Be Wary of Becoming Complacent!

What is striking in today’s Gospel is that Jesus is silent on the other details of the rich man’s life. He may have been a good and honest man, that we don’t know; Jesus didn’t include this in the parable. From the reading, we can conclude that he loved his brothers but he was indifferent to Lazarus. He lived in luxury ‘… dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day’, and went to hell after he died, while Lazarus the frail beggar lived in misery ‘…covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table’, and went to Heaven. (Lk. 16: 19-31)

Today’s Gospel is a continuation of last Sunday’s readings. We are again reminded of being good stewards of the wealth entrusted to us. If we own lands, we have legal rights in the eyes of the law. However, God has designed it differently: we are just stewards of His property. This was the issue with the rich man; He was just God’s caretaker. What he failed to appreciate is the fact that Lazarus was God’s face, a person who deserved to be treated better. But the rich man saw instead a ragged and sickly man.

In the first reading, the Prophet Amos tells of the fate of God’s people who are ‘complacent,’ ‘stretched comfortably on their couches,’ ‘devise their own accompaniment,’ and ‘anoint themselves with the best oils.’ As we read these words, let us reflect: are we not like them? Let us be wary, as we might be doomed similarly, as they ‘shall be the first to go into exile, and their wanton revelry shall be done away with.’ (Am. 6:7)

God assures of His compassion and mercy on the person who ‘who keeps faith forever, secures justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry.’ (Ps.146: 7) In the second reading, St. Paul wrote Timothy: ‘But you, man of God, pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. Compete well for the faith. Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called…’ (1 Tim. 6: 12)

In the world today, we find similar concerns on people becoming complacent; complacent in their homes, in their communities, and in their faith. Many times too, people become complacent as Catholics. There was a time when me and my wife were new into our ministry in the Couples for Christ, when a household evening competed with the basketball game of my favorite team. That time we have to make that conscious decision that the Lord’s business should prevail over our other interests. We have to be cautious when we start to tailor-fit our service to God to our own liking. Without our knowing we can suddenly ignore and become indifferent. We neglect our faith. We forget the basic tenet of sharing to the less fortunate. We become comfortable, we get proud.

Let us pray that we may be granted the grace to be Jesus Christ’ face, hands and feet to others so that we may be joining Him at the other side of the ‘great chasm’, where Abraham and Lazarus are.

‘Though our Lord Jesus Christ was rich, He became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich’. (2 Cor. 8: 9)

NO TO SINGLE TRACK MENTALITY

Our lives are so rich, they can not be summarized into a single statement. Each of us is a brother or a sister to a sibling, a lover to a partner or a husband to a wife, a colleague in a professional endeavor, a believer of faith, a member of a sociology or civic organization. We try to respond to each one as the priority arises. We don’t ignore a certain area of our life because we are busy with the other. Balance is attending to various concerns, knowing fully well that life is not calling us to give equal attention to everything.

True Wealth

Our attitude towards money brings out the real person in us.

In the Gospel, Jesus tells about the steward who was his master’s debt collector. People borrow money because either they were poor or had some problems to deal with, or they were simply living with extravagant lifestyles. The steward seems to be doing a good thing for them, in order to survive himself, however, he was being dishonest with his master, hence the cause for his discharge.

What is your attitude towards money? The National Fellowship of Catholic Men proposes these four ideas that might help us answer that question.

First, money is not the root of all evil, and having it is not a sin. It’s our love of money that eventually separates us from God. Our Lord Jesus wants to be first in our lives—above our money and possessions. We should never ever allow wealth to be enshrined in our hearts and then replace Jesus as our king and master.

Second, Jesus asks us to be good stewards of wealth. He wants us to be prudent, honest, and responsible. We should never allow greed or dishonesty to drive our lives. Instead, we should use our money wisely, invest it wisely, and be as generous as we can. Every time we are confronted with buying things, we should ask the question: ‘Do I really need this?’ or ‘Is this just a passing fancy’?

Third, donating to the Church and other charities, even if we can give only a small amount, is a key aspect of our stewardship. Let us remember that ‘He who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor will himself also call, and cannot be heard’ (Prv. 21:13). We can be assured that whenever we give away our earthly treasures, God will reward us with heavenly treasures.

Finally, remember that ‘your’ money is not yours; it belongs to God. When you die, money will be useless as you cannot bring it to where your soul is going. Yes, you can give it to your children or to charity. The only thing that will matter is the degree to which you have used it to help people: your family, your friends, the Church, and the poor.

All material possessions are temporal or dishonest wealth, as compared with true or eternal wealth. At the end of our earthly life, we will be measured by how we handle wealth that have been entrusted to us, ‘If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth?’ (Lk. 16:12).

Let us pray that Jesus will make us good stewards so that we will be gifted with eternal wealth.

God’s Deep Love

One of the most difficult things that parents do is raising children. These are especially during the times when the kids reach that stage when they are frequently out of home, often in school and volunteer activities. My daughter who is in second year of medical school, aside from the load of subjects in the modular curriculum; is into several extra-curricular activities, which also include volunteer work in Manila’s depressed communities as part of their formation. Nights are always moments of waiting and anxiety for us as to what time she gets home.

Throughout our lives when the children are still growing up, we focus our attention on the development of skills that they’d need as they learn how to eventually support themselves in the future. As I see other parents let go of their children to leave lives of their own, a new set of worries are being experienced by the parents themselves. They realize that in these times, they can only advise, rather than make decisions for their children. Difficulties experienced by the children make it also doubly challenging for the parents as it bring deeper emotions and sadness. Parents feel for their loved ones very deeply.

When we become parents, a lot of our life’s priorities are altered and changed. In the growing up years we are still able to control and influence their environments, just to manage our emotions and fears. However, the most difficult moment comes when it’s time for them to leave the nest to find their place in the world. This must have been the worst fear that the father in the parable felt as his son decided to leave home.

What Jesus emphasizes in the Gospel is that God’s love is endless and everlasting. Despite the son’s recklessness, the father in the parable still accepted him wholeheartedly. Like a loving parent, God accepts our fickle-mindedness and short-sightedness at any time, twenty-four-seven. While the older brother felt jealous and self-righteous, God reminds us to act lovingly like Him, and to avoid jealousy and hatred. While not exactly the best illustration of God’s love, parents can relate to the father’s deep relief when the son returned, as it erased all the fears he experienced in the absence of his son. Truly, this parable shows us the way to forgiveness, intended for parents and as well as sinners in need of repentance.

‘I will rise and go to my father.’ (Lk. 15: 18)

The Cost of Discipleship

The crowds must have been jolted when Jesus told them about the cost of discipleship, one that involves giving up one’s family, possessions, and even one’s own life. A rather difficult and frightening question that the Lord would want to ask us is: ‘Who am I without these things?’ We’ve built our family, careers and possessions in much of our living years; these have become our sense of security. Without our knowing it, these have all become a hindrance to our full commitment to things eternal, to things permanent and life-giving. We can choke with earthly concerns and in the process, lose our inheritance that is life everlasting.

There must be quite a number of them who joined Jesus more for the excitement, rather than for what he was saying. Similarly, we can become so obsessed and tied up with enjoying our lives, at the risk of slowly losing our grip on our faith. We can become complacent and too comfortable with life such that greed and pride can kick in. Thus, it is always important to think through whenever we are faced with dilemma over priorities. It is important to discern what is right and holy in the long run. Stephen Covey said it to ‘Begin with the end in mind’, in order to succeed in any endeavor that we engage in. More so if we are talking about succeeding in achieving eternal happiness.

The commitment in being His disciple was spelled out, Jesus even gave examples of the man constructing a tower and the king marching into battle to illustrate the corresponding cost of being a disciple. It’ll take careful analysis and thinking before one can realize what is the meaning of discipleship.

Discipleship takes commitment and effort. Jesus didn’t exactly mean for us to leave family, rather it means sorting our relationships so they are life-giving instead of being taxing and draining for us and the people around us. It may mean learning to live life simply and meaningfully, sorting out wants from needs, so that we have enough room to share Jesus’ goodness to others. It may also mean getting out there into the world, rather than settling for what is comfortable.

Let us remember that Jesus also told us: ‘I came so that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.’ (Jn. 10: 10)

Today is the canonization of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, one who lived a full life, although she gave it all in the service of God’s people. Let us be inspired by her life, let us bring others to the fullness of life in Christ Jesus.

‘In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.’ (Ps. 90: 1)

Take the Lowest Place!

How do you respond to an invitation? Invitations sent to us come in all shapes, colors, and sizes. When we are invited, the most common initial reaction is to worry about what to wear during the event. Indeed, when I was invited to be a conference speaker, admittedly the first thought that came to mind was how I should look like. A few moments though, the topic content was thought when the idea began to sink in. Regardless, an invitation is not a command, rather it is a choice. We always have the option to decline or accept the invitation. Our Lord Jesus said that “…when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, ‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’ (Lk. 14: 10) It is embarrassing when one takes the high position when in fact it is reserved for another person higher. Some may do it out of habit, but the Lord’s advice is to take the load less travelled. God wants us to clothe ourselves with humility. In the First Reading, the Prophet Sirach said, “Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God.” (Sir. 3: 18)

More than humility, the readings also take a look at the invitation. Throughout our lives, Jesus never ceases to invite us to have a relationship with Him. It doesn’t end there, He further proposes a deeper and closer relationship with Him. It may be easy to assume that we are close to Jesus, and so we sometimes take on some arrogance without being aware of it. Unlike the invited guests in the Gospel, we have to realize that Jesus’ call is for a more intimate relationship with Him. Usually, when responding to Jesus’ call, we always take the farthest spot. What Jesus wants is for us to move closer to Him. It is possible that we always prefer to be ordinary but in our relationship with Him, we have to respond. We have to filter the noise of everyday worries and concerns to listen clearly to Jesus.

From the point of view of the host, Jesus said, “… when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.” (Lk. 14: 13-14) As I was reflecting on this, we are reminded that this also applies to us especially those who are taking care of differently-abled children, aging parents, and as well as the poor and the lowly. Nothing beats that kind of humble service that expects nothing in return, regardless of the cost. We shouldn’t worry as the Lord assures us that He will take care of our needs when we are doing His work here on earth.

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves .” (Mt. 11: 29-30)

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