Die and Live

Fifth Sunday of Lent [March 18, 2018] John 12:20-33

“Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. (Jn. 12:24)”

by Harry Setianto SJ

The hour of Jesus’ suffering and death has come. Jesus knows well that Jewish leaders want him dead, and there is no other punishment worse than crucifixion. Yet, Jesus does not see His suffering and death as defeat and shame, but in fact, it is the opposite. His crucifixion shall be the hour that He will be glorified and draw all men and women to Himself. It is the moment of victory because Jesus sees Himself as a grain of wheat that falls to the ground and dies, and then bears many fruits. It is not a kind of positive thinking technique to vilify the suffering or a pep talk to ignore the pain, but rather Jesus chooses to embrace it fully and make it meaningful and fruitful.


In the theological level, Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection are the summits of the work of redemption, our salvation. Jesus is the resurrection and life so that whoever knows and believes in Him may have the eternal life. Jesus’ choice of a grain of wheat, a basic material for making bread, may allude to the sacrament of the Eucharist through which Jesus gives the fullness of Himself to us in the form of a bread. Thus, through our participation in the Eucharist, we share this fruit of salvation.

However, through His sacrifice and death, Jesus also offers us a radical way to live this life. Truly, there is nothing wrong in pursuing wealth, success and power because these are also gifts from God and necessary for our survival and growth. Yet, when we are too captivated by these alluring things, and make other things and people simply tools to gain these, we choose to live the way of the world. Since the dawn of humanity, the world has offered us an inward-looking and self-seeking way of life. It is “Me First,” my success, my happiness at the expense of others and nature. Some people exploit nature and steal other people’s hard-earned money to enrich themselves. Some objectify and abuse even their family members, people under their care, just to have an instant pleasure. Some others manipulate their co-workers or friends to have more power for themselves. These are precisely what the world offers. These are good as far as they fulfill our transitory needs as a human being, but when we make them as the be-all and end-all, we begin losing our lives. Science calls this effect the hedonic treadmill: We work hard, advance, so we can afford more and nicer things, and yet this doesn’t make us any happier. We fail to find what truly makes us human and alive, and despite breathing, we already dying.  As Jesus says, “Whoever loves his life, loses it (Jn 12:25).”

Paradoxically, it is in dying to ourselves and in giving ourselves, our lives to others that we may find life and bear fruits. Sometimes, we need to offer our lives literally.  St. Maximillian Kolbe offered his life in exchange for a young man who had children in the death camp Auschwitz. Later Pope John Paul II canonized him and declared him as a martyr of charity. Not all of us are called to make the ultimate sacrifice like St. Maximillian, and we can die to ourselves in our little things, and give ourselves for others in simple ways. The questions then for us: how are we going to die to ourselves? How shall we give ourselves to others? What makes our lives fruitful for ourselves and others?

Br. Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP

Photo by Harry Setianto SJ


Beholding the Crucified Christ

Fourth Sunday of Lent [March 11, 2018] John 3:14-21

“Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, (Jn. 3:14)”

beholding cross
photo by Harry Setianto, SJ

As early as chapter 3 of the Gospel of John, Jesus is aware that he is going to suffer and die on the cross. The crucifixion is the worst kind of punishment in the ancient time. It is reserved for the rebels and foulest criminals. For the Jews, death on the tree is considered accursed by God Himself (Deu 21:22-23). By dying on the cross, Jesus may be seen by Jewish contemporaries as an evil criminal, a great dishonor to the family and the nation, and an accursed by God.


However, Jesus sees His death on the cross, not in these horrible perspectives, but rather He likens himself to the bronze serpent lifted up by Moses in the desert. In the book of Numbers (21:4-9), the Israelites complain against the Lord and Moses in the desert. They particularly do not like the manna despite being freely and miraculously given by God. So, God sends serpents to punish the Israelites. When the Israelites repent, Moses lifts a bronze serpent on the pole, so those who behold it, will be healed from the snake’ bite and live. We notice that the serpent that becomes the instrument of punishment and death turns to be the instrument of healing and life. Like the serpent, the cross is originally a means of torture and death, but God transforms it into the means of forgiveness and salvation. Therefore, like the Israelites who see the bronze serpent, those who behold the crucified Jesus and believe in Him will have the eternal life.

The faith in the Crucified Man is fundamental in the life of every Christian. Yet, we, Catholics, seem to take this faith and Gospel verses pretty passionately. We do not only have faith in the Jesus Crucified; we literally behold Him on the cross.  In every church, we see the cross both inside and outside the building. In Catholic schools, hospitals, and homes, the crucifix (cross with the body) is hanging on practically every wall. The crucifix is also inseparable from our religious and liturgical activities. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal no. 270 even states, “There is to be a crucifix, clearly visible to the congregation, either on the altar or near it.” Our rosaries always begin with holding the crucifix and ends by kissing it. During the Way of the Cross, we literally genuflect before the cross, and proclaim, “We adore You, O Christ, and we praise you. Because, by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.” Even, during the exorcism rite, a priest finds the crucifix, especially St. Benedict’s cross, as a powerful means against the evil spirits. Finally, we make the sign of the cross every time we pray because we acknowledge that our salvation comes the Jesus Crucified.

Like the Israelites in the desert behold the bronze serpent, we too behold Jesus on the cross. As the Israelites are healed and live, we are also saved and have eternal life in the Son of Man that is lifted up on the cross. This Lenten season, we are invited once again to reflect the meaning of the cross in our lives. Is the cross a mere cute accessory or ornament? Is making the sign of the cross a meaningless repeated practice? Are we ashamed of the cross of Christ? What does it mean for us to be the men and women who behold the cross?

Br. Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP


Business as Usual

Third Sunday of Lent [March 4, 2018] John 2:13-25

“Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.” (Jn. 2:16}

inside the chuch
photo by Harry Setianto SJ

The presence of the animal vendors and money-changers in the Temple of Jerusalem comes out of practical necessity. When Jews from all over Palestine come to Jerusalem, especially during the important days like Passover, they will fulfill their religious obligation to offer their sacrifices in the Temple. Since it is impractical to bring a sacrificial animal like oxen, lambs, or turtledoves from their hometowns, the Jews prefer an easier solution by buying them in Jerusalem. It does not only save those Jewish pilgrims the hassle, but it gives the assurance also that the animals will be unblemished as the Law of Moses has prescribed. Therefore, many vendors have the authorization from the Temple elders that their animals are unblemished and ready for sacrifice. The Jews are also required to support the upkeep the Temple and the priests through so-called “Temple tax.” Yet, they are not allowed to pay the Temple tax with the Roman money because it bears the image of Caesar as a god, a blasphemy. Thus, they need to change their money with more acceptable currency. Here the role of money-changers comes in. It is a kind of win-win solution for the pilgrims, the vendors, and the Temple authorities. We could imagine that with so many people visiting the Temple, the business must be buzzing and thriving.


When Jesus comes and drives them all out of the Temple, surely it angers not only the vendors and the money-changers but also the Jewish authority and even ordinary Jewish pilgrims. The disappearance of this vendors and money-changers may mean that some people lose their earnings, some people find their profit disappear, and most people are irked by the inconveniences it causes. Jesus tells the reason behind his action, “the Jews making His Father’s house a marketplace.”  The very core of the Temple of Jerusalem is the encounter between God and his chosen people, between God the Father and His children, but with so many activities, trading, and noise, this essence of the Temple is lost. The Temple means usual business. The priests certify the sacrificial animals for the vendors, the vendors sell them to the pilgrims, and the pilgrims give the animals to the priests for the slaughter. Everyone goes home happy! Jesus’ action is to break this vicious cycle of “normalcy” that makes people’ worship shallow. Jesus criticizes the structure that exploits the Temple for mere profit and superficial fulfillment of religious obligation, and for making God’s house into the marketplace.

In this season of Lent, we ask ourselves, if Jesus comes to our church, diocese, parish, congregation, religious organization, and even our family, what will Jesus do? Will He drive us out like He drives out the vendors from the Temple? Or, will He make His home among you? Financial resources are important in helping our Church grow but do we not make the Church an income-generating institution? While the leadership structure is essential in the Church and our smaller groups, do we serve others, or exploit people? Do we find peace and joy in our communities, or are they full of intrigues, gossips, unhealthy competitions? Do encounter God in our Church, or simply find ourselves? We thank the Lord if we discover God, our Father, in our Church and community, but if we do not, we better call on Jesus to drive us away from His Father’s house.

Br. Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP



Jesus, Moses, and Elijah

Second Sunday of Lent [February 25, 2018] Mark 9:2-10

Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus.  (Mk. 9:4)

photo by Harry Setianto, SJ

We are entering the second Sunday of Lent, and we read from the Gospel that Jesus is transfigured before His three disciples on the mountain. We may wonder why the Church select this reading for the liturgical season of Lent. The season is associated with the atmosphere of repentance and mortification as we intensify our prayer, fasting, and abstinence. Yet, we have a reading that depicts a glorious moment of Jesus on earth, and this surely brings an extremely edifying experience for the three disciples. It does not seem really proper for this Lenten season. Does it?


When Jesus is transfigured, two great figures of Israel, Moses, and Elijah come and converse with Jesus. The two figures represent two foundations of Israelite religious life: the Law and the Prophet. Yet, looking closely at the stories of these great persons, we may discover some interesting facts. Moses sees the burning bush at the Mount Horeb and receives the holy name of God of Israel (Exo 3). He also fasts for 40 days before he receives the Law from God in the mount of Sinai (Exo 34:28). Elijah on his part fasts from food when he walks 40 days to see God in the mount of Horeb (1 King 19:8). Both climb a mountain to witness the presence of God and receive their missions there. Like them, Jesus fasts for 40 days in the desert and goes up to the mountain to listen to the affirming voice of His Father.

However, the holy mountain does not simply lead them to the blissful encounter with the Divine, but it also reveals their life-changing mission. In Horeb, Moses is to deliver Israel from the slavery of Egypt. As a consequence, he has to deal courageously with the ruthless and stubborn Pharaoh. Not only with Pharaoh, but Moses also has to bear with his own people, Israel who keep complaining and blaming Moses for bringing them out of Egypt. Elijah receives task to anoint Hazael as a king of Aram, Jehu as a king of Israel, and Elisha as a prophet. Going down the mountain also means Elijah has to once again face Ahab, the king of Israel, and his vengeful and violent queen, Jezebel. As Jesus is leaving the mountain, He lets His disciples know that He has to suffer and die on the cross. From the mount of transfiguration, Jesus begins His way of the cross and marches toward another mount, the Calvary.

With today’s Gospel, the Church reminds us that the transfiguration is intimately linked to Jesus’ passion and resurrection. Thus, it is properly placed within the context of Lent. Like Jesus and His disciples, we also have our moments of transfiguration. It is where we encounter God, and His presence fills us with joy. One friend shared his experience of an unexpected utter peacefulness when he visited the Blessed Sacrament. He visited the Adoration Chapel often, yet only that day, he encountered the Lord, so alive in his heart. It was the day when he lost his job, had a big quarrel with his wife, and his father got a serious illness. Though he wanted to linger forever in that experience, he then realized that he had to go back to his life and struggle with the problems. He has a mission, and he has to continue his way of the cross. We have our own transfiguration and allow this precious moment empower us to carry our daily crosses.

Br. Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP




First Sunday of Lent [February 18, 2018] Mark 1:12-15

“The Spirit drove him out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days… (Mk 1:12-13)”

small-groupThe practice of fasting is as old as humanity itself. People from different cultures and religions have included fasting in their customs and traditions. The Brahmin and gurus of Hindu tradition fast and mortify their bodies. The Buddhist monks are known to abstain from eating any meat and fast regularly. Our Muslim brothers and sisters fast even from drinking water from before the dawn to sunset during the month of Ramadan. Scientists have proven that fasting has a lot of health benefits.

People refrain themselves from taking food and water for certain period for different reasons and motives. Some fast to subdue the carnal desires and discipline themselves. Others find it as a way to attain wisdom and enlightenment. The others are to achieve healthy and balanced lives. Others still are required to fast as medical requirements or tests. I remember once my physician-friend requires me to fast for 6 to 8 hours before my blood was extracted for the laboratory examination.

As we enter the liturgical season of Lent, the Church instructs us to do fast and abstinence, and intensify our prayer. Yet, compared to other traditions, our fasting is considered to be very light. We are only required to fast for two days, the Ash Wednesday and the Good Friday. The way we fast also is not that difficult. We are enjoined to take only one full meal within the day. Yet, why do we, Christians, have to fast? Why does the Church want us to commit ourselves to this ancient practice?

One reason is we follow the example of the great prophets before us. Moses fasts for 40 days before he receives the Law from God in the mount of Sinai (Exo 34:28). Elijah on his part fasts from food when he walks 40 days to see God in the mount of Horeb (1 King 19:8). Finally, Jesus Himself goes to the desert and fasts for 40 days in the desert just before He commences His public ministry. Why do these great persons in our faith fast? If we carefully notice, Moses and Elijah fast because they prepare themselves to see the Lord. Like them, our fasting, as simple as they may be, is linked fundamentally to our journey towards God. Often we are so proud of ourselves, feeling self-sufficient because we have achieved and accumulated a lot in our lives. Fasting makes us hunger and weak, and once again we are getting in touch with our vulnerability as human beings. It reminds us our finitude. Yet, when we feel powerless, it is the time when we realize our radical dependence on God, our true strength. Indeed being truly human is being truly connected to God, the source of our humanity and life. Fasting becomes a good means to purify our hearts to see God because only “the pure hearts can see the Lord (Mat 5:8).”

We also observe that Moses, Elijah, and Jesus fast just before they begin their big missions. Moses receives the Law and teaches it to the Israelites. Elijah is to anoint Hazael as a king of Aram, Jehu as a king of Israel, and Elisha as a prophet. Jesus is to begin His public ministry that will lead Him to the cross and resurrection, our salvation. Our fasting prepares us for our true mission as Christians. Often, we are busy with so many things, and fasting helps us to re-orient and re-focus ourselves on the mission God has given us. Reminded of our limited time here on earth, what are things that are truly important in our lives? Reminded of our mortal body, have we given enough time and effort to our missions? Is our fasting bringing us closer to God and our mission?

Br. Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP


Ash: a Biblical Reflection

Ash Wednesday 2018 [February 14, 2018] Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

“For you are dust, and to dust, you shall return. (Gen. 3:19)”

dustAsh Wednesday is the beginning of the liturgical session of Lent in the Catholic Church. Its name derives from an ancient tradition of the imposition of the ashes. Every Catholic who attends the mass on this day will receive a sign of the cross made of ashes on his or her forehead. The ashes are ordinarily coming from the burned palm leaves blessed at the Palm Sunday of the previous year.

Why ashes? Is it in the Bible?

In the Bible, ash (or dust) symbolizes our mortal and fragile humanity. We recall how God created humanity from the dust of the earth (Gen 2:7). Indeed, after Adam committed the first act of disobedience, God reminded Adam of his finite nature, “For you are dust, and to dust, you shall return. (Gen. 3:19)” Because of sin, death upset the creation and brought Adam and all his children back to the ground. Thus, when a priest imposes ashes on our foreheads with the same formula, it becomes a poignant reminder of who we are. Human as we are, relying on our own strength and ability, despite our success, glory, and pride, will die and go back to the earth.

Ash is also a mark of grief, humility, and repentance. After the preaching of Jonah, the people of Nineveh repented, and they wore sackcloth and sat on ashes, begging forgiveness (Jon 3:5-6). Under the leadership of Nehemiah, the citizen of Jerusalem assembled and asked for God’s forgiveness. They all gathered together “while fasting and wearing sackcloth, their heads covered with dust (Neh 9:1).  That explains why the priest also says, “repent and believe in the Gospel!” while imposing the ashes on our foreheads. Just like the ancient Israelites, it is a sign and invitation for us to change our lives and seek God’s mercy and forgiveness.

The cross of ash is the sign of our finite humanity, and even death. Paradoxically, however, it also turns to be a symbol of our true strength and life. When we realize and acknowledge that we are mere ashes in God’s hands, it is also the time we become once again truly alive. Just as God breathed His spirit in the first human made of dust, so God gives us His grace that enables us to participate in His divine life. We are truly alive precisely because we are now sharing in God’s life. The cross of ashes turns to be the moment of our re-creation. As St. Paul says, it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.  (Gal. 2:20)

Sometimes, the ash of repentance brings us sadness and gloominess as we reflect our sinfulness and frailty. As today is the day of fasting and abstinence, we also feel hungry and lethargic. Yet, it must not stop there. It should lead us to the Gospel, the Good News. It is Good News because we are now saved and alive! When we repent, we remove all things make our lives heavy, things that turn us away from God. We become once again light and energetic. As we turn ourselves to God, who is the source of life, we cannot but become alive and full of joy. It is ash that leads us to the Gospel, the joy of the Gospel.

Br. Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP



The Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time [February 11, 2018] Mark 1:40-45

“Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, ‘I do will it. Be made clean.” (Mk. 1:41)

touch the poor
photo by Harry Setianto Sunaryo, SJ

One of the greatest gifts that humanity has received is the gift of touch. We are created as bodily being, and biology tells us that practically all our body surface is covered by fabric nerve that receives the external stimulates like heat, pleasure, and pain. It is the first step in our survival mechanism as it helps us to identify the approaching dangers or threats. Yet, it is the first step also in our authentic growth as human beings. A baby will feel loved when she is embraced by her parents. A toddler who learns to walk will feel a sense of guidance and security when his father holds his hand. Even a grown-up man will need comfort and warm coming from his family.


If there is one thing that destroys this gift of touch, this is leprosy.  The disease will practically create a “walking death.”  Leprosy or also known as Hansen’ disease is caused by Mycobacterium leprae that bring about severe, disfiguring skin sores and nerve damages around the body. The greatest injury that this disease inflicts is that a person loses the ability to feel external stimulates like pain. As a consequence, a leper gradually loses its limbs like his fingers, hair, nose, arms, and feet because of the unnoticed repeated injuries or untreated wounds. Yet, the most painful about this disease is that the stigma the lepers receive from their community. In the time of Jesus, lepers are expelled from their community because people fear to contract the infectious disease. Even, people consider leprosy as God’s punishment (see 2Chro 26:20). Because of that, a leper is not only biologically sick but ritually unclean, meaning he is not able to worship God as he is barred from entering the synagogue or the temple (see Lev 13). He must cry “Unclean, unclean!” to remind the people nearby not touch him, otherwise, the persons may become unclean as well. A person with leprosy is not only losing the gift of touch from his body, but also from his community and his God. No wonder, leprosy is the most dreaded disease in the ancient Israel society.

With this background, we may fully appreciate what Jesus does to the leprous man. He is stretching his hands and making a deliberate effort to touch him. Jesus does not only risk of contracting the disease, but Jesus may become ritually unclean. Yet, Jesus insists because He knows that the gift of touch is what the man needs most. Indeed, Jesus’ touch brings healing and restores the lost gift of touch. The man is able once more to feel the goodness of life, to re-enter his community, and to worship his God.

When we call Jesus as the savior, it means that by sacrificing His life, Jesus reestablishes the lost connection between us and our deepest selves, between us and our neighbors, and between us and our God. How does Jesus do it? With the gift of touch. Our God is indeed a spirit, but our God is not abstract. He becomes flesh so that we may fully experience His love, His touch. As His disciples, we are called to participate in God’s concrete love by expanding this love to others. Do we dare to touch people with modern-day leprosies, like poverty? Are we willing to restore the broken relationship in our lives? Are we eager to meet our God in prayer? Do we want to touch those who have been away from God and bring them back?

Br. Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP




Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time [February 4, 2018] Mark 1:29-39

“He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.  (Mk 1:31)”

touching nazareno
photo by Harry Setianto Sunaryo, SJ

In today’s Gospel, we listen to the first healing miracle of Jesus, and the first person whom Jesus heals is actually a woman, Peter’s mother-in-law. Notice also Jesus’ threefold actions to this woman: comes nearer, takes her by the hand, and raises her up. These three actions are powerful not only because it brings immediate healing, but through them, Jesus empowers the woman to stand on her feet and serve (Diakonia). After the angels ministered to Jesus in the desert (Mrk 1:13), the first human who ministers to Jesus is a woman and mother.

We are human beings, and the sense of touch is the most basic in our nature. Our eyes need to be in contact with light particles to see, our ears have to receive sound wave to ears, and all our body is covered by nerve fabric just right under our skin that recognizes basic information like heat, pain, and pleasure. It is beautifully designed for us not just to survive, but also to live life to the fullest. Thus, the touch or physical contact is fundamental to human life and relationship.

We indeed learn the first values and the beauty of life through touch. As a baby, we are embraced by our parents; we begin to grow in comfort, security, and love. Yet, touch is not only needed by babies and children, but also by mature men and women. A brother who is doing ministry in one of the hospitals in Manila is once told by his mentor that an adult person needs at least a quality hug a day. He might not cure the disease, but by being physically present to the patients, he may bring hope and comfort. We shake hands to express trust to one another, we kiss as a sign of love, and even in very physical sports and games, we nurture our friendships and camaraderie.

Sadly, because of our sins and weakness, we change this powerful touch into an instrument of destruction and dehumanization. Many of our brothers and especially our sisters become victims of this inhuman touch. Many women and children receive physical and sexual abuses even inside their own houses. Many fall victim into prostitution, modern-day slavery, and child labor. Young children, instead of going to school and receiving kisses from their parent, are holding weapons to kill other children. Young women, instead of finishing their education and enjoying their youth, have to offer their bodies to feed their families. Young men, instead of taking care of their families, get into drug-addiction as to cope with joblessness and poverty.

Jesus shows us how powerful our touch is and He invites us to reclaim this power as to bring healing and empowerment, especially to those who have been suffering from this dehumanizing touch. Do our touch and action bring healing to our family and society? Does our touch empower people around us? Does our touch lead others to serve God?

Br. Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP


To Teach, to Exorcise, to Heal

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time [January 28, 2018] Mark 1:21-28

 “Then they came to Capernaum, and on the sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught. (Mk. 1:21)”

healing ministry
photo by Harry Setianto Sunaryo, SJ

After calling the disciples, Jesus begins his ministry proper in Capernaum. There, Jesus performs a threefold task: teaching, exorcism (driving away the evil spirits) and healing. On the Sabbath, He immediately enters the synagogue and teaches with authority. He faces the unclean spirits who possess a man and rebukes them to leave. And in the next Sunday’s reading, he heals Peter’s mother-in-law (Mk. 1:29-39). All these he does with authority.


This threefold task is fundamental to the ministry of Jesus, and in the succeeding Sundays, we will listen to many of these actions. Why are these fundamental to Jesus? The answer is because these three aspects make Jesus’ ministry a holistic one. Teaching is to form a sound mind, to drive away evil spirits is to build a holy spiritual life, and healing is to empower our bodies. It is precisely the Good News because the salvation Jesus brings covers all aspects of our humanity. As His disciples, we are all called to preach, drive evil spirits, and to heal.

Healing deals with the health of our bodies. It is true that we do not have the gift of healing, but all are called to respect our bodies and thus, to live a healthy lifestyle and avoid those things that will make us sick, like unnecessary stress and unhealthy food. To respect our bodies flows from the recognition that our bodies are the gift of God and as St. Paul says, “the Temple of the Holy Spirit.” Thus, abuse of our bodies means disrespecting the God who created us, and the Holy Spirit who gives us life. Yet, healing is not limited to our bodies but also includes healing our neighbors. It is to make sure that our brothers and sister have something to eat, something to clothe their bodies and a place to rest their bodies. It is not only to heal our own bodies but our society as well.

Exorcism is truly a special ministry in the Church, and only delegated to few people under the authority of the bishops, but every Christian is called to drive away evil spirits in their lives and hearts. It is our sacred duty to live holy lives, to receive the sacraments frequently, and to pray fervently. These are the ways to get closer to God, and thus, enable us to have healthy spiritual lives. To drive away evils also means to free ourselves from the bondage of sins and vices. It is a kind of spiritual healing. The devil sometimes possesses our bodies, but most of the time, he possesses our hearts. Our excessive attachment to things, like money, sexual pleasure, prestige, is a manifestation of evil spirits working in our hearts.

It is true that not all are teachers by profession, but we are called to form our minds and other peoples’ mind as well. It is fundamental for the parents to teach the basic Christian values, like honesty, fidelity, and compassion, to their young children. It is also important to habitually reflect on our characters, to correct bad habits, and to improve ourselves. After all, education is not only transfer of information, but the formation of characters. Thus, a right understanding of self will affect the way we act. I have been faithfully attending the Eucharist since my childhood, but when I learn more about its theology, history and its rootedness in the Scriptures and Christ Himself, the more I fall in love with the Eucharist.

We are the disciples of Christ, and it is our sacred mission and honor to participate in His threefold ministry in our sown ways and lives: to teach, to drive evil spirits and to heal.

Br. Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP


Come after Me!

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Feast of Sto. Niño in the Philippines) January 21, 2018 [Mark 1:16-20*]

“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men (Mar 1:17)”

gazing cross
photo by Harry Setianto Sunaryo, SJ

Jesus begins His public ministry by calling His first disciples to follow Him. In ancient Palestine, to become a student of a particular teacher means to follow him wherever he goes and stays. In fact, the Greek words used is “deute hopiso”, that means “come after me” because the disciples are expected to literally walk few steps behind Jesus. No wonder, that when the four first disciples, Peter, Andrew, James and John, are called, they have to leave practically everything behind, their works, their family and their hometowns. Thus, to become Jesus’ disciples are a radical commitment that entails great sacrifices.

However, if we bring back the life of radical discipleship to our time, who among us will be able to follow that call? How many among us will be willing to leave behind our work, family, and hometown for the sake of Christ? Not many. Only a few people are entering the monasteries or the convents. Even, those who are already members of religious congregations, we are allowed to keep in touch with their family. I myself am able to have a vacation every year and visit my family. It seems that the total discipleship remains a far-reached ideal for many of us.

While it is true that this kind of life is genuinely difficult and rare, yet we believe that the life of a true disciple is also available for all of us. The Gospel tells us that the first disciples leave many things behind, but actually, the disciples do also bring something with them when they decide to walk after Jesus. They carry “themselves”, the totality of their own persons. Within this person are their characters, knowledge, skills, ideals, and dreams. In short, they also carry with them their profession, their family, and homeland. This is why Jesus does not only call Simon, Andrew, James, and John to follow Him, but He also is going to make them “the fishers of men.” Jesus knows that these guys are one of the best fishermen in the Galilee, and now Jesus invites them to offer the best they have for God’s purposes. To follow Jesus is not leaving everything behind as much as offering ourselves to the Lord.

When St. Dominic de Guzman preached against the heresy in the Southern French, he left the comfort of his church in Osma, Spain. Yet, when he preached, he brought along all the skills and knowledge he learned as a canon in Osma, and as a student at the University of Valencia. He left everything and yet, paradoxically, he brought everything when he founded the first religious Order that was dedicated for preaching in the Church.

We may not be able to leave our family, our profession, and hometown because we are responsible for the lives of our family and relatives, but with the same spirit, we can radically follow Jesus, by offering ourselves for God’s purposes. As parents in the family, what do we give to God, which may build a solid Christian family? As part of the Church, what do we surrender to Jesus, which may help her growth in the world? As members of society, what do we offer to the Lord, which may contribute to a just and growing society?

Today, the Church in the Philippines is celebrating the feast of Sto. Niño, or the Child Jesus. The image of Sto. Niño is the first to be introduced to the Filipino people, and His intercession has been very instrumental to the evangelization of this country. We pray to Sto. Niño that our self-offering may bear fruits wherever we are sent and live.

Br. Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP

*the reading is taken from the 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time