Category Archives: Lenten reflections

Resurrection: A Payback?

Article first  published on PADAYON: Our Life Journey.

Image Credit: turnbacktogod.com

Image Credit: turnbacktogod.com

Let me propose this angle in addition to the countless and unlimited significance of the resurrection of Jesus to our daily lives. Of course, we are aware of the basic teaching that resurrection is the cornerstone of our Christian faith. This has been elaborated every year by preachers of various religious groups and denominations.

For a change, let us explore resurrection as a reward to the greatest volunteer the world ever had. A precedence that may inspire millions of nameless volunteers worldwide. No matter how unsolicited this inspirational piece appears to some, though. Others may dislike this proposal. Volunteers will even protest the title. But certainly majority will agree with the claim that Jesus is the greatest volunteer.

Biblical writers have various description of the voluntary act of Jesus. But I like the Pauline version in Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV): “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus, who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

The Gospel records instances when Jesus insists on undergoing the voluntary process despite the supposed favor from people who know him as the messiah. When John the Baptist appears reluctant to perform the baptism ritual, Jesus prevails on him: “Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” (Matthew 4:14-15)

Many times, Jesus rebukes his disciples in their actuations to seek redress to injustice and discrimination against his dignity. Unwelcome in his attempt to bridge the gap between warring cultures, he suffers discrimination in one Samaritan village. When James and John insinuate punishment to the humiliating experience, Jesus forbids therm. (Luke 9:51-55). Jesus calmly tells Peter to hold peace, in the latter’s attempt to fight back against the savagery of his captors: “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew26:53)

He washes his disciple’s feet at the height of leadership struggle position during the last supper. The lobbying of both John and James and their mother for position in the kingdom might have sparked the internal conflict. Hence, nobody appears willing to do the menial t ask which earlier they enjoy taking turns. Jesus volunteers.

Jesus consistently exemplifies the spirit of volunteerism in his lifestyle and teachings. He voluntarily follows all the requirements of the law, although in some instances, he deliberately skirt man -made unreasonable insertion and imposition to the requirements of God. He successfully passes the final challenge in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Subsequently, the divine justice expedites the awarding ceremony for the greatest volunteer in the world. St. Paul beautifully uses this clincher to the narrative of Jesus voluntary act: Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:10-11)

I am not advocating pay back mentality.  Jesus even issues a strange rebuke to the perpetrators and perpetuators of this kind of mentality in Luke 14:12- 14. “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Youth volunteers pose for posterity after the forum on volunteerism sponsored by ICON. An umbrella network of volunteers and development advocates, ICON allocates a day for volunteerism endeavors in the week-long celebration of NGO- PO Week in Iloilo.

YMCA volunteers together with adviser pose for posterity after the forum on volunteerism sponsored by ICON. An umbrella network of volunteers and development advocates, ICON allocates a day for volunteerism endeavors in the week-long celebration of NGO- PO Week in Iloilo.

Certainly, volunteers do not expect rewards. The bible teaches us to give  or  serve without expecting a return. The last parable in the Gospel of Matthew (25:31-46) confirms this with the scenario of great surprises. In the final end, during the awarding ceremony, as the chaff is separated from the grain, sheep and goat divided, the result is beyond expectation. But volunteers receive their awards.

True, volunteers do not expect awards. But who can question God’s divine justice to recompense the faithful? Is there something wrong in viewing resurrection as a payback for volunteerism?

Finding virtue in suffering

Article first published as The virtue is not in suffering on PADAYON: Our Life Journey.

While many tend to glorify suffering, people who experience it will surely disagree. Having tasted the worst in life, so far, I can attest to this.

Yet, the belief in the virtue of suffering has been embedded in the psyche of Filipinos for centuries. More so, that there are also efforts to perpetuate such conviction for reasons only known to perpetrators. Some take suffering as a pass to heaven. Others look at sufferings as trademark of the followers of Christ. There are denominations that associate or even expect their clergy to undergo the process inevitably. Church members fondly call their pastors manugpangabudlay. An Ilonggo term which connotes hardship and difficulties.

Countries with colonial past, where religion is used in conquest are most vulnerable to this fate. Like the case of the Philippines. Historians note how colonizers integrate religion into their subjugation scheme. From feudalistic to capitalist systems, religion plays a big role in domestication of the subjects. In the context of the Philippine, as pointed out by nationalist historians, while the sword was used in conquest, the cross pacified resistance. The blessedness of poverty, mourning, oppression and persecution as taught in the church make people accept their fate, with relief, expectant of the future reward.

Image Credit: freebibleimages.org

Image Credit: freebibleimages.org

The belief in the virtue of suffering is more evident during Lenten season. Most often, crucifixion and death have been given emphasis in the observance. This can be attributed to the prevalent notion that the cross has salvific power. Redemption has been closely associated with pain and suffering. While Easter is considered the cornerstone of Christian faith, in practice people put emphasis on crucifixion.

Interestingly, attempts have been done by church authorities to dissuade rituals of self-inflicted pain and suffering in holy week celebration. Clergy, of various affiliations, consistently highlights the significance of resurrection in Lenten sermons and teaching. Still, it has not penetrated yet to the Filipino psyche. Filipinos are very much predisposed to suffering, according to Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz.The Church can only do so much to highlight the importance of Easter among Filipinos because suffering and poverty as well as the love for children are already deeply rooted in Philippine culture,” he noted.

While working on this series of Lenten reflections, I remember the article of a Filipino Jesuit priest. It was published after the execution of three Filipinos abroad convicted of drug-related offense. Fr. Manoling V. Francisco contends that suffering is not virtuous, but love is. Suffering is not even redemptive per se. The love underlying the pain makes it salvific.

Does it negate then the impact of the sufferings of Jesus? Not really. Fr. Francisco qualifies his point: “Jesus’ physical torment and emotional anguish do not redeem us; his willingness to suffer for his convictions and out of love for us is that which saves.” You might be interested to read his article, in the April 3, 2011 edition of Philippine Star, When suffering becomes a virtue.

Injustices to Jesus

This is a repost of my article published on March 25,2012.

The comment  of Charmaine “Sherry” Sorono  aka kitchenchief on one of my Lenten articles has inspired me to start a series of Lenten reflections. Lent is traditionally observed as preparation of the believer for the annual commemoration during Holy Week of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus the Christ. The purpose is to set aside time for reflection on Jesus Christ – his suffering and his sacrifice, his life, death, burial and resurrection.

Considered as one of the major liturgical seasons of the Roman Catholic Church, Lent is celebrated by other Christian denominations including Protestant groups like the Lutheran, Methodist,Presbyterian and Anglican. Lent, particularly the Holy Week, is one of the two most celebrated events in the Christian calendar.

Taken from: susanknowles.com

Taken from:
susanknowles.com

The other one is Christmas. Results of survey may vary as to the perception of people on the most important between the two celebrations. Undeniably, however, these two events dominated the thoughts of believers in Christendom to the extent that the totality of the life of Jesus has been ignored.

Image credit: dreamstime.com

Image credit:
dreamstime.com

It’s unfortunate that Christians have become selective in remembering the life of Jesus. The other aspects of Jesus life are seemingly neglected, especially his manhood. Some sociologists and theologians view this as manifestation of cultural distortion or vested interests. We love to think of the baby Jesus and Crucified Christ. Their images evoke compassion. More importantly, less threatening as they reflect innocence and helplessness. But we are uncomfortable with the adult Jesus who confronts everyone without fear or favor, even turning the tables of those who make business out of religion. It seems, we want to evade the Jesus who challenges us to follow his example in service.

Oftentimes, the period  between birth and death has been neglected: his growth, manhood, the fight against harsh realities in life which could have been a model for living. How he withstand trials and temptations and never give in to the pressures and enticement of power compromise and pleasures of the world. His willingness to offer himself for a great cause.

From conception, he has already foretaste the cruel world system. The intrigues his earthly family encounters due to the controversial pregnancy prior to marriage. At birth, he has been exposed to vulnerable condition of the poorest of the poor, being born in a manger. His childhood experience is colored with the uncertain life of refugees to escape the persecution. Likewise, he has to adjust to the internal struggle in family relationship, as well as the immediate social environment as he keeps up the ideal living, even going against the norms.

Joey Velaco's Hapag ng Pag-asa Taken from vcolladojr.com

Joey Velaco’s Hapag ng Pag-asa
Taken from vcolladojr.com

Prior to his public ministry, he has to undergo the process of immersion. Living in a depressed community, he has seen the hypocrisy of leaders in the socio-cultural, economic and political structures. Their wanton disregard of the avowed mission to serve the people as ordained by God. How corruption and abuse of power has encroached the ideal immunity of the religious establishment. How religion has been used for business and profit. Yes, he has witness how leaders enrich themselves at the expense of the people they are supposed to develop.

Jesus also knows the struggle of well meaning people in the government and other sectors including revolutionary forces in effecting change. Their two pronged vulnerabilities- stereotype from victims and antagonism from the mainstream perpetrators. Aware of their conviction, he includes some of them in the core of his disciples, mainly composed of representatives from the basic masses.

(To be continued)

Continuing injustices to Jesus

Exactly a year ago, the following article was posted on this blog . It’s still relevant for this year’s observance of the Holy Week.

The comment of  Charmaine “Sherry” Sorono on one of my Ezine articles has inspired me to start a series of Lenten reflections. Lent is traditionally observed as preparation of the believer for the annual commemoration during Holy Week of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus the Christ. The purpose is to set aside time for reflection on Jesus Christ – his suffering and his sacrifice, his life, death, burial and resurrection.

Charmane

Considered as one of the major liturgical seasons of the Roman Catholic Church, Lent is celebrated by other Christian denominations including Protestant groups like the Lutheran, Methodist,Presbyterian and Anglican. Lent, particularly the Holy Week, is one of the two most celebrated events in the Christian calendar.

The other one is Christmas. Results of survey may vary as to the perception of people on the most important between the two celebrations. Undeniably, however, these two events dominated the thoughts of believers in Christendom to the extent that the totality of the life of Jesus has been ignored.

Photo Credit: Photobucket

Photo Credit: Photobucket

It’s unfortunate that Christians have become selective in remembering the life of Jesus. The other aspects of Jesus life are seemingly neglected, especially his manhood. Some sociologists and theologians view this as manifestation of cultural distortion or vested interests. We love to think of the baby Jesus and Crucified Christ.

Their images evoke compassion. More importantly, less threatening as they reflect innocence and helplessness. But we are uncomfortable of the adult Jesus who confronts everyone without fear or favor, even turning the tables of those who make business out of religion. It seems, we want to evade the Jesus who challenges us to follow his example in service

Oftentimes, the period in between birth and death have been neglected- his growth, manhood, the fight against harsh realities in life which could have been a model for living. How he withstood trials and temptations. How he did not give in to the pressures and enticement of power compromise and pleasures of the world. His willingness to offer himself for a great cause.

From conception, he had a foretaste of the cruel world system. The intrigues his earthly family encountered due to the controversial pregnancy prior to marriage. At birth, he was  exposed to vulnerable condition of the poorest of the poor, being born in a manger. His childhood experience was colored with the uncertain life of refugees to escape the persecution. Likewise, he had to adjust to the internal struggle in family relationship, as well as the immediate social environment as he kept up the ideal living, even going against the norms.

Prior to his public ministry, Jesus underwent  the process of immersion. Living in a depressed community, he  saw  the hypocrisy of leaders in the socio-cultural, economic and political structures. Their wanton disregard of the avowed mission to serve the people as ordained by God. How corruption and abuse of power had encroached the ideal immunity of the religious establishment. How religion was used for business and profit. Yes, he  witnessed how leaders enriched themselves at the expense of the people they were supposed to develop.

Jesus also knew the struggle of well meaning people in the government and other sectors including revolutionary forces in effecting change. Their two pronged vulnerabilities- stereotype from victims and antagonism from the mainstream perpetrators. Aware of their conviction, he included some of them in the core of his disciples, mainly composed of representatives from the basic masses.

(to  be continued)

Resurrection: A Payback?

Article first published on PADAYON: Our Life Journey and Ezine articles.

Let me propose this angle in addition to the unlimited significance of the resurrection of Jesus. Viewing resurrection as a reward to the greatest volunteer the world ever had. A precedence that may inspire millions of nameless volunteers worldwide. No matter how unsolicited this inspirational piece appears to some, though. Others may dislike this proposal. Volunteers will even protest the title. But certainly majority will agree with the claim that Jesus is the greatest volunteer. So, let’s start from this commonality and settle the differences later in this article.

Biblical writers have various description of the voluntary act of Jesus. But I like the Pauline version in Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV): “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus, who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

The Gospel records instances when Jesus insists on undergoing the voluntary process despite the supposed favor from people who know him as the messiah. When John the Baptist appears reluctant to perform the baptism ritual, Jesus prevails on him: “Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” (Matthew 4:14-15)

Many times, Jesus rebukes his disciples in their actuations to seek redress to injustice and discrimination against his dignity. Unwelcome in his attempt to bridge the gap between warring cultures, he suffers discrimination in one Samaritan village. When James and John insinuate punishment to the humiliating experience, Jesus forbids them. (Luke 9:51-55). Jesus calmly tells Peter to hold peace, in the latter’s attempt to fight back against the savagery of his captors: “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew26:53)

He washes his disciple’s feet at the height of leadership struggle position during the last supper. The lobbying of both John and James and their mother for position in the kingdom might have sparked the internal conflict. Hence, nobody appears willing to do the menial t ask which earlier they enjoy taking turns. Jesus volunteers.

Jesus consistently exemplifies the spirit of volunteerism in his lifestyle and teachings. He voluntarily follows all the requirements of the law, although in some instances, he deliberately skirt man -made unreasonable insertion and imposition to the requirements of God. He successfully passes the final challenge in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Subsequently, the divine justice expedites the awarding ceremony for the greatest volunteer in the world. St. Paul beautifully uses this clincher to the narrative of Jesus voluntary act: Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:10-11)

I am not advocating pay back mentality. The bible abhors the practice of giving favor or doing service. Jesus even issues a strange rebuke to the perpetrators and perpetuators of this kind of mentality in Luke 14:12- 14. “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Youth volunteers pose for posterity after the forum on volunteerism sponsored by ICON. An umbrella network of volunteers and development advocates, ICON allocates a day for volunteerism endeavors in the week-long celebration of NGO- PO Week in Iloilo.

Certainly, volunteers do not expect rewards. The last parable in the Gospel of Matthew (25:31-46) confirms this with the scenario of great surprises. In the final end, during the awarding ceremony, as the chaff is separated from the grain, sheep and goat divided, the result is beyond expectation. But volunteers receive their awards.

True, volunteers do not expect awards. But who can question God’s divine justice to recompense the faithful? Is there something wrong in viewing resurrection as a payback for volunteerism?

The Significance of Jesus Sufferings (Part II)

The beauty and completeness of the entire universe was marred by the wrong moral decision of supposedly crowning glory of God’s creation. Humanity missed the opportunity to live in paradise forever by willful disobedience. As such, the whole creation was transformed from the state of being very good to a situation where “the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.“(Romans 8:22 ESV).

Published by Redemptivebooks Publishing, Iloilo City, Philippines. The author can be contacted through: creationfallredemption@yahoo.com

Humanly speaking, the Fall of man (and woman, too) has put God in a dilemma. How can He show His love to humankind without breaking His own rule? The prohibition was clear from the start including the consequent penalty. To borrow Atty. Edwin R. Catacutan’s argument in his book Creation, Fall and Redemption, “was there a way to remove the cup of death from man without God breaking His word?” By all indication, God’s enemy has the upper hand and might have been amused in watching how God resolve the issue. As ever consistent in His words and actions, God’s solution makes Jesus suffering absolutely significant.

As discussed in the previous blog, justice requires a redeemer to the sentenced humanity. Legally, angels are disqualified, having no physical body and subsequent death. As progeny of Adam already burdened with own death, nobody from the human race is qualified. Hence, no one can substitute for another, or for own self, despite willful act. Neither can any one force another to sacrifice for himself. Purchasing redemption is also a legal impossibility. For, as the author argues, with reference to the bible, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world, and they that dwell therein.” (Psalm 24.1)


When all redemption procedures fail, grace is a necessity. In fact, it is the only redemptive option. Atty. Catacutan discussed a two-stage process in redemption by grace. The first is the payment, or justice –compliance stage. The second is the relationship-claiming stage wherein any one who wants to avail of the redeeming grace must claim his relationship to the Savior.

In the first stage, somebody who is qualified, and who can die, must do the substitute death sacrifice to comply with the justice requirement of God. The only option is a kinsman of the human race who is able and willing to do the job. A truly man, with flesh and blood not contaminated by sinful nature, who can truly experience death. The only mathematical solution is a virgin birth – child of a woman, begotten of the Holy Spirit. That way the offspring, while being man, can also be truly God who is able to perform task of redeemer. This is the significance of the incarnation as popularized by the Christmas story and the subsequent Passion and Resurrection narrative.

Paul, the apostle, has explicitly described the significance of Jesus sufferings in his letter to the Philippians: “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus, who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!


From the start, Jesus knows his role in the redemptive procedure. The Garden of Gethsemane, on the way to the cross, serves as venue of Jesus affirmation on his willingness to sacrifice as redeemer. There he wrestles with his humanity vis-a-vis the divine mandate. As recorded in the gospel, the scene in the garden portrays the last struggle. Jesus pours out his innermost thoughts and feelings to the Father. Reviewing the justice requirements and redemption scheme, he attempts to argue for other alternatives apart from the cup of suffering and death. In the end, he seals his commitment to undergo the last stage of redemption with this prayer: Nevertheless, your will be done, not mine.

Thereafter, the culmination of his suffering takes place. The cross is only part of the womb- to- the- tomb painful experiences of Jesus. Hence, the old rugged cross is not the only thing we must cherish and exchange someday with a crown. Our salvation is not the product of the suffering of Jesus just on the cross. It is the totality of the life of Jesus that exemplifies the love of God for humanity.

The significance of Jesus suffering

In the previous post we clarify that there is no virtue in suffering. Instead, suffering produces virtues. St. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, identifies some as perseverance, character, and hope. Those who have undergone suffering, as well as witnesses to the sufferings of others will surely agree with the claim. Stories of transformation in individuals and their significant others are innumerable to tell. My life-journey is now part of that package.

But what makes the significance of Jesus peculiar? The prophet Isaiah has already provided the answer long before this was first asked. “He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.” (Isaiah 53).

A brother in faith and partner in development endeavors has a very clear and logical presentation of this redemptive process. Atty. Edwin R. Catacutan considers his book, Creation, Fall and Redemption, as a lawyer’s incursion into Christian Theology. In half- an- inch thick document, divided into 15 short chapters, the book capsulizes the story of the Bible. For him the bible is divided into two parts with highlight on the three significant cosmic events, i.e. the title of the book. These are the dominant thoughts of the Bible story. The first part (Creation and Fall) contains the reasons why the rest of the bible was written i.e. Redemption Procedure: Effects and Aftermath.

Published by Redemptivebooks Publishing, Iloilo City, Philippines. The author can be contacted through: creationfallredemption@yahoo.com

The Creation and Fall story was logically and dramatically described in the book. The author contends that with all the vastness of the universe and the complexities of the life forms on earth (and the uniqueness of man), it took God just the thirty verses of Chapter 1 of Genesis to describe His creative process. Man, as the crowning glory of God’s creation, makes the entire creation complete and very good. Yet, what took God thirty verses to create was spoiled by only one verse in Genesis 3:6. Ironically, the incident was a singular chance for man and woman to exercise their free choice to obey or disobey God.

Traditionally, this human debacle has been told with emphasis (or blame) on the woman’s frailties. But Atty. Catacutan, in his book, stresses man’s accountability for allowing the wrong arguments to prevail when he knows what is right. As ever cunning, the enemy of God dealt with the woman who had not directly received from God the prohibition rule. The author contends that at the time God gave the command to Adam in Genesis 2:17, Eve was not yet created. Subsequently, she was swayed by deceptive arguments. Ironically, Adam never raised any objection to straighten the record and save the situation. Worst, when he even partook of the forbidden fruit after being assured that nothing bad happened to his partner’s experiment. The burden of guilt therefore falls on the man. For the author, Adam intentionally disobeyed as the command not to eat was given only to him by God. Eve was simply deceived as she never directly received the prohibition.

Logically, the fall of humanity has put God in a dilemma. How can He show His love to humankind without breaking His own rule? This is what makes Jesus suffering significant. As a justice requirement, there needs to be a redeemer to the sentenced humanity. Legally, angels are disqualified, having no physical body and subsequent death. As progeny of Adam already burdened with own death, nobody from the human race is qualified. Hence, no one can substitute for another, or for own self, despite willful act. Neither can any one force another to sacrifice for himself. Purchasing redemption is also a legal impossibility. For, as the author argues, with reference to the bible, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world, and they that dwell therein.” (Psalm 24.1)

(To be continued)