Thursday of the 12th Week of the Year


“Listen first! Don’t say anything!” Often our mistake is talking too much about ourselves, achievements, and our services in the name of the Lord. And we forget to listen. In contrast, Our Lady is presented as the Silent One who begot the Incarnate Word in silence. She neither had works to show off but what she had was that which made the Almighty bend down so low that He called her Mother. It was through silence that she built the edifice of her heart and made it His worthy dwelling place. Lacordaire once said: “Silence is the homeland of the strong.”

External and internal noises could muffle the voice of God who speaks to us through the gentle breeze, giving direction and meaning and preparing us for the day’s challenges. To look for a language that will help us journey through silence. Can we grasp that some people are hurting, overwhelmed and in need of compassion and healing? Sometimes a prayer and merciful silence or a sympathetic smile can enable us to be of help in their darkest moments. In this manner of listening and acting on His word, we hope not to hear the harsh words of the Lord: “I have never known you…” (SSpSAP Bible Dairy 2002)


In January 2004, Austrian newspapers reported that more than 4,000 Catholics in Austria left the Catholic Church because of the sex scandal and happened in one of the diocesan seminaries in the country. In relation to the total number of Catholics here, this number is already a big loss for the local church. A handful, though, of those who left are now coming back. There was a common element found in those interviewed. They were all angry. They were angry because some of the church leaders involved were very much known for their strict campaign against homosexuality. They who faithfully pay “church tax” from the money they earn felt discouraged. For them those involved failed to give witness to Christian values.

Today’s gospel reading describes a similar situation. To profess that Jesus is Lord is a good start. It is an expression of one’s faith, an experience of God’s grace. But when we begin to put it into action we sometimes fail and commit injustice to ourselves, others and God. However, a constant listening to the Word of God helps us to grow deeper in our relationship with the Lord. It is a relationship that is grounded on a solid yet dynamic foundation. Here we can perhaps learn from the example of St. Irenaeus, whose memorial (June 28) we celebrate today. He did not only lay the foundations of Christian theology but most importantly he exposed and refuted the errors of the Gnostics. His efforts delivered the Catholic Faith from the dangers of Gnostic heresies. At the end of this earthly journey, may the Lord not say to us: “I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.” (Frt. Citoy Boloron, SVD Bible Diary 2007)


The gospel is the conclusion of the Matthean Sermon on the Mount. The point of this section is one often repeated throughout the Bible: the necessity to put one’s faith into action/practice. This pattern of putting one’s faith into action is expressed universally in diverse ways: doctrine-morality, didache-parenesis, (Greek), haggadah-halakah (Hebrew). This is also the fundamental structure of homilies: explanation-application. Orthodoxy is the basis of orthopraxis. In everyday terms, one must “walk one’s talk.”

One’s faith must be expressed in fruits of love, in good works. We are not saved by faith alone because even the devil can have faith (James 2:19).

Some religious groups contradict this teaching of the necessity of putting one’s belief into practice. Some Baptist groups in Southern USA teach that one is saved by the mere reading of the Bible, no need of putting the lessons read into practice. One Muslim brothers and sisters are asked to fulfil the five pillars of Islam and no need to interiorize them. The mere physical/material execution assures eternal salvation.

Christianity demands an inner conversion, a metanoia, a change of heart. Pharisaism or the hypocritical, merely external observance of doctrines is condemned.  Christian sanctification is a long and gradual process of transformation, of spiritual metamorphosis – from being worms/caterpillars 9sinners) to becoming beautiful butterflies (saints/children of God), people who put their beliefs into effective and fruitful practice. (Fr. Willy Villegas, SVD Bible Diary 2008)


A real disciple is not only a hearer but a doer of the Word of God. a real disciple does not only talk about the will of God but also and more importantly, does the will of God in everyday life.

Jesus is an outstanding model of doing the will of God. He said, “It is not to do my own will that I have come down from heaven, but to do the will of Him who sent me,” (John 6:38). Consequently, Jesus reminds His followers, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven,” In His agony at the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus’ prayer was, “My Father, if this cup of suffering cannot pass me by without my drinking it, your will be done,” (Matt 26:42). Of his followers Jesus said, “Whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is brother and sister and mother to me,” (Matt 12:50).

Spiritual masters return to this same theme, such as Saint Ambrose (4th century) who said: “The will of God is the measure of all things.” Saint Basil (4th century): “No one may prefer his own will to the will of God, but in everything we must seek and do the will of God.” saint Thomas Aquinas (13th century): “Knowledge of God is not enough; we must strive to love Him by doing His will.” Saint Teresa (16th century):  “While we are living here on earth, our greatest happiness is in the performance of the will of God.” saint Alphonsus de Liguori: “All holiness consists in the love of God but the love of God consists in conformity to the will of God; therefore, all holiness consists in conformity to the will of God.” (Fr. Louie Punzalan, SVD Bible Diary 2009)


A story is told of a very hungry hyena. While hunting for food, he came to a thicket where he saw two goats at the far end of two different paths. With his mouth watering in anticipation, he took the right path with his right leg and the left path with his left leg. As the two paths veered farther apart, he tried to follow them both at once. Finally, he split into two. Hence the African proverb: Two roads overcame the hyena.

Today’s gospel reminds us of the folly of splitting ourselves – calling Jesus, “Lord, Lord,” yet not doing the will of the Father. For many of us, consistency in words and deeds is a huge mountain to climb.

A case in point: our country the Philippines. The irony is that it is oftentimes ruled by corrupt politicians and government officials who mostly are Catholics. We wonder: Are they corrupt because they are Catholics, or are they Catholics because they are corrupt? The two seem to have causative relationship. Yet, even if we succeed in arguing that being a Catholic has nothing to do with being corrupt and vice versa, it would not stop us from questioning how Catholic politicians and government officials could have no social conscience so as to steal from the people they have pledged to serve?

Selfishness is our greatest enemy. Our inability to concretize our faith and live it out in every aspect of our life is, in many ways, triggered by self-seeking ambitions. Even our acts of worship are oftentimes motivated by our demands that God would grant our requests for material blessings. “Lord, I pray that I’ll get salary increment this year, so that I will still have my car. Without it, how could I continue attending Mass on Sundays?” said a proud owner of an SUV.

We all have a long way to go towards fulfilling our Christian calling. The spiritual imprint we received during baptism is just the beginning of an arduous journey that is meant to change our lives as well as inspire others to do the same. Our words and deeds often lack coherence, and our “Lord, Lord” utterances are not always predicated on doing God’s will. (Fr. Narciso Cellan SVD Bible Diary 2015).


June 23, 2016 Thursday

In his book, Healing Wounded Emotions, Fr. Martin Padovani SVD sharply distinguishes between obedience out of conviction or as an act of the will and obedience out of guilt, fear or shame. When one has made the firm decision to comply with a command, especially from a parent, he/she can then forego and handle reasonably, with faith, whatever emotions that may consequently surface.

But the basis for compliance is feelings – pleasant when the order/command is suitable, or unpleasant when it goes against one’s wishes – then that kind of obedience will neither last nor have much value. For many sons, obedience to the father can be a real test of the will given, as Sigmund Freud theorized, the “Oedipus complex” lurking in our psyche.

Initially the two sons in the gospel story showed different attitudes to the father, different reactions to the order their parent had given. One, at the start, said “yes” but did not go and comply with his father’s command, the other son said “no” but, after thinking it over did obey his father.

Overcoming his initial emotions and attitude, the second son made arm determination to obey.

If we look at Jesus as “the parable of the Father,” we will see in him the ideal son: a combination of the best of the two sons. Jesus said “yes” and he, overcoming his emotions in the Garden of Gethsemane, obeyed. His was obedience even unto death. And his obedience ful lled what the voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” The obedience of the Lord brought infinite good to this world.

Not only will wounded emotions be healed, but by perfect obedience, the world itself will be healed or reconciled to the Father, Fr. Padovani claims. (Fr. Flor Lagura, SVD U.S.A. Bible Diary 2016)


THURSDAY OF THE 12TH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR A) – MATEO 7:21-29. Unsa may mas labing dalaygon – ang tawo nga maampoon o ang tawo nga buotan? Nindot kaayo kon kining duha ka kalidad mag-uban diha sa tawo. Pero dili ikalimod nga adunay mga tawo nga makamaong mag-ampo ug magsimba apan dili moral ang pamuyo. Kining klaseha sa mga tawo angay maminaw sa gisulti ni Kristo diha sa ebanghelyo: “Dili ang tanan nga magtawag kanako’g ‘Ginoo’, ‘Ginoo,’ makasulod sa Gingharian sa Langit, kondili kadto lamang nagtuman sa kabubut-on sa akong Amahan.” Sa ato pa diay, ang pagtoo ug pag-ampo mahimo lamang nga bililhon kon kini ubanan og sulondong kinabuhi. Dakong sayop ang pag-ingon, “Sagdi lang ang daotan kong binuhatan tungod kay sa pag-ampo ako kining gibayaran.” Si Santiago nagsulat, “Ang pagtoo nga walay binuhatan, patay.” Posted by Abet Uy


THURSDAY OF THE 12TH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR B) – MATEO 7:21-29. KINSA MAN ANG KRISTIYANO NGA MATUOD? Ang pagsimba, pag-ampo, ug pagsangyaw mga buhat nga relihiyoso, apan kini dili maoy makapahimo natong tinuod nga Kristiyano. Klaro ang gitudlo ni Kristo: “Dili ang tanan nga magtawag kanako’g ‘Ginoo, Ginoo,’ makasulod sa Gingharian sa Langit, kondili kadto lamang nagtuman sa kabubut-on sa akong Amahan.” Sa ato pa, ang pagsimba, pag-ampo ug pagsangyaw mahimo lamang dalaygon kon kini ubanan og mga maayong buhat. Kon kita maminaw sa Pulong sa Dios apan dili magsunod niini, sama kuno kita sa usa ka tawo nga magtukod og balay ibabaw sa balas. Sa panahon sa mga pagsulay dali ra kitang mahugno. Apan kon ang mga Pulong sa Dios atong sundon sa matag adlaw, mahisama kita sa tawo nga naghimog balay ibabaw sa bato. Walay pagsulay nga makatandog kanato. Posted by Abet Uy


Thursday, June 23, 2016

THURSDAY OF THE 12TH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR C) – PAMALANDONG Hunyo 23, 2016 MATEO 7:21-29. KINSA MAN ANG TINUOD NGA KRISTIYANO? Ang pagsimba ug pag-ampo mga buhat nga relihiyoso, apan dili kini maoy makapahimo natong Kristiyano. Si Hesus nag-ingon, “Dili ang tanan nga magtawag kanako’g ‘Ginoo, Ginoo, makasulod sa Gingharian sa Langit, kondili kadto lamang nagtuman sa kabubut-on sa akong Amahan.” Sa ato pa, ang pagsimba mahimo lamang dalaygon kon kini ubanan og maayong buhat. Kon kita maminaw sa Pulong sa Dios apan dili magsunod niini, sama kita sa tawo nga nagtukod og balay ibabaw sa balas. Sa panahon sa pagsulay, dali ra kitang mahugno. Apan kon ang Pulong sa Dios atong puy-an kada adlaw, mahimo kitang lig-on sama sa tawo nga naghimog balay ibabaw sa bato. Busa, si San Pablo nagdasig, “Let your roots grow down into Christ, and let your lives be built on Him” (Col 2:7). Posted by Abet Uy


Built Wisely

June 25, 2015 (readings)

Thursday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time

Father Edward McIlmail, LC

Matthew 7:21-29

Jesus said to his disciples: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’ Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell — and great was its fall!” Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.

Introductory Prayer: Lord, before I can produce anything lasting in my life, I need to be united to you in prayer. Aware of my weakness and inclination to sin, I trust all the more in your forgiveness and mercy. I believe in your presence in the Eucharist. It gives me the assurances that you really are with your Church until the end of time.

Petition: Lord, help me to improve one point of my life that has been neglected.

  1. Lord, Lord:“Faith without works is useless” (James 2:20). Witnessing to our faith through our works is crucial. It’s not enough to go to Mass on Sunday, to have the Bible on the shelf, to hang a rosary on the rearview mirror. Faith in Christ means daily conversion, changing our lives in conformity to his will. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Doing the will of the Father means works of charity, of patience, of disinterested service. Real expressions of our faith demand that we give of ourselves. Real faith doesn’t leave us feeling smug. Do I ever feel self-righteous because “I’m with the Pope”? Because I “never got caught” doing something wrong? Does my faith in Christ leave me complacent? Or does it drive me to works of charity?
  2. Rock Solid:Listening to and following Christ means living as we should. There is a truth about our being human that demands a response. To know, love and serve God in this world, and to be happy with him forever in the next, sums up the purpose of our lives (see Catechism, No. 1). When we sin, we break not only with Christ but with ourselves. We feel divided interiorly by our passions, our anger, our vanity, our greed. Christ invites us to “come home,” to be what we were meant to be. That is the surest foundation we can have when a crisis strikes. Where am I “building on sand”? Is my prayer life weak? Am I stingy with my possessions? Hardhearted toward a family member?
  3. Façade:We can surmise that the house built on sand looked sturdy — that is why no one thought to test its strength before the big storm arrived. Our lives can be the same way. In a time of calm everything seems OK. No cares, no fears. Everything looks good on the outside, like those old Hollywood movie sets: all façade, but no depth. Beneath the surface, however, there might lie decay, chronic problems, issues that aren’t resolved, emptiness — all because Christ isn’t the center of our lives. Are there areas of my life where I’m living superficially? Am I just putting up appearances for the neighbors? My parents? My spouse? My sweetheart? My pastor? What problems do I need to weed out of my life?

Conversation with Christ: Lord, you love me too much to stand by and let me live my life on the surface. You know it is difficult for me to give up my mask, because it is never easy for me to face my weaknesses. Give me the strength to confront what I need to change in my life.

Resolution: I will note one area where I’m not living up to the public image I present. Then I will offer up a decade of the rosary to overcome that vice or weakness.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Reflection for June 25, Thursday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time; Matthew 7:21-29

Reflection: What would ensure your entry to the kingdom of heaven when your time is up in this world? It’s your faith built and anchored like a rock. What does this mean? It means faith that is not in name only. It’s rather a faith that works and faith that is lived so that others may benefit from it.

How easy it is to us to say that I have faith, I am a Christian and a followers of Jesus. But do you put substance to these solemn declarations and do you live these pronouncements? If you do, then well and good but if you don’t yet, it’s never too late to renew your faith and commitment to Jesus.

In every hour of your life God gives you the chance for you to make alive your dormant and sleeping faith. God wants you to do this so that you would become like the wise man in the gospel. Who built his house around the rock which nobody could move or destroy not even the strongest storm.

We all face or will still be facing our own respective battles with the storms of life. Do you know what would make you survive these storms? It’s your rock solid faith in Jesus, faith that is not kept to oneself alone, it’s rather a faith that is lived and shared.

How’s your faith right now? – Marino J. Dasmarinas


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Reflection for June 23, Thursday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time; Matthew 7:21-29

Reflection: “I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” – Mahatma Gandhi.

It was said that Gandhi was being encouraged to embrace the Christian faith when he said this famous quotation. He admired Christ deeply but he did not admire what he saw on the followers of Jesus, that includes us.

Maybe, Gandhi saw these Christians who only pay lip service to their faith, who are only active on worship but deficient in living their faith.

James 2:17 says: “faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

In the gospel Jesus told his disciples: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven (Matthew 7:21).”

Some of us are so active in our church worship we are always there every Sunday for Holy Mass, some are there daily to worship God. But the irony of it all is many of us choose to leave in the church what we hear and learn from it. We don’t breathe it, we don’t practice it.

The will of God is for us to practice and live our relationship with Him through our fellowmen specially those who are in need. What is the use of our worship for Jesus if we don’t live it? – Marino J. Dasmarinas


BE A ROCKER! – “… Be like a wise man who built his house on rock.” — Matthew 7:24

A few years ago, I felt led by the Holy Spirit to form a homeschool support group called “ROCKERs,” which stands for Roman Catholics Keeping Education Real. Our members usually interact with one another online through our Facebook group, and it is always inspiring to see how everyone supports and prays for one another.

We also try to organize Christ-centered events for our children, such as our annual All Saints’ Day party, where our kids dress up as saints or biblical characters — our alternative to the usual gory and ghoul-filled Halloween parties. It’s actually a much-anticipated event, and the kids always enjoy our saint-themed party games, snacks and storytelling sessions.

As a Catholic, I believe that God wants all of us to be ROCKERs of sorts — because He wants us to build our houses “on rock,” i.e., the firm foundation that is Jesus Christ Himself and His Divine Word. You don’t need to be a homeschooler to “keep education real,” especially if we’re talking about educating others about Jesus and His love for us. So what are you waiting for? Be a ROCKER now! Tina Santiago-Rodriguez (

Reflection: “Trust in the Lord forever! For the Lord is an eternal Rock.” (Isaiah 26:4)

“I love You, Lord, my strength, Lord, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer, my God, my rock of refuge…” — Psalms 18:2


DIFFERENT KINDS OF BELIEVERS – When we were studying Classical Philosophy, particularly Philosophy of Religion, we came to know about different variations of unbelievers. There are agnostics who believe that the existence or non-existence of God is currently unknown or unknowable and cannot be proven. A weaker form of this might be defined as simply a lack of certainty about the existence or non-existence of a Supreme Being. There are atheists who reject the belief in the existence of God. Strong atheists maintain the position that there is no God. Weak atheists simply have no belief that any God exists. Apatheists, on the other hand, do not care whether any Supreme Being exists.

A meditative reading of our Gospel passage today makes me realize that we can also have different kinds of believers:

Ritualists or Pietists = believers who are so much taken by the performance of delicate liturgies, even being too scrupulous about details or “rubrics” of prayers and rites. Pope Francis refers to these persons as the ones who have turned the Church into a museum.

Theatricists = believers who equate authentic faith as one that must always be accompanied by charismatic manifestations of prophecies, miracles, healings and other mighty works. They love to transform worship into a theatrical experience.

Activists = believers who are absorbed about showing faith as an active social agent of change. Pope Francis refers to these when he speaks about religious who have turned into simple social workers.

Mystics = believers who have become not just religious but spiritual. The faith has become their bedrock of living. They are able to integrate what they believe as truly part of their every thought, word and action —and so they are able to witness to this faith with stability and consistency in the midst of anything. Fr. Domie Guzman, SSP

REFLECTION QUESTIONS: How do you measure maturity in one’s Christian faith? Can you see yourself as someone who is like the person Jesus speaks about in the Gospel — someone who has built his or her house upon a rock?

You are the Rock on which I stand, Lord. I put my faith and hope in You.


ACT ON IT – Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. – Matthew 7:24

Take a stroll in the cemetery and you will realize that it’s not just a place filled with dead people; it’s also filled with dead dreams, buried without being fufilled. One reason why these dreams, visions, goals and plans remained figments of the imagination is because they were never put into action.

Every vision needs to be turned into action constantly for it to become a reality. The dreamer needs to have a bias for action. The visionary doesn’t just ask in faith, but acts in faith, because the extraordinary moves of God begin with ordinary acts of obedience. So if you have a dream, act on it by building specific daily habits that inch you closer to it. Because success is everyday execution and action attracts abundance.

The same goes with the Word of God. It can’t remain just a cute concept in our heads that we share on social media. For it to transform our lives, we need to act on it. We need to apply it in our lives.

I heard a preacher once said, “Blessing is God’s department; obedience is ours.” Mike Viñas (

Pope Francis Says: “Let us all remember this: one cannot proclaim the Gospel of Jesus without the tangible witness of one’s life.”

Jesus, teach me not just to be a hearer of Your Word, but a doer.


WORDS OR DEEDS? SCRIBES OR JESUS? Finally we arrive at the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount. The lesson today has a very clear and unmistakable impact. In the end, it’s all a matter of doing, putting into practice, and living out the teaching.

If yesterday we were reflecting on the necessary fruits to back up or prove our worth, today’s Gospel lesson is even more concrete. We said, “fruits, not roots.” Today we say, “deeds, not words.”

It’s the doing that counts more. Doing is what guarantees a strong and solid foundation in our life. Doing sees to it that we are not stuck with mere good intentions and noble aspirations. With doing, everything is translated into reality, capped unto completion, and brought to fruition.

The opposite is horrible: disaster, catastrophe and calamity. Metaphorically speaking, it’s even worse than earthquakes and typhoons, capsized ferries, and flooded streets. The spoken words have been rendered in vain or have come to naught. What a pity!

Of course, Jesus is our example and master in this case. He knew perfectly well the value of words, and He did not hesitate to speak and teach. But more importantly, He gave witness to His own words. He backed them up with concrete deeds of love and compassion, forgiveness and healing. We therefore understand and appreciate the last verse much better: “The crowds were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.”

Those of us, especially in the ministry of teaching and preaching, would do well to examine and ask ourselves: Are we mere “scribes” of the people? Or are we like Jesus to them?Fr. Martin Macasaet, SDB

REFLECTION QUESTION: Do your actions reflect what your faith dictate?

Help me live out the words that I profess, O Lord. Amen.


FRIDAY, SEP 26, 2014 02:45 AM CST

7 different types of non-believers

If you’ve left religion behind and you’re unsure what to call yourself, you might try on one of these labels


Catholic, born-again, Reformed, Jew, Muslim, Shiite, Sunni, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist…religions give people labels. The downside can be tribalism, an assumption that insiders are better than outsiders, that they merit more compassion, integrity and generosity or even that violence toward “infidels” is acceptable. But the upside is that religious or spiritual labels offer a way of defining who we are.  They remind adherents that our moral sense and quest for meaning are core parts of what it means to be human. They make it easier to convey a subset of our deepest values to other people, and even to ourselves.

For those who have lost their religion or never had one, finding a label can feel important. It can be part of a healing process or, alternately, a way of declaring resistance to a dominant and oppressive paradigm. Finding the right combination of words can be a challenge though. For a label to fit it needs to resonate personally and also communicate what you want to say to the world. Words have definitions, connotations and history, and how people respond to your label will be affected by all three. What does it mean? What emotions does it evoke? Who are you identifying as your intellectual and spiritual forebears and your community? The differences may be subtle but they are important.

If, one way or another, you’ve left religion behind, and if you’ve been unsure what to call yourself, you might try on one of these:

  1. Atheist. The term atheistcan be defined literally as lacking a humanoid god concept, but historically it means one of two things.  Positive atheismasserts that a personal supreme being does not exist.  Negative atheism simply asserts a lack of belief in such a deity.  It is possible be a positive atheist about the Christian God, for example, while maintaining a stance of negative atheism or even uncertainty on the question of a more abstract deity like a “prime mover.” In the United States, it is important to know that atheist may be the most reviled label for a godless person. Devout believers use it as a slur and many assume an atheist has no moral core.  Until recently calling oneself an atheist was an act of defiance.  That appears to be changing.  With the rise of the “New Atheists” and the recent atheist visibility movement, the term is losing its edge.
  2. Anti-theist.When atheist consistently evoked images of Madalyn Murray O’Hair, hostility toward religion was assumed.  Now that it may evoke a white-haired grandmother at the Unitarian church or the gay kid on Glee, some people want a term that more clearly conveys their opposition to the whole religious enterprise.  The term anti-theistsays, “I think religion is harmful.”  It also implies some form of activism that goes beyond merely advocating church-state separation or science education. Anti-theism challenges the legitimacy of faith as a moral authority or way of knowing. Anti-theists often work to expose harms caused in the name of God like stonings, gay baiting, religious child maltreatment, genital mutilation, unwanted childbearing or black-collar crime. The New Atheist writers including Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins might better be described as anti-theists.
  3. Agnostic. Some atheists think of agnostic as a weenie term, because it gets used by people who lack a god-concept but don’t want to offend family members or colleagues. Agnostic doesn’t convey the same sense of confrontation or defiance that atheist can, and so it gets used as a bridge. But in reality, the term agnostic represents a range of intellectual positions that have important substance in their own right and can be independent of atheism. Strong agnosticismviews God’s existence as unknowable, permanently and to all people.  Weak agnosticismcan mean simply “I don’t know if there is a God,” or “We collectively don’t know if there is a God but we might find out in the future.” Alternately, the term agnosticism can be used to describe an approach to knowledge, somewhat like skepticism (which comes next in this list). Philosopher Thomas Huxley illustrates this position:

Agnosticism is not a creed but a method, the essence of which lies in the vigorous application of a single principle… Positively the principle may be expressed as ‘in matters of intellect, do not pretend conclusions are certain that are not demonstrated or demonstrable.’

These three definitions of agnosticism, though different, all focus on what we do or can know, rather than on whether God exists. This means it is possible to be both atheist and agnostic. Author Phillip Pullman has described himself as both.

The question of what term to use is a difficult one, in strict terms I suppose I’m an agnostic because of course the circle of the things I do know is vastly smaller than the things I don’t know about out there in the darkness somewhere maybe there is a God. But among all the things I do know in this world I see no evidence of a God whatsoever and everybody who claims to know there is a God seems to use that as an excuse for exercising power over other people, and historically as we know from looking at the history in Europe alone that’s involved persecution, massacre, slaughter on an industrial scale, it’s a shocking prospect.

  1. Skeptic. Traditionally, skeptic has been used to describe a person who doubts received religious dogmas. However, while agnostic focuses on God questions in particular, the term skeptic expresses a broader life approach.  Someone who calls him- or herself a skeptic has put critical thinking at the heart of the matter. Well-known skeptics, like Michael Shermer, Penn and Teller, or James Randidevote a majority of their effort to debunking pseudoscience, alternative medicine, astrology and so forth. They broadly challenge the human tendency to believe things on insufficient evidence. Australian comic Tim Minchen is an outspoken atheist who earns a living in part by poking funat religion. But his most beloved and hilarious beat poem, Storm, smacks down homeopathy and hippy woo.
  2. Freethinker. Free-thinkeris a term that dates to the end of the 17th century, when it was first used in England to describe those who opposed the Church and literal belief in the Bible.  Freethought is an intellectual stance that says that opinions should be based on logic and evidence rather than authorities and traditions. Well known philosophers including John Locke and Voltaire were called freethinkers in their own time, and a magazine, The Freethinker, has been published in Britain continuously from 1881 to the present. The term has gotten popular recently in part because it is affirmative. Unlike atheism, which defines itself in contrast to religion, freethought identifies with a proactive process for deciding what is real and important.
  3. Humanist. While terms like atheist or anti-theist focus on a lack of god-belief and agnostic, skeptic and freethinker all focus on ways of knowing—humanistcenters in on a set of ethical values. Humanism seeks to promote broad wellbeing by advancing compassion, equality, self-determination, and other values that allow individuals to flourish and to live in community with each other. These values drive not from revelation, but from human experience.  As can be seen in two manifestos published in 1933 and 1973 respectively, humanist leaders don’t shy away from concepts like joy and inner peace that have spiritual connotations. In fact, some think that religion itself should be reclaimed by those who have moved beyond supernaturalism but recognize the benefits of spiritual community and ritual.  Harvard Chaplain Greg Epstein dreams of incubating a thriving network of secular congregations.
  4. Pantheist. As self-described humanists seek to reclaim the ethical and communitarian aspects of religion, pantheistscenter in on the spiritual heart of faith–the experience of humility, wonder, and transcendence. They see human beings as one small part of a vast natural order, with the Cosmos itself made conscious in us. Pantheists reject the idea of a person- god, but believe that the holy is made manifest in all that exists. Consequently, they often have a strong commitment to protecting the sacred web of life in which and from which we have our existence. The writings of Carl Sagan reflect this sentiment and often are quoted by pantheists, for example in a “Symphony of Science” video series which mixes evocative natural world images, atonal music, and the voices of leading scientists, and has received 30 million views.

If none of these fit…Keep looking. Many of the American founding fathers were deists who didn’t believe in miracles or special revelation through sacred texts but thought that the natural world itself revealed a designer who could be discovered through reason and inquiry.  Naturalists assume a philosophical position that the laws operating within the natural realm are the only laws governing the universe and no supernatural realm lies beyond. Secularists argue that moral standards and laws should be based on whether they do good or harm in this world and that religion should be kept out of government. Pastafarians playfully claim to worship the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and their religion is a good-humored spoof on Abrahamic beliefs and rituals.

Recently there has been steep uptick in people who identify as godless and a parallel uptick in atheist and humanist visibility efforts.  Many godless people are newly out of religion (or newly out of the closet). Despite the best efforts of, say, the Humanist Community Project or Foundation Beyond Belief, stable communities organized around shared secular values and spiritual practices have yet to emerge. That means our labels are largely individual and sometimes experimental. We may try one on for size, live with it for a while, then try on something else.

As a movement, sexual and gender minorities have faced a similar challenge. LGB started replacing the term “gay community” in the 1980s. It then became LGBT, and then LGBTQ (to acknowledge those who were questioning) or LGBTI (to include intersex people).  In India, an H got added to the end for the Hijra subculture. For urban teens, the catch-all termqueer has now replaced the cumbersome acronym. Queer embraces the idea that sexual and gender identity is biologically and psychologically multifaceted.  It includes everyone who doesn’t think of themselves as straight.  Secular rights activists may eventually evolve a similar catch all, but in the meantime, organizations that want to be inclusive end up with long lists on their ‘About’ pages:  atheist, agnostic, humanist, freethinker, pantheist, skeptic and more.  So, join the experiment that picking one that fits and wearing it for a while. Or make up your own. I often call myself a “spiritual nontheist.” It’s a mouthful, but it forces people to ask, what is that?  and then, rather than having them make assumptions I get to tell them where I’m at: I don’t have any kind of humanoid god concept, and I think that issues of morality and meaning are at the very heart of what it means to be human. Maybe next year I’ll find something that fits even better.


One Bread, One Body – Reflection for June 25, 2015


“So Sarai said to Abram: ‘You are responsible for this outrage against me. I myself gave my maid to your embrace.’ ” –Genesis 16:5

Sarai regretted telling Abraham to have children through her maidservant, Hagar. We likewise regret some of the decisions we have made, and we should especially regret our sins.

When we regret our sins, we should not follow the example of Sarai and blame others (see Gn 16:5). Nor should we take out our regrets on others, as Sarai did to Hagar (Gn 16:6). Nevertheless, when we sin, we are inevitably tempted to commit more sins to express our frustration or to try to get ourselves out of the consequences of our first sin.

Sin is going to lead either to more sin or to repentance. In sin, we must repent as soon as possible before we commit the next sin(s). If you had rapidly growing cancer, would you get an operation as soon as possible? If you were bitten by a poisonous snake and deadly venom was pulsing through your bloodstream, would you seek help immediately? When you sin, repent and go to Confession immediately. Don’t waste time blaming others or trying to weasel your way out of the effects of sin. Repent now.

PRAYER: Father, wake me up to the toxicity of sin.

PROMISE: “Anyone who hears My words and puts them into practice is like the wise man who built his house on rock.” –Mt 7:24

PRAISE: Michael reconciled with his sister.


June 25, 2015

Thursday of the 12th Week in Ordinary Time

Gn 16:1-12, 15-16, Mt 7:21-29

Actions Over Words

Jesus always maintained a preferential option for actions over words. He knew that words without action are worthless like waste. He also knew that action without the right spirit or life in it is equally rubbish. When he was challenged by his opponents regarding his authority and authenticity he challenged them to take note of his activities. He proved his authority and authenticity through his actions rather than his words. It is true that he spent long hours in prayer. What might have been his prayer? We get a glimpse of the content of his prayer from those few prayers he delivered in public and from the prayer that he taught at the request of his disciples. The quintessence of those prayers was praise, thanks giving, and a total availability to the divine will. Through today’s Gospel Jesus makes it very clear to his disciples that words without action and actions without the right spirit are of no value and consequence. It is our common experience that dogs that bark a lot will not bite. People who are generous and lavish in words are usually found stingy and tightfisted when it comes to action.

Jesus makes it very clear to his listeners that doing miracles, prophesying, driving out demons, healing, etc are not signs of divine approval or sanctity of a person. Spending longs hours in prayer too will not make anybody acceptable to God if the motivation behind it is self-seeking and self-glorification. To such people Jesus has only one response: ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’ The will of God is the rock on which we have to build our house. Such a house cannot collapse because its foundation is divine. The castles we build for ourselves cannot withstand the onslaught of time and strong currents because nothing about us is steady and permanent. Jesus demands from us to ‘walk the talk’ as he always did. Dr Kurian Perumpallikunnel CMI


Thursday of the12th Week in Ordinary Time

2 kgs 24: 8-17; Mt 7:21-29

The Wise and Foolish Builders

Jesus concludes his Sermon on the Mount with a story of two builders – a good builder and a bad one, a smart builder and a dumb one. In constructing a house, we don’t first go for decisions on the colour of the curtains or the walls, but on more fundamental decisions such as the location where we are going to build, the type of materials we have to use and how much we can afford to spend on each category. This is the foundational issue upon which everything else depends. This is true in our spiritual life too. Do we keep the core elements in the centre or do we put it more towards the edges? Do we build our edifices on the hard rock of the mountainside, or should we perhaps build it down on loose, shaky sand?

Jesus had some very straightforward tips on this last point. You build on the rock, Jesus says. Only a fool builds upon the sand. That’s not because you can’t build a very attractive house upon the sand. Indeed, you may be able to build a sand-castle that looks a lot more attractive than the place you currently live in, but when the tide comes in, and the rain comes down, and the floods come up, you’ll soon come to appreciate your little one-room flat which might not look like much, but it was built on a solid foundation. Even after the storm has done its worst it is still standing! Had those guys who built the ‘Leaning Tower of Pisa’read the Bible, they would not have chosen soft, sandy soil at the basis of the tower! Apparently they’re still pouring concrete into ground around the tower’s base, trying to stop the thing from finally toppling over!

Of course, Jesus’ words aren’t aimed fundamentally at master builders or at new home buyers, helpful though they might be to all such persons. The story of the builders is fundamentally a parable about life. Jesus introduces it by saying that the two builders represent two different ways in which you can respond to the teaching He has given in the Sermon on the Mount. One way is to make his teachings foundational to everything you do in your life. Take those teachings in, reflect on them, apply them, and allow those teaching to shape and direct everything you do. That, Jesus says, is how you build your life on a solid foundation, like a builder who builds his house on solid rock.

And yet there are many other ways to respond to the words of Jesus. You can disregard his words. You can admire His words for their poetry and beauty and then bind them up in a book that you keep on the shelf alongside your copies of the works of Shakespeare and Chetan Bhagat. Or you can get very excited by the teachings of Jesus, turn up to church every week so that you can tell the world how much you love those teachings, and then go home and get on with your life as if you’d never heard a single word that Jesus said! To take any of these approaches, Jesus says, is to be like the foolish builder who builds his house on the sand, and when the storm comes ‘great is the fall’.

Not all that profess and call themselves Christians shall be saved. Here is a striking picture of two classes of Christian hearers. The first group belongs to those who are doers as well as hearers. In times of trial their religion does not fail them; the floods of sickness, sorrow, poverty, disappointments and bereavements beat upon them in vain. Those who hear Christian teaching and never get beyond hearing are like foolish men who build their houses upon the sand. Their spirituality breaks down entirely under the first flood of tribulation; it fails him completely, like a summer dried fountain. A religion which costs nothing, and consists in nothing but hearing sermons, will always prove at last to be a useless thing. Dr. John Ollukaran CMI


June 23, 2016

REFLECTION: In today’s gospel reading we hear Jesus tell us that, if we want to be happy and have a good and productive life, we have to build our lives on the rock of his teaching. Well and good. But Jesus taught so many things! How can we remember all of them? How can we be sure that we are not forgetting something, and that our whole life will not be ruined because of that forgotten something?

The answer to that quite legitimate question happens to be simple. Because on one occasion Jesus told us that we fulfill all the recommendations found in the entire Bible if we do only one thing. And this is what he says earlier in the same chapter of Matthew from which today’s reading is taken: “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets” (Mt 7:12). Here is the touchstone of the true follower of Jesus. In fact, Jesus tells us, even if you perform miracles in his name and cast out demons in his name, all that will be useless to you if you do not love your neighbor as yourself. Love is the last word with him. Nothing else really matters.


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See Today’s Readings:  Year I,   Year II

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