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Saturday, July 25, 2015

G PLUS, PLUS


[BREAKING THE BREAD OF GOD’S WORD]
17th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
July 26, 2015

G PLUS PLUS!

Most of us, if not all, have experiences in traveling. Unless you travel in style, merely transposing oneself from one place to the other in the Philippines, can be a real ordeal … for many reasons … most of them economic.  For one, you cannot drink  too much liquids, or you have to make a scene to ask the driver to stop some place to relieve yourself. Second, it is cumbersome to lug foodstuffs with you. For hours on end, one will have to make do with biscuits or dry bread with not much else that can spoil in a matter of hours. Third, depending on where you go, food may not be available, or you could only get some by paying more than four times their usual price.

Both the first and third readings talk about people on a journey. In the first reading, crowds followed the “man of God,” Elisha. In the third reading, crowds flocked towards the “wonder worker,” not so much because they were enamored by what he said, but because they were attracted by what he did. They followed him because “they saw the signs he was performing on the sick.”

I believe the man who came up to Elisha with his generous offering of “first fruits” intended for God, but offered to the “man of God,” was well provided for. He traveled in style, and his generosity showed he recognized, above all, the generosity of God. He offered the “first fruits” – the best, the juiciest, the healthiest, the most nourishing – gifts that were fit for the Lord from whom all good things came!

He did not just travel in style. He worshiped and sacrificed without counting the cost. And he gave freely and generously.

The disciple Philip may have been a good accountant who did his mental math and came up with a lightning fast calculation that had to do with how much money it would cost them to feed the hungry 5,000 men (and the equally hungry 5,000 women and 5,000 children!). The disciple Andrew may have been eagle-eyed and observant enough to spot some nervous and hassled boy who apparently did not travel light at all. He was probably dragging his big ruck sack along with his big packed lunch of buns and filets of fish galore!

Prize catch! So Andrew thought! And he lost no time in taking him to the Master.

Mind you, there was no clear sign the people were physically hungry. But the people were hungry in some other way … They were hungry for signs … big signs … They saw how he cured the sick. They wanted to see more action!

The good Lord engaged them. He told the disciples to make the men recline (What about the women and children?) Oh oh … they probably were busy acting as choir and back-up singers as the biggest sign of all was unfolding before their very eyes.


It was a sign that pointed to the satisfaction of more than physical hunger. It was a sign that told the crowds that the Lord was generous and more! It was a sign that pointed to the nature of God as provident, as constant and even as profligate in his gifts that went beyond mere bodily nourishment.  No … the Lord was not a simple restaurateur who gave away free samples of filet-o-fish sandwiches.

The Lord was healer. The Lord was provider. The Lord was a giver of what they needed then, and what they would need for all time.

He was giving them a sign of His ultimate gift – His Body and Blood – his life, death, and resurrection, not just to tide them over that overnight journey out in the desert, but all through the desert of our earthly existence.

I love filet-o-fish sandwiches. If I were there, I would have welcomed the gift with glee. But I know I need more than sandwiches. I need a boost in my life in its totality. And life in its fullness definitely goes beyond week-end get-aways and picnics galore.

I need food … food for eternal life … food that “whosoever would eat if, will live forever.”

The Lord today gives more. He gives food to hungry and not so hungry people. But his gifts are more than G+  … He does “bestow in abundance.”

“Bestow in abundance your mercy upon us, and grant that we may use the good things that pass in such a way as to hold fast even now to those that ever endure.” Amen.


Saturday, July 18, 2015

[DWBL 1242] Usap Pang Kabataan - July 17, 2015

NOTHING MORE SHALL I WANT

[BREAKING THE BREAD OF GOD’S WORD]
July 19, 2015 – 16th Sunday OT – B

NOTHING MORE SHALL I WANT

I have been mortally afraid quite a few times in my life – from childhood all the way to adulthood. The first time was some kind of a twilight zone experience. I was probably teetering on edge between toddlerhood to early childhood. I was midway between being fully asleep and being half awake. I don’t remember the details nor the images, but I do remember the fear and the trembling … alone in a dark room, while I heard terrifying sounds of gunfire and loud voices of people in the middle of the night.

There were other occasions of “fear and trembling” that did not quite equal the terror of the first, but again, I still remember the feeling.

As an adult, I still fear the unknown. I still fear getting sick and old and eventually dying – a reality that seems less and less far-fetched as time moves on.

But my experience has taught me one thing beyond those fears. One may be very afraid of something not necessarily defined, but one stands better chances of managing those fears when one is accompanied, assisted, guided and affirmed by someone who stands by you, reassures you, and keeps you close to his or her heart.

I remember my “lola” (grandmother) rubbing my back, hands and feet when I was burning with fever and unable to care for myself. High with fever, chilling and shaking and overcome with all sorts of frightening illusions, there was that reassuring presence and soothing touch that made the ordeal bearable.

I remember my mother holding me close to her bosom on a stormy night.  The scary lightning bolts and the deafening peals of thunder paled in comparison to my mother’s tight hug and warm embrace.

I remember by father holding me by the hand, teaching me how to go to school. Wrapped in a heavy raincoat that was longer than me, and lugging a big bag inside, the rain-induced darkness and dreariness were offset by the presence of someone who somehow appeared to me then, as more powerful than any force represented by the raging rain and the wild, whistling wind.

Come to think of it, it is PRESENCE and CLOSENESS that matters more than anything else … empathy and intimacy … LOVE and COMPASSION from someone powerful that would help anyone brave through the trials and vicissitudes of life.

This is what the readings today remind us of. This is what we believers are convinced of – what Jeremiah speaks about and what St. Paul extols …

The Israelites of old were more than just abandoned. They were scattered. They were exiled. Their rights were trampled on. They felt alone and terrified and had their own share of “fear and trembling.”

But God was present and was with them all along. Take it from Jeremiah, who now assures us once again: “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock from all the lands to which I have driven them and bring them back to their meadow.”

Take it from David, who now teaches us once more to pray with faith and hope: “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.”

Truth to tell, like I did as a child, we all feel alone at times. We feel out of the loop on occasion. We feel helpless even. But the other side of the truth we all need to hear now is what Paul reminds us of: “In Christ Jesus you, who once were far off, have become near by the blood of Christ.”

This is what we celebrate each Sunday, the day of the Lord.  This is what we proclaim. This is what this Mass is all about.

“Come away by ourselves to this place and let us rest a while.” Then, and most especially now, despite all the fear and trembling that we are facing, he sees us – the vast crowd – and like then, I would like to believe that “his heart is moved by pity.”


For he is Lord. He is Savior. He is Shepherd. There is nothing more I shall want.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

NOT IN MY NAME, BUT IN GOD'S NAME!

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time B
[BREAKING THE BREAD OF GOD’S WORD]
July 12, 2015

NOT IN MY NAME, BUT GOD’S

Amos is an interesting figure. He was an ordinary laborer, equivalent to a daily wage earner of our times. He was, by any standard, poor. That means no insurance, no savings, no big house, no household appliances to boast of … no nothing.

He was not taken seriously by anyone. No … definitely not the powers-that-be who had better things to do than listen to a worthless lout. Definitely, he was most unwelcome, if Amaziah the priest of Bethel was to be followed. Amaziah, who probably thought that Amos was getting a little too preachy about certain things, told him to go and do his preaching elsewhere. “Off with you, visionary, flee to the land of Judah. There earn your bread by prophesying.” NIMOB … not in my own backyard!

Mind you, there was not even the word “please” to soften the rude command!

But Amos would not be bullied. He knew who he was and what he stood for. He entertained no thoughts of marvels beyond him, nor powers he did not have. “I was no prophet … I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores.”

Ako’y isang hamak na pastol lamang … isang simpleng tagapangalaga lamang ng puno …

But Amos knew who he was and what God wanted him to be. In the end, we believers ought to know our rightful place. We are just called. We are just sent. We are just messengers of the One who, alone has the right to make of us what He wants.

Lowly shepherd or humble keeper of sycamores, Amos was raised, called, and sent to preach in God’s name, not in his own name.

And that, my dear reader, is what you call humble obedience!



SUMMONED AND SENT

The twelve must have initially thought of better ideas. After all, they were following a rumored deliverer and liberator. It must have felt real good to follow a rock star. Jesus was the man to root for. Everyone was longing to see more, hear more, and get more from him … especially the sick, the lame, the poor, the widows and orphans.

At this point, the twelve must have started to get the drift of their Master. He was obviously not getting nuclear weapons and supersonic fighter jets anytime soon.

He was busy in the business of saving and delivering – the poor, the outcasts, the downtrodden, the sick, those tortured by demons and unclean spirits.

He was not posting facebook statuses that said “Off to Boracay or Balesin for some R&R and socializing with the oligarchs.”

No … with or without followers and fans, he was engaged in his Father’s business.

And now, he calls twelve associates, close-in partners, and committed collaborators. Oh no! He is giving away no free passes to Disney or free tickets to a Mediterranean cruise!

Oh no … nothing of the kind! He even told them to travel light (read: bring nothing!). Just hold on to your good, old reliable sandals! No Puma, no swoosh or check marks, no Adi dazzlers, no Benetton inspired apparel …

They were not being sent for an excursion, but for a mission … not to the comfortable, but to those who were not and could not afford to.

The Savior par excellence was on a roll. And you and me, are now called to do just as he did.

No ifs, no buts. No Bally shoes, no Gucci bags.

Nothing fancy here … just plain you and me, minus all the trappings that smack of wealth, comfort, and misplaced confidence on material resources.

We are summoned and sent … armed with blessings of a different kind … “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens!”



Saturday, July 4, 2015

CALLED AND SENT TO RAISE UP A FALLEN WORLD

[BREAKING THE BREAD OF GOD’S WORD]
14th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

CALLED AND SENT TO RAISE UP A FALLEN WORLD

The first reading almost sounds like a reality check … The Lord tells the prophet: “I am sending you to … rebels who have rebelled against me … to [people] hard of face and obstinate of heart.”

Paul, in the second reading, almost sounds like he is giving us another dampener … another sob and sad story: “a thorn in the flesh was given to me … insults, hardships, persecutions and complaints.”

It is hard for me at this point in time, not to identify with both Ezekiel and Paul.

I feel like I am a little weak lamb in the midst of wolves.

But today, I need to be reminded. Today, as in all other Sundays, I need to be given a shot in the arm. And it is more than just consoling to note that even the Lord Jesus, when he went back to his own country, was given far less than a hospitable and warm welcome.

They doubted him. They could not believe that someone who came from their hometown could do wonders … “Where did this man get all this?” Indeed, in the spirit of resignation and humble acceptance of what is, Jesus uttered this famous line: “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.”

We live in a fallen world. We definitely are very much affected by the culture of sin – our own, first of all, and that of others. We live in an imperfect world. Yes … even the Church, although it is a perfect society in and of itself, is made up of saints and sinners!

Fr. Andrew Greeley had this wise counsel years ago … If you find a perfect Church, by all means, join it. But know that just as soon as you join, it has ceased to be perfect.”

But perfect or not (definitely not!) we are all called. We are all invited to become the best we can be. Despite all the odds, despite all the opposition, the prophet needs to do his part. Accepted or not, capable or not to make people laugh or listen to funny or boring homilies, the priest is called and sent to “raise a fallen world,” in obedience to Christ the High Priest and supreme Shepherd.

I pray today for priests. May they remain faithful in spite of so much opposition from a culture so full of hatred and bias against God. I pray for all believers, that they may listen to the fullness of Christian saving truth, and not reject those they don’t agree with. I pray for all of you who read this now, or listen to me right now, that, together, in the face of so much opposition from a materialistic and God-less world, we may remain to be what God expects us to be. “Fill your faithful with holy joy, for on those you have rescued from slavery to sin, you bestow eternal gladness.”

Through the same Christ, our Lord! Amen.