27 February 2016


exodus 3:1-8a, 13-15; i corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12; luke 13:1-9

somerset maugham, in his autobiography, writes: «i knew that i had no lyrical quality, a small vocabulary, little gift of metaphor; the original and striking simile never occurred to me; poetic flights... were beyond my powers. on the other hand, i had an acute power of observation, and it seemed to me that i could see a great many things that other people missed. i could put down in clear terms what i saw... i knew that i should never write as well as i could wish, but i thought, with pains, that i could arrive at writing as well as my natural defects allowed.»

the secret of happiness and contentment: becoming what life calls us to become (not becoming what we cannot!).
the fig tree?of the parable in the gospel?was only required to produce figs... and only figs. the owner gave it space and soil (at a premium in israel), time (it took three years for a fig tree to bear fruit) and nutrients; the owner expected it to yield fruit or yield up the space it was occupying.
GOD gave israel choice and strategically positioned land, gifts and grace? to be a light to the nations. but israel remained barren; a barrenness symbolised by the fig tree.

GOD has a project for each one of us; he gives us the gifts, aptitude, time and help we need to accomplish this project. we need to use all these to become what we are called to become; and to bear «fruit»? before GOD calls time! 
to what is GOD calling me? what are the gifts and aptitude he has given me? am i on the way to realising his project/plan for me? or am i like the fig tree?

20 February 2016


genesis 15:5-12, 17-18; philippians 3:17—4:1; luke 9:28b-36

ben hooper was a boy who grew up in the mountains of tennessee. his mother bore him out of wedlock. people mistreated him: adults stared at him and made guesses about who his father was; children said ugly things to him… ben kept away from them as much as he could.
in his early teens, ben was drawn to a local church. he would slip in just in time for the sermon, and would hurry out afraid to meet people. one sunday, ben was unable to make a quick exit. he felt a heavy hand on his shoulder; it was the preacher staring right at him. ben assumed that the preacher was about to make a guess about his father. the preacher said: «boy, i know who you are. i see a striking resemblance. you’re a child of… GOD. now, go claim your inheritance.» ben left church that day a different person. 
later, ben hooper was twice-elected governor of tennessee (cf. fred craddock, «craddock stories»).

ben’s discovery of his identity—as a child of GOD—transformed him and helped him become the person he became!

that’s something similar to what happened to JESUS on mount tabor. 
in the experience of prayer, the FATHER reveals who JESUS is: «this is my son, the chosen one.» that recognition transformed him and prepared him for the «exodus that he was going to accomplish in jerusalem». 
the exodus of the hebrews was a struggled-filled journey; a coming to life through suffering and death. the transfiguration reveals to JESUS that his path to life and glory is via the road to jerusalem. the recognition in love will enable him to face the future, to walk the road to suffering and death.

the discovery of our identity—as children of GOD—will transfigure us, and help us deal with our struggles and strengthen us to face our «jerusalems»!

13 February 2016


deuteronomy 26:4-10; romans 10:8-13; luke 4:1-13

from dante’s view in the united states, one can journey down to the lowest spot in the us, bad water, or one can move to the highest peak, mount whitney. from dante’s view, any movement must be either upwards or downwards.

dante’s view is symbolic of where we stand at the beginning of lent. lent – and today’s liturgy – challenges us to take the uphill path.
the liturgy talks about a new beginning for israel, for JESUS and for us.

for israel: in the first reading, moses speaks to the israelites at the end of their sojourn in the desert. he asks them to offer the first fruits of the land in thanksgiving to GOD; he prepares them for new life in the promised land.

for JESUS: he has completed forty days in the desert, a preparation for his mission. the temptation is one more test before his new life… a very real temptation because the messiah was expected to bring bread down from heaven (the first temptation), to subject other kingdoms to israel (second) and to perform dazzling signs to prove his credentials (third)! JESUS resists an easy way to prove he was the messiah and chooses the uphill way.

for us: lent is a time of beginning and a time of renewal.
what are the areas of renewal? when we think of temptation, we think of sexual sins, telling lies and gossiping, losing our temper and feeling resentful. but the really dangerous temptations are to want, for their own sake,
-  wealth: the ability to turn anything into «bread» or money
-  status: the ability to make everyone look up to me
-  power: the ability to manipulate people and things for my own ends
wealth, status and power, for their own sake, reduce other people to things that can be used for my gain. these foster the prevailing materialistic creed of the society in which we live… and not the biblical creed: you shall worship the LORD your GOD and him alone shall you serve!

on this first sunday of lent, we stand at dante’s view. which way will we go?

06 February 2016


isaiah 6:1-2a, 3-8; 1 corinthians 15:1-11; luke 5:1-11

in a certain church there was a man in the choir who couldn’t sing very well. the choir director suggested that he should leave the choir. but he wouldn’t budge. the choir director then decided to go to the pastor and complain. «you’ve got to get that man out of the choir or else i’m going to resign.» so the pastor went to the man and told him, «perhaps you should leave the choir.» «why should i leave the choir?» the man asked. «four or five people have told me you can’t sing» said the pastor. «that’s nothing,» the man replied, «forty or fifty people have told me you can’t preach!»

competence is not a criterion the LORD uses when he calls people.
the readings describe the call of isaiah, of paul, and of peter and his co-workers. all these people felt unworthy in the presence of GOD. 
when they confessed their inadequacy before GOD, he made them worthy to serve him. a seraph touched isaiah’s lips with a burning coal from the altar and said to him: «your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out» (isaiah 6:7). to simon peter, JESUS said: «do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people» (luke 15:10).

availability and the readiness to follow GOD’s directives is another quality that these three have in common. isaiah’s prompt response to the voice of the LORD was: “here am i; send me!” (isaiah 6:8). paul was full of zeal and worked harder than all those who were called before him. peter and his partners «left everything and followed him» (luke 15:11).

the LORD continues to ask: «whom shall i send?» the LORD still needs messengers to proclaim the good news in the temple, to announce it in foreign lands, to speak up for him in the workplace and bring their coworkers and partners to know and follow the LORD.
i may feel unworthy and incompetent for the work of GOD… but am i available? if so, the LORD will qualify me for his mission, as he did with isaiah, with paul, and with peter.