He Is With Us

The Gospel today again illustrates the depth of the Father’s love for His people. It is in fact, a lesson for leaders who ought to model their lives to Jesus, who describes His relationship with His followers like the relationship between a good shepherd and His sheep. As the Good Shepherd risks and is prepared to give up His life to protect the sheep, Jesus willingly allowed Himself to suffer and be crucified for the sake of His sheep. On the other hand, a hired shepherd abandons the flock in the face of danger.

“I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not His own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because He works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.” (Jn. 10: 11-13)

Leaders ought to be brave, courageous and possess the attitude of unselfish service. Reading further the verses following Jesus teaching, we learn that the Pharisees and the other religious leaders understand that the Lord is referring to them when He describes the hired shepherds. They were so angry that they resisted the Lord all the more and “again picked up rocks to stone him.” (v. 31) This anger continued until Jesus’ death.

The actions of a good shepherd for the flock is part of the shepherd’s job. However, the actions of the good shepherd are based upon the relationship that develops between the shepherd and the sheep. While the hired shepherd leaves the sheep when confronted with danger, the good shepherd stays with the sheep and is ready to give up His life for them. This is at the core of the difference between the good shepherd and the hired shepherd. The good shepherd knows the sheep and therefore acts out of love. This is not just a job, but His love for them is part of who He is to them. Thus, leaders should emulate such caring attitude to their followers as a good shepherd cares for his sheep.

Jesus also emphasizes that His flock also include other sheep, far more than the dispersed children of Israel,

“I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.” (v. 16)

And He gave His Church the mission of shepherding all peoples to the Father. This is seen in the First Reading, in the testimony of St. Peter, whom the Lord appointed shepherd of the early Church. Peter quoted the Psalms and tells Israel’s leaders of their rejection and eventual crucifixion and death of Christ. Through the ministry of the Church, this mission continues until all the world is one flock under the One Good Shepherd. As to when that happens, only God knows.

Let us pray that we continue to grow in faith and pledge again to be more faithful and grateful to Him for all the blessings we have and will continue to receive from Him.

“The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.” (Ps. 118: 22)

God is in Control

Yesterday we attended lunch hosted by close friends, a couple who came home from the United States for a short visit. The meal was fun and lively, as we get to hear how they’re coping with life in New Jersey, aside from reminiscing the moments our group has experienced since way back. There are relationships that despite the distance, remain as strong as ever. This is one of those.

However, one of these friends (an elderly couple) who came, had a daughter who passed away many years ago. Their daughter was in fact active in God’s service at the time of her passing (at one of the parishes in Mandaluyong). Her demise was sudden such that even up to now, her mother is still grieving over the loss and hasn’t moved on. She is sad especially with the thought that two young children are left behind. Now the children are growing up well, and their grandmother are actively involved in rearing them up. We are praying that she’ll be able to finally accept what happened, knowing that the Lord is in control of what’s happening.

There are times that situations have really sunk deep into us, such that when certain events happen in our life, we are indifferent and continue in a state of unbelief. In the Gospel, the risen Lord has to ask the disciples,

“Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” (Lk. 24: 38-39)

He felt the grief and told them that “everything written in the law of Moses
and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.” (v. 44b) Jesus conquered death, and the Scriptures has said it all, with more explanations including the readings this Sunday. The story of suffering, which all of us have experienced one way or the other; is always something unpleasant, whether it’s a happy, or a violent death. Yet, there is something beautiful in it. The Lord demonstrated such beauty in His Passion and His death, culminating in His Glorious Resurrection, and it’s the same in people’s lives. While Jesus doesn’t need to suffer, His great love for the Father and for us all drove Him to obey the will of God the Father. When we question why we have challenges to overcome, and why bad things have to happen, we just have to think about the Lord’s own suffering. Given His passion and His death on the Cross, think about it: who has suffered a more violent death? Every time we sin, we contribute to that burden and pain. So, if Jesus had to sacrifice and suffer for us, why shouldn’t we have to? Through His suffering and death, Jesus conquered death and saved us all; such beauty of God’s deep love for us, isn’t it? More importantly, it is through pain and suffering that we sharpen our faith, trust the Lord’s ways more, and essentially become better and wiser in the ways of God.

We have to remember though that redemption isn’t automatic, we have to do our part by repenting our sins and going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. God has been so understanding and considerate with us, His goodness overflows. As the First Reading shows how St. Peter exhorted the new believers to “Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away”, we all have the obligation to respond to God’s invitation — if we like to go and meet Him in His Eternal Glory. We just have to trust that the Lord is in control — in total control of everything.

Are you ready to respond to the challenge?

“Lord Jesus, open the Scriptures to us; make our hearts burn while you speak to us.” (Lk. 24: 32)

Be Witness of God’s Love and Mercy!

A question was asked, “Which child is more privileged, Child A, whose father is working in the same city and is staying with the family, or Child B, whose father is working abroad?”

What would your answer be, A or B?

The answer: It depends. If Child A has a father who is physically present, but is mentally absent in the family, while Child B’s father, though physically absent, but is talking to the Family often and regularly, is caring, is expressive, then Child B is more privileged. It doesn’t need for one to be physically present in order to manifest his presence in the life of others. This is also Jesus’ message in today’s Gospel.

This Sunday, also called the Divine Mercy Sunday, is best remembered for the story of Thomas, who said, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (Jn. 20: 25b) A week later, the disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”

Jesus’ rebuke of Thomas was gentle. Would you imagine if Jesus responded angrily or sarcastically? Instead, the Lord’s loving and caring words made Thomas felt the real presence of Jesus in the way the situation was handled: merciful and compassionate. The face of love and mercy that only Jesus’ real presence could reveal. The love that Thomas for all his impulsiveness and seeming doubt doesn’t deserve. The same love that we also don’t deserve. But it is this love that only Jesus — who is loving, merciful and compassionate — can give. The Lord says that we don’t need His physical presence to experience His love and mercy,

“Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

Thomas response, “My Lord and my God!” was a strong declaration of faith and is not only about doubt but also means that as followers of Jesus, we must not separate the Resurrection from the Cross. His story also teaches that we cannot live the life of grace, the “risen life”, authentically unless we bear in our bodies the wounds of the cross.

Thomas was a dedicated but impetuous follower of Christ. His inquiring attitude led to the many responses of Jesus who show best who the Savior is. Thomas passion to serve was such that he was sent to evangelize to the Parthians, Medes, and Persians. He ultimately reached India, carrying the Faith to a large native population whose pride in proclaiming themselves as having the Faith “with a direct connection to the Savior” is well-known. In my past assignment in Nepal, I’ve met a missionary priest who came from Kerala, along the Malabar Coast in South India, who told me the same thing. I saw in him the pride and gratitude of obtaining the Faith through the missionary efforts of St. Thomas the Apostle.

Earlier in the Gospel, we see Jesus telling them, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” This is a command, not only for the disciples, but also for us to be witnesses to the Word. We are called to be the love, the mercy and the compassion of God to others.

As a form of gratitude to the Lord for his mercy and compassion, may we take to heart his command to be witnesses to Christ and to the Faith. Like what St. Thomas has taught us, may we realize that we cannot expect to rise with Christ, unless we also share in the wounds of the Cross.

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, his love is everlasting.” (Ps. 118: 1)

Decide To Be Happy!

The Lord is Risen, as He said! Alleluia!

It’s the happiest moment in all of creation. Listening to that is like drinking a glass of ice-cold water after being in the hot summer sun for many days. Jesus’ Passion and Death is over, and it’s the time to celebrate!

Last night, the ceremonies started with the congregation outside the Church where it was dark and the Easter fire is kindled, the Paschal candle blessed and then lit. This Paschal candle will be used throughout the season of Easter, reminding us all that Christ is the “Light of the World.” This means that everyone ought to set aside all the frustrations, sadness and fears, as Easter is the time when we must do just that. We ought to stick close to our resurrected Lord! We must cling to His Resurrection and strive to share in it.

One way of clinging to the Lord is by being grateful. Despite the burdens you carry; whatever makes you depressed, sad or angry, take joy in everything. Have you thought that despite the brutality and inhumanity of Jesus’ Passion and Death on the Cross, it turned out to be necessary as a prelude to the greatest event ever told, the Resurrection. Thus, your pain and suffering can very much become a source of happiness as long as you let God transform it into part of His Resurrection. Be grateful!

Easter means that God wants the best for us, nothing less. Thus, today is the day when you should decide to be happy. No one can keep you from the joy that Jesus wants to give. Sure, there’ll be times that we will struggle just as Jesus did, but those sufferings won’t win against God. The Resurrection won with Christ and it will win with us when we cling to Him. Jesus persevered, and in the end rose in victory. Know that God wants you to be an Easter Person, that means He wants you to experience the joy of Easter in your life. Let Him fill you with hope and with the joy that only Jesus can bring. God wants Easter to begin now in your life! Be happy!

“I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.” (Ps. 30: 2a)

How Deep Is Your Love for Jesus?

“Because of his affliction he shall see the light in fullness of days; through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear.” (Is. 53: 11)

The streets are deserted, traffic is pleasantly less, and it seems more than half of Manila is gone. People have left either to go to the provinces to spend the Holy Week there, or to enjoy the “vacation” that the Holy Days bring. It’s not entirely wrong to go to the beach, but you miss the point of the break. And instead of getting refreshed come Easter Week, you feel tired from the stress of traveling with the crowd.

Attending the Paschal Triduum (also known as Easter Triduum, in Latin: Triduum Paschale) is a great experience worth attending again and again. This is the period of three days that begins with the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, reaches its high point in the Easter Vigil, and closes with evening prayer on Easter Sunday. It recalls the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus, as portrayed in the canonical Gospels. The break is intended for us to go on a deeper reflection of God’s infinite love for Man. In fact, my favorite is the Easter Vigil, when several readings are reflected upon, essentially the salvation history. These days, try singing (really singing) the Psalms with the congregation, not to mention listening to the Litany of the Saints. Remember that along with these holy men and women mentioned in the Litany are thousands upon thousands of others who have chosen to demonstrate their deep love for God by giving their lives to Him. When you renew your vows at Baptism at Easter, take it to heart. I assure you, it is a truly remarkable experience of our faith.

In today’s First Reading, the Prophet Isaiah reminds us how the Lord loves us, even as we treat the Lord harshly when we ignore His commands,

“Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth.” (Is. 53: 7)

The sad reality is that Man has always been generally inconsistent, flip-flopping especially on matters of faith and morals. When Jesus entered into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, people waved palms,

“Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come! Hosanna in the highest!”

It was a moment of great rejoicing and jubilation for His followers. They thought it was already the arrival of the promised King, unaware of the imminent Passion and Death of the Lord. They haven’t understood what the Messiah must go through before His glory, thus their faith was superficial, so to speak. Fast forward a few days later, the same people were now shouting “Crucify him, crucify him!” Then they mocked him as Roman soldiers tortured him throughout the night.

How much are you willing to give up for Jesus?
How deep is your love for Him?

It takes more than just answering these questions as these speak of the importance of getting to know our faith better, so that we are wise enough to discern the things of the world and of the Spirit. We can’t be swayed easily when others seem to know the Bible more than what we know. So, because our faith hasn’t taken that much depth, we can waver. Are you like the people waving palms, and yet days later, shouting “Crucify him”, because your faith is shallow and shoal?

While we say “He is King and Savior” often, we also deny His Kingship by refusing to obey His only commands that we love Him and one another. Don’t we render Him mock tribute, pay Him lip service with our half-hearted devotions?

In the noon of Calvary, when the Heavens released clouds to darken the sky, the veil in Jerusalem’s temple was torn. It was a sign that by His Death Jesus destroyed forever the barrier separating us from the Holy Presence of God. He was God and yet humbled himself to come to us, we’re reminded by the Prophet Isaiah,

“But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins; upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed.” (Is. 53: 5)

Have we realized that every time we offend Him, we repeat His passion and suffering? Despite our repeated failures, our constant wavering, Jesus still humbles himself to come to us, offering us His body and blood in the Eucharist.

This Good Friday, let us make a resolve to deepen our love for Jesus. Let us pray that the Spirit give us the wisdom to value every moment with the Lord, for it is only in doing so that we show how deeply we love and honor Him.

“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” (Lk. 23: 46)

The Perfect Model of Humility

Life isn’t perfect, in fact it is very far from being one. In between peaks of victories and triumphs there are valleys of rejection, pain and unmet suffering. In these situations, you are confronted with uncertainty and most likely you’ll respond in doubt and fear. You either fight or you flee. There are even situations that others choose to fight even if one can be destroyed in the process. Just recently I met a friend who’s just short of telling me of frustrations getting on him. There were happenings in his work that he felt is unfair and that he should have been treated with more consideration. I bet the guy is intelligent, with great attitude and work ethic. He even scores an “A” in the soft side of things. He was just feeling bad that others can get away without results that really demonstrate good leadership. A word of encouragement and assurance would have made the situation better but he didn’t get any. He was getting a new assignment which will bring him away for extended periods of time from his family. It even brought him to think about entertaining early retirement.

I broached on him the idea of doing a deep reflection of the many possible reasons of why things happen. From the perspective of his superior, it is the best option for the situation, though for reasons the superior didn’t tell him exactly why. That’s the main reason he felt being disregarded. I even advised that he forgive the shortcomings of his superior — obviously having a blind side and also thinking for his own, without considering what’s really best for the long haul.

There are loose ends in life but for the Champion, he thinks about it from all perspectives. A thousand possibilities actually he thinks of. At the end of the day, the Champion concludes it’ll take humility to accept these things with a prayerful spirit that things will go for the better someday. After all, the Good Lord up there knows everything and the best thing given the circumstances is just to trust and to pray. Besides, life will take a different meaning years from now. Some elements take a forward seat while others retreat. God can simply weave life’s contrasting colors into different experiences that will create or unmake ourselves depending on how we act on the choices presented upon us.

Being humble also means thinking less more of ourselves and sacrificing more for others, trusting that one will gain goodness and refine character during the process. It means that we step back and consider that others are not as blessed as we are, or are in even more difficult situations. We are grateful still, because we have looked at the bigger picture and trust the Lord for His control of the situation. While we may feel defeated at the moment, our overriding concern is that we want to make our families feel secure despite the inconveniences, while making other people happy. Because in doing so the Champion in us feel that it is only in doing so that we also feel happier. While our happiness may take a backseat, our act of sacrificing for others make them happy, thus, eventually we become happier too. We inspire!

This Sunday is Palm Sunday. As we begin the Holy Week of the Lord’s Passion and Death, let us reflect deeply on the perfect humility that Our Savior showed. Despite His Majesty and Power, out of His love for us and humanity, He truly humbled Himself in more ways than we can ever imagine. As St. Paul exhorted in his letter to the Philippians,

“Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus,
Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.
Rather he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him, and bestowed on him the name that is above every other name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2: 5-11)

God’s Endless Love

As we go deeper into Lent, we see Jesus calmly awaiting His Passion despite being troubled. He emphasizes that we should be willing to lose our life in order to preserve it for all eternity. Jesus was fully human, that is why He understands our fickleness (and even stupidity!) in responding to God’s love and initiative.

When Abraham successfully proved his faith, Yahweh promised abundant blessings aside from promising Abraham’s “descendants as countless as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore.” He even further assured that his descendants will “take possession of the gates of their enemies.” Such great love!

As Christians we are required to be faithful, and that we should listen to the Father’s voice telling us “This is my beloved Son, listen to Him. (Mt. 17: 5) In the early days, God revealed His laws which Moses casted in stone. Man’s shortsightedness leads him to the vanities of this world thus blinding him deeper into sin. Man continued to mock God’s messengers and “added infidelity to infidelity, despised His warnings and scoffed at His prophets. Such disrespect for the Creator inflamed the anger of the Lord against His people. He allowed them to be subjected to exile and suffering. Similarly, Jesus zeal for the Father’s House led Him to be angry at the way the House of God was corrupted by traders and the public doing business in the Temple Area. Despite the general hopelessness of His people, even “dead in our transgressions”, He still brought us to life with Christ – “by grace you were saved — raises us up with Him.”

God’s love prevails over anger such that “He gave His only begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might have Eternal Life.” God love us despite the fact that we don’t deserve such patience and understanding, plainly because of His awesomeness; He who is rich in mercy, compassion and is slow to anger.

In today’s readings, the Prophet Jeremiah told that the Lord will place His “law within them and write it upon their hearts. I will be their God, and they shall be My people”. God created the Perfect Savior in Jesus so that by His faithfulness and obedience demonstrated by His patient suffering, showed His perfection which “became the source of salvation for all who obey Him.”

The Old Covenant was a failure, but God created a new covenant in Jesus, which we recognize and accept as the Perfect Savior every time we partake of Holy Communion at Mass.

As Holy Week draws near, may we all realize how sin leads us farther and away from God, our source of life and salvation. Despite the struggles and challenges we face every single day, may we see the purpose for it all, and inspire us to obedience and intimacy with Him. Admittedly, life is often a struggle, because there is a dream to be pursued, a vision to be attained. It is a journey of countless steps, countless meaningful steps, but each one leading to another.

“Whoever serves me follow me, says the Lord; and where I am, there also will my servant be.” (Jn. 12: 26)

Becoming Truly Ready for Him!

One of the most defining aspects of our homecoming journey as emphasized in the Code of Champions Seminar is our accountability towards the Creator. As Fr. Armand said, “Logically God does not deserve a corner of our lives or just a piece of our hearts. For us to enter the depths of His heart, we must give Him topmost priority over and above everything else in life.” This is the appropriate response to Yahweh who beckons and who desires that we seek and desire His love. While we are given the freedom to choose, God’s passionate love for us also ensures that we grow in obedience and intimacy with Him.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus found the temple area, the core symbol of God’s presence becoming a market place where people sold animals and birds, as well as the money changers doing business there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.” At that time what really angered the Lord was the perversion of the Temple by making what was intended to be a place of communion into a business enterprise. Such was its effect that His disciples recalled the words of Scripture,
“Zeal for your house will consume me.” (Ps. 69: 9)

Jesus’ purification of the Temple is a herald of another kind of purification, the sanctification of our hearts. It was actually His first proclamation about who He really is and what His mission would embrace. Such mood of Jesus is not commonly read in the Gospel, but is a clear reminder of the need to purify ourselves not only at this season, but at all times. And if we do not experience this purification, then everything that we do is a total waste of time. Until our hearts are rid of that which produces our death and destruction, we will never be truly ready for Him and becoming fully happy. He sees our dark side, the pain we are capable of inflicting. Despite that, He sees the beauty and what is beyond: our possibilities, what we are truly capable of, the goodness that we are capable of radiating. His passionate love for us sometimes makes Him turn the tables upside down and cracks the whip to get our attention. He wants to unravel the beauty that is within us, but which is being covered by what is dark and ugly. Case of loving the sinner, but hating the sin!

What makes it deeply comforting is that the Lord understands our human nature because He is fully human. He understands our fickleness and our weaknesses. He also knows we can get distracted from what is pure and authentic into something that’s bright and dazzling. But as long as we truly desire to get better and do better, He is there patiently waiting for us to get up and seek forgiveness from the Father.

This Lenten Season, let us prepare ourselves to be truly ready for Him. As we continue to reflect on this Gospel and the readings that follow, we are asked to choose where we stand in the course of our day-to-day lives. Do we take the side of what is good, true, and faithful to God? Or continue our pursuit of worldly goods that defile our hearts from what is true, pure and lasting?

“Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.” (Jn. 6:68c)

Listen to Him!

There will always be ups and downs in life. We can be happy one time but we can also be afraid and worried the next day. It’s how we manage fear that can make us feel at peace despite the gloom. One can rest in the fact that who we are and how strong we become is a result of the many challenges that we have experienced in life. We become sharpened, we becomes tougher, but that is not a guarantee. It will depend on how we handle each situation. We can respond in fear or we can take it as another test, therefore, handle it as best as we can.

The readings this Second Sunday of Lent show us another case, this time it’s about Abraham being out to a very challenging test. Yahweh asked him,

“Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him up as a holocaust on a height that I will point out to you.” (Gn. 22: 2)

(Last Sunday, it was Jesus being tempted by the devil in the desert.) Arguably this test of faith is really very difficult considering the life of one’s only child is at stake. How difficult (or easy) is it to decide to give up one’s son as a holocaust? And yet it was something that Abraham passed without resistance; his devotion to Yahweh was firm as it was faithful. God assures that we are never tested beyond what we can handle. In the Second Reading, St. Paul made this revelation in the Letter to the Romans,

“If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but handed Him over for us all, how will He not also give us everything else along with Him?” (Rom. 8: 31b – 32)

Aside from giving His only begotten Son, God also gave us everything else, so how can we fail if we have faith? Being subjected to the test is one difficult point in one’s life that can make or unmake a person. We can read a lot of failures and successes based on one single decision which changed lives forever. But as long as one has that faith that perseveres, one can sustain and fortify himself to avoid falling into the trap that the devil puts up. One sure defense that one can do is pray. Regularly. Not only during times of distress, but in all times. Besides, how can you say you love God when you don’t even pray to Him regularly? Isn’t that being unfaithful? Or being a hypocrite? Praying to God regularly is not one that will make God greater (He is perfect and so needs nothing more!) but it is for our own development and growth. We become more humble, more faithful and more discerning to the leadings of the Spirit in our life.

In this time of Lent, let us again renew our commitment to pray. It can give strength when one feels weakened and it also gives flesh and blood to our declaration that we love God. When one prays regularly, a beautiful world is opened and experienced. You can feel peace and serenity that knows no limits, despite the evil around. You can be assured of that. After all, praying allows you to listen to Him.

“I shall walk before the Lord, in the land of the living.” (Ps. 116: 9)

Refreshing Our Love for God

The story of Noah is one that is ingrained early in my life as a young boy studying at the Immaculate Heart Academy of Tanjay (now a City) where I grew up. Run then by the Sisters of the Order of St. Augustine (OSA), that school formed a critical role in molding me to who I am today. In school, the scene wherein people were laughing at Noah and then later on drowning in the flood is so vivid that I dread the idea of dying in water. That’s why I learned how to swim, but then again, knowing how to swim doesn’t guarantee one will be saved.

Ironically, the waters that destroyed every living creature also saved Noah and his family (eight in all). (1 Pt. 3: 21) In the First Reading, St. Peter said, “This prefigured baptism, which saves you now. It is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience…” (v. 21)

Last Thursday, as I entered the Chapel, I heard through the sound system people talking and conversing loudly. I thought then that there was a video being shown before Mass. However, as I genuflect in front of the Tabernacle before making my way to the Sacristy, I realized there was no video showing. The sound was coming from outside, entering via the frequency of the wireless sound transmitters. The voices were so clear to be heard: women and children were talking and laughing like a crowd in a noisy street. And I imagined things. Before the Mass, Fr. Armand instructed Lawrence (the assistant) to ask the people in the passages and offices surrounding the chapel to refrain from talking aloud while the Mass is going on. As the Mass started and progressed, the sound outside was no longer a disturbance. It was a big relief.

Those sounds intruding into the system frequency is something that doesn’t happen regularly. As far as I can recall, it happened only once before and then last Thursday (which was the day after Ash Wednesday). Was the sound the work of the evil one and his minions in order to frighten and disturb the Mass? Maybe. I don’t discount the possibility.

As this Lent unfolds, let us be mindful of our own “desert” experiences, wherein the evil one will try (and hopefully fail) to bring us to the test. It’ll be on us whether we fail or we triumph against these forces of the dark. We’ll have to watch out carefully and be mindful of our surroundings for tell-tale signs of the enemy. Today the Lord Jesus is asking us to “Repent, and believe in the Gospel”. (Mk. 1: 15) We are being reminded to refresh our faith, and ask ourselves, “Do I really love God?”

Doing the activities of the Church will not be meaningful if your motivation is only just to do the “routine” ceremonies. Love should be the only motivation as it is only in loving that we become faithful to Him and then join to celebrate victory over death come His Glorious Resurrection. Now is the time to reflect whether you’ve been faithful to the promises you made to the Lord in times of supplication and need. Yes, we are fond of making promises when asking God for favors and blessings. But when the times are good, you forget what you committed to Him. You easily forget. And yet you said, “I love God.”

In this season, if you are experiencing a backslide in your prayer time, try harder to rebuild the habit of regular prayer. Doing it regularly and repeatedly for a long period of time will make it to become a habit. Once it becomes a habit, it is easier to sustain. Your conscience will ensure that you will get back to the habit when you fail.

Prayers will give you blessings so abundant and bountiful you can ever imagine possible.

May the Heavenly Father grant us the grace to become more faithful and obedient to His Son now and forever.

“One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” (Mt. 4: 4b)

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