Obedience, Love, Trust

The drive back to Manila was partly new, quick, and scenic, as Fr. Armand shared a route that is not-so-known but beautiful, as it gave us an approximate 270-degree view of Manila, Laguna, Quezon, parts of Batangas and Cavite. We passed villages that seem to be rising with new resorts, restaurants, and stores that seem to be preparing for an economic boom that is soon to happen. While in a breath we were already in the lowlands, it didn’t stop me though from reflecting on the huge mission that lies ahead of us in the Barista Academy. It was good that over breakfast Father gave his thoughts on the organization, as it also provided everyone an understanding of the work that needs to be done, considering other responsibilities we also have.

In today’s Gospel, we read Jesus sending out the Twelve,

“…and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits.
He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick— no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic.” (Mk. 6: 7-13)

There are three main points here:

1. Jesus sent them out on His authority
2. He sent them two by two
3. He instructed them to take minimum provisions for the journey

Being given the authority to speak for the Lord is one privilege for those who participate in Jesus’ saving mission. When we engage in spreading the Gospel, we are not doing this on our own rather we are co-workers of the Spirit. This is the attitude that should be embraced by those who work in the Church, the parishes and lay missions. We are to be meek and humble, we are not to be scene stealers. We are not doing this to make ourselves famous or popular, no matter how noble these activities seem to be. Yet, when necessary, we speak, we respond to tough assignments, we don’t shun off from responsibility. We participate in the mission with humility and faith, and that we are doing this for the Lord.

Jesus sent them in twos because the Lord knows the importance of having a partner in the mission. He understands fully well that preaching the Gospel isn’t a breeze and so somebody providing support is important. In our ministries, we work with others and at times it can be difficult and trying as they may look at the job differently. And yet, despite our differences we have to learn to work with and accept others despite their limitations. Once in a while we even set back our own plans just so that an agreement is achieved.

Lastly, the Twelve are to go out with only the barest of provisions. No bread or money is needed. They are expected to rely on the goodwill of others, to rely on the fact that God will provide for their needs.

Similarly, we are to take on this mindset despite the difficulty of thinking that someone somewhere will share. Going on a mission nowadays with only the minimum essentials is nearly impossible and unimaginable. We can be so worried ourselves, how much more telling others to rely on God and lighten their luggage. As planners and being in the details, we can’t miss on the plan as to where the next meal should be, or where our accommodations are made. However, the value of relying on God and the meaning of His providence is lost. What the Lord is telling us is simple: just be focused on the assignment.

As we go and grow in mission, may we have the attitude of a servant: faithful to His mission,
understanding and caring for our co-workers in the Church, and trusting in the Lord’s providence.

“May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ enlighten the eyes of our hearts, that we may know what is the hope that belongs to our call.” (cf. Eph. 1: 17-18)

My Grace is Sufficient For You

This weekend is quite important and special for the Code of Champions Team, specifically the Barista Academy. We went to Tagaytay and spent time putting in our thoughts and ideas on identifying who we are and established firmly our identity. We talked about our reason for existence (Core Purpose, as Collins and Porras refer to it) and our vision (Envisioned Future). Fr. Armand, who came the following day (he didn’t join the First Day in order to give us the independence to do things on our own), gave us valuable insights into how we organize ourselves, considering the delicate balance between our other commitments and responsibilities as well. At the close of the Planning Process, we reflected on the readings during the Holy Mass that Fr. Armand celebrated.

These Sunday’s readings seem so timely and providential in that the messages articulate what God is telling us as we begin another phase of this journey which was started before the turn of the century. Of particular interest is the concern that we all feel unworthy of this mission, but St. Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians rings loud and clear that we be clothed with humility and consider our weaknesses as an opportunity to exercise our trust in Him, for He has said, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ (2 Cor. 12: 7–10)

The Champion is humble and he is a person who is one that, ‘hindi umaagaw ng eksena’. Humble servants trust in the Lord and they acquire humility in prayer and reflection.

How do we know we’ve succeeded? It is in simply knowing that we’ve tried and done our best as we can, and loved as much as we can. The fulfillment isn’t monetary or honor or adulation from the crowd; it is simply in knowing that we’ve given our all.

How do we deal with rejection and oppression? Fr. Armand further said that we take comfort in the fact that even Christ was rejected and oppressed (Mk. 6: 1-6), thus it can happen to us as well. Provided that we fix ours on Jesus, everything will be worthwhile in the end.

As we go and grow in mission, may we have the attitude of a servant: humble, persevering and trusting in Jesus.

“Our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for His mercy.” (Ps. 123: 2)

Do Not Be Afraid, Just Have Faith!

One of my closest friends in High School became a victim of the big ‘C’ at an early age, just some years after she started practicing Medicine. She was quite bubbly when we were in High School; aside from that she was very helpful to her less-gifted classmates, a reliable friend, very humble, and lived a full life of service to God and others. People thought God shouldn’t have taken her, as she was still in the peak of career and work. A great and rewarding life was still waiting ahead of her. Why did God allow it to happen?

Many times in our life experiences, we overlook the abundant love that God has for us. We think that God isn’t affected whenever we have problems but that isn’t the case. When we’re sad, God weeps with us too.

In the Gospel today, Jesus showed the crowd how He loves others, even in the face of ridicule. The raising to life of Jarius’ daughter was a case in point,

While he was still speaking, people from the synagogue official’s house arrived and said,
“Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?” Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” (Mk. 5: 21 – 43)

The crowd thought there’s no more point disturbing the Lord since the girl of twelve has died. But Jesus called for faith even when all seemed lost. In between this story, a woman afflicted with hemorrhage for twelve years, who had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors, came behind Jesus in the crowd and touched His cloak. She had actually spent all that she had, yet her situation only grew worse. In other words, she was in a state of hopelessness! But she trusted the Lord and in her despair, she found her only hope in Jesus. She fell down before the Lord and told him the whole truth.

He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”

These stories of Jesus’ compassion for the hopeless also tell us not to give up when all seem lost. He reassures that He is there with us in the journey. In the First Reading, the Book of Wisdom tells us,

‘God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living.’ (Wis. 1: 13ff)

He did not make hatred, wars, climate change, racism, or immorality. He did not make selfishness, disrespect, pride nor does He sugarcoat lies into truth. He does not want all the suffering that is in the world today. ‘For God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him. Yes, God created us in His own image and likeness, but He also gave us free will to choose between good and evil. Then when Adam and Eve fell, it was like, ‘But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who belong to his company experience it.’

All the trials and challenges we face are not the end in itself. These are meant to make us stronger, better, and smarter. We shouldn’t look at these grimly but with fervent hope that something good will come out of these, if not in this life, in the great beyond. Even should it result to death, we should rejoice that it will give us everlasting life. Thus, we should be more thankful if given the opportunity to dedicate our lives to God.

Fr. Armand always likes to remind that,

‘In order to be truly happy, you should inspire others. When others become inspired, you make them happy. When you see others becoming happy because of what you did, you actually become happier. So, it really means that, being happy is not really about you, but is about inspiring, sharing and giving of yourself to Jesus and to others.’

This Sunday, we are presented with a challenge: Do we recognize that our life has a greater purpose than just getting old and eventually dying?

Let us trust that God will create good from evil and He will turn any misfortune into a blessing beyond our imagination. We just need to fully trust Him. Our faith will tell us not to rationalize what’s happening, we just need to cling to Him, hold on, and need not be afraid.

“I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.” (Ps. 30: 2a)

Be Bold, Be Brave!

When Alexa was still a baby, we would often wonder how she will be when she’ll be going to school. As a child she was very inquisitive, was into a lot of things, and had that eyes full of wonder and awe about what’s around her. As work would require me to be out of home for long periods, Alma and myself have decided to adapt to the concept of school, from the traditional four-walled classroom into the spherical world and beyond. Our daughter’s curiosity and frequent questions would often set me thinking what will she be like in the future?

In the verses before the Gospel reading this Sunday, the birth of John the Baptist has been announced by the Archangel Gabriel to Zechariah, who was performing his duties as priest in the Temple of Jerusalem. At this time, Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, are an old couple who have never had children. Then, six months into Elizabeth’s pregnancy, the Archangel Gabriel announced the birth of Jesus to Mary in her home in Nazareth. Mary, while being engaged to Joseph, have not yet come to live together.

When the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, her neighbors and relatives rejoiced with her because God has shown her mercy in the birth of a son. When the time came for the child to be given a name, they became confused when she tells them that his name is to be John, which means “God has been gracious.” Zechariah became mute since the time Gabriel appeared, because, unlike Mary, he doubted the angel’s word. The people are now all amazed but fearful at the same time. In the reading, everyone who heard these things took them to heart saying, “What, then, will this child be?” Taking them to heart means, “meditating in your heart”, unlike when thought is being processed in your mind. When you do that, you are bringing the process of thought, prayer, and applied consideration into your heart.

But this question has already been answered by the angel. “He will be great in the sight of the Lord. He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.” (v.15, 16) Today, the importance of St. John the Baptist is such because 1) His message is calling for repentance as the precursor of Jesus Christ, the Savior, 2) He is the prophet considered as the bridge between the Old and the New Testament, and 3) He is the voice of one calling in the desert. Indeed, his importance is of such magnitude that in the Catholic Church, there are only three personalities with their birthdays celebrated in the Liturgical Calendar namely, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and St. John the Baptist. (All other feast days of saints refer to the time they died.)

In perspective, do we really know what a prophet is? When people are asked, “What is a prophet?”, most will likely say “he is a person who can predict or tell what will happen in the future”. But that is not what God calls a person to be a prophet for, rather, a prophet is one who “speaks in behalf of God.”

At times in our life we are asked to speak up to our families, friends, or community about what should be the appropriate response. However, it will take more than courage to be a prophet. People demand credibility and good example before one is taken seriously. This is one that requires spiritual maturity and mental toughness. While one can be hesitant, it is a call from God that one can’t resist. It can’t just be a call by another spirit, it has to be the Spirit of God. Many prophets though try to evade the call but you can’t say ‘no’ to God. Even if you feel unworthy of the task, God will equip you for the mission at hand. Take the example of Moses, Jonah, and many others. Even some of the disciples felt unworthy but God can’t be denied.

On this Solemnity of the Birth of St. John the Baptist, let us reflect on his life which he offered unselfishly to God. Will the answer to the question asked by your parents on the day of your birth, “What, then, will this child be?”, be one that they can be proud of? May we draw inspiration to become bold and brave in proclaiming God’s message to His people.

“Since my mother’s womb, you have been my strength.” (Ps. 71: 6)

Our Purpose

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

Our Gospel today speaks about the kingdom of God,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beware of Pride and Arrogance

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

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

As Jesus said,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Best Gift Ever

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

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

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

As St. Paul said in the Second Reading,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Called to Share God’s Life and Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Holy Spirit’s Awesome Power!

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

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

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

And then, the remarkably beautiful thing happened,

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

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

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

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

Jesus Loving Presence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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