Finding and Keeping God

Seeing people inside the Church after it’s allowed to open once again (while observing physical distancing) is such a beautiful sight to behold. Maybe some of them are even going there against the wishes of their families. Deciding to go there isn’t a difficult decision for them though because they already know what’s important in their lives. They’re simply risking it because they have found the “Pearl of Great Price”. It’s like when running out of time to finish our prayers, we feel our day isn’t complete unless we’ve fulfilled our promised devotions. It’s like when we’re allowed to go to Church freely once again, we’d be flocking our churches excitedly.

In today’s Gospel (Mt. 13: 44-52 or 13: 44-46), Jesus said to the crowds:

… the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.” 

The Gospel tells us that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a fine treasure. There are lots of stories and movies about treasure hunters risking their lives to get hold of a treasure. It is a given that a treasure can make one rich and wealthy. If it isn’t valuable then it isn’t considered a treasure.  

The Kingdom of Heaven is hidden. It is something that isn’t easily seen. You have to look for it purposively and you’ll realize it is there waiting for you. Yes, God wants us to discover it!

Finding God may take a lifelong journey for some, while others are given the grace of discovering Him earlier on.While some manage to keep Him, there are those who get clouded by life’s pleasures and lose the priceless treasure sometime in life. Some reject Him because they get frustrated with what’s happening in life despite their prayers. They can’t see beyond the problems and challenges. Fr. Armand Robleza, SDB, in his homily today identifies three stages of relating with God:

Pag-unawa or Understanding,

Pagtiwala or Trustand

Pananalig orFaith 

Fr. Armand explains, 

Understanding happens when things are clear. When there is evidence of something that will happen, and one decides based on that, it is the stage of Trust.However, when despite the feeling that God is not answering your fervent prayers, and yet you still persevere in giving it and risking it all for Him, then that is called Pananaligor Faith. The  faithful servant knows that despite why things happen, it is as if God is saying, “I have seen your good side, now I want to see your best side!”

God wants us to find the Kingdom of Heaven and rejoice when we discover it. It is indeed a life-changing experience that leads one to leave everything behind in pursuing the “newly-discovered” treasure. 

St. Paul assures us of God’s fidelity in the Second Reading (Rom. 8: 28-30),

We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.”

Today, let us reflect on whether we have truly discovered the Kingdom of Heaven. Have we been given the grace to be attracted to this treasure such that we are ready to give up everything and risk it all for God? 

Let us pray that the Holy Spirit grant us the wisdom to discover this fine pearl each and every single day. May God grant us the courage to keep this treasure fervently in our hearts and resist mightily all obstacles and challenges that may take this gift away from us.

Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth;for you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the kingdom.” (Mt. 11: 25)

Surviving the Bad Around Us

When besieged by challenges, trials and difficulties, we often ask the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”

In today’s Gospel (Mt. 13: 24-43 or 13: 24-30), Jesus said to the crowds:

The Kingdom of Heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field.
While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well

It’s not only frustrating but also a scary proposition when doing something like sowing good seeds, then while everyone was asleep, the enemy comes along and sowed weeds. What would one feel when all your efforts and hard work at preparing the field and planting the good seeds, somebody else sows weeds? Imagine doing good works for your Church Ministry and somebody else is working at destroying what you have built?

The Gospel is certainly talking about Jesus Christ with His preaching and calling for repentance and conversion. He sowed the good seeds “with His Word and watered the soil with His Most Precious Blood”. But the parable didn’t mention about the man fighting the enemy right there and then seeking revenge. Instead he allowed the action of the evil one to remain for now. He didn’t uproot the weeds that grow with the good ones, as doing this may affect the yield of the good plants negatively:

His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest;then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning;but gather the wheatinto my barn.”

“Vengeance and revenge lead nowhere. They make things worse”, says Fr. Armand Robleza, SDB in his homily today. Revenge can bring hurt and more hurt in the process.

What the Lord is saying is that all the evil around us cannot and should not affect our growth in doing good and virtuous deeds. We have to endure suffering and trials in this world on a daily basis while seeking the Kingdom of Heaven. God knows that evil cannot affect us for as long as we don’t allow it. Anyway, we know that in the end, the Lord of the Harvest will burn these evildoers in the eternal fire. Makes sense, right?

Ultimately, the added question to be asked as to why do bad things happen to good people may be, “Why not?” If undergoing through these will make us more faithful, hopeful and tougher for the love of God, certainly these are worth the effort to resist in taking revenge. 

Today, let us reflect on the reality of evil around us. Let us reflect on the idea that this is part of our growth in developing hope and trust that all evil will end someday. At the end of time, Jesus Christ will bring all works of evil to be destroyed in the eternal fire for which evil is destined to be. 

Let us pray that the Lord continue to give us the strength and courage to grow alongside evil and resist seeking revenge against evildoers. Let us pray that we remain hopeful and trusting in the power of God in our life. 

Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth; you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the kingdom.” (Mt. 11: 25)

Draw Us Nearer to You O Lord

One of the fondest memories of my Lola Andang is that she always told me to listen and be obedient to my elders. Every time she felt I wasn’t paying attention, she’d always admonished me to listen to her and my superiors. She said that if we don’t listen well, we can end up losing opportunities to grow and become better. 

In the Gospel(Mt. 13: 1-23, or 1-9), such large crowds gathered around Jesus, that He got into a boat and sat down while the whole crowd stood along the shore. He spoke to them about the parable of the sower and in order for us not to be like the other seeds, He tells us,  

Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

It’s sad that many people can’t still figure out the importance of the Lord Jesus and the Good News in their lives. They don’t respond to the invitation to a life of joy and happiness when living in obedience to God. They are easily swayed by the temptations of the world, 

“…some seed fell on the pathand birds came and ate it upSome fell on rocky ground, where it had little soilIt sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots.

Some are just stubborn, they don’t even bother to think about it. I remember a long time ago there was a couple-friend who I invited to the CFC Community and they initially responded and joined. They were active for some time but then left because they didn’t fully grasp the meaning of service to the Lord.

God didn’t lack in reminding, there’s a lot of messages and lessons that He has given us and yet, many are still hardheaded and perverse. 

How beautiful would it be, if our life is likened to these seeds that fell on rich soil:

But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”

This Sunday’s Gospel story also reveals that in those times, the Lord got the charisma that attracted huge crowds to Him. What about us, are we drawn to the Lord and His Good News? 

In his homily today, Fr. Armand Robleza posed questions to us on a personal level: What do you look for in GodWho is God in your life?

As we are drawn nearer to God, He will use us in order for others to hear the Good News of salvation. As His messengers, our witnessing will be the voice that will make others hear Jesus. There will be distractions, difficulties and challenges. But if we hear what God is telling us, we will embrace God’s will for us, inspired by St. Paul in the Second Reading (Rom. 8: 18 – 23),

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.”

Life is a matter of attitude”, Fr. Armand Robleza, SDB said further. The same way that we get to understand the mysteries of life, is the same way that we get to know and understand God. 

Want it, what is clear, brace yourself for it. Prepare yourself for it. Don’t give up. Go for it!When the opportunity comes, grab itAnd stay faithful to it.

Let us pray that the Lord continue to draw and lead us nearer to Him, closer to His most loving, merciful and compassionate Heart.

The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.” (Lk. 8: 8)

“I Will Give You Rest”

Who has experienced losing someone during this pandemic? 

Who knows somebody who is fighting the disease? 

Who knows someone who is having loved ones or friends in the hospital for one reason or the other? 

Who is experiencing having a loved one stranded in another place and is unable to return home yet? 

Who is experiencing anxieties having lost income in one’s business or employment as a result of the crisis? 

Who is experiencing worry or fear that this crisis will extend longer? 

There are many people amongst us who are feeling panicky these days. I have a young friend who is saying she’s having anxiety attacks thinking and predicting how long this crisis will last.She’s facing the dilemma of how to make the business survive while keeping her employees amidst current challenges.

In the Gospelduring this Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Mt. 11: 25-30), Jesus said, 

Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and humble of heart;and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy, and My burden light.”

The Lord reveals Himself as that promised Messiah who has come to offer to His people a breath of fresh air from life’s suffocating difficulties, a relief for those who are tied to the yoke of the law, as it was applied to Israel during those times. And He made this offer full of meekness and humility because He feels the suffering of His people. 

The same message is in the First Reading (Zec. 9: 9-10), as the prophet Zechariah calls for an uprising of joy among the “burdened and wearied people of Israel in exile”,

Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion, shout for joy, O daughter JerusalemSee, your King shall come to youa just savior is He, meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass.”

The King comes to end long term suffering and to spread His dominion over the oppressors and nations of the earth. 

Clearly, the Lord is telling us that He knows our pains and struggles. He knows that focusing too much on these can affect the life that God has given us to cultivate. He knows we put in so much time to become successful in the world, putting up every effort to become better professionals, and yet at the end of the day, have nothing to show for God. The fact is we cannot do it on our own without His help. All the work that we put in our careers, in our work, in our businesses, do not matter much to Him. The irony is that there are many events that happen in life that we can’t comprehend. These add on to the burden and yoke that we have. We stress out, we burden ourselves unnecessarily.

That is why, “If you believe in me, come to me!” (“Kung naniniwala kayo sa akin, lumapit kayo sa akin”, Fr. Armand Robleza, SDB said in his homily today.” We only need to figure out the simple things in life. We do not need to understand all the mysteries that we face, we just let it be. While we are jubilant in the good that we experience, we should also embrace as well the sorrows that come our way. “Ang hiwaga ay bahagi ng buhay” (“Mystery is a part of life”), Fr. Armand further said.The only way to understand life is with a humble heart.”

The reality is that there is absolute truth in the statement “In His time”. God speaks to us simply, clearly and only what we need to know, when we need to know.  Therefore, it is important to always approach Christ with meekness, humility and simplicity, patiently waiting for the Lord to speak the simple and profound truth we need to hear in His time.

Today, let us reflect on how we are managing the burdens we face. Are we spending so much time thinking about the mysteries of life only to be frustrated? Are we persistent in our quest for answers to the deep mysteries of life?

Let us pray for humility and patience so as to allow the Lord to come into our hearts to open our eyes and slowly reveal the simple yet profound truths He desires to reveal.  Strive to be “childlike” in your attitude so that the Spirit makes you become wiser and more learned than you could ever be on your own efforts.

Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth;You have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the Kingdom.” (Mt. 11: 25)