Archive for category Repentance

Luke 19:1-10 Zacchaeus, the Chief Tax Collector and a Wealthy Man

The salvation of any is so very difficult (even the righteous scarcely are saved) while the salvation of the rich is seemingly impossible (Mt 19:24). Jesus explicitly teaches that the salvation of a rich man is so extremely difficult, that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle” (Mt 19:24).  Much more it such a rich man is a tax collector despised by the Jews as traitor and thief.  

Although it is a seeming impossibility for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God, with God’s initiative and gift of salvation and man’s cooperation his salvation becomes possible. Indeed, with God what seems impossible becomes possible. 

In today’s gospel narrative, we heard a story about Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector of a wealthy city of Jericho, center of commerce and exporter date palms and balsam. The story of Zacchaeus, is a story of a rich man who finds salvation. As Ryle noted, “Here we see the camel passing through the eye of the needle, and the rich man entering the kingdom of God” (J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House), p. 290)! Although it seem impossible for the rich people to be saved (see Mt 19:24), God can save them. For with God’s grace nothing is impossible. Along with the grace and initiative of God in Christ to seek out and to save what was lost, what saved Zacchaeus from sin and isolation?

First, his humility.  He humbled himself in acknowledging his sinfulness before God to the point of seeking to see Jesus who will save him from slavery to sin and misery caused by sin whose nature is to separate us from God and from one another. Humility is the sure evidence of Christian virtues. Without it, we retain all our faults still, and they are only covered over with pride, which hides them from other men’s observation, and sometimes from our own too (François, Duc De La Rochefoucauld (1613–1680), French writer, moralist. repr. F.A. Stokes Co., New York (c. 1930). Moral Maxims and Reflections, no. 358 (1665-1678), trans. London (1706)).

Second, his joyful welcome of Jesus and his gift of salvation and his response of repentance. Interior repentance is a radical orientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all our hearts, an end to sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance toward the evil actions we have committed. At the same time it entails the desire and resolution to change one’s life, with hope in God’s mercy and trust in the help of his grace. This conversion of heart is accompanied by a salutary pain and sadness which the Fathers called animi cruciatus (affliction of the spirit) and compunctio cordis (repentance of the heart) (Cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1676-1678; 1705; cf. Roman Catechism, II, V, 4). 

“Penance requires…the sinner to endure all things willingly, be contrite of heart, confess with the lips, and practice complete humility and fruitful satisfaction” Roman Catechism II, V, 21; cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1673). “Penance is therefore a conversion that passes from the heart to deeds, and then to the Christian’s whole life” (RP, n. 4).

Third, his repentance led him to renewal of life in Christ. “Conversion is accomplished and manifested in daily life by gestures of reconciliation, just and equitable reparation of the damage and harm done to others, concern for the poor, the exercise and defense of justice and right,[Cf. Am 5:24 ; Isa 1:17 .] by the admission of faults to one’s brethren, fraternal correction, revision of life, examination of conscience, spiritual direction, acceptance of suffering, endurance of persecution for the sake of righteousness. Taking up one’s cross each day and following Jesus is the surest way of penance’ (Cf. Lk 9:23 ).

St. Paul exhorts Christian who repented and converted to Christ:

“I declare and solemnly attest in the Lord that you must no longer live as pagans do – their minds empty, their understanding darkened. They are estranged from a life in God because of their ignorance and their resistance without remorse they have abandoned themselves to lust and the indulgence of every sort of lewd conduct. That is not what you learned when you learned Christ! I am supposing, of course, that he has been preached and taught to you in accord with the truth that is in Jesus: namely, that you must lay aside your former way of life and the old self which deteriorates through illusion and desire and acquire a fresh, spiritual way of thinking. You must put on that new man created in God’s image, whose justice and holiness are born of truth”  (Eph 4:17-24). 

It was not Zacchaeus’ giving money that saved him but his joyful reception of Jesus Christ and his invitation of salvation into his home and heart. Friends, Jesus has been knocking the door of our homes and hearts, be always ready in letting him in that you, like Zacchaeus, shall received the reward of Jesus: “Today salvation has come to this house…For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost” (Lk 19:10)

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Luke 15:1-32 The Parables of the Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, and the Lost Son

Human experiences teach us:

  • That the people who hurt us often and hurt us the most are people who are so close to us. That is why there is a song entitled, “Why do we always hurt the one we love?”
  • That the people we find the hardest to forgive are also people who are so close to us. People as such we call them traitors and ungrateful. It has been said that one’s best friends is  one’s worst enemies.
  • That the people who are deeply hurt or aggrieved have the tendency to self-pity, anger, hatred, resentment and revenge.

Given all these, it is hard to forgive, much harder, to forgive constantly. Indeed Alexander Pope is correct when he said, “To err is human, to forgive is divine.”

If your heart is filled with anger, hatred and revenge and you  find it hard to forgive those who hurt or offended you, then, the message of today’s Gospel is for you:  love the repentant sinner by forgiving him while hate the sin;  hope for repentance of sinner and celebrate the redemption of even one sinner.

In today’s gospel, Jesus  gave us the parables of  the lost sheep and the lost coin and the lost son. They all illustrate the point that God rejoices  about each sinner who repents. “There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one  sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to  repent” (verse 7)… “there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”  They reveal to us that God is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger, rich in compassion and relenting in punishment (  Ps 103:8, 145:8-9,15-18, Jl 2:12-13).”

Allow me to focus my homily on the Parable of the Prodigal Son.  The parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) is perhaps better named the parable of the lost son, since it is designed to go with the parables of the lost sheep (verses 3-7) and lost coin (verses 8-10). Some have even called it the parable of the prodigal father, because of the father’s extravagance. Even today, after centuries of teaching about God’s grace, the father’s willingness to forgive his runaway son is shockingly generous.

Going back to the parable we just heard, the younger son’s request was impudent and disrespectful.  Typically, sons received their inheritance on the death of their father.  Sometimes a father might decide to distribute part or all of the inheritance early so that he might retire, but the initiative is the father’s—not the son’s.  In the event that a son received his inheritance prior to the father’s death, the son was expected to stay at home to provide for his parents in their old age.  That was part of what it meant to “honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you” (Exod 20:12).

This younger son was guilty of:  (1) assuming the initiative that belonged to his father  (2) treating his father as if he were dead  (3) ignoring his obligation to his parents in their old age and (4) breaking the family relationship by leaving.  Such conduct was shameful in that culture.  A father would feel ashamed to have raised such a son.  Neighbors would raise their eyebrows and thank God not to have such sons themselves.

Despite of what had happened the father has forgiven his repentant impudent and disrespectful son who deeply offended and hurt him. The father in the parable represents God the Father who  is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment” (Jl 2:12-13) while the prodigal son represents the worst sinner who returns to the Father with contrite and humble spirit.  Just as God the Father has forgiven us in Christ when were sinners and when we were still His enemies let us also forgive those who has hurt and offended us.

Why do we need to forgive?

  • “The only way to peace is forgiveness. To accept and give forgiveness makes possible a new quality of rapport between men, interrupts the spiral of hatred and revenge and breaks the chains of evil which bind the heart of rivals” (Pope John Paul II,  Homily at Mass for First Sunday of Lent, “Day of Pardon”, March 12, 2000 and Angelus Message, March 12, 2000).
  • “Forgiveness saves the expense of anger, the high cost of hatred, and the waste of energy” (E. C. McKenzie).
  • Forgiveness of one another is a condition for authentic worship of the Father. “If you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Mt. 5:23-24; cf. 6:14-15; Mk 11:25; CCC 2841; cf. CFC 2187).
  • Man must forgive in order to be forgiven by God. The parable is a comment upon the fifth petition of the Lord’s prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us” (Mt 6:12).  Those, and those only, may expect to be forgiven of God, who forgive their brethren “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will you Father forgive your trespasses” (Mt 6:14, 15). As James had it, “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy” (James 2:13).

“Because you are God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with heartfelt mercy, with kindness, humility, meekness and patience.  Bear with one another; forgive whatever grievances you have against one another. Forgive as God has forgiven you in Christ” (Col 3:12f). Forgive and “so be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect ” (Mt 5: 44-48).

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Lk 19:1-10 Zacchaeus the Tax Collector

Jesus was passing through Jericho from the area of Jordan to Bethany near Jerusalem. He was on his way to raise Lazarus back to life. It was an important journey that he was undertaking but as he was going to perform this great miracle he still found time to deal with other people and their issues and needs and wants. The need that was going to delay him for a while was a man called Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector.

He is a small man, too short to see over the crowd. Zacchaeus, an abbreviation of Zechariah, means “the righteous one”– a big name to live up to.

The Roman empire had no officials of its own for the collection of taxes: in each country it used local people for this purpose. These were free to engage agents (hence we find reference to “chief tax collectors”: cf. Luke 19:2). The global amount of tax for each region was specified by the Roman authorities; the tax collectors  levied more than this amount, keeping the surplus for themselves: this led them to act rather arbitrarily, which was why the people hated them. In the case of the Jews, insult was added to injury by the fact that the chosen people were being exploited by Gentiles.

They were treated as the worst kind of sinners going, as they were sinning through choice and not ignorance. They were classed as untouchables, people to be shunned at all cost. Some other occupations that were classed as sinners were barbers, tanners, shepherds; they were all immoral jobs but at the top of this list were tax collectors. The moral equivalent of tax collectors were traitors, murderers and infidels.

Having considered this we can somehow say that the name is incongruous for Zacchaeus, since he is the chief tax collector in Jericho, and tax collectors were notorious for cheating the general public to fatten their pockets. They would assess a tax, and if the person refused to pay or called it unfair, Herod’s soldiers would threaten him. Regions of a kingdom would be divided up into districts, and a tax collector would become responsible for collecting a certain amount of tax and passing it up the chain to the government. Whatever he collected over the amount required was his to keep. A chief tax collector would employ tax collectors under him to collect taxes in various parts of the district.

As chief tax collector, Zacchaeus is probably was responsible for collecting tolls on goods coming into Judea from Perea, a main trade route. This business has made him rich. But despite his riches, or perhaps because of them, Zacchaeus is hated by the people. They see him as a crook and a traitor, who works as a spy for the Roman oppressors in order to take their money and give it to the occupation government, and on to Rome.

Zacchaeus being described in detail as short, wealthy, and chief tax collector would simply imply that  he is not only hated and condemned by the Jews but, more importantly his salvation is seemingly impossible.

In the figure of Zacchaeus in today’s Gospel, we have a portrait of a lost soul  wanting, needing, waiting, willing and ready to be saved when the right moment comes.

Zacchaeus’ faith brings salvation not only to himself but also to his house. He expresses his faith in his fervent desire to “see” Jesus, even humbling himself to climb a tree just to watch Him pass by. While those of loftier religious stature react to Jesus with grumbling, Zacchaeus receives Him with joy.

Zacchaeus is not like the other rich men Jesus meets or tells stories about (see Luke 12:16-21; 16:19-31; 18:18-25). He repents, vowing to pay restitution to those he has cheated and to give half of his money to the poor.

By his humility he is exalted, made worthy to welcome the Lord into his house. By his faith, he is justified, made a descendant of Abraham (see Romans 4:16-17).

Zacchaeus knew that all his riches and wealth would never make him happy. He also knew that he needed a Savior, one that could save him from all his sins. One who could
give him true happiness and peace of mind. His desire and change of heart, to make restitution with those he falsely accused and stolen from, and to give half of his goods to the poor, could have only been made possible by the gift of God, to those who believe.

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Lk 15:1-3, 11-32:The Parable of the Lost Son

Human experiences teach us:

  • That the people who hurt us often and hurt us the most are people who are so close to us. That is why there is a song entitled, “Why do we always hurt the one we love?”
  • That the people we find the hardest to forgive are also people who are so close to us. People as such we call them traitors and ungrateful. It has been said that one’s best friends is  one’s worst enemies.
  • That the people who are deeply hurt or aggrieved have the tendency to self-pity, anger, hatred, resentment and revenge. Given all these, it is hard to forgive, much harder, to forgive constantly. Indeed Alexander Pope is correct when he said, “To err is human, to forgive is divine.”

If your heart is filled with anger, hatred and revenge and you  find it hard to forgive those who hurt or offended you, then, the message of today’s Gospel is for you:  love the repentant sinner by forgiving him while hate the sin;  hope for repentance of sinner and celebrate the redemption of even one sinner.

Going back to the parable we just heard, the younger son’s request was impudent and disrespectful.  Typically, sons received their inheritance on the death of their father.  Sometimes a father might decide to distribute part or all of the inheritance early so that he might retire, but the initiative is the father’s—not the son’s.  In the event that a son received his inheritance prior to the father’s death, the son was expected to stay at home to provide for his parents in their old age.  That was part of what it meant to “honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you” (Exod 20:12).

This younger son was guilty of:  (1) assuming the initiative that belonged to his father  (2) treating his father as if he were dead  (3) ignoring his obligation to his parents in their old age and (4) breaking the family relationship by leaving.  Such conduct was shameful in that culture.  A father would feel ashamed to have raised such a son.  Neighbors would raise their eyebrows and thank God not to have such sons themselves.

Despite of what had happened the father has forgiven his repentant impudent and disrespectful son who deeply offended and hurt him. The father in the parable represents God the Father who  is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment” (Jl 2:12-13) while the prodigal son represents the worst sinner who returns to the Father with contrite and humble spirit.  Just as God the Father has forgiven us in Christ when were sinners and when we were still His enemies let us also forgive those who has hurt and offended us.

Why do we need to forgive?

  • “The only way to peace is forgiveness. To accept and give forgiveness makes possible a new quality of rapport between men, interrupts the spiral of hatred and revenge and breaks the chains of evil which bind the heart of rivals” (Pope John Paul II,  Homily at Mass for First Sunday of Lent, “Day of Pardon”, March 12, 2000 and Angelus Message, March 12, 2000).
  • “Forgiveness saves the expense of anger, the high cost of hatred, and the waste of energy” (E. C. McKenzie).
  • Forgiveness of one another is a condition for authentic worship of the Father. “If you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Mt. 5:23-24; cf. 6:14-15; Mk 11:25; CCC 2841; cf. CFC 2187).
  • Man must forgive in order to be forgiven by God. The parable is a comment upon the fifth petition of the Lord’s prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us” (Mt 6:12).  Those, and those only, may expect to be forgiven of God, who forgive their brethren “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will you Father forgive your trespasses” (Mt 6:14, 15). As James had it, “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy” (James 2:13).

“Because you are God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with heartfelt mercy, with kindness, humility, meekness and patience.  Bear with one another; forgive whatever grievances you have against one another. Forgive as God has forgiven you in Christ” (Col 3:12f). Forgive and “so be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect ” (Mt 5: 44-48).

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Word Alive

Story of Walter

By FR. BEL R. SAN LUIS, SVD

March 14, 2010, 11:58am

Once there was a man named Walter. He owned a littele variety store and, for some years in his own small way, he extended credit to poor people, helping them to get started in life. His town mates had all praises for the benevolent man.

Because of his generosity, the good Lord rewarded him. One day, Walter struck it rich when he won the lotto.

* * *

With all his overflowing wealth, he gave up his little business and bought a palatial house in an upscale subdivision. He enjoyed all the material comforts and amenities in life. Catapulted to the top of the social ladder, his lifestyle changed and sadly forgot all about his simple spirit and, charitable works of helping the poor. He had himself revitalized and rejuvenated. (Dunno if he went to Dr. Belo or Dr. Calayan).

* * *

The new Walter went on good times, spending money freely. He met a beautiful young woman and asked her for a date. But that evening before they could go out, a thunderstorm came up.

While crossing the street to meet his date, Walter was struck by a lightning bolt and he died instantly.

* * *

In the next life, Walter lamented, “After all those years of hard work, I was just trying to enjoy myself a little, Lord. Why did you do that to me?” And God said to him, “Oh, was that you Walter? I didn’t recognize you!”

Walter was so rejuvenated, so changed not only in looks but also his lifestyle and values that God could not recognize him.

* * *

LESSON. The Lord is surely not against getting rich or rejuvenating oneself. Nor is God against enjoying life now and then. Rather it’s a reminder about the danger of wealth. In the case of Walter, he forgot his original goodness of helping people.

* * *

Ask yourself: What’s my attitude towards money? Am I so preoccupied with it that I have no more time for God, say, in prayer? Am I so obsessed that I have to cheat or do immoral ways, like operating illegal gambling, trafficking in dangerous drugs or stealing?

Am I so attached to my possessions that I have become selfish and insensitive to the plight of the poor around me?

* * *

ACTION: In this Lenten season, I’ll show that money is not my God by allotting time for spiritual matters and doing more acts of charity.

* * *

THE LIGHTER SIDE. St. Peter to new arrival at Heaven’s gate: And what good deeds did you do during your lifetime?

New applicant: Well, I once gave an old beggar a R10. St. Peter: Anything else? New applicant: I’m afraid no more St. Peter: Well, here’s your R10 back – you can go to Hell!

* * *

Young boy praying in church: Give us this day our Daily Bread… with ham, egg and cheese, French fries, salad on the side. Priest passing by: Iho, are you praying or ordering?

* * *

7 LAST WORDS. The SVD Social Communications will present the “7 Last Words” on Good Friday, April 2, 2010 from 12-3 p.m. over ABS-CBN.

We sent out letters soliciting donations and advertisements to help us defray the costs of TV airtime and production. May we have your generous response?

* * *

Please send your help payable to Mission Communications Foundation, Inc. at: Christ the King Seminary, 1101 E. Rodriguez Blvd., 1099 Quezon City. For inquiries, call MCFI at Christ the King Seminary (cf. tel. directory) or e-mail: belsvd@yahoo.com.

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GOD BLESS – the latest donors: Dr. Montano Ramos Family; Lilian Villanueva; Dr. Thelma Clemente; Dr. Buena Alegre; Gene Liangco; Nely Uy; Liwanag Deveza; Dr. Aurelia Leus; Joey Uy; Amy Ty; Warren Family; Susie Lañada-Papa; Janet Chua; Anonymous.

http://www.mb.com.ph/articles/247644/story-walter

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MANILA, Philippines—Do you know why the government recently granted discounts to senior citizens? Because someone pointed out that, when it comes to food purchases, senior citizens are prohibited from eating many kinds of food anyway; on transportation, they can’t use it much anyway; on groceries, they can’t carry much of those anyway; on movies, they have bad eyes anyway; and on hospitals, they don’t have much time left anyway.

* * *

In contrast, in today’s Gospel about the prodigal son (Lk. 15, 1-3; 11-32), the Father’s love and forgiveness are without conditions and “anyways.” The loving Father’s generosity is gracious, total and unconditional. Many of us claim to give and forgive, but much of our giving and forgiving is often so conditional and self-serving.

* * *

Did you notice how all of a sudden, politicians seeking elective positions have become so giving and accommodating in terms of time, money and truckloads of promises? But this is only for a while, because once they are elected, they will be so busy in getting the return of their investment. They are giving now in order that they will get more later.

* * *

God’s love for us is beyond transactional. God gives us more than we deserve, and He gets from us much less than He deserves. God is generous and merciful, while we are wanting yet exacting. In so far as we strive to be generous, and go beyond justice toward mercy, we too become like God.

* * *

In the end, it is God’s mercy that will save us. Our so-called merits will not be enough to transact for our salvation. That is why, in humility, every day we earnestly and sincerely pray: “Lord, I am a sinner, have mercy, have pity on me.”

* * *

Humanly speaking, we give and love “if . . .” But God loves us “even if . . .” Our loving, giving and forgiving are very conditional. As we continue to receive so much unconditional love from God, may we too learn to become less transactional and more unconditional in our loving, giving and forgiving.

* * *

I am a grateful recipient of God’s unconditional love. I know and believe that I am loved not so much because of, but in spite of me. How many times have I disobeyed God, yet He continues to manifest His constant love! Presumptuous? I say it again: It is better to be presumptuous of God’s love than to doubt God’s love. If you have not experienced what it is like to sin and be forgiven, to be broken and be made whole again, then, you have not really experienced God’s tremendous love.

* * *

We insult God when we sin. We insult Him more if we doubt that He loves us and forgives us again and again. God’s love and forgiveness are greater and broader than we can imagine. Let us not limit God’s love. Instead, let us celebrate His goodness and love.

* * *

Remember me writing some Sundays ago about exit from this world and entrance into eternity? My very good friends lawyer Manuel and Norma Pastrana had a sudden exit from this world, when their house in Cebu City was gutted by fire at dawn last Thursday, March 11. It was such a shock to me. Indeed, we don’t know the time nor the hour. The Season of Lent reminds us again and again that we are dust and to dust we will return.

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When tragedy strikes, there are many things we cannot explain or understand. At such moments, all we need to do is to accept, surrender, trust and hold on to God’s master plan, and believe in His unconditional love. “Lord, I don’t understand but I believe you have a plan.”

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I was in Roxas City recently to celebrate the annual Memorial Mass for my classmate Fr. Antonio Barriatos, SVD who died as a missionary in Paraguay in 1994. I do this in gratitude to his family who offered Father Tony for the missions with no ifs and no buts. I salute the many countless and faceless generous people around us who live out their faith in very simple but concrete ways.

* * *

We will be in Alaminos City, Pangasinan for a Healing Mass at the St. Joseph Cathedral on Wednesday, March 17, 2010. Together with the people and with Bishop Marlo Peralta, DD, Bishop of Alaminos, we will pray for the healing of Pangasinan and our motherland especially for the coming May elections. And, we will also pray for rain, much needed rain to come upon us, soon.

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Please remember one often unnoticed but significant character in the Parable of the Prodigal Son—the fattened calf! Why, what did it do? What was its fault that it had to be slaughtered? It just happened to be there when the prodigal son came home. Oh well, if you experience being feasted upon, or being blamed, or misjudged, console yourself with the thought it all happened once to an innocent fattened calf.

* * *

A moment with the Lord:

Lord, help me to love like you, with no “ifs” and no “buts.” Amen.

http://opinion.inquirer.net/inquireropinion/columns/view/20100313-258495/No-ifs-no-buts

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Lk 13:1-9: A Call to Repentance

Moments

Concrete

By Fr. Jerry Orbos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:15:00 03/06/2010

MANILA, Philippines—Did you hear the story about a thief who was caught stealing a truckload of cement? He was apprehended right away. Why? Because the evidence was very concrete!

* * *

In today’s Gospel (Lk. 13, 1-9), Jesus tells the parable of the fig tree that was given all the chance to bear fruit but didn’t. We too are to bear fruits, and our Lenten repentance must be concrete. It is not enough to say “I’m sorry” and go on sinning anyway.

* * *

Righteousness is who you are before God and not who you are compared to others. Let us not fall into the sin of self-righteousness and spiritual pride. The best starting point is humility—I am a sinner, but you, O God, are loving and merciful.

* * *

God has a hard time dealing with self-righteous people who claim that they deserve His love precisely because they think they are good. Remember the story of the prodigal son and the righteous son? The forgiven one became grateful while the good one became resentful.

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May everything we do in life, especially this Lenten season be borne out of gratitude and love for Him who loves us tremendously and who has forgiven us so many times unconditionally. A proud person does not know what gratitude really means. A “self-made” person, for that matter, has no idea as to what grace, amazing grace, is all about.

* * *

Instead of thinking of God as the all-seeing scorer up there, complete with binoculars and camera, why don’t we see Him more as a real companion and a Father with a heart down here?

* * *

In the renewal of vows on their 60th wedding anniversary recently, Aurelio Bautista said to his wife: “I love you Auring all these years.” To which Aurora Bautista simply replied: “I loved you twice as much all these years!” That’s it. That’s the secret for a relationship to grow and last. Someone has to love more. Otherwise it’s only justice we are talking about. Love is the constant going, the extra mile, and the giving of one more smile.

* * *

We can never reciprocate God’s love. God is always the gracious one. He is the God who reaches out, and He can never be outdone in love and generosity. This realization should lead us to humility and gratitude toward Him and toward our fellow-sinner brothers and sisters.

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We are experiencing drought in many places in our country these days. Let us pray for rain to water our plants and trees again. The absence or lack of water affects not only the quantity but also the quality of the fruits of the earth. There is another kind of drought that we can experience, and that is spiritual drought. Let us make sure that we do not neglect nourishing our souls.

* * *

Are you one of those people who just “exhaust the soil”? Are you just all grandeur and pleasure? Are you contributing to the betterment of this world or are you just occupying space? As someone once said, service is our rent for our stay in this world. This Lenten season, let us check if we are paying our rent.

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For Lent, why don’t you have a “project” which only you and the Father would know? Do something good, give up something bad, and let this all be done in secret, and you will experience a joy which the world cannot give nor take away.

* * *

Today, the Lord reminds us that He is a God who gives us many chances, but He also is a God who will make final reckoning and judgment. This is a warning for those who think they will get away with all their wrongdoing. Your day will come. This also serves as a consolation for those who hope in God’s goodness and love. Your day, too, will come.

* * *

By the way, is camote (sweet potato) a fruit or vegetable? Someone once said that it is a fruit because when you eat too much of it, the musical tune “fruittt” comes out!

* * *

Please do not forget that one of the fruits of the Spirit is joy. We need people who lift us from our darkness, and remind us that life is not all about work and cares. Yes, we need people who point to the “big picture”—that there is a God who is in control, who is the Father of us all.

* * *

Let us take time to examine the kind of life we are living. Concretely speaking, does our faith make us better persons, better citizens of this country and of this world? Our faith must bear fruits that are concrete, and that will endure and last.

* * *

If you are going through any kind of pruning right now, be consoled with the thought that pruning leads to fruit-bearing. All our hard work, trials and sufferings, so to say, will bear fruit someday. Praying, hoping that all of us will live fruitful lives.

* * *

A moment with the Lord:

Lord, remind me that my faith is not complete if it is not concrete. Amen.

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Word Alive

Do we heed His warning?

By FR. BEL R. SAN LUIS, SVD

March 5, 2010, 4:32pm

When Mt. Pinatubo erupted in 1991 causing great devastation to Zambales and Pampanga provinces, not a few considered it as God’s wrath over two “cities of sin” located within those provinces.

There was a rich man who fell into a sickness which the best doctors in Manila could not diagnose. People in the know said he had no appetite to eat and was wasting away. Many of them believed his sickness was not physical but spiritual (na-karma). For many years, the man had been operating an illegal gambling which pervaded the whole of Southern Luzon.

* * *

These tragedies are contemporary events which may be compared to the ones mentioned in the gospel of this 3rd Sunday of Lent. One of these was the ruthless murder of some Galileans while they were offering their temple sacrifices. The victims were probably political agitators and this was Pilate’s way of getting rid of them.

The other incident was a construction accident wherein 18 innocent people were crushed to death by a falling tower in Siloam (Lk 13,1).

* * *

Like the people in the gospel, perhaps we are tempted to feel that the victims of destructive calamities were punished for their sins or their relatives’ offenses.

But Jesus warns us, as he repeatedly does in his teachings, that it is not for us to judge people and their sins. No one but God really knows what is in the human heart.

* * *

Rather than judge the victims of tragedies or their perceived causes, we should learn from their experience by reminding us that we, too, will face eternal damnation unless we’re sorry for our sins and reform.

“You will all come to the same end unless you turn away from your sins,” Jesus says.

* * *

ONE MORE CHANCE. Jesus’ warning is followed by a parable about a fig tree. Usually it takes a fig tree three years to mature and bear fruit. If it does not bear fruit by that time, it likely never will and so it can be cut down.

But this fig tree had already been allotted twice the number of years for it to bear fruit. Still the owner gives the fig tree one more chance, ordering the vinedressers to cultivate and manure it.

* * *

The fig-tree parable conveys the message that God is very patient with us. God is more than generous with the opportunities for us to reform our lives.

There’s a story of a man living in the hurricane-prone suburbs of Florida. He went to a department store downtown and bought a fine barometer. Delighted with his acquisition, he hurried home and proudly hung it on his living room wall. But what he saw made him very angry: the barometer reading indicated “Hurricane!”

* * *

Convinced that he had been sold a defective instrument, he walked back to the department store, handed the barometer to the sales clerk, and snorted, “Hey, what’s this barometer you sold me, ha? I put it up in my house and what do you suppose it registered? ‘Hurricane!” To which the sales clerk replied, “But what I sold you was brand-new?”

* * *

“No, I don’t like this instrument,” he said angrily, “I want a replacement.” “No problem,” the store owner said. “I’ll replace it in a minute.”

The man headed for home with his new barometer, but by the time he arrived there, his house had been blown away!

* * *

We are in the season of Lent and God affords us this time as a grace to be sorry.

Instead of covering up our faults, instead of justifying ourselves or blaming others, let’s face the truth about ourselves and make the necessary step to reform – before it’s too late.

* * *

FAMILY TV MASS – is aired by the SVD Mission Communications Foundation, Inc. (MCFI) on IBC 13 at 9-10 a.m. every Sunday.

This Sunday’s sponsor: National Shrine of the Divine Mercy, Marilao, Bulacan. Celebrant: Fr. Mar DJ ARENAS.

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