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)

Having Love is Having God

While driving along Sheridan Street in Mandaluyong, I can’t help but feel for the children asking for coins that are literally spares in your pocket. Others do not feel giving is alright as it may be something that will create dependency, while others don’t do it for fear that it may make them exposed to these people on the streets. There is indifference, there is insensitivity.

Sometimes, being so protective can make one unknowingly disobey God’s commandments. When you ignore helping others because you are afraid that that person can turn against you in the future, you are shunning God’s reaching out to others. You aren’t allowing others to experience God’s infinite goodness.

In the readings today, St. John exhorts us to love one another,

“Beloved, let us love one another,
because love is of God;
everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.
Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.”

Regardless of what is happening in our lives, there is really no room for hatred, ingratitude, and selfishness, as God’s grace and blessings are just so overwhelming. Can you cite anything happening in your life that overwhelms the blessings you have received from the Lord? Have you considered your life, your family, your relationships, the gift of work and livelihood, and even your possessions as real and concrete manifestations of God’s goodness?

And God is clear, He isn’t partial. Regardless of who you are, you are loved! Read on the First Reading (Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48), as St. Peter said,

“In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to Him.”

Clearly, God is telling us to spare no one of our love. If you don’t follow that, you are being a hypocrite. When St. John wrote, “Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love”, he is arguing that when you don’t love, your faith is shallow. Faith and love goes hand in hand, and you can’t say you are a follower of Christ and yet hate your neighbor. That is why our Lord even said, “Love your enemy” (Mt. 5: 44, Lk. 6: 27). Thus, while it is difficult to determine one’s degree of faith, the only way to measure it is by the way one loves through the loving acts one does for others. When you do this, it is clear that your own interest is not prime but secondary to God’s will. God is so loving, that He calls us “His children”, and He as our “Father”, despite our stubbornness and weaknesses. Even with this, the child of God trusts and clings to Him. In return, God has asked us to remain in Him, by keeping His commandments.

When you keep His commandments and remain in God, it is in fact the gift of wisdom, discernment and knowledge through the power of the Holy Spirit that you know that God dwells in you. This is a gift that you will attain through prayer and reflection. Thus, when you become over-protective, or being insensitive to doing good for others, think through it and ask yourself:

Am I being insensitive? Am I ignoring God’s grace to flow to that person through me? Am I being a hypocrite claiming to love God but disobeying Him?

Let us pray that we become God’s love to others.