Giving His All

The readings today is another illustration of the depth of the Father’s love for His people. In the Gospel (Jn. 10:11-18), Jesus described His relationship with us like the relationship between a good shepherd and his sheep. As the good shepherd risks and is prepared to give up his life to protect the sheep, the Lord willingly allowed Himself to suffer a horrible passion, be crucified, and die on the Cross for our sake. On the other hand, a hired shepherd abandons the flock in the face of danger.

I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not His own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because He works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.” 

It is in fact a lesson for leaders who ought to model their lives after Jesus Christ. Leadership can be in the family or household, in the community, in government, at work or anywhere when others are placed under one’s care. Leaders ought to be brave, courageous and possess the attitude of unselfish service. The Pharisees and the other religious leaders understood that the Lord is referring to them when He described the hired shepherds. They were so angry that they resisted the Lord all the more and in the latter part of the chapter, they “again picked up rocks to stone him.” (v. 31) This anger continued until Jesus’ death. 

The actions of a good shepherd for the flock is part of the shepherd’s job. However, the actions of the good shepherd are based upon the relationship that developed between the shepherd and the sheep. While the hired shepherd leaves when confronted with danger, the good shepherd stays with the sheep and is ready to give up His life for them. This is at the core of the difference between the good shepherd and the hired shepherd. The good shepherd knows the sheep and therefore acts out of love. This is not just a job, but His love for them is part of who He is to them. Thus, leaders should emulate such caring attitude to their followers as a good shepherd cares for his sheep.

Jesus also emphasized that His flock also include other sheep, far more than the dispersed children of Israel, 

I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.” (v. 16)

He gave His Church the mission of shepherding all peoples to the Father. This is seen in the First Reading (Acts 4: 8-12), in the testimony of St. Peter, whom the Lord appointed shepherd of the early Church. Peter quoted the Psalms and told Israel’s leaders of their rejection, eventual crucifixion and death of Jesus. Through the ministry of the Church, this mission continues until all the world is one flock under the One Good Shepherd. As to when that happens, only God knows. 

Today is also the 2021 World Day of Prayer for Vocations, the purpose of which is to publicly fulfill the Lord’s instruction to, “Pray the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into His harvest” (Mt 9:38; Lk 10:2). These are the men and women who act as shepherds who lead us to God. Last December 8, 2020, on the occasion of the 150th Anniversary of the declaration of Saint Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church, His Holiness Pope Francis wrote his Apostolic Letter Patris Corde, whose aim is to increase our love for this great saint”. 

Saint Joseph is an extraordinary figure, yet at the same time one so close to our own human experience. He did not do astonishing things, he had no unique charisms, nor did he appear special in the eyes of those who met him. He was not famous or even noteworthy: the Gospels do not report even a single word of his. Still, through his ordinary life, he accomplished something extraordinary in the eyes of God.

God looks on the heart (cf. 1 Sam 16:7), and in Saint Joseph he recognized the heart of a father, able to give and generate life in the midst of daily routines.”

The consecrated life is primarily faith and grace to start with. We are called to be holy and brave and those who fully dedicate their lives to God are a special lot in His eyes. They help the Church bring people closer to God and God closer to His people. They do the mission not out of an obligation but out of love and dedication to the Lord.

Let us pray that we grow more in faith and offer to others the same love that the Good Shepherd willingly and voluntarily give for His flock.

The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.” (Ps. 118: 22)

God is Truly in Control

The times have been difficult to say the least. These challenges aren’t confined only to some, these are daunting for all of humanity. The news that we hear isn’t encouraging as new surges are happening not only in our country but also in the US (across 38 states), France, Turkey, Italy, Canada and so many others. Close by, the past so many weeks were overwhelming as loved ones, friends and colleagues haven’t been spared these health-related issues. It is understandable that many are deeply anxious.

Hopelessness abound. Fear surrounds. Worry shrouds. 

Amidst all these, is there hope?

In the Gospel (Lk. 24: 35-48) Jesus tells the disciples,

“Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts?

In context, this was the final appearance of Jesus to the disciples in St. Luke’s Gospel account. The Lord showed them His hands and His feet, explained to them that He had to undergo suffering, dying on the Cross and rise again, as was foretold by the prophets in the Old Testament. He challenged them (and us too) to become “witnesses” of God and explained that very soon the Holy Spirit would be sent by the Father. 

The Christian life is one that is prepared to be joyful despite suffering because the faithful follower of Christ knows the need to be saved from sins. Nobody is perfect and certainly we can’t go to Heaven on our own but by the grace of the saving act of the Paschal Mystery. Jesus is the “expiation for our sins, and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world.” (Second Reading: 1 Jn. 2:1-5a)

In return, we are called to a life of charitable service to others and to be “witnesses” (First Reading: Acts 3:13-15, 17-19). The Catholic Church teaches that charitable work is “more of an effect of salvation than it is the central purpose of our Faith.”

So, the faithful servant of the Lord declares, “Yes, there is hope! I don’t worry, because despite everything that’s happening around me, God is in control. He is truly in control!”

Inspired by Jesus, let us reflect on how we should change in response to the redeeming act of His Life, Passion, Death and Resurrection.

Lord Jesus, open the Scriptures to us; make our hearts burn while you speak to us.” (Cf. Lk. 24:32)

God’s Divine Mercy

During their time, my parents influenced me to take on the devotion to the Divine Mercy. They dazzled me with stories and miracles attributed to the power and healing of this commitment. Reading its history also tells how the Divine Providence of God shapes world events. Starting from being a very quiet cloistered nun in Poland to her canonization, Sister Faustina’s story is one of the manifestations of God’s Providence and real influence in shaping the Universal Church. The private revelations of Jesus Christ to Sister Faustina were just that: private. However, as God wills it, from the quiet confines of the convent, the message of God’s mercy slowly creeped back into the awareness and eventual recognition of the Church. It wasn’t by coincidence that in 1965, the Archbishop of Krakow, Karol Wojtyla, who would later become Pope John Paul II, opened up the first investigations into Sister Faustina’s life and virtues. He submitted a number of documents on her life to the Vatican and requested the official beatification process to start. St. Faustina Kowalska was beatified on April 18, 1993 and canonized, on April 30, 2000, both by Pope St. John Paul II. During her canonization, the Holy Father also instituted the Feast of Mercy for the Universal Church to be celebrated on the eighth day of the Octave of Easter every year.

We haven’t met Jesus in the same way as Sister Faustina, or the Apostles did on that evening of the first week (Gospel: Jn. 20: 19-31) but most of us have encountered Him one way or the other in life’s quiet moments. He is the ever-present God who is always reaching out to us despite our weaknesses and shortcomings. His message has always been “Peace be with you” and this message of telling us not to fear and panic rings hundreds of times in Sacred Scriptures. In fact, the Risen Jesus said to them again that night, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

Every time we attend Mass, we encounter the Lord in the Holy Eucharist, telling us again and again, “Peace be with you”. Let us reflect deeper on this mystery of the Divine Mercy and call to mind His reaching out to us in many ways that we can ever imagine. We aren’t only assured of His deep love and forgiveness but He is also committed to see us through the difficulties and challenges that we have. In the same manner, He is asking us to reach out to others, because our happiness isn’t dependent on our own, but is in how we make others around us happy as well.

During these times, let us spend the effort to re-dedicate our commitment and support to the Church who needs us more than ever. Let us contribute whatever time, talent, and treasure that we have. Let us prove to the Lord our gratitude for His Divine Mercy by bringing His love to the world.

“Give thanks to the LORD for He is good, for His mercy endures forever.” (Ps. 118:1)

Faith, Love and Hope

The world is in a very difficult situation today. The news that we see and hear don’t give us an optimistic view of what to expect in the horizon. We are overwhelmed: the magnitude of the pandemic is just challenging to cope, unthinkable to imagine, unbearable to carry. The perfect recipe for hopelessness. Like what Mary Magdalene experienced on that first Easter morning, it was hard to fathom, much more when it was still dark. (Gospel: Jn. 20: 1-9).

The tomb of Christ, who is living,
    The glory of Jesus’ resurrection
;
Bright angels attesting,
    The shroud and napkin resting.
Yes, Christ my hope is arisen
;
    to Galilee he goes before you.”

Yet, commemorating the Resurrection of Jesus gives us a reason to be optimistic despite what’s happening around us. 

Jesus is RisenAlleluiaHe is truly Risen as He saidAlleluia!

Celebrating Easter gives us the assurance of peace and meaning to our struggles. Easter reinvigorates hope to mend our brokenness especially in a world so weary, overwhelmed, devastated. 

Fr. Armand Robleza, SDB defines the connection of this faith, love and hope in his Easter homily, 

“When you have the proper motivation in life, you know what you want, and you do it out of  love, magically I would say, you will find the strength and the fortitude to stay, hold on and ultimately succeed in your plans. At the end, after you’ve done so many things, because of that hope in your heart, you have the strength to live the present. You just don’t look at the present as a series of unfortunate events, you look at your life as a mystery itself. You are not in control of your life, but you are trying and giving it your best.

If there is a mystery, you don’t give up. There is a reason why things are happening. ‘I don’t understand, I am not in control, but the story will end happily ever after. And I’m holding on to that. This will turn a good page afterwards.’ That is mystery. Faith lived with love, brings up hope. And hope is not just about the future. Hope is facing the mysteries of every day. When we learn to live with the mystery of life, happy and decided about life, you know, you can feel it, you are living in the company, in the presence of the Lord.

God is a mystery and the way He expresses Himself to us will always be tinged with mystery. And so when you dwell in the mystery of life, when you looked at life as a mystery, difficult yet hopeful, you know you are living in the presence of God. And this gives you the strength to live as best as you could, knowing that no matter what the present (where you are). Then you can handle it.”

Jesus life modelled this perfectly. He who knew what He wanted. All He wanted was ‘to obey, to surrender to the will of Him who sent me’. And what made Jesus do it? His tremendous love for the Father. In fact Jesus is the expression of God’s love for us. And His love for us.”

May we dwell in Your mysterious holiness, despite the challenges that this life brings,

If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.” (Second Reading: Col. 3: 1-4)

Today, accept the reality that Jesus is risen and alive. Allow yourself to be enveloped by hope of Easter: it is a new day, a new beginning for all of us who believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. As we go rejoicing in His victory over death and sin, let us reflect on how this new life in Christ can make us new, refreshed, rejuvenated: an Easter person, truly immersed in His resurrected glory.

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.” (Ps. 118:24)