Our Lady of Lourdes and World Day of Prayer for the Sick
The readings today show 4 of God’s questions for us. The first question was answered in hiding; the second question was addressed because of disobedience; the 3rd question was answered by blaming another creature; and the 4th question was taken care of by man’s giving and God’s blessing.
Every problem or trouble carries a gift and blessing in it. In our responsibilities and relationships, when there is any difficulty, be the problem, own the problem, or be part of the problem. Otherwise, we separate ourselves from the situation, and we may just want to dictate what others should do, while we watch and feel good we are better than they are. And to top it all, we tend to blame others for our faults, deficiencies and misfortune. Remember, however good we are in anything, there’s always somebody better than we. If we own the problem, then we can also be the solution, we can show others a solution, and we can brighten up our companions’ situation. Seek the wisdom of the cross and the blessing of those who suffer for the sake of peace in relationship.
The Gospel invites us to be blessing and grace to others. John Wooden would say: You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you. You cannot have that perfect day unless you have shared with someone an act of compassion, forgiveness, empathy or any human act that can change his life, and knowing that you would not even be acknowledged as the giver.
How many loaves do you have? Jesus took this difficult situation as a case that He and His disciples could build, first, because He is God, second, because the disciples would give their share. We have said earlier that every problem carries a gift in itself, every trouble has a blessing. We always talk of gifts in people and in every situation. We wait for them in situations we like. But we can also look for gifts in difficulties and in troubles, for they carry gifts in themselves. Jesus asks: How many loaves do you have? How do we respond?
Reflecting on the Day of Prayer for the Sick brings many thoughts about the sick, the weak, the vulnerable and those taken advantage of. One of them is when we visit them. Almost immediately upon arrival on a visit, we utter automatic greetings, like “how are you” or “how is it going” and others. And certainly we get an automatic answer, like “Fine” or “Ok or “Good.” Would they be happier if they heard words like, “I heard you were sick, so I came as soon as I could, and my family prayed for you,” or “You must have had quite a difficult time,” or some other empathetic and compassionate statements, or a silent moment clasping his/her hand. Automatic greetings get automatic responses; plus the fact that many times we bring our own agenda and interests.
A proverb goes: Turn your face toward the sun and the shadows will fall behind you. Looking back always will retard growth. An Indian boy, having told his grandfather about a constant fight of the wolves of good and evil within himself, asked: which wolf will win? The grandfather answered: the one you feed.
So, what’s for us? It might be easy for us to say we feed on and look to the Body of Christ. That includes the poor, the sick, the suffering, the one who complains much, the one who talks about and against people including you, the person who instills fear in others, the one who takes advantage of your situation, the one who is distractive in prayer, work, mass; the litany goes on. How is that for feeding on the Body of Christ?
So, we strengthen our purpose. Our energy comes from Jesus, our life’s purpose. We cannot let boredom and confusion zap the energy within us, for in a life full of challenges, hardships and contradictions, the GIFT, the Son of the Father, comes to us.
Moreover, bring your loaves, your capacities and capabilities; know where you are, don’t hide; acknowledge your companions, don’t talk ill of them; be blessed for your gifts and give them out as blessings, and be assured of more blessings for you. That day will be a perfect one. Then proclaim: “In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.”
God bless you.
The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God and New Year’s Day 2017
MAKING THE BEST OF LIFE
We usually put the first day of the year as a day of making resolutions. Whether or not we fulfill them the coming weeks and months is a different story. Moreover, in the liturgical calendar of the Church, the first day of the year is dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God, as the Mother of peace. She generously accepted to be the Mother of all, as She is the Mother of Jesus, the firstborn of all creatures. She is the Mother of all Christians who seek peace, Jesus, the only source of real peace in the world. That is why we also celebrate this day as World Day of Prayer for Peace.
On Christmas day, God, through His angels, has already proclaimed His desire and promise of peace and life, in a sense, His vision and goal for all: His glory and peace to those on whom his favor rests (Lk 2:14).
The following can be our considerations for this new year with Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
- Proclaim your goals to yourself, and if possible, to others, so they can support you. Pessimists are concerned with the penalties and sour effects of failure. Optimists are concerned with the rewards and good effects of success. Failure can mean a flop or a collapse of an endeavor, but it can also mean discouragement or disappointment. While success can mean accomplishment or victory, it can also mean growth in capacities or encouragement for others to be and to do better.
Start listening to the optimistic view of yourself and of others. Stop pessimism in your thoughts, words, actions and attitude. Mary listened to the voice within Her, and she proclaimed: Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word (Lk 1:38). She would not only be the Mother of Jesus, but the Mother of all believers; and She would also be her disciple, leading all Her children in Jesus to be His disciples.
Many think that things can be just okay. That is mediocrity, and that is pessimistic. Nothing has to be JUST okay; no one can be just okay. They have to be good, life has to be good, for God is good, as when He created the world, He saw that it was good, very good. And to follow Him and obey His commands is the good that we can possess now till we come the second life. These should energize you and your relationship with others. Those that do not give you energy are the ways of the pessimistic you. Re-think and re-model your goals in life. You are a creation of the glory and favor of God.
So, if you fall, it’s not okay, but if you rise and learn not to trip in the same spot and situation, then that is good. If you break a plate, it’s not okay, but if you learn to be careful, then that is good. If you break your ankle, it’s not okay, but if you learn to be more careful, that’s good. If you trash your New Year’s resolutions because they are a bit difficult, it’s not okay, but if you review them every day and do one at a time, that is good. Then you grow. If you commit sin, it’s not okay, but if you learn to be repentant and find your way to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, then that is good. If you are humiliated or have lost something, it’s not okay, but if you learn to be humble, grateful and forgiving, then that is very good.
Think of these things: We cannot be brave if we don’t get hurt. We cannot learn if we do not acknowledge our mistakes. We cannot be successful if we do not face our failures. We cannot obtain grace unless we suffer afflictions. We must use troubles and difficulties, as they carry gifts in themselves, to attain deep participation in the life of Jesus and happiness in our souls. Just don’t be bloated, don’t be proud, don’t be boastful. Remember: you are braver than you believe; you are stronger than you seem; you are smarter that you think. You can do things better with and for Christ and the Church. Be honest and exert a little more effort. And these are God’s encouraging words to the Israelites through Moses: The LORD bless you and keep you! The LORD let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace! (Nm 6:24-26).
- Make the best of life, and make the best of the New Year. Life is not really what you want, for it never came from you from the very beginning anyway. Life is what God can do to others and to the world through you. You want to see Him working? Pray and be kind and merciful to others. You want to see others living decent lives? Pray for them and assist them spiritually, financially, socially. You want to see others and the world at peace? Pray and be at peace with God. You want to see God’s glory? Pray and glorify Him by your life and be that favor that God has given us on Christmas. And you want to celebrate Christmas every day? Pray with Jesus, Mary and Joseph, and allow Jesus to be born in your families by being faithful, humble and loving servants and disciples of His. So, give out some blessing and grace. You cannot have a perfect day unless you have shared with someone something that can change his life for the better, and knowing that you will not even be acknowledged as the giver.
The best is still to come, and it comes with Jesus. Mother Mary brings us close to Herself only be leading us to Jesus, Her Son, and to follow His commands. She is still our best way to Her Son, Jesus, to the Father, in the Holy Spirit and to His Kingdom.
So, as God has already proclaimed that His coming is for His greater glory and for peace to people of good will, let us hurry to the Bethlehem in our hearts and in the hearts of our families, to find Jesus, Mary and Joseph, and tell them what we have been told by the angels of God, by the Church, by our neighbors, so that we can also proclaim to the world the good news of our presence, the good news of others’ lives and the good news of the life of Jesus in us and among us: all these for the glory of God and for peace in the world. Proclaim the Kingdom of God as your goal this year, and make the best of it in Him, with Mary the Mother of God, with all the Angels and Saints, and with the whole Church.
God bless you; and a Blessed New Year to you all.
HEALING THE DISTANCE
A Hindu master, visiting the river Ganges, found a group of family members on the banks, shouting in anger at each other. He turned to his disciples, smiled and asked, “Why do people in anger shout at each other?” One disciple said, “Because we lose our calm, we shout.”
“But, why should you shout when the other person is just next to you? You can tell him … in a soft manner, said the master.
The disciples gave some other answers but none satisfied the other disciples. Finally, the master explained: “When two people are angry at each other, their hearts distance a lot. To cover that distance they must shout to be able to hear each other. The angrier they are, the stronger they shout to hear each other to cover that great distance.
What happens when two people fall in love? They don’t shout at each other but talk softly, because their hearts are very close. The distance between them is either nonexistent or very small…”
…… He looked at his disciples and said. “So when you argue do not let your hearts get distant, do not say words that distance you more from the other, or else there will come a day when the distance becomes so great that you will not find the path to return.” (online)
People have been shouting very loudly already, in wars, violence, terrorism, abortion, in the redefinition of marriage, in commercialism, in complaining about just anything, and many more. They have been angry with God in the seeming silence of God in situations of poverty, increasing number of war refugees, abuse of power, addiction to prohibited substance, discontent and other things, as at the same time they have been seeking for recognition, money, power, possessions, pleasure and other temporal things.
It is today that we celebrate Christmas, that God came to heal this distance between Him, the creator, and man, His creature: to be able to talk to us in our hearts, to be as close to us as possible.
Christian life is not about material things, for they perish. Christian life is not a matter of convenience because the latter is temporary. Christian life is not about personal preferences that we can even lose the sense of sin, for it is God’s preference and command to obey Him, to love one another and to serve the needy. Christmas is not about the condition of the world. It is not about the things that we buy or we do for our families. Christmas is about Jesus Christ, the Word of God, the hope of the world, the only hope. Christmas is Jesus. He invites us to celebrate Him in our hearts, in our families, in our church, in our relationships and in our responsibilities. Thus, to Jesus we belong. This is the joy of Christmas: God’s closeness to us.
As Jesus, Mary and Joseph brought hope and tenderness on Christmas, we are invited and encouraged to bring those virtues to our relationships, in our homes, so that the tenderness of Christ and his hope in the Father will also and always be born in every situation and condition of our lives.
Here are some pointers that we can reflect on as we celebrate Christmas and another New Year:
1. Your time is God’s time. You are a steward of God’s mysteries, and one of them is the use of time. Your time is God’s gift of His mercy and love. Therefore, your time may be used only in relation to service and salvation of your neighbor for His greater glory. Your time brings hope to others. It is a precious commodity not only for yourself, but for others especially. When you have a schedule, it means you have heard and accepted God’s call. So if you want to be on time for your activity, come early, because when you come on time you are already late.
2. Grow and bloom where you are planted. Jesus was born and grew up in the world that He created to redeem man from his sinfulness. You are born to be great in the greatness of God, the God who created you, the God who redeemed you, the God who provides for you, the God who brings you to Himself. Grow in God, so that like a tree, you can give yourself and everything that you are to Him and to others.
3. Open your mouth only a) to praise God; b) to encourage others to grow in the love of God; c) to tell them you love them; d) to lead others to goodness and truth; e) to teach them to love the ways of life rather than the ways of darkness; and f) to bring only kindness to others.
There is a Spanish saying: En la boca cerrada, no entran moscas. In other words, if you have nothing good to say, shut up, so that no flies can shoot into your mouth. If you want to annoy people, annoy them with your kindness, mercy and friendship. Don’t judge. We are created equal, with different and various features and gifts, otherwise the world would be boring. We are created from nothing, but destined for eternal life. What a life! Be thankful. Seek only kindness, humility, gentleness.
Why are there arrogant and boastful people? Because they have tried to rob God of his authority and power to seek people who must be submissive to them, to seek power for themselves.
Be careful with your words and your actuations. They are gifts from God for the good of others and His glory. Many abuse them though. And don’t make enemies. That cannot exist in the one human race created by God and that belongs to Him alone and among Christians of whom Jesus is the head.
4. Every problem carries a gift in it; it always carries a grace and blessing. In your responsibilities and relationships, when there is any difficulty, be the problem, or own the problem, or be part of the problem. Otherwise, you separate yourself from the situation, and you may just want to dictate what others should do, while you watch. And to top it all, people tend to always blame others for their misfortune. They think they are better than everyone. Remember, however good you are in anything, there’s always somebody better than you. If you own the problem, then you can be the solution, you can show others a solution, and you can brighten up your companions. Seek the wisdom of the cross and the blessing of those who suffer for the sake of peace.
This is what Jesus did: He owned our sinfulness and weaknesses so that He could redeem us and lead us to the Father. This is the reason for Christmas.
5. Grow through adversity. There are so many difficulties in life that we have to face. See the lobster: when it has to grow, it goes under the rocks, sheds off its shell, and starts growing again.
If you want to grow in the virtues of life, go to God, the Rock of salvation, shed off your hard shell of sinfulness, arrogance and selfishness, and start growing again in the humility, love and mercy of Jesus born in Bethlehem and laid in a manger.
6. Spend moments of silence and prayer every day. You have already been very noisy. Allow God to talk to you, and to work in and through you. In prayerful silence, you gain wisdom and strength.
So I encourage you to pray, and pray with your families and neighbors, pray with the church and in the church; read the scriptures and spiritual books, spend worthwhile time with your families, and be grateful for all the blessings you receive. Allow Mother Mary to pray with you.
The Church prays with us. We are never alone in prayer. Let Jesus heal that distance that we have created because we have been shouting at Him and at one another, because of our sins, and because we have judged in many ways the creator of the world. Let the infant Jesus heal our hearts that have distanced from the heart of God; and let Jesus, Mary and Joseph heal hurt and broken relationships because of pride, selfishness and abuse of the blessings and graces that we think are ours by merit.
Yes, our Father sent Jesus to heal us and the whole world. Celebrate Christmas. Celebrate Jesus. Celebrate, to heal one another and the whole world. With Jesus, heal that distance we created. Let’s not miss our opportunity to be one with Jesus, Mary and Joseph this Christmas. Then can we proclaim: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests, the very similar words the Angel said to Mary: Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
God bless you all; and a blessed Christmas to you and your families.