My Lord and my God!
Forgive me if I doubted,
The pains and tears brought by your cross
Are so much that they blinded me
And the realization that it was my sins that brought you death
Filled me with so much loathing of myself,
that I wanted to be alone,
I wanted to be far off,
so as not to be a stumbling block to our friends and thus bring further pain.
And so I was not there
When you appeared before them
And assured them peace.
You see, when they told me,
That You, Lord, rose again,
I was overjoyed by the thought,
I can only dream of that moment
When your mere presence
Calmed all their fears
And confirmed in their heart
That you truly conquered everything.
But what if everything they saw was a dream?
A mere hallucination of people buried in grief,
A mere illusion to survive the fear that consumes them.
I wanted more than anything to believe
That you truly rose again!
And thus, I feared more than anything
that all of it was not true,
And so Lord forgive me,
If I have wanted to touch those nailmarks,
If I have wanted to feel your heart beating once again even if it was pierced,
For it is the only way to wake up
to the realization
that love truly conquers all
and to have that faith
That does not fear anything
A conviction that calls into action.
Forgive us Lord,
For we are all doubters
And when you appeared once again,
When I’m with them
We are still cowering behind locked doors
Fearful that our sins and enemies
May claim our lives once again.
Doubt is a cycle and contagious
And so help us Lord
To be strong in faith
For one another.
May we find You
In the faith of our friends.
And so there You are
You give us your peace
And your Spirit
Even though our hearts
Like those doors
In the glory of your risen body
And filled us
With the power and joy
Of your resurrection
Despite our doubts
And You approached me
Chiding me like a child for my unbelief
And you allowed me to touch those nailmarks
And to feel that heart
Beating once again
Alive once again
Out of love for me
Not even death
Can now separate us.
As I kissed your feet,
I realized that I cannot fully understand
The meaning of everything
But that does not mean
That I cannot believe
I do believe Lord
Supply my unbelief
And in my heart I instantly knew
And so I exclaimed
My Lord and my God!
I wanted to believe
Despite my doubts Lord God
And there will be times
I know, that I will still doubt,
Not because I did not see you
But because of my sins
Because of my flaws
Because of my falls
Because of my self.
And so this is my prayer,
Everytime I grow less sure of myself,
May I grow more sure of you!
Jesus, I trust in you!
And when I doubt Lord God,
Grant that I may doubt the world is round,
That I may doubt that the sun is fire,
That I may doubt that truth be a liar,
But never may I doubt,
That You Love!
Blessed are those who doubt,
For by their doubt,
They seek the truth
And they are found by it.
Blessed are those
Who despite their doubts,
Move on through it
And chooses to believe
Finding our Lord and our God
Alive in them. Amen.
“The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blow into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being.” (Gen 2:7)
The 2016 film “The Young Messiah” ends with the Child Jesus praying to His heavenly Father these simple yet very profound insights:
“I’ve learned so much since leaving Egypt. I know everything I can for today. I even know I’m going to die. I used to wonder if angels would come to me, if they would sing to me, if they would fill my dreams. There is still so much that I don’t know but I do know this. I don’t think I’m here to see angels or to hear them sing. And I don’t think I’m here to make it rainy, or sunny or anything like that. I think I’m here just to be alive. To see it, hear it, feel it, all of it. Even when it hurts. Someday, You will tell me why else I’m here. I don’t know when, but I know You will. I know that. Because, Father, I am your child.”
The first Sunday of Lent brings into focus the plight of human life, the plight that Jesus Himself shared with us, the life of man upon earth as a drudgery (Cf. Job 7:1). So many people are living with lives of quiet desperation, alive but not living. They are so busy working just to be alive so that life passes them by. They see life as its own end and so they fail to embrace its meaning. They know likewise that “you only live once” and even used this as a cause to squander their lives, surrendering their selves to the flow of the world until they are drowned in it. Otherwise, there are those fortunate souls who indeed know that we only live once and so they continue to accept the challenges of life, and so be really alive to live it. They know that they are only going through this once and so they do it right, trying to better themselves, yes, sometimes defeated, but never giving up. God smiles upon their undertakings and so rewards them with the meaning of life, to be a worthy sharer in the true life to come.
“In conclusion, just as through one transgression, condemnation came upon all, so through one righteous act acquittal and life came to all.”
Even Jesus Christ lived only once and he was tempted to succumb to the drudgery of living just to be alive. But Jesus showed us that sin is not what temptation does to a man, it is what a man does to temptation. All of today’s readings point to the difference that one man can make in the examples of Adam and Jesus. At the beginning of Lent, we are reminded that each of us is empowered to make the same difference, we just need to choose our exemplar between the two. What difference can we make? To see this, we need to reflect on what will happen to humanity if our life will be multiplied to the population of the world, of our country, of our community, of our family.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus showed that the difference between him and Adam is dependence on God. In the three temptations of Jesus, he depended not on himself nor the rest of creation but on God. He chose to live by every word that comes from His mouth. He decided to fully trust Him and never to test Him. Finally, he depended on Him by giving Him the worship that He is due. The Council of Trent taught that Final Perseverance is such a great gift of God that we can never merit it but only to receive it as a gratuitous gift. Nonetheless, St. Augustine added that God grants it to all who seek it and they will infallibly obtain it if they commit themselves to it.
We only live once. Life is indeed short. Hence, we must do it right or else we may not be there to share in the ‘true’ life to come. Life on earth is indeed a drudgery and so many give up, and on the pretense of living to the full by enjoying the world, lose it. Though life is a warfare, it is also a gift from the Father. We may oftentimes fall, be defeated and grow tired. But we can always find rest on the fact that we are His children. And there find the strength to fight again, to live life, to smile and enjoy, to never give up, and finally to triumph.
“Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God, which you are is holy.” (1 Cor 3:16-17)
A story is told about two Buddhist monks who went to a river to cleanse themselves. One of the two monks noticed a drowning scorpion and so he scooped it out of the water to save it. Yet the scorpion stung his hand so that it fell again on the water. Again, the monk saved the scorpion while it repeated to sting his hand. The same pattern happened for the third time so the other monk, who was observing commented to him, “Why do you keep on saving that scorpion even if you know that it will just sting you again? Why don’t you let it drown itself?” And the monk replied, “The scorpion keeps on stinging my hand because that is its nature and it doesn’t know any better. I on the other hand must keep on saving it because it’s my nature to help. I must not let this creature which just acts its nature to prevent me from being who I am.”
Man was created in the image and likeness of God. Then, when he was disfigured by sin, Christ redeemed human nature and renewed it. Finally, by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, human nature was empowered and elevated to live bearing the image and likeness of God.
“Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.” (Lv 19:2)
The Hebrew word for holiness connotes the meaning of being ‘set apart’. God as the Holy One, exists above and fully set apart from His creation. He is the epitome of freedom. Man bearing the image and likeness of God is also set apart from the rest of creation. Moreover, he was given freedom through which in this life he can be holy or ‘set apart’ from the rest, soaring above his environment and circumstances, ultimately carving his own destiny. God’s embodiment of freedom, above all, is His freedom to love, independent of merit and sin, of reward and punishment, a love freed from all selfishness that it respects the freedom of the beloved, thus enabling the beloved creature to freely choose to love and experience the glorious freedom of a child of God. True love can only come from freedom and this freedom allows us to reach our highest potentials and deepest desires. It perfects us so that we become independent from all corruption and selfishness and elevate ourselves from the endless cycle of retribution and retaliation in this world. Such that we truly become a child of God, and another Christ in this world that needs redemption from its self-bent destruction.
“So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt 5:48)
Perfection is a process that entails pain and suffering. Jesus himself knows and understands how difficult it is to obey the precepts he laid in the gospel today (Cf. Mt 5:38-48). But he has shown that it’s possible when he stretched out his arms on the cross. In this world where vengeance is extolled as justice and violence is promoted as a solution, we are challenged by Jesus to choose the better way: to destroy our enemies by love. In this vicious cycle of retaliation and retribution leading to our self-destruction, Jesus offers a path of recreation and renewal which will lead to conversion and perfection of society.
God has created us better than the rest of visible creation. Jesus has showed that we can be better despite our weaknesses and imperfections. The Holy Spirit dwells in us as in a temple for we are not mere creatures lying helpless to our circumstances and environment. We are better than these. We are free to love despite pain and suffering. We are children of God, brothers and sisters, despite our different races, personalities and beliefs. We are greater than everything that can divide us. We are meant to live the life of God-the glorious freedom of His children to love and be perfect.
6th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” (Mt 5:17)
Our age has been an age of compromise, an age where moral laws and norms are discarded and sacrificed in favor of a wrong notion of individualism, freedom, and self-expression. There is nothing wrong in being yourself but we must make sure that what we pursue are our authentic selves.
The scriptural readings today which speak and extol God’s Law can surely alienate us who view laws as only necessary evils, things that just constraint our freedom so that others may enjoy theirs for a peaceful society, laws which can be broken relatively if we can justify it. What we need to remember however is that moral laws are not there to limit our freedom and self-expression, they are there for us to fully experience freedom and become our true selves. Oftentimes, because of our selfishness, we fail to see that morality is there not to limit our choices but rather to help us choose what is right and what is just.
“Before man are life and death, good and evil, whichever he chooses shall be given him.” (Sir 15:17)
We are what we choose and we are what we repeatedly do. Every act of freedom has two consequences, it will determine what we do and it will define who we will become. If we do a selfish act, we are not only doing a selfish act, we are also becoming selfish. In the Gospel, Lord Jesus has called us not only to obey but also to go beyond what is asked, bordering on what is seemingly ‘impossible’ for us. We can compare these commandments to the stars, which unreachable they may be, yet they can guide us and bring us to our destination, if we will just try to listen. Nevertheless, if our Lord Jesus has proven anything to us, it is that love is always possible. At the cross, in the face of all human dysfunction and corruption, the Lord has shown that love can always be our choice. Moreover, when asked what the greatest commandment is, the Divine Master told us to love God and one another.
The moral law was given for our self-becoming and to become our true selves is the greatest freedom. Above all laws, we have been commanded to love because love is not only the fulfillment of the law, it also empowers us to go beyond the law. That’s why the gospel today challenges us to go beyond what is asked of us by moral norms and social conventions. Empowered by love, there is no limit to what we can accomplish and to who we can become. By love alone, the world was saved, is saved and will be saved. As St. Francis de Sales eloquently puts it, “The measure of love is to love without measure.”
“Brothers and sisters: we speak a wisdom to those who are mature, not a wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age who are passing away.” (1 Cor 2:6)
We are reminded by St. Paul that this is a truth that the world may never accept and understand. It is God’s wisdom which does not belong to this world, something which we can only understand once we lived through it. The reason why God just won’t take us all to heaven with a flick of his hand is that heaven is not just a prize at the end of this life. Heaven is a way of being, a way of living. That’s why we need to prepare ourselves for it by obeying God’s commandments by true love, by choice, by the deepest act of freedom and self-expression. Heaven is chosen, not just given, for heaven is love to which we say I do. Love is both the simplification and quintessence of the moral law. As St Augustine said, “Love and do what you will.”
And so let us always choose love. For:
“…it is written: what eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Cor 2:9)
“Where are there lots of colors, Colton?” “In heaven, dad. That’s where all the rainbow colors are.” –Todd Burpo, Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone (Is 9:1).”
Today’s Gospel tells about the beginning of Jesus’ ministry as fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy about light shining on those who dwell in darkness. Coinciding with this, the majority of the Christendom celebrates the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which started from January 18, former feast of the Chair of St. Peter and will end on the 25th, feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. These circumstances seem to call us to reflect on Christian unity.
The Church was, is and will always be one as there is only one Jesus Christ with one mystical body, as there is only one God in three Persons. And all Christians believe in the oneness of the Church. “We believe in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church,” as professed in the Nicene Creed recited in Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican liturgy and in many Protestant church worship services. Contrary to the customs of His day, where it is the disciples and students who seek out a rabbi under whom they will study, it was Jesus who seek out and called His disciples, without inquiring about their qualifications, personalities and family backgrounds. For Jesus and for the Kingdom, it is availability rather than ability that matters. It is availability for the mission, rather than our historical disputes, our doctrinal differences and obstinate biases, that matters. May our common availability to Jesus and for His Kingdom be the beginning of Christian unity. As the theme of this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity exhorts: “The love of Christ impels us (2 Cor 5:14)!” The heart of all our churches is none other than the person of Jesus Christ and His love which calls us: “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men (Mat 14:19).” Now, how can we gather people for the Kingdom if we ourselves are scattered, divided and at odds against one another?
“I urge you brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose (1 Cor 1:10).”
Above the entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, leaning outside a window sill, lies a concrete and very powerful symbol of Christian division: a ladder maybe left by a mason during a repair of the church in the 18th century remains unmoved even up to now. The reason for this is that nothing can be moved or changed in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher unless the six Christian denominations who claim custody of the sanctuary agree with one another. By a pontifical order in 1964, Pope Paul VI decreed that the ladder will remain unmoved unto the day when all Christian divisions will finally be healed.
Photo from Wikipedia: The Immovable Ladder
“Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Cor 1:13)”
The visible light is a spectrum and so is Christ’s light. It may be a spectrum of different cultures, sects and denominations, and some may be brighter than others, yet light is light. There is only one light, and this light, united, is the sole answer to the many great and various forms of darkness in our world today. God is greater than any church or all the churches put together, He continues to operate despite our weaknesses and our divisions. And it is only by Jesus that we can be united and so we sing with the Psalmist:
“The Lord is my light and my salvation! (Ps 27)”
“The very reason why Jesus became a child is so that he may teach us the way to become children of God.” -St. Augustine
“For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace. His dominion is vast and forever peaceful…(Is 9:5-6).”
The Sto. Niño is, arguably, the most popular image of Jesus in the Philippines You can find him, literally, anywhere. He is almost present in every altar in all Catholic homes. He also makes his appearance in business establishments and stores. He is placed on vehicles, public and private. You can buy one in every religious store and you may find him in all kinds of attires and professional regalia. Moreover, the Sto. Niño stands as the oldest relic of Christianity in the Philippines. Yet, despite the solid Filipino devotion to the Holy Child, only a few can really say that they know what they see when they gaze upon the Sto. Niño.
The Sto. Niño is a very rich image of God and the wonderful mystery of the Incarnation. Realizing who the Sto. Niño equates to realizing how much truly God loves the world so as to give his only-begotten Son. All parents among us can only reflect on what can make them offer their child for the salvation of others. The Sto. Niño is a perpetual reminder that God truly became one of us. None of us can ever really compare to the life that Jesus lived. But all of us can claim that we have all become children. And every time we look at the Sto. Niño, we can only be filled with awe and wonder on how a child be the one who created the world, who existed before anything else and who held the future in his own little hands. Finally, we must be reminded by the Sto. Niño of a God who is ever childlike; a God who loves like a child, simple like a child, approachable like a child, and can be hugged and carried –even loved like a child; Sto. Niño –our Wonder-Counselor, our God-Hero, our Father-Forever, our Prince of Peace.
“Therefore, I too, hearing of your faith in the Lord Jesus and of your love for all the holy ones, do not cease in giving thanks for you…may the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones (Eph 1:15-18).”
The feast of the Sto. Niño is a celebration of thanksgiving for the gift of Christianity to the Philippines –a faith that has shaped the destiny of this country and likely to play a role in the evangelization of Asia and of the world in the time to come. A concrete illustration would be the recent appointment of a Filipino in the bishopric of Salt Lake City in USA. Indeed, a child thru the image of the Sto. Niño, has conquered a country and has more conquest to do. May we truly appreciate and continue to cultivate as a country the gift that the Sto. Niño has given us.
“Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me (Mt 18:4-5).”
How is it that all of us ever need a lesson in humility? Because it is pride that caused the fall of Lucifer and the fall of humanity. And it may be the reason why St Augustine extolled humility as the foundation of all virtues. That’s why Jesus demanded it as requirement for the kingdom. Because without humility, it will be impossible to have a relationship with God. If we are not humble, if we will not let go, how can God become God in our lives? If pride is the norm, how can we love and be loved? But the wonder of it all is that God humbled himself in order to facilitate a relationship with us, in order to show his love –that it’s all possible despite all the selfishness in the world. And such is the Sto. Niño.