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The Resurrection and Our Faith

The Resurrection and Our Faith

Easter Sunday [A]

April 9, 2023

John 20:1-9

Easter Sunday is the summit of the Holy Week. Jesus’ triumph over death is the culmination of the drama of salvation. The resurrection is the foundation of our faith. Why then is Jesus’ resurrection foundational to our belief and our religion?

St. Paul gives us the answer, “and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins (1 Cor 15:17).” Had not Jesus risen from the dead, all what He had said, would have been a terrible lie. His claim to divinity would have been nothing but a blasphemy. His promise to save us from the slavery of sins would have been an empty words. His prophecy that he would rise on the third day would have been an delusion. He could have been nothing but an unfortunate man who suffered on the cross. 

However, Jesus rose from the dead! All what He said is true and fulfilled. He is truly a divine Messiah who redeemed His people from the bondage of sins. He is the fulfillment of the Old Testament’s prophecies. All His teachings and commandments have a divine origin and are binding universally and eternally. His Church that He founded upon the apostles is real and becomes a means to bring people to holiness.

This is why we are rejoicing. In Easter Sunday, we know with certainty that our faith is not empty. Our God is a true God. Our Church is truly divinely instituted. Our religion is surely not a false religion. We have definitely been redeemed.

This is year’s Holy Week, I am privileged to visit the city of Turin, northern Italy. This city is not only famous for its beauty but also for its precious relic, the Shroud of Turin. The Shroud is believed to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ Himself. What is unique about this shroud is that it preserves the negative image of Jesus’ body. It is considered miraculous because the technology of negative imaging is relatively new, and ancient people had no possible way to produce it. Thus, it is suggested that the image was created during the event of resurrection. As Jesus resurrected, His glorious body emitted extraordinary light, and as a consequence, a negative copy of Jesus’ body was produced. The Church has not made any definitive pronouncement on the Shroud of Turin, except that is an object of religious devotion. However, if the shroud is authentic, then it is the physical evidence of  Jesus’ resurrection.

However, though we have been redeemed, it does not mean that we can slack off. We must remember also that His resurrection proves to us that His teachings and commandments possess divine authority and thus, they are binding us universally and eternally. If we are not living according to His words, then we will bear the consequences eternally. If He commands us to love another as He has loved us, then we have to take this seriously. If Jesus teaches us to forgive our enemies, we do not have much option, but to do our best to forgive. If Jesus reveals that marriage cannot be dissolved, then we have to do our best to prepare our marriages into a school of love and holiness, and to support them in times of trials and temptations. 

Easter is a great time to rejoice because the Lord has truly risen, and the same time, the best time to convert our great joy into enthusiasm to become a better and holier disciples of Jesus.

Blessed Easter!


Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP

Why Palm

Why Palm

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

April 2, 2023

Matthew 21:1-11

Palm Sunday signals the beginning of the most sacred week in the liturgy of the Church. At the same time, the liturgical celebration of this Sunday is one of the most unique among the other Sundays. The day is named Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion because it includes two different Gospel readings: the triumphant entrance of Jesus to Jerusalem and the Passion Narrative from the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, or Luke, depending on the liturgical year). However, if we carefully read today’s Gospel, we will not find the word ‘palm’. So, where do we find ‘Palm’?

Before we answer this question, I will share a little of my personal experience with Palm Sunday. My first experience with this solemn event is surely in my own country Indonesia. There, people will bring palm branches to the Church to be blessed and later, we bring these home to be placed on our crucifixes. The type of branches commonly used are from areca palms or bamboo palms. I used to believe that this is the only type branch the Church uses worldwide. Yet, when I come to the Philippines for my priestly formation, I discover that the Filipinos make use of coconut palm branches. Then, when I come to Rome, I find out that the faithful are using different kind of branches!

Going back to our question, ‘where do we find palm in the gospel?’ The answer is that not in the synoptic gospels but in the Gospel of John (see John 12:13). However, while today’s Gospel reading does not mention the word “palm,” it is likely that many people in Jerusalem used palm branches because date palm trees were abundant in the area. Yet, the most important question remains ‘why do we use palm branches?’

In the Old Testament, Psalm 118:25-27 describes how people would welcome the Messiah with a procession of branches when he entered Jerusalem. Similarly, in 1 Maccabees 13:51, people of Jerusalem entered the citadel with palm branches after their enemies were driven out. These stories illustrate that tree branches, especially palm, are symbols of the coming of the Messiah and his victory.

However, if we see from a bigger perspective, the presence of branches in Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem becomes a powerful symbol of His mission of salvation. In the beginning, Adam and Eve lived in the garden where various plants grew. Their first sin and disobedience involved the tree. Now, in His redemption reverses the curse. His Passion begins in the garden of Gethsemane. His final act of love and obedience involve the tree of the cross.

As we are holding our palm branches, may it not become a meaningless annual ritual. They remind us on our commitment to participate in mission of Jesus’ redemption, to walk into His Passion, and to carry our own crosses with Him. It is never easy, but we are never alone and the reward is beyond our imagination. May we be inspired also by our brothers and sisters who chose to die for Christ, rather live denying Him. These martyrs have fought a good fight, have finished the race, and have kept the faith (see 2 Tim 4:7).  Now, they have received the palm branches as the sign of their victory (see Rev 7:9)!


Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP

Lazarus and the Sacrament of Confirmation

Lazarus and the Sacrament of Confirmation

5th Sunday of Lent [A]
March 26, 2023
John 11:1-45

There are seven signs (or miracles) in the Gospel of John. Naturally, the Church has recognized these seven miracles correspond to the seven sacraments. Last Sunday, we have seen that the healing of the man born blind turns out to be the sign to the sacrament of Baptism (see John 9:1-41). Now, we discover another Jesus’ sign-miracle, that is, the raising Lazarus to life. This miracle points to the sacrament of confirmation.

The sacrament of confirmation is often misunderstood and even neglected. There are many reasons for this. Some of us may feel that it is not necessary. We feel that we are already fulfilling sacred obligation when we are baptized, go to the Mass every now and then, and perhaps go to the confession once a year. Other receive an insufficient catechesis, and therefore, our understanding on the sacrament is very limited and even fussy. Others do not want to trouble themselves with another series of catechesis before the Confirmation. Others receive the sacrament without proper catechesis because their weddings are fast approaching. Thus, many see the confirmation as the second-rate sacrament.

However, this is not true at all. The Church continues to teach that this sacrament has indispensable role in the lives of the faithful. In fact, it is the second of the three sacraments of the initiation (together with baptism and Eucharist). To be full and mature member of the Church, we must receive the grace of the Holy Spirit imparted in the sacrament of confirmation. Now, how does today’s Gospel relate to the sacrament?

Firstly, Lazarus, together with Mary and Martha, has a loving friendship with Jesus before the miracle. This condition shows us that Lazarus is the symbol of baptized Christians who live in Christ. Secondly, Lazarus’ death and his going back to life point to the new life in the Spirit. John the Evangelist narrated explicitly that Lazarus has been in the tomb for four days (John 11:17). This is important detail, that is, Lazarus is truly dead, and his soul is no longer with his body. Thus, miracle of Jesus is a divine act that brings back life, uniting body and soul. While it is true that the Holy Spirit is not mentioned, but Jesus’ miracle brings us back to the creation of man where the Spirit of God was active and life-giving.

Finally, the miracle has enduring effects in Lazarus. After his return from the dead, Lazarus becomes a living witness to Jesus’ power and love. Because of Lazarus’ testimony, many come to Jesus and believe in Him. And for the same reason, Lazarus faces persecutions from Jesus’ enemies [see John 12:9-11]. Yet, Lazarus does not coward. He has been through death, but not even death can separate him from the love of Christ.

What happen to Lazarus are also happening in us. When we are baptized, we receive a loving friendship with Christ. Yet, in the sacrament of confirmation, our souls receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit and we become a mature Christians. We are now transformed to be a living witnesses of Jesus Christ and bring more people to God. We also are empowered to endure hardship and persecution because of Christ.

This is why before receiving the sacrament of holy matrimony or the sacrament of holy orders, we need to receive the confirmation. These two are the sacraments of service and witnessing, that bring other closer to holiness. Thus, only mature Christians are fit for this tasks. We are not only called to be Jesus’ friends, but also His brave witnesses to the world, and this sacrament makes us one.

Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP

Healing of the Blind Man and Baptism

Healing of the Blind Man and Baptism

4th Sunday of Lent [A]
April 19, 2023
John 9:1-41

There are seven signs (or miracles) in the Gospel of John. Naturally, the Church has recognized these seven miracles corresponds to the seven sacraments entrusted to her. The healing of the man born blind turns out to be the sign to the sacrament of Baptism. Since the basic theme of Lenten season is baptism, the Church does not hesitate to place this reading during this holy season. But, is true that this miracles is related to baptism? And how do we know?

The story begins with Jesus and disciples saw a poor blind man. Then, His disciples start to ask Him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind (John 9:2)?’ Jesus’ disciples believe that his sufferings are consequences of his personal sins, or at least his parents. Yet, Jesus immediately teaches them the truth. Jesus points out that neither blind man nor his parents have sinned to cause him blindness. Although sufferings and death are indeed related to sin, but the relation is not linear, but a mystery. The man does not commit personal sins, but he bears the consequence of sin. How is it possible?

The Church recognizes this condition as the original sin. Every descendant of Adam and Eve was born into the world as ‘enemies’ of God. Since we are in the womb of our mothers, we were ‘sinners’, not because we commit any personal sins, but because we are far from God and do not have a spiritual friendship with Him. Thus, because of the original sin, we are susceptible to various sufferings as well as struggling with concupiscence (check also my reflection two weeks ago).

How does Jesus heal this blind man? Jesus spats on the ground and makes clay with the saliva, and smears the clay on his eyes. Finally, He asks the blind man to wash himself with water. Why does Jesus perform such a weird and unhygienic treatment? Jesus performs what God did in the beginning: the creation of man. When God created Adam, He molded a soil of the ground. There is a Jewish tradition that says that God used His own saliva to make soil easier to form. Jesus does the same here. He is bringing the man with blindness into healing by ‘re-creating’ him. Then, the final healing takes place when the man wash himself with water.

What happens to the healed man, takes place also in every person during the baptism. What we see in our eyes is someone is washed with water, but spiritually, God is making us a new creation. All sins, both original and personal sins, are cleansed. Our souls are transformed into the likeness of Christ and are elevated into the adopted children of God. Thus, we call God our Father, not in the metaphorical sense, but in the real one.

Lastly, towards the end of the story, Jesus asks him, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ Eventually, the man professes his faith in Jesus and worships Him. Faith is integral part of baptism; whether we believe before the baptism (like in the case of adult baptism) or after baptism (in the case of infant baptism). However, baptism is just the beginning, and our faith must also grow.

We are not sure what the man does after the healing he received, but we may believe that he becomes Jesus’s disciple and follow Him. After baptism and initial faith in Jesus, the Church encourages us to continue our journey of holiness. We grow in faith through living in Christ, works of charity, and proper reception of other sacraments.

Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP

The Story of Samaritan Woman

The Story of Samaritan Woman

Third Sunday of Lent [A]
March 12, 2023
John 4:5-42

For the third Sunday of Lent, the Church has selected for us the story of Samaritan woman from the Gospel of John. This story does not only appear in the current liturgical year (Year A), but also other years (Year B and C). Why does the Church select this reading for the season of Lent? What makes it very special that every year we are invited to listen and reflect on the story?

The story of the Samaritan woman is a story of repentance. Thus, it is fitting for the season of Lent. Let us go deeper into the story. John the evangelist does not give us the name of this woman as well as her other details, but there is a particular information that stands out. The woman had five husbands, and presently, is living with another man. Again, we don’t have details on this issue. It seems that the woman has lived through cycle of marriage, divorce, and remarriage. For unknown reason, her former husbands kept dismissing her (see Deu 24). Perhaps, there were serious marital issues. Perhaps, there were problems with her personalities as well as her husbands’ characters, that rendered them unable to live in a permanent and healthy relationship. Again, we are not sure, but we may say that she has been through hell, and the experience was deeply painful and traumatic, to the point that she decided to live with a man without a proper marriage. At the same time, she had to avoid her people because of shame, and run away from her God.

At first, to hear that this woman had five marriages sounds unbelievable. Yet, this is not totally impossible. However, what more important is that the Samaritan woman has become a reflection of some of us, or some people close to us. Before I began my study in Rome, I served as an assistant parish priest in Surabaya, Indonesia. Being in the parish of a big city, my ministry was inevitably tied to Catholic marriages and families. I am fortunate that I was given the opportunity to solemnize more than fifty marriages. Yet, unfortunately, I also encountered many couples as they sought help facing their marital problems. As I was listening to their stories, I could not but feel the pain, frustration and sometimes anger. The consequences are deeply painful and traumatic: relationships are fractured, families are broken, and children are suffering.

Fortunately, the story of Samaritan woman does not end in a tragedy. Jesus unexpectedly waited for her and mercifully offered her the forgiveness and a new life. Though she was initially hesitated, she confessed her sins and found the true Messiah. We are not told what happened exactly to her life, but we can assume that she changed her life because she had the new-born courage to face her own people and proclaim Jesus.

As I accompany men and women who are struggling with their marriages, things are tough and painful, but not hopeless. Some couples eventually reconciled, but there are some who face more difficult situations. Yet, despite their challenging situations, many refuse to fall into sinful life, but choose to grow in holiness. I honored to encounter some of them. Despite being abandoned by their spouses, they refuse to retaliate with violence. They also resiste the temptation to live with another man or woman outside of marriage but committed to rise their children alone. They have all the right to become angry and disappointed with God because of their conditions, but they did not allow negative emotions to control them. More remarkably, they decided to serve also in the Church.

Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP