Overcoming Fear

There are instances when we don’t agree that some things and events are necessary for us to grow and develop. For example when we were still younger, we think school is too long, some of life’s lessons can be learned the easy way, and often question our parents and teachers why the process has to be like that. 

In this Sunday’s Gospel (Mt. 16: 21-27), Peter argues with Jesus because of the Lord’s pronouncement that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.  “God forbid, Lord!No such thing shall ever happen to you.” Peter was saying this out of concern and love for Jesus. But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!” 

When I was younger, we had a childhood friend who came to our playground crying and complaining that his father told him “you are a demon” because he committed a mistake at home. Such words we also see in television and so it must be something that some people say especially when they’re mad and angry. But Jesus saying that may be so hard to accept. 

You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

This brings to mind what Yahweh God said,

For My thoughts are not your thoughtsnor are your ways My waysFor as the heavens are higher than the earth,so are My ways higher than your waysMy thoughts higher than your thoughts.” (Is. 55: 8-9)

Peter’s response is something that any human does amidst pain and suffering: fear.However, we must also take note that this is a process necessary for us to attain purification and grow in the love and grace of God. Our faith cannot fully mature if our life is only about the good times, fun and enjoyment. It is about conscience that suffering exists in the world and there are others beyond our fences that have to struggle to have food, clothing and shelter. Undergoing pain and suffering strengthen us, give us courage, and fortify our faith in God. When we start embracing pain and suffering it make us realize we can be joyful because we know we’re doing it in obedience to the will of God. We begin to share whatever we have because we know this is what the Lord wants us to do. What Jesus said had the effect of helping Peter to overcome his fear and “to accept the glorious fate and mission of Jesus.” In perspective, it is not God that causes suffering but He can use it to nurture our growth in love and intimacy with Him.

Christ said,

Whoever wishes to come after Me must deny himselftake up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose itbut whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” 

The Lord’s imminent suffering and death at the hands of the elders is God’s beautiful gift to the world. His Passion and Death is the greatest act of love ever known. For Jesus, it was the necessary thing to go through to fulfill the great plan of salvation. 

The moment we think like God, we start to fully trust Him and our faith is no longer rooted according to human standards. Absolute trust in God enables us to accept pain and suffering as the only ways to follow Him. Sadly, there are sects and churches that only promote well-being and self-satisfaction as the paths to spirituality. They don’t talk about pain and suffering, instead talk about achieving happiness in this world. This is misleading and disturbing because it only talks about one’s self and temporal happiness.

The Cross is a part of life, we cannot ignore that. The Cross is powerful. It doesn’t acknowledge your wealth, your courage, your holiness. Whoever you are, you have your own cross to carry”, says Fr. Armand Robleza, SDB, in his homily today. 

St. Paul exhorts in the Second Reading (Rm, 12: 1-2)

“…to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice,holy and pleasing to Godyour spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mindthat you may discern what is the will of Godwhat is good and pleasing and perfect.”

Let us pray that we may have the courage to  answer God’s call to serve.  Will you have the strength and willingness to embrace the crosses in your life?  Are you willing to share in the pain and suffering of others?  

May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ enlighten the eyes of our hearts, that we may know what is the hope that belongs to our call.”(cf.Eph. 1: 17-18)

Jesus Christ, the Messiah

One of the anecdotes told about His Eminence Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle happened when he was still Bishop of the Diocese of Imus. He was going to a local Parish Church to say Mass, to replace a priest who was unable to come. Some of the Church volunteers didn’t realize who he was until introduced properly at the start of the Celebration. 

We know also of others who are contented to stay in the background and when we realized who they really were, we admired their humility and simplicity. In the Gospel (Mt. 16: 13-20), when Jesus asked his disciples, Peter made the profession of faith in the Lord as the Messiah,  

You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 

Jesus then said to Peter, 

“…you are Peter, and upon this rockI will build my Church.”

Then He strictly ordered His disciples to tell no one that He is the Christ.

Rather than ask His disciples to spread word that He is the Messiah, Jesus wants to keep His identity strictly a secret. He wants the disciples and the people to discover Him by themselves, and not in that popular kind of way. When the Lord was walking the earth with them, He wanted them to develop that kind of trust through the power of faith. It was only later after He was Crucified, Risen and Ascended into Heaven were they called to preach the Gospel and openly talk about the identity of the Lord. 

As His own modern-day disciples, we are called not only to preach the Lord’s identity but also more importantly get to know Christ more personally. He wants us to know Him better  and more intimately for the good of our own souls. When we hear Jesus Christ’s name proclaimed in Mass and worship services, we should acknowledge His Divinity and come to His awesome presence. He wants to get closer with us in a more intimate kind of way. 

In this time of the pandemic, reflect on your faith in Jesus: Do you believe in Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength?

Let us pray for faith  especially in these trying times, that we may persevere and stay with Him until the end.

Lord, your love is eternal; do not forsake the work of your hands.”(cf.Ps. 138: 8bc)

Increasing Our Faith

When one aims for higher office or position, the more difficult the challenges will be. You will have to give up something for another. Time will have to be reallocated while priorities change. Sometimes, there will be compromises that may be done, all for the end goal that one wants to achieve.

This is the same with our journey with the Lord. The deeper we are in our relationship with Him, there will be seemingly more difficult aspects that we will go through. While others look at it as such, it’ll be more joyful and easier because you know the prize is worth all the difficulties and struggles. You sacrifice material wealth and worldly honor because you know that Eternal Life is priceless and more important.

In the Gospel (Mt. 15: 21-28), Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon, when a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of DavidMy daughter is tormented by a demon.” Even Jesus’ silence, the disciples request to send her away and the “rude” reply that the Lord said could stop her from saying, “Lord, help me.” The sharp response of Jesus saying, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs” didn’t discourage her pleading further, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Jesus granted her prayer because of her “great faith”.

This Canaanite woman, a pagan mother, proclaimed that Jesus is the Son of David, a faith which stands clearly apart from the lack of faith that the Lord sees among the people of Israel, their elders and even his home town of Nazareth. 

Last night, I called my Aunt Diony to listen and talk to her about dealing with life’s challenges. With limited mobility brought about by community quarantine restrictions, we sometimes think that the Lord is silent and ignoring our prayers. We discussed that there are times when the Lord is allowing events to happen to test our faith, knowing He has equipped us with the strength to overcome it. The most difficult part is when you succumb to the temptation, especially when you lose your faith feeling that God isn’t answering your prayers. When this happens, you actually lose faith and trust in God, showing that your faith is easily shaken. A better response would be to think that this is actually a test, an invitation to turn to Him on a deeper level of faith and trust. God wants to move our faith from something that is wavering to one that is firm and stable, fostered by trust in His providence and mercy. He wants to sharpen our faith some more, so that we can withstand the more difficult challenges that we’ll encounter.

Today, let us reflect on the faith we have for Jesus: is it deeper enough for us to withstand the moments when He is silent? 

Let us pray that we put more trust in Him and allow our faith to stand firm despite the challenges we face.

O God, let all the nations praise you!” (cf. Ps. 67: 4)

Lord, Save Us!

Fear and anxiety among people are some of the consequences that these pandemic and crisis have brought the world now. Many are confused and worried of what might be in the coming days and weeks. Engulfed by anxiety, people aren’t really sure what to do next. Looking back in their time, take the context of the disciples and imagine how they were in today’s Gospel proclamation (Mt. 14: 22-33). They were in the boat, a few miles offshore, after Jesus made them get into it and precede to the other side, while He went to the mountain by Himself to pray:

The boat “was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night, He came toward them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea they were terrified. “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear. At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is Ido not be afraid.” 

The Church is traditionally symbolized by a boat, the faithful are inside it, while the lake is the world. Peter, the leader of the disciples said,  

Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightenedand, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 

What a timely reading for these times! In the present time with the desperation that we’re in, how about if we all rush back to Jesus and tell Him “Lord, save us!”, do you think He will  not stretch out his hand and tell us, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 

In my personal experience when intimacy with Jesus is at a high, I get to do great things. Doing and achieving desired results with my team become easy and I feel endowed with power like as if we’re superheroes. However, when any of us let it get into our heads, get distracted and lose focus; the team slips back into mediocrity.

Today’s Gospel makes the disciples see that faith in Jesus Christ can make them do the work that the Lord has done. Peter was able to walk in the water, but when he fixed his eyes elsewhere, he gets distracted and fears and doubts make him falter. Peter eventually grew in faith that made everyone see that true Christian ministry emerges from the faith that Jesus Christ is the True Messiah, God’s only begotten Son. 

Let us reflect on what the Lord is telling us today. It may seem overwhelming but let us be filled with the thought that nothing is impossible with God.

Let us pray that our leaders put their faith in God knowing that if we hold strong in our faith the Master of the Universe will fill us with grace in ways that we can never imagine. Let us pray for humility so that we get to say, “Lord, save us!”

Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.” (cf. Ps. 85: 9)

Give! Share!

There are times we feel inadequate to help others considering the little that we have. We shrink when we’re asked to help, thinking that what we have isn’t enough. Some are like that because they want to ensure that they won’t run out of provisions for themselves and their families. 

In today’s Gospel (Mt. 14: 13-21), Jesus said to His disciples:

There is no need for them to go away;give them some food yourselves.”

The disciples were worried because they were “in a deserted place and it’s already late”. They also asked Jesus, “Dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages
and buy food for themselves
.”

Too often when there are donations or gifts to be received, the immediate human reaction is to think first for one’s own before others. I have seen this reaction to be true not only among the materially poor but even amongst those we consider socially as rich.

And yet Jesus reaction to His disciples was to ask that the five loaves and two fishes to be brought to Him, even with His disciples’ protestations that these are “all we have here”. 

The result: those who ate were “about five thousand men, not counting the women and children.”

Earlier in the Gospel, we note that the Lord was in sorrow over the death of John the Baptist, His cousin. It was a gruesome death as John was beheaded on orders of Herod the tetrarch. That’s why Jesus withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by Himself. Despite this sorrow, when the Lord disembarked and saw the vast crowd,
His heart was moved with pity for them, and He cured their sick. The Lord Jesus Christ showed the example that when called to help, we should. Regardless of the situation we are in, our help is needed by someone, somewhere, even if how difficult we think the situation is for us. “Give, but give until it hurts.”, St. Teresa of Calcutta said it succinctly. When we ask God to transform what little we have, we can be assured that His awesome power will convert it into something beautiful and bountiful for everyone to share.

God has proved time and again that He can transform these little things into something big for the world. The Lord is telling us that we must trust Him with our day-to-day life, as He will use it mightily to help others as well. We may not immediately realize it but what we sow in helping others will certainly yield a good and bountiful harvest.Regardless of our situation, we should not hesitate to be grateful to the Almighty and the best way to show this gratitude is to share what we have with others, especially in this time of the pandemic.

Today, let us reflect on the offerings we give to God and to His Church. No matter how small, when we share, it shouldn’t be just a onetime thing, it should be done regularly and consistently.

Let us pray that the Lord guide us in making our actions to be significant and meaningful for others especially in need. We pray that we give Him all that we have: our thoughts, our intentions, our prayers and our actions.

The hand of the Lord feeds us; He answers all our needs.” (cf. Ps. 145: 16)