Christ’s Final Mandate

Mark 16: 15-20
1 Pet 5:5b-14 / Psa 89: 2-3,6-7,16-17

Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.
(Mark 16:15)

Proclaim the Gospel to all men,
As we’ve received so we must give;
Declare that Jesus has risen,
And help save those who will believe.

Jesus said to the apostles, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was taken up into heaven and He sat at the right hand of God. Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed His Word through accompanying signs. (Mark 16:15- 20)

Reflection

Before His Ascension into heaven, Jesus gave His final mandate to His apostles. His mission on earth was over, theirs was just beginning. But His departure meant only His physical absence from His disciples; He promised them that He would still be with them in a new way – and always until the end of time (Mat.28:20). That was why when Jesus departed from them, they did not feel any grief or sorrow. Instead, they went away filled with joy and great anticipation for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

The Charismatic revival is a continuing manifestation of Christ’s Commission to all the followers of Jesus. What began as a Pentecostal movement early in the twentieth century is now recognized as the greatest spiritual renewal in the Christian world. This is regarded by the Church as the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in God’s design to unite all of His children. It has given rise to thousands of religious organizations all over the world from diverse Christian denominations that all profess the work of the Holy Spirit in their charters. The BCBP — Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals — is one such Charismatic organization in the Philippines that has touched the lives of thousands of Catholics to “go and preach the Good News” to the business and professional world. Aside from its evangelization activities, the BCBP encourages all its members to be active in regular church attendance, in praying together, in giving material support to their parishes and charitable causes, and in the regular meditation of Holy Scriptures.

Those who have received the commission of Jesus Christ to be heralds of the Good News of salvation now see the futility of the worldly life, and are now living a new life in the Holy Spirit. There is reason to rejoice and be glad, despite the trials that we might face. As St. Peter wrote in today’s first reading: “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (1Pet.5:10). Yes, because we believe that the risen Lord continues to work in us through the power of His Spirit, and we feel so privileged to share in the work of His saints.

Father God, You have filled our hearts with a spirit of joy which no trials or difficulties can overcome. May we always live a life of praise and thanksgiving for our renewal, and may we fulfill Your purpose in our lives, always striving for the ideals and values of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. In His Name we pray. Amen.

Eucharist: The Lifeblood of Christ

John 6: 52-59
Acts 9:1-20 / Ps 117:1bc,2

Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.
(John 6:53)

Partake of Him, our Daily Bread,
And we shall no longer hunger;
Of His Word if we’re always fed,
We’re assured of Life Forever.

The Jews disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.” These things He said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. (John 6:52-59)

Reflection

We can understand how shocking these words of Jesus must have been to the Jews of His time. Eating food with blood was (and is) totally forbidden to the Jews. From the earliest times, God commanded Noah: “You must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it” (Gen.8:4). In Leviticus, (God) said to Moses: “Any Israelite or any alien living among them who eats any blood – I will set my face against him, and will cut him off from his people” (Lev.17:10). Even the apostles, in accepting Gentile converts into the early church, forbade them to eat “food polluted by idols… meat of strangled animals, and from blood” (Acts 15:20). Until today, the meat eaten by the Jews must be “kosher”, meaning, drained of blood.

Our Lord must have two important reasons for this seemingly “ghastly” declaration. The first was to weed out those disciples who had the wrong motives in following Him. The second was to prophesy His gift of the Holy Eucharist to future generations of Christians. Indeed, many of His disciples, in spite of the signs that He had performed in their midst, left Him because they found His words totally offensive. Perhaps the same can be said of the Protestants who had chosen to leave the Church because they could not accept the doctrine of transubstantiation, which we believe was truly initiated in the Last Supper when Jesus commanded, “Do this in memorial of me” (Luke 22:19). The word “memorial” as Jesus said it may be seen in a different light as we understand it today. It did not mean something that occurred only in the memory of a past event. Rather, memorial signifies making present once again a past event. The Eucharist is a meal celebrated in memorial of the passion, death and Resurrection of Jesus. In our participation at that meal, those events become present to us as we relive them over and over again. Six times in this Gospel passage of John our Lord exhorts His followers to “feed on Him”, as if He could not emphasize enough the importance of assimilating Him into our life, just as often as we feed our bodies with nourishing food.

In the Mass, the mystery of the Eucharist is relived every hour and everyday all over the world without losing its essence and meaning. The Word of God, which is also part of the liturgy of the Mass, is likewise read and heard every day, throughout our lives, delivering God’s message to us in many different ways. A day will never be the same without receiving the Bread of Life and the Word of God. His Bread and His Word give us life, nourishing our spirits. Jesus is inviting us to take His Flesh and Blood (His Life) and His Word into the very essence of our being. The life that He offers is the very life of God Himself.

We praise you, Lord God eternal. Your Flesh and Blood and Your Word will nourish us all the days of our lives, until the end of time. Amen.

A Matter of Faith

John 6: 44-51
Acts 8:26-40 / Psa 66

Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life.
(John 6:47-48)

If we cannot believe the Word
That the Bread of Life has given,
How can we be worth the reward
Of eternal life in heaven?

“No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, and they died. I am the living bread which has come from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.’ ” (John 6:44-51)

Reflection

We all need the grace of the Holy Spirit to comprehend what is hidden in Holy Scriptures. The Ethiopian travelling in the desert (first reading) was a learned man, but he could not understand the writings of the prophet Isaiah until Philip, under the power of the Holy Spirit, explained Who the Lamb was that Isaiah was referring to, and then taught the Gentile about the Good News of Jesus Christ. After the eunuch was baptized, the Holy Spirit “spirited” Philip away, and the Ethiopian went on his way rejoicing. (Acts 8:34-39).

The Jews, who did not believe that Jesus was the promised Messiah, could not understand what He was claiming, that He was “the living bread that came down from heaven.” Their problem was that without the Holy Spirit’s guidance, they were taking the words of Jesus too literally. Only the true disciples of Jesus, who had to undergo a mental struggle, suspended their doubts and understanding in order to establish a closer relationship with their Master. For their perseverance, they were eventually enlightened at Pentecost.

For us, the present generation of Christians, to whom Jesus was primarily addressing His message, we have come to understand that partaking of His body and blood simply means receiving Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, and assimilating the Word of God into our life. To become Christ-like, we have to absorb all His teachings and His values that we read about in the Bible.

For those who doubt the authenticity of the bible, it would be a futile effort to try and breach the gap between knowledge and faith. After all, there is a world of difference between knowing and believing. Suffice it to say that most of our questions in this life will only be answered in the next. We cannot deny the truth in Jesus Christ, Who is also our Way and our Life. Following the Father’s will through the words of Jesus must be our primary quest in life, not in trying to understand the mysteries that baffle us. When our faith has been fortified, then the truth will be unraveled to us through the power of the Holy Spirit. And once we have received this grace, we will be inspired to share with others the meaning of the teachings of Jesus in the Bible, which we once found difficult to understand.

In the meantime, let us humbly accept what we cannot comprehend as truth, like the Holy Eucharist in the Mass as Jesus Christ Himself, “sent down from heaven.”

Grant me the grace to hold fast to Your Word, Lord Jesus, even if I still do not see the full significance of Your message. Help me believe the words of St. Paul that “at present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.” (1 Cor. 13:12.) Amen.

Faith in the Bread of Life

John 6:35-40
Acts 8:1-8 / Ps 66

I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.
(John 6:35)

Faith puts hope in the invisible,
‘Cause the visible leads to despair.
Jesus as Bread is conceivable
In the Eucharist that we all share.

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. Nevertheless, as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I shall not turn away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of Him Who sent me. And this is the will of Him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those He has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” (John 6:35-40)

Reflection

Having witnessed (and eaten) the multiplication of bread and fish, the crowd said to Jesus, “Sir, give us this bread always” (John 6:34). They did not understand that Jesus was talking about Himself, the Bread of Life Who had come down from heaven in order to give life to the whole world. They were only concerned with the bread for their bodies’ nourishment. Only the true disciples of Jesus who believed in Him as the Source of nourishment for their souls would have eternal life “and shall be raised on the last day” (Jn.6:40).

The words of our Lord during His earthly sojourn were confounding to the Jews, who only had the testimony of their ancestors during the time of Moses about the manna as the “bread from heaven” (Jn.6:31) that saved Israel from starving in the desert. So they wondered how this son of the carpenter Joseph could be the “bread that came down from heaven,” as Jesus claimed Himself to be.

Our Lord was in fact prophesying about the Holy Eucharist for billions of future Christians, and at the same time preparing His disciples for its institution at the Last Supper.

Like the Jews in today’s Gospel reading who could not believe the Bread of Life Who came down from heaven for mankind’s salvation, some Christians question the validity of the Transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in the Eucharistic celebration.

The Gospel of Matthew ends with Jesus’ words: “I am with you always until the end of time.” Our Lord Jesus will always be with us in the Holy Eucharist. Receive Him as often as you can.

We believe that You are always with us, Lord, in the breaking of the bread, when we receive You in the sacrifice of the Mass. As in the time of Moses in the desert when You saved your people from starvation, as in the time when bread was miraculously multiplied to feed the multitudes who followed You in the wilderness, so it is in all masses all over the world in the present age, where you nourish hungry souls. Amen.

The Nourishment for Eternal Life

John 6: 30-35
Acts 7:51–8:1 / Ps 31

I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
(John 6:35)

Who puts our Lord Jesus Christ first
Will never go hungry or thirst.
If we want our spirit well fed
Receive daily the Living Bread.

The Jews said to Jesus, ‘What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see and believe in you? What can you do? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” ’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ They said to him, ‘Sir, give us this bread always.’ Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’ (John 6:30-35)

Reflection

The Jews kept asking for a sign from Jesus, despite the fact that He had already fed more than five thousand of them (with 12 baskets left over) from five loaves and two fish. It seems that the previous miracle had not been enough proof of His divinity, but had only whetted their appetite for more exciting displays of power. Like their ancestors who received manna from heaven everyday during their sojourn in the desert, they wanted Him to “give us this bread always.”

Like the Jews in Jesus’ time who were only thinking about their physical needs, there are still many people today who only seek to satisfy their hunger for food and other material needs, but neglect the more important needs of their famished souls. Every time we take a stroll in the mall near our home, we notice that almost all the restaurants and fast food chains are packed with people. The same can be said in practically all the other malls we go to. Filipinos are a food-loving people. But they say Filipinos are also a very religious people– in fact the only predominant Christian nation in Asia. So how come our churches are not as packed with people like our restaurants on any day except Sunday? Is Sunday the only time we can receive the Bread of Life, Who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world?

God created us to receive not only mere physical nourishment, but more importantly, to be sustained by His Spirit as well. As Jesus Himself said, “Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. (Mt.4:4) This nourishment can only come from regularly reading and reflecting on the Word of God, and receiving the Bread of Life.

Nothing nourishes more than You, Lord Jesus, in Your Eucharist, and in Your Word. Let me receive You always, to be sanctified by Your Spirit, and be inspired and strengthened for the work ahead. Thank You, Father for our Daily Bread. Amen.

Looking for Jesus

John 6: 22-29
Acts 6:8-15 / Psa 119

In all truth I tell you, you are looking for me not because you have seen the signs but because you had all the bread you wanted to eat.
(John 6:26)

Not on the things of this world,
But on the next must we be intent;
“This is the work of the Lord,
That (we) believe in the One He sent.”

The next day, the crowd that had stayed on the other side saw that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not got into the boat with His disciples, but that the disciples had set off by themselves. Other boats, however, had put in from Tiberias, near the place where the bread had been eaten. When the people saw that neither Jesus nor His disciples were there, they got into those boats and crossed to Capernaum to look for Jesus. When they found Him on the other side, they said to Him, ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’ Jesus answered: “In all truth I tell you, you are looking for me not because you have seen the signs but because you had all the bread you wanted to eat. Do not work for food that perishes, but work for food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on Him the Father, God Himself, has set His seal. Then they said to Him, “What must we do if we are to accomplish the work of God?” Jesus gave them this answer, “This is the work of God: that you must believe in the One He has sent.” (John 6:22-29)

Reflection

The one hundred police trainees who took the “Life in the Spirit Seminar” at the PNP Training Center this past week-end no longer looked famished (for the Word of God) after undergoing the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” and listening to the last talk, “Growing in the Holy Spirit.” It was so uplifting to see them “well fed”, and eager to begin a new life in Christ. I thanked our partners in mission, the members of the Ligaya ng Panginoon for inviting me to give that last talk in their LSS seminar.

We seek Jesus not because we believe that He will supply all our needs, like the Jews who only sought Him for “all the bread [they] wanted to eat.” Instead, our hunger springs from our need to share His Good News of salvation to others, especially to those who need to grow spiritually. I saw Jesus in the faces of those young trainees who needed to discover that their most important aspiration in life is the kingdom of heaven. They must believe in Jesus Christ before they can gain the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These gifts are essentially the food that they need to nourish their souls.

In the first reading, we read about St. Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, who performed great wonders and signs among the people. The Jews who argued with him could not stand up against the wisdom the Holy Spirit had given him. (Acts 6:8-10). Although he never met the Lord in the flesh, St. Stephen’s faith in Jesus was so strong that he was willing to die for Him, thus becoming the first Christian martyr. Like St. Stephen, our motive for seeking Jesus should be because we want to be like Him — generous, faithful, forgiving (even when his enemies stoned him to death), and full of trust in God’s will. Nothing in this life is more important than dedicating our life to Jesus. He said, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt. 10:39). He also said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given you as well” (Mt.6:33). This is how we seek Jesus, and all our needs God will satisfy.

Dear God, please help us to keep our vision focused intently on Jesus, our Savior, so that we may imitate Him all the days of our life. Come, Holy Spirit, inspire us and help us be guided by Your Word, so that we may be worthy followers of Jesus. Amen.