Proclaiming the Gospel


Luke 4: 16-30
1 Cor 2:1-5 / Psa 119

Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.
(Luke 4:21)


It’s always harder to convince
Friends and kin that we’ve changed our ways;
They’d rather recall our past sins
Than believe we’ve received God’s grace.

Jesus came to Nazareth, where He had grown up, and went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was His custom. Standing up to read, the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to Him. He unrolled the scroll and read where it was written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year of the Lord’s favor.’ Rolling up the scroll, He gave it back to the attendant, and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue were on Him. He said to them, ‘Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.’ All spoke well of Him and were amazed at His gracious words. They said, ‘Isn’t this Joseph’s son?’ He said to them, ‘Surely you will quote to me this proverb, “Doctor, cure yourself!” And you will say, “Do here also in your home town the things we have heard were done at Capernaum.” Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in his own hometown. There were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when no rains fell for three years and six months, and a severe famine spread all over the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.’ When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove Him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through their midst and went away. (Luke 4:16-30)

Reflection

Jesus knew beforehand that His town mates were going to try to do Him harm when He made the prophecy that on that day the scripture passage of Isaiah would be fulfilled. Like Isaiah, Elijah, Elisha and all the prophets of the Old Testament whom the Jews persecuted and even tried to kill, our Lord was telling them that they had always refused to accept the Divine messages of their own prophets because of their pride and stubborn hearts. By saying “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me,” He was in fact identifying Himself with the prophets of Israel, and as their Messiah.

In the first reading, St. Paul humbly admitted to the Corinthians his human frailty and shortcomings as a messenger of the Gospel, saying, “I came to you in weakness and fear, and much trembling, and my message and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom.” He simply trusted in the power of the Holy Spirit to make the Corinthians believe in Jesus Christ, and receive the gift of faith.

Today’s Gospel passage seems to remind us that when God calls us to be His modern-day prophets, we cannot help but respond to that call. Having received this gift of faith, we are expected to spread God’s Word, especially to those who are close to us. Just as the early martyrs suffered persecution as God’s heralds of the Gospel, we who have received the gift from the Holy Spirit must in a smaller way suffer some humiliation from our relatives and friends for the sake of GOD’s Word. They may ridicule us for being “holier than thou” — proclaiming Jesus and His Gospel values, which seem irrelevant in today’s modern world, but being faithful to the Word of God was never meant to be an easy mission for the true followers of Christ. Like St. Paul, let us just believe that notwithstanding our lack of wisdom, the Holy Spirit will use us as His instruments of evangelization to reach out to our friends and loved ones.

Father God, as Jesus our Lord has shown us, a prophet is not accepted in His ‘native place’. Nonetheless, please grant us the grace to proclaim Your Word boldly, because if we cannot win our close friends and relatives to Christ and His Gospel, how can we hope to be Your effective heralds of the Good News to others? Thank You, Father. Amen.

The Parable of the Talents


Matthew 25: 14-30
1 Cor 1: 26-31 / Ps 33: 12-13, 18-21

‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with small things; I will put you in charge of greater things. Come and share your master’s joy!’
(Matthew 25:23)


For the talents You’re entrusting
May we gainfully parlay,
So that we may be deserving
Of Your joy on Judgment Day.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to a third one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went away. The man who received five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master, you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with small things; I will put you in charge of greater things. Come and share your master’s joy!’ The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’ His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with small things; I will put you in charge of greater things. Come and share your master’s joy!’ Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. Here it is back.’ His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered? Should you not then have put my money in the bank, so that when I returned I could have got it back with interest? Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw this useless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.’ (Matthew 25:14-30)

Reflection

Jesus related this third parable two days before He was to enter Jerusalem to fulfill His life’s mission, and leave His apostles to continue His work of redemption. In truth, He was the Master going away, and His return to settle accounts with His servants would be the Last Judgment (His last parable), where He would “separate the sheep from the goats” (25:33).

Like the two earlier parables (Faithful and Unfaithful Servants, & Parable of the Ten Virgins), the predominant message is diligence in service. In this third parable however, Jesus adds the value of talents. In ancient times, the talent was a measure of gold or silver, roughly weighing 30 to 40 kilograms. Although its actual worth would be hard to guess today, the talent in the parable clearly represented a large amount of money. The prudent master gave his servants varying amounts according to their abilities, and sure enough, the servant with the least ability did not produce anything with his talent. It is clear to see that the talents in the parable do not represent our God-given gifts or abilities. Instead, they are simply the equivalent of opportunities that God sends our way for us to make full use of our talents.

As servants in God’s household, we are all given different opportunities according to the call of our ministry. Some of us are gifted with a melodious voice or prowess with a musical instrument, so God gives us the opportunity to praise Him in harmonious songs. Some of us are gifted speakers, and so we have the privilege of giving testimony to God’s saving grace in our transformed lives. Some of us have the ability to give good counsel, so we should not wonder when people with emotional troubles find their way to our doors. Even problems not of our own making may turn out to be opportunities for our spiritual growth. So, if ever we feel that we are taking on more responsibilities than the next guy, we should not complain, but instead, we should rejoice, “For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance.” With faith in His Word, we can only share in our Master’s joy!

Lord, it is because of Your love, and the talents that You have given us that we serve You in our ministry. Teach us to be more discerning in every event that comes our way, to know whether it is an opportunity to propagate Your love, or merely for our own aggrandizement. We ask this in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

The Foremost Martyr of Christ


Mark 6: 17-29
Jer 1:17-19 / Psa 71

Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist.
(Matthew 11:11)


His martyrdom we commemorate,
St. John’s courage won the greatest prize;
As our model let us imitate
His stand as herald for Jesus Christ.

Herod had given orders to have John arrested, and had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, whom he had married. For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him. Finally, the opportunity for her came when on his birthday Herod gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests. The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want, and I’ll give it to you.” And he promised her with an oath, “Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” She answered, “The head of John the Baptist.” At once the girl hurried in to the king with the request: “I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” The king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her. So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, and brought back his head on a platter. He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother. On hearing of this, John’s disciples came and took his body and laid it in a tomb. (Mark 6:17-29)

Reflection

Today the Church commemorates the martyrdom of St. John the Baptist. He was the first and foremost martyred witness of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is also regarded in Biblical history as the last prophet of the Old Testament to herald the coming Messiah. St. John is therefore the bridge between the Old and the New Testaments, and rightly occupies the exalted position of being the greatest of all the prophets. This honor was not because he happened to be the cousin of Jesus Christ. It was simply because of his humility, and his great courage to speak out for the truth. Jesus praised him, saying, “Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist” (Mt.11:11).

Ominously, Jesus also predicted St. John’s fate when He said, “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent are taking it by force” (Mt. 11:12). Although he was the most gentle of Christ’s prophets, his life was caught inextricably in a web of illicit relations, intrigue, incarceration and violent death. During his time, St. John played his role as the conscience of the people. He was not afraid to tell the Pharisees and Sadducees who came to him for baptism, “You brood of vipers!” (Mt.3:7) And to chastise Herod, saying, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” (Mk. 6:18) It was inevitable therefore that Herodias, that adulterous woman, would not only scheme to get him imprisoned, but would use his own daughter and Herod’s drunkenness or misplaced honor to have St. John killed.

Today’s Gospel passage does not purport to show that evil can triumph over good. It never does and it never will. St. John’s martyrdom serves as an example for all Christians to stand firm for the truth, even to the point of death. His death in fact laid bare the social evils of those in power: adultery, revenge, false pride, cowardice and murder. Martyrdom means victory in the kingdom of God, just as these social evils spell defeat for the souls they ensnare. Our own Ninoy Aquino’s heroism exemplified the martyrdom of St. John d Baptist.

Father God, we give You praise for the life of Your great martyr, St. John the Baptist. May his example be our inspiration to fight for the truth and never to compromise it. Amen.

Vigilance

Matthew 24:42-51
1 Cor:1-9 / Psa 145:2-7

If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.
(Matthew 24:43)

Let not our will by sin be swayed,
Be resolute and firm in Christ;
His judgment will not be delayed,
Be steadfast, you’ll receive His prize.

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 24: 42-51)

Reflection

I believe the main reason why Jesus would rather not reveal His Second Coming was for all the faithful to be always vigilant – not necessarily to watch for His return – but to guard against complacency and negligence, and the devious schemes and traps of the evil one.

All Christians believe in the Resurrection at the last day, because this is the hope nurtured by our faith in God’s Word. But God does not want us to just sit and wait; He wants us to be on our toes, ready at all times to spring into action when it is called for. We must be alert and watchful at all times, not only to withstand the trials and temptations of this world, but also to acquire the discipline and formation necessary to be worthy of God’s kingdom. After all, what soul, knowing he only gave a token of his time and talent to serve God’s kingdom on earth, and was never really vigilant in his Christian responsibilities could boldly claim the greatest prize in eternity?

How are we expected to be vigilant at all times? First of all, by constant communication with God in fervent prayer. Temptation does not come near to a person who is absorbed in deep prayer. Secondly, by meditative reading of the Word of God, especially the Gospels. We may not be conscious of it at first, but the indwelling Spirit will bring the power of the Holy Scriptures into our lives once we make reading the Bible a daily habit. Thirdly, the reception of the sacraments makes for a strong deterrent against “taking it easy” with our faith. The sacrament of Reconciliation cleans our minds and hearts of all doubts and recriminations, and the Holy Eucharist gives our spirit the nourishment and strength it needs to be vigilant. Last, but not the least, let us be active in our renewal community. There is nothing like a support group that inspires and encourages us to be steadfast in our faith. We all need each other in our Brotherhood because we draw strength from one another. Let us therefore take advantage of this special privilege given to us by the Lord.

Dear God, as we await the Second Coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ, we pray for Your Mighty Hand to shield us from the enticements of this world, that we may remain alert for Him until the Last Day. Amen.

The Evil of Hypocrisy

Matthew 23:27-32

Woe to you, scribes and pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth.
(Matthew 23:27)

Don’t be deceived by what may seem
So innocent, no trace of guilt;
Remember those who lie and scheme
Are whitewashed tombs with hidden filth.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!” (Matthew 23:27-32)

Reflection

Our Lord showed us how much He loves the meek and gentle of heart, those who humble themselves, those who make themselves least by serving others. On the other hand, here in chapter 23 of Matthew’s Gospel, we witness how much Jesus detested the scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy and self-righteous pride. Our Lord’s condemnation of hypocrisy is understandable, considering that this character flaw is the greatest obstacle to one’s repentance, without which one can never undergo genuine conversion.

Hypocrisy is such a subtle sin that a lot of people are not aware of being hypocritical in their attitude towards others. Being judgmental about another person in any way is a form of hypocrisy, because “the measure with which we measure will be measured out to us.” (Mt.7:1) Erroneous upbringing can also lead us to bias and prejudice, another form of hypocrisy. Without any malice, we just don’t feel like associating with certain types of people, perhaps because we don’t feel comfortable with their company; they bore us to death; or they lack certain social graces, etc. In fact, people who say that they don’t like to behave like good Christians because they don’t want to be called hypocrites are in fact being hypocritical.

Jesus warned His disciples to “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” (Lk.12:1) Yeast expands the bread, but makes it empty inside; so does hypocrisy make people bloat with pride, and makes their faith empty. Our Lord warns us to take care that we are not influenced by the hypocrisy of others, because pride and prejudice are very subtle sins that the scheming Satan can cause to pervade in our community of believers. St. Peter and St. Barnabas themselves were accused of hypocrisy for avoiding meals with Gentile Christians when the Jewish Christians from Jerusalem were present (Gal.2:11-13). We must therefore always be on guard against the impurity of our motives, such as pride, selfishness, envy, and hatred. These are the offsprings of hypocrisy, and against all these, the best antidote is a humble spirit. Cultivate humility, the sweetest fragrance most pleasing to our God.

Keep me from being self-righteous, Lord God; remind me that all the good that I do are through no efforts of mine, because they all come from You. Amen.

Mother Teresa’s Example

Matthew 23: 23-26
2 Thes 2:1-3a,14-17 / Psa 96

You pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin, but have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity.
(Matthew 23:23)

It’s the height of hypocrisy
To flaunt one’s own integrity;
More than justice or honesty
Is the virtue of humility.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin, but have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity. These things you ought to have done without neglectig the others. Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel! Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, that the outside may also be clean.” (Matthew 23:23-26)

Reflection

Many Christians find it hard to show their true nature by their natural appearance, and resort to hiding behind facades of virtues that often do not match the person within. That’s because it is easier to manage our exterior than it is in dealing with our perceived flaws that we would rather prefer hidden.

It is hard to believe that even Mother Teresa, who was recently featured in Time magazine, kept a deep secret of spiritual dryness and psychological pain during most of her lifetime when her accomplishments appeared to be clear manifestations of her closeness to God. For almost 50 years, according to her letters to various confessors, she was “living out a very different spiritual reality privately, an arid landscape from which (God) had disappeared.” In a new book entitled, Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, her letters revealed that for the last almost half-century of her life, God was “neither in her heart nor in the Eucharist.” At one time, the “dryness,” “darkness,” and “torture” she was undergoing almost drove her to doubt the existence of heaven and even of God. Being acutely aware of this discrepancy between her inner state and her public demeanor, she wrote that her smile was just “a mask” or “a cloak that covers everything,” and as she told an adviser, “If you were (there), you would have said, ‘What hypocrisy.’” (Time Magazine, August 24, 2007)

And yet, what made Mother Teresa truly a great saint was that despite her spiritual torments, she never neglected the weightier things of the law, judging herself severely, lest she fell into self-righteousness, continuously practicing works of mercy for the poor and the dying, and being faithful to God and her vocation even in her “darkest night of the soul.” She remained clean inside and outside the cup and dish.

Mother Teresa has shown us that human as we are, there will always be doubts, just as there will always be flaws in our character. But as long as we judge our own behaviour (not other people), show mercy to others, and be faithful to Christ come what may, then our outer physical appearance will be as clean as our soul within.

Lord, You have probed me, You know me: You know when I sit and when I stand; You understand my thoughts from afar (Psa.139:1-2), far better than I know myself. Deal with me then as You will, so that my cup and dish will always be clean. Amen.