Sustaining the Flow of Living Water

There was a time in my younger days that the idea of selling water for drinking is unlikely, even absurd. Clean drinking water then was plentiful; water wells were oozing with supply. Today, we have to shell out money to buy clean water for drinking. In this Sunday’s Gospel, we are reminded of the significance of water both in our physical and spiritual life. We drink water to quench thirst and to sustain bodily functions. It is used for agriculture, for cooling and heating, and is referred to as the universal solvent; as such it is widely used in industrial processes and in cooking and cleaning. Much of the world’s fish and marine life are sourced from major seas and oceans. Trade uses water to transport commodities and manufactured products through waterways. Water is also a venue for many sports and other forms of entertainment.

Jesus was asking a drink from the Samaritan woman, and struck a conversation with her. The discussion was getting deeper and the woman eventually asking “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” (Jn. 4: 15) The Lord speaks about water that gives “eternal life”, a spring of water that flows continuously.

As water is the major component of beer and beverages, we always appreciate its contribution and significance in the final product quality. There was a time that cities became famous due to the beers that were produced there, as a consequence of the water quality that flows out of its aquifers. (A good example is the popular Pilsen Beer, deriving its origins from a city in the old Czechoslovakia which became the model for the category of beers under the same name.)

Similarly, Jesus speaks of the markers that the gifts of the Holy Spirit – knowledge, understanding, counsel, wisdom, fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord. These in turn bears the twelve fruits of the Spirit, according to Sacred Tradition these are: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1832).

Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So by their fruits you will know them. (Mt. 7:17-20)

This passage in St. Matthew’s Gospel helps us understand the Fruits of the Holy Spirit, which are manifested by people who have allowed the grace of the Holy Spirit to flow in their lives.

As we come deeper into Lent, let us be reminded that we shouldn’t stop trying to achieve holiness. Let us continue nourishing ourselves with the living water that following Jesus can give; in so doing, we allow the Holy Spirit to sanctify us. Let us continue to exercise fasting, alms-giving and immersing ourselves in prayer, not only this Season, but as a continuous practice of sanctification.

“Lord, you are truly the Savior of the world; give me living water, that I may never thirst again.” (cf. Jn. 4: 42, 15)

Be Transformed

We’re now going more real into our spiritual preparations as it is already the Second Sunday of Lent. Have we already started purifying our hearts, observing fasting and abstinence, almsgiving, and prayer? Going by our age and experience, we should already be past starting these. However, we should continue to ask ourselves those questions, as it’s getting nearer now. In a few weeks, we’ll be going deeper into the redeeming Passion and Death of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

During this Holy Season, there should be transformation in us, mentally, spiritually, physically. The Holy Mother Church is guiding us through this trek into the desert (or into the mountain, whatever you like more). In the Gospel, the journey to the mountain may have been arduous and tiring, Peter, James and John may have wondered why go there in the first place? What the heck, why bother? It is a test of patience and endurance. The disciples have the idea that Jesus is not a typical person; they think He is unusual. That’s why when they were asked to follow Jesus into the mountain, they followed. Similarly, we may also have asked, “Why a Lenten season?” Maybe time spent in Boracay is “much better” than spending it in Church.

This Lent, like all the previous ones we’ve been through, is a spiritual journey that will enable us to understand better its meaning and relevance. As Jesus may have said to Peter, James and John, “have patience, we’ll get there soon”, so it will be for us. We go like we are journeying up a mountain trail deep into the Sierra Madre or the majestic Mt. Apo. It is rugged, it is tough, the ascents are narrow and sharp. As the days continue, we keep fasting, praying, sacrificing and giving. Each time we fast, each time we abstain and sacrifice, each time we pray, each time we sacrifice and give more of ourselves, is a step up that mountain, bringing us closer to the Father.

In God’s grace and compassion, we will be blessed with a transformation as the culmination of all the preparations we’ve made. For all the difficulties and challenges in the journey, it is hoped that the commemoration of Lent aid us comprehend deeper the necessity of it all. Even though we’ve experienced several Lenten seasons already, we may still be having difficulty comprehending its meaning. We’re learning slowly, as evidenced by our stubbornness and inconsistencies in living the Gospel message.

Persevere. Never mind if the steps hurt. Never mind the various times that we’ve fallen. I know that as the Holy Week draws near, some of us may be tempted to give up all the sacrifices we’ve done seemingly failing in bringing us closer to intimacy with Jesus.

But don’t give up, be in it. Let Lent strengthen you. Embrace the challenges and eagerly await being transformed. In the end, all will make sense. There’s the Light waiting for us at the end of the journey and for some moments, we are allowed a small peek into it, as if to encourage us to hang on. Just as Peter, James and John experienced it many centuries ago.

Let us therefore soak ourselves into the meaning of the journey, and allow Jesus to draw us closer to Him. To transform us some more. Trusting that we can draw on His strength and power to overcome our frailties and weaknesses, so that on the last day, He will bring us to rise with Him.

‘A bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud the Father’s voice is heard: This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.’
(Mt. 17: 5)

Christ’s Redeeming Love

In this sensation-hungry world, stories of failures are more often highlighted in the news than success stories. People seem to be more interested in bad rather than the good stuff. It would have been better if the news that bring more positive energy rather than grief and sorrow are given more attention. And yet, when it’s their turn to commit mistakes, the same people get defensive and make lots of excuses.

The readings this First Sunday of Lent talk about the fall of Adam in the garden in Eden, Christ’s redeeming suffering, and Jesus’ overcoming the temptation in the desert.

Thinking about it, we realize that temptation and the way we handle it is not a one-time deal. Every day of our lives we are bombarded with trials and every time we fail, we repeat every whip, every thorn, and every nail pierced on the Sacred Body of Christ.

The Gospel tells us that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. (Mt. 4: 11) Despite He’s being the Son of God, Jesus wasn’t spared temptation; the difference though is He didn’t surrender but rather overcame it. The Spirit of God is in Him, and because of His obedience and devotion to the Father’s will, became victorious and triumphant. Similarly, when we surrender and give ourselves to God, with faith and prayer we can draw on the marvelous power of Jesus to resist temptation every single day of our earthly journey.

In this holy season of Lent, let us reflect on our capability and strength to handle the temptations that we face each day. Let us fortify our spirits through fasting, almsgiving and prayer, so that we will emerge victorious and triumphant. In the event that we stumble let us pray for the humility and audacity to accept our shortcomings and failures in front of God. Let us go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation so that we purify ourselves and become at least worthy of Christ’s love. This undying love is the one that made possible the redemption of unworthy sinners that we are. (Rom. 5: 17). Our efforts at overcoming sin will never be enough: we need Him to pass through. He will deliver, as promised. What is needed is a pure heart with a sincere, deep, abiding love for the Lord.

‘Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness; in your abundant compassion blot out my offense. Wash away all my guilt; from my sin cleanse me.’ (Ps. 51: 3-4)

God Assures Us of His Love

The love of God is something that only He can give, and just like the rain on a summer day, is a breath of fresh air. His love is there regardless of who we are. In the First Reading, we are reminded of how deep God’s love is, even more intense than the love of a mother. Whenever we see a person in the worst and most difficult of circumstances, people who we think no one loves, we know confidently that despite everything, that person’s mother would love him no less. And yet, the reading says,

‘Even should she forget, I will never forget you.’ (Is. 49: 15)

As if this isn’t enough, this Sunday’s Gospel tells us not to worry, not to be anxious, and to seek the Kingdom instead. God assures us that for as long as we seek His righteousness, all these things will be provided us His children. He tells us not to worry about life, what we’ll eat or drink, or what we’ll wear. He is truly a loving and caring God, only wanting the best for us! Our Parish Priest, Fr. Roy Rosales mentioned that this Sunday’s Gospel reading is one of his favorites in the Scriptures. I certainly agree!

In the Second Reading, we are reminded that the ultimate judge is God. We shouldn’t make any judgment on others, as we really don’t know the circumstances behind their actions and behavior. What we see outside may not reflect the real motives of their hearts and so we better reserve judgment. Anyway, the Lord will bring to light what is hidden in darkness, and will reveal the motives of their hearts. (1 Cor. 4: 5)

As the Lenten Season comes in very soon, we are invited to re-focus and to re-direct our priorities. Doing the things for God like feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and providing a home for those without shelter are certainly part of the needs of the Kingdom here on earth. Sharing what we have so that the needs of the least will be met should be top-of-mind. We should remember that we are only stewards of our talents and treasures, hence we should be discerning on how these will be put to use. Sharing is one of them.

Let us then respond wholeheartedly, knowing that in doing these to others, we give them a glimpse of the face of Jesus. Trust Him and don’t worry about your own concerns, for He has never failed in His promises.

‘My soul rests in God alone; from whom comes my salvation. God alone is my rock and salvation, my secure height; I shall not fall.’ (Ps. 62: 2)

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)

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