NO STRINGS ATTACHED (Luke 1:57-66) : 23 December 2010 (Thursday of the 4th Week of Advent)

Today’s Readings
2010 December 23

I’ve been trying to figure out this guy Zechariah.  As you probably know, Zechariah was the father of John the Baptist, and the husband of Elizabeth, who happened to be Mary’s cousin. He’s the very first character we meet in the Gospel of St. Luke.

In that opening scene, the angel Gabriel appeared to him in the temple, and Zechariah was told the surprising and wonderful news that his wife Elizabeth was finally pregnant, after enduring years of being called “barren” by their neighbors.

  But then he asked: “How can I be sure of this?”

We’re often told that it was his lack of faith that led the angel to strike him mute so that Zechariah was unable to speak until his son was born. But I wonder if that was the only issue. After all, for a devoted Jew like Zechariah, becoming a parent at a late age wasn’t too far-fetched: think Abraham fathering Isaac. Continue reading NO STRINGS ATTACHED (Luke 1:57-66) : 23 December 2010 (Thursday of the 4th Week of Advent)

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KILLJOY (Matthew 3:1-12): 05 December 2010 (2nd Sunday of Advent)

KILLJOY (Matthew 3:1-12):  05 December 2010 (2nd Sunday of Advent)

Today’s Readings

There’s something strange about our Gospel reading today. Did you notice what was wrong with the picture?

We’re supposed to be in the season of Advent, preparing for Christmas. And when we say Christmas, we think of such familiar characters like the angels proclaiming good news, shepherds leaving their flock to check out the baby Jesus, and wise men following stars and bearing gifts. These are feel-good characters and what is Christmas if not the season for feeling good? Continue reading KILLJOY (Matthew 3:1-12): 05 December 2010 (2nd Sunday of Advent)

PRIDE IS JUST THE SYMPTOM (Lk 18:9-14): 24 October 2010 (Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time)

PRIDE IS JUST THE SYMPTOM (Lk 18:9-14):  24 October 2010 (Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time)

Today’s Readings

Two people are praying in the temple, but God is hearing very different prayers.  The first, a Pharisee, claims his place–presumably, the “best seat in the house”–as he recites his feel-good prayer; the other, a tax collector, is huddled at the back of the temple.  The Pharisee sounds like he’s thanking God, but if you listen carefully, he’s really just praising himself.  The tax collector, on the other hand, can hardly look up in shame, managing only to beg for mercy.

Our Lord concludes by saying that it is the sinner who leaves the temple justified and talks about the reversals that will befall the proud and the humble:

“For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Continue reading PRIDE IS JUST THE SYMPTOM (Lk 18:9-14): 24 October 2010 (Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time)

DOES PRAYER REALLY WORK? (Luke 18:1-8): 17 October 2010 (Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time)

DOES PRAYER REALLY WORK? (Luke 18:1-8):  17 October 2010 (Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time)

Today’s Reading

Note:  A version of this homily was delivered in Xavier School last October 6, 2010, but it fits our Gospel Reading today.

About five years ago, an interesting scientific research was conducted by a team of doctors.  The study is called STEP, which stands for “Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer.” The research is interesting because it’s a kind of experiment on the effects of prayer on patients undergoing a delicate surgery called CABG–or Coronary Artery Bypass Graft.

The doctors behind STEP wanted to answer two research questions:

First: Does intercessory prayer–or praying for the patients–help them recover from surgery?

Second:  Are there benefits if the patients are assured of prayers?  In other words, do they recover faster? I’d like to talk about this today because in today’s Gospel reading, our Lord asks us to pray–even nag Him like the persistent widow who never gave up on the judge. Continue reading DOES PRAYER REALLY WORK? (Luke 18:1-8): 17 October 2010 (Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time)

THE MEMORY OF ONE’S LEPROSY (Luke 17:11-19): 10 October 2010 (Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time)

THE MEMORY OF ONE’S LEPROSY (Luke 17:11-19): 10 October 2010 (Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time)

Today’s Reading

Today leprosy is considered a thing of the past.  No longer the dreaded biblical scourge that it used to be, it is relatively easy to cure these days, thanks to a multi-drug therapy developed in the 1980s and declared its definitive cure.  Leprosy has today become the forgotten disease.

A visit to Isla Culion a couple of weeks ago, however, helped me remember.The island, the country’s largest leper’s colony for nearly a century from 1906 to 1992, bears a history that reminds us of the stigma of the disease. In 1906, armed men rounded up thousands of victims of leprosy from all over the country to ship them to Culion for segregation and treatment. Continue reading THE MEMORY OF ONE’S LEPROSY (Luke 17:11-19): 10 October 2010 (Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time)

GOD ACROSS THE CHASM (Luke 16:19-31): 26 September 2010 (26th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

GOD ACROSS THE CHASM (Luke 16:19-31):  26 September 2010 (26th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

Today’s Readings

Last night I had a weird but powerful dream.  I was with an old priest (Fr. Jim Reuter, the famous columnist and playwright, no less!) and a friend from high school.  For reasons I don’t remember, we decided to pray together.  When it was my turn, I closed my eyes dutifully and prayed.  All I remember is beginning the prayer with “Dear Lord…” and then it happened. Continue reading GOD ACROSS THE CHASM (Luke 16:19-31): 26 September 2010 (26th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

SHOWING OFF MY WOUNDS (John 20:19-31): Easter

SHOWING OFF MY WOUNDS (John 20:19-31):  Easter

According to statistics, 11.5 million cosmetic procedures were done in 2006 in the United States alone.  Over 3 million received Botox treatments.  Almost 1.5 million underwent laser hair removal.  And  there were approximately 400,000 patients for liposuction and another 400,000 for breast augmentation.

Thanks to today’s advanced medical technology and an outrageously beauty-conscious culture, more and more men and women are going for cosmetic procedures.  An ad for the metrosexual lifestyle may as well go:  “Got a problem with a body part? Just fix it!” Continue reading SHOWING OFF MY WOUNDS (John 20:19-31): Easter

FATHER, FORGIVE THEM (Luke 23:33-34): 31 March 2010 (Lent)

FATHER, FORGIVE THEM (Luke 23:33-34):  31 March 2010 (Lent)

Reflections on the First of the Seven Last Words
Church of the Gesu
Ateneo de Manila University
31 March 2010

And when they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on the right and one on the left.  And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:33-34)

I don’t know about you, but I have a little problem with these first words of Jesus on the cross.  I have a couple of questions.

First of all:  Who’s ‘them’?  Who is He actually forgiving?  Our Lord could be referring to several groups of people who have wronged him before and during the crucifixion, people responsible for what happened in different ways and in varying degrees.  Who could these people be? Continue reading FATHER, FORGIVE THEM (Luke 23:33-34): 31 March 2010 (Lent)

WHAT’S IN YOUR MANGER? : 24 December 2009 (Christmas Eve)

WHAT’S IN YOUR MANGER? :  24 December 2009 (Christmas Eve)

Note: This homily was delivered during the Christmas Midnight Mass in Xavier School last 24 December 2009.

Over 500 years before the very first Christmas, between 620 to 560 BC, there lived in Ancient Greece a famous storyteller. His name was Aesop, and he wrote children’s stories that were called fables. These fables always had a valuable lesson to teach not only children but even adults. I’m sure you’ve heard of some of them—like “The Tortoise and the Hare,” “The North Wind and the Sun,” and “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” Continue reading WHAT’S IN YOUR MANGER? : 24 December 2009 (Christmas Eve)

THE ZECHARIAH IN US: 23 December 2009 (Simbang Gabi)

THE ZECHARIAH IN US:  23 December 2009 (Simbang Gabi)

Note:  This homily was delivered last 23 December at the Simbang Gabi Mass in the Gesu,  Ateneo de Manila University.

Just one more day to go before the day we celebrate the birth of our Lord!

But not so fast! The past couple of evenings, we have been invited first to think about another birth—the birth of our Lord’s cousin, John the Baptist. Amidst all the excitement and rejoicing in that household that day, one person was strangely silent: the father of the newborn baby, Zechariah. In the gospel story today, he more than makes up for it by breaking his silence and breaking into song, giving us one of the loveliest songs in the New Testament. Continue reading THE ZECHARIAH IN US: 23 December 2009 (Simbang Gabi)