Loving Unconditionally

This Sunday’s Gospel (Lk. 6: 27-38) is familiar to us as this is the very measure of what it means to be Jesus’ follower and disciple. However familiar it is, admittedly it is also one that is quite challenging to follow. The Lord wants us to reflect on this core and extraordinary teaching of loving our enemies. He wants us to look at this not as a burden but as a means to look at ourselves on how we can celebrate His love to others. He wants us to be generous in spirit; to take on an attitude of looking beyond the difficulties we suffer, ranging from insults, curses, dishonesty and maltreatment and be sensitive and hear others’ plea for help. Even in being hurt ourselves!

When we were still struggling we experience this generosity of spirit from our parents, a grandmother, uncles, aunties and friends, who reflected the infinite compassion of God in our lives. I can fondly recall some people who live in Dad’s farm come to our home and borrow money for their family’s needs. He would gladly share even though money was also tight considering five children being in school at that time. Also, I have aunties and uncles who shared generously to their nephews and nieces even when they had other needs too. In our relationships with others, we experience their sincerity and peace-loving kindness that they stay away from occasions that can breed conflicts. Just like in the First Reading (1 Sm. 26: 2, 7-9, 1-13, 22-23) David spared killing Saul out of respect for God, even if he had the opportunity to do so.

Such examples of loving generosity are still vivid as we try to emulate their examples now. We are thankful to them as they made our life experiences so blessed and worth keeping. They’ve taught us how to rise above petty quarrels and become sparks of God’s presence as we reach out to others in love. This teaching poses a challenge for us today to inspire others to be generous and loving.

Jesus further tells,

 “Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.
Forgive and you will be forgiven

When you let love power your attitude and behavior, you will bring out the best in people around you. Not only that, God will smile at you and pour His favors upon you.

Give, and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.” 

Jesus is challenging you to be generous without expecting something in return. He promises abundance to those who imitate His loving generosity.

He wants those who want to be His followers and disciples to be more like God. Being like God is to “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Being generous and loving are divine attributes borne out of mercy as God loves us beyond our expectations, beyond anything we can possibly imagine. In response, we are to love as God loves us. In doing so, you will be rewarded with abundance beyond what you can imagine.

Let us pray therefore that God bestow on us the grace so that we are able to treat others, not as they deserve, but with love, kindness and mercy. That we be blessed with the strength to forgive. For it is only in being able to forgive that we be truly healed of our own infirmities.

I give you a new commandment, says the Lord: love one another as I have loved you.” (Jn. 13: 34)

Trust in the Lord!

Being happy is one undeniable state that everyone desires. Being happy inspires others and it is something that uplifts the people around more than just being happy yourself. However, being truly happy isn’t easy to achieve. Some think that to be happy one must have wealth and earthly possessions. Yet we can read about rich and wealthy people committing suicide or having depression because they can’t handle the pressure or adulation whatever you call it. Some say that when they’ve achieved something great in their life they’ll be truly happy. Yet, when they’ve achieved it, they still find nothing but emptiness.

Fr. Armand Robleza, SDB, says that “Being happy is the firm refusal to be dragged down by the hubris of living. A happy spirit will always find something to celebrate or be thankful for. A happy person believes that life is on his side. Yes, his heart overflows with the songs of his private victories which will eventually find their echoes in the lives of others.”

More importantly as Christians, we believe that ultimately the state of happiness should be lasting (eternal) and not just here in this world (temporal).

In the Gospel (Lk. 6: 17, 20-26), Jesus says, “Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours.” St. Luke was referring to the situation of the poor as blessed since they have no other recourse but to trust in God’s provision. Come to think about it, who is better to trust to, God or man? In the First Reading (Jer. 17: 5-8) the Prophet Jeremiah says, “Cursed is the one who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the Lord.” The poor are indeed blessed because when they recognize that what they have is from God, they become humble and generous as well, having the faith that God will richly bless them if they share what little they have to others who are in need. This verse also tells that you can’t serve both man and God. Thus, a stern warning: this Gospel warns that as a consequence of not trusting God, the Lord says, “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.”

Becoming happy is not about you, it is about making others happy. Only then can you truly be happy.

Reflect on your own situation: are you generous to the poor in your community? Are you helpful in your own parish whenever asked to help? Do you sacrifice from the little you have to provide for those who have even less?

Let us pray therefore that in all that we do, in all the situations and challenges we are in, we will be always grateful and giving, fully abiding and trusting in the Lord.

Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.” (Ps. 40: 5a)

[If you want to understand happiness and real joy, join the next run of the Code of Champions!]

Here I Am Lord!

There are moments in our service to our communities that we become so tired and weary that we want to give up feeling frustrated and spent. Especially when the results are far away from our desired outcomes, we want to veer away from reality and fly out of it all, trying to escape the disappointments and failures.

My daughter Alexa plays the piano so well that we look forward to listening her play at home. Yet, we’ve observed that the moments she does it are times when she’s expressing herself — and the best music comes out naturally. As an artist, I sketch and draw but these are also mood dependent, the timing simply has to be there so that I can focus on it and get better results. You don’t do it just anytime, there’s what you call the perfect moment in doing the things you love to do.

In the Gospel (Lk. 5: 1-11), “the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, Jesus asked him to put out a short distance from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.”

Simon must have been so tired already but the words of Jesus was powerful enough to persuade him to follow the Lord. As a fisherman who knows his work well, Simon knows it may just be a waste of time, but the Lord’s command is just so hard to resist especially that Jesus has worked wonders and miracles. True enough, “When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing.”

Thus, the Lord is assuring He is behind you in all that you do especially when you are in the service of His people. The “deep water” that Jesus mentioned here is significant. In the turbulent and stormy times that the Church is in, you have to recognize that you have to follow the call of the Lord as you have a role to do. In your Parish you may be a youth coordinator or volunteer, or a reader/commentator, an altar server, a Eucharistic minister, a Mother Butler guild member, etc. it really doesn’t matter what your service is or what others may think. You may say that what you are doing is insignificant, but don’t worry, the Lord is not after the grand things, He is after obedience and humility in serving Him.

Even St. Paul felt that way when he said in the Second Reading (1 Cor. 15: 1-11) “For I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective.”

Today, reflect on the service that the Lord has given you to do. Feel and hear as in the First Reading (Is. 6: 1-2a, 3-8) the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I sendWho will go for us?” Gently follow His command and say “Here I am, send me!” And you’ll be amazed at the bountiful harvest that is forthcoming.  

Come after me and I will make you fishers of men.” (Mt. 4: 9)

Acceptance and Rejection

A popular successful Chinese business magnate, investor, and philanthropist once said, “When selling to close friends and family, no matter how much you’re selling to them, they will always feel you’re earning their money, no matter how cheap you sell to them, they still wouldn’t appreciate it.”

Just like in business, one of the more difficult challenges in your participation in Christ’s saving mission is in sharing the Good News to your family and friends. It seems awkward for them to hear from you – someone they know so much that they always look at it with indifference. [Don’t get me wrong as family has always looked and appreciated my efforts in this regard but there are still those few who chose to distance away whenever situations like these are presented to them.]

In the Gospel (Lk. 4: 21-30), the people were amazed at the gracious words that came from Jesus, but they then asked, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?” Those who knew him up close where skeptical and asked this question. Knowing their thoughts, Jesus pointed out to them their indifference and doubt. “Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place”, Jesus told them, proceeding further about the stories in the Old Testament about the favors God bestowed elsewhere but Israel. The people became furious, rose up, and became close to being violent. For them the truth hurts and is so hard to swallow.

Why is it like that? I also heard of spouses not listening to their spouse talk about such concerns, children who don’t listen to their siblings, nor children listening to their parents. This is more often the rule than the exception. At one time while in the South after doing a talk on Spirituality which was so well liked by my department members, I asked my assistant why other managers don’t try doing the things we’re doing? She responded by saying, “maybe they are not comfortable doing it, or maybe they have that fear of being rejected. It’s also difficult because they may have done something bad in the past that affects their credibility in discussing something about doing good”.

This is also likewise true with us. We tend to be somewhat selective and biased with family. Maybe it is more of being so familiar with them that we tend to let biases come into the picture and affect our impressions and reactions. Your experiences with them has become some sort of filter that is screening out the good intentions that they may have. You let these downsides muddle the goodness of their intentions. Subconsciously you carry much baggage including resentments, hurts and bad experiences.

The Lord is telling us to remove these biases and open our hearts to family and friends. What we can do is try to unload these “baggage”, look at their positive side and give family an open mind and a fresh chance at presenting themselves differently from the bad experiences in the past.

Reflect on the strength of your family instead of their weaknesses. Reflect on how God has worked on improving them and their lives. You may be surprised at what God is telling you through them.

The Lord sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives.” (Lk. 4: 18)