Archive for category Year B
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.
There is a popular saying and I quote, “The greatest happiness on earth is a conviction that we are loved.” If we inverse this, however, it may go this way, “The greatest sorrow on earth is a conviction that we are not loved.” Indeed, blessed are they who are loved and cursed are they who are unloved!
If you feel nobody loves you, nobody cares for you and the world is too harsh for you today’s Gospel passage is your consolation, inspiration and hope. “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish by might have eternal life” (v. 17). Whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever your status, duties and circumstances in life, God loves you! He loves you no matter what. He loves you even if. He loves you whatever happens.
How does God love us? How can we characterize the love of God for us?
Even in the Old Testament, it has been recognized by the Israelites that Yahweh is a gracious and merciful Father to His people: “For gracious and merciful is He, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment” (Jl 2:12-13). Gracious to those who do not deserve his goodness and love. Merciful to those who are guilty, the needy and the suffering.
His love is everlasting: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; so I have keep my mercy toward you” (Jer 31:3). It is faithful and trustworthy: “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be moved from their places, I will not leave you, I will not forget you” (Is 54:10) “Though the heavens may fall and the hills be turned into dust, never will forget you or leave you” (?) “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you. See, upon the palms of my hands I have written your name” (Is 49:15).
God’s love is providential: “As for you, every hair of your head has been counted; so do not be afraid of anything” (Mt 10:30). “In him we live and move and have our being” (Act 17:28).
God’s love is universal. God cares for all. It is all-embracing. The evil as well as the good, the unjust as well as the just are the objects of His love (see Mt 5:45). Each individual is precious in his sight: “It is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish” (Mt 18:4). “There is joy in heaven over one sinner that repents” (Lk 15:7, 10). God loves each one of us as if there was only one of us to love” (St. Augustine).
“The highest proof of the Father’s love is given and manifested in the mission and person of the Son. Through him, we have seen and believe in the love of God for all of us. God gives his Son as savior of the world (Jn 4:42), the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn 1:29), as the one who gives his flesh for the life of the world (Jn 6:51), as the light of the world (Jn 9:5; 12:46). Hence, God in his infinite love has sent His Son for its deliverance (Jn 3:17).
Throughout the whole gospel there is far more prominence given than in the Synoptics to the fact that Christ has been sent by the Father (Jn 5:37; 7:16; 8:16, 28). He repeatedly refers to himself as Him whom the Father has sent (Jn 5:38; 6:29; 10:36; 17:3). He is not come of himself (Jn 7:28), but is come in the name of the Father (Jn 5:43) from whom he has come forth (Jn 8:42; 16:27; 17:8). Not only does the Son, as in the Synoptics, claim to reveal the Father as none other, he asserts that he is in the Father and the Father in him (Jn 10:38; 14:10, 20; 17:21, 23). He and the Father are one (Jn 10:30; 17:22). The words that he speaks have been given him by his Father (Jn 17:16f; 12:49f; 14:10, 24; 17:8). The works that he does are the works of his Father who dwells in him (Jn 14:10). He that has seen him has seen the Father (Jn 14:9). As the Father has loved him, so he has loved his disciples (Jn 15:9). He sets his love before them as an example, and bids them love one another as he has loved them (Jn 13:34; 15:12). The highest proof of his love is given in his death (Jn 10:15; 15:13).
The Son lays down his life willingly in obedience to the commandment of the Father (Jn 10:17f). For this the Father has given the Son; and the result will be the consummation of the gracious purpose which animated the Father in the giving of the Son. The cross will become the center of attraction. Through it Christ will draw all men unto Him (Jn 12:32;; 8:28; 11:52; cf. 10:15f), and gain the victory over the prince of this world (Jn 12:31). Thus will the love which impelled the Father to the sacrifice of the Son gain the end it seeks to attain, man’s deliverance from the destruction which threatens him, and participation in the blessing of everlasting life” (Jn 3:15f; 6:40f; James Hastings, D.D., A Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels, Love).
Jesus is the love of God the Father made visible and audible to His people. Through him we have seen and believe in the love of God the Father for us. Jesus is both the messenger and the message of God’s love for the world. He is the love made flesh. He is the sign and instrument of God’s love for His people. As a disciples of Jesus, let us also be a living signs and instruments of Christ love for the world, for his people. Let us be living bearers, reflectors and messengers of Christ’s love for the world by fulfilling the new commandment of Jesus: “Love one another as I have loved you (Jn 15:9, 12).”
Jesus makes charity the new commandment (cf. Jn 13:34). By loving his own “to the end” (Jn 13:1), he makes manifest the Father’s love which he receives. By loving one another, the disciples imitate the love of Jesus which they themselves receive. Whence Jesus says: “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.” And again: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 15:9, 12; CCC 1823).
In this parable the main theme is stewardship. It answers question on how to handle all the gifts of nature and grace which God has given us. To be a true steward, they should be handled wisely, responsibly and productively. They should yield a profit or bear fruit. It does not matter how many gifts we have received; what matters is our generosity in putting them to good use. We will be judged by God based on our stewardship at the end of time.
This parable gives us five points to be considered in pursuing the virtue of stewardship:
First, God gives to every man according to his several ability (see Matthew 25:15). Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required” (Lk 12:48). The true standard for distribution of wealth is not, as expressed by the Marxist view, “to each according to his need,” but rather to each “according to his ability.” The reason lies in the fact that without ability, even that which a man receives shall be wasted, neglected, or diminished, and in the law of economic progress there can never be, in the final analysis, any substitute for ability.
“Some of us are too quick to assume that we are the second- and third-string players or that we are spiritual klutzes. We forget that God, in his perfect judgment, adjusts credit and blame to allow for the circumstances of the individual in question. The gospel is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ arrangement in that regard. God puts us all in different circumstances in this life and judges us accordingly. In the Parable of the Talents, it didn’t matter that one servant had been given five talents and the other only two. What mattered most was what both servants did with what God gave them. The Master said to each of them, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant’ (“Matt. 25:21Matthew 25:21). It is better to be a faithful second-string player with limited talents (pun intended) than to be an unfaithful superstar” (Following Christ: The Parable of the Divers and More Good News, 34.).
Second, gifts and graces are not only to be preserved but to be develop to make it productive for the common good of all.
“Now we come to the one-talent servant (see “Mt 25:26-30). We are saddened and disappointed in this part of the drama because first there was an excuse, then a display of the fear that caused him to hide the talent. He had been afraid to assume the responsibility. His attitude was one of resentment and faultfinding, saying he found the master to be a hard man, even harvesting where he had not sown. There are many in the world like this servant, idle and unwilling to work for their master—interested only in themselves. There are those who become so involved in the things of the world and their own selfish interests that they will not make the attempt or put forth the effort to magnify one little talent entrusted to them by the Lord.” (Howard W. Hunter, The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, edited by Clyde J. Williams, 262.)
“Likewise the Church member who has the attitude of leaving it to others will have much to answer for. There are many who say: ‘My wife does the Church work!’ Others say: ‘I’m just not the religious kind,’ as though it does not take effort for most people to serve and do their duty. But God has endowed us with talents and time, with latent abilities and with opportunities to use and develop them in his service. He therefore expects much of us, his privileged children. The parable of the talents is a brilliant summary of the many scriptural passages outlining promises for the diligent and penalties for the slothful. (see “Mt. 25:14-30.) From this we see that those who refuse to use their talents in God’s cause can expect their potential to be removed and given to someone more worthy. Like the unproductive fig tree (see Mt. 21:18-20) their barren lives will be cursed. To them on judgment day will come the equivalent of these devastating words:
’. . . Thou wicked and slothful servant . . . Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers—. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents—. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (Mt. 25:26-29, 30.)” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, 100).
Third, gifts and graces are entrusted to us to be used, not for safekeeping or to be hidden away; not for our own gain, but for the Lords’ purposes here upon earth. The Lord expects us to use our talents in his service.
“The special talents with which we have been blessed—our intelligence, physical abilities, time, money, and the many opportunities given to us—have come from the Lord. They have been entrusted to us to be used, not for safekeeping or to be hidden away. These were given to us according to our ability to use—not for our own gain, but for the Lord’s purposes here upon earth. We are like tenant farmers, who, given the use of the land, make their own selection as to the crop they will raise, and they work according to their own skill and desire to work. Some have the ability to sow, cultivate, and raise a bounteous crop, but others are less successful. There are some persons who will work hard and produce, while others, lacking initiative and desire, will fail. The day comes, however, when an accounting must be made” (The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, edited by Clyde J. Williams, 271.).
Fourth,“to every one that has shall be given…but from him that has not shall be taken away” (Matthew 25:29)
Those who are faithful with even a little are entrusted with more! But those who neglect or squander what God has entrusted to them will lose what they have. There is an important lesson here for us. No one can stand still for long in the Christian life. We either get more or we lose what we have. We either advance towards God or we slip back. Do you earnestly seek to serve God with the gifts, talents, and graces he has given to you?
“The Lord expects us to use our talents in his service.Those who use their talents find they will grow. One who exercises his strength finds it will increase. If we sow a seed, it will grow; if we fail to plant, it will be lost. One who possesses some insight and is attentive to his teacher will gain more knowledge and insight and will have growth in mind and spiritual understanding. Understanding increases as it is used. As we learn, we acquire greater capacity to learn. As we use our opportunities for knowledge, more opportunities come to us. How sad it is when the opposite course is followed, and talent and capacity are wasted and not used. ‘From him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath’ (Matthew 25:29).
“ServiceTalentsa-Hunter, Howard W.TPTalents are not given to us to be put on display or to be hidden away, but to be used. The Master expects us to make use of them. He expects us to venture forth and increase what we have been given according to our capacities and abilities (see Matthew 25:26-30). As servants of the Lord, we should use every opportunity to employ our talents in his service. To fail to do so means to lose them. If we do not increase, we decrease. Our quest is to seek out the talents the Lord has given us and to develop and multiply them, whether they be five, two, or one. We need not attempt to imitate the talents given to other persons.” (The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, edited by Clyde J. Williams, 70.)
Fifth, God rewards those who are faithful, responsible and productive stewards and he punishes those irresponsible, unwise and non-productive stewards. God is not going to judge us by the way we use what we do not possess, but by the use we make of the gifts that are actually our own. When he (Christ) comes, the slothful and unprofitable will be cast out, not because they did not believe, or because they had rebelled, but because they had neglected the opportunities which he had committed to them.
In connection with the theme of stewardship, the return of the lord in the parable is symbolic of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. At that time there will be an accounting, and those that are found wanting will be cast into outer darkness while the saints enter into the peace and joy of the Lord.
“Imagine what the Judgment will be like for us individually. Suppose that when we meet the Master there is a frown, and He turned and shook His head and turned sadly away. Can you imagine anything that would be quite so discouraging or quite so heartbreaking? There will be nothing so terrifying to the human soul as to be told on resurrection morning that they will have to wait a thousand years before they shall come forth from the grave in resurrection. But imagine instead of that, He smiles, He opens his arms, and says, ‘Come into my presence. You have been faithful in a few things, I will make you ruler over many things.’” (The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, edited by Clyde J. Williams, 68.)
All things such as created things, gifts, talents and blessings are God’s, and we must watch over and care for them in honor of Him and in the sanctification of man. Jesus warns us in a parable to be faithful, responsible, and productive stewards , because when he comes again, we will be judged for our stewardship (Lk 12:41-48). Let us, therefore, make good use of the gifts, talents, time, and resources He gives us for his glory and for every one’s sanctification. “Be fruitful!” (Gn 1:28)
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.
From various Old Testament passages, it is clear that blindness is a type of sin (See Deuteronomy 28:29; Isaiah 59:10; Job 12:25; Zephaniah 1:17; Isaiah 29:8; also Ephesians 5:8; and Matthew 15:14). “In the Near East, eye diseases were as repulsive as leprosy” (14 Frederick Bruner, Matthew Vol. 1, p. 349). Blindness and beggary form an awful combination, and when coupled with the general poverty then prevailing in Palestine, they suggest a fullness of suffering. It is not, therefore, surprising to hear that as Jesus passed by, a blind man called Bartimaeus followed him, crying out, and saying, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!” (Luke 18:39).Then Jesus stopped and ordered that he be brought to him; and when he came near, Jesus asked him, 41“What do you want me to do for you?” He replied, “Lord, please let me see.” Jesus told him, “Have sight; your faith has saved you.” He immediately received his sight and followed him, giving glory to God (Luke 1842-43).
This Gospel narrative is another biblical story about faith making miracle.
Before the healing took effect, however, Christ tested first the faith of the blind man by simply passing him to stretch their faith a little. If he really believed, then would persist in his appeal for help and deliverance. And sure enough, he did. He passed the test, and Jesus healed him.
Here we see Jesus emphasizing the need of faith. Here also we see Jesus testing the faith before he acts on our petition or prayer. The emphasis in the miracle of the centurion’s servant was on the faith of the centurion. The woman with the hemorrhage was healed because of her faith. Jairus was told not to fear, but to have faith.
Biblically speaking, faith is confident assurance concerning what we hope for, and conviction about the things we do not see (Heb 11:1). Going back to the Gospel narrative we can somehow say that faith is believing in Jesus as “my Lord and my God” (Jn 20:28) and entrusting everything to him who loves and cares for us.
Some of us have spent thousands of pesos so that we can see better physically. We have glasses, sunglasses, reading glasses, bifocals, trifocals, contacts, eye drops, and laser surgery to improve our sight physically. But we have nothing and doing and have done nothing to heal and save us from spiritual blindness. Spiritual blindness, then, refers in some instances to the inability of unbelievers to comprehend spiritual truth, specifically failure to recognize the true identity of the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ.
Paul tells the Corinthian believers that blindness aptly describes the spiritual state of pagan unbelievers. He points out that this blindness is inflicted by the “god of this age [who] has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor 4:4). The New Testament reveals that believers are subject to spiritual blindness. Peter deems those who fail increasingly to exhibit diligence in pursuit of spiritual virtue as blind or nearsighted (2 Peter 1:9). And the exalted Lord of the church views the lukewarm but haughty Laodicean church as wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked (Rev 3:17).
It is the Lord who “gives sight to the blind” (Psalm 146:8; Isa 42:16) and we are somehow the two blind men [spiritual blindness] in the story when we are either unable or unwilling to acknowledge God or the things of God in the many events, places, times and people who came to our lives. Perhaps we are not open and dispose to God’s revelation and illumination (Matt 11:25-27; 1 Cor 1:21; 2 Peter 1:19-21) and chose to remain in our stubbornness of heart and unbelief. So, we need to ask him humbly to touch and heal us in order let us see again. It is much more important to see better spiritually. Consequently, cry out to Jesus “all the more, ‘Son of David, have pity on me!’” (Lk 18:39) Pray to Jesus: “Lord, I want to see” (see Lk 18:41). Beg the Lord: Increase my faith (see Mk 9:24; Lk 17:5; 22:32).
The Gospel speaks of the coming of the Son of Man, also known as the end times or the end of the world. The scenes of terrible destruction—among them, the darkening of the sun and the moon and the disappearance of the stars from the heavens—evoke great fear.
The scriptures speak of many signs in the heaven and on the earth, but this particular sign is different. That the sun should be darkened, the moon turned to blood, and the stars fall from the heavens is a sign that is repeated over and over in the scriptures (see Ezek. 32:7, Joel 2:31; 3:15, Matt 24:29; Mark 13:24-25, Lu. 21:25, Acts 2:20, Rev. 6:12; 8:12). How many other signs or doctrines are repeated in 14 different places? Certainly, the fulfillment of this scripture will be as dramatic as anything we have ever seen, for when it occurs, “the earth shall tremble and reel to and fro as a drunken man”
Let me share with you some insights of Mr. Russel Ballard that can be of help for your reflection, guidance and consolation:
Living in these difficult times, brothers and sisters, requires each one of us to maintain a positive, hopeful perspective about the future. Today, more so than in the past, I am asked about the signs of the times and if I think the end of the world is near. My answer is the same one that Jesus gave some two thousand years ago:
But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.
Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. (Mark 13:32–33.)
…Although the prophecies tell us that these things are to take place, more and more people are expressing great alarm at what appears to be an acceleration of worldwide calamity. As members of the Church, we must not forget the Savior’s admonition, “Be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass.” These are difficult times, when the forces of nature seem to be unleashing a flood of “famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.”
Recently I read a newspaper article that cited statistics from the U.S. Geological Survey indicating that earthquakes around the world are increasing in frequency and intensity. According to the article, only two major earthquakes (earthquakes measuring at least six on the Richter scale) occurred during the 1920s. In the 1930s the number increased to five, and then it decreased to four during the 1940s. But in the 1950s, nine major earthquakes occurred, followed by fifteen during the 1960s, forty-six during the 1970s, and fifty-two during the 1980s. Already almost as many major earthquakes have occurred during the 1990s as during the entire decade of the 1980s.
The world is experiencing violent disorders, both physical, as well as social… Political unrest, warfare, and economic chaos prevail in many parts of the world, and the plagues of pornography, drug misuse, immorality, AIDS, and child abuse become more oppressive with each passing day. The media busily satisfies an apparently insatiable appetite of audiences to witness murder, violence, nudity, sex, and profanity…
Brothers and sisters, whether or not these are indeed the last days or even “the beginning of sorrows” as the Savior foretold, some of us may find our lives laden with frustration, disappointment, and sorrow. Many feel helpless to deal with the chaos that seems to prevail in the world. Others anguish over family members who are being carried downstream in a swift, raging current of weakening values and declining moral standards. Children particularly are suffering as society drifts further and further away from the commandments of God.
Many have even resigned themselves to accept the wickedness and cruelty of the world as being irreparable. They have given up hope. They have decided to quit trying to make the world a better place in which they and their families can live. They have surrendered to despair…
My message to you today, my brothers and sisters, is simply this: the Lord is in control. He knows the end from the beginning. He has given us adequate instruction that, if followed, will see us safely through any crisis. His purposes will be fulfilled, and someday we will understand the eternal reasons for all of these events. Therefore, today we must be careful to not overreact, nor should we be caught up in extreme preparations; but what we must do is keep the commandments of God and never lose hope! (“The Joy of Hope Fulfilled,” Ensign, Nov. 1992, 31-32)
Charles L. Allen once said, “When you say a situation or person is hopeless, you are slamming the door in the face of God.” I do not exactly the context when and why he said it but considering the message in itself in the light of the gospel we can somehow conclude that he was indeed correct when he said it. Why? Because there is no such thing as hopeless situation only people who have grown hopeless about their situation. And more importantly, with God nothing is hopeless. No one is hopeless. To the one who believes nothing is impossible. To the one who persistently prays nothing is impossible.
The gospel parable that we just heard is commonly known as the “The Parable of the Persistent Widow.” As the title suggests, the main theme of the Gospel is PERSISTENCY IN PRAYER.
There are people who have stopped praying because they claimed their prayers were not answered by God or they can no longer stand the delay. The way this group of peoply pray is this: “Lord, I pray for this. And I want it here and now.” Fundamental question about prayer such as “Until when should I pray?” always pops up like adwares, starwares and trojan viruses in the internet even among the devout believers? Today we are happy to know that the theme of today’s gospel parable gives us an explicit and direct answer to the question.
Considering the gospel as a whole it gives us several points:
First, the duty to pray, to pray constantly, to pray with confidence and persistence. As Jesus assures us: “Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened to you.” To the one who prays like this, the heavenly Father will “give whatever he needs,” and above all the Holy Spirit who contains all gifts (see CCC 2613).
Second, the answer to the prayer, persisted in, is certain. “Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you receive it, and you will” (Mk 11:24). Such is the power of prayer and of faith that does not doubt: “all things are possible to him who believes” (Mk 9:23; cf. Mt 21:22). This is best articulated to us by Bruce R. McConkie when he wrote:
“If an unjust earthly judge will finally dispense justice because of the repeated importunities of the widow, how much more shall the God of all the earth, who is the embodiment of perfect justice and impartiality, grant the just petitions of his faithful saints.” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 1: 542.)
Third, God is always on the side of the poor, needy, exploited, and oppressed. When we are suffering and when we are in need, exploited, and oppressed the more reasons for us to pray with confidence and persistence because the Lord is always our side. If the evil judge grants justice to the widow, however reluctantly, how much more will a loving and just God vindicate God’s people in times of need and crisis.
Fourth, prayer is rooted and flows from faith. When we are no longer praying constantly, confidently and persistenly it’s a sign, an indication that our faith is already wavering. This is the reason why Lord warns for the failure of faith when he comes again as judge both of the living and the dead. See to it, therefore, that you still believe and pray with persistence even in a seemingly hopeless situation, even in times of desperation, even in moments when God seems to be sleeping, far and busy with other concerns.
If you belong to those group of people who stopped praying because they claimed their prayers were not answered by God or they can no longer wait pause and think about this:
God always says yes to our prayers. The yes of God however is not the yes we want it to be. If he does not give us our request, it is because he gives something better.
Yes God always reply to all our prayers. His reply may be as follows:
3. I have something better for you.
When you pray always consider and be consoled with these:
1. The love of God that wants the best for us.
2. The wisdom of God that knows what is best for us.
3. The power of God that can accomplish it.