Joy and Tears of Sorrow

Luke 19: 41-44
1 Mc 2:15-29 / Psa 50

As Jesus drew near and saw the city, He wept over it, saying, “If only you knew today what makes for peace! But now it is hidden from your eyes.”
(Luke 19:41)

If Christ could weep for all our sins
And even died for our salvation,
Should we not try with all our means
To win souls by our invitation?

As Jesus drew near and saw the city (of Jerusalem) He wept over it, saying, “If only you knew today what makes for peace! But now it is hidden from your eyes. For the days shall come upon you, when your enemies will raise a palisade against you and surround you, and hem you in on every side, and dash you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another in you; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.” (Luke 19:41-44)

Reflection

Upon entering Jerusalem, Jesus was greeted by the multitudes by throwing their cloaks along his path, and praising God with joy, proclaiming, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord… peace in heaven, and glory in the highest!” (Lk.19:36-38). It is puzzling therefore to read in the succeeding verses that Jesus was weeping over Jerusalem! How could such a triumphant entry suddenly turn into an occasion of grief? This moving passage in the Gospel of Luke certainly provokes some reflection on the kind of character that our Lord Jesus had.

First of all, we all know that God is omniscient, and Jesus, being the Son of God, saw the terrible desolation that would befall Jerusalem forty years into the future, when the great armies of Rome would lay siege on the city and destroy it, “leaving no stone upon another stone.” His compassionate and loving nature as God and as a sensitive human being drove Him to tears, overcome with grief over the obstinacy, blind pride and the lack of faith of the Jews that led to their ruin. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus lamented with a similar prophecy, saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets, and stone those sent to you, how often I yearned to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were unwilling! Behold, your house will be abandoned, desolate” (Mt. 23:37-38).

Secondly, today’s Gospel passage reveals the passion that Jesus had (and still has) for sinners. He shed tears because the people He loved rejected Him as their Savior. Even though He had foreknowledge of His coming pains and death in Calvary, it was not because of the injustice, fear, or self-pity that Jesus felt such deep sorrow, but His great concern for the loss of so many souls. Such is the great love that God has for sinners that their unwillingness to repent literally drives Him to tears.

Many of God’s children are still uncommitted in having a more personal relationship with His Son, Christ, our Lord. It is for them that Jesus pines for and weeps, because more than anyone, He knows how vulnerable we are unless our lives are anchored on His Word and in the sacraments of His Church. He alone knows how devious the enemy is, and what sin can do to those who take God’s love for granted.

Today we see how Jesus is both God and man. He loves more deeply, and feels more intensely than any human being can. Is it any wonder then that He feels so much pain and sorrow over a sinner’s refusal to accept Him? Let us fill the heart of Jesus with joy by winning sinners over to His flock through our prayers and good example. Let’s set aside our inhibitions, and take bold steps to invite them to our community.

Grant, Lord God, that we may never take Your great love for granted, lest we fall into the same fate as those unfaithful Jews who rejected our Lord Jesus Christ. We repent of all our sins, and pledge our lives to Your holy will. Amen.

Parable of the Gold Coins

Luke 19: 11-28
2 Mc 7:1,20-31 / Ps 17

I tell you, to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
(Luke 19:26)

Thank God for talents we’ve received;
And His Word we’ve come to believe.
May these talents lead us to give
More worth in each day that we live.

While they were listening to this, Jesus went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten gold coins. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’ But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’ He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it. The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your gold coin has earned ten more.’ “‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’ The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’ “His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’ Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your gold coin; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’ His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’ Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his gold coin away from him and give it to the one who has ten.’ ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’ He replied, “I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away.”

Reflection

Our Lord Jesus gave this parable of the talents to impress upon His apostles their responsibility as stewards of His kingdom on earth. Those who have been faithful in taking charge of small assignments will be given greater undertakings and even greater rewards. But those who do not put to good use even the little talents given them will suffer their loss, as well as the inheritance of His eternal kingdom.

In the parable, the nobleman gave his ten servants one gold coin each. God gives each one of us a gift according to our individual capabilities. With diligence and zeal in using the talent God has given us, we can produce five or ten times more from our original store. Or we can let our gift lie fallow because of laziness, negligence, (pursuing instead selfish, worldly pleasures), or lack of confidence (fear of failure). If we do not employ the talent God has given us, we would be no different from that third servant who even insulted his master by saying, “I was afraid of you, because you are a demanding person; you take up what you did not lay down and you harvest what you did not plant.” (Lk.19:21)

Life in this world is only as meaningful as the value we put into it in preparing for the next life. Time derives its worth from every moment lived for the Lord. Life is so precious that we must make each day count for God’s glory. There is no other reason for this short sojourn here on earth.

May each day that we live be filled with works that give You glory, Lord, if only to show our appreciation for all the talents that You have given us, and for this gift of life that You have made so precious. Amen.

The Transformation of Zacchaeus

Luke 19: 1-10
2Mc 6:18-31/ Psa 3

Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.
(Luke 19: 10)

Always take the opportunity
To bring God’s Word to a hungry soul,
We are sent so others too may see
God’s kingdom is our eternal goal.

Zacchaeus was a wealthy chief tax collector in Jericho. When Jesus passed through on the way to Jerusalem, Zacchaeus wanted to see Him, but being of short stature he could not, because of the crowd. So he climbed a sycamore tree to see Him, as Jesus was passing that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.” (Luke 19:1-10)

Reflection

Like the blind man in yesterday’s Gospel, Zacchaeus also had a handicap, (he was short), and he also desperately wanted to see (Jesus). But unlike the blind man who screamed to get our Lords’ attention, it was Jesus who called Zacchaeus by name (which was probably what moved him to repentance). One was a beggar, and the other a wealthy chief tax collector, but both were determined, and for their perseverance, both were transformed. We can see a number of lessons in this story:

First of all, like Jesus, we must see others not for what they are, but for what they can become. Jesus never regarded anyone as a hopeless sinner beyond redemption. We must never allow prejudice to influence our quest to bring others to Christ. Every Saturday our community holds a breakfast meeting where people from different walks of life are invited. All of us have one thing in common: we were all called by God to worship Him and hear His Word.

Secondly, love and acceptance can change most people. In all His encounters, Jesus was always open and caring, and so must we. We may fail to make a Christian example by being too concerned about the superficial rather than the essential. Our Lord showed love and acceptance to the hated, squat Zacchaeus, and a great transformation happened. We have seen this happen to many of our breakfast guests who only came out of curiosity, but were moved by the testimonies that they heard from our speakers, and expressed their interest in joining our community.

Finally, our Lord shows us that our mission must be active, not passive. Jesus did not wait for people to come to him; He actively sought out the lost in order to save them. He did not wait for an invitation; He invited Himself in (“I must stay at your house today”). The Holy Spirit gives us insights into people so that we might be bold to help them. By His grace we were able to meet people who hungered for His Word. So we set aside social “niceties” to get into the essential purpose of our mission.

Lord God, help us to be bold in proclaiming Your Good News of salvation to others. Take away our prejudices against perceived sinfulness, so that more of our friends, associates and even enemies may come to know of Jesus’ love. Amen.

Seeing with Faith

Luke 18: 35-43
1Mc 1:10-15,41-43,54-57,62-63 / Ps 119

Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.
(Luke 18:42)

God’s Word dispels the darkness of sin,
By its power, evil takes flight;
God alone heals our blindness within
In our prayer receive His light.

As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He replied, “Lord, I want to see.” Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God. (Luke 18:35-43)

Reflection

The man begging by the roadside might have been blind, but he was definitely not in the dark with regard to his faith. He believed that Jesus could heal him, and he had faith in His great mercy. It was not the case with “those who led the way (who) rebuked him and told him to be quiet” (Luke18:39). These people were spiritually blind for censuring the poor beggar just because of his handicap. The Jews then had the erroneous belief that the poor and handicapped deserved their lot because of their sins or the sins of their parents. The disciples of Jesus once asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?” (John 9:2) Our Lord healed their blindness by showing mercy to the beggar’s plight, saying for all to hear: “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you” (Luke 18:43).

Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind” (John 9:39). It is significant to note that we can find no other account in the bible of a prophet or apostle healing a blind man. The apostles Peter and Paul performed many wonders, even bringing the dead back to life (Acts 9:40, 20:10-12), but only Jesus, as the “True Light of the human race” (John 1:3) “Who enlightens everyone” (1:9) can dispel the darkness of sin in the world. As He alone can judge us, He alone can make us “see”.

Our retreat facilitator in yesterday’s Advent recollection inspired us to examine our spiritual vision: do we have a 20/20 insight on the significance of the coming Yuletide season? If so, how are we preparing for the coming of Jesus? The blind man of Jericho had surely prepared himself for the arrival of his Healer, and at the moment of Jesus’ passage, he shouted with all his might for the miracle that he believed was forthcoming.

There are many Christians among us who still do not see the importance of Advent, their preparation consisting simply of planning what gifts to buy for their loved ones this Christmas. How about us, who are leading the way? How do we treat the beggars in the streets who seem to grow in number during the season of giving? Do we chastise them when they approach us with their crude caroling paraphernalia? Or do we open our gates or car windows, and like Jesus our Lord ask them, “What do you want me to do for you?”

Open our eyes, dear God, when we fail to see the message that our Lord Jesus wants to impart to us in His Gospel. Lead us from the darkness of our prejudices to the light of Your love and compassion to understand the true meaning of Advent. Amen.

Stepping Out, Do Not Doubt

Matthew 14:22-33
Acts 28:11-16,30-31 / Ps 98

Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.
Matthew 14:27

Whenever storms may come our way,
In God’s Word let us just abide,
Though in the middle of the fray,
Let us walk calmly by His side.

Afterwards, Jesus made the disciples get into a boat to go ahead of Him to the other side, while He dismissed the crowd. After doing so, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. When evening came, the boat was already a great distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they cried out in fear. Jesus at once told them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Peter said, “Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” He said. Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was, he was afraid and began to sink. He cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus reached out and caught him. “You of little faith,” He said, “why did you doubt?” After they boarded the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshipped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14: 22-33)

Reflection

Peter’s words, “Lord, if it is you . . .” clearly indicated that he was still in doubt when he decided to brave the raging waters and stepped out of the boat. True to his impetuous character, he wanted to be the first to seize this opportunity of sharing in the Lord’s miracle of walking on water, but just a sudden gust of wind was enough to topple his faith and make him sink. Jesus’ words: “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” tells of His desire for us to be persevering in our faith in Him in the midst of life’s trials and adversities. Peter had the courage at first when his eyes were focused on his Master. But when the waves and the wind distracted him, he began to sink.

The boat in the story can be likened to a community or a family. Without our Lord Jesus on board, it can be tossed and turned by the waves of discordant relationships, or financial reverses. Before our renewal in the BCBP, I used to go through bouts of anxiety and fear about the uncertainties of the future. Negative thoughts constantly ran thru my mind: “What will happen to my children if our business doesn’t recover?” “How are we going to pay our bank loans?” “When will corruption in our government ever end?” “What if the MILF and the NPA join forces to overrun our city?” “What if anarchy finally sets in because of crime and poverty?” These dangerous thoughts gave me insomnia, and almost drove me to the edge of paranoia. Looking back now, I’ve come to realize that it was my lack of faith that made the waves and winds of these storms in my life seem larger and stronger. It was because Jesus had not yet walked in the midst of these turbulences as my Master and Savior. Now that I have taken His extended hand, I no longer have those fears, because I have surrendered my life to Jesus. I seem to have lost all my anxieties and fears. They have been replaced by feelings of joy and peace, and confidence in the future. His gift of faith has given me hope, and all the reasons to be grateful, to love and be happy.

Jesus comes to us with His comforting presence to bring peace and calm to the storms in our life. All He asks of us is to walk in faith with Him, and no turbulence can overwhelm us. Fear and doubt should have no place in a believer’s heart when he steps out of his comfort zone to face life’s trials and difficulties. Instead, we must steel our faith with courage, enthusiasm, and the commitment to be true to our calling as God’s protected children in all circumstances. Without these traits, the storms in our life will appear to be stronger and larger than they really are.

Lord God, grant us Your grace if we have to take that leap of faith out of the boat into a new area of ministry. Otherwise, we may miss out on seeing Your miraculous hand at work in our life. Help us to realize that You are always present to extend a helping hand, so that we may find the courage to step out of the boat. Amen.

Don’t Wait Until it’s too Late

Luke 17:26-37
Wis 13:1-9 / Psa 19

Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but anyone who loses it will save it.
(Luke 17:33)


Who knows when the day is coming?
The best we can do is prepare.
Take heed of the Lord’s dire warning:
Repent, reform, and don’t despair.
Jesus said: “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be in the days of the Son of man. People were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage up to the day when Noah went into the ark, and the Flood came and destroyed them all. Similarly, as it was in the days of Lot: people were eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting and building on the day Lot left Sodom, fire and brimstone rained from heaven to destroy them all. So it will be on the day the Son of man is revealed. On that day, no one on the housetop, with his possessions in the house, must go down to get them, nor must anyone in the fields return to what was left behind. Remember the wife of Lot. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but anyone who loses it will save it. I tell you, on that night, when two are in one bed, one will be taken, the other left; when two women are grinding corn together, one will be taken, the other left.” The disciples spoke up and asked, “Where, Lord?” He said, “Where the body is, there too will the vultures gather.” (Luke 17:26-37)

Reflection

Today’s Gospel reading is a continuation of our Lord’s warning that the Day of Judgment (the end times) will come at a time when people least expect it. No one can say that our Lord Jesus did not warn us about the coming endtimes. His example of Noah brings to mind our archdiocese’s cathedral (San Pedro church) which was built in the shape of an ark. Now I understand its symbolic structure — our Church is our best recourse, providing our salvation on the day of reckoning. We do not know when that day will come, but as long as we remain steadfast in our Catholic faith, we should have nothing to fear. The catastrophic floods (tsunamis) in Japan and Indonesia, non-Christian nations, give us something to think about.

Whether it is flood or raining fire and brimstone (volcanoes or nuclear fall-out?) or even earthquakes (like the recent big one in Iraq, another non-Christian country), these are all signs from heaven that should not be taken for granted. When these cataclysms are upon us, it will already be too late to prepare. The time to prepare is now. But where can we hide?

“Remember Lot’s wife.” She turned into a pillar of salt because she looked back. We must never look back. Recall what Jesus said, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). The life of luxury and leisure are things of the past that we must now leave behind. Instead, it is time to look ahead to the life eternal, a life with Jesus Christ as our way to heaven.

“Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it; but anyone who loses it will save it.” We can’t miss this simple Christian dictum here: one who looks only to his own interests will never gain eternal life; while the other one who gives up his interests for the sake of others will wisely earn his salvation. “One will be taken, the other left.”

Finally, the question of the disciples (“Where, Lord?”) seems as vacuous as the question of the Pharisees — when the kingdom of God would come (Lk.17:20). Our Lord’s reply, “Where the body is, there too will the vultures gather” simply means they would only be known when these events are already at hand, just as one would know there is a dead body when vultures start to gather. The end is inevitable, but being spiritually unprepared need not be so.

Grant us the wisdom, dear God, to be always mindful of our mortality, that our lives are no different from the flowers in the field that are there today and gone tomorrow; fill us with the hope that with faith in Your love and fidelity to Your will we have nothing to fear. Amen.