Multiplying What Little We Have

There are times in our life that the circumstances we are facing are so daunting that we feel giving up and hopeless. We throw our hands and say, ‘Ayoko na, wala na ako magawa diyan’. However, this is a response of a non-believer, and the Church isn’t the place for the so-called ‘faithful’ who respond ordinarily. As a devoted follower of Jesus, we always speak about what is impossible given the situation, but pray and trust for the extraordinary to happen. Even in our missionary work, if we only think about our own strengths, we will not have enough to succeed. We need to leave space for God to work His power and might. Remember, the things that we do for the Church isn’t our work, it’s His’ and we are just His hands.

In the Gospel (Jn. 6: 1-15), when the Jewish feast of Passover was near, Jesus asked Philip, ‘Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?’ He said this to test him, because He himself knew what He was going to do. Philip answered Him, ‘Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little.’ One of His disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to Him, ‘There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?’

From these five barley loaves and two fish, everyone had their fill, and Jesus instructed His disciples, ‘Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.’
So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat. This clearly was a sign of Jesus’ Authority and Divinity. The Lord interprets the meaning and significance of this miracle as a sharing of His Body and Blood. John uses this Gospel story of the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes to teach about the Holy Eucharist. This miracle, just like the Last Supper, is not by mere coincidence that both are occurring near the time of the Jewish feast of Passover.

In both stories about the Eucharist—the washing of the disciples’ feet and the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes — St. John teaches us that the Eucharist is an action. In fact, the Holy Eucharist is both a sacrament and a sacrifice. Under the appearances of bread and wine, the Lord Christ is contained, offered, and received. It is stressed by the Church that the whole of Christ is really, truly, and substantially present in the Holy Eucharist. We use the words “really, truly, and substantially” to describe Christ’s presence in the Holy Eucharist in order to distinguish Our Lord’s teaching from that of mere men who falsely teach that the Holy Eucharist is only a sign or figure of Christ, or that He is present only by His power (EWTN Website). The word Eucharist is taken from the Greek language and describes an action: ‘To give thanks’. In the Eucharist we are fed by Jesus Himself, and we are sent to serve others.

Thus, this initiative of feeding us, and then sending us to serve others is a continuous flow of action. Everything that we do: our family life, Church work, career, advocacies, etc. will remain short and almost worthless if we keep these in our own hands. If we want to make these better and worthy to succeed, we need Our Lord who will offer to God the Father our own ‘five loaves and two fishes.’ We have to learn to let go and let God. This is the only way to multiply what little that we have into something abundant and meaningful. Small things these may be to us, but God will open the floodgates of blessings to make these enough to feed thousands of others.

The Lord is My Shepherd!

Recent medical findings indicate that many diseases have become what is called as “diseases of civilization”. According to years of research made by Dr. Stephen Ilardi, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Kansas, these include diabetes, atherosclerosis, asthma, allergies, obesity, cancer, and lately, including clinical depression. Most of these are traceable to changing lifestyles and habits. Because of changing technological, social, physiological and the tendency of people to search for more wealth, people have become sedentary, indoor, socially-isolated, fast food-laden, sleep-deprived, and having frenzied pace of modern life. We have become less-connected to other people. There’s more connectivity but less connectedness!

In our busyness, some aspects of life are being neglected resulting in an unhealthy lifestyle. And yet we are not created to be such. We were created to be active, healthy and social beings. We are supposed to connect with others and engaged in meaningful conversations. We are supposed to be reflective and contemplative as well. Therefore, we need to balance our lives and need to rest regularly to allow ourselves to be refreshed and re-energized.

In the Gospel (Mk. 6: 30-34), the disciples have become so busy that they ‘had no opportunity even to eat.’ Jesus said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” Even the Lord recognizes our frailty and humanity that we need to rest. One of my previous superiors would always ask us when our meetings were then threatening to steal our lunch, “Do we still have a lot for discussion this afternoon? If yes, then let’s have a break and resume at 1 PM.” There’s a need to rest, a time to re-charge.

Maintaining balance is needed in our spiritual, family, work, church, civic, academics, and other commitments of our life. When in one important activity, let’s devote our full attention to it. Let’s not be anxious about the other aspects as we lose present time over things that aren’t even happening yet.

As leaders in our homes, communities, church groups and others, we need to ensure that the people entrusted to us have adequate rest and balance in their lives. It is a challenge but it is needed to maintain sanity in this crazy world. Like Jesus, let us be good shepherds for them, caring for them, protecting them from the ‘hyenas’, ‘jackals’, ‘wolves’, and even ‘bears’ — the people who intimidate and harass them every day of their lives.

Also, the people who have — like the sheep in the Gospels — ‘strayed from the flock had to be sought out and brought back’ to the fold. Let us love and care for our people, so that ‘even when mixed with other flocks, could recognize the voice of their own shepherd and would come immediately when called by name.’

Ultimately, when we are in trouble and in pain, we can call on the Good Shepherd, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Psalms today (Psalm 23) is one that I know by heart, because every Catholic must recognize our dependence on God. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want (Psalm 23:1). Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock! (Psalm 80:1) We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture (Psalm 100:3). The Messiah is also pictured as the shepherd of God’s people: He will feed His flock like a shepherd, He will gather the lambs in His arms (Isaiah 40:11).

Our Lord told His disciples many times, that He is the Good Shepherd who is willing to lay down His life for his sheep. And He did that on the Cross! He is the ultimate protector of people in need of protection and care, always moved to respond with compassion.

May we offer our missions and our work to the protection of the Good Shepherd who is ever ready to give us help, strength, and refuge.

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

Obedience, Love, Trust

The drive back to Manila was partly new, quick, and scenic, as Fr. Armand shared a route that is not-so-known but beautiful, as it gave us an approximate 270-degree view of Manila, Laguna, Quezon, parts of Batangas and Cavite. We passed villages that seem to be rising with new resorts, restaurants, and stores that seem to be preparing for an economic boom that is soon to happen. While in a breath we were already in the lowlands, it didn’t stop me though from reflecting on the huge mission that lies ahead of us in the Barista Academy. It was good that over breakfast Father gave his thoughts on the organization, as it also provided everyone an understanding of the work that needs to be done, considering other responsibilities we also have.

In today’s Gospel, we read Jesus sending out the Twelve,

“…and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits.
He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick— no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic.” (Mk. 6: 7-13)

There are three main points here:

1. Jesus sent them out on His authority
2. He sent them two by two
3. He instructed them to take minimum provisions for the journey

Being given the authority to speak for the Lord is one privilege for those who participate in Jesus’ saving mission. When we engage in spreading the Gospel, we are not doing this on our own rather we are co-workers of the Spirit. This is the attitude that should be embraced by those who work in the Church, the parishes and lay missions. We are to be meek and humble, we are not to be scene stealers. We are not doing this to make ourselves famous or popular, no matter how noble these activities seem to be. Yet, when necessary, we speak, we respond to tough assignments, we don’t shun off from responsibility. We participate in the mission with humility and faith, and that we are doing this for the Lord.

Jesus sent them in twos because the Lord knows the importance of having a partner in the mission. He understands fully well that preaching the Gospel isn’t a breeze and so somebody providing support is important. In our ministries, we work with others and at times it can be difficult and trying as they may look at the job differently. And yet, despite our differences we have to learn to work with and accept others despite their limitations. Once in a while we even set back our own plans just so that an agreement is achieved.

Lastly, the Twelve are to go out with only the barest of provisions. No bread or money is needed. They are expected to rely on the goodwill of others, to rely on the fact that God will provide for their needs.

Similarly, we are to take on this mindset despite the difficulty of thinking that someone somewhere will share. Going on a mission nowadays with only the minimum essentials is nearly impossible and unimaginable. We can be so worried ourselves, how much more telling others to rely on God and lighten their luggage. As planners and being in the details, we can’t miss on the plan as to where the next meal should be, or where our accommodations are made. However, the value of relying on God and the meaning of His providence is lost. What the Lord is telling us is simple: just be focused on the assignment.

As we go and grow in mission, may we have the attitude of a servant: faithful to His mission,
understanding and caring for our co-workers in the Church, and trusting in the Lord’s providence.

“May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ enlighten the eyes of our hearts, that we may know what is the hope that belongs to our call.” (cf. Eph. 1: 17-18)

My Grace is Sufficient For You

This weekend is quite important and special for the Code of Champions Team, specifically the Barista Academy. We went to Tagaytay and spent time putting in our thoughts and ideas on identifying who we are and established firmly our identity. We talked about our reason for existence (Core Purpose, as Collins and Porras refer to it) and our vision (Envisioned Future). Fr. Armand, who came the following day (he didn’t join the First Day in order to give us the independence to do things on our own), gave us valuable insights into how we organize ourselves, considering the delicate balance between our other commitments and responsibilities as well. At the close of the Planning Process, we reflected on the readings during the Holy Mass that Fr. Armand celebrated.

These Sunday’s readings seem so timely and providential in that the messages articulate what God is telling us as we begin another phase of this journey which was started before the turn of the century. Of particular interest is the concern that we all feel unworthy of this mission, but St. Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians rings loud and clear that we be clothed with humility and consider our weaknesses as an opportunity to exercise our trust in Him, for He has said, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ (2 Cor. 12: 7–10)

The Champion is humble and he is a person who is one that, ‘hindi umaagaw ng eksena’. Humble servants trust in the Lord and they acquire humility in prayer and reflection.

How do we know we’ve succeeded? It is in simply knowing that we’ve tried and done our best as we can, and loved as much as we can. The fulfillment isn’t monetary or honor or adulation from the crowd; it is simply in knowing that we’ve given our all.

How do we deal with rejection and oppression? Fr. Armand further said that we take comfort in the fact that even Christ was rejected and oppressed (Mk. 6: 1-6), thus it can happen to us as well. Provided that we fix ours on Jesus, everything will be worthwhile in the end.

As we go and grow in mission, may we have the attitude of a servant: humble, persevering and trusting in Jesus.

“Our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for His mercy.” (Ps. 123: 2)

Do Not Be Afraid, Just Have Faith!

One of my closest friends in High School became a victim of the big ‘C’ at an early age, just some years after she started practicing Medicine. She was quite bubbly when we were in High School; aside from that she was very helpful to her less-gifted classmates, a reliable friend, very humble, and lived a full life of service to God and others. People thought God shouldn’t have taken her, as she was still in the peak of career and work. A great and rewarding life was still waiting ahead of her. Why did God allow it to happen?

Many times in our life experiences, we overlook the abundant love that God has for us. We think that God isn’t affected whenever we have problems but that isn’t the case. When we’re sad, God weeps with us too.

In the Gospel today, Jesus showed the crowd how He loves others, even in the face of ridicule. The raising to life of Jarius’ daughter was a case in point,

While he was still speaking, people from the synagogue official’s house arrived and said,
“Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?” Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” (Mk. 5: 21 – 43)

The crowd thought there’s no more point disturbing the Lord since the girl of twelve has died. But Jesus called for faith even when all seemed lost. In between this story, a woman afflicted with hemorrhage for twelve years, who had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors, came behind Jesus in the crowd and touched His cloak. She had actually spent all that she had, yet her situation only grew worse. In other words, she was in a state of hopelessness! But she trusted the Lord and in her despair, she found her only hope in Jesus. She fell down before the Lord and told him the whole truth.

He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”

These stories of Jesus’ compassion for the hopeless also tell us not to give up when all seem lost. He reassures that He is there with us in the journey. In the First Reading, the Book of Wisdom tells us,

‘God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living.’ (Wis. 1: 13ff)

He did not make hatred, wars, climate change, racism, or immorality. He did not make selfishness, disrespect, pride nor does He sugarcoat lies into truth. He does not want all the suffering that is in the world today. ‘For God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him. Yes, God created us in His own image and likeness, but He also gave us free will to choose between good and evil. Then when Adam and Eve fell, it was like, ‘But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who belong to his company experience it.’

All the trials and challenges we face are not the end in itself. These are meant to make us stronger, better, and smarter. We shouldn’t look at these grimly but with fervent hope that something good will come out of these, if not in this life, in the great beyond. Even should it result to death, we should rejoice that it will give us everlasting life. Thus, we should be more thankful if given the opportunity to dedicate our lives to God.

Fr. Armand always likes to remind that,

‘In order to be truly happy, you should inspire others. When others become inspired, you make them happy. When you see others becoming happy because of what you did, you actually become happier. So, it really means that, being happy is not really about you, but is about inspiring, sharing and giving of yourself to Jesus and to others.’

This Sunday, we are presented with a challenge: Do we recognize that our life has a greater purpose than just getting old and eventually dying?

Let us trust that God will create good from evil and He will turn any misfortune into a blessing beyond our imagination. We just need to fully trust Him. Our faith will tell us not to rationalize what’s happening, we just need to cling to Him, hold on, and need not be afraid.

“I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.” (Ps. 30: 2a)