The Popular Vice of Presumption: 3rd Sunday of Lent

The Popular Vice of Presumption: 3rd Sunday of Lent

“Marami ang namamatay sa maling akala. (Many people are killed by wrong presumptions.)”

-Filipino Proverb

Man’s very life are relationships. Man is a social being in his creation, journey, and destination. Whether we are aware of it or not, by God and nature, we are all connected to one another. No man can ever isolate himself from the rest of creation for being a man entails being part of humanity. By these facts, it follows then that whatever we do, whether good or evil creates a ripple that affects everyone creating a totality that will always be greater than the sum of its parts. We tend to forget these and it is the reason why so many people are killed by presumptuous attitude or in other words so many relationships are ended by wrong presumptions.

Throughout history, wrong presumptions have led to many wars, misunderstandings and corruptions. We have not applied the Lord’s teaching to “stop judging so that [we] may not be judged. For as [we] judge, so will [we] be judged and the measure with which [we] measure will be measured out to [us]” (Mat 7:1-2). So thus we have condemned ourselves. All of us have been in the habit of speaking about the wrongdoings or defects of another as if we are not connected to them, as if they do not belong to us, as if their wrongdoing is just their concern and never ours, as if they’re not our brothers and sisters and we’re not their keepers.

At this moment, it would be very timely to reflect on the words of Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet on Crime and Punishment: “And when one of you falls down, he falls for those behind him, a caution against the stumbling stone. Ay, and he also falls for those ahead of him, who though faster and surer of foot yet removed not the stumbling stone.” We cannot be totally blameless of the faults of our brothers and sisters, of those who are related to us in any way. We often do not realize that each sin is not just an offense against God but also an offense against ourselves and all human beings out there. Sin is not only an alienation from God but also from our true selves and from whole of humanity. Hence, what we must do to one who sinned is always to reach out and never to condemn. For in the final analysis, we have all wronged one another and all of us deserves forgiveness.

On the First Reading, Moses found out that he can never isolate himself from God and his people, their slavery is his slavery. Thus we must realize that as long as there are slaves to anything in this world, we cannot truly be free. The Second Reading reminds us that our journey in this life is like the journey of the Israelite people; that we never journey alone but always as a people and that the reason why many of them perish is because they want to isolate their journey. The Gospel brings home the warning about presumption. Salvation is for all as repentance is for all. We must never presume about the wrongdoings of others for in God’s eyes the good can’t become better than the highest potential in each of us and the evil can’t become worse than the ugliest defect in each of us. And we are one another’s keepers. If one perishes among us, a part of ourselves perish with them. The isolated fig tree in the orchard can’t be isolated from the duty of bearing fruit with the whole orchard. I believe that the main fault of the fig tree is not in being without fruit but rather in not bearing fruit with the orchard. Like the fig tree, all of us needs that one more chance so may we give it to others also. May we realize that God’s help to bear fruit with others is always there for as the Psalm response tells us, “The Lord is kind and merciful” and never presumptuous. But we may also give this kindness and mercy to others as the worker in the orchard did for the fig tree.

It is now apt for us to remember the scene of Pilate’s condemnation of Jesus. Upon Pilate’s presumption on truth, he condemned Jesus and with that condemnation, he condemned himself. How very providential that this picture also shows the reflection of the environment on the glass reminding us that every time we become presumptuous, we become like Pilate, and that the condemnation we hurl to others reflect back to us.

pilate

3rd Sunday of Lent Year C

1st Reading: Ex 3:1-8a, 13-15

Ps 103:1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8, 11

2nd Reading: 1 Cor 10:1-6, 10-12

Gospel: Lk 13:1-9

Advertisements

Hereafter: 2nd Sunday of Lent

 

“The main object of religion is not to get a man into heaven; but to get heaven into him.”

-Thomas Hardy

              God has created this life and this world good. Now, let us ask ourselves, is this life only worthwhile because it leads to something better? Does this life have value only because it is a means to an end? If we answer yes to these questions, then we have totally misunderstood Christianity. God has created this life good and took delight in it. When creation has fallen, He did not gave up on it but rather became part of it in order to redeem it and renew it. If we see this life’s meaning only in terms of the future, then we have devalued and desecrated it. A religion that views this life as a mere place of passage, as something to be endured for the sake of the hereafter, is not Christianity.

                When God became man through the mystery of the Incarnation, He dignified, transfigured, and exalted the meaning of human life. The transfiguration of Jesus reminds us that the reign of God is both a present and a future reality. Heaven is not up there, beyond the clouds, Jesus has brought heaven here. God does not dwell in a space above, God is with us. Thus, heaven is already in the world and within our experience. The challenge is to see heaven not as a place of destination but rather a state of being.

                Due to our flaws and imperfections of this world, this vision of heaven may be blurred. The only way to see it clearly is through Jesus. What has been promised to Abraham has already been fulfilled. Through Jesus we have become one family under God. Heaven on earth is a reality if we view one another as all children of God, as brothers and sisters. The Psalm reminds us that even though this world is dark, we have nothing to fear, for God is our light and our salvation –that heaven is the light of God’s presence in this world of darkness. St Paul exhorts us to seek heaven for it is our true home and destiny, to find the hope that Christ will transfigure us and this world despite its infinite flaws and imperfections.

                The Kingdom of God is Jesus himself and we are the body of Christ. Let us therefore heed the Father’s calling to listen to Jesus –to this Jesus who has called us to partake of His mission to transform the world and establish the reign of God. Our experience of heaven depends on this. Let us begin in our relationships and responsibilities. Heaven in its basic definition is happiness and so let us work for happiness with all the people we touch in our lives. And in finding heaven, may we not be like Peter who wants to remain up there beyond the clouds; for happiness can only be perfected when it is shared. Let us ponder upon heaven by asking everyone we love this question, what is heaven to me without you?

                Hereafter is a noun that refers to the afterlife but as an adverb it means: from now on. And so from now on, heaven is here.

Hereafter

2nd Sunday of Lent Year C

1st Reading: Gen 15:5-12, 17-18

Ps 27:1, 7-8, 8-9, 13-14

2nd Reading: Phil 3:17-4:1

Gospel: Lk 9:28b-36

Tested and True: 1st Sunday of Lent

12728825_10203928534093381_8967572669744913545_n   “To begin is for everyone, to persevere is for the saints.” –St Josemaria Escriva

            The worst enemies of God are neither the demons nor the evil people but rather the indifferent persons. Indifference can be one of the greatest tragedies in today’s generation. So many people are living dead. They no longer accept the challenge of life so life no longer challenges them.

            Today’s Gospel brings to us once again the stark reality that life is an activity. Life is not meant to pass us by, we are called to live it. The temptation of Jesus presents to us the perspective that the Church is not really the possession of God’s Kingdom but the struggle for it. Nonetheless, it is a struggle assured by the victory of Christ in the desert and in His passion, death and resurrection. It is a war consoled by a promise “that the gates of hell shall never prevail against it (Mat 16:18).” So one must never expect the Church to be a museum of saints but a hospital for sinners—sinners looking for refreshment and recovery from the exhausting battlefield of life. Christians are not people who are better than others, they are people aware of their frailties yet strive to be better despite of them. We are people aware that we are not alone in this battle, that there is strength and consolation in journeying together.

            To err is human, to forgive, divine. It has always been true. It tells us to never despair of God’s forgiveness. But what is sad is that we use being a human as an excuse to sin. We are very fond of excusing ourselves saying “Sorry, I’m just a man.” Let us therefore ask ourselves today, who is the holiest man who ever lived? Many will venture to drop a name of a saint or someone they look up to. A few will give the honor to the Blessed Virgin Mary. But I wonder how many will realize that the answer is Jesus Christ. Yes, He is God, but He is also fully human. He, in fact, is what God means by a man. He is the paragon of humanity. He never used his humanity as an excuse but rather exalted it, transformed it and redeemed it. He showed that even though we are just human beings, weak and frail, we can still transcend our fallen human nature and be what God has created us to be. Thus, the words “sorry, I’m just a man” is a lame excuse that is used by cowards.

            The challenge is to take courage and really be a man. The First Reading told how the chosen people must offer to God the fruits of their work after struggling to live in the desert.  It tells us that being chosen by God is both a blessing and a test, you have to prove yourself again and again. To be courageous, we have to remember that we are never alone, we are a people that as the refrain in the Responsorial Psalm can call upon the Lord to “Be with [us] Lord, when [we] are in trouble.” As St Paul tells us, “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”

            God has given us the greatest of all gifts: the capacity to choose and to determine our acts. And God helps those who help themselves. Let us always choose to be a real man then in the face of all temptations in this world. “The glory of God is man fully alive,” as St Irenaeus said. Let us live our lives then, accept the challenges that life gives us and prove ourselves true. Real men never fail because they always charge their fall to lesson and experience. The key is to never give up. Because true holiness is in the struggle. Being holy does not mean that you will no longer be tempted. Being holy is being aware that temptations will always be there but they will always give a fight. They never give up on themselves because they know that God never gives up on them. They know that God will not look on how they began but on how they continue, not on how they fall but on how they rise again and again. As a priest once told me, when Jesus comes in the Final Judgment, He does not expect us standing and victorious, but He will expect us to be struggling.

            Again, to err is human but God helps those who help themselves. So take courage and be a man!

1st Reading: Dt 26:4-10

Psalm 91: 1-2,10-11,12-13,14-15

2nd Reading: Rom 10:8-13

Gospel: Lk 4:1-13

It Takes Three to Love: Ten Thoughts About True Love

It Takes Three to Love: Ten Thoughts About True Love

                Love is the very core of Christianity. In love we can find its beginning, journey and consummation. We believe in a God whose very essence and identity is love. And in love, we can also find the highest meaning of our existence. It can be our greatest joy and deepest pain. Yet now, we can see that love has already been desecrated and devalued. Love is the most abused word in today’s world.

                Thus, we must undertake the task to redeem the meaning of love. For it is only through love by which our fallen humanity can be redeemed. It is only through love by which we can know and experience God in this corrupted world. Love is the only way. It is the Lord’s sole mandate, “Love one another as I have loved you.” It is the reason why He dwelt among us, to show us the paragon of true love. And He adds, “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, by the love you have, one for another.”

                And so here is my poor attempt to redeem the meaning of love. Yes, words can never be enough for heart speaks to heart alone. Besides, I am also not an expert in love, I am still aspiring for that thing called true love. Yet I know a few things about God and it is by these guidelines through which I pray for love. Here are ten thoughts on that thing called true love.

  1. “Ubi caritas est vera, Deus ibi est. (Wherever love is true, God is there).”

Love can only be true if it leads us to a greater love of God. Everyone we love must lead us closer to God. For only God alone can fulfill the deepest desires of our heart. We have always been thirsting for something complete, perfect and forever—these are attributes which can only be found in God. As St Augustine puts it: “You have made us for yourself Oh Lord and our hearts our restless until they rest in you.”

Hence, the first and greatest commandment is to “love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.” Then and only then can the love of our neighbor or a fellow human being, whoever he or she is, can follow. And if He is really our God, He deserves nothing less.

Our heart was created for God and it was created pure. It loved everything else just because of their semblance with the Creator. After the fall of humanity, the human heart has been wounded and it can be blinded, possessing things and peoples for the sake of themselves while seeking for that elusive complete, perfect, and eternal happiness in them. But after a while, the heart gets broken as it cannot find satisfaction for it craves for more and more.

So, to find true love, we must seek it first from God. And if for our greater happiness, He will make our heart bigger to love those whom He will bring to our lives.

  1. Love at insight, not at first sight.

Beware of those who believe in love at first sight, for it can only be lust at first sight. We cannot love someone whom we do not know. For love can only grow with knowledge. We do not love someone more or less than another, we just love him or her differently.  Each person is unique and that unique personality solicits a unique response of love. That’s why only God can love us perfectly, for it is only God who has a perfect knowledge of us. So we must take time to know a person, for the more we know him or her, the greater will be our capacity to love them. For knowledge can only lead to understanding, forgiveness, and acceptance—three things that make love last a lifetime.

  1. Love can never be defined for it is love that defines us. It brings out the best of who we are and what we are truly capable of.

 If love answers to our greatest need then Abraham Maslow must be right in saying that self-actualization is our highest need. If our love is indeed true, it must make us a better person. It perfects us and completes us. It motivates us to achieve our greatest potentials. It leads us to fullness of life.

There is a saying that goes that humans are created by God with a similarity with the angels—wings. But unlike the angels, humans have only one wing and so we must find another who is willing to fly with us and soar to the heavens together.

I believe that next to growing closer to God, becoming a wholier and a better person is the sign of true love.

  1. Love is not about falling in love but rather staying in love.

 Love from its very beginning must not be based on feelings but rather on a choice, a decision that one must continuously make through thick and thin. Love must be anchored not on passion or intimacy but rather on commitment. It is a devotion, a pattern of decisions, sustained by action. Sustaining love is not a passive or spontaneous experience. It is a task that requires effort day in and day out. Love is not that too magical. It follows certain rules.

As it is said, “God determines who walks into your life but it is up to you who will stay, who will walk away and who will you refuse to let go.”

  1. Love is never blind, it sees but it doesn’t mind.

We say sorry and forgive to the extent that we love. Because true love forgives and is forgiven all things. Many say that we must search for the right person to find true love. Nonetheless, it’s not really about finding the right person but rather on becoming the right person first for him or for her. It’s about realizing that our beloved can never be perfect nor the best but they can be perfectly true in giving their best. True love is not about perfecting a person but loving an imperfect person perfectly.

  1. It is true that love can conquer all, but always at the right time.

Love must not be given in expectation that it will be returned. For true love is never an investment. It is always a sacrifice. It always longs to give itself. Love itself is its own reward.

True love doesn’t need a happy ending for true love never ends. It does not need to be you-and-me-against-the-world story. For love, first and foremost, is a gift to be enjoyed, not a war to be fought.  Remember that there is always a right time to truly love the right person.

  1. Love life. Live love.

Love is about living life to the full. The joy that comes from love is the enjoyment of life. Love and life are one in God. Thus, those who want to live truly must love truly. True love is on how your love and your life will fit together.

It is not true that when we love someone, nothing else in the world matters. In fact, everything in our world will matter a little more when we find true love.

  1. Fall in love with a person and not with love.

Love is about compromise and surrender. It must be anchored in what is real and not on what is ideal. Love is always for the whole person. We can only love persons, not idea. It is all or nothing. We do not love by degrees or by part. We can fall because of a beautiful hair, a cute dimple, or an angelic face but we cannot marry them. We can only love a person, the whole person.

  1. Love is two hearts that beat as one.

To love is to place your happiness in the happiness of another. It’s about desiring and choosing what’s best for our beloved, despite of all our own desires, pains and needs. Because as the Venerable Fulton Sheen puts it: “There are only two words in the vocabulary of love: You and Forever.”

  1. God is love but love is not god.

 Our love for our beloved cannot be and must not be a substitute for God. We can never love our beloved more than the love that God has for him or for her. We can never be loved by anyone with love greater than the love of God. Thus, we must always learn from the love of God. And we can only learn from God by loving Him. And what we love, we shall grow to resemble.

                True love can only be true because of God. God comes to us through those we love. So we must always love with God. Thus, it takes three to love because we must involve God in our experience. And the truest confession of love is this:  “God loves you, and so do I.” It is the fulfillment of His mandate: “Love one another as I have loved you.”

12695227_10207588539687755_532025490_o

There is Something More in Life

There is Something More in Life

“Your daily life is your temple and religion.” –Kahlil Gibran

Today’s Gospel passage is a picture of how God can be found not only in the church and in the practices of religion but also in the ordinary experience of life particularly in our work, in our jobs, and in the practice of our profession.

The boat of Peter symbolizes our work or our profession. Jesus comes into our boat and uses it as a vessel of His message to the world. The coming of Jesus into our boats signifies that our jobs and our professions, however or complex they are, are vocations and missions, with greater purpose and ultimate meaning. Their greater purpose can be to sustain our families, to have a happy and convenient life, to advance science and technology, to serve the common good or even to serve our country. Whatever their greater purpose is, their ultimate meaning must be to serve as instrument to bring Jesus to the people we encounter in our lives.

Oftentimes, when our work finally becomes too familiar and routinary, or when our efforts don’t seem to bear any fruit, we lose our sense of wonder and we forget the meaning of the things we do. They just become a monotonous routine, we turn into machines and so we tire out and become victims to quiet desperations that consume us to the core of our being. It is at these moments when Jesus invites us to pause and let Him invade our boats, and then to go into the deep. And if we will just accept His invitation and surrender our boats and efforts to Him like Peter, it is then that we shall witness the catch of our lives. Nevertheless, most of the times, we are too knowledgeable, too controlling, too anxious, too afraid or too self-righteous to accept His help and call. We are afraid to surrender ourselves into the invasion of grace and to offer our efforts and their fruits into the hands of the Creator.

On the other hand, there are times that we accept Jesus’ help but after witnessing the miraculous catch, like Peter, we lose our focus in Jesus, we are overwhelmed by the tasks ahead of us, we see our weaknesses and flaws, and so we bury our heads in the sand and become afraid to move forward to greater blessings ahead.

Finally, whatever the fruits of our works are, no matter how great the catch is, the most important thing remains to be the people we catch, the people whose lives were touched by Jesus through us.

The challenge of today’s Gospel is for us to realize that there is something more in our jobs than earning money, that there is always something more in life if we will invite Jesus into our boats.

There is a calling in every work. Every job is a mission, if we will just heed the call to go into the deep. We are called to live in a deeper level, to contemplate, to ponder on things that really matter. And the things that really matter in our work are the people and the relationships we have with the,, through which Jesus will come into our lives.

And so may we always pray: “Lord, may everything we do begin with your inspiration and continue with your saving work. Let all our works always find its origin in you and through you reach completion. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

1st Reading: Is 6:1-2a, 3-8

Ps 138:1-2, 2-3, 4-5,7-8

2nd Reading: 1 Cor 15:1-11

Gospel: Lk 5:1-11