The Lord’s Promise Fulfilled

The Season of Easter concludes with the Solemnity of Pentecost when the Church celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles gathered in the upper room in Jerusalem. As this event marks the beginning of the Church, we can also say, it is the birthday of the Holy Mother Church. 

Yesterday as I was driving home, the long stretch of the expressway gave me the chance to think and reflect on the difficulties people are encountering nowadays. This pandemic is not only about public health, it is also about its effects on livelihood, jobs, and food security which remain valid concerns. Many are feeling the crunch after months of limited mobility and work. While most of the country moves into the GCQ (General Community Quarantine) starting tomorrow, the feeling is still of fear, apprehension and anxiety. 

In today’s Gospel (Jn. 20: 19-23), the feeling of the disciples are similar to what most are experiencing now, 

On the evening of that first day of the week,when the doors were locked, where the discipleswere, for fear of the Jews, 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.

Despite their faith, the disciples were afraid. There was no peace in their hearts. In these moments, the disciples “needed the assurance of the Resurrection”, to quote Fr. Armand Robleza, SDB, in his homily today. Before the disciples can become effective messengers of the Good News to the world, they’d need peace to calm down their fears and worries.

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, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

It is time for the Lord to pass on the mission to His disciples. But He knew that they would need an Advocate, the Holy Spirit. They would need to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit to set the world on fire.Inthe same way, we would need a transformation in our faith, believing that the Holy Spirit is true and authentic and wants to enter our lives as the disciples experienced. 

What’s happening around us can often lead to spiritual dryness as we are caught in the anxieties, concerns and distractions. Worry and fear overshadow us and our love for Jesus can die down. To revive our faith and our zeal for the Lord, we need to put another log into the fire to spark the dying embers of our spirits. God is reaching out to us with His love, grace and strength so that we can effectively live lives that can change the world.  

Have you experienced going through this, and suddenly things became better, you feel that the “sun’s finally coming out?”The Lord Jesus has come through the closed doors of the room, stood with us saying, “Peace be with you.” Behold, despite the distance from the physical church, the fire of Pentecost is bright again! Rest assured that for as long as we remain steadfast, the Holy Spirit will grant us the wisdom to understand God’s purpose for all that we are now experiencing.

Today, let us be reminded of the Lord’s promise of fullness, the living Spirit of God, where grace is like living water, flowing steadily so we’ll never thirst again. Pentecost transforms us into powerful instruments of God’s grace. Let us then go forth to spread the holiness of God to the world.

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

A New Beginning

Admittedly, many people are experiencing sadness, anxieties and insecurities these days. Loss of employment, inability to be with loved ones who happen to be stranded in faraway places, and temporary loss of freedom, are among the reasons why even the “mighty” feel like the lowly. These restrictions are unimaginable and unheard of even four months ago. Because of the need for social distancing, mass gatherings in churches are included in the restrictions.

In today’s Gospel (Mt. 28: 16-20), the scene brings similarities to what we are experiencing today: feeling of depletion, presence of doubt, and anxieties about what the future holds: 

The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. When they saw him, they worshipped, but they doubted.

The disciples have lost one of their number when Judas betrayed his Master. But the eleven stayed on, and Jesus won’t let the loss hamper the mission that God the Father gave Him. Most of them were committed and yet as if their companionship with the Lord isn’t enough there were some who were still unsure. When your faith isn’t strong enough, you will doubt especially when you are subjected to trials. It is because, sadly, you haven’t really placed your trust in Christ.

Nobody is exempted from experiencing these feelings, especially when you have responsibilities to your family, loved ones, communities, employers, clients, and those who work for you. You are feeling helpless because even your once-mighty neighbor is also subjected to the same restrictions as you are.When we listen to TV or read the news online, it is the same atmosphere of uncertainties and dilemmas. In my own experience, what I do is to try to avoid the bad news and opinions to cloud my mornings.I select the channel I listen to and anticipate my response whenever something bad that happened is being reported in the news. I am aware that some opinion makers make mountains out of molehills so it’s better to avoid them. When news isn’t designed to make people happy, it can add to the theme of gloom and darkness. That is why, aside from selecting a trustworthy channel to deliver the news, there is also the need for us to revisit our faith and increase our devotion to Almighty God. It is time we get back to our bearings and recall our purpose in life.

The Lord made His disciples feel that even the bad that they are experiencing will have happy endings. The work and the trials are never completed while here on earth. If you recall, the past week’s Gospel readings have a continuum telling us a similar message. Slowly, patiently, and surely He is telling us that “all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8: 28)

Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

So, don’t get frustrated when your dreams don’t come true. Rejoice in the fact that your patience may strengthen your faith and bring you that epiphany that situations are temporal. What is more important is preparing for our permanent home. I would take that anytime without blinking an eye. After all, that is what we should all be aiming for. It is important to have that faith in God strengthened all the more when we feel that burden weighing us down.It is not the time to let go of the bonds and strings that connect us to God. If there is one thing that this crisis had taught us isthat it should be about deepening our spirituality and intimacy with the Lord.He has given us the assurance that He is in control of the situation and for us not to fear the future.

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.”

It’s not the time to sulk in self-pity and worry. Savor the moments with family and focus on those that make you happy. There are people who exist to make your life miserable but just the same, pray for them.Try it, it actually makes you more calm and at peace.You start to see those moments of challenges as moments of victory and triumph over impatience and anger.

Despite the challenges, we have to continue our mission of sharing His Good News to others. Have you not appreciated the fact that the Church hasn’t stopped doing its mission despite the restrictions for gatherings? It has made use of technology through Internet live streaming to bring us closer to the Lord. For those of us who regularly attend the online Masses and services, we are blessed because we are able to feel the Lord’s presence even while we are physically away from the Church premises. It is like that with the disciples after Christ went up into Heaven. The Ascension of the Lord is “not the end”, but a “new beginning”, says Fr. Armand Robleza, SDB. We begin to see and feel the fulfillment of the promise that the Lord is with us always and for eternity.

On this Ascension Sunday, let us spread the Good News so that others may get to re-connect themselves with God, through the online Masses and services that are abundantly available. Let us spread God’s love to others especially during these times. Let us pray for strength, for hope and for love to triumph.  

Go and teach all nations, says the LordI am with you always, until the end of the world.” 

(Mt. 28: 19a, 20b)

Our Capacity to Love

If there’s anything that this pandemic has taught us, it is about how we build family relationships stronger on account of having more time with them, especially during the initial days of the quarantine. For those families in their homes, their bonds should become stronger, unless everyone is also spending more time with their gadgets. Meals should be for dining and engaging in lively conversations. Devices should be left out of the dinner table.

Loving another means respecting that person and doing what makes him happy. Love for our parents and friends demand a sort of conformance to the norms and rules they share with us.We do it because we don’t want to hurt them due to our disrespect. That’s why we have a natural tendency to stay close to people who share the same values and principles as we are. We do it because we want them to feel important in our life, much as we are valuable to them. We do it because we want to honor them with our actions. 

Fr. Armand Robleza, SDB, says this love “need not be expressed in big and grand ways. Many of us want to be frontliners; we want to volunteer big time. Yet, life is simple, like cooking food, washing laundry, warming the car, sweeping the floor, putting the baby to sleep, helping in the kitchen; the little things. For most, it may be as simple as staying at home.”

St. Peter encourages us in the Second Reading (1 Pt. 3: 15-18),

Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame.”

When we have the capacity to love others, it goes without saying that we do it because we love God, who is invisible. Loving others is a consequence of our ability to love the Divine Providence. Naturally, when we love, we also pray and hope the best for them. The time we spend for prayer and reflection must surely improve during this period. With anxieties and worries abounding, only prayer can make us relax and stay calm. The words and messages of the Scriptures and the homilies we hear during online Masses are reassuring to both the heart and the spirit. It is time we give more attention for God, and therefore hopefully more love for Him.

In today’s Gospel (Jn. 14: 15-21), we get to hear the Lord continue talking about love,  

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Fatherand He will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept,
because it neither sees nor knows Him

The Lord Jesus emphasized this when He said,

Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves Me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”

Obedience to Christ shouldn’t be done out of fear but out of love and sovereign respect for God. We take that attitude of obeying God because we dread the idea of offending Him by sin and wrongdoing. It is the fear that makes us detach ourselves from worldly pleasures knowing that it could separate us from the love of God. 

While we try to love God, we can never, never exceed His faithful love for us. In fact, the Sacred Scriptures reiterated this the past week, when the readings revolved around the Last Supper Discourse in Chapter 14 and the exhortations of Chapter 15 of St. John’s Gospel. Truly, while the disciples were aptly feeling sad at that time, these are also inspiring passages and surely timeless in warmth and appeal. It communicates how God loves us despite who we are. Thus, this demands a noble response to love Him back.

On this Sixth Sunday of Easter, Jesus speaks of asking the Father to send another Advocate to be with us always. As we prepare for the coming of the Holy Spirit, let us reflect on Christ’s promise made to His Apostles. As one of His countless followers, you have the ability to receive that promise as well.

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

Only Through Christ

Today I craved for pizza, however, we have to wait for so long to get the delivery service, so we decided to have lunch Julie, our help prepared. It was still delightful enough. After that, while we tried to consider having pizza for afternoon “merienda” (talk about persistence!), we finally went for the local but equally delicious sweet potato. We still enjoyed it because we haven’t had it for a long time already. 

It is understandable that service isn’t consistent nowadays, what with the ECQ still being implemented. You can hardly expect food service employees to arrive on time, especially with limitations in transportation. During normal period people can still be inconsistent and unreliable even with the promise of good delivery service.It happens even during the times you least expect it. How much more in these challenging times! 

Yet, whatever is the time or season, in good times and in bad, only God can give you the assurance that He’ll be around when you need Him the most. In the Gospel (Jn. 14: 1-12), Jesus said to his disciples:

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in Godhave faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.”

How many times did God assure us of His presence and love? Enough actually to last a lifetime! Every day of the year and more, 386 times actually; there’s a similar assuring message in the Sacred Scriptures for each one of us. In this time of the pandemic, it is common for people to be anxious and wary of what can happen tomorrow and in the coming days. It must be providential that the readings of today, yesterday and Friday were all taken from the same chapter of the Gospel of St. John. The Lord is telling us simply, “Do not fear!” 

Today as we celebrate Mother’s Day, the reading from the Prophet Isaiah comes to mind of God’s assuring love even more,

Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb?Even should she forget, I will never forget you.” (Is. 49: 15)

How is that possible? Fr. Armand Robleza, SDB, in his homily today said, “Jesus presence is real! He is alive! The Lord’s resurrection made it possible for us to experience His love every day.” 

In the Second Reading (1 Pt. 2: 4-9), God guarantees us,

You are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of His own, so that you may announce the praises” of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.

Regardless of what happens, God is faithful on His promises. He has prepared a place for you,

If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for youAnd if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where I am going you know the way.”

Unlike pizza and other food delivery services, God will always deliver. Promise. Have faith!

Let us therefore reflect on God’s words. With Jesus, we can attain the gift of salvation but without Him, we are nothing. Doing good is essential in being united in intimacy with Christ. Without Him we cannot do good things. If we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, and if we are on the way to salvation, then goodness will flow naturally in our thoughts, words, and actions. While we can do good, it isn’t enough because only Jesus is The Savior. We cannot attain salvation on our own, but only through Christ.

I am the way, the truth and the life, says the Lordno one comes to the Father, except through me.” (Jn. 14: 6)

Christ, The Good Shepherd

Why do animals trust their masters? 

Why do children trust their parents?

Why do we pray?  

The answers to the above are obvious: Trust. There’s a timely message in the readings for this Sunday, in that it talks about one of the, if not the most important quality needed for relationships to flourish. Whether it be in our relationship with God as His follower, as a spiritual advisor, spouse, parent, partner, friend, leader, or the like, trust is the most essential element for our connections to thrive and flourish.

“You pray for supplication not because you are holy but because you trust God will grant your petition”, says Fr. Armand Robleza, S.D.B. in his homily today. 

In the Gospel (Jn. 10: 1-10), Jesus said, 

Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber. But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheepThe gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”

We hear in the Gospel proclamation that “the sheep hear his voice” as the “shepherd calls his own sheep by name”. Wow. Imagine that during those times, we’re not talking of a couple or a dozen of sheep, we’re talking about even a hundred in a flock. His relationship with the sheep is personal and intimate. The sheep knows him and follows him, because “they recognize his voice.” In contrast, they will “not follow a stranger, they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers”. 

To be effective in your relationships, you must gain the trust of your spouse, parent, partner, friend, and people. Without trust, all the efforts and work that you do will fail. Nobody will respect you. Others won’t take you seriously either.

Our relationship with God isn’t different either; we have to build on our relationship with Jesus before we can expect the action of the Holy Spirit to open our minds to the truth about God through the reading and reflection of the Scriptures, which will enable us to have a deeper and more intimate relationship with Him. This will restore the bonds which we have before sin entered into our world. This bond restored is one in which Jesus calls us by name, even calling us “His own”. You are not just any of the sheep, but rather one who is unique and one whom He loves dearly on a deeply personal level.

When we are in an authentic relationship with Jesus, we are encouraged to listen to His words. Listening also means hearing what Christ is telling us each moment of our lives. As our Good Shepherd, He leads us through the gate and we follow. Through Jesus, we enter into a new relationship that brings us into unity with Him. 

Do you trust Jesus, as your Good Shepherd? 

As we go on the coming week, let us pray that the Holy Spirit open our hearts and minds to know and love Jesus in a more personal level. One good thing you can do is to pray the Holy Rosary. Fr. Armand is suggesting you commit a day each month wherein your family prays the Holy Rosary, offering it for the intentions of the Holy Father, the Church, and your Parish, among others. 

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