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)

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)

Answering God’s Call

Much like last year’s Palm Sunday, this is another one that’s much different to the ones we’ve been accustomed to. Due to the pandemic, attendance to Church activities is severely limited and online Masses and ceremonies are encouraged. I miss getting the palms for sale at the church yard and so we have to be creative preparing substitutes while attending the Online Mass. I have to select some ornamental plants resembling palms and cut some branches for our “palaspas”. 

In today’s Gospel proclamation at the Procession with Palms (Mk.11:1-10) the triumphant entry of our Lord into Jerusalem is greeted with cheers, 

HosannaBlessed is he who comes in the name of the LordBlessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to comeHosanna in the highest!”

Later on the First Good Friday, before Pilate the crowd shouted in mockery “Crucify him, crucify him! 

This week is always one associated with deep sorrow and it’s normal to be sad like that. The mood is somber and coupled with the heat of the summer sun, we can imagine the very difficult situation that our Lord Jesus went through. During my childhood I fondly remember my Lola telling us during those past Holy Weeks to stop playing loud music, avoid laughing boisterously, and instead pray. As children we liked to play and play, especially during the summer but on her command, we have no recourse but to obey, as we’ve been taught to. Today, her command is still something that I heed and follow. 

Yet, in the perspective of God, these events are both glorious ones in the sense that Good Friday’s happening is the fulfillment of Jesus’ mission here in this world. He has fulfilled the purpose for which He became like us, in obedience to the Father, 

Christ became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name.” Phil. 2: 8-9 (Second Reading)

As we enter the Holy Week, it is important we appreciate that Jesus’ journey is also our own. The road that Our Lord traversed during His Passion and Death is also the same path that will bring us salvation and enter into His Glory one day.

Reflect on your own vocation in life. How are you responding to the Father’s call in imitating His only beloved Son?

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Ps. 22:2a)

Letting Go

When you ask people “Who wants to go to Heaven?” most if not everybody will likely answer, “Me!” And when you follow-up with a “Who wants to die?” many will answer, “No”, or a reluctant “Not yet.” This is despite knowing that one can only go to Heaven by dying first, as death is a necessary step. 

Facing death is one of the most terrifying moments that one can ever imagine, especially for those who haven’t meditated and thought well about it. Admittedly, anyone can be scared, for who can say with confidence that he or she is ready to die? Life despite its challenges is still worth living, we would say. You are far more comfortable in your present situation than going through a phase that is unknown and full of uncertainties.

In the Gospel (Jn. 12: 20-33), Jesus said,

Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheatbut if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.”

The Lord is talking about dying to one’s self, to selfishness and to pride. He is referring to everything in the world that you hold on to, because you want it for your own. We should remember that everything that we have is not ours, but are only lent to us. God lends, He takes back. These include even the possessions that you say is yours because you’ve worked hard for it. It’s not bad to have things but when you cling to such as if your life depends on these, your intention becomes selfish. These include even our loved ones, who are lent to us for a time. When we are good stewards, we know that we are only temporary owners and should be ready to submit these up when the Lord calls for it. God also has intentions for them that we must not deprive others to experience His goodness nor take these away. We are meant to be the hands of God to other people. When we are inspired by the Spirit to have this attitude of self-denial, our heart becomes pure such that God enters and possesses our lives completely and yield an abundance of good fruits.

Our lives are meant to be like Jesus: empty of self, obedient, and submissive to the Father’s will. Take what our Lord said at that moment, but in the end He was still obedient to God the Father,

I am troubled now.  Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.”

The mood is somber as we go deeper into Lent. The Scriptures (First Reading) assures the faithful that God desires for us to instill these values in our hearts,

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD.
I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts
I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Jer. 31: 31-34)

We are no longer to be dependent on the “stone tablets” but God desires the law to be written in our hearts. We are called to obedience and submission to the Father, like His Son Jesus, whose suffering and death on the Cross was a fulfillment of His total reverence to God, out of love for the Father (read Second Reading, Heb. 5: 7-9).

Today, as we approach nearer the Holy Week, let us reflect on the challenge of letting go of all selfishness in our lives. Let us reflect on our own death that we will one day experience. 

Lord God, grant me the wisdom to be more giving of myself, obedient and becoming submissive to Your will for my lifeAmen.

Whoever serves me must follow me, says the Lord; and where I am, there also will my servant be.” (Jn. 12:26)

John 3:16: The Totality of God’s Love

A few years ago I brought some food for my office staff and we had hearty snacks later in the afternoon. As we were all preparing to end the day, I noticed my assistant holding something in a paper bag “I didn’t take mine because I’m bringing it home for my children”, she said. It was so touching, a gesture that’s something close to my heart, as bringing gifts, food, or toys, is something parents like to do for their children. 

Oh, I’ll give something for them too”, I told her in reply.

It’s something common among parents, mothers especially; to bring something when they return home at the end of the day. At least that’s how we were brought up. In their prime, Mom and Dad always had something when they return home from work. Those were things that we didn’t even ask, but they would do out of their love and thoughtfulness. There are situations that most parents even do more than that, they even sacrifice their own personal plans just to make their children happy. 

The Gospel (Jn. 3: 14-21) today contains one of the most popular verses in the Scriptures, one that my high school religious education teacher referred to as the “Gospel in a nutshell”. John 3:16 is so popular that you can even see it printed inside tricycles (Fr. Armand Robleza, SDB has observed it too), a popular mode of transport in our country.   

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

In today’s Mass at the St. John Bosco Church broadcast online, Fr. Armand gave an extended description of the verse,

God loved us so much that He finds ways to show His love. And He did it by sending His Son on purpose, to die for us. So that we will be happy. So that we will find the meaning of everything that happens to us. So that those who believed in Him, may have eternal life

Eternal life means ‘always new’, ‘always fresh’, so when I talk of eternal it means ‘never ending’, it’ll be true forever and ever, but it is also true today, in the presentSo when we talk of the joy of eternal life, it is the joy that is given to us not only after we die when we go to Heaven, but it is the joy of light that we experience now, no matter what we go through. So Jesus died for us, not only to give us happiness after death, but to make sure that we will have happiness in our life, here on earth, today. That is eternalever fresh, ever new. You can experience it any time. It can be in the future, it can be in the present.

Those who put their trust in the Lord, those who believe in what He says, and I who believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ, do it because He paid the biggest price ever. (I will believe what you say, because you are an honorable, honest man. In other words, I believe what you say, because of your honesty.) Jesus is more than what He saidI believe in what Jesus said because He died for itHe offered His life for it. So those (of uswho believe in Jesus (and He taught us how to live life, loving our neighbor, carrying our cross, etc.) the teachings of Jesus give us the joy of living. Surely, because He died for us in order to prove that what He said is true.”

Fr. Armand finds proof in the First Reading (2 Chr 36: 14-16, 19-23) that “God finds ways”, when, despite infidelity after infidelity, resulting to the Israelites taken into exile in Babylon for a long time, God showed He didn’t forget them. Yahweh loved them so much that “He finds ways”, when He inspired King Cyrus of Persia to allow them to be freed from exile and allowed to go back to Jerusalem. “God is so rich in mercy, because of His great love for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions.” (Second Reading, Eph. 2: 4-10) 

Today, reflect on God’s love for you and on the “Gospel in a nutshell”.  Memorize it even.  Delight in every word and know that in embracing this verse, you are embracing the entire truth and totality of God’s love.

God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might have eternal life.” (Jn. 3:16)

Changing to Become New for Christ

A few weeks ago, we decided to give up Alexa’s car which was used during her undergraduate years in driving to and from Katipunan, Quezon City. We were able to sell it easily because it had been maintained and serviced well. This car though is already somewhat old and have been already replaced by newer models. 

In the Gospel (Jn. 2:13-25), Jesus saw the temple area in Jerusalem became a marketplace, 

“…where there were people selling and buying oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money changers seated there, He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.”

Such was His anger that He also gave a mouthful to those who sold doves. At this the Jews answered and said to him, 

What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body.

When we were baptized, we became new creations. We became Christians, followers of Christ. The old one becomes new; you became a child of God by your profession of faith during Baptism.

In his homily today, Fr. Armand Robleza, SDB, said,

 “Baptism involves a commitment to God, to Jesus. When you commit to something, you set aside other things.” Sineseryoso ba natin ang ating commitment kay Jesus? (Are you taking your commitment to Jesus seriously?) At ano ang nakakasira sa commitment? (And what destroys your commitment?) When we compromise, when we say, Pwede na.  

Fr. Armand cautions,

“If you are not careful, living a comfortable life can be a poison to the spirit. It kills our commitment. May mga bagay-bagay na sa ating mananampalataya ay hindi bagay, hindi angkop. May mga style ng pagsasalita, pagkilos, hindi bagay, sa isang mananampalataya.” (There are things that don’t fit to our being people of faith. There are styles of speaking, doing, that aren’t matched with someone who is a faithful follower of Christ.)

Today, as we go deeper into Lent, let us take the time to reflect on our promises at Baptism: 

Are you taking your commitment to God seriously? 

Do your language and actions align with God’s teachings and commandments? (Please see First Reading, Ex. 20: 1-17)

Are you ready to immerse yourself into repentance during this Holy Season?

God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might have eternal life.” (Jn. 3:16)

The Transfiguration: Strengthening Our Faith

Yesterday I was conversing with Jerson (not his real name), my service advisor of many years, on the state of employment in the service company and he told me where his other colleagues are at this time. Of the eight, only four of them remained as the others were terminated on the same day that the announcement was made. He felt so sad because aside from the service advisors, about half of their technicians also had to go. Most, if not all of them are breadwinners and have families to support. 

In the First Reading (Gn. 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18), the test that Abraham went through was so tough, he was asked to offer his son Isaac as a “holocaust”. What mental torture and agony he must have went through during those moments. Certainly, not everyone can pass it (with flying colors!) as Abraham did. It’ll take a lot of faith (tons of faith, actually!)

Our challenges can be likened to the tests that Abraham went through. During this pandemic, there are many Abrahams going through different difficulties and hardships. Be it the loss of job like Jerson’s colleagues, the loss of a loved one, or even being away from family for long periods owing to safety and health protocols and the need to provide for the family. These are times when you feel why such are happening given the so many people affected. In yesterday’s Gospel (Mt. 5: 43-48), Jesus tells us to “Love your enemy”, a challenge so difficult for many to embrace. These aren’t the only teachings that the Lord gave us that are really hard for many to accept. It’s not only questionable and logic defying, but that is what the Lord said. In order for all of us to follow His teachings, Christ gave us a foretaste of Heaven and His glory (today’s Gospel Mk. 9: 2-10). This experience have really left an imprint on His disciples such that they were able to overcome discouragement and hardships. They went on to fulfill their mission and chose to give their lives fully for God.

Fr. Armand Robleza, SDB, shared in his homily today, that one of their classmates in Theology while they were discussing Ancient History asked their professor, who was a History expert, 

“Father, how many Christians were killed because of their faith in Jesus?”

“A conservative estimate is two million Christians offered their lives for Christ in a span of three hundred years.”

Fr. Armand added, “Bigyan ‘nyo ako ng iba pang simbahan, na ang kanilang simbahan ay dinilig ng dugo ng kanilang mga kasamahan. Wala. Tayo lang.” (Give me a church that their church is watered by the blood of their martyrs. None. Only the Catholic Church.)

What these stories tell us is that discouragement and challenges are moments when you can’t give up on God, no matter how trying the situation is. Be assured that God would want us to have our basic needs in life. If we ask for it, He will always want to give us the strength to overcome temptations even for those as heavy as Abraham’s. If we pray for our salvation, which would need forgiveness of our sins, I’m pretty sure God would want these to be granted to us provided there is sincerity in our actions. It doesn’t mean God will grant all our prayers, because there is also the aspect of what God’s will is for our lives. He will always want the best for us and will grant those prayers that will keep us with Him for eternity.

Surely, when we give Him the top priority in our lives, He would tell us, like what God said to Abraham,

I swear by myself, declares the LORDthat because you acted as you did in not withholding from me your beloved sonI will bless you abundantly” 

Today, reflect on who Jesus really is. Let us pray for the wisdom, the strength, and the courage to stay with Him and resist falling to the temptations and hardships we are faced with.

From the shining cloud the Father’s voice is heard: This is my beloved Son, listen to Him.” (Mt. 17:5)

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