Be Watchful! Be Alert!

We are all given a limited number of heartbeats in this lifetime. For the souls ahead of us, some were given a few years, some were given long lives, while some were given only up to midlife. As to how it’ll end for us, we don’t really know the answers. For Christians in general, we believe in eternal life for which we are hopeful to attain with God’s mercy and grace. 

When my Lola Andang was busy raising me and her other grandchildren, I always observe her praying the Holy Rosary and that created a deep and lasting impression on me. She was a very prayerful woman, saying prayers when she wasn’t too busy thinking about other things.Widowed early, she was left to raise seven children of which my mother is the eldest. Yet, despite the difficulties that life threw at her, she was able to lead her brood to successful achievements. Even to this day, we haven’t stopped talking about how courageously persistent she was. And I’m sure that God was always near her, within whispering distance.

In the Gospel (Mk. 13: 33-37), Jesus said to His disciples: “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. The Lord says that we need to be watchful, as we “do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight,
or at cockcrow, or in the morning.” 

This warning is perfect in timing and reminding of the need to be watchful.

Are you mindful of the presence of Christ? Being mindful means being fully aware of His presence every moment, every minute even at our busiest. It is about seeking, looking and anticipating God’s presence.Sin and wrongdoing can block our ability to feel spiritual matters so that there is haziness and cloudiness around. These noises can affect our hearing God’s leads and whispers. Without our realizing it, we are “asleep” instead of being watchful and alert.

Also, excessive attention to social media platforms are forms of “sleepiness” that contribute much to distraction in our faith experience. Beware of these addictions!

As we begin this Advent Season, let us reflect on how the Lord is constantly seeking our attention. He is not shouting, but is whispering softly and sweetly. He is persistent in telling us to be watchful, to be alert. After all, His words and leadings are all that matter. Thus, we need to listen deeply with our hearts. 

Let us pray that we take the effort and time to listen to Him. Let us pray to prepare for Jesus’ coming. Let us be awake in hopeful anticipation.

Show us Lord, your love;and grant us your salvation.” (Ps. 85: 8)

Hail to Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe!

What a fitting way to end the Liturgical Year than to celebrate the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe! The Gospel reading today (Mt. 25: 31-46) provides insights into what’s important for God.The judgment that will be made will be based on the acts of mercy and compassion that we’ve done for the least — the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the ill, and the imprisoned. Indeed, Christ who suffered on the Cross identifies Himself with the least, the lost and the last. Jesus’ Kingship is unlike any other worldly monarch, but one characterized by being our Good Shepherd. Rather it is His desire that we become His faithful followers, ever offering guidance and protection. He wants us to voluntarily accept Him into our lives, never forcing Himself on us.

In the previous week’s the Parable of the Talents, the Gospel teaches us that the gifts and abilities that God has bestowed on us have been given with the intention to be used for the service of others, especially the least in society. God is telling us that whenever we have served these least ones, we have served Christ the King Himself.

In my own experience, God is real and has always exceeded our own generosity; He gives cheerfully, abundantly and lovingly. These are all because He loves us unconditionally and faithfully. When we place ourselves under His Lordship, He becomes our constant companion, always ready to assist us whenever we invoke His Holy Name. Growing in intimacy with Him will make us obedient, mindful and sensitive to His leadings. We become sensitive to the Spirit of God, allowing Him to move us, so that we become His hands in helping others. Have you noticed it that when you pray for help and guidance, the Lord sends angels in disguise to our aid? In a way, when we pray to the Spirit to give us wisdom and discernment we can share ourselves with others because we are fully attuned with what the Lord wants us to do in particular moments. Besides unless we share ourselves with others, we can never be fully happier, right?

There’s a lot to be grateful for especially the richness of our family life, the blessings He has given us, and the peace of mind that we have, regardless of the challenges and problems that come with these troubling times.God’s abundance in giving and blessing us only show how He wants us to be happy. This happiness will be complete whenever we reflect His generosity, cheerfulness, and love towards others — especially those in need. We have to demonstrate that what we have are meant to be shared whenever necessary. We have to realize that when we have that attitude of giving, we allow the Lord to use us to be His face.

Giving generously. When we give, the Lord wants us to include those people outside our family and friends; He wants us to be generous as well to those who are most in need of help as these verses clarify,

‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me
.’ (Mt. 25: 40)

Being generous doesn’t exactly mean just simply giving, it means, in a way that shows a readiness to give more of something than is expected. When situations arise such that our generosity is required, as followers of Jesus it is our turn to demonstrate that kind of unselfishness to the least, the last and the lost.

Giving cheerfully. The King will reward us when we give cheerfully and without reservation. Way back in college I became close with this classmate and brother Ariel, who is so generous with others. He is always looking for ways to help and give. He is such a caring person and his outlook in life simply inspires! And what a way God returns the blessings to him: while spending more time to God’s work, his business has grown more than expectations.

Giving lovingly. We can’t give generously unless our intention is governed by love. When our motivation is Jesus, when we see Him in the face of the poor, there can be abundant love to share with others,

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.”  (Mt. 25: 35-36)

Life is complete when we are selfless and loving with others. Doing this will make others happy and the fulfillment in doing comes back to us in so many ways. It is then when we realize that acquiring more possessions and wealth don’t bring happiness; it is when we become mindful of the needs of others and share what we have in the name of Jesus that bring us deeper joy and fulfillment. Isn’t a giving, caring and loving life more wonderful? 

As we close the liturgical year, let us reflect on how we’ve lived:  Are we worthy to be in the company of the “sheep on the King’s right”? Are we ready to meet Our Lord Jesus Christ, the King?

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LordBlessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come!” (Mk. 11: 9,10)

Becoming Trustworthy

One person I know left his job because of his own perception that he is treated unfairly by his employer. When talking about his work with others, he was quite expressive about it. To some extent, it appears to me that he feels some entitlement, or perhaps some pride. Even in other organizations, there are others who feel the same way, always thinking about the “I”, rather than the “we”. In the present time, people everywhere tend to be obsessed with what many call “equal rights.” Whenever there are others they think are treated better than themselves, they get envious and angry.

Even in today’s Gospel proclamation (Mt. 25: 14-30) we see reactions about how the master gave different talents to his servants. If you were the one given only one talent while two of your colleagues at work received five and ten, would you feel being subjected to inequality? Would you raise this concern to your superior? Maybe you would.

The Lord is telling this parable in the context of how we will make use of the talents given to us, how we use it to grow and help others. On the day of judgement we will all account for the talents that we are given. Obviously, each one is given different gifts in accordance with God’s will and plan for our lives. In the eyes of the world, to one He will entrust many, while to some He gives lesser.But it is not fair to judge others based on the way we measure.God looks at matters differently from how people do. For example, the usual intelligence is measured only through how people fare in school. However, we note that in life, people are gifted with different kinds of talents and if they pursue to develop these, they become better and better at it such that they become the best in their fields.People like Leonardo da Vinci, Michaelangelo, Albert Einstein, Muhammad Ali, Bobby Fischer, Bill Gates, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and our own Manny Pacquiao among others have different types of talents. They became world-class because they have nurtured their gifts and pursued development even at an early age. Yet to others, it’ll appear that God gives different portions of blessings to different people. To the world, He gives what seems to be an overflow of blessings, while to others, only very little.

God is fair, however. This parable shows that it isn’t about how many talents He has given, rather, it is about what one does with these gifts. Thus, we should ask ourselves: 

What are the talents that God has given me

What am I supposed to do with these talents

Have I been a great steward of what God has entrusted to me?

Let us pray for discernment, humility and generosity, that we know what mission God has tasked us to fulfill, accept what He has given us, and nurture it so that what we do will bear fruit. Let us pray that we become trustworthy of the gifts that the Lord has given us. Let us pray that we be generous in sharing our gifts with others, especially the least, the last and the lost.

Remain in me as I remain in you, says the Lord. Whoever remains in me bears much fruit.” (Jn. 15: 4a, 5b)

Are You Ready for Heaven?

With the pandemic taking a lot of lives (more than 1.2 million total worldwide as of the latest count), the fear of getting sick and dying from the virus is real and affecting the lives of many globally. The topic of dying not only coming from the disease but for any other reason comes and with it the realization that when it’s our time, how will we react and what are we going to do? 

For many people the anxieties may not be on one’s own situation but on how will our loved ones manage without us, how are we going to prepare them for the future, among other things. While these are also important, the most pressing consideration we should worry about is: Are we ready to face God now?  

In the Gospel (Mt. 25: 1-13) Jesus told his disciples the parable of the Ten Virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps. Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight, when the bridegroom came, all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones asked the wise for oil, But the wise ones replied, ‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you. Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’ While they went off to buy it, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked. Afterwards the other virgins came and said,
Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’ But he said in reply, ‘Amen, I say to youI do not know you.’

Oil in the Sacred Scriptures has great significance and symbolism. It pictures the work and anointing of the Holy Spirit for without the Holy Spirit, no one can be saved. Thus, how can we become like the wise virgins so we can enter into the wedding feast? The Spirit of God leads people to Christ and makes them realize that they need Jesus as their Savior, for there is absolutely no other way to enter the kingdom of Heaven (Acts 4:12). If we want to be ready to meet the Lord at any time, we’ve got to have charity in our lives. It is a radical commitment to be the face of Christ to others — meaning we have to love others the way Jesus loves us — unselfish, sacrificing and self-giving. It is taking the heart of the Lord in our daily lives, making it a habit to think like Jesus at each and every moment. It may just be an ordinary situation we encounter, but whatever it is, we need the Lord’s mind to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. In our moments of decision and confusion, what would Jesus do? To get to think like Christ, the First Reading (Wis. 6: 12-16) tells us that if we look for the answer, we can easily find it,

Resplendent and unfading is wisdom, and she is readily perceived by those who love her, and found by those who seek her. She hastens to make herself known in anticipation of their desireWhoever watches for her at dawn shall not be disappointed, for he shall find her sitting by his gate.”

Today, let us reflect on our charity and capacity to love and forgive. How far are we willing to love others? How committed are we to God? How far are we willing to give up of ourselves in loving God?

Let us pray that the Lord grant us the grace, the humility and the strength to become like the wise virgins, intelligent enough to prepare and be ready to meet God any time.

Stay awake and be ready!For you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” (Mt. 24: 42a, 44)

Becoming Saints

Today we honor the Holy Men and Women who lived exemplary lives for the Lord. Catholic websites call them great champions of the faith for modelling the kind of commitment and devotion that are in total and absolute commitment to God the Almighty. I am always in awe by how they were able to overcome the world’s challenges, looking beyond this life to a glorious and triumphant reward before God. In fact, my favorite portion of Church ceremonies is the one during the Easter Vigil Mass when the Litany of the Saints is proclaimed. It’s always a hair-raising experience for me because knowing the difficulties that the saints and martyrs went through, they must have been gifted with Heavenly Wisdom to give and dedicate their lives for God. Their lives are so full of difficulties, sometimes it looked so desperate but yet they persevered in the faith and therefore a rich reward awaited them in Heaven. The list of these great men and women goes on and on. And it’s a blessing to know of people who have that grit and tenacity to go beyond the pains and sufferings of this world.

In the Gospel (Mt. 5: 1-12a), Jesus announces the type of life we as His followers are supposed to live here on earth, while at the same time showing it as a type of grand strategy towards a glorious and triumphant end. Called the Sermon on the Mount, this is like the first official  instruction of the Lord to His disciples. Each blessing begins with the word beati in Latin which translates to “happy”, “blessed”, or “wealthy”, hence Beatitudes. As His first and newly-recruited disciples might have brought up their emotions after seeing the first miracles that Christ performed, He took the opportunity to define what it truly means to be a disciple. 

The Beatitudes point beyond earthly life to the eternal happiness of Heaven. The Lord is telling us to live in the spirit of charity and not to be attached with worldly wealth. In managing our worldly affairs we give priority to the love of God and others in need, to mourn in order to see God’s hand in everything, to be gentle and meek, to work for justice and peace, to be merciful, to have a clean heart in our dealings with others, to work for peace, and to accept the difficulties that comes with being a witness of God to others. 

In a deeper way, the path to eternal happiness is not to be found in one’s own life but in total dependence on God. It isn’t meant to live in misery in this world and expect  to be rewarded by God in the future. Instead, despite difficulties, life is meant to be a happy experience. We can always choose to be happy, by looking beyond the reason for it. All earthly pain and suffering should be gladly accepted as it purifies us to become worthy of His calling. The Beatitudes are announcements that happiness in this life belongs to those who put their trust only in God.As proclaimed in the First Reading (Rv. 7: 2-4, 9-14), “Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb.” We cannot save ourselves alone, we need God’s grace. 

Today, let us reflect on the lives of the saints and martyrs. How can we model our lives after them? Like them, how can we be more happier in life? How can we develop that attitude of looking beyond earthly pain and suffering?

Let us pray that the Lord grant us the grace of wisdom, humility and strength to accept the hardships that come with being a follower and witness of Jesus Christ, our Savior.

Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest, says the Lord.” (Mt. 11:28)

Loving God

During the time of Jesus Christ, with so many laws being imposed by the religious leaders on the people, the question as to which commandment is the greatest was a very tricky question. Even the Pharisees and the Sadducees can’t agree on the answer, such that in order to trap him, a scholar of the law, a Pharisee, took it as an opportunity to ask Jesus the question:

“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”  He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” (Mt. 22: 34-40)

If the Lord had answered differently, He would have taken sides for one group against the other. Jesus’ answer however, goes beyond this argument into a real life spent loving God and neighbor (in the same manner as loving one’s self). Also, He emphasizes that knowing the answer without living it is not enough and is not the way to holiness and obedience to God.

But can we love God without loving our neighbor?

In the Old Testament it was revealed that Israel knew that one cannot love God without loving other people, as they are created in His image and likeness. The love of God is to be manifested in love of neighbor. The neighborin this context is a fellow Jew (Lv 19: 17-18), which Jesus abolished, in effect breaking down the shortsightedness and many other misunderstandings at that time. He defined neighboras those who are in need (Lk. 10: 29-35). He emphasizes that love of God is foremost, but loving one’s neighbor has to be done as well for it to be real. One cannot be separated from the other. Youcannot just say long prayers, hear Masses, and recite novenas without doing something for the poor and the needy in the community. Many of us feel comfortable with prayers only, while doing nothing for the last, the least and the lost. 

Loving God therefore starts with letting Him fill our hearts and letting Him love us. It is building an intimate relationship with Jesus to allow Him to fill our thoughts, our hearts and our soul. In so doing, we will get out of our comfort zones, do the things we don’t even feel comfortable doing, but because of our love for Him, we will eagerly do.

Let us pray for the grace of knowing and thinking like Christ, and that we may be able to see God in others and acknowledge that we can’t love God genuinely without obeying the second commandment.

I love you, Lord, my strength.”(Ps. 18: 2)

God First Above All Else

Living a life while trying (and trying) to be faithful and obedient to God gave me several insights in life. Among these is that as you grow older, there’s a realization that not all of the time you and your friends are similar in your attitudes or beliefs towards politics, money, or fame. Still, you still respect each other and agree that there are earthly leaders that have responsibilities over us but accept that God has spiritual dominion over our lives. Recognition of our worldly rulers does not stop us from allowing God to rule over our lives. 

In the Gospel (Mt. 22:15-21),the Pharisees, together with the Herodians, sent their followers in trying to entrap Jesus. Yet the Lord knew of their malicious intent  telling them,  

Why are you testing me, you hypocritesShow me the coin that pays the census tax.” 
Then they handed him the Roman coin. He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” They replied, “Caesar’s.”

Jesus responded with wisdom,

Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

Some of us may experience this in our lives. There are some people who try to trick us into accepting something beyond our morals and ethics. They try to demand more from us with malice and treachery such that if we aren’t careful, we might fall into their trap. It can eventually cause worries and anxieties while others may even lose their patience and composure. Thus, we have to be aware of these people around us. We could copy Christ’s response with truth and Godly wisdom. There’s nothing in this universe that can defeat the wisdom and power of God, as only He can overcome deceit, malice and gamesmanship. No other power can penetrate and stop every human and evil act of deceit and betrayal. As the prophet Isaiah said in the First Reading (Is. 45:1, 4-6),

I am the LORD and there is no otherthere is no God besides me.”

Therefore, we should place God at the center of everything so that we draw faith, strength and courage from Him. When we do, we can depend on being warned of these evil schemes in advance and defend ourselves and our faith with God’s strength. Only God’s power can protect us from any treacherous scheme that evil and malicious people throw on us. 

As St. Paul reassures us in the Second Reading (1 Thes. 1: 1-5b),

For our Gospel did not come to you in word alonebut also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction.” 

As followers of Jesus Christ, we have to accept both the earthly rulers and the spiritual power and dominion of God. We have to acknowledge both realities but God must come first. As His messengers, we also want to develop a community of believers and create it into something that puts God above all else. Our faith in Him does not stop us from exercising our duties as citizens but neither should these duties prevent us from putting God first. 

Let us reflect on how we put God at the center of our lives and allowing His Word to guide us through the treacherous waters of our earthly pilgrimage. 

Let us pray that God’s Spirit guide and protect us from the malice that others set on us.

Shine like lights in the world as you hold on to the word of life.” (Phil. 2:15d, 16a)

Are You Ready for the Feast?

Attending a wedding feast demands preparation; from the clothes you wear, to the gifts you’ll bring to give the newly-weds, and to the time needed to reach the destination before the Mass starts. It is an event that is both well-thought of and brings excitement to the guests. You cannot go there shabbily-dressed and looking out of place.

In this Sunday’s Gospel (Mt. 22:1-14), we hear the proclamation of the Wedding Feast in Heaven, when Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people in parables saying, 

“…the kingdom of Heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come.”

Listening to the Lord at that time may have made His listeners wonder why the invited guests ignored the invitation. Butthe king 

“…sent his servants a second time but some of them still ignored the invitation, while the rest even went to the extent of killing his servants. The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed the murderers and burned their city. Then he extended the invitations to the feast to whomever they find on the streets, bad and good alike and the hall was filled with guests. When the king came to meet the guests, he saw a man there not properly dressed in a wedding garment.” 

This Gospel tells us three things: 1) there are those who reject the invitation, 2) there are those who rejected with hostility, and 3) being invited to the feast comes with certain obligations.The first two are challenges that we may have encountered in our missions and ministries. Some people who are invited instead of welcoming the invitation of God, react indifferently and reject the invitation. Others even react with hostility. What a waste! God’s invitation is a precious one, considering that we are invited to participate in the fullness of life. However, many turn it down maybe because it requires total submission to God and thus requires humility, conversion and selflessness. When we have these attitudes, these enable us to regularly go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, thus “dressing up well” for the Feast. 

Today, let us reflect on our own conversion and mission. Do you accept God’s will fully into your life? In bringing God’s message to others, do you do it with zeal and enthusiasm?

May the Lord continue to grant us the courage, strength and wisdom to persevere in our mission and faith especially during these trying times. 

May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ enlighten the eyes of our hearts, so that we may know what is the hope that belongs to our call.” (Eph. 1:17-18)

Staying the Course

The Philippines is an agricultural country. As such, a lot of its people are in one way or the other connected to the land, either from handed-down land or from ancestors working out of it. The desire to plant the earth also makes people go into farming after working long years in corporate environments.I have friends who did that after retiring from work. The serenity and quiet of the countryside is an inspiration for weary souls aching to have those moments away from the hustle and bustle of urban work.

The Gospel setting this Sunday (Mt. 21: 33-43) — the vineyard — as described by the Prophet Isaiah (First Reading Is. 5: 1-7), is used by the Lord Jesus to describe the vineyard’s wine press, hedge, and watchtower telling that Israel’s religious leaders, the tenants in His parable, have learned nothing from Isaiah or Israel’s past. 

When vintage time drew near, the landowner sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce. But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat, another they killed, and a third they stoned. Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones, but they treated them in the same way.”

Instead of producing bountiful harvests, they’ve killed the owner’s servants, the prophets “sent to gather the harvest of faithful souls”. God is portrayed as the owner while Israel is the vineyard. A favorite vine, the “chosen people” squandered the chance that God wanted for them. (cf: Catholic Daily Reflections)

“Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’ They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.” 

This parable tells of the reality of evil. In places where agriculture is the main source of livelihood, people are always on alert to watch their farm, and the owners normally assign those whom they trust to take care of their landholdings. In the Gospel story, upon hearing of the news the landowner in the parable must be so shocked. The Lord said,

What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?” They answered him, “He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times.”

The response is quite frightening to say the least but it also means that evil will be met with strength and courage of the Holy Spirit. In the course of our mission and work, there may be times we feel the wrath of God Almighty is the only answer when confronted with evil. 

This is the challenge for us to stay the course, to stay fruitful in the vineyard of God.  In all these, we need to pray unceasingly to the Holy Spirit for guidance, protection and strength.

Let us not be afraid, but be comforted by the words of St. Paul in the Second Reading (Phil. 4:6-9),

Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus

Today, let us reflect on the situations when we are confronted with evil in the course of our daily life.

Lord God, grant me the grace, courage and strength to confront evil when necessary, according to Your Holy Will. Jesus Christ, my Lord and my God, I trust in You.

I have chosen you from the world, says the Lord, to go and bear fruit that will remain.” (Jn. 15: 16)

Faith, Love and Obedience

When I was younger, I dreaded disobeying my parents, my grandmother, my elders, my teachers, and other superiors because of the consequences that go with it. You risk getting spanked, punished by requiring you to stand at the back of the classroom while others are sitting comfortably in their desks, or even asked to stand near the flagpole in the heat of the sun. That’s how we were brought up then, but I think our generation is thankful for the kind of discipline that made us who we are today.

This Sunday we hear the Gospel proclamation (Mt. 21: 28-32)wherein Jesus told the story about a man who had two sons. The man said to the first, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ The first said in reply, ‘I will not,’ but afterwards changed his mind and went.The other said in reply, ‘Yes, sir, ‘ but did not go. Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people, “Which of the two did his father’s will?” They answered, “The first.” Then our Lord went on saying, “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before youWhen John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe himbut tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.”

These words were addressed to the chief priests and elders, the religious leaders at that time. Richly clad in their elaborate robes and attires, they were so full of pride and self-righteousness. They were close-minded and stuck to their own opinions which were already outdated and wrong. Because of these, they were blinded from learning the simple truths that people whom they call “sinners” like the tax collectors and prostitutes were discovering. Harsh words indeed but this is Jesus way of saying that while tax collectors and prostitutes were on the path to holiness, their hardheadedness led these religious leaders astray. They persisted in their disobedience and defiance to God.This may have been so hard for them to accept.

As we learned, love is a choice. Our love for God can be put into action by being obedient to Him and to His Holy Word. Gone are the attitudes of yesteryears when we obey orders because we want to get rewards, or because we want to avoid the negative consequences of disobedience. Sometimes we do it because the authority is legitimate and we have no other choice. But with God whom we cannot see in our day-to-day lives, it demands faith and which is concretized in love. When you grow in intimacy with Jesus, following Him becomes second nature and you see obedience as pure joy despite the challenges that comes your way. We overcome these difficulties because we know the love of God comes with a price, and yet, if we obtain His mercy and grace, Eternal Life will be ours someday.

St. Paul reminds us in the Second Reading (Phil. 2:1-11 or 2: 1-5) that Jesus Christ is the perfect model of obedience,

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 the point of death, even death on a cross

Today let us reflect on how we are with regards our faith and love for the Lord. Are we obedient to Him? Are we humble to admit our sins and faults before the God?

Lord God, grant us the courage and strength to overcome pride and self-righteousness so that we follow you in humility, love, and obedience.  

My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord;I know them, and they follow me.” (Jn. 10: 27)

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