Archive for category Obedience

December 20, 2017: Reflection on the FIFTH DAY OF SIMBANG GABI

“God wills all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the fullness of truth” (1 Tim 2:3-4) – Jesus who is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). To fulfill this plan of salvation, God begins by giving his people a sign: “The Virgin is with child and bears a son and calls his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). This was fulfilled through the virginal conception and birth of Jesus as announced by angel Gabriel in today’s gospel that Mary will conceive and bear a son and name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins (see Lk 1:26-38). This messianic prophecy was fulfilled when Mary gave her YES TO GOD to become the mother of Jesus, who is the Immanuel which means “the God-with-us,” “God made man (John 1:14),” Lord and God (John 20:28)“in him the fullness of divinity dwells (Col 1:19),” “the Way, the Truth and the life(John 14:6),” our model and teacher of holiness.

“Jesus Christ is the central figure of the world’s history. The world cannot forget Him while it remembers history, for history is His story. To leave Him out would be like astronomy without stars, or like botany with the flowers forgotten. Horace Bushnell said, “It would be easier to untwist all the beams of light in the sky and to separate and erase one of the primary colors, than to get the character of Jesus out of the world.” The history of the race since it’s inception has been the history of the preparation for His coming. The Old Testament foretells His coming in type, symbol, and direct prophesy. The history of His people Israel is a story of expectation, of yearning, of preparation. The fact of Jesus Christ is not only firmly imbedded in human history and written upon the open page of Scripture, but is also experientially embodied in the lives of millions of believers and interwoven in the fabric of all civilization worthy of the name. …. You may have Confucianism without Confucius; Buddhism without Buddha; Islam without Muhammad; Mormonism without Joseph Smith; and Christian Science without Mary Baker Eddy. But you cannot have Christianity without Christ, for strictly speaking, Christianity is Christ, and Christ is Christianity. It is not primarily a religion, but a life; and the life is His life made living in men. “Christ in you, the hope of glory”.

Indeed, angel Gabriel was right when he, through his greeting, beautifully describes Mary “full of grace”, “the Lord is with you,” who with her “FIAT” or YES TO GOD became the “Theotokos” meaning the “Bearer of God,” the “Mother of God.”

“The way to salvation is the divine will: a royal way, entirely straight and sure, which leads to God. The one who follows it cannot be led astray. Hence, seek the will of God, nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else. Sanctity properly so-called consists in simple conformity to the Divine will expressed in the exact and constant fulfillment of the duties of one’s proper state. Seek, therefore, the will of God: nothing more, nothing less, nothing else” (Pope Benedict XV).

“Complete” obedience does not mean that we have never sinned by disobeying but that we have committed ourselves to obeying the Lord “in every aspect of (our) conduct” (see 1 Pt 1:15). We have decided on “complete coverage” in our obedience. We obey the Lord speaking through the Church, in the Bible, through the Pope, bishops, authorities, husbands, parents, and leaders. To do this, we have learned what the Bible says and what the Church and Pope teach. We obey the Lord in our relationships, sexuality, money, possessions, time, work, speaking, eating, sleeping, recreation, etc. There are no areas of our lives where we haven’t tried to know God’s will or where we don’t even think of obeying God. We are living lives of complete obedience (see 1 Pt 1:2). We’re not trapped into the selfish emptiness of doing our own thing. We live a life of love, for obedience is an essential way of expressing our love (see Jn 15:10; 1 Jn 5:3).

Like Mary’s FIAT, let us give our YES TO GOD who calls us to sanctification and salvation, who calls us to the life and mission of the church!

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Luke 12:49-53 Jesus: a cause of division

The new millennium has witnessed and continues to witness various and different faces of violence, division and situations of unpeace. Hardly any day passes that we do not hear the sad news of violent aggression and brutality unleashed against innocent people somewhere around the world. To make matters worse, perpetrators of these acts of violence often try to justify these atrocities by claiming that they are fighting a holy war in God’s name. Think of the crusades, the Taliban in Afghanistan, Al Qaeda in Iraq, and the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda. And the latest is the ISIS or ISIL.

Today’s readings are indeed a call to war: not a war against other people but a war against sin and evil; not a war against people we perceive as evil, but a war against the evil one, the devil.

Jesus shocked his disciples when he declared that he would cast fire and cause division rather than peace upon the earth.  This is a disturbing word knowing Jesus as the Prince of Peace who has come “to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Lk 1:79) and to dispense peace “among those whom he favors” (Lk 2:14) Here he makes it clear that he cast fire and brings division rather than peace.  In Matthew’s parallel verse (10:34), Jesus brings a sword.

Is Jesus contradicting himself on his teachings about love peace and unity? Is Jesus contradicting himself the fourth precept of the Decalogue or Ten Commandment which is, “Honor your father and mother!” Certainly not. Jesus, in saying those paradoxical words, did not intend to destroy family and other human relations, ties and institutions. Rather he was only telling his disciples, in a forceful language, the following:

First, to choose and to follow Jesus is a matter of personal choice. No can one can make decision for us. Not even the Church or the State. Not even our family. And when we choose, either we choose and follow Jesus or reject him. There is no middle way. There is no half-way. There is no other alternative. There is no other option. Please bear in mind that our sanctification and salvation depend on the kind of choice we make. Choose God and you choose life, happiness and peace.

Second, if we opted to choose and follow Jesus then our loyalty, obedience and faithfulness to him must be urgent, exclusive and unparalleled. When it comes to hierarchy of values and priorities in life, God always takes precedence over possessions and relations. To choose and follow Jesus only and always may  sometimes bring division and conflict. This is the necessary consequence and cost of following Jesus. This substantially explains the paradoxical words of Jesus in today’s Gospel.

Third, Jesus’ message of love, peace and unity does not necessarily mean that we compromise with evil and tolerates injustices and wrong-doings. Peace and unity that we rightly desire can be achieved not by compromise, force and violence but by doing the will of God for us and through us. Let this Christian moral principles always guide us: Do good and hate sin! Love sinner and hate evil!

In today’s Mass, Jesus invites all of us to examine who we love first and foremost.  Does the love of Jesus Christ compel you to put God first in all you do (2 Corinthians 5:14)? A true disciple loves God above all else and is willing to forsake all for Jesus Christ.  Jesus insists that his disciples give him the loyalty which is only due to God, a loyalty which is higher than spouse or kin because it is possible that family and friends can become our enemies when they prevent and hinder us from following  and serving the Lord.

Let our “faith in God leads us to turn to him alone as our first origin and our ultimate goal, and neither to prefer anything to him nor to substitute anything for him” (CCC 229).

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