Loving God, Loving Others

Yesterday’s session of “The Well” which is held regularly at the National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians was as usual an enlightening one. Fr. Rene Lagaya, SDB, did a very good job of sharing his learnings and insights on Hebrew culture, the significance of one’s name, the Law, and many more in a short but meaningful afternoon.

In today’s Gospel (Lk. 10: 25-37), a scholar of the law asked several questions to Jesus. One of which is, “And who is my neighbor?” The Lord answered by way of a parable, telling a story about how a priest, a Levite and a Samaritan traveler responded to the situation upon seeing a man who was stripped, beaten and left half-dead in the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. Reflecting on the story can make you think that even in those times people must be as busy as we are in the present day, such that we ignore helping others because “we have other things to do”. The priest must be “in a hurry to lead worship”, or the Levite “must be busy in keeping the Temple in order”, such that they evade helping a man who was almost dead. Not the Samaritan traveler though, who was caring and compassionate, even paying the inn to take care of him. The Samaritan must be as busy as the others and yet he took time to save the man from dying on the road. He was compassionate, caring and loving.

Many times we can be like the priest or the Levite in the parable. More often when we are being besieged by work and career, we ignore giving time and help to others. We focus on what we want to achieve.

Are you doing right when you ignore help when necessary? In the Gospel, when a scholar of the law stood up to test Jesus and said, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered with a question “What is written in the law? How do you read it?”

The answer most of us already know. For those who studied early education in Catholic schools you must have memorized this already since grade school:

You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your being,
with all your strength,
and with all your mind,
and your neighbor as yourself.

How do we become consistent then?

In the recollection yesterday, Fr. Rene clearly responded that it is not much on “what we want to do, but on what the Lord want us to do”. Despite our careers, our lives should be Christ-centered rather than ego-centered. God wants us to submit to Him and He’ll take care of the rest. The Samaritan traveler showed us that despite his busyness, he took the time to care for the wounded and dying Jew. Take note that Jesus was talking about a Samaritan, people who were discriminated and despised by the Jews at that time. The Lord was talking on a very important message that kindness is to be for everyone, even our enemies. Fr. Rene observed that “loving” God is easy for the rich and the mighty in society. They shower the Church with donations, give so much their time, and yet the difficulty is in “loving the neighbor”.

It is more convenient for you to be friendly with people outside your home and yet do not reflect this kindness with people and neighbors surrounding you. Yet people who are genuinely happy and successful at life are also authentically caring and compassionate. They reflect Christ’s love to others.

When you don’t follow God’s commandment to love others, how then can you claim to love Him with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength and with all your mind?

Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life; you have the words of everlasting life.” (Jn. 6: 63c, 68c)

Live to Proclaim Jesus!

When I was still new in my other community, I would delight in participating in the various missions entrusted to us. My wife and I have both experienced running the Kids and the Youth ministries that is why it is still one of our advocacies. Whether in Metro Manila or in Pampanga we would be actively involved and love the idea of working to bring young people closer to the Lord. Then came the Code of Champions, the Baristas which is now being integrated into Peaceworks103.

Most of us always have the notion that mission work is only for priests, bishops and other missionaries. This is wrong. What most people do is just try fulfilling Mass obligation, and then afterwards are off to their respective plans for the rest of Sunday. The same routine is done week in and week out. We don’t fill in work for God, contented that the Church will do it on its own.

In today’s Gospel (Lk. 10: 1-12, 17-20), the Lord sent out seventy-two ahead of Him in pairs to every town and place He intended to visit. Note that in the previous chapter of this Gospel of St. Luke, the Lord already sent out the Twelve for mission. Needless to say, Jesus is telling us to do our share in the Gospel ministry. It is also our work to make Christ known to the world. In the last verse of today’s Gospel, Jesus said,

Behold, I have given you the power totread upon serpentsand scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you.  Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in Heaven.”

The Lord is talking about the end result of it all, which means that it is for our own good if we participate in the missionary work of the Lord. If the disciples are sort of “guaranteed” Heaven, then it means we can also gain God’s approval if we do it. It’s worth doing then for the love of God, right?

But do you need to go literally on preaching to participate in this endeavor? Actually there are many ways of sharing in God’s work. You can join your Parish’s organizations and serve in its various ministries like the Couples for Christ (CFC), the Adoracion Nocturna, the Knights of Columbus (K of C), the Catholic Women’s League (CWL), the Mother Butler Guild or the visible ministries at Mass like the Lectors and Commentators, Eucharistic Ministers of the Holy Eucharist, the Music Ministry, the Knights of the Altar and others. More importantly, once you assimilate into the service life of the Church, you will notice a change in your attitude. You will discover that your lifestyle and actions are more effective than the service or preaching that you do. People won’t listen much unless you live what you preach. This change of heart and mindset is the more important benefit of serving God. There’ll be less of the arrogance and more of the humility. As St. Paul said in the Second Reading (Gal. 6: 14-18),

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” 

Your life then becomes a more effective way of sharing the Gospel to others.

This Sunday, let us pray that we be inspired to serve the Church in a more dynamic way. May we remain grounded in the work that we do. May the Lord guide us all the days of our service.

Let the peace of Christ control your hearts; let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” (Col. 3: 15a, 16a)

Do Not Fear, God is in Control!

Many times in our ministries we feel our efforts being unrewarded. We feel the strain on our shoulders, the time we’ve spent in the preparation seems long and so we reach the point of almost giving up. However, what we always forget is that the work we’re doing is not solely ours. We forget to pray for His guidance and the leading of the Spirit. Coming from our corporate experiences and training we always try to create a “perfect” plan the way we always do at work. We measure success by the metrics we are used to having. What we often neglect to consider is that the Lord may have a different purpose in the particular mission in time. He may have other things in mind that we can’t still appreciate at the moment. Thus, it is important to pray and discern what He wants. It is difficult but at the end of the day, just look at it from the point of faith and a complete and total trust in the Lord.

In the Gospel (Lk. 9: 51-62), the disciples James and John were furious when the reception of the people were less than hospitable. They asked,

Lord, do you want us to call down fire from Heaven to consume them? Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village.”

We can see our frustrations in James and John such that there are times we want to send “lightning and thunder” to others. Yet Jesus showed and reacted differently; this is not the way to do it. After all, this is God’s work and He is still in control.

The Lord also reminded us on what commitment to Him is all about. He asks us to focus on our specific “operation” of the moment and not be distracted by the concerns of the world. He reminds us,

No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Being a follower of Christ demands commitment and God requires no less. When we’ve committed ourselves to Him, there are just so many things to do that we can’t anymore look to what’s left behind every now and then. But we love Him this much, right? Our love for Him would be enough to bring us through in our own missionary journey. To encourage us that we can “survive”, He gives us a “tip”:

I say, then: live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh.”

The Holy Spirit is with us to guide us all the way. The Lord has gifted us with this powerful ally in our earthly battles spiritually, physically and emotionally.

Armed with this knowledge, today, reset your focus on what the mission is all about. Remind yourself that Jesus is in control, and this is His work. He knows what’s important in the works of the Kingdom. He knows the way to succeed. Additionally, He knows what we’re experiencing having experienced everything while He was on earth.

Let us pray that the Holy Spirit will give us the strength to persevere in our work for God. Let us pray for the gift of humility to acknowledge our own limitations.

Let us pray for the gift of wisdom for us to know and understand the Lord’s will for our missions.

Speak, Lord, your servant is listening; you have the words of everlasting life.” (1 Sm. 3: 9, Jn. 6: 68c)

His Presence is Real!

At the start of Chapter 9 of St. Luke’s Gospel, the Lord summoned the Twelve and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and then sent them to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He gave them explicit instructions on the apostolic journey and they set forth from village to village proclaiming the good news and curing diseases everywhere. When the apostles returned, they explained to Him what they had done. Then Jesus took them and withdrew in private to a town called Bethsaida. The crowds though knew about this and followed Him.

Thus,

Jesus spoke to the crowds about the kingdom of God, and He healed those who needed to be cured. As the day was drawing to a close, the Twelve approached Him and said, Dismiss the crowd so that they can go to the surrounding villages and farms and find lodging and provisions; for we are in a deserted place here.”(Gospel Today: Lk. 9: 11b-17)

Obviously, the apostles weren’t prepared for this situation. They thought that since food is barely available than what is needed for everyone, they have to dismiss the crowd considering that the number was big, about five thousand men. The apostles thought that there isn’t enough food for themselves. Yet Jesus said,

Give them some food yourselves.

It’s human nature to think first about one’s self for fear that there isn’t enough. In times like this especially for those in mission, it’s easy to limit your thinking to what is in front of you. We hardly take the time to reflect and pray for a resolution to happen or the better thing to do is to discern God’s hand on what action should be taken further. That’s what Jesus did and He has always shown and proven to us that there’s enough for everyone. When we place ourselves under the Lord’s care, there’s no need to worry. Since the time of the Israelites the message of Yahweh has always been “Do not be afraid!” Instead of worrying, when we begin to shred off our selfishness and start thinking of others first, the graces and blessings will overflow. Fr. Armand has said time and again that the path to real happiness is not the one that involves making plans how to become happy, but rather, about how to make others happy. It is only when you make others happy will you start to realize that their happiness become your own source of happiness. The journey to a happy life stems from the attitude of giving ourselves to others.

Our Savior showed it best when He offered Himself as a ransom for many. He suffered and died on the Cross to save us from eternal damnation. Or, have you thought about the food that you ate today? Did you realize that in order for you to enjoy it, the fish, or the farm animal has to die first?

Before Jesus did the ultimate sacrifice He told His disciples,

Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood has Eternal Life, and I will raise him on the last day. For My Flesh is true food, and My Blood is true drink. Whoever eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood remains in Me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on Me will have life because of Me.This is the bread that came down from Heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this Bread will live forever.” (Jn. 6: 53-58)

What a beautiful promise for those who partake of His Most Holy Body and Blood!  He left us these instructions which we’re honoring today, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi. More importantly, He didn’t want to be just a memory, but to remain with us, physically. This is essentially the Catholic teaching of the “Real Presence” of the Lord in the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, or “Transubstantiation”.

Today I remember fondly my First Communion after I had my First Confession, many, many years ago when I was still a young boy. For me, that’s one of the most important milestones in my life. It not only allowed me to partake of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist each time during Holy Mass, it also gave me access to God’s overflowing grace. Many miracles have been given to me and my family after spending time with the Lord in the Tabernacle. While I still sin like any ordinary person, I am confident that I am strengthened more and more as I continue to build on my faith. Many years after that First Holy Communion I went on to marry Alma, and I became witness to a woman who slowly became an ardent devotee of the Blessed Sacrament even more than I do. She visits the Tabernacle more often than I am and for that I’m eternally grateful to the Lord for this gift in my family.

How about you? Have you embraced the Holy Eucharist as a means of getting more intimate with Jesus? If Yes, keep it up and I’m sure you will become more rich in your faith. If No, it’s not yet too late, there is still time to nurture the love of Christ. You will never regret it, I guarantee you.

May this Solemnity strengthen our love for Jesus who is waiting for us in the Holy Sacrament of the Altar. May we not lose sight of its Eternal Beauty and become more aware of this Treasure who is in our midst.

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

The Most Holy Trinity

Ever since the Creation, as revealed in the New Testament, Man encountered God as Creator, Father, Lord, and Judge. Then, God “lived” on earth among men as God the Son. When the Lord was taken into Heaven at Ascension, the Holy Spirit filled the disciples with power and new life to take on the mission that Jesus Christ tasked them to complete. As you see, this doctrine is deeply complicated and remains a mystery not to be solved but to embrace by our faith in Him. Instead we should be consoled by the fact that the Lord, through the Holy Spirit will give us the grace of faith and inspire our lives to be guided towards our Father in Heaven. The readings today show us how the presence of God covers beyond time and imagination.

Indeed, one of the most challenging reflections to make is about the Most Holy Trinity, the Solemnity of which we celebrate today. It falls on the first Sunday after Pentecost, and is one of the few feasts in the Christian calendar that celebrate a doctrine rather than an event. This perhaps is adopted by the early Christian Church because this is the only way to make sense of something so deep, so complex and so incomprehensible, and as a way of understanding the events that are revealed in the Holy Bible.

When I reflect on the Most Holy Trinity, I can’t help but be reminded of the vision shared by St. Augustine of Hippo,

St. Augustine was walking by the seashore one day contemplating the mystery of the Holy Trinity when he saw a little child running back and forth from the water to a spot on the seashore. The boy was using a shell to carry water from the large ocean and pour it into a small pit that he had made in the sand. Augustine came up to him and asked him what he was doing. I’m going to pour the entire ocean into this hole,” the boy replied.“What?” said Augustine.That is impossible, my dear child, the sea is so great and the shell and the hole are so little.”

That is true,” the boy said. “It would be easier and quicker to draw all the water out of the sea and fit it into this hole than for you to fit the mystery of the Trinity and His Divinity into your little intellect; for the Mystery of the Trinity is greater and larger in comparison with your intelligence than this vast ocean in comparison with this little hole.” And then the child vanished.” (http://olmlaycarmelites.org/reflections/mystery-trinity)

For the faithful follower of God there’s no need to explain the Mystery of the Most Holy Trinity.

In the Gospel (Jn. 16: 12-15), Jesus was telling His disciples that there’s much more to be told, but that the disciples cannot bear it now. He assures them that when the Holy Spirit comes, He will guide them to all truth. He then spoke about the unity of the Most Holy Trinity,

He will not speak on His own,
but He will speak what He hears,
and will declare to you the things that are coming.
He will glorify me, because He will take from what is mine and declare it to you.
Everything that the Father has is mine
;
for this reason I told you that He will take from what is mine
and declare it to you
.”

Jesus was simply giving an outline of how the Most Holy Trinity is across time. Something deep that the Lord simplified for us. Yet, it goes without saying that it is not for us to fathom this mystery. The mystery of how God can be Three Divine Persons. The perfect unity of the Triune God. Because it is impossible to explain it, we can be consoled by the fact that He is Supreme God and He can be Who He is. We can only reflect, pray and believe in Him.

May God guide us to all truth, bring us peace and union in Him, and share the life of the Trinity with us. May we pray unceasingly,

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

Lord, My God, You Are Great Indeed!

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues,
as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.
” (First Reading Acts 2: 1-11)

It’s my first visit to Tokyo and thus goes with it the unfamiliarity and challenge of going around the train and subway system. At the start of the second day, one of my worries is on how I can find the route to a Church considering it’s the Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday. I had to struggle with the idea considering there were places already set on the itinerary with limited time to find the way to Church, plus the fact that there were few that have English services. Naturally, these worries filled up my morning as my family were visiting tourist spots in Tokyo. After a visit to a shrine where we witnessed two weddings, I asked my daughter how’s our schedule looking like in the afternoon, to which she replied we don’t have that much anymore. That was the answer I prayed hard for so that it’ll be my turn to direct the remaining itinerary for the day. Surfing around the net to find a Church, what struck me was that there’s this St. Ignatius Church that we can devote locating the rest of the day. While we agreed we can still go there early evening, I took the chance of going earlier as there’s a 1:30 Mass. When we arrived there though, the Mass was already halfway through as the schedule on the website wasn’t followed as the Church is also celebrating today its 20th Anniversary.

Anyway, it still gave me that sense of fulfillment and affirmation from the Lord because while we weren’t conversant in Japanese, our familiarity with the Scriptures and the Holy Mass enabled us to understand what the Priest was saying during the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. And the Priest is not Japanese, but he’s speaking Nihongo so fluently that you won’t recognize he’s a Spaniard if you didn’t see him talk. What amazed me was that the Sacred Hymns played during the Mass were all familiar songs we learned during CFC days!

Later in the afternoon, with the active workings of the Holy Spirit, my family was able to meet a classmate from High School, after 39 years!!! Surprisingly, her daughter is scheduled to fly to Manila to attend school at Ateneo. Do you think these were all by coincidence?

Here’s more: In one of the recollections I attended facilitated by then Bishop Chito Tagle (now Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, the Archbishop of Manila), I remember him tell a story about how Filipinos’ close fellowship while working in a hospital abroad inspired a young woman to study Theology at Ateneo to understand more about the Philippines and its culture. She had learned from this group of Filipinos that what made them closer to each other is their love for Jesus Christ. And so because she wants to feel that love for God and the search for understanding what this “love of Christ” means, she went to study at Ateneo and curiously had a classmate by the name of Luis Antonio Tagle. Many years later when they met again, Bishop Tagle was so pleased to know she has risen in her Church to become like the Secretary of the Archbishop in her Church’s capital city. However, she was more surprised when she learned during the introduction of the Keynote Speaker, that classmate Chito is already a Bishop! (The good cardinal is one known for his humility and meekness, and stories abound about how he substitutes for priests in his Diocese riding a tricycle and without offering the information to the Church’s lay people who he is not until they ask his name for introduction at the start of Mass).

Anyway, it’s awesome for a woman who wasn’t a good communicator in English when she studied in the Philippines but became a willing servant of God years after she left the country. She came simply to study and understand a culture, not knowing that God had plans for her someday. She has unknowingly helped spread the Gospel in a big way.

Indeed, with the active workings of the Holy Spirit, the Church has continued to spread since that First Pentecost. Only by hearing the proclamation of the Sacred Scriptures did we know about what happened at that time. However, with the witnessing of the Apostles and the rest of the disciples who spread the Gospel to our land did we also arrive at a point when we were invited to the Church and transform our lives in a deep and personal way. By this changing of heart (“Metanoia”) and mindset did we allow the Holy Spirit to touch and enter our lives more intimately. With our opening to the Spirit of God, we allow Him to set our hearts on fire. By this we cooperate in the redeeming work of Jesus to change our life and others by the way we live.

On this Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday, let us ponder and reflect on how the Holy Spirit has led us closer to the Holy Trinity.

May we pray unceasingly,

Bless the LORD, O my soul!

O LORD, my God, you are great indeed!
How manifold are your works, O LORD
the earth is full of your creatures.” (Ps. 104: 1, 24)

His Continuing Presence!

He ascended into Heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from there He will come to judge the living and the dead.” So goes the line in the Apostles Creed. Today is the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord (Gospel: Lk. 24: 46-53), wherein Holy Mother Church commemorates the Ascension of Jesus Christ. Before going up into Heaven, Jesus told the disciples,

“…repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

At this time, the disciples have already experienced so much confusion in their lives. They followed the Lord upon His calling, experiencing joys and happiness and were witnesses to the countless miracles in their missionary journeys. They were devastated when He was separated from them through His Passion and Death; felt triumphant in His Resurrection, and then He again leaves them? Remember in last Sunday’s Gospel (Jn. 14: 23-29), He was telling them that,

I am going away and I will come back to you. If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father; for the Father is greater than I.”

It is necessary for Jesus to go to the Father so He can send them the Holy Spirit. Thus, even if Jesus is physically away, through the Holy Spirit, He is continually present. The Ascension is a transition phase in the perfect plan of salvation. With His continuing presence, and with the ups and downs of life, He is always an inspiring presence through the power of the Holy Spirit. The disciples will now have to pursue preaching the Good News of salvation (which they did). As faithful disciples, they gave up their futures and their lives for the Lord. They’ve travelled into a lot of places and preached the Gospel becoming witnesses to the Savior.

How about you, are you experiencing ups and downs in your life now? The message this Sunday is for you to completely trust in the Lord, no matter the situation you’re in. These phases of twists and happenings show something new, something different that you just have to reflect and marvel in awe of how God is taking you through these challenging events in your life.

A friend is having difficulties in choosing which job offer to accept, especially that there are contrasts and differences in the compensation and benefits. I advised her that the more pleasant job environment may not always offer the most attractive compensation package. Thus, her choice should be guided by wisdom and discernment. In the same token, when you are confronted with choices whether these be related to work, business or career, you just have to seek wisdom and discernment from the Lord through His Holy Spirit. 

Today, as we work in our missions, we are being assured of the Holy Spirit’s continuing presence. It means that even if we can’t see Him physically, His Spirit lives on and on to guide us through. Amidst the challenges and difficulties, we can only trust in His plans and marvel at the unfolding events that show His dominion over our lives and the rest of Creation.

Let us pray then for the strength to overcome difficulties and weariness. May He continue to refresh and inspire us. May we recognize His presence in the lives of people we meet. And may other people recognize Christ in us.

Go and teach all nations, says the Lord; I am with you always, until the end of the world.” (Mt. 28: 19a, 20b)

Do Not be Afraid!

Life in this world is troubling, challenging and at times frustrating. We are constantly beset by broken promises, betrayals, and unfortunate turn of events. A business deal turned sour, a dream job not forthcoming, or someone betraying you. Due to our weaknesses and frailties as part of our nature arising from original sin, we commit errors and wrongdoing and fail in our promises to the Faith. As a result, you can be anxious and afraid of what might be. It’s a cycle that repeats day in and day out.

This is why we need the Lord more and more in our beings.

Throughout my life I have the privilege of guiding friends and people I met. They’ve shared with me their hardships, insecurities and fears. One of the things that come out is the fact that there are many young people today who are restless and insecure. For most of them, the Lord is someone that seems distant and remote. There is a difficulty in getting intimate with Him. This is also true even with most parents and adults. This loneliness is compounded by the stresses of life e.g. coping with the demands of family, peers and work. It has become a depressing battle for most of them.

However, there is hope! There is a brighter future ahead if you choose Jesus over the rest of the world.

In today’s Gospel (Jn. 14: 23-29), the Lord addresses us through the continuation of the farewell discourse. He assures the disciples while He is still physically with them that He will send the Holy Spirit,

The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.”

What the Lord promises is that the Christian life is not shaped by Christ’s absence but by God’s abiding presence, He is Emmanuel, God with us! This pledge should bring about a change of attitude: His continuing presence overcomes the fears and the anxieties about the absence of Jesus when He finally leaves them physically. He is forever alive. He is everywhere. That is why we are encouraged to visit Him in the Tabernacle, veiled as He eagerly waits for our visits. Our present and future should be shaped by this assurance and confidence that through His love we are guided, and there should not be a trace of fear in our hearts,

Peace be with you! My peace I give to you; not as the world gives peace do I give it to you. Do not be troubled! Do not be afraid!”

Let us pray then that by the grace of God we’ll be given the strength, fortitude and wisdom to overcome difficulties and challenges. That by Jesus’ assurance we may become more confident and hopeful viewing these trials as necessary to fortify and deepen our faith in the Risen Lord.

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

Joy in Suffering

We have been taught about Eternal Life since our Cathecism prior to First Communion. Not only that, we have been reminded in an application in corporate trainings to “Begin with the End in Mind”. In this Sunday’s Gospel (Jn. 13: 31-33a, 34-35) St. John brought us back to that point during the Last Supper where Judas just left them. The Lord was giving like a farewell address, preaching to them the coming time when He will leave them. The Lord is painting a beautiful picture of what He will be after His Passion and Suffering,

Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him.
If God is glorified in Him,
God will also glorify Him in Himself,
and God will glorify Him at once.

Jesus reminded them of their identity as Christ’s followers,

My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.
I give you a new commandment: love one another.
As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.
This is how all will know that you are my disciples,
if you have love for one another.

Just a few days ago, my favorite team achieved a milestone in the history of the Philippine Basketball Association, its fifth straight championship in the Philippine Cup. No other team has achieved that in the conference previously called the All-Filipino Conference. It wasn’t easy as the team has to overcome severe trials and obstacles, going as far back to the second year, when they have to face a 0-3 deficit and convert it into a 4-3 series win. What they cited as one of the reasons for getting the trophy is because they “care and support each other” and that they “don’t blame each other for the mistakes that their teammates commit in the course of the game.” This team mentioned that the most recent championship series is by far the hardest among the five finals series they’ve played. When the boat is rocked your capability as a team is tested; teams that fold up are just ordinary ones, while those that survive become great teams. In the course of the game, even if the score you have to overcome is so huge, if you’re a great team, you’ll still find ways to win. You can do that because everyone sticks together as a team, no matter what.

Similarly, as Christians, we are to demonstrate that love, care and support amongst each other. It is to be our identity as followers of Christ. Take a look at what happened before these verses: “…Judas had left them.” He wasn’t simply leaving; he was going to fulfill his plan to betray his Master. For Jesus, it must have been so devastating and unfortunate that one of your followers gave you up for thirty pieces of silver. But Jesus responded differently, because He knew the result of that betrayal. Because of that treachery, Jesus will suffer, die on the cross, but will rise triumphantly. He didn’t just look at the pain that He will be going through, but looked up to Heaven and all that could be achieved through His saving passion and death. Jesus knew the end of the story!

For us then, it is a good reminder that if done with prayerful intention, there is joy in suffering. It is a means to purify and to prepare us for the rewards waiting in Heaven when we meet the Savior someday.

In the First Reading (Acts 14: 21-27), Paul and Barnabas strengthened the spirits of the disciples and exhorted them to persevere in the faith, saying, “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”

As we go on our loving and caring pilgrimage, there will be so many hardships and obstacles that it’ll be easier to give up rather than move onwards. But for as long as we see “the end of our story” we will endure to make that story happen. It’ll be worth going and continuing on. Loving one another will make life better; when we have the love of God in our hearts certainly suffering would make life a more joyful experience. For St. John has assured Christ’s followers,

He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away.” (Second Reading Rev. 21: 1-5a)

Let us pray then for humility to see through the difficulties we encounter as an opportunity to experience God’s love and mercy.

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

Jesus is the Good Shepherd: We Are the Sheep of His Flock

This Sunday as we pay tribute to the loving, the caring, the enduring mothers that God has gifted us with, we celebrate the fourth Sunday of Easter which is also called the Good Shepherd Sunday. In the three lectionary cycles, the Gospel is always taken from the tenth chapter of St. John’s Gospel. If we recall, this chapter follows Jesus’ healing of the man born blind and the Jewish leaders questioning the authority of Jesus to heal. So Jesus responds to this challenge to His authority by calling Himself the Good Shepherd:

Jesus said:


My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.” (Jn. 10: 27-30)

The imagery of a shepherd is a clear representation of Jesus’ desire to impress on us how He takes care of His flock. The sheep is one of the most fragile of animals and needs gentle caring. While at it, the shepherd looks at the safety and welfare of the flock. He will check on the grassland to ensure there are no poisonous plants and allow the sheep to graze while also on the lookout for other animals that may threaten the flock. Thus, Jesus emphasizes that the Good Shepherd’s intent is driven by love, care and authenticity. There’s no selfish motive, no hidden agenda, just the pure desire to ensure that the sheep is safe and secure. This is the same love that a mother, sibling, or friend offers us. This love is deep and when we have this support in our lives, we are really assured and comforted.     

In times of difficulties and struggle, let us remember Jesus commitment as the Good Shepherd. He will

“…shelter them. They will not hunger or thirst anymore, nor will the sun or any heat strike them. For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Rev. 7: 9, 14b-17)

What comforting words indeed!

Similarly, it is also our commitment to inspire people entrusted to us by God. As leaders in our families, communities and organizations, we have that duty to reflect the love of the Good Shepherd to others in our care.

He also tells us that He and the Father are one, thus, to know Jesus is to know the Father. By this, what He meant is that when we are intimate with Jesus, we are actually directly in contact with the Father.  

Let us pray then that we remain faithful shepherds just like Jesus, our model, our Good Shepherd. May we realize how beautiful it is to share intimacy with God. May we remain faithful to Jesus all the days of our lives, just as He is faithful to the Father.

I am the good shepherd, says the Lord; I know my sheep, and mine know me.” (Jn. 10: 14)

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