the Annunciation finds its fullness in the silent “fiat’, that she repeats at the foot of the Cross. To be faithful means not betraying in the darkness what one has accepted in public.

Allow me to share a simple story of faithfulness.

Mark Hatfield tells of touring Calcutta with Mother Teresa and visiting the so-called “House of Dying,” where sick children are cared for in their last days, and the dispensary, where the poor line up by the hundreds to receive medical attention. Watching Mother Teresa minister to these people, feeding and nursing those left by others to die, Hatfield was overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the suffering she and her co-workers face daily. “How can you bear the load without being crushed by it?” he asked. Mother Teresa replied, “My dear Senator, I am not called to be successful, I am called to be faithful.”

God holds us, His children, to the highest standards of holiness and faithfulness (Mt 5:20). Yet God pours out unending supplies of grace so that we can repent and not only meet His standards, but flourish and grow in holiness (Eph 1:3).

Be faithful to God. Be faithful to his commandments. Be faithful to your vocation. Be faithful to your work, duties and responsibilities. Be faithful to your baptismal promises. Be faithful to your marital vows and promises. Be faithful to the deepest longing of your heart.

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Luke 12:32-48 Parable of Vigilant and Faithful Servant

In the preceding parable, Jesus warned us against unreadiness and extolled the value of wathcfulness, vigilance and readiness. While, in the proceeding parable he dramatically shifted to another metaphor in which he compares his Second Coming to the unexpected arrival of a thief. He said to his disciples, “You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour” (Lk 12:14). The Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour, like a thief at night.  And he will come again in glory to judge both the living and the dead.

In that Day of Judgment at the Parousia or when the call of death arrives, “each one of us shall give account of himself or herself to God” (Romans 14:12) as a steward of the gifts of nature and the blessings and graces of God. What is a steward? A steward in ancient culture was a slave who was left in charge of domestic affairs when the master was away (16:1; 1 Cor 4:4-5; Michel 1967:149-51). The steward’s major responsibility was to care for the other servants’ welfare, especially to allot food to them. Food might be handed out daily, weekly or monthly. A steward’s job was to serve, not to exercise power. This may well be why Jesus uses the image (Manson 1957:118).

What kind of steward God expects us? God expects Christian as accountable, faithful and productive stewards of God’s grace and gifts of creation, life, body, talents and skills and wealth and possession. 

Negatively, in order that the Lord will find us responsible, faithful and productive stewards when he comes in glory, let us avoid some of these pitfalls and mistakes while awaiting the second coming of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior:

·     First, complacency that Jesus’ return is not yet imminent.

·     Second, idleness or sloth. Doing nothing.

·     Third, gross negligence in the performance of duties.

·     Fourth, procrastination. Always postponing to another day what can be done for today.

·     Fourth, abuse of power and position and squandering of resources.

·     Fifth, manana habit. Only good in beginning. Lack of perseverance.

Positively, let us religiously perform the tasks require of us and fulfill our role as stewards of God’s gifts and graces:

·     First, protect, preserve and conserve all Gods’ gifts entrusted to us.

·     Second, develop to the maximum all the spiritual, material and physical resources entrusted to our care.

·     Third, communicate and share all the fruits and benefits of the gifts and talents we preserved, developed and cultivated.

Good stewards will be generously rewarded while bad stewards will be severely punished and will suffer a great loss. “The reward or punishment will be proportioned to the powers, gifts, opportunities, and knowledge of the offenders.” As scripture says: ‘everyone to whom much is given, of him will much be required’; cf. Mt 5:19-20; 7:21-22; 25:41-46; Jas 2:14.

Friends, if and when the Lord comes now, do you think will he find you responsible, faithful and productive stewards or lazy, abusive and unfaithful stewards. Can you give him an account of your stewardship? Remember, “What we do in life, echoes in eternity”  (Gladiator Poster).

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