All posts by Alan Sienes

Reflections by Alan Sienes on the Sunday's Gospel

The Father’s House

The Church in the Philippines has a special permission to reserve one Sunday just to celebrate the Feast of the Child Jesus—the Santo Niño. The readings give us an opportunity to get to know Jesus as a child. 

In the Gospel (Lk. 2: 41-52) after Mary and Joseph completed the celebration of the Feast of the Passover, they returned and journeyed for a day before discovering that Jesus was not in the caravan with them. They returned to Jerusalem to look for him for three days and found him in the temple, “sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers.” When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

In the beginning, Jesus already knew His identity. That’s why He stayed behind in the Temple even when it’s time to go home. He wasn’t lost at that time. Jesus claimed it with confidence and certainty when He said, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

How about you, do you know that you are God’s child?

Also, Jesus knew His mission. He was already clear about what He should be doing while in this world. This should be the same with us. If you haven’t found your purpose in life, it’s time to think seriously about it. Mark Twain once said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” 

Finally, Jesus teaches us to be obedient: “He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them...”

Knowing our purpose isn’t enough. There has to be both a spirituality and obedience to the will of God. After your conversion, you have that responsibility to be in the “Father’s house”, just like Jesus.

In this Feast of the Sto. Niño, let us pray that we may be reminded of our identity as sons and daughters of the Father. May we know and fulfill our mission and calling in life. May this knowledge make us bow down in humility and become obedient to God.

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. Any who did accept Him, He empowered to become children of God.” (Jn 1:14.12)

Be A Light

Many years ago when I was being sent on an errand by my Lola, I found a one-peso coin along the way. Upon returning home I told her about it and she said, “This is not ours, let’s give it to Church when we go to Mass.” Young and immature I was then, I felt dismayed that something that I found and could buy some candies is to be given elsewhere. But later, that lesson struck me about the values of being honest and trustworthy. Do not get what is not yours. Values that should be at the core of our being. Being endowed with honesty and trustworthiness stem from a deeply-seated humility and nobility of character. Not many are given that gift though, as it comes from a purposive and well-thought of behavior brought out by many years of learning and submission to authority. My Lola is a prime example as she has nurtured these values in her children and grandchildren (who have the blessing and opportunity to be guided and taught by her in our growing up years). She never took for granted the chance to teach us whenever situations were presented. And we are grateful to her for it.

In today’s Gospel (Lk. 3: 15-16, 21-22), we can see one of the perfect models of trustworthiness and humility in Scriptures, St. John the Baptist. When the time came that he was asked if Jesus is the Messiah, his classic reply is one filled with obedience and humility:


“I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

St. John lived his calling faithfully and without any selfish interest whatsoever. True he was popular and had many followers that’s why many were filled “with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ.”

There are many cases wherein people who have been entrusted betrayed their friends and benefactors. People like Judas Iscariot, spies, corrupt politicians and officials, come to mind as among these kind of people. When we sin, we become like them. It’s not about education nor about being with a certain religion. There are many professed Catholics who betray their faith by being unfaithful in their positions. Nobody is perfect, but what makes it more serious is when you don’t acknowledge, repent and mend your ways. Thus, it is something that is drawn from natural and moral laws that is almost always common sense. It takes strength of character, wisdom, and fear of the Lord to overcome the temptations to abuse power and wealth. When you fail, have the humility to accept it and repent before God and Church. When one has these virtues, it’s almost always automatic that that person is endowed with integrity. Sad to say, this is lacking today.

When you are a person obedient to faith, without blinking an eye you can present God to others without fear and worry. You know yourself and as well as the source of your power and strength. You don’t derive it from people and earthly power. It’s something powerful and out-of-this-world. You know that God is with you and won’t fail you.

After Jesus’ Baptism, God the Father affirmed “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Just like Our Lord, due to grace received at our baptism we are acknowledged by God as His sons and daughters. Thus considering most of us received Baptism when we were still infants, we have this obligation to learn, nurture and spread the faith. As parents, ask yourselves, “Have you done your obligation to teach your children what our faith is all about?” Have you taught them morality and in building principles and values in their lives? If you failed these roles, most probably these are the reasons why the world today is filled with dysfunctional men and women who persist in their ways.

Lately, Netflix released the movie “Noah” as an ambitious portrayal of the Biblical character descending from our first parents Adam and Eve. As the film portrayed, building the ark from “out of nothing” and a literally barren earth, Noah’s faith in the Creator (as the film calls God) was strong and unfailing. Despite threats from other men and to family unity, his obedience to the Creator prevailed and didn’t waver. His faith was strong and he was obedient.    

In this Baptism of the Lord Sunday, may we be obedient and faithful to our calling. May we have the strength to persevere and just like St. John the Baptist, offer everything that we have to God, whose honor, glory and power must “increase” while we “decrease” in faithful submission to Him. May we be “a light for the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.” (First Reading, Is. 42: 1-4, 6-7).

The Lord will bless His people with peace.” (Ps. 29: 11b)

Becoming a Light to Others

There are many messages and insights that today’s readings bring forth. The First Reading (Is. 60: 1-6) shows the author’s inspiration of an event that’s so deep and well-described. Through the darkness, “the light” and “glory of Yahweh rises” upon us. The dawn of God’s new day coming makes your “face radiant”, your “heart throbbing and full”. The Prophet Isaiah must have been so filled with the Holy Spirit when he wrote this. The words are not only powerful, they are also alive and penetrating to the core of one’s being as if describing experience singing in praise of Yahweh!

 

St. Paul in the Second Reading (Eph. 3:2-3a, 5-6) tells us that this new dawn is not only for the people of Israel but is also for the Gentiles as well. Today’s Gospel (Mt. 2: 1-12) talk about the adoration of the Magi — foreigners and pagans — who came all the way from the East to pay homage to the Christ Child. They were guided by a rising star, yet for the rich and powerful, as Herod was then, signals a threat to their dominion and power over others.

 

As the Gospel reminds us that if God permitted the Magi to recognize and give the Child Jesus proper respect as the “newborn King of Jews”, we should know that nothing in our lives, not even sin, can keep God from bringing us to Jesus. We are also being challenged to detach ourselves from our treasures and offer it to the New Star, the New Treasure, who is Christ the Lord. Just like the Magi, for as long as we have faith that is solid and “diamond hard”, surely we will overcome obstacles to find Jesus and bow down in humility and faith.

 

Let us pray that the Solemnity of the Epiphany inspire us to seek the Rising Star in all that we do, even at the cost of persecution and difficulties.

 

May we realize that faith and trust in the Lord is what matters the most in this dark and challenging world that we live in.

 

May we realize that whenever threatened by darkness and challenges, our faith in Jesus will guide us into a new direction where we choose a better way of living.

 

May we become a radiant light to others as the star led the Wise Men to Jesus, through our service, dedication and compassion to the least, the lost and the last.

 

We saw His star at its rising and have come to do Him homage.’ (Mt. 2: 2)

Loving Our Parents

It’s the season when families come to spend the holidays together. We travel long distances to attend family reunions, visit old friends and meet again childhood neighbors. It is timely and providential that in the middle of the holidays, the Scripture readings focus on the family.

The First Reading (Sir. 3: 2-6, 12-14) reminds us to be most considerate with family, whom we love so much,

God sets a father in honor over his children; a mother’s authority He confirms over her sons.
Whoever honors his father atones for sins, and preserves himself from them. When he prays, he is heard; he stores up riches who reveres his mother
.”

The Lord reminds us how we treat our parents especially in their twilight years. This strikes me especially that my Mom is at this stage, where she is fragile and needs extra loving care. I’m blessed that I have sisters who live with her while the rest of her children are working in different places. We know that while we are struggling to do this role, the Lord will surely fulfill His promise of supporting us in His mysterious ways.

Sadly, there are also families who have lost the love and gone astray in their relationships. We ought to pray for healing and love to be restored as God has willed it to be.

In today’s Gospel (Lk. 2: 41-52), we read from St. Luke the narrative when Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem at the age of twelve to fulfill their obligations according to the Law. After that, they left thinking Jesus was with the caravan but the child stayed behind in the Temple.  When they found him after three days of search, they were surprised as he was sitting in the midst of the teachers of the Law. He was listening and asking them questions, and all who heard him were amazed at his wisdom,

Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them.”

The scene must be one of mixed emotions; imagine the parents have travelled with the caravan for a day, returned to Jerusalem and searched for what, three days? This must be such a harrowing experience for Joseph and Mary. So what do you think was the reaction of the parents when they found Jesus? St. Luke didn’t elaborate much on that for us to reflect on this ourselves. And yet,

Jesus went down with them and came to Nazareth and he was obedient to them.”

With the rapid advancement of technology there comes a time when our parents lose track of developments in their aging years. Most will not understand what we’re doing so they sometimes ask us questions about it. If we’re not patient and understanding with them, we might take them for granted and hurt them unknowingly, unlike Jesus at twelve. We may not be patient with them when they talk about the past a lot, or rewind stories every now and then. In this Gospel, Jesus taught us how to honor, understand and be patient with our earthly parents, for they rightly deserve it.

Surely, we’ll find comfort in the promise of Yahweh God, as can be read in the closing verses of the First Reading,

My son, take care of your father when he is old; grieve him not as long as he lives. Even if his mind fail, be considerate of him; revile him not all the days of his life; kindness to a father will not be forgotten, firmly planted against the debt of your sins —a house raised in justice to you.”

Let us pray that during this season may we realize how blessed we are to be given that opportunity to take care of our beloved parents, so that we too can share our gratitude to their never ending love and patience in raising us. Like Jesus, may we remain obedient and grateful, so that in doing so, may we reflect the Lord’s goodness to Joseph and Mary.

 

Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in His ways.’ (Ps. 128: 1)

Gratitude, Generosity and Service

In our life experience there are souls who are so remarkably generous that we wonder why they are like that and where they get the inspiration. My Mom in her younger years is one such person. From the time she was a classroom teacher until she became a school principal, she would give unselfishly to others that sometimes I thought she may be overdoing it. Things from home she would use in her classroom, while she would at times bring us to school to help her decorate during Christmas and other important school events. Dad would be doing artwork for her too. I sometimes felt jealous that she’s doing more for others than for us. Today as I reminisce those moments, I thought it’s not that Mom cared for us less, it’s just that she cared for others too. She’s such a bubbly and energetic woman who felt so grateful for the Lord’s goodness to her family that she shared it to others. And I realized that when one appreciates life, the best way to express one’s gratitude is to give generously to others. This generosity even goes beyond the giving of material things, it can even include giving time and sharing of our talent to others.

In today’s Gospel (Lk. 1: 39-45), Mother Mary’s deep appreciation for the gift of the Savior in her womb is expressed in her going out of the way “in haste”, to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who herself was in the sixth month of her pregnancy. After Mary greeted Elizabeth,

“…the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”

Mary was so grateful that aside from going out of her way to take care of Elizabeth for about three months, she was able to express her gratitude by way of the Magnificat (v. 46-55). Mary is such a great model of humility because it manifested in the way she showed generosity to Elizabeth, that she served for quite some time, even while she is pregnant herself.

Every new day that we wake up from sleep there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be grateful for the gift of life and family. This gratitude should extend beyond us by way of sharing and giving of ourselves to others. The Blessed Mother showed us how she served others and how she submitted fully to God’s will for her life.

Let us pray that during this season may we realize how blessed we are to be given that opportunity to share and to be of service to others. Like Mary, may we remain humble and grateful, so that in being so, may we reflect the Lord’s goodness to others by being generous and by serving others without counting the cost.

Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.’ (Lk. 1: 38)

Being Worthy of His Coming

As I was seeking inspiration to write this reflection, the rookie draft of the PBA is on the TV screen. You can see the anxieties not only of the applicants but also among their parents, friends and supporters. For those who were drafted in the top of the order, the anxieties will remain as these rookies will be monitored if they meet the expectations of their respective team and followers.

The people in today’s Gospel are filled with expectations. They kept on asking the question: “What then should we do?” If we look back, we remember that in the first Sunday of Advent, we were told of how the “end of days” would be like, then on the second Sunday, the Gospel exhorted us to “prepare the way of the Lord”. The third Sunday of Advent is also called Gaudete (“Rejoice!”) Sunday, which provides a break midway through this season which is otherwise of a somber nature, and signifies the nearness of the Lord’s coming. While the liturgy all throughout Advent is one of intense expectation and preparation, we take a break to remind us that this season is one of joyful anticipation of the Second Coming of Christ.

True, we are all facing different challenges and concerns in our day-to-day living but the Lord reminds us to rejoice:

Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged! The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; He will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in His love, He will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals.” (Zep 3:14-18a)

Realizing fully this promise is made by God, we ask just like what the people of St. John the Baptist’s time asked, “What then should we do?” We should examine how we are in our earthly pilgrimage; we take moments to reflect deep into our hearts. We know that this is relevant because the promise isn’t made by an ordinary mortal like us but by the Supreme God Himself. For sure, without our cooperation in this plan of salvation, we won’t be able to claim His promise.

St. John the Baptist’s call to repentance didn’t talk about religion, nor about fulfilling certain rituals. What he was preaching was practical and clear: we are asked to share, not to exploit others, and not to mistreat others and “be content with your pay.” Thus, we are reminded that rejoicing doesn’t mean being greedy and excessive, not to steal from others, and not to be abusive with others. Oftentimes we see people being ecstatic and jubilant when they worship but when their faith is tested, they often give way to indifference and apathy. They think that their faith is enough without allowing themselves to be used as instruments of God’s goodness and compassion. They aren’t willing to undergo pain and suffering even for those they love. And yet God asks us to go beyond those we know and the familiar!

Reflect today then on what you should do to be worthy of the Messiah’s promises. While it’s true nobody can ever claim to be worthy of such, this attitude of humility will make you embrace the faith that only through God’s grace can you be allowed into His presence at the end of time. We have to act on our faith and show others how much God loves them. Let us be mindful of those who are in need this Christmas. For now, let us cherish the idea that His redemption is near, it is time to rejoice and not fear.

Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.’ (Is. 12: 6)

The Strength to Endure

Back when we were still in school whenever this season comes, my parents would prepare everything at home for their children coming back for the break. They would prepare our rooms, clear the home to give way for Christmas decorations and those thoughts would give us the joy in anticipation of the celebration. Those were one of the best memories of family that we love to recall. Today, we like to replicate those moments with our own respective families, ensuring tradition is passed on to the next generation. This is indeed one of the most wonderful times of the year.

Today, the sights and sounds of Christmas are getting brighter and louder. It’s the second day of December and also the start of the Church’s Liturgical Year. During these Sundays of Advent, we are invited to meditate on the mysteries of waiting in joyful and hopeful anticipation. It is a time of preparation for the coming of the Lord.

In our waiting for the Second Coming of Christ, the Gospel tells us (Lk. 21: 25-28, 34-36) that there will be chaos, death and fear. The Son of Man will come with power and great glory. Yet the Lord also gave us hope and encouragement so that “when these things happen, we stand erect and raise our heads because redemption is at hand”.

We are cautioned about becoming drowsy from excessive drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, lest that day may catch us by surprise. That day will affect everyone who lives, thus the need to be vigilant at all times. The Lord encourages us to pray that we have the “strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and the courage to stand before the Son of Man.”

This is what makes Advent so special. Jesus love makes Him come to us. Thus, preparing ourselves is something we have to do this season. Let us take the opportunity to create a new beginning, a new chapter in our life journey. Let us tear down those walls of indifference and begin to reach out to family members, neighbors and others who in one way or the other have drifted away from us. If we haven’t done yet, let us bring ourselves back closer to Jesus by going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation to bring our hearts worthy of becoming His home again. In doing so, we renew our relationship with God so that we experience the depth of His love where we’ll be touched, healed and transformed.

When we open our hearts to allow His grace to do these to us, we allow Him to bring His love into the world.

Let us pray that we find strength and consolation in Christ’s words and in His redeeming presence with us to endure all our trials and to witness His love to the world.

Show us, Lord, your love; and grant us your salvation.’ (Ps. 85: 8)

Hail To The King!

The good fight of faith goes on. It’s not one that’s simple but one that is of cosmic proportions. And yet while we can say this is one that is generally looked at as one between good and evil, there is no limitation on what the enemy does just to win souls over to the dark side. Despair, hopelessness and worries are among the openings that the enemy look at as opportunities to win people over. That’s why we have to be mindful of how we react to these threats of faith.

Just today, the sister of a colleague underwent surgery for an ailment that happened so fast she had to be rushed to the hospital. Yesterday, her brother and I were talking about how irritants and minor disruptions seem to be manifesting more around us as of late. We agreed that we have to be more prayerful and look at these as moments to increase our faith and trust more in the God that is the Ruler of the Universe.

While these events are happening, time is just zooming by and today is already the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year, and the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. Isn’t it awesome and timely given the “threats” happening lately? I can’t help it but rejoice as it overshadows the sense of sadness over what’s happening lately among people close to us and their loved ones. We are joyful that the Lord is reassuring us again and again that for as long as we see Him with the eyes of faith, we’ll be alright.

Casting these distractions aside, it is important to take time to reflect on this title given to Jesus Christ, The “King of the Universe”. In the Gospel (Jn. 18: 33B-37), St. John brings us to the dialogue between Pilate and Jesus. Caiaphas and the high priests have charged Jesus with a political crime, one that if proven guilty would get a punishment of death.

So Pilate said to him, Then you are a king? Jesus answered, You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

If you’ve noticed, truth is the recurring theme being emphasized in St. John’s Gospel as we focus on the conclusion of the dialogue between Jesus and Pilate. People whose faith is deep, believe in the truth that Jesus Christ is King and Savior. His might and power is hidden from many, especially on those who existed during His time on earth. Only those chosen and those who have the eyes of faith are able to see this truth. As followers of Jesus, we are not perfect though as we also struggle at times to recognize Jesus as King whenever we sin and fail Him.

At the start of the school year during the coating ceremonies of my daughter before she entered Medical Clerkship, the Dean of the School said that they are “doctors but not yet”. I remembered this because in today’s Mass, the Celebrant mentioned about the dual nature of the Kingdom of God: 1) Something yet to come (eschatological), and 2) “Now”. “Already but not yet”. It’s deep and thought-provoking but for me it isn’t a mystery that needs to be solved, only to be believed and lived.

I am the Alpha and the Omega, ” says the Lord God,
the one who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Rv. 1: 5-8)

In his book, “Kim.2”, Fr. Armand mentioned that in our search for happiness, the question is not “Are you a happy person?” but “Are your people happy with you?” The search for happiness and meaning is not really about how we become fulfilled but in our ability to make other people feel about what might be possible when one lives a life of faith in the Lord. Our ability to live the Kingdom of God in the present will be shown in how we become men and women for others. We have to make others experience God’s love so that in doing so, we bring to others the God’s Kingdom in the now.

Let us pray that the Lord grant us the ability to increase some more our faith, that we proclaim more strongly with the life we live that Jesus through His Crucifixion and Death, is indeed the King of the Universe.

The LORD is King; He is robed in majesty.’ (Ps. 93: 1a)

He Is Near!

One officemate is in the hospital combatting a sickness, friends are challenged in their jobs, while others speak of bad luck and misfortunes. The past days have been quite challenging to most that one faithful follower of the Lord just said that despite all these let us pray more and be hopeful that we persevere till the end.

In the Gospel (Mk 13: 24-32), the Lord speaks about the end of days and His Second Coming. He tells that “in those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the Heavens will be shaken.

There must be some confusion among the disciples as the Lord hasn’t even clarified how things will turn out with the First Coming. As it was in their time, so it is with ours. Day in and day out, the same problems we encounter, the same challenges re-surface. If your faith is weak, then all these become heavy burdens, anxieties prevail, and miseries seem piling up higher and higher.

We know that the disciples experienced Jesus Passion, Death and Resurrection, and then they must have remembered the Lord telling them, “Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.”

They must have patiently waited, they did their mission work, then they died, and yet the “Second Coming” didn’t literally come to pass.

So, what is Jesus telling? He is exhorting us to be ready at all times:

Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to stand before the Son of Man.” (Lk. 21: 36)

More importantly, Jesus wants us to be prepared as nobody knows, except God the Father:

But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

He doesn’t want you to waste your life but eventually be “… an everlasting horror and disgrace.”

When we are facing difficulties and challenges, we shouldn’t waver in our faith. It may appear that the Lord hasn’t answered our prayers but my take is that we should trust Him all the more. I think and believe that those times we feel abandoned are critical in that those instances may spell the difference between salvation and eternal damnation. Distrusting and losing hope is a sign that we are losing faith in God, thus may be the instance that we’ve abandoned Him and gone astray. Thus, the more we feel we are alone, the stronger we should cling to the Lord. As the Gospel tells us,

“He spoke to them of the signs taking the lesson from the fig tree, such that “when you see these things happening, know that He is near, at the gates”.

He is near, not in the flesh (except during Mass in the Holy Eucharist), but in His Holy Spirit. So, be careful! Whatever is happening with you, just believe that this is the enemy’s way of bringing you over to the dark side. Remember that these tests are temporary,

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

Jesus is telling us that whatever sufferings you are experiencing here, or, whatever happiness you are enjoying now are fleeting and will not stand the tests of time. Only His words will.

Have faith!

Let us pray that the Lord grant us the strength to persevere and to endure the long wait. May the Holy Spirit make us become more aware of His presence, His love and His peace.

You are my inheritance, O Lord!’

Make Me Be Your Heart

God will never be outdone in generosity. He always pays you back and with much more.

Way back in college, one of my best friends introduced me to devotions that I still carry on today. He introduced me to the devotion to the Our Lady of Perpetual Help and the Señor Santo Niño de Cebú. He isn’t only generous in sharing on matters of faith, he is also in giving time and material things. He comes from a rich Chinese family and was one of those classmates blessed with a car while still in school, which he more than willingly and graciously shared with us then. Whenever our going home time coincided, he would always offer to drive me, no matter how out of the way it was. So much so that there were several times that I pretended to stay in the library even if it’s already time to go, just so that he not be inconvenienced. That’s how this friend is so generous with everything he has, even while we were struggling students with futures still uncertain. Up to now, he remains a loyal and great friend to me and to our other brothers in the community.

In the Gospel (Mk. 12: 38-44), Jesus made a commentary to His disciples on the generosity of the poor widow, who gave everything that she had, compared to the rich people who gave what were their excesses:

Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”

The path to discipleship will also entail a lot of challenges, trials and difficulties. Sometimes we even question “why” we experience certain events that require sacrifices and discomfort. Yet we know Jesus has told us that if we love Him, we have to carry our cross and follow Him. Following the Lord requires a tremendous amount of trust because the journey takes us into a lot of uncertainties and unexpected places. This requires us to yield our comfort zones. The fact is, we cannot say with certainty that we love God with everything that we are unless we trust Him — fully.

Actually, when we trust Him fully, there’s no more limit to our loving and caring because this is what God is: absolutely loving and genuinely caring.

The difficulty may be that Jesus doesn’t set limits to how we love others. It is inclusive: it means loving including those who are difficult to love. If this is difficult to do, there is no other perfect example than the Lord Himself, who handled these remarkably in His time. He did this out of genuine love and obedience for the Heavenly Father. The Scriptures is rich with stories of love that Jesus showed to others, including those who persecuted Him.

If it is so heavy to do, just be consoled that your dependence on God will help you, comfort you, and fix your brokenness. Just like the widow of Zarephath in the First Reading (1 Kgs. 17: 10-16), you can be assured that whatever kindness you share to others out of love, God will make sure that your “jar of flour will not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry”.

I’m grateful to the Lord for blessing me with great friends who are fellow pilgrims who share themselves unselfishly in this life journey. While I don’t think I deserve God’s awesome goodness, He just won’t allow Himself to be outdone. I credit it also to the goodness of my parents and their respective families for God’s blessings and graces to flow through to me. Surely God isn’t outdone even up to now and still counting!

Let us pray that the Lord grant us the grace to be His heart in loving and caring for others.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ (cf. Mt. 5:3)