All posts by Alan Sienes

Reflections by Alan Sienes on the Sunday's Gospel

The Holy Family: The Perfect Model

In a few hours, the year 2017 will be gone and a new year will have ushered in, filled with hope and promise. Surely, the year going past is one filled with events both sad and happy. On the eve of the New Year, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth, a reflection on their perfect example of faith and love as essential elements of our nature as children of God. The Holy Family though living in simplicity and even poverty, is the “prototype and example for all Christian families,” as Blessed John Paul said.

In this simplicity God reveals our true identity as St. Paul exhorts in the Second Reading to “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience…” (Col. 3: 12) But what made the Holy Family of Nazareth holy?

Essentially, there are several elements we see on how they lived and loved.

Firstly, their lives were fixed on Jesus, according to Father Roger Landry, pastor of St. Bernadette’s parish in Fall River, Massachusetts and host of EWTN’s series on the theology of the body. Joseph and Mary had their lives focused on Jesus as they accepted, loved, and took care of him. Every family is called to put Jesus at the center of their lives. Every family who does this will grow in holiness. Those who doesn’t, will not.

Secondly, they were obedient to God. The Holy Family was holy because they strive to do God’s will. Every family who strives to be holy is called to be obedient to God.

“Thirdly,” notes Father Landry, “the Holy Family was holy because they prayed. I can imagine that they must have brought Jesus regularly to the temple to pray and celebrate the major religious feasts. His parents must have taught Jesus Hebrew, like all Jews, by reading and learning the sacred Scriptures.”

Fourthly, they were simplicity personified. They didn’t strive to gain material wealth but were content with simplicity and patience. They didn’t call attention to the fact that they were chosen to take care of the Son of God but rather they remained joyful and gentle even amidst suffering.

Thus, there are many ways by which we can imitate the Holy Family. In fact, aside from the earlier notes, today’s readings are filled with practical advice – for fathers, mothers and children. In the First Reading (Sir. 3: 2-6, 12-14) the prophet tells us how “God sets a father in honor over his children; a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons.” The implications of honoring one’s father and mother are laid out well by God. In the Psalms, we are called to be obedient to the Lord, so that we may be blessed and favored (Ps. 128: 1-2). But the Lord is inviting us to do more, through the life we live and through how we live our family obligations and relationships, so that we become messengers of the family of God.

As we celebrate the New Year, let us spend some time to reflect on this great mystery of the Holy Family’s undying love for Jesus. May we imitate Joseph and Mary in fixing our eyes on Jesus, so that one day we may truly be blessed with the invitation to behold His Majesty’s presence until Eternity.

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

Yes, My Lord!

I remember the time when a colleague invited me to join the Catholic Community he and his wife belonged to. I always said “I’m busy”, besides, I hardly had enough time then (and actually even now) to spend on organizations after spending a lot of time in those and other extra-curricular activities almost my entire student life. I thought that since I’ve served the Lord starting young as an acolyte in my Parish, there is no longer a need to serve further. I know it’ll demand time and energy aside from my own resources. I avoided the conversation and tried to keep off him occasionally. Then the day came when I felt a strong urge to try it. I thought that maybe the Lord wants me to serve again. So I finally said “Yes”. But it has never been that easy. My work requires lots of travel and at times I get assignments away from home. Not to mention that God has gifted our family with a special child who needs more attention than boys and men his age. The difficulties are always there, but all the more I feel deeply grateful for the special graces that serving the Lord has blessed my family with.

God calls many times those who serve and love Him. Not only once, not twice, but many times over. The challenge though is in knowing that the Lord is calling. You may find it difficult to discern but once you’ve started spending time with God in prayer, in reaching out to Him, He’ll definitely embrace you like a long-lost child. He is always there, patiently waiting for us to go and reunite with Him. But don’t set it aside, instead live on it, and nurture it. Practice it. To put it more clearly, practice makes perfect. Not only in sports, but in other matters of life, especially in our spiritual life. Moreover, it is said that it’s not how we start, but how we finish it. We have to pray unceasingly in order to keep the gift of grace that’s given by the Lord. Yet it isn’t really about our faithfulness; it’s still about God’s faithfulness which is forever.

Fr. Armand warned that it isn’t an easy life; God will give us the opportunity to “practice” it. He will allow trials to come in order to “practice” and prepare us for more. It’ll not be only for our own good, but this will be for others who would need our help later on. Allowing us the grace to overcome trials will toughen us, strengthen us, and mold us into better Christians. And God would be able to use us mightily for spreading His goodness and grace to others.

The announcement by the angel to Mary is the one revelation that all the prophets of old have talked about. It is the mystery kept secret since before the foundation of the world, as St. Paul says in today’s Epistles (Rom. 16: 25-27). Imagine Mary’s surprise when the angel told her that she has found favor with God, and that she will conceive and bear a son. Moreover, “He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Mary was confused and troubled and asked the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Lk. 1: 38)

Yet, Mary’s and the baby’s life were not a “walk in the park” as they endured trials, suffering and persecution. Not to mention the humiliation she may have undergone while she was still carrying Baby Jesus in her womb! In the Annunciation, Jesus Christ the Savior has been made known and He came without requiring that He be born in a majestic palace made of cedar, but came in a lowly manger.

Just like Mary, we are called to behold at all that the Lord has done throughout the ages for our salvation. Life will not be an easy journey, there will be trials, there will be lots of “practice” not only for our own good, but for the people around our lives. We must continuously respond to this call with obedient humility – that regardless of the difficulties, His will shall be done, according to His word.

As we celebrate Christmas, let us spend some time before the Baby Jesus in silence and in humility, to be grateful, and to marvel at what the Lord has done for us all.

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

Rejoice in God Our Savior!

The appointed time draws near and we are now deep into the Advent Season. The third Sunday of Advent is also called Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete, a Latin word which means “rejoice,” which is mentioned many times in this Sunday’s liturgy. It is a reminder that Advent is a season of joy because our salvation is already at hand.

Deep into our preparations we reflect further on the meaning of this Holy Birth in order to be truly ready to let the Savior into our hearts. We said last week that Reconciliation with God is vital to being in a state of watchful readiness whether this Advent and at all times. Fr. Armand told that when you become aware of your weaknesses, which actually leads you to sin every time; you should identify overcoming these as the main reasons in seeking reconciliation with the Lord. For example, if pride is your character flaw, it might be better if you state something like this when going to confession: “Father, because of my pride, I disobeyed the Lord’s commandment on…” or “because of my pride, I gossiped about an officemate.” When done repeatedly, there’s a greater chance that one can slowly overcome these weaknesses in life as he becomes more conscious and in the process admit his shortcomings, work on avoiding occasions that lead to sin, and without realizing it, has embraced humility and meekness.

Christmas is just a short two weeks away and Holy Mother Church reminds us to continue our reflection on the person and mission of St. John the Baptist — a great example of humility and meekness. This great prophet remained humble despite a great following in his time. He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘make straight the way of the Lord,'” as Isaiah the prophet said.” When he was asked by some Pharisees, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet?” he answered them, “I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” Such humility indeed!

Are you rejoicing that the Lord’s coming is at hand?
Are you prepared spiritually to meet and receive the Lord when He comes?
Have you shed off your weaknesses and replaced it with virtues worthy of God’s approval as King of Kings?

“May the God of peace himself make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thes. 5: 23)

Prepare for the Lord’s Coming

The time is drawing near, the Lord is coming soon!

Advent is a time of preparation and hopeful anticipation. In a couple of weeks, we will celebrate Christmas but before engaging in the celebration, let us examine our readiness to welcome the Savior. Like Mary and the prophets of long ago, we eagerly await His birth that will bring joy to this weary world. The prophets Isaiah and John the Baptist have a simple advice for us: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” (Mk. 1: 3b)

The preparation for Christmas requires us to “straighten His paths”, such that,

“Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill shall be made low;
the rugged land shall be made a plain,
the rough country, a broad valley.” (Is. 40: 4)

We are hopeful because our separation from God is about to end. The time of exile – the long separation of humankind from God due to sin – is about to be finished. The Prophet Isaiah in today’s First Reading promises Israel’s release from captivity and exile because of God’s mercy and compassion. In many of the chapters between Chapters 40 and 53, God constantly has Isaiah speak about Jesus’ role as savior. God talks through this prophet to explain how He will liberate His people from sin and evil. Yahweh also said that He would lead the people back to holiness and righteousness.

In today’s Gospel we realize that Israel’s liberation was actually a portent of coming events. St. John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins — a herald of an even greater saving act by God through His Son Jesus Christ. This, as well as Isaiah’s prophecy; show that throughout history, Israel looks forward to the revelation of the Savior. In Jesus, God has filled in the symbolic valley that divided sinful humanity from Himself. God’s goodness and infinite love has reached down from Heaven, as we sing in today’s Psalm,

“I will hear what God proclaims; the LORD—for He proclaims peace to His people. Near indeed is His salvation to those who fear Him, glory dwelling in our land.” (Ps. 85: 9-10)

Take note that God has done this not only for mankind in general, but for each one of us. God cares! As St. Peter in the Second Reading reminds us that this is a personal call, and that we, God’s beloved; shouldn’t ignore this fact (2 Pt. 3: 8). Like the people of the whole Judean countryside and of Jerusalem going to John the Baptist, let us prepare well for the Savior’s coming and pray heartily that may His grace remove any spot or blemish in us (2 Pt. 3: 14).

May we go to the Lord and acknowledge our sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Only then can we truly say we prepared the way of the Lord!

“Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.” (Ps. 85: 8)

The Need to be Watchful

Driving one morning on the way to the office, I saw the aftermath of an accident which happened a few minutes before. I saw the dead body of a tricycle passenger who was seated on the back of the driver. What I saw was graphically terrible, and my knees was shaking the rest of the way. Various thoughts hounded me: “When the person left home that morning, was he able to say goodbye to his family?” Did the loved ones have any inkling that that would be the last time they saw their loved one alive?”

How fleeting life is, that in an instant it can be extinguished just like that! In the Gospel today, Jesus said to his disciples:

“Be watchful! Be alert!
You do not know when the time will come.” (Mk. 13: 33)

The Lord emphasizes the need for watchfulness. Just last year, a religious sect warned that
America and Europe will be plunged into darkness by a solar eclipse in 2017 – and then the world will end. When the appointed time came, nothing happened. As Jesus has repeatedly said that only the Father knows the exact hour, the Son of Man will come without warning. The disciples must not be caught unprepared when this time comes. So, in this Advent Season, a season of preparation and repentance, we should heed the warning – repeated three times by our Lord in today’s Gospel – to be watchful, for we know not the hour when the Lord of the Universe will come. As Christians, we too must be alert and be ready for the Savior’s return. Our life must be dedicated to preparing and staying alert by living a life of faithfulness and readiness.

A good way to prepare and being ready is to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thes. 5: 17). Our first thoughts in the morning should be to pray to give thanks and express our gratitude to the Father. We should pray before leaving home and then pray before work. There are many moments during the day that we can give time for prayer: before making a decision, during moments of stress, temptation, in times of problems with health, and even when we realize that we’ve done something wrong. If it is serious, we have to seek forgiveness from God and the Church through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

As we begin the Liturgical Year, it is a time of waiting, a time of the expectant coming of the Lord. During this season, let our waiting times be spent in prayer. While waiting to drive or ride public transport, while waiting to attend a meeting, or while waiting for somebody, take the time to pray. Wait for the Lord, pray always. Only then can we say we are watchful and being faithful to the real meaning of Advent.

“Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.” (Ps. 80: 4)

Sheep on the Right

With the Gospel readings the past weeks talking about the end of days, we’ve reached the culmination of the Liturgical Year, and what a fitting way to celebrate the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the King! The Gospel readings today provide insights into what’s important for the Lord Jesus and on how we live our lives. The judgments made by the Son of Man will be based on the acts of mercy and compassion that we’ve shown to the least ones — the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the ill, and the imprisoned. Indeed, Jesus, who suffered on the Cross, identifies Himself with the least, the lost and the last.

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

In my own experience, God is real and has always exceeded my own generosity; He gives cheerfully, abundantly and lovingly. This is all because He loves us unconditionally and never abandons us. He is our constant companion, always ready to assist us whenever we are in trouble. Likewise, this necessitates for us to be mindful and sensitive to the leadings of the Lord in our lives. We have to be sensitive to the Spirit to allow Him to move us, so that we can be His hands in helping others. Have you noticed it that when you pray for help and guidance, the Lord sends Angels to our aid? In a way, when we allow the Spirit to give us wisdom and discernment we can share ourselves with others because we are fully in tune with what the Lord wants us to do in particular moments. Besides unless we share ourselves with others, we can never be fully happier, right?

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

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

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

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

Giving cheerfully. The King will reward us when we give cheerfully and without reservation. Way back in college I knew of this classmate who was so generous with others, and he was always looking for ways to help and to give. He wasn’t selfish, he was such a caring person. His attitude simply inspires! And what a way God returns the blessings to him: while spending more time to God’s work, his business has grown more than expectations!

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

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

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

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

“The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.” (Ps. 23: 1)

Using Our Talents for God’s Purpose

I have a classmate from way back who never shared his talents, probably because of his very competitive nature. He was always aiming to get higher scores in examinations than the rest of us, but never cared about teaching or helping especially those who had difficulties catching on. Today, he’s just in a level above entry — when he could have been easily somewhere higher in his organization, if only he is more sensitive to others or have the inclination to teach and share.

Why is it that people keep their talents to themselves?

As we’re in the last week of the Liturgical Year, our Holy Mother Church again reminds us of sharing and not keeping to ourselves what God has given abundantly. The Parable of the Talents is one of the Gospel readings that is most often told especially about the day when we have to give an accounting of how we live our lives.

The third servant in question didn’t try to make more money on the amount he was given, he simply buried it in the ground until his master returned. When it was his turn to tell his master, he said,

‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter; so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. Here it is back.’ (Mt. 25: 24-25)

Obviously, he did not like his master. Or he could be envious and resentful. Remember he was only given one talent while the others were given more; five and two, respectively. Did he felt slighted that the others got more? Maybe he was even thinking that he is smarter, brighter, so why was he only given one talent? Of course, we read that they were given “each according to his ability.”

In our case how many times did we not do something or not use our talents, the gifts that God has blessed us with because of the anger, resentment, or jealousy that are within us? How many times did we not help our workmates just because he got a promotion that we thought we deserve more?

Or because we don’t like this person or government, rather than cooperate we simply are going to rant and attack the very situation we hate with more negativity!

How often do we do this? How many times did we say to God, “you’re being unfair and why others are getting more than us?”

These are issues that we have to search deep inside us and look at why, and ask the Lord to transform us and clear the anger, envy and resentment inside us if ever we want to make a difference in the lives of others.

What the Gospel is telling us is to make the best with what we’ve got, regardless of what we have. Whoever is in authority, we’ve got to set aside our feelings and selfishness and do the right thing even when no one is looking. The Champion in us has integrity, because we believe that God always has something good that’ll come out of any situation. Our talents and capacity for goodness can increase by twice, five or tenfold without our even realizing it. Then of course, the greater gift that is forever: the gift of Heaven.

As we prepare for the end times, may we remain steadfast and faithful to our true calling and the very purpose that we’re here for.

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

Stay Awake and Be Ready!

Early on I always thought that there are people who are just so talented in what they do, that I thought they must be aliens from outer space. They just do their crafts so well that for me, they’re just so amazingly blessed and so damn lucky. The world is full of examples be it in sports (Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, among others), business (Steve Jobs, Bill Gates), music (The Beatles) and in many other fields. Not until author Malcolm Gladwell came claiming that the key to achieving world-class expertise in any skill is to a large extent, a matter of practicing hard, so many times, in the correct and proper way. Yes, it’s about putting in effort, hard work and perseverance, that one achieves world-class excellence.

Similarly, going to Heaven also needs effort on our part. We can choose to be wise, like five of the ten virgins in the Gospel (Mt. 25: 1 – 13), or be foolish like the rest. The five foolish ones, when taking their lamps, “brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.” Since the bridegroom was delayed for a long time, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight when the bridegroom came, it was time for them to come out to meet him. So all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps, however; the foolish ones were running out of oil and said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ There wasn’t enough oil for them so the wise replied, ‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you. Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’ So they went off to buy it, but the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him and then the door was locked and they weren’t allowed to enter.

In this narrative, we are being exhorted to be always ready, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” (v. 13) We cannot be unprepared as we always have to be on the lookout for the coming of the Lord, which can be anytime, worst; it can happen possibly on the day we are least prepared. Our lamps have to be continuously refilled with oil so that we’ll be able to spread light in time for the coming of the Savior. The lamp symbolizes our Baptism while the oil symbolizes the Sacraments and the blessings that nurture our faith. Thus, whenever we go astray, we are said to be running out of oil, so we must go back to the right path to correct whatever sin or wrongdoing is done. The Lord is telling us that while we are blessed with grace by His redeeming Passion and Death, we can only rise with Him with our lamps lighted, as St. Paul said in the Second Reading,

“For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Thes. 4: 14)

While we cannot be perfect as only God is perfect, our obedience and submission to Him in deep humility and faith will enable His Holy Blood to cover our sins. In all our life’s struggles and challenges, we need wisdom and strength to discern what is good and what is bad for us. Not all bad is seen as it is for the enemy is deceiving and make us fall if we aren’t prayerful and careful enough. God assures us in the First Reading that,

“Resplendent and unfading is Wisdom, and she is readily perceived by those who love her, and found by those who seek her.” (Wis. 6: 12)

Let us pray for wisdom, humility and grace so that we will be ready when the Lord comes in His Glory.

“My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.” (Ps. 63: 2b)

Christ, Our True Master

Whenever you feel down and disappointed especially when your elders failed you, how do you respond to it? When your faith is tested, do you remain steadfast in your service?

Last week, a close friend told me that he felt so bad after being humiliated by an elder in the community. I told him not to be affected much, but instead pray for strength and humility. I reassured him that God knows everything, and that God’s blessing is what matters most in these moments of disappointment.

The Gospel’s main theme this Sunday is about consistency and pride. The Pharisees perform their works in order to be seen. Thus, Jesus told His disciples and the crowd, to do and observe all things that they (Pharisees) tell them to do, but not to follow their example.

“For they preach but they do not practice.
They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry
and lay them on people’s shoulders,
but they will not lift a finger to move them.
All their works are performed to be seen.
They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.
They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues,
greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’” (Mt. 23: 3-7)

Things aren’t different today either. There are people who talk and look good, project holiness in public, and yet their hearts are full of envy and hatred. Their actions speak of hypocrisy and inconsistency. How about us? Do we say this thing and then act differently? Do you realize that what you do is actually more revealing than what you say? It is said that who we are and what we are tell more about us than what we tell others about us. How we treat the restaurant waiter, the boy at the parking lot, the security guards manning our offices, and our helps at home tell more about who we are, than the façade we show to the world. Our actions are being observed by others without us knowing and realizing it.

When things get rough we are sometimes tempted to get back to those who have offended us. Yet, let us remember that living our faith requires us to understand that what is more important is how the Lord Jesus would want us to do, and that is live by His example of humility and meekness. We have to be patient with one another, with our neighbor so to speak.

In the world today, it’s a tough challenge to do this. But we have to stay the course. We have to let God come into our hearts and to view things from a different viewpoint — the Master’s point of view. The Spirit will tell us that the Lord is there, patiently forming us to become better versions of ourselves.

“You have but one Father in heaven and one master, the Christ.” (Mt. 23: 9B, 10B)

Loving God

During the time of Jesus, with so many laws being imposed by the religious leaders on the people, the question as to which commandment is the greatest was a very tricky question. Even the Pharisees and the Sadducees can’t agree on the answer, such that in order to trap him, a scholar of the law, a Pharisee; took it as an opportunity to ask Jesus the question:

“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
He said to him,
“You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” (Mt. 22: 34-40)

If the Lord had answered differently, He would have taken sides for one group against the other. Jesus’ answer however, goes beyond this argument into a real life spent loving God and neighbor (in the same manner as loving one’s self). Also, He emphasizes that knowing the answer without living it is not enough and is not the way to holiness and obedience to God.

But can we love God without loving our neighbor?

In the Old Testament it was revealed that Israel knew that one cannot love God without loving other people, as they are created in His image and likeness. The love of God is to be manifested in love of neighbor. The neighbor in this context is a fellow Jew (Lv 19: 17-18), which Jesus abolished, in effect breaking down the shortsightedness and many other misunderstandings at that time. He defined neighbor as those who are in need (Lk. 10: 29-35). He emphasizes that love of God is foremost, but loving one’s neighbor has to be done as well for it to be real. One cannot be separated from the other. You cannot just say long prayers, hear Masses, and recite novenas without doing something for the poor and the needy in the community. Many of us feel comfortable with prayers only, while doing nothing for the last, the least and the lost.

Loving God therefore starts with letting Him fill our hearts and letting Him love us. Building a relationship with Him to allow Him to fill our thoughts, our hearts and our soul. In so doing, we will get out of our comfort zones, do the things we don’t even feel comfortable doing, but because of our love for Him, we will eagerly do.

Let us pray for the grace of knowing and thinking like Christ, and that we may be able to see God in others and acknowledge that we can’t love God genuinely without obeying the second commandment.

“I love you, Lord, my strength.” (Ps. 18: 2)