How Deep Is Your Love for Jesus?

“Because of his affliction he shall see the light in fullness of days; through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear.” (Is. 53: 11)

The streets are deserted, traffic is pleasantly less, and it seems more than half of Manila is gone. People have left either to go to the provinces to spend the Holy Week there, or to enjoy the “vacation” that the Holy Days bring. It’s not entirely wrong to go to the beach, but you miss the point of the break. And instead of getting refreshed come Easter Week, you feel tired from the stress of traveling with the crowd.

Attending the Paschal Triduum (also known as Easter Triduum, in Latin: Triduum Paschale) is a great experience worth attending again and again. This is the period of three days that begins with the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, reaches its high point in the Easter Vigil, and closes with evening prayer on Easter Sunday. It recalls the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus, as portrayed in the canonical Gospels. The break is intended for us to go on a deeper reflection of God’s infinite love for Man. In fact, my favorite is the Easter Vigil, when several readings are reflected upon, essentially the salvation history. These days, try singing (really singing) the Psalms with the congregation, not to mention listening to the Litany of the Saints. Remember that along with these holy men and women mentioned in the Litany are thousands upon thousands of others who have chosen to demonstrate their deep love for God by giving their lives to Him. When you renew your vows at Baptism at Easter, take it to heart. I assure you, it is a truly remarkable experience of our faith.

In today’s First Reading, the Prophet Isaiah reminds us how the Lord loves us, even as we treat the Lord harshly when we ignore His commands,

“Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth.” (Is. 53: 7)

The sad reality is that Man has always been generally inconsistent, flip-flopping especially on matters of faith and morals. When Jesus entered into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, people waved palms,

“Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come! Hosanna in the highest!”

It was a moment of great rejoicing and jubilation for His followers. They thought it was already the arrival of the promised King, unaware of the imminent Passion and Death of the Lord. They haven’t understood what the Messiah must go through before His glory, thus their faith was superficial, so to speak. Fast forward a few days later, the same people were now shouting “Crucify him, crucify him!” Then they mocked him as Roman soldiers tortured him throughout the night.

How much are you willing to give up for Jesus?
How deep is your love for Him?

It takes more than just answering these questions as these speak of the importance of getting to know our faith better, so that we are wise enough to discern the things of the world and of the Spirit. We can’t be swayed easily when others seem to know the Bible more than what we know. So, because our faith hasn’t taken that much depth, we can waver. Are you like the people waving palms, and yet days later, shouting “Crucify him”, because your faith is shallow and shoal?

While we say “He is King and Savior” often, we also deny His Kingship by refusing to obey His only commands that we love Him and one another. Don’t we render Him mock tribute, pay Him lip service with our half-hearted devotions?

In the noon of Calvary, when the Heavens released clouds to darken the sky, the veil in Jerusalem’s temple was torn. It was a sign that by His Death Jesus destroyed forever the barrier separating us from the Holy Presence of God. He was God and yet humbled himself to come to us, we’re reminded by the Prophet Isaiah,

“But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins; upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed.” (Is. 53: 5)

Have we realized that every time we offend Him, we repeat His passion and suffering? Despite our repeated failures, our constant wavering, Jesus still humbles himself to come to us, offering us His body and blood in the Eucharist.

This Good Friday, let us make a resolve to deepen our love for Jesus. Let us pray that the Spirit give us the wisdom to value every moment with the Lord, for it is only in doing so that we show how deeply we love and honor Him.

“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” (Lk. 23: 46)

The Perfect Model of Humility

Life isn’t perfect, in fact it is very far from being one. In between peaks of victories and triumphs there are valleys of rejection, pain and unmet suffering. In these situations, you are confronted with uncertainty and most likely you’ll respond in doubt and fear. You either fight or you flee. There are even situations that others choose to fight even if one can be destroyed in the process. Just recently I met a friend who’s just short of telling me of frustrations getting on him. There were happenings in his work that he felt is unfair and that he should have been treated with more consideration. I bet the guy is intelligent, with great attitude and work ethic. He even scores an “A” in the soft side of things. He was just feeling bad that others can get away without results that really demonstrate good leadership. A word of encouragement and assurance would have made the situation better but he didn’t get any. He was getting a new assignment which will bring him away for extended periods of time from his family. It even brought him to think about entertaining early retirement.

I broached on him the idea of doing a deep reflection of the many possible reasons of why things happen. From the perspective of his superior, it is the best option for the situation, though for reasons the superior didn’t tell him exactly why. That’s the main reason he felt being disregarded. I even advised that he forgive the shortcomings of his superior — obviously having a blind side and also thinking for his own, without considering what’s really best for the long haul.

There are loose ends in life but for the Champion, he thinks about it from all perspectives. A thousand possibilities actually he thinks of. At the end of the day, the Champion concludes it’ll take humility to accept these things with a prayerful spirit that things will go for the better someday. After all, the Good Lord up there knows everything and the best thing given the circumstances is just to trust and to pray. Besides, life will take a different meaning years from now. Some elements take a forward seat while others retreat. God can simply weave life’s contrasting colors into different experiences that will create or unmake ourselves depending on how we act on the choices presented upon us.

Being humble also means thinking less more of ourselves and sacrificing more for others, trusting that one will gain goodness and refine character during the process. It means that we step back and consider that others are not as blessed as we are, or are in even more difficult situations. We are grateful still, because we have looked at the bigger picture and trust the Lord for His control of the situation. While we may feel defeated at the moment, our overriding concern is that we want to make our families feel secure despite the inconveniences, while making other people happy. Because in doing so the Champion in us feel that it is only in doing so that we also feel happier. While our happiness may take a backseat, our act of sacrificing for others make them happy, thus, eventually we become happier too. We inspire!

This Sunday is Palm Sunday. As we begin the Holy Week of the Lord’s Passion and Death, let us reflect deeply on the perfect humility that Our Savior showed. Despite His Majesty and Power, out of His love for us and humanity, He truly humbled Himself in more ways than we can ever imagine. As St. Paul exhorted in his letter to the Philippians,

“Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus,
Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.
Rather he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him, and bestowed on him the name that is above every other name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2: 5-11)

God’s Endless Love

As we go deeper into Lent, we see Jesus calmly awaiting His Passion despite being troubled. He emphasizes that we should be willing to lose our life in order to preserve it for all eternity. Jesus was fully human, that is why He understands our fickleness (and even stupidity!) in responding to God’s love and initiative.

When Abraham successfully proved his faith, Yahweh promised abundant blessings aside from promising Abraham’s “descendants as countless as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore.” He even further assured that his descendants will “take possession of the gates of their enemies.” Such great love!

As Christians we are required to be faithful, and that we should listen to the Father’s voice telling us “This is my beloved Son, listen to Him. (Mt. 17: 5) In the early days, God revealed His laws which Moses casted in stone. Man’s shortsightedness leads him to the vanities of this world thus blinding him deeper into sin. Man continued to mock God’s messengers and “added infidelity to infidelity, despised His warnings and scoffed at His prophets. Such disrespect for the Creator inflamed the anger of the Lord against His people. He allowed them to be subjected to exile and suffering. Similarly, Jesus zeal for the Father’s House led Him to be angry at the way the House of God was corrupted by traders and the public doing business in the Temple Area. Despite the general hopelessness of His people, even “dead in our transgressions”, He still brought us to life with Christ – “by grace you were saved — raises us up with Him.”

God’s love prevails over anger such that “He gave His only begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might have Eternal Life.” God love us despite the fact that we don’t deserve such patience and understanding, plainly because of His awesomeness; He who is rich in mercy, compassion and is slow to anger.

In today’s readings, the Prophet Jeremiah told that the Lord will place His “law within them and write it upon their hearts. I will be their God, and they shall be My people”. God created the Perfect Savior in Jesus so that by His faithfulness and obedience demonstrated by His patient suffering, showed His perfection which “became the source of salvation for all who obey Him.”

The Old Covenant was a failure, but God created a new covenant in Jesus, which we recognize and accept as the Perfect Savior every time we partake of Holy Communion at Mass.

As Holy Week draws near, may we all realize how sin leads us farther and away from God, our source of life and salvation. Despite the struggles and challenges we face every single day, may we see the purpose for it all, and inspire us to obedience and intimacy with Him. Admittedly, life is often a struggle, because there is a dream to be pursued, a vision to be attained. It is a journey of countless steps, countless meaningful steps, but each one leading to another.

“Whoever serves me follow me, says the Lord; and where I am, there also will my servant be.” (Jn. 12: 26)

Becoming Truly Ready for Him!

One of the most defining aspects of our homecoming journey as emphasized in the Code of Champions Seminar is our accountability towards the Creator. As Fr. Armand said, “Logically God does not deserve a corner of our lives or just a piece of our hearts. For us to enter the depths of His heart, we must give Him topmost priority over and above everything else in life.” This is the appropriate response to Yahweh who beckons and who desires that we seek and desire His love. While we are given the freedom to choose, God’s passionate love for us also ensures that we grow in obedience and intimacy with Him.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus found the temple area, the core symbol of God’s presence becoming a market place where people sold animals and birds, as well as the money changers doing business there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.” At that time what really angered the Lord was the perversion of the Temple by making what was intended to be a place of communion into a business enterprise. Such was its effect that His disciples recalled the words of Scripture,
“Zeal for your house will consume me.” (Ps. 69: 9)

Jesus’ purification of the Temple is a herald of another kind of purification, the sanctification of our hearts. It was actually His first proclamation about who He really is and what His mission would embrace. Such mood of Jesus is not commonly read in the Gospel, but is a clear reminder of the need to purify ourselves not only at this season, but at all times. And if we do not experience this purification, then everything that we do is a total waste of time. Until our hearts are rid of that which produces our death and destruction, we will never be truly ready for Him and becoming fully happy. He sees our dark side, the pain we are capable of inflicting. Despite that, He sees the beauty and what is beyond: our possibilities, what we are truly capable of, the goodness that we are capable of radiating. His passionate love for us sometimes makes Him turn the tables upside down and cracks the whip to get our attention. He wants to unravel the beauty that is within us, but which is being covered by what is dark and ugly. Case of loving the sinner, but hating the sin!

What makes it deeply comforting is that the Lord understands our human nature because He is fully human. He understands our fickleness and our weaknesses. He also knows we can get distracted from what is pure and authentic into something that’s bright and dazzling. But as long as we truly desire to get better and do better, He is there patiently waiting for us to get up and seek forgiveness from the Father.

This Lenten Season, let us prepare ourselves to be truly ready for Him. As we continue to reflect on this Gospel and the readings that follow, we are asked to choose where we stand in the course of our day-to-day lives. Do we take the side of what is good, true, and faithful to God? Or continue our pursuit of worldly goods that defile our hearts from what is true, pure and lasting?

“Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.” (Jn. 6:68c)