Palm Sunday 2010

Palms mainly mean “Welcome” for many people:
welcome the Messiah
welcome the Suffering Servant
welcome the Miracle Worker
welcome the Healer of our sicknesses.
Waving is easy; it’s festive and entertainment is what we are used to.

But could those palms also mean:
waving we are to the system that induces suffering
waving we are to our own indifference
waving we are to our lack of discernment
waving we are to the noise we are used to and kills our call to silence.
waving we are to the divisions over petty matters
waving we are to all our struggle for self-preservation, self-perpetuation, or self-exaltation.

what if you help me change my props,
from the palms to the foal of an ass
me riding the creature,
entering my own Jerusalem, heart throbbing
as i say “Yes” to my own fears – of my own wounds, death, becoming insignificant, losing all securities and powers, pulverized into dust as a mortal being?

What if…
instead of the palms
i waved the tail of the donkey
as a way of claiming the need
to enter my own human vulnerability
because saying yes to You in silence and service
entails the nakedness of Him
whose last piece of cloth
was even raffled.

What if Father?


Photo credit: RogueSunMedia


If you have the means, would you order a shark fin soup?

I have not tasted a shark fin soup, and decide today i will never order such if i found myself billeted to a Chinese resto. Here’s why:

  • A bowl of shark fin soup can cost $100
  • A single fin is worth more than $1,300
  • Shark hunters are only after the fins; dead shark bodies are often discarded and to think that sharks have low reproductive rates
  • Each year, 73 million sharks are killed mostly in the name of trade and business
  • 10 million kilograms of shark fins are exported annually to Hongkong by nearly 87 countries 
  • Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand and China are the biggest shark fin consumers
  • Shark fin soup consumption conveys status symbol
  • Spain, Singapore, and Taiwan are the biggest suppliers

What’s the big deal currently? At the UN-initiated 175-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in Doha, Qatar (March 13-25, 2010), soup-consuming countries listed above sabotaged and rejected the proposal to ban the trade on the following endangered ocean dwellers:

  • spiny dogfish shark
  • scalloped hammerhead
  • oceanic whitetip sharks
  • bluefin tuna (for sushi)
  • and red and pink coral

Environmentalists considered this an embarrassing triumph of trade over science, of profits over conservation.

It makes me think: sharks are often portrayed as deadly for human beings, and not necessarily as important members of the ocean world and ecosystem, perhaps in order to justify the human violence (whose undergrounds are consumerism, status symbol, or wealth) against them. That they are “killable” indeed. Now – who ends up the real killer and threat to the ecosystem?


Photo credit: Joshkay

Still on the Sexual Abuse of Children

“Being a Christian is not cutting yourself off from real life; it is entering into it more fully. It is not failing to go deeper; it is going deeper than ever. It is a journey into the heart of how things really are.”

Rob Bell
Author – Velvet Elvis

There is something truly disturbing this Lent, not because it should not have happened, but for the mere fact that it grinds with the liturgical rhythm of Lent. It is un-veiling of what Lent is supposed to be – a time of repentance, honest inward-looking, bleeding with our very wounds, both personal and institutional.

The Vatican is bleeding this Lent, almost in self-imposed suffering, for secretly allowing pedophiles to roam around like lions looking for someone to devour. From the American stories of abuse to the Irish cover-up and now to the German connection of the Pope to pedophilia, the world is left to stare with anger and suspicion over what’s going on indeed in most confessional cubicles, and for some fundamentalists, is turning this into an opportunity to viciously attack and tear down the whole Church as if pedophilia is as epidemic as malaria. And how the Vatican is handling this insanity and very un-Godly mess! Bring it on the mess this Lent. There’s no other road to healing but to tell the stories of the wounded and wounding pedophiles and whatever clandestine structures are feeding them. There’s no other road to healing than remembering in repentance and compassion the secret stories of the innocent abused.

A lot needs honest admission in this Church.

Infantilism (or baby-ing instead of showing the way of honest silence for example) of the weak leaders through rigid and even surreptitious structures is one.

Overreaction, or even groping in the dark over postmodernism (gender issues; growth of personal authority) is another.

Clerical status and the confusion over the extent of political involvement in the State led into more confusion for the people.

Privileged hierarchy over the laity continues to be wounding.

But the most appalling, to echo blogger Maggie Ross, is the dwindling lived vision of the Church as a sacrament, a mere pointer to the Sacred because most leaders are so drunk in its worldly and noisy power, no longer setting an example that “union with the self-emptying God” is the ultimate humbling power and source of self-forgetful service for humanity. It’s not essentially about being ordained or being in religious life. It’s about our life in God through Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

If the Church as an institution continues in its project of self-conversion before our humble, crucified God, you and I also partake in this grace of conversion. I eat the same bread of the children, shared the same baptism. I must change endlessly until death before him who is always thousands of steps ahead of me. And so my Church leaders. And the way to partake with this goal of conversion is from within the Church herself, in being honest to the rhythms of her liturgical seasons – hot or cold.

Should we say Lent is a comfy time of mere entertainment from Passion plays? Ah-ah.

Baptism of Repentance: A Prayer for the Massacre Perpetrators

Gracious God,
You called John the Baptist
to preach a baptism of repentance on Your people.

i hear the words,
but not often the message.
For we do not always understand wisely
that the immersion into the baptismal water
is an invitation into our own dying to our self-centeredness,
a crossing of the River Jordan from our self-centered desires into new life with Christ.

Forgive me God,
for always underestimating my own baptism.
This Sunday,
I am reminded again
that my immersion demands from me
to repent for my sins.
May my confession be truly translated
into some newness in my life.

This Second Sunday of Advent,
i light 2 candles –
one for my sins,
and another in remembrance
of the perpetrators of the Maguindanao Massacre,
that Your light may find its way
into the darkest corners of their hearts,
awakening them from being servants of darkness,
into servants of light
by way of repentance.

Gracious God,
whose other name is Allah,
lead us again into our own baptism of repentance. Amen.

Maguindanao Massacre: God Is Watching

God is watching…

  • how they planned it
  • how they orchestrated human and other resources
  • how the 64 victims feared for their lives before their last breaths; died very violent deaths
  • how people become prisoners of FEAR
  • how money and power are used to instill those FEARS
  • how the pursuit of JUSTICE is carried out

In His time, He will act accordingly: this is my greatest hope. In history, there were no Hitlers or PolPots or Stalins who were not humbled from their seat of powers, condemned by their own savagery. In His time and not sooner the Truth will bring those murderers into their own self-condemnation and die lonely deaths, leaving their wealth and prestige rotting like carcasses, totally now abhorred and abandoned into absolute forgetfulness. Not worth a human memory at all. Only for the sake of a story of how the bloody defilement of the Garden of Eden, the Eastern side of the story itself was altered by not covering their scrotums. In the absence of repentance, shame is also lost. In God’s time – the flaming sword of God’s justice will overturn their sense of absolute control into a dog’s dung they would regurgitate from their bellies and out of their troubled minds and consciences. In His time BECAUSE HE IS WATCHING…over this land in violent disarray.

Maguindanao Massacre: A Pain Into Advent

Any normal human being could not easily get over with those images of mangled lives. I haven’t. I cried while listening to Jessica Soho’s official Network statement on the tragedy, asking every viewer of the choices at hand: peace or violence. Part of the tears was grieving with the grieving; a segment of those, for the enactment of human being’s capacity for demonic control, a reversal of how Godly we are capable of. Thank God for tears: when human suffering becomes absolutely absurd and enigmatic, tears seem to hold the bewilderment and the tension, alluring the human psyche and soul into some deeper cry for justice and strength only the tearful God on the cross could catch. It feels this way in the silence of a prayer: “God, what’s going on in this Christian country? Why, after 2 thousand years of ongoing Self-disclosure, must the violence of the crucifixion continue?”

I am learning it is more potent to honestly listen to the questions in daily silence. It is more long-term a political solution than some quick, defensive, rational answers that turn chatterers basely comical and detestable. In the honesty that Silence demands, it is safe to go naked without high-powered guns, paid goons and prestige, social influence, mansions, or fat bank accounts. Silence’s simplest and steepest demand is to cultivate total dependence on Someone, and not on something or someone.

So here i am, at the threshold of one of the loveliest seasons i often savor so religiously – Advent. I revel in the progression of the lighting from one candle to the community of 4 before Christmas. The Advent wreath reminds me so much of the hedge of God’s protection within this period or other times of waiting: it is safe to wait at bus lines, in malls and markets, for some commodities prayed for to arrive because God’s hedge of protection is always around me. Nothing is outside of God, not even death or evil deeds.

Aha! But here i am also, dragging those images of evil into Advent’s beginning. I contend the question is rather not “Why” but “Why not”. Hear this from Luke today:

“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.
People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world,
for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.”

How hair-raising a colossal of turbulence and restructuring of the cosmos! Beyond what we can imagine. Coming in a cloud with power and great glory is the Son of Man.

The Gospel of Luke was written after the Roman destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, the center of Jewish civilization, in 70AD. The destruction utterly torn apart the Jewish identity, shattering whatever peace and hopes they had for a new world order. It was a deep, searing wound on the Jewish psyche that Christian writers like Luke had picked up and turned this into a “2012” narrative in the context of the second coming of Christ.

So i enter Advent with scary images of the Last Days and the massacre in Maguindanao. The Maguindanao destruction was no less searing and painful than the destruction of the Temple: it cuts deep into our democratic identity and national psyche; it mirrors the violence of the First Century; it showcases the daily Satanic subtleties of warlordism and self-centeredness only to erupt at an uncontrollable time. The Jews must have shed tears and the early Christians must have hoped high. So do i and many others. Still, i will light my first candle of hope and waiting for justice and the best of politics.

Photo credit: zik “Tay”

Homosexuality and the Body of Christ

“The religious discussion of homosexuality often degenerates into a conversation about “them” — punctuated with fantasies of baths and bars, and studded with stories of promiscuity and perversion. These extravagances distract us from a simple truth, profound in its implications: we are the body of Christ and part of our body is gay and lesbian. Who are the homosexual members of the body of Christ? They are not “them”; they are “us.” They are our siblings and our children, our friends and our fellow-parishioners. They are persons like us, striving to live generous lives of maturing faith. They are the ministers among us — priests, religious, lay — who, knowing themselves to be lesbian and gay, struggle to serve with integrity in a church that proclaims publicly that their innermost inclinations are shameful and base.”

James and Evelyn Whitehead