Over the previous weekend I went to this convention hall to check on the travel sale and saw the large number of people availing themselves of discount tickets and tours. While there were lesser people in the morning, there were quite so many later in the day lining up the different booths. While there seemed to be so many new opportunities, the available seats on the different tour routes dwindled as the three-day event came to a close. In the end, the discount seats were already taken and many of those who came late already bought tickets on a higher cost.
When the Word of God was first “sown” on our hearts, the “seeds” fell on different conditions. Some hearts started as “footpaths”, as “rocky ground”, while others as “thorns”, and finally some as “good soil, which yielded grain a hundred- or sixty- or thirtyfold.” (Mt. 13: 8). There are those who received the Gospel but kept turning back to their old, sinful lives. They are the undecided, those who keep looking back at their old ways, feeling the grasp of the physical world on their senses. Living consistently for God is the most difficult part of the Christian life. While at first we start hot and “mission-ready”, the enemy will always come in to test and keep us from moving forward. Problems of different magnitudes can happen, and if we are not careful, we can become discouraged and altogether stop our mission. We say we’ll “lie low” in our service in order to fix these problems and eventually lessen our commitment to God. While there is some basis for decisions like this, it is also important to discern what the Lord really wants us to do. For all we know, the problems we are facing are just distractions of the enemy, or may be tests of commitment to our faith and the limits of endurance to our strength. The Lord may want us to continue doing His work if only to strengthen us more and more.
I have a businessman friend whom I admire because as his business grows, his commitment and service to the Lord also deepens. He always tells me that the secret to his success is that while my friend is taking care of the “Lord’s business”, God is also “taking care of my friend’s business” here on earth. Indeed! It’s a case of doing His work and trusting Him to take care of our own.
The temptation not to participate in God’s work will always be around. In this time and age, Satan uses a variety of tactics to distract us. Many years ago, while serving in several Christian Life Programs, there were times that I can really feel the enemy working vigorously to stop me from doing work in the CFC community. Even while on the preparations for a talk, or when going to the convent for the session, oppressions happened that if I haven’t been aware, I would have been distracted such that God’s work is affected.
Satan’s other strategy is to allow us to be comfortable at home, so that we become contented and thus eventually, inaction. He makes us lazy and complacent, instead of going out into the marketplace. He is aware that as long as people do not engage in spreading the Gospel, there will be lesser conversions and lost opportunities for evangelization. At times, the enemy will make us feel alone and lonely, though let us remember that we are not alone in serving the Lord faithfully. That’s when we need to listen to practical advice so that we won’t get discouraged or be tempted to backslide.
“Let us lay aside every encumbrance of sin which clings to us and persevere in running the race which lies ahead; let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, who inspires and perfects our faith” (Heb. 12: 1b – 2).
If we focus on other worldly desires, and if we don’t keep our eyes on the Lord, we risk becoming doubtful and discouraged. Satan will convince us that it is very hard to be a Christian and that God is expecting too much from us. Yes, nobody has said that it’s easy being an authentic follower of Jesus. But for those amongst us who have learned the hard way knows that it’s even harder to live our lives apart from Christ. Besides, God has given us the Holy Spirit to give us the strength and the resolve to follow Jesus and become more like Him each and every day.
In the Gospel readings the past week, we can see clearly how the work of God flows. Jesus shows how faith can cure (Mt. 9: 22), the need for more “laborers to gather His harvest” (Mt. 9:37), and the cost of discipleship. Jesus taught the Apostles to look first “after the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mt. 10: 6). Just like the concept of internship, Jesus slowly taught them how to be His disciples. He didn’t immerse them immediately, but mentored them cautiously.He warned them about the risks and challenges, “What I’m doing is sending you out like sheep among wolves. You must be clever as snakes and innocent as doves.”There are many more specific warnings as we read in the succeeding verses of Chapter 10 of St. Matthew’s Gospel.
It is not so easy after all. St. Therese of Avila said, “If this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so many enemies.” Let us remember that unlike the travel sale, where seats are numbered, Heaven’s reward is unlimited. Unlike the sale, winning Heaven is not based on how we started, but how we’ll end. We only need to have faith and perseverance in order to finish the race. We need to remember that everything we encounter here in earth: problems, trials and oppressions, are all just temporary. Yes it is easier said than done but the Lord has commanded us to do it. As He is faithful, so we should also be faithful. Being a disciple is a privilege. We should be honored that God made us one.
The hardships and problems will come with the territory. But let us be strong and console in the fact that the great mystic St. Therese advised, “Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing frighten you. Everything passes away except God.”