The Significance of the Most Holy Trinity

Today we are being invited to reflect on what we believe about God, who has revealed Himself to us in the Most Holy 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 others 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 that they become One God. This is so profound that if we try to explain this mystery, it may take us more than Eternity to do it. Suffice it to say that it is a mystery that is not for us to define but for us to grow in love and intimacy of each Divine Person. We are called to a relationship with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. While it may be futile to fathom this mystery even to the slightest degree, God will bring us into a more intimate knowledge of Him, if we open our hearts to Him.

This Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinityreminds us how close, how near God is to usThe impact of the truth is thisthat God is very close to us, is near to us.” Fr. Armand Robleza, SDB, said in his homily today.

This Sunday’s Gospel (Mt. 28: 16-20) talks about the Lord’s commissioning of the Eleven. This time it was intended for “all nations”, unlike before when the Twelve were just confined to look for “the lost sheep of the House of Israel”. Now, the Good News of Jesus Christ is to be taken to all peoples, and the task is to baptize and to teach. 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)

However, prior to these verses, we read that “… they worshiped, but they doubted.” Just like the Apostles, many of us say we are His followers but despite the faith we profess in Christ, we still doubt. We still fear and underestimate God’s promise and unlimited power. We know deep inside us that Jesus walked the earth and that He is God, Who was, Who is and Who will be. Despite knowing all these, we still doubt and we cast anxieties on our own souls.

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. By the faith we profess in our own Baptism, we share in the life of the blessed Trinity and is commissioned to invite others to share in God’s love as well. 

Let us pray for a deeper and more intimate knowledge of God. Let us bow down in humility before Him so that we allow Him to open our minds and hearts. 

Glory to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; to God who is, who was, and who is to come.”  (Rev. 1: 8)

Come Holy Spirit!

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 Holy Mother Church. 

During these times, the challenges and difficulties that people face every day instill fear, apprehension and anxiety. This pandemic is not only about public health, it is also about mental health, its effects on livelihood, jobs, and food security. Many are feeling the crunch after months of limited mobility and work. 

In today’s Gospel (Jn. 20: 19-23), the disciples were feeling fearful, very similar to what most are experiencing now. Despite their faith, the disciples were afraid; there was no peace in their hearts.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, 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.

In those moments, the disciples “needed the assurance of the Resurrection”, to quote Fr. Armand Robleza, SDB. 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.” 

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”.

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.”

In the same way, we need a transformation in our faith, believing that the Holy Spirit is real and wants to enter our lives in the same way the disciples experienced in that First Pentecost. 

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 holy lives pleasing to Him. 

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 limitations in visiting 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 experiencing now.

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.” 

The Story Continues

My wife and I were discussing the conclusion of a Netflix series that she’s watched. She said it was ‘sulit” or satisfying to say the least. Getting the desired end-state is something we all aspire for, even in the movies and films we’re watching and following. In fact, in literature and in films there are some examples mentioned including Charles Dickens’ novel Great Expectations, which originally had a “bleaker” conclusion, with Pip meeting Estella, but after she remarried. It was said that Dickens stated that he had been persuaded by Edward Bulwer-Lytton to change it prior to publication. In the film Ella Enchanted, sources say the movie was originally supposed to end differently but the final scene was replaced with a musical ending with the entire cast present, and they exit like they do on stage. Yes, we all want happy endings. 

In today’s Mass, the Holy Mother Church commemorates the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord (Mk. 16: 15-20). 

“It is like a sequel, it is the same story of Jesus, bringing us the Father’s love. It is the story of Jesus bringing us to the Father. It is the story of Jesus, but now it is not Jesus personally anymore, it’s going to be the disciples. That’s why the story today start with the mission given to the disciples,” Fr. Armand Robleza, SDB, remarked in his homily today. 

Starting from God the Father talking through the words of the patriarchs and prophets of the Old Testament, we read and listen to the teachings of Christ in the New Testament. Through the history of the Church and the story still unfolding in the present, we see that we are exhorted to continue what the Apostles did to build what the Church is today. We believed and embraced Jesus’ words without hesitation. Our faith brings us unity with His own death, dying to sin, so that we may also share in His Resurrection someday. 

Today, in this Solemnity of the Ascension, we further see the invitation to rise with the Savior to the Father. We must understand that where the Lord has gone, we are invited to follow provided we only have faith, embrace the Christian life, and live wholeheartedly what the Scriptures and Sacred Tradition tell us.

Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.”

This command rings loud and clear, and while it was Jesus who said it, the Apostles continuing it up to the present, and now, we are exhorted to follow His command. 

Let us reflect on our own calling to go forth to the world, and how we can inspire others to do the same. We don’t need to become big time preachers, we only have to make our friends, family and all we encounter feel by our own love and example, how it is to be a follower of Jesus Christ. By doing this, we enable the story of the Lord to continue, in an ending that we desire and long for someday. We fervently pray that our mission will enable us to ascend with Him into Eternity.

Go and teach all nations, says the Lord; I am with you always, until the end of the world.” (Mt.28: 19a, 20b)

It’s About God’s Love

Last night, we had prayers for my Mama Andang’s twentieth death anniversary over Zoom. I called her Mama since when I was still a young boy, imitating how my Mom (her eldest child), aunts and uncles addressed her. She became a widow with seven children in all, and Mom still in her teens. She didn’t shy away from the responsibility of raising them up and was an epitome of strength, wisdom, and love. I can’t imagine how I am today without her strong influence in my life, having been under her care when Mom and Dad were off to work. She instilled moral and ethical values to all her children and grandchildren.

As the prayers format for Mama Andang call for the day’s Gospel, we chose today’s reading (Jn. 15: 9-17) which proclaims about what love is all about. Note that this particular chapter of St. John’s Gospel narrates the discourse of the Lord at the Last Supper. In these verses, Jesus proclaims,

This is my commandment: love one another as I love youNo one has greater love than this,
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends
.”

It’s not a suggestion, but a command. In fact, Fr. Armand Robleza, SDB, shared that in Greek, there is a translation that says, “Love one another because I love you.”  Thus, if we claim to be followers of Christ, we have to obey this commandment. In fact, Jesus reiterated it again at the end of the Gospel,

This I command you: love one another.”

It is not for naught as obedience to this command comes the reward of remaining in God’s love,

If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in His love.”

Fr. Armand further explained that during the Last Supper, the Lord “was trying to make sure that the disciples will carry on His mission.” In a short while, He will be taken away from them and without them showing and imitating His love, their company and the young Church won’t last very long. As the Gospel emphasizes, love isn’t just a feeling, but a choice. If we say we love a person, we need to commit ourselves to him or her, to the point of giving up one’s life. It may not necessarily mean death, as it also means putting the needs of others first before our own. This requires sacrifice and selflessness.

The point of all this is that when we obey God’s commandment of loving one another, we become bearers of God’s love to others. It’s all about bringing God’s love for His people. And the ultimate reward is this,

You are my friends if you do what I command you.”

Friendship with Jesus is the most important thing we can ever achieve in this life. When we meet Him someday, He will not be asking us about our careers, the promotions and upgrades that we had, our salaries, our wealth, our positions in society, but He will ask us “Did you truly love others in the same way that I love you”?

During this pandemic, the times are such that many are experiencing depression making it “difficult to love” others. Mahirap magmahal ngayon, as they say. But given the presence of God in our lives, we can do it. Yes, with Jesus, “we can love!”, to quote Fr. Armand in his homily today.

Today, reflect on how well you’ve loved others “even until it hurts”. Did you give up your own, in favor of others’ needs? 

Dear Lord, help me to show love for others, that in doing so I will be able to discover Your great love for usAmen.

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

Without Me You Can Do Nothing

Grapes need lots of care in the early years of its life aside from requiring lots of space. It also need lots of water especially early on and needs the sun to grow and bear fruit. Grapevines must be pruned regularly as it is an important step in raising grapes, “because it helps them produce a healthy crop of fruit and survive for many years.” When you see the pruning process, you can get surprised about how much of the vine get removed. From a leafy vineyard, about  85% is pruned off. This is because grapes are produced on new shoots, and not old branches. Caring for the vines spread from planting and throughout the seasons, year after year after year. I am familiar with these because when I was still an altar server in my hometown many years ago, I saw first hand how grapes were raised and cared of by the late Rev. Fr. Epifanio Codilla, our parish priest at that time. He utilized the vacant lot at the side of the Church.

For vineyard growers like Fr. Codilla and those familiar with it, the Lord’s use of this parable in today’s Gospel (Jn. 5: 1-8) is so powerful that it drives home the message of what it means to be an authentic discipleship of Christ. It created a fine example of how special our relationship with Him should be.

This intimacy with God is something much deeper than just complying with His Commandments. St. John exhorted us in the Second Reading (1 Jn. 3: 18-24), 

Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.”

The fear of the Lord mentioned in verse 31 of the First Reading is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Described in the Novena to the Holy Spirit, it is one that “fills us with a sovereign respect for God, and makes us dread nothing so much as to offend Him by sin”. This is borne out of love such that there’s a fear that arises that is “not from the thought of hellbut from sentiments of reverence and filial submission to our Heavenly Father.” If you’ve been in love or is in love, you know what I mean. You don’t want to hurt the one that you love, right? This is the same fear of the Lord that we gain when we grow more in intimacy with God.

As we participate in the life of the Church, embrace the Sacraments, and get involved in the activities of our parishes, you realize that you do these not because you are retiring soon or have ample time now, but because of your fondness and love for Jesus. You realize that God deserves the primacy of our lives, not the remnants of our youthfulness. Our actions show our deep gratitude for the graces He has gifted us with, knowing that He is our Lord, Master and Creator. In the First Reading (Acts 9: 26-31), Barnabas reported to the apostles how Saul had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus. From a persecutor of the disciples to a staunch defender of the Lord, Saul’s life completely turned around.     

Our joy isn’t dependent on the absence of problems and difficulties. We remain joyful because we believe that whenever we are challenged, it is because we are being pruned, because it will help us produce a healthy crop of fruit and survive for many years. In my own personal experience, dependency on God is total, as in everything. This doesn’t mean though that I don’t do anything but in fact I have to do things as if everything depended on me, and pray as if everything depended on God. What Jesus said is real, 

Without Me you can do nothing.” 

It’ll take humility to accept this fact and the gratitude to realize that we will cease to exist even if for just a brief moment God forgets us. His will for us to live is the same reason that gives us the capacity to breathe and live for today.

It is very comforting though that the Lord expressed one of the more inspiring verses in Sacred Scriptures found in today’s Gospel,

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.”

Let us pray that we grow more in humility to appreciate that without God, we can do nothing. For every waking moment, let us always be grateful to God and say “thank you” for the grace overflowing in our lives. 

Remain in me as I remain in you, says the Lord. Whoever remains in me will bear much fruit. (Jn. 15: 4a, 5b)