26 November 2016

HOPE CHANGES EVERYTHING

I SUNDAY OF ADVENT
isaiah 2:1-5; romans 13:11-14; matthew 24:37-44

a school helped children stay abreast with their academics during hospital stays through tutoring. once, the school gave a tutor a boy’s name and hospital room number, and told her to teach him nouns and adverbs, which the class was studying at that point. the boy had been seriously injured in an accident.
when the tutor went to see him, she was unnerved by his state, and stammered: «your school sent me to help you with nouns and adverbs.» the next day, a nurse asked her: «what did you do to that boy?» the teacher thought she had done something wrong and began to apologize. the nurse said: «no, no! since yesterday, his attitude has changed; he’s fighting back, responding to treatment. it’s as though he’s decided to live.»
later the boy explained that he had given up hope until the tutor arrived. everything changed when he realized that «they wouldn’t send a teacher to work on nouns and adverbs with a dying boy!»


hope changes everything!
isaiah (first reading) writes during a period of wars and intrigue, alienation and division. in this time of discouragement, his is a message of hope: our faithful GOD is with us and is bringing us together; he predicts a time of unity and peace.

this is the message we need today!
no matter where we live, there is uncertainty, violence, upheaval. we need to hope… and make it change everything. in paul’s words to the romans, we need to throw off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light; we need to live upright lives.
the gospel, too, is a hopeful reassurance that the LORD will come. we need to stay awake and be prepared.

GOD doesn’t send his son into a «dying» world!
during this advent season, will i hope and make it change everything? will i allow light into places of darkness? will i work for reconciliation and unity in my family/ community/ society? what swords do i need to beat into ploughshares and what spears into pruning hooks?

19 November 2016

THE POWER TO FORGIVE AND TRANSFORM

CHRIST THE UNIVERSAL KING
2 samuel 5:1-3; colossians 1:12-20; luke 23:35-43

in the notre dame cathedral, the archbishop of paris shared this story:
thirty years earlier, three young tourists—rough, rude and cynical—came into the cathedral. two dared the third to make up a confession. this young man went into the confessional, and arrogantly made his confession. the confessor said: «for your penance, stand before the crucifix, look into the face of the crucified christ and say, ‘all this you did for me, and i don’t give a damn!’» 
the young man went out and bragged that he had completed the dare; but the other two insisted he finish the dare by doing the penance. 
so he re-entered the cathedral, stood before the crucifix, and began: «all this you did for me and i… i… i don’t… i don’t give…» he couldn’t continue.
at this point, the archbishop leaned over the pulpit and said: «that young man stands before you to preach today» (cf. burton f. blair, «amid his pain he said…»).
this is the power that our king has: the power to forgive and transform through love and the cross. on the cross, stripped of everything—clothes, strength, dignity—jesus retains 
- his kingly power to forgive: he forgives his persecutors and executioners, and the repentant thief.
- the power to change hearts: he transforms the repentant thief, the centurion, and the people through love.
paul’s hymn to the colossians (second reading) emphasizes that in jesus, all things hold together; in him, we have redemption; through him and his cross, all things are reconciled. 

in a world which gives importance to territory, power, wealth, rhetoric, pomp and show…, jesus is a king
 whose kingdom has no boundaries and goes beyond nationality/clans; 
 whose crown is compassion; 
 whose throne is the crib and the cross; 
 whose authority is that of humble and loving service; 
 whose only law is love;
 whose speech is silence;
 whose citizens are the poor, the lost, the marginalized;
 whose life and death was among sinners.

is jesus really my king? if so, do i accept him and his way/values? do i allow him to transform me with the power of his love and cross? 

12 November 2016

LIVE FULLY... NOW

XXXIII SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
malachi 3:19-20; 2 thessalonians 3:7-12; luke 21:5-19

a warrior was struck by a poisonous arrow. as he lay on the ground he mused: «i wonder of what kind of wood this arrow is made? from what birds the feathers come? i wonder what type of man shot this arrow?» his companions cried out in frustration: «for heaven’s sake! stop speculating and pull out the arrow!»


in the gospel, there is the speculative warrior in the people: they live in a present which is tense, and they want to know when the end will happen and what signs will indicate the end.
JESUS lists three phenomena which people might assume are indicators of the end: persecution; the appearance of false-messiahs; disasters. but he indicates that it is pointless to speculate when and how the end will happen. it will happen «whenever». 
what should our response be? we need not be afraid. we ought not to be attached to transient structures. we need to «pull out the arrow»: to live fully with and for GOD always, to lead lives of perseverance. and then, it will be future perfect! «there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays» (first reading) and «not a hair on… [our] head will be destroyed» (gospel). in the second reading, st paul gives us another response: hard work.

am i going to allow the speculative warrior in me to «wonder» about the future and the end of the world or will i «pull out the arrow» by working hard and living a full life? 
as joan borysenko writes: «the question is not whether we will die, but how we will live!»

05 November 2016

LIFE IN «A WHOLE NEW WORLD»

XXXII SUNDAY OF THE YEAR 
2 maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14; 2 thessalonians 2:16—3:5; luke 20:27-38

in the film «aladdin», aladdin sings the song «a whole new world». the last verse of the song—«a whole new world… a wondrous place for you and me»—sum up the thrust of the readings of today.


in the gospel, the sadducees—who do not believe in the resurrection of the dead—attempt to reduce this belief to absurdity using a far-fetched example of seven brothers, who are married successively to the same woman and die before having children. 
jesus draws a sharp distinction between this world and «the coming age». the latter is not just an extension of this world; it is a whole new world, a world in which a human being is a child of GOD and not a piece of property.
in «the coming age», we enter into new relationships with GOD and with people; we will have a new way of being… «like angels»: we will live forever in the fullness of our person (the whole «me»: the physical, spiritual, emotional and intellectual aspects, and my whole personal history).

the basis for our hope in this new world is GOD!
the first reading is a narrative of seven brothers and their mother who are killed for their faith in the GOD of life. they believe that he will raise them to a higher life because they have lived faithfully on earth. 

the way to prepare ourselves for the new world is by living in this world without making ideas, things, persons and relationships into gods. we need to nurture our rootedness in GOD and live faithfully by his values and ideals.

an anecdote to end. a little girl and her father were walking on a clear, starry night. she turned to him and asked: «if the wrong side of heaven is so beautiful, what will the right side be like?»
we’ll leave it up to GOD! we’ll do our part of living right on the wrong side of heaven!