Yes, My Lord!

I remember the time when a colleague invited me to join the Catholic Community he and his wife belonged to. I always said “I’m busy”, besides, I hardly had enough time then (and actually even now) to spend on organizations after spending a lot of time in those and other extra-curricular activities almost my entire student life. I thought that since I’ve served the Lord starting young as an acolyte in my Parish, there is no longer a need to serve further. I know it’ll demand time and energy aside from my own resources. I avoided the conversation and tried to keep off him occasionally. Then the day came when I felt a strong urge to try it. I thought that maybe the Lord wants me to serve again. So I finally said “Yes”. But it has never been that easy. My work requires lots of travel and at times I get assignments away from home. Not to mention that God has gifted our family with a special child who needs more attention than boys and men his age. The difficulties are always there, but all the more I feel deeply grateful for the special graces that serving the Lord has blessed my family with.

God calls many times those who serve and love Him. Not only once, not twice, but many times over. The challenge though is in knowing that the Lord is calling. You may find it difficult to discern but once you’ve started spending time with God in prayer, in reaching out to Him, He’ll definitely embrace you like a long-lost child. He is always there, patiently waiting for us to go and reunite with Him. But don’t set it aside, instead live on it, and nurture it. Practice it. To put it more clearly, practice makes perfect. Not only in sports, but in other matters of life, especially in our spiritual life. Moreover, it is said that it’s not how we start, but how we finish it. We have to pray unceasingly in order to keep the gift of grace that’s given by the Lord. Yet it isn’t really about our faithfulness; it’s still about God’s faithfulness which is forever.

Fr. Armand warned that it isn’t an easy life; God will give us the opportunity to “practice” it. He will allow trials to come in order to “practice” and prepare us for more. It’ll not be only for our own good, but this will be for others who would need our help later on. Allowing us the grace to overcome trials will toughen us, strengthen us, and mold us into better Christians. And God would be able to use us mightily for spreading His goodness and grace to others.

The announcement by the angel to Mary is the one revelation that all the prophets of old have talked about. It is the mystery kept secret since before the foundation of the world, as St. Paul says in today’s Epistles (Rom. 16: 25-27). Imagine Mary’s surprise when the angel told her that she has found favor with God, and that she will conceive and bear a son. Moreover, “He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Mary was confused and troubled and asked the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Lk. 1: 38)

Yet, Mary’s and the baby’s life were not a “walk in the park” as they endured trials, suffering and persecution. Not to mention the humiliation she may have undergone while she was still carrying Baby Jesus in her womb! In the Annunciation, Jesus Christ the Savior has been made known and He came without requiring that He be born in a majestic palace made of cedar, but came in a lowly manger.

Just like Mary, we are called to behold at all that the Lord has done throughout the ages for our salvation. Life will not be an easy journey, there will be trials, there will be lots of “practice” not only for our own good, but for the people around our lives. We must continuously respond to this call with obedient humility – that regardless of the difficulties, His will shall be done, according to His word.

As we celebrate Christmas, let us spend some time before the Baby Jesus in silence and in humility, to be grateful, and to marvel at what the Lord has done for us all.

“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Lk. 1: 38)

Rejoice in God Our Savior!

The appointed time draws near and we are now deep into the Advent Season. The third Sunday of Advent is also called Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete, a Latin word which means “rejoice,” which is mentioned many times in this Sunday’s liturgy. It is a reminder that Advent is a season of joy because our salvation is already at hand.

Deep into our preparations we reflect further on the meaning of this Holy Birth in order to be truly ready to let the Savior into our hearts. We said last week that Reconciliation with God is vital to being in a state of watchful readiness whether this Advent and at all times. Fr. Armand told that when you become aware of your weaknesses, which actually leads you to sin every time; you should identify overcoming these as the main reasons in seeking reconciliation with the Lord. For example, if pride is your character flaw, it might be better if you state something like this when going to confession: “Father, because of my pride, I disobeyed the Lord’s commandment on…” or “because of my pride, I gossiped about an officemate.” When done repeatedly, there’s a greater chance that one can slowly overcome these weaknesses in life as he becomes more conscious and in the process admit his shortcomings, work on avoiding occasions that lead to sin, and without realizing it, has embraced humility and meekness.

Christmas is just a short two weeks away and Holy Mother Church reminds us to continue our reflection on the person and mission of St. John the Baptist — a great example of humility and meekness. This great prophet remained humble despite a great following in his time. He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘make straight the way of the Lord,'” as Isaiah the prophet said.” When he was asked by some Pharisees, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet?” he answered them, “I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” Such humility indeed!

Are you rejoicing that the Lord’s coming is at hand?
Are you prepared spiritually to meet and receive the Lord when He comes?
Have you shed off your weaknesses and replaced it with virtues worthy of God’s approval as King of Kings?

“May the God of peace himself make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thes. 5: 23)

Prepare for the Lord’s Coming

The time is drawing near, the Lord is coming soon!

Advent is a time of preparation and hopeful anticipation. In a couple of weeks, we will celebrate Christmas but before engaging in the celebration, let us examine our readiness to welcome the Savior. Like Mary and the prophets of long ago, we eagerly await His birth that will bring joy to this weary world. The prophets Isaiah and John the Baptist have a simple advice for us: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” (Mk. 1: 3b)

The preparation for Christmas requires us to “straighten His paths”, such that,

“Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill shall be made low;
the rugged land shall be made a plain,
the rough country, a broad valley.” (Is. 40: 4)

We are hopeful because our separation from God is about to end. The time of exile – the long separation of humankind from God due to sin – is about to be finished. The Prophet Isaiah in today’s First Reading promises Israel’s release from captivity and exile because of God’s mercy and compassion. In many of the chapters between Chapters 40 and 53, God constantly has Isaiah speak about Jesus’ role as savior. God talks through this prophet to explain how He will liberate His people from sin and evil. Yahweh also said that He would lead the people back to holiness and righteousness.

In today’s Gospel we realize that Israel’s liberation was actually a portent of coming events. St. John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins — a herald of an even greater saving act by God through His Son Jesus Christ. This, as well as Isaiah’s prophecy; show that throughout history, Israel looks forward to the revelation of the Savior. In Jesus, God has filled in the symbolic valley that divided sinful humanity from Himself. God’s goodness and infinite love has reached down from Heaven, as we sing in today’s Psalm,

“I will hear what God proclaims; the LORD—for He proclaims peace to His people. Near indeed is His salvation to those who fear Him, glory dwelling in our land.” (Ps. 85: 9-10)

Take note that God has done this not only for mankind in general, but for each one of us. God cares! As St. Peter in the Second Reading reminds us that this is a personal call, and that we, God’s beloved; shouldn’t ignore this fact (2 Pt. 3: 8). Like the people of the whole Judean countryside and of Jerusalem going to John the Baptist, let us prepare well for the Savior’s coming and pray heartily that may His grace remove any spot or blemish in us (2 Pt. 3: 14).

May we go to the Lord and acknowledge our sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Only then can we truly say we prepared the way of the Lord!

“Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.” (Ps. 85: 8)

The Need to be Watchful

Driving one morning on the way to the office, I saw the aftermath of an accident which happened a few minutes before. I saw the dead body of a tricycle passenger who was seated on the back of the driver. What I saw was graphically terrible, and my knees was shaking the rest of the way. Various thoughts hounded me: “When the person left home that morning, was he able to say goodbye to his family?” Did the loved ones have any inkling that that would be the last time they saw their loved one alive?”

How fleeting life is, that in an instant it can be extinguished just like that! In the Gospel today, Jesus said to his disciples:

“Be watchful! Be alert!
You do not know when the time will come.” (Mk. 13: 33)

The Lord emphasizes the need for watchfulness. Just last year, a religious sect warned that
America and Europe will be plunged into darkness by a solar eclipse in 2017 – and then the world will end. When the appointed time came, nothing happened. As Jesus has repeatedly said that only the Father knows the exact hour, the Son of Man will come without warning. The disciples must not be caught unprepared when this time comes. So, in this Advent Season, a season of preparation and repentance, we should heed the warning – repeated three times by our Lord in today’s Gospel – to be watchful, for we know not the hour when the Lord of the Universe will come. As Christians, we too must be alert and be ready for the Savior’s return. Our life must be dedicated to preparing and staying alert by living a life of faithfulness and readiness.

A good way to prepare and being ready is to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thes. 5: 17). Our first thoughts in the morning should be to pray to give thanks and express our gratitude to the Father. We should pray before leaving home and then pray before work. There are many moments during the day that we can give time for prayer: before making a decision, during moments of stress, temptation, in times of problems with health, and even when we realize that we’ve done something wrong. If it is serious, we have to seek forgiveness from God and the Church through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

As we begin the Liturgical Year, it is a time of waiting, a time of the expectant coming of the Lord. During this season, let our waiting times be spent in prayer. While waiting to drive or ride public transport, while waiting to attend a meeting, or while waiting for somebody, take the time to pray. Wait for the Lord, pray always. Only then can we say we are watchful and being faithful to the real meaning of Advent.

“Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.” (Ps. 80: 4)