Prepare the Way of the Lord!

The grasses are the dominant plants growing in many habitats and if only contiguous, these perennial species cover about 31% of the Earth’s land mass. It is one of the most widely distributed and abundant group of plants, and is found in almost every continent, absent only in Antarctica. Grasses include Poaceae or Gramineae, which also covers the cereal grasses, and bamboos. Their structures are unusual in that the meristem is located near the bottom of the plant; hence, they can quickly recover from cropping at the top. They just sprout endlessly, year in and year out in a seemingly unending cycle of cutting and growing back.

The book ‘The Gene’ written by S. Mukherjee is quite an interesting read. It tells about the history of genes and genetics from Charles Darwin’s time up to the present state of knowledge and science. What amazes me so much is that while scientific investigation has revealed interesting insights about how messages and codes are encrypted in the DNA through protein sequencing (rather than exact ‘messages’), the ultimate reason for its complexity and uniformity is obviously the flawless intelligence of the Almighty God. The patience by which scientists and researchers have done these studies is remarkable, having crossed many generations and boundaries in a time span of a century and a half. Needless to say, this tells how difficult and challenging it is to comprehend the human genome. Even with that, mankind has gone a long way since then. This journey has been both productive and messy. Productive, because Man has made significant progress in civilization and technology; and messy, because there are instances in history that Man was reckless and disobedient to the will and plan of God. Man hasn’t changed much on that respect, actually.

Despite this, God is patient. Very patient.

Throughout salvation history, we can see that God’s people have been cut down by forces of evil and destruction, though much of these are due to their own errors and doing. Even today, this is happening, as chaos and confusion brought about by years of indifference and hopelessness have affected the way people think about the world at large. This is partly due to failure of leaders in the past, who have abused and deprived them of their share of God’s wealth and blessings.

Yet through these years, God’s design has been there: worked, tested and validated to work in the present and in the future. In Jesus’ time, Israel has been cut down to a stump, looking hopeless, with no sight of unity forthcoming. They’ve been divided and it seems that there’s no chance this will be corrected. Especially that they were then under the Romans, without legitimate leaders as the Pharisees and Sadducees have abused and depressed them all the more. But they were a people hopeful that the Savior long foretold by prophets will finally come and liberate them from this situation of perplexity.

Thus, God showed that the stump of Jesse isn’t dead. As the Prophet Isaiah said,

‘On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.’ (Is. 11: 1)

This shoot would not only rejuvenate Israel, but also spread and rekindle the world as well. When Jesus came on that first Christmas night, salvation sprang into action. No matter the circumstances and hardships that cut us down to size, if we fix our eyes on Jesus, life can shoot from us too. The choice is ours to make.

Let a new life spring from our spirits this Advent Season, that in doing so we rekindle the dying embers of our relationship with Jesus. We need to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation to make this a reality. Before a grain of barley (an important grain in making beer) begins to germinate, there is a certain time that is awaited — called the dormancy period. It differs from variety to variety, and is affected by weather conditions. Just like the seeds that are germinated and grown in due season, we shouldn’t allow our own dormancy to make Jesus wait longer, or else Advent will be another lost opportunity to renew and revive our loving relationship with Him.

As St. John the Baptist prepared the way of the Lord, let us also prepare for His coming. Let us seek His forgiveness and listen to Him in prayer and reflection.

‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths: all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’ (Lk. 3: 4, 6)

Crossing Barriers

Amidst all the strategic planning and goal setting, the HEART for implementation is an essential element to a successful outcome. You won’t last if your heart is not into it. And communication is vital in making sure that the purpose for doing so reaches everyone.

Our Lifelong Preparation

People often say that the Philippines celebrates the longest Christmas Season in the whole world. From as early as September and stretching even up to the last week of January, shopping malls and stores put up their decorations and accessories too early — and even while the Christmas Season is still a long time away.

However, the Gospel passage is very appropriate at this time when the Church starts the Advent Season, in the preparation for the great feast of Christ’s birth. The decorations and as well as the events everywhere are just fleeting and temporary, compared to the mystery of the Blessed Mother’s virgin birth. Our Lord Jesus came so that we might have Eternal Life!

His coming this Season is a reminder for us to ‘be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.’ (Mt. 24: 44) Yes, our death is linked with the coming of the Savior, for it is in our faithfulness to Him that we also gain Eternal Life. We have to realize and bear in mind that death can be unexpected. We should not fear that scenario though for as long as we nurture and care for our relationship with God. As long as one’s relationship with Jesus is secure and grows into maturity and fullness, one will accept death with the confidence of knowing that eventually he will meet Jesus our Lord and Savior.

This Advent Season, let this attitude of standing vigilant and ready for God provide us a template for our spiritual preparation. In this quest, unlike the temporal preparations of the world at large; there is never a ‘too early’ situation. We need to be awake and prayerful as we wait in earnest for His coming. Advent therefore should be our lifelong anticipation of His coming, and as well as a preparation for our own final journey to Heaven.

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

The King is the Greatest Love of All

The ways of God are very different from the ways of man. Just like in today’s Gospel, as it is the Solemnity of Christ the King; instead of talking about royalty, majesty and power, St. Luke talks about the suffering of our Lord. It was a poor, painful, and pitiful death. Far from being the King that Jesus Christ truly is!

Come to think about it, God wants us to know the way to Heaven. The message of humility, unselfish love, and patient suffering are again brought to our attention. The Gospel aptly presents the possible responses we make in times of crisis. We can either mock and abuse Him, as the other thief, the crowd and the soldiers were doing. Our attitude can also be like the good thief, who believed that Jesus really did nothing wrong. He was firm in his faith that our Lord is indeed King although His Kingdom is not an earthly one. As such, He has the power to intervene for his intentions in the afterlife.

Our response to human suffering is something that we have to watch out. During these difficult circumstances, there is a choice to turn to Jesus as a sign of eternal hope. There is also an option to reject Him. Sometimes after a death of a loved one, a terminal illness or a disaster, the first response after the shock can be anger about what happened. We tend to blame God or other people. Especially when we are serving Him faithfully, experiencing suffering seems unjust and unfair. So we blame Jesus for what is happening to us. Just like the other thief.

In this last Sunday of the Liturgical Year, we are taught about the importance of knowing and thinking God’s way. We must embrace His example of forgiveness and powerlessness. Christ teaches us that being truly human is when we renounce ourselves in love. We can never experience true happiness if we don’t fall in love. Falling in love is natural and simple, but it is also extraordinarily beautiful. In truly loving others, we learn to forget about ourselves, and our own dreams and aspirations. It gives us the ability to share everything we own, and to give oneself in genuine love, just like what Jesus did.

The perfect model of love.

Our true King and Savior is the one who has been mocked, rejected and crucified, but in spite of it all, responds in love and who alone is the greatest love of all.

‘For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross [through him], whether those on earth or those in heaven.’ (Col. 1: 19-20)

Do Not Be Afraid

The readings this Sunday spell something that speak of the end of days. It makes one worry and anxious, if not terrified. It can confuse as well. What we also don’t know is how Jesus spoke these words to His disciples; it matters a lot in understanding how the message was conveyed.

Jesus knew how difficult the future will be for His loyal followers. However, reflecting on the Gospel deeper, we find Jesus words reassuring and comforting. He mentioned that ‘such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.’ (Lk. 21: 9). Further, our Lord said that ‘not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.’ (v. 18-19).

I remember the time when my younger sister Karen called me telling that Dad is in the hospital after a heart attack. Crying, she told me that Dad has been unconscious for some time and the chances of surviving are bleak. My first reaction was something I couldn’t comprehend. For some moments I was just staring blankly and helplessly through the distance, as if something invisible has been ripped apart and disappearing fast into the night. While it wasn’t my first taste of death, it was happening on someone very close to me, and who at that time was in a good state of health. It was a lot to process and to think about. I didn’t know what to think actually. Slowly, the whole event sunk in and I realized that someone very close to me is gone in the blink of an eye. Someone who I looked up to with much love and respect. Someone I didn’t imagine losing to heart failure.

Ferment will come into our lives. Our existence will be snuffed out when we least expect it. This is real and certain. Life is fleeting and can end in a moment. And when it does happen, we can’t take anything with us in our journey to meet God. We can only bring the good that we do, the memories we share, and the legacies our presence bring to others. That is why, we need to take everything that God gives us in life as a gift and a blessing. For everything that He allows us to experience, we must take it as grace, even for things that hurt. Because we take on His promise that before the joyful end comes, there will be misery, pain and uncertainty. We may not be able to understand why. But we should take these things in stride and be confident knowing that these will make us stronger and better persons.

The challenge is how to persevere and trust that better times will come. Even when it looks bleak, we shouldn’t stop loving and caring. We shouldn’t stop living. We should stay faithful.

Let us prepare for these events, let us continue to work on our faith. Strengthen our confidence and trust in Him, that He will get us through this vale of tears and into Eternity.

‘By your perseverance you will secure your lives.’ (Lk. 21: 19)

INVITATION TO ATTEND

Inviting HR and Training friends, as well as management people who want to put soul into their leadership repertoire to register for the CODE OF CHAMPIONS SEMINAR, to be given by the author himself Fr. Armand D Robleza SDB together with his friends from Soul By Design Inc. which will be held on December 10, 2016, Saturday, 8AM – 5PM at the Saint John Bosco Parish, Makati City.

Your investment of P2,500.00 covers everything except lunch. Only pre-registered participants will be entertained. Contact Madz Nayve, 09175034378;
Email- soulbydesign@yahoo.com.

See yah all! (father A)

INVITATION TO ATTEND

Inviting HR and Training friends, as well as management people who want to put soul into their leadership repertoire to register for the CODE OF CHAMPIONS SEMINAR, to be given by the author himself Fr. Armand D Robleza SDB together with his friends from Soul By Design Inc. which will be held on December 10, 2016, Saturday, 8AM – 5PM at the Saint John Bosco Parish, Makati City.

Your investment of P2,500.00 covers everything except lunch. Only pre-registered participants will be entertained.

Contact Madz Nayve, 09175034378;
Email- soulbydesign@yahoo.com.

See yah all! (father A)

Eternal Life is for Real

The Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, tried to humiliate Jesus by asking him a tricky question. They tried to trap him, or lead him to say something that contradicts the law. So they asked about a woman who could not conceive and seven brothers who died trying to uphold the law and took care of her, providing for her and trying to carry on the family name. The woman eventually died too. Imagine the anguish and pain she must have felt for not being able to conceive, and then having each one pass away.

In the First Reading, seven sons are tortured and killed for their faith. A mother watches in horror, finally succumbing to the same fate.

In both these stories, there is immense pain and tragedy. While these happened thousands of years ago, these are also stories of today. At some point in our lives, we have to endure pain and tragedy. All of us, at some point have to ask ourselves, “Do I believe in Heaven? Do I believe that I will have eternal life with God?”

Without knowing it, some people exhibit a mentality that seem not to believe in Eternal Life, that seem to think that everything leads to a dead end. That we are just a mere earthly existence. It was the very people who were fixated with life here and now that sent Jesus to his death, the High Priests and the rest of us in this earthly culture who act like there’s no tomorrow; like they do not believe in eternity, like they do not appreciate the reality of the Living God.

Instead of hiding in our bedrooms and wallow in our sufferings, we must pick up ourselves and go out into the world. Watch a UAAP basketball game. Enjoy watching the children play in the park. Check the people swimming in the beach. Volunteer in the Church’s fund-raising group. Teach a Catechism class.

Yes, we should be filled with hope! We should be around when family, friends and others need us. Allow God to use us and look for God in others. The battle is waging, and this is not an ordinary one. The evil one is actively pursuing souls unsure of life’s final destiny.

In the Second Reading when he recognizes the evil one in perverse and wicked people, as well as people who don’t have faith, St. Paul said,

‘…Brothers and sisters, pray for us, so that the word of the Lord may speed forward and be glorified, as it did among you, and that we may be delivered from perverse and wicked people,
for not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one. We are confident of you in the Lord that what we instruct you, you (both) are doing and will continue to do.’ (2 Thes. 3: 1-4)

Let us pray for expectant faith, and that we persevere in doing God’s work here on earth.

‘Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.’ (Ps. 17: 15b)

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