Latest Posts

USE YOUR TALENTS FOR GOD’S GLORY

The parable of the talents is an extraordinary display of God entrusting us the wealth of his kingdom. The fact that the text has been placed in the 25th chapter of Matthew, towards the end of the gospel, powerfully depicts the religious conduct of a follower while awaiting the final judgment.

Talents are substantial amount of money which in this context are highly symbolic of God’s precious gifts. They are provided at our disposal for the benefit of his kingdom, with no excuses come the time of reckoning. The slaves handled it differently. Since the first two doubled it God applauded, promoted them to greater responsibilities and invited them to come share in his joy. What was commended wasn’t simply the successful outcome but the effort exerted which involved great risks.

Because a significant section has been devoted to the slothful, wicked and lazy third servant, this must have been the focus of the episode. Playing safe, out of fear of losing an extremely large sum of money may have been the right thing to do back then but doesn’t contribute (no offense taken) to the edification of the kingdom. This leads us to that if we are lukewarm and disengaged and make all the excuses in the world giving everyone the impression church’s mission is unimaginably difficult, God will make a harsh condemnation on us as never heard before. If we presume things would go well in the end without us having any part in it, God will stunningly rebuke and severely punish us for not sharing the perennial gifts of kindness, generosity, hospitality and love.

Understandably, many of us are probably left with more questions than answers such as where and how to begin. The truth is, we have everything at our disposal to start somewhere. And that there is no excuse for doing nothing at all. Everything we do in the church involves great risks of failure, limits of role, and of being misconstrued, etc. However, we can never go wrong with works of charity such as prioritizing the excluded in society. No act of kindness ends up in failure.

A week before the end of the liturgical season, shaped and fashioned by the Matthean community with a huge emphasis on the institutional church, the parable of the talents leaves us once again with an open-ended question, whether to do something with the talent or bury it. It’s up to you but if I were you, invest on it even if it’s risky or you’ll be sorry. Amen.

HOMILY ON THE 33RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Advertisements

THIS IS A HOLY LAND

Pilgrimage has come to an end. It was short but deeply moving. I had a fresh understanding of faith both as a series of creeds (belongingness) and a personal divine encounter (friendship).

As the Amsterdam bound aircraft leaves the ground, fades and disappears in the air, I pray for peace in decades of unresolved conflict…for reconciliation between Muslims and Jews however that works, whether it means learning to co-exist…for as long it doesn’t go to the next life.

It is tempting to stay longer as the holy ground prides itself as the closest place to heaven and the Dead Sea being the lowest place on earth. Much as I wish to spend more time, I have to go. Everything is expensive from food, clothing, oil/gas, let alone faith.

What matters most is what anyone intends to do following the humbling experience with an elusive reality. As for me, that remains to be seen.

As a souvenir, I bought a Jerusalem Cross. It is silver (budget friendly), not gold or diamond and relatively small as a reflection of the size and quality of my faith.

I’ll terribly miss the group I was honored and privileged to travel with…

This is a Holy Land…

WESTERN WALL

It doesn’t matter if it is 1,500 feet (quite a distance) from and to the holy of holies. A five-word prayer between me and our God that took over a year of careful reflection inscribed (last minute) at the Via Dolorosa…

DAY SIX

No place on earth (at least the ones I’ve been to, not a beach, a treasure island, a modern city with glittering lights) can match the otherworldly experience of praying the stations of the cross at the Via Dolorosa and visiting the tomb at the church of the Holy Sepulcher. I thought we were the only group in the stone paved street on a chilly Monday morning but no, two Filipino groups were ahead and behind us around 7am (tough to beat).

As I was stooping down to enter the narrow entrance to the tomb, a long-bearded man clad in a worn-out black cassock (must have been an orthodox priest), warned me not to take photos. I hear you and got in.

Down on my knees and head bent as a gesture of reverence before the marble tomb, I thanked Him for finally bringing me here (years in the making), begged pardon, lit a beeswax taper candle, offered prayers for all, inserted a few bucks in the offering box and rubbed my eyes swelling in tears…of joy….

At the urgings of the moment, I stayed for a more minutes by myself between me and him while the rest waited outside…There was silence between us…it was profound…I had no words to say and I felt a huge load was taken off my shoulder before heading out…

Church of the Holy Sepulcher

Behold! The wood of the Cross

Mt Calvary

It is timely and fitting that after days of journey, the last Eucharist of this Pilgrimage is celebrated at the Upper Room, the place of the Last Supper where Jesus with his disciples broke bread and the Pentecost for a taking us to a deeper level of faith, a new energy & passion for ministry, a spiritual awakening and finally, a revelation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God that extends beyond historical and literally claims.

No lo puedo creer aqui estoy

DAY FOUR

I still can’t believe I knelt and prayed over the site where Christ was born proven with 100% historical accuracy. The experience left nothing to my imagination.

WHERE CHRIST WAS BORN

MANGER

We waited in line for over two hours. My legs wore out but I couldn’t quit. As we entered the intricately crafted wooden door next to the orthodox chapel, a rude American, in an attempt to cut the line (not fair at all), had an altercation (shoved the guide) with the tour guide. Since there was no security to ask for help, I instantly threw my arms to stop the mess. And I did it, only because I was afraid it would have been worse and I bet you that would have been a tragedy. It was intense. Satan was causing a lot of trouble.

Just before heading down the cave, I sensed things were getting out of hand again and I cannot in my conscience allow that. I reminded pilgrims around as gently and charitably as I can, not to rush, not to push, stay calm, keep your conscience clear as the star was just a feet away. Everyone will have the chance. It’s just a matter of time. It makes no sense approaching the holy site with a heavy heart.

People nodded their heads in approval. Negative energies disappeared and I’m glad I did it not for applause but to set the mood right. And off we went…

I was on a roll for about two minutes.

We have come this far from all over the world to adore God who chose to be born in the flesh in a stable, in a manger, in a simple, humble and unassuming scenario to unite humanity and absolutely never to ignore the invisible in society (italics was part of the homily).

Celebrated Mass Ad Orientem for the very first time at St Joseph Chapel/Crypt.

I still can’t believe I’m here…

DAY THREE

It’s coming along so quick that I don’t remember many of the places we visited and their significance. And yet, quite a few preserved ruins, marble altars and sanctuaries adorned with mosaics vividly create a lasting impression, a bygone era has come alive. The literal suddenly becomes real.

Depending on anyone’s interpretation, the sign PLEASE NO EXPLANATION IN THE CHURCH! posted in the entrance of the church of gethsemane says it all! with an exclamation mark. It speaks volumes to preachers who attempt in a superhuman way to put everything in words, allowing no room for God to work and the mystery behind engender faith.

Bingo! Rituals are not meant to be elaborately explained and completely understood but to be experienced.

A Mass was offered in Cana at St John the Evangelist Chapel. I was told we can’t use the main church because a Filipino group reserved the space way ahead. Fair enough!

At the renewal rite, my group was casually dressed. They didn’t mind at all as the robe worn in the rough and tumble of married life are the virtues of fidelity, integrity, forgiveness, patience and endless love. Spouses who left their better halves back home had the chance to renew their vows as well. Inspired by Jesus’ inclusive style, the single, the divorced and widows in attendance were offered prayers too.

The renewal of vows was lovely. Although we went over the 50min mark. We had so much fun that I’ve never laughed so hard and worn a smile that spread across my face for the better part of the pilgrimage.

I still can’t believe I’m here and said Mass at St John the Evangelist Chapel.

DAY TWO

There is something about pilgrimage no literature can adequately cover than the experience of visiting the sacred/biblical sites even if they are restored ruins. Day Two started with a Mass at Capernaum Church where Jesus spent most of his ministry and service, an area by the Sea of Galilee.

In his professional life, Jesus’ charisma was unmatched. His amazing personality of humility, simplicity, deep compassion & sincerity combined no wonder drew much attention and attracted humongous number of people many of whom stuck with him. His gentle touch healed physical ailments, uplifted lowly spirits and inspired empty hearts. His moral backbone was unshakable even by the threats of his day. Everything he said and did pointed to something larger than life, the reign of God. He spoke with commanding authority and as a result, his words became the rule.

Imagine the remarkable impact even at a purely human level a sincere, compassionate and humble individual can make and take anyone to an otherworldly realm.