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22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – On the Gospel
Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp
No Cross, No Crown
A nun was explaining the Stations of the Cross to her class. They got to the fourth Station were Jesus on the road to Calvary meets his mother. The nun explained that even though they could not talk to each other, mother and son spoke just using their eyes. “What do you think they said to each other?” she asked the pupils. The class gave many different answers. One kid suggested that she said, “This is unfair.” Another kid suggested that she said, “Why me?” Finally a sickly little girl raised her thin hand, got up and said: “Sister, I know what the Blessed Mother told Jesus. She said to him, ‘Keep on going, Jesus!’” Why would a mother encourage her only son on the way to crucifixion to keep on going? Because the mother understands the Christian principle of “no cross, no crown.”
Last Sunday we read of Simon Peter recognising and confessing Jesus to be the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. That demonstration of faith earned him the name Peter, “Rock.” The incident was a highpoint in the development of the mission of Jesus. “From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Matthew 16:21).
Popular Jewish belief at the time of Jesus expected a Messiah who would bring instant glory to Israel in terms of military success, wealth and prosperity. The disciples shared this popular belief. So when Peter heard Jesus announce that he must first endure the cross, he figured that Jesus must have made a mistake. “So he took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you” (verse 22). Peter was asking Jesus to abandon the narrow and hard way of the Messiah (“no cross, no crown”) for the broad and easy way of the World (“all crown and no cross). And, although Jesus had called him Rock a few moments back, Jesus now looks Peter in the face and says to him, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things” (verse 23).
The gospel of Christ is a coin with two sides: the cross and the crown. If we try to embrace one side, the glorious side, and reject the other, the suffering side, we falsify the gospel. The same Jesus who said, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28) also said, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25). Do we come to Jesus then to be freed from our burdens or do we come to Jesus to take on the cross? We come to Jesus to be freed from our meaningless and futile burdens and, in its place, take on the cross that leads to salvation and glory.
Today’s gospel challenges us to say no to the very attractive but one-sided worldly gospel of instant glory, a sugar-coated gospel that offers the false promise of “all crown and no cross.” Did you ever hear it on the television: “Only believe and everything will go well with you?” It did not all go well with Jesus; he still had to endure the cross. It did not all go well with Mary; a sword of sorrow still pierced her soul. It did not all go well with the countless men and women saints who have gone before us. Why then should it all go well with you and me? In the face of disappointment, bereavement, sickness, ingratitude and failure, our faith response should be, not to question “Why me?” but to recognise that these crosses and contradictions are the necessary condition for our future glory. The world is the place for the cross. The place for the crown is heaven.
22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – On the Epistle
Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp
Offering Living Sacrifice in Spiritual Worship
A story is told of the Medieval Italian poet Dante Alighieri. One day during a church service, Dante was deeply immersed in meditation and failed to kneel at the proper time. His enemies hurried to the bishop and demanded that Dante be punished for his sacrilege. Dante defended himself by saying, “If those who accuse me had had their eyes and minds on God, as I had, they too would have failed to notice events around them, and they most certainly would not have noticed what I was doing.” Dante is right. True worship of God is not simply a matter of performing certain actions at certain times. It is first and foremost, a matter of the heart.
Today’s 2nd reading is the first two verses of Romans 12. Though we now read it as the beginning of a new chapter, we must not lose sight of the fact that Paul wrote it as the conclusion of the long theological discourse in chapters 9-11. Paul has this habit of ending his theological arguments by pointing out their practical implications in daily life. That is why he begins this section with “I appeal to you, therefore …” (Romans 12:1a). It is an appeal based on the theological argument that he has just made. In these verses Paul spells out the practical implications of his theological arguments.
We need to rewind the tape a bit to refresh our minds on Paul’s theological argument in the preceding chapters. Paul has just examined the place of Israel as the chosen people of God versus the claims of Gentile Christians in Rome that God has now rejected the Jews and chosen them, the Christians. Paul’s argument is that the playing field is level for all, Jews and Gentiles alike. But having said that, Paul sees a problem. The Jewish Christians in Jerusalem still have their Temple where they can offer sacrifices to God but the Gentiles have none. Is this not a privilege? Paul answers that it is not. Paul tells the Gentile Christians that their lack of temple sacrifice is not a big deal since what really counts before God is not the offering of dead animals but the offering of oneself as a living sacrifice. What matters is not Temple worship but spiritual worship.
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1). Paul is saying that the worship that is holy and acceptable to God is spiritual worship, the offering of one’s body as a living sacrifice. Whether this sacrifice is performed in a brick and mortar temple or not makes no difference. Since this is a new concept of worship, Paul goes on to explain what it is and how it is done.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect” (verse 2). Here he tells us four things about spiritual worship. (1) It is performed in contact with the world, not in isolation from it. (2) It means saying no to the worldly and societal pressure that seeks to conform us to its values and standards. (3) It means saying yes to the transforming and renewing on our minds by submitting mind and will to God. (4) It enables us to discern what is truly the will of God, as opposed to the various ways people use God’s name to justify selfish and partisan group interests. Thus we come to know what is good and acceptable and perfect in the eyes of God.
When we understand and live our lives as one long act of spiritual worship, then we begin to understand that church worship should flow from life and lead back to life. Just as we worship God in church on Sunday, so too we should worship God “spiritually” from Monday to Saturday in the workshop and the office, in the school and the classroom, in the gym and the playground, at home in the TV room and in the kitchen. This is spiritual worship and it is as holy and acceptable to God as the best of Temple sacrifice.
22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A
Homily # 1
The passage from Jeremiah here is one of the most moving in the whole of the Old Testament. But as much as any biblical text it must be placed in its context to be understood. The passage quoted by the liturgy expresses in vivid detail Jeremiah’s suffering in announcing God’s message which he has been “seduced” by God into sponsoring. That is to say, Jeremiah has been unable to reject the call God has given him to be a prophetic voice, and the result of his speaking in God’s name has been only his receiving insults (vv. 7-9). The text continues in Jeremiah 20 with Jeremiah’s enemies plotting revenge against him (v. 10), with Jeremiah’s deliberate act of trust in God despite his suffering (vv. 11-13), and a renewed lament that he has been born to endure such mocking (vv. 14-18). The part cited by the liturgy today details Jeremiah’s intense suffering at preaching as a result of a prophetic call which he cannot resist. The words of today’s first reading are a powerful description of someone suffering for obeying his conscience.
The responsorial psalm, as usual, is intended as a formal reply to the first reading, here, to complement Jeremiah’s cry of woe with a heartfelt expression of trust in God. The psalmist manifests his profound trust in God, just as Jeremiah himself does in vv. 11-13 which are not cited in the first reading. The first reading and the psalm are in such contrast with each other that they seem contradictory. But they simply mirror the human situation of a believer who refuses to give up belief in God despite the sufferings which the public witness that belief causes him.
In the second reading St. Paul calls on Christians to adopt an attitude of sacrifice in their worship of God. In order to do this they must explicitly reject the behavior of the world around them.
In the gospel Jesus vigorously instructs his disciples and especially Peter that his destiny is to suffer death and then to rise from the dead. And what is more, he calls on his disciples to follow him as he takes up his cross. This must have been astounding news for his disciples, for crucifixion was one of the most painful and humiliating deaths imaginable in the Roman world. But Jesus then puts this call to a life of pain and humiliation in the perspective of what is essential: the eternal value of the Christian’s soul.
The readings of today’s liturgy are all of a piece. In different ways they say the same thing. Heeding God’s call cannot be resisted except at the price of not being true to one’s deepest self, that self which is tune with what God wants. God and His Christ are to be trusted absolutely. No matter what the world says by way of ridicule, the believer should maintain this absolute trust. God will stand at his side. In following Christ the Christian will inherit eternal life with God. In worshipping God the Christian should be ever mindful of these basic truths and offer himself or herself to God in trust.
As many parts of the Christian world become more and more pagan the temptation to abandon God’s word as expressed in these readings becomes greater and greater. It is so easy to water down the biblical message by disregarding parts such as are found in today’s Mass and thinking only about those texts which make belief painless. It is so easy to yield to peer pressure, which is one of the most powerful social forces in the world. It is so easy to stifle the voice of one’s conscience when one sees other people apparently stifling theirs. But that is not what today’s readings urge us to do. For Jeremiah, for Paul, and for Matthew, God calls us to a difficult vocation. Unless we constantly remind ourselves of this we will fail to be the kind of disciples that Christ expects us to be.
Homily # 2
A nun was explaining the Stations of the Cross to her class. They got to the fourth Station where Jesus on the road to cavalry meets his mother. The nun explained that even though they could not talk to each other, the mother and son spoke just using their eyes. “What do you think they said to each other?” she asked the pupils. The class gave many answers. Some said, she said, “This is unfair,” others that she said, “Why? Why me?” Finally a sickly little girl raised her thin hand, got up and said, “Sister, I know what the Blessed Mother told Jesus. She said to him ‘Keep on going Jesus!” Why would a mother encourage her only son on the way to crucifixion to keep on going? Because the mother understands the Christian principle of “no cross, no crown.”
So it is with today’s gospel. Peter, James and John have just left the sweet, reassuring “halo experience” of the Transfiguration. How thrilling religion can be! How comforting for the heart! Just when the apostles are wallowing in pleasant religious feelings, Jesus grows stern and tells them about his forthcoming cross.
Peter will have none of it and tells Jesus. This is for others, not for him and them. Jesus, without missing a beat, cuts Peter with surgical quickness. “Get out of my sight, you Satan!” Peter needed divine illumination to know Jesus was divine at Caesarea Phillipi. Now he needs divine illumination again to understand that the nice feelings of Tabor are only bought at the price of the dreadful feelings of Calvary .
You can sense the fire in Jesus’ heart as he speaks in glowing terms about the cost of following him. Of course, he knows where it’s all going, to Jerusalem and Golgotha , to the grave and beyond. His disciples are not as clear about the direction they are headed, but not for lack of hearing about it. Peter actually takes Jesus aside and tells him this talk of suffering and death is really inappropriate! This should be the hour of victory, but Jesus insists in making the opportunity in front of them seem strangely grim.
Grim, no. Serious, yes. Following Jesus is not a walk in the park or a victory lap around the baptismal font. It won’t lead to a cushy seat on his right or his left, but a taste of the cup from which he is to drink. If we believe in Jesus and are willing to risk a love like his, then we have to be prepared for what the world does to truth speakers like him.
Perhaps, like Peter, we are losing sight of our purpose of life. It is not to live totally for pleasure and avoid as many crosses as possible. Rather, it is to live it in such a way so as to merit the reward of eternal live. It’s about living our few years in this life in a way that will reap for us the reward of eternal life in the next life.
More concretely, it’s about picking up our crossed daily and accepting them in the same spirit that Jesus accepted his own cross.
And here’s the remarkable part. Once we begin living as Jesus taught us to live, everything will turn upside down and, suddenly, what seemed to be an enormous cross, will turn out to be—in the light of this world and the next world—an enormous blessing.
Some years ago, Gene Stallings coached the University of Alabama to a 22 –game winning streak and a number-two rating in college football. But it was not this event—but another one—that had the greatest impact on his life. It was the birth of his son, Johnny.
When the doctor told Stallings that Johnny had Down’s syndrome and would probably not live beyond the age of four, Stallings fainted.
Thirty years later Johnny still had Down’s syndrome and was still living. Describing the impact Johnny has had on his life, Stallings said: “He’s special! All his love is unconditional. He doesn’t keep score. He’s totally unselfish.”
On many occasions Stallings has said if he could reverse things and start over with a child who didn’t have Down’s syndrome, he would not do it. “I feel very blessed” he says. What Stalling thought would be an enormous cross in his life turned out to be an enormous blessing.
If we pick up our cross and follow in the footsteps of Jesus, our cross can also become a blessing and a stepping stone to greater things.
The gospel of Christ is a coin with two sides: the cross and the crown. If we try to embrace one side, the glorious side, and reject the other, the suffering side, we falsify the gospel. The same Jesus who said, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest,” also said, “If any of you want to be my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Do we come to Jesus then to be freed from our burdens or do we come to Jesus to take on the cross? We come to Jesus to be freed from our meaningless and futile burdens and, in its place, take on the cross that leads to salvation and glory.
Today’s gospel challenges us to say no to the very attractive but one-sided gospel of instant glory, a sugar-coated gospel that offers the false promise of “all crown and no cross”. Did you ever hear it on the television: “Only believe and it will all go well with you?” It didn’t all go well for Jesus; he still had to endure the cross. It didn’t all go well with Mary; a sword of sorrow still pierced her soul. It didn’t all go well with the countless men and women saints who have gone before us. Why then should it all go well with you and me? In the face of disappointment, bereavement, sickness and failure, our faith response should be, not to question “Why me?” but to recognize that these crosses and contradictions are the necessary condition for our future glory. The world is the place for the cross. The place for the crown is heaven.
This is the promise of Jesus himself.
This is the word of the Lord.
This is the good news that we have come together to celebrate today.
Homily # 3
1ST Jeramiah 26:7-9
2ND Rom 12:1-1
3RD Mt 16:21-27
Purpose The path of discipleship and following Jesus requires suffering the death of our false self and the transformation into the self God created us to be.
Introduction: If you go to a book store, a library, surf the internet or even watch late night TV you can’t help seeing numerous self-help books, programs, and strategies. You are told you can be smarter, better looking, richer, more successful, stronger, etc. Whatever it is you think you need to be there is someone telling you they can show you how to achieve it. All of theses are aimed at fulfilling the dream humans have had from the beginning of time. – to satisfy their longing of becoming the person they think will make them better or happier. In today’s Gospel, Jesus cuts through the hype and advertising hoopla and gives it to us straight. ”Who ever wishes to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” Thus, to be his disciple will bring us the fullness of who we can be and thus – total happiness.
Development:So, Who are you? Who are you trying to become? Do you really understand what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ? Again, this Gospel passage gives us insight. Jesus knows who he is and what he will become – Son of God and Redeemer of humanity. He chastises Peter for trying to dissuade him from being who the Father intended him to be – Savior of humanity – our guide to eternal happiness. Peter was looking for something else in a Messiah – a physical earthly savior. He didn’t, at this time, have eyes to see or ears to hear the real message of Jesus. Jesus sets the record straight. I – You – must deny ourselves – take up our crosses – and accomplish the Fathers will. If we are to be disciples of Jesus, we must follow his example, live as he lived, suffer as he suffered, die as he died. This is the only way to be transformed into the person God created us to be. We can make ourselves into whatever we desire to be, but this is a false self of our making – not God’s. Or we can allow God to guide us to become the true person he created us to be. This means we must be open to and accept the crosses and suffering that will occur as we live as disciples of Jesus. The life we must loose is the life of the false self we have created. We cannot be transformed into the person God created us to be as long as we hold onto this false image of who we are and what we are trying to become.
Application: So how do I deny myself? How do I die to my false self? The most common mistake we make is trying to decide ourselves and pick the way we think it should happen. In reality God knows best and life will present more than enough opportunities to die to our falsely created image of ourselves. The most important thing we can do is be open to God’s movement in our lives and willing to recognize and accept it. This means we need to pray regularly – daily. Not formal, written prayers, but prayer of the heart. Spending time with God, silently, and letting God direct the conversation. Attending mass and receiving communion as often as possible will create the atmosphere needed for us to hear God’s Word. Reading scripture regularly will open our hearts & minds to God’s word and lead us to the thoughts he wishes us to have. We must trust in the Holy Spirit to be with us, guide us, and strengthen us. This is the only way we can be successful in denying ourselves, taking up the daily crosses that come our way, and surrendering to the death of our false self. Without prayer and trust in the Holy Spirit, we will never be able to accept suffering in our lives, or turn our lives over completely to God. This is the example Jesus has given us and the command to love totally even unto death.
In a few moments Jesus will lead us to the summit of eternal life; com-union with the Divine. While it will be temporary for now, it can be more complete each time we receive him. Until one day we will be totally transformed into the being God created us to be. We only have to deny our falsely created selves and embrace the self Jesus leads us to be. In this suffering, death and resurrection we will be transformed anew. On that day we will be one with Jesus – in him with him and through him.
PRAISE GOD (PAUSE) PRAISE GOD (PAUSE) PRAISE GOD
Homily # 4
Many years ago I saw a movie by Spike Lee named, “Do the Right Thing”. If I remember correctly, it took place in racially mixed neighborhood in Brooklyn , N.Y. The protagonists did what they thought was the right thing but things eventually degenerated into racial strife.
In today’s gospel, St. Peter did what he thought was the right thing in telling Jesus that He shouldn’t go to Jerusalem and die a horrible death on the cross. But, it wasn’t the right thing. It was the expedient thing.
In this, Peter was making two mistakes. First of all, he had absolutely no clue as to why Jesus came into our world. The very idea of Jesus being raised from the dead on the third day after His crucifixion completely passed over Peter’s head and was abhorrent to him.
Peter’s second mistake was probably more serious and it is also a very common mistake made even to this day. Peter’s second mistake was to tell God what God’s Will should be—making God into our image and our liking, rather than the other way around.
Not one of His disciples realized that Jesus had to die and rise again in order to save us. The socio-political climate was perfect for it. Because of the ‘trouble’ that He was causing to the Jewish leaders and because of His potential to be problematic to the Romans, Jesus had to be killed in a certain way so that no one entity could take the full blame. This was a Machiavellian maneuver to a “T”.
So, how did Jesus get caught in the middle of Roman and Jewish politics? To them, He was some itinerant preacher from the backwaters of Galilee who filled ignorant people’s heads with the ‘fairy tales’ He told about God raising up the lowly and humbling the rich and powerful. OK, so He healed a few people along the way and did a miracle or two. What was that to the fat cats in the Sanhedrin—the people who ran the show?
Well, this is what it was to them. Basically, these people saw the economics of Palestine as a zero-sum affair. In zero-sum economics, there is only a finite (an X amount) amount of money and power to go around. To the Jewish leaders, it meant that, if the poor gained more power or money, the powerful would have to lose some of their power and money.
So what, exactly, was there to lose for these political and religious leaders? Well, to begin, they might lose the great Temple of Jerusalem because Jesus taught that He was the real temple of God . In addition, there would be no more temple taxes and, in turn, these leaders might be out of a job. But, there was more.
The Jewish religious leaders took their positions very seriously. They were worried that their flock would be led into heresy by the bumpkin preacher—Jesus. So, these, ‘dutiful’ priests and leaders were determined to stop Him in any way possible. Leadership, as we all know, sometimes requires making difficult decisions. I can just about hear them saying, “We’ve got to do what’s right for our families, even though it means a few ‘outsiders’ may be hurt. After all, you’ve got to break a few eggs to make an omelet”. Machiavelli would have proud of these guys. Doesn’t it turn your stomach? Oh, some of you have been in that situation too?!
Caesar, basically, just wanted peace so he told his procurator in Palestine to do whatever it took to keep the peace. Even though Rome could (and would, eventually) crush this Jewish outpost, Caesar much preferred peace. So, Pontius Pilate went along with the Jewish leaders. It seems to me that they, too, like the movie I mentioned earlier, thought that they were doing the right thing—sort of like politicians of today who have the chutzpah (the utter gall) to think that they are more able to think for us than we are for ourselves.
Do you ever wonder what might have happened to our world if these ‘leaders’ hadn’t colluded to kill Jesus? What do you think was the worst that could have happened if Jesus lived? Of course, all of this is conjecture—my thoughts only.
Well, for Rome , there may have been an uprising of the poor against the rich and powerful. But, that happened anyway. For the Jewish leaders, many Jews might have left Judaism to follow Jesus. Guess what? They did that anyway.
In the minds of the Jewish and Roman leaders and politicians, Jesus was executed in the most brutal of ways to save the Jewish Temple and its way of life and the Roman Empire . But, today there is no Great Temple of Jerusalem and Rome is just another city.
You see, things always go God’s way, no matter what the rich and powerful may think or do. Oh, things may not go God’s way as fast as we’d like, but they always go His way in His time. So, we might as well do the right thing instead of the politically correct thing. We’ll be a whole lot better off if we do. Guaranteed.
Homily # 5
HAVE YOU EVER ASKED YOURSELF, WHY AM I GOING TO CHURCH TODAY?” IF YOU HAVE, I HAVE GREAT NEWS FOR YOU. IN A RECENT STUDY PUBLISHED IN “DEMOGRAPHY MAGAZINE” IT WAS DISCOVERED THAT THOSE WHO ATTEND CHURCH REGULARLY MAY LIVE 14 YEARS LONGER THAN THOSE WHO DON’T GO TO CHURCH.
THE SURVEY INDICATES THAT ATTENDING CHURCH HAS A POSITIVE EFFECT ON OUR PHYSICAL AND MENTAL WELL BEING. IN TODAY’S READINGS, JESUS TAKES THIS CONCEPT ONE STEP FURTHER WHEN HE WAYS, “WHAT PROFIT WOULD THERE BE FOR ONE TO GAIN THE WHOLE WORLD AND FORFEIT HIS LIFE.” AS I RECALL, THE PHRASE USED TO BE, “AND SUFFER THE LOSS OF HIS SOUL.” SO, OBVIOUSLY, JESUS IS REFERRING, TODAY, TO ETERNAL LIFE.
BUT THERE’S A PROBLEM. PAUL POINTS IT OUT WHEN HE WRITES,
“DO NOT CONFORM YOURSELVES TO THIS AGE BUT BE TRANSFORMED BY THE RENEWAL OF YOUR MIND THAT YOU MAY DISCERN WHAT IS THE WILL OF GOD, WHAT IS GOOD AND PLEASING AND PERFECT.”
WHEN PAUL WRITES, “THIS AGE” IS HE REFERRING TO THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, TODAY, OR IS HE REFERRING TO THE AGE OF THE EARLY CHRISTIANS? APPLYING “THIS AGE” TO THE MORAL CONDITION OF OUR PRESENT SOCIETY, IT WOULD SEEM THAT PAUL’S WORDS REALLY DO APPLY TO US.
IF WE CONFORM OURSELVES TO THIS AGE, OUR SOCIETY IN THE UNITED STATES, WE CAN RUIN OUR LIFE RATHER THAN PROLONG IT. LET’S BE HONEST. FOLLOWING THE EXAMPLES SET BY THE CURRENT SOAP OPERAS OR SITCOMS SEEN ON TELEVISION, DOESN’T MEAN WE’LL WIND UP BEING PERFECT OR HAPPY. HOW ABOUT THE MOVIES? FOLLOW THEIR EXAMPLES AND THAT’S A GOOD WAY TO FORFEIT ONE’S LIFE. EVEN FOLLOWING THE EXAMPLE OF SOME OF OUR POLITICAL LEADERS CAN SPELL DISASTER.
SO, WHICH ADVICE DO WE WANT TO EMULATE, THAT OF JESUS AND PAUL OR THAT OF OUR MODERN SOCIETY? JESUS SAYS, “WHOEVER WISHES TO COME AFTER ME MUST DENY HIMSELF, TAKE UP HIS CROSS AND FOLLOW ME.” BUT WAIT A MINUTE. SURVEYS INDICATE THOSE WHO OBEY THE COMMANDMENTS ARE HEALTHIER AND PROBABLY HAPPIER. IF THE COMMANDMENTS ARE THE CROSS WE MUST BEAR, WE MUST REALISTICALLY LOOK AT THE ALTERNATIVE.
DO WE REALLY WANT TO BECOME LIARS? DO WE WANT TO STEAL FROM OTHERS? DOES ANY UNMARRIED MAN OR WOMAN LOOK FORWARD TO A PREGNANCY?
IT SEEMS THOSE WHO ARE DISOBEYING GOD’S COMMANDMENTS ARE THE UNHAPPY ONES. IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT STAGE IN LIFE WE MAY BE IN… THE TEEN YEARS, YOUNG ADULTS, THE MIDDLE AGED OR THE SENIOR CITIZENS. CHRIST’S WORDS ARE DIRECTED AT ALL OF US.
I’M AMAZED AT THE PEER PRESSURE EXERTED ON THE TEENS AND THE YOUNG ADULTS. IT MUST BE EXTREMELY DIFFICULT TO KEEP ONE’S FAITH WHEN EVERYWHERE ARE US WE SEE AND HEAR A MESSAGE THAT SEEMS TO CONTRADICT JESUS’ MESSAGE. BUT HIS WORDS TELL US NOT TO LISTEN TO THOSE WHO WOULD LEAD US AWAY FROM OUR FAITH. THE PATH TO PEACE AND HAPPINESS DOES NOT LIE IN THAT DIRECTION. BUT, WE ARE FREE TO CHOOSE.
THE SAME PRESSURE IS BEING APPLIED TO EACH OF US, NO MATTER WHAT AGE WE ARE. CORPORATIONS AND INDIVIDUALS ARE LITERALLY SPENDING BILLIONS OF DOLLARS TO GET US ALL INVOLVED IN ACTIVITIES THROUGH WHICH WE MAY “GAIN THE WHOLE WORLD, IN A SENSE, BUT FORFEIT OUR ETERNAL LIFE.”
MANY OF THE MESSAGES WE HEAR ARE FALSE. BEING INVOLVED IN DRUGS, SEX AND ALCOHOL WILL BE A CROSS THAT MAKES OUR LIVES MORE DIFFICULT RATHER THAN MORE ENJOYABLE. LIVING FOR OUR OWN PLEASURE WITHOUT ANY REGARD FOR SHARING WHAT WE HAVE WITH THOSE WHO ARE IN NEED, LEADS TO A HOLLOW, MEANINGLESS EXISTENCE.
I KNOW THAT VERY OFTEN YOUNGER PEOPLE WILL ASK, “WHAT’S WRONG WITH FOLLOWING THE EXAMPLE OF MY FRIENDS? EVERYBODY’S DOING IT SO IT MUST BE ALL RIGHT.” WELL, I WOULD ASK THOSE YOUNG PEOPLE, “WOULD YOU WANT YOUR PARENTS TO FOLLOW THE EXAMPLE SET BY SOME OF YOUR FRIENDS?” THE USUAL RESPONSE IS, “OH, NO. THAT COULD RUIN OUR FAMILY.” THAT’S TRUE, AND SO JESUS IS ASKING THAT ALL OF US, YOUNG AND OLD, FOLLOW THE SAME GUIDELINES. HIS GUIDELINES.
HIS PROMISE, TODAY, IS SIMPLE: “TAKE UP MY CROSS AND FOLLOW ME. WHOEVER LOSES HIS LIFE FOR MY SAKE WILL FIND IT.” IF WE STUDY “THIS AGE”, OUR SOCIETY, IT WOULD SEEM THAT JESUS’ WORDS ARE ABSOLUTELY TRUE. THOSE WHO DO NOT LIVE BY HIS WORDS PAY A TERRIBLE PRICE BUT THOSE WHO FOLLOW HIM SEEM TO BE AT PEACE, TO BE CONSCIOUS OF THE REALLY IMPORTANT
ASPECTS OF LIFE … FAMILY … LOVE OF ONE ANOTHER AND OUR GOD … AND THE JOY OF SHARING THE BLESSINGS THAT HE HAS GIVEN US WITH THOSE LESS FORTUNATE.
AND, AS ANOTHER REWARD, WE MAY LIVE 14 YEARS LONGER.
Homily # 6
I don’t know about you, but Jeremiah’s honesty with God seems awfully refreshing. How many times I’ve felt that way, I love God, I want to follow God, but boy did I miss some of the small print in the contract. It is hard and demanding work; this call in Baptism each of us has received to build the kingdom of God. Yet even though I feel tricked even trapped sometimes, I know the only choice I have is to follow the call, to be faithful to my promises at Baptism. I want to talk a bit about how our call to follow Christ, makes us whole.
1. When we lie, what we try to do mostly is change reality from what it is, to what we want it to be. We are embarrassed perhaps so we lie to save ourselves from embarrassment. We want to do something and don’t think we will be allowed, so we lie to get our way without consequences; you get the picture. Problem is, we can’t change reality. What is, is. So it is with God’s call. “It is too hard or too demanding, make it easier, less controversial, less demanding,” we say. So we change the call, “I’ll give a lot, but not my whole life, that should do,” we offer a substitute of our own making for God’s call, and what do we get then? Nothing! We can’t create reality, we can only accept it and live it as disciples. And only if we do this, hard as it sometimes is, do we
find that really living is all we can really do. Just like Jeremiah, he wouldn’t speak, but he had to, and when he finally did, not holding it in, he found himself, and real peace, real life. We may go to bed exhausted and depleted, but we also go to bed at peace, we have done what is real, we are really alive.
2. Often when it comes to talk about self denial there is much nonsense spoken. Pious nonsense, but nonsense nonetheless, but our transforming readings today offer a thought. Let me use the example of the fallacy that we must acquire in order to be or be happy. This fallacy you know fuels much of the advertising we encounter daily. Could it be that I might find my true self, by giving? By risking? In Christ Jesus our Messiah, who transformed our humanity and raised it by his obedience to God, even to accepting his passion and death, (note, Peter didn’t want him to) we discover that holding fast to safety, even to “reasonable giving”, or security, can lead us from our true selves. In accepting God’s call we find ourselves, our only true selves, now we have everything we need. We don’t create ourselves by acquiring or having, we create ourselves by accepting what God has created and called us to,with gratitude and willing hearts. But it’s easy to think God wants too much, or we need to hold onto just a little for ourselves. The readings say no, won’t work, don’t have to.
So resolve today: No cheap though easier substitutes, As daunting as it might feel, as duped as we might sometimes feel. We remember, we know accepting our call from God gives us our real selves and true peace. Second no holding onto or holding back. Faithfulness to our call and humble gratitude for it, give us all we need, and if we let it be, more than we might have ever imagined.
Homily # 7
Jesus said, “Whoever wants to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”
I want to follow Jesus, but the idea of taking up a cross doesn’t seem very appealing. However, I’ve been around long enough to know that it is inevitable.
One of our priests ministers mostly to the sick and dying. He does most of the wakes and funerals. In his homilies he eventually gets around to saying that he hasn’t figured out how to get out of this world without suffering, but if he finds out, he will be sure to let us know.
Jesus is another way to understand why we have to suffer. If Jesus who was both human and God had to suffer to leave this world, why would we who are only human expect to not suffer? If Jesus went second class to heaven, why would we expect to travel first class?
How does all this work? Why the cross? How does suffering lead to redemption? How could the Father allow his Son to be crucified? Why this way? How is all humanity redeemed through this action?
Ultimately it is a mystery. And we should not be afraid of mystery.
We can not think like God. And that is okay.
But what about this command to carry our cross and follow Jesus? How do we do that if we do not fully understand the mystery of the cross and how it all works?
What does this command really mean?
It means that sometimes doing the will of God is hard, and involves suffering.
It means that sometimes following the example and teaching of Jesus is a real challenge.
It means that doing the right thing and loving our neighbor can be downright dangerous.
It means that loving sometimes demands sacrifice.
And so many of us here are already carrying crosses. We do not have to go looking for them. They find us.
And I think if we could see each other’s crosses we would be humbled and in awe.
You have denied yourself a thousand times over and have done the will of God by raising a family and all of the personal sacrifice that goes with that. You have gone without so that your kids could have advantages that you did not have.
You have endured the hardships of supporting that family member or friend in his or her struggle with an addiction. You have put up with the cycle of victory and defeats, ups and downs because of the command of Jesus to love.
Or you’re dealing with that addiction yourself and digging in and trying to walk the straight line.
You are a teenager and you are determined to live a life of virtue and chastity when it seems to you that no one else is. And you think you may pay a price for that. You will sacrifice popularity and hanging with the crowd that calls themselves cool.
You have devoted what seems to be your life to caring for that physically or mentally challenged child or infirm, elderly parent because it is simply the right thing to do and you do it out of love.
You have lost a child or your spouse and not a day goes by that you do not think of that person you have lost, but you find the strength to stand up and carry on and continue being a giving person when you feel that everything in life has been taken from you.
You have worked for the same company for a long time and now you are jobless.
You have carried around a hurt so deep and so stinging for years and even decades and you have never spoken about it to another soul and there have been times that you have wanted to act out in anger and revenge and rage, but you have resisted and turned the other cheek and responded with love.
How will your stories end? Where will carrying your cross lead you?
Maybe through more suffering. Maybe to death. But I know how this story ends (pointing to the cross).
Suffering is conquered by joy.
Death is conquered by life.
Darkness is conquered by light.
Crucifixion is conquered by resurrection.
Our faith tells us that despite our suffering and sacrifices our stories will end the same way if we pick up our own crosses and follow Jesus.
Homily # 8
What are you doing here?
Don’t you realize you could have been more comfortable staying at home, lying about in comfort, leisurely dressed, maybe poolside with your favorite beverage.
What are you doing here?
Has the Lord duped you? Look around you, how many neighbors won’t bother to go to church, synagogue temple or masque this weekend. Are they any worse off than you?
What are you doing here?
What meal have you delayed eating because you are here? What pleasure have you set aside to be here? How much better would you feel if you had some extra sleep time or relaxation time if you hadn’t come here? What are you doing without because you are here? Could you have spent this time cutting the grass, washing the car, played a round of golf, gone fishin’, gone to the mall or maybe just stayed home where you are comfortable – no need to go out of your way – just do your own thing…
What are you doing here?
Why are you here? Has the Lord duped you? Why is it that you are here every weekend when two thirds of your fellow Catholics are not here. Just think of how crowded this church would be if there were two more Catholics here for each of us who are here.
What are you doing here?
Are you in the eyes of others, like Jeremiah, the object of laughter, does everyone talk about your foolishness behind your back, maybe your own children almost mockingly ask…
What are you doing there?
Look around you, it doesn’t seem that you conform to this age in which we live- even St. Paul, 2000 years ago challenged the people of his time not to conform to, as he stated, to this age. It’s the same challenge we face, for as Jesus says in today’s gospel “God’s ways are not humans ways.”
What are you doing here?
It’s the question Peter asked in today’s gospel when Jesus said he is to go up to Jerusalem, to suffer greatly and be put to death and Peter said “God forbid, Lord. No such thing shall ever happen to you. It’s the same question Jesus asked when in the Garden of Gethsemane he prayed “Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup way from me, but not what I will, but what you will”. It’s the same with us, coming to the realization that it’s not our will but the will of God that must be done.
What are you doing here?
Has God so blessed you that you have this internal longing to be here? Are you like Jeremiah “then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones, I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it” are we so blessed that we can only do on thing- WE MUST BE HERE! That the question “What are you doing here, really has no answer that makes sense in human terms, but simply “I MUST BE HERE! That God has so blessed me that though at times I am weary, frustrated, lonesome, almost exhausted and have no answer I must deny myself, take up what ever my cross is at the moment and follow Christ for I know the answer to the question, “What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit eternal life. Is the answer to
What am I doing here
-I don’t know- but I MUST BE HERE. I know this life is but a journey and not the end all, for when I think or believe that this is it, I know its not worth it…but when I see know and believe that this life is only a journey to an eternal life with God…it is then that I know the answer to
What are you doing here?
Don’t ask me to put it in words-just let me live it and all I can say to others is, take up YOUR CROSS and follow Jesus for in losing your life in Jesus you will find it.
How to deal with suffering?
By BEL R. SAN LUIS, SVD
ONCE a husband came home from church and suddenly lifted his wife and carried her around the sala.
The startled wife said, “Why did you do that? Did the priest tell you to be romantic?” The husband replied: “No! He told me to carry my cross!” (It could be the other way around, but the husband is heavier).
* * *
The subject of this 22nd Sunday’s gospel is about carrying one’s cross. Jesus tells His disciples that “He was destined to go to Jerusalem to suffer grievously and be put to death” (Mt 16:21). He added, “If you want to be My follower… you must carry your own cross” (verse 24).
* * *
Pain and sufferings are part and parcel of life. The list of sufferers is endless: Victims of violence like kidnapping, calamities and wars; those afflicted with various ailments like diabetes, arthritis, cancer.
Then there are the mental, emotional and psychological, like the loneliness of a solo parent, the anguish of relatives caring for a son or a bedridden grandfather, the monotony of work aggravated by an unfriendly atmosphere.
* * *
Simon Peter who had declared, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” remonstrated: “Heaven forbids, Lord. This must never happen to You (the Messiah)!” To the disciples’ utter amazement, Jesus exploded with a violence rarely seen of Him: “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to My path.” Can you imagine Jesus calling Peter “Satan”?
* * *
Jesus summarized Peter’s whole problem in one sentence: “You are not judging by God’s standards but by man’s.” Man’s standards say, “Be comfortable; seek security; enjoy life.”
But such a standard is unrealistic because everybody suffers one way or another. Rich and poor alike suffer; so do the religious and atheists. And yes, Jesus Himself suffered.
* * *
Talking about Jesus’ words “Get behind Me, Satan!” a friend from Australia, Geoff Hinds, sent me this story. A church minister, who was on a strict budget, scolds his wife who bought a new dress. You should have said, “Get behind me, Satan”! “I did,” said his wife, “but Satan whispered it looks very beautiful from the back, too.”
* * *
The key question is not whether we will suffer but how we will suffer. How are we to deal with suffering?
Throughout history, people have sought a solution to suffering. The Greek Stoics, for example, insisted on an attitude of endurance in the face of pain. “Just bear it. Don’t complain,” they say.
* * *
Christianity teaches that if suffering is inevitable like a sickness or an undeserved treatment, the best thing to do is offer it to God.
When I was a kid, priests and nuns I knew used to advices me when confiding a problem of flu or stomach ache, “Offer it to God.”
* * *
While this advice may have been overused, it is still good advice. As the saying goes, “Make necessity a virtue.”
The teaching that you “carry your cross” does not, of course, mean masochism or fatalism. It does not mean that you go around looking for pain and suffering or that you accept your fate and not do something about it.
* * *
If you can avoid pain or remedy it, by all means Do it. If you cannot, then have the spirit behind that serenity prayer of the theologian Reinhold. Niebuhr: “God, grant me the courage to change the things I can change; the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference between the two.”
* * *
Ask yourself: Do you get so discouraged when you experience some sufferings and sickness in life that you lose faith in God? Is an unavoidable suffering “wasted,” because you just bear it but not unite it with the sufferings of Christ so it becomes meritorious?
* * *
Is your suffering perhaps caused by you because of vices like smoking, drinking, gambling, or by your lack of effort and determination to improve your situation? God helps those who help themselves. Remember?
By Fr. Jerry Orbos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:27:00 08/31/2008
MANILA, Philippines—The story is told about an elderly woman who called 911 on her cell phone to report that her car had been broken into. She was hysterical as she explained her situation to the dispatcher: “They have stolen the stereo, the steering wheel, the break pedal, and even the accelerator!”
The dispatcher said: “Stay calm. An officer is on the way.”
A few minutes later, the officer radios back: “Disregard. She is very forgetful. She got in the back seat by mistake.”
* * *
In today’s gospel (Mt. 16, 21-27) Jesus reminds us about another kind of forgetfulness, that of forgetting ourselves to follow Him. A person who is so full of himself/herself, a person who does not take up his/her cross cannot truly follow Christ. Self-emptying is a prerequisite for discipleship.
* * *
In the recently concluded Beijing Olympics, the Philippines did win a gold medal in wushu. However, it was not included in the official medal tally because it was only a demonstration event. Discipleship is something like that—excelling in matters like love, sacrifice, service and truthfulness, which sad to say, often do not count in this world. In the eyes of the world, Christianity is foolishness. Yes, indeed, we are fools. That’s all right. Better to be a fool for Christ, than to be a fool for nothing.
* * *
The leaders of our country need to be reminded that public service is precisely public service, not self-service. What has happened to integrity? Where is honesty? Who still knows how to sacrifice? We need a few good men and women who can make a difference and who do give a damn to what is happening and to what can happen to our country and to our people.
* * *
I just read a news item that Asia’s first anti-graft and corruption institution will be set up in the Philippines. That’s nice. At least we can offer to our neighbor something we are good in.
* * *
For those who never seem to be satisfied with getting more and having more money and power, listen hard to what the Lord tells again today: “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and in the end lose his soul?” Read: You will die sooner or later. You’ll carry nothing with you when you leave this world. All that dirty money you have accumulated will be passed on to your children and grandchildren and they will be contaminated by it. And that dirty money will precisely be the evidence that will be used against you when you finally face your God.
* * *
There are a few good men and women in our midst who forget themselves, and who are real servants of the people, like Governors Ed Panlilio and Grace Padaca, to name some; and not to mention many members of our police and military forces who put their lives on the line for peace. We honor them today and pray for their tribe to increase. We lost one in the person of Air Force Maj. Manuel Zambrano Jr., the “man of mercy” who died in the C-130 crash recently. I would like to believe that denial kings and queens will soon be replaced by people who know how to deny themselves for others.
* * *
How far easier it is to reject the cross than to accept it. I know of some people who spend their whole lifetime questioning and complaining about their crosses. Let us pray that we may accept whatever crosses that come our way. There are many things we don’t and we will never understand in this world. What is asked of us is acceptance and obedience that simply says: “Thy will be done, Lord”!
* * *
Fr. Leonardo Estioko, SVD, Ph.D., is one of the brilliant minds we have in the Philippine SVD. He has served as dean of Philosophy in Christ the King Seminary for many years. He was, at a young age a professor of the Gregorian University in Rome. His academic achievements are impressive. His diligence and pursuit for academic excellence are inspiring. But what I admire most is his way of dealing with cancer. He continuous to teach from a wheelchair and he does not mention to anyone his woes and pains. Here is one person who literally takes up his cross daily, a living reminder that we can and should face whatever cross comes our way, with faith, courage, joy and hope. Salamat ya balbaleg Father Nards for the inspiration!
* * *
Last Aug. 28, Father Nards was given the “Most Outstanding SVD Teacher of Philosophy” award by Fr. Pablito Tagura, SVD, in a Mass celebrated in honor of St. Augustine at the Shrine of the Divine Word. The ceremony was attended by professors and students from different affiliated houses of formation. It was a happy sight to see Father Nards smiling and beaming with joy as he was approached and appreciated by everyone. Yes, the lesson for all of us is that we must not postpone our loving and appreciation of people.
* * *
Speaking of appreciation, we take note of Fr. Corks Corcuera, SVD, a silent worker in our midst who has been diligently building up the shrine of the Divine Word. On the occasion of his 61st birthday, there will be a launching of a CD album entitled “Salamat Panginoon” containing his original compositions interpreted by the shrine’s choir.
Join us at the “Launch within the Mass” on Sept. 10, 2008, 6 p.m.
* * *
A moment with the Lord:
Lord, remind me that without the cross, there is no victory. Amen
NO ID, NO ENTRY: Reflection for 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A – August 28, 2011
May dalawang magkaibigan, isang Kristiyano at isang Intsik ang nag-uusap tungkol sa kanilang Relihiyon. Ang sabi ng intsik: “Halika, punta tayo sa aming templo at ipapakita ko sa iyo ang aming diyos na sinasamba.” Pagdating sa templo ay namangha ang batang Kristiyano sa kanyang nakita. Napakaganda ng loob ng templo. Nababalutan ng mga malagintong dekorasyon at sa harapan ng altar ay tumambad sa kanya ang napakaraming estatwa ng ng mga buddha na iba-iba ang itsura at napapalibutan ng maraming kandilang insenso. Pagkatapos ay sinabi ng Instik: “Dalhin mo naman ako sa inyong templo para makita ko ang Diyos ninyo.” Nag-aalangang dinala niya ang kaibigan sa isang simbahan. Laking pagkagulat ng Intsik ng makita ang isang malaking krus sa dambana ng altar. “Ano yan?” sabi niya. “Bakit may taong nakapako sa krus? Nasaan na ang Diyos n’yo?” Ang sagot ng Kristiyano: “Siya ang aming Diyos. Nakapako Siya, naghirap, namatay para sa amin. Ganyan kami kamahal ng aming Diyos. May ganyan ba kayong Diyos?” Marahil, sa lahat ng relihiyon sa buong mundo ay tayo lamang mga Kristiyano ang makapagsasabi na mayroon tayong Diyos na namatay para sa atin.Tayo lamang ang may Diyos na nagdusa at naghirap. Hindi ito ayon sa pananaw ng mundo. Kaya si Pedro ay labis ang pagtutol ng malamang si Jesus ay magdaranas ng hirap at mamamatay. Ayaw n’ya ng Diyos na mahina! Ngunit ito ang kalakasan ng Diyos: Ang maghirap Siya para sa tao! Bakit? Sapagkat ito ang paraan ng pagpapakita ng Kanyang pagmamahal. Mapalad tayo sapagkat mayroon tayong Diyos na lubos na nagmahal sa atin. Kaya nga ang simbolo ng krus ay mahalaga para sa atin. Ito dapat ay mag-paalala sa atin na kung papaanong ang ating Diyos ay naghirap, dapat tayo rin bilang mga Kristiyano ay handang magbata ng anumang hirap sa buhay. Dapat tayo rin ay matutong magbuhat ng ating mga krus at pasanin sa buhay! Ano ba ng mga krus na pinapasan ko ngayon: problema sa bahay? Sa trabaho? Sa pag-aaral? Sa asawa? Sa mga anak? Napakarami marahil. Hindi yan tatanggalin ni Jesus. Ang nais niya ay pasanin natin ang mga ito ng may pagmamahal katulad ng pagpasan niya sa ating mga kasalan noong Siya ay nag-alay ng Kanyang buhay. Sabi ng isang text na aking natanggap: “No pain no gain! No guts no glory! NO, ID NO ENTRY!” Anung koneksyon? Ang ID nating mga Kristiyano ay ang ID ni Kristo. Ang ID na ginamit ng Panginoon ay ang ID ng KRUS! NO ENTRY ka sa langit kung wala kang ganitong ID. Ito ang nagsasabing tunay ka ngang Kristiyano. Naghirap ka na ba para kay Kristo?
What’s christian attitude to pain?
By FR. BEL R. SAN LUIS, SVD
August 26, 2011, 9:56pm
MANILA, Philippines — A lot of love stories end with the words: “And they lived happily ever after.” Is that really true? There’s a guy who got married expecting to get lasting marital happiness. After a couple of years, he was asked by the priest who solemnized his wedding how things were getting along. He replied, “I’ve found out there are three rings in marriage – engagement ring, wedding ring, suffe-ring.” (For other couples, it might be boxing ring).
* * *
The subject of this 22nd Sunday’s gospel is about suffering. Pain and sufferings are part and parcel of human life – yes, even in the best of marriages. There’s physical suffering like those present victims of dengue, some of whom died. A lot of people suffer from the devastating effects of typhoons, floods, or fires causing loss of lives and properties.
Then there are the mental, emotional, and psychological sufferings like the loneliness of a solo parent, the anguish of caring for a bedridden father or mother, the drudgery of work aggravated by an unfriendly atmosphere, say, in an office.
* * *
Jesus in this Sunday’s gospel told His disciples that even He, the Messiah, had to suffer grievously and be put to death” (Mt 16:21). He added, “If you want to be my follower… you must carry your own cross” (verse 24).
The teaching that you “carry your cross” does not, of course, mean masochism or fatalism.
* * *
It does not mean that you just accept your fate and not do something about it. If medical experts, for instance, can remedy or lessen suffering, like the discovery drugs that will cure advanced cancer or HIV, then that will be a great contribution to humanity.
But if suffering is inevitable and beyond human control, the Christian attitude is that we offer it to God, uniting it with the sufferings of Christ so it becomes meritorious and not wasted. In the words of St. Paul: “If you suffer with Christ, you will also rise with Him.”
* * *
Then there are pains that are INFLICTED or caused by people. Think, for instance, of kidnappings and terrorism by heartless bandits and NPAs, intrigues or trials by publicity prevalent nowadays, that destroy the good name of others, a drunken husband who terrorizes his family, or corrupt officials who impoverish the country.
There would be less pain and misery if people knew how to respect the rights of others, if they were less selfish, less greedy, and more concerned about the needs and feelings of their fellowmen; in short, if people lived up to the teachings of the Lord.
* * *
ASK YOURSELF: Am I doing something to remedy pain and sufferings of the people around me? Do I cause the sufferings of my family, co-workers, and others? Am I doing something to alleviate the sufferings of the sick, victims of calamities and injustices by my acts of charity?
* * *
By: Fr. Jerry M. Orbos SVD
Philippine Daily Inquirer
9:52 pm | Saturday, August 27th, 2011
The story is told about a hold-up man who went behind a well-dressed man, stuck a gun in his ribs and said: “Give me your money!” The man responded: “You can’t do this. I am a congressman!” “In that case, give me my money,” the hold-up man replied.
* * *
In today’s Gospel (Mt. 16, 21-27) Jesus reminds us: “What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?”
How many people have lost their health, reputation, family, friends, values, and even their very souls for the sake of money? Is it worth it all?
* * *
Money has a way of blinding people and making them believe that they are invincible. They begin to see everything and everyone with a price tag, i.e., everything and everyone can be bought. In doing so they demean people. What they don’t realize is that they degrade themselves.
* * *
I wonder how people who are accused or branded as thieves, liars, or cheats feel? Or do they still feel or care at all? Money has a way of numbing the conscience and values of a person. The height of this arrogance is the thought that even God can be bought and manipulated with donations and “good deeds” on the side.
* * *
“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” By worldly standards, this statement is for losers and anyone who follows it is bound for failure, if not disaster. For the world, success is getting and having it all. For the follower of Christ, success is giving, and even losing it all, for His sake.
* * *
I have met all sorts of people in my lifetime, and I can say that the happiest people I have met are those who know how to fade away, while the most miserable are those who just get and get. This may be scoffed at as sour grapes, but I still believe that success is measured not so much by what we carry in our hands but by what we carry in our hearts.
* * *
“You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” Indeed, herein lies the difference. This world has a different set of values and goals which go contrary to that of the Gospel. The choice is ours. The end result too is ours. In the end, when we choose the path of righteousness, we have that peace which the world cannot give or take away.
* * *
By the way, those who take the righteous or the straight path must realize that it is also the path of humility. Righteousness without humility is self-righteousness which could lead to unnecessary arrogance and pride. What I know is that while righteousness cannot be compromised, that does not mean to say that it is unbending and uncaring.
* * *
Yesterday, I texted back a friend who was inquiring about my whereabouts that I was in the ICU of Capitol Medical Center. Soon after, I received about 10 text messages inquiring if I was all right, all very concerned about my health. My mistake was that I made people know where I was, but forgot to tell them why I was there! A very good reminder for us all not to forget the why, the reason of our existence.
* * *
Why was I in the ICU? To be with my ex-seminarian classmate Gilbert Joaquin who just lost his 33-year-old daughter Michelle, who some five months earlier lost her 5-year-old son Matthew. In moments like these, there isn’t much to say, but to be present, and to make God present in the most painful moments of life, and to somehow give hope and meaning. Those who put their trust in money and riches indeed are fools. Those who put their trust in God are assured that there is meaning, there is a big picture, there is a plan.
* * *
There is that stretch, that lonely road which you and I will have to travel alone in our journey to God. At that point, no matter how much they want to, those who are dearest to us cannot accompany us. In that final stretch, no amount of money and power can save us. May we not wait for those final moments to come before we hold on to our Lord.
* * *
“What will it profit when life here is over, though faraway places I see, if going my way and doing my will, I miss what God planned for me?” (Anonymous)
* * *
Friends of the late Fr. Adonis Narcelles Jr., SVD, are invited for a memorial Mass today at 3 p.m. at Christ the King Seminary, E. Rodriguez Sr. Ave., Quezon City. This will be preceded by the launching of his 5th book “Words of Faith” at the Divine Word Shrine Hall, Christ the King Seminary, at 1 p.m. Let us remember and give tribute to Father Adonis, our young missionary who humbly and joyfully served our fellow Filipinos in Germany.
* * *
A moment with the Lord:
Lord, remind me that the biggest losers in this world are those who have lost their very souls in their pursuit of this world. Amen.
See Today’s Readings: Cycle A