Time in the Kingdom

Second Sunday of Advent (B)

Do we treasure time? How do we manage our time? Should time be taken away from us, what would happen to us? It’s probably the same as asking the question: if breath is taken away from us, what will happen to us?

We were born in time, we live in time, and we will die in time. Is time really important? Does time belong to us? If so, fine. If not, why is it that some think time is all theirs? Why is it that some make others suffer because they are not concerned about time? Why is it that people think time is so important for them, but disregard the importance of time for others? We know full well that time lost is lost forever and never regained.

Time is equivalent to opportunity. It is associated with potential. It is connected with anticipation and expectation. If we disregard the importance of time in any situation and condition, we lose lots of opportunity and potential, we lose all sense of anticipation and expectation for blessings, and we also lose any sense of wonder and awe. It can also be a matter of life or death.

In the second reading, St. Peter has admonitions for us regarding the importance of time given to us by God:

1. If God allow us to live a little longer, it is because He is patient with us and He does not want anyone to perish but to come to repentance and live. Every new day is a gift of the mercy from God. It is an opportunity to develop our talents. We saw in the Gospel a couple of Sundays ago that servants are rewarded for talents invested or developed and are punished or alienated for talents uselessly wasted. Every day is an opportunity to open our hearts to the service of others. It is another chance and occasion to come nearer to God. A new day is another privilege to receive Him in the Sacraments, to be united with Him in prayer and to be close to His people.

2. We should be persons conducting ourselves in holiness and devotion waiting for the coming of the day of the Lord. “Be holy as your heavenly Father is holy,” Jesus says. Everyday we pray the very prayer Jesus taught us: “Our Father…. hollowed be Thy name….” We pray that in our words and in our actions we will make God’s name holy. We promise that we will not put His name in vain. We declare that our relationships will always be in His name, and whatever we do we offer everything to Him for the glory of His Name.

We also pray: “Thy Kingdom come….” We pray that He reigns in our hearts now, in our community and in the life to come. We know that without God, our world will be a place without hope. Without God our words are empty and our actions meaningless. Without God our plans are only selfish endeavors and proud attempts to show that we can do something by our own capacities, as we use our talents only for our own interests and whims. Yet, only with Him and in His people can we find the joy and peace of being His children and heirs of His Kingdom

3. Let us always be eager to be found spotless or without blemish before the Lord. Self-centeredness is the beginning of pride. It points out to a person that he is always right, that he is better than everyone else, and that he has always the right to be heard and therefore has the right to talk. Sure enough he can talk for hours. To remedy this situation, that person has to learn to think of and listen to others. To listen can start the process of forgiveness; and to forgive is to end that pride in oneself. Then only will there be quiet and joy in his heart.

Jesus focused His life on the will of God the Father, and on the salvation of all. Now He nourishes us at this Eucharistic Banquet to strengthen us and guide us on the way to the Father. Let us be faithful to our Lord and King. Let us ask Mother Mary and St. Michael the Archangel to help us make this Advent season a special time of grace to make good use of the time God gives us, and to welcome Him in our hearts, in our daily endeavors and in our relationships. God does not fail those who honestly seek Him in all ways and abide by His commands.

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Watchful and Alert

First Sunday of Advent (B)

Children were lining up for snacks. On the tray of apples was a note: Get one each only. God is watching. So the children did. When the children reached the tray of chocolate candies, one boy said: you can get as many as you can. God is watching the apples (a. u.).

One of the meanings the dictionary gives to the word “to watch” is to keep attention on something and/or be attentive to someone over a period of time. In the Gospel today, Jesus tells us to be watchful and to be alert, for we do not know when the time will come. It is not keeping watch on what we like to have, like the children on the chocolate candies, but keeping watch and being alert on what Jesus wants us to have and to be, and what Jesus is teaching us.

If we take that meaning in our relation with the Lord, we have to pay attention to His Words in our thoughts, words and actions, in our families, in our work, in our relationships over this short period of time given to us in this world.

In his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul proclaims to us several exhortations:

1. “In Him you were enriched in every way, with all discourse and all knowledge….” (1Cor 1:5). God enriches us with the virtues of faith, hope and charity. Our Catechism teaches us that

by faith, we believe in God and believe all that he has revealed to us and that Holy Church proposes for our belief (CCC 1842); by hope we desire, and with steadfast trust await from God, eternal life and the graces to merit it (CCC 1843); by charity, we love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves for love of God (CCC1844).

Indifference, ingratitude, lukewarmness to love, spiritual sloth, and pride are some sins that we commit against God who gave us the gifts of faith, hope and charity.

2. “He will keep you firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1Cor 1:8). When Solomon was made king of Israel, God asked him what he would like to receive from Him. Solomon did not ask for riches, power, or fame. All he asked from God was wisdom to rule His people. Because God was so pleased with his request, He gave Solomon wisdom that nobody in the world ever had or would ever have, as well as riches, power and fame.

The 4 virtues we call “cardinal virtues” keep us firm to the end. They are prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. “If anyone loves righteousness, [Wisdom’s] labors are virtues; for she teaches temperance and prudence, justice, and courage” (Wis 8:7) (CCC 1805).

a) Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it…. Prudence is “right reason in action,” writes St. Thomas Aquinas (CCC 1806).

b) Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life (CCC 1808).

c) Justice is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor (CCC 1807).

d) Temperance is the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods…. We ought to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world (CCC 1809).

 3. “You were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1Cor 1:9). Jesus entrusted to us His Church and the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist that we celebrate now. He gave us the Scriptures to read, pray and live. He gave us one another so that we can be signs of faith and hope, and so that we can strengthen one another in a world full of deceit and dishonesty.

Just as Jesus hosts the Banquet of Life in the celebration of the Eucharist, He will also host for us the Great Banquet in the Kingdom of our Father in the life to come. “Be watchful. Be alert.” The Lord is coming; and He has actually come.

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The King Among Men and Women

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King (A)

1. Today we celebrate the Kingship of Jesus. Let’s look into some differences between an earthly king and Jesus, the King:

a) An earthly king lavishes himself with power, temporal pleasures, and feeds himself first, before he feeds his subjects. Jesus as King is glorified in all the Angels and Saints and in all who obey His commands, and He nourishes His people with His Body and Blood, the Eucharist.

b) An earthly king surrounds himself with attendants to serve him and surrounds his palace with walls and soldiers for protection. Jesus breaks down walls of isolation, selfishness and indifference, and sends His Angels to protect all who trust in Him.

c) An earthly king surrounds himself with consultants and gathers wise men from many parts of the world to advise and to teach him how to administer and protect his kingdom and how to get richer. Jesus as King gives wisdom to all who obey His commands, to all who seek Him and to all who serve His people.

d) An earthly king exacts tributes from his subjects so that his wealth will grow and his kingdom will be renowned. Jesus as King gives a wealth of virtues and the means to live accordingly to those who seek Him as the only wealth that leads to heaven.

e) An earthly king raises his royal family in knowledge and style to rule and inherit the kingdom. Jesus as King gives knowledge and the style to all who are faithful to Him, so that they can inherit His Kingdom as children of the Father.

f) An earthly king executes and eliminates anyone of his subjects who err or are unfaithful. Even though sins carry death as punishment, Jesus as King carried man’s sins unto Himself to His death on the cross, and gives those who sin an opportunity to return to Him and be reconciled with Him through the sacraments.

2. Change or transformation in our life and our lifestyle will depend on our knowledge: first, knowledge of ourselves and of the world, and; second, knowledge of and relationship with the King of the universe and of our hearts. If we only care about what we need in this world we will reap only temporal things, and any change in lifestyle will all be temporal. However, if we seek knowledge of the God who created all things, we will also reap godly things, and change in lifestyle will not only be on temporal things, but will also be on the spiritual sphere.

To be peaceful and rich in this world is not to bring all things to oneself, but to seek God in all things and in all people. To be peacefully rich, then, is not to worship the things that God made, but to worship God who made all things for the good of all.

3. The instances of help that God is asking of us for people in need are not big and difficult things, otherwise, only a few will be able to do them. Help can be very simple, for it can be given joyfully and generously; and it is given to Jesus Himself. It must be simple enough, that any help should always be performed in the name of Jesus Christ, the King, and done in the spirit of gratitude.

A little help to the weak and needy brings relief and joy to the community. A little effort in the daily practice of the faith and moral life will lead to a hopeful society. A little time spent in prayer daily to reflect on the Word of God and on what we do and say will bring peace in our relationships with others.

4. The Glory of Jesus, the King, is in men and women who are in love with Him, because they see Him as King of all creation and of all people of hope. As we receive Him in the Eucharist, let us promise that we will allow Him to reign in our hearts and in our relationships all through our life. Without this submission of hearts to our King, the world will miss the peace that Jesus wants to bring to us: peace in relationships, peace based on the love and justice of Jesus that we proclaim in the Eucharist today. Let Him reign in our hearts, and we can proclaim boldly: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of goodwill, for where God is, there is peace, there is joy, there is hope.

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Trustworthy Servants Today

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

There is a popular poem and prayer that goes like this:

I expect to pass through this world but once; any good thing therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow-creature, let me do it now; let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.

Our physical senses are the access to this world; and the world is certainly very attractive. We spend so much money on our bodies as if aging and the wear and tear of our bodies were stoppable, and we gather a million things in our houses as if we won’t leave them behind for somebody else to use o abuse. Yet we fully know, though, that this is not our home. God is our home, our destiny. So an act of kindness and respect to someone brings a lifetime of blessings and friendship with God and neighbor. However, a moment of neglect brings 365 days of guilt. One wasted day or a moment of indifference carries a lifetime of loss of opportunities and virtues.

At the end of time, God will ask us only about what we did and what we did not do for His people, especially to His little ones.

– God will not ask how many big houses we have built and in how many of those have we actually lived. He will ask only how many of His little ones have we given shelter.

– God will not ask how many rich and influential friends we had. He will ask only how many were we friends to and served selflessly.

– God will not ask how much money we have saved. He will ask only how have we shared our savings with other people.

– God will not ask what and how many leadership positions had we in our community. He will only ask how we served, how faithful we were to our responsibilities and how grateful we were to the people entrusted to us.

– God will not ask how many masses we attended or how many novenas we recited every week. He will only ask, after all the masses we attended, how we valued and loved His people.

– God will not ask how we have avoided lots of suffering and difficulties. He will ask only how many have we visited or have helped in their suffering, especially the voiceless and the needy.

– God will not ask how many places around the world we have visited and seen. He will only ask how many hearts have we touched and healed through forgiveness.

We cannot imitate the people that St. Paul was referring to in His letter to the Thessalonians:

They say, ‘Peace and security,’ then sudden disaster comes upon them…. and they will not escape” (1Thes 5:3).

Boastfulness and over-confidence lead us nowhere. They only bring alienation and enmity among brothers and neighbors. To the faithful and trustworthy servant, God will say,

Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy (Mt 25:21, 23).

God’s judgment will be hard on people, who, like the Pharisees and the Scribes, build a wall around the law to keep the law only for their own interests. God’s judgment will be hard on people, who are like the lazy and wicked servant, dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money. They are only concerned about themselves. But God is merciful; and He gives more responsibilities to those who have more. When the Master comes, He will demand what we did with the talents that He gave us. All will be based on acts of love as Jesus loved. After Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, He said: “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do” (Jn 13:15).

Let us be faithful, humble and trustworthy servants and followers of Jesus, and He will not abandon us. Whatever good act that we can do now, let us not leave it for tomorrow, for tomorrow has its own concerns, or tomorrow may not come at all. God rewards faithful, humble and trustworthy servants. Let us then nourish ourselves with God’s Word and the Eucharist and gain strength, and share our Master’s joy in this life and in the next.

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Oil Lamps

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Today we may not particularly understand the figure of the oil lamps used by the 10 virgins mentioned in the Gospel. We rely so much on electric power for lights and other household equipment, as well as use battery operated flashlights when electric power goes off; and we complain almost immediately when power blackout occurs. In the old days oil lamps were made of clay and only the owner of the lamp would know when the oil needed to be replenished. The lamps were not big enough to hold a big amount of oil; and the time of waiting for the bridegroom was unpredictable.

The five foolish virgins failed to prepare for the unexpected, and they failed badly. They tried to take advantage of the others who had oil, but oil was not enough for them. They missed the moment of their purpose to meet the bridegroom, and they had to be rejected at the door for not being present when he arrived.

Once a parishioner came up to me and complained about the homilies that she heard and the seminars and retreats that she attended. For her the preachers were not as good as she expected. She was looking for some big thing in her life and was expecting to see some things to pop out of her life. In the course of our conversation, I asked her if she liked all the food that her mother cooked. She said no, but she ate them anyway. I also asked her if she liked all the food in the restaurants that she went to. She answered no, but she ate them. It was at that moment that our conversation became lighter. She smiled and got the point that it’s not particularly what we like that will help and nourish us, but what we need physically or spiritually.

Putting oil in our lamps may not always have to be appealing to the senses, for in fact it can be unpleasant at times and can mess up many things that we like, as oiling a lamp can be messy. Oiling our lamps just have to be constant and we have to persevere responsibly. Here are a few of many ways:

– We have to go to Church on Sundays and listen to homilies, but also wake up early and miss our favorite TV shows;

– We have to attend Religious Education or Bible classes, but also miss our games or friends for a couple of hours;

– We need to attend to an ailing relative or visit a sick person, but also have to buy gas or walk under the sun or the rain;

– We need to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but also feel the discomfort of telling our sins to a priest and have to promise to avoid occasions of sin;

– We need to go for retreats or spiritual growth conferences, but also have to keep our mouths shut in order to listen;

– We need to be present to our families to talk and to listen to them, but also postpone other work related activities;

– We need to forgive those who hurt us and those whom we have hurt, but also swallow our pride and be humble enough to accept that we are not perfect;

– and many more. Effects are not instant. They grow through the years, but we cannot afford to wait for a deathbed conversion.

Are our lamps filled with oil? Can we shine as good examples of the faith in the darkness of unbelief, selfishness and indifference in this world? If we can’t, our lamps will go out when we need them, and there will be not enough for anyone who does not put oil in his lamp constantly and perseveringly. Our destiny is not a game of chance, but a personal choice to grow with the Church for God’s glory.

Psalm 23 gives us a beautiful picture of the oil for our lamps for the Lord supplies us with the oil of fulfillment and salvation:

The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want. Fresh and green are the pastures he gives me repose. Near restful waters he leads me, to revive my drooping spirit. He guides me along right path…. You have prepared a banquet for me in the sight of my foes. My head you have anointed with oil; my cup is overflowing.

The Eucharist is the best oil that fills our lamps, and it will not fail us for the Lord Himself is our oil. Let Him shine brightly in our lives.

 

Fr. Tito Ayo

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Credible Disciple

Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

There are conditions for a person to learn and understand things that can be meaningful to him:

1. A person has to have the personal decision to imbibe what he sees, hears, feels or experiences, and not to disregard the information and the stimulus of the moment. The person responds to the information positively and deals with the experience as a learning point, whether good or not good, thus will make life profitable for himself and for others. Jesus told his disciples and the crowd to learn from the Pharisees, but not to imitate them. His followers would need the credibility of being disciples.

2. A person may also experience forced learning whereby he finds himself in a difficult situation that he just has to respond to it and live accordingly. This kind of learning we find in many situations of poverty, oppression, fear, violence, discrimination and many others. Many Jews in the time of Jesus found themselves in this condition especially in relation with the Scribes and Pharisees. The Scribes and Pharisees made themselves the standard of the law and of life. They elevated themselves too high on a pedestal that they did not want to be reached by the simple and unlearned, neither did they want to be stained by what they judged was the ignorance and sinfulness of the lowly.

3. A person may also be or has to be infused with the Spirit of the God in order to be informed and to understand what he needs to learn. This is the condition that St. Paul was speaking about in his first letter to the Thessalonians when he said,

With such affection for you, we were determined to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our very selves as well, so dearly beloved had you become to us…. Working night and day in order not to burden any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. And for this reason we too give thanks to God unceasingly, that, in receiving the word of God from hearing us, you received not a human word but, as it truly is, the word of God, which is now at work in you who believe (2:8-13).

In learning and living the Word of God, we all are given the mission of Jesus Christ, the mission of the Church, the mission that Jesus Himself gave to His disciples:

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28:19-20).

Jesus’ command comes to us in three parts:

First, the command to go into the world, from where we are, from the comfort of our homes, from where we enjoy influence and affluence and from situations where nobody may dare to bother us, so that we may reach out to our neighbors;

Second, the command to build faithful relationship with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and with others who are instruments of salvation, especially in the celebration of the sacraments and in life of the Church;

Third, the constant memory of His presence and protection now and till the end of time for there is no other God who can take care of His creation. Our constant memory of Him leads us to make life and the celebration of the Eucharist meaningful and effective for teaching, learning and understanding about God in our life.

Jesus wants us to learn from Him, and whatever we do should be done on account of the mission He gives us. Let us then celebrate the Eucharist in the spirit of learning the faith, hope and love for God and for others, in obedience to the mission that Jesus gives to us, and in fidelity to the teachings of the Church.

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The Faithful

Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed

When a person dies, we can see the following situations:

  1. All the weaknesses and faults of the one who died are forgotten, at least ignored, by his family and all who knew him. They talk about all the good things that happened in his life and all the virtues he had. They know that all his faults would be buried with him.
  2. The family of the deceased keeps all his pictures so that they can review them, and remember how he lived, and specially remember how he loved them and how they loved him.

A greater picture, however, is being presented to us by St. Paul:

Brothers and sisters: Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life” (Rom 6:3-4). And this comes with a promise: “For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection” (Rom 6:5).

The reason why we celebrate ALL SOULS DAY is not particularly because they have died, but because “we too might live in the newness of life.” We pray for those who have died: for our loved ones, our friends and for all, for those in purgatory. It is good to pray for them so that in due time God, in His mercy, will take them to His Kingdom in heaven. It is also good to pray for them so that, even those who are no longer remembered will also be included in our prayers. Then we ourselves will benefit from those prayers because we get in touch with God and we get in touch with this suffering Church in purgatory.

Their suffering is not a suffering of despair, but of purification. In hell the suffering is great and unending because there is so much enmity and hate; their suffering is due to the loss of God. This is even one of our expressions here on earth: when we see a situation of sin or enmity in relationships, we just say, “go to hell,” or “I don’t want to live with you in hell.” As in hell, here on earth the greatest suffering is not particularly poverty or physical pain, but the absence of God, the absence of love, the absence of hope, and the indifference among neighbors. However, “those who trust in him shall understand truth, and the faithful shall abide with him in love: because grace and mercy are with his holy ones, and his care is with his elect” (Wis 3: 9).

The souls in purgatory suffer but they are happy and full of hope for in due time they will be in that Kingdom prepared for the elect. There is sure hope because God Himself is preparing them for that Kingdom, where God, and only God, will be their joy.

Our Christian reverence for the dead means: that we believe that they are alive in the Lord and that we are spiritually united with them; that someday we will meet again in heaven in the company of God, Mary and all the Angels and Saints; that from heaven they intercede for us before God, in our needs and difficulties in life here on earth.

In the midst of sorrow at the death of a love one, we must show strength in faith and hope in the life promised us by our Savior. We must manifest our love and closeness toward the sick and the elderly. We must be able to speak to the sick person about his health conditions so that he may be prepared to offer himself to the Lord, the great healer and the Way to the Father. We must not wait till the last hour to call the priest to bring the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick to the elderly and the sick, for this sacrament is the grace given by Jesus to His Church to strengthen the sick and the dying in their condition. We must not be afraid to pray with the sick, the elderly and the dying as this gives them the strength in their hope to be with the Lord in the second life. As Jesus said: “this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day” (Jn 6: 40).

It is for these that we celebrate this Feast of the Faithful Departed. It is also for these that we celebrate Christian funeral rites for our loved ones and friends, that we visit their graves and put flowers on them, that we request Mass to be celebrated for them on different occasions. All these we do in faith, in hope and in love for the Lord, who promised that “everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me” (Jn 6:37).

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