Monday, June 29, 2020

Let’s beg with strong faith

WITH the pandemic still ongoing, and with some areas still
having another spike of cases, we cannot help but feel as if we are
already on the brink of despair. Let’s turn this situation around by
begging Christ for a miracle, but begging him with a strong, operative
faith.

            Let’s be like those characters in the gospel who were
already in helpless conditions but who managed to live their faith
heroically and made it to bear on their misery. Despite the
difficulties, they approached Christ, and from the bottom of their
heart, they asked to be cured. And they were cured!

            In all those instances, Christ always referred to their
strong faith. Remember that time when Christ was pursued by two blind
men (cfr Mt 9,27-31). They shouted, “Lord, have pity on us.” But
Christ asked them if they have faith. “Do you believe that I can do
this?” “Yes, Lord,” they immediately replied. Then Christ told them,
“Let it be done to you according to your faith.” And they were cured.

            In all the other miraculous cures narrated in the gospel,
faith played a very crucial role. The woman who was cured of her
hemorrhage was also commended by Christ because of her faith. “Be of
good heart, daughter, your faith has made you whole…” (Mt 9,22)

            The same with the blind man, Bartimaeus, and the father of
the possessed boy who in his great distress told our Lord earnestly,
“I believe, but help my unbelief.” And that centurion who asked for
the healing of his sick servant (cfr. Mt 8,5-17), Christ was amazed at
his faith.

            “Sir,” the centurion told Christ, “I am not worthy to have
you under my roof; just give the word and my servant will be cured.
For I am under authority myself and have soldiers under me; and I say
to one man, ‘Go,’ and he goes; to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes…”
Christ was so taken by this reaction that he said, “In truth I tell
you, in no one in Israel have I found faith as great as this!”

            Miracles are always a matter of faith. We just have to
rectify our tendency to ask for miracles accompanied by doubts instead
of faith, or to associate miracles with big, extraordinary things.
Unless a blind man sees again, or a lame starts to walk, or a dead
rises to life again, people nowadays say there can be no miracles
taking place.

            It’s a question of faith.  When one has faith, even if it
is just little, we can actually see the marvels of God taking place
all around us everyday. That one perseveres in prayer, or decides to
confess his sins after a long period of sinfulness, or a husband being
faithful to his wife in spite of the strong temptations, etc., these
are miracles too.

            It is faith that lets us enter into the spiritual and
supernatural world. It brings us to share in God’s wisdom and power.
Remember those stirring words of Christ: “If you have faith as a grain
of mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, Remove from there,
and it shall remove, and nothing shall be impossible to you.” ((Mt
17,20)

            Imagine, if we express our faith in some extraordinary way
given a special favor we are asking Christ regarding the pandemic we
are having! If we band together in storming heaven for the miracle of
banishing this pandemic, for certain Christ will take pity on us and
give us what we want.

            Let’s strengthen our faith, making it operative and
demonstrating it with all sorts of sacrifices that we can think of,
and we can be sure that Christ will give in. We need not do this in
some showy way. It would be enough that in our heart of hearts, we beg
Christ for this miracle!

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul

JUNE 29, of course, is the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and
Paul, two prominent apostles who, together with the others, are
considered as the pillars of the Church. St. Peter is known as the
“Prince of the Apostles,” while St. Paul is the special vessel chosen
by Christ to be the “Apostle of the Gentiles.”

            The solemnity is a good occasion for us to remind
ourselves that our faith, while a supernatural gift from God, has to
be understood the way the apostles received, understood and taught it.
It is also an occasion to realize more deeply the divinely-guaranteed
continuity between the apostles and their successors—the Popes and the
bishops.

            Yes, in spite of the human weaknesses that we all have as
human beings, and that, for sure, the apostles as well as their
successors also have, that continuity that links us to Christ all
throughout time is kept.

            And that is simply because Christ said so. Remember that
time Christ gave St. Peter the keys to heaven. From the gospel of St.
Matthew, Chapter 16, we have this dramatic scene: “And you,” Jesus
asked the apostles, “who do you say that I am?” “You are the Messiah,”
Simon Peter answered, “the Son of the living God!”

            Jesus replied, “Blest are you, Simon son of John! No mere
man has revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. I for my part
declare to you, you are ‘Rock,’ and on this rock I will build my
church, and the jaws of death shall not prevail against it.

            “I will entrust to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you declare bound on earth shall be bound in heaven. Whatever
you declare loosed on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

            We need to meditate on these words often to strengthen our
faith in the apostles and their successors, especially when some
quarters start to sow doubts and intrigues about their integrity and
fidelity.

            Today, for example, there are some people who are casting
doubts as to whether Pope Francis is faithful to the office he
occupies. They remind me of those who split from the Church and formed
their own sects or cults because they accused some Popes in the past
and other Church leaders as having gone astray from the right path.
They even accused those Popes as the Antichrist.

            It’s like saying that these people had cracked the mystery
regarding who or what this Antichrist really was, and had the boldness
to present themselves as the Messiah or the savior of humanity of some
sort.

            It’s a pity because what we know is that Christ founded
only one church and that he has given that guarantee of continuity
that in spite of our human weaknesses, the gates of hell, the jaws of
death cannot prevail against it.

            Obviously, in the history of the Church the weaknesses of
men, including those on the top positions in the Church, would always
come out. But Christ assured us in very concrete terms that everything
will just be all right. They keys to heaven have been given to some
men, regardless of their weaknesses.

            We know that St. Peter himself was not a perfect man. He
had weaknesses, and in some instances was even scolded by Christ. St.
Paul talked about the thorn of the flesh that he was bearing. We can
imagine how the other apostles were.

            What we have to do is to fully trust in God’s providence
especially insofar as the Church leadership is concerned. If there is
something to clarify, we can always bring it up, but always in the
spirit of charity and filial piety.

            Let’s always remember that there will always be mysteries
in our life, in the world and in the Church. They may overwhelm us at
some points, but if we would just hold on to Christ and to what he has
left us, everything will just be taken care of!

Friday, June 26, 2020

The hierarchy of love

ALTHOUGH we have been saying that the love for God is
inseparable from our duty to love others (cfr. Mt 22,36-40),  and that
how we love or do not love our neighbor can also indicate our real
relationship with God (cfr. 1 Jn 4,20), we have to be clear about the
preeminence of the former over the latter. Without the love for God,
our love the others would be, at best, fake.

            Christ clarified this point when he said: “Whoever loves
father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves
son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Mt 10,37)

            We have to understand these words of Christ well. It does
not mean that our love for our parents or children should be less than
how we want it to be. It is just that we have to make sure that our
love for them is inspired by our love for God, who is the source, the
pattern, the power and the end of our love should be.

            And how do we know this love? How can we live it? This
love has been manifested to us in full by Christ himself and can be
made actual through the power of the Holy Spirit as we go through the
different circumstances of our life.

            Thus, Christ gave that new commandment that summarized and
perfected all the previous commandments. And that is that we love one
another as he, Christ, has loved us. (cfr. Jn 13,34) It’s a love that
goes all the way, and its scope is universal. It’s a love that can
take care of everything, including the difficulties.

            Remember St. Paul saying that charity, which is the real
love that comes from God through Christ in the Holy Spirit, “bears all
things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1
Cor 13,7)

            To be sure, this love can be lived by us because Christ
himself will empower us to do so, if we care to truly identify
ourselves with him. That love is actually all there for the taking.
Christ makes it available to us. Better said, Christ makes himself
available to us so we can love the way he loves all of us, without
exception.

            We need to bring these words of Christ to heart because we
are notorious for having that tendency to have our own version of love
that can never be real love, no matter how fervent and ardent we feel
it to be, unless it is inspired by our love for God.

            These words of Christ have to be acted on by us, as he
himself has told us. “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and
acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on rock.
Rain came down, floods rose, gales blew and hurled themselves against
that house, and it did not fall. It was found on rock.” (Mt 7,24-25)

            Thus, St. Paul said: “Not the hearers of the law are just
before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.” (Rom 2,13)
And St. James: “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving
your own selves.” (1,22)

            We have to be convinced that having this proper hierarchy
of love is what is best for us. It may require some self-denial and
sacrifices, but that is only because we are always in need of
discipline, purification and the healthy detachment we ought to have
with respect to the things of this world.

            We cannot deny that we are prone to be taken over by the
things of the flesh and of the world, if not of the devil himself,
that would alienate us not only from God but also from everybody else.
A love that is inspired by the flesh, the worldly things and the devil
himself can only be deceptive. It is a sweet poison!