We are gifted with life to make life more fulfilling for others. To leave behind a legacy is the path we must choose. Imagine your life made insiginificant because you refused to reach out and get out of your comfort zone. Find a greater purpose aside from yourself, make it a MUST to leave a significant legacy once you bid adieu.

Engaging the World

I must admit feeling anxious about how people would welcome Pope Francis’ into the United States, the world’s most powerful and liberated country where technological advancement limits the impact of faith on religion and on how people behave and express themselves. However, watching Pope Francis stepped into America, we see how inspired and touched the people were, even those from other faiths and sects. As his motorcade passed by New York’s iconic 5th Avenue, we can observe that this Pope is different and truly a game-changer.

In a historic address to the U.S. Congress, the first by any Pope in history; Pope Francis challenged America to embrace millions of undocumented immigrants and join a global campaign against climate change and poverty, wading “undaunted into the nation’s volatile politics”.

He also called for a fairer world economy, the abolition of the death penalty, the protection of ethnic and religious minorities, the outlawing of the global “blood” trade in arms and the protection of the family. CNN cited that the speech underscored the emergence of Pope Francis as a global political leader — rather than a moral or spiritual voice alone:

“His boldness in staking out positions on the nation’s most pressing issues could reverberate through Capitol Hill and the 2016 presidential race in the months to come.

Practicing what he preached, the wildly popular pontiff, who has drawn thousands onto the streets along with blanket media coverage, then headed to pray and eat with homeless people and to pose for selfies with his adoring flock. The Pope, who was greeted by cheers as he stepped onto the floor of the House of Representatives and received several standing ovations and sustained applause during his address, did not scold lawmakers — his tone was more akin to that of a sermon or a pep talk. But he did not shirk from delivering blunt political messages.”

In this Sunday’s Gospel, we hear Jesus telling the Apostle John not to forbid others using the name of Christ in casting out demons. “For he that is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ, will by no means lose his reward.” (Mk. 9: 40-41)

Further, Jesus sounded a bit harsh when He said, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea. And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.” (v. 42–48)

The first reading also shares the same message, that after Joshua told Moses to forbid the two people who prophesied in the camp, Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put his spirit upon them!”

God would indeed be delighted if all His people are prophets! For this to be a reality, we shouldn’t be insulated within our faith. We have to share what has been given to us, and continue to be a light to others as well. Pope Francis exactly taught us that. Even into the ugly and messy world of politics, he showed the way how to engage them and immerse ourselves. Faith and politics can’t be totally separated. We cannot remain exclusive, we have to go out to engage the world to share Jesus message of hope and love. Wherever we are, we have to be the light bearers for Christ, in a world gone astray. As Fr. Armand has said, our mission is two-fold: “Do good, avoid evil”. We cannot just avoid evil and then not do anything. Laziness and complacency are not the virtues of Christ’s followers. The moment we stop doing anything good, the evil one steps in and fills our thoughts and subsequently our actions.

The issues that the Pope has challenged America to address are real and urgent. That we have to participate in its resolution underscores the need to embolden our otherwise reluctant faith.

May the Lord continue to strengthen the Holy Father in leading and teaching us how to be the light-bearers of the world and bring more souls to Christ!

The Code of a Champion Educator

It is indeed a very inspirational, motivational and enlightening encounter with Fr. Armand. I sincerely thank God for giving me a chance to attend this seminar and i really want and excited to attend more of this.

May God stay with you and always be with you so that you may fulfill your own purpose. And may those persons whom you’ve shared your wisdom share what they learned from you and live it out!

Joanne P. Cadiz, Mary Help of Christians College

Silence is Healthy

Studies show that the average group can only stand 15 seconds of silence. No noise equates to nothing is happening. Silence challenges us to go deep within ourselves – own up to behaviors that turn people off. Unlearn them and focus on building healthy relationships. Strong relationships get the job done.

Being the Greatest in the Kingdom of God

Many times we’ve heard this arrogant boxer’s claim to being the greatest of all time, after coming up topping his own list of the five greatest boxers, insulting and offending boxing and media organizations, and even those who most consider the greatest. The reaction among most of the people is the same: this is arrogance and this kind of behavior ought to be rejected. It’s hard to understand this kind of attitude, especially when one tells the world that he “is the greatest”. We’re not just used to it (the kind of verbal declaration) that we say it just isn’t normal anymore. What is used to hype before a boxing match stays there — and not after when the game is already over.

In the Gospel, our Lord continues the discussion of His Passion, teaching the Apostles about being handed over to men and killed, and three days after his death, he will rise (see Mk. 9: 30-31). They didn’t understand what Jesus was saying and were afraid to question him about it. When they reached Capernaum, Jesus asked them what they were talking about, but they remained silent. Along the way they were actually talking about who is the greatest.

“Then he sat down, called the Twelve to him and said to them, ‘If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.’ Taking a child, he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it he said to them, ‘Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the one who sent me.” (Mk. 9: 35-37).

Jesus had a lot of formation to do with His disciples, and so he has to do it away from the crowds. The interest and the intensity of the crowds around Jesus must have taught the disciples a misconception. All the while they were exposed to earthly rulers who lorded over them, so the concept of servant leadership must be too difficult to grasp. True greatness is not about power and authority, but about humility and powerlessness. It is about meekness and gentleness, something that Jesus illustrated with a little child. This was a radical concept that all the more confused the disciples. Thus, this was something that our Lord patiently taught them. He knew it’ll come in handy when trials and challenges come their way. They’ll be stronger when they will witness the coming fate of the Messiah. They will be strengthened in their own earthly missions that saving others will require giving up one’s own interest, and eventually their own lives as well.

This message is timeless in that this is also addressed to the present and future followers of Christ. That is why, Jesus left us a treasury of instructions and rituals to increase and nurture our love and devotion. In our midst, we have the blessing of witnessing the greatest expression of God’s love every time we hear the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist at the Holy Mass. St. Paul exhorted us to imitate Christ,

“Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2: 6-11)

To be a leader in the Lord’s ministry is a difficult task indeed. To be truly a ‘servant of all’, we must also learn to empower and trust other leaders and people under our care. We must learn how to enhance their God-given talents, encourage creative ideas, and provide for their needs so they can do their roles effectively and efficiently. Being a ‘servant leader’ does not mean doing the jobs of others else we lose the opportunity to nurture their development. Leaders must find sustainable ways to develop others in their care, including spiritual growth. We are all servants in this respect.

At Mass today, the Spirit reminded me that as Champions we always have to remember that, ‘humble service is the only badge of greatness in the Kingdom of God.’

Happy & Balanced Life

A happy and balanced person lives a busy schedule but not a cluttered lifestyle. Clutter is action without passion, an existence with no purpose. It may give us some excitement temporarily but it does not have a purpose, it is just that– an endless path with no purpose. Let us move away from the clutter. Life should be a holistic experience of personal motivation igniting passionate action.

Our Faith and Works

One of the best known of all the scientific studies written by Daniel Goleman, the author of the best-selling Emotional Intelligence stories about emotional intelligence is the famous “marshmallow test”, a series of studies on delayed gratification in the 1970s. This was led by psychologist Walter Mischel, who was then a professor at Stanford University, and Ebbe B. Ebbesen. In this experiment four-year-olds from the Stanford University pre-school were brought to a room and sat in a chair in front of a juicy marshmallow on a table. They were told they could eat it now, or get two if they were willing to wait until the experimenter came back from running an errand.

Later studies by Prof. Mischel found unexpected correlations between the results of the marshmallow test and the success of the children many years later. The first follow-up study, in 1988, showed that “preschool children who delayed gratification longer in the self-imposed delay paradigm, were described more than 10 years later by their parents as adolescents who were significantly more competent.” A second follow-up study in 1990, showed that the ability to delay gratification also correlated with higher SAT scores.

The past few weeks the Gospels tell about the reign of the Kingdom of Heaven, or the “reign of love”. From this theme, the Lord now shifts dramatically into telling His Apostles about His true identity as the Messiah and the sufferings He must endure. This is very dramatic, that even the Apostles couldn’t easily grasp. Without doubt, they love the Lord so much. It was undoubtedly easy to love Jesus at this time of His life: His public ministry bode well for them as the miracles that the Lord performed were all a dramatic success. When Jesus asked them who He was, Peter, in behalf of the other apostles, answered, “You are the Messiah”. When Jesus told them the sufferings He has to undergo, they became afraid. It was very difficult for them to understand what He has to go through as the Messiah much to the disappointment of Peter and the rest. They had difficulty understanding why the Lord has to undergo such. Then Jesus explained to them the meaning of true discipleship:

“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and come follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the Gospel will save it. ”

I can imagine what Jesus was undergoing at this time, as He foretells His suffering and death. Then here comes Peter, who protested strongly and so Jesus has to rebuke him “Get behind me Satan! You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” It is important that Jesus let them witness His miracles in order to show them who He is, without telling it to them yet. There has to be action (in the form of miracles) before the confirmation comes in. Jesus has to ask to really hear it from them proclaiming His Messianic identity. Then, expounding on the need to die in order to gain life, St. John’s Gospel account of the parable of the grain of wheat vividly explains this,

“Amen, amen I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.” (Jn. 12: 24-25)

Jesus drew this parable about resurrection and the Kingdom of God from the situations at that time. Being familiar with the agricultural way of living, His audience could easily understand the principle of seeds sown into the earth, dying in the process, and growing into a new plant. The image of the grain of wheat dying in the earth in order to grow and bear a harvest can be seen also as a metaphor of Jesus’ own death, burial in the tomb and his eventual Resurrection. Jesus suffering and death is like a “Divine Necessity”, to enter into the Glory of God.

To win Heaven, we must be willing to give ourselves to Jesus and to the Gospel. This means we have to reflect Him in our lives, so that others will know Him more. While in Nepal many years ago, after giving clothes to a young man who was trembling wet in the cold, he fell on the ground to kiss my feet as a gesture of gratitude (Hindus believe in many gods and goddesses and so sometimes they think of expatriates like me as a “god”). Of course I have to pull him up and told him that God is One in Nature and Three in Persons, that is Jesus Christ, in consubstantial with the Father, and the Holy Spirit.

Today, Jesus tells us what true love and true faith is all about. It’s about unwavering commitment. It’s not only about feelings, it’s also about being steadfast. Let us take the time to reflect about our intentions in following Jesus, and in loving others. We cannot be a follower in name only, we have to put it into action, we have to give it flesh and blood. As St. James said, “What good is it my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? Faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (Jas. 2: 14, 17)