Friday, April 09, 2021


Many scholars agree that Sunday's lection contains John's Pentecost. If the Acts' version happened 50 days after Jesus’s resurrection, John's happened on Easter evening. 

I would like to share my take on verse 23. 

Sin is legislated. Resistance is criminalized. Dissent is demonized. The merger of political and religious power predates Pontius Pilate's and Joseph Caiaphas's conjugal dictatorship. If we read our Bibles and pray everyday, we will grow, grow, grow in this realization: sinners are, more often than not, synonymous with the poor, oppressed, and marginalized in the Gospels. Who can afford the offerings in the temple? Who has the resources to bribe authorities? Who writes the law and for whose benefit?   

Over and over in the Gospels, Jesus sins (against the Sabbath) and heals sinners. Over and over in the Gospels, Jesus declares sinners the consternation of the people who legislate sin. 

In John 20:23, Jesus commands his disciples to forgive and not to forgive. A better translation, echoing Matthew 16:19 and 18:18, is worded "to set free or to bind." 

Jesus' command has not changed. Set free the poor. Bind the powerful who keep them poor. 




*art, Jesus appears to Thomas (JESUS MAFA) Vanderbilt Divinity Library digital archives 

Saturday, April 03, 2021


It is very disconcerting to celebrate Easter Sunday apart from the horrors of the Friday before it, but many people find nothing problematic about this. The crucifix has become a fashion accessory for a lot of folks. They can do their Easter egg hunts, play with Easter Bunnies, enjoy their Easter sunrise services, and preach about a risen, triumphant Lord without any thought that the God we proclaim as risen was actually murdered on Calvary. Jesus of Nazareth did not die. The empire killed Jesus.

He was illegally arrested late night Thursday, then beaten, stripped naked, brutalized, flogged, and crucified by morning of Friday. He was a victim of state-sanctioned terrorism. We who call ourselves Christian actually follow an executed God.

Millions of our sisters and brothers have died from COVID-19. Majority of them were defenseless against the virus, ravaged by the systemic violence of poverty, hunger, and the inequitable distribution of the world's wealth. Every day in our beloved country, in Myanmar, in Palestine, in many parts of Asia, Latin America, Africa, and the rest of the world, people are being crucified, victims of institutionalized oppression—cultural genocide, racism, gender injustice, capital punishment, global capitalism, extra-judicial killings, militarization, and marginalization. Every single day so many of our sisters and brothers are killed, like Jesus, and they do not even get a burial. Their bodies withheld by their killers.

What does it mean to proclaim a resurrection faith in the midst of all these?  What does it mean then for us, who are among these crucified peoples, to proclaim Jesus as risen from the dead?

Easter Sunday's lection from Mark tells us about a young man at the empty tomb. He tells the disciples that Jesus has been raised up and that "he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”


The Gospel of Mark ends in verse 8: the disciples were silent and afraid. Like many among us. We are afraid to speak truth to power. We are afraid to carry the cross and follow Jesus. We are afraid to go to Galilee. We are afraid to be executed like him.

What do we have? A promise of resurrection. God's promise. Jesus’ word. The young man said so: "Just as he told you."

Jesus’ word. Is this enough for us to continue?


Friday, March 19, 2021


There are Christians who grew up knowing that the Bible declares "Do not fear" 365 times. For them, this means there is no reason to be afraid every single day. (Except on February 29th, every four years.) But with the current state of lawlessness perpetuated by those sworn to protect and to serve us, people are afraid.

Fear paralyzes people. Fear impairs judgment. Fear forces someone to flee, fight, or even freeze. Fear is the powerful's most effective weapon against dissent and resistance. The Roman Empire maintained peace and order using the fear of imprisonment, exile, and crucifixion. The Romans crucified those they tagged as "enemies of the state." Up to 500 state-sanctioned executions in a single day. All legal!
Fueled by years of patriotic, anti-communist, and anti-Semitic rhetoric, tens of millions of Christians did nothing as Hitler and his minions imprisoned, persecuted, and executed "the insignificant few" who actually numbered in the millions.
Fear permeates the Gospel of Mark. Why did Peter rebuke Jesus? He was afraid for Jesus. Why did Peter deny Jesus? He was afraid of being identified with Jesus. Why did all the male disciples flee when Jesus was arrested? They were afraid of being arrested with Jesus. Why did the women disciples at the tomb not share the good news that Jesus has been raised from the dead? They were afraid! Their fear of being crucified like Jesus was greater than their faith in the promise of the resurrection.
Faith conquers fear. We know this.
But how do we conquer our fear when our faith seems not enough? With someone else's faith. My faith conquers your fear. Your faith conquers my fear. Despite the culture of impunity, perpetuated by Duterte and his ilk, that pervades our land, there are people who believe in us even if we are afraid. There are people who will stand with us even if we are afraid. There are people who will die with us even if we are afraid! Their faith is enough for all of us!
Was Jesus afraid when he faced the cross? I believe he was. His prayer to God in Gethsemane shows us how scared he was. But he faced the cross anyway because one person had faith in him and in the promise of the resurrection: the unnamed woman who anointed him with oil before his death. Why? Because she believed there would be no body to anoint after. She believed his tomb will be empty. She believed God will raise him up.
And God did.
When we are afraid and our faith is not enough, let us take heart.
There are people whose faith is enough for all of us!
*art, "Christ in Gethsemane," JESUS MAFA (vanderbilt divinity library digital archives)

Friday, February 19, 2021


Several posts ago, I mentioned that the heavens were torn or ripped apart in Mark during Jesus's baptism while in Matthew and Luke they were opened. A stark contrast.

The contrast continues in Sunday's lection.
The Spirit drives Jesus into the wilderness in Mark. In Luke and Matthew, the Spirit leads Jesus. Being driven and being led are very different descriptions. The former conjures an image of Jesus going with hesitation, even reluctance. The latter paints a picture of readiness and willingness.
Wilderness conjures up a lot of ambivalent images for us who study scripture. God appeared to a hardheaded Moses through the burning bush in the wilderness. The Israelites wandered almost aimlessly in the wilderness for decades. Many of them died there, including Moses. John the Baptist was a "voice of one calling in the wilderness." The wilderness does not seem like a very hospitable place. Yet, God's surprises abound in the wilderness!
And then there is the number 40, a long time in scripture. It rained 40 days and nights during the time of Noah. Forty years separated the crossing of the Red Sea and the crossing of the Jordan River. Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness. Matthew and Luke add that he fasted. This narrative is the basis for the 40 days of Lent.
Most of us grew up imagining that Jesus was alone in the wilderness during those 40 days. He was not. Jesus had company. Wild beasts. Angels. And Satan. God's surprises do abound in the wilderness!
My friends, let us never forget. Satan did not betray Jesus. Judas did. Satan did not deny Jesus. Peter did. Satan did not plot to arrest and kill Jesus in secret. The chief priests and scribes did. Satan did not abduct, torture, and murder Jesus. The Romans did.
Satan is not behind the Anti-Terror Law, the War on the Poor, the War on Drugs, the culture of impunity that pervades our land, the relentless red-tagging of peace activists, the deaths of Baby River and Baby Carlen, or the recent "rescue" of the Lumad Bakwit Iskul children in Cebu City. We all know who are responsible and should be held accountable for all these.
Lent began last Wednesday. Who among us wants to spend 40 days in the wilderness with Satan? Jesus did.

art, "Jesus is Tempted," (JESUS MAFA) from Vanderbilt Divinity Library digital archives

Tuesday, February 16, 2021


Napakahalaga ng asin sa buhay ng mga tao. Pampalasa o seasoning ng pagkain, preservative para tumagal ang shelf life ng isda at mga karne, disinfectant, pampalabas ng kulay ng nilagang gulay, gamit sa paggawa ng ice cream, pampabilis ng pagkulo ng tubig (lalo pa kung nagluluto tayo ng pasta), pang-alis ng kalawang, at gamit sa first aid.

Hindi ba dapat may kaunting asin ang tubig na minumumog kapag may sore throat at yung rehydration drink ng mga may diarrhea? Dapat may konting asin at asukal. Ang adobong mani hindi masarap kung walang asin. Noong Panahon ng Hapon, kuwento ng mga lolo at lola natin, usung-uso ang gatas ng tigre. Iyon ang tawag sa asin at tubig na malimit nilang ulam sa gitna ng kahirapang dala ng digmaan.

Sa isang report mula sa mga nasa industriya ng asin, mayroon daw 14,000 na gamit ang asin.[ 1] Dito sa Pilipinas puwede ka pang makinig sa ASIN sa iyong tape recorder, cd player, MP3 player, o smartphone. Noong unang panahon “white gold”ang tawag sa asin. May panahon pa ngang asin ang suweldo ng mga sundalong Romano. Sa Wikang Latin, salarium ang asin. Sa salarium galing ang salitang salary o suweldo.

Napakahalaga ng asin sa buhay ng mga tao. Sabi ni Hesus, tayo ang asin ng MUNDO. Maraming gamit ang asin. Hindi lang isa o dalawa. Marami ring paraan ng paglilingkod. Maraming paraan ng pagsunod. Hindi lang isa o dalawa. Ngunit mayroon pang gamit ang asin noong panahon ni Hesus, na ginagawa pa rin sa maraming lugar sa Palestina. Sinasama sa panggatong.[ 2]

Mataas ng magnesium content ng asin mula sa Dead Sea o Dagat na Patay na nakakatulong sa pag-silab ng panggatong. Sinasama ang asin sa mga pinatuyong dumi ng kamelyo, asno, at iba pang hayop, ibibilad sa araw, at ito ang ginagamit na panggatong sa mga hurno o oven sa Palestina. Parang uling. Sa paulit ulit na gamit, mawawala ang bisa ng asin kaya itatapon na lang ito. At kailangang gumawa ng bagong mixture. Kaya sabi ng teksto, itatapon ang asing wala nang silbi.

Sa Hebreo at Aramaic yung salita para sa earth o mundo ay hawig sa salita para sa oven o hurno. Sabi ni Hesus, tayo ang asin ng mundo. Sabi ni Hesus, tayo ang asing sangkap ng panggatong sa hurno. Napakahalaga ng panggatong. Napakahalaga ng pagkain para sa maraming nagugutom. Napakahalaga na mapabilis ang pagluluto. Yan pa ang isang gamit ng asin.

Sabi ni Hesus asin tayo ng mundo. Sabi ni Hesus sangkap tayo ng panggatong para mas mabilis na makapagluto ng sopas, ng pagkain para sa lahat. Handa ba tayong matunaw gaya ng asin? Handa ba tayong isama sa gatong at masunog, gaya ng asin? Handa ba tayong mag-alay ng buhay para sa buhay at ikabubuhay ng mas nakararami?

Sabi ni Hesus, tayo ang asin ng mundo. Tayo nga ba talaga?

Sunday, December 08, 2019


We love to play God, forgetting that we are not God. Our greatest sin is god-playing. We forget that we are people. We are human beings, you and I, and we are created to bear witness to God, God’s grace, and God's liberating acts. 
In the same vein, there are a lot of people who think they are the Messiah. Two are in power: one in the White House, the other in Malacanang. Many of them are pastors and priests. These are those who are legends in their own minds. Those who believe that they are God's gift to the nations, institutions, and organizations they serve. Those who think they are indispensable, irreplaceable, and think that without them, all hell will break loose. I am pretty sure we all know people who have major messianic complexes.
Our true calling is to bear witness to God's messiah and his liberating work. Just like John the Baptist.
If Jesus is the Great "I am" then John is the Great "I am not."
The religious leaders from Jerusalem ask John, "Who are you?" He responds: I am not the Messiah… I am not Elijah… I am not the prophet… I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness…"
Yes, like John we are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet.
We are called to bear witness to the messiah. And like John we are to do our witnessing in the wilderness. Not in the comfort and security of our own Jerusalems. Nor inside the four walls of our magnificent temples and imposing church buildings. Nor while we are seated in our air-conditioned offices with the Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other.
Wilderness conjures up a lot of ambivalent images for us who study Scripture. God appeared to a hardheaded Moses through the burning bush in the wilderness. The Israelites wandered almost aimlessly in the wilderness for forty long years. Many of them died there-including Moses. Like John, the wilderness played a key role in Jesus' ministry. In Mark, the Spirit had to force Jesus into the wilderness after his baptism. There, Jesus had to deal with Satan.
The wilderness is not a very hospitable place.
Yet, we are called to bear witness in the wilderness: in places we do not want to go; to those desolate areas we fear, and be one with communities—poor, smelly, and desperate—whom many call "God-forsaken." To proclaim the good news of the incarnation--that God has not forsaken; that God is not in heaven anymore; that God is here with us; that God is One among us as we struggle for life, for dignity, for justice, for peace.
John prepared the way for Jesus. He was alone. And he was executed.
This time around, we are more fortunate. We are legion.
And Jesus is already out there-in the wilderness--be it among the displaced and dispossessed in Palestine, among the disenfranchised indigenous peoples in our countries, among the slum dwellers in the metropolitan cities of the First World, among the widows, orphans, refugees, and survivors of the senseless War on Terror …
So let us take every opportunity to prepare, to be equipped, to be the best that we can be, to be ready. Always ready. To be witnesses.
Whatever and wherever our wilderness is, we need not be afraid, Jesus is already out there waiting for us….

Friday, November 08, 2019


Para kay Bishop Ramento, CM Edison, at sa mga martyr ng bayan
(IFI UCCP Ecumenical Worship Service, 3 November 2019, Kowloon Union Church Space, Hong Kong)
Mula sa mga Igorot ng Cordillera hanggang sa mga Lumad sa Mindanao, hitik ang ating kasaysayan at kolektibong karanasan sa mga taong nag-alay ng buhay dahil sa pag-ibig sa kapwa, sa bayan, at sa Dios. Marami sa kanila ay mananampalataya-- mayroong humawak ng sandata upang ipagtanggol ang bayan, ang mga anak, ang buhay laban sa mga puwersang mapang-api at sakim; mayroong namang hindi. Si Andres Bonifacio ang pangunahing halimbawa ng unang grupo, si Jose Rizal naman ang sa pangalawa.
Maliwanag ang koneksyon ng mga kuwento ni Rizal sa kanyang pagkakabaril sa Bagumbayan bilang kaaway ng imperyong Kastila. Ang hindi maliwanag sa maraming Kristiyano ay ang koneksyon ng mga kuwento ni Jesus sa kanyang pagkakapako sa krus bilang kaaway ng imperyo ng Roma. Lumaki tayo sa mga parabola ni Jesus subalit ang nakagisnang interpretasyon ng karamihan sa atin, na galing sa mga paborito nating Amerikano at Europeong iskolar at komentaryo, ay makalangit ang mga kuwentong ito at walang koneksyon sa pang-araw-araw na buhay at pakikibaka ng mga tao.
Hindi kasi tayo mahilig magbasa ng bibliya. Ang binabasa natin mga libro tungkol sa bibliya. Sa halip na basahin natin ang Lumang Tipan, ang alam na alam natin ang interpretasyon ni Bernhard Anderson. Sa halip na basahin natin ang Bagong Tipan, ang halos memorize na natin ang komentaryo ni Raymond Brown. Marami sa ating mga simbahan, lalo na sa mga UCCP sa siyudad, “Purpose Driven Life” ang textbook!
Now if we read our bible and prayed every day, unti-unti nating mapapansin na tuwing nagku-kuwento si Jesus, nagpupuyos sa galit ang mga lider ng relihiyon at politika. Kagaya ng mga prayle noong panahon ni Rizal. Sabi nga ng maraming eksperto sa kuwento, “myths are stories that create order, parables, on the otherhand, are stories that subvert order.” Parables are subversive speech. Ang parabola ay nagbabaligtad ng status quo. Ang mga kuwento ni Jesus, hindi tungkol sa langit, kundi tungkol sa kaharian ng Dios dito sa lupa. Ang mga kuwento ni Jesus ang mga bida yung mga kontrabida sa mata ng mga lider ng relihiyon at politika. Ang mga kuwento ni Jesus nangangako ng bagong umaga sa mga kapus-palad at inaapi, nagbibigay ng babala sa mga nasa-posisyon at sakim sa kapangyarihan.
Ang mga kuwento ni Jesus ang isa sa mga dahilan kaya siya pinapatay ng mga nasa poder.
At huwag na huwag ninyo itong kakalimutan. Nang pumasok si Jesus sa Jerusalem, 5000 libong lalaki ang kasama niya. Nang hulihin si Jesus sa hardin ng Gethsemane, 1000 namang mga sundalo ang humuli sa kanya. At nang siya’s patayin ng imperyo, dalawang rebelde ang kasama niya at isandaang sundalo ang nagsagawa ng crucifixion.
Sabi ni Gaius Plinius Secundus (aka Pliny the Elder) sa kanyang Natural History 19.170-171, ang mustasa sa parabola ay damo. Sabi niya, that “mustard [sinapi kokkos] …grows entirely wild… and when it is sown, it is scarcely possible to get the place free of it, as the seed when it falls germinates at once.”
Sabi ng mga Bible scholars, yung musta sa sa kuwento ay isang uri ng damong ligaw, na umaabot ng 5 talampakan ang taas. Kapag may ganyang damo sa anumang hardin ay siguradong magdaratingan ang maraming ibon. At kung may ibon ay may ipot ng ibon. Ayaw ng mga hardinero ang damong ligaw, ibon, at ipot ng ibon.
Sino man ang nakakita na ng mga hardin ng mayayaman, sa mga hardin ng mga nasa poder, sa mga hardin ng mga malalaking simbahan, hotel, o opisina, hindi puwedeng may damo, hindi puwedeng may mga ibon, hindi puwedeng may Tae ng ibon. Kaya, malimit ang unang ginagawa ng mga hardinero, alisin ang mga damo. Kung walang damo, walang ibon, walang Tae ng ibon.
Ganyan daw ang kaharian ng Dios. Parang damong ligaw. Parang mustasa. Tumutubo kung saan hindi ito tanggap. At kapag tumubo, ay nag-aanyaya ng mga hindi rin tinatanggap. Mga ibon na kailangan ng pahinga.
Damong ligaw ang tingin ng mga nasa poder kay Jesus. Damong ligaw na lumago at tanggap lahat ng hindi katanggap-tanggap: mga maysakit, mga dukha, api, aba. Mga makasalanan. Mga taong tanging Dios lamang ang pag-asa. Damong ligaw na hindi maaaring lumago sa mga hardin ng mga nasa poder. Damong ligaw na hindi maaaring bumulabog sa sistema.
Kaya nagtulung-tulong ang mga hardinero (ng Imperiong Roma at ng Templo) na bunutin ang damong ligaw. Huwag na huwag po nating kakalimutan, si Jesus ay pinatay ng mga nasa poder. Hinuli sa gitna ng gabi, tinorture, at ipinako sa krus.
Noong Biyernes ay Todos Los Santos, All Saints’ Day, at inala-ala natin ang mga mahal natin sa buhay na nauna na. Huwag din Sana nating kalimutan ang libo-libong tao na nawala, nawawala, at pinaslang sa ilalim ng administration ni Marcos, ni Cory, ni Ramos, ni Estrada, ni Arroyo, ni Aquino, at ni Duterte. Huwag nating kakalimutan na ang ating mahal na bayan ay iniluwal ng dugo at pag-ibig ng napakaraming bayani at martyr.
Silang lahat, mga damong ligaw, kagaya ni Jesus, na inalis ng mga hardinero ng mapang-aping uri at gahamang sistema ng mundo.
Noong taong 2006, lampas sa 20 UCCP ang pinaslang ng rehimeng Arroyo. Noong Octubre ng 2006, pinaslang si Bishop Alberto Ramento. Robbery daw, sabi ng mga pulis. Walang naniniwala ng robbery ang nangyari kay Bishop. Murder ang tawag doon. Pinatay siya dahil sinusundan niya ang kanyang Panginoong Hesu-Kristo. Nabubuhay para sa mga aba, abi, at IP.
Mga kapatid, hindi titigil ang pagbubunot ng mga damong ligaw. Pero, sabi ko nga kanina, ang damo, habang binubunot, lalong dumarami!!!
Buhay si Bishop Ramento. Buhay si CM Edison Lapus. Buhay si Eden Marcellana. Buhay ang bawa’t isang martir ng bayan sapagkat buhay ang kanilang pinaglalaban. Buhay ang kanilang pangitain. Buhay ang paglago ng kaharian ng Dios sa gitna ng lahat ng gustong pigilan ang paglago nito.
Huwag nating kakalimutan.
Sa bawa’t isang tao na mag-aalay ng buhay para sa bayan, para sa kalayaan, para sa kinabukasan, sampu ang ibabangon ng Dios. Sa bawa’t sampung babagsak, isandaan ang ibabangon ng Dios. Sa bawa’t isandaan, isang libo ang ipapalit ng Dios.
Ang tawag dito? RESURRECTION.


Many scholars agree that Sunday's lection contains John's Pentecost. If the Acts' version happened 50 days after Jesus’s resurre...