Sunday, August 14, 2016

The enigma of Christ

TO SET THE WORLD ABLAZE


My dear friends and followers of the Way, allow me to share with you some of my reflections on the gospel reading this Sunday.  The gospel reading is taken from Luke 12:49-53.  Jesus said, to quote a verse from the passage,
“I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!  Do you think that I have come to establish peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.”
People who are not familiar with the way Jesus taught will wonder why our Lord spoke to us in parables and riddles.  Some of these parables seem paradoxical.  If we read the passage above, it would give us the impression that Christ was promoting violence.  But far from it, Jesus is the prince of peace.  Matthew Henry’s commentary on this passage helped me understand the meaning of this text.  The teachings of Christ and His message is about love, deliverance and redemption and there is a need for the gospel to be preached around the world.  But he said that this process would bring division.  Why division instead of unity?  The answer is simple, - the gospel of Christ or His message is about the goodness of God, his redemptive plan for humankind.  But not all humans can accept the teachings of Christ nor the offer of salvation and redemption, because of the sins of pride and lusts.  Thus some people may find the grace to believe in the teachings of Christ but perhaps others may not.  Hence there will be division.  Why was Christ anxious that it be accomplished?  Here Christ spoke of his baptism, meaning his death on the cross.  His death on the cross will seal the ultimate plan of God for the redemption of humankind.  Once this is accomplished, then the gospel will be preached worldwide and it will set the earth ablaze (figuratively).  This is because, the message of Christianity is revolutionary.  It aims to subvert and undermine the values of this world, its sins, its pride and way of life.  Thus in this dark world, as Christians we are supposed to be the light of the world.  In a world that has lost love and compassion we are supposed to be the salt of the earth, to give it flavor.  Are we ready to set the world ablaze with the message of Christ? The challenged is there for the taking.


Saturday, July 30, 2016

Where you heart is, there where your treasure shall be.

 PERSONAL REFLECTIONS ON TODAY’S GOSPEL READING. 
18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Lectionary 114
Luke 12:13-21

On Greed, Avarice and Real Treasures
By Herbert B. Rosana, Ph.D.

The gospel narrative is always an eye opener for each time we open its pages to read, it offers us new insights.  Today’s gospel reading brings to my attention several points to ponder.  Not only because it is poignant and enigmatic but because it challenges my way of thinking and induces self-examination.

First I was impressed by the realization that life is transitory, we are aware of this but many of us live and act as if we will live forever on this earth.  We are bothered by mundane problems, we engaged in conflicts about properties, monies and wealth.  When our Lord was asked by the young man to mediate with his brother about inheritance, Jesus rebuked him by saying: “Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?” Then he said to the crowd, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.”  This shows that even our legitimate legal battles about possessions can be a source of greed.  This is the reason why our Lord said we have to take care, we have to guard against greed.  Greed is also deceptive, it may appear in the form of justice, legality and all types of fronts.  But Greed is the inordinate desire to acquire possessions.  Though possessions are necessary they are not ultimate measure of life, thus our Lord said, “Life does not consist of possessions.”

Second, I realize that we need to reflect more often and set our priorities straight.  Maybe we should have a bucket lists of what we need and what we want and rank order these according to importance.  Sometimes we always assume that it is okay to be greedy or it is okay to cheat and defraud our neighbors or business partners, anyway, we assume, that in the end we shall be forgiven.  But Jesus reminded us that there is an end to life and there is accountability that cannot be erased by a haphazard form of repentance.  In today’s reading I was reminded by the passage: “You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?”.  St. Augustine of Hippo said: “Late repentance is seldom genuine, but genuine it is never too late.”

Third, I realize that money or wealth is not really the problem.  Wealth and money are means of exchange, they symbolize and represent the material goods that we use to live well.  The problem is with us, with every individual person.  The love of money and not money itself is the root of all evils.  St. Paul reminded Timothy thus: “Those who want to be rich, however, fall into temptation and become ensnared by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, by craving it some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.  But you Oh man of God, flee from these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love and perseverance, and gentleness.” (1 Timothy 6:9-11).  Greed is our enemy, this is the little monster that lurks in our minds and tempts us especially in our attempt to make a living.  But we have to guard against it.  Life does not consist in money and properties.  We should be clear with the utilitarian purpose of money.  We should aim for a personal transformation.  We should be rich in the eyes of God and not in the eyes of men.  Thus the saying is true: “My religion is kindness.”  This is the only way we can be rich in the eyes of God.  To love God and our neighbor – that is the measure of heavenly treasure.  The reward is futuristic but there is a foretaste of that on earth too – but the immensity of this truth calls for faith.  But if the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?

Amen.


Saturday, July 9, 2016

WHO IS MY NEIGHBOR? A REFLECTION ON THE PARABLE OF THE GOOD SAMARITAN

THE PARABLE OF THE HIGH PRIEST, THE LEVITE AND THE GOOD SAMARITAN: SUNDAY REFLECTION
By Herbert B. Rosana, Ph.D.
The gospel reading today in our lectionary was taken from the gospel according to Luke 10:25-37. Commonly this is referred to as the parable of the good samaritan. In the gospel reading a young man was asking Jesus how a person can obtain eternal life. Jesus answered by asking him what the Law of Moses requires and he answered correctly that one has to love God above all things and then the neighbor. One important point to consider in this reading is the emphasis on the connection between religious practice and practical deeds. How easy it is to be religious. How comforting it is to be religious. How easy it is to say that we are serving God because we are worshiping Him. How easy it is to say we are obedient to the law. But one requirement we have in order to be acceptable to God is that we are required to love our neighbor. The difference between the observance of religious obligation and the practical side of it is that the former is easy to comply with, but the latter is difficult because it requires us to move beyond our comfort zone, to empathize and to be in solidarity with our neighbor.
The second point in this reflection is the question of who is our NEIGHBOR. Human nature as it is, always follow that which is easy. Hence we choose our friends and associates from the rich, the well to do and from those who could help advanced our interests. Seldom do we see the marginalized and those in the fringes of society as our neighbor. But essentially the parable given by our Lord tells us that these very people whom we ignore and we see as unimportant are the ones truly important in God's sight. Let us remember the scripture which says that what is esteemed by men is an abomination with God (Luke 6:15).
Painting by Vincent Van Gogh
The third point in this reflection is that we should never judged people because of their status in life. God would want us to see the value and innate goodness in every human being. This is the main reason perhaps why our Lord use the Samaritan as the image of good neighborliness. But who are the Samaritan? It will be a long explanation but let me be brief. After the Assyrian invasion of the Land of Samaria, the Israelite were deported, hence we have the term "the lost ten tribes of Israel". Only Juda, Benjamin and Levi were the tribes who remained in the Kingdom of Judah. Since then the original ten tribes never returned, But the population that rehabilitated the land of Samaria were non-Israelites, they were gentiles who imitated the religion of the Israelites from Samaria, and have set up a rival temple in Samaria. Hence during the Hasmonean period and up the Roman era, the Jews living in Galilee and Judah despised the Samaritans as fake Jews, unclean and pagans. Samaria was sandwhich between Galilee and Judea. Jews coming from Galilee would even avoid passing on the west bank if only to avoid contact with the Samaritans. It is not surprising that Jesus used the image of the Samaritan to illustrate good neighborliness. Perhaps the Lord was trying to emphasize to us that everyone of us regardless of our origins and belief is a reflection of God's goodness and because of that we have the capacity to do good and be good to others. Good neighborliness is not choosy, it values every human person as it is. Every human being is worthy of redemption, this is the reason why our Lord was crucified and that today we use that symbol of crucifixion as the sign of God's redeeming love, a door of opening and a hope for a new life and finally resurrection in the Kingdom of God. May he leads us into that way. Thank you Lord for showing us the way. Amen.

WHO IS MY NEIGHBOR? A REFLECTION ON THE PARABLE OF THE GOOD SAMARITAN

THE PARABLE OF THE HIGH PRIEST, THE LEVITE AND THE GOOD SAMARITAN: SUNDAY REFLECTION

By Herbert B. Rosana, Ph.D.

The gospel reading today in our lectionary was taken from the gospel according to Luke 10:25-37. Commonly this is referred to as the parable of the good samaritan. In the gospel reading a young man was asking Jesus how a person can obtain eternal life. Jesus answered by asking him what the Law of Moses requires and he answered correctly that one has to love God above all things and then the neighbor. One important point to consider in this reading is the emphasis on the connection between religious practice and practical deeds. How easy it is to be religious. How comforting it is to be religious. How easy it is to say that we are serving God because we are worshiping Him. How easy it is to say we are obedient to the law. But one requirement we have in order to be acceptable to God is that we are required to love our neighbor. The difference between the observance of religious obligation and the practical side of it is that the former is easy to comply with, but the latter is difficult because it requires us to move beyond our comfort zone, to empathize and to be in solidarity with our neighbor.
The second point in this reflection is the question of who is our NEIGHBOR. Human nature as it is, always follow that which is easy. Hence we choose our friends and associates from the rich, the well to do and from those who could help advanced our interests. Seldom do we see the marginalized and those in the fringes of society as our neighbor. But essentially the parable given by our Lord tells us that these very people whom we ignore and we see as unimportant are the ones truly important in God's sight. Let us remember the scripture which says that what is esteemed by men is an abomination with God (Luke 6:15).
Painting by Vincent Van Gogh

The third point in this reflection is that we should never judged people because of their status in life. God would want us to see the value and innate goodness in every human being. This is the main reason perhaps why our Lord use the Samaritan as the image of good neighborliness. But who are the Samaritan? It will be a long explanation but let me be brief. After the Assyrian invasion of the Land of Samaria, the Israelite were deported, hence we have the term "the lost ten tribes of Israel". Only Juda, Benjamin and Levi were the tribes who remained in the Kingdom of Judah. Since then the original ten tribes never returned, But the population that rehabilitated the land of Samaria were non-Israelites, they were gentiles who imitated the religion of the Israelites from Samaria, and have set up a rival temple in Samaria. Hence during the Hasmonean period and up the Roman era, the Jews living in Galilee and Judah despised the Samaritans as fake Jews, unclean and pagans. Samaria was sandwhich between Galilee and Judea. Jews coming from Galilee would even avoid passing on the west bank if only to avoid contact with the Samaritans. It is not surprising that Jesus used the image of the Samaritan to illustrate good neighborliness. Perhaps the Lord was trying to emphasize to us that everyone of us regardless of our origins and belief is a reflection of God's goodness and because of that we have the capacity to do good and be good to others. Good neighborliness is not choosy, it values every human person as it is. Every human being is worthy of redemption, this is the reason why our Lord was crucified and that today we use that symbol of crucifixion as the sign of God's redeeming love, a door of opening and a hope for a new life and finally resurrection in the Kingdom of God. May he leads us into that way. Thank you Lord for showing us the way. Amen.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Alpha and the Omega

Christ Our Teacher

MY SUNDAY REFLECTION: "The One who sat on the throne said,
“Behold, I make all things new.” - From the Book of the Apocalypse 21:5a.

In the Bible Jesus is said to be the Alpha and the Omega. He said that he is the apha and the omega (the first and last of the Greek alphabet). Why did he say that he is the alpha and the omega? For want of a language to express eternity and an era without time, Our Lord use the alphabet to denote the cyclic and transcendent nature of eternity. We physical creatures count times by numbers, but eternity has no numbers, it has no past and no future, it is an ever present reality. Sometimes we need to gain a grasp of this truth even just for a little. In another scripture God said that a thousand years is just as one day with the Lord. That is another idiomatic expression to denote that reality and truth is transcendent. Understanding this truth will help us understand the values of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Why did Jesus say that it is blessed to suffer? Why did the Bible admonished us to be patient, to suffer and to sacrifice? Why did the saints willingly suffer martyrdom? Because they know that this physical life we have is not permanent. The goals that we set in life are not permanent. It is all fleeting. Like water held by the palms of the hand, they vanished in an instant. But He that trusts in the Lord realizes that the end of his or her life is to be in communion with the Lord. This is what the theologians call, the beatific vision. The unbelieving will never perceive this and would even doubt if such a promise or reality ever exists. But then Jesus said, no one can come to God our Father unless the Spirit of the Father draws us in. May God give us the grace to be drawn closer to Him and may we realize that the reality of Jesus Christ is the reality of God within us. Th promise of the Emmanuel. Amen.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT

PANTOCRATOR @ Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

My reflection for the first Sunday of Advent

Take ye heed, watch and pray. For ye know not when the time is.  Even as a man who going into a far country, left his house; and gave authority to his servants over every work, and commanded the porter to watch.  Watch ye therefor, (for you know not when the lord of the house cometh: at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning,)  Lest coming on a sudden, he find you sleeping.  And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch. (Mark 13:33-37, Douay-Rheims Bible).

This Sunday marks the beginning of the Advent season in the liturgical calendar of the Roman Catholic church.  Year after year, through our liturgy and through the reading of the scriptures we begin our journey in waiting and we end our journey in the recognizing the Kingship of Jesus Christ, the one who is to come.  But it is paradoxical that the reading for this first Sunday is both a warning and admonition to watch because the coming of the Lord is near. 

In our celebration of the liturgy we anticipate the coming of Christ in three ways: (1) In the first sense, we relive the coming of Christ on earth two thousand years ago.  As we walk through this commemoration we renew and we refresh our memory so that from year to year we keep our faith and we keep our hope.  (2) In the second sense we are reminded that Christ will come again for the second time as He had promised, until the consummation of time.  But as to the exact date that the Lord is coming, no one knows.  (3) In the third sense, the end of all of us or death is also a form of encountering the Lord for as it was written in the Bible, that it is appointed for men to die once and after that the judgement will come.  But the central message for us is to watch and pray.

This being watchful can only be realized if we constantly cultivate our faith in Christ.  A lively faith will only be done if we cultivate such faith and renew it every day.  For indeed it is important that we realize the transcendental nature of this watching.  At the core of this is faith in Christ who made the promise and our faith in God who is our Father.


Saturday, August 8, 2015

LORD GIVE US OUR DAILY BREAD

Reflecting on this Sunday’s gospel reading I was lead to the thought that life is indeed precarious.  This precariousness of life should lead us to cherish, respect and protect life, because once this physical life is taken away it cannot be restored.  Speaking the temporal point of view there is a validity to this thought, but as Christians we should not look upon this life as an end in itself, for we seek eternal life. 
Perhaps this is the reason why our Lord taught us to pray for our daily bread.  Not for weekly or monthly but for daily bread. The insecurities of life and its precariousness has the tendency to lead us to express this anxiety in various forms.  One of these forms is greed and the desire to preserve life at whatever means.

Text Box: “Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But 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 will never drive 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.” (New International Version of the Bible)
In our gospel reading Our Lord posed this challenge and proclaim His claim as the source of eternal life.  He make allusion to the Manna from heaven that fed the wandering Israelites in the desert of Sinai.  Jesus said that the manna fed the Israelites but eventually they died.  But here Jesus said that He is the bread of life, and He that eats his flesh and drinks his blood will not die and will have eternal life.  For the Jews it was a hard doctrine.  To them this was impossible.  St. Paul would later say that the crucifixion of Jesus was a stumbling block to the Jews and it was an absurdity for the Greeks.  This was indeed a stumbling block to the Jews for in their minds they say how a Messiah can end up being crucified, and to the Greeks how can a man who died be raised again to life?  But for the Christians these two difficulties encountered by unbelievers transcends human understanding.  For Christ will never be our Bread and Wine unless He is crucified, and he will never be able to raise us on the resurrection unless he precedes us.  This is why Jesus was said to be the first fruits among the dead.  For by His passion, death and resurrection he held everything in captive and heaven and earth were placed under his footstool and the last enemy to be defeated is death.  Death is the fruit of sin, and sin brought death into this world.  This is also the reason why we say that the Eucharist is the summit and pinnacle of our Christian life.  The Eucharist embodies and it is the application of that one living sacrifice made by Jesus on Calvary.  All the law of Moses and the ritual observances of the Jews were fulfilled by Jesus Christ and all the story of the scriptures point to Jesus as the one who fulfilled everything and tha ages of all ages will proclaim Him as the Eternal and Holy One.  Thus when we receive the Holy Communion we received the pledge of life from God Himself.  And as Jesus said; “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.”

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Trinitarian Doctrine is a Doctrine of New Beginnings

"For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting." - John 3:16 (Douay-Rheims version)
My reflection for Trinity Sunday:  The Sunday reading for today is Matthew 28:16-20.  It talks about the commissioning of the disciples to go and baptize in the Name of the Father, the Son and of the Holy Ghost.  It speaks to us about the nature of the One True God (as opposed to the multiplicity of gods in paganism).  We know that the nature of the Godhead is beyond our reach but somehow Christ revealed to us a profound knowledge of who God is.  The Trinity is a doctrine hard to explain but is apprehended only by faith.  It can be summed up in one concrete idea = that Love is the operating principle of the Godhead.  Just as God is love so we too must grow in love.  For this Sunday however I would like to dwell on God's love.  There is one very important verse, or in fact the most often quoted verse in the Bible -John 3:16.  I kind of like the idea brought out by Matthew Henry's concise concordance to the Bible, reading John 3:16 in context Henry said that the story of Nicodemus is a story of new beginnings.  It demonstrates to us the mercy that accompanies the love of God.  Nicodemus was fearful of the Jews that is why he approached Jesus at night to avoid the prying eyes of the fanatical Jews who hated the teachings of Christ.  Some people might think that it is cowardice to hide in the cover of the night.  Perhaps some people would condemn Nicodemus for cowardice.  But Jesus never condemn him in fact Jesus conversed with him and spoke to him tenderly, expounding to him the truths of God.  This is incident in the Bible explains to us the nature of love.  The love of God welcomes new beginnings and it always open to new beginnings.  I am sad that today many religious people out of zeal or fanaticism are quick to condemn and to judge.  I often encounter situations like this in church.  Often the one who pray the longest is the one who is harsh towards the misgivings of others.  There are many Nicodemuses today, the question is how do we deal with them.  Do we drive them away by our indifference or prejudice?  Or do we think of some positive ways to open up to them the love of God and discover the new beginning?  May this Sunday bring us to the realization and to the experience of God's animating love in the midst of confusion, hatred and wrongdoing. This is the year of Mercy, a jubilee. Amen. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

SEEING THE KINGDOM OF GOD IN THE FACE OF THE NEEDY AND THE POOR

The Sacred Heart of Jesus Devotion


Today we celebrate the solemnity of Christ, the King of the Universe.  As customary the liturgical calendar of the Roman Catholic Church always closes with the feast of Christ the King.  This is to remind us that all our earthly life in following Jesus will culminate in God’s Kingdom.  This we affirm in our creed when we profess that we believe that He will come again the second time to judge the world in righteousness.  That we believe in the forgiveness of sins and in the resurrection of the Body and in the life to come.  This belief we hold to be true in the eschatological sense and a reality we expect.  Each liturgical year we pre-figure the journey and the promise, we live through a life of celebrating the hope, the life, and the passion of Jesus Christ and which we believe we shall achieve by God’s redeeming grace.


Text Box: Each liturgical year we pre-figure the journey and the promise, we live through a life of celebrating the hope, the life, and the passion of Jesus Christ and which we believe we shall achieve by God’s redeeming grace.Reflecting on today’s reading I was reminded that one important factor that will qualify us for God’s kingdom is on how we have treated the poor, how we have visited the lonely and how we have comforted those who are in prison.  Jesus reminded us that though there are ten commandments, all of these are summarized in into two – Love God above all things and second love your neighbor as yourself.  What kind of law would contradict this?  While religious piety and formalities are important human expression of love for God, one thing is much more important – to show kindness to the poor and to help the lonely.  I always wonder why Christ has always identified Himself with the poor, I always wonder why He wants to be seen in the face of the poor and the needy?  But even in this seeming paradox Christ is showing to us the real face of God.  No one has seen God says the Scriptures, but Christ has shown us the face of God the Father.  For those who have been with Jesus has already seen the Father.  God is a God of compassion.  Thus I always believe that the true practice of the Christian religion can never be genuinely expressed by fanaticism and extremism.  Some Christians and perhaps us included have been guilty of too much emphasis on formalities.  Some of us condemn people who do not conform to our ideas.  Perhaps some of us have branded others as “conservative” or “liberal”.  But God is neither liberal nor conservative.  God is love and He wants us to see that grace in Him.  For as we have experienced that grace we are bound to do charity to our poor brothers and sisters.  There is no excuse for loving others, even the most hateful ones.  For by loving the poor (there are two types of poverty-material and spiritual), we have qualified to God’s standard set for those who will be in God’s Kingdom.  Life is brief and short and death is the door that will usher to the Day of Judgment.  God’s grace and our love for Him and the Poor will be our insurance guarantee for His Eternal Kingdom.  Jesus invites us to get this insurance from Him free of Charge.  Happy Cristo Rey!!!