December 26, 2015
We Are God's Holy Family
Jesus' parents “looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances”.
Commentators often explain this practice of people at the time traveling in group for safety reason.
However, this line also reminds us of the role of the extended family and community in each person's spiritual journey. No one walks this journey alone. We can and need to support each other. The witness of people's faith encourages us to live our faith.
We are all “looking for Jesus” every moment of our life. We can seek him together. And we can find him present in each other. We then become the holy family, where the Son of God continues to be present in the flesh.
December 19, 2015
“Blessed Are You”
On this last Sunday of Advent, St. Luke offers us the examples of two women who carry out God's will in their ordinary lives.
Mary, a young woman, goes to visit and helps an older relative in her time of needs. In doing so, she brings the Savior to her cousin Elizabeth and John, her son.
Elizabeth, from the natural movements of her son in her womb, recognizes the presence of the Savior.
Two women, ordinary by human standards, do ordinary things. Yet, one brings God and the gift of salvation. The other recognizes the unique blessing given to her and proclaims the presence of the Lord.
May we grow in awareness of the Lord's presence in our lives. Consequently, we would be more grateful and intentional of the opportunities and privilege of bringing God's Salvation and Love to others in the most ordinary moments of our lives.
December 12, 2015
What Should We Do?
The Gospel for this 3rd Sunday of Advent continues with the preaching of John the Baptist in Luke that we began last week.
John's proclamation that “all flesh shall see the salvation of our God” and the invitation to prepare the way of the Lord had drawn people to him. In response to John's preaching, they asked, “What should we do?”
His response is two-fold. First, everybody only needs to do what is proper to their state of life and their responsibility. This is true even to those whose jobs were considered immoral or less than noble at the time. Tax collectors and soldiers were then agents of an illegitimate government. Yet, they also could do what was just.
Second, John calls all to share with others. “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.”
In this way, John prepared the way for the One who is mightier than he, who comes to build a Kingdom of justice, peace, mercy and love.
December 6, 2015
November 28, 2015
Anxieties of Daily Life
Jesus warns us of three things that can make our hearts “drowsy”: carousing, drunkenness, and the anxieties of daily life. The first two might be obvious, but the anxieties of daily life? Yet, compared to the first two, this third element is probably more prevalent for people of faith and those who strive to live a morally and religiously decent life.
When we are anxious about daily life, it is often because we forget and fail to believe in God's presence and loving providence for us.
On the contrary, when we trust in the Lord, even the midst of trails and upheavals, we will be able to “stand erect and raise our heads” knowing that the Lord is with us, and “redemption is at hand.”
November 14, 2015
My Words Will Not Pass Away
Each Gospel passage has at least three audiences.
The first audience was made up of the people who listen to Jesus or witnessed first hand his life events. The second audience was the people the Evangelist had in mind when he wrote the Gospel (often referred to as his community, eg. the Markan community in the case of today's passage). And we, listeners and readers of all future generation are the third audience.
The experiences and the reflections of the previous two audiences can help us listen to and reflect on God's words spoken to us today.
For both first and second audiences, the words of Jesus were fulfilled in their lives.
The day of Jesus' crucifixion, the sun was darkened, the powers in the heaven were shaken. Indeed, for Jesus' disciples – the first audience, their world was seemingly coming to an end.
For the second audience, Christians who lived in the Roman Empire probably around the year 70 AD, their world was also in turmoil. Nero had begun the brutal persecution of Christians. And for the Jewish Christians, Jerusalem was recently leveled by the Romans as punishment for the Jewish revolt. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were killed. Those were indeed the days of tribulation.
In those situations, the disciples of the first audience and Christians of the second audience also witnessed the fulfillment of Jesus' words, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
The Resurrection of Jesus conquered death and gave peace to his disciples. Their courageous witness and faith in turn strengthened Christians of the second audience.
May their witness continue to strengthen us when we face the tribulations of our own times.
November 7, 2015
Her Whole Livelihood
Jesus observes that the woman “contributed her whole livelihood.” The word bios translated here as “livelihood” can also be translated “life.” Fr. Frank Moloney, SDB., suggests that the “double meaning is intended” for out of love and trust, she in fact offers her life. 
The widow is poor. Some scholars suggest that the Greek word ptochoi used here to described her indicates that she is “the poorest of the poor, a widow reduced to begging.” 
But her poverty does not limit her generosity.
Jesus is already in Jerusalem. His mission is near its climatic point. In a short time, he would offer his own life to God and to humanity.
Do I put limits on my generosity and service?
. Francis J. Moloney. The Gospel of Mark, A Commentary. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2002; p. 247.
Greek has two words for "poor"--penes and ptochos. Penes means "working poor." Ptochos, on the other hand, means being destitute. To put it another way: Penes means having to work. Ptochos means having to beg.
October 31, 2015
Poor and Clean of Heart
We have been reading from the Gospel According to Mark. For this feast of All Saints, we switch to the Matthew. However, the passages from Mark of the last two Sundays might give us some good examples to reflect on two of the “beatitudes” – “Blessed are the poor in spirit” and “Blessed are the clean of heart.”
In the Gospel for the 29th Sunday, James and John asked Jesus to let them sit one at his right and one at his left. Worse than their demand is the way they speak to Jesus, “We want you to do for us whatever we ask of you” (Mark 10: 35). That doesn't seem to be the attitude of the poor in spirit. They think highly of themselves. They appear presumptuous or even arrogant.
Their attitude leads James and John to make such an obnoxious demand. The demand also suggests their desire for power and control.
The blind man Bartimaeus, on the contrary, acknowledges his nothingness. More importantly, he recognizes and professes his faith in the Son of David. He pleads with Jesus to “have pity on” him (Mark 10: 47, Gospel for 30th Sunday). He is poor both in possessions and in spirit.
The recognition of his poverty leads Bartimaeus to depend on Jesus, not on his possessions, position, connections, or talents. And once he has received the sight that he asks for, he follows Jesus as Jesus continues his journey to Jerusalem.
October 24, 2015
Bartimaeus Follows Jesus on the Way
Last week, we listened to James and John asking Jesus for a favor. Today, we heard Bartimaeus' request.
Let's compare Bartimaeus with James and John.
James and John were among the first people Jesus called at the very beginning of his public ministry (Mark, Chapter 1). They are two of the Twelve, those closest to Jesus. Moreover, James and John, often with Peter, have the privilege of being with Jesus on very special occasions. For example, Jesus let them witness the Transfiguration (Mark, Chapter 8) and the raising of the daughter of Jairus (Mark, Chapter 5).
Bartimaeus, on the contrary, is a blind beggar. He is not even in the crowd following Jesus. He is nobody. And he has nothing. His sole possession seems to be the cloak, which he even “throws aside” when Jesus calls him.
These opposite background details provides a stark contrast between Bartimaeus and James and John.
James and John addresses Jesus simply as, “Teacher.” Bartimaeus acknowledges Jesus as the “Son of David” and “Master” (or “Lord” in some other translations.)
James and John approach Jesus and demand, ““Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”
Bartimaeus is much humbler. He simply pleads with Jesus, “Have pity on me.”
James and John ask for places of honor and power, sitting at Jesus' right and left even though they have been told three times what awaits Jesus in Jerusalem. They are with Jesus, but they are not really following him.
James and John have eyes but they do not see.
Bartimaeus had no sight but he could see.
And once given sight, Bartimaeus is told “go your way.” However, he follows Jesus “on the way,” which is the way to Jerusalem , the way of humility and sacrifice, the way of loving service.
 In Mark, Jesus' enters Jerusalem immediately after this story of the healing of Bartimaeus. http://www.agnusday.org/comics/124/mark-1046-52-2006.
October 17, 2015
Today's Gospel passage reports the request James and John make. It comes after the third time Jesus announces what would happen to him in Jerusalem (10: 32-23). And this time, Jesus gives more concrete details of his suffering and death than ever before. 
With each prediction, Jesus moves closer to Jerusalem. There is also a progression in Jesus' selection of his audiences for the predictions of his passion. 
The first prediction of the passion was given to the disciples. Peter responded by trying to dissuade Jesus. In response, Jesus spoke to “the crowd with his disciples” about the call to deny oneself, take up one's cross and follow him (Chapter 8).
The second prediction was again given to the disciples. They then argued who was the greatest. Jesus called the Twelve and taught them about true greatness in humble and loving service of others (Chapter 9).
Today's passage from Chapter 10 follows immediately the third prediction. Here, the prediction was given only to the Twelve. And after their erroneous response, Jesus again spoke only to the Twelve.
There seems to be a progression here. Those Jesus himself has chosen and called seem in need of his patience and instruction more than anybody else.
The Lord knows them and their needs well. They are his friends. And he is patient with them.
He would try over and over again to teach them the mystery of his love, which reveals fully on the cross.
His mercy and patience give us courage when we don't get it.
 Francis J. Moloney. The Gospel of Mark, A Commentary. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2002; p. 204.
October 10, 2015
The passage again begins with the context, “Jesus was setting on a journey.”
Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem. This gives concrete context to his invitation, “Follow me.”
The man who has “many possessions” could not follow Jesus. Apparently, he either has too much to lose or his many possessions hold him back. Ironically, he is not even observing the very first commandment. Nor does he live the Shema, which he, as a devout Jew, would say even twice everyday, “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone!”
The disciples think they “have given up everything and followed” Jesus. They have begun. But if they truly follow Jesus, their journeys must continue all the way to the cross.
I wonder where I am on this journey.
October 3, 2015
“From the Beginning of Creation”
The setting of a Scripture passage can be a good tool for its understanding. The events in this passage of Mark 10: 2-16, as well as the conversations and Jesus' teachings we will hear next Sunday, take place as Jesus is journeying toward Jerusalem.
In the passage, Jesus brings up God's plan “from the beginning of creation.” The plan of God's love and goodness gives the guidelines and standards for human relationships and the order of all creation.
Our lives may not always reflect that plan, as a result of sins. So is the reality of our world.
Jesus is now on the way to Jerusalem. There, by his passion, crucifixion and resurrection, he will restore the original plan of God. Moreover, all creation is redeemed by his blood. We are no longer just God's creation. We are now God's children, brothers and sisters of Christ (2nd Reading, Hebrew 2:11)
Though we are not there yet, we know and believe that the fullness of God's Kingdom is the true fulfillment of God's plan of love. There, we will be with God forever.
Thus, Pope Francis reminded us, “Our life is not a pointless wandering. We have a sure goal: the house of the Father.” 
 Twitter, Pontifex, October 1, 2015.
September 26, 2015
In or Out
The disciples focus on separation, and distinguish who’s in and who’s out. Their criteria is self-centered, “He does not follow us.” One also wonders if the disciples are jealous or embarrassed. A few verses prior to this incident, they were “unable” to drive out a demon in a boy (v. 18). Yet, they then “were discussing among themselves who was the greatest” (v. 34, last week’s Gospel).
Jesus is about the universality of God’s Kingdom. There are rooms for those “who do mighty deeds in [his] name” as well as “the little ones.” In fact, he safeguards the little ones. And he rewards those who offer the smallest gesture of kindness to those who belongs to him.
What small gesture can I offer to invite and welcome people into God’s Family?
September 19, 2015
Some years ago, Dan Brown wrote The Da Vinci Code with the premise that some people in the Catholic Church have a secret to hide in order to stay in power.
The disciples in this Gospel passage of Mark 9: 30-37 also have a secret that they want to keep from Jesus. Their secret is also about power.
Jesus himself has a secret. In this passage, he is journeying with his disciples, and he does “not want anyone to know about it.” To them alone, Jesus teaches the secret of who he is: the one who suffers and dies to give the whole humanity life when he rises again. That is his secret, the secret of loving service to the point of laying down his life for his friends.
The disciples did not understand it then when Jesus taught them the lesson by his words.
But once Jesus taught them the lesson by his action – his death on the cross and his resurrection, they then understood it.
And the disciples themselves would follow his example. They got the secret then.
How well do I know Jesus' secret? And am I ready to live it?
September 12, 2015
Having the Right Answer. Is It Enough?
The Gospel readings selected for the previous two Sundays prepared us for today's passage.
Two weeks ago, Mark portrayed Jesus as the great preacher. He outsmarted the Pharisees and scribes who questioned him.
Last week, Mark showed us Jesus' power in his miracles. The witnesses acclaimed, “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
By human standards, Jesus is now at the height of his success and popularity.
This explains why people think he might be John the Baptist, Elijah, or one of the prophets.
Then the location where Jesus asks his disciples the question of who he is adds another twist to the conversation. This conversation takes place while they are on their way to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. The city was built by the ruler of the area to be his capital. He named it after Caesar Augustus, his political patron. But there was another city already named Caesarea. So to distinguish his new city, the ruler added a second name to it. And the ruler's name happened to be Philip. He in fact named the city after himself.
In the vicinity of this city of worldly political power and alliance, Jesus asks the disciples if they know who he is. Peter knows Jesus' title, “You are the Christ.” Yet, Peter does not understand what that means.
What is my answer if Jesus asks me today, “Who do you say that I am?” And do I know what my answer means? And am I ready for it?
September 5, 2015
Last Sunday, Jesus invited us to “hear and understand.”
Today, the command to the man “Ephphrata – Be opened” can be applied to us as a continuation. Jesus invites us to be opened, to hear, and to understand. 
God's words come to us through the words of Sacred Scriptures, which has primacy in God's revelation. At the same time, God speaks to us in our own hearts, and also through the people and events of our life.
One example of how God speaks in the events of life would be the journey that Jesus takes in today's Gospel, as Mark described it. Jesus takes an unusual route to go from Tyre to the district of the Decapolis. He goes further north to Sidon before heading south. In doing so, he enters even farther into the land of the Gentiles and brings to them the Good News. He walks with the religious outcasts of his time. He invites them to be opened to the Gospel and Kingdom of God.
So, let's take a look at the people God puts in our lives. To whom should I be more open to hear and understand God's words speaking to me.
August 29, 2015
Mark 7: 1-8, 14-15, 21-23
“Hear and Understand”
This Sunday, we return to the Gospel of Mark.
There are two possible approaches to the message of the passage selected for this Sunday.
First, to look at it from a wider context. Second, from this particular passage.
From the wider context, there is a general theme for what is proclaimed today and the next two Sunday. Today, Mark presents the power of Jesus in his teaching. Next Sunday, the power of Jesus is revealed through one of his miracles. Then, the third Sunday, after having witnessed the power of Jesus, the disciples will be asked who they think Jesus is. Afterwards, Jesus reveals to them his identity.
On the power of Jesus in his words, in this particular passage, Mark reminds us to “hear, and to understand” so that our hearts may never be far from the Lord and his teachings.
August 22, 2015
The Words of Eternal Life
For five weeks now we have listened to almost the whole Chapter 6 from the Gospel According to John.
The disciples have been present since the beginning of this chapter. Each of them must have had his own beginning in his following of Jesus. Nevertheless, they all have witnessed the power of Jesus as he multiplied the five loaves and two fish to feed the five thousand people. They also saw him walking on the sea (though we did not listen to this portion of Chapter 6).
Many may have followed Jesus because they have seen the signs he performed. But in John's understanding, the faith based on seeing signs is weak and superficial.
Earlier in this chapter, it was the crowd, then “the Jews” (referring to those Jews who opposed Jesus) who had a hard time accepting Jesus' words.
Now, it is some of the disciples who find Jesus' saying “hard,” and they no longer accompany him.
Peter and the Twelve, on the contrary, recognize Jesus' words are “the words of eternal life.”
These opposite reactions to Jesus' words bring us back to the words in the Prologue of John's Gospel, “to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name.” (1:12)
August 15, 2015
To Believe, To Eat, and To Drink
At the beginning of this Gospel, in the Prologue, John tells us, “He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him. But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name. And 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: 11- 12, 14).
And now, Jesus tells us how he fulfills this mission that John introduced,
The Son of God has come in human flesh. Not all will accept that, particularly his own. But to those who believe, he gives the gift of himself. Those who eat his flesh and drink his blood have eternal life. And eternal life is being one with the Father and the Son.
The response on our part: to believe, to eat his flesh, and to drink his blood.
August 8, 2015
The One Who Is from God.
The people think they know who Jesus is, “the son of Joseph.” They also know “his father and mother.” What they think they know becomes their obstacle, “How can he say, 'I have come doenw from heaven'?”
They want to box Jesus in, according to their mindsets.
They are not ready to be taught by God.
This Gospel passage seems to challenge us to allow Jesus to teach us about God. That knowledge must be accepted on God's terms, not ours.
Jesus alone knows God because he “is from God, [and] he has seen the Father.”
If we believe in Jesus' words, then we will know God, and receive eternal life.
July 25, 2015
A Boy with Five Barley Loaves
He had five loaves of bread. While the crowd of hungry people numbered more than five thousand.
And his bread was made of barley, the kind of bread poor people ate.
Who am I?
What do I have to offer?
What are the needs of people?
Yet, Jesus wants to work with me and to use what I have.
July 18, 2015
"His Heart Is Moved with Pity for Them"
Yet, people still come and go in great numbers. And people keep coming. There are always people in need.
Jesus know the needs of the people. Jesus know the people. And “his heart is moved with pity for them.”
We can never do enough.
There will be always people in need.
May we grow in the attitude of Jesus, whose “heart is moved with pity for them.”
Also, may we trust that Jesus knows us and our needs; and that “his heart is moved with pity” for us.
July 12, 2015
Mark 6: 7-13
It is Jesus’ Mission
There are three significant verbs in the way Jesus commissions the Twelve: summon, send, and give authority.
All these three verbs point to the truth that the initiative is from Jesus.
It is Jesus who has first called these Twelve to follow him. And it is a part of God’s plan for salvation for humanity that these people were called. Earlier, the author of this Gospel wrote, "Jesus went up the mountain and summoned those whom he wanted and they came to him. He appointed twelve , whom he also named apostles, that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach” (3: 13-14).
They have been with him and learned from him as he taught. They have experienced his power. They have witnessed the way he forgave sinners and cared for the people who are in need. They have learned of his zeal for his mission. And they have seen him in prayer.
Now, he sends them with his authority.
With the same pattern Jesus is sharing with us his mission of proclaiming the Good News of God’s salvation.
He calls us. He prepares us, and he sends us, with his authority.
It is always a privilege and a grace to be called and to be sent by Jesus.
This should give us both humility and courage.
It is always Jesus’s mission, not ours.