Hail to Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe!

What a fitting way to end the Liturgical Year than to celebrate the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe! The Gospel reading today (Mt. 25: 31-46) provides insights into what’s important for God.The judgment that will be made will be based on the acts of mercy and compassion that we’ve done for the least — the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the ill, and the imprisoned. Indeed, Christ who suffered on the Cross identifies Himself with the least, the lost and the last. Jesus’ Kingship is unlike any other worldly monarch, but one characterized by being our Good Shepherd. Rather it is His desire that we become His faithful followers, ever offering guidance and protection. He wants us to voluntarily accept Him into our lives, never forcing Himself on us.

In the previous week’s the Parable of the Talents, the Gospel teaches us that the gifts and abilities that God has bestowed on us have been given with the intention to be used for the service of others, especially the least in society. God is telling us that whenever we have served these least ones, we have served Christ the King Himself.

In my own experience, God is real and has always exceeded our own generosity; He gives cheerfully, abundantly and lovingly. These are all because He loves us unconditionally and faithfully. When we place ourselves under His Lordship, He becomes our constant companion, always ready to assist us whenever we invoke His Holy Name. Growing in intimacy with Him will make us obedient, mindful and sensitive to His leadings. We become sensitive to the Spirit of God, allowing Him to move us, so that we become His hands in helping others. Have you noticed it that when you pray for help and guidance, the Lord sends angels in disguise to our aid? In a way, when we pray to the Spirit to give us wisdom and discernment we can share ourselves with others because we are fully attuned with what the Lord wants us to do in particular moments. Besides unless we share ourselves with others, we can never be fully happier, right?

There’s a lot to be grateful for especially the richness of our family life, the blessings He has given us, and the peace of mind that we have, regardless of the challenges and problems that come with these troubling times.God’s abundance in giving and blessing us only show how He wants us to be happy. This happiness will be complete whenever we reflect His generosity, cheerfulness, and love towards others — especially those in need. We have to demonstrate that what we have are meant to be shared whenever necessary. We have to realize that when we have that attitude of giving, we allow the Lord to use us to be His face.

Giving generously. When we give, the Lord wants us to include those people outside our family and friends; He wants us to be generous as well to those who are most in need of help as these verses clarify,

‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me
.’ (Mt. 25: 40)

Being generous doesn’t exactly mean just simply giving, it means, in a way that shows a readiness to give more of something than is expected. When situations arise such that our generosity is required, as followers of Jesus it is our turn to demonstrate that kind of unselfishness to the least, the last and the lost.

Giving cheerfully. The King will reward us when we give cheerfully and without reservation. Way back in college I became close with this classmate and brother Ariel, who is so generous with others. He is always looking for ways to help and give. He is such a caring person and his outlook in life simply inspires! And what a way God returns the blessings to him: while spending more time to God’s work, his business has grown more than expectations.

Giving lovingly. We can’t give generously unless our intention is governed by love. When our motivation is Jesus, when we see Him in the face of the poor, there can be abundant love to share with others,

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.”  (Mt. 25: 35-36)

Life is complete when we are selfless and loving with others. Doing this will make others happy and the fulfillment in doing comes back to us in so many ways. It is then when we realize that acquiring more possessions and wealth don’t bring happiness; it is when we become mindful of the needs of others and share what we have in the name of Jesus that bring us deeper joy and fulfillment. Isn’t a giving, caring and loving life more wonderful? 

As we close the liturgical year, let us reflect on how we’ve lived:  Are we worthy to be in the company of the “sheep on the King’s right”? Are we ready to meet Our Lord Jesus Christ, the King?

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LordBlessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come!” (Mk. 11: 9,10)

Becoming Trustworthy

One person I know left his job because of his own perception that he is treated unfairly by his employer. When talking about his work with others, he was quite expressive about it. To some extent, it appears to me that he feels some entitlement, or perhaps some pride. Even in other organizations, there are others who feel the same way, always thinking about the “I”, rather than the “we”. In the present time, people everywhere tend to be obsessed with what many call “equal rights.” Whenever there are others they think are treated better than themselves, they get envious and angry.

Even in today’s Gospel proclamation (Mt. 25: 14-30) we see reactions about how the master gave different talents to his servants. If you were the one given only one talent while two of your colleagues at work received five and ten, would you feel being subjected to inequality? Would you raise this concern to your superior? Maybe you would.

The Lord is telling this parable in the context of how we will make use of the talents given to us, how we use it to grow and help others. On the day of judgement we will all account for the talents that we are given. Obviously, each one is given different gifts in accordance with God’s will and plan for our lives. In the eyes of the world, to one He will entrust many, while to some He gives lesser.But it is not fair to judge others based on the way we measure.God looks at matters differently from how people do. For example, the usual intelligence is measured only through how people fare in school. However, we note that in life, people are gifted with different kinds of talents and if they pursue to develop these, they become better and better at it such that they become the best in their fields.People like Leonardo da Vinci, Michaelangelo, Albert Einstein, Muhammad Ali, Bobby Fischer, Bill Gates, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and our own Manny Pacquiao among others have different types of talents. They became world-class because they have nurtured their gifts and pursued development even at an early age. Yet to others, it’ll appear that God gives different portions of blessings to different people. To the world, He gives what seems to be an overflow of blessings, while to others, only very little.

God is fair, however. This parable shows that it isn’t about how many talents He has given, rather, it is about what one does with these gifts. Thus, we should ask ourselves: 

What are the talents that God has given me

What am I supposed to do with these talents

Have I been a great steward of what God has entrusted to me?

Let us pray for discernment, humility and generosity, that we know what mission God has tasked us to fulfill, accept what He has given us, and nurture it so that what we do will bear fruit. Let us pray that we become trustworthy of the gifts that the Lord has given us. Let us pray that we be generous in sharing our gifts with others, especially the least, the last and the lost.

Remain in me as I remain in you, says the Lord. Whoever remains in me bears much fruit.” (Jn. 15: 4a, 5b)

Are You Ready for Heaven?

With the pandemic taking a lot of lives (more than 1.2 million total worldwide as of the latest count), the fear of getting sick and dying from the virus is real and affecting the lives of many globally. The topic of dying not only coming from the disease but for any other reason comes and with it the realization that when it’s our time, how will we react and what are we going to do? 

For many people the anxieties may not be on one’s own situation but on how will our loved ones manage without us, how are we going to prepare them for the future, among other things. While these are also important, the most pressing consideration we should worry about is: Are we ready to face God now?  

In the Gospel (Mt. 25: 1-13) Jesus told his disciples the parable of the Ten Virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps. Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight, when the bridegroom came, all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones asked the wise for oil, But the wise ones replied, ‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you. Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’ While they went off to buy it, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked. Afterwards the other virgins came and said,
Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’ But he said in reply, ‘Amen, I say to youI do not know you.’

Oil in the Sacred Scriptures has great significance and symbolism. It pictures the work and anointing of the Holy Spirit for without the Holy Spirit, no one can be saved. Thus, how can we become like the wise virgins so we can enter into the wedding feast? The Spirit of God leads people to Christ and makes them realize that they need Jesus as their Savior, for there is absolutely no other way to enter the kingdom of Heaven (Acts 4:12). If we want to be ready to meet the Lord at any time, we’ve got to have charity in our lives. It is a radical commitment to be the face of Christ to others — meaning we have to love others the way Jesus loves us — unselfish, sacrificing and self-giving. It is taking the heart of the Lord in our daily lives, making it a habit to think like Jesus at each and every moment. It may just be an ordinary situation we encounter, but whatever it is, we need the Lord’s mind to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. In our moments of decision and confusion, what would Jesus do? To get to think like Christ, the First Reading (Wis. 6: 12-16) tells us that if we look for the answer, we can easily find it,

Resplendent and unfading is wisdom, and she is readily perceived by those who love her, and found by those who seek her. She hastens to make herself known in anticipation of their desireWhoever watches for her at dawn shall not be disappointed, for he shall find her sitting by his gate.”

Today, let us reflect on our charity and capacity to love and forgive. How far are we willing to love others? How committed are we to God? How far are we willing to give up of ourselves in loving God?

Let us pray that the Lord grant us the grace, the humility and the strength to become like the wise virgins, intelligent enough to prepare and be ready to meet God any time.

Stay awake and be ready!For you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” (Mt. 24: 42a, 44)

Becoming Saints

Today we honor the Holy Men and Women who lived exemplary lives for the Lord. Catholic websites call them great champions of the faith for modelling the kind of commitment and devotion that are in total and absolute commitment to God the Almighty. I am always in awe by how they were able to overcome the world’s challenges, looking beyond this life to a glorious and triumphant reward before God. In fact, my favorite portion of Church ceremonies is the one during the Easter Vigil Mass when the Litany of the Saints is proclaimed. It’s always a hair-raising experience for me because knowing the difficulties that the saints and martyrs went through, they must have been gifted with Heavenly Wisdom to give and dedicate their lives for God. Their lives are so full of difficulties, sometimes it looked so desperate but yet they persevered in the faith and therefore a rich reward awaited them in Heaven. The list of these great men and women goes on and on. And it’s a blessing to know of people who have that grit and tenacity to go beyond the pains and sufferings of this world.

In the Gospel (Mt. 5: 1-12a), Jesus announces the type of life we as His followers are supposed to live here on earth, while at the same time showing it as a type of grand strategy towards a glorious and triumphant end. Called the Sermon on the Mount, this is like the first official  instruction of the Lord to His disciples. Each blessing begins with the word beati in Latin which translates to “happy”, “blessed”, or “wealthy”, hence Beatitudes. As His first and newly-recruited disciples might have brought up their emotions after seeing the first miracles that Christ performed, He took the opportunity to define what it truly means to be a disciple. 

The Beatitudes point beyond earthly life to the eternal happiness of Heaven. The Lord is telling us to live in the spirit of charity and not to be attached with worldly wealth. In managing our worldly affairs we give priority to the love of God and others in need, to mourn in order to see God’s hand in everything, to be gentle and meek, to work for justice and peace, to be merciful, to have a clean heart in our dealings with others, to work for peace, and to accept the difficulties that comes with being a witness of God to others. 

In a deeper way, the path to eternal happiness is not to be found in one’s own life but in total dependence on God. It isn’t meant to live in misery in this world and expect  to be rewarded by God in the future. Instead, despite difficulties, life is meant to be a happy experience. We can always choose to be happy, by looking beyond the reason for it. All earthly pain and suffering should be gladly accepted as it purifies us to become worthy of His calling. The Beatitudes are announcements that happiness in this life belongs to those who put their trust only in God.As proclaimed in the First Reading (Rv. 7: 2-4, 9-14), “Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb.” We cannot save ourselves alone, we need God’s grace. 

Today, let us reflect on the lives of the saints and martyrs. How can we model our lives after them? Like them, how can we be more happier in life? How can we develop that attitude of looking beyond earthly pain and suffering?

Let us pray that the Lord grant us the grace of wisdom, humility and strength to accept the hardships that come with being a follower and witness of Jesus Christ, our Savior.

Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest, says the Lord.” (Mt. 11:28)