30 May 2015

CELEBRATE (AND IMITATE) OUR THREE-IN-ONE GOD!

TRINITY SUNDAY
deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40; romans 8:14-17; matthew 28:16-20

multi-tasking is a way of life today... with many multi-function devicess to help us!
think about the 3-in-1 laser pointer-stylus-pen: you enter data into your pda, use the laser to indicate key points in your presentation, and then sign a contract! then there are the aio printers which print-copy-scan-fax. and today’s smart-phones do virtually everything! 
with all these multi-functioning devices, why is it difficult to accept the notion that one GOD can exist as three persons? (cf. rev. john h. pavelko)

our GOD is «multi-function»! it is proper to attribute the work of creation to the FATHER; the work of healing and redemption to the SON; and the work of guidance to the SPIRIT. three unique persons with three distinct functions.
further, these unique persons live in community. GOD is a family! the gospel according to john highlights the fundamentally social/communitarian nature of GOD (jn 1:18 speaks of the «son who is close to the father’s heart.» jn 10:30 reads «my father and i are one.» in five other places, JESUS uses the absolute «i am» which recalls exodus 3:14, where yahweh revealed his name to moses). the greek fathers use the word «perichoresis» to describe this loving communion of the trinity. the word may be defined as a «dancing together»! 

what are the implications of the doctrine of the trinity for us?
created in the image and likeness of a trinitarian GOD, we have similar attributes! 
first, we are unique; we want to be recognized and accepted as individuals. we don’t want to be clones. 
second, we desire to be in community/communion. this is achieved not by negating/denying differences, but by respecting and nurturing our diversity and blending our differences.
third, like the FATHER, we are called to be creative persons, and to contribute to the building up of our family, church, community, nation and world. like the SON, we are called to reconcile and mend broken relationships. like the SPIRIT, it is our task to uncover truth, to dispel ignorance, to teach. 

how will i live out the doctrine of the trinity in my life: will i respect myself and others as unique persons, and form communion and community by blending differences? will i become a creative contributor, healer and guide?

23 May 2015

THE CUSHION OF THE SPIRIT

PENTECOST 
acts 2:1-11; 1 corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13 or galatians 5:16-25; john 20:19-23 or john 15:26-27, 16:12-15

several years ago a submarine, under test, had to remain submerged overnight. that night a terrible storm hit the coast. when the submarine resurfaced, the harbour master asked the captain: «how did the storm last night affect you?» the captain looked at him in surprise and exclaimed: «storm? we didn’t even know there was one!»
the sub, far beneath the surface, had reached an area sailors call «the cushion of the sea.» though the high winds whipped the ocean into huge waves, they never stirred the waters deep below.

this is a good image of the kind of peace that comes from the SPIRIT that JESUS gives his disciples. the waves of worry, fear and suffering may/will surround his disciples but will not overwhelm them... when they allow the SPIRIT to cushion them.
the disciples had shut themselves behind closed doors after the crucifixion «for fear of the jews». that’s where JESUS finds them on «the first day of the week». that’s where he finds them a week later even after he had given them his peace. but after they were «filled with the HOLY SPIRIT», they experienced a deep peace, and then they moved out of the shut upper room to fearlessly proclaim JESUS crucified and risen from the dead.
notice that the situation outside had not changed. in fact, it had become worse! the disciples faced arrest and persecution, and «were scattered throughout the region of judea and samaria» (acts 8:1) but they continued preaching the word.

we seek the peace that JESUS had, the peace that he gave his disciples, a peace that abides despite pain and suffering, anguish and fear... a peace that is elusive in our world. this is a peace that comes from remaining deep in «the cushion of the SPIRIT». and when we experience that peace, we can move out of ourselves and our shut doors to witness to the gospel.
JESUS gives us the SPIRIT and the peace that he gave his first disciples. will i rest in the cushion of the SPIRIT? and then, filled with his peace—despite the turbulence that surrounds me—how will i proclaim JESUS?

16 May 2015

PASSING THE BATON

THE ASCENSION
acts 1:1-11; ephesians 1:17-23 or ephesians 4:1-13; mark 10:15-20

the 4x100 relay is a tremendously thrilling event. the most exciting/important time is the baton exchange… and many a race has been lost because of poor baton exchange. since 1988, american quartets have been disqualified or haven’t finished the event nine times at the olympics and world championships—even though they had the fastest runners—because of poor baton exchanges.

the ascension is JESUS passing the baton to his disciples and to us in this great human and christian race! 
the ascension completes JESUS’ leg of the relay and his mission on earth to bring the good news to the afflicted, liberty to captives, sight to the blind… to bring wholeness to people.
the ascension begins the disciples’ part of the relay. in the gospel, JESUS sets out their part: «go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.» mark establishes an immediate connection between JESUS’ ascension and the disciples’ mission: «so the lord JESUS… was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of GOD. but they went forth and preached everywhere.» 

this continuation of the mission is a challenge. the LORD assures us that he is with us through his spirit. 
the scene from the acts, in today’s first reading, is modelled on the experience of joshua and elisha. as joshua received a share of moses’ spirit and elisha received a double share of elijah’s, JESUS assures his disciples that they will receive the power to be his witnesses when the holy spirit comes upon them.
despite this promise, the disciples stand «looking intently at the sky.» they have not understood that they have to look towards the earth and history… the place where they must be witnesses.

the baton has been passed to us. the mission is ours; the spirit and power the LORD is ours. am i willing to carry the baton and run my leg of the race? how will i continue JESUS’ mission where i live and work?

ps: it takes time and much practice for relays to run well. and american national teams have little of that. the relay is an all-star team that has never run together.
i need time with the LORD to receive the baton; i need to be in the correct «exchange-zone»; i need to run with the team… always!

09 May 2015

A TOTAL AND COSTLY SELF-GIFT

VI SUNDAY OF EASTER
acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48; 1 john 4:7-10; john 15:9-17

in his book «love is a costly thing» dick hillis describes a mother he encountered during a trip to africa:
she was lying on the ground, holding a tiny baby girl in her arms. as i put a cooked sweet potato into her outstretched hand, i wondered if she would live until morning. her strength was almost gone, but her tired eyes acknowledged my gift.
the sweet potato could help so little, but it was all i had. taking a bite she chewed it carefully. then, placing her mouth over her baby’s mouth, she forced the soft warm food into the tiny throat. although she was starving, she used the entire potato to keep her baby alive. exhausted from her effort, she dropped her head on the ground and closed her eyes.
i later learned that during the night the mother’s heart stopped, but her little girl lived.

love is a costly thing… it cost that mother her life. her love was a self-sacrificing love, which mirrored GOD’s love for us.
GOD manifests his love for us by gifting us his only beloved SON (second reading). 
in the gospel, JESUS tells his disciples that he has loved them as the father has loved him, and then gives them the new commandment of love: «love one another as I have loved you.» 

and how has he loved us? 
he loves us gratuitously. the gift of GOD’s love is just that: a gift, not a prize won, not a reward for service.
he loves us as a friend. servants work definite hours, and often do things only because they receive an order. friendship goes go beyond; it entails mutual fidelity and loyalty, it is open-ended.
he loves us totally. throughout his life, he lovingly served his fellow human beings. he didn’t stop there: he gave us his body and blood at the last supper, and sacrificed his body and blood at calvary.

for JESUS, love is not a mere liking for another; it is a total self-gift. and he exhorts us to love in the same manner. 
will i love gratuitously, as a friend without counting the cost, and totally?

02 May 2015

STAY CONNECTED

V SUNDAY OF EASTER
acts 9:26-31; 1 john 3:18-24; john 15:1-8

a few days ago, a friend of mine was sending whatsapp messages. he sent one; and then the messages stopped going. he was wondering why… till he realized that he had lost the wi-fi connection! 
one doesn’t need to be a rocket scientist to know the necessity of wi-fi or cable or data to stay connected to the internet. or the necessity of electric/electronic appliances being connected to a power-source for them to work.

JESUS uses another metaphor to emphasize the necessity of being connected… to him: «i am the vine, you are the branches… apart from me you can do nothing.»
we receive our life-strength from JESUS. and so we need to stay connected to him. if we break away from him, we cease functioning. the intimate attachment to JESUS ensures our vitality as humans and christians!

how does one remain attached to JESUS?
in three ways: by gathering together in his name; by listening to his word; by sharing his body and blood. and that’s what we do every time we celebrate the eucharist! the principal way of remaining in JESUS is through the eucharistic celebration.

how do we know we remain in JESUS and he in us?
«those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them» (second reading). and his commandment is that we love one another in deed… the way barnabas loved the recently converted paul (first reading). when the disciples found it difficult to accept this former persecutor of christians, barnabas «took charge of him.»

remaining in JESUS also necessitates pruning! the FATHER, the vine grower, waters and tends the vines; he also prunes them so that they grow to their potential.
he prunes everything that resists life, everything that drains our energy and prevents us from becoming who we are called to be.

the liturgy calls us to remain connected with JESUS the vine and to allow the FATHER the vine-grower to prune us that we may bear fruit. 
how will i remain in JESUS? what areas of my life are draining my energy and preventing me from being the real me?

in our digital and hi-tech world, we know the importance of staying connected. in our real world, may you and i stay connected with JESUS… and with one another through him.