Scripture Reflections

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

SERVANT CULTURE



October 20, 2010
Wednesday of the Twenty-Ninth Week in Ordinary Time
Luke 12:39-48


Expect the unexpected:

Human life is marked with a sense of uncertainty. With all the scientific progress we have made, we cannot yet predict with certainty what lies ahead of us. When I can get sick, when fortunes in my life can change, when relationships can grow soar, when and what manner I am to bid farewell to this world—these are mysteries that humanity has come to live with from its very inception. However, we know for certain that as I entered the world, so will I pass away, not into uncertainties but into the certainty of faith in the hands of a loving and caring God. So, I need not worry as to how and when I may die, rather I need to be concerned with how I make my life so as to be “always ready and vigilant” for encountering my creator face to face. There are three things I need to keep in my mind in this journey of my life: my identity as a servant, prudence and, faithfulness.

Identity as Servant:

The perennial question “who am I” has been answered by Jesus in two complementing directions, as a “child of God”, and a “servant”. Jesus was aware of His being the Son of God yet He also knew that He is a servant of God and His people. He was more comfortable to be called a servant than a master. Indeed, He taught His disciples that one cannot claim the “sonship/daughtership” of God unless one first becomes a servant of all. He claimed of Himself as “the son of man who came not to be served but to serve and give His life as ransom for many.

We live in a time when “service” has acquired myriads of implicit meanings. The service sector of our society is going through a crisis of credibility and survival. It is not only the rampant corruption that has ravaged the service sector. Much more, it is a change of ideology, a shift of paradigm, and an alteration of culture. In the political and commercial, cultural realms, nay, even in the religious sphere, service has become a springboard of power, profit and privileges. “Service” means more of self-service than of public welfare. “Servant” assumes the position of the master. Against such a culture, Jesus cries out to follow Him, the “suffering servant”, the “servant of all” who spends His all for the sake of His people. In Jesus’ vision “servanthood” is about humility, obedience, faithfulness, loyalty, self-sacrifice and diligence. Such a servant has nothing to fear, nothing to hide, for he/she always lives a life of transparency, busying him/herself in doing the will of his/her master. The “master’s” will and happiness keeps him/her in great anticipation, readiness and alertness all the time of his/her life.

Prudence:

A true servant cannot be timid. Prudence is that quality by which a servant becomes aware of the options before him and is able to discern and decide on the right thing, in the right manner at the right time. Prudence is always shown in action. Prudence dictates to me that my true identity is that of a servant, and as a servant, I am supposed to serve, vigilant and active, carrying out the plan and projects of my master. There is no greater value for me than the “mind”, “will” and “orders” of my master. Seeking the will of God in all things in all times is the mark of a Christian. I am called to serve God and His people. I’m concerned only with one thing: how can I be of help to you. When I say I am a servant, I am declaring that you are my master. Being my master, I consider you as greater than I am. This makes me humble. The test of service is humility and obedience. If I feel it natural and easy for me to work under anyone, to take orders, and not to impose my will and mind on others, then I know I am growing in ‘servanthood’.

Faithfulness:

As a servant, I am expected of faithfulness in life, relationships and duty. The master has the right to expect that I am faithful to Him and His work. Faithfulness is manifested in my commitment to the master and to the task. Diligence, fairness and cheerful countenance are the marks of a faithful servant.

Friday, October 15, 2010

CRITIC WITH A HEART


October 15, 2010
Friday, 28th Week in Ordinary Time
Luke 12:1-7


Critic with a Heart:

Criticism is an art, virtue and business. In literature criticism is an art. In religion it is a virtue. In media it is a business. We cannot live without criticism. In journalistic approach fairness and objectivity arise only in a critical view of reality. In a culture of liberty and integrity critics abound. However, criticism can do more harm than good if it is not done in proper manner and disposition. Liberty and freedom of expression does not mean that one has the absolute right of criticizing another to the point of destroying him/her. Indeed, not everyone has the right to criticize. As Abraham Lincoln has once said, “he has the right to criticize who has a heart to help”. Criticism therefore should be practiced only with a view to help and not to destroy.

Jesus was a critic. He was a critic with a heart. He criticized not individuals rather the rotting system of the Pharisees and the scribes which ran on the fuel of hypocrisy. Jesus challenged them to self-critic. The chief purpose of God becoming man was to invite us to be critics not of others but of ourselves. In His preaching, healing, performing miracles, companionship with the sinners and outcasts, sufferings, death and resurrection Jesus called for conversion. Conversion begins with an examination of conscience, a criticism of the heart. Jesus model is a critic with a heart. The intention of the critic be pure, without blemish and holy. It is totally opposite of the kind of journalistic criticism as proposed by Kushwant Sing in his adage, “with malice towards all”. Jesus’ model rather is one born in love, as a mother who would critic her baby, a lover who would critic his/her partner. In this form of criticism, the critic owns responsibility for the situation and places him/herself in the position of the criticized, and then proposes the ways to change. Correction is a noble ministry, a divine responsibility God has put in the hearts every lover. It is not a weapon placed in the hands of an enemy. Indeed, I have no right to criticize my enemies. I can only criticize my friends. If I do not criticize my friends, then I am not a true friend.

Fear the Right Thing:

Fear is a common experience I have learned to live with. What are my fears? Do I fear the right things? I may fear cockroaches, rats, insects, lizards, snakes, ghosts, and other elements in nature. I might have phobias that frozen my thoughts, feelings and numb my movements. It is funny, however, that I fear such insignificant things as the insects and un harmful things as spirits or imagined things as ghosts, yet I do not fear the real things I should. In Jesus’ words, there is only one thing I need to fear: God! If I have fear of God then I fear nothing else. If I am not God-fearing then I fear everything else. Fear of God, however is not the fear I have of things, elements, situations, and people. It is a reverential fear. It is the “owe and wonder” I experience when I realize the might, power and glory of God. As I stand before the “tremendous, fascinating mystery” that is God, I realize how little I am, yet how exalted I am because of His grace! This realization at once elevates me to the height of His grace and to the depths of my creatureliness. I fall on my knees before Him in adoration and praise!

Thought Capsule
God has been very good to me, for I never dwell upon anything wrong which a person has done, so as to remember it afterwards. If I do remember it, I always see some other virtue in that person. (Saint Teresa of Avila)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

BE CLEAN


October 12, 2010
Tuesday of the Twenty-Eighth Week in Ordinary Time
Luke 11: 37-41


The Culture of cleanliness:

The modern society attaches premium to the virtue of cleanliness. The saying “cleanliness is next to godliness” is adopted as the gospel principle of the modern commercial enterprises and market economy. No wonder, we live in an era of cosmetic and sanitary revolution. The markets are flooded with cosmetic and sanitary products, 60 percent of the media advertisements and commercials are on cosmetic and sanitary products. The image-conscious culture of ours has a web of unwritten laws, traditions and practices regarding beautification, maintenance, sanitization and purification. The Biblical times, especially the Jewish culture was not less concerned about physical cleanliness. Jesus is confronted with such an issue, his ritual and physical impurity at the table. The irony of the episode is that the Lord who is the source of sanctifying grace is now accused of impurity by those whose hearts were shown to be unclean!

Purity—the sign of a Christian

Jesus turned the tables at an “image conscious” society by inviting them to check “what is within” even as they present a seemingly clean external. Jesus exposes the paradox of “clean periphery” and the “unclean center”. In the final analysis it becomes clear that this high culture of purity is in fact floats on the low culture of impurities. Further more, Jesus inverts the measure of purity—purity does not consists in the cleanliness of the externals, rather in the purity of the inner chamber of the heart. To be a Christian, then is to be a clean person, pure in thoughts, intentions and dealings. No wonder, Jesus has made it imperative for His disciples to wash themselves in the waters of baptism and cleansed in the sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit. This purity is achieved, aside from the power of the Word of God, on the strength of the rituals (sacraments) and charity.

Sacraments: the source of sanctifying grace

Rituals are part of any culture. Christian culture is rooted on sacramental rituals. The seven sacraments of the Church impart to the believer grace necessary for his/her life. The grace of sanctification is basic among the graces. In baptism the one is washed clean of all his/her sins and impurities accumulated in his life and shared from the original sin. This ritual of purity is represented by water and a white piece of cloth. It is a sacrament of re-birth, being born again as a child of God who is pure, holy and immaculate. The sacrament of reconciliation ritually sanctifies the sinner of all the impurities of his action and omission. Repentance is a necessary condition for the sanctifying grace. The Holy Eucharist allows the Christian to enter into the sacrificial grace of Christ, to wash His impurities in the blood of the Divine savior. In the Eucharist, what is impure is made pure and filled with the strength of grace that no more one may live in guilt, sin and impurity. The other sacraments (confirmation, marriage, holy orders, and the anointing of the sick) also impart to the recipient sanctifying grace along with the specific grace necessary for the state of life he/she enters.

Love: the source of sanctifying grace

Now, rituals, devoid of the spirit can remain just that—rituals. The sanctifying grace of the rituals are to be lived and practiced in the virtue of charity—selfless love. Love has the power to heal and cleanse. Any ritual without love is ineffective. Love impels one to put into act what he/she celebrates in the sacraments. Love teaches us that clean hands and clever minds are not substitute for a clean conscience. A clean conscience is the manifestation of a loving heart. The nursery rhyme “Clean little hands are nice to see” teaches the children of the beauty of cleanliness, but the “commandment of love” teaches us of the beauty of a life well founded purified in the sacrifice of love.

Purity lies in the middle. We need to avoid the extremities of ritualism and self-validation. Love and rituals are not contradictory. They compliment my life of purity.

How clean am I? Do I pay attention to the purity of my thoughts, words, intentions and dealings as much as I care for the cleanliness and grooming of my body? How often do I notice impurities in my thoughts, words, dealings and intentions? What steps do I take to cleanse my conscience and sanctify my life?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

GRATEFUL LIKE A DOG



October 10, 2010
Twenty-Eighth Sunday of the Year
2 Kings 5:14-17; 2 Timothy 2:8-13; Luke 17:11-19


There was a saintly man who spent most part of His days in prayer and meditation. One day, in an ecstatic vision he was taken up into heaven and stood before the majesty of God. God the Father welcomed him into the heavenly glory and asked, “what grace shall I give you today?”. The saintly man, in humility and love asked, if it will be pleasing to God to reveal to Him how the “mechanism of prayer” works in heaven. The Heavenly Father was delighted with such a request, and offered to tour him around the heavenly chambers of the department of prayer. God held his hand and there opened a door towards a large room where in so many saints and angels were engaged in hectic activity. The Holy Spirit was moving them inwardly all around. After a few moments another door was opened and the saintly man was led to a large room, much larger than the first. The room was filled with even more saints and angels all in hectic activity under the promptings of the Holy Trinity. The number of angels and saints who filled the room and the volume of tasks they were accomplishing were so immense that not even all the super computers in the world put together were able to compute them. As the saintly man was engrossed in wonder and owe, he was taken to another room, this time a much smaller one, as small as a cellar. In contrast to the first two rooms, this was very quiet and bereft of activities. There were only a dozen or so angels and saints who sat in office in this room, and they seemed to be moving slow. The saintly man then asked the Heavenly Father, why this contrast, and what these chambers represent? Then God the Father looked at the saintly man with gentleness and compassion, and said, this is the mechanism of the chambers of prayer. The first chamber is the chamber of “petition”. People on earth sent me their petitions every moment of their lives. They constantly ask me for so many things, of every need they have. They ask for healing, miracles, visions, strength, food, money, success, and what not. The chamber of petitions is where I sort these petitions in order and priority. The angels and saints are always active in this chamber, for, my children always cry out to me for help. The second chamber is that of “dispatching and delivery”. This is where I answer the cries of my children. All the prayers I receive in the “chamber of petitions” are instantly answered here. Furthermore, I answer not only what my children ask for, I grant them the grace and blessings which they cannot even identify, foresee, and name. I, being their Father knows what is best for them, and I give more than what people ask. This is why this chamber is full of activities. Now the third chamber is “the chamber of acknowledgment”. In this chamber we process all the “acknowledgment” of blessings and graces delivered. As you have noticed, this chamber is much smaller in size and is with little activity because we receive very few responses acknowledging a blessing. Oh, my children take my favors and blessings for granted, they keep on asking and demanding for more; and very few of them, very seldom acknowledge thank me for what I am and what I do for them.

The Highest form of Prayer:
Today Jesus reminds us to be grateful. The basic attitude of a Christian must be one of gratitude. Every moment of my life, every fiber of my being needs to be singing a constant hymn of gratitude because I live constantly in the immense mercy and kindness of God.

When my prayer is dominated by petitions, and I approach God only in moments of need, I assign God the role of a slot-machine who dispenses blessings and kindness. What drives me to God? What makes me to pray? What impels me to have faith? Am I driven by an urge to “receive and get”, feeling weak and helpless on my part? Or do I feel drawn to God because of His love for me, and because of my election as His child?

Gratitude is the highest form of prayer. The Eucharist, the supreme sacrament of prayer, is a sacrifice of gratitude. The very word Eucharistia in Greek means “thanksgiving” indicating an offering of gratitude for an ineffable benefit received, which can never be repaid. Such was the attitude of the Samaritan leper who, when realized that he was healed, returned to thank the Lord, fell at His feat, praised Him profusely and followed Him on His way. Similarly, Naaman, the Syrian, who was healed by Elisha also exhibits his faith in gratitude as he returned to thank the prophet. When Naaman wanted to offer a token of gratitude to prophet Elisha for the blessing he received, Elisha refused accept anything in return, for he realized that the healing grace imparted, and the gratitude therein belongs to God, and not to him. Naaman, then made a covenant with Yahweh that he will offer his life as a sacrifice of thanksgiving. How wonderful a gift the lepers received, and how wonderfully the gifts changed them that they have now become models of gratuitous faith!

Remembering:
Gratitude begins with remembrance. When I remember the blessings I have received, the grace I live with, the gifts I am endowed with and the benefits I constantly receive, I cannot but keep singing a litany of gratitude. One exercise worth doing and repeating is that of counting my blessings. I will never be able to count all the blessings that characterize my life for each moment in my life I keep receiving favors in ways and people I may never know. Greater are the invisible graces of my life, much more than the obvious and glaring gifts I enjoy. How can I be grateful enough for the gift of life, my physical, mental and spiritual attributes, health, family and relationships? Will I ever be able to compute and count the blessings I have cherished from the moment of my inception until this day, as to the people and resources spent in caring for me? Will this life be ever enough to repay the debt of gratitude I owe to God, to my parents, relatives, to the Church and to the society at large in contributing to what I am and what I have? Counting the blessings will help me to be on the track of a grateful life.

Recognizing:
Counting and remembering the blessings is not all. Christian gratitude is more than remembering. Remembrance should lead me to recognizing the source of the blessings. I need to grow from seeing the gifts to seeing the giver of the gifts. The ten lepers in the gospel were all blessed with healing. They were all happy for the gifts they received. They counted the blessings. They realized how immense a gift they have received was. A new found life, they could not wait any longer, they were eager to relish and live the gift given to them. When nine of them were totally focused on the “worth of the gift”, one of them realized the “worth of the giver”. He realized that this gift was not about him, but about Jesus. This made him retrace his steps, sing His praise, fall at His feet and surrender his life to Him. He not only said “thank you” Lord, but made his life a “thanksgiving” to the Lord.

A Formula for Happiness:

Here is the formula for a happy and contented life: Be grateful. Have an attitude of gratitude and you will be happy. When I am grateful for everything in my life, the only sentiment that fills my heart is that of praise admiration, admiration, wonder and amazement. This will lead me to see the brighter side of life, to be hopeful and trusting. A grateful person is able to accept pain and gain with a composed heart for he knows everything life offers him comes from the heart of a God who loves him immensely. If God gifts me something, it can only be the best. So if in spite of all my efforts what I am given is pain and suffering, this is the best God can offer me at the moment. The acceptance of the gift and the recognition of the giver leads me to a greater appreciation of my life experiences. I have no reason to complain and to grumble. The more I grow in gratitude, the more I grow in happiness.

The Attitude of Gratitude:

It is the attitude that defines a person. It is said that there are two basic attitudes that dominates our lives—the attitude of a dog and the attitude of a cat.

Cat and dog are both domesticated animals. We love them and care for them. Yet, they look at the love and care they receive differently. This is why they respond to our love in different manners. The cat would love to sit on your sofa and the best of the chairs, it would sit on your lap and eat from your table. The dog, on the other hand would be happy to sit at your feet, eat from the scrap that falls from your table and behold your face as you are seated on the chair. If the cat would prefer to sleep with you on your bed, the dog would be happy if you allow it to sleep under your bed. Take a cat for walk—it will walk before you and find its way where it likes to go. Take a dog for walk, it will follow you… even if you wouldn’t like it to follow you, it would love to walk behind you. The cat does not care when you return home, you call its name, it might just show its face and run away. But the dog will welcome you at the door, will show its excitement when you return home, and in all its strength and ability let you feel how much it missed you when you were away. The dog feels happy all the time it sees you. Now, this different behavior of the dog and cat are based on the way they think about you and what you do to them. The dog thinks, “my master loves me so much, and show so much care for me. Truly he must be God”. The cat on the other hand thinks, “They love me and care for me. Indeed, I must be really God!”

How about me? Am I more of a cat or of a dog? What attitude is dominant in me?
Am I a complaining and grumbling person or am I a praising and grateful person? Do I feel that I deserve the best, and I am not given enough? Do I complain that my parents, children, partner in life, boss, co-workers and subordinates do not give me what I truly deserve—love, care, respect and consideration? Do I feel the world owes me so much? Do I keep nagging about people and situations? Do I feel that I am treated unfairly and I give more than what is required of me? Have I ever felt that “I have a right on them, and they should be giving me from what they have because they have more”? If I feel yes, my attitude is that of the cat. The cat is never happy, never satisfied with what it has. It is never grateful.

If I feel that “I have not done anything extra-ordinary… I am an unprofitable servant” (Luke 17:10), I have an attitude like the dog. Do I feel happy whenever I receive a gift or favor? Do I feel that I owe them much for I have received much more? Do I easily remember what I borrow from people and forget what they owe me? Do I feel that others deserve better and more of blessings than I really have? Do I feel happy about the growth and achievements of my brothers and sisters? Do I take care to acknowledge the favors and help I receive from others?


The Leprosy of Ingratitude:

The Gospel story of the healing of the ten lepers reminds me also about the healing of leprosy I am afflicted with today—that of ingratitude. Ingratitude, like a leprosy, distorts me, impairs my vision, insensitizes my relationships and rottens my attitude. Ingratitude hurts. It hurts to be ignored of your love and sacrifices. Each of us has our own hurting stories of ingratitude. This day I bring before the Lord the pain of ingratitude I have experienced along with the pain I have inflicted upon others due to my apathy, indifference and ingratitude. May I take time to find words and ways to express my gratitude to everyone to whom I owe my life and happiness, beginning with my God, my family members and those whose love make me complete. May dare to open up the sores and scars of ingratitude and cry out, “Lord, have pity on me”. Even as I cry out for help, may I also remember His mercy and recognize His love. May I offer myself, all that I am and all that I have as a living sacrifice of gratitude to the Lord my God.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

ROSARY--A PRAYER SO PERFECT


October 7, 2010
FEAST OF MARY— QUEEN OF THE HOLY ROSARY
Luke 1: 26-38


Rosary: The Tradition and Spirituality of the Church

Rosary is one of the greatest spiritual treasures of the Church. Traditionally the rosary—a garland of beads—has been part of the spiritual traditions of all major religions. For the Catholics the Rosary has found its unique role in the life of the Church. Rosary is a living prayer that grows with the Church. The use of the prayer beads and the repeated recitation of prayers to aid meditation were found in the earliest traditions of the Church and have roots in the pre-Christian era. The structure of the rosary as we have it today evolved between the 12th and 15th centuries. Tradition has it that in the early 13th century St Dominic introduced and propagated the Rosary after a vision from the Blessed Virgin Mary. Since the 15th Century AD the rosary has gained greater popularity and in the spirituality and life of the Church. The saints and the popes have extolled the efficacy and power of the rosary down through the centuries. Mary herself in many of her apparitions has invited her children to take recourse to the strength and grace of the rosary. Indeed, for many Catholics, Rosary has become the unique sign of their faith and faithfulness, spirituality and tradition. The rosary has gained such a great place in the lives of the believers of all the walks and levels of faith. As Archbishop Fulton Sheen said, "The rosary is the book of the blind, where souls see and there enact the greatest drama of love the world has ever known; it is the book of the simple, which initiates them into mysteries and knowledge more satisfying than the education of other men; it is the book of the aged, whose eyes close upon the shadow of this world, and open on the substance of the next. The power of the rosary is beyond description."

The Four Elements of the Rosary

Indeed, the Rosary as we have it today, is more than a prayer, a garland of prayers. Indeed it is a summary of the entire Christian spirituality. Basically it contains four major elements of the Christian spirituality. These elements are: 1) Biblical spirituality, 2) Christological spirituality, 3) Trinitarian spirituality, and 4) Marian Spirituality.

Biblical:

The rosary is primarily a meditative prayer of the Scripture. It is rooted on the major episodes of the Holy scripture, specifically the Gospels. The rosary contains a remembrance, reflection and meditation on the life and mission of Jesus in his joyous, glorious, sorrowful and luminous mysteries. One who prays the whole rosary is praying the scripture in its entirety. The scripture, when meditated upon, effects a sanctification and purification of the heart of the one who prays the rosary. The entire prayers in the rosary are either directly taken from or greatly inspired by the scripture. Therefore, the rosary is a wonderful prayer with the Bible. In earlier times, the rosary was given as a substitute of "praying the psalms", as many were illiterate and were not able to read through the daily Biblical prayer of the psalms. How beautiful is the prayer of the rosary, as we recite it, we are praying with the hosts of angels, in the hymn of the Holy spirit and entering into the core of the Divine Word!

Christological:

The Rosary is a prayer of and about the Lord Jesus Christ. Apart from the meditative prayer on His life and mission, in rosary we pray with the Lord to the Father. When disciples asked Him to teach them to pray, Jesus taught them the prayer “Our Father”, and reminded them this is how they should pray. The Lord’s Prayer is a central element of the rosary. In fact, in the initial stage of the development of the rosary, the string of beads came to be known as “Paternosters”, the Latin for “Our Father”. By repeating the Lord’s Prayer more than five times in the five decades of the rosary, one is joining the Lord in praying the way He prayed, and join with Him in calling on to the heavenly Father.

Trinitarian:

The Mystery of God revealed in the scriptures as One Divinity in three persons is celebrated and lived over as the children of God pray the rosary. In this sense, the Rosary is a Trinitarian prayer, more than anything else. The rosary begins and ends with the invocation of the Holy Trinity; The Holy Trinity is invoked again in the repeated recitation of the Doxology (“Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit…”), and the role of the Holy Trinity is extolled in the history of salvation as in Mary God has become her beloved Father, cherished son and holy spouse. So profound is the rosary as a prayer and spirituality that through this mediation we enter into the core of the mystery of the Godhead and experience a mystical union with the Divine.

Marian:

Rosary, being the prayer of the Church, is also a prayer with Mary the mother and model of the Church. However, rosary is not invented by Mary, or by any other individual in the Church. As we have already seen, the rosary is scriptural prayer. The “Hail Mary” repeated over fifty times is taken from and inspired by the scripture. The first part of the prayer “Hail Mary” is the salutation of the Angel at the annunciation, and the exaltation of Elizabeth at the visitation of Mary. The second part of the Hail Mary is a prayer through the intercession of Mary for forgiveness and mercy. Mary, as the mother and prototype of the church, continues to journey with the church. By invoking her intercession one is entering into the heart of Jesus, sanctity of the Holy Spirit and the presence of the Father.

Connecting the past, present and the future:
The prayer “Hail Mary” is a connecting prayer. It connects the past, present and the future of humanity in general and the individual follower in particular.

The Past: As I pray, “Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners”, I am recalling my state of being sinful, my imperfections, failures and weaknesses of my past life. This becomes a prayer of reconciliation, reparation and repentance. Repentance is made possible by the recollection of the great love and mercy of God revealed in the history of salvation. My past life, therein is surrendered to the mercy and compassion of God.

The Present: “Pray for us sinners, now”. I put my trust in the Lord not only for His forgiveness and mercy, but for His great love and compassion that draws me close to His grace this day. I feel weak in my body, mind and spirit, yet the grace of God envelops me this very moment. This is why, trusting in His word I come to name and ask my needs to the Lord. I have confidence that through the powerful intercession of Mary, God will answer my prayers today. I bring to the Lord all my sorrows (in the sorrowful mysteries), joys (in the joyful mysteries), gratitude (in the glorious mysteries), and doubts, confusions and need for enlightenment (in the luminous mysteries). This way, even as the rosary becomes a profound celebration of the life of Christ in his joys, sorrows, glory and revelations, it also becomes a sacrificial offering of my entire life experiences of joys, sorrows, glory and enlightenment.

The Future: “Pray for us… at the hour of our death”. The recitation of the rosary reminds me repeatedly (over fifty times) of my destiny with God, the fragility of my life on earth, and the need for grace and strength as I will pass from this world at the call of the Lord. What more can we ask, and what more do I need than the assurance of the Heavenly Home at the completion of my earthly sojourn? One of the promises of the Blessed Virgin Mary in her apparitions to those who pray and live the rosary is the assurance of a “blessed death”. They are also promised that they will not suffer eternal damnation. They will not, indeed, because in the rosary they keep reflecting on their past and present life, make promises of atonement and keep praying for a peaceful death and thereafter eternal life with the Lord. This is the beauty and power of the rosary: it sanctifies my past life, strengthens my present life and prepares me for my death and eternal life.

A perfect Prayer:

Rosary, therefore, is a perfect prayer. It is Biblical, Trinitarian, Christological and Marian. It connects my past, present and future life in the world and in the spirit. It encompasses all human experiences of joy, sorrow, success and enlightenment. It invites me to imitate the life of Jesus and Mary and strengthens me to obtain what they promise. So it is my privilege to adorn this garland of prayer, to take recourse to these beads of grace, and to keep praying and celebrating the rosary in the mysteries of my salvation.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

PRAY AS JESUS PRAYS


October 6, 2010
Wednesday of the Twenty-Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Luke 11:1-4


Inspiring to Pray:

Prayer was for Jesus more than food and drink. He gave up food for several days, but not prayer. If His day was full of work, He found night time enough to pray. The disciples noticed Him praying alone in the wilderness no matter how exhausted He was because of the work of the day. They were impressed and inspired by the way Jesus prayed. The prayer of Jesus drew His disciples to Him. And they wanted to pray like Jesus. How about me? Do I inspire others to pray? Do those who are in my household and community ask me to teach them pray the way I pray? How prayerful am I?

The Model Prayer:

The Lord’s Prayer is a model and pattern of all Christian prayers. The prayer Jesus taught His disciples is “how” we need to pray more than “what” we ought to pray. A brief analysis of the Lord’s prayer reveals three elements and two attitudes of prayer. The three elements are: praise, petition and penance. The two attitudes are: Being a child of God and being a brother/sister to the entire human race.

The Three Elements of Prayer:

Praise:
The first part of the Lord’s prayer is about God and His Domain. We call on the Father, praise His name, desire His Kingdom, determine to do His will and lift our hearts to the heavens. Adoration, praise and glory are due to God. It is in this praise that we realize the descent of heaven on earth. Prayer then is an invitation to live in the heavenly abode; a deep longing to make the earth a home of God the Father where His holy will reigns.

Petition:
The second part of the Lord’s prayer is petition, asking the Father in confidence of all my needs—physical, spiritual, relational and emotional. Prayer is naming my needs before God. I become aware of my nothingness, needs and imperfections. I bring them to the Lord in complete trust that He will grand them to me. If not to Him where else shall I go? He is my Father, my creator, my sustainer and my provider. I need to be clear of what I am asking for.

Penance:
Prayer of petition is coupled with the acts of penance. I realize that what I pray for, I need to practice. My needs are connected with the needs of others as well. A prayer without the element of penance is not a farce. Forgiveness is a conditional grace. I forgive others and I am forgiven by the Father. In sharing the blessings I have received from God with others I receive more blessings from God. I cannot stand before God with an unforgiving and selfish heart. This is why prayer is not so much of utterances rather of actions.

The Attitudes of Prayer:

I learn the prayer of Jesus in as much as I realize my identity as a child of God and a member of the human family. Prayer then is about relationships. It is remaining in and deepening the relationship with God the Father and with my brothers and sisters. “Our Father in Heaven” is also Our Father on earth. This attitude brings me not only confidence and trust in the love of God but also a deepening intimate relationship and abiding presence. My awareness of being a child of God makes my prayer a sweet moment of entering the core of the heart of God. If God is my Father what shall I fear and what shall I lack? Yet, how can I call God my Father if I do not consider my brothers and sisters as children of God as well. This is why the Lord ’s Prayer is more of a community prayer than a personal prayer. Jesus reminds us to call God “our Father” and not “my Father”. There is no tint of selfishness or self-centeredness in prayer. It is not about me, but about us, the human family. Even when I pray for my basic needs and personal intentions, I am also praying for my brothers and sisters. No wonder, Jesus reminded us that God will treat us the way we treat our brothers and sisters. As I forgive others I will be forgiven.

Lord, teach me to pray. Help me to praise you with all my being, strength and will. Help me Lord to atone my sins and forgive others their faults. You are my Father; help me to love my brothers and sisters as you love me. Amen!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

INCREASE IN FAITH


October 3, 2010
Twenty-Seventh Sunday Of The Year
Habakuk 1:2-3;2:2-4; 2 Timothy 1:6-8,13-14; Luke 17:5-10


Roberto and Juliette were young couples in Madrid. They were both doctors of medicine and had an adorable life with a promising career. Life seemed to be so bright for them. But suddenly things changed when Juliette was diagnosed to have cancer of the colons, that too, in an advanced stage. She had to undergo an operation immediately and they set the date. That Sunday, as Juliette returned home from the Holy mass, she told Roberto that she is not going for the operation rather she would join the parish group in a pilgrimage to the Lourdes. Roberto was shocked to hear that. He said, “Oh! no… you cannot do that! You are a doctor, and you know that this operation is very urgent. We cannot take any chances at this time. And, no! you cannot travel in this situation.” But Juliette would not listen to him. She said, “I have made up my mind. I do not want to have the operation. I will go to Lourdes, however weak I may be. I know it is risky for me to travel at this time. But, I feel the Lord will see me through.” Roberto got mad at her. When he found that no argument could ever change her mind, he brought her to the Parish priest who was organizing the pilgrimage. Roberto asked the priest to dissuade Juliette from her plan of pilgrimage and help her to consent for the operation. In spite of the enlightening and persuasive words of the priest, Juliette persisted on her plan. Roberto, then said: “I cannot understand you!”. Juliette said in reply, it is true, now we fail to understand each other because we speak different languages. You are speaking the language of reason and I am speaking the language of faith”.

The Language of Faith:
As believers we speak the language of faith. Jesus’ language was one of faith which the disciples did not understand in many occasions. The Apostles found themselves wanting in faith, in understanding Jesus and in being part of His ministry. This led impelled them to come to Jesus and pray, “Lord, increase our faith”. This was one shining moment in the lives of the Apostles with Jesus when they realized how weak they are in faith, and how Jesus could help them increase in their faith. This shall be my prayer too, today: “Lord, increase my faith”. Perhaps this is the best prayer we can ever make. When I have an increase of faith I will see the world differently, I will see it through the eyes of God.

Increase of Faith:

But what did the apostles mean when they asked for an increase of faith? How do I know that I am growing in faith? The readings for our reflection today present us with three stages of growth in faith. These stages are, 1. Trust and confidence; 2. Patience and perseverance; and 3. Gratitude.

Faith as TRUST and CONFIDENCE:

Faith is power. Faith can move mountains. A man of faith can work wonders and miracles. Jesus said, “if you have faith as little as the mustard seed, tell this mulberry tree to be uprooted and go and plant itself in the sea, it will obey you”. Jesus constantly taught us about the need to have a trusting faith. Have faith in the Lord, and “ask, it shall be granted unto you.” Again, Jesus said, “Whatsoever you ask to the Father in my name, He will give you”. The scripture teaches us that nothing is impossible for God and He will grand everything to those who ask Him in faith. Faith, in this level is the unwavering confidence in the providence of God. A man of faith is one who can do miracles and wonders, for, his prayers are all powerful with the Lord. This is why we often measure the faith of a person with his/her ability to work miraculous signs. No wonder, the world is after “faith-healers” and “faith-preachers” who, because of the strength of their faith and power of their prayers are able to bring instant healing and make impossible things happen.

Have confidence in the Lord. Believe and trust that His promises are true. Live in His loving and caring presence. God will not allow His children to suffer and ruin. This is faith. Yet, this is only the first level of faith.

Faith as PATIENCE and PERSISTENCE:

As I grow in faith I realize that faith is not about “asking and receiving” and that faith does not consist in a carrot and stick approach. It is a common experience of faith that God does not grant whatever I ask. God gives me only what is best. Faith does not take me on jolly-good ride, rather it takes me on the way of the cross. My growth in faith is marked with my journey through the dark nights of the soul. Faith tells me that God is nearer than ever, that He is within me and He cares for me. At the same time I painfully realize that I am being tested and troubled. Even when I cry out to Him with all my energy and strength, many a time God seems to be so far far away. I cry out day in and day out but God does not seem to answer me. In the first reading, Prophet Habakkuk had such an experience. Habakkuk was a minister of the Word of God, a prophet who dedicated His life for the work of God. He was given the promise and vision of God’s glory. Yet, he found himself in misery, his life was in danger. What grieved him most was the fact that God seemed so silent and so distant to him. In desperation and misery He cried out to God, “Lord, why don’t you answer me? Why are you so silent? Why do you hide your face from me? Your promises all seem so dry!” Then God answers and tells him that He is close to him. Be patient. Be patient! His prayers will be answered not in his time, but in God’s time. Who said that God did not hear his prayer and answer him? God’s answer to him was to be patient and to wait! Indeed, when God seems silent to my cries for help, it is not that He does not answer my prayer. He is asking me to wait. He is preparing something better than what I have asked for.

The test of faith is patience. How patient am I with myself, with my brothers and sisters, and with God? How well do I persist in trials and dark moments of life and faith?

Faith as GRATITUDE:

The attitude of faith grows from confidence to patience and culminates in gratitude. The highest expression of faith is gratitude. To the apostles who asked for an increase of faith Jesus told the parable of a servant who having worked day and night carrying out the will of his master considered his service as a privilege and thinks of himself as an “unprofitable servant”. This parable has the historical background of Jesus’ time when unemployment was rampant to have a job was considered a blessing. The employees were demanded to do multi-tasking and were required to work round the clock. They would not murmur or complain for the demands put on them; rather, they were only grateful that they were employed. Such is the case with those who believe in the Lord. Faith is demanding. It demands the faithful to be loyal, obedient and humble before the Lord. Faith demands that I conform myself to the will of God. Faith demands that I be grateful for all that the Lord has planned for me. The foremost sentiment I have before the Lord is that of gratitude that the Lord has made me part of His grace and mission.

I believe in the Lord not because He will grand me what I ask for, nor because His promises are awaited, but because He has given me the gift of faith, and His will for me is greater than what I can hope for. This is why I will rejoice in whatever the Lord will permit in my life. Now I see not by reason but by faith.

Test of Faith

I know I have grown in faith when I am able to say “thank you Lord” for all the pains and sufferings of my life. If I am afflicted with illness and I ask for healing but if what the Lord gives me is more suffering and deterioration of health, and then if I am able to say “thank you Lord for this illness” then I know I have grown in faith. If I have a nagging headache, and I cry out to the Lord for help, and if what the Lord gives me is not comfort but more pain, then if I am able to look at my pain and offer it to the Lord and say, “thank you Lord, for this pain”, then I know I have grown in faith. If what I ask for is a happy, peaceful and adorable relationship, yet instead what I get is a hurting, difficult relationship, and then looking at this hurt if I am able to say, “thank you Lord, for this hurting relationship”, then I know I am growing in faith. Indeed, faith is accepting the will of God in my life and recognizing His loving presence in the cross of my life. Faith is growing in the awareness that whatever I receive from the hands of God—happiness or sorrow—is all for my good and that makes me feel grateful. Growing in faith is growing in the ability to offer my life as a sacrifice of gratitude to God. All that I see now may be pain, trouble, darkness and destruction… but faith helps me see the hands of God holding and leading me to the shore of light and glory. Thanks be to Him forever and ever!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

THE DISTURBING PRESENCE


September 23, 2010
Thursday. 25th Week in Ordinary Time
LUKE 9:7-9

Disturbing presence:


Jesus’ presence is not always comforting, consoling, owe-inspiring and justifying. His presence in most occasions could be disturbing. Such was the experience of Herod, the Tetrarch. Herod was perplexed, confused and disturbed in His conscience when he heard of the story of Jesus. He was disturbed because his immoral ways of life and relationships were exposed and challenged by John the Baptist. John disturbed his conscience, yet Herod did not repent. He liked listening to John but had no courage to face the real face of his own being and to take steps to correct himself. His weakness was revealed when he had to behead John at the desire of his illegal wife Herodias. Now, in Jesus the voice of John came to haunt Herod. He believes that Jesus cannot be anyone but John returned to life. He was disturbed for panic and fear struck him. He is now faced with a double dilemma: This Jesus has shaken the comfort of his castle of immoral life. The return of John has put Herod powerless, for the ultimate weapon of punishment—death—has no effect on the Prophet. Since he can no longer silence John, He has to live in the constant echo of truth that comes straight to his heart from the prophet. He had two options: either repent, leave behind the sinful life and follow the path of reconciliation and love, or ignore the voice of the prophet, give a deaf ear to Him even as pretending to befriend him for the lurking fear of his being. He chose to be complacent, but only to be disturbed for his life forever.

Wishful Thinking:

It takes courage and decisiveness to be converted. A feeble heart and confused mind cannot embark on the path of conversion. Herod is a perfect example of the tragedy of wishful thinking. The call to conversion came to him through John and Jesus. He delighted in listening to them. He longed to see Jesus. Yet, he did not take any step to fulfill this longing of his heart. Imagine, what would have been the course of history, if Herod did listen to his conscience and embarked on the path of conversion, took a step towards the Lord to see Him and decided take the challenge Jesus gave Him! Had that happened, Herod would have been venerated as a great saint throughout the world today, a model to be emulated. But what has become of him is the opposite of the ideal. His heart’s longing for Jesus remained a wishful thinking.

Grace and Repentance:

It was Divine grace that came to Herod in the call of John for repentance. It was again that very same grace in its highest form that came to Him in the person of Jesus. The disturbance in his conscience was vicarious; an act of the Holy Spirit, impelling him to act on it so that he may receive the forgiving and merciful grace from the heart of Jesus. Had he dared taking one step towards God, God would have taken a thousand steps carrying him into His abode of peace and reconciliation.

How about me? How often do I feel the “disturbing presence” of the Lord? What direction do I take when the Lord gives me the grace of His disturbance in my heart? How do I respond to the impelling longing I have “to see Jesus”? Does the desire for constant conversion and transformation remain a “wishful thinking”, or do I take a daring step to encounter the true person I am with the person of Jesus?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

GOOD NEWS!


September 21, 2010
Feast of Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist
Matthew 9:9-13


Good News and Bad News:

“Good news is bad news, bad news is good news, no news is bad news”. This is the journalistic principle on which the media firms operate. This media law implies that good news (positive stories, pleasant happenings) is bad news for media, for they do not spiral subscription (audience)ratings. Bad news (negative stories, war, kidnapping, terrorist acts, violence and sufferings) is always good news for the media firms for they have the highest viewership ratings and there by they bring in the highest revenue. Media feeds on bad news--breaking stories--on which people are hooked. No news (news blackout, status quo, peaceful situation) is bad news for the media firms because such situations bring them little revenue. This “news principle” is based on the human tendency to magnify what is perceived to be bad, evil and unacceptable. Indeed, our media today thrives on bad news. And humanity seems to be happy being hooked on to bad news.

Against such “culture of bad news”, Jesus came ushering in a culture of good news. The story of Jesus—the Gospel is the Good News. Jesus not only gave us the good news of the Kingdom of God, He also became the Good News for us. Indeed, the message and the person of Jesus are identical, and hence is the Eternal Good News for the entire human race.

We celebrate today the feast of Mathew, the Apostle and Evangelist. Mathew was drawn to the Good News that Jesus is, accepted the call of the Gospel and became a proclaimer and channel of the Good News as he encoded the Gospel for the generations to come.

But not everyone thought of Jesus as good news. When the sinners, outcasts, tax collectors and the untouchables sensed the presence of God in Jesus and were happy moving with Him, eating with Him and making friends with Him, the Pharisees and scribes saw Jesus as a bad news. They were shocked by the scandalous behavior of Jesus in being friends with the sinners and sharing intimate moments with them in their table fellowship.

The Triple Hearts:

The story of the call of Mathew is a revelation of the heart of God, the heart of the sinner and the heart of the Pharisees.

The Heart of Jesus:

Jesus is comfortable with the socially outcasts and the public sinners. He feels drawn towards the repentant sinners so much that He recognizes His purpose of incarnation as one exclusively for the sinners. He feels welcome and acceptance in their midst. He feels happy when the sinners turn to Him. He opens His heart and reveals His mercy. Merciful and compassionate is the heart of Jesus. His heart delights not so much in sacrifices and prayers, but more so in mercy and compassion. This is why He dared to do the unpopular and “scandalous” in calling Mathew, a tax collector into the inner circle of His disciples, to be with Him and to be sent out. In the call of Mathew, Jesus is calling all the sinners to Him. The heart of Jesus is the ultimate refuge and solace for all the sinners. Now I have hope, I am welcome and accepted in the presence of God. A repentant sinner is the Good News for Jesus.

The Heart of a Repentant Sinner:

Even as the repentant sinner is the delight of the Lord, the heart of the repentant sinner is open for the grace and mercy of God. Mathew knew his identity in the society as a tax-collector. He does not seem to be too happy living with that identity. His heart longed for more. And He found Jesus. Or rather, it was Jesus who found Him. At the spark of His grace, Mathew’s heart leaped for joy. Jesus called Him, he responded with gratitude. Mathew had a heart so simple, unassuming and receptive. His heart was full of gratitude for the immense mercy Jesus poured on Him. In calling a man like Mathew with a history of disrepute, Jesus did not make a mistake. The Divine heart of mercy found a receptive, humble, generous heart of a sinner. Mathew became a good news for Jesus.

The Heart of the Pharisee:

The Pharisee is a symbol of self-righteousness. His self-imposed image of being the standard bearer of the society and the prince of God makes him arrogant and rude. The norm of perfection is himself. Such great pride in his heart impels him to be a perennial critic of everyone other than himself. This is why He would think that he is holy, so holy that even God Himself is unholy. His heart feels bad that Jesus is imperfect because He makes friends with the sinners and eats with the “unclean” people. His heart is closed to the light of Christ and the streams of grace. Mercy and compassion have no place in his heart. He feels that he is so good that He does not need the grace and forgiveness of God. His heart is beyond redemption. Jesus finds helpless in saving such a heart. Indeed, His mercy is for the sinners, those who consider themselves sick, in need of His healing grace.

Points to Ponder:

What heart do I have? Do I have the heart of Jesus, a heart full of compassion, mercy and love? Do I have the heart of an Apostle and evangelist, delighting in the heart of Jesus, grateful and proclaiming His grace? How open and receptive is my heart towards the forgiving grace of the Lord? How eagerly do I long for and how spontaneously do I give up my “sinful practices” at the call of the Lord? In what areas and situations of my life do I exhibit the pharisaic heart? How do I handle the itch to criticize everyone and demand that everyone should conform to my attitudes and mentality? Am I a promoter of Good News or bad news?


Monday, September 20, 2010

LIGHT OF FAITH


September 20, 2010
Monday, 25th Week in Ordinary Time
Luke 8: 16-18

Christ the Light:


One of the most effective and powerful symbolism Jesus found to describe Himself was that of the light. He claimed to be the light of the world. He called His disciples to abide in His light. Further, He also claimed that His disciples are the light of the world. The Gospel of John speaks of eternal light breaking upon us tearing down the curtain of the darkness of sin and impurities. Indeed, Jesus, the Son of God is the light of the universe, the light shining in every soul, mind and heart, calling creation to the realm of the kingdom of light. God is light because everything is made manifest in Him, there is no duplicity in Him and He is the source and summit of all that is good, beautiful and truthful. Jesus is the light of the World, for, in Him the Father is made manifest to the world and the world is made manifest to the Father.

We, the Light:

Just as the Lord is the Light of the world, so are we, His disciples. Jesus wants us to live as children of the light. The properties of light such as vision, clarity, transparency, openness and purity are gifted to His disciples in the abundance of Grace from the heart of God the Father. Today we are called upon to be the light of Christ in a world of darkness, deception and contradictions. I am called to be reveal in my person, words, dealings and relationships the true image of God to the creation that surrounds me, and well as to bring the creation into the Light of the Lord in Heaven.

Light of Faith:
I come into the light of Christ by virtue of the grace of baptism. At baptism, a lighted candle was given to me and to my parents and godparents with the reminder that I am receiving the light of Christ. I was also reminded that this light is to be kept burning bright in my heart, giving light to those around me, till the time I enter the eternal light in Heaven. Further, I was told that the baptismal grace and the light of faith are the gift of the Holy Trinity, through the Church, for me to be strong and guide in my pilgrimage of life. This light is an assurance for me that the Lord has already come in history, He is present in my person, and He will come again in glory. I keep this light alive as a sign of my longing for Him, to welcome Him no matter whatever time and hour of the day He will arrive.

Witnessing the Light:
The light is meant for others. It cannot be hidden. So also, my faith cannot all be a “personal” and “private” affair. Faith is a communitarian affair. To say that I have faith, I believe in Christ, but I do not believe in the practices of faith in the Church is to say that I have no faith at all. To hide the light is to distinguish the light and to deny the existence of light.

Jesus wants me to practice my faith, to proclaim it, and to be a witness to His light wherever I may be. My faith is to be seen in my life and dealings. Do people around me see the strength of my faith? Do people related to me, beginning with my family, my friends and co-workers recognize my faith and faith practices? Do they feel attracted to “pray the way I pray” and to “worship in faith, as I do”? Do I become a pointer and image leading people to Jesus? Does my faith have a positive influence in the community I live?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

GOD AND MAMMON:



September 19, 2010
Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Amos 8:4-7; 1Timothy 2:1-8; Luke 16:1-13


There is this story of three visitors who came to the house of a certain man. They sat outside under the tree. The woman of the house saw them and invited them in. The visitors asked, “is your husband in?” She said, “no, he is out on work and will arrive in the evening?”. The visitors said, then they will wait until her husband arrives, because they have something very important to offer. In the evening, when the man of the house arrived, his wife reported to him the story of the visitors waiting outside their home. So the husband went out and found them sitting under the tree. He invited them to come into his house. The visitors said, they would be happy to enter his house, but, they cannot go in all together. Only one of them would go in. They introduced themselves as “wealth”, “peace”, and “love”. They said, please go in, consult your wife and come and tell us who among us you would like to enter your house. The man went in and told his wife, “see, God has really come to visit us in the form of the three visitors. We shall chose one of them, ‘wealth, peace or love’. You know our problems; we are deeply in financial crisis. We struggle to make both ends meet. God has heard our prayers. Let us invite wealth in, our house will be filled with wealth and laughter, and we will be happy forever”. His wife, then said, “may be, we should invite peace. You know how much we suffer because of lack of peace. How long we have been struggling with mistrust and friction in relationship, anxiety and worry over our life! If peace comes in, we will be filled with joy and we will be happy forever!”. Their little daughter who was overhearing this discussion sprang up. She said, mommy, daddy, why don’t we invite love? If love comes in, we will be filled with grace, we will have a loving family, a piece of heaven on earth. And we will be happy forever. The parents decided to give into the demand of their daughter. The man of the house went out and said, “Whoever among you is love, please come in”. Love got up and started walking toward the door. Behind him wealth and peace got up and made their way into the house. At this the man of the house was surprised and said, “I do not understand you, I thought you said, only one of you will enter my house, and you asked me to chose one, but now all the three of you are coming in!” Then the visitors said: What we said is true. It is like this. Had you invited peace of wealth, they would come in alone. But now since you have chosen love, love cannot go in alone. Love is always accompanied by wealth and peace. Wherever there is love, there is wealth and peace!”

Today Jesus asks to make a choice. He tells us that our choice is between God and material possessions (mammon). We cannot chose both. It is either God or material possessions (anything other than God) to which we allocate the place of God in our lives. The interesting thing, is however, that if we chose mammon, we will end up losing God and all His graces, wealth included, and if we are to chose God, we end up gaining all, God and wealth as well. So whom do you invite into your house today—God or mammon?

Chose God and you will be rich. Chose mammon and you will be eternally poor! This is the paradox of life. In the first place, God and mammon are not equal entities for the choice. God is the creator of all the universe, of all the living and non-living things in it, all the spiritual and material blessings, all power and authority, all the heavens and earth. Mammon (the Greek word for material wealth) is only one among all his creations. Mammon has no existence in itself. It exists in relationship to others. It is the human mind that gives being and meaning to mammon. The human mind has the capacity to elevate the ‘non-existing” or “relatively-existing” mammon to the level of God. Greed is the feed on which mammon swells, grows and develops into a God. When a person is enveloped in greed, all that he would see is “money”, and the highest worth and value in life is “money”. Money, then assumes the yardstick, the measure of relationships and moral practices. Whatever can earn you the maximum money is good for you. Whatever can give you the highest dividend and return in terms of money is the supreme value for you. A man of mammon is blind. Such a person will perish in his greed.
Amos noticed how the people of Israel were possessed by their material possessions as they were competing each other in exploiting the poor, taking advantage of the weak and devising new plans for cheating. Corruption was written broad on their faces. Anything was alright for them if it would enrich themselves. Such ungodliness, insincerity, dishonesty and abominable practices were rampant on one side even as they gloried in the name of God and offered Him worship. Amos warned them of the wrath of God on them, for they were desecrating Yahweh and His temple all for the sake of mammon.

Jesus came 500 years after Amos and found the social situation remained the same, deep in corruption. This is why He demanded His disciples to be trustworthy, honest, loyal and sincere in their dealings with money, material wealth and possessions. His parable of the dishonest servant reminded them that they are all servants of whom are demanded accountability and transparency of dealings.

2000 years after Jesus’ cry for honesty and sincerity, our world does not seem to have taken His message to the heart. Corruption remains to be one of the problems that we have come to recognize as widespread, deep rooted and rotting our social and familial structure. The last general elections in the Philippines was fought on lines of corruption, and the present president made his impact with the slogan, “no corruption, no poverty!”. But how do we eradicate corruption? What is the corruption that we usually talk about? We talk aloud of corruption in the government and public office, corruption in the proportion of billions of pesos/dollars. We feel corruption can be healed if we are able to punish the “corrupt officials” at the top, if we can make them accountable and if we can terminate them from their posts. Yet, if we look at the situation through the eyes of Jesus we come to realize that punishing the “those who are caught” will not solve the problem. Rather, we need to strike at the bottom and begin with our children and each family. Corruption in business practices and governance is just the tip of the iceberg. They simply indicate the collective mentality of corruption in the society. Yes, it is the corrupt human mind that needs to be treated first. We need to heal the corrupt minds, mentalities, trade practices, and corruption in relationships.

The Jesus’ principle:
Jesus prescribes the cure: If you are sincere in simple matters you will be sincere in great matters as well. If you are trust worthy in small things you will be trustworthy in great things as well. So, here is the rub: be trustworthy and honest in small matters. We need to teach our children to be sincere and honest in small as well as great things. We need to remind ourselves and our children that it is bad to tell a lie, it is a sin to be untruthful. Be it a white lie, grey lie or a black lie, it is equally bad. A lie is always a lie. When I absolve myself by the thought that it is “only a white lie” I am corrupting my mind. We need to teach our children that cheating is always cheating, be it in big matters or small ones. We need to remind ourselves stealing is bad and a sin, be it one peso, a small little thing, five pesos, five thousand pesos or five billion pesos. If we are able to enter the mind of Jesus regarding the practice of the Ten Commandments in spirit and truth, we will overcome corruption in all forms.

The test of integrity is not in the ability to do great things and to be honest in big matters, rather in your sincerity in small matters and the fidelity in small things. It is the small things in life that make us great. It is the small things that define how trust-worthy you are!

How truthful am I in my words? How honest am I in my dealings in business, trade and employment? Do I absolve myself in cheating—on relationships, studies, trade and business practices?

Friday, September 17, 2010

THE WOMEN OF JESUS


September 17, 2010

Friday, 24th Week in Ordinary Time
1 Cor 15:12-20; Luke 8:1-3


The Mission of Jesus:

Jesus is on the move. From town to town, village to village He moves about proclaiming and preaching the Good News of the Kingdom of God and manifesting the advent of His Kingdom in acts of healing, feeding, exorcising, feeding, caring and life-giving. He seems to be in a hurry so as to reach every nook and corner of the world and to reach out to people of all walks of life, all forms of human situations. He exemplifies the Love of the Heavenly Father in loving the sinners and saints alike, doing good to the religious minded and the atheists alike. Nothing stops Him from His mission—neither acceptance, nor failure. Yet He stops at the sight of the suffering, the destitute and the oppressed. He stops by also the self-righteous, calling them true repentance. Jesus stops by me today. Do I notice His presence and hear His call?

The partners of Jesus:

Establishing the Kingdom of God is the most ambitious project one has ever undertaken in human history. It was hatched right from the beginning of creation straight at the heart of the Heavenly Father. The Kingdom of love, mercy and kindness extends from the heart of God to the heart of man, from the heart man to the heart of God, again, from the heart of man to the hearts of the entire human race. It does not stop there, until it extends to the heart of every being and fiber of the universe. Indeed, this is a project of bringing heaven on earth and bringing the universe to the heavens. Jesus inaugurated it and accomplished it in His life, death and resurrection. Yet, the Kingdom building is a project unfinished. Jesus needs partners. His made the apostles partners of His Kingdom. Many women were also partners of Jesus. Yes, women proved to be great partners of Jesus in His Kingdom building.

The Women of Jesus:

The role of women in the life and Kingdom building of Jesus was one of great importance. A woman offered Him the comfort, care and love of a mother. Mary brought Him up, giving Him birth, teaching Him lessons of love, and showing Him direction. She stood by Him in His birth, infancy, ministry, death, resurrection, ascension, and with the community He founded. The first among the evangelists were women like the Samaritan woman and Mary Magdalene. The Canaanite woman and the woman afflicted with hemorrhage were Jesus model of great faith. The poor widow at the temple who contributed few cents at the treasury is the model of great generosity. The sinful woman who washed the feet of Jesus with her tears is Jesus’ model of great love. The sisters of Lazarus, Mary and Martha were Jesus’ friends and they are highlighted as models of hospitality and discipleship. It is fascinating to notice that in a culture where women were not allowed to mingle with men in public, Jesus had so many women followers, disciples and friends, who not only came to listen to Him, but even more, followed Him wherever He went. They provided for Him and the Apostles from their resources. If not for the support of the women, Jesus’ ministry would fail. So is it with the Church today. Women are not only the most active believers in the Church, they are also the most resourceful when it come to the mission and ministry of the Church. Their faith and faithfulness are seen among the line of saints. Their generosity and love are seen in the financial contributions they make so silently, the way they take care of the physical needs of the Church, the ministers and the missionaries. Their love for Christ is seen also in their dedicated life of religious commitment, the ever growing number and spirit of religious communities. If not for the contributions and support of the women, the Church would be empty, dry and Her ministry would be impossible. Often, they go unnamed, unnoticed and unrecognized. Yet, the Gospel today counts them and names some of them: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna & many others who travelled with Jesus wherever He went, and gave financial support and ministered Him. Jesus loves them all. Only Jesus loves them the way they deserve it—with kindness, compassion, understanding, love and generosity.

Today, I take time to count the women in my ministry who care for me, support me, and strengthen me in building up His Kingdom. May the Lord God, who has noticed their contributions keep them in His care, and give them His abundant grace! May their dreams come true and may their rewards be great in this life and the life to come.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

BLESSED SINNER



September 16, 2010
Thursday, 24th Week in Ordinary Time
Luke 7:36-50

Categories of Sin


Sin is generally categorized as mortal and venial. We have been taught from our childhood that we need to confess our sins and seek forgiveness, especially those that are mortal. Mortal sins, we know are grave sins. Those who commit mortal sins, we brand them as “sinners” needing repentance. The mortal sinners are easy to be identified. Most of them might be publicly accused, tried and punished in the civic court. This is why those committing mortal sins have been identified as public sinners.

Our general attitude towards venial sins is one of complacency. We say, we all commit mistakes (although, there are many who would even claim that they are perfect, without sin, the world around them is sinful, though), but it is due to the human weaknesses. So it is ok, understandable, tolerable, acceptable for us to do ‘the little sins’. Our logic is, any way we always live in grace and so we are absolved always.

But Jesus does not make such a distinction of sin as mortal and venial. For him, what we consider as venial could become mortal, and what we consider mortal can be venial. This is why He re-interpreted the Ten Commandments, “you have heard in the past, murder, and anyone who murders will be liable to judgment. But I tell you, anyone who is angry with his brother will be brought to trial, anyone who calls his brother ‘you good for nothing’ and raqa (‘you fool’) will stand before the senhedrin”(Mt 5:21-24), and again, “you have heard that it was said, ‘do not commit adultery’, but I tell you, anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mt 5: 27-28). Indeed, for Jesus a sin is always a sin. The gravity of the sin is not in the nature of sin, in the external manifestations and attributes we perceive, but in the ‘perception of God in His infinite wisdom. Because of this Jesus warns us time and again: “do not judge others” and “leave judgment to God”.

Categories of Sinners

Even as Jesus does not categorize sins, He does categorize the sinners. For Jesus the sinners are of two kinds: self-righteous sinners and repentant sinners. Human nature is characterized by sin and grace. Where sin raises its head, Grace abounds. The very purpose of the coming of Jesus was to deliver us from the powers of sin. In God’s eyes, everyone is a sinner needing His forgiving grace and ineffable mercy. Yet, not everyone would open their hearts to the grace and forgiveness of God. Only those who would see themselves as great sinners wallowing in the clutches of evil, helplessly crying out for the redeeming grace of God can receive the forgiveness and strengthening grace that flows from the heart of Jesus. The Pharisees in the Gospel considered themselves righteous, leading good, holy and pious lives, deserving the grace of God. They felt themselves so good that the presence of the sinners made them uncomfortable. They even questioned the “morality” and integrity of Jesus who moved with and made friends with the sinners, and now enjoyed the ‘touch, kiss and love’ of a sinful woman, a “prostitute” at that. The Pharisee was shocked that the “sinful woman” dared to enter the presence of the “holy people”. But, Jesus knows the heart of the “sinful woman” and the “self-righteous man”, and reveals His heart that loves more a hardcore sinner who repents than a “self-righteous sinner” who never feels the need of repentance.

Blessed Sinner:

Sinners are not only welcome to Jesus; they are rewarded with more love. It is a difficult proposition of Jesus to understand that those who are forgiven more are loved more, and those who are loved more are forgiven more. So, more love is revealed in more forgiveness. Forgiveness is shown in more love. The woman who washed the feet of Jesus with her tears of remorse went home with a heart full of love. And Jesus made her a model worth emulating for all the ages. The Pharisee, who was self-righteous, a publicly acclaimed good religious, went down in history, a person who needed more repentance, more forgiving grace and mercy. To tell someone that I love him/her is to ask her for forgiveness and to say with all sincerity that I forgive.

How do I measure my love? Do I forgive more and seek forgiveness more even as I claim to love more?

Do I feel complacent in my sinfulness that “I commit only venial sins”? How often do I make a good confession?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

MOTHER OF SORROWS


September 15, 2010

Memorial, Our Lady f Sorrows
Wednesday, 24th Week In Ordinary Time


Mother of sorrows

Mother, thy name is sorrow!
The ancient curse of sin broke your heart and you bled streams of tears
In pain you give birth, and in pain you bring us forth.
Mother, shared with me your body broken, your womb, your artery, and all the fibers of my physical frame.

In pain you saw me part from you, and in sorrow you gazed my fall.
When I was whipped, scourged, and stripped naked,
You my mother assumed my pain.
The cross, so heavy, was forced on my shoulders,
Mother, of sorrows, your hands reached for me.

I hang on the cross, suspended between heaven and earth,
I saw your heart, mother, trembling and broken,
For your sorrow indeed, is the sorrow of your son, you feel wretched, frozen and dry.
Death came calling, yet you lived on, for your sorrow, no death can match.

Mother, you keep living, as long as your children stand struggling,
For your sorrow is the grace manifest for your children in grief.
What marvel God has done, in giving us a mother, who stands by the cross!

Room I make for you, my mother most beloved,
In my heart, shallow and weak, though, for you forever.
When you are with me, in my tears and strife,
I will never fall, for you endure my fall.
Your heart, my mother, might break, but never ever your dream...

YOU BE MY CROSS



September 14, 2010

Feast, Triumph of The Holy Cross
Tuesday of the 24th Week In Ordinary Time


Numbers 21:4-9; Philippians 2:6-11; John 3:13-17


The Cross:
We, Christians in general, and the Catholics in particular are a strange kind of people. We extol the cross and exalt in the triumph of the cross. We carry in our body, mind and heart signs of the cross. We were baptized with water and the Holy Spirit in the sign of the cross. Every prayer we make, we begin and end with the sign of the cross. When we pass by the Church and other Holy places we bless ourselves with the sign of the cross. Indeed, we glory in the sign of the cross.

The Sign of the Cross:

The cross is a sign. It connotes the infinite love of God for us in the self sacrifice of His beloved Son Jesus Christ. And it denotes the victory of Christ over sin and death. The cross is the sign of the Lord Jesus Christ—His obedience to the will of the Father and His fidelity of love to His people. It is the sign of the Church—her love for the Lord and her sacrificial commitment for the world. It is the sign of a Christian, a disciple—his baptismal covenant and fraternal love.

The Gaze of the Cross:

More than an arbitrary symbol, the cross is a sure source of grace, healing, love and life. “Everyone who looks up to the crucified one” will be saved. “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, and everyone who looked up to the mounted snake on the pole were redeemed from the snake-bite, so also everyone who is bitten by bitterness, anger, enmity, pride, vengeance, addictions, and all forms of sin will be redeemed by the grace that flows from the crucified one. It is paradoxical that the sign of death has become the sign of life, the cross of shame and condemnation and punishment has become the sign of grace, love and redemption. Thanks to the cross of Christ, we now have a definite vision of salvation. In the moments of pain, trials, anxieties, worries, tensions, defeat, brokenness, sickness and death I just need to gaze on the Cross of Christ. It is His cross that gives meaning to my crosses. My gaze upon the Crucified one will envelop me in His grace of endurance, patience and healing.

The Vertical and Horizontal Dimensions of the Cross:

The redemptive nature of the cross is manifest in its vertical and horizontal dimensions. Vertically, the cross of Christ descends from the heavens to the earth and rises from the earth to the heavens. It connects heaven and earth. The mount Calvary upon which the cross of Christ was erected rose to touch the zenith of heavens wherefrom the Father accepted the sacrifice of His Son. The cross then is a sign of connectedness between God and man, the heaven and earth. This is why every time we make the sign of the cross we are instantly connected with the abode of God, the throne of Christ and presence of the Heavenly Father. In His infinite wisdom, God devised the cross a ladder for us to ascent to heaven. On the Cross our God comes down to embrace and He lifts us up to the heaven.

On the horizontal sphere, the cross extents to the ends of the world reaching out from one corner to the other. The cross connects the hearts of every human being. As Jesus spread His hands on the Cross, He embraced every member of the human family, those in the past, present and the future, of every race, color, class, sect and religion. So, when I make the sign of the cross, I embrace in love the entire human race as my beloved family. I cannot make the sign of the cross if I nurture hatred towards any of my brothers and sisters. I am desecrating the cross, when I embrace it with no commitment of love and fidelity towards my brothers and sisters in Christ.

The Trinitarian Cross:

The sign of the Cross is the most concise beautiful prayer we have. When I mark myself with the sign of the Cross, “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”, I am consecrating myself to and through the Hoy Trinity. I consecrate and sanctify my intellect (mind, memories, knowledge and will) with the Love of God the Father, my body (humanity, creatureliness, physical properties) with the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and my heart (feelings, emotions, relationships) with the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. By making the sign of the Cross, I am renewing my baptismal covenant with the Holy Trinity. This why the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XI has said, “By signing ourselves with the cross, we place ourselves under the protection of the cross, hold it in front of us like a shield that will guard us in all the distress of daily life and give us the courage to go on.”

Be the Cross:

The sign of the cross challenges me, not only to mark myself with the protection of the cross, to gaze on the cross, to stand at the center of the vertical and horizontal dimensions of the cross and to pray the cross in Trinitarian grace, but also to be the sign of the cross wherever I am. To become the cross is the call Jesus gives me as a disciple. Cross is a sign of love and summit of sacrificial grace. So, I am called to imitate the cross of Christ in my kenosis and self-less love. The cross is yet another symbol of “inhumanity and ungodliness”, if not it were for the Christ who is mounted on it. I become a Cross of Christ when Christ is mounted on the throne of my heart.

Thought Capsule:

"How splendid the cross of Christ!
It brings life, not death; light, not darkness; Paradise, not its loss...
It is the wood on which the Lord, like a great warrior, was wounded in hands and feet and side, but healed thereby our wounds.
A tree has destroyed us, a tree now brought us life"
--Theodore of Studios

Monday, September 13, 2010

PRAY LIKE THE CENTURION



September 13, 2010
Monday 24th Week In Ordinary Time – Year II

1corinthians 11:17-26, 33; Luke 7:1-10


The story of the centurion who sought the help of Jesus for the healing of his slave teaches us the three attitudes of prayer: mediation, humility and trust.

Mediation:
The centurion sends a delegation to Jesus to intercede for him. What the centurion would pray for is not a grace for himself, rather for his slave. Pleading for the needs and cause of others is an essential element of Christian prayer. It is a manifestation of love. To pray for others is one of the best gifts we can offer them. Do you want the prayer to be effective, then, pray more for others and less for yourself. This is one lesson I have learned over the years through my experience. This is where intercessory prayers become important in my spiritual practices. Jesus Himself is the mediator par excellence. He intercedes for us with the Father. We have the Blessed Virgin Mary and all other saints on whose intercession we rely for help. The Jews who came to intercede for the cause of the centurion place their petition before the Lord with the logic of the “kindness and generosity” of the centurion—that in spite of his being a non-Jew, he is good to the Jewish community and that he built a synagogue for them. Indeed the best way of praying for the self is to pray through acts of kindness, generosity and love. Jesus gladly listens to the prayer of petition made in generosity and love and offers to go and heal the slave of the centurion. When it comes to generosity and love, nobody can outdo Jesus. If you take one step toward Him, He will take a hundred steps toward you.

Humility:
The centurion is a unusual symbol of humility. He was a man of authority, power and influence. He could have ordered Jesus to come and heal his slave. But, he understands the Divinity of Jesus and he realizes how small he is before the Lord. This awareness is reflected in his declaration: “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof. “Only say a word and my slave shall be well”. Such was his humility that he does not feel even worthy to stand before the Lord, to see Him face to face. Jesus is moved by such a manifestation of humility, that too, from an unbeliever. True prayer is a reflection of the humble heart. The more I realize the grace of God surround me, I will fall on my knees and fold my hands before the Lord. Our hearts can be raised to the throne of God only on our bended knees, prostrate minds and folded hands. A danger that could happen to me in my journey of faith is that, the more I walk with the Lord, I might presume it is my right that He grants my prayer, that He come to my heart, that He moves with me. This is spiritual pride which would blind my heart to the real nature of my being a creature who only can beg for His mercy. Jesus offers to enter my heart, and stay with me in the Holy Eucharist. How do I welcome Him?

Trust:
Prayer demands trust and faith in the power of God. The centurion expressed his trust in the Almighty and All powerful Lord, in His Word and Presence. God accomplished the creation of the universe with the power of His word, “Let it be”. Jesus worked out miracles, bringing the dead back to life by the power of His Word. His Word has not diminished in power. His word is active and effective as it was in the beginning, as it was 2000 years ago, and it will be powerful till the end of the world. I just need to believe and trust in His power. Prayer involves a two-fold trusting: trusting in the power of God, and trusting in His mercy/love. To believe that Jesus can do a miracle is not enough. The faith that everything is possible with the Lord is just the beginning of trust. I need also to trust in His mercy and love that He will do it for me. The Lord can, and He will! This is what is called “confidence” in prayer.

Today, let me bring before the Lord, in confidence, faith and trust, all the intentions and petitions of my community, especially those who are in need of His healing grace this day. Even as I am most unworthy of His favors, I believe that the Lord will show mercy to those who trust in His Word.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

LOST AND FOUND



TWENTY-FOURTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
Exodus 32:7-11,13-14; 1Timothy 1:12-17; Luke 15:1-32
Sunday Scripture Reflections



Losing and finding are common experiences of our daily life. And we live in the paradox of losing in order to lose and lose in order to find. Growth, change and becoming are measured in terms of our ability to lose and gain. The Gospel for our reflection today has three parables depicting the pain of losing and the joy of finding.

Salvation History—A History of Losing and Finding:

The Bible is the story of human beings’ pain of losing God, and God’s joy of finding us. It is also a story of humanity losing sight of its goal, losing and breaking relationships and finding each other in repentance and love.

Adam and Eve:
The very first story of the Bible is about God’s joy of accomplishing creation and His pain of losing the humankind. God brought forth Adam and Eve, the reflection of His very heart, showed them the whole creation, blessed them with the greatest blessings and set them in the Garden of Eden to be free, happy and God-like. The very next moment we find man being lost, hiding and seeking the cover of darkness. God comes looking for him, and calls him: “Adam, where are you?” Adam says, he is hiding, because he is afraid, he is naked, he is miserable. And he raises his accusing finger against his wife, saying, it is because of her, and she in turn accuses the serpent. In this process of finding fault and pointing figure at each other, they found themselves lost first to God, second to each other and third to the entire creation. But God does not want man to be lost. He calls his name, brings him before His light and makes shows Him a way to return: repent.

Cain and Abel:
We find God coming again, looking for the sons of Adam. He calls out Cain who murdered his brother, and asks him, “where is your brother?” Cain retorts, “Am I the keeper of my brother?” Cain tried to hide his sin, his anger, his bitterness, and himself from God. Yet, God will let him realize, he cannot run away from His sight, that he cannot deny his responsibility for his brother.

Israel:
Yahweh kept accompanying His people, He chose them and made a covenant with them that He will be their God and they will be His people, that He will be loyal to them, true to His promise and faithful to His covenant. But His people turned stiff-necked, stubborn, and unfaithful. They ran away from their promise, abandoned their faith and went after false Gods. This is the background of the first reading, where, God seems to have run short of His patience for a people who went on playing hide and seek. But, no matter how his people will run away from Him, He runs after them with the cords of compassion and love.

Jesus—the seeker:
God’s desire and efforts to find His children back home culminated in His becoming man, Emmanuel, His being with us that we may never again keep hiding from His presence. He brought us the lost-heaven, the lost grace and the lost way. Now we only need to look at Him, the crucified, that we may find life, light, and love. In so many ways, in so many words He reminded us that God delights in us in our finding Him, and God rejoices in getting us back home.

The Gospel passage today presents three parables of Jesus depicting the pain of losing and the joy of finding. These parables are on the one hand about the loss of grace and the joy of repentance. On the other hand, these are about you and me getting lost to ourselves and to each other. It is about loss of self-confidence, self-worth, and dignity as well as loss of relationships, loss of trust and loss of faith in each other. It is also about finding courage to face reality, accept truth about the self, taking steps to reach out to the broken/lost relationships, restoring the loss of dignity and trust.

The Three Kinds of Losing and Finding:

The three parables of Luke, chapter 15 are about three types of losing and finding that we experience in our daily life. They are: 1) the loss by carelessness, 2) loss by impulses/instincts, and 3) loss by defection.

Losing by Carelessness: The Lost Coin

The first parable is about a woman who lost one of her coins which she treasured so much. A coin cannot get lost by itself. It is the woman who either misplaced or dropped the coin somewhere by her carelessness, forgetfulness, oversight, or taken-for granted attitude. Now that she lost it she feels the pain, takes responsibility for the loss and acts on it, with a diligent search. How many relationships have I broken because of my carelessness? How many opportunities for improvement have slipped away because of my carelessness and taken for granted attitude? How many people have I hurt, bruised, and they in turn have walked away from my life because of my insensitivity, forgetfulness and oversight? How often have I neglected the presence of God, the blessing of love, security, care and comfort that so many people so selflessly give me? No matter what, if I have lost relationships, friendship, love and grace, the fact is I cannot afford to put the blame on the other person. I need to own responsibility for the loss. Like the woman who lost the coin, I need to light the lamp of hope and diligently seek what is lost. Seek, and you shall find is the promise of the Lord. Do not give up until you find. Once you find, celebrate your joy. Indeed, relationship is all about celebration. Life is all about the search. The search is all about hope, and hope is all about the joy of finding.

Losing by Impulses/Instincts: The Lost Sheep

A sheep is primarily an animal, no matter how pretty, adorable and lovable it may be. As an animal it lives by impulses and instincts. An impulsive life can expose it to dangers. A sheep is short sighted. It can lose sight of the way and get trapped in the wilderness. Sometimes we can be led by impulses and instincts rather than reason and faith. A person who lives by instincts and impulses loses sight of His purpose and direction in life. Impulsive behaviors can cause us relationships, and damage reputation. Sometimes we lose control of our senses, feelings, and instincts. A short tempered man, might easily get angry with others. He may not be aware of the rising of his pitch, the change of his tone, the reddening of his face and the resultant loss of patience and trust people have in him. How many people have broken away from me because of my wild and instinctive behavior! How many times have I lost my dignity and self-worth on account of my impulsiveness? Now, in Jesus, the good shepherd I have hope and comfort. No matter how people might look at me, the Lord will carry me in His hands, shoulder me to home, and rejoice for me, if only I give him the privilege of finding myself, listening to His call and submitting myself to His gentle love.

Losing by Defection: The Lost Son

The younger son who defected from his father willfully cut off his relationship with his home. He did not want to be called a son. He knew what he was doing. He knew the implications and consequences of breaking off with his father. With knowledge and understanding he took away whatever belonged to him and went away. He lost his sonship hoping that he will find better relationships outside. He risked the comfort of his home as he found more comfortable and pleasure filled homes outside his home. His breaking away, however did not mean that his father lost him. No matter what happened, nothing changed the love of his father for him. This is why the father would patiently, hopefully wait for his son to return him home and celebrate his homecoming with all his resources. He knew that at times it is better to let go that you may find the worth of life and love. For the son, it was a painful process of realizing, remembering, repenting and returning which resulted in great rejoicing. Since it was a willful act of defection, the father was helpless unless the son himself will come out from the hiding. Most experiences of loss in my life are results of my own willful acts. In this information society, I am well fed with sufficient information and bombarded with spiritual, emotional and social formation programs, that I make my choices of defection, breaking off, and abandoning relationships knowing too well the consequences and the pain of loss. This is where the entire world seems to be helpless, unless and until I humbly accept my mistakes and return home to the broken promises and damaged relationships. I need to remember my promises, repent over my mistakes from my heart, and return to the source of grace and to the people whom I hurt. Then I will experience the joy of finding what I lost. On the part of the offended, I need to be open minded, patient, compassionate and forgiving. You might let the other party hide and get lost, yet do not let yourself be losing hope. If your offender comes back make it a reason for celebration, not of nagging.

Here are the five Rs of losing and finding: Remembering, Repenting, Returning, Reinstating and Rejoicing!