Have a Change of Heart

When we were still in school, one of the frequent sad moments in our family happen when we the children leave home on Sundays to go to our grandparents’ home, or in boarding house when we’re in high school and college. Sundays during the school year were always ”goodbye” days, and were always something we didn’t exactly look forward to. Before leaving, our parents would always remind us to study and work hard, and to be obedient to our teachers and elders, among others.

The same theme is shared, as knowing that He’s leaving His disciples soon, He made sure that they care for one another by saying to them,

“My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jn. 13: 33-35)

Jesus taught them this because He wants this to define who they are as Jesus followers. He reminds us that the Christian life is not shaped by the absence of Jesus’ but by God’s abiding presence; Jesus has to assure them in order to overcome their anxieties about His absence. He should inculcate in their minds that they should be hopeful as the seeds of a bright future shaped by love is held in their hands. They are to be the bearers of the Good News to the ends of the earth.

Similarly, as Christ’s followers, we are to show love for one another, especially for our families and neighbors. The spirit of caring and giving should be like Jesus to His disciples, or like parents to their children. Furthermore, we are called to expand that love we normally give to family and friends, to our neighbors and even enemies. In order to follow Christ, we are to go beyond the boundaries of our families. To give us the courage in our difficulties, we are exhorted to remain faithful, to persevere, as “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14: 22).

Lord God, give us the strength to remain faithful to you, as the road is narrow and with lots of difficulties and challenges. Teach us to love you and our neighbors as you have loved us even more.

Our Good Shepherd

Years ago, I had the wonderful experience of attending a Lenten recollection conducted by then Bishop of Imus Chito Tagle, now Cardinal and Archbishop of Manila. One of the parables he reflected on was the Parable of the Lost Sheep. While it was simple, the insights I obtained were deep and imprinted a lasting memory. Particularly interesting was the thought that the lost sheep was “weak, dull, and rejected”. Probably, the same sheep may have been lost a number of times, yet even if the sheep could be ignored, the shepherd leaves the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it (perhaps again and again). And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon arrival home, he calls his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep’. (Lk. 15: 4-6)

This Sunday we reflect on the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd who is devoted and faithful guardian of His flock. The fourth Sunday of Easter is known as Good Shepherd Sunday, and it is the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. We reflect on the role of the Bishops and Priests as they’re designated to lead, feed, nurture, comfort, correct and protect God’s flock — roles important to Church leaders. The earliest Christians saw Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Today’s Gospel offers us both comfort and great challenge. The comforting message is that when we are part of the flock, nobody can snatch us out of His Father’s hands (Jn. 10:29). The challenge is that Church and lay leaders alike should be good shepherds to those entrusted to their care. “Good” especially refers to being beautiful, faithful, caring, persevering. The Lord is so patient with us despite our weaknesses and fickle-mindedness.

Being a part of the flock is one great blessing. Jesus continues to comfort us, making His presence felt, sometimes in the simplest of ways but always profound in their effect. Jesus’ words are accompanied by peace, grace, and can always be trusted as these are coming from the One who cares for and loves us in every aspect of who we are. Jesus knows us far more deeply and comprehensively than how we even know ourselves.

“For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Rev. 7: 17)

New and Fresh Commitment to Serve

After all the events of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Our Lord, the Apostles must have experienced such mixed feelings of emotional and psychological pain. They must have been confused as well, such that it must have been a relief when Simon Peter told them “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We also will come with you.” Peter must be trying to return to his previous life, perhaps trying to forget the events of the crucifixion of his Lord. They must have tried at a therapy by doing the ordinary in order to relax their troubled minds.

And then came our merciful Savior in search of His band of frustrated and disappointed disciples in the middle of their “therapy”. He then appeared on the shore and offered them a suggestion of how to catch fish, after being told that they haven’t caught anything. Then after hauling such a huge number of fish, Jesus prepared them a grilled fish breakfast. For Peter, it was followed by a deep and meaningful healing encounter, after the painful realization that he had denied our Lord three times. To clean the slate, Jesus asked Peter “Do you love me?” three times.

When we are troubled and worried, it is good to go out of ourselves and just do something ordinary and familiar. It gives space and relaxes our minds, and it also rests our broken hearts. It is a way of stopping our tendency to get worried and anxious, but more importantly, it provides Jesus the space to walk into our lives in a way that He can’t do when we are worried and troubled.

Aside from telling us to go into the ordinary, the Gospel also tells of the power of obedience to God’s will and direction in our lives. Jesus illustrates that when we insist to do things on our own designs, we can fail. He shows that when we submit our lives to Him, we will succeed in our mission. We must endeavor to bring others to the Church, as this is an important mission each of us is tasked to do while on earth. Doing it though is only part of the whole mission; we have to be shepherds as well to the lambs and sheep in the fold. Peter, who denied Jesus three times, and who professed his love for the Lord three times as well, was chosen for the quality of his love to serve as leader of the Church. His foremost mission is to care for the sheep and lambs, the weakest and the most vulnerable. And yet, the reward for Peter’s fidelity to his mission is martyrdom. Fr. Armand used to say that many have become martyrs and gave up their lives for the sake of the Gospel and the Catholic Church. The saints have seen something precious and important in giving up temporary happiness while on earth, in order to gain Heaven and eternity. They have found the pearl of great price and have made the conscious decision of loving God more than life itself. Just as the Risen Lord commissioned Peter to undertake a mission on His behalf, so the natural consequence of following Jesus requires us to share ourselves and our Faith with others.

Let us pray that our love become pure, and that we won’t succumb to the temptation of denying our Lord. The success of our mission and the depth of our love for God will be measured by our ability to rejoice when we are called to suffer for Jesus. In the end, as long as we remain faithful, we can become like Peter and share the Good News to others, with love for Jesus as our inspiration.

BE PASSIONATE ABOUT YOUR LIFE

Do you feel like everything is happening in your life all at the same time? Everything must be done and taken cared of: work, family, personal interests and community. Instilled discipline starts by being intellectually honest. Keep the motivation going but choose a priority that needs attending to at the moment. The rest can wait.