Humbling Yourself

As I was watching the basketball game on cable TV, the announcers were talking about the PBA’s five-time (and consecutive years) MVP, who they said, is still humble, despite his achievements. They said, “Up to now, he doesn’t brag, he is so humble and is always wishing the best for other players.” As a consequence, everybody looks up to him and is always a big vote-getter amongst his peers whenever the selection of the best in the conference or in the season is needed. 

In today’s Gospel (Lk. 18: 9-14), the Lord told the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. The Pharisee was a portrait of self-righteousness and arrogance; imagine bragging to God about himself while praying in the temple. He was literally “counting off” the reasons why he is up above the rest of humanity. On the other hand, the tax collector was “very repentant, stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’”

There are many who fell victim to this type of self-righteousness, some even serving in the various church communities. This is dangerous because imagine serving in ministry and yet losing to this infirmity of the spirit. When people aren’t grounded on their service and their faith, they can become like the Pharisees of Jesus’ time. That’s why the Lord reminds us, 

“…whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Jesus himself showed us the example of perfect humility: he suffered torture, shame and mockery, and eventually died on the Cross for our sins. Imagine the Son of God bearing that kind of suffering and death? That’s simply because he wants to redeem the world from our sins. Such great love for us, right?

The danger of self-righteousness bordering on arrogance and pride can indeed be lethal. It is something all of us have to be wary about. When our egos are touched, it is easy to fall into the ditch of self-righteousness. If one isn’t careful and prayerful, material wealth and position in society can cloud one’s judgment and make him a natural prey to pride and self-righteousness. Therefore, one needs regular prayer and self-reflection to keep him focused on the Lord. When one’s attention is on the Lord, one starts to lose paying so much attention to how he is looked up by society and starts serving others.

The themes of the past Sundays talk about honesty, cautiousness, faith, gratitude, and perseverance. This time, we are reminded to be and to remain humble in submission to God’s will for our lives. 

Let us keep the focus on Him as our Lord and Master who knows the best for us. When we are tired, tempted and challenged, let us be consoled by St. Paul (2 Tm. 4: 6-8, 16-18) who, when sensing that the “time of departure is at hand”, claims the crown of righteousness from the Lord, the “just” judge. St. Paul knew he has suffered, has finished the race, and have kept the faith. 

May we be able to say the same when our time comes, just like St. Paul. 

God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, and entrusting to us the message of salvation.” (2 Cor. 5: 19)

AZS 10.27.2019

Pray without ceasing!

One of the unexplainable situations that I’ve experienced was when as a young engineer I was preparing on my first ever international business travel to Jakarta, Indonesia. To put things in perspective, in corporate practice, funds are usually released the day before the scheduled departure. Since I was to leave on a Sunday, the release of funds was scheduled to be released on a Friday afternoon. So on a Friday after doing that, I need to drop by the bank to do some transactions. However, it was located in San Juan which is actually nearby but with the horrendous traffic on Friday afternoons, there’s risk of not making it on the 4 o’clock bank closing time. And so, at a little past 3 I started driving towards Greenhills. It took me about 40 minutes to reach the area. Thus I have only a little less than 15 minutes left to get my transaction at the bank. The parking lot was full and so I have to say my prayers to Our Lady to help me find parking. It took only a few minutes of waiting when the car in the slot at my right hand side made a signal that he’s leaving already and so I could take his slot. Is it a “coincidence”? 

While already inside the bank, I saw the security guard guiding a person walking towards me. To my surprise, that person was actually bringing the car keys, which I didn’t notice falling out of my pocket as I took the available slot in the parking area. I couldn’t describe my feelings when it started sinking in. How can I drive the car home when the keys fell out of my possession? I was so grateful to the driver because losing the keys would be another unimaginable inconvenience. Especially that I’d be traveling that coming Sunday and will be gone for almost two months.

So after the expression of deep gratitude, I proceeded with my bank transaction, which, actually expired already after the bank closed at 4 to end the day. But the bank staff told me that they can extend receiving transactions and included me in the queue. What a relief! Another answered prayer!

After completing the transactions, I left the bank and was so thankful to the Heavens for aiding me in what I had to do. But it didn’t end there. As I was in the car and preparing to get out of the parking area, I noticed the bank staff who was handling my transactions waving and running towards where I’m located. What he was bringing to me is my Passport which I didn’t notice dropping out of my office bag. OMG, what is happening to me? Why am I getting very careless so as not to even notice something is missing in my bag? 

The “series of unfortunate events” happening one after the other in the last hour and the corresponding “miracles” defy explanation. But you know what, in each of those instances, I was always quick to call on the power of prayer for heavenly intercession. And the heavens didn’t fail to answer. And they have always rescued me each time. Every time!

In the Gospel (Lk. 18: 1-8), Jesus shared with us the importance of praying always without becoming weary. He talked about the judge, who neither feared God nor respected any human being, and the widow, who used to come to him and say, “Render a just decision for me against my adversary.” Because of the widow’s persistence, the judge did render a just decision for her, “lest she finally come and strike me.” 

Many times in my life I’ve been confronted with challenging and difficult situations. Whether it be career, work-related, family, or just any situation needing speedy solutions, the power of prayer has always been unbeatable. The more important challenges though are those that threaten our souls and thus needing more incessant prayers. The enemy can use our comfort zones to tempt us to be lazy and complacent, sometimes even without us realizing the consequences of the situations we are confronted with. That’s why we need the power of prayer to ensure a Spirit-guided earthly pilgrimage. A currently comfortable situation can turn into something difficult but with God’s grace and help, your soul can be at peace and happy despite the challenge. It is what the saints experience when making the difficult situation a joyful experience.

May we always be prayerful so that we gain access to His peace. May we pray without ceasing so that we will have the capability to defend against temptations. May we follow the inspiration of St. Paul in the Second Reading (2 Tim. 3: 14-4: 2), to be 

“…persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.”

Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” (Ps. 121: 2)

Be Grateful!

During the past week another successful review at work was conducted and our team is extremely grateful that we got it with flying colors. In the rundown to the 4-day event, we have to work on our template which was developed over so many months in preparation for a different but related review which happened a month before. Pressure was mounting as the reviews drew near as we wanted to prepare well. Extra work was done, relaxation was reduced, and sacrifices were made. As in any other review, the team wanted to prepare thoroughly and properly. The hallmark of the leadership team was to impress on everyone that we have to be ready for it. We don’t want to leave any stone unturned in the desire to give a good account of the plant’s high ratings in quality and productivity indices. We want to be consistent in visual review and inspection.

When time for preparation was almost done, I told the team that “we’ve done everything we can, now it’s time to pray for God to bless all our efforts.” With God’s grace, the team was able to get high marks and exceed expectations. We thanked the Lord for His graciousness and mercy for guiding us through the preparations, ensuring we didn’t miss anything. He was with us during those pressure-packed moments and strengthened us with good health and patience. When the review team leader revealed the results, the first words we uttered were “Thank you Lord for the help!” No one should claim credit for the results as it was a product of team effort, unity of purpose, and hard work. Everyone cooperated and contributed their share, despite the ongoing operations. Everyone was grateful and thankful for the achievement, giving the glory to God rather than ourselves. It was successful because everyone shared what they could and God blessed our efforts. Without God’s blessings, we know we couldn’t have delivered exemplary ratings.

In the Gospel (Lk. 17: 11-19), only one of the ten lepers healed by Jesus returned to “glorify God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked Him.” The leper was being grateful and thankful for the healing that happened. Other than being full of gratitude, he was able to look down and humble himself such that “he fell at the foot of Jesus…”

When one is grateful, one is also most likely a humble person. He knows that what good things that happen isn’t only his own, but are blessings from God. The more we make great achievements, the more we should be humble to accept that what we have are blessings from God and are results of help from others, who have been touched by the Spirit to follow His leading.

When you are blessed, you should also look forward to the future, to share your blessings so that many will be touched and healed. Regardless of how others see it, a person with humility will most likely say it is a miracle. Out of the humility of your spirit you always give the credit to God: “Ad majorem Dei gloriam”, to God be the glory!  

May we always be grateful and thankful to Him for all that we are and all that we have. May the Lord continue to grant us His favors, that in so doing, we become bearers of His good news of salvation to others.

In all circumstances, give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thes. 5: 18)

Have Faith!

The other day, a friend revealed a story about a young man who was so depressed such that he took his own life. The young man felt everyone was against him for taking an unpopular stand. He was cyber-bullied and was shamed in school. He felt lost and betrayed by everyone, so much so that he must have felt so down and so alone which eventually led to that fateful decision.

There are times that you feel so burdened with challenges that you feel the Lord is so far and is so quiet: “There are injustices committed,Corruption is still prevalent”, “The children are having problems in school”, “Debts are piling up”, “Health is failing”, “I’m so alone, no one is with me”, etc. etc. You feel that He is indifferent to your needs and prayers. You ask, “Why do bad things happen to me?”, or “Is God sleeping”. It can even take the worse, sometimes questioning your faith, “God, are you real?”

In the First Reading (Hab. 1: 2-3; 2:2-4), the prophet cried out,

How long, O LORD?  I cry for help but you do not listen! I cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not intervene. Why do you let me see ruin; why must I look at misery? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and clamorous discord.”

And yet the Lord responded,

Write down the vision clearly upon the tablets, so that one can read it readily. For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint; if it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late. The rash one has no integrity; but the just one, because of his faith, shall live.

God is telling us to be patient, as things will turn for the better in due time, in His time. It “will not disappoint, if it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late”. He is the God of the Universe and so it’s His call when to intervene. All things are allowed for a reason: it is to toughen us, to build our faith, to test our patience. Only He knows what the future holds, so we just have to trust Him and hang on. We are still endowed with free will so it’s really up to us if we want to survive these challenges and persevere in our faith.

In the Gospel (Lk. 17: 5-10), the apostles were asking the Lord to “Increase our faith.” The Lord replied,

If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,and it would obey you.”

Faith can move mountains, as they say. The Lord wants to assure us that He is in control. Regardless of what happens, we must be joyful for having Him behind our back. He is “our strength, our rock, our fortress, our deliverer, our shield, our stronghold!” (Ps. 18: 2-3).

May we take to heart St. Paul’s message in the Second Reading (2 Tim. 1: 6-8, 13-14),

For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control. 
So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for his sake; but bear your share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God

May we be always faithful to Him, to be on guard yet secure, to be watchful yet confident and to persevere in the faith.

If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” (Ps. 95: 8)