A Lesson on Letting Go: The Sacrifice of Abraham

 

Yahweh-yireh: On the mountain the Lord himself will see to it

 

Sometime after these events, God put Abraham to the test. He called to him, “Abraham!” “Ready!” he replied.

Gen 22:1

Who among us has the total abandon and trust that Abraham has for God? When God, the Almighty Creator, called upon your name, considering that you cannot know what awaits for you, that He has all power over you and what you have, that He has the right to demand anything from you, how can you answer the call immediately with the word “Ready”?

“Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him up as a holocaust on a height that I will point out to you.”

Gen 22:2

Isaac can be a symbol of anything or anyone in our lives. What or who is it that you can consider as Isaac, your only one, whom you love,” in your life? Then comes the more scary realization that Isaac is indeed God’s greatest blessing in your life, that “he” came from God and God has all the right to it. Ultimately comes the realization of the greatest fear of your life, that God will take “him” away from you, you need to offer and sacrifice “him” to God. Who among us is certain that he can let go and let God?

Even though we know that Isaac is just a gift that we never really had in the first place, we have learned to love that most precious one with everything that we are and Isaac is the only assurance of a happy future in this world full of pain and suffering. God has promised to Abraham that he will be a “Father of Nations” and that promise can only be fulfilled through Isaac. Now, does God go back on his promises? Does God revoke His gifts?

What Abraham did was truly incredible. He has proven something to the Almighty Creator. He has shown that it can be done. That one can totally abandon everything that he has to God. Now, God can never be surpassed by a man. Because He is God, He needs to show that He can, not only that, but also that He can do it better, in a way that no man can surpass. God, on His part, has given and will continue to give to man, His most precious one, His Beloved, His Only Begotten Son, Jesus, who in fact surpasses Abraham’s sacrifice in all ways since Jesus, is not just a Son, but God’s very self, God Himself, who because of love surrendered Himself to being human, to the whole of humanity and continues to abandon Himself to the mystery of human freedom and choice to love Him back.

“What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him?”

Rom 9:32

Indeed, what can we say to this? What can God not give us? In the end, we need to realize that Isaac is just a gift, a foretaste of whatever is promised to us, an anticipation of God’s plan. In the final analysis, it is still God who will fulfill the promise, not us, we just need to surrender and trust. And unless we gave Him our Isaac, unless we let go of Isaac to God, we will not be able to see where God’s love will truly bring us, to the fulfillment that surpasses that deepest desire of our hearts and the wildest imagination of our minds.

“I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you acted as you did in not withholding from me your beloved son, I will bless you abundantly and make your descendants as countless as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore; your descendants shall take possession of the gates of their enemies, and in your descendants, all the nations of earth shall find blessing –all these because you have obeyed my command.”

Gen 22:16-18

We are the heirs of God’s promises to Abraham and God still and will fulfill His part as long as we are ready like Abraham to offer our Isaac to Him and to surrender to His love. He has given, and still gives us His beloved Son, Jesus and all that He asks is that we listen to Him and abandon ourselves to Him. We must let go and let God because God has let go and let man. And as nothing can ever separate us from His love, let us surrender to His embrace.

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

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.”

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