April 25, 2008


Sixth Sunday of Easter – Year A

John 14:15-21

John 14 reports the words of Jesus to the disciples during the last supper, after he has washed their feet, predicted Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial. After telling them that he would be going away, he gives them the commandment of love: “Love one another, even as I have loved you” (13:34). Now, he teaches them another aspect of love, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (14:15). Love is not just a matter of feelings and emotions. Love is not just to be expressed in words. Love is action. And Jesus will soon dies out of love for his friends.

Jesus knows keeping his commandments is not an easy task, especially if it is to be done out of love. So he tells them to pray to the Father for another Advocate. (Jesus is the first Advocate).

To appreciate the role of the Advocate, a lesson in Greek would be helpful here.

Other English translations use the word Paraclete, which is closer to the original Greek parakletos. This word refers to “someone who is called in for help in time of need.” Particularly, the Greek legal system,

- Parakletos refers to a person called in “to give witness in someone’s favor.”

- A parakletos might be called in “to plead the cause of someone under a charge.”

- He might be an “expert called in to give advice”

A parakletos is also the one called in to encourage a company of depressed and dejected soldiers[1].

In other places in the Gospel of John and the New Testament, the parakletos is an advocate, who intercedes for Jesus’ disciples. The parakletos is also a guide, comforter, consoler, and teacher[2] (“The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you all that I have said to you.” 14:26)

These meanings combined give us a deeper understanding into the roles of the Holy Spirit.

With the Holy Spirit, now it is possible for us to keep Jesus’ commandments.

[1] Barclay, William. The Gospel of John, Vol. 2. The Daily Study Bible Series. Westminster Press, 1975. p. 166-167.

[2] Moloney, Francis, S.D.B. The Gospel of John. Sacra Pagina series. Liturgical Press, 1998, p 406.

April 19, 2008


Fifth Sunday of Easter – A

John 14: 1-12

The passage can be divided into two parts, verses 1to 6, and verses 7 to 12.

Verses 1 to 6:


The passage begins with Jesus’ assurance of the disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” This happened during the Last Supper after he had washed their feet, predicted that one of them would betray him, and that Peter would deny him. Jesus knows that the disciples will fail, and their world will collapse. He also had told them, “My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.” (Chapter 13). Yet, before he leaves them, he gives them an example and a commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.”[1]


Jesus’ assurance includes a word of consolation and encouragement, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” While he knows they will falter, he tells them to have faith in God and have faith in him. He also comforts them that while he may be away from them, he will never abandon them, so that where he is they also may be. Here, Jesus goes on to distinguish himself from other leaders. He does not just show people how to get to a place, he is the way (Just imagine a time when you get lost, and somebody did not just show you how to find your way, but actually led you to where you needed to be. What a difference that was). And Jesus is the way of truth and life, the way that leads to the Father.

Verses 7-12:

Philip says, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Even though Jesus corrects Philip for failing to see the presence of the Father in Him, Philip’s prayer is incredible in challenging us to look at our own desires and goals in life. What do we want in life? Can we ever say honestly that God alone is enough for us?

The Christian faith teaches us that in Jesus Christ God is near to us. God is no longer a distant God. With the incarnation of the Son of God, God comes to live among us. In the prologue on the Gospel of John, the author professes the core of the Christian faith, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth” (1:14). God now lives among us so that we can know and be with God. Jesus, the Son of God, lived a human life so that all things human can now be divine. He walked the earth, he worked, he loved, he formed friendships, he rejoiced, he was happy, he was sad, he was disappointed, he was betrayed, he was denied and rejected. Yet, he conquered evil and sin, death and condemnation. He is now alive, and so are we, with Him.

[1] Moloney, Francis, S.D.B. The Gospel of John. Sacra Pagina series. Liturgical Press, 1998, p.393.

April 14, 2008

Fifth Sunday of Easter

April 20, 2008


(Photo by Dominic Tran, Dec. 2006)

April 12, 2008


Fourth Sunday of Easter – Good Shepherd Sunday

World Day of Prayer for Vocations

John 10:1-10

Context of the passage: This passage follows the healing of the man born blind (John 9). Not only did Jesus give the man physical sight, but also the eye of faith. In the end, the man professed his faith, “Lord, I believe”; and worshiped Jesus. The Pharisees, on the contrary, failed to see the work of God done by Jesus in healing the man. They even threw him out (9:34). The passage that we hear on the Fourth Sunday of Easter was Jesus’ response to the Pharisees and the people afterwards.

Here, I thought it is best to note some scholarly descriptions of the life of a shepherd provided by William Barclay in The Gospel of John, Vol. 2, of the Daily Study Bible Series, Westminster Press, 1975, pages 52-60.

On the image of a shepherd:

The main part of Judea was a central plateau, for a distance of about 35 miles and varying from 14 to 17 miles across. The ground, for the most part, was rough and stony.

The shepherd’s life was very hard. No flock ever grazed without a shepherd, and he was never off duty. There being little grass, the sheep were bound to wander, and since three were no protecting walls, the sheep had constantly to be watched. On either side of the plateau the ground dipped sharply down the craggy deserts and sheep were always liable to stray away and get lost. The shepherd’s task was not only constant but dangerous, for, in addition, he had to guard the flock against wild animals, especially against wolves, and there were always thieves and robbers ready to steal the sheep.

Sir George Adam Smith, who traveled in Palestine, writes, “When you meet him, sleepless, far-sighted, weather-beaten, leaning on his staff, and looking out over his scattered sheep, every one of them on his heart, you understand why the shepherd of Judea sprang to the front in his people’s history; why they gave his name to their king, and made him the symbol of providence; why Christ took him as the type of self-sacrifice.” Constant vigilance, fearless courage, patient love for his flock, were the necessary characteristics of the shepherd.

In Palestine the sheep are largely kept for their wool. It thus happens that the sheep are often with the shepherd for years and often they have names by which the shepherd calls them. Usually these names are descriptive. The shepherd went first to see that the path was safe, and sometimes the sheep had to be encouraged to follow.

It is strictly true that the sheep know and understand the eastern shepherd’s voice; and that they will never answer to the voice of a stranger. H.V. Morton describes, “The shepherd calls sharply from time to time, to remind the sheep of his presence. They know his voice and follow on; but if a stranger call, they stop short, lift up their heads in alarm, and if it is repeated, they turn and flee, because they know not the voice of a stranger.”

H. V. Morton once saw a scene in a cave near Bethlehem. Two shepherds had sheltered their flocks in a cave during the night. How were the flocks to be sorted out? One of the shepherds stood some distance away and gave his peculiar call which only his sheep knew, and soon his whole flock had run to him, because they knew his voice. They would have come to no one else, but they knew the call of their own shepherd.

Whose voice do I listen to in my life?

On the image of the gate:

In the warm season, the sheep were out on the hills and at night, they were collected into sheep-folds on the hillside. These hillside sheep-folds were just open spaces enclosed by a wall. In them there was an opening by which the sheep came in and went out; but there was no door of any kind. At night, the shepherd himself lay down across the opening and no sheep could get out or in except over his body. In the most literal sense, the shepherd was the door.

When Jesus said, “I am the door,” we know that through him, and through him alone, we find access to God, and that means having life abundantly.

April 4, 2008


Third Sunday of Easter – Year A

Luke 24:13-35

Resurrection Hope

See what loss of hope can do to you!

The passage begins with the emphasis “that very day, the first day of the week” as the day the two disciples left Jerusalem for Emmaus.

We all know what had happened on that very day. The two disciples too have heard about the events of that very day. They themselves report that they have heard from other members of their group about the empty tomb and the vision of angels (vs. 22 – 24). They think that they know this Jesus the Nazarene well. After all, they have witnessed this prophet’s mighty words and deeds (v. 19). They saw him undergoing his passion and crucifixion (v. 20). Yet, hearing about, or even having knowledge of someone or something, is not the same as knowing someone. It is not enough to have faith.

Moreover, in the case of the two disciples, they have allowed their disappointments to have the better of them. They had some agendas (“we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel” (v. 21), and when things did not go as plan, their plan, they become lost.

They have gotten lost because they have not seen according to God’s way. Jerusalem is where God reveals himself and his loving plan for humanity through the suffering, death, and resurrection of His Son[1]. And yet, the disciples are now walking away from that center of God’s action. They are going to Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem (v. 13). Is that number 7 symbolic? Can it mean that they are really going as far away as possible from where they should be?

So, it’s no surprise that the two fail to recognize Jesus.

But it is to these disciples, who are lost and confused that the Risen Lord comes. He takes the initiative. He makes the approach. He forms a community with them. He teaches them using what they can relate to, “beginning with Moses and all the prophets” (v. 25-27). (Here, he uses his death and resurrection to help them read and understand Scriptures [2]).

Then, with the breaking of the bread, he reveals himself fully to them.

Once their hearts have been burning with God’s Word and their eyes recognized the Presence of the Risen Lord in the Eucharist, “they set out at once and return to Jerusalem” to give witness to the Resurrection (v. 33). They themselves now walk the seven-mile journey in a much denser darkness than the dusk that some moments before they did not want a stranger to go in. (Then they said to him, "Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over" -- v. 29).

They have rediscovered hope, the hope in the Risen Christ.

[1] Moloney, Francis. The Gospel of the Lord: Reflections on the Gospel Reading Year A. Liturgical Press, p. 114.

[2] Johnson, Luke Timothy. The Gospel of Luke. Sacra Pagina Series. Liturgical Press, p. 399.