Saturday, April 28, 2007

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Fr. Fransiskus Madhu, SVD laid to rest

3:00 PM
April 9, 2007
Quezon City

After a solemn and heart-rending funeral and burial rites that lasted for three hours, the slain SVD missionary, Fr. Fransiskus Madhu was laid to rest at Christ the King Seminary Cemetery in this city.

The rites began with a Mass presided by Fr. Jerome Adriatico, the provincial superior of the SVD Northern Province (the Province where Madhu belonged). Indonesian lament songs and Gregorian chants filled the Church of the Shrine of the Divine Word. A big number of Indonesian religious as well as Indonesians from both Christian and Muslim communities came. People from Kalinga, especially from Lubuagan were also there even during the wake (since Holy Wednesday, April 3) led by the mother and sister of the bishop Andaya, CICM, the bishop of Tabuk, Kalinga. The bishop himself was born in Lubuagan. More than 100 priests concelebrated. Bishops Ongtioko of Cubao and Pol Jaucian of Bangued were also present. [During the wake, Papal Nuncio Filoni, Cardinal Rosales of Manila, and Former President Cory Aquino also came.]

At the wake. Fr. Adriatico, provincial of the SVD Northern Province
shows to Papal Nuncio pictures of the of the wounds of Fr. Madhu.

The homily was preached by Fr. Lodovikus Mamu Koten, SVD and Fr. Gerardo Gudmalin, SVD. Fr. Mamu Koten, who preached on the mystery of death and the Christian answer of eternal life, is the other Indonesian who is assigned in Kalinga. Fr. Gudmalin was Fr. Francis’ parish priest and district superior of the SVD Kalinga District.

He recounted how they equally divided their assignments for the Holy Week, one liturgical service for each of the seven villages (called "barangays" or "barrios"), including the next town of Pasil which is part of the parish. For the Palm Sunday Mass, since Fr. Francis did not know how drive a motorcycle, he was assigned to the village of Mabungtot, a one hour trek going down from the town while Fr. Gudmalin went to the farther village.

It was around 5:30 in the afternoon.

The mass was to be held inside the public school since there is no chapel in the village. Fr. Madhu was still seated waiting for some things needed for the mass when a man with an M-16 slung from the shoulder fired at the priest at close range. Fr. Madhu sustained five bullet wounds in his lower abdomen and side. He died on the spot.

Police has identified the suspect who was with three companions during the shooting and who fled after the incident. At this writing, the suspect and his cohorts remain at large.

The news carried by some national dailies that Fr. Madhu had a heated argument with the suspect is a mere speculation. Fr. Gudmalin reiterated that there was no clear reason why Fr. Madhu was shot. Fr. Madhu had neither enemies nor spoke of any. His journal cum diary that was found in his room does not report of any threat.

If the philosopher Hannah Arendt writes of the banality of evil, the sages in the Bible speak of violence for nothing. The Book of Proverbs warns the youth of the invitation of the wicked and his cohorts: "Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood; let us ambush the innocent for nothing" (1:11).

It is this violence for nothing that the bishop of Tabuk denounced in his speech before the end of the Mass. The killing of Fr. Madhu was just one of the many unsolved violent deaths in Kalinga. He appealed to all people of Kalinga to cease violence. The bishop, in that powerful speech, broke down in tears as he addressed his fallen priest: "Fransis, forgive us."

The Indonesian ambassador to the Philippines gave a brief but strongly worded speech, asking the Philippine Government to give justice to Fr. Madhu.

Since the Fr. Madhu’s family was too overwhelmed by the sad news to be able to come to the country, Fr. Alfonsus Betan, SVD represented them. Fr. Betan is doing his post-graduate studies in Manila and the former professor and spiritual director of Fr. Madhu back in his seminary days in Indonesia. Fr. Betan echoed the sorrow of the Madhu family who lost the only son among five siblings. When they first heard the news, the Madhu family's reaction was: "Why did they kill him? Fransis was a good son."

At the end funeral rites, the Indonesians sang a moving hymn of one returning home-- "Pulang" as the Indonesian priests came around Fr. Madhu’s coffin to weep and bid farewell to their fallen brother and friend.

After as short procession to the cemetery, around 6:00 pm, as the day was ending, Fr. Madhu was finally laid to rest, to go home to his eternal Father.

This post ends with this short prayer (slightly edited) found in Fr. Madhu’s diary:

I believe that you will always be with me
To do my activities.
Bless me to have a good heart
To hear others
To answer the needs of my people;
And grant them
The generosity to transform themselves
To always hear your Word.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Empty Tomb

Women arriving at the Empty Tomb
photo grab:

In the resurrection narratives of the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), the only passage common among them is the visit of some women to the tomb of Jesus, or the so-called "empty tomb". Since the supposedly discovery of another tomb of Jesus (lost tomb?) wants us to believe that a critical challenge has been posed on gospels' account of the empty tomb, I'm going to post once again an unedited version of the article I have written on the topic published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Click on this for the published article. Since the publication of this article, there have been numerous studies, accessible online, supporting what I have written. Click on this to ge a free e-book on the topic.

The Lost Tomb of Jesus
by Randolf C. Flores, SVD
Bible and Hebrew Language Professor
Divine Word Seminary
4120 Tagaytay City

"His disciples may go and steal him away" (Mt 27:64). This was what the chief priests and the Pharisees suspected to happen after Jesus’ death so they came to Pilate a day after with a request to station a security guard at the tomb of Jesus. In that culture, like ours, where deception, lying, hypocrisy, and secrecy are social strategies, the missing corpse would prove that Jesus was raised from the dead. Does this text allude that Jesus’ body was transferred, if not stolen, to another tomb?

The recent announcement of Discovery Channel that they have found the "lost tomb of Jesus" could be an intriguing attempt to shed light on this question. Discovery is coming out with documentary this Sunday with James Cameron of "Titanic" fame as executive producer and Emmy award winning documentarian Simcha Jacobovici as director. Its website gives ample information on the circumstances of the discovery, the process of interpreting the inscriptions involving respected New Testament Scholars and the use of DNA testing—thus the univocal assertion that the tomb “belonged to the family of Jesus of Nazareth.” The title of the just release book of Jacobovici which he co-authored with Charles Pellegrino sums it all: The Jesus Family Tomb: The Discovery, the Investigation, and the Evidence That Could Change History (HarperCollins, 2007).

The Catholic hierarchy (CBCP ) issued an immediate reaction through the media, "it’s not true", arguing that "Jesus" was a common name in the first century A.D. and so coincidental. But that was precisely what Jacobovici disproved. For the documentary, he sought the help of a respected statistician who did a study of the probabilities leading to the conclusion that the odds is at least 600 to 1 in favor of the tomb being Jesus' family tomb. The ratio is reduced dramatically if one runs the name “Jesus, son of Joseph”, a combination name in one of the inscriptions.

The bone of contention is actually the bone-boxes or ossuaries found in 1980 in a tomb in Talpiot, a neighborhood southeast of Jerusalem. The ten ossuaries reveal inscriptions written in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Latin and interpreted by Jacobovici as the names of Jesus and his alleged "family" including Mary Magdalene as his wife and a certain Judah as his son. That Jesus had a wife and that he had a son is certainly an over-interpretation of the inscriptions disregarding critical reading of history. However, the Aramaic inscription "Jesus, son of Joseph" is something that New Testament scholars should reckon with. Discovery’s website informs that no less than the Harvard scholar Frank Moore Cross, a name in biblical studies and biblical archeology, did an epigraphic study of the said inscription and assessed that the lettering reads "Jesus, son of Joseph" and dates to the Herodian Period (from around 1 B.C. to 1 A.D.). If we accept statistics and epigraphic evidence, we have here a plausible Jesus’ ossuary.

What are the implications of this? Jesus underwent a secondary burial. His bones were placed in an ossuary to be buried possibly near to his family. And thus we are faced with a theological problem -- that there was no resurrection, or if there was, it was simply a spiritual resurrection "in which the husk of the body is left behind," as James Tabor, controversial New Testament scholar and consultant on the film said in an interview.

What theologians have to say on this would be interesting to know. But let me just pinpoint some loopholes in the claim of Discovery.

First, the title "Jesus, son of Joseph" was never a title used by the early followers of Jesus. It was used later and by outsiders (see Luke 3:23; John 1:45 & 6:42). It’s difficult to understand why such a rare title was inscribed on a Jesus’ ossuary.

Second, it was next to impossible to transfer the body of Jesus if we consider the biblical account of his burial: the tomb had a large stone rolled to it, was sealed, and was guarded (Matthew 27:60-66). The women discovered an empty tomb in the first hours of the Sabbath (Mark 16:2; Matthew 28:1). If there was an attempt to move the body out, it would have been during the Sabbath, a serious violation of the Sabbath prescription.

Third, sometime around 50 B.C. to 50 A.D., the Roman emperor issued an edict, Diategma Kaisaros (Caesar’s Edict) that sepulchers and graves should remain unmolested in perpetuity as a way of honoring the dead. The edict also warned of serious punishment for violators.

Fourth, Eusebius, a Church historian in 4th cent. A.D., wrote that the tomb of James, the "brother" of Jesus, became a pilgrimage spot in Jerusalem for many Christians. If this was part of the family tomb of Jesus in Talpiot, Christian pilgrims would not have gone there since that would contradict their belief in a Risen Jesus. Eusebius’ description of the tomb of James, who as martyred around 62 A.D., appeared to be a singular tomb. Why he was not buried in the family tomb of Jesus?

Lastly, what is the significance of Talpiot as the final resting place of Jesus and his family? Jesus came from Nazareth and most probably some members of his close family (like Mary) were still alive at the time of his death. Followers could bury him there or somewhere in Galilee like in Capernaum, his adopted town.

In short, the Discovery’s "Lost Tomb of Jesus" does not have a compelling evidence to "rewrite Christianity".

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Slain Indonesian priest was inspired by work in Kalinga

Fr. Patrick Guru, SVD talks about fellow Indonesian, slain SVD priest Fr. Fransiskus Madhu and the latter's dedication in the Kalinga mission. Click on this article from or on the title above.

photo grab:

Interment of Fr. Fransiskus Madhu, SVD

The body of our slain SVD missionary Fr. Fransiskus Madhu will be flown from Tabuk, Kalinga to Christ the King Seminary in Quezon City tomorrow (April 4). He will be buried on Easter Monday, April 9, 2007, 3:00 pm, at Christ the King Seminary cemetery. R.I.P.

photo grab:

Indonesia to ask RP about Fr. Madhu's killing in Kalinga

Please click on this or on the title above [news source: Phlippine Daily Inquirer, by Veronica Uy Last updated 03:01pm (Mla time) 04/03/2007]

Update on Fransiskus Madhu, SVD


Local and international news agencies have carried the killing of SVD missionary Fransiskus Madhu in Lubuagan, Kalinga. There have been confusing interpretations of the killing. One senator even associated it with extra-judicial killings being accused of the government, a remark that is not only premature but irresponsible. Click on this.

A more accurate report is filed in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Please click on this.

Let us wait for the full report coming from the SVD provincialiate. The SVD provincial superior, Fr. Jerome Adriatico has now arrived in Tabuk, the capital and the seat of the diocese and where the body Fr. Madhu lies in state coming from Lubuagan last night. He will be flown to Manila tomorrow, to Christ the King Seminary in Quezon City awaiting for further instructions from the generalate and the Madhu family for his burial.

Fr. Madhu was assistant parish priest. Fr. Gerry Gudmalin, SVD, the parish priest of Lubuagan and superior of the SVD Kalinga District had been working with Fr. Madhu since 2005.

Monday, April 02, 2007

SVD Missionary in Kalinga killed

Our SVD missionary assigned in Kalinga, Fr. Francis Madhu, 31, from Indonesia was shot dead while saying an afternoon mass in Barrio Mabongtot, Luguagan, Kalinga, yesterday April 1, 2007.

Here's an initial report from our superior general:

A young Indonesian confrere who worked in the Philippine Northern Province (PHN) was murdered this afternoon with a single pistol shot fired by a man with a criminal record. Fransiskus was already vested for the afternoon Mass at 17.30 (5:30 p.m.) when a man suddenly appeared before him and fired a pistol at him without any apparent motive. It seems that the attacker had personal problems and was wanted by the police. Our young confrere died immediately. The Province of Ende has been informed, as has the family of Fr. Fransiskus. Let us pray for Fr. Fransiskus Madhu that the Lord may receive him into his Kingdom.

Fr. Antonio M. Pernia, SVD
Superior General