SUNDAY GOSPEL REFLECTION: Solemnity of Christ the King By Fr. Baltazar Obico, OFM

Today’s feast of Christ the King was instituted in 1925 by Pius XI when all of Europe had nightmare memories of what they called then, “the threat of war,” a time of an explosion of hatred, blindness and a torrent of blood that wiped out most of Europe at that time. The swastika, a disfigurement of the cross, was ready to lurch across Germany. Piercing the sound of these ideology hate-filled speeches, the Pope’s message of justice, peace and love was lighting a new spark. In initiating this feast, the church wanted to take our worship of Jesus from the privacy of our hearts and to proudly proclaim his public sway as well.

II. GOSPEL: The gospel may sound inappropriate; the image of Jesus being indicted by Pilate does not evoke the image of a King. Yet in the course of Pilate’s interrogation of Jesus the latter was in majestic command of the interchange. Pilate was at loss everytime Jesus responded to the nature of his kingship.

At the crucifixion, the bystanders and one of the criminals executed with Jesus, know what it means to be a king and so they taunt Jesus with the demand that He use His power to save Himself. For Jesus, however, a king is not one who saves himself, but one who saves others. It is in the mocking words of the scoffers and in the inscription put over the cross, that we are faced with the true nature of Jesus’ kingship. Save yourself and us, is another temptation for Jesus. Just as Jesus had earlier challenged his vocational identity three times and offered him a less painful option, so is Jesus is being invited to save himself. But with His lack of response to the scoffers, Jesus clearly remains steadfast in fulfilling his divine will. He is resolutely committed to God’s plan which includes death.

Only in the powerlessness of the cross can he demonstrate that authority, ultimately rescuing criminals, scoffers and religious leaders. Refusing the voices of temptation, Jesus defines for us what sort of King he really is.

This means Christian faith is not a power game that follows the rules and logic of most power plays we know – retaliation, competition, self-protectiveness and the like.

III. WORD: The Kingdom of God here on Earth.
1. Power is service, not for dominion and domination. To be a king is to serve, not to be served. Stories of DAP and PDAF, of short projects and misappropriation, point to the misuse and abuse of power. One aspect of our life that need evangelizing is in the political. We observe that many of us would like to seal off our political life from influences of faith and allegation in the guise of church and state separation. Politics relates to the exercise of power in society. It is a new world here on earth, not in heaven as understood, “in the sky above,” that is why we don’t pray, “we go to heaven,” instead we pray that “God’s Kingdom come here on earth…” Salvation did not mean escaping earth, being indifferent to politics. It is rather living a meaningful life on earth.
2. The Kingdom as an end to power relationship. Relationships based on power are oppressive…they are dehumanizing for both oppressor and the oppressed. Sometimes we hear, “Ginagamit lang tayo” when someone uses somebody, when you treat him like a thing. When the powerful imposes his will on the powerless. The latter becomes less free, less responsible, less of a creature. The oppressor, likewise demeans, lording it over. I observed this paradigm operating within our parish setting; parish leaders sowing fear among parish workers as they find their servant-leaders more to be feared than love and respected.
3. The Kingdom is offered to all, it is not only for the friars but for all believers regardless of their church affiliation, membership and religious sentiments. Our understanding of our vocation is only within the parameters of the Church and hence we are preoccupied with dogmas and doctrines, rites and rituals that separates us from other people of goodwill. We need to situate His vocation within the universal context of the Kingdom of God. Hence we are willing to set aside doctrine and ritual differences in order to work with everyone in shaping the Kingdom of God where there is justice, peace and love.

About Fr. Tasang and his other reflections…..

Jesus Christ has the Words of Eternal Life, SUNDAY GOSPEL REFLECTION 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time By Fr. Serge Santos, OFM

Around the year 90 A.D. when St. John wrote the Gospel, the doctrine and practice of the Eucharist was well established. The discourse on the Bread of Life given by Jesus Christ at Capernaum foretold the installation of the divine gift of the Eucharist. The Christians at that time accepted the Mass and Holy Communion as the essential act of Christian worship.

In today’s Gospel the “disciples” murmured because they could not accept that Jesus Christ came down from heaven and offered himself as the bread so that they would live forever. They must partake of his body – flesh and blood – if they want true life in them.

The “disciples” were a group different from the apostles. Their reason was the same as the multitude i.e. Jesus Christ was a mere human being. It seemed natural for them not to accept this teaching of Jesus Christ to eat his body and drink his blood.

Christ said that they lack faith due to the fact that he gave enough proof that he was more than a human being. These “disciples” closed their minds to the evidence; this is their guilt. Faith is a gift from the Father, as Christ said to them: “No one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father,” but the Father offered this gift and they refused to accept it; otherwise they would not have been guilty. The divine spirit which produces “faith” is alone capable of giving life and meaning to his words.

We in this day and age accept that Jesus Christ is both human and divine. It is easy for us to believe he left us himself in the Eucharist as a sacrifice and a sacrament. We may not understand this act of divine power in its fullness due to our limited comprehension. However, we do understand and believe in the words of Christ. JESUS CHRIST HAS THE WORDS OF ETERNAL LIFE.

“In Galilee he promised to give his body and blood – in the Eucharist – Communion – and our means of offering an absolutely pleasing sacrifice to God every time his body and blood are made present by the words of the ordained minister. He fulfilled that promise at the Last Supper. He gave to his apostles and their successors the power to repeat this act of divine love when he said: “Do this in memory of me.”

When Jesus Christ asked the twelve apostles, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered, “Master, to whom shall we go?” You have the words of eternal life.” This statement of faith was not only for the apostles but also for all Christians who truly believe that CHRIST IS THE INCARNATE SON OF GOD. Peter was convinced that Christ was intimate with God and his words are TRUTH.

At this point in time for some of us it would be wise to examine ourselves how we appreciate this gift of the Blessed EUCHARIST. When we come to Mass, do we acknowledge that Christ offers himself to the Father for our SANCTIFICATION and for all humanity?

Do we know that through the priest at the altar we are also offering thanksgiving, adoration, petition, and atonement to our eternal Father in heaven through the sacrifice of his divine son in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Ask ourselves if we receive Holy Communion with a clear conscience.

We can APPRECIATE with gratitude and THANK always what Jesus Christ has done for us and still continues to shower blessings to us. Joyfully, we proclaim JESUS CHRIST HAS THE WORDS OF ETERNAL LIFE.

(Ref. Kevin O’Sullivan, OFM, The Sunday Readings)

About Fr. Serge and his reflections>>>>>

POPE FRANCIS: JESUS IS THE BREAD OF LIFE, SUNDAY GOSPEL REFLECTION By Fr. Reu Jose C. Galoy, OFM

(Pope Francis has urged the faithful to look beyond material needs and turn to Jesus who is “the bread of life.” The Pope’s words came as he addressed the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the Sunday Angelus.)

Taking his cue from the Gospel reading which tells of the crowd that went looking for Jesus, not because they saw the signs but because they had eaten the loaves of bread and were filled, Pope Francis pointed out that those people gave more value to the bread than to He who gave them the bread.

He explained that before this spiritual blindness, Jesus highlights the need to look beyond the gift and discover the giver. God himself – the Pope said – is the gift and is also the giver.

Jesus invites us – the Pope continued – to be open to a perspective which is not only that of daily preoccupation and material needs; Jesus speaks to us of a different kind of food, food which is not corruptible and that we must search for and welcome into our lives.

He exhorts us not to work for food that perishes but “for the food that endures for eternal life which the Son of Man will give us,” he said.

With these words – Pope Francis continued – He wants us to understand that beyond a physical hunger, man has a different kind of hunger – “we all have this hunger” – a more important kind of hunger that cannot be satisfied with ordinary food.

“It is the hunger for life – the hunger for eternity – that only He can satisfy because He is the bread of life,” he said.

And pointing out that the true meaning of our earthly existence is to be found at the end, in eternity, Pope Francis said that to be open to meeting Jesus every day of our lives will illuminate our lives and give meaning to small gifts, sufferings and preoccupations.

And quoting from the Gospel of John, the Pope said “Jesus said to them: I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

“This – he said – refers to the Eucharist, the greatest gift that fulfills body and soul.”

To meet and to welcome Jesus, “the bread of life” – Pope Francis concluded – gives meaning and hope to our lives that are sometimes tortuous; but this “bread of life” – he said – also gives us the duty to satisfy the spiritual and material needs of our brothers.

To do this – he said- we must announce the Gospel everywhere, and with the witness of a fraternal attitude of solidarity towards our neighbor, we can make Christ and his love present amongst men.

About Fr. Reu and his other reflections…..

SUNDAY GOSPEL REFLECTION, 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B) By Fr. Efren Jimenez, OFM

For about three Sundays now, the liturgical readings from the gospel of St. John are about the theme of the “Bread of Life.” Jesus points to Himself as the Bread of life. This is one of the great passages of the New Testament , and one of the most difficult text to understand, just as the Jews have difficulty in understanding Jesus’ saying of the Bread of Life because it is so allusive and use of symbolism is not familiar to us.

But this is why the liturgy has carefully matched these excerpts with stories from Hebrew scriptures that shed light on the sayings of Jesus, and later its special relation to the Eucharist will be quite obvious.

For most Christians this narrative of John brings us to the gradual understanding of the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the center of their religious observance. It is a special moment in the week, perhaps in the day, perhaps less often, but nevertheless in the Eucharist they find their faith and hope engendered. It is not just a time set aside but it is an action that sets them apart in the whole of their lives.

To take pat in the Eucharistic celebration is always an act of allegiance, of self-identification and commitment, however slight.

For many decades now, many liturgical reforms and changes have taken place, and has made possible a simpler yet classic, accessible ritual for the faithful to participate. The Vatican II Constitution on the Liturgy has guided the believing community to make the Eucharistic celebration the peak or summit of their daily Christian experience of Jesus, to which everything was directed and from which everything flowed. Some of the changes in liturgical matters have often been distressing or disruptive, yet if the liturgical changes were theologically and pastorally well based, the faithful will no doubt integrate their faith towards a meaningful celebration.

Some question maybe pertinent – has the Christian gospel anything to say in response to the social questions of our day? (That is, the questions that arise out of urgent and widespread human suffering today, like the world problem of hunger.)

The Bread of Life is full of implications beyond immediate physical nourishment. But the message that man does not live by bread alone really only acquires a human experiential meaning when seen as the complement to the message that man does not live without bread. There is an obvious, though not literal sense in which we claim to be bread of another, and beyond the strictly physical sense, one person in fact is the sustenance of another whenever one rescues another from despair, hopelessness and after something to which to live.

Our encounter with Jesus, the Bread of Life, is our encounter with hope, light, and salvation.

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The Lord is my Shepherd, 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time SUNDAY GOSPEL REFLECTION By Fr. Baltazar Obico, OFM

The English language uses the word herd mentality; it comes from the pastoral setting of tending the sheep. It means a mindless grouping/congregation of people very similar to our phenomenon of the so called HAKOT SYSTEM, where people are grouped together in a place not knowing why they are there in the first place, except that everybody is there. The basic disability of the sheep is its lack of vision, hence it is almost half blind. Therefore their security is in being together. Their sense of smell is their source of action. No other reason except vulnerability and survival instinct put them together.

Readings: Today the 16th Sunday in ordinary time, the responsorial psalm sums up the theme of our reflection. The first reading from Jeremiah speaks about the false shepherd who doesn’t care about the sheep; hence God will send a shepherd, who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear or tremble. Someone who will govern wisely and do what is right and just in the land. Mark’s gospel speaks about Jesus moved with pity for the people and saw the pastoral situation as being like “sheep without a shepherd.” And Jesus, despite their need for rest & nourishment, attended to their needs, teaching them many things. Shepherding is not an 8-5 job, but a 24/7 ministry. The need of the sheep is paramount more than the Shepherd’s. When the crowds seek Jesus at a time when Jesus is seeking privacy, there is no question that which need priority. It is the crowds. Tending the flock is not just a job to keep the groceries on the table; it is his reason for being, and for dying. It is a vocation given by the Father, which there can be no greater. The Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

For us to admit that we are sheep is to put our trust completely, unreservedly in Jesus, the Good Shepherd. The relationship between this kind of shepherd and his sheep is a power of connectedness, of empathy. The relationship between the Good Shepherd & his sheep intimate that it is an extension of the relationship between the Father and the Son. The Father’s omnipotence is the guarantee of Jesus’ promises; his promise of eternal life, that we shall not perish, that no one can take us out of his hands are promises to his flock that can be fulfilled by the Father. With him we shall not only “never perish”, not only protected from danger and harm, but will be led to eternal life, where we would not want anything, for God is the only necessity in our life.

1. Like sheep, we are almost half blind. We would not be able to see what lies beyond the horizon that awaits us. Neither can we see the dangers around us trying to exploit and mislead us. It is Jesus alone who can lead us to the eternal pasture. The grind of the daily life can lull us to contentment and we lose sight of the beyond. We can get so engrossed with daily cares and concerns that we are not able to see the marvelous future ahead of us.
2. Jesus is not only content in giving us the vision. Aside from the images of security of giving us the basic necessities, he leads us to the right paths, to mean all danger is averted. At the moment of greatest danger, God still provides, thus the Psalmist can say, “fear no evil.” God’s scepter/rod connotes royal authority hence his guidance and provision are reliable because God is sovereign. Jesus as Good Shepherd will put his life at risk in face of danger.
3. The caring and tending of the sheep includes knowing the sheep personally, each by name. An intimate relationship between Good Shepherd and the sheep binds them in an inexplicable way. The shepherd knows each one. Who is missing; who is sick; who has no appetite. There is no stranger in the clock. We are all known. None should feel she/he is unrecognized. But more than recognition, knowing means involvement in our lives.

In this age where many communities, neighbors are strangers to one another, whose neighbors scarcely know the name of those living next door and when many in fact seek anonymity, let us put away out isolation and alienation . Let us start hearing the voice of and follow the Good Shepherd that we may become one flock, where one knows and is known in the process.

About Fr. Tasang and his other reflections…..

SUNDAY GOSPEL REFLECTION By Fr. Baltazar Obico, OFM

FEAST OF CORPUS CHRISTI: Corpus Christi celebrates the gifts we received, identifies who we are, and renews our commitment to which we are called.

Background: Today’s feast is in a sense an unexpected feast for several reasons. It duplicates Holy Thursday; we are repeating the Last Supper celebration without the sadness of Good Friday. Secondly, because every Eucharistic celebration is a feast of the Body and Blood of Jesus. Unexpected, because of the origin of its feast. An Augustinian nun, Juliana of Liege reported a vision. She had seen a full moon in splendor, save for the dark area on one side. As she understood it, the moon was the Church, the area that was dark because the Church has no feast of Blessed Sacrament. Fifty five years later, Corpus Christi became a universal feast of the Church.

GOSPEL: Today we have Mark’s account of the Last Supper. The 1st two readings (Ex. 24:3-8; Heb. 9:11-15), together with the gospel speak of sacrifice, blood and covenant. What we call Last Supper, Jesus (and the rest of the Jews) called it the Passover meal. This meal meant a great deal to Jesus and that he himself carefully organized its celebration to the last detail. While the beginning is full of vivid touches, the rest of the narrative is extremely simple. The gestures made by Jesus are those of any head of the household at a paschal meal. But the words pronounced by Jesus when accomplishing these familiar gestures are extra ordinary.

…”This is my body…this is my blood…the evocation of his death, close at hand is obvious. Still more, his blood is the blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.” Jesus did not merely make a prophetic gesture in order to announce that he was about to die. He proclaimed that he was giving his life to seal the covenant so that all might drink at the source of this life.

WORD:

1. Corpus Christi means first of all the physical body of Christ. It is this body that suffered torture, bloodied by whipping. It is the same body that took all the cruelty thrown at him, the same body that was nailed and hung on the cross. Jesus took all of them not in stoic indifference neither by vengeful spirit but by dignified silence. His body took all of these without eliciting sympathy and exhibiting anger; there is serenity and strength that can only spring from a heart in communion with God; his words are only forgiveness. When Jesus took upon his physical body all the injuries inflicted on him and breathed his last on the cross, he acted out and fulfilled the words he said on the Last Supper when he said “This is my body which will be given up for you.” Therefore when we receive the Body of Christ, we want to conform ourselves to the depth of Christ’s love. We should be able to bear the suffering for the sake of others. We too are willing to give up our bodies for others. When Jesus asks us to “to do this in memory of me” he was referring to that kind of love for others.

2. Corpus Christi also means the Eucharistic body of Christ in the Eucharistic species. In the Eucharist we have Jesus himself, body and blood, soul and divinity. When we receive Holy Communion, we have a closer contact with Jesus than was possible to anybody during his earthly life. In the Eucharist the actual distance between ourselves and Christ vanishes. The God-man out of sheer love gives the lowly bread and wine his flesh to eat and his blood or drink. We can only respond with awe and wonder because something marvelous and enrapturing has broken into our common place world. As we grow older, most of us have lost our sense of wonder. We get blasé, we become worldly-wise and sophisticated. We have grown up. Heschel saw it as modern man’s trap, believing that everything can be explained, that all of reality is simply an affair which has only to be organized in order to be mastered. All enigma can be solved and all wonder is nothing but effect of novelty upon ignorance. The enemy of wonder is to take things for granted. We need to recover this sense of wonder. We have nothing to rely on except the words of Jesus, when he said “this is my body.” He did not say this is the symbol of his body. His words are trustworthy. When we come to mass to receive the Eucharist we are making a number of statements. We are acknowledging Jesus as the Bread of life, the one who alone can satisfy our hunger. In that sense we cannot take it lightly. Our familiarity with the mass and the frequency with which we celebrate it can dull our senses to the full significance of what we are doing.

3. Corpus Christi means above all the mystical body of Christ, the community of believers. The Eucharist is essential a meal. It intends to bring together not only us with God but with one another. When we receive the body of Christ in communion, we are also accepting the presence of Christ in one another. We can’t share fruitfully in the first if we are unmindful of the second. When we as family have a meal at home together, we are drawn closer by that sharing more than anything else. When we provide hospitality to friends by way of meal – or they for us – we have the opportunity for closeness with them that nothing else has. The Last Supper had a powerfully unifying effect on the disciples. In the Last Supper together, they became conscious in a new way that they belonged not only to the Lord but also to each other. In the Eucharist, God is providing us the same opportunity, with the addition that the closeness, intimacy and union are provided for by God in abundance. The more we eat together, the more we become his mystical body. Those words, Corpus Christi, express who we are in this parish. In this year of faith, we commit ourselves again to being Corpus Christi, one body of Christ.

Brothers and sisters, we are what we receive, Corpus Christi.

About Fr. Tasang and his reflections….