True Freedom

John 8: 31-42
Dan 3:14-20,91-92,95 / Dan 3:52-56

If you abide by my word, you are truly my disciples; you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
(John 8:31-32)

Once in the darkness, we had been
Blind to the Truth, now we can see;
Why remain in the chains of sin
When the Word of God sets us free?

Jesus said, “If you abide by my word, you are truly my disciples; you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” But they replied, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, “You will be set free”?’ So Jesus explained to them, “Amen, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you look for an opportunity to kill me, because there is no place in you for my word. I declare what I have seen in the Father’s presence; as for you, you should do what you have heard from the Father.’
They answered him, ‘Abraham is our father.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing what Abraham did, but now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are indeed doing what your father does.’ They said to him, ‘We are not illegitimate children; we have one father, God himself.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now I am here. I did not come on my own, but he sent me.” (John 8:31-42)


In the first reading we read about King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon forcing Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, to worship the golden statue that he had set up, otherwise they would be cast into a blazing furnace. But the young Jews chose to die rather than obey the king’s command, showing their freedom to worship the only true God.

In today’s Gospel of John, the Jews thought Jesus was talking about political freedom, liberation from the Romans, as Israel then was under the yoke of Rome. But Jesus was talking about spiritual freedom, the freedom from sin and alienation from God. Much like the error of the Jews in Jesus’ time, many people today think freedom means being independent, possessing the power of choice to do whatever they wish to do as they please. This is certainly not the kind of freedom that Jesus was talking about, because this only leads us away from the truth. What our Lord is teaching us in today’s Gospel is liberation from the bondage of sin, which only the truths in the Gospel can accomplish. Jesus is teaching us that if we abide by His Word, the Holy Spirit will empower and guide us to live our lives according to God’s will.

The license to disobey the decrees of God and His Church for our own pleasure or selfish gain is a delusion, because we are actually enslaved by Satan when we are in the state of sin. There can never be peace of mind in such bondage. It is like saying “I am free to take drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes, because I have freedom of choice.” Where is freedom when you become addicted to these harmful substances? Where is freedom when you cannot stop taking them even when you know they can only lead to your own destruction? Sinful acts are no different, because ultimately, if we do not reconcile ourselves to our Lord Jesus, we will have to pay the price for them.

Let us not fool ourselves that we can pursue the world’s pleasures and remain in God’s good graces at the same time. For “no man can serve two masters.” In this season of Lent, let us spend more time reading God’s Word in the Bible, rather than indulging in worldly activities that only distract us from our true purpose in life.

Thank you, Jesus, for Your Word, which has freed us from the bondage of sin and ignorance, and has become the sword and armor in our lives. Amen.

The Way of Redemption

John 8: 21-30
Num 21:4-9 / Psa 102:2-3,16-21

… if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.
(John 8:24)

Before the cross is my reflection:
In our trials and tribulation,
Lord we share in Your crucifixion
As a process of our salvation.

Once more Jesus said to them, “I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.” This made the Jews ask, “Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, ‘Where I go, you cannot come’?” But He continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.” They asked, “Who are you?” Jesus replied, “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning. I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is trustworthy, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.” They did not understand that He was telling them about His Father. So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” Even as He spoke, many believed in Him. (John 8:21-30)


As we meditate on the Gospel reading of John, two important lessons from Jesus are revealed to us: faith in Him, and obedience to the Father’s will. These two in fact are the main, if not the only considerations in the life of every Christian that will guarantee a peaceful existence in this life, and our eternal destination.

Jesus said, “. . . if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins” (John 8:24). All true believers know by heart the sacred words spoken earlier by our Lord in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish, but might have eternal life.” If you do not or cannot believe that Jesus is the Son of God Who became man more than 2,000 years ago in order to redeem us from our sins by willingly offering His life on the cross, “you will indeed die in your sins.” When a certain person close to me admitted that he had been remiss in joining family reunions, but pledged to make up for it in due time, I thought it was an opportunity to remind him that his smoking and drinking and lack of sleep may not be working in his favor. I said perhaps a reunion with his Maker should be his priority. Sadly, he brushed my advice aside, and said he didn’t have time to talk about spiritual matters. Looking at his frail body as he lighted another cigarette, I thought he certainly did not have the luxury of time.

Jesus said, “The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him” (John 8:29). Obedience to the laws of God is what pleases Him. That is more important than trying to please ourselves or other people in our lives. In fact no matter how hard we try to be pleasant or good to others, as I was trying to do with that person close to me, more often we will only be disappointed. There are times in our life when our efforts to win souls for Christ are ignored or even rebuffed. But as true followers of Jesus, we should never be discouraged or intimidated. All the more we should give it our best shot, because we believe it is what pleases God our Father.

Thank You, Jesus for giving us the will and inspiration to persevere in spreading Your Good News of salvation. Faith in Your Word and doing what is pleasing to God, our Father in heaven are what motivate us in our life’s mission.

The Feast of St. Joseph

Matthew 1:16,18-21,24
2 Sm 7:4-5,12-14,16 / Ps 89 / Rom 4:13,16-18,22

. . . he did what the angel of the Lord had ordered him and took Mary home as his wife.
(Matthew 1:24)

St. Joseph, humble spouse of Mary,
Blessed model in our hurts and pain,
Inspire us never to grow weary
Serving God for our eternal gain.

. . . Jacob (was) the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah. . . This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’”. When Joseph awoke, he did what the angel of the Lord had ordered him and took Mary home as his wife. (Matthew 1:16,18-21,24)


Joseph, the husband of Mary, and foster father of Jesus, was just a poor unlettered carpenter, but he was a man of quiet dignity and strength of character. When he learned that his betrothed was pregnant, he decided to divorce her secretly, so as not to expose her to shame. But an angel appeared to him in a dream and told him, “It is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her” (Mt.1:20). He told him that this happened in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy

One of the greatest patriarchs in the Old Testament, and the closest precursor of the Messiah was Joseph, one of the two sons of Jacob by Rachel. He was known as ‘Joseph, the Dreamer,’ the earliest mystic who became the savior of Israel when he was sold as a slave to Egypt. Because of his dreams, he saved nations from the 7 years of famine that followed the 7 years of bountiful harvests. The Pharaoh of Egypt put him in charge of his whole kingdom, becoming the most powerful man in Egypt next only to the Pharaoh at the young age of thirty.

Joseph, the husband of Mary, like his Old Testament counterpart, was also begot by a man named Jacob. He was also enlightened through a dream. But unlike Joseph of Egypt, he never saved any nation in his lifetime. In fact, he never spoke or wrote a single word in the Bible. He was perhaps the meekest and humblest of all the saints. But God saw fit that this lowly carpenter would be the protector and guardian of the Redeemer of the world. Next to the Blessed Mother, he is the greatest of all saints.

St. Joseph’s feast day comes after my natal day. He is my patron saint and model. I believe I have become a good husband and father largely because of the influence of St. Joseph, although my wife insists it was her devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary that kept me firm in my fidelity to our marriage vows.

Fittingly, St. Joseph is known as the patron saint of laborers and fathers. Most of us, who labor to spread God’s Word and fathers, should look up to the righteousness of St. Joseph, who is the model of all men who wish to remain faithful sons of God.

St. Joseph, beloved foster father of our Savior, pray for us, that we may always be strong in our commitment to serve your beloved Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

My Pledge to Jesus

John 7: 40-53
Jer 11:18-20 / Psa 7: 2-12

No man ever spoke like this man!
(John 7:46)

Your will, O Lord, is our command
In our quest for transformation;
Grant us the grace to understand
Your divine plan of salvation.

When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This is really the prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? Has not the scripture said that the Christ is descended from David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” So there was a division among the people over him. Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him. The officers then went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why did you not bring him?” The officers answered, “No man ever spoke like this man!” The Pharisees answered them, “Are you led astray, you also? Have any of the authorities or of the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd, who do not know the law, are accursed.” Nicodemus, who had gone to him before, and who was one of them, said to them, “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” They replied, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and you will see that no prophet is to rise from Galilee.” They went each to his own house.


Jesus provoked different responses from among the people who heard Him preach. Some were excited: “Could this be a prophet from God?” Others were convinced that “This is the Christ.” And still others were skeptical that He was the Messiah as they questioned His origin. The Pharisees and Scribes reacted with anger and cynicism, as they viewed Him a threat to their established traditions. Nicodemus was the only one among them who had enough sense to give Jesus the benefit of the doubt, but he was not brave enough to compromise his standing with his peers, and so backed down. But the power of Jesus’ words also moved the temple guards who were sent to arrest Him. They came back empty handed because “His time had not yet come.”

Jesus lived up to His word when He said that He had not come to bring peace upon the earth, but division (Mt.10:34). Through the centuries, many have indeed been divided in their relationship with Christ. God has given us a free will, the power to make a choice: to take a stand for Christ and the Gospel, or to continue pursuing our own deluded quest for freedom and self-determination. To follow the example of Jesus and offer our lives in selfless love for God and others, or to follow our self-centered desires according to the standards of the world, as opposed to God’s kingdom. During this time of Lent, let us meditate on this important crossroads in our life. And may we follow the choice of Joshua, the successor of Moses, who said, “Decide today whom you will serve, the gods your fathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are dwelling. As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

Tomorrow I finally reach the critical age of 70. Having witnessed the passing on of four friends and acquaintances one after the other in a matter of a few weeks, I can hardly thank the Lord enough for revealing the futility of this mortal life, and the wisdom of serving Him and the Gospel in the few remaining years of existence in this world. Like Joshua, I solemnly declare: “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord in our community, whatever it takes.” We can do no less in gratitude to God, plus the sure hope of a future, eternal celestial home.

Disturb me, O Lord, if You must, that I may always be loyal to You. I surrender my will to Your cross, that I may earn the eternal glory of Your kingdom. Amen.

Temporary Dwelling Places

John 7: 1-2, 10, 25-30
Wis 2:1, 12-22 / Ps 34:17-21,23

Now the Jewish festival of Tents was near. . .
(John 7:2)

This is but a short life we live,
With shelter in a fragile shell;
But our hope leads us to believe
Celestial homes are where we’ll dwell.

Jesus went about in Galilee. He did not wish to go about in Judea because the Jews were looking for an opportunity to kill him. Now the Jewish festival of Tents was near. . . But after his brothers had gone to the festival, then he also went, not publicly but as it were in secret. . . Now some of the people of Jerusalem were saying, ‘Is not this the man whom they are trying to kill? And here he is, speaking openly, but they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Messiah? Yet we know where this man is from; but when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.’ Then Jesus cried out as he was teaching in the temple, ‘You know me, and you know where I am from. I have not come on my own. But the One Who sent me is true, and you do not know Him. I know Him, because I am from Him, and He sent me.’ Then they tried to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him, because his hour had not yet come. (John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30)


The Jewish Festival of Booths, or the Feast of Tents was an important part of the Jewish tradition. It commemorated the Israelite nation’s exodus from Egypt when the Chosen People lived in tents or tabernacles for almost forty years before they entered the Promised Land. The people of Jerusalem constructed booths for the festival not only as a reminder of the nation’s hardships in the desert, but also to provide shelter for the thousands of pilgrims that poured into Jerusalem for this celebration. It also reminded them of the time when their ancestors made a special sanctuary, or tabernacle for Yahweh God Who had decided to “dwell in their midst” (Exodus 40:34-38).

Although it was dangerous for Jesus to go to Jerusalem at that time, He knew He had to be at the festival because this was an opportunity to teach the multitude of Jews coming from all over Judea and Galilee, and to let them know that God Himself was once again dwelling in their midst.

The celebration of the Festival of Tents was for the Jews a week of sacrifice, meant to relive the hardships that their ancestors endured to gain freedom from slavery in Egypt. But God came down to live with them during those years of their torturous journey. Both rich and poor lived simply, enduring the elements in tents, partaking of the same tasteless food, the manna that came down from heaven. During this time of Lent, as we recall the hardships that God’s Chosen People had to suffer in order to be worthy of the Promised Land, let us avoid worldliness and try to detach ourselves (if only for two weeks) from all material pursuits and pleasures, so that only God occupies the tabernacle of our hearts. Let us remember that this short life is also just a temporal journey, that we are on a pilgrimage to what our Lord Jesus has promised us – the Promised Land of eternity in His kingdom.

Lord God, this world offers us mere booths for our temporary dwelling; our home is where You have already provided for us in Your kingdom. Your Son, Jesus assured us, “In my Father’s house are many mansions . . . I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3). This is our hope. Amen.

The Witnesses of Jesus

John 5: 31-47
Ex 32: 7-14 / Psa 106

These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
(John 5:39)

Let’s meditate on this this Lent:
Is our testimony God-sent?
If our witness just seeks men’s praise,
Then it’s not worth an ounce of grace.

“If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid. There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is valid. You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light. I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does His word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one He sent. You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. I do not accept praise from men, but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God? But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?” (John 5:31-47)


Jesus appears to be on trial here. It all started when our Lord healed a man on the Sabbath, and in answer to accusations that He had violated this sacred law, Jesus told the Jews, “My Father is at work until now, so I am at work” (Jn.5:17). This only infuriated the Jews all the more, because now He was claiming to be the Son of God. Judaism is a monotheistic religion, thus Jesus’ claim was blatantly blasphemous. In order to properly defend His position, our Lord had to base His defense on the Book of Deuteronomy, which said, “One witness alone shall not take the stand in regard to any offense a man may be guilty of; a judicial fact shall be established only on the testimony of two or three witnesses” (Deut.19:15). So Jesus cited four witnesses to testify to the truth of His claim. First was John the Baptist, who said, “I have seen and testified that He is the Son of God” (Jn.1:14). But more important than the Baptist’s testimony was the second witness: the miracles that Jesus had been performing according to the will of His Father. Thousands had witnessed these. His heavenly Father Himself was His third witness, first in the river Jordan, then when He was transfigured on a mountain, when God’s voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Lk.3:22, Mt.17:5). Finally, Jesus cited the Scripture, particularly the writings of Moses as His fourth witness. Then He explained to them why the Jews could not accept His testimony, even though the evidences of His deity were already staring them in the face. It was the lack of God’s love in their hearts. They (the Jewish leaders) preferred the praise of men than the appreciation of God. Their pride and hypocrisy prevented them from discerning that the Scripture (Old Testament) writings were all testimonies about Jesus, the Messiah, Son of God.

Ironically, we are far more fortunate than the Jews in comprehending the totality of the Scriptures (both Old and New), even though the Son of God Himself walked with them, and they witnessed firsthand His wondrous words and works. This is because we have the Gospel accounts, the Acts and the epistles (letters) that fully explain the prophecies of the Old Testament writings as they point to Jesus as the Word of God, the fulfillment of His promised salvation of mankind. The Jews were (and still are) handicapped by their traditional monotheistic belief. They believed in only one God, Yahweh, and up to the present time, they are still in exile from the truth that the Messiah had already come, and by the power of the Holy Spirit and His Word, the true faith of Christianity has already spread to all the corners of the world, and the truth of Jesus’ words has come about: “Those who are first shall be the last.”

We give You thanks, loving Father, because You have revealed Your salvation plan to us, through our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Grant that we may always remain faithful to His teachings in the Gospel, that we may fully comprehend Your plan and will in our life, as we prepare for His Second Coming. Amen.