Have Faith!

Many years back when I was a young engineer, there were instances that the things we’re doing at work didn’t turn out the way it was designed to be. Some incidents happened: like an equipment failure, an instrument unable to respond to design instructions, or  a computer processor getting a bug in its program making it unable to detect a deficiency it was supposed to prevent. Failures beyond our control can happen to machines such that in the midst of it, in your desire to have  smooth operations; you tried to pull all the skills (and tricks) you’ve learned and yet nothing seemed to work. You felt the world about to crumble. The problem at hand seemed to get bigger and bigger, and when the chance of success is getting dimmer with each passing second, you felt the hopelessness and the desperation sinking in. Meantime, you felt people waiting for you making some decisions to contain the seemingly inevitable problem. Then suddenly from out of the blue, you remembered that there is a force out there that’s much bigger than all of these combined; the One Name that you whispered to yourself, “Jesus, please help me!”

In the Gospel today (Mk. 5: 21-43), Jesus showed the crowd how He loved others even in the face of doubt. The raising to life of Jarius’ daughter was a case in point, 

While he was still speaking, people from the synagogue official’s house arrived and said,
Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?” Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.”

The crowd thought there’s no more point disturbing the Lord since the girl of twelve has died. But Jesus called for faith even when all seemed lost. In between this story, a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years came behind Jesus in the crowd and touched His cloak. She had actually spent all that she had, yet her situation only grew worse. In other words, she was in a state of despair and hopelessness! But she trusted the Lord and in her despair, she found her only hope in Christ. She fell down before the Lord and told him the whole truth. 

He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”

These stories of Jesus’ compassion for the hopeless also tell us not to give up when all seem lost. He reassures that He is with us in our journey. In the First Reading (Wis. 1: 13-15; 2:23-24), the Book of Wisdom tells us, “God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living.” He did not make hatred, wars, climate change, racism, or immorality. He did not make selfishness, disrespect, pride nor does He sugarcoat lies into truth. He does not want all the suffering that is in the world today. “For God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him.” Yes, God created us in His own image and likeness, but He also gave us free will to choose between good and evil. Then when Adam and Eve fell, it was like, “But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who belong to his company experience it.

Back to my story: In those experiences, God always intervened. He always gave me answers and never allowed my work to be compromised. His Spirit is always there to whisper the answers to my questions. He never fails me even to this day!

All the trials and challenges we face are not the ends in itself. These are meant to make us stronger, better, and wiser in the important matters of life. We should look at these with the fervent hope that something good will come out, if not in this life, in the great beyond. Even should it result to failure or even death (just like in terminal sickness), we should rejoice that it will give us eternal life. Thus, we should be more thankful if given the opportunity to dedicate our lives to God.

Fr. Armand Robleza, SDB, always like to remind that, 

In order to be truly happy, you should inspire others. When others become inspired, you make them happy. When you see others becoming happy because of what you’re doing, you actually become happier. So, it really means that, being happy is not really about you, but is about inspiring, sharing and giving of yourself to Jesus and to others.’  

This Sunday, we are presented with the challenge: Is our faith in God strong enough to fully submit to His will? 

Let us trust that God will create good from evil and will turn any misfortune into a blessing beyond our imagination. We just need to fully trust Him. Our faith will tell us not to rationalize what’s happening, we just need to cling to Him, hold on, and need not be afraid. 

I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.” (Ps. 30: 2a)

Facing the Storms

Many years ago, I met a friend* who became successful in his career. Early on he rose the ranks in one of the biggest multinational companies in the country. Throughout the time he was around, he was always obsessed with earning higher and getting wealthier. In our conversations, it was always about material success, earning more money and there was hardly any mention of his family. He was unreachable, indifferent and cold to them. Also, we observed he wasn’t keen in building up his spirituality and hardly mentioned God whenever I brought up the matter in our discussions. He was focused elsewhere and it seemed to me that God didn’t have a place in his heart. 

When life is good, it is easy to forget the Lord. You go on with your daily living and ignore His presence such that He just “sleeps” patiently waiting for you to call on Him. These are times when you don’t care to involve Him in your celebrations, decisions, and conversations. You think you can do it by yourself and thus forget Him. Then when problems arise, when you don’t have anyone to turn to, you look for God as the ‘last resort’. This is sad because it shouldn’t be the case. The Lord shouldn’t be relegated to the background. If you want your life to be in order, you should put Him in the driver’s seat.

In the Gospel (Mk. 4: 35-41), 

Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

The call of the Apostles is similar to what we do when experiencing problems. It tells us that the Lord is just there, waiting for our call. He has the power to quiet the winds and calm the storms raging around us. 

This summer while the world is fighting the pandemic, I made the difficult decision of allowing my wife Alma and my daughter Alexa (she’s a doctor of medicine) to travel to the US and then to the UK for Alexa’s medical examinations in Edinburgh, Scotland. While I was hesitant and fearful of making that, eventually my faith and trust in the Lord prevailed for them to pursue the journey. There were so many challenges, like the quarantine periods in every place that they enter, the swab tests that they have to undergo and pass, and just a few weeks before leaving, the Philippines was placed in the red zone (a traveler cannot enter the United Kingdom when the last ten days prior to entry were from a red zone country). That is why we had to decide for them to travel via the US and stay there ten days before entering Great Britain. Aside from making it more expensive, more critical to consider are the risks associated with traveling and all the requirements mentioned earlier. At the time of their departure, Alexa was vaccinated with the first dose, while Alma was still waiting for her schedule.

On the other hand, we thought that if they didn’t pursue the journey, given the state of the pandemic; they will have to do the processing of applications and documents all over again and the next chance of going to London may be possible only after a year’s time. 

The risks were very high indeed, but we believe that God is mightier and more powerful than any of these combined together. Our faith in God gave us the courage and the confidence for them to go on. Also, we have to plan well considering that there’s no Alma at home for the next six weeks. We prayed harder than we used to do before we started booking the flights and their places abroad. (It’s a blessing that Alma’s brothers are based in New Jersey.) We agreed that we have to pray more and get God involved in whatever we are doing at all times. I believe that the Lord will protect us all from the virus and the risks associated with it. I think that all that’s happening around are nothing compared to the power of Jesus. These are storms that were thrown at us to test our faith.

In all, they were able to pursue the journey and return successfully after about a month and a half abroad. While there were challenges at home, we were generally happy with the outcomes. Just a day before fulfilling the mandatory hotel quarantine in Clark, Pampanga, Alexa received a SMS from our city that her second dose is scheduled on the day they were to check out of the hotel! I believe that that wasn’t coincidence but God’s way of telling us, “Hey family, I’m always in control!”

It is essential that we always travel our life journey with Jesus. We shouldn’t ignore but allow Him to guide us in our decisions. He is our silent companion, listening friend, and the go-to-guy in all the events of our life, happy and sad. We should always recognize that He is around, unlike the friend I mentioned earlier, who seem to ignore God’s presence. It is the height of ingratitude to the Creator if you behave like that.

Today, let us reflect on the awesome power of God. There is no storm too big for Him, no challenge too difficult for Him, no problem that He cannot handle.  Let us pray for humility, that whatever we do, we submit to His plans.

Give thanks to the Lord, His love is everlasting.” (Ps. 107: 1b)

God’s Kingdom

During this pandemic, we can see in social media many pictures of plants grown by people engaged in raising these colorful flowers and beautiful plants in their home gardens. You can even see photos of those plants that are yet to bloom with a caption of how the gardener will feel if one plant doesn’t flower well or is late in blooming. Patience, care and hard work are among the traits needed to raise seeds into bountiful plants.

In the Gospel today, the Lord speaks about the kingdom of God,

It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.” (Mk. 4: 26-34)

The farmer plants the seed and slowly it sprouts, grows and yet “knows not how”. We understand that planting and raising plants and trees is a slow process and there are no shortcuts. Starting from a tiny seed, great potential is realized after much watering, caring and shielding from the threats to its existence. This passage reveals that like plants, God’s Kingdom will slowly and gently come into our lives. 

Each of us can grow into somebody much larger than we can ever imagine. Look at your own self, how you have done a great job so far, considering the difficulties and challenges that you’ve went through. This has nothing to do with the degree you’ve achieved, but it’s more on what you do with what you have or what is given to you. More often than not, people who feel that they are part of the least actually end up with accomplishing some of the greatest achievements. Just like the mustard seed. What we have to realize and accept is that the most important element in what we call “success” is not of our own making, but God’s will in making it happen for us. When we let go of our own selfish desires and leave all to God’s care and protection, we can become the majestic tree that He meant us to be. As the prophet Ezekiel said in the First Reading (Ez. 17: 22-24) 

It shall put forth branches and bear fruit, and become a majestic cedar.”

Once in a while the Master Gardner will trim us of our pride and selfishness just as even the biggest trees in the world need to be cut of its leaves from time to time. Trees with the most abundant foliage even have to lose their leaves during winter so that they can bloom brighter in spring. At times we need to go through different challenges and trials in order to gain new mindsets about life. The Lord is telling us that it’s not really about how tall and lush or pretty the tree is that defines whether it is a good one, but it is about its roots and how deep these go down the earth. It is about what they are capable of doing and surviving future storms and weather challenges.

Similarly, it’s not about how important we think we are – it’s about our intentions and reasons behind everything we do. It is about how deeply we are rooted in our faith in Christ so much so we can handle those challenges that come to us. It is also about how we handle success and material wealth. The Lord can endow us with abundant wealth to test how we handle life’s good moments. Sadly, not all of us can handle wealth in the way that God wants us to.

Our own spiritual growth is the ultimate determinant of what defines us, because it brings us closer in intimacy with the Lord.

Moving forward, we can choose the paths to take. With the right spiritual preparation, we can discern what Jesus will do in any situation we are in. At its best, we all have so much God-given potential that we just need to yield to God’s plans in order to let the seeds grow fully. As St. Paul affirmed in the Second Reading,

Therefore, we aspire to please Him, whether we are at home or away.”

Today, reflect on the following:

What is my life purpose? 

Am I obedient to God’s will for my life? 

Am I humble, grateful and thankful in all circumstances? 

Pray that you keep your heart fertile for God to establish His Kingdom and help you become an instrument of His power.  

The seed is the word of God, Christ is the sower. All who come to Him will live forever.” 

Our Only Communion

People attend the Eucharistic Celebration for different reasons: one attends the Holy Mass to pray for the granting of his “petitions and requests”, another due to his “devotion for holiness”, while a third attends “to fulfill Sunday requirements”. While these are also valid in one way or the other as we are anyway before the Holy Presence of God, our main reason to attend the Holy Mass should be,    

To celebrate God’s love for us. We are here to praise and to give thanks to God”, said Fr. Armand Robleza, SDB in his homily today. “Maybe we just have to focus our prayers while attending Mass to express thanks and to honor God. We honor Him because we put our hope in Him. We trust everything to Him, we just put our hope in Him. ‘You are all-powerful, that’s why we honor and worship You’. We are here to celebrate the greatness of God. And we celebrate it through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.”

(Ang Misa ay pagdiriwang ng pagmamahal ng Diyos sa atin. Narito tayo upang purihin, pasalamatan ang DiyosI-focus mo ngayon yung dasal mo pag ikaw ay nagsisimba, na magpasalamat, at magpugay. Tapos magpupugay tayo sapagkat umaasa tayo sa Kanya. Siya ang bahala, asa lang tayo sa Kanya. ‘Makapangyarihan Ka, kaya nagpupugay kami sa Iyo.’ Narito tayo para magdiwang ng kadakilaan ng Diyos. At ipinagdiriwang natin sa pamamagitan ng Banal na Misa.)

In the Gospel (Mk. 14: 12-16, 22-26), Jesus, 

“…took bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take itthis is My Body.” Then He took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, “This is My Blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.”

At Holy Mass, during the consecration of the bread and wine, we know that God the Son is present in veiled form. Our eyes do not see, our senses do not perceive, but we believe that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is present in the Holy Eucharist. This is not only symbolical but indeed “the real Body and Blood of Christ”. Therefore, every time we receive the Lord in Holy Communion, we should do it in total awe and reverence of God’s presence. We should approach it like we did in our first Communion, as if it’s “our last Communion, our only Communion” (Catholic Mom)

Today, let us reflect on this awesome and wonderful privilege that God gave us in the Holy Eucharist. Let this reflection allow the deepening of our faith to grow in love and respect of the Son of God, who is present in the Tabernacles of countless churches. “I am the Living Bread that came down from Heaven, says the Lord; whoever eats this bread will live forever.”  (Jn.6: 51)