Consuming Jesus!

The weekend was one great experience in that I experienced two major events: the tree-planting event at the mountains, and the family reunion of my Mother’s side. During the Sunday Mass offered during the reunion, our Celebrant shared with us the one prayer that priests say during the time they mix the wine and water, just before the Consecration,

‘As You share in our humanity, may we also share in your Divinity.’

This prayer is very meaningful because it tells of responding to Jesus’ generous love of sharing Himself as flesh and blood in order to raise us up on the last day. It speaks much because certainly our relationship with Him is life-giving. His love is nourishment for the soul and the spirit. He knows that our life is full of trials and challenges thus, we need strength and healing of the wounds, the bruises and the pains we experience while here on Earth.

As His faithful followers, we also share Jesus to others. However, unless we have Jesus, we can’t give what we don’t have. We have to be in a state of grace to be able to transmit that love to those in need of Jesus’ presence. When we give our time and talents for the sake of the Gospel, we are being the Eucharist to others. We are one in the Body and Blood with Jesus. We can only be such when we take seriously our Lord’s instruction to make the Eucharist as the true source of our nourishment.

As we continue reflecting on the Bread of Life, may we take heart in consuming Jesus in the Holy Eucharist — so that we may be transformed. Changing our own selves should be the ultimate driver and motivation of following Him till the end.

‘Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.’ (Jn. 6: 51-58)

Taste and See the Goodness of the Lord!

A few days ago, a January 15, 1995 video appeared in my FB page, showing then Pope now Saint John Paul II in Manila for the World Youth Day. The video showed about 4 million people attending the closing Mass, singing together, “Tell the World of His Love”. It was such a beautiful sight: the millions of people in attendance, while so many others still watching in their own homes all over the country and the world. Try singing the song with that crowd and I’m sure your eyes will be moist and your heart glowing with inspiration. If we can be touched that deeply, how much more the realization of Jesus’ love for us, the theme of that music, as manifested in His offering of His Body and Blood as nourishment of our souls.

As the past Sundays talk about the miracle in the desert, where God provided the manna for the Israelites, and then the Gospel about the miracle where Jesus fed the five thousand; yet all of these pale in comparison to the number of miracles happening every day, when the Bread and Wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ in the countless Masses celebrated all over the world. It is a treasure we all should know and cherish as the Church reveals to us the real worth and value of the Holy Eucharist. Jesus is the Living Bread who came down from Heaven, and He has promised us Eternal Life if we partake of it.

Yes, while reading through the Gospel today, the discourse of St. John seems to be the emphasis in the past weeks and for a couple more of Sundays to come, telling us the importance of the Body and Blood of Jesus. It is a not-so-easy topic considering that John talks about what is Eternal, Heaven, and God the Father, among others. These are topics that are difficult to explain, more so understand. But for one who has faith in God, there’s no need for an explanation, believing in it is enough.

Thus, given all these, now is the perfect time to ask ourselves, whether we are allowing God to draw us in, and do we embrace Jesus as our Lord and Savior, and let Him feed our souls? Or do we neglect it, get lost in the anxieties and worries of everyday life, so that He just gets pass us unnoticed? Maybe we should take heart in the advice to slow down, being mindful of what’s happening around us, so that as the Psalmist says, we can ‘Taste and see the goodness of the Lord!

‘I am the Living Bread that came down from Heaven, says the Lord; whoever eats this bread will live forever.’ (cf. Jn. 6: 51)

Enduring Faith

In our organizations, there is at least one team member who likes to complain. An example is the person who answers your every concern with a corresponding statement that is more often than not, a complaint rather than an explanation for his failure.

In the First Reading, the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron.
The Israelites said to them, ‘Would that we had died at the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our fleshpots and ate our fill of bread! But you had to lead us into this desert to make the whole community die of famine!’ They were ungrateful despite their delivery from slavery and were short in memory for what Yahweh has done for them. Yet God remained faithful to them despite their hardheadedness. So that the Israelites know that ‘I, the LORD, am your God’, in the evening twilight you shall eat flesh, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread,’ said the Lord to Moses.

We are in many ways like that, we always forget how the Lord’s goodness has sustained us throughout. In our journey, the road can get rough and tough, and when it does get worse, we can be tempted to complain like the Israelites do. When we encounter this situation, we have to look at it differently. We have to see these times of difficulties as a test of how dedicated we are in our mission, and see what is really the motivation in our hearts, and a reminder to endure hardships as a good soldier of Christ. (2 Tim.2: 3) Yesterday, when we were discussing about the purpose of the Barista Academy, we talked about the difficulties we can encounter, about how we can get tired and fatigued. Yet someone said, that ‘for as long as we are focused on our purpose, it’ll not matter.’

In the Gospel (Jn. 6: 24-35), after realizing that the people were looking for Him not because they saw signs but because they ate the loaves and were filled, Jesus tells His listeners ‘not to work for food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.’ Jesus as Man knows that life is filled with much work, but He also knows the need to remind us that the work we do today will soon be forgotten. He knows that what He offers will last forever. After Jesus tells the crowd that ‘the bread of God is that which comes down from Heaven and gives life to the world,’ they say to him ‘Lord, give us this bread always’. Somehow in their hearts at that moment they knew that there is something about Jesus that drew them closer to Him. They knew in their hearts that He was telling something deeper about the gift that He will give them, the Gift of Himself.

In our evangelization efforts, there will be times that people will abandon the faith after finding it to be just too hard to accept and to understand. But some will believe and stay close to the Lord.

Let’s hope and pray that we will be like the people who stayed with the Lord. May we remain steadfast in our faith that His Body and Blood, the real and authentic ‘Bread of Life’, will nourish every part of us as we continuously prepare to be worthy in receiving Him at Holy Communion. May this nourishment make our faith endure the difficulties we meet along the way. Finally, may we always remain grateful to the Lord for this awesome gift!

“The Lord gave them bread from Heaven.” (cf. Ps. 78: 24b)

Multiplying What Little We Have

There are times in our life that the circumstances we are facing are so daunting that we feel giving up and hopeless. We throw our hands and say, ‘Ayoko na, wala na ako magawa diyan’. However, this is a response of a non-believer, and the Church isn’t the place for the so-called ‘faithful’ who respond ordinarily. As a devoted follower of Jesus, we always speak about what is impossible given the situation, but pray and trust for the extraordinary to happen. Even in our missionary work, if we only think about our own strengths, we will not have enough to succeed. We need to leave space for God to work His power and might. Remember, the things that we do for the Church isn’t our work, it’s His’ and we are just His hands.

In the Gospel (Jn. 6: 1-15), when the Jewish feast of Passover was near, Jesus asked Philip, ‘Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?’ He said this to test him, because He himself knew what He was going to do. Philip answered Him, ‘Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little.’ One of His disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to Him, ‘There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?’

From these five barley loaves and two fish, everyone had their fill, and Jesus instructed His disciples, ‘Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.’
So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat. This clearly was a sign of Jesus’ Authority and Divinity. The Lord interprets the meaning and significance of this miracle as a sharing of His Body and Blood. John uses this Gospel story of the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes to teach about the Holy Eucharist. This miracle, just like the Last Supper, is not by mere coincidence that both are occurring near the time of the Jewish feast of Passover.

In both stories about the Eucharist—the washing of the disciples’ feet and the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes — St. John teaches us that the Eucharist is an action. In fact, the Holy Eucharist is both a sacrament and a sacrifice. Under the appearances of bread and wine, the Lord Christ is contained, offered, and received. It is stressed by the Church that the whole of Christ is really, truly, and substantially present in the Holy Eucharist. We use the words “really, truly, and substantially” to describe Christ’s presence in the Holy Eucharist in order to distinguish Our Lord’s teaching from that of mere men who falsely teach that the Holy Eucharist is only a sign or figure of Christ, or that He is present only by His power (EWTN Website). The word Eucharist is taken from the Greek language and describes an action: ‘To give thanks’. In the Eucharist we are fed by Jesus Himself, and we are sent to serve others.

Thus, this initiative of feeding us, and then sending us to serve others is a continuous flow of action. Everything that we do: our family life, Church work, career, advocacies, etc. will remain short and almost worthless if we keep these in our own hands. If we want to make these better and worthy to succeed, we need Our Lord who will offer to God the Father our own ‘five loaves and two fishes.’ We have to learn to let go and let God. This is the only way to multiply what little that we have into something abundant and meaningful. Small things these may be to us, but God will open the floodgates of blessings to make these enough to feed thousands of others.

The Lord is My Shepherd!

Recent medical findings indicate that many diseases have become what is called as “diseases of civilization”. According to years of research made by Dr. Stephen Ilardi, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Kansas, these include diabetes, atherosclerosis, asthma, allergies, obesity, cancer, and lately, including clinical depression. Most of these are traceable to changing lifestyles and habits. Because of changing technological, social, physiological and the tendency of people to search for more wealth, people have become sedentary, indoor, socially-isolated, fast food-laden, sleep-deprived, and having frenzied pace of modern life. We have become less-connected to other people. There’s more connectivity but less connectedness!

In our busyness, some aspects of life are being neglected resulting in an unhealthy lifestyle. And yet we are not created to be such. We were created to be active, healthy and social beings. We are supposed to connect with others and engaged in meaningful conversations. We are supposed to be reflective and contemplative as well. Therefore, we need to balance our lives and need to rest regularly to allow ourselves to be refreshed and re-energized.

In the Gospel (Mk. 6: 30-34), the disciples have become so busy that they ‘had no opportunity even to eat.’ Jesus said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” Even the Lord recognizes our frailty and humanity that we need to rest. One of my previous superiors would always ask us when our meetings were then threatening to steal our lunch, “Do we still have a lot for discussion this afternoon? If yes, then let’s have a break and resume at 1 PM.” There’s a need to rest, a time to re-charge.

Maintaining balance is needed in our spiritual, family, work, church, civic, academics, and other commitments of our life. When in one important activity, let’s devote our full attention to it. Let’s not be anxious about the other aspects as we lose present time over things that aren’t even happening yet.

As leaders in our homes, communities, church groups and others, we need to ensure that the people entrusted to us have adequate rest and balance in their lives. It is a challenge but it is needed to maintain sanity in this crazy world. Like Jesus, let us be good shepherds for them, caring for them, protecting them from the ‘hyenas’, ‘jackals’, ‘wolves’, and even ‘bears’ — the people who intimidate and harass them every day of their lives.

Also, the people who have — like the sheep in the Gospels — ‘strayed from the flock had to be sought out and brought back’ to the fold. Let us love and care for our people, so that ‘even when mixed with other flocks, could recognize the voice of their own shepherd and would come immediately when called by name.’

Ultimately, when we are in trouble and in pain, we can call on the Good Shepherd, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Psalms today (Psalm 23) is one that I know by heart, because every Catholic must recognize our dependence on God. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want (Psalm 23:1). Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock! (Psalm 80:1) We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture (Psalm 100:3). The Messiah is also pictured as the shepherd of God’s people: He will feed His flock like a shepherd, He will gather the lambs in His arms (Isaiah 40:11).

Our Lord told His disciples many times, that He is the Good Shepherd who is willing to lay down His life for his sheep. And He did that on the Cross! He is the ultimate protector of people in need of protection and care, always moved to respond with compassion.

May we offer our missions and our work to the protection of the Good Shepherd who is ever ready to give us help, strength, and refuge.

“The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.” (cf. Ps. 23: 1)

Obedience, Love, Trust

The drive back to Manila was partly new, quick, and scenic, as Fr. Armand shared a route that is not-so-known but beautiful, as it gave us an approximate 270-degree view of Manila, Laguna, Quezon, parts of Batangas and Cavite. We passed villages that seem to be rising with new resorts, restaurants, and stores that seem to be preparing for an economic boom that is soon to happen. While in a breath we were already in the lowlands, it didn’t stop me though from reflecting on the huge mission that lies ahead of us in the Barista Academy. It was good that over breakfast Father gave his thoughts on the organization, as it also provided everyone an understanding of the work that needs to be done, considering other responsibilities we also have.

In today’s Gospel, we read Jesus sending out the Twelve,

“…and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits.
He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick— no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic.” (Mk. 6: 7-13)

There are three main points here:

1. Jesus sent them out on His authority
2. He sent them two by two
3. He instructed them to take minimum provisions for the journey

Being given the authority to speak for the Lord is one privilege for those who participate in Jesus’ saving mission. When we engage in spreading the Gospel, we are not doing this on our own rather we are co-workers of the Spirit. This is the attitude that should be embraced by those who work in the Church, the parishes and lay missions. We are to be meek and humble, we are not to be scene stealers. We are not doing this to make ourselves famous or popular, no matter how noble these activities seem to be. Yet, when necessary, we speak, we respond to tough assignments, we don’t shun off from responsibility. We participate in the mission with humility and faith, and that we are doing this for the Lord.

Jesus sent them in twos because the Lord knows the importance of having a partner in the mission. He understands fully well that preaching the Gospel isn’t a breeze and so somebody providing support is important. In our ministries, we work with others and at times it can be difficult and trying as they may look at the job differently. And yet, despite our differences we have to learn to work with and accept others despite their limitations. Once in a while we even set back our own plans just so that an agreement is achieved.

Lastly, the Twelve are to go out with only the barest of provisions. No bread or money is needed. They are expected to rely on the goodwill of others, to rely on the fact that God will provide for their needs.

Similarly, we are to take on this mindset despite the difficulty of thinking that someone somewhere will share. Going on a mission nowadays with only the minimum essentials is nearly impossible and unimaginable. We can be so worried ourselves, how much more telling others to rely on God and lighten their luggage. As planners and being in the details, we can’t miss on the plan as to where the next meal should be, or where our accommodations are made. However, the value of relying on God and the meaning of His providence is lost. What the Lord is telling us is simple: just be focused on the assignment.

As we go and grow in mission, may we have the attitude of a servant: faithful to His mission,
understanding and caring for our co-workers in the Church, and trusting in the Lord’s providence.

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

My Grace is Sufficient For You

This weekend is quite important and special for the Code of Champions Team, specifically the Barista Academy. We went to Tagaytay and spent time putting in our thoughts and ideas on identifying who we are and established firmly our identity. We talked about our reason for existence (Core Purpose, as Collins and Porras refer to it) and our vision (Envisioned Future). Fr. Armand, who came the following day (he didn’t join the First Day in order to give us the independence to do things on our own), gave us valuable insights into how we organize ourselves, considering the delicate balance between our other commitments and responsibilities as well. At the close of the Planning Process, we reflected on the readings during the Holy Mass that Fr. Armand celebrated.

These Sunday’s readings seem so timely and providential in that the messages articulate what God is telling us as we begin another phase of this journey which was started before the turn of the century. Of particular interest is the concern that we all feel unworthy of this mission, but St. Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians rings loud and clear that we be clothed with humility and consider our weaknesses as an opportunity to exercise our trust in Him, for He has said, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ (2 Cor. 12: 7–10)

The Champion is humble and he is a person who is one that, ‘hindi umaagaw ng eksena’. Humble servants trust in the Lord and they acquire humility in prayer and reflection.

How do we know we’ve succeeded? It is in simply knowing that we’ve tried and done our best as we can, and loved as much as we can. The fulfillment isn’t monetary or honor or adulation from the crowd; it is simply in knowing that we’ve given our all.

How do we deal with rejection and oppression? Fr. Armand further said that we take comfort in the fact that even Christ was rejected and oppressed (Mk. 6: 1-6), thus it can happen to us as well. Provided that we fix ours on Jesus, everything will be worthwhile in the end.

As we go and grow in mission, may we have the attitude of a servant: humble, persevering and trusting in Jesus.

“Our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for His mercy.” (Ps. 123: 2)

Do Not Be Afraid, Just Have Faith!

One of my closest friends in High School became a victim of the big ‘C’ at an early age, just some years after she started practicing Medicine. She was quite bubbly when we were in High School; aside from that she was very helpful to her less-gifted classmates, a reliable friend, very humble, and lived a full life of service to God and others. People thought God shouldn’t have taken her, as she was still in the peak of career and work. A great and rewarding life was still waiting ahead of her. Why did God allow it to happen?

Many times in our life experiences, we overlook the abundant love that God has for us. We think that God isn’t affected whenever we have problems but that isn’t the case. When we’re sad, God weeps with us too.

In the Gospel today, Jesus showed the crowd how He loves others, even in the face of ridicule. The raising to life of Jarius’ daughter was a case in point,

While he was still speaking, people from the synagogue official’s house arrived and said,
“Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?” Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” (Mk. 5: 21 – 43)

The crowd thought there’s no more point disturbing the Lord since the girl of twelve has died. But Jesus called for faith even when all seemed lost. In between this story, a woman afflicted with hemorrhage for twelve years, who had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors, came behind Jesus in the crowd and touched His cloak. She had actually spent all that she had, yet her situation only grew worse. In other words, she was in a state of hopelessness! But she trusted the Lord and in her despair, she found her only hope in Jesus. She fell down before the Lord and told him the whole truth.

He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”

These stories of Jesus’ compassion for the hopeless also tell us not to give up when all seem lost. He reassures that He is there with us in the journey. In the First Reading, the Book of Wisdom tells us,

‘God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living.’ (Wis. 1: 13ff)

He did not make hatred, wars, climate change, racism, or immorality. He did not make selfishness, disrespect, pride nor does He sugarcoat lies into truth. He does not want all the suffering that is in the world today. ‘For God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him. Yes, God created us in His own image and likeness, but He also gave us free will to choose between good and evil. Then when Adam and Eve fell, it was like, ‘But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who belong to his company experience it.’

All the trials and challenges we face are not the end in itself. These are meant to make us stronger, better, and smarter. We shouldn’t look at these grimly but with fervent hope that something good will come out of these, if not in this life, in the great beyond. Even should it result to death, we should rejoice that it will give us everlasting life. Thus, we should be more thankful if given the opportunity to dedicate our lives to God.

Fr. Armand always likes to remind that,

‘In order to be truly happy, you should inspire others. When others become inspired, you make them happy. When you see others becoming happy because of what you did, you actually become happier. So, it really means that, being happy is not really about you, but is about inspiring, sharing and giving of yourself to Jesus and to others.’

This Sunday, we are presented with a challenge: Do we recognize that our life has a greater purpose than just getting old and eventually dying?

Let us trust that God will create good from evil and He will turn any misfortune into a blessing beyond our imagination. We just need to fully trust Him. Our faith will tell us not to rationalize what’s happening, we just need to cling to Him, hold on, and need not be afraid.

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

Be Bold, Be Brave!

When Alexa was still a baby, we would often wonder how she will be when she’ll be going to school. As a child she was very inquisitive, was into a lot of things, and had that eyes full of wonder and awe about what’s around her. As work would require me to be out of home for long periods, Alma and myself have decided to adapt to the concept of school, from the traditional four-walled classroom into the spherical world and beyond. Our daughter’s curiosity and frequent questions would often set me thinking what will she be like in the future?

In the verses before the Gospel reading this Sunday, the birth of John the Baptist has been announced by the Archangel Gabriel to Zechariah, who was performing his duties as priest in the Temple of Jerusalem. At this time, Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, are an old couple who have never had children. Then, six months into Elizabeth’s pregnancy, the Archangel Gabriel announced the birth of Jesus to Mary in her home in Nazareth. Mary, while being engaged to Joseph, have not yet come to live together.

When the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, her neighbors and relatives rejoiced with her because God has shown her mercy in the birth of a son. When the time came for the child to be given a name, they became confused when she tells them that his name is to be John, which means “God has been gracious.” Zechariah became mute since the time Gabriel appeared, because, unlike Mary, he doubted the angel’s word. The people are now all amazed but fearful at the same time. In the reading, everyone who heard these things took them to heart saying, “What, then, will this child be?” Taking them to heart means, “meditating in your heart”, unlike when thought is being processed in your mind. When you do that, you are bringing the process of thought, prayer, and applied consideration into your heart.

But this question has already been answered by the angel. “He will be great in the sight of the Lord. He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.” (v.15, 16) Today, the importance of St. John the Baptist is such because 1) His message is calling for repentance as the precursor of Jesus Christ, the Savior, 2) He is the prophet considered as the bridge between the Old and the New Testament, and 3) He is the voice of one calling in the desert. Indeed, his importance is of such magnitude that in the Catholic Church, there are only three personalities with their birthdays celebrated in the Liturgical Calendar namely, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and St. John the Baptist. (All other feast days of saints refer to the time they died.)

In perspective, do we really know what a prophet is? When people are asked, “What is a prophet?”, most will likely say “he is a person who can predict or tell what will happen in the future”. But that is not what God calls a person to be a prophet for, rather, a prophet is one who “speaks in behalf of God.”

At times in our life we are asked to speak up to our families, friends, or community about what should be the appropriate response. However, it will take more than courage to be a prophet. People demand credibility and good example before one is taken seriously. This is one that requires spiritual maturity and mental toughness. While one can be hesitant, it is a call from God that one can’t resist. It can’t just be a call by another spirit, it has to be the Spirit of God. Many prophets though try to evade the call but you can’t say ‘no’ to God. Even if you feel unworthy of the task, God will equip you for the mission at hand. Take the example of Moses, Jonah, and many others. Even some of the disciples felt unworthy but God can’t be denied.

On this Solemnity of the Birth of St. John the Baptist, let us reflect on his life which he offered unselfishly to God. Will the answer to the question asked by your parents on the day of your birth, “What, then, will this child be?”, be one that they can be proud of? May we draw inspiration to become bold and brave in proclaiming God’s message to His people.

“Since my mother’s womb, you have been my strength.” (Ps. 71: 6)

Our Purpose

My Aunt Ciony likes to share pictures of the colorful and beautiful flowers she’s raising in her garden. Her photos include also those that are yet to bloom and you can imagine how she feels if one plant doesn’t flower well or is late in blooming. Patience, care and hard work are among the traits needed to raise seeds into great plants.

Our Gospel today speaks about the kingdom of God,

“It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.” (Mk. 4: 26-34)

It is a parable that is quite easy for us to relate to, as farming is a common occupation many years back around this beautiful country. We understand that planting and raising a great tree is a slow process and is without shortcut. Starting from a tiny seed, great potential is realized after much watering, caring and shielding from the threats to its life.

Just like the tiny seeds, we also consider ourselves so small compared to the vast universe, or even our own earth. Looking at it we can even look at ourselves as so insignificant to be even counted! Yet, we are also endowed with so much potential.

Each of us can grow into something much larger throughout the course of our lives. Look at your own self, how you have done a great job so far, considering the difficulties and challenges that you’ve went through. This has nothing to do with the degree you’ve achieved, but it’s more on what you do with what you have or what is given you. More often than not, people who feel that they are part of the least actually end up with accomplishing some of the greatest achievements just like the mustard seed. Yet the most important element in this success is not of our own making, but it’s really allowing God to fulfill His plan for us. Letting go of our own selfish desires and leaving all to God to grow us into the majestic tree that He meant us to be.

Once in a while the Master Gardner will trim us of our pride and selfishness just as even the biggest trees in the world need to be cut of its leaves from time to time, so the younger trees can rise up and grow as well. Trees with the most abundant foliage even have to lose their leaves during winter so that they can bloom brighter in the next season. At times we need to go through different challenges and trials in order to gain a new mindset though at other times the seasons are brighter. The Lord is telling us that it’s not really about how tall and lush or pretty the tree is, that defines whether it is a good one. It’s about its roots, and how deep these go down the earth and what they are capable of doing.

Similarly, it’s not about how important we think we are – but it’s about our intentions and reasons behind everything we do. How deeply are we rooted in Christ, and in our faith so we can handle those challenges and those blessings that come to us in life. Yes, blessings are included. Sometimes the Lord endows us with material wealth to test us how we handle life’s good moments. What is our purpose in what we do? Do we relish hard work and all that it can provide and doing the best job we possibly can and experiencing our full potential in everything we do? This applies not only in our service to others, but in our own spiritual growth, the ultimate determinant of what defines us, because it brings us closer in intimacy with the Lord.

However, many times we get so caught up in what we do and our careers that we fail to see and hear from God what our true calling may be and what He expects from us. Only God knows our fullest potential, and yet so often we fail to simply ask Him to show it to us. Our pride will prevent us from asking God in prayer what are His plans for us.

We all can choose our paths. We can all discern about what Jesus would do in any situation we are in, and how we should be treating others, and how we should embrace everything in life as a blessing. The attitude of being grateful in all circumstances. At its best, we all have so much God-given potential in our life. We just need to realize it, get out of the way and let the seed grow.

“The seed is the word of God, Christ is the sower. All who come to Him will live forever.”

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