Love Your Enemy

At the convent of the St. Francis Church along Shaw Boulevard in Mandaluyong City is a painting of our Lord Jesus with a worried expression, where His statement ‘Love your enemy’ is written. This quote is one, if not the most difficult command of Jesus to His followers.

The world today is full of conflict and misunderstandings. It is the most difficult time to be a parent, elder, or leader especially that there is so much confusion and distraction brought about by dishonesty, crime or any wrongdoing in the past and present. When society is besieged by years of doubt and mistrust, frustration can turn into anger and aggression.

When people respond by any act of aggression, more conflict results. The culture of revenge is perpetuated especially when harm has been going on for many years, decades even, such that the original act which started the conflict is even long erased from memory. The conflict becomes an end in itself.

It is therefore timely and refreshing to reflect in this Sunday’s Gospel, as our Lord said,

‘You have heard that it was said,
You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
But I say to you, love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father…’ (Mt. 5: 43-45)

Jesus offers a fresh approach to conflict that says we should extend forgiveness and offer more than what is taken; we should offer love. This abundant response may not be our first reaction especially in the heat of the moment. Especially if we’ve been hurt for a long time. Indeed, this is very hard to follow, but Jesus gives us the commandments as a guide or map to reach Him and our final destination. The power to forgive — and to love our enemies — is God’s divine power and is free for those who desire it. This is the same power that healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, and raised the dead, among others. This is the power that made Jesus rise from the dead in full majesty and glory.

Growing in holiness involves not just by avoiding sin, but should include doing good. Jesus commands us to do more, ‘magis’, than just the barest minimum to get through. Being a Christian isn’t easy.

In the end, we should ask ourselves, ‘Is Jesus worth it?’ Your answer will determine whether you will ‘love your enemy’ or not.

‘Whoever keeps the word of Christ, the love of God is truly perfected in him.’ (1 Jn. 2: 5)

Three Days To Go…

“Code of Champions Certification Program”

February 17 & 18 / 830am to 5pm
Conference Room, 3/F Don Bosco Provincial House
A. Arnaiz cor Chino Roces, Makati City.

We look forward to welcoming another champion in you!

HVD
SOULBYDESIGN, INC.
Tel: 0917 5034378; Email: soulbydesign@yahoo.com

Let the Lord Be Our Guide

Before driving to Church, I was making adjustments in the car’s navigation system and then Alma and Alexa were joking why I’m doing it when I already know the way. You see, I was just trying to get familiar with the GPS aside from trying to input the Church as part of favorite destinations for future use.

It’s apt to think of our earthly journey as a spiritual GPS; we know where we came from, and where we’re headed to. Just like the car’s GPS, there’s a guide, and there’s a direction to go. There are even options for routes that avoids expressways, etc. or even high density of traffic. You can tap any of these, it’s your choice. Similarly, in our spiritual journey we need a guide and a teacher to show us the way.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus shows a forcefulness that is quite discomforting. Imagine tearing our eye and throwing it away. (Mt. 5: 29) If we look at what Jesus was saying in its totality, I think what He means is to “take responsibility for our actions”. Whenever we sin, we shouldn’t blame others and make justifications. We shouldn’t blame our enemies and tell them that they should be the first to say “sorry”. It is our duty and responsibility to tell them and to deal with it regardless of who is right or wrong.

Yes, it is very difficult to change especially that we can’t bring this by ourselves. Jesus warned that when He said,

‘I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of Heaven.’ (Mt. 5: 20)

We should select authentic change and acknowledge that we need the help of God to give us the strength and courage to persevere and not to falter. The most important thing is the intent to grow in the Lord and to bring Him into our relationships. Praying for forgiveness and seeking Jesus help should be sought after. Jesus is the only way, so there should be no better option in our spiritual GPS!

Once in a while, we will fail by nature of original sin but the Lord will be there, just the perfect navigator to get us back on our routes. If we allow Him, He will provide us the spiritual GPS we need in order to get us to our Eternal destination.

‘Lord, teach me the way of your laws; I shall observe them with care. Give me insight to observe your teaching, to keep it with all my heart.’ (Ps. 119: 33-34)

Being The Salt of the Earth and Light of the World

As you go anywhere from around the country, you’ll notice that comparing the prices of seafood with those in Metro Manila markets, you’ll notice that the prices in the metropolis are higher not only due to the demand but from the kind and quality of fish harvested. As you go farther away from the capital, say for example when in coastline Cebu province, you’ll notice that the seafood, aside from being cheaper are also fresher. The fish are mostly from the sea surrounding these areas, while those in Metro Manila are mainly from fishponds and culture farms. One can still buy seawater fish, but you’ll have to reach out deep into your wallet. It is more expensive because it is tastier. Why? The salt content is higher.

The Gospel today talks about being the salt of the earth and light of the world. People in leadership or high-profile positions doing ‘good works’ will likely be noticed more. While the usual insight is on the possible good reaction from others who notice the ‘good works’ being done, there’s also the reaction of others who may feel threatened and envious. God then becomes not the recipient of appreciation, but more on the meanness directed at the person doing good. Instead of the beautiful light emanating from the hill, there’s the negative reaction in others.

Being subjected to such nastiness is not a pleasant experience, and it has the ability to disable our zeal and intention to do good. I know of some people who are capable of doing so much goodness and yet the fear of being noticed limits the ability to get discernment and strength from the Holy Spirit.

Yet, we shouldn’t fear. Despite these difficulties, be comforted by the thought that we are doing this for the Lord and reflecting His light to others who are in need of direction and guidance. The world will definitely be a much better place to live in if we live by Christ’s command,

‘Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.’ (Is. 58: 7)

We have to remain bold and relentless for the Lord. In the final analysis, what others think will not matter more than what is important in God’s eyes.

‘I am the light of the world, says the Lord; whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ (Jn. 8: 12)

Getting Intimate with God

Among the Beatitudes, the most often I remember is the one saying – ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.’

Poor is defined ‘as not having enough money for the basic things that people need to live properly.’ When it comes to this particular beatitude – being ‘poor in spirit’ is something we need to understand fully. It doesn’t refer to material wealth, but on things deeper and more meaningful. The other readings today tell us about God’s direction for us to embrace humility,

‘… God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God.’ (1 Cor. 1: 28)

This ‘poor in spirit’ has nothing to do with economic or social status. It must be about spiritual status, and our inner core. There’s a certain hunger in everyone, a hunger that money or wealth can’t satisfy. It is something beyond, something spiritual. Yet the difference is in understanding how to fulfill and what we do to quench that hunger. Some may choose material things, pride, wealth, alcohol, etc. to loosen that demand.

Have you realized that you can also find joy in Christ, and eventually fill up that spiritual hunger? Have we reached that stage in life, that we can detach ourselves from the things of this world, and fully rely only on Him?

This is the danger of living in a material world. We run getting too comfortable in the wealth we have acquired, and therefore run the risk of setting aside God in the process. It can blur our sight and distract our vision of getting through this search for the meaning of our lives. This is our mission in the life journey: to seek an authentic and living relationship with God – a relationship that is to live in humility as His Sons and Daughters. This intimacy with God, this ‘poverty’ of spirit, is what fills our thirst that material things cannot. It is a spiritual grace, and this is that what makes us better people in every other aspect of our lives.

Let us then pray to seek intimacy with God, and this can only be made possible if we seek humility and spiritual grace. Attaining that level of closeness with God is the only way to make this life journey a fulfilling and remarkable one.

‘Blessed are the poor in spirit; the kingdom of heaven is theirs! (Mt. 5: 3)

We Are Called to Follow Jesus!

Many years ago in the early stages of my career, I was posted in Nepal, a country that despite its long history and natural beauty, is still struggling from high levels of hunger and poverty. Yet, the people are gentle, loving and unpretentious. Only those Nepalis that have been schooled in the U.K., or elsewhere in Asia have the tendencies to take advantage of their fellowmen, or so it seems. After settling down and getting a backgrounder in Hinduism and Buddhism, the country’s biggest religions; I tried to talk about Jesus and the Catholic faith to the top managers of our local brewery there. It was something risky I was told, but I did try to do it as a follower of Jesus.

When Jesus called the first disciples, Peter and Andrew, James and John; the fishermen left everything to follow Him right away. Jesus presence must have been so strong and powerful, such that they left their fishing business. We can’t read somewhere in the Gospel telling about their prior encounters with Jesus, but it is possible that they must have heard Him preach. Or they must have heard of Him from others, that we don’t exactly know.

In a deeper sense, there must be something in Jesus that moved their hearts and souls that made it hard for them to resist. When they responded to His invitation, they were fishermen and yet their identities didn’t change. They were given a peek of a deeper dimension of what it means to be a disciple and invited to embrace it.

Similarly, we are called to be His disciples. While not necessarily in the same league as the Apostles, we all have our responsibility in sharing the Gospel to others. We may not understand our roles in the Kingdom but we should not be afraid to ask the Lord, seek the Holy Spirit to grant us discernment so that we can understand ourselves and Jesus more intimately. In amazing ways Jesus will answer: the questions do not undermine our commitment, they deepen it. We just need to have that faith.

In these times of disunity, may we turn to the Lord in prayer, that He may heal us and bring new hope for the future. May we be reminded that we are called to follow Jesus Christ and share in spreading the Good News of salvation to others.

‘The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear?’ (Ps. 27: 1)

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