Pray, Pray and Pray

When I first started talking as a little boy, I remember my Mom taught me how to pray. My aunts followed this through, and one of the earliest prayers I learned is the Lord’s Prayer, together with the Hail Mary, the Glory be, and the Prayer to our Guardian Angel. Dosing off to sleep wasn’t possible unless I have said my prayers. My parents, aunts and Lola (when my parents were away) made sure that this “protocol” is done. So these prayers have roots and have become habits until now.

In today’s Gospel (Lk. 11: 1-13), one His disciples was asking Jesus,


Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.”
He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread
and forgive us our sins
for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us,
and do not subject us to the final test
.”

This prayer is passed on to us and we’ve seen its simplicity and effectiveness so to speak. It tells us how to pray and what we should say when we pray. For others, praying is just like asking God as if “ordering” something out of a menu. Just like a little kid praying for food and toys. Yet it shouldn’t be that way. God’s omnipotence already tells Him what we like and what we need. He’s our Creator and it’s His call to grant our prayer, give a “No”, or “Wait”. He’ll always be looking at what things are good for us, not only at the moment, but for developing our characters and souls. It’s always about Heaven and Eternity, and there’s no other way. Our Eternal Happiness matters the most so that He’ll be reunited with us someday. Purifying ourselves here so that we’ll have the “license” to face Him when it’s time. For how can we have the courage to meet Him considering our own sinfulness and blemishes?

In the First Reading (Gn. 18: 20-32), the Lord was telling Abraham that the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grave,

 “… that I must go down and see whether or not their actions fully correspond to the cry against them that comes to me. I mean to find out.”

Then Abraham drew nearer to the Lord, asking Him,


Will you sweep away the innocent with the guilty
Suppose there were fifty innocent people in the city;
would you wipe out the place, rather than spare it
for the sake of the fifty innocent people within it

Far be it from you to do such a thing,
to make the innocent die with the guilty
so that the innocent and the guilty would be treated alike

Should not the judge of all the world act with justice?” 


The Lord replied,


If I find fifty innocent people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

Abraham spoke up again, in all humility asking God,
 
What if there are five less than fifty innocent people
Will you destroy the whole city because of those five?” 

He answered, “I will not destroy it, if I find forty-five there.”

But Abraham persisted, continued asking, and the Lord relenting until it was,

 
What if there are at least ten there?” He replied, “For the sake of those ten, I will not destroy it.”

God’s love for us is so deep and unfathomable. For Him, the one last “innocent” soul is important. In the Second Reading (Col. 2: 12-14), St. Paul tells us that,


And even when you were dead in transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He brought you to life along with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions; obliterating the bond against us, with its legal claims, which was opposed to us, He also removed it from our midst, nailing it to the cross.”

God cares for you deeply that He will do whatever it takes to get you out of the enemy’s grasp. He will allow sickness to engulf you, bankruptcy to level you and loneliness to bring you back to His side. For Him a decade or even a lifetime is but a zeptosecond compared to Eternity. (While we know of a millisecond as a thousandth of a second, and a nanosecond as a billionth of a second, there’s another measurement of time that makes both of them “look slow”. For the first time, Scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics at the Technical University of Munich have been able to measure something in a zeptosecond, or a trillionth of a billionth of a second.) (www.huffpost.com)

As we pray, let us persevere, as the Lord has taught us that the more we pray and pray, provided we have sought forgiveness from our transgressions through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the more He yields and weakens to answer our prayers. As Jesus said to conclude the Gospel,

If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in Heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”

This Sunday, let us pray that God grant us the wisdom to accept His will for our lives, trusting that it will bring us closer to Him. May we realize that God loves us so deeply that He only wants us to be happy and joyful. May we share His message of love to others as His children and creation.

You have received a Spirit of adoption, through which we cry, Abba, Father.” (Rom. 8: 15bc)

Maintain Balance

Most of us are always in a rush day in and day out, week in and week out. We rush to work, we rush to get home, we rush to finish chores, we rush everything. We are just relentless in pursuing the tasks we face each day. While it is a good one to achieve our jobs and careers, one should find a way to pause for the “more” important elements in life.   

In today’s Gospel (Lk. 10: 38-42),

Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at His feet listening to Him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to Him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the servingTell her to help me.” 

The Lord said to her in reply,

Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.  There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

Martha was so driven by the tasks that she was really into completing it efficiently (sounds familiar?). In doing this, she became so burdened and anxious that she demanded to the Lord to tell her sister “to help” her. It was good that Jesus reacted as patient and as caring as He is and didn’t react like the way we do when we are confronted with the same situation. Instead, the Lord focused on the reason why Martha was upset. The Lord pointed out that “Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

In the same degree even in our own service community, we are often guilty of the same thing. We become too worried about a lot of things, such that we also forget that what we’re doing is the Lord’s work. He knows when to bring in the harvest and when to stretch us in order to develop our patience. We must have to find a way to understand what is going on at the moment. We just have to learn how to trust Him more.

We hear of many people sacrificing time with loved ones and family for the purpose of earning more for them. It is a noble intention yes, but if in the process you miss providing the presence of a parent, a spouse, a sibling, etc., you miss the chance of being mindful of what is needed at the moment.

In the First Reading (Gn. 18: 1-10a), Abraham was quick to recognize the Lord appeared to him as he was sitting at the entrance of his tent. He even ran to greet them and bowed to the ground to invite them to experience his hospitality. He offered the three men water to bathe their feet, rest, food consisting of bread rolls, choice steer, curds and milk. He waited on them while they ate. Genuine service and humility in action.

When one is in prayer and in tune with God, he sees events and happenings better than others, and is usually given premonitions and warnings. He is more “in the zone” of God.

More often when I invite people to join a prayer afternoon, or a Holy Week recollection, I often hear the excuse, “I’m so busy I still have something to do”, or “I have to check something”. You see them spend so much time at work, 365 days a year. And yet there’s not really much on their plate, they’re just not maintaining a good balance in life. If you notice, we can get trapped working on things that are superficial — things that money can’t buy — and yet spend less time on the things that can’t be bought by money. We all need to work to provide for our families, but there should also be time spent for them, friends, exercise, health, relaxation, study, prayer and attending Church activities. We need to show others how we care, how we share, how we love, and more importantly, how we prioritize the Lord above all else.

This Sunday, let us pray that we may be able to discern well the decisions that we have to face. We pray that the Holy Spirit grant us the wisdom to choose the more important aspects. We pray that we maintain balance in our life.

Blessed are they who have kept the word with a generous heart and yield a harvest through perseverance.” (Lk. 8: 15)

Loving God, Loving Others

Yesterday’s session of “The Well” which is held regularly at the National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians was as usual an enlightening one. Fr. Rene Lagaya, SDB, did a very good job of sharing his learnings and insights on Hebrew culture, the significance of one’s name, the Law, and many more in a short but meaningful afternoon.

In today’s Gospel (Lk. 10: 25-37), a scholar of the law asked several questions to Jesus. One of which is, “And who is my neighbor?” The Lord answered by way of a parable, telling a story about how a priest, a Levite and a Samaritan traveler responded to the situation upon seeing a man who was stripped, beaten and left half-dead in the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. Reflecting on the story can make you think that even in those times people must be as busy as we are in the present day, such that we ignore helping others because “we have other things to do”. The priest must be “in a hurry to lead worship”, or the Levite “must be busy in keeping the Temple in order”, such that they evade helping a man who was almost dead. Not the Samaritan traveler though, who was caring and compassionate, even paying the inn to take care of him. The Samaritan must be as busy as the others and yet he took time to save the man from dying on the road. He was compassionate, caring and loving.

Many times we can be like the priest or the Levite in the parable. More often when we are being besieged by work and career, we ignore giving time and help to others. We focus on what we want to achieve.

Are you doing right when you ignore help when necessary? In the Gospel, when a scholar of the law stood up to test Jesus and said, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered with a question “What is written in the law? How do you read it?”

The answer most of us already know. For those who studied early education in Catholic schools you must have memorized this already since grade school:

You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your being,
with all your strength,
and with all your mind,
and your neighbor as yourself.

How do we become consistent then?

In the recollection yesterday, Fr. Rene clearly responded that it is not much on “what we want to do, but on what the Lord want us to do”. Despite our careers, our lives should be Christ-centered rather than ego-centered. God wants us to submit to Him and He’ll take care of the rest. The Samaritan traveler showed us that despite his busyness, he took the time to care for the wounded and dying Jew. Take note that Jesus was talking about a Samaritan, people who were discriminated and despised by the Jews at that time. The Lord was talking on a very important message that kindness is to be for everyone, even our enemies. Fr. Rene observed that “loving” God is easy for the rich and the mighty in society. They shower the Church with donations, give so much their time, and yet the difficulty is in “loving the neighbor”.

It is more convenient for you to be friendly with people outside your home and yet do not reflect this kindness with people and neighbors surrounding you. Yet people who are genuinely happy and successful at life are also authentically caring and compassionate. They reflect Christ’s love to others.

When you don’t follow God’s commandment to love others, how then can you claim to love Him with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength and with all your mind?

Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life; you have the words of everlasting life.” (Jn. 6: 63c, 68c)

Live to Proclaim Jesus!

When I was still new in my other community, I would delight in participating in the various missions entrusted to us. My wife and I have both experienced running the Kids and the Youth ministries that is why it is still one of our advocacies. Whether in Metro Manila or in Pampanga we would be actively involved and love the idea of working to bring young people closer to the Lord. Then came the Code of Champions, the Baristas which is now being integrated into Peaceworks103.

Most of us always have the notion that mission work is only for priests, bishops and other missionaries. This is wrong. What most people do is just try fulfilling Mass obligation, and then afterwards are off to their respective plans for the rest of Sunday. The same routine is done week in and week out. We don’t fill in work for God, contented that the Church will do it on its own.

In today’s Gospel (Lk. 10: 1-12, 17-20), the Lord sent out seventy-two ahead of Him in pairs to every town and place He intended to visit. Note that in the previous chapter of this Gospel of St. Luke, the Lord already sent out the Twelve for mission. Needless to say, Jesus is telling us to do our share in the Gospel ministry. It is also our work to make Christ known to the world. In the last verse of today’s Gospel, Jesus said,

Behold, I have given you the power totread upon serpentsand scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you.  Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in Heaven.”

The Lord is talking about the end result of it all, which means that it is for our own good if we participate in the missionary work of the Lord. If the disciples are sort of “guaranteed” Heaven, then it means we can also gain God’s approval if we do it. It’s worth doing then for the love of God, right?

But do you need to go literally on preaching to participate in this endeavor? Actually there are many ways of sharing in God’s work. You can join your Parish’s organizations and serve in its various ministries like the Couples for Christ (CFC), the Adoracion Nocturna, the Knights of Columbus (K of C), the Catholic Women’s League (CWL), the Mother Butler Guild or the visible ministries at Mass like the Lectors and Commentators, Eucharistic Ministers of the Holy Eucharist, the Music Ministry, the Knights of the Altar and others. More importantly, once you assimilate into the service life of the Church, you will notice a change in your attitude. You will discover that your lifestyle and actions are more effective than the service or preaching that you do. People won’t listen much unless you live what you preach. This change of heart and mindset is the more important benefit of serving God. There’ll be less of the arrogance and more of the humility. As St. Paul said in the Second Reading (Gal. 6: 14-18),

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” 

Your life then becomes a more effective way of sharing the Gospel to others.

This Sunday, let us pray that we be inspired to serve the Church in a more dynamic way. May we remain grounded in the work that we do. May the Lord guide us all the days of our service.

Let the peace of Christ control your hearts; let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” (Col. 3: 15a, 16a)

Do Not Fear, God is in Control!

Many times in our ministries we feel our efforts being unrewarded. We feel the strain on our shoulders, the time we’ve spent in the preparation seems long and so we reach the point of almost giving up. However, what we always forget is that the work we’re doing is not solely ours. We forget to pray for His guidance and the leading of the Spirit. Coming from our corporate experiences and training we always try to create a “perfect” plan the way we always do at work. We measure success by the metrics we are used to having. What we often neglect to consider is that the Lord may have a different purpose in the particular mission in time. He may have other things in mind that we can’t still appreciate at the moment. Thus, it is important to pray and discern what He wants. It is difficult but at the end of the day, just look at it from the point of faith and a complete and total trust in the Lord.

In the Gospel (Lk. 9: 51-62), the disciples James and John were furious when the reception of the people were less than hospitable. They asked,

Lord, do you want us to call down fire from Heaven to consume them? Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village.”

We can see our frustrations in James and John such that there are times we want to send “lightning and thunder” to others. Yet Jesus showed and reacted differently; this is not the way to do it. After all, this is God’s work and He is still in control.

The Lord also reminded us on what commitment to Him is all about. He asks us to focus on our specific “operation” of the moment and not be distracted by the concerns of the world. He reminds us,

No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Being a follower of Christ demands commitment and God requires no less. When we’ve committed ourselves to Him, there are just so many things to do that we can’t anymore look to what’s left behind every now and then. But we love Him this much, right? Our love for Him would be enough to bring us through in our own missionary journey. To encourage us that we can “survive”, He gives us a “tip”:

I say, then: live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh.”

The Holy Spirit is with us to guide us all the way. The Lord has gifted us with this powerful ally in our earthly battles spiritually, physically and emotionally.

Armed with this knowledge, today, reset your focus on what the mission is all about. Remind yourself that Jesus is in control, and this is His work. He knows what’s important in the works of the Kingdom. He knows the way to succeed. Additionally, He knows what we’re experiencing having experienced everything while He was on earth.

Let us pray that the Holy Spirit will give us the strength to persevere in our work for God. Let us pray for the gift of humility to acknowledge our own limitations.

Let us pray for the gift of wisdom for us to know and understand the Lord’s will for our missions.

Speak, Lord, your servant is listening; you have the words of everlasting life.” (1 Sm. 3: 9, Jn. 6: 68c)