Pruned To Bear Fruit

Fifth Sunday of Easter (B)

Society today tends to teach us extreme individualism whereby people set their hearts in the “pursuit of personal happiness and independence rather that collective goals or interests” (Dictionary). It also demonstrates the “belief that society exists for the benefit of individual people, who must not be constrained by government interventions or made subordinate to collective interests” (Dictionary).

Today Jesus leads us to an understanding that life has meaning and fruitfulness only in Him and with Him. By using the picture of the vine, Jesus teaches us the following:

  1. In this world no one can live by himself only, neither can anyone live apart from God, the Almighty. A branch, to have life and to bear fruit, has to remain in the vine. Jesus tells us that “anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned” (Jn 15:6). A Christian, in order to bear fruit, has to remain in Jesus. How can he afford to be separated from Jesus when he has already been baptized in Him and made heir of the Kingdom. Only he who deliberately detaches himself from Jesus through sin will lose his inheritance of the Kingdom.
  2. People come from the same God and belong to one another. The fruit of the vine always grows in cluster. No person just pops into the world without being born through the relationship of persons. He grows physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually in a family and in community. God wants people to grow in the Church as family. Jesus proclaims: “Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:4-5).
  3. People’s capacities and blessings are for the good of all and not for the benefit of a few only. Selfishness has no place in the Kingdom of God. Grape is processed as wine to be served at the tables of families. The fruit of the vine was used by Jesus and the Apostles at the last supper. We use it in the celebration of the Eucharist, so that as Church, we can grow in the love of the Lord, for as often as we do it, we do it in memory of Him. When we celebrate the Eucharist we re-live the redemption that Jesus came and died for us, we grow in His life, we grow in love for the Church and for one another, and we joyfully anticipate our second life in His Kingdom.

Our readings today point out the signs of being with Jesus:

  1. Believing in the Lord. Belief leads to seeing the Lord, for to those who believe and obey His commands, the Lord lives in them and leads them to the Father. Their lives will not be without fruits of the Spirit that lead others also to faith in the Lord.
  2. Remaining in the community of disciples. Yes, to be with Jesus is to be with His loved ones, His faithful followers, and to be nourished by the Holy Spirit and His gifts. Their lives become sweet songs of hope and love among brothers and sisters proclaiming the presence of the Lord.
  3. Proclaiming the life of Jesus. Just as the disciples could not contain the life of Jesus in themselves, Christians joyfully proclaim their joy in prayer with the community especially in the celebration of the Eucharist and in other church celebrations, because Jesus is risen from the dead and has appeared to the brothers.

How do we remain in Jesus?

  1. In prayer. Personal prayer and prayer with the Church lead us to the Heart of the Blessed Trinity. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit open themselves to us so that we can enter into relationship with them, just as Jesus promised that God will live in those who are faithful to Him.
  2. Participation in the sacraments and in the life of the Church. The sacraments are nourishing gifts that Jesus left for us to strengthen us daily in our journey to the Father.
  3. Loving obedience to God’s will. God’s commands are not burdensome. In fact they are the lifeblood of our relationship with Him through faithful and honest relationship with our families and with others, fidelity to our responsibilities, and openness to opportunities of growth in holiness.
  4. Allowing God to prune us. God works in us at all times, and in suffering He is close to us. He makes us more fruitful through the suffering that we joyfully offer to God for others, and in the works of mercy that we gladly perform in solidarity with the needy, for God rewards the cheerful giver and brings consolation to the long-suffering and enduring person.

In our celebration of the Eucharist, we proclaim the Lord’s life, His death and resurrection and our participation in His gift of life to us. May the Eucharist ever bind us to Jesus and bring us the joy that we seek, and as long as we celebrate Easter we pass over with Him from merely craving for earthly things to faithfully striving for the things of heaven.

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The Good Shepherd

Fourth Sunday of Easter (B)

Today, the 4th Sunday of Easter, is also called the Good Shepherd Sunday. It is also a World Day of Prayer for an increase of vocations to the priesthood and religious life for the life of the Church.

The shepherd is given the care of the sheep. He makes sure that not one of them is lost or dies of starvation. He leads them to abundant pastures and leads them to shelter. He defends them from wild animals that may kill them. He must know his sheep individually, and establish if one is missing or hurt. Some reasons are the following:

  1. Sheep are dependent. Not only do they need a shepherd to provide nourishing food, clean water, and safe pasture, but they depend on someone else to help them when they are in a helpless state.
  2. Sheep are defenseless. They are easy marks for wild animals; they are harassed and helpless without a shepherd; they have short, weak, leg muscles, poor eyesight and dwarfed horns; they are very vulnerable.
  3. Sheep are directionless. A sheep moves with his head down, taking small steps, following his nose to tasty fodder; he moves from one blade to another; when lost, he can’t find his way home; once he is found, he has to be literally brought back to the fold.
  4. Sheep are easily distracted. A breeze kicking up leaves will so distract and frighten the sheep that a stampede ensues; what distract them most are parasites and insects that torment them (Adrian Rogers, The Lord is My Shepherd: Reflections on God’s Loving Care, 1990).

Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He knows us by name. He protects us from the enemy, the devil, through his teachings and inspiration. He preserves us from evil through the sacraments. He guides us through His Words and through the teachings of the Church. He feeds us and strengthens us especially through the sacrament of the Eucharist and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. He always makes sure that we are animated in Him through prayer, works of faith and mercy, and honest relationships. The reasons are:

  1. We are very dependent. We need God, the Church and others. We tend to work in a society without God or like to build a world without God. However, the Psalms tell us: “If the Lord does not build the house in vain do its builders labor. If the Lord does not watch over the city, in vain does the watchman keep vigil” (127: 1).
  2. We are defenseless. We need the protection of God. We are very vulnerable to the devil’s attack. We are inclined to trust human leaders because we tend to like them even if they are not founded on God and on Christian principles. We are easily misled. But the Psalmist prays: “You are my father, my God, the rock of my salvation” (89:26). St. Peter also tells us in the Acts of the Apostles: “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved” (4:12).
  3. We are directionless. We like to wander. Like the Israelites who wandered in the desert, we wander away from the ways of God. We usually go in circles and lose our way. We complain. We do not listen. And Jesus tells us: “the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all I have said to you” (Jn 14:26).
  4. We are easily distracted. We focus on the insignificant, and we make the same mistakes repeatedly. When we lose our focus on God, the devil easily takes over. The Book of Ecclesiastes tells us: “Do not admire the achievements of sinners, trust the Lord and mind your own business; since it is a trifle in the eyes of the Lord, in a moment, suddenly to make the poor rich” (11:21). Jesus says: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You trust in God, trust also in me” (Jn 14:1).

As we celebrate the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, let us ask the Lord to give us pastors according to the Heart of the Good Shepherd. Let us also ask Him that we become obedient sheep, humble followers, like the obedient Son of the Father. Let us take part in the work of our parishes to educate and rear the youth in the life of the Church so that they will learn to love the work of our Savior. Let us earnestly pray that we learn to love the Church more so that vocation to the Priesthood and to the Religious Life will grow in our families.

Let us then thank our Father, as we celebrate the Eucharist, for giving us Jesus, our Good Shepherd, whom we receive in Holy Communion, and who always desires to be with us, in our families and in our relationships.

God bless you all.

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Witnesses To The Ends Of The World

Third Sunday of Easter (B)

After the Resurrection, Peter urged the people and their leaders: “Repent…. and be converted, that your sins may be wiped out” (Acts 3:19). Before Jesus started His public ministry, John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Mk 1:4). Jesus, at the start of His ministry, called out: “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mk 1:15). And this is the Church’s constant and universal call to all: repent, believe, and be converted.

A priest told this story: a painter used to thin his paint with some paint thinner so that his painting work would go far and more economical on his part. One day he got a job for his lowest bid for a church. Towards the end of his work, while he was standing on the scaffold, rains came and thunder roared. He fell, and saw that the paint was coming off the walls. In fear and trembling he knelt and prayed: O God, forgive me. From the skies he heard these words: repaint, repaint, and thin no more!

So, who needs conversion?

1. The disciples of Jesus needed conversion. They had to transform their down-heartedness and fear of the Jews into the courage in the way of life that Jesus was leading them: obedience to His commands and Spirit-filled preaching of the Gospel. The disciples needed the confidence in Jesus so that they could live and preach the Gospel faithfully as authentic witnesses to His life, death and resurrection.

2. The Jews needed conversion. As Peter said, they acted out of ignorance, though their guilt was just as condescending and as sinful as their leaders’ by preferring the release of a murderer and killing the author of life. Now they must repent and turn to God, so that their sins would be wiped out (cf. Acts 3:19). They needed that faith and conversion to realize that they were part of the promised salvation. But they missed the Messiah when He came and they crucified Him in exchange for a murderer.

3. We need conversion. To be Christian means to be converted to Christ, and to walk in His ways. In his first letter, St. John says, “Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 Jn 2:4). It is, therefore, not enough to believe; it is necessary to combine works with faith. Good works make faith in Jesus more convincing.

Conversion should have a permanent quality and should be sustained permanently with the faith in the Resurrection of Jesus. Without this conviction, our faith is uncertain. Sin, any sin, big or small, venial or grave, is a rejection of the Holy and Righteous One and a crucifixion of the author of Life. Sin breaks that bond (with God) that has to be permanent. Sin raises us up to turn against Jesus who has defeated sin on the cross and has risen from the dead. When the devil overtakes us and we submit to him, we again cry out for the release of Barrabas in our hearts, instead of asking for the Author of Life. Sin makes of us ungrateful children, and liars, who do not keep the commandments of God. We need the constancy in faith and trust in Jesus. How can we live with sin when we have already died to it and we have risen with Christ particularly in the Sacraments of Baptism, Reconciliation and the Eucharist? However, St. John says, “if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one. He is expiation for our sins” (1 Jn 2:1-2).

God does not forsake us; we just have to trust Him. Just like the Apostles, we are troubled about many things of the world. There are many questions that arise in our hearts. In many instances, it seems that in our relationships, we see ghosts. But Jesus greets us with His peace. It is not a situation that can be pacified with money, nor a condition that can be rectified by power, nor a relationship that can be worked out with influence. It is the peace that comes from genuine obedience to the commands of God and from an honest relationship with God in prayer and in works of mercy for others. It is also the peace that emanates from an authentic relationships and participation in the life of the Church, especially in the celebration of the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist. This peace is Jesus Himself.

Let us then celebrate this Eucharist as His people with open minds to understand the Scriptures; and as His people, whose sins are forgiven, let us be His courageous witnesses to the ends of the world.

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The Divine Mercy

Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday) – B

Today’s feast of the Divine Mercy of Jesus brings out of us tremendous faith and peace:

a) faith, because without it we cannot approach Jesus whose only way of life is the way of obedience;

b) peace, because it is God’s desire for us here on earth. On the birth of Jesus, the angels sang: Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to people of goodwill. At His apparition after His resurrection, Jesus greets His disciples: Peace be with you. Even before Holy Communion, the priest greets you that Christ’s peace be always with you. Peace is what we want. Through our faith, peace is what He gives. How do we seek that peace?

There are certain rules that temporal society follows today:

1. Wealth and fame are our prestige and honor. You need sizable properties and fat bank accounts so that you can merit recognition in society. The more you have the wider your scope of recognition.

2. Truth is what you can explain and justify. People who know the law and the in’s and out’s of the law can find their way in and out of the rule of today’s society. If you can explain and justify getting something that you did not earn, that thing may be yours. If you can explain and justify taking the life of the innocent or the weak, you are free. If you can even explain and justify that there is good in evil, then you go free. And many more.

3. “Each to his own.” Everyone has his own concerns, worries and problems. Let others take care of themselves. So nobody is really part of anybody. Nobody is his brother’s keeper.

How can we have peace amidst these situations? The Resurrection of Jesus teaches us the following:

1. “The community of believers was of one heart and mind” (Acts 4:32). The Apostles and the first Christian community really put their faith and trust in the Lord Jesus, not only because of the many signs they saw and experienced, but also because of their growth in love for one another and of their experience of a prayerful spirit in their community. They had the peace of Jesus.

2. “With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 4:33). Their witness to the life of Jesus carried with them many signs of His presence through their teaching and through miracles of healing and unity, despite the many difficulties they had to undergo in the name of Jesus Christ. The community of believers proclaimed and experienced the peace of Jesus.

3. “There was no needy person among them” (Acts 4:34). They lived as brothers and sisters. They brought all their wealth and resources together, and distributed them according to each one’s need. In that first community of Christians no one had abundance, neither was any one in a situation of need. And God blessed them with more brothers and sisters. With this, they were at peace with one another and with the world.

What does Jesus ask of us?

1) When celebrating the sacraments, celebrate them with undivided trust and love for Jesus Christ.

2) When reading and praying the Scriptures, pray and read them in the Holy Spirit who enlightens us so that we can understand what God is telling us.

3) When fulfilling our duties, do them in the spirit of gratitude and in participation in God’s creation.

4) Our Lord Jesus, on this feast of His Divine Mercy, desires sincere repentance of sins, confession, devout reception of the Eucharist and constant acts of mercy to the needy. And when praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet, concentrate on the Blessed Trinity: the Eternal Father, the Passion of His dearly Beloved Son, the Holy Spirit who moves us to pray and dedicate ourselves to God; focus on the Passion of Christ, especially for the salvation of the world, on what He can do through us, especially through our works of mercy. Remember, when we focus on Jesus, the Father’s heart opens and pours out His mercy on His people.

The Easter season leads us to the great acts of salvation that Jesus wrought for us. He not only did things for us; He also does many things through us so that the Father’s love will be recognized and accepted in the world where suffering seems to be unending, and where people want God to be eliminated. In the Eucharist we are reminded that as often as we break bread together we do it in His memory; and this is salvation.

May the mercy and peace of Christ remain always with you.

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The Day The Lord Has Made

Easter Sunday

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad” (Ps 118:24). Alleluia! Alleluia!

((Easter Vigil: 1. Tonight we remember God’s Power in Egypt and the liberation of His people from slavery.

a) God hates slavery and oppression. The Israelites were slaves to Pharaoh who selfishly enjoyed the fruits of their labor and oppressed them with forced labor. The Israelites served a tyrant who was not concerned about human dignity, as long as he was served and was well-fed, nor had regard for human development, as long as his kingdom was wealthy and protected.

b) God hates greed. He created and owns the earth and does not want that only a few should benefit from it, especially at the expense of the weak. The Psalm expresses this very clearly: “The earth is the LORD’S and all it holds, the world and those who live there. For God founded it on the seas, established it over the rivers. Who may go up the mountain of the LORD? Who can stand in his holy place? The clean of hand and pure of heart, who are not devoted to idols, who have not sworn falsely. They will receive blessings from the LORD, and justice from their saving God. Such are the people that love the LORD, that seek the face of the God of Jacob” (Ps 24:1-6).

c) God tests and disciplines His children. The wandering in the desert was God’s test of His people’s trust in Him despite suffering. When the Israelites cried for help God listened to them and was ready to deliver them from slavery. From the aridity of self-contentment and self-absorption, God wanted his people to worship Him in truth and have an unparalleled obedience to His Will. Yet despite God’s manifestations of power and love, his people remained obstinate: they cried to Moses, why did you ever make us leave Egypt? There we had bread. Here, we will die of hunger. They were ready to trade their freedom from slavery for a piece of bread.))

((Morning: 2. The Resurrection of Jesus brings to us several truths of life:

a) Jesus showed us that real freedom comes from freely giving up one’s life for his neighbor. We serve a King who came to serve, not to be serve, to die so that we can have life, was buried so that we can also rise with Him. What a King!

b) Jesus taught us that the way to holiness and happy life is the way of obedience. Jesus was obedient until death, and He promises us eternal life only if we remain obedient to His words and commands. For the faithful, He also promises happy and well-provided life here on earth, along with the difficulties and trials in this world.

c) Jesus taught us that fullness of life comes from an honest friendship and loving relationship with Him. His Resurrection is also our resurrection from the aridity of our selfishness and indifference that keeps us from growing in holiness and keeps us away from His loving relationship.))

On the New Year’s Day of our civil calendar, we are just too ready to make our New Year’s resolutions. Today is God’s gift of another year for us, God’s Blessed New Year for us. He gave us the opportunity to prepare for this day in the weeks of Lent so that we can be worthy of Him. Can we not make our resolutions to Him as we have prepared ourselves during Lent, hopefully, in prayer, fasting and almsgiving and works of mercy?

Today, take a few minutes to ask yourself: who is your God, or probably, what is your god in your life? In our world of high technology and communications, we seem to be running after life. But don’t be scared to slow down and think of the things that God is telling you in the midst of the many things screaming for attention. It can be renouncing something of yourself to receive your brother who needs forgiveness or a neighbor who is in need of a little hope. It can be giving up a little pride and laziness so that you can participate well in the celebration of the Eucharist and in celebrations of your family. It can be returning to the Sacrament of Reconciliation again for a few more things that you are holding back from God and the Church. It can be seeking the guidance of the Church and other groups to be open to God’s life rather than seeking convenience in the popularity and commercialism of abortion and artificial contraception that lead to the death of millions of babies. It can be our little works for justice and peace to assure people in their fears and anxieties that Jesus is our Lord and our way to peace. It can be a resolution not to be grumpy or irritable or judgmental, for life is too short for them. It can be any act that can make your family or neighbor happy and hopeful, for this is our only proof of life as Church and of our enduring trust in Jesus.

There is more to difficulties, problems and fears in life, as there is more to the suffering and death of Jesus. There was more to the empty tomb that Mark depicted to us. Jesus would meet His disciples in Galilee. Jesus meets His faithful followers in the Galilees of their hearts, in their work and responsibilities, in their relationships, especially in the celebration of the Eucharist. Jesus goes ahead of us because He knows the fears we experience, and He meets us wherever we are hurting or suffering or whenever we feel empty and afraid. He meets us wherever and whenever we are happy and hopeful.

St. Peter proclaims in the second Reading:

We are witnesses of all that he did . . . This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead (Acts 10:39-42).

We keep our eyes on Him so that we do not get lost in the midst of this noisy and disordered world of selfishness and sin. We can as well teach people through our acts of kindness and humility that we are witnesses to the death and resurrection of Jesus. Then our promises and resolutions to God will not be futile because, Jesus Himself lives in us and we are commissioned to teach and preach that He, and only He, is our life and our way to the Father, and He is the “judge of the living and the dead.”

A Japanese Proverb says, “Vision without action is a daydream but action without vision is a nightmare.”  Let us consecrate ourselves to our risen Lord through Mary and the Holy Spirit, and celebrate this Eucharist as the memorial of His suffering, death and resurrection, so that we just don’t daydream of the Resurrection, nor find ourselves in the nightmare of suffering and death, but with our vision fixed on Jesus and our lives patterned in His ways, we will all rejoice and be glad in Him, for this is the Day the Lord has made.

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The Procession Continues

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (B)

1. The March to Jerusalem

a) When horses were used in battles, military commanders used their strongest and fastest horses. Accordingly, when they returned triumphant, they would march around the city on donkeys. Of course they moved at a slower pace and people would applaud for them. Jesus has conquered; and He has conquered the world of evil. He just had the right to mount the donkey as a triumphant king towards Jerusalem. And sure enough, people applauded Him as their King.

 b) Big nations can conquer smaller nations, stronger leaders can overpower weaker ones, and more influential persons can subdue the voiceless, the weak and the less influential ones, but we know that as human leaders, they can fail. But Jesus is not only a man. He is also God. He suffered death, but He also gained glory in His resurrection. He conquered the devil and sin. He can also conquer our sins of selfishness and pride that make us rebel against Him and His commands. He can conquer our sin of vanity that makes us gods of temporal things. He can conquer our sin of indifference that keeps us apart from our neighbor and our community. He can conquer our little favorite sins that make us callous to His call to holiness and perfection. Shall we march with Jesus into the Jerusalem of our hearts, and recognize Him as our King and Lord?

2. The procession continues till Good Friday

a) In the house of Simon the leper, a woman poured perfume on Jesus, who declared that she was getting Him ready for His burial. This made the Jews jealous of Him. But the more important thing was what Jesus said to them as contention to their comment that the perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor. The Jews, and the Pharisees, had the poor, but they made the life of the poor and the weak miserably heavy with their laws, and they would not even lift their fingers to help.

Many times we promise to help the poor. We promise to be kind. How many times have we raised our voices against them because of our impatience and arrogance? We will always have the poor. Do we really see them as part of us and our way to the Father?

b) When Peter disowned Jesus, Peter was not only acting alone. He was already representing us in our sins, in our disregard for the needy, and in not living out the love of our Creator in thought and deed.

c) Jesus asked the Father’s forgiveness for His persecutors. He was also asking forgiveness for our sins and our failures. He knows that we fall. He also knows that the Father will hear Him. Can we make this week an opportunity to walk with Jesus in His suffering and death in our relationships, and rise with Him in His resurrection?

3. The fruit of the suffering of Jesus will reflect in us only when we keep in mind the humanity and divinity of Jesus in our lives. Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB, would say,

At the conclusion of the Stations of the Cross at Rome’s Colosseum on Good Friday night in the Jubilee Year 2000, Pope John Paul II spoke these moving and powerful words: “Who, if not the condemned Savior, can fully understand the pain of those unjustly condemned? Who, if not the King scorned and humiliated, can meet the expectations of the countless men and women who live without hope or dignity? Who, if not the crucified Son of God, can know the sorrow and loneliness of so many lives shattered and without a future? (Biblical Reflection for Palm Sunday; 2009).

4. We still continue the procession: in our responsibilities, in our attitude, in our relationships. We are processing towards eternal life with palms in our hands to proclaim Him as our King. Jesus understands our human condition and walks with us always, with Mary, His Mother and our Mother. He continues to fill us and strengthen us in the Eucharist. He continues to be our way to the Father in every situation of life. He continues to be the answer to our questions about life here on earth and in eternity.

May this Holy week, in our efforts to be reconciled to Jesus in our acts of piety and charity, lead us to the joys of His Resurrection and His continuous presence among us.

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Opposites and Inversions

Fifth Sunday of Lent (B)

In this world of stiff competition to survive, we always want to win, and we tend to separate, divide and alienate. We separate the body from the spirit, and we see others as if they are just walking dolls or hovering spirits. We separate the mind from the heart, and so we find people who may be emotionally disturbed or mentally disoriented. We see people as categories, and we are not one with them. We see the world as separate continents, so each one does not have to be responsible for another’s problems. We alienate the poor from the rich, and we see them as affluent or needy. We alienate the “less educated” from the “educated,” and we seem to be comfortable with discrimination in workplaces, in applying for work and in the delivery of benefits.

We believe that the order of the concept of living is life and death. We treat the infamy of suffering as independent from the splendor of glory. We prefer to be served than to serve. We work hard to receive rather than to give. We seek happiness in material things now as if there is no other life, rather than seek the joy of human and divine values so that we can be happy here and in the life to come. We tend to care for our bodies as if we hold the reins of life, rather than seek the ways leading to eternity. We want to separate the love of God from the love of neighbor, so that we won’t be accountable for our neglect and indifference.

In Jesus we see the combination of opposites and inversion. For Jesus the order of the concept of living is death-life. The grain must die in order to have life and bear fruit. The death of Jesus is not only for Him to have life, but that we may have life and have it to the full. He carried the cross so that all who are weary and tired may come to Him and find rest. He saw glory in suffering, life in death, and resurrection in being buried. For Jesus, His death is fruitfulness. His loss is gain for us. He taught that to go up to the Father is to go down deep into the self, to repent and be converted. He is the integration of the person: that man cannot be separated from himself, that mind and heart are one, that man cannot be alienated from his neighbor. Only Jesus is the answer to the difficult questions of life and seeming contradictions between suffering and glory, division and unity, alienation and friendship.

Despite His people’s sinfulness, God did not forsake them. He renewed His covenant with them when He said through the prophet Jeremiah:

I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer will they have need to teach their friends and relatives how to know the LORD (31:33-34).

According to circumstances and judgments of the mind, if we base our relationships on reason alone, we become cold. According to changes in emotion and moods, if we base our relationship on feelings alone, we can become sentimental. However, in Jesus we make the decision to make our relationships meaningful. We exercise the power of our mind to choose and meet our feelings and emotions to make a reasonable and loving decision for something, for somebody or for a cause. This encounter happens in the heart where God has placed His law so that we no longer look for God outside of us. It is also in our hearts that we meet God and our neighbor.

This season of Lent allows us to go deeper into our hearts and reflect on the ways we relate with God. It also allows us to go deep into the heart of Jesus so that we can go into the heart of the Church.

We may do these in many ways: a) pray the rosary for peace and for respect for life; b) visit the Blessed Sacrament and pray for the intentions of the parish and the needy; c) visit the sick or do some works of mercy; d) avoid harsh or discouraging words, and decide to say only encouraging words; e) fast, not only from food, but also from pride, envy and from your favorites sins; f) go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation with a sincere heart; g) be faithful to your family and to the Church; h) and others. Holy Scripture tells us that God wants mercy more than sacrifice, for mercy is a loving relationship with others for the Glory of God.

In the Eucharist that we celebrate we encounter the humility of God and become open to His Word, and we hope to participate fully in the blessings of Holy Week and reap the fruits of our redemption at Easter.

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