Becoming Like the Holy Family

This weekend, I drove a five-hour trip which includes navigating zigzag roads stretching for almost an hour to cross the other side of the island. I endured the drive because it is meant for my beloved mother, who was admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) some days before Christmas. As my Mom’s eldest child, I have been a recipient of her teachings early on, thus it isn’t only my moral obligation to ensure she is taken cared of properly, but it is more of the love for one’s own mother.

This Sunday’s Gospel (Mt. 2: 13-15, 19-23) proclaims the events affecting Jesus, Mary and Joseph during the reign of Herod, one primarily responsible for the killing of the Holy Innocents. Since it was already dangerous for the Child Jesus to stay longer, God intervened by directing Joseph to flee to Egypt. Joseph took the child and his mother to flee to Egypt, staying there until the death of Herod. Intending to go to Israel, he however changed his mind after hearing that Archelaus (Herod’s son) was ruling over Judea in place of his father. And because he had been warned in a dream, he departed for the region of Galilee and dwelt in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, He shall be called a Nazorean.

Throughout the reading, we can see Joseph’s role in ensuring the safety of Jesus. But what makes it significant is that God intervened in very difficult situations. God didn’t allow for anything to happen outside the Divine Plan. It is because Joseph proved himself worthy of the calling, without which, there wouldn’t be any role for him in salvation history.

To be hopeful of God’s interventions in our own lives, we must be like Joseph. We can’t allow obstructions making God’s will not to happen: lack of faith, lack of prayer life and choosing to be lukewarm and a passive observer. Faith, prayer and action are the foundations of a true disciple of Christ, which is built in the home.

In perspective, this Sunday’s readings are challenging our families to imitate the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. In the First Reading (Sir. 3:2-6, 12-14), the prophet describes how to please God, starting first with one’s own family. Before we even think of becoming Christ’s followers, we are told how to show respect for our own parents. Joseph was able to prove that he is a reliable protector of Jesus. Consider this: no other saint owns the distinction of being the earthly protector of Jesus and Mary, two of the most important persons in history. This was despite the hardships and challenges prevailing during that period: there are the human predators in Herod and his army, deserts providing various threats to the Child as they journey during those times and the mystery of the Child Jesus. But Joseph chose God above all. He was obedient and faithful to the Lord. He didn’t need proof from God in order to follow Him; his faith and trust is enough.

Let us then reflect on these prescriptions on how to live a family life pleasing to the Lord. How close (or how far) are we to imitating the quality of Joseph’s leadership in his earthly family? How can our souls become closer to be like Joseph? How can we become “even just a shade” of Joseph in order to match God’s prescriptions?

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

(PS. The Your Kids My Kids Foundation is still looking for kind souls willing to sponsor the feeding of hungry children. For details please visit: “www.yourkidsmykids.org”, or send an email to: “ykmkfi@gmail.com”. You’ll surely be blessed lighting up a child’s tummy for the next several months. And others will see Jesus in you!)

Come Lord Jesus, the King of Glory!

Many years ago, a colleague and friend invited me to join the Couples for Christ Community. I made excuses and tried to evade the topic whenever he brought up the request to participate. I argued that it’s unnecessary as I’ve been a good follower of Christ and have been serving my home parish ever since I was in grade school (thanks to the prodding of my beloved mother!). So he stopped for a while, resumed and never stopped until the day came that I said “Yes”, more as a gesture of respect for his persistence. However, God have other plans because that “Yes” gave me a new perspective at learning better my faith and bringing me closer to Him. It was a life changing decision indeed! It opened up a personal relationship with the Lord and have made me see things from a different point of view.

In this Sunday’s Gospel (Mt. 1: 18-24) we are provided Joseph’s point of view of the Lord’s coming. After learning that Mary was pregnant, Joseph, “a righteous man yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly”. It may look like just a simple event but the way Joseph and Mary handled the situation showed us a glimpse of these holy people’s faith in Yahweh God. In those times, this is not an ordinary engagement, but it is more than that: it’s like a portion of the marriage contract is already in motion. A violation can be considered adultery and if proven, the punishment is for Mary to be stoned to death. Even though Joseph has these right under Mosaic law, he chose to act discreetly in his plans to stop the marriage contract, so as to protect Mary. Then God intervenes:

However, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, 


Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.”

When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.”

After Mary said “Yes” to Angel Gabriel, God’s plan of salvation opened up for humanity some more with the “Yes” of Joseph. It’s now a connected event, as prophesied by the Prophet Isaiah in the First Reading (Is. 7:10-14). While God did come into the picture, Joseph showed us how holy and obedient he is. He didn’t hesitate, he showed his commitment to God through his acceptance of Mary as his spouse.

As we begin our reflection of the mystery of the Incarnation, just like how the Gospel today starts: “Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about” (Mt. 1:18), let us pause in awe and wonder of God’s immense love for us. Set aside whatever feelings of hopelessness and anxieties you are experiencing at the moment. (Curiously, as I write these thoughts, my mother is in the third day at the ICU for unstable heart rate and other ailments associated with aging. I pray you share prayers for her this Christmas Season.) Only God is in control, and so let’s lift these all to Jesus, our Lord and Savior, the King of Glory. Let us trust that everything will turn out better with God in control.

Let the Lord enter; He is King of Glory.” (Ps. 24: 7c and 10b)

(PS. In case you haven’t made up your mind yet, Fr. Armand Robleza is still looking for kind souls willing to sponsor the feeding of hungry children through the Your Kids My Kids Foundation. For details please visit: www.yourkidsmykids.org or send an email to: “ykmkfi@gmail.com”. You’ll surely be blessed lighting up a child’s tummy for the next several months. And others will see Jesus in you!)

Yes, the Lord is Coming!

Whenever an announcement or information that someone close to us is coming to visit, there is joy and excitement. We prepare and we ensure that our guest will feel at home and welcome when the time comes. In our excitement, we often want to get an assurance and ask the question if our visitor is “really coming?”  

In this Sunday’s Gospel (Mt. 11: 2-11), St. John the Baptist who was in prison at that time, sent his disciples to Jesus with this question, “Are you the one who is to come,
or should we look for another
?”

The Lord affirmed John’s question and said to them in reply, 

Go and tell John what you hear and see
the blind regain their sight, 
the lame walk,
lepers are cleansed, 
the deaf hear,
the dead are raised,
and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.
And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me
.”

When they left, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John,

What did you go out to the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? Then what did you go out to see? Someone dressed in fine clothing? Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces.

He further asked,


Then why did you go out
To see a prophet?
Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written:
Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you.

One of my close friends asked me how is it that whenever I send an insight to her she feels the hand of God in those messages. She would say, “Gosh, another timely message! OK will follow through”.

Again, Yahweh God (First Reading Is. 35: 1-6a, 10) is telling us,

Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, He comes with vindication; with divine recompense
He comes to save you
.”

In this Advent Season, whatever you are experiencing at the moment, let us remove all feelings of hopelessness and anxieties. The Lord has affirmed He is coming and has always reminded us of His abiding presence. In confidence and trust, let us keep hoping and praying for grace and wisdom. By constant prayer and reflection, we can be more sensitive to the leadings of His Spirit to guide us through this challenging times.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.” (Is. 61:1, Lk. 4: 18)

(PS. In case you haven’t made up your mind yet, Fr. Armand Robleza is still looking for kind souls willing to sponsor the feeding of hungry children through the Your Kids My Kids Foundation. For details please visit: “www.yourkidsmykids.org”, or send an email to: “ykmkfi@gmail.com”. You’ll surely be blessed lighting up a child’s tummy for the next several months. And others will see Jesus in you!)

Prepare the Way of the Lord

In last week’s reflections, we were talking about the need to be ready at all times, to be awake, to be alert.

In this Sunday’s Gospel (Mt. 3: 1-12), St. John the Baptist gave us what this readiness is about and what are the preparations we need to do:

John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said: A voice of one crying out in the desert, Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair and had a leather belt around his waist.
His food was locusts and wild honey. At that time Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins
.”

It speaks that in order to be ready, one must repent of his sins. This isn’t only about going to confession but will require a change of mind and heart. St. John the Baptist modelled this repentance by the way he lived. The Lord though is not asking us to live in the forest and eat locusts and wild honey, but we must exercise sensitivity to the poor amongst us. The proof of this repentance is the harvest of good fruit. We have to be aware that there has to be an abundance of good works that will flow out. We have to take a look at ourselves whether others are already seeing good things coming out from our faith experience. We are not to presume that since “we belong to this community” or that “ministry” we are automatically saved, as St. John the Baptist said to the Pharisees and the Sadducees,

Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves
We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.”

We are warned against hypocrisy, as most of the leaders of the synagogue were like that in the Lord’s time. So grave is the sin of hypocrisy that St. John the Baptist said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?”

Preparing the path for the Savior requires for us to straighten our ways so that we can have the chance to be saved. This preparation will be challenged and tested. There will be difficulties but one must persevere and overcome these with prayer, reflection and mindfulness.

Today, let us continue to pray for strength and perseverance to overcome these distractions. May the Lord bless us, guide us, and protect us during this Advent Season.

Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths: all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” (Lk. 3: 4,6)

Seeing Jesus in You

When going to your regular work, to competitive sports, to travel or even the lightest of tasks, there’s no substitute for preparation. Elite athletes start practicing earlier and finish much later than their ordinary teammates and competitors. Top students actually spend more time studying than other learners. When one doesn’t make any preparation, one is bound to come up short or even fail entirely. Regardless of what he is doing, thorough preparation is the hallmark of a successful and happy person.

Today is the First Sunday of Advent, the season to prepare for the coming of the Savior. In the Gospel reading (Mt. 24: 37-44) Jesus said that just like in the olden times, people will be

… eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark. They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away. So will it be also at the coming of the Son of Man.

People will continue indulging in life’s pleasures excessively without regard for the poverty around. The Lord used a very appropriate example of shameless indulgence among the people during the time of Noah. So that others won’t repeat this mistake, He advised everyone, 


Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.

For the “unbeliever”, there’s no need to prepare something this Advent. There’s no reason and no motivation to look into his soul’s readiness for the coming of Christ into the world. Thus, there’s really nothing to do anything about. He will party lavishly, prepare food wastefully, and indulge in activities while proceeding without conscience for the poor in society.

On the other hand, the “spiritual” person prepares himself thoroughly in order to have his heart pure and ready to receive the Child Jesus. He goes to confession, do works of mercy, and shares his treasures with the least, the last and the lost.  For him, it is very important to be ready to receive God. He also makes sure that others see Jesus in him, because it is only in doing so that Jesus will be truly alive to others.

What about you? Are you the “unbeliever” or the “spiritual” person?

Today let us start our preparation for the coming of the Savior Jesus Christ. Let us find time to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, do works of mercy, do fasting, and share your treasures with the least, the last and the lost. One good thing that you can do this Christmas in case you haven’t made up your mind yet is to sponsor a poor child in Fr. Armand Robleza’s Your Kids My Kids Foundation — for supplemental feeding of severely malnourished children. (For details see the website: www.yourkidsmykids.org). You’ll surely be happy lighting up a child’s tummy for the next several months. And others will see Jesus in you!

Show us Lord, your love; and grant us your salvation.” (Ps. 85: 8)