Be Inspired to Share the Gospel

With His return to the Heavenly Father, the mission of Jesus on earth has been completed. However, He entrusted to the disciples the mission of preaching and sharing the Good News and evangelizing the whole world by becoming witnesses to Him through their lives.

“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: 19-20)

Jesus is known throughout the world and with the Internet around, information about Him is available to almost anyone.

What do these command mean for His present disciples in this time and age?

Jesus marching orders still apply to all baptized Catholics; the mission still exists and is important and urgent as ever. With the so many problems and threats felt throughout the world, people all the more need assurance of the importance of God and faith in their lives. They need to understand that there is more to life than success, wealth and fame. Dependence on material things and temporal sources of happiness lead to anxieties and worries, especially in that sickness, sin and evil exist. These are realities of modern day living. We need to be strong and discerning in order to remain steadfast and faithful to the values of the Kingdom. Wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord (wonder); these are needed if we are to survive this harsh and cruel world. Values that only the Holy Spirit can give.

When Jesus gave the command many centuries ago, it seemed almost impossible to achieve, considering the disciples were even hiding at that time for fear of the Jews. And yet after Pentecost, they did exactly what Jesus asked them to do. They went out to places so far away from their homes to teach the world and baptize people into the faith. Most of them lost their lives in the process, yet they accepted death joyfully for the love of God. They know what awaited them in Heaven. Throughout their missionary journeys, they know the promise of Emmanuel – God is with us – more strengthened by Jesus’ promise, “I am with you always, even to the end of time.”

The Risen Christ gave us a hint of what Eternal Life is all about. But it is His Ascension that we see Him attain fullness of the glory of God.

Let us pray then that the prospect of sharing in that glory drive and inspire our lives here on earth.

“God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.” (Ps. 47: 6)

The Promise of the Spirit

The Church is now gearing up for the coming big events in the coming Sundays, the Ascension of the Lord and the Pentecost. In the Gospel, Jesus is encouraging His disciples that despite leaving them, He will not abandon them. Instead, He will be sending them the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, through whom the disciples will continue to live in union with Jesus.

The disciples are assured that while Jesus physical presence amongst them is temporary, the gift of the Holy Spirit is something permanent and eternal. Jesus will leave to return to the Father, but the Holy Spirit will remain with the disciples. Through this gift, they will come to know and appreciate the oneness of the Father and the Son. They will also be inspired to seek unity with Jesus. Thus,

“On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you” (Jn. 14:20).

What a beautiful message Jesus is telling His followers, that they too will be blessed with the Holy Spirit’s abiding presence. While the Lord assures the community of disciples that the Spirit will remain with them, in contrast, the unbelieving world will remain in darkness. This assurance comes in handy as in our pilgrimage, there will be moments of despair and sorrow and it is refreshing to know that the Holy Spirit will be there. The unbelieving world cannot accept the “Spirit of truth,” without which God’s revelation and love be known.

“Whoever loves me will keep my word, says the Lord, and my Father will love him and we will come to him.” (Jn. 14: 23)

Nurturing Love and Persevering Faith

One of the memorable figures in my life as a Knight of the Altar was the late Fr. Codilla, our parish priest then, who was also an agriculturist. Times outside God’s service you can see him in his garden, tending to plants of every kind: from herbs to vegetables to fruit trees. I learned from him how to grow grapes and in the process realized it took a lot of caring and nurturing. You have to dig a hole quite deep and very wide for a cutting that is even barely a foot in length. Really! Even in the early stages of growth, I observed his help in the farm putting in lots (as in lots!) of fertilizer, care with abundant water and these efforts did produce great-tasting berries. He planted a lot of different varieties, each distinct from the other in appearance and most notably in sweetness. Yet without patient nurturing, I know it wouldn’t have produced these results.

The early Christian Church was no exception as it also had to manage a lot of challenges. Humans as they were, the disciples and the early Christians have to endure trials but despite that, they were very focused in their mission. They knew the distractions and managed these with wisdom from above. As a result,

“The word of God continued to spread, and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly; even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith.” (Acts 6: 7)

Similarly, as we grow in faith and wisdom, we are called to keep and nurture our faith. The Lord Jesus Christ assures us not to be troubled, and to have faith in Him. (Jn. 14: 1)

St. Peter exhorts us to come to the Lord,

“… a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God, and, like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Pt.2: 5)

The story of salvation is one that is of love and generous, caring, borne out of the Father’s intention to make His people like himself. He made us like him, provided us life, shared with us the gift of intellect and understanding, and a soul just like his own. But He even more deeply shared His love by offering us the gift of salvation and everlasting life through His Son Jesus Christ.

Even with difficulties and sometimes being burdened with the feeling that God is distant and far away, we are being reminded that we are “…a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of His own.” (1 Pt. 2: 9a) Let us therefore build on this assurance and persevere given this invitation to love and the call to Eternal Life.

“I am the way, the truth and the life, says the Lord; no one comes to the Father, except through me.” (Jn. 14: 6)

Jesus is the Gate

In today’s Gospel, Jesus reveals that He is the Good Shepherd who came to us — His people — who were like sheep without a shepherd, always being threatened by the wolves in the desert, and so need someone who cares such that He even gave up His life for us. He calls not only to the children of Israel, but also to all those who are far from Him including those who have gone astray.

I’ve always appreciated the metaphor that Jesus uses, relating to the small flocks prevalent in His time. Each flock was then looked after by a shepherd who knew the sheep individually, such that when “the sheep hear his voice, the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” (Jn. 10: 3) It tells us of Jesus desire to have a personal relationship with us, just like the personal relationship that the shepherd shares with his sheep. This Sunday of the Good Shepherd, this particular Gospel reaches deep into our own hearts and minds.

Just this weekend I had the privilege of visiting my Mom after a long while. Reminiscing the memories shared in childhood with family is one of the better things to do when going to the place we’ve since called home. There’s a tinge of sadness as she’s affected with memory loss, possibly the effect of surgery she underwent before. She remembers only when reminded, but in her condition I feel she is happy and is hardly sad. She hums a happy tune when she is by herself, and it’s always a joy and a blessing to have my sisters taking that enviable role of being near Mom these days. It’s a love that only daughters could share with a mother, though sons also have the same love demonstrated differently. And yet, that love we give to our own family and to others, is only a bit compared to the love that Jesus gives us.

Being our God and Creator, Jesus knows our true self completely, knowing us in a way we may not even know ourselves. Just like the shepherd calling his own sheep by name, yet unlike other connections, in our relationship with Jesus nothing is not known to him. That is why, when we get to know Jesus more, we slowly know ourselves better as He also reveals to us our true selves.

On this occasion of the Good Shepherd Sunday, let us pray fervently that in due time, we may have life and have it more abundantly.

“I am the good shepherd, says the Lord; I know my sheep, and mine know me.” (Jn. 10: 14)

Our Emmaus Experience

Oftentimes we are confronted with decisions to make for our family, friends, career, work, and many other aspects of our lives. We encounter difficulties especially if the options are limited, so we either face it or flee away from it. When decisions are difficult to make, there’s a high chance that doubt and anxiety can creep in. Whenever there’s uncertainty there’s worry, so we almost always try to approach using other routes because we have already lost the confidence to proceed with our original plan.

Back in my college days, I’ve encountered situations wherein I started to doubt on myself and what I’m doing. A case in point was when objectives of the organization I’m leading weren’t falling into the right place as planned. I started to sleep less, didn’t have the appetite for food and became absent-minded in the classroom, thinking of the plans not working properly. In those times, not all was lost though, as I’m blessed with close friends — actually they’re like brothers to me — who were (still are) devoted, prayerful and provided strength and support. What made it more amazing is that these brothers have strong prayer lives such that the Mass became our refuge and source of strength.

The Gospel this Third Sunday of Easter (Lk. 24: 13- 35) tells us of two disciples going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus. As they were talking about what had happened lately, Jesus joined and walked with them but they were prevented from recognizing him. He asked them what were they discussing, then after one of them replied, he asked further, “What sort of things?” They said to him the things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, “who was a prophet mighty in deed and word”. They proceeded to describe how the chief priests and rulers both handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him; they even shared their frustration that Jesus would be the one to liberate Israel. Their discussions gave a good account of the disciples’ failed hopes and aspirations, all the while telling a beautiful Gospel story about the events surrounding the Resurrection as first described by the women disciples.

In the same vein, when we are confronted with doubts, since we’ve already lost confidence in ourselves and in our faith, we often move away from what we’re supposed to be doing. We return to our comfort zones; in the case of the disciples, out of frustration and hopelessness, they went back to their former lives. We get lost in the scheme of things and in our hurry to leave, we even fail to recognize Jesus guiding us. In my own experience in prayer and depending on our state of grace, there’s a big chance we’ll be given a hint of the Spirit’s presence. However, because we don’t take time to reflect and to listen, our blindness persists. In the case of the disciples, it took the breaking of bread that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. Then they realized,

“Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Lk. 24: 32)

When we’ve returned to our senses, our instinct tells us to get back to family, friends, or community, just like the two, who set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the Eleven and the others. This experience of the disciples on the road to Emmaus is a great reassurance for us, especially when the road to take is still hazy and unclear. This is the power of prayer that brings discernment to a soul in a state of grace, especially when faced with critical decisions to make. We can trust that Jesus will be there to guide us, and that should be shown in our sincere faith expressed in deep prayer. We trust that for as long as we listen to the Spirit’s promptings, to our burning hearts, He will lead us into the right path.

“Lord Jesus, open the Scriptures to us; make our hearts burn while you speak to us.”