Faith, Love and Obedience

When I was younger, I dreaded disobeying my parents, my grandmother, my elders, my teachers, and other superiors because of the consequences that go with it. You risk getting spanked, punished by requiring you to stand at the back of the classroom while others are sitting comfortably in their desks, or even asked to stand near the flagpole in the heat of the sun. That’s how we were brought up then, but I think our generation is thankful for the kind of discipline that made us who we are today.

This Sunday we hear the Gospel proclamation (Mt. 21: 28-32)wherein Jesus told the story about a man who had two sons. The man said to the first, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ The first said in reply, ‘I will not,’ but afterwards changed his mind and went.The other said in reply, ‘Yes, sir, ‘ but did not go. Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people, “Which of the two did his father’s will?” They answered, “The first.” Then our Lord went on saying, “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before youWhen John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe himbut tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.”


These words were addressed to the chief priests and elders, the religious leaders at that time. Richly clad in their elaborate robes and attires, they were so full of pride and self-righteousness. They were close-minded and stuck to their own opinions which were already outdated and wrong. Because of these, they were blinded from learning the simple truths that people whom they call “sinners” like the tax collectors and prostitutes were discovering. Harsh words indeed but this is Jesus way of saying that while tax collectors and prostitutes were on the path to holiness, their hardheadedness led these religious leaders astray. They persisted in their disobedience and defiance to God.This may have been so hard for them to accept.


As we learned, love is a choice. Our love for God can be put into action by being obedient to Him and to His Holy Word. Gone are the attitudes of yesteryears when we obey orders because we want to get rewards, or because we want to avoid the negative consequences of disobedience. Sometimes we do it because the authority is legitimate and we have no other choice. But with God whom we cannot see in our day-to-day lives, it demands faith and which is concretized in love. When you grow in intimacy with Jesus, following Him becomes second nature and you see obedience as pure joy despite the challenges that comes your way. We overcome these difficulties because we know the love of God comes with a price, and yet, if we obtain His mercy and grace, Eternal Life will be ours someday.

St. Paul reminds us in the Second Reading (Phil. 2:1-11 or 2: 1-5) that Jesus Christ is the perfect model of obedience,

Christ Jesus, Who, though He was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness
and found human in appearance, He humbled Himself,
becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross
.”

Today let us reflect on how we are with regards our faith and love for the Lord. Are we obedient to Him? Are we humble to admit our sins and faults before the God?

Lord God, grant us the courage and strength to overcome pride and self-righteousness so that we follow you in humility, love, and obedience.  

My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord;I know them, and they follow me.” (Jn. 10: 27)

God’s Exceptional Love

When we were inviting others to join the ministry in my faith community, the most common excuse we hear for them not joining is their “lack of time”. They also say that anyway since they’re attending Sunday obligations, they’ll be excused from service because they’ll “just serve when they’ll have time in the future” or when they “retire from corporate work.” 

In the Gospel (Mt. 20: 1-16a), 

When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage.”

Many would react to these passages as it may look unfair and not the usual practice to pay the laborers the same amount. But the prophet Isaiah reminds us in the First Reading,

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.” ~ Isaiah 55:6-9

The context of the Gospel reading is not about social justice but that God is exceptionally generous and patient. These passages reveal the vastness of God’s love and that there’s never a time that He tires in waiting for us, despite our stubbornness and inaction. 

Many easily fall into the temptation to omit serving in His work as it is much easier to stay in their comfort zones instead of being vessels of His generosity. As mentioned before, others cite lack of time, resources and capability. But there’s never a limitation in generosity. Even while at the Cross, our Lord still was able to give, 

When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple there whom He loved He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your Son.” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” (Jn. 19: 25-27) The Gospel also cited the example of the woman who “bathed His feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair… she anointed my feet with ointment.” (Lk. 7: 36-50) We also get to hear the Gospel (Lk. 8: 1-3) about the “Twelve and some women…and many others who provided for them out of their resources.” In last Monday’s reading, we were treated to the ultimate of God’s love for the world, 

For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (Feast of the Exultation of the Cross, Jn. 3: 13-17)

Truly, even if resources are limited, there’s no stopping one from being generous if one likes to give. When you have that giving attitude, you are actually allowing yourself to become God’s hands in this world. And you’d be surprised that your resources will never run out because God will never allow you to outlast His exceptional generosity.
 

In this time of the pandemic, there’s that temptation to be selfish and think only of one’s own welfare. We can be selfish, we can think only of ourselves. But this is not what the Lord want us to do. As His followers, He wants to challenge us to be generous and have that sharing attitude. We should not be likened to what Jesus said, 

To what shall I compare the people of this generation? What are they like

(Lk.7:31-35)

Today we are being reminded to work and not just to sit idly and comfortably. We are called to be generous so that someday, we shall be called as the seeds “that fell on rich soil”,

But as for the seed that fell on rich soil, they are the ones who, when they have heard the word, embrace it with a generous and good heart, and bear fruit through perseverance.” (Lk. 8:4-15)

Today, let us reflect on our level of commitment for God. Let us allow His blessings and grace to sustain His work and do it without fear and hesitation. 

The Lord is near to all who call upon Him.” (Ps. 145: 18)

AZS 09.20.2020

Forgiving Others

Most of the prayer intentions we see in Facebook Live during Online Masses are about healing and recovery, getting a job, living a long and happy life, or about passing the examinations. However, it is rare to see intentions about forgiving others. How about you? Are you praying to have the heart to forgive others, especially those who have hurt you the most? 

A few months ago I have a friend who has a family member who was estranged from her, such that they were not on speaking terms with one another. On the last few days before this family member passed away, I asked my friend if she had already forgiven her. She replied, “Yes, I have already, even some time ago”. 

In the Gospel (Mt. 18: 21-35), when Jesus was asked by Peter, 

Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgiveAs many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.”

It seems Peter was eager in asking that question, only that the Lord answered him to forgive more, in an exponential manner. Jesus may have surprised Peter but this also tells us of God’s capacity to forgive us, even for the so many times that we stumble and fall in our daily journey. He will always welcome us with open arms, regardless of the sins we make. In return, He requires us to be forgiving, or else we will go the fate of the unforgiving servant in the ensuing parable.

Forgiving others is easier said than done. It is one of the most difficult challenges to do but as followers of Christ, we must embrace it with all our might. Each waking moment we should strive to forgive. We should rid ourselves of the bitterness and hurts that otherwise would affect us as well. This is also one of the lessons I learned from my Lola when she was still alive. This is what the Lord wants us to achieve; a heart free from bitterness and hurt, a heart that is happy and free.

Today, let us reflect on the person (or persons) we should forgive. No matter how difficult, let us choose to be forgiving, caring and loving. We shouldn’t give up on ourselves but continue efforts to become better followers of Christ. At the end of our life, being a forgiving person will make us really worthy of God’s mercy and forgiveness.

I give you a new commandment, says the Lord:love one another as I have loved you.”(Jn. 13:34)

This is How to Love

A few years back when we had our reunion, some members of the class we don’t know had a misunderstanding years before, came and reconciled with each other. They hugged in tears and those wonderful moments were captured in camera. It was like a “picture of the reunion” for the school batch. 

Reconciling with others sometimes take a long and tedious process. Most of us think that being the offended party, the one who wronged us should be the one to approach us. In the Gospel (Mt. 18: 15-20), Jesus said to his disciples,


If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him aloneIf he listens to you, you have won over your brotherIf he does not listen,take one or two others along with you, so that every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.” 

The Lord gave advice to those members of the church community who have problems with others. He is saying that the one who feels offended should be the one to ask for a reconciliation. This sounds contrary to the current norm in society, which is giving the wronged party the chance to feel important. 

In his homily this Sunday, Rev. Fr. Armand Robleza, SDB said, 

“In the thinking of Jesus, you will not be saved alone, He will save us all together. The Lord is teaching His followers how to live in community with others. In the two chapters before (see Mt. 16: 18), He has already promised to Peter: “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church”. Since that time, all of Christ’s teachings are not only about how to be His followers, but also about Church community living in trust and faith in God. Naturally, when we are together, there are times that we hurt each other, we ignore each other, we annoy each other, and offend each other’s feelings. That is part of life being part of the faithful. 

Now, who among us here, among those who are watching, have not committed sin? Who among us haven’t committed mistakes? Who is not guilty of pride? Who is not committing bad thoughts? Who is not distant or aloof to others? Who is not engaging in gossip? So Jesus is saying, offenses will happen with the roughness and imperfections of life and will interfere in your faith. This is how you do it: If you have a misunderstanding, don’t spread it, don’t post it in Facebook! Approach your brother in secret. Only the two of you speak to each other. This is how to love.”

In the First Reading (Ez. 33: 7-9), Yahweh God tells the prophet Ezekiel,

“If I tell the wicked, “O wicked one, you shall surely die, ” and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way, the wicked shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death.”

Thus, both the First Reading and the Gospel are saying that believers (us) have a duty to correct sinners among us. We will even be held accountable for their souls if we fail to speak out and try to correct them. This is the love that we read in the Second Reading (Rom. 13: 8-10),

Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one anotherfor the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”

Let us reflect today, upon any relationship we have that requires healing and forgiveness.  Seek to remove our pride and follow this humble process prescribed by Jesus. Let us pray that we be courageous in spirit to follow the will of God in our relationships with others. Let us pray that our love will pour out to our brothers and sisters, that we exert all efforts for them to attain salvation as well.

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