Following Jesus Without Hesitation

Often when we are asked to make decisions, we dillydally until the time given us is done. There are times we request for more extensions because we haven’t made up our minds yet. However, when the Lord calls, it is one that can’t be postponed. It can’t be ignored as it is a force so strong, that not even one with a heart of stone can resist.

In this Sunday’s Gospel (Mt. 4: 12-23), after Jesus withdrew to Galilee upon hearing of John’s arrest, he left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum. This came to pass in order to fulfill what had been said through the prophet Isaiah, might be fulfilled:

the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light,
on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death
light has arisen.

‘The Lord began to preach saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him.

Note that Andrew and Simon made a very quick decision, one that didn’t involve hesitation at all. There was no, “I’ll ask permission first”, or “I’ll inform them first”. These were also done by James and John, who were mending their nets at the time of their call.

The four disciples must have been so touched in the preaching of Jesus, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”, that they immediately left everything to follow Him. There must be a special quality in Jesus that they followed without hesitation whatsoever. Yes, they still encountered difficulties later but starting to follow Him was the first step they need to do in order to journey with the Lord.

What about you? What will it take for you to follow Christ? Will repentance and faith need to take a lifelong decision? What if life is shorter than you thought it would be?

Jesus proclaimed the Gospel of the kingdom and cured every disease among the people.” (Mt. 4: 23)

Viva Sr. Sto. Nino!

When I started attending the Christian Life Program (CLP) many years ago, sessions I attended were also spent in patient observation of how the Team Leader and his wife handled their assignments. I observed that they came consistently early during CLP days to prepare the prayer warriors, the service team and even the venue. The couple were the ones leading in doing the cleaning of the floor, arranging the chairs, tables and other paraphernalia. He also trained and coached the prayer warriors and the service team, doing it with attention to details aside from careful discussion with them at the end of each session. In my own assessment, what they were doing were more on service orientation to the mission they sought to accomplish. Later on when it was my turn to serve, I experienced what was needed to be a successful leader in the community. It was servant leadership and selfless dedication. It was difficult, hard, and to top it all, that service was done in Metro Manila where traffic is a daily serving. It drains one physically and emotionally especially when the participants were also having their own personal struggles. You have to tame your emotions, choose to be a listener rather than be a talker. It brings your pride down and without knowing it, you slowly think about what humility really is all about.

In the Gospel today (Mt. 18: 1-5, 10), the disciples were asking the Lord as to who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Then to illustrate his point, Jesus called and set a little child in the midst of the disciples and said,

I assure you, that, unless you change, and become like little children, you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Whoever becomes humble, like this child, is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, and whoever receives such a child, in my name, receives me. See that you do not despise any of these little ones; for I tell you, their angels in heaven continually see the face of my heavenly Father.”

This event reminds us of the importance of being humble like little children. It is a prescription the Lord gave if one wants to enter Heaven. This means we must shed off that pride remaining in us.

As the Philippines celebrate the Feast of the Santo Nino today, we are to look at others using the eyes of God and of faith. Roam around the country today and you see how colorful and festive the atmosphere is. In the midst of these celebrations, we have to go beyond the symbols and colors of what we see. We have to look at the essence and meaning of the Santo Nino in our lives. The child that He is, the Santo Nino symbolizes the innocence and meekness that we need in a world that prescribes power, status and economic class. Respect for others must go beyond social and economic norms banked on money and fame. We must remember that what material possessions and status we have are gifts that God can take away any time. We can’t take these with us to the grave when we become lifeless physically but what we have invested in spiritual matters are what remains as real and eternal possessions.

As the festivities fade away in the night, let us pray for the wisdom to look at others with the heart of the Child Jesus. May we make Him our model of innocence, simplicity and humility.

Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done wondrous deeds; His right hand has won victory for Him, His holy arm.” (Ps. 98: 1)

Listen to Him!

It is the conclusion of the Christmas Season and the beginning of Ordinary Time.  As we celebrate The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, we also mark the transition from Jesus’ private life to that of His public ministry.  Just like last Sunday, which was the Epiphany; the Baptism of the Lord is another manifestation announcing Jesus Christ’s divinity to all of His first followers and to the disciples of St. John the Baptist.

In the Gospel today (Mt. 3: 13-17) in all humility, Jesus asked John to baptize him,

Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” Jesus said to him in reply, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”

Jesus didn’t need the baptism of John, as the Baptist pointed out.  Jesus didn’t need to repent but He insisted despite John’s resistance. In a way, the Lord want to affirm all that John has said and done in preparing the way of the Lord.

We are again reminded of the Divine origin of Jesus Christ. Since the Old Testament times, prophets have foretold the coming of the Savior. In the First Reading (Is. 42: 1-4, 6-7), the Prophet Isaiah wrote,

Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased,
upon whom I have put my spirit
he shall bring forth justice to the nations,
not crying out, not shouting,
not making his voice heard in the street.
a bruised reed he shall not break,
and a smoldering wick he shall not quench,
until he establishes justice on the earth
the coastlands will wait for his teaching.”

The Ordinary Time in the Liturgical Calendar now commences. We pray that grace and mercy will be given us as we listen and follow Him as God the Father directs us to do:

This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Let us pray for guidance, strength and courage as we continue to trek in this New Year.

The heavens were opened and the voice of the Father thundered:
This is my beloved Son, listen to Him
.” (Mk. 9: 7)

Jesus Alone Is Enough

When I was in High School, I portrayed the lead role of the play “The Other Wise Man” which was shown in the University Church. While it happened quite some time ago, the lessons were never lost or forgotten. It speaks of how this fourth wise man engaged in a lifelong journey to find the Messiah, the difficulties, challenges and the details of which reveal this man’s dedication and commitment to searching and finding the Lord.   

Searching for Jesus then is a journey that we all take. Some search Him early on, some search for Him at midlife, while others do not even get to hear about Him. Knowing that He existed isn’t enough, we should search for Him to know Him better and to love Him even more. Not that He needs our love for His sake, it is really more for our own good. As God who is perfect, He doesn’t need anything more to add to His Perfection and Power. For us though, we need to be able to understand Him well so that our lives will be offered only for Him and no one else.

While we know that despite what we’ll do, we can’t ever achieve something worthy of Heaven, His mercy and compassion will always be something we can pray and hope to gain. This is where we can count on His promises and draw strength and courage from His Spirit.   

This Sunday’s Gospel (Mt. 2: 1-12) tells us,

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.”

The impact of the star rising must have been such that these wise men trekked all the way from the east to follow it and pay the newborn king homage. Travelling during the time wasn’t easy and it may have taken them several months from where they came from, riding in their camels. But the point is that, these wise men paid Him homage, regardless of the perils of the journey. God incarnate in Jesus Christ was manifested to the Gentiles through these wise men.

We all know what astrology is all about. We know that many depend on it to direct their lives in order to have good luck and fortune. A lot of Christians still use amulets and various accessories to bring in supposedly a better future and ward off evil spirits. Yet, these magi in the Gospel showed that there is more hope in Jesus Christ than astrology, stars and horoscopes. The wise men reveal that Jesus is the only True Star that which all mankind should follow and adore. No one else to deify but Jesus Christ!

Let us then reflect on the meaning of the Epiphany in our lives. Have we internalized the significance of Christ in the way we practice our faith?

Portraying the “Other Wise Man” in high school gave me a wonderful experience of knowing the Lord better. Still, I’m searching and following Jesus up to this day. The journey may be long and perilous, but I trust His Star will continue to be there to light the way.

Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.” (Ps. 72: 11)