Hidden Treasure

Matthew 13: 44-46
Jer.15:10,16-21 / Ps 59:2- 4,10-11,17-18

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field…
(Matthew 13: 44)

Thank God for this greatest treasure:
The gift of His Son by Whom we’re saved;
It was His love beyond measure
That freed us from what had us enslaved.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13: 44-46)

Reflection

Today’s Gospel passage about the parable of a hidden treasure reminds me of a taxi driver who won a fortune in the lottery, but lost his life after a week of heavy partying. His house had become such a rowdy party place every night that his wife and children decided to leave him. One night, gunmen broke into his house to rob him, and when he tried to resist them, they shot and killed him.

Most of us lose our good judgment when sudden fortune comes upon us. In many cases the ‘treasure’ even turns out to be a misfortune or disaster in disguise. A couple who inadvertently received an overseas remittance of one million dollars due to computer error became instant millionaires; but they also became fugitives of the law for felony and tax evasion. Their marriage broke up, and they ended up behind bars. The bank was willing to settle for half of the amount, but their sudden wealth had displaced their sense of values, and made them become too greedy and materialistic.

What is the most priceless thing that we have ever discovered? It is our faith. And yet it never cost us anything. But it cost God everything – His very own beloved Son. Although God gives it freely, not everyone finds it, but only the deserving. It is a hidden treasure; hidden from those who seek treasures that can be “eaten by moth, woodworm, or rust, and thieves can break in and steal.” (Mt.6:19) But if, like Mary, Martha’s younger sister, “we choose the better portion, then it will not be taken away from us.” (Lk.10:42)

The material pleasures of this world are so fleeting that they can’t be worth spending so much time and effort for. In the end, gold’s evil luster will only blind us, preventing us from seeing life’s real treasure. Mankind’s history is replete with powerful and wealthy men whose lives amounted to nothing but infamy and shame because they chose to accumulate the world’s treasures. Like the rich fool whose major concern was how to store his bountiful harvest, God suddenly called him to give an account of his life, and the things he had accumulated, what good did they serve him then? “Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.” (Lk.12:16-21) God’s Word is the real treasure because it is eternal. And only those who ask for it, seek it, and knock on God’s door for it will be rewarded.

Lord, Your kingdom is not something out there that we have to find, but is already a reality in our lives. Your beloved Son Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is among you.” (Lk.17:21) Since the time we asked Him to live in our hearts, we believe Your kingdom is already within us. Amen.

The Feast of St. Martha

John 11: 19-27
1 Jn 4: 7-16 / Psa 34

I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.
(John 11: 27)

Like Martha we make the mistake
Of doubting the Lord’s initiative;
Why don’t we just give God a break,
Trust in His design, and just believe?

Many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother (Lazarus). When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet Him, but Mary stayed at home. “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” “Yes, Lord,” she told Him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” (John 11: 19-27)

Reflection

Our Church celebrates this day as the feast of St. Martha, who is portrayed as a very interesting person of faith by both St. Luke and St. John in their respective gospels. The first time when our Lord Jesus paid them a visit, and her sister Mary sat at His feet to listen to His words, Martha had complained, “Lord, don’t You care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” (Lk10:40) Then, when Jesus arrived to condole with them on the death of Lazarus, her first words to Him sounded like a mixture of complaint and faith: “. . . if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” Just as Jesus assured her the first time that there was nothing to worry about, now He drew out from her the faith that He wanted to hear before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Then she told Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”

Most of us are like Martha in our walk of faith. We love Jesus so much that we are eager to devote our life in the service of His Word. But we are often so caught up in our service that we neglect our moments of prayer and meditation, which are more important in developing our intimacy with God. We claim that we believe in God’s boundless mercy and trust Him in His design for our life; and yet when something goes terribly wrong, or we lose something that we cherish, we cannot help but blame God for our misfortune. Like St. Martha, I had also complained to God once, “Lord, where were you when I needed you most?” Only to realize later on that He had always been there, and His seeming “absence” was for a higher and wiser purpose. In fact, at a time when I really needed Him most, He acted with lightning speed to save my life. Many years ago, when I was young and irresponsible, I had climbed a tree not knowing there was a high voltage naked wire nearby. When a branch of the tree touched the live wire due to my weight, the sudden excruciating pain caused by thousands of volts of electricity made me cry out only one word – “God!” and I was suddenly jerked out of the tree in a backward somersault, as its branch detached from the live wire. I could never have executed that maneuver on my own; God’s hand is the only explanation. “…whoever lives and believes in HIM will never die.”

Dear Jesus, as we honor Martha in her faith and good works, we are reminded by her example that “God will give You whatever You ask.” We believe that You have come into this world to be our Lord and Savior, and to give us life abundantly. Thank You, Lord Jesus for all Your mercies in all the times that we needed You. As You had loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus, grant that we too may always remain in Your love by following the will of the Father. Amen.

Just a Little for so Many

Matthew 13:31-35
Jer 13:1-11 / Deut. 32

It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full grown it is the largest of shrubs.
(Matthew 13:32)

To make the bread of life expand,
Mix a pinch of love as yeast, and knead,
Christ’s parables we’ll understand
With faith as small as a mustard seed.

He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and dwell in its branches.” He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.” Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; He did not say anything to them without using a parable. So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.” (Matthew 13:31-35)

Reflection

Our Lord was not speaking in parables to confuse His listeners, or to hide the true meaning of His teachings. He was in fact being faithful to Scriptures, fulfilling what was prophesied in Psalms 78:2- “revealing old mysteries which our ancestors have told us.” He also clothed His messages in parables in order to make them relevant to the contemporary setting, and at the same time allegorical to highlight the truth for all generations to understand throughout human history, as His parables were also meant to prophesy the future of His Church.

His “kingdom on earth” for instance, which is actually our Church, started out like a tiny mustard seed (just a few apostles), but now it is like a great tree, home for “many birds in its branches” — various Christian denominations, all children of the One True God. Our Church has also been like a yeast, mixed in with so much flour — the millions of former unbelievers, who would never have risen above their apathy or faithless state, had they not been infused with the Gospel values of our Lord Jesus.

We in the renewal are part of the yeast of the Kingdom of God. Like “the salt of the earth” that permeates the bland, and “the light on the lampstand that dispels the darkness,” God’s yeast will make His Church expand to all the corners of the earth. It is true that out of the many who are called, only a few are chosen, but in God’s kingdom, like salt, yeast, a single candle, or a mustard seed, only a little is required to make a great difference.

Our diocesan priests are few and far between, ministering one to 20,000. And yet a few of them still go periodically on mission to such places like Papua New Guinea to spread the Catholic faith and the Good News of Jesus to the far corners of the globe. Yesterday, we celebrated Mission Sunday. According to Fr. Sonny, a member of the Mission Society of the Philippines, who celebrated the 9:00 AM mass in our parish church, hundreds of thousands of these modern pagans in Africa and parts of Asia have been converted by such a “small measure of yeast”.

Like the tiny host that we receive when You come to us, Lord Jesus, so little is required to make the whole body renewed in Your Spirit. Thank You, Master for Your parables. Make us worthy to be the yeast of Your kingdom in our BCBP community as we strive to evangelize the marketplace. Amen.

Seeing and Hearing Jesus

Mattthew 13:16-17
Sir 44:1.10-15 / Ps 132

Blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.
(Matthew 13:16)

We are more fortunate today,
That we understand the Gospel.
The Jews who lived in Jesus’ day
Never knew Him or His Words well.

Jesus said, “But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” (Matthew 13: 16-17)

Reflection

Jesus may well be speaking those words to us today – we who are blessed to have come to know Him, the Father and the Holy Spirit better than the multitudes of His age who followed Him blindly, regarding Him merely as the political savior of Israel.

Even His own disciples did not understand His teachings at first, and only after the Holy Spirit had descended upon them on Pentecost did they finally comprehend all that their Master had told them, and what God expected them to do.

Many Christians today are still referred to as nominal in their faith because they have not yet come to know Jesus in a personal way. They go to mass and receive Holy Communion every Sunday, but they do not really “see” or “hear” with their hearts the sacred Eucharistic transformation. They are not familiar with the parables and the wonders that Jesus performed because they never bothered to read about Him in the Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These so-called Christians-in-name are the ones Jesus referred to who “look but do not see, and hear but do not listen or understand” (Mt.13:13), like the first seeds sown in our Lord’s Parable of the Sower that fell on the path which the birds ate up (13:4).

God’s Word comes to us in various ways in order to bless our lives. We hear it preached from the podium (or EWTN); read about it in spiritual books and writings, or in personal reflections; and even in subtle events of divine intervention. Through the Word of God we come to a deeper understanding of God’s will, and a more personal relationship with Jesus Christ, His Son. God will give us this gift of understanding the gospel through the power of the Holy Spirit when we desire and seek to become more intimate with Jesus our Savior. Not so for those whose hearts have become callous because of sin. God’s Word will only fall on hard ground where it will make no impression, much less take root in their heart.

Lord, open the eyes and ears of my heart, and make me want to know you more. By this knowledge will my spirit be empowered by Your Holy Spirit to love more. Amen.

The Ambition of James and John


Matthew 20: 20-28
2 Cor 4: 7-15 / Ps 126: 1-6

“Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” They answered, “We can.” Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup…”
(Matthew 20: 22-23)


Lord, take away all my ambition,
Desire for prominence, and my pride...
If serving You be my commission,
I leave it all for You to decide.

Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. “What is it you want?” He asked. She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.” Jesus said to them, “You don’t know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.” When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20: 20-28)

Reflection

It was obvious that the sons of Zebedee put up their mother to make this personal request from Jesus to seat them at His right and at His left in His kingdom. Earlier, they had heard the Lord declare, “Amen, I say to you that you who have followed me, in the new age, when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory, will yourselves sit on 12 thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Mt.19:28). Being the first cousins of the Lord, (Mrs. Zebedee was the sister of the Blessed Mother), they must have felt that they had the right of first priority. And indeed, St. James, whose feast we commemorate today, was given the first priority of martyrdom among the twelve apostles.

Interestingly, the ambition of James and John provided the opening for Jesus to prophesy their destiny. According to St. Luke’s account, St. James was the first apostle to die of martyrdom in the hands of King Herod Agrippa, who had him beheaded (Acts 12:2). On the other hand (no pun intended), St. John’s cup of agony took a much longer period to consume. For the next 80 years, he travelled and founded churches in many pagan lands. He was imprisoned in Ephesus and sent to Rome, where he was cast into a cauldron of boiling oil, but miraculously survived without any injuries. In the end he was exiled by Emperor Domitian to the Isle of Patmos, where he wrote the Book of Revelation. Unlike his brother James who was the first martyr, this apostle that Jesus loved the most was the only one among the twelve who did not suffer a violent death. He died in Ephesus at the age of ninety-five years, the last of the apostles.

Ambition is not wrong, provided it is focused in the right direction. The main motivation must be for a greater cause, and never merely for personal gain or reward. Billionaire Andrew Tan’s rags-to-riches life story serves as an example. His passion to succeed was driven by the desire to provide employment and decent housing to tens of thousands. He spent all his time working hard to realize that dream, saying, “spending money also takes time,” and instead plowed back all his revenues to more investments, building more residences and office buildings. The primary motivation of true leadership should be a strong desire to serve others. Those who give their most for the best causes deserve the greatest rewards.

Grant us the grace, Lord God, to see that the only way to prominence in Your sight is to give of ourselves in humble service. May this be our sole ambition in this short life that we live to be assured of an eternal place in Your kingdom. Amen.

Hidden Truths in the Parables

Matthew 13: 10-17
Jer 2: 1-3. 7-8. 12-13 / Ps 36: 6-11

To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.
(Matthew 13:11)

Life will be hard to understand
Unless we seek God’s perfect plan,
Read His Word, obey His command,
This is His will for every man.

Then the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” And He answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “‘You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” (Matthew 13: 10-17)

Reflection

Why indeed did Jesus deliver His messages in parables? Well, first of all, our Lord was a great storyteller, and He knew that His listeners would easily retain the lessons they learned if they heard them in stories that they could relate to. Like the Parable of the Sower was as interesting as it was instructive, and one could glean fruits of wisdom in its illustrations. The other practical reason why Jesus spoke in parables was to avoid a direct confrontation with His critics, the religious authorities, who were always ready to pounce on Him if He so much as made a derogatory remark about their Mosaic laws and rituals. That was why Jesus told His apostles, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.” They were favored because they were like innocent children, trusting in Jesus’ words even if they were confused at first. But not the Jewish authorities and their followers, who were constantly skeptical about the works and words of Jesus.

“To the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away” (Mt.13:12). These words referred to the fertile soil – it had the capacity to produce, so it yielded an abundant harvest. The other soils that had no nutrients, were rocky, or overgrown with weeds lost even the few seeds that were sown on them. These types of soil refer to people who reject the teachings of Jesus because they have little or no knowledge of Scriptures, and/or are more preoccupied with the pursuits and pleasures of this world.

What our Lord is telling us in today’s Gospel is that there are only two kinds of people in this world: those who hear and live the Word of God in their lives, and those who never bother to listen, and so lose the opportunity to be transformed by God’s Word and be saved. In our community, after we end a bible sharing, we decide on what action word we could apply related to what we have learned in our Gospel sharing. Acting immediately on the Word of God is a sure way of retaining it in our hearts, never to be lost again. May we act on all the lessons that we learn daily from the Lord, as we read His Word in the Gospel.

Thank You, Lord Jesus, for the lessons You impart to us in the Bible. In it are hidden great and marvelous truths which so many have never grasped and which all mankind desperately need to know. Thank You, Holy Spirit, for helping us understand its secret treasures. Amen.