Faith, Trust and Courage

It’s sad that because of this pandemic around we cannot do our usual Lenten rituals in Church. These are rituals I’ll surely miss, being more of a deeper devotion and love rather than just plain rituals. Not only me and my family but many others as well will be missing these solemn practices of faith. Who could imagine that a pandemic this huge could envelop the world and its advance technologies? Yet we have to be creative in our worship while ensuring the solemnity of this season of Lent, now almost ending, on its Fifth Sunday.

Today’s Gospel (Jn. 11: 1-45) is clearly sharing with us the similarities of what the Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection will look like. St. John gave his opening observations on Mary, the sister of Lazarus, the one who anointed the Lord for burial. He also wrote the tombstone being taken away, while also describing the coverings on the body of Lazarus, similar to his later observations of the Resurrection account.

This pandemic is a realization that not all the things in this world are important. It is proof that when there’s a crisis hitting the globe, everyone takes a hit regardless of who you are. Rich or poor, prominent or ordinary, old or young, everyone is a victim. Not even big sporting events, rich countries, or the privileged class are exempt. No one can imagine in his lifetime that with pandemic this magnitude, the world stands still even up to now. The end of this lockdown is still uncertain as it can go on for weeks or even months. Hopefully it’ll end soon, but only God knows. 

If you recall last week’s Sunday Gospel, like the blind man, Lazarus represents all of humanity. He stands for all of us that God loves and wants to liberate from sin and death. The Lord gives Martha and Mary the insight that faith has power over death and the bondage of sin, symbolized by the stone being taken away. 

The other day I was honoring my wife Alma for being such a strong and caring soul in the light of what we’re all experiencing right now. She’s always a courageous, inspiring and vibrant lady all through these years. It must be her faith. Also, I myself used to be so scared of darkness having encountered some hair-raising experiences when I was younger. Now, largely due to faith and trust in God, there is lesser stress and anxiety knowing that all these shall pass. I truly believe that this is in fact temporary, as compared to a permanent Heaven that we pray will be ours someday.

May the words of St. Paul (Second Reading Rom. 8: 8-11) resonate in us, 

But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin,
the spirit is alive because of righteousness. If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit dwelling in you.

May our faith in the Lord continue to grow. May our actions be able to inspire others to trust Jesus more and more. May we persevere despite the threats of recent events to our faith and trust in God.

I am the resurrection and the life, says the Lord;whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will never die.” (Jn.11: 25a, 26)

(Thanks to Internet technology we can now participatein the Holy Mass through Facebook Live streaming. Among the Churches that regularly do this is the St. John Bosco Parish of Makati. This Sunday, I attendedthe 10:00 A.M. Holy Mass celebrated by Fr. Armand Robleza, SDB. Visit their Facebook page for other Mass schedules and the calendar of events slated this Lenten Season and the coming Holy Week.)  

The Time Is Now

In the world wars past, we read of soldiers leaving their homes to answer the call of the country. Today, medical practitioners extend time to complete the work they have started doing. People who have responsibilities over other people and physical assets are required by the nature of their work to stay near their installations. Their responsibilities go beyond the normal 8 to 5 work of the other employees. 

In today’s Gospel (Jn. 9: 1-41), the Pharisees were asking the blind beggar how he was able to see again. He said to them,


He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see.”

Some of the Pharisees said many things about him because they do not believe it was a miracle, they even summoned the parents of the one who had gained his sight to ask them,

Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How does he now see?”


His parents answered and said,

We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. We do not know how he sees now,
nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him, he is of age
he can speak for himself.”

The Pharisees were more concerned about the reason for the beggar’s getting his sight again, rather than praising God for blessing the blind beggar with the miracle.   

In difficult and trying times, we ask why certain events happen. We even question God why He allows bad things to happen to good people. In our sorrow, we tend to be confused and can’t understand why these are happening. 

Yet, in the miracle in today’s Gospel, God has also allowed this to happen. Not to be just a casual event but when asked why the man was born blind, Jesus answered, 

Neither he nor his parents sinnedit is so that the works of God might be made visible through him. We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

In today’s Fourth Sunday of Lent homily, Fr. Armand said that we don’t need to know the answer to these questions, because these moments have already been designed to show God’s power. The time is now, not tomorrow, not yesterday, but now.We don’t need to know why, but rather our faith should lead us, not by sight and not by evidence. When we trust God, we just submit to His will, confident that He is in control over what’s happening around us. Sooner or later, we will understand the reason for things to happen.

As we begin this fourth week of Lent, let us be comforted by the exhortation of St. Paul (Second Reading, Eph. 5: 8-14),

You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.

Let us pray for our frontliners, that the Lord give them strength and courage to pursue their mission successfully and faithfully. Let us pray for our bishops and priests, those who serve as chaplains in the hospitals, that they may be strengthened and comforted as they serve the Lord with gladness and purity of heart. Let us pray for healing of those affected with this deadly virus.

May we continue to trust the Lord, confident that God does not give us trials to test our faith, but that He gives us faith to get us through the trials we face. It is time to prove our faith in Him.

I am the light of the world, says the Lord;whoever follows me will have the light of life.” (Jn. 8: 12)

(Thanks to Internet technology we can hearthe Holy Mass through Facebook Live streaming. Among the Churches that regularly do this is the St. John Bosco Parish of Makati. This Sunday, I attendedthe 10:00 A.M. Holy Mass celebrated by Fr. Armand Robleza, SDB.)  

Hope (and Faith) Does Not Disappoint

With the spread of the virus reaching an alarming trend, everyone is required to observe “Social Distancing”, which is to stay a minimum two meters away from the next person beside us. It also means to stay home and disengage from being in crowded places. This is to “flatten the curve”, or to stop its logarithmic growth. 

During the time of Jesus, there was also a similar situation in that Jews stayed away from Samaritans. That is why, in the Gospel (Jn. 4: 5-42), the woman was surprised why Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” The Samaritan woman said to him, 

How can you, a Jew, ask me a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”

Our Lord was there sitting at the well, tired from his journey. Fr. Armand Robleza, SDB, shared his insights in today’s Live Online Mass about why the woman went to draw water about noontime, and not in the morning or in the afternoon. It is the impression that the woman may have timed it by purpose when everyone’s inside due to the hot weather at noon time. She was afraid that people may get her and accuse her of adultery, a very serious offense in those days. 

The Lord and the woman exchanged a thoughtful conversation on the well until Jesus said to her,

Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again;
but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst;
the water I shall give will become in him
a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

In our life, there are many moments that we are afraid of something; these times, we are afraid of the virus — no, it’s not the virus that we are afraid of — rather it is the idea of dying from it. Yet we are to be reminded that death is something that isn’t normally planned nor is it something that we are certain of happening in a definite time. (I say “normally planned” unless one is having mental health issues one way or the other, or you also become careless with your health.) At the end of the day, when God calls you to go, whether you are inflicted with the virus or not, you have no choice but to answer His call.

The Samaritan woman experienced it and you may experience it too: the moments that you are in a state of fear and anxiety, just be hopeful and believe that the Lord is just beside you, waiting for your call and plea for help. When we are afraid, there is no other assurance that can comfort us except with the faith and the thought that the Lord is nearby, ready to comfort us.

In theFirst Reading (Ex. 17: 3-7), the situation isn’t different from what we are experiencing now. The Israelites were questioning “Is the Lord in our midst or not?”, as they were in search of water, and they grumbled against Moses saying, 

 “Why did you ever make us leave EgyptWas it just to have us die here of thirst with our children and our livestock?”

Moses have to cry out begging God for answers on how to manage the people. Yahweh God answered Moses,

Go over there in front of the people, along with some of the elders of Israel, holding in your hand, as you go, the staff with which you struck the river. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock in Horeb. Strike the rock, and the water will flow from it for the people to drink.”

Truly in these trying times, the best and most important thing to do is to pray, have faith, and be hopeful. As in the times of Moses and the Samaritan woman, we are now reminded again to have no fear in our hearts. In the Second Reading (Rom. 5: 1-2, 5-8) St. Paul affirms this promise,

And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For Christ, while we were still helpless,
died at the appointed time for the ungodly
.”

As we begin this third week of Lent, while it is sad that we won’t be able to do our usual Lenten routines because of safety and health restrictions, let us spend more time in prayer and reflection so that we may be allowed the grace and opportunity of deepening our relationship with the Lord and growing more in intimacy with Him. Let us be consoled with the thought that the Lord has more important missions for us, more powerful than the virus in our midst. For nothing happens that interferes with God’s plan for us.

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

The Mountains We Climb

A few weeks ago some of my friends were in anticipation of one Korean telenovela’s last episode. They wanted to see how it ended, caught by the interesting storyline, beautiful actors, and awesome cinematography. Most of my lady friends were caught by this romantic story being shown on Internet livestream. Admittedly, they wanted the ideal ending to that love story. (I haven’t completed watching it so I don’t know how it ended.)     

For the faithful Christian, this is the same prayer that we want of having an ideal ending to our earthly pilgrimage. We want to be in Heaven someday!

In the Gospel (Mt. 17: 1-9), 

Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother to a high mountain by themselves

and He was transfigured before themHis face shone like the sun and His clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with Him.”

At that time, the disciples were already experiencing a lot while with Jesus in the missionary journey. You could imagine the difficulties they were encountering: John had just been beheaded (Chap. 14), there was a lot of stress after being questioned by breaking the “tradition of the elders” (Chap. 15), and the first prediction of the Passion (in Chap. 16). God saw the need to re-assure the disciples of Jesus by showing them a peek of what Heaven is all about. The inner circle of Jesus was given a glimpse of Heaven while on earth. It was a rare privilege given for them to experience the beauty and glory of Eternity. So in awe was Peter that the only thing he could say was,

Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

Just like the disciples, we also encounter several mountains in our journey. These difficulties come in the form of needs like health issues, debts that are due, relationship concerns, and work problems.Some may be sieged with problems so difficult that they even entertain the thought of giving up. Lately there has been a surge in mental health issues leading to anxieties and depression, especially among the youth. As Christ’s followers, we should be the first to say to our family, friends and those we come to meet “Don’t give up”. Giving up shouldn’t be an option, as the disciples are made to understand what Jesus is to them,

While He was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleasedlisten to Him.”

It is an assurance for the faithful, you and me, to trust in Jesus Christ our Savior and King. We should listen when He said to His disciples, 

Rise, and do not be afraid.”

 The same message is conveyed to us now, and to the future generations of Christ’s followers. For each mountain we climb, it is but important that we pick up the lessons learned there.

As we begin this Second Week of Lent, may we be confident in the words of St. Paul in the Second Reading (2 Tim. 1: 8B-10),

Bear your share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God. He saved us and called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to His own design.”

In the Anticipated Mass we attended last night, the Lord tells us, “Face your fears.” The mountains we climb won’t be the last, the difficulty becomes heavier as we near the pinnacle, but if we hold on to Him, we won’t feel the pain as we will be experiencing more joy in the thought that He’ll be with us all the way. 

Let us pray that we become stronger in the faith, confident of the love that the Lord gives us through the journey. May we learn the useful lessons from each mountain we climb and conquer, assured of His abiding mercy and grace.

Lord, let Your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in You.” (Ps. 33: 22)

Trusting Jesus

The readings this First Sunday of Lent is a study in contrast among two men, the first man, Adam, and the new Adam, Jesus.

In the First Reading (Gn. 2: 7-9; 3: 1-7), the Lord God formed man from the clay of the ground and breathed life from God’s own Spirit.  Adam was a son of God, created in His image, and was given dominion over the world. Now, the serpent was the most cunning of all the animals that the Lord God has made. After the woman (Eve) answered the question on what was forbidden, the serpent said to the woman:


You certainly will not die!
No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it
your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods
who know what is good and what is evil
.”

Adam and Eve, however, gave in to the serpent’s temptation, trying to get for himself all that God had already promised him. 

In contrast, in His hour of temptation, Jesus prevailed where Adam failed—and drove the devil away (Second Reading Mt. 4: 1-11).

Despite knowing that story of the first man, we still sin in the same pattern as Adam. We let sin into our lives by doubting God’s presence and forgetting to call Him by prayer when we are tempted. Just this morning, a friend captured that precisely when he sent me a text saying “Part-time Christians cannot defeat full-time devils!”

We have to understand that most of the temptations is always about trusting God; whether to followthe way to getting successful no matter what, or rather doing the will of God — which is an act of trust. This is the difference with the saints, as they remained faithful to God despite temptations to become wealthy and popular. As a result, they experienced the love and care of God for here and beyond this temporary world.

As we begin this First Week of Lent, may we be confident in the words of St. Paul in the Second Reading (Rom. 5: 12-19),

For if by the transgression of the one, the many diedhow much more did the grace of God
and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ overflow for the many
.”

Trusting Jesus, may we pray with humility, trust and respect today’s Psalms (Ps. 51: 3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 17),

Give me back the joy of your salvation,
and a willing spirit sustain in me.
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise
.”

Christ’s victory over sin by obedience to God the Father means that by grace we have also removed sin as our master. Let us pray for forgiveness and reflect on how we can be a better Adam, in our effort to obey and love the Lord as we journey with Him in the desert during this Season of Lent. 

One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” (Mt. 4: 4B)