Our Purpose

My Aunt Ciony likes to share pictures of the colorful and beautiful flowers she’s raising in her garden. Her photos include also those that are yet to bloom and you can imagine how she feels if one plant doesn’t flower well or is late in blooming. Patience, care and hard work are among the traits needed to raise seeds into great plants.

Our Gospel today speaks about the kingdom of God,

“It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.” (Mk. 4: 26-34)

It is a parable that is quite easy for us to relate to, as farming is a common occupation many years back around this beautiful country. We understand that planting and raising a great tree is a slow process and is without shortcut. Starting from a tiny seed, great potential is realized after much watering, caring and shielding from the threats to its life.

Just like the tiny seeds, we also consider ourselves so small compared to the vast universe, or even our own earth. Looking at it we can even look at ourselves as so insignificant to be even counted! Yet, we are also endowed with so much potential.

Each of us can grow into something much larger throughout the course of our lives. Look at your own self, how you have done a great job so far, considering the difficulties and challenges that you’ve went through. This has nothing to do with the degree you’ve achieved, but it’s more on what you do with what you have or what is given you. More often than not, people who feel that they are part of the least actually end up with accomplishing some of the greatest achievements just like the mustard seed. Yet the most important element in this success is not of our own making, but it’s really allowing God to fulfill His plan for us. Letting go of our own selfish desires and leaving all to God to grow us into the majestic tree that He meant us to be.

Once in a while the Master Gardner will trim us of our pride and selfishness just as even the biggest trees in the world need to be cut of its leaves from time to time, so the younger trees can rise up and grow as well. Trees with the most abundant foliage even have to lose their leaves during winter so that they can bloom brighter in the next season. At times we need to go through different challenges and trials in order to gain a new mindset though at other times the seasons are brighter. The Lord is telling us that it’s not really about how tall and lush or pretty the tree is, that defines whether it is a good one. It’s about its roots, and how deep these go down the earth and what they are capable of doing.

Similarly, it’s not about how important we think we are – but it’s about our intentions and reasons behind everything we do. How deeply are we rooted in Christ, and in our faith so we can handle those challenges and those blessings that come to us in life. Yes, blessings are included. Sometimes the Lord endows us with material wealth to test us how we handle life’s good moments. What is our purpose in what we do? Do we relish hard work and all that it can provide and doing the best job we possibly can and experiencing our full potential in everything we do? This applies not only in our service to others, but in our own spiritual growth, the ultimate determinant of what defines us, because it brings us closer in intimacy with the Lord.

However, many times we get so caught up in what we do and our careers that we fail to see and hear from God what our true calling may be and what He expects from us. Only God knows our fullest potential, and yet so often we fail to simply ask Him to show it to us. Our pride will prevent us from asking God in prayer what are His plans for us.

We all can choose our paths. We can all discern about what Jesus would do in any situation we are in, and how we should be treating others, and how we should embrace everything in life as a blessing. The attitude of being grateful in all circumstances. At its best, we all have so much God-given potential in our life. We just need to realize it, get out of the way and let the seed grow.

“The seed is the word of God, Christ is the sower. All who come to Him will live forever.”

Beware of Pride and Arrogance

When you deviate from the norm, you are oftentimes called out differently and people label you as “out of his mind.” Our Lord wasn’t spared either. In today’s Gospel, when Jesus and His disciples are not even able to eat their bread, his relatives come to take him away because they think “He is out of his mind.” And the scribes think he is possessed by the devil. Jesus points out to them the absurdity of their thinking that He “uses the devil to cast out demons”.

The scribes judging that Jesus’ work was done by the devil was actually a grievous mistake that they committed, which resulted into blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Awful pride and arrogance did them out of God’s grace.

As Jesus said,

Amen, I say to you, all sins and all blasphemies that people utter will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin.” For they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.” (Gospel: Mk. 3: 20-35)

Just thinking that the Lord mentioned about blaspheming against the Holy Spirit as a sin that will NEVER have forgiveness, but “is guilty of an everlasting sin”, makes me shiver with fear! The shocking closed-mindedness of the church leaders at that time showed classic stubbornness! The root cause? Pride and arrogance.

Pride and arrogance cause division and disunity. Even in the news, we can read of personalities continued fighting over wealth, possessions and whatever. In our national life, the continued division by figures of the political spectrum is a daily spectacle. Without unity, progress will be slow and difficult.

The warning is also for us. Without our knowing it, if we become proud and protective of ourselves, we can be judgmental and self-righteous, two potent ingredients of pride. We may be fighting against a war that we can’t win, as we may be trading our souls for material possessions. Beware!

In His infinite wisdom and mercy, Jesus gives us the cure to pride and arrogance in the final verses: “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” Obeying the Lord is the requirement to become family with Him. We can’t continue to live in sin (thus staying away from the Lord) and expect to be truly happy. Separating from Him isn’t the solution to our problems and concerns. We have to be obedient, humble and faithful to Him. There will be challenges and trials to overcome, that’s why we have to trust and persevere while doing His work.

In humility, let us listen and discern to His leading in doing our share in building the Kingdom of God. When you feel becoming proud and arrogant, immediately seek the grace of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. These are the only ways to be in unity with Him.

“Now the ruler of the world will be driven out, says the Lord; and when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” (Jn. 12:31B-32)

The Best Gift Ever

The past four Sundays we celebrated several important solemnities and today, it is Corpus Christi Sunday. We’ve come full circle as we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the cornerstone of our Faith. Have you imagined, what would it be like, without the Holy Eucharist? Obviously, our Church and our Faith would crumble, it would be totally devoid of meaning and significance.

Today, we celebrate the very gift that God gave us, the Best One He had planned after the Fall (of Adam and Eve). In those days, life was perfect, and our first parents had everything they wished for. God was talking with them until that moment when they succumb to the snake. There’s a saying that goes, “The best way to a man’s heart is through the stomach” and the devil knows that. He tempted Eve to partake of the forbidden fruit and lo and behold, mankind’s relationship with God was broken. Because of disobedience, we were separated from God and sin became second nature to us. We were no longer perfect and could no longer be in perfect unity with Him. It would take the Perfect Sacrifice to regain that unity with God so He could be truly become part of us again.

The readings today show how God initiated winning His people back, in the First Reading (Ex. 24: 3-8), Moses related to the Israelites the prescriptions of the Lord and the people all answered with one voice, “We will do everything that the LORD has told us.” But the animal sacrifices won’t be enough and God has to send the ultimate sacrifice — His Only Son, Jesus Christ.

As St. Paul said in the Second Reading,

“For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer’s ashes can sanctify those who are defiled so that their flesh is cleansed, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.” (Heb. 9: 11-15)

Yet, Jesus sacrificial death on the Cross wasn’t enough. While it may seem weird that we have to consume Him through His Most Holy Body and Blood instituted in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, it is actually the ONLY way to be reunited with Him. The Lord transformed ordinary bread and wine into His Most Holy Body and Blood in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. We are to partake of it, as He commanded in the Gospel, “Take it; this is my Body.” (Mk. 14: 12-16, 22-26)

Jesus redeeming and inspiring presence is always there in the Holy Tabernacle, constantly renewing His undying love for us. Yes, we are always struggling with our lives but God’s goodness through Christ’s Holy Body and Blood can help us get through. We have to persevere and in humility recognize that without Him, we can do nothing.

Thus, we have to give glory and respect to God by preparing ourselves to be worthy in receiving Him during Holy Communion. We have to be spiritually prepared by cleansing ourselves through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. He deserves no less, since the Holy Eucharist is Him, we must see IT with the eyes of faith and trust. We can’t be perfect but He knows our desires of reuniting with Him. Our worship must be very deep and profound, just as the Saints and Angels do in Heaven. And He will understand.

So the next time we approach Him in Holy Communion, let us bow down before Him in total reverence and respect, calling upon His name in thanksgiving and gratitude, for giving us the Best Gift Ever.

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven, says the Lord; whoever eats this bread will live forever.” (Jn. 6: 51)

Called to Share God’s Life and Love

These are exciting times for basketball fans as the NBA Conference Finals heat up with each conference reaching a Game Seven, the first time since 1979, or 39 years! And if you’re an avid fan, you’d easily notice how each team defended the home court, but were miserable on the road, though both the Warriors and the Rockets swept each other on the road in the first four games of the series. But speaking about it generally, after six games, all these teams performed well at home, but fared miserably on the road.

Come to think about it, this is the same situation when we do good things to others, we feel good, we feel energized, we feel at “home”. On the other hand, when we commit a wrongdoing, it feels awkward, we feel uncomfortable we become anxious and restless. Unless you’re a habitual sinner, committing sin always makes you feel guilty as something just isn’t right, it’s “alien” territory so to speak. Not that we’re already sinless and saintly, we’re still sinners despite trying hard to be faithful, we fall amidst our constant wavering and shortcomings. Yet, we always seek refuge in the Sacraments to nurture and renew us.

This Sunday as we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, we are being invited to consider what we believe about God, who has revealed Himself to us in the Trinity, one God in Three Divine Persons. We are taught that each one is distinct from the other. Each Divine Person has a perfect intellect and free will. Since each one is God, each one is capable of knowing and loving the other to a perfect degree. It is this perfect ability to know and love that makes them one and united perfectly. This unity amongst themselves is so deep and profound, that they become One God.

When Our Lord commissioned the Eleven, this time it was intended for “all nations”, unlike before when The Twelve were just restricted to look for “the lost sheep of the House of Israel”. The Good News of Jesus Christ is now to be taken to all people, and the task is to baptize and to teach. And when we baptize, we are to baptize them “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” This reference to the Most Holy Trinity is one of the testaments of Baptism,

“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Mt. 28: 16-20)

Yet, prior to these verses, there is a line that stands in stark contrast: “When they all saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.” This could apply to us, who, despite the faith in Jesus, we still doubt. We still fear and underestimate God’s promise and awesome power. We know deep inside us that Jesus walked the earth and that He is God, Who was, Who is and Who will be. We are not God, but we know we are made in His image and likeness. Despite knowing all these, we still doubt and we cast anxieties on our own souls.

Did you notice that we find fulfillment in life by our love of others and our free will to enter into a knowledge of each person, forming a communion with them? This is how God loves and will take on different forms depending upon our connections with others. All relationships are called to share God’s life to other people in need of examples of how God loves them that much. Thus, just like how the contenders in the NBA feel playing in “alien” territory, we also feel “alienated” from the Lord when we are outside His Kingdom, when we commit sin. To be able to win in life again, we have to move to the home court, where God awaits us just like a father awaits eagerly for his son.

As we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, we are reminded that this central mystery of our faith is meant to be lived and given flesh and blood. As baptized Christians, we share in the life of the blessed Trinity and is commissioned to invite others to share in God’s love as well.

“Glory to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; to God who is, who was, and who is to come.” (Rev. 1: 8)

The Holy Spirit’s Awesome Power!

Every time I ask for the Holy Spirit’s help, He is always there in time to provide guidance and discernment. Since I took Fr. Armand’s challenge to write Champ Wise, it has been 229 weeks of reflecting and praying for His Word to flow through me to these pages. And He has never failed. In fact, it is even in moments when I can’t process much Fr. Armand’s homily or the other Mass celebrants in the masses I attend, or when I just feel empty, dry and without nothing much to say that the better reflections came about. This is explained by St. Paul when he wrote, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My Power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12: 9)

Truly, the Spirit has moved and guided His Servants and the Church since time started; yes, He has been at work with the Father and the Son from the beginning and will be until the completion of our salvation. This is an important aspect of faith because as what the Gospel has taught, after Our Lord’s Ascension, the disciples (and us included) need a continuous supply of energy and strength, which without the Holy Spirit would be hard to come by.

It’s so easy to get distracted on the intricacies of the world or craziness before us and we just plainly lose sight of the big picture. Imagine after the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus, the disciples were all a little confused and overwhelmed with what was going on, notwithstanding the uncertainties that may fill their lives. Are they going to move forward, but where to exactly and how? Or are they going back to their respective lives before the Lord called them? They could only be seeing the haziness but really hoping for clarity at some point.

And then, the remarkably beautiful thing happened,

Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.”

This outpouring of the Holy Spirit awakened and renewed the already stressed-out and worried disciples. They started seeing the clearer picture and they now know what they have to do. Similarly, the Holy Spirit comes to us in this way, wrapping and engulfing us with His warmth and strength, day by day, moment by moment. He has given us unique gifts to guide each and every one of us for our own and the Church’s benefit as well, being part of His Mystical Body.

As we celebrate Pentecost Sunday, let us ponder on the awesome power of the Holy Spirit in a prayerful way. Reflect on which gifts the Holy Spirit has given you, and let God show you where you need to grow more deeply in the strength of the Holy Spirit.

“Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.”

Jesus Loving Presence

At that time when Jesus was standing in front of them before ascending into Heaven, the disciples were having a difficult time. They were feeling lost and confused and in fact still felt very disorganized. But here is Jesus before them and exhorting them to move forward.

Many times in our lives we feel the same way: we feel tired and exhausted. But the loving presence of the Lord inspires us to move on, sending us His beautiful Word through the “angels” or “messengers” whom God sends us. These past weeks owing to several challenges I felt much closer to the Lord as the words in the Daily Scriptures seem to be meant for me. Though I felt anxious at times, the Word has strengthened me all the more, trusting His assurances that He is present in these moments.

We must be aware and grateful to God for making us feel His loving presence. The Ascension tells us all a beautiful instruction that it is also meant for us, as followers of Jesus Christ,

“Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” (Mk. 16: 15)

More than 2,000 years later, there are still many parts of the world where the love of Jesus has not yet been felt. Or even nearby, around us for that matter. Today’s Solemnity celebrates our belief in the presence of Christ in the universe and with it the demand that we then become the instruments by which His loving presence is made real. This presence requires us to proclaim Him to others. This is made felt by everyone whom we encounter in the way we live, the way we love and the way we deal with them.

This loving relationship with the Lord is part of the mystery of the Ascension: that His loving presence with us and our witness to Him cannot be separated.

As we move on with our lives with all the challenges we face every day, we are assured of Jesus’ loving presence that will strengthen and enable us to hold on until the day we’re ourselves lifted up into Heaven. His Ascension opened up a door to Eternity for all of us, a door that remains open today. He wants us to follow Him. We won’t be able to do that though without that awareness of Christ beautiful presence in our lives. This beautiful reality is made manifest to others,

When we do,
when we love
when we think
when we care, as the Lord did.

The insight of the Solemnity of the Ascension then seems to be more about the Apostles (and about us) going out than Jesus going up! As Jesus goes to his Father, we are called to be witnesses to Him, sharing what we have experienced, received and heard.

Our prayer life which more importantly includes the Holy Mass, our regular reading of the Sacred Scriptures and the service we share with others, are what feeds us in this life journey. This is what we received and give to the ascended Lord every time we obey Him. As we follow Him till the end, we share in His Divinity as He is in our humanity. This Sunday, Jesus proves to us that far from being taken into Heaven, the Ascension is the continuation of His loving presence in our lives.

May we take on this challenge of making His care and presence known to others by the love we share.

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, says the Lord; behold I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Mt. 28: 19a, 20b)

Having Love is Having God

While driving along Sheridan Street in Mandaluyong, I can’t help but feel for the children asking for coins that are literally spares in your pocket. Others do not feel giving is alright as it may be something that will create dependency, while others don’t do it for fear that it may make them exposed to these people on the streets. There is indifference, there is insensitivity.

Sometimes, being so protective can make one unknowingly disobey God’s commandments. When you ignore helping others because you are afraid that that person can turn against you in the future, you are shunning God’s reaching out to others. You aren’t allowing others to experience God’s infinite goodness.

In the readings today, St. John exhorts us to love one another,

“Beloved, let us love one another,
because love is of God;
everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.
Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.”

Regardless of what is happening in our lives, there is really no room for hatred, ingratitude, and selfishness, as God’s grace and blessings are just so overwhelming. Can you cite anything happening in your life that overwhelms the blessings you have received from the Lord? Have you considered your life, your family, your relationships, the gift of work and livelihood, and even your possessions as real and concrete manifestations of God’s goodness?

And God is clear, He isn’t partial. Regardless of who you are, you are loved! Read on the First Reading (Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48), as St. Peter said,

“In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to Him.”

Clearly, God is telling us to spare no one of our love. If you don’t follow that, you are being a hypocrite. When St. John wrote, “Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love”, he is arguing that when you don’t love, your faith is shallow. Faith and love goes hand in hand, and you can’t say you are a follower of Christ and yet hate your neighbor. That is why our Lord even said, “Love your enemy” (Mt. 5: 44, Lk. 6: 27). Thus, while it is difficult to determine one’s degree of faith, the only way to measure it is by the way one loves through the loving acts one does for others. When you do this, it is clear that your own interest is not prime but secondary to God’s will. God is so loving, that He calls us “His children”, and He as our “Father”, despite our stubbornness and weaknesses. Even with this, the child of God trusts and clings to Him. In return, God has asked us to remain in Him, by keeping His commandments.

When you keep His commandments and remain in God, it is in fact the gift of wisdom, discernment and knowledge through the power of the Holy Spirit that you know that God dwells in you. This is a gift that you will attain through prayer and reflection. Thus, when you become over-protective, or being insensitive to doing good for others, think through it and ask yourself:

Am I being insensitive? Am I ignoring God’s grace to flow to that person through me? Am I being a hypocrite claiming to love God but disobeying Him?

Let us pray that we become God’s love to others.

Remain in Christ!

Having worries and anxieties are almost normal for the faithful one, these despite trying hard to put up with a prayerful spirit and a heart full of faith. Although we are taught to fully trust the Lord at all times, we also fear that God will subject us to the test. That is why one of the most important part of the Our Father is the line “Do not bring us to the test.” We dread being tested, because we also know how difficult it is to thrive unscathed in this troubled world.

As I went to the Sacrament of Reconciliation last week, the Priest Confessor was telling me, “…when one is pressured, one’s strength shines through.” Indeed, it is the Lord’s way of telling me, “Don’t worry, I have your back.”

Today’s Gospel is one of the most re-assuring of the Lord’s messages. To put it in context, this discourse was made just the night before His passion. Jesus knew that the disciples, and as well as we, are filled with worries and anxieties. He uses the imagery of the vineyard as this will enhance their and our understanding of Jesus’ identity and mission as set by God the Father. He encourages them and us to stay with Him and persevere till the end,

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.
He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit,
and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.
You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.
Remain in me, as I remain in you.
Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own
unless it remains on the vine,
so neither can you unless you remain in me.”

In these verses and in the surrounding chapters, the Lord comforts and encourages both the community of disciples and as well as the faithful today with the promise that they and we as well are not abandoned or left alone, but can be confident of the Lord’s continuing presence with us in the world. He is telling us that we can never obtain the power to create unless we remain attached to Him. We can only be effective for as long as we are connected to the Power from on High. It is clear that these words are intended not as a command or judgment, but as invitation and as a promise: apart from Jesus, “you can do nothing.”

This beautiful imagery of the vineyard portrays the intimacy of the Father, Jesus, and the faithful followers of Christ. It is a challenge for the community of believers to change their and our mindset of keeping God at a distance. It is not something that is abstract, rather, it is something that is real and authentic. Jesus wants us to invite Him into our lives, not as a silent witness to what we do, but as someone who influences our thoughts, words and actions. In other words, Jesus opinion should matter to us more than anyone else and who directs and leads our lives. His thoughts and actions should provide us the template of Christian living,

“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.” (v. 7)

The Lord is telling us that reading, memorizing, meditating, or listening to the Scriptures being read and preached, isn’t enough; rather it means that we consider Jesus’ words as those coming from a living Person whom we love more than any other in the world.

Now, isn’t it a very re-assuring promise, coming from Someone infinitely powerful?

Let us pray therefore, that we love not in word or speech, but in deed and truth. (1 Jn. 3: 18)

He Is With Us

The Gospel today again illustrates the depth of the Father’s love for His people. It is in fact, a lesson for leaders who ought to model their lives to Jesus, who describes His relationship with His followers like the relationship between a good shepherd and His sheep. As the Good Shepherd risks and is prepared to give up His life to protect the sheep, Jesus willingly allowed Himself to suffer and be crucified for the sake of His sheep. On the other hand, a hired shepherd abandons the flock in the face of danger.

“I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not His own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because He works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.” (Jn. 10: 11-13)

Leaders ought to be brave, courageous and possess the attitude of unselfish service. Reading further the verses following Jesus teaching, we learn that the Pharisees and the other religious leaders understand that the Lord is referring to them when He describes the hired shepherds. They were so angry that they resisted the Lord all the more and “again picked up rocks to stone him.” (v. 31) This anger continued until Jesus’ death.

The actions of a good shepherd for the flock is part of the shepherd’s job. However, the actions of the good shepherd are based upon the relationship that develops between the shepherd and the sheep. While the hired shepherd leaves the sheep when confronted with danger, the good shepherd stays with the sheep and is ready to give up His life for them. This is at the core of the difference between the good shepherd and the hired shepherd. The good shepherd knows the sheep and therefore acts out of love. This is not just a job, but His love for them is part of who He is to them. Thus, leaders should emulate such caring attitude to their followers as a good shepherd cares for his sheep.

Jesus also emphasizes that His flock also include other sheep, far more than the dispersed children of Israel,

“I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.” (v. 16)

And He gave His Church the mission of shepherding all peoples to the Father. This is seen in the First Reading, in the testimony of St. Peter, whom the Lord appointed shepherd of the early Church. Peter quoted the Psalms and tells Israel’s leaders of their rejection and eventual crucifixion and death of Christ. Through the ministry of the Church, this mission continues until all the world is one flock under the One Good Shepherd. As to when that happens, only God knows.

Let us pray that we continue to grow in faith and pledge again to be more faithful and grateful to Him for all the blessings we have and will continue to receive from Him.

“The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.” (Ps. 118: 22)

God is in Control

Yesterday we attended lunch hosted by close friends, a couple who came home from the United States for a short visit. The meal was fun and lively, as we get to hear how they’re coping with life in New Jersey, aside from reminiscing the moments our group has experienced since way back. There are relationships that despite the distance, remain as strong as ever. This is one of those.

However, one of these friends (an elderly couple) who came, had a daughter who passed away many years ago. Their daughter was in fact active in God’s service at the time of her passing (at one of the parishes in Mandaluyong). Her demise was sudden such that even up to now, her mother is still grieving over the loss and hasn’t moved on. She is sad especially with the thought that two young children are left behind. Now the children are growing up well, and their grandmother are actively involved in rearing them up. We are praying that she’ll be able to finally accept what happened, knowing that the Lord is in control of what’s happening.

There are times that situations have really sunk deep into us, such that when certain events happen in our life, we are indifferent and continue in a state of unbelief. In the Gospel, the risen Lord has to ask the disciples,

“Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” (Lk. 24: 38-39)

He felt the grief and told them that “everything written in the law of Moses
and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.” (v. 44b) Jesus conquered death, and the Scriptures has said it all, with more explanations including the readings this Sunday. The story of suffering, which all of us have experienced one way or the other; is always something unpleasant, whether it’s a happy, or a violent death. Yet, there is something beautiful in it. The Lord demonstrated such beauty in His Passion and His death, culminating in His Glorious Resurrection, and it’s the same in people’s lives. While Jesus doesn’t need to suffer, His great love for the Father and for us all drove Him to obey the will of God the Father. When we question why we have challenges to overcome, and why bad things have to happen, we just have to think about the Lord’s own suffering. Given His passion and His death on the Cross, think about it: who has suffered a more violent death? Every time we sin, we contribute to that burden and pain. So, if Jesus had to sacrifice and suffer for us, why shouldn’t we have to? Through His suffering and death, Jesus conquered death and saved us all; such beauty of God’s deep love for us, isn’t it? More importantly, it is through pain and suffering that we sharpen our faith, trust the Lord’s ways more, and essentially become better and wiser in the ways of God.

We have to remember though that redemption isn’t automatic, we have to do our part by repenting our sins and going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. God has been so understanding and considerate with us, His goodness overflows. As the First Reading shows how St. Peter exhorted the new believers to “Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away”, we all have the obligation to respond to God’s invitation — if we like to go and meet Him in His Eternal Glory. We just have to trust that the Lord is in control — in total control of everything.

Are you ready to respond to the challenge?

“Lord Jesus, open the Scriptures to us; make our hearts burn while you speak to us.” (Lk. 24: 32)

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