Hear God’s Call to Repentance!

We now prepare to hear Lent’s call to conversion and repentance. Today’s reading is part of the stories that describe Jesus’ trek to Jerusalem. In this journey, Jesus continues to teach and heal. He also responds to those who question and challenge his authority and actions. Jesus’ words at first appear to have a firm and determined tone in it. Essentially he is saying, “Repent or die as these people did; all are sinful before God and deserving of punishment.” It changes, however, in the parable that follows. The parable of the barren fig tree tells us the patience and hopefulness of the gardener with the pragmatism of the owner. When told to cut down the fig tree because it is not producing fruit, the gardener advises giving it a chance. With patience and with care, the barren fig tree may still bear fruit.

In this parable, we find an imagery of God as full of patience and hopefulness. He calls us to repent, as it is within His power to punish us for our failure to turn from our sinfulness. And yet God is merciful; He delays punishment and tends to us just like the fig tree, so that we may yet bear the fruit He desires from us.

Life is often a matter of falling and getting up again. Our fickleness makes us trip down over and over again. The fig tree was barren, but got another chance. Give it one more chance. God never points the accusing finger while there is still time. He always grants an extension, another chance at redemption! In our lives the prevailing feeling is that we are judged by God and then condemned. This is never the case.

However, let us not challenge the patience of God. Many times we see people dying unexpectedly as in accidents and calamities. Only God knows how they will fare in judgment day, especially those in the state of mortal sin. The possibility of hell is terrifying. Let us not give that possibility to happen to us. We must be on guard. Let us repent, and let us allow God’s mercy to envelope us. Let this Lenten season bring us to repentance and renew once more our commitment to the Lord.

“As the heavens tower over the earth, so God’s love towers over the faithful.” (Ps. 103: 11)

Seize the Moment of the Transfiguration!

In the winter mornings just before sunrise, a beautiful view can be seen from the garden of the then Fulbari Resort Hotel in Pokhara, Nepal. The Machapuchare (from Nepali meaning “fishtail”) mountains, where a part of the Annapurna range of the Himalayas can be seen from the distance, majestic and beautiful. Located in the Indian sub-continent, which is home to nine of the ten highest peaks in the world including Mt. Everest, Nepal is quite an interesting place to visit.

Mountains always provide a breathtaking sight, its depth and hues provide colors that make us gasp in awe and wonder. In the Gospels, whenever Jesus goes up the mountain, something important is going to happen: the Beatitudes, the Transfiguration, and the Ascension. In today’s Gospel,

“… Jesus took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray. While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.” (Lk. 9: 28-31)

Later, while Peter was still speaking,

… a cloud came and cast a shadow over them, and they became frightened when they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” (v. 33-35)

The three Apostles, who were asleep and have awakened to witness this event, became frightened when they were enveloped in the cloud. It must have been quite an experience, as they couldn’t explain what was happening. Not only that, seeing Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus became a life-changing experience. In the Old Testament, The cloud in the Scriptures is associated with the presence of God, as it is in the account of the Transfiguration. Here the disciples were given a glimpse of Jesus Resurrection. He wanted to show them who he is and his mission. Jesus knew that he is loved by his Father and this made him radiant and dazzling. He knew the voice of God was right, claiming him as His Son.

The disciples kept this event secret. We are told this Gospel early in Lent, though we have the benefit of knowing what is coming, unlike the disciples who have to witness His Passion and Death, did they fully appreciate the Transfiguration.

It is important to obey the command of the Father from the cloud: “Listen to Him!” If, like Abraham, we put our faith in God’s words, one day we too will be delivered and see the bounty of the LORD in the “the land of the living”, as declared in today’s Psalm. We will share in His resurrection, as Paul promises:

“He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself.” (Phil. 3: 21)

Throughout this Lenten season, let us pray that we be inspired even if we don’t have yet a similar Transfiguration experience. Let us believe that in time, perseverance in prayer may bring the experience of the cloud — just like the disciples — God’s majestic presence in our lives.

JOYS OF SERENDIPITY

Success in our mission includes laying out your schedules and having the discipline to fulfill it. There will certainly be distractions along the way. However, there are opportune moments presented to us that aids in our mission, moments we are not seeking for but have somehow found its way to us by a blessing from above. Seize it and value this serendipity.

In These Tempestous Times, We Can Still Emerge Victorious!

At the First Sunday of Lent, St. Luke’s Gospel narrates Jesus temptation experience after forty days in the desert. He may not have been in a good physical condition, having fasted and prayed all that time in hostile territory. Just like any human person, he was hungry. Then the devil took the opportunity to subject Jesus to all sorts of temptations, but he persevered. He was able to parry any attempt by the devil to cause him to sin.

Stress, anxiety, tiredness, and loneliness can often provide a situation conducive for succumbing to temptation. In these circumstances our natural defenses may be down, emotional or physical needs may be great, and submitting to temptation temporarily offers an easy way out.

However, the Lord also gave us His Word, the source of wisdom, guidance and strength. We can use the Word to lead us into the right way when fighting against temptation and the forces of evil.

St. Paul wrote,

“The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”
—that is, the word of faith that we preach—, for, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. For the Scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, enriching all who call upon him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Rom. 10: 8-13)

In life, there are situations that test us, especially when we’re asked to make a stand and thus strengthen our faith. As Fr. Armand likes to remind, “The Christian life is not only about avoiding evil, it also includes doing good”. Just like Jesus who emerged victorious over sin, we can also defeat the works of the devil and come out with our souls unscathed.

The Word is the best way to live our lives. Moses tells the people (and that includes us too) how Yahweh heard them and delivered them from oppression and brought them to the land flowing with milk and honey. Similarly, using the Word as guide in our daily lives help us make it a habit, eventually living with it as if our lives fully depend on it.

Let us therefore use the Word to help create our future living with God for all eternity.

Respond by Going Deep Water!

In one leadership development program many years ago, with a harness, I was forced to jump from a platform about twenty feet above ground. It was really so difficult at first, but on seeing others succeed and without getting hurt, I knew that I had to do it. Just like the others before me, I was successful as well.

After hearing Jesus preached while using the boat, his words may be so powerful such that Simon Peter followed his instructions to go into deep water. Prior to that, the fishermen were fishing all night long but caught nothing. Then, after following Jesus instructions, they got such a huge number of fish that their nets began to tear, and filled the two boats to almost sinking point.

There are many ways we can deduce as to what really happened in this Gospel story. Maybe the fishermen were fishing in the wrong place, or Jesus may have made all the fish in the lake swim in one place so Peter and companions can catch them. Or Jesus’ words may have encouraged Peter to go to a part of the lake where he normally may not have fished, because Jesus knew there were fish there.

The instruction from Jesus led Peter into going beyond what he set as limits to his fishing experience. While he knows his occupation, it was really something that went beyond his competence of fishing, he had no recourse but to follow what Jesus asked him to do.

In our own personal experiences, we are challenged by the Lord to go beyond our comfort zones, our own limits, which are imposed by fear, ignorance, disability, or simply an inadequacy of faith. This is the same Jesus that asked Peter to go into deep water; likewise we are being challenged to get out into the deep, because being with the Lord means change and personal growth. He knows we can step up to meet the demands of the situation.

Today’s readings all tell us about responding positively to God’s call to serve. In the First Reading, the prophet Isaiah heard the voice of the Lord and responded to the call,

“Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” “Here I am,” I said; “send me!” (Is. 6: 8)

St. Paul proclaimed in the Second Reading,

“For I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective. Indeed, I have toiled harder than all of them; not I, however, but the grace of God that is with me. Therefore, whether it be I or they, so we preach and so you believed.” (1 Cor. 15: 9-11)

These instances in the Scriptures assure us that the promise of Jesus is real. Just like when I first took the plunge twenty feet down, so it is with us in the challenges posed for us as the Lord’s disciples. Being afraid of change puts us into a restricted capacity and living in a comfortable situation creates limits for ourselves. We should realize that change is at the core of Jesus followers, and opening ourselves to the leading of the Spirit is such a liberating experience. Today is the day to ask Jesus where the deep water is, the place that’s unknown to us, the place where the harvests are, the place where the Spirit of God hovers above.

INSPIRED FOR THE SECOND TIME

Well delivered and highly motivational lecture. So inspired even hearing it for the second time. More power to “Fr. A” and we hope we could be accommodated again in the future. God bless you more and always. Please include the PNP and our Patrol Plan 2030 in your prayers po.

P/Chief Supt. Noel A. Baraceros

Experiencing the Love of Jesus More Deeply

It is typical for people to love others they know. Our human nature finds it easier to love another person when we know him. That’s why people always strive to get to know another before friendship and love develops. It isn’t the same with our God though, as the Almighty knows each one of us intimately, just like how He knows and tells Jeremiah that even before he was born, he was known by God and has been called to serve Him.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you,
a prophet to the nations I appointed you.” (Jer. 1: 4ff)

Today’s Gospel shares with us how the people approved of Jesus, yet they seem surprised. They still think of Jesus as merely a carpenter’s son, a commoner just like themselves. And their attitude towards Jesus turned on very quickly. They thought that they know Jesus, and thus didn’t expect such words from someone they believe that they know. He had stepped outside of the person they thought they had of him, and more than that, He quoted events to remind them of their indifference to the prophets. The people were all filled with fury that they drove Him out of town, and almost hurled Him down in the brow of the hill. But He passed through and went away. Through this Jesus assures us that He also had difficulties while on mission with the Father’s work. He didn’t waver at all; He persevered till the end. He was completely attuned to God, and knew the Father will not abandon Him.

Similarly, God has also called each one of us to His service as well. He has also given us the spiritual gifts we need to serve Him and build His Church. Spiritual gifts are gifts of grace – as they are meant to strengthen the Church – they enable us to overcome challenges and difficulties. This should assure us that when doing God’s work, we are not alone. Pope Francis often re-assures us that every command that God gave is accompanied by a promise. Always. Yes, God calls us to be loving, and the Scriptures spell out what that love looks like. It’s high standard, yes, but Christ also gifted us with the power to love as He loves, to be patient as He is patient, and to share His kindness with everyone around us.

While doing God’s work here on earth, we may feel inadequate, yet it’s “one of the most encouraging paradoxes of the Christian life: the more inadequate we feel, the more effective we can be.” (National Fellowship of Catholic Men)

Let us therefore take the time to pray and ask God for the grace to know and experience the love of Jesus more deeply, so that we can also share it with others.