Archive for category Salvation
One time three pastors were discussing about bat infestation in their churches. “I got so mad,” said one, “I took a shotgun and fired at them. Some got killed but the majority are still up there.” “I tried pesticide spray,” said the second pastor, “but those damn bats gave birth to new ones.” “I haven’t had any more problems,” said the third pastor.“What did you do?” asked the interested two. “I simply baptized them,” he replied. “I haven’t seen them in church since then!”
Indeed, like those bats, after baptism, many Christians are never seen in church again. This is what the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines called “unchurched.” “Unchurched” has three categories:
First, the “nominal catholics.” These refer to the catholics in name only or the so-called KBL (Kasal, Binyag, Libing) Christians. Or, as one Bishop described it: Katolikong nakaalala lamang sa Dios tuwing panahon ng Kulog at kidlat, Baha at bagyo, Lahar at lindol. Or, as someone put it, Christians who come to church only three times in their whole lifetime – when they are “hatched, matched, dispatched” … to the cemetery or memorial garden, that is.
Second, the “uninformed and unformed faithful.” These refer to that many baptized Catholic Christians who grow up grossly ignorant of religious instructions and their obligations as Christians and were not formed by Christian values and virtues. There is a story said about candidates for marriage who were personally interviewed by the parish priest in a far flung area. “Do you know any dogma of the Church?” asked the priest. The girlfriend to save his boyfriend from embarrassment due to ignorance immediately answered, “The dogma of the Holy Trinity, Father!” Then the priest threw another question, “How many God do Christians have?” “Of course, one, Father,” answered the girlfriend. Then the priest gave a follow-up question, “How many divine persons in God?” “Obviously, its three divine persons, Father,” said the girlfriend. Finally, the priest turned his attention to the boyfriend and asked, “How about you? Do you have any idea what or who are the three persons in God?” The boyfriend, caught in his ignorance, responded, “Melchor, Gaspar and Balthasar.” He confused the Holy Trinity with the Three Kings.
Third, the”uninterested parishioners.” These refer to the majority of Christian parishioners who are indifferent, lukewarm and uninvolved to the mission, mission and goals of the parish. In particular, uninterested to get involved with any program, project and activity of the parish. Examples of these are the Catholic parishioners who never go to Mass, who never confess their grave sins even at least once a year during Lenten season, who never receive communion, who never observe the prescribed days of fasting and abstinent, who never keep holy Sunday and other holy days of obligation, and lastly, who never provide to the best of their ability for the material needs of the Church.
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Jesus is baptized not because he is a sinner but because he wants to be in solidarity with us especially in our journey towards the Kingdom of God. That he is with us and is one of us. Furthermore, the baptism of Jesus is more of a revelation of who he is and what his mission should be. As William Barclay writes: “So in the baptism there came to Jesus two certainties–the certainty that he was indeed the chosen One of God, and the certainty that the way in front of him was the way of the Cross.”
As we celebrate this Feast of the Baptism of the Lord we are reminded of the necessity of baptism in relation to our salvation and the mission entrusted to us when we were baptized in the Lord. Is baptism really necessary? Yes, because baptism is or calls us to:
B – bath of rebirth. Original and actual sins are washed away and the baptized becomes a new creation
A – anointing with the Holy Spirit. The baptized, like Jesus, is anointed as priest, prophet and king.
P – erfection of Charity and Fullness of Christian life when it is no longer I who lives in me but Christ.
T – otal dedication and commitment to live the truth of faith in every moment and aspect of life.
I – nterior repentance and conversion toward new life in Christ.
S – eal of salvation. The baptized is sealed with indelible character that he belongs to Christ and marked to be saved.
M – ission to bear fruits of holiness and evangelization.
St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians reminds us that to glorify God is to be “in the church and in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 3:21). Hence, faith and baptism are joined as preconditions of salvation (Mark 16:16). It is, therefore, fitting and praiseworthy to renew our baptismal promises to love God above all and to reject Satan and all his wickedness.
“”On this day, when “Christ our passover was sacrificed,” the Church mediates on the passion of her Lord and Spouse, adores the cross, commemorates her origin from the side of Christ asleep on the cross, and intercedes for the salvation of the whole world” (Circular Letter Concerning the Preparation and Celebration of the Easter Feasts (Prot. 0) January 16, 1988 by the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship no. 58)
Terrorism is nothing new. It’s probably as old as the human race.
In fact the cradle of civilization, now Iraq, was the home of the most infamous terrorists of antiquity, the Assyrians. Their goal was to conquer their neighbors in a way that would minimize initial resistance and subsequent rebellion. To do this, they knew fear would be their greatest weapon. Simple threat of death for those who resisted was not enough because many would prefer death to slavery. So the Assyrians developed the technology to produce the maximum amount of pain for the longest amount of time prior to death. It was called crucifixion. This ingenious procedure proved to be very effective terror tactic indeed.
It was the policy of the Roman Empire to adopt from conquered peoples whatever appeared useful. They found crucifixion an excellent tool of intimidation. The humiliation of being stripped naked to die in a public spectacle was particularly loathsome to Jews for whom public nudity was an abomination. Incidentally, crucifixion was deemed so horrible that Roman law forbade that it be carried out on a Roman citizen, even a traitor. It was reserved only for slaves and conquered peoples.
At the beginning of his last week, Jesus was greeted in Jerusalem as a heroic savior, someone to free the Jews from Roman authority. By the end of the week, Jesus was no longer seen as a hero. He was even betrayed by Judas, the treasurer of the apostles, for thirty shekels of silver which is the monetary worth of a slave. Denied thrice by Peter, whom he has chosen to be the head of the apostles. Abandoned by the other apostles except John. Demanded to be crucified by the same people who shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” [Mt. 21:9]. Lastly, “rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes,” who handed him to the Gentiles to be mocked, scourged and crucified (see Lk 24:26-27. 44-45; Mk 8:31; Mt 20:19.) as he prophesied earlier.
Jesus’ violent death was not the result of chance in an unfortunate coincidence of circumstances, but is part of the mystery of God’s plan, as St. Peter explains to the Jews of Jerusalem in his first sermon on Pentecost: “This Jesus [was] delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Act 2:23). This biblical language does not mean that those who handed him over were passive players in a scenario written in advance by God (cf. Acts 3:13, CCC 599).
For the sake of accomplishing his plan of salvation, God permitted the acts that flowed from their blindness (cf. Mt 26:54; Jn 18:36; 19:11; Acts 3:17-18). The Scriptures had foretold this divine plan of salvation through putting to death of “the righteous one, my Servant” as a mystery of universal redemption, that is, as the ransom that would free men from the slavery of sin (Is 53:11; cf. 53:12; Jn 8:34-36; Acts 3:14). Hence, Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.
Faithful to the saving mission he received from God the Father, Jesus “humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” [Phil. 2:8] In His Divine incarnation, He humbled Himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. Jesus did not empty Himself of His Divinity but He voluntarily gave up the Divine glory to which He was entitled, a glory that would be restored at His exaltation. [Jn. 17:5; Mt. 17:1-8]
]Having humbled Himself, even unto death, God exalted Jesus, giving Him the Name that is above every name. [Phil. 2:9; Eph. 1:21; Heb. 1:4; 1 Pet. 3:22] That at the Name of Jesus, in an act of religious adoration, every knee should bend, in Heaven and on earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. [Phil. 2:10-11; 1 Cor. 12:3; Rom. 10:9; Col. 2:6]
John the evangelist captures the mystery of salvation when he writes, God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that whoever believes will not die but may have eternal life (Jn 3:16). Hence, it was not the nails that hung Jesus on the cross but God’s love for us in his Son Jesus Christ, the image of God’s compassionate and gracious love for His people.
Have faith in God and in the One whom He sent for us and for our salvation. As John says, “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (Jn 17:3). Besides, “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). “
We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you. Because by your holy cross, you have redeemed the world” (St. Francis of Assisi). Tell the world of His LOVE.
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)
There is a question that has always nagged believers like us: Will there be many or few people saved? During certain periods this problem became so acute as to cause some people terrible anxiety, restlessness, depression and despair. More especially when they are in danger of death due to sickness and old age.
This Sunday’s Gospel informs us that Jesus himself was once asked this question: ‘Lord, will only a few people be saved?’
The question, as we see, focuses on the number — How many will be saved? Will it be many or few? In answering the question, Jesus shifts the focus from “how many” to “how” to be saved.
Jesus’ way of responding to these questions is not strange or discourteous. He is just acting in the way of one who wants to teach his disciples how to move from curiousity to wisdom; from idle question to real problem; from petty to essential issue that we need to grapple with in life
Again, in today’s Gospel, Jesus is not so much interested in revealing to us the number of the saved but how to be saved.
Have you ever asked yourselves the following questions? How can I possess eternal life? How can I enter the kingdom of heaven? How can I be saved? These questions really matter when it comes to the issue of ultimate destiny. These are the kind of questions we need to address now and always. Else we will compromise both our future and present, our life here on earth and hereafter.
St. Thomas Aquinas, who has been honored as Doctor of the Church and Angelic Doctor by the Catholic Church, has given us a beautiful answer to all the relevant questions? He wrote: “Three things are necessary for the salvation of man: to know what he ought to believe; to know what he ought to desire; and to know what he ought to do” (Two Precepts of Charity ).
Let us discuss these three things a bit deeper:
First, to know what we ought to believe. This refers to the need to have faith in Jesus. “Believing in Jesus Christ and in the One who sent him for our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation”: so teaches the First Vatican Council (1869-1870) in its Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith, Dei Filius (Denzinger-Schönmetzer, 3012). Why? Because “Without faith it is impossible to please [God]” (Hebrews 11:6). He who believes and is baptized will be saved, but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mk 16:15).
Second, to know what we ought to desire. What is the deepest longing of our heart? The Catechism (see CCC 1729) teaches: “The Beatitudes reveal the goal of human existence, the ultimate end of human acts: happiness or blessedness (Mt 25:21,23; cf. CCC 1719), the coming of the Kingdom of God (cf. Mt 4:17), eternal life (Jn 17:3; cf. Mk 10:30), seeing God face to face or beatific vision (Mt 5:8; cf. 1 Jn 3:2; 1 Cor 13:12), sharing in his divine nature (2 Pt 1:4; St. Irenaeus, Adv. Haeres. 3, 19), filiation or (John 11:52), and rest in God (cf. Heb 4:7-11). ; see also Cf. CCC 1720). Simply said, “Do you aspire for a happy and intimate communion with God with his angels and saints in the kingdom of heaven for eternity?”
Third, to know what we ought to do. The kingdom of God is intended for all men and women of all generations and nations. But to enter the kingdom of God words are not enough, deeds are necessary such as:
Repentance. “Unless you change and humble yourself like a little child you cannot enter the Kingdom of God.” “From the Sermon on the Mount onwards, Jesus insists on conversion of heart: reconciliation with one’s brother before presenting an offering on the altar, love of enemies, and prayer for persecutors, prayer to the Father in secret, not heaping up empty phrases, prayerful forgiveness from the depths of the heart, purity of heart, and seeking the Kingdom before all else. This filial conversion is entirely directed to the Father” (CCC 268).
- · Detachment from possessions and relations. “The precept of detachment from riches is obligatory for entrance into the Kingdom of heaven” (CCC 2544).
- Observance of the Ten Commandments. “Whoever fulfills and teaches these commandments shall be great in the kingdom of God” (Mt 5:19). The Parable of the Rich Young Man reminds us of the permanent validity of the Ten Commandments as essential to one’s salvation.
- · Observance of the the Commandment of Love. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind” (Mk 12:30). “And your neighbor as yourself” (Lk 10:27) is the first and most important. It is not surprising, therefore, to hear Jesus giving his disciples a new commandment of love before he left them: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:34-5).”
“God wills all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:3-4). He is “forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish” (2 Pt 3:9; cf. Mt 18:14). “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil 2:12-13).
Easter is the greatest feast in the Christian liturgical calendar. The feast of all feasts. The night of all nights and the day of all days. “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad” because the Lord is risen from the dead.
On this Sunday, Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. For us Catholics, Easter Sunday comes at the end of 40 days of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving known as Lent. Through spiritual struggle and self-denial, we have prepared ourselves to die spiritually with Christ on Good Friday, the day of His Crucifixion, so that we can rise again with Him in new life on Easter.
Easter is a day of celebration because it represents the fulfillment of our faith as Christians. St. Paul wrote that, unless Christ rose from the dead, our faith is in vain (1 Corinthians 15:17). Without Christ risen from the dead we remain in our slavery to sin, we remain under the dominion and oppression of Satan and the evil ones, we remain blinded by ignorance, we remain alienated from God whose wrath awaits us on the day of judgment. Without Christ risen from the dead, there is no Church, there is no sacrament, there is no priest, there is no Mass, and there is no reason for us to gather today with great rejoicing and gladness.
Through his death, Christ saved mankind from bondage to sin, and He destroyed the hold that death has on all of us; but it is His Resurrection that gives us the promise of new life, both in this world and the next.
That new life began on Easter Sunday. In the Our Father, we pray that “Thy Kingdom come, on earth as it is in Heaven.” And Christ told His disciples that some of them would not die until they saw the Kingdom of God “coming in power” (Mark 9:1). The early Christian Fathers saw Easter as the fulfillment of that promise. With the resurrection of Christ, God’s Kingdom is established on earth, in the form of the Church.
That is why people who are converting to Catholicism traditionally are baptized at the Easter Vigil service, which takes place on Holy Saturday (the day before Easter), starting sometime after sunset. They have usually undergone a long process of study and preparation known as the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA). Their baptism parallels Christ’s own Death and Resurrection, as they die to sin and rise to new life in the Kingdom of God.
Because of the central importance of Easter to the Christian faith, the Catholic Church requires that all Catholics who have made their First Communion receive the Holy Eucharist sometime during the Easter season, which lasts through Pentecost, 50 days after Easter. (The Church also urges us to take part in the Sacrament of Confession before receiving this Easter communion.) This reception of the Eucharist is a visible sign of our faith and our participation in the Kingdom of God. Of course, we should receive Communion as frequently as possible; this “Easter Duty” is simply the minimum requirement set by the Church.
Allow me to end my homily with this story:
Patt Barnes came upon an old lady selling flowers on a busy city street.
Her face was old and wrinkled, but radiant with an Easter smile.
Patt took a flower, paid her, and said:
“How happy you are this morning.” The flower lady replied, “Why not? Everything is beautiful.” Patt was
startled by her reply, because she was dressed so shabbily and looked so frail.
Patt said: “You surely wear your troubles well!
Again, her reply startled Patt: “When Jesus died Good Friday,” she said, “that was the worst of days. Then, 3 days later–Easter! So when troubles come my way, I simply wait three days. Then and everything gets all right again.”
How do I handled my troubles?
How might I better handle them?
We are Easter people; and Alleluia is our song!
O Lord Jesus Christ, who upon this day did conquer death and rise from the dead, and who are alive for ever more, help us never to forget your Risen Presence forever with us.
Help us to remember,
That you are with us in every time of perplexity to guide and to direct;
That you are with us in every time of sorrow to comfort and console;
That you are with us in every time of temptation to strengthen and to inspire; That you are with us in every time of loneliness to cheer and befriend; That you are with us even in death to bring us to the glory of your side.
Make us to be certain that there is nothing in time or in eternity which can separate us from you,so that in your presence we may meet life with gallantry and death without fear.
You turn our darkness into light, in your light we shall see light.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer. Christ the Lord is risen today!
— Adapted from ThisIsChurch.com
Today is Passion Sunday, popularly known also in the Philippines as Palm Sunday. Why Palm Sunday becomes popular for Filipinos? It is for the simple reason that we Filipinos give more emphasis on the triumphant entry of Jesus to the city of Jerusalem where he was welcomed by his people as KING with their leafy branches while shouting, “Hosanna to the son of David, the king of Israel. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.”
The celebration of the Passion Sunday signals the beginning of our celebration of the Holy Week in which we commemorate with great solemnity the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus as the Messiah. What Messiah? A Suffering Messiah as prophesied by prophet Isaiah. Why a suffering Messiah? Because God wills that it is only through his passion, death and resurrection that he can gain for us forgiveness of sins, reconciliation, redemption, salvation and fullness of life.
There was a girl who never saw the light of dawn. From birth she never had her sight. One day her mother asked: “Lucia, what do you want to receive as a gift on your eighteenth birthday?”
She replied, “I want to see God. I want to see you mom. And I want to see myself.”
This I promise you,” the mother replied,” Your wish will come true.”
The mother went to the doctor and asked, “How can my daughter Lucia receive her sight?”
The doctor replied,” If you want to make her happy give her your eyes.”
And the mother said, “Yes.”
Finally, the doctor performed the eye transplant for Lucia. She immediately received her sight through the successful eye operation. Now her mother was very happy to hear Lucia’s dream came true.
Do you want to be happy? Then, make others happy.
Do you want to be successful? Then, make the other’s dream come true.
Do you want to enjoy your life? Then, invest in making people’s lives enjoyable
This is also what Jesus did for us and for our salvation. He suffered and died for us so that we may have life to its fullness (John 10:10).