Sheep on the Right

With the Gospel readings the past weeks talking about the end of days, we’ve reached the culmination of the Liturgical Year, and what a fitting way to celebrate the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the King! The Gospel readings today provide insights into what’s important for the Lord Jesus and on how we live our lives. The judgments made by the Son of Man will be based on the acts of mercy and compassion that we’ve shown to the least ones — the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the ill, and the imprisoned. Indeed, Jesus, who suffered on the Cross, identifies Himself with the least, the lost and the last.

In the previous week’s the Parable of the Talents, the Gospel taught us that the gifts and abilities that God has bestowed on us have been given with the intention to be used for the service of others, especially the least in society. Jesus is telling us that whenever we have served these least ones, we have served Christ himself.

In my own experience, God is real and has always exceeded my own generosity; He gives cheerfully, abundantly and lovingly. This is all because He loves us unconditionally and never abandons us. He is our constant companion, always ready to assist us whenever we are in trouble. Likewise, this necessitates for us to be mindful and sensitive to the leadings of the Lord in our lives. We have to be sensitive to the Spirit to allow Him to move us, so that we can be His hands in helping others. Have you noticed it that when you pray for help and guidance, the Lord sends Angels to our aid? In a way, when we allow the Spirit to give us wisdom and discernment we can share ourselves with others because we are fully in tune with what the Lord wants us to do in particular moments. Besides unless we share ourselves with others, we can never be fully happier, right?

There’s a lot to be grateful for especially the richness of our family life, the blessings He has given us, and the peace of mind that we have, regardless of the challenges and problems that come our way. God’s abundance in giving and blessing us only shows how He loves us and that He wants us to be happy. This happiness will be complete whenever we reflect His generosity, cheerfulness, and love towards others — especially strangers. We have to demonstrate that what we have are meant to be shared whenever necessary. We have to realize that when we have that attitude of giving, we allow the Lord to use us to be His hands.

Giving generously. When we give, the Lord wants us to include those people outside our family and friends; He wants us to be generous as well to those who are most in need of help as these verses clarify,

‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ (Mt. 25: 40)

Being generous doesn’t exactly mean just simply giving, it means, in a way that shows a readiness to give more of something, especially money, than is necessary or expected. When situations arise such that our generosity is required, as followers of Jesus it is our turn to demonstrate that kind of generosity to the least, the last and the lost.

Giving cheerfully. The King will reward us when we give cheerfully and without reservation. Way back in college I knew of this classmate who was so generous with others, and he was always looking for ways to help and to give. He wasn’t selfish, he was such a caring person. His attitude simply inspires! And what a way God returns the blessings to him: while spending more time to God’s work, his business has grown more than expectations!

Giving lovingly. We can’t give generously unless our intention is governed by love. When our motivation is Jesus, when we see Him in the face of the poor, there can be abundant love to share with others,

“For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me,
ill and you cared for me,
in prison and you visited me.” (Mt. 25: 35-36)

Life is complete when we are selfless and loving with others. Doing this will make others happy and the fulfillment in doing comes back to us in the form of more happiness. Thus, when we want to be happy, we only have to give more of ourselves to others. It is then when we realize that acquiring more possessions and wealth don’t bring happiness; it is when we become mindful of the needs of others and share what we have in the name of Jesus that bring us deeper joy and fulfillment. Isn’t a giving, caring and loving life more wonderful?

As we close the year, let us reflect on how we’ve lived our lives:
Are we worthy to be in the company of the “sheep on the right”?
Are we ready to meet Our Lord Jesus Christ, the King?

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

Using Our Talents for God’s Purpose

I have a classmate from way back who never shared his talents, probably because of his very competitive nature. He was always aiming to get higher scores in examinations than the rest of us, but never cared about teaching or helping especially those who had difficulties catching on. Today, he’s just in a level above entry — when he could have been easily somewhere higher in his organization, if only he is more sensitive to others or have the inclination to teach and share.

Why is it that people keep their talents to themselves?

As we’re in the last week of the Liturgical Year, our Holy Mother Church again reminds us of sharing and not keeping to ourselves what God has given abundantly. The Parable of the Talents is one of the Gospel readings that is most often told especially about the day when we have to give an accounting of how we live our lives.

The third servant in question didn’t try to make more money on the amount he was given, he simply buried it in the ground until his master returned. When it was his turn to tell his master, he said,

‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter; so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. Here it is back.’ (Mt. 25: 24-25)

Obviously, he did not like his master. Or he could be envious and resentful. Remember he was only given one talent while the others were given more; five and two, respectively. Did he felt slighted that the others got more? Maybe he was even thinking that he is smarter, brighter, so why was he only given one talent? Of course, we read that they were given “each according to his ability.”

In our case how many times did we not do something or not use our talents, the gifts that God has blessed us with because of the anger, resentment, or jealousy that are within us? How many times did we not help our workmates just because he got a promotion that we thought we deserve more?

Or because we don’t like this person or government, rather than cooperate we simply are going to rant and attack the very situation we hate with more negativity!

How often do we do this? How many times did we say to God, “you’re being unfair and why others are getting more than us?”

These are issues that we have to search deep inside us and look at why, and ask the Lord to transform us and clear the anger, envy and resentment inside us if ever we want to make a difference in the lives of others.

What the Gospel is telling us is to make the best with what we’ve got, regardless of what we have. Whoever is in authority, we’ve got to set aside our feelings and selfishness and do the right thing even when no one is looking. The Champion in us has integrity, because we believe that God always has something good that’ll come out of any situation. Our talents and capacity for goodness can increase by twice, five or tenfold without our even realizing it. Then of course, the greater gift that is forever: the gift of Heaven.

As we prepare for the end times, may we remain steadfast and faithful to our true calling and the very purpose that we’re here for.

“Remain in me as I remain in you, says the Lord. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit.” (Jn. 15: 4a, 5b)

Stay Awake and Be Ready!

Early on I always thought that there are people who are just so talented in what they do, that I thought they must be aliens from outer space. They just do their crafts so well that for me, they’re just so amazingly blessed and so damn lucky. The world is full of examples be it in sports (Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, among others), business (Steve Jobs, Bill Gates), music (The Beatles) and in many other fields. Not until author Malcolm Gladwell came claiming that the key to achieving world-class expertise in any skill is to a large extent, a matter of practicing hard, so many times, in the correct and proper way. Yes, it’s about putting in effort, hard work and perseverance, that one achieves world-class excellence.

Similarly, going to Heaven also needs effort on our part. We can choose to be wise, like five of the ten virgins in the Gospel (Mt. 25: 1 – 13), or be foolish like the rest. The five foolish ones, when taking their lamps, “brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.” Since the bridegroom was delayed for a long time, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight when the bridegroom came, it was time for them to come out to meet him. So all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps, however; the foolish ones were running out of oil and said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ There wasn’t enough oil for them so the wise replied, ‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you. Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’ So they went off to buy it, but the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him and then the door was locked and they weren’t allowed to enter.

In this narrative, we are being exhorted to be always ready, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” (v. 13) We cannot be unprepared as we always have to be on the lookout for the coming of the Lord, which can be anytime, worst; it can happen possibly on the day we are least prepared. Our lamps have to be continuously refilled with oil so that we’ll be able to spread light in time for the coming of the Savior. The lamp symbolizes our Baptism while the oil symbolizes the Sacraments and the blessings that nurture our faith. Thus, whenever we go astray, we are said to be running out of oil, so we must go back to the right path to correct whatever sin or wrongdoing is done. The Lord is telling us that while we are blessed with grace by His redeeming Passion and Death, we can only rise with Him with our lamps lighted, as St. Paul said in the Second Reading,

“For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Thes. 4: 14)

While we cannot be perfect as only God is perfect, our obedience and submission to Him in deep humility and faith will enable His Holy Blood to cover our sins. In all our life’s struggles and challenges, we need wisdom and strength to discern what is good and what is bad for us. Not all bad is seen as it is for the enemy is deceiving and make us fall if we aren’t prayerful and careful enough. God assures us in the First Reading that,

“Resplendent and unfading is Wisdom, and she is readily perceived by those who love her, and found by those who seek her.” (Wis. 6: 12)

Let us pray for wisdom, humility and grace so that we will be ready when the Lord comes in His Glory.

“My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.” (Ps. 63: 2b)

Christ, Our True Master

Whenever you feel down and disappointed especially when your elders failed you, how do you respond to it? When your faith is tested, do you remain steadfast in your service?

Last week, a close friend told me that he felt so bad after being humiliated by an elder in the community. I told him not to be affected much, but instead pray for strength and humility. I reassured him that God knows everything, and that God’s blessing is what matters most in these moments of disappointment.

The Gospel’s main theme this Sunday is about consistency and pride. The Pharisees perform their works in order to be seen. Thus, Jesus told His disciples and the crowd, to do and observe all things that they (Pharisees) tell them to do, but not to follow their example.

“For they preach but they do not practice.
They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry
and lay them on people’s shoulders,
but they will not lift a finger to move them.
All their works are performed to be seen.
They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.
They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues,
greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’” (Mt. 23: 3-7)

Things aren’t different today either. There are people who talk and look good, project holiness in public, and yet their hearts are full of envy and hatred. Their actions speak of hypocrisy and inconsistency. How about us? Do we say this thing and then act differently? Do you realize that what you do is actually more revealing than what you say? It is said that who we are and what we are tell more about us than what we tell others about us. How we treat the restaurant waiter, the boy at the parking lot, the security guards manning our offices, and our helps at home tell more about who we are, than the façade we show to the world. Our actions are being observed by others without us knowing and realizing it.

When things get rough we are sometimes tempted to get back to those who have offended us. Yet, let us remember that living our faith requires us to understand that what is more important is how the Lord Jesus would want us to do, and that is live by His example of humility and meekness. We have to be patient with one another, with our neighbor so to speak.

In the world today, it’s a tough challenge to do this. But we have to stay the course. We have to let God come into our hearts and to view things from a different viewpoint — the Master’s point of view. The Spirit will tell us that the Lord is there, patiently forming us to become better versions of ourselves.

“You have but one Father in heaven and one master, the Christ.” (Mt. 23: 9B, 10B)